Are We Looking Under The Wrong Streetlight?

In a chaotic world, trying to find reason within it can often be a challenge.  That is why I believe educating myself is so very important.  Education brings wisdom, strength and the ability to navigate and advocate for the things that really matter.  I am married to someone on lifetime registration.  Because of my connection to the registry, my life can feel extremely complicated.  The ever changing rules and requirements that are imposed on registrants make it vitally important to stay informed and educated.  


I recently had the opportunity to hear Professor Ira Ellman talk in the latest WAR Room Meeting.  His extensive education, professional career and  his focus on the registry, lended itself to be a very interesting and informative talk. I walked away more informed and with new knowledge.


One of the things that Professor Ellman spoke about was the “Streetlight Mistake”.  His explanation of the theory has caused me to have a much deeper understanding about the registry than I once did.  Imagine it is dark outside and you see someone, under a streetlight, looking for something.   When you approach the person and ask what it is that he is looking for he responds, “My keys.”  He then proceeds to tell you that he lost his keys in the park but it is easier to see things under the light. 


When I place the registry under the lens of the “Streetlight Mistake” I am brought to one conclusion.   The registry was started under the premise of protecting the people in our community from sexual crimes.  If this was the case, that would be great.  The reality is that the registry has not proven to bring actual protection for innocent victims.  The focus has been to “spotlight” individuals that statistically have a very low recidivism rate.  When it comes to protecting the community, I am having a very difficult time seeing how this sort of system is conducive for public safety. 


I admit that I am a numbers type of gal, so statistics and numbers are always really interesting to me.   Professor Ellman talked about the current statistics and recidivism rates for sex crimes.   All of which are counter intuitive to our current registry system.  


Over 95% of all sex crimes are committed by first time offenders.  Those that have no criminal history and are not currently on the registry.   A perfect example of the “Streetlight Mistake”.  While the focus continues to be on the individuals on the  registry, sex crimes continue to happen.  Not by the people who are under the registry microscope, but rather by a group of people sitting under a lone streetlight far away.  


92.6% of people who have been convicted of a sex crime do not commit another sexual offence. When compared to other crimes, this recidivism rate is extremely low.   Yet again, another statistic that proves to be counter intuitive to the registry.  Of the 900,000 plus individuals on the registry, 92.6% of them will never reoffend again.


Even though I am not educated in the field of law, I can still take these statistics and clearly dispute the validity of the registry.  Time and time again it has been proven that it does not do what it was initially intended – to protect the community.  It is unsettling to know that the public is being fed misinformation that gives them a sense of safety and security. The registry is a ruse.  As a family member of a registrant, it is even more unsettling to know that the registry comes from a place of continued punishment rather than from a place of protection.   


I am so thankful for Professor Ellman and the knowledge that he brings as he educates others about the misrepresentations that are associated with the registry.  I am grateful for the many others who are sharing their voices in support of the injustices that the registry represents.  Education is key.  Your voice does matter!  Remember to always advocate for your future!


Reach out to people, spread the word, and grow the W.A.R. movement!


To listen to the latest WAR Room Meeting and  Professor Ira Ellman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1ekkOF60PY



2 thoughts on “Are We Looking Under The Wrong Streetlight?

  • Byron Bradford

    Thank you for the work! I came across W.A.R. out of frustration, and echo the streetlight analogy.

    Following release from prison in 2016 I got a job, earned a bachelor’s degree (graduating magna cum laude), bought a home, and got married. I worked my way up from $12.62/hr to a well-paying management position. I have not had so much as a seat belt ticket since my release.

    Following my promotion to management, someone discovered I was on the registry and spread the information among my direct reports and peer managers. I was forthcoming to talent acquisition in my initial application so there was no issue there. But once the info was leaked in the operation, many of my direct reports transferred to other areas. Peer managers ceased cooperating with me and discouraged the rank and file from working with or for me. I hung on for several months, but the lack of cooperation, leers, and disrespect became too much and my numbers plummeted. I resigned this past May.

    It is now November. My conviction was 20 years ago, but I have been unable to find employment.

    With my education and skills I have had several well – paying offers, but they were contingent on drug screen and background check. Drug screen – no problem. Even the background check did not hinder me on some offers because those companies only went back 10 – 15 years for convictions. IT IS THE REGISTRY THAT HAS AND CONTINUES TO DESTROY ME!! Background checks include the registry.

    I even went and got a CDL license and can’t get a job.

    I am now trying to sell my home before it goes into foreclosure. I share my story in the hope it can be used to the end of abolishing the registry.

  • Well said. I like the metaphor of the streetlamp. I am very frustrated that, as advanced as we are as a society, the ones in charge do not use evidence-based approaches to public policy. Not only are 95% of all sex offenses committed by those who are not on the registry, most victims know the person who sexually abused them. Also, not all sex offenses involve sexual abuse of another person. The reason why the sex offender registries are the way they are is because of cases where a small child was sexually assaulted and murdered.
    These cases are extremely rare and putting non-violent people on the registry causes the needle to be hidden in an increasingly large haystack. The registry only seems to be effective for making sure people go to jail for doing normal things like moving, changing jobs, or creating a new online account if they don’t update their information immediately. There really isn’t much evidence to conclude these acts are sexually motivated. It really just seems like people get sick of being in the spotlight.
    These restrictions only make sense while a person is on probation or parole. After the person completes their sentence, they should be given due process like everyone else.


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