Dear Chairmen Gary Roberge and Robert Farr:
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
When the Connecticut Sentencing Commission established the Special Committee on Sex Offenders
(SCSO), CTOSJ hoped that the same kind of evidence-based research would drive its recommendations
as has driven the work of the Sentencing Commission and Gov. Malloy's criminal justice reforms.
Smart policies can both save money and reduce crime, just as has been shown in other fields of
criminal justice in Connecticut. No matter how well intentioned the effort, that didn't happen here. It
could have been predicted by the absence of any offender or family member of an offender, or
independent CATSO provider giving a consistent real time, real life view of the impacts of current
What bothers us even more is how the subcommittees' work encouraged a hostile us-versus-them
attitude. Nothing could be further from what we want to accomplish. We are spouses, parents, children,
brothers and sisters, extended families, friends and communities, as well as offenders, who are
impacted by the issues you are attempting to tackle. We are all interested in reducing sexual violence
and the harm it causes. We want to be partners in making sure victims get the services they say they
actually want, instead of perpetuating practices that make little or no difference in outcome. And we
want fair and humane treatment for sex-offenders, the large majority of whom will never offend again.
This means serious treatment for the few at the highest risk to reoffend and fair treatment for all the
At this time of crisis in state government when difficult decisions have to be made about service cuts to
the most needy, the SCSO has unwisely chosen to recommend continuation of the sex offender registry.
CTOSJ believes the continuation of the sex offender registry is indefensible. As stated in greater detail
in our attached previous testimony on proposed changes to the registry, studies have consistently found
them to be of little use, don't lower sex offending rates, fail to make people safer and cause significant
collateral damages to the people on the registry and their families, friends, employers and community.
And the unwillingness of the SCSO to deal with retroactivity for those on the registry makes an already
poor policy legally challengeable.
The SCSO should read more closely the report prepared for it by Robin Wilson. Wilson is a noted
researcher in the area of sex offending policy. And like any good researcher, he goes by the numbers.
What is telling about his report on Connecticut is that instead of using numbers, he makes his most
important points through anecdotal stories; like how probation officers felt constricted by the strict
policies. He wrote, “A tendency towards 'over-supervision' was suggested (by the probation officer)
and probation conditions for sexual offenders were actually (unnecessarily) applicable to all sexual
offenders. In this same line of thinking, probation staff questioned the value-added to community safety
of mandatory minimum sentences, suggesting that some lower risk sexual offenders who might have
done well on probation were sent to prison instead.” (p.42)
The State of Connecticut has ramped up an expensive downstream, post-incident infrastructure that has
had little to no impact on reduction of sex offending in Connecticut. Wilson noted that even if the Risk,
Need, and Responsivity practices are correctly implemented, “the literature is clear that the more
treatment interventions adhere to these principles, the more likely they are to incrementally decrease
recidivism and increase offender reintegration potential.” (p.45) (italics added)
All of these costly and minimally effective interventions with the potential for incremental decreases in
recidivism take away important funding from upstream community education efforts to reduce
offending, and where 95 percent of future offenders will come from. CTOSJ believes sex offending has
been swept under the rug for too long. Victims have been made to feel less than legitimate throughout
the process, from reporting to sentencing. If there is to be funding by the state, let it be to support the
victim in helping make them feel as whole as possible throughout the process, as opposed to the
vengeful litany of proscriptive policies that work to minimize the success of reintegrating sex
Rachel Bandy has broken new ground in helping shape sex offending policy by actually going out and
interviewing victims about what they want to see. Among those responses were views on current
offender management policies. Bandy notes that several coalition representatives interviewed reported
that “there are fewer resources available to service providers because the majority of state funds
earmarked to address sexual violence focus on offenders, not victims.” One noted that “an enormous
number of resources are used for initiatives such as offender GPS tracking, with absolutely no
corresponding increase in material support for victim services—yet these are the very laws named for
victims: [Sex offender laws] have provided zero increase in support for victims in material forms.
[These laws] didn’t add victim funds.… Victims have not benefited from most sex offender laws.…” ”
This entire process is reminiscent of when past special committees were set up to deal with politically
volatile issues to hopefully begin a new, informed discussion of the issue only to see the process
ransacked by a combination of people with skin in the game (jobs) and too little academic
understanding by many others. There is no doubt that the General Assembly, in tasking the review of
sex offending policies, was looking for cover to allow them to begin a more informed discussion of the
issue. This doesn't do it.
Robin Wilson showed further wisdom in his report when he wrote, “Most professional frameworks in
managing the risk posed by identified sexual offenders are 'victim centered'; meaning that they consider
the effects that case management decisions may have on victims – known, unknown, or future.
However, while it is of real importance to consider those potential effects, there will be times when
victim perspectives may not be fully in keeping with case management considerations. Ultimately,
decisions will need to be made that balance victim concerns against allowing opportunities for
offenders to rebuild their lives in the community. While it is an absolute truism that the processes
involved in managing persons who have sexually offended must be sensitive to the experiences and
concerns of persons who have been victimized, it would be my contention that those aspects and case
management concerns may not always converge.” (p. 43) Put simply, currently implemented policy
does a poor job at differentiating between actual victim sensitivity and sound case management.
CTOSJ would like to end its reaction to the draft report by, as we always try and do, referring to the
experts in the field. Alissa R. Ackerman, now a criminal justice professor and sex crimes policy expert
at California State University, Fullerton, submitted, in part, the following testimony where she wrote, “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.”
Now is the time to begin the change in course toward true community based policies that have shown
significant re-offending reduction results, including for the highest risk offenders.
Specifically, the SCSO, instead of setting up a process that led to the inevitable conclusion of more of
the same, should have more closely looked at other sex crime reduction opportunities. One is Circles of
Support and Accountability (CoSA). CoSA is a national program in Canada based on restorative justice
principles designed to assist high-risk sex offenders re-enter the community at the end of their
sentences. As a review of the program wrote, “The majority of sex offenders are released to the
community at the end of their sentences, often without a formal process of community supervision.
CoSA has been created to address this shortfall by providing support and accountability to high-risk sex
offenders who have been designated as high risk to reoffend, as well as to those who seem most likely
to fail due to a lack of prosocial skills necessary for successful transition into a community at the end of
their sentences.” While the program needs continued monitoring and review, the early results show
real, not incremental, reductions in repeat offending. In a review of CoSA by Robin Wilson, he cited
two Canadian studies, the first of which he participated in, showing significant reductions in repeat
offending among this group of high-risk offenders as compared to a similar group of high risk offenders
under more typical management structures. Results in one study “demonstrated a 70% reduction in
sexual recidivism in the CoSA core members comparison group (5% vs. 16.7%), a 57% reduction in all
types of violent recidivism (including sexual – 15% vs. 35%), and an overall reduction of 35% in all
types of recidivism (including violent and sexual – 28.3% vs. 43.4%).” The other study also showed
equally dramatic results. “Specifically, there was an 83% reduction in sexual recidivism (2.3% vs.
13.7%), a 73% reduction in all types of violent recidivism (including sexual – 9.1% vs. 34.1%), and an
overall reduction of 70% in all types of recidivism (including sexual and violent – 11.4% vs. 38.6%) in
comparison to the matched offenders.”
While CTOSJ is not prepared at this time to share studies done on the effectiveness of restorative
justice (a system of criminal justice that focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through
reconciliation with victims and the community at large), there are clearly many sex offending crimes
that have shown the potential to be better solved in ways other than the mandatory minimum
sentencing, overly codified and managed way we treat sex offending now.
CTOSJ wants to be a partner in developing policies that respond to the wants and needs of victims and
offenders alike. We literally can not afford to do less. There is no question that isolated horrendous
events trigger legislative responses. Those knee jerk responses can best be tempered by the beginning
of a collaborative conversation based on the actual facts surrounding sex offending and research
showing what works and what doesn't.