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What If Staying at Home is Dangerous?
Grewal Law, PLLC
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As Michigan families spend significantly more time in the home due to the current COVID-19 pandemic and consequent stay-at-home orders, injuries in the home are expected to rise. But accidental injuries are not the only type of harm on the rise at home; as one might expect, the stay-at-home orders which have been issued around the world have unintentionally put victims of domestic and sexual violence in danger and at risk. With schools being closed and visits to relatives having largely stopped, the places of refuge where children found safety away from abusive homes have disappeared. With non-essential workers being laid off or asked to “work from home,” partners of relationship violence have also had their places of refuge taken away. Victims are imprisoned with their abusers. It is harder to run an errand to make a phone call, to call for help, perhaps consult with a lawyer, or to file for protection from the court.

We will not know the full impact of these stay-at-home orders until they are lifted, children return to school, and folks return to work and their everyday activities. In fact, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, reports to child abuse hotlines are drastically decreasing, with the state of Illinois receiving 47% less calls to the state Department of Health and Human Services reporting line. Of course, this statistic is not an accurate reflection of the abuse occurring in the state, instead, it shows that the teachers, coaches, relatives, and neighbors who normally would be making such reports are not having contact with children who are being abused.

It is important to note that domestic and sexual violence shelters remain open, although they are operating with less staff and less in-person services available. Still, if someone needs a safe place to go, the doors to these shelters remain open.

On top of all of this, jails are releasing prisoners due to COVID-related concerns, which puts victims of domestic violence at an even greater risk. While it may be appropriate in some instances to release non-violent offenders, those who have been convicted of domestic or sexual violence should never be eligible for early release. Studies show that “sexual offenders who prey on children can often continue to offend despite ill health or advanced age. It is a myth that older sex offenders become less likely to reoffend with age. Likewise, offenders often choose to commit crimes such as stalking and domestic violence regardless of age or health status.” MCEDSV Statement On Jail And Prison Release and COVID-1, April 6, 2020.

Only a tiny fraction of cases involving sexual violence end with the violent offender incarcerated. Since the vast majority of people incarcerated have not committed sexually violent crimes, possessed criminally assaultive material, domestic violence, stalking or attempted murder/murder, it is more than reasonable to ask our criminal legal system not to release sexually violent offenders .

Victims and survivors have largely been forgotten in the relief packages, stay-at-home orders, and initiatives to release prisoners. We cannot seek to protect our society through one avenue while exposing and exacerbating harm through another. Now, more than ever, as allies, friends, neighbors, relatives, and co-workers, we have to check in on the children and people we love. Spend 20 minutes on the phone checking on the person who came to mind as you read this article. We can continue to flatten the curve and keep our social distance while still trying to protect those who are most vulnerable. And as always, if you see something, or sense something, say something.

5 Comments

  1. Gravatar for Dustin
    Dustin

    Studies show that “sexual offenders who prey on children can often continue to offend despite ill health or advanced age. It is a myth that older sex offenders become less likely to reoffend with age. Likewise, offenders often choose to commit crimes such as stalking and domestic violence regardless of age or health status.”

    There is no such "study." This is merely a statement by the MCEDSV in a press release based on nothing more than unsupported conjecture and the questionable analysis of the unverifiable content of an anonymous survey. Numerous actual, EMPIRICAL studies show the exact opposite - that those convicted of sex crimes are the least likely recidivists (less those convicted for murder), made even more extraordinary by the labyrinthine obligations and restrictions imposed on them after their sentences are completed.

    It is rather ironic that the MCEDSV decries what it describes as a "one size fits all" approach in releasing jail inmates due to the current pandemic and seeks to insert its own "one size fits all" approach to deny such release to those convicted for sex crimes. What the media overlooks is that the criteria for such release from jail (NOT prison) was the ALLEGED violation that resulted in the current arrest, not the original offense that led to parole, probation, or registration.

    Registrants in county jails for violating inane, often inflated, registry or probation violations should be released, as such violations are mere status offenses (perfectly legal criminalized by their status as probationers or registrants), not actual crimes. That a probationers or registrant missed curfew for whatever reason is not the threat to the public that the author and MCEDSV would have the public believe.

    1. Kelly McClintock

      I stand by everything MCEDSV issued in the press release. They are an evidence-based and highly credible organization. I'd love to see the so-called studies saying sex offenders are least likely to re-offend. You're entitled to your opinion but I 100% disagree. Sexual offenders who are in jail for violating any term of their probation should not be released.

      1. Gravatar for Dustin
        Dustin

        Here are several, all of which generally find recidivism (be it rearrest or reincarceration) of sex offender registrants to be under 10% over varying periods, which is anywhere from 1/3 to 1/5 of any other class of crime except murderers. If you'd like more, I'll be glad to provide them.

        1. “Profile and Follow-up of Sex Offenders released in 1986.” New York State Department of Correctional Services, Division of Program Planning, Research and Evaluation. July 1996

        2. “THE IOWA SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY AND RECIDIVISM.” Iowa Department of Human Rights, Division of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning and Statistical Analysis Center. December 2000. Web. <http://www.humanrights.iowa.gov/cjjp/images/pdf/01_pub/SexOffenderReport.pdf>

        3. “RECIDIVISM OF PAROLED SEX OFFENDERS—TEN (10) YEAR STUDY. California Sex Offender Management Board. June 2008

        4. “Nebraska Sex Offender Registry Study.” Consortium for Crime and Justice Research, U. of Nebraska – Omaha. July 31, 2013.

        5. "Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010: Supplemental Tables: Most serious commitment offense and types of post-release arrest charges of prisoners released in 30 states in 2005." US Dept. of Justice. Dec. 2016.

        I have no illusions that you'll actually read any of the studies above and will likely disregard them if you do. But I would like to know where the evidence is that you claim MCEDSV based its statement on and give them such high credibility. I maintain that the unsupported conjecture and the questionable analysis of the unverifiable content of an anonymous survey is not evidence, and I personally am not persuaded by their self-testimonials.

        And jail for any parole, probation, or registry violation - all of which are mere status offenses (otherwise perfectly normal and legal activity) and the overwhelming majority of which had no earthly thing to do with the original offense leading to parole, probation, or registration - is absurd to begin with, more so during the current pandemic.

        If you think sex offender registrants should be imprisoned for life, then lobby for that. But creating circumstances where they keep running in and out of jail/prison for perfectly normal conduct (as over 95% of new sex crime is committed by non-registrants, an unchanged figure pre Megan's Law; there are numerous studies to support that as well) for the remainder of their lives is simply asinine and petty.

        I agree with your position regarding those awaiting trial for domestic violence or sex offense charges whose victims are their own family members that they reside with. That's a no brainer, and I'm sure whoever has final authority would not release anyone under those conditions. It's your discriminatory reasoning against all sex offender registrants, regardless of circumstance, that I take issue with.

      2. Gravatar for Douglas
        Douglas

        you can go to my website at legalresearchandguidelines.com and see all the proof you want. I have 16 GB of empirical evidence the media, the politicians, government agencies, our legislators, and sorry to burst your bubble, and the MCEDSV are full of crap and are purposely spreading lies and myths to stoke the flames of fear to make money and more power. If you still do not believe go here and read what the Department of Justice says:

        https://www.smart.gov/pdfs/RecidivismofAdultSexualOffenders.pdf

        After that PLEASE post empirical evidence-not fearmongering and lies like the " most frightening and high" myth started by a person who was not an expert in sex crimes but an editor of a magazine who said himself he was not an expert and he was not trying to make SCOTUS believe sex offenders are high recidivists.

      3. Gravatar for Wendy
        Wendy

        Thanks. As a survivor I applaud you for having the courage to say this. Sex offenses and Domestic Violence are highly recidivist crimes. And heinous ones. And often go unreported. And even when they go to trial, offenders are often not seriously punished. It seems like we are still in the dark ages where a crime against a stranger is terrible, but a crime against a spouse or child is a "domestic situation." We have to stop ignoring this problem. Keep up your brave work. The world needs you.

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