Sensible guidelines to keep in mind when using the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry website:
1. The Nebraska Sex Offender Registry website is not based on any scientific risk of reoffense.
2. The Nebraska Sex Offender Registry website includes many people who were evaluated and deemed to be of low risk to reoffend, and thus were not on the website prior to Jan. 1, 2010. Some of those people are now on the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry website for life even though their offenses were committed years ago and they long ago completed their sentences.
3. The Nebraska Sex Offender Registry website includes people who are not dangerous as well as people who are innocent of what they were accused of doing. These are individuals who accepted plea agreements rather than deal with our society’s “guilty until proven innocent” attitude toward sexual offenses. By listing them on the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry website, the state violated their plea agreements.
4. The Nebraska Legislature’s finding from the 1990s that all sex offenders are dangerous was not based on any scientific, empirical evidence. It was a politically-motivated “made up” finding that was based on popular myth. There is a vast and growing body of evidence that the reverse is actually true – that sex offenders are among the least likely to reoffend. The Legislative Finding is made up in the same way that the oft-repeated “50,000 online predators” number was made up. This narrative shows how this round, easy-to-remember number (which is just a lie) was fabricated by the network that brought you “To Catch a Predator.”
5. Evidence shows that a stable home life, employment and reintegration into their communities are among factors that reduce the likelihood of reoffense. This means that the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry website makes Nebraska more dangerous because it causes people to lose their jobs and their homes, and it causes their families to suffer. The latest Public Safety Brief from the Council of State Governments states that the vast majority of child molestations — well over 90 percent — are first-time offenses committed by someone known to and close to the family. The Nebraska Sex Offender Registry website does not protect children, it puts children at higher risk because it focuses attention on people who are not going to molest a child. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics has found that just 14 percent of all sexual assault cases reported to law enforcement agencies involved offenders who were strangers to their victims. Sexual assault victims under the age of 18 at the time of the crime knew their abusers in nine out of 10 cases: the abusers were family members in 34 percent of cases, and acquaintances in another 59 percent of cases.
6. The above point also means that if you find that you have a neighbor listed on the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry website, and your neighbor lives with her or his family, holds a job and leads a productive life, that person probably is no more dangerous than you yourself are. Under no circumstances should you buy into typical popular news media stories about sex offenders. News media and law enforcement work together to scare you. The tactic backfired in 2010 in Lincoln, Neb., when law enforcement invited news media to tag along while they went around to bust sex offenders. A 22-year-old mom who stayed for the weekend at a childcare provider’s home with her young toddler was cuffed in front of the child and hauled off to jail. This is how the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry website protects children? By ripping young moms away from their children for technical violations? The example also typifies news media gullibility. They excitedly report it when a “registered sex offender” reoffends. The fact is, that’s news because it is so rare. Neither law enforcement nor news media will report on the vast majority of registrants who never reoffend but continue paying the state-imposed penalty of public shame.
7. Never forget the consequences of other laws that publicly labeled people as dangerous. Nebraska’s Sex Offender Registry website has harmed many children.