This is a major article I wrote this month for Citizens for Legislative Change, America (cfcamerica.org) and is very significant when we consider the situation that exists here in the UK with regard to Sex Offenders.
(It was originally published in our FREE Subscribers Magazine which you can get HERE)
TheOpinionSite.org makes no apology for reproducing it here as it serves as a stark warning to us all when political and sociological zealots get their teeth – and their bank account – into something as contentious as the subject of child sex abuse. We must all remember that, cynical or not, it is undoubtedly true that for every child that is abused, someone in authority is making a substantial income.
Remember that when you read the article below:
- The United States is broke. The US government is printing more and more money and injecting it into the system which is increasing inflation and ultimately costing us all a great deal of money.
- Everywhere you look, there are cuts. In public services, community projects, public health facilities and most importantly, education.
- Politicians tell us that we will all have to pay more tax, worked harder and probably work longer hours. All this increases pressure on families, individuals and communities.
Nevertheless, despite all the hardships and difficulties that the current financial situation is forcing upon us all, legislators throughout the land are still determined to waste millions of dollars every year on locking up more and more sex offenders and spending billions of our money on courses, programs and interventions (which many people believe are ineffective) and seem unable to prevent themselves from introducing endless legislation, most of which is a ‘knee jerk’ reaction to one particular crime or another.
Sex Offender Laws Costing Our Children's Education
Every American politician, it seems, wants to introduce a ‘Ben’s’ law or a ‘Betty’s’ law or any sex offender law at all, just so long as it has someone’s name attached in order to satisfy the popular press child protection lobby. To make matters worse, public opinion has been focused by politicians and others on the danger to children from strangers, even though it is common knowledge that most sexual abuse against children takes place in the home and is carried out either by members of the child’s family or their friends.
The problem is that with every dollar that is spent on regulating or incarcerating sex offenders, less and less money is available for more important things. The worst example of this madness is that instead of investing in our children’s education, surely the most important thing of all, politicians prefer to spend the money locking up or regulating ever increasing numbers of people – many of whom are only children themselves – in an attempt to appear ‘tough’ on crime in general and ‘tough’ on sex offenders in particular. With regard to those sex offenders that are released back into the community, the amount of money that is spent on regulating their activities in order to protect children increases with every month goes by.
The cost of administering and enforcing the Sex Offender Registry increases every year; and it will go on increasing as politicians condemn more and more families, children and individuals to a life of segregation and social death.
This is a problem that won’t go away yet the politicians want it all ways: One state lawmaker who wants to put certain child molesters in prison for life after a first offense is trying to reduce the cost of his bill, which comes with a sky-high price as the state struggles with persistent budget deficits. Republican Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher of San Diego has offered several amendments to the legislation, some of which would save money elsewhere in state corrections spending. One includes allowing many people convicted of petty theft to serve their time in county jails, rather than being sent to prison. "We want to focus on people we're afraid of and not people we're mad at, and we need to prioritize," Fletcher said. The bill is to be considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee this week.
The legislation also adopts recommendations from the state's Sex Offender Management Board for improving the monitoring of paroled sex offenders, including the routine use of polygraph examinations. It also would base the treatment and supervision of sex offenders on the crime they committed and the likelihood they will re-offend. Fletcher said those reforms would cut costs by reducing the number of parolees who commit new crimes. The bill, Chelsea's Law, is named after Chelsea King, a 17-year-old who was murdered this year in San Diego County.
A convicted child molester is serving a life sentence for raping and killing King and 14-year-old Amber Dubois. The non-partisan Legislative Analyst's Office determined the increased prison terms and lifetime parole monitoring under Fletcher's original bill eventually would cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars a year. The state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation put the cost at tens of millions of dollars annually after the first decade. In response, Fletcher amended AB1844 to offset its cost. California faces a $19 billion deficit and remains without a budget more than a month into its new fiscal year. His bill now reserves life-without-parole for adult offenders who kidnap, drug, bind, torture or use a weapon while committing a sex crime against a child. Fletcher also limited the bill's lifetime parole provision to habitual sex offenders and those convicted of such crimes as aggravated sexual assault on a child.
Those convicted of other sex crimes involving children would be monitored for 10 or 20 years after leaving prison, depending on the severity of the offense. "There's some significant cost savings just in that. Lifetime parole for a sex offender population, as you can imagine, adds up," said Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. * Before we all start getting excited and thinking that this represents an outbreak of common sense however, we should not forget that the most important thing to all politicians is not the community that they allegedly serve but the need to stay in power. More people than ever are realizing back with the introduction of every new sex offender law, more money is going to be spent on enforcement rather than being spent on the things that really matter , such as our children’s education .
The cost of enforcing sex offender restrictions is felt in every state of America. There are no exceptions. For example, in Virginia, lawmakers have expressed shock over the exponentially rising cost of a program to keep some sex offenders locked up after they complete their criminal sentences. The annual operating cost of Virginia's Sexually Violent Predator Program is projected to hit $32 million next year – more than a tenfold increase in eight years. The General Assembly created the program in 1998 to keep sex offenders deemed likely to re-offend off the streets after they finish their criminal sentences.
The process is known as civil commitment. The 300-bed Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation in Nottoway County, built just two years ago for $62 million, will be filled by this fall, the House Appropriations Committee was told Friday. Gov. Bob McDonnell has proposed spending an additional $68.5 million this year to accommodate the growing number of offenders coming into the program, including $43.5 million in borrowed money to convert a closed prison in Brunswick County into a second 300-bed treatment center. The numbers generated bipartisan alarm on the budget-writing panel. "This has just exploded," said Del. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk. "I worry about where we're heading," said Del. James Scott, D-Fairfax County… * It doesn’t’t matter where you look. The fact is that every dollar that is spent on sex offender rules is a dollar that cannot be spent on things that really matter to people, especially education.
Over the last twenty years, America has created a whole new industry based around child protection. Millions of people work in this child protection industry and the government is only too aware of the fact that every one of those workers is also a voter. In every state, the financial burden is the same. For example: Iowa lawmakers have said that the cost and consequences of tracking sex offenders in the next decade will be at least $30 million more than is now spent, unless officials find better ways to curb costs while guarding public safety. A report from Iowa’s Division of Juvenile and Justice Planning shows that special, post-prison sentences for sex offenders will increase parole caseloads in Iowa by more than 50 percent by 2020. An estimated 2,300 additional sex offenders will have to be monitored for 10 years or life, according to an Iowa law passed in 2005.
That rising number of offenders will increase the state’s minimum monitoring costs each year by $3.05 million, through 2020. The new research was conducted for Iowa’s Sex Offender Research Council, an advisory group that is recommending the state begin examining best practices for supervising sex offenders. The goal would be to curb, where possible, monitoring if someone is unlikely to commit new crimes.
But leaders of public safety and judiciary committees in the Legislature said Tuesday that no major changes to existing sex offenders laws are being discussed this year. Tweaking special sentences is — in the short-term, at least — unlikely for political reasons, they said. “Really, I don’t think that would ever happen,” said Rep. Clel Baudler, R-Greenfield, chairman of the House Public Safety Committee. Iowa was one of more than 20 states that created special sentences in the past decade to track sex offenders after their release from prison using corrections officers and technology such as GPS monitors. The move came in response to public outrage over the highly publicized murder of Jetseta Gage, 10, of Cedar Rapids in 2005 by a sex offender. A 2009 investigation by The Des Moines Register found the flood of new sex offenders under supervision would cost taxpayers a minimum of $168 million over 20 years, or about $8.4 million a year.
The study released Tuesday tallied only the minimum monitoring that would be required under the 2005 law and excluded other costs the Register considered. Budget numbers show the full cost of treating, supervising and monitoring sex offenders has mushroomed substantially — from $3.3 million in 2005 to $11.5 million last year, according to Iowa’s Legislative Services Agency….
So what exactly is the cost to children’s education and communities across the land? Here’s a summary:
* Arizona has eliminated preschool for 4,328 children, funding for schools to provide additional support to disadvantaged children from preschool to third grade, aid to charter schools, and funding for books, computers, and other classroom supplies. The state also halved funding for kindergarten, leaving school districts and parents to shoulder the cost of keeping their children in school beyond a half-day schedule.
* California has reduced K-12 aid to local school districts by billions of dollars and is cutting a variety of programs, including adult literacy instruction and help for high-needs students.
* Colorado has reduced public school spending in FY 2011 by $260 million, nearly a 5 percent decline from the previous year. The cut amounts to more than $400 per student.
* Georgia has cut state funding for K-12 education for FY 2011 by $403 million or 5.5 percent relative to FY 2010 levels. The cut has led the state’s board of education to exempt local school districts from class size requirements to reduce costs.
* Hawaii shortened the 2009-10 school year by 17 days and furloughed teachers for those days.
* Illinois has cut school education funding by $241 million or 3 percent in its FY 2011 budget relative to FY 2010 levels. Cuts include a significant reduction in funding for student transportation and the elimination of a grant program intended to improve the reading and study skills of at-risk students from kindergarten through the 6th grade.
* Maryland has cut professional development for principals and educators, as well as health clinics, gifted and talented summer centers, and math and science initiatives.
* Michigan has cut its FY 2010 school aid budget by $382 million, resulting in a $165 per-pupil spending reduction.
* Over the course of FY10, Mississippi cut by 7.2 percent funding for the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, a program established to bring per-pupil K-12 spending up to adequate levels in every district.
* Massachusetts has cut state education aid by $115.6 million, or 3 percent in its FY 2011 budget relative to FY 2010 levels. It also made a $4.6 million, or 16 percent cut relative to FY 2010 levels to funding for early intervention services, which help special-needs children develop appropriately and be ready for school.
* Missouri is cutting its funding for K-12 transportation by 46 percent. The cut in funding likely will lead to longer bus rides and the elimination of routes for some of the 565,000 students who rely on the school bus system.
* New Jersey has cut funding for after school programs aimed to enhance student achievement and keep students safe between the hours of 3 and 6 p.m. The cut will likely cause more than 11,000 students to lose access to the programs and 1,100 staff workers to lose their jobs.
* North Carolina cut by 21 percent funding for a program targeted at small schools in low-income areas and with a high need for social workers and nurses. As a result, 20 schools will be left without a social worker or nurse. The state also temporarily eliminated funding for teacher mentoring.
* Rhode Island cut state aid for K-12 education and reduced the number of children who can be served by Head Start and similar services.
* Virginia’s $700 million in cuts for the coming biennium include the state’s share of an array of school district operating and capital expenses and funding for class-size reduction in kindergarten through third grade. In addition, a $500 million reduction in state funding for some 13,000 support staff such as janitors, school nurses, and school psychologists from last year’s budget was made permanent.
* Washington suspended a program to reduce class sizes and provide professional development for teachers; the state also reduced funding for maintaining 4th grade student-to-staff-ratios by $30 million.
* State education grants to school districts and education programs have also been cut in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Utah.
Any reasonable person would agree that these levels of spending cannot continue. Eeducation is the lifeblood of any nation and there can be no compromise with it. In the United Kingdom, the government has started to rethink its attitudes toward sex offenders and the hugely complicated matrix of legislation, largely modeled on the United States that has been introduced over the last 20 years in order to regulate them. (see http://theopinionsite.org/?p=612) In other British speaking countries such as Australia, the problem is the same. Every year it cost more and more to regulate the ever increasing number of sex offenders who are living in the community, whilst the cost of keeping them in prison also increases every year.
Everybody wants to keep children safe but, when it comes to dealing with sex offenders, one must be selective. It is simply illogical to tar everybody with the same brush. It is ridiculous to suggest that every convicted sex offender represents the same level of potential danger to children. Even the British government, which is and always has been frightened to death of tabloid newspapers and populist opinion, has been forced to put in place a mechanism by which sex offenders can aappeal their inclusion on the UK register.
The number of police visits to the homes of sex offenders has also been reduced, principally on grounds of costs but also because it has been found that fewer visits do not necessarily mean higher rates of reoffending. Meanwhile, every child in America is being forced into receiving a lower standard of education as a result of money being wasted – yes, wasted – on over-zealous, idiomatic and politically driven laws against sex offenders which many believe are indiscriminate, unbalanced and, in many cases, unnecessary. America, like the UK, has unwittingly created a monster.
It has created a ‘child protection industry’ that employs millions, all of whom are potential voters. In short, the politicians are frightened of that which they themselves have allowed to develop; a fear driven machine that costs millions upon millions to maintain. Politicians and lawmakers need to understand that there is no shame in thinking again; they will not lose face either, for this is not about being soft or about being irresponsible towards the safety of children; it is about being pragmatic and sensible.
TheOpinionSite.org and its members are fully aware of the need to keep children safe. Nevertheless, the travesty of spending money on more and more sex offender laws when in fact, that money should be spent on educating our children – which is surely the best child protection of all is unforgivable. What is happening in America is beginning happen in the UK.
Maybe it is time that we in Britain woke up too – before it really is too late and sex offender paranoia costs us more than we can afford.