Families Affirming Community Safety (FACTS)

December 17, 2009

Expert: LB 285 a Threat to Public Safety

Filed under: Child Safety — stfacts @ 3:05 pm
Tags: , ,

By Stephen Skulsky, PhD

The author is an Omaha clinical psychologist and nationally recognized expert on sex offenders. The State of Nebraska and criminal justice system officials routinely call on him to evaluate sex offenders.

The State of Nebraska would be making a costly and dangerous mistake if it implements the sex offender management and tracking protocol outlined in LB 285.

A recently filed federal lawsuit appropriately calls into question the constitutionality of LB 285. I will leave it to the courts to decide that question.

My concern is the safety of our communities. Safety is best served by the current system in Nebraska, under which scientific and law enforcement expertise determines a registrant’s risk of reoffending.

Tossing that system out and replacing it with the “one-size-fits-all” approach of LB 285 means that truly dangerous sex offenders like Phillip Garrido (kidnapper of Jaycee Lee Dugard) will be able to “hide in plain sight” on a public web registry that lists all sex offenders regardless of their level of risk. California has some of the most stringent sex offender laws in the nation, and all sources agree that Garrido escaped law enforcement attention because the system was distracted and overly burdened by tracking registrants who posed little or no risk.

I have evaluated hundreds of sex offenders. I know that there are low-risk registrants capable of succeeding in therapy.

LB 285 will have the effect of isolating, degrading and putting in danger these registrants who pose little risk, as well as inflicting harm upon their families. Low-risk registrants should be required to receive therapy and they should be integrated into society. This is the most effective means of preventing recidivism.

LB 285 could actually have the effect of making it more likely that a low-risk registrant would reoffend. Why? Because the law’s shaming and degrading treatment of low-risk registrants could cost them their jobs. It further could drive them away from seeking therapy and discourage them from compliance with registration laws.

By using a misguided “one-size-fits-all” approach and ignoring expert and law enforcement judgment as to the risk posed by a particular sex offender, LB 285 represents a clear and present threat to public safety. It also is a threat to the families of thousands of registrants who long ago completed their sentences, succeeded in therapy and have become productive, respected, taxpaying members of our communities.

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