Comments submitted by Connecticut for One Standard of Justice, Inc. on proposed revisions to the
Connecticut Sex Offender Registry
Connecticut for One Standard of Justice, Inc. (CTOSJ) is a volunteer-based civil rights organization
committed to ensuring that persons accused or convicted of sex offenses in Connecticut are treated
constitutionally and fairly by the state before, during, and after their sentences through the use of
As the SMART office of the federal Office of Justice wrote about sex offender management schemes,
“Despite the intuitive value of using science to guide decision-making, laws and policies designed to
combat sexual offending are often introduced or enacted in the absence of empirical support.” The
Committee is choosing to continue down that path by lacking empirically validated justifications for
any of its proposed attempts to “strengthen” the registry.
Before getting to the specific concerns CTOSJ has with the proposed recommendations, a simple, yet
serious, question needs to be answered: What is the purpose of the Connecticut Sex Offender Registry?
The development of sex offender registries around the country received its primary impetus from the
public outcry over the horrific rape and murder of seven-year-old Megan Kanka by her neighbor, a
previously convicted repeat violent sex offender in 1994. Only a month after the tragic event, New
Jersey created one of the first sex offender registries (SOR), though arguably the best known, with the
goal of making the public safer by creating a database of convicted sex offenders.
In 2008, New Jersey reviewed the usefulness and effectiveness of their SOR. The report (1) concluded
that the New Jersey SOR was ineffectual at lowering sex offending rates among offenders and did not
increase public safety. It also made the recommendation that “given the lack of demonstrated effect of
Megan's Law on sexual offenses, the growing costs may not be justifiable.” The same study further
concluded that, “despite widespread community support for these laws, there is virtually no evidence to
support their effectiveness in reducing either new first - time sex offenses or sex re-offenses.” (Zogba,
et. al, New Jersey Department of Corrections, 2010)Similar studies on the ineffectiveness of SORs
have been done in other states, including New York and South Carolina.
If the SOR is then ineffectual at lowering sex offending rates or increasing public safety, then do they at
least identify a significant portion of the future sex offending universe? According to Connecticut's
2012 OPM sex offender recidivism study the answer is clearly “no”.
The OPM study contained two facts especially relevant to this Committee's work:
1. Only 3.6 percent
of the sex offenders released from prison were arrested for a new sex crime within five years of release,
a number not significantly different from 5.3 percent – with 2.7 for first time offenders - in the often
cited Department of Justice meta-study (Langan, Schmitt & Durose, Bureau of Justice Statistics); and,
2. If the purpose of the registry is to track potential future sex offenders, the registry targets the wrong
group. Following their release, the OPM study showed that while the released non-sex offender
prisoners sexually offended at a rate about half that of released convicted sex offenders (1.9% to 3.6%),
the non-offenders were arrested for sex offenses by volume at a rate almost ten times greater than the
former sex-offenders within the first five years (259 to 27). For comparison, the same DOJ meta-study
found released non-sex offender prisoners were arrested for 750% more sex crimes than the original
sex offender group. In fact non-sex offenders were responsible for 87% of all sex offenses committed
by former prisoners within three years of release. (Langan, Schmitt & Durose, Bureau of Justice
Statistics, p. 2-3).
A different lens for looking at the efficacy of SORs in identifying future offenders was an analysis
covering twenty years of data in New York State - ten years before NY’s registry was created and ten
years after. The study found that 95.9% of all arrests for any sex related offenses were committed by
first time offenders and 94.1% of all arrests for crimes against children were likewise by first-time
offenders. The same study found that over-all “only about 4% of all arrests for sexual offenses involved
individuals with a prior sexual offense conviction.” (Sandler, Freeman & Socia, K., Psychology, Public
Policy and Law, pp. 297-298).
The same New York study, which included over 160,000 individuals, over twenty years, showed rates
of offending did not change in the ten years following implementation of a SOR. The study concluded
the imposition of a SOR in New York “had no significant impact on rates of total sexual offending,
rape,or child molestation.” It also had no significant impact on first time offending or repeat offending.
Further, based on analysis of studies conducted in ten other states the same researchers concluded that
“community notification plans” including sex offender registries are of “limited” value (Sandler,
Freeman & Socia, K., Psychology, Public Policy and Law, pp. 297, 287).
How about collateral damage from SORs? As if ineffectiveness wasn't enough SORs have been found
to have collateral damages (needs cite)
CTOSJ doesn't believe evidence-based research has shown any justification for the existence of a sex
offender registry in Connecticut. The same holds true for virtually all of the recommendations of the
Sentencing Subcommittee of the Special Committee on Sex Offenders.
It should be remembered that the initial statutory iteration of the registry made it a crime to disclose the
name of anyone on the registry. Who had parents that didn't tell them to go with their first instinct?
Given how study after study has shown ineffectiveness of registries, Connecticut would be wise to
return to that initial position. If that isn't going to happen then the next best outcome is for the
establishment of tiers with only the highest risk repeat violent offenders being on the public portion of
the registry, most likely well less than ten percent of sex offenders.
CTOSJ has a number of objections and suggestions to the recommended changes. They are in rough
order of the draft proposal, though not in importance and are as follows:
1. Under current law, judges have the ability to find that public dissemination of a sex offenders
registration is not required. In lieu of the expense of creating a Sexual Offender Registration Board at a
time of significant fiscal pressures on all three branches of government, the Judicial Branch shall
establish a required course for all judges, along the lines of sexual harassment courses, on the efficacy
of SORs and validated risk assessments. Such course shall present, at a minimum, qualified reviews on
the effectiveness of SORs done in other states. The Court Support Services Division (CSSD) shall....
2. There is no basis for the establishment of a Sexual Offender Registration Board.
3. There is no basis for the extension of time on the registry, public or law enforcement, for
medium-risk individuals. CSSD, in coordination with OPM, shall study the ….
4. The court, in determining the tier placement for an individual, shall consider the validated
actuarial risk assessment score.
5. At no time shall a probation or parole officer or the state's attorney be allowed to request of a
judge that the registration requirement of an individual on the law enforcement registry be changed to
the public registry because of the registrant's failure to meet conditions of parole or probation or
additional criminal activity. There are already procedures in place to deal with any actions of an
individual in the parole/probation/judicial system. If a crime is of demonstrably sufficient severity, it
will be taken into account in the risk assessment anyway.
6. Any individual currently on the registry, whether their case was adjudicated before or after the
establishment of the registry or they would be placed on the public or law enforcement registry if the
Committee's recommendations were to become law, shall immediately be permitted to apply for
removal from the registry if they have served one half of the time sentenced to be on the registry. The
court, in determining the request, shall consider the validated actuarial risk assessment score. Any
lifetime registrant may apply for removal after ten years. The Office of Public Defender shall assign
counsel for an indigent individual.
7. There should be no burden of proof on the applicant applying for reduction in time on either
registry. Victims should not be allowed in the risk assessment process since it is, by definition, an
actuarily validated measurement designed on studies of statistically significant behaviors. It is a
measure for public safety, not of their personal experience.
8. Whether of not the Sex Offender Registration Board (SORB) is created, the SORB or judicial
system shall allow for subsequent application for reduction in time on either registry by an
unsuccessful applicant every two years.
9. All individuals placed on the SOR since the establishment of the registry should be
automatically reclassified to the non-public registry based on their risk assessment unless their
validated risk assessment suggests placement on the public registry is warranted for public safety
reasons. If their assessment is not current, probation and parole staff have been trained in risk
assessment scoring. Individuals should be able to appeal any reclassification if it continues their
placement on the public registry or at a higher tier than risk, record and behavior would call for. The
rationale for this is not only for fair justice, but also fiscal considerations. The tier assignments can be
made within current appropriations. Any appeals to superior court will be less in number than the large
number who would sue the court for inclusion on the non-public SOR if the prospective tier assignment
proposals are approved and implemented.
10. Despite the litany of disagreements with the proposed changes to the SOR, we do agree that the
address reporting requirements should be altered in frequency as suggested and that when an individual
still on parole or probation fails to make a timely filing, their case officers should help them become
It is worth noting that, thankfully, sex offending has dropped significantly in Connecticut. In the
Connecticut Annual Report of the Uniform Crime Reporting Program for 2015, statistics showed that
the drop in the total of all reportable crime included in the report and sex offenses from 2006 to 2015
were both between 33-34%. The lack in any dramatic difference between the drop in sex crimes and
crime generally should make the Sentencing Commission, as well as the Office of Policy and
Management, re-examine the costly new infrastructure created to deal with sex offenders. This review
should cover expenses within both the Judicial and Executive branches.
These comments are being written in August, 2017 as Connecticut still struggles to adopt a state budget
and continues to look for reductions in spending. The Committee would be commended to read the
proposed recommendations of the Recidivism Reduction Committee where they write, “Randomized
studies have shown that punitive policies tend to be less effective overall than treatment-based policies
in changing offender behavior...” Connecticut has created over the last 20 years an expensive and
punitive sex offender management scheme unlike any created for any other class of criminal behavior,
no matter how egregious, invasive or offensive the crime. Connecticut would make more efficient and
effective use of its limited state resources if it dramatically reduced its prohibitively expensive postoccurrence
downstream efforts and appropriately increased upstream pre-occurrence public education
efforts and adopted the recommendations included in these comments.
At the time, 2010, that the New Jersey SOR review (Zogba, et. al, New Jersey Department of
Corrections, 2010) was taking place, it was estimated the ongoing expenses, in 2007, were already $3.9
million. Interestingly, one of the data collection requests of the Subcommittee on Sentencing was
“What is the annual budget for the sex registry over the last 3 years?” It is as if the Committee was
working in an altered reality where new expenses could be recommended for activities unsupported by
evidence in a world where the budget was unlimited.
If when evidence-based science and independent academic study of sex offender registries (SOR)
consistently show them to be of little to no help in reducing sex offenses or increasing public safety
while causing significant collateral damage and when evidence-based policies are driving all other
reforms in Connecticut's progressive and effective criminal justice agenda, the Committee should
consider our recommendations on the issues we have mentioned.
Connecticut for One Standard of Justice * PO 46 New Canaan, CT * CTOSJ.ORG * 203.680.0567