We're back... with a new name, a new Executive Director, and a more focused mission.
Following the loss of our Executive Director and the passing of one of our key founders, USA FAIR has been off the radar while we engaged in a searching process - both to find a new Executive Director and to better define our mission and the important role that we can play in the reform movement.
Today, we announce that we have selected a new Executive Director, James H. Maynard, Esq. James is the founder and managing member of Maynard Law Office, LLC, a New Jersey law firm with a practice concentration in post-conviction sex offender legal representation and is a pioneering force in this new area of law.
We have also redefined our mission with a new focus on what we are calling the SAEN initiative. SAEN (pronounced like "sane") stands for Sexual Abuse End Now, which should be the universal objective of all who are fighting for effective and fact-based laws to combat sexual abuse. To reflect our new focus, we have formally changed our corporate name to SAEN, Inc.
We are pleased to present to you the Welcoming Message from SAEN, Inc.'s new Executive Director, James H. Maynard, Esq.
Welcome Address of the Executive Director
It is an honor to be appointed Executive Director of SAEN. I undertake this position with the knowledge that reforming the law and public policy associated with the prevention of sexual abuse will be a great challenge.
The issue of sexual abuse is laden with complexity and emotional intensity. For decades, the public policy and legal measures enacted to prevent sexual abuse have been clouded by misinformation and fear. However, the science and data now available make it indisputably clear that the political and legal architecture designed to confront and prevent sexual abuse is ineffective.
Responsible people cannot ignore the proof that our country’s current approach to the protection of society from sexual abuse has failed. An honest assessment of the evidence also confirms that the sexual abuse prevention policies now in place have been devastating to the lives of persons with a sex offense history, and limit the ability of those individuals to safely and successfully reintegrate into society. Simply put, the present body of law and policy designed to prevent sexual abuse neither protects society, nor successfully reintegrates former offenders into society. This situation is unacceptable, and demands action. Reform is no longer optional; rather, it is an affirmative obligation of citizens and lawmakers. What is needed is a new set of law and policy initiatives that will actually work to prevent sexual abuse, and to rehabilitate citizens with a sex offense history.
The prevention of sexual abuse is the mission of SAEN, Inc. This goal will be accomplished by formulating and organizing a 5-year national sexual abuse prevention initiative, called “Sexual Abuse Ends Now” (SAEN). As described in the SAEN initiative proposal:
The SAEN initiative proposes a major, cross-disciplinary, inter- organizational effort to craft and adopt a broad-based, public policy and legislative initiative. The SAEN initiative will prioritize the prevention of sexual abuse as a matter of public health policy. The SAEN initiative will also advocate the concept of “rehabilitation in the interest of public safety,” which emphasizes successful reintegration into society of persons with a sex offense history as an effective method to deter recidivism.
I am elated at the opportunity to contribute to the worthy cause of SAEN. However, I proceed with the humility that this important and difficult issue demands, and with a sincere request for the assistance of all who have the will and ability to make a contribution of any kind toward the goal of ending sexual abuse now.
HOW I GOT HERE
The path to this position has been a long one, spanning 20 years as a criminal defense attorney. My motivation to become involved in the advocacy of sex offense law and policy reform is the direct result of what I experienced in my law practice. I learned about sex offenders from my clients. I came to know many sex offenders as people —human beings— far beyond the stereotypes and social caricatures commonly portrayed in the media. I learned that these people are not monsters; they were fellow citizens, with families, interests and aspirations. I learned from direct observation, and from study of the scientific data, that the vast majority of the people that society brands as “sex offenders”, will never re-offend. Not only will they never commit another sex offense, but they are highly unlikely to commit another crime of any kind.
Representing persons with a sex offense history humanized them for me. I found myself saying time after time: That guy shouldn’t be on Megan’s Law; he’s not a threat to anyone. Of course, over the decades a few individuals who retained me did seem to be a danger to commit another sex offense. What surprised me was how small that percentage was. I was also impressed by how clearly such individuals presented themselves as different from the large majority of people with a sex offense history. My own impressions were consistently confirmed by the results of the psychological risk evaluations that are commonly obtained by defense counsel. Ultimately, I concluded that individualized risk evaluations worked to identify the few sex offenders that present an actual risk of re-offense.
My legal practice forced me to become well versed in the intricacies of sex offense law and policy. From experience and the necessity of much legal research, I began to comprehend the true dynamics of sexual abuse —what it is, how it works, and what can be done about it. My current understanding of this complex and difficult topic is the product of years of exposure to the science and data that explain and document the factual reality of the human and legal phenomenon that has come to be referred to as “sexual abuse.”
Over the course of my career as a criminal defense attorney, I represented an ever- increasing caseload of clients charged with “sex crimes.” During the past two decades, I have observed a relentless drive by many state legislatures to criminalize ever-greater swaths of human conduct that could be characterized as sexual in nature. In addition, while the penalties for sex offenses have been greatly enhanced, various “due process” protections were eroded. Since the passage of Megan’s Law in the early 1990s, the increased criminalization and prosecution of human sexual conduct, in conjunction with reduced due process protections, has led to a rapidly growing population of citizens branded “sex offender.”
As a direct result, the volume of individuals sentenced to post-conviction (Megan’s Law-type) registration, notification and supervision has also increased. Most of these post–conviction sex offense “collateral consequence” schemes are of long duration (at least 10 years), and many are for life. The growing demographic of individuals subject to post-conviction collateral consequences, due to a sex offense conviction, has reached 900,000.
The evolution of my practice from general criminal defense, to a concentration in post-conviction sex offender representation, was unintended. One practice grew, organically, from the other. Each client and each case brought more of the same. My firm’s evolution was inevitable —fueled by the explosion of sex offense prosecutions and the growth of the population of citizens with a sex offense history.
Naturally, my firm’s increasingly specific client-base required a greater focus of the firm’s research and professional energy on sex crimes; and, later, on post-conviction “sex offender” matters. In time, my office was swimming in an alphabet soup of Megan’s Law-type schemes: SORA, SORNA, AWA, CSL/PSL, et cetera. In addition to learning the law, we had to navigate the dimly lit and labyrinthine caverns of judicial and administrative procedure involved in the various registration, notification and parole supervision schemes. In my opinion, this body of law and procedure lacks the “normal” degree of clarity and structure of criminal law, and, because it is new, has a great deal more “gray area” than other practice areas of the law. The grayness of post-conviction sex offender law and procedure is subject to confusion, interpretation and challenge — implicating many constitutional issues.
I am beholden to my clients for any insight that I may have into the “humanity” of sex offense law and policy. I am also greatly indebted to the professionals in the field of psychology for any real understanding of the facts of sexual abuse and recidivism. I have spent a decade interacting and collaborating with the psychologists who do research in this field, and who courageously treat and counsel both offenders and the victims of sexual abuse. These professionals are an admirable group of people. It is due to their efforts and intellect that we now have a scientific platform of understanding of sexual abuse that offers this country effective measures to prevent sexual abuse.
THE SAEN MISSION
It is uplifting to the human spirit to struggle for a just and worthy cause.
The SAEN mission is worthy. It is a reasonable and intellectually honest approach to the reform of laws intended to protect our communities —laws that fail in their present form. In order to accomplish the goal of protecting society from sexual abuse, USA FAIR advocates rational reforms based on up-to-date scientific evidence and the real-world experience of the psychologists and other professionals engaged in the prevention of sexual abuse, and the treatment of both victims and abusers.
The SAEN mission is just. As the documentation on our website shows, the present regime of sex offense law and policy is not only ineffective, it lacks crucial elements of fairness, and is therefore ethically flawed. At present, much of the sex offense law and policy in our country suffers from the legacy issues of its genesis: social hysteria, politicization and misinformation. USA FAIR takes the position that the prevention of sexual abuse must be accomplished by ethical and fundamentally fair methods.
The most serious inadequacy of American sex offense law and policy is that it was neither designed, nor intended, to prevent sexual abuse. Our sex offense laws are focused only on persons with a sex offense history, and are only intended to prevent recidivism. The laws in place to prevent sex offense recidivism are more punitive than rehabilitative in nature. Even if a punitive outcome was unintended, the scientific data confirms that the registration, notification and supervision schemes neither prevent sexual abuse, nor rehabilitate offenders.
Current sex offense law and policy is focused almost exclusively on the prevention of recidivism, and, therefore, on persons already convicted of a sex offense. This is a serious misdirection of policy and public resources. We now know that sex offense recidivism rates are very low (around 10%). We also know that the percentage of total sexual abuse due to recidivism is 4%. It is therefore the case that the vast majority (approximately 96%) of sexual abuse that is detected and results in a criminal charge originates from the population of persons without a criminal history of sex offense. SAEN stands for the prevention of sexual abuse —in its totality— not just the prevention of recidivism by those already subject to sex offense laws. The prevention of sexual abuse must be understood to include abuse by those without any criminal history, as well as by those with a criminal or sex offense history.
Several thousand local, state and federal laws now regulate the lives of individuals with sex offense histories across the country. The result has been an extraordinary public expense. But there is an even more extraordinary personal expense for those unprotected from sexual abuse by these laws. We must commit to implementing effective laws and crafting rational policy. We must have the courage to overcome emotion with evidence, subdue rhetoric with facts and be willing to exchange vengeance for safety and justice.
James Maynard, Esq.