The past decade has seen amazing changes in the dialogue that is developing around the issue of sexual offenses. Ten years ago, the facts surrounding risk, re-offense rates, and the effectiveness of treatment were written about only by researchers doing the studies. Mainstream media was focused on the hype, the myths, and the rare horror stories and totally ignored the scientific data. While this is still largely true today, the past five years have seen an increase in more positive dialogue about these issues.
The proposed release of someone designated as a sexually violent predator from the Coalinga Hospital in California is the sort of incident that previously would have elicited only the negatives about such a move.
The upcoming release of Dariel Shazier to the community of Lincoln, California, has certainly brought about community resistance, but the editor of the Lincoln News Messenger has used the opportunity to present two rational and fact-based pieces about the situation. She has interviewed other former sexual offenders who are and have been living offense free in society. She has done her homework and discusses the benefits of therapy and the facts about recidivism, re-offense, and risk dispassionately. She specifies in detail the extent of supervision that Dariel will be under upon his release and going forward.
These articles do not downplay the feelings of community members; they rather ask them to consider alternative stances and inform them of the positive role that community members can play as support and positive reinforcement to a newly released individual.
Another very positive bit of reporting comes from Fox6 Now in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
In both the video and the written article, the journalist discusses the very negative effects of the rigid residency restrictions in much of Wisconsin and especially in Milwaukee, restrictions that assure that any registrant moving into the city or moving from the home where he is grand-fathered will be homeless.
Again, this journalist has done his homework. He cites accurate data and studies and interviews an expert in the subject matter to present the case well known to advocates: residency and proximity restrictions create a negative rather than a positive environment for the community and do nothing to increase public safety or protect children.
We have a long way to go, but we need to focus on how far we have come. Open and frank discussion and dialogue relying on empirical evidence and data is our goal, for only in replacing myth with fact will our mission be accomplished.