Monday, September 18, 2017

The politics of defending the sex offender registry

Another good article from Westword delves into why politicians defend sex offender registries, using the recent ruling against Colorado's registry as a background.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch recently ruled that Colorado's sex-offender registry violates the due-process rights of three plaintiffs, thereby amounting to cruel and unusual punishment. Boulder attorney Alison Ruttenberg, who's kept the case going for the past four years, lauded this decision because it acknowledged that treating every person on the registry like a violent child predator was patently unfair. But she's not surprised that Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has announced her intention to appeal the decision, especially given rumors that she's weighing a run for Colorado governor in 2018.
Read the full article, with more comments from Allison Ruttenberg, at Westword.

Shawna: A life on the sex offender registry

Courtesy of the Marshall Project, filmmaker David Feige offers a compelling look at the impacts of the sex offender registry on a young mother in Oklahoma. 

Taken from Feige's documentary "Untouchable."

I met Shawna a year into filming “Untouchable,” a documentary that examines sex offender laws through the lives of individuals on the sex offender registry. It was at an Oklahoma treatment center where she was participating in a mandatory group therapy session. She was there because fifteen years earlier, Shawna was deemed to be a sexual predator after pleading guilty to having consensual sex with a 14-year-old boy when she was 19. 
Listening to Shawna’s story, it became immediately clear that she was far from the kind of person we imagine when we think about sexual predators. She wasn’t some serial rapist or violent pedophile, but rather a young woman who happened to hook up with the wrong guy on her birthday. And as we continued to work on the film, we consistently found others consigned to the margins of society and slapped with a “sex offender” label that didn’t quite seem to fit.
Read and watch the full story at the Marshall Project.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Be FEARLESS Monday night

The September Omaha FEARLESS is Monday, September 18.

Guest speaker Shakur Abdullah will discuss his efforts to restore voting rights to former felons in Nebraska. 

Under current state law, voting rights are restored two years after a person completes his or her sentence. The Legislature passed a bill this year that would have restored those rights immediately, but Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed the bill.

Learn more Monday night. FEARLESS meets at 7:00 p.m. the third Monday of each month, at St. Michael's Lutheran Church, 13232 Blondo Street in Omaha. Join us Monday night!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Colorado to appeal ruling against sex offender registry

This is probably not surprising.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman announced Wednesday that she intends to appeal a decision by a federal judge in Denver who ruled that Colorado’s sex offender registration law violates the constitutional rights of three sex offenders.

Read more here.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Pennsylvania Legislature weighing changes to sex offender registry

Legislators in Pennsylvania are considering their options after the state's Supreme Court ruled that changes to the sex offender registry approved in 2011 couldn't be applied retroactively.

Similar to what happened in Nebraska, the changes in Pennsylvania's law resulted in hundreds more people being added to the state's public sex offender registry and others had their registration terms lengthened.

Reporter Joshua Vaughn, with the Sentinel newspaper of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, does a good job of examining the legislature's discussion of the issue during a hearing this week, and knocking down some common myths about sex offenders.
Most sex offender registry policies are passed with a notion that people convicted of sexual offenses are highly likely to go on to commit new sexual offenses. 
When the Legislature passed its update in 2011 it added language that “sexual offenders pose a high risk of committing additional sexual offenses, and protection from this type of offender is a paramount government interest.” 
During his testimony Tuesday, (Cumberland County District Attorney David) Freed cited a study saying that “four out of every 10 (convicted sex offenders) returned to prison within three years.”
While the Bureau of Justice Statistics study Freed cited showed roughly 40 percent of nearly 10,000 people released in 1994 for committing a sexual offense were arrested again, only about 5 percent were arrested for a new sexual offense and only 3.5 percent were re-convicted.
Read the full article here

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Supreme Court can undo "frightening and high" myth

The U.S. Supreme Court will have a chance to knock down years of misinformation about "frightening and high" sex offender recidivism rates this year, writes David Feige in a New York Times op-ed. Justices will consider hearing two cases -- Snyder v. Doe and Karsjens v. Piper -- pertaining to sex offender laws.

Read Feige's op-ed and watch an associated clip from Feige's 2016 documentary "Untouchable" at the New York Times website.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Indiana court to decide legality of sex offender church ban

An Indiana appeals court will decide whether a ruling preventing three registered sex offenders from attending church violates the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The case is reported online at the Indiana Lawyer.

That legal dilemma came before the appellate court Thursday morning in the case of John Doe, et al. v. The Boone County Prosecutor, et al., 06A01-1612-PL-02741, which the ACLU of Indiana brought on behalf of John Does 1, 2 and 3. Each of the three men have been convicted of serious sex offenses that, under Indiana Code 35-42-4-14, prohibits them from entering school property. 
Based on that statute, known as the serious sex offender law, the Boone County Sheriff sent letters in 2015 to the Does and all serious sex offenders in the county informing them they could not enter a building that provides programming for children under three years of age, including churches, as these buildings met the definition of “school property.”
Read more here.