Friday, October 26, 2012

Where are the Results? New Mexico Sentencing Commission Study Fails to Deliver

OPINION: Press Release

Reform Sex Offender Laws, Inc., Calls N.M. Sentencing Commission Report a Sham

In September, 2012, after a six-year wait, the New Mexico Sentencing Commission published and distributed a study of sex offender recidivism in New Mexico. (1) At least, RSOL thinks that's what it is about.

“Where are the charts?” asks Lloyd Swartz, president of the N.M. affiliate of RSOL. “Where are the graphs? Where are the percentages? How is anyone supposed to understand what this is saying? Most of it has nothing to do with New Mexico.” Indeed, more than three pages of the four-page report do not. They instead provide information on various other studies around the country and even in Canada. Its only chart does NOT include New Mexico.

“I’ve never seen a recidivism report that didn’t use percentages,” comments Swartz. “You have to wade through all that stuff that has nothing to do with New Mexico, then wade through the paragraphs about the New Mexico study until you get to some numbers, and then you have to do the math to know what you have.”

Paralegal Larry Neely did the math. “Seven out of 126 from the prison cohort were returned to prison for a repeat sexual offense; that’s 5.5%. Of the 79 in the probation cohort, only one out of the 79 total had committed a new sexual offense. That is a fraction over 1%.” (1, pp. 2,3)

“This is outrageous,” Neely continues. “Our sex offender recidivism is low, very much in line with that found in other studies in other states. The Sentencing Commission obscures that fact by deliberately focusing on all these other studies, especially one widely-discredited study that shows higher recidivism for some populations but has nothing to do with our New Mexico study. The data from our study is being downplayed in the report and ignored in the media in favor of the higher numbers which don’t even apply. This is nothing more than political pandering.”

Dr. Jill Levenson, professor at Lynn University and author of many sexual offense related studies and publications, when asked to review the study, also expressed surprise that the newspaper articles dealing with the N.M. Commission’s report didn’t even cite the results of their N.M. recidivism study.

The NMSC, media, and at least one lawmaker have put nearly all their attention, says Swartz, on "one study done by a group from Canada (2) who specifically said that their results should not be used to formulate policy and which has been rejected as poorly controlled by the rest of the research community. (3) But that is what the media and politicians see when they look at the report.” (4)

“Even more egregious,” adds Neely, who has extensive knowledge of sentencing and supervision practices as they apply to sex offenders, “is the veiled suggestion in the Commission’s follow-up statement that some of the subjects from the study may have re-offended elsewhere, making the rate higher. (5) This is nonsense. Convicted sex offenders on parole or probation are virtually never given permission to leave the state. The Commission does not say that any of the study group is ‘missing.’ If one or two have been given permission to move elsewhere, the Commission would have had no difficulty at all tracking them. Everything in that report is designed as a scare tactic and as a springboard to a demand for additional restrictions on registrants and more stringent laws and monitoring.”

Brenda Jones, Executive Director of National RSOL, agrees there should be graphs and percentages, and she set about creating them (see original). “It took me about an hour,” she said. “It would seem like the NMSC could have taken an extra hour and produced something that has some meaning for the average citizen.” (6) ..Source.. by RSOL