Biden admin hires accused 'sex offender lover' who calls to abolish sex offense registry for DoD consulting

The Biden administration contracted with an outside group that specializes in restorative justice for sex crimes whose “owner” advocates for abolishing the sex offender registry for the Pentagon’s rape prevention office.

Restorative justice in cases of rape redresses the matter – not through punitive punishment – but conversation between the two parties its proponents claim will show the assailant the harm their actions caused and prevent reoffending behavior.

The Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) sought in 2022 to create a “Restorative Justice Model for the Military Justice System,” according to federal records reviewed by Fox News Digital.

In 2023, the rape prevention office hired Ampersands Restorative Justice (ARJ) – the “first and only organization to focus exclusively on restorative justice for sexual harms” – for a one-year contract to develop the “restorative just model,” costing taxpayers $239,890. The contract ended in February 2024.

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Biden admin hired a company owned by an accused “sex offender lover” for consulting work.  (Getty | YouTube/screenshot-NEARI Press)

PENTAGON CONSULTANT: ‘ABOLISH THE SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY’

Dr. Alissa Ackerman, the “owner” of ARJ, has publicly called for abolishing the sex offender registry.

“We should just abolish the registry,” Ackerman said during an online webinar in May 2021. “We shouldn’t have a registry because… we are putting people on registries for things that the registry was never intended for. But it makes people feel good.”

The general public supports the registry “because of this belief that people who sexually offend are dangerous,” according to Ackerman. “So, how does a registry that tells you, ‘Oh, somebody who committed a sex offense lives within a mile of you,’ how does that do anything to keep you safe?”

“We have a tendency to monsterize people who have perpetrated harm,” she said.

She also claimed sex offender laws are isolating to rapists. “These policies further isolate people. They do not rehabilitate, they do not restore – they pull families apart – and they are not necessarily what people who experienced sexual harm want.”

Rapists, after all, “might not consent to being labeled” as a sex offender.

Alissa Ackerman speaks out about her stance against the sex offender registry. (Fox News Digital | YouTube/screenshot)

“When we label people with things that they might not consent to being labeled, we diminish the humanity, and we diminish their dignity,” Ackerman said during October 2023 interview with The Representation Project.

Another reason that Ackerman believes the sex offender registry should be abolished is because, she argued, it was created in purported hysteria after high-profile crimes of “White children” who were raped, and that it wasn’t the response minority communities may have needed.

“These laws are all named after White children,” she said.

“The very legislation that we use post-conviction does not reflect the reality of most people who experience sexual harm, especially people of color,” Ackerman said in January 2022.

‘IT MAKES SENSE… I HAVE BEEN CALLED A SEX OFFENDER LOVER’

Ackerman’s views and advocacy of restorative justice for sex crimes have caused critics to call her a “rape apologist” and “sex offender lover,” she said.

“I fully recognize that this is a controversial and confronting concept to embrace. It makes sense to me why I have been called a sex offender lover and a rape apologist, but I still wholeheartedly believe in the restorative justice process,” Ackerman said at a Ted Talk in 2019.

Building “a world restored from sexual harm,” Ackerman explained, requires recognizing the humanity of sex criminals. The professor refers to convicted rapists as “people who have sexually harmed.”

Alissa Ackerman attributes rape to “White supremacy and patriarchy.”

“People are so much more than the worst thing they’ve ever done or the worst thing that’s ever happened to them. In my work, I use ‘person who has sexually harmed’, ‘person who has authored sexual harm,'” she said.

Ackerman’s work has focused on “General Strain Theory” (GST), which was developed by a criminologist named Robert Agnew, who believed that people become criminals because of their circumstances, as opposed to free will. Criminals, he argued, are under some sort of “strain” of “negative emotions” which compel the negative behavior.

When viewing sex criminals through the lens of (GST), Ackerman wrote a 2012 article titled, “Can general strain theory be used to explain recidivism among registered sex offenders?” The article states sex offender registry laws “may have the unintended effect of increasing reoffending.”

‘RACE-CONSCIOUS LENS’ TO MEDIATE RAPE

Ackerman has said the goal of restorative justice is to be “equitable” and that practioners need to have a “race-conscious lens” and be “committed to anti-racism.”

Ackerman believed in bringing in “anti-racism” into her restorative justice work.  (Adobe Stock)

According to Ackerman, “The root cause [of rape] is White supremacy and patriarchy at a macro level,” she said. “So we can keep trying to punish bad actors, but if we do not address the macro level issue, which is White supremacy and patriarchy, we will not do away with sexual violence and domestic violence.”

Accordingly, those who mediate a restorative justice circle between a rapist and victim must “acknowledge White supremacy and their White privilege. Until restorative justice practitioners contend with issues of racism and White supremacy, we limit our ability to make actual change,” Ackerman said in a City University of New York Law Review article published in 2022.

CO-FOUNDER OF PENTAGON-FUNDED ORG ‘COPPED A FEEL ON A CROWDED TRAIN’

Along with Ackerman, ARJ was founded by Dr. Guila Benchimol and Kevin Lynch. Benchimol and Ackerman are both survivors of rape and Lynch said he committed a rape, according to their website. Lynch was publicly open about committing a “date rape” in 2016 in a column for The Huffington Post.

“I’m writing because I don’t think I’m alone… I’m talking about the silent majority of ‘pretty good guys’ who have done it too. Perhaps you are one of them?” he said.

Kevin Lynch is the co-founder of ARJ, a DoD funded organization. (Kevin Lynch | LinkedIn)

“I’ve… copped a feel on a crowded train. I’ve stolen second base or third when the girl wanted to stop at first. One time — young, drunk, stoned, and inexcusably — I ignored an equally inebriated young woman’s unmistakable murmured “no” and went all the way. Today, we call that date rape. Back then, I didn’t even know the words.

Lynch was with ARJ for over two years before leaving the organization in February 2023, the same time ARJ’s contract with the DoD began.

Lynch did not immediately return a request for comment.

Ackerman acknowledges restorative justice can only work in cases where there is a likelihood of not reoffending.

Alissa Ackerman, the owner of a DoD-funded organization, said she has been criticized as a “sex offender lover” for her involvement in restorative justice for sex crimes.  (Fox News Digital )

“There are some people for whom restorative justice will never be the right option,” Ackerman wrote in the CUNY Law Review article. “This is true both for people who have experienced sexual harm and those who have perpetrated it. People must be ready for the process, and some might not have the capacity with which to do so.”

When a victim uses Ampersand services, it does not mean they can’t pursue criminal action, but Ackerman does say the organization takes steps to protect the alleged sex criminal by not taking written notes in meetings which could later be exposed in discovery.

“We explain to the harm doer, we are not attorneys. These are not privileged conversations. If at any point the survivor decides they want to go through a criminal legal process, we can be subpoenaed, but we take precautions to protect our client. So I don’t keep any written notes about things that harm or [that they] say to me, in an effort to protect them,” she said in the Representation Project interview.

Ackerman did not respond to a request for comment.

The Pentagon’s office (Fox News Digital)

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When asked about ARJ, a defense official told Fox News, “The Department of Defense adheres to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and Defense Federal Acquisition Supplement (DFAR) when executing contract and acquisition activities. Of note, DoD contracts with organizations for capabilities and services, not specific individuals.”

The DoD initially told Fox News Digital the funding to ARJ was “for research purposes only.” The funds to ARJ were disbursed by the DoD under a contract code for “support” or “professional” services.

The Pentagon said there are no current plans to implement restorative justice for sexual assault cases in the military.

The Defense Human Resources Activity, which oversees the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, is the agency that contracted ARJ.

In addition to collaborating with the Department of Defense, Ampersands works with district attorneys to bring a restorative justice model to sex crimes.

Alba Cuebas-Fantauzzi contributed to this report.

Hannah Grossman is a Reporter at Fox News Digital.

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