One-Size-Fits-All.  Our National Panic Over Sex Crimes


This week I changed my mind about America’s sex offender laws. Sure, they’re popular and were passed by Congress and state legislatures in response terrible crimes.  
But no law can cure all ills and the national sex offender registry appears to be in urgent need of reform. 
In recent years we’ve had a scorched-earth debate about sex offenses led by the voices of fear and outrage. On the nightly news and in shows such as “Law and Order,” Americans have been fed this image of “stranger danger” – the creepy older guy who preys on children.
But the vast majority of assaults – as many as 90% – are committed by people who know the victims. 
In her new book, “Protecting Our Kids? How Sex Offender Laws Are Failing Us”, Sociology professor Emily Horowitz argues that Jessica’s Law, Megan’s Law and some other recent acts are examples of over-reach and a sweeping one-sized-fits-all approach to a very complex problem. Other researchers have also argued against moral panic that treats all sex offenders as monsters.
Dangerous adult predators are lumped together with teenagers and adolescents who were convicted of fondling or even sexting.
“We’re in the middle of a sex panic that’s been going on for decades now,” says Emily on the latest episode of our podcast, “How Do We Fix It?” 
Today there are more than 800,000 names on the ever-growing national sex offender registry. “Those are people who are publicly listed on the internet with all of their personal information and photographs. These are all people who’ve served time, completed probation and parole.” 
Until we spoke with Emily I believed that public shaming and a registry for sexual predators was a good idea. I still do – in some cases. But far too many people are on the list.
The national registry, which continues to grow each year despite a decline in sex offenses against children, may be an egregious violation of individual liberties, especially for the large share of offenders who were under 18 when they broke the law. They could stay on the list for the rest of their lives.
“It makes emotional sense. but it doesn’t make practical sense,” says Emily. “There is no other crime where people are listed on a public registry.” This includes those convicted of murder and assault.
“The premise underlying sex offender registries is that people who commit sex crimes are different from all other criminals, because they’re predatory, they cannot be stopped, and they’re uncontrollable so they need to be listed for life.”
“But that’s not true,” Emily insists. A quarter of the people on the registry committed crimes as juveniles. “They are particularly responsive to treatment. There are very few who are violent pedophiles.” 
“Child sexual abuse is very complicated and it happens most often within the family and among people known to the children so these laws are totally ineffective.”
The recidivism rate for sex offenders is not higher than for other crimes.” 

Among the fixes we discussed:
– Reform the national sex offenders registry, and include only the most violent offenders. Most people on the national registry were convicted of a single offense.
– Money now spent to maintain the registry should be diverted to mental and social services. .
– Educate children and parents. Encourage discussion about sex offenses and how to report them.
– Help people who’ve served their time re-build their lives. “You are much less likely to re-offend if you have a stable job and a stable home,” says Emily Horowitz.
I don’t agree with all that she says. Her focus on the treatment of offenders does not fully take into account the victims of the most horrendous crimes. Their stories must continue to be told. 
But a strong case has been made for registry reform. In its current state, the lives of many families face ruin. As a result victims of sex crimes, who know the perpetrators, may be very reluctant to report them to law enforcement. 

Are Killjoys Opposed to Backyard Trampolines?

Photo by The Indianapolis Star – via USA Today

The big debate over trampoline safety is important but often distorted. So often news accounts are written from the perspective of the dangers they may present more than the fun they provide. Many who condemn home trampolines take a very different view about bikes, which can also be dangerous… Or contact sports… Or playgrounds. When properly supervised and equipped with netting tramps can be a terrific source of fun for kids.  But yes, they do present dangers. A question worth asking is whether we value play as much as we should? Are we trying to control and even squelch the joyous, spontaneous things our children get up to?

The article below is from USA Today…  May 7, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS — Boing, boing, boing … OWW! could be the anthem of the trampoline jumper — and that’s a good reason to ban the things, said an Indiana University researcher.

A new study from an Indiana University School of Medicine researcher finds that from 2002 to 2011, accidents on backyard trampolines accounted for nearly 289,000 visits to emergency rooms for broken bones. Factor in all accidents, not just fractures, and the tally rises to more than 1 million ER visits, according to the study which published online in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics.

“We are inundated with injuries,” said Dr. Randall T. Loder, chair of orthopaedic surgery at the Indiana University School of Medicine and the study’s lead author. “Kids need to be healthy and active, but this is not the way to do it.”

STORY: Pediatricians: Backyard trampolines too dangerous

His study, the first to look at fractures related to trampoline use nationwide, found that over 10 years, trampolines caused an estimated 288,876 fractures, at a cost of more than $400 million. Trampoline injuries overall led to more than $1 billion in emergency room visits.

Loder, a surgeon at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, decided to do the study after seeing an increase in the number of patients with fractures suffered in backyard trampoline accidents.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended against backyard trampolines since 1999, and many homeowner insurance policies either prohibit them or have a clear exclusion for trampoline injuries.

Still, that doesn’t stop parents from purchasing them.

Kids need to be healthy and active, but this is not the way to do it.
Dr. Randall T. Loder, chair of orthopaedic surgery at the Indiana University School of Medicine
And some, such as Mark Publicover, dispute how dangerous trampolines are. Publicover invented the trampoline safety enclosure about 15 years ago and founded JumpSport Inc., a San Jose-based trampoline company.

If you compare the number of hours children spend jumping on trampolines compared with the time they spend in other activities such as biking or swimming in backyard pools or playing on swing sets, trampolines cause much fewer injuries, Publicover said.

“If you look at all of the high energy activities kids can play in, trampolines end up being pretty much the safest things that they can do,” said Publicover, who broke his leg on an earlier generation trampoline.

Eight years ago Jason Reese, a personal injury lawyer in Carmel, Ind., purchased a trampoline for his three kids, now 14, 11 and 9; two years ago he replaced it with a large one he considers safer. He also hires an inspector to check the net once a year.

Strict rules govern the use of the Reese family’s trampoline. No more than four kids at a time. A parent must be home. Don’t bounce against the safety net. And no one is to go airborne.

The only injuries from their trampoline? A few bloody noses.

“For the most part, like any other parenting thing, it comes down to supervision,” said Reese. “You can do it safely.”

Still, he’s amazed at what he sees in other people’s backyards, from trampolines that have no nets, to those that sit on uneven surfaces to trampolines with decaying mats that provide iffy support.

Little surprise that stories about trampoline-related injuries are rife in the suburbs.

According to Loder’s study, which included data from 100 hospitals nationwide, the number of injuries peaked in 2004 with about 110,000. Since then, the number has slowly dropped to an estimated 80,000 injuries in 2011.

If you look at all of the high energy activities kids can play in, trampolines end up being pretty much the safest things that they can do.
Mark Publicover, founder of JumpSport Inc. and inventor of trampoline safety enclosure
Safety enclosures like the one Publicover invented, now standard on trampolines, no doubt have had much to do with the reduction in injuries, he said.

By 2004, 75% of trampolines had safety enclosures. At the same time, sales had gone from 600,000 a year just a few years ago to 1.2 million, Publicover said.

Doctors, however, would prefer to see much fewer injuries.

“Whether it’s 80,000 or 100,000, that’s still a huge number of totally preventable injuries,” Loder said. “The way to prevent it is not to go on it at all. There are lots of other ways to get exercise.”

The most common trampoline-related injury that Loder sees at Riley is an elbow fracture, which in some cases requires immediate surgery. Knee fractures that threaten growth plates and require surgery also are common, he said.

On average, patients were 9 years old; though those who have injuries of the spine, head, ribs and sternum — accounting for 4% of the injuries seen — had an average age of nearly 17, perhaps because they are bigger and can jump harder.

The study looked only at backyard trampolines and did not include trampoline parks. Almost all of the fractures, 95%, happened at the injured person’s home.

Loder does not question the appeal of trampolines, just whether they’re worth the risk.

“I’m sure they’re fun,” he said. “There’s no doubt about it that they’re fun. They’re fun up until the time they get the injury.”