Untouchable OpDoc from the New York Times - released today
Imminent release by major news organization
Val Jonas, a Florida civil rights attorney, appears in a New York Times Op-Doc that details false and misleading information upon which the US Supreme Court based landmark decisions about sex-offender punishment.
New York Times Op-Doc Exposes the Flawed Science Behind Supreme Court’s sex offender cases
Revealed: how the court came to base its decisions on information that was incomplete, false and misleading
The New York Times released a documentary short for their Opinion section today. Created by the Untouchable production team, the film reveals the falsity of the Supreme Court’s claims about the "frightening and high” recidivism rate of sex offenders.
This short film (which the Times commonly refers to as an Op-Doc) features the first substantive interviews with two individuals who wrote the reports that the high court ultimately relied on in making their false assertion.
The first, neurofeedback clinician Robert Freeman-Longo, explains how his controversial work from the 1970's led him to write a 1986 article Psychology Today, that wound up quoted in a Justice Department Manual. That Manual in turn was cited by the United States Solicitor general’s office in a brief that was relied on by Justice Kennedy in writing his opinion for the court.
Obviously a Psychology Today article, which had no data and was never offered as a research paper, should not have served as the basis of a major high court decision, and Longo—who had no idea the paper every even made it to the court, decries the way the justices used it.
The second source is Barbara Schwartz, a researcher at the Department of Justice. It was Ms. Schwartz who created the report on sex-offender recidivism that the Solicitor General’s office cited to the court. But as Dr. Schwartz makes clear—the Longo article she cited should never have been seen as an authoritative source.
Finally, The Op-Doc goes on to cite the actual, scientifically valid studies on sex offender’s recidivism: And the clear consensus of all that research is that same-crime recidivism among sex offenders is in the low single-digits.
The timing of this short video release is important because in the next few weeks the United States Supreme Court will decide whether to hear a case that could finally offer them a chance to re-consider the flawed social science they’ve relied on for the past 20 years to justify a raft of restrictions imposed on those on the registry.
IN addition to the essay and Op-Doc for the times, we expect The Marshall Project to release a second short film—this one a character study of one of the main subjects of UNTOUCHABLE—a woman who has been forced to live on the registry because she had consensual sex with a younger boy when she herself was a teenager. That film is simply designed to challenge some of our assumptions of who many of the 800,000 Americans of our sex offender registries really are, explaining just how easy it has become to be swept up into the every expanding categories of those we stigmatize as sex offenders.
Our hope is that you'll find these videos to be useful in helping to inform and change public opinion. Please share them freely with lawmakers, educators and other influencers.
Regarding the issue of 'recidivism' I would like to note:
Instead of the Supreme Court's "once a sex offender always a sex offender," legal stance, it is possible to believe some sex offenders can choose change/ choose self-control/ choose recovery.
Because some (perhaps most) choose to assume real responsibility for their actions and are determined to stop themselves before they repeat past mistakes or take advantage of /or inflict sexual pain on others in future. Most do not 'recidivate.'
Likewise, the choices we make as wives and mothers need not be decided by prejudice or over- riding fear that 'once a sex offender always a sex offender means that given the chance, every sex offender will choose to forever repeat their past. In adopting a more reasoned approach, we free ourselves from fear and eternal 'victimhood'. We make a choice to lay aside fear and prejudice and make more reasoned choices about what's best for us and for our children. We can demand more reasoned laws to protect the vulnerable going forward *******