Thursday, February 27, 2014

False 'Facts' in the Public Sphere

A Good Lie Is Hard to Kill


Wendy McElroy over at posted a piece on domestic violence statistics. A statistic that has been parroted by the Department of Justice, and even cited by Attorney General Eric Holder in a 2009 speech claimed that “the leading cause of death in the United States among African American women aged 15 to 45 years” was homicide.

The American Journal of Public Health(vol. 93, No. 7, page 1089) called the homicides in this stat “femicide, the homicide of women.” The National Institute ofJustice (NIJ) Journal (2003, page 18) called the deaths “intimate partner violence.”

Now Jacquelyn C. Campbell is accused of making up vital statements about domestic violence and then presenting them as “findings” of a government survey. From McElroy's piece at

“On January 14, [2014] the victim-advocacy organization Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE) filed a formal complaint with the Office of Research Integrity of the Department of Health and Human Services. SAVE wants the unit to “investigate these allegations of research misconduct by Dr. Campbell and colleagues, and take appropriate corrective action.” (As of January 31, the complaint has been rejected and the rejection is being appealed.)”

Later in the article McElroy reviewed CDC data from 2003 showing that cancer, heart disease, unintentional injury, and HIV/AIDS were all larger reasons for death in African American women of that age group. This data was available years before Eric Holder cited the false statistic in a 2009 speech. The DOJ was confronted with this information after the Washington Post ran an expose on this fact-checking mission. However, “The outrageous inaccuracy remains in the text of material on DOJ site, as it has for over four years.”

Just because a statistic has been proven as a fabrication, doesn't make it disappear from the public sphere. See where this is going?

What Does This Have to do with Sex Offenders and this Blog?

Everything. One look at the Nebraska Legislature's laws on registering sex offenders gives us up-to-date proof that debunked data (read: lies) doesn't just go away.

The Legislature finds that sex offenders present a high risk to commit repeat offenses.” -Nebraska Revised Statute 29-4002.

Research commissioned by the legislature's Judiciary Committee itself was published nationwide in 2013 showed that Nebraska's former sexual offenders re-offend at less than a 1% rate every year. They know this, but the statement above is still codified into state law.

Just last night on KETV news at 10, a story was done on the fugitive task force in Omaha that is tasked with apprehending sex offenders listed as “absconded” on the sex offender registry website. Eddie posted a full critique on this fluff piece here.

Up to last year, government websites repeated the statistic that sex offenders have a re-offense rate 50 times higher than what studies have found for at least the last decade. Just because good information exists, doesn't mean people want to report it. Or read it, for that matter.

Assumptions Are 'News' at KETV-Channel 7

UPDATE: Another thoughtful perspective on this issue.

Omaha TV station KETV-Channel 7 is the latest to buy into myth and lie about former sex offenders. A law enforcement PR piece about those extra-legal home-invasion visits to former offenders quotes one of the officers:

“I assume that they're reoffending, that they're dropping off the radar because they don't want law enforcement to know what they're doing.”

KETV's report is shallow and one-sided. If the reporter had bothered to talk with Lisa Sample, Ph.D., or Ryan Spohn, Ph.D., University of Nebraska-Omaha researchers who are actually looking at facts on the issue, some other reasons for the relatively small number of wrong addresses might come to light:

The research shows that former offenders in Nebraska have a year-to-year reoffense rate of less than 1 percent. It shows that Nebraska's public shaming website drives people from their homes. The City of Omaha has a residency restriction ordinance that illegally created a new classification of  "predator" -- some harmless people with misdemeanors fall under the classification. Why not assume someone's been evicted because of the ordinance? That's just as likely or more likely than the reoffending.

Nebraskans Unafraid has documented cases where a former offender has reported the correct address to a local sheriff, but the address still ends up listed incorrectly on the registry because of a clerical error. An offender might go to prison because of a clerical error. It is as easy to assume someone in a short-staffed law enforcement office is messing things up as it is to assume that a former offender is reoffending.

KETV-Channel 7 uses one instance to support the line being fed to it by law enforcement. There was a time when people who claimed to be reporting news sifted information for facts and when someone gave them an assumption, they would try to find out if the assumption is correct. And if there was credible information that disproved the assumption, one of two things happened: 1) The assumption would not be reported without the balancing information, or 2) the assumption AND the information disproving it would be reported.

We recommend to KETV the research that is being conducted at UNO.

Until there is credible evidence to the contrary, we can safely assume that law enforcement again hoodwinked KETV into doing a story that seems to justify extra-legal home invasions of people who have paid for their crimes and only want to rebuild their lives.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The SMART Office Case Law Handbook

Here is a good resource from the federal government that summarizes case law and legislative trends and issues in connection with former sex offender registration and notification: SMART Office Case Law Handbook

Long-Overdue Lawsuit

A long-overdue lawsuit in Missouri exposes the state's civil commitment program as a $25 million sham that is in essence a prison disguised as a mental health facility. The lawsuit is another development that signals the ending of the era of Nebraska-like programs that unconstitutionally punish former offenders while masquerading as public-safety initiatives. Here is the St. Louis Dispatch story.