For general information or to contact the directors:
P.O. Box 10551, Phoenix, AZ 85064
Information about our Fearless support group
for registered citizens and their loved ones
in Phoenix at Fearless@azrsol.org or
Tucson at FearlessTucson@azrsol.org.
Marketing Director: email@example.com
Arizonans for Rational Sex Offense Laws is a nonprofit 501(c)3 and the Arizona affiliate of NARSOL. We envision effective, fact-based sexual offense laws that promote public safety; safeguard civil liberties; honor human dignity; and offer holistic prevention, healing and restoration.
No aspect of the criminal justice system is more fraught with misperceptions, distortions and ignorance of the facts than that dealing with sexual offenses. We ask that you, as a journalist, strive to keep an open mind when you report on policies and activities pertaining to this area. In particular, we ask that you work to avoid being caught up in the emotions such offenses can—quite justifiably— spawn and instead look to professional opinion and the years of research that has been conducted as you frame your reporting.
Despite the commonly accepted stereotypes of those with sexual offense convictions, it is vital to remember that these individuals come in virtually every size, shape, age, and background. They are individuals with their own stories. A fundamental issue with public perceptions of these individuals is that society, the media, and our criminal justice and political systems tend to treat them as if they are all the same: bound to repeat their offenses and posing a high risk to the public.
A significant part of the problem is that the media eagerly publicizes sexual offenses, particularly those involving children, and it often pays short shrift to the facts. Extensive, often highly emotional, reporting on heinous offenses involving children contributes mightily to feelings among the public that there is a growing epidemic of attacks on children taking place in this country when in fact the opposite is true.
A case in point is a detailed study of this area by Dr. Emily Horowitz of St. Francis College. She found that the number of all newspaper stories containing the terms “sex offender” or “sexual predator” as a prominent part of the story rocketed from 107 in 1991 to 5,006 in 2006—a factor of nearly 50 times. In addition, the number of all newspaper stories with the term “sexual predator” in the headline leaped from 536 to 15,558 during the same period. An obvious explanation would be a corresponding increase in sexual offenses over that period. However, her research showed the incidence of rape and child sexual abuse actually declined “significantly” during the period.
“The increasing frequency of news stories and legislation relating to sex offenders, and the corresponding decrease in sex offenses, makes it clear that the national news media has increasingly focused on this topic for reasons other than an increase in incidents . . . As media coverage of sex offenders has increased and sex offense incidents have decreased, advocates have pushed for new and more extreme policy responses and new and extreme statements about sex offenders.”
The upshot, Horowitz says, is that “. . . the United States is in the grip of a media fixation and collective moral panic about sex offenders, and . . . that many of the new legal remedies emerging from false fears, false assumptions, and hysteria are ineffective, costly, and an affront to civil liberties. Most troublingly, this context sets the stage for future miscarriages of justice, as individuals (including juveniles) accused of even minor sex crimes are subject to a rush to judgment, an inability to get a fair trial, and harsh, long-term penalties that can be disproportionate to the severity of the crime.”
We are not asking that you defend the actions of those who have committed sexual offenses. Many of their actions clearly have no place in our society and have damaged lives. We are asking, though, that you recognize this is an area in which laws and policies are too often framed on ignorance about how these laws and policies are often ineffective in promoting public safety but are actually counterproductive, generating a host of unintended consequences that can make our communities less safe.
It is our hope that in your reporting you look to the science and not to the often irrational fears that surround sexual offenses. A growing number of organizations around the country such as AZRSOL are committed to providing those influential in policy making and the media with the resources to see what the science actually shows. We hope you take advantage of these opportunities.
This term is not a synonym for child molester. It is in fact a medical diagnosis not a legal term. An individual can be a pedophile without ever committing a sexual offense and an individual can commit a sexual offense without being a pedophile. The term should be avoided because virtually never will the medical diagnosis of an individual be known.
This is not a synonym for a person listed on a sexual offense registry. The term should be avoided as very few individuals on a registry are currently committing sexual crimes. Indeed, the vast majority of those who are committing sexual crimes have never been charged, convicted, or registered.
It is more precise to use descriptors such as “a person charged with child molestation,” or “a man who is required to register as a sexual offender,” or “who is on Arizona’s sexual offense registry.”
In Arizona, the sheriff’s office of the county where the person who has committed a sexual offense resides, works, or studies, handles the registration process. To determine notification requirements, Arizona authorities conduct a risk assessment. The assessment includes nineteen factors that studies have shown can predict the risk that a sex offender will reoffend.
These factors are:
Authorities use all these factors together to assess an offender’s risk and establish the community notification level. Individuals may fall into one of three categories depending on their calculated risk assessment:
Level I: The lowest and least severe warning level, those who fall under this category pose a lower risk of sex offense or recidivism. Depending on the crime for which they receive a conviction, they may not have to register on the public online database. While the local sheriff’s office must maintain the individual’s information, they do not have to disseminate it to the community.
Level II: Level II individuals have a moderate risk of reoffending or committing another sex-related offense. To mitigate the risks, these individuals are listed online in the public sexual offender registry database. In addition, the sheriff’s office will notify the community by non-electronic means through a press release and paper notifications to the surrounding community.
Level III: Level III designees are judged at the greatest risk of committing a sex crime or reoffending after their release. Therefore, they go onto an online, publicly-available sexual offender registry database, and the community can access their information through a press release and non-electronic notifications.