USA FAIR Issues Statement on Murder of 8-Year-Old Florida Girl Condemning Senseless Act

single-rose.jpgOn Wednesday, June 26th, I released a statement on behalf of USA FAIR regarding the murder of 8-year-old Cherish Periwinkle.  Donald Smith, a registered sex offender in Florida has been charged with the crime.  Our statement follows:

“If these charges are proven to be true, then the full weight of Florida law should be brought down upon Donald Smith for committing such a heinous act.

The family members of registered sex offenders as well as law abiding former offenders throughout this nation condemn this senseless act and our hearts are with Cherish’s family who are now suffering an unimaginable loss.

At this time, as we grieve with our fellow citizens, the family members of registrants have an additional legitimate concern - that this lone individual’s horrible act could become the latest high profile crime to unjustly impact the lives of law abiding former offenders who have nothing in common with this offender but the fact that their names are also on the registry.

We need Cherish’s murderer to be brought to justice and punished to the full extent of the law.  We do not need yet another new registry law named after a tragic child victim to further punish an entire offender group. Contrary to the widely held myth, sex offenders have one of the lowest recidivism rates in the criminal justice system, with scores of studies showing sex crime recidivism in the low single digits. The vast majority of registrants have nothing in common with this rare type of child-abductor offender.

Donald Smith is part of a very small but dangerous sub-set of repeat offenders – sex offenders who have other non-sex related crimes on their rap sheets. For example, John Evander Couey, who murdered Jessica Lunsford, had 29 non-sex crime convictions in addition to the prior sexual offense that put him on the registry.  Richard Allen Davis, who murdered Polly Klaas, had 60 prior arrests, the majority non-sexual and not involving children. The key precursor to Smith’s violent act was not his listing on the registry - but his escalating life of crime taken in its totality.

This sad case is yet another example of how the sex offender registry is a political placebo that does not protect anyone from anybody.  Florida’s registry laws are among the toughest in the country and this individual complied with the law by registering at a police station on the very morning of the murder.  The registry severely impacts the lives of compliant law abiding former offenders and their families – while doing absolutely nothing to prevent a true sexual predator from committing his next violent act.  No registry law could have prevented Cherish’s murder.

USA FAIR urges lawmakers to resist painting all registrants with the broad brush of this heinous predator.  A proper legislative response to this tragic act should be to look at why such a dangerous repeat offender was on the street in the first place.”

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