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The Supreme Court’s Sex-Offender Jurisprudence Is Based on a Lie

Posted by Seth Chazin | Oct 16, 2017 | 0 Comments

According to the Supreme Court, sex offenders are more likely to keep on committing sex crimes. The actual data suggests otherwise.

Sex offenders (California Penal Code section 290) are some of the most vilified in our state as they are subject to residency restrictions, mandatory registration, and a number of additional limitations due to constricting laws. The 800,000 people registered on America's sex-offenders list are the most policed population. In many states, it is mandatory for sex offenders to wear GPS trackers and pay for it.

Due to the mistaken, pervasive belief that sex offenders are extremely likely to re-offend, harsh penalties continue to be imposed despite the fact that studies suggest that the majority do not re-offend. Politicians continue to justify their attempts to trim the rights of people on the sex-offenders' list, simply based upon the stigma of their crime. Regardless of which crime has been committed, those found guilty receive harsh treatment, regardless of the type of crimes committed, even if they are minor.

A UC-Berkeley School of Law Professor, Ira Ellman, uncovered the answer about how the highest court in the land continues to arrive at a conclusion so at odds with scientific reality. By engaging in legal archaeology, Ira Ellman came across an amicus brief submitted in “McKune v. Life” by the United States Inspector General's office that was later cited in Smith v. Doe.  In it, was the statement that 80% of sex offenders re-offend.  One (incorrect) statistic pulled from a 1986 Psychology Today article is responsible for years of horrendous jurisprudence surrounding sex offenders.  This citation led to a decision that upheld the constitutionality of sex-offender registries. Ellman found this sentence: “Most untreated sex offenders released from prison go on to commit more offenses—indeed, as many as 80 percent do.” The article never even cited any scientific studies, it wasn't backed by any peer reviewed data, nor was the author a professor or scientist, but rather, a man with a degree in counselling who was responsible for a sex offenders program in an Oregon prison. His article was merely anecdotal.

The U.S. Department of Justice followed every sex offender over three years in 15 different states and found that the recidivism rate was just 3.5 percent. The numbers were crunched again and again, just to make sure they were accurate. Around all of our 50 states, the rate was between 3.5 and 4 percent.Thus, it is particularly important to reform the punitive measures taken against first-time offenders.

Resource articles: The Supreme Court’s Sex-Offender Jurisprudence Is Based on a Lie

Washington Post: The big lie about sex offenders

About the Author

Seth Chazin

Seth P. Chazin has aggressively defended clients in thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases for over 30 years. He has extensive experience representing criminal defendants in federal and state court, while handling both state and federal appeals as well.


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“The death penalty is a lie, a misguided mistake born of anger and frustration. Capital punishment has become a perverse monument to inequality, to how some lives matter and others do not. It is a violent example of how we protect and value the rich and abandon and devalue the poor. The death penalty is a grim, disturbing shadow formed by the legacy of racial apartheid and bias against the poor that condemns the disfavored among us, but corrupts us all. It’s the perverse symbol elected officials use to strengthen their ‘tough on crime’ reputations and distract us from confronting the causes of violence. It is finally the enemy of grace, redemption and all of us who recognize that each person is more than their worse act.”
- Bryan Stevenson