Get real, Justice Alito! Stop misrepresenting the facts.

By Michelle Ye Hee Lee . . .

“Repeat sex offenders pose an especially grave risk to children. ‘When convicted sex offenders reenter society, they are much more likely than any other type of offender to be rearrested for a new rape or sexual assault.'”-Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., concurring opinion in Packingham v. North Carolina, June 19, 2017

In 2008, North Carolina passed a law banning convicted sex offenders from accessing websites where minors can sign up. Two years later, Lester Packingham, a registered sex offender who in 2002 pleaded guilty to a sex crime involving a kid, ran afoul of the law. He posted a picture of himself on Facebook under an alias account, celebrating a win in traffic court. A police officer spotted this post and arrested him.

Packingham challenged North Carolina’s law, and on June 19, the Supreme Court, in essentially a unanimous vote, ruled in favor of his right to free speech. The court found the state’s ban was too broad-reaching – it could even apply to sites like and, they found – and a violation of First Amendment rights.

Alito, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and Justice Clarence Thomas partially agreed with the majority’s opinion. They agreed that the North Carolina law’s “extraordinary breadth” violated the First Amendment, but stressed that states have a responsibility to try to stop the abuse of children before it occurs. Alito, who authored the opinion expressing partial agreement, said convicted sex offenders are “much more likely than any other type of offender to be rearrested for a new rape or sexual assault.”

The Fact Checker normally doesn’t fact-check Supreme Court justices, and we certainly do not fact check opinions. But the topic of sex offender recidivism is worth clarifying because it is often misconstrued, so we found Alito’s claim newsworthy. And this specific claim is an assertion of fact, rather than the justices’ actual opinion.

What do the data show?

There are many limitations in recidivism data for sex offenders, so it’s difficult to use rearrest rates to accurately measure their threat to public safety. Many sex offenses are not reported to police, so there are problems of underreporting. Rearrests are not the same as reconvictions or reincarceration, and researchers are inconsistent in their method of calculating recidivism.

Sex offenders have a relatively low rate of committing the same sex crime after being released from prison. Yet policymakers often base policies on rearrest rates or the fear that sex offenders are more likely than other convicted criminals to commit the same crime after release.

Alito’s claim in this opinion reflects a common misrepresentation of sex offender recidivism.

Alito quotes a sentence from an opinion by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in the 2002 case McKune v. Lile: “When convicted sex offenders reenter society, they are much more likely than any other type of offender to be rearrested for a new rape or sexual assault.”

There are two citations. The first is a reference in McKune to a 1997 Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report on recidivism among prisoners released in 11 states in 1983. The report found: “Released rapists were 10.5 times more likely than nonrapists to have a subsequent arrest for rape. Prisoners who had served time for other sexual assaults were 7.5 times more likely than those who had not served time for sexual assault to be arrested for a new sexual assault.”

The second citation is a 2013 Supreme Court opinion in United States v. Kebodeaux, which cites an updated version of the 1997 report. This report, published in 2003 using data from 1994, is considered one of the most comprehensive studies on sex offender recidivism. The 2013 opinion cites the report’s finding that released sex offenders were four times more likely to be rearrested for a sex crime than non-sex offenders, and 5.3 percent of sex offenders were rearrested for a sex crime within three years after release.

When you dig into the data, it’s clear Alito has fallen for an apples-and-oranges comparison – one that unfairly compares sex offenders to non-sex offenders.
The 5.3 percent figure represents 517 of the 9,691 released sex offenders in 1994. But that’s measured against a much larger pool of 262,420 non-sex offenders, of whom 1.3 percent were arrested for a sex crime.

On the surface, comparing 1.3 percent to 5.3 percent makes it seem like sex offenders are four times more likely to commit a sex crime after release. But the 1.3 percent represents 3,328 of 262,420 released non-sex offenders. So out of the total of 3,845 people arrested post-release on sex crimes, 13 percent were prior sex offenders.
Moreover, this comparison doesn’t tell you much about the dangers posed by sex offenders after release

Please continue read at LMTOnline.

Original source: The Washington Post


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14 Thoughts to “Get real, Justice Alito! Stop misrepresenting the facts.”

  1. Avatarsk8trade

    He’s trying to save face for the poor decision which was made in 02. This was the biggest hysteria over a class of people since the witch hunts, not even AIDS had as much of an impact over the hatred and harassment of the hated ones. He can’t just say all of this for these last couple of decades has been overblown and false…If he didn’t make that statement, that’s what he would basically be admitting, so babysteps is all.

  2. AvatarLovecraft

    Whats really messed up is kids today have access to so much stuff compared to 20 years ago. Most of them do far more damage to themselves having instant access to a limitless supply of free pornography of all types and fetishes amoung other things. That fact alone causes millions of times over more damage than anything perceived (falsely)by the legislature, public, and government about people with past sex offenses.

    If the government is so concerned about the well being of minors, they should make laws to restrict porn on the internet or maybe ban minors from having internet access. That way they can never be “groomed” or solicited online. Sadly, 95% of the new crimes commited are by non registrants so the only way to truly protect minors is bar them from accessing the internet so they wont corrupt themselves or be taken advantage of…(i joke, but sadly that last statement would actually fix the perceived problem)

    1. AvatarMike

      Make sure you read the comments left and notice that Doug B uses a lot of Government Statistics and Data to make his point. A very skeptical point at that. It is figures collected by our own government. The very people we are fighting. How accurate is that data really??

      Looking beyond the RSO issue, would you really trust the United States Government to actually give you truthful information. Look at what our politicians are doing at every level.

  3. Avatardavid

    Well duh…you can’t be RE-arrested for a sex crime unless you already were arrested for a sex crime. So yeah, SO’s are more likely than non- SO’s to be RE- arrested.

    Is there something i’m missing in this logic?

    1. rwvnralrwvnral

      That’s precisely the point. The back and forth about Alito’s statistic misses the WAPO’s argument. Alito has inserted statistically useless (but accurate) information MADE TO LOOK as though it’s important because it forms the basis of Alito’s arguments IN SUPPORT of the Packingham outcome. Otherwise, there is little value or support coming from the statistic. So, except for the sake of the tired canard about recidivism, what’s it doing in there? Alito might as well be talking about brand loyalty or something.

    2. AvatarUse it in a sentence please?

      I want to give Robin two thumbs up for using “Canard” in a sentence like he did and in a way most folks may not (or may) know. Let’s see Scripps use it like he did in competition!

  4. AvatarRhonda

    Can’t Law suit’s be filed for misrepresentation of of statistics when these Judges and government agency’s know the data they use is inaccurate is’nt there a study on actual rearrest that are made on new sex crimes not talking an offender who was arrested for a violation or shop lifting only a crime that would be considered a new sex crime regardless of who committed the crime those are the figures that should be used not some fictional figure by a Dr. from 1980’s

    1. rwvnralrwvnral

      They cannot. Absolute sovereignty is absolute. And it shields most government actors from liability where mistakes of fact are concerned.

    2. AvatarTim L

      While tort immunity exists, it does NOT foreclose all redresses.( see Scalise V. Hodgkin’son).

  5. AvatarT

    I say keep up with the fight against those that distort information and hold them accountable for their malicious intent against registrants who are American citizens that have paid their debt to society. The only reason why they succeeded was because we did nothing to stop them, and we didn’t speak out against misinformation, and the people that try to get all kinds of malicious laws to passed. Edmund Burke said “the only thing necessary for triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing “.

  6. AvatarRhonda

    We need to get some university’s involved on proper study’s and statistic’s and then wave them until they can’t be disputed. then find a way to bring them into the court!Voice is the key the stronger the better!

  7. AvatarTim L

    I will say it again.
    This was never about public safety from sexual deviancy.


    SOs were a means to an end; POLITICAL SECURITY! (SEE The Little Prince, Machiavelli)

    Our ( THE PEOPLE’S) forced focus upon their deviant is but a useful distraction – the proverbial RED HERRING!

    Please start contemplating how the database is used by the powers that are. We have entrenched actors whom will do everything in their power to remain entrenched, because the money is so easy to come by.

    Gov’t contracts are lucrative. Unions (public) benefited AND Big businesses benefit from the usefulness of the database. Consider the data use by NSA, FBI, CIA, Pentagon, DHS, and a thousand other federal avenges

    Next consider the database and its role in gerrymandering and how it that relates to entrenchment of the two main political establishments. Consider too how quickly and easily laws can be enacted via the database to meet that goal. Sure beats the hell out of writing law by hand. Special interest of every sort are pounding keys as I type this short plea to keep themselves in the mix for a piece of the people’s tax pie!

    It is my hope that Americans will soon become aware of the database, its uses, and the negative impact on constitutionally recognized liberty interests of individual life and happiness.

  8. AvatarJoel

    Something to consider… These people are paid with tax dollars. If you have a bad employee you stop paying them. See the thread? For all of the political officials, both elected and appointed, stop paying them. Most of them refer to this country as a Democracy. This is a Republic. In a republic the people have the power. The government only has what power we give it. Take back your power. I knew a guy named Carl Miller. Lookup his lectures on the Constitution, on Youtube.

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