To Whom It May Concern:
My name is Alissa Ackerman and I am a professor of criminal justice at the University of Washington, Tacoma where I specialize in sex crimes policy and practice. I have spent nearly a decade as a researcher determined to understand whether (and how) current policy is effective at reducing sexual violence. What I have learned through my own research and the body of literature within which my work is situated, is that current policies, including registration,community notification, and residence restrictions are ineffective at best and potentially dangerous. First and foremost, placing all people convicted of a sexual offense, regardless of risk, makes it increasingly difficult for members of the public to discern who they should be aware of. Current state and national estimates of the number of registered citizens is inflated and often includes people who are not actually living in the community. Furthermore, most people on registries represent minimal risk, and tax dollars are better spent focusing attention elsewhere.Despite the sheer number of individuals currently on public registries, when someone is victimized the majority of the time it is by someone who is not on a registry. This is because the vast majority of sexual victimization is committed by someone known to the victim/survivor.Current policies do not address this well known fact. They make it very difficult for people convicted of sex crimes to assimilate back into the community as productive members of society.Our policies destabilize these individuals, making it harder to find stable employment, housing,and interpersonal relationships. This is crucial for desistance from crime.I appreciate the good intentions of policymakers to keep communities safe from sexual victimization, but my professional opinion is that the path to do so lies in survivor-centered policy and prevention efforts and not on reactionary, punitive policies that show no evidence of being effective, and some evidence that they make us less safe.Finally, I acknowledge that I am also a survivor of sexual violence. Nothing about current legislation makes me and/or other survivors any better off. In fact, most survivors will say that they do not want a long drawn out criminal justice process -most survivors want an apology and the ability to move on with their lives. Survivors need access to adequate mental health care,crisis resources, people who will listen, safe housing, etc. and none of this is accomplished through current sex crimes policies. Most survivors just want sexual victimization to stop. This requires evidence-based prevention, not knee-jerk and fear-based reaction.As I usually say in professional presentations on the matter, we don’t want communities to feel safe, w e want communities to actually be safe. To do so means to rethink our current approaches to sexual victimization.Respectfully submitted,Alissa R. Ackerman, PhD Associate Professor University of Washington, Tacoma Selected Citations:Ackerman, A.R., Harris, A., Levenson, J., & Zgoba, K. (2011). Who are the people in your neighborhood? A descriptive analysis of individuals on public sex offender registries.International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 34, 149–159.Ackerman, A.R., Sacks, M. & Osier, L. (2013). The experiences of registered sex offenders with Internet registries in three states. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 52(1), 29-45.Ackerman, A.R. & Sacks, M. (2012). Can General Strain Theory be used to explain recidivism among registered sex offenders? Journal of Criminal Justice, 40(3), 187-193.Ackerman, A.R., Sacks, M. & Greenberg, D. (2012). Legislation Targeting Sex Offenders: Are
Recent Policies Effective in Reducing Rape? Justice Quarterly, 29(6), 858-887.Levenson, J., Ackerman, A.R., & Harris, A.J. (2014). Catch me if you can: An analysis of fugitive sex of fenders . Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 26, 129-148.Levenson, J., Ackerman, A.R. Socia, K. & Harris, A. (2013) .Wherefore art thou? Transient Sex Offenders and Residence Restrictions. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 26, 319-344.Socia, K., Levenson, J., Ackerman, A.R. & Harris, A. (2014). Brothers Under the Bridge’:Factors Influencing the Transience of Registered Sex Offenders in Florida. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 27, 559-586.