You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

How a Plano legislator’s remarks bred strict sex offender laws


Recent research has challenged long-held assumptions that convicted sex offenders are very likely to commit new sex crimes and questioned how those assumptions were reached in the first place. Prior to that, though, one Texas legislator’s words were particularly influential on sex offender laws across the country. (Italics added for clarity.)

July 1997: State Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, a former schoolteacher and proponent of the state’s strict 1995 Ashley’s Laws for sex offenders, attends a conference in Bellevue, Wash., about sex offender registries. She begins her speech by noting that “putting the modern sex offender into the traditional criminal justice system is usually as successful as keeping a snake in a shoebox.”

EXCLUSIVE INVESTIGATION: Click here for the full sex offender registry investigation

Shapiro continues: “Sex offenders are a very unique type of criminal. I like to say they have three very unique characteristics: They are the least likely to be cured; they are the most likely to reoffend; and they prey on the most innocent members of our society.” She cites no evidence.

April 1998: Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics includes Shapiro’s presentation in a collection of wide-ranging presentations from the Washington conference. A disclaimer states: Contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Bureau of Justice Statistics or the U.S. Department of Justice.”

November 2002: U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson, appointed by Pres. George Bush in 2001, briefs the U.S. Supreme Court for a case, Smith v. Doe, in which Alaska was asking if two defendants convicted of sex offenses, imprisoned and released prior to the establishment of the registry now had to register.

In support, Olson writes: “Sex offenders exact a uniquely severe and unremitting toll on the Nation and its citizens for three basic reasons: ‘They are the least likely to be cured, they are the most likely to reoffend and they prey on the most innocent members of our society.’” He cites the “United States Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics” paper.

March 2003: Writing for the court, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy upholds the Alaska men’s inclusion on the registry, arguing such public lists are reasonable measures to protect the public because of “grave concerns over the high rate of recidivism among convicted sex offenders and their dangerousness as a class.”

November 2003: A Bureau of Justice statistical analysis, tracking 270,000 criminals released from prison in 1994, finds 5.3 percent of sex offenders committed a new sex crime after release. The rate falls to 3.3 percent for those over the age of 45. “Compared to non-sex offenders released from State prison, sex offenders had a lower overall rearrest rate” for all crimes, the report concludes.

November 2006: California voters consider Proposition 83, a sweeping set of restrictions for sex offenders, including strict monitoring and a statewide ordinance prohibiting them from living within 2,000 feet of schools and other locations for children. It declares: “According to a 1998 report by the U.S. Department of Justice, sex offenders are the least likely to be cured and the most likely to reoffend, and they prey on the most innocent members of our society.”

It passes with 70 percent approval.

The California Supreme Court strikes down the law’s buffer-zone, finding in March 2015 that the restriction had contributed to homelessness among registered sex offenders. By then, the word-for-word statements from Shapiro’s speech, citing the Propoosition 83 language, have already been used in several local ordinances banning offenders from child-safe zones, including:

2006: Paso Robles, Calif.

September 2009: Sheboygan, Wis.

SOURCES: American-Statesman staff research; “Frightening and High,” Ira Mark Ellman, Arizona State University; “The Iconic Child Molester,” Tamara Rice Lave, University of California


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

‘Silence of the Lambs’ director Jonathan Demme dies at 73
‘Silence of the Lambs’ director Jonathan Demme dies at 73

Academy Award winning filmmaker Jonathan Demme, best known for directing “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Philadelphia,” has died, according to a report. He was 73. An unidentified source close to Demme’s family told IndieWire on Wednesday that Demme died of esophageal cancer and complications from heart disease.
Women, children injured after fleeing teens crash stolen SUV at St. Louis airport
Women, children injured after fleeing teens crash stolen SUV at St. Louis airport

Two women and a pair of children were injured Tuesday when the teenage driver of a stolen SUV collided with the car they were in as the SUV fled police near Terminal 2 at St. Louis Lambert International Airport. The car’s driver, a 30-year-old woman, suffered possible broken bones, according to police. She was in critical but stable condition...
Read Pope Francis’ TED talk; pontiff warns of danger of power, need for ‘tenderness’
Read Pope Francis’ TED talk; pontiff warns of danger of power, need for ‘tenderness’

Pope Francis gave a surprise TED talk on Wednesday, telling those listening that the future has a name, and it is “hope.” The pontiff went on to say that while Christians should be optimistic, they should not ignore those who are suffering. Here is the text of his TED talk: Pope Francis: “Good evening – or, good morning...
'Call of Duty’ reveal set for Wednesday
'Call of Duty’ reveal set for Wednesday

The next installment of the video game “Call of Duty” is set to be revealed on Wednesday. While there have been leaks about many of the new game's features, details from the game’s developers have been few. What is known today is that the latest version will return to its original setting, World War II. The “worldwide reveal&rdquo...
Texas House to debate bill to ban ‘sanctuary cities’
Texas House to debate bill to ban ‘sanctuary cities’

Check back throughout the day for updates. Tensions are high at the Capitol on Wednesday as the Texas House gets ready to take up the bill to ban so-called sanctuary cities, which are jurisdictions that decline in some way to assist federal immigration enforcement. Senate Bill 4, authored by Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, and being carried in the House...
More Stories