Thursday, October 31, 2013

Texas Newspaper Reports Some FACTS

Thanks to Lisa Sample, Ph.D., Criminal Justice Professor at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, for pointing out to us a real news story about Halloween. The story is headlined

Experts say Halloween laws against sex offenders are a scare tactic

An excerpt from the Dallas (Texas) Morning News story:
Jill Levenson, an associate professor at Lynn University, said that the greatest risk to trick-or-treaters is getting hit by a car. Researchers at the Florida school determined that there was no change in sexual assaults during Halloween, or even in the weeks that followed, in comparison to the rest of the year. 
“The laws restricting sex offenders make parents and communities feel safer, but there’s no proof that they reduce the risk of sexual abuse,” Levenson said. “Law enforcement should be directing their efforts towards crimes that are more commonly seen on Halloween, like vandalism.”
Click here to read the full story.

Wildly Inaccurate Lies and Deceptions (WILD) Citation Goes to Erin Murray of WOWT-Channel 6 in Omaha

TV copy-reader Erin Murray of WOWT-Channel 6 in Omaha, Nebraska, is the winner of the first Nebraskans Unafraid Wildly Inaccurate Lies and Deceptions (WILD) Citation.

The WILD Citation recognizes the promulgation of wrong, strange and outdated ideas regarding former sex offenders while ignoring research data and all of the truthful information that is available on the subject.

Murray is selected for the WILD Citation because she reported the Halloween Hoax as "news." The Halloween Hoax is the notion that registrants pose a danger to kids on Halloween. This is quite a feat because Nebraskans Unafraid/FACTS provided local media outlets including WOWT with factual information and a request to report accurate information about recent UNO research that shows former sex offenders are extremely unlikely to reoffend.

In addition to her suitable-for-framing WILD Certificate, Murray also will receive:

  • A copy of an actual real news article about the Halloween Hoax by Emily Horowitz, Associate Professor of Sociology, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, N.Y., which will educate as well as serve as a good example to Murray.
  • A copy of the UNO research study that disproves the assumptions underlying the Halloween Hoax.
  • A complimentary one-year subscription to the NU newsletter Ninety-Five%.
  • Contact information for individuals who can provide her with accurate information about former sex offenders.
Congratulations and Happy Halloween, Erin!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Target is on Target With 'Ban the Box' Policy

Second in a series by Eddie Sidgeweck
From the StarTribune in Minneapolis:
Target Corp. will roll out a national program early next year that will eliminate the box on employment applications that asks job seekers whether they have a criminal record.
The initiative, part of a budding “Ban the Box” movement across the country, calls for employers to wait until a prospective employee is being interviewed or has a provisional job offer before inquiring whether he or she has a criminal past. The idea is that ex-offenders will have a better chance at getting a job if they’re not eliminated at the very beginning of their job search. 
“It’s a big deal in the sense that people with criminal records are going to be given a better chance at employment,” said Dan Oberdorfer, an employment lawyer with the Minneapolis law firm Leonard Street and Deinard. “So earlier in the process employers will have a completely open mind.”
Read the complete story here.
Kudos to Target! I'm going to do all my shopping there in the future. The "ban the box" policy makes sense for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it could make Target popular among the friends and family members of the millions of people this nation sends to prison. Families victimized by a twisted criminal justice system are growing in number. They represent a large and growing group of consumers. I hope they all take notice of this enlightened move by Target.
Speaking of Target: It was in Target's online store where I first saw the "Come Back With a Warrant" "welcome" mat for your front door. I was going to promote it here in hopes that you might spend some money at Target, but Target is sold out or something. They don't have any left.

It is the perfect addition to the residence of a former sex-offender in places where law enforcement conducts those extra-legal home invasive verification visits. Fortunately, you can get one online at Amazon. Remember, there is no law that requires you to answer a knock at your door, and this doormat is the appropriate message for some people who might knock at your door.
Nebraska law already gives law enforcement all of the tools it needs and more to make sure that they have information on where you live. There is no justification in law or in good public policy for this extraordinary waste of taxpayer dollars.

Tide Turns Against Repunishment of Former Sex Offenders

by Adam R. Banner

Adam R. Banner has proven himself a formidable opponent to 
those who would challenge his client’s constitutional rights. In recognition of his results in criminal litigation, he has been named one of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Oklahoma. Moreover, he is “Lead Counsel” rated, and Avvo has named him as one of the small percentage of “Superb” rated criminal defense attorneys in Oklahoma. The following is his analysis of how some recent Oklahoma decisions might affect former sex-offender laws in other states.

Recent decisions have relied on the reasoning of the US Supreme Court in Smith v. Doe when analyzing challenges to sex offender registry laws. The Smith decision notoriously held that Alaska's sex offender registry did not violate the US Constitution's prohibition on ex post facto laws. The US Supreme Court held that the Alaska registry was constitutional by applying a two-step analysis: first, determining whether the legislation was intended to have a punitive effect and if so, analyzing the results of the "intents-effects" test established by the court in Kentucky vs. Mendoza-Martinez.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court wisely broke from Smith when it decided Starkey v. Department of Corrections on June 25, 2013. Although the Starkey decision relied on the same framework established in Smith, the Oklahoma Supreme Court acknowledged that the challenged state sex offender statutes were not at all the same as the Alaska registration scheme examined by the US Supreme Court in Smith. The inconsistent nature of the two cases was largely due to the fact that Smith was decided prior to the state-level application of the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) which, once adopted, completely altered the complexion of the Oklahoma Sex Offender Registration Act (OSORA).

Oklahoma codified the SORNA amendments on November 1, 2007, and effectively ushered in an era of unconstitutional restrictions on its citizens. Most notable was a new tiered registration scheme, which retroactively changed the length of registration required by every individual subject to the registry. Full Post

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Home-Invasive Verification Visits: Illegal Tricks, Sad Stunts

First in a Series by Eddie Sidgeweck

About those random home-invasive visits to registrants' homes, undertaken here and there by various law agencies but not required by any state law in Nebraska.

In fact, Nebraska's current state laws supposedly provide law enforcement with the monitoring tools they need, including multiple in-person reports. However, we have documented a number of extra-legal activities. Officers sometimes just show up at the door. We know of some registrants who are required to report in person to the sheriff's office as many as 12 times a year, despite the fact that Nebraska law at most requires four visits a year.

Where these invasive practices have been challenged in court, they have been snuffed: In Doe v LaDue, 514 F. Supp. 2nd 1131 (D. Minn. 2007), for example. The court found that the home-invasive practices -- done without probable cause or reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing -- were violations of the U.S. Constitution. 

In Nebraska, we have fresh research evidence that registrants are not likely to reoffend. Ryan Spohn, Ph.D., of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, found that registrant reoffense rates are extraordinarily low. Other research has found that law enforcement practices aimed at disrupting the lives of registrants can increase the chance of reoffense. We know that people convicted of DUI are far more dangerous than registrants but you don't see law enforcement knocking themselves out to monitor those folks. (I wonder: Is that because too many politicians have DUI offenses? Probably not. But I wonder).

So, the question is why would a law enforcement agency continue a practice that protects no one and in fact probably makes the community more dangerous?

We're not concluding that it happens here, but in other places, law agencies do these checks so that they can beef up the reoffense statistics for registrants. That's right -- if you can catch enough people in technical violation of laws that are unreasonably restrictive, then you can push the reoffense numbers higher. Problem is, registrants snared in this way are not committing new sex crimes. They're just easy targets for lazy law enforcement.

It can be a publicity stunt: You go around and find out that your own records were incorrect about an address, or that a registrant had to be at a hospital with his dying mom for four days, and you can nail them with violations and then announce to a gullible news media that you're keeping people safe. It is a sorry performance, but people do fall for it.

The home-invasive visits also help law agencies attract grant funding (your tax dollars going to waste). Problem is, more tax dollars are wasted chasing the grant dollars, and people who are truly dangerous to the community escape notice while law enforcement is busy knocking on your door.

About that knock on the door: There is no law that requires you to answer your door, especially when the people trying to get in do not have a warrant.

More soon . . .

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Laws Aimed at 'Protecting' Children Drive 15-Year-Old to Suicide

Third of Three from Gus:

Recently I wrote on parenting, and how nobody within school administration has any sense of humor or proportionality in punishment anymore.

Both of those articles stemmed from of story of Christian Ademek out of Alabama that brought those issues and the emotions involved to the forefront of my mind. This article comes out of Harvest, Alabama and is so sad, it could make any parent cry.

Fifteen-year-old Christian became a school legend overnight when he went streaking across his school football field during a game. A video of the prank was posted on YouTube and later Twitter exploded with tweets, many giving the student accolades regarding the stunt.

Sparkman High School staff, however, didn’t see the situation as light-heartedly as the students did. In fashion typical of today’s academic administrators, they reacted swiftly and harshly. He was reportedly facing expulsion, and criminal charges for indecent exposure which, in Alabama, lands you on the Sex Offender Registry.

Instead of facing expulsion from school, and possibly being listed as a sex offender, he chose to hang himself. He didn't succeed right away. It took two days to die from his injuries.

From the article:

Sparkman High Principal Michael Campbell told WHNT a day before the suicide attempt that the teen could face major repercussions because of his actions.
"There’s the legal complications," Campbell said. "Public lewdness and court consequences outside of school with the legal system, as well as the school consequences that the school system has set up." In Alabama, indecent exposure is linked to the state’s sex offender laws, meaning that he could have found himself on the sex offenders register due to the streaking.
Campbell added that that the incident was not just a prank and needed to be treated seriously. Sparkman High administrators even recommended that Adamek face a hearing in the Madison County court system to determine if formal charges would be filed, WHNT reported.
Adamek had also been disciplined by the school district but the details had not been made public. The day before the suicide attempt, the principal had confirmed that Adamek was not at school and the teenager’s sister suggested on Twitter that Adamek faced expulsion.
There is no common sense represented by Sparkman High School staff, or the school district administration here. A stern ass-chewing, detention, and maybe a public apology to his fellow students would have sent a clear message to the rest of the student body that these actions wouldn't be tolerated by the school. 

However, the punishment was so harsh that this popular student and beloved son/brother killed himself rather than face a law that was first enacted, ostensibly, to protect him.

If you're confused and outraged about this, you're not alone.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Parenting for the Real World

Second of three from Gus:

I parent this way: I’d rather teach knife safety than pretend that knives don’t exist and admonish my son from ever touching one. Same would go for firearms, if I could own any. Teaching proper safety keeps kids safe. Pretending dangers don’t exist, or forbidding kids from touching something that might be dangerous only piques the curiosity of many.

Boys like dangerous things, and love to play war with fake knives and fake guns. Its not a far leap to the real thing if they’re around. This is partly how you get kids shooting each other by accident. They are playing with something that isn’t a toy because they were never taught how to respect the danger of dangerous things.

Not in this house.

Same goes for alcohol. I think parents that hide their wine and liquor bottles only make it a fun game for the kids to find it. And when they do, many times they try it for themselves, because it’s forbidden. Unless a parent is a recovering alcoholic, or the kiddos are genetically predisposed to alcoholism (from family history, etc.), having alcohol in the house is pretty common. Hiding things from the kids only breeds curiosity and secret behavior that will fester and cause trouble later.

I’m not afraid to have a beer on the 4th of July in front of the kids. No, they can’t have a sip, but I don’t pretend like adult life doesn’t involve beer, either.

I face danger and harsh realities head on with the kids, because the real world isn’t made of cotton and foam. We don’t use knives for fun because knives are dangerous. However, even in my kitchen, my son hands me a cutting knife handle-first (his palm covering the blade) so I don’t cut myself or an unseen, playful little sister doesn’t accidentally run into it.

Makes me proud every time he does it.

Next: Laws Aimed at 'Protecting Children' Drive 15-Year-Old to Suicide

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Meet Our Writers: Introducing 'Eddie Sidgeweck'

FACTS / NU wants to do a better job of engaging the readers of this blog and our other materials. To that end, we have assembled a number of registrants or registrants' family members who will contribute under pen names. Here's the second of our writers:
_ _ _

From "Eddie Sidgeweck":

Like Gus, Eddie Sidgeweck is a pen-name. I will post my own thoughts to this blog on topics that apply to former offenders like me, as well as those who might not be so much like me.

I am a parent who is trying to rebuild a life, make a living and be a good citizen. I took full responsibility for my offense, completed my sentence with no additional offenses and I am moving on. I excuse neither myself nor any other offender. I also believe that once an offender has completed a sentence that it is time for the punishment to end. Has to do with a novel legal concept called ex post facto that Nebraska lawmakers have decided just does not apply to former sex offenders.

If you are reading this, you know that Nebraska law makes it nearly impossible for you to move on. You know that Nebraska law not only punishes you for life, but it does the same to your family members, friends and work colleagues. My posts will be aimed at showing that you are not alone in this, and that we can move on no matter how tough it seems.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Overreaction is the New Norm

Or, How Nobody has any Common Sense Anymore

First of Three from "Gus":

It’s a sad fact that nobody who works with children can take a joke these days. In the realm of educators and the administration of schooling, grown-ups need to have a love for that line of work and a  ton of understanding. Why? Because kids do dumb things.

When a kid does something patently dumb, it’s the job of parents (primarily) and school employees to use dumb decisions as a teaching opportunity. At least, it used to be.  In 2013 America the idea that shaping children into responsible adults (in an environment where mistakes are identified, corrected, and punished appropriately), is almost gone.

Take for instance three middle-school boys from Millard, a suburb of Omaha. They wanted to go outside and hang out and play war with their Airsoft guns. The fact that these boys wanted to be out in the fresh air, getting some entertaining exercise, should seem like a win, right? Problem was: they decided their battle ground would be their neighborhood elementary school yard.

Since it was 6:30 p.m., the young kids were out of school. This didn’t matter. School district policy was to expel these boys, because it treats Airsoft guns, Paintball guns, and lethal firearms the exact same way.

If you don’t know what Airsoft guns are, they are toy guns that shoot small spherical plastic pellets which sting a tad, but don’t really hurt. However, because they hurl things at a relatively high velocity through the air, and are shaped like real firearms, purchasers of these toys must be 18+ at Walmart.

My son wanted one last year. Instead of turning him down flat, I did it this way: he supplied all the money for the toy. Then he had to shoot me with it before he was allowed to play war with his friends using it. That’s right, he shot me with his Airsoft gun from about 4 feet away. No welt, bruise, or mark of any kind. 

Next: Parenting for the Real World

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sanity Prevails in Alexandria as Residency Restriction Is Rejected

The City fathers in Alexandria, Nebraska, have apparently decided against a residency restriction ordinance.

Kudos to Alexandria.

Alexandria's leaders are interested in measures that actually make their community more safe. Residency restrictions do not do that.

The Lincoln Journal Star story.

The True Internet Predators Are in the Mug-Shot Extortion Industry

Fortunately, the private sector is proactive where the law fails

A note from Gus:

Being on the sex offender registry isn’t fun. It affects where you can live, ability to get a job, raising a family, and moving past the worst thing you ever did. If being a sex offender isn't bad enough, most states publicly post the pictures and vital information on sex offenders to their public.

Making matters worse, predatory, spineless vultures have dreamed up a scheme to make money on people's shame. Websites that publish mugshots and sex offender profiles charge people for their removal, even if that individual was found not guilty, charges were dropped for that crime, or if he/she was removed from sex offender registries.

Sometimes profiles are not removed, even if payment of hundreds of dollars is made. It’s textbook extortion, made legal because this information is public domain via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and protected by the First Amendment.

This makes it nearly impossible for ex-offenders to move past their crime. Lawmakers tow a fine line between charging for extortion and violating First Amendment rights when it comes to public information. However, these predatory sites will punish anybody who questions their motives by sometimes even listing facebook accounts and family information (including addresses) on their front page to invite harassment and even violence.

This article from Forbes, entitled "Payment Providers and Google Will Kill the Mug-Shot Extortion Industry Faster than Lawmakers Can," details a new move bent on taking this practice off the internets. The article talks of an investigation by New York Times reporter David Segal on the matter (his investigation article is here). Segal spotlighted a few mugshot cases to demonstrate the absurd consequences these mugshot sites have on citizens who deal with them. The ramifications sound very familiar to what registered sex offenders go through, but these people aren’t convicted of crimes and are more palatable to the reader than sex offenders.

Anyway, Segal contacted Google and a bunch of payment processing companies to ask why they supported this type of extortion by providing services to these websites. They’re response was unanimous and against such schemes. All of them have now stopped taking payments for these sites, and Google has implemented an algorithm to tank their web-search SEO. Seems it’s easier to get the private sector to act and cut these sites off at the knees by shutting off funding and burying their queries in the barren wastelands that are past page 1 of Google’s search returns.

Kudos to all involved.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Meet Our Writers: Introducing Gus

FACTS / NU wants to do a better job of engaging the readers of this blog and our other materials. To that end, we have assembled a number of registrants or registrants' family members who will contribute under pen names. Over the next few days, we will introduce a couple of our new post-writers. Here's the first:
_ _ _

From "Gus":

My name is Gus. Well, not really, but I’m a huge fan of Los Pollos Hermano’s founder so, for the purposes of this blog, I’ll be Gus. This is a blog about issues affecting registered sex offenders in Nebraska. Since I happen to BE a registered sex offender in Nebraska, I’ll be keeping my identity concealed.

While it would be nice to write all my blog posts out in the open, being a sex offender (especially one who speaks openly against the registry) makes me a target for vandalism, harassment, or worse. To avoid more of this unpleasantness, you won’t know who I am.

That said, a little about me: I’m a dad. Yep, I live with and raise kids. Shudder at the thought? Don’t. There are a lot of us in Nebraska who quietly try to move past their offense and raise good ol’ corn-fed, free-range kids.

I work for myself. I could probably get a job if I looked long and hard enough. However, constantly explaining to new people that I’m not a crazy dangerous pedophile-rapist, just a normal guy who made a very stupid decision, gets old. So I don’t do it. I like coming up with ideas, partnering with friends, launching, and moving on. I guess you could say I’m a serial entrepreneur.

Finally, I’m a bona fide expert on the Nebraska Sex Offender Registration Act. I’ve read every word of the law multiple times. I encourage all registrants to dive into the law and read it for themselves, but for those who don’t, I’ll be a resource for tips and tricks to navigating the registry.

Topics I’ll be writing about: parenting tips, travel as a registrants, legal issues affecting registrants, and dealing with law enforcement. If I feel a story is important, I’ll write on that, too, even if it doesn’t fit nicely into one of those categories. Talk to you soon.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Should the Sheriff Abide by the Law?

(Reprinted from Ninety-Five%, the Nebraskans Unafraid donor newsletter)
Should county law enforcement abide by state law?
The answer, of course, is “yes.”
Dunning with an American flag
Except in Nebraska, where the correct answer might be something like, “Well, it depends on who you ask.”
In Douglas and Lancaster counties, sheriffs do not allow registrants to sign verification forms when they fulfill their reporting requirements under LB285 (2009). Instead, the entire process is electronic and the registrant does not sign anything. This effectively forces registrants to be in a state of noncompliance with the law which specifically states:
“The verification form shall be signed by the person required to register under the act and state whether the address last reported to the division is still correct” (NE.Rev.Stat §29-4006 (7)).
Bruning with an American flag
Registrants are justifiably worried because they have no way to document that they have reported as the law requires. Douglas County says that it has video of everything that happens. But for everyone’s protection, it would be good for registrants to keep their own copies of documentation. It’s too easy for just one copy of a record to be lost.
Nebraskans Unafraid (NU) and FACTS followed up on registrant concerns by contacting the Nebraska State Patrol. The Patrol agreed that the law requires a signature on a form, and said it expects sheriff’s offices to implement systems allowing signatures on forms.
Wagner with an American flag
Douglas County Sheriff Tim Dunning disagrees and says the signature problem is all the state’s fault.
“They created the website that we use, and the fact that they forgot to put in some sort of receipt, is a fault of their agency, not ours,” Dunning wrote in response to our inquiry. “There is nothing in state statute that says the sheriff s offices are required to do a signature page. We would certainly do one for you or any of your members, if we had the ability to do so from the NE State Patrol website”
Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner responded by saying simply that his office operates in accord with state law. While we were very happy to learn that, we sent a second latter asking Wagner to specify whether registrants use ink pens to sign paper copies of their verification forms.
We also forwarded all of the correspondence to the state attorney general’s office, asking if he thinks that the sheriffs ought to abide by state law. That was months ago. We haven’t heard back.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Guidelines for Using the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry Website

Several years ago, FACTS published a list of guidelines for using the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry Website. The Guidelines are now validated by research that shows that most of the people on the Nebraska State Patrol sex offender registry website are not dangerous.

Please share this link to the guidelines as widely as you possibly can. It is especially important for your friends and neighbors to be aware of these guidelines. This is information everyone should keep in mind whenever and wherever the sex offender website is discussed.

for Nebraska FACTS