Tragically, the Problem Is Never Addressed

Damage done by Nebraska’s sex-offender laws is well documented, in particular by research conducted at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

Is there any documentation that shows the laws do what they ostensibly are intended to do: protect the public? The answer is no. There is no documented case in which anyone was protected from harm by these laws. This is not to say that sexual crimes are not a problem. They are. Nebraskans Unafraid is saying that Nebraska sex-offender laws, as well as public policy and general attitudes in the state, not only do not address the problem — they make it worse.

That is because sex crimes are a public health problem. We have never found a good solution to a public health problem by treating it exclusively as a crime problem. But we are trapped: We have this deep fear of and loathing for those who commit sex crimes. The fear and loathing are fed by a gullible news media that must report the horrific crime, because it is horrific. News media will not report that the horrific sex crime is rare, because to do so is boring. Politicians manipulate news media-fed fear by enacting draconian laws like those in place in Nebraska. And, tragically, the problem never is truly addressed, yet we think we have done so.

The research at UNO and elsewhere is consistent in condemning laws like those in place in Nebraska. Here is the abstract from a study titled Sexual Offender Laws and Prevention of Sexual Violence or Recidivism:

Sexual violence is a significant public health problem in the United States. In an effort to decrease the incidence of sexual assault, legislators have passed regulatory laws aimed at reducing recidivism among convicted sexual offenders. As a result, sex offenders living in the United States are bound by multiple policies, including registration, community notification, monitoring via a global positioning system, civil commitment, and residency, loitering, and Internet restrictions.

These policies have led to multiple collateral consequences, creating an ominous environment that inhibits successful reintegration and may contribute to an increasing risk for recidivism. In fact, evidence on the effectiveness of these laws suggests that they may not prevent recidivism or sexual violence and result in more harm than good.

Here is a link to more information on this study.

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