To Co-Chairs, Senator Winfield, Representative Stafstrom and Members of the Committee on the
Judiciary: Testimony RSB 1113: AAC THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE
CONNECTICUT SENTENCING COMMISSION WITH RESPECT TO THE SEXUAL
OFFENDER REGISTRY, PETITIONS TO TERMINATE PARENTAL RIGHTS OF
INCARCERATED PARENTS AND SENTENCE REVIEW.
One Standard of Justice, Inc. (OSJ) has previously testified at length before the Judiciary
Committee, the Connecticut Sentencing Committee (CSC) and CSC’s subcommittee investigating
potential reforms to current sex offense law. Those testimonies are on our website,
onestandardofjustice.org, and we will make them available to any committee member who would
like a copy.
Let’s be frank. There is no academic study or state review that shows sex offense registries make our
communities safer. None.
As Emily Horowitz writes in her book Protecting Our Kids?, “These laws unquestionably fail to
protect children and destroy the lives of those labeled sex offenders. A class of despised and
disposable people is created; fear and panic are promoted. There emerges a retributive culture
undermining real efforts to create a better and safer world for children and adults.” (pg. xix.)
Let’s quickly review a few facts about CT’s registry.
1. According to OPM’s 2012 recidivism study,
only 2.7% of those convicted of a sexual offense were convicted of a new sex crime in the 5 years
after their release from prison.
2. Despite being only 9.7% of CT’s population, blacks make up
22.3% of the registry.
3. The number of people on CT’s registry is larger than 28.8% of our towns;
Over 10 years, according to OPM’s two 5-year recidivism studies, only 55 released offenders were
arrested for a new sex crime. That’s 5.5 arrests per year. Meanwhile, 447 released prisoners with no
record of arrests for sex crimes were arrested for a sexual offense.
Next door in New York, they did a 20-year study of offending covering 10 years before the
implementation of their registry and 10 years after which included over 160,000 offenses. Among
the conclusions were that the rate of sexual offending did not change because of the implementation
of the registry, only 4% of those arrested had a prior sex-related arrest and that the registry “had no
significant impact on rates of total sexual offending, rape, or child molestation.” It had no impact on
first time sexual offending or repeat offending (Sandler, Freeman & Socia, K., Psychology, Public
Policy and Law, pp. 297, 287).
In New Jersey, the home of Megan’s Law, researchers concluded, “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
A better solution would be to look at Minnesota where over 10,000 people are required to register.
Just over 400 are on the public notification registry and they do not publish addresses.
The question today before the Judiciary Committee is: How can you craft a political solution to a
politically created legislative scheme that is expensive, doesn’t reduce sexual offending, doesn’t
create safer communities, works against healing for all parties, and creates vast collateral damages to
offenders, victims, their families, friends and neighbors?
OSJ does not believe in registries, but we also recognize that lacking the political will to legislatively
abolish the registry, reasonable compromise is necessary. We commend the work that the CSC has
done, and have submitted to the committee a table of recommended adjustments to their proposal
that are both reasonable and evidence-based.
There are four (4) general areas needing adjustment:
1. Creation of a Sex Offense Registry Board (SORB). CT should move toward a tiered risk
based system that makes evaluations of people who have been convicted of a sexual offense
using validated actuarial systems. If that is the intent, then membership of the SORB should
only include designees with 5 or more years experience in assessing those convicted of a
sexual offense. Membership belonging to others providing subjective criteria would deviate
from a true risk-based system and reinforce that the registry is about punishment, not safety.
2. Creation of a Tiered Registry. Both CSC and OSJ agree with 3 tiers, with Tiers 1 and 2 being
available to law enforcement only (CT’s original registry, with one tier, was also law
enforcement only with potential criminal sanctions for disclosure.) and Tier 3 being public.
3. Terms on the Registry. CSC - 10, 20 year and life registry terms, w/ability to petition off in 5,
10 and 10 years. OSJ - 5, 10, 20 years with ability to petition off in 3, 5, 10 years. A riskedbased
registry means just that. Academic research shows desistance is the key and that time
without relapse greatly reduces risk.
4. Eligibility for new risk-based system. CSC proposes that only newly sentenced offenders be
eligible. OSJ strongly believes that all current registrants should be eligible, with their ability to
petition off determined by their date of conviction. Registrants whose conviction was pre-1999,
but were added to the registry by subsequently enacted law, should be immediately and
automatically removed from the registry providing they have not been convicted of any new
Some have claimed the proposal for retroactivity, if implemented, would revictimize people who
have experienced sexual harm because the registry was a “promise” made at sentencing. One
cannot conflate a victim’s trauma with a person who has been convicted of sexual crime’s risk to
the community. If you could, then the idea of allowing a future registrant to be able to petition off
the registry because they are of low risk provides the same kind of opportunity for revictimization.
It is a circular logic that doesn’t hold up. The registry is either civil regulation or punishment, not
OSJ does not believe in exclusions that create unequal justice. The proposal before you leaves
thousands of registrants still on the registry except for the few with pre-1999 convictions who can
try and petition off. If Connecticut wants a fairer, more cost efficient system, the state should
invest in a high quality risk assessment system that is used at the time of arrest. We would save
money, create safer communities and strengthen families because we would better understand risk.
Courts across the country, at the state and federal level (see the previous testimony on our website)
have been deciding that registries are, indeed, punishment, especially with the now ubiquitous
internet. The latest elected official to declare the same conclusion is Michigan Attorney General
Dana Nessel who in February, 2019 filed two amicus briefs in cases before the Michigan Supreme
Court arguing that Michigan’s sex offense registration and notification requirements are
punishment because they are so burdensome and fail to distinguish between dangerous offenders
and those who are not a threat to the community. Nessel also pointed out that public accessibility
of the registry has led to shaming, ostracizing, and even bullying of registrants and their families.
“Simply put,” said Nessel, “the state Sex Offender Registration Act has gone far beyond its
purpose and now imposes burdens that are so punitive in their effect that they negate the State’s
public safety justification.”
Many try and frame the debate on sex offense policy and the registry as being an us-versus-them
zero-sum game. Policies developed around the moral panic from sensationalized isolated cases
have had the typical law and order response of longer sentences, tougher restrictions, and more
shaming. The result is massive new spending for post-conviction policies of limited utility while
stoking the fires of rage, simply ensuring more harm for both those who commit sexual harm and
those who have experienced sexual harm.
The only true academic research interviewing victims and victim advocates was done by Rachel
Kate Bandy. Her research, titled “The Impacts of Sex Offender Policies on Victims” is must
reading for anyone interested in advocating for victims or offenders. (Her findings are included in
Professor Richard D. Wright's book “Sex Offender Laws – Failed Policies, New
Directions” (Springer Publishing, 2008).) Bandy wrote, “By drawing public attention and scrutiny
towards the most egregious offenders and offenses, sex offender laws detract attention and scrutiny
from the most common type of offenders and victims. It is this distraction that potentially
decreases public safety and increases victimization risk. The Northeast CASA (victim advocate
organization) offered, “If these sex offender laws have done anything, they have confused the
public by emphasizing the least common offender”…Fittingly, several respondents (victims, for
clarification) in this study advised against policies in which a zero-sum relationship is falsely
created between victims and offenders.”
OSJ believes that the philosophy applied to all involved should be “Do No More Harm”.
Connecticut has created an adversarial system that pits victim against offender with only one
possible outcome: a tougher path to healing for everyone.
OSJ never minimizes the hurt of a victim whether the individual: is person who has experienced sexual harm; loses a loved one to a drunk driver; loses all their life memories and possessions through arson; or, returns to find a ransacked home. All those events, and others, provoke hurt, anger, loss and a profound sense of personal invasion.
Yet despite the fact that many of the perpetrators of these personally invasive crimes are often
repeat offenders, only for sexual crimes, where repeat offending is rare, do we choose to create a
post-judicial scheme of public and personal shaming while also constructing as many roadblocks
as possible to prevent healing and reconstruction for all parties.
OSJ wants to provide thoughtful, positive, fact-based alternatives, just as we are today, that build
safer communities, lower the incidence of sexual harming, provide opportunities for healing and
closure, all while having the additional benefit of saving scarce taxpayer dollars. On April 6 & 7 at
the Lyceum in Hartford, OSJ is holding a conference titled “Healing Connections: Rethinking
How We Keep Our Communities Safe”. Heading the conference will be Drs. Ackerman,
Levenson and Sardina, three nationally recognized women academic researchers on sexual
offending, two of whom themselves have experienced sexual harm. As Dr. Ackerman said about
the conference, “We need to reconceptualize sexual harm and abuse from being a criminal justice
issue to a joint public health/criminal justice issue, where the idea of both those who have been
sexually harmed and those who have caused sexual harm working together becomes essential.”
In closing, OSJ would like call attention to the fact that the voices of those subject to registry
requirements and their family members have been excluded as Connecticut has undergone the
lengthy process of taking on the issue of the registry and sex offense policy. Today, we strongly
recommend that these individuals be included in activities and deliberations as we move forward
together to create a fairer, safer Connecticut. In addition, OSJ would like legislators to note that
you may not see many people who are required to register testifying here today because those who
have shown an interest in fighting for themselves alongside us have been threatened by probation
and parole. They have been told not to work with our organization, effectively taking away their
right to free speech.
We believe Gov. Lamont has the right approach when he recently tweeted after attending a
criminal justice reform event, “Thanks to @VanJones68, advocates from @REFORM, @cut_50,
and others who met with us today in #Hamden to discuss criminal justice reform. These are
important conversations to have and we want everyone at the table so that we can hear all
perspectives in this critical conversation.”
We look forward to being at the table to provide our expertise and experiences to help work toward
reasonable, rational, healing, and cost-effective policies in Connecticut.
Submitted by Cindy Prizio, President, One Standard of Justice, Inc.