New Jersey Advocacy Group Calls for Reform of Sex Abuse Laws

TRENTON, NJ—James H. Maynard, Morristown attorney, and Executive Director of Sexual Abuse Ends Now (SAEN), Inc., a grassroots non-profit advocacy organization, challenged lawmakers on the NJ Assembly Judiciary Committee on Monday, April 4th to rethink the manner in which the state seeks to prevent sexual abuse of children. Citing statistics showing that 95% of the perpetrators arrested for sexual assault had no prior criminal records, Maynard questioned whether or not current and proposed legislation misdirected limited government resources and funding away from the most common forms of abuse by over-focusing on recidivist offenders. Maynard noted that much of current law is based on misperceptions of sex offense recidivism and a lack of understanding of sex offending dynamics. Pointing to a 2015 law review article that found the U.S. Supreme Court had grounded its decisions in the early 2000s—upholding various restrictions and requirements for those with sex offense convictions—on an undocumented recidivism rate quoted from a popular magazine, Maynard advised the Committee it has access to reliable information to inform its decisions.

 

In written testimony to the Committee, Maynard provided the Assembly members with a list of nine New Jersey-based studies reporting recidivism rates for those considered the highest risk to reoffend, individuals found to commit sex offenses compulsively and repetitively and sentenced to treatment at the Adult Diagnostic & Treatment Center in Avenel, NJ. Pointing out that most of these studies were conducted by the New Jersey Department of Corrections, Mr. Maynard advised the Committee that less than 9% of former ADTC inmates reoffended after living ten years in the community. He also pointed out that because these studies were based on all ADTC releases for a given year, they reflect actual recidivism rates, not estimated rates with sampling errors.

 

Perhaps the most startling fact disclosed during Mr. Maynard’s testimony was the results of a recent study showing that after ten years offense free in the community, low risk individuals were no more likely to reoffend than any randomly selected male member of the general population. Maynard, speaking on behalf of SAEN, Inc. advised the committee that the time has come to, “begin a dialog about how we may best prevent sexual abuse while ensuring those who have paid their debt to society are not permanently barred from full participation in society.” He continued, “We believe that the interests of public safety will be best served by a comprehensive and systematic strategy that proactively targets the root causes of sexual abuse while also ensuring that those with prior sex offense histories are successfully and safely reintegrated into society.”

 

Maynard then addressed the bill under review by the committee, A1253, which would require individuals convicted of enumerated sex offenses to disclose to law enforcement all email addresses, passwords, user IDs, and/or identifiers for any files or data on any computer tey use that is connected to the Internet. Maynard suggested the proposed law was problematic because it imposed a restriction based on offense history, rather than current risk. He cautioned the committee that the costs associated with these incremental impositions of restrictions come at the expense of more effective and cost-efficient approaches to monitoring and supervision of offending individuals based on individualized assessment of risks.

 

Maynard called upon the Committee to “convene a task force charged with a comprehensive review of sex offense and sexual abuse prevention policies and practices with the goal of creating a unified strategy for prevention that protects both society and those seeking to become productive members of our community.” That suggestion promoted a favorable response from some committee members, who acknowledged that this might be an opportune time to undertake such a review and comprehensive effort. 

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