STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
USA FAIR is a not-for profit corporation that seeks to educate and advocate for a more intelligent sex offender registry that will result in safer communities and embrace the bedrock American value of fairness.
Families of people required to register have formed this organization and our membership includes former offenders who are successfully leading law-abiding lives, as well as our allies in the social justice and treatment communities.
We come together from the cities, suburbs and small towns of America out of necessity. The ever escalating sanctions of the registry that are being imposed upon former offenders and their loved-ones are needlessly destroying families – because the overwhelming body of criminal justice research demonstrates that these sanctions, while politically popular, don’t actually protect the community.
As spouses, partners, parents, siblings and children of registrants, we accept the fact that when we make a choice to live with a relative on the registry, we will suffer some of the collateral consequences of their crime. We do this out of love and because the vast majority of former sex offenders have accepted responsibility for their offense, paid their debt to society - and are now leading productive lives as good citizens.
What we can no longer accept and what has brought us to take action is the destruction that has been brought upon our families by laws that simply don’t work. We the family members, are the hidden innocent victims of the sex offender registry.
Let us be clear. We recognize that the laws that have impacted law-abiding former offenders and their families have been the result of high profile violent crimes, frequently committed against children. The anger and fear that these crimes generate is real and legitimate. We mourn for these victims and sympathize with their families, who have suffered unimaginable loss. As a nation, we can only take some solace in the fact that these horrific crimes are extremely rare.
We ask that fair-minded Americans recognize that these sex offenders who commit monstrous acts are the rare exception and not the rule. For every heinous offender, there are thousands of people required to register who are working successfully at rebuilding their lives and providing for their families. We know this because we witness it every day.
We fundamentally believe that one does not have to make a choice between protecting the community or upholding fundamental American principles of fairness and justice. We can do both. We can protect the children and stay true to our values as a nation.
Toward that goal, USA FAIR offers the following “smart-on-crime” solutions to create a more intelligent registry:
1. An intelligent registry recognizes that sex offenders have one of the lowest recidivism rates of all offender groups in the criminal justice system and that only certain sub-sets of offenders are likely to reoffend. The overwhelming majority of first time sex offenders are deserving of the same “second chance” as every other first time offender.
2 An intelligent registry would stop the one-size-fits-all approach and target police resources and taxpayer dollars on monitoring the truly dangerous. We encourage legislators to listen to treatment professionals and the law enforcement officers who are making this very point.
3. An intelligent registry would exempt so-called Romeo & Juliet offenders where an older teenager is involved in a consensual statutory offense with a younger teen.
4. An intelligent registry would recognize that a bigger registry is not a better registry –it just creates a bigger haystack for the truly dangerous needles to hide in – and would reduce the number of misdemeanor offenses that trigger registration.
5. An intelligent registry would classify risk levels based on a scientifically tested risk assessment of the individual offender – not just on the offense.
6. An intelligent registry would incentivize and reward good behavior by allowing law-abiding former offenders a process to have their risk level reduced. (Research shows that recidivism risk drops sharply with age and years of offense-free tenure in the community.)
7. An intelligent registry would also incentivize good behavior by allowing offenders a process for relief from registration requirements – or at least removal from the public registry - following 10 years of law-abiding tenure in the community. (Most re-offending behavior occurs within the first three years of release from incarceration or community supervision and drops significantly each year thereafter.)
8. An intelligent registry would recognize the life destruction that can ensue from the public registry on the web – not just to the offender, but to their family as well, and would limit public notification only to the truly dangerous, specifically those highest risk registrants whose offense involved physical violence, threat of violence, abduction, a stranger victim, a pre-teen non-relational child victim (cases of incest have the lowest recidivism rate) or those with prior criminal convictions.
9. An intelligent registry would recognize that listing place of employment on the public registry makes former offenders virtually unemployable and that job stability is a key factor in maintaining law-abiding behavior. Causing former offenders to lose their jobs jeopardizes successful re-entry into the community and makes us less safe.
10. An intelligent registry would not trigger residency restrictions by recognizing that an offender’s support system of family and friends and connections to the community are critical factors in rebuilding law-abiding lives. Causing former offenders to move away from their support network makes us less safe. (Research shows that residential proximity to places where children gather does not contribute to higher recidivism.)
11. An intelligent registry would recognize that following a sexual offense by a family member, most families stay intact. As a result, residency restrictions can uproot and displace entire families causing spouses to lose employment and children to move out of their school district. In cases of incest, this can frequently result in the state re-victimizing the child.
12. An intelligent registry would recognize that first time offenders who are not listed on the registry commit 95% of all sex crimes. Most victims know their abuser. One is far more likely to find the picture of an abuser in the family photo album than on the sex offender website. If legislators focus their efforts to combat sexual abuse solely on the registry than they are ignoring 95% of sex crimes. The registry is no substitute for broad public education on the facts of sexual abuse. The registry is after-the-fact. We must educate adults and children to prevent sexual crimes BEFORE it happens.
This is our mission. We recognize that this will be a challenging cause to advance, but we do so with hope and confidence because we have witnessed in our every day lives that given the chance, as people see beyond the photograph on the registry and come to know the full human being – the person we love – attitudes change. The criminal justice research is on our side. What is missing are our stories… and our place at the table. We are here to have our voices heard.