Monday, February 20, 2017

Columbus Dispatch's truthful headline "Recidivism for sex offenders low" somehow didn't implode the Universe


Front page news headline finally publishes what we have been saying for decades, and it was in the Columbus Dispatch, in Ohio's biggest city. I bet it is an engineering feat to be brave enough to publish one of the best headlines EVER. 

Below is the full story. 

http://www.dispatch.com/news/20170219/ohio-state-student-slaying-anomaly-few-sex-offenders-repeat-crime

Ohio State student slaying an anomaly; few sex offenders repeat crime

By John Futty 
The Columbus Dispatch 
2/19/2017

After his conviction for attempted rape in 2011, Brian L. Golsby was required to participate in a sex-offender treatment program in prison.

The specific program he entered, how he performed and whether he was seen as a high risk for re-offending, though, are all confidential under Ohio law.

Whatever treatment Golsby received, police say it didn't stop him from the Feb. 8 abduction, rape and slaying of Reagan Tokes, a 21-year-old Ohio State University student. Golsby has been linked to the crime through DNA that was on file from his previous conviction.

Tokes' death occurred three months after Golsby, 29, was released from prison for that 2011 attack, in which he was accused of forcing a woman to perform oral sex at knifepoint in a Grove City parking lot.

The Golsby case represents the public's worst fears about convicted sex offenders — that they don't respond to treatment and will strike again if released.

But those are myths, reinforced whenever such cases get extensive media coverage, said Melissa Hamilton, a law professor who has written extensively about sex offenders.

"These incredibly horrible stories occur, the media picks them up and the public reacts," she said. "It stokes fears of sex offenders as people who are likely to re-offend. But the statistics don't support it."

Hamilton, a visiting criminal-law scholar at the University of Houston Law Center, said one of the most comprehensive studies on sex offenders was issued by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2003. It tracked more than 9,000 sex offenders released from prisons in 15 states, including Ohio, in 1994. Three years after their release, 5.3 percent of the offenders had been arrested for another sex crime.

"I wouldn't characterize that as high-risk," Hamilton said.

The sex offenders who were most likely to offend again were men whose victims were boys, not adults, the study found.

Two years ago, Ohio prison statistics showed that 11 percent of released sex offenders returned to prison on sex charges, compared with a recidivism rate of 28.7 percent for all inmates.

The Justice Department study made a similar finding: "Sex offenders in the study had a lower overall re-arrest rate than non-sex offenders."

But Scott Matson, acting deputy director of the Justice Department's Sex-Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking office, cautioned that recidivism is hard to measure because so many sex crimes go unreported.

"We don't know the true recidivism rate," Matson said.

Research has shown that treatment for sex offenders can be effective, but not all treatment programs are the same, he said.

The most effective programs, Matson said, are based on the individual needs of each offender and that offender's risk of re-offending.

That appears to be the model now used in the Ohio prison system, which worked with the University of Cincinnati Corrections Institute on a pilot program in 2012 aimed at improving its sex-offender treatment.

The idea is "to match treatment services to the risk level of the offender," said Mindy Schweitzer, deputy director of the institute. "Someone who is low risk to re-offend would receive less intense treatment than someone at moderate or high risk."

All sex offenders who enter the Ohio prison system are transferred to the Sex Offender Risk Reduction Center at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient, according to the department's written policies.

Following an assessment, each inmate is categorized by risk level. Those rated as low and medium-low risk for re-offending receive what's known as basic education programming at the reception center.

Those labeled medium-high or high risk are transferred to a prison that offers a comprehensive sex-offender program.

Department records show that Golsby was transferred from the reception center to the Madison Correctional Institution, which is identified as one of four prisons that offer the comprehensive program.

Those who refuse to participate can face discipline ranging from restrictions on commissary privileges to an increased security level.

"Though these penalties are available, the department has experienced little resistance from inmates and has had to use very few of these measures," the state's Correctional Institution Inspection Committee said in a 2015 report.

According to the department's policy document, the purpose of the treatment program is "reducing the risk of sex re-offending, thereby enhancing public safety and future risk to victims."

At the end of business Friday, department officials hadn't responded to an email message asking how the department measures whether that goal is being met.

jfutty@dispatch.com

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