Monday, March 17, 2014

From Women Against the Registry

A news release from Women Against the Registry:

Contact: Vicki Henry, President Women Against Registry 202.630.0345
Women Against Registry is “Pushing Back”

In a recent article published by the Lacrosse Tribune on February 02, 2014, “Rethinking sex offenders: Wisconsin freeing more sex offenders; old recidivism data exaggerated risk” referring to a state civil commitment program, state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout states, “We don’t have enough information to say if this program works or if it doesn’t, Is this a good investment of our resources?”

Women Against Registry is asking the same. For more than 20 years now, laws have been created and implemented to stop sexual crimes from occurring, especially against children. In those past years, lawmakers have listened to victims, parents, media and law enforcement which propagated such laws in to existence. We must ask the question, “Was evidence presented, reviewed or sought to build legislation for such laws to be created? Did law makers who were trusted by the American citizens to make our laws research or seek the truth? Did they search for information and evidence from scholars who work with sexually deviate persons? If not, why?”

In a study where 61 legislators where interviewed (one from at least each state), 65% admitted to “policy being written due to high profile cases” some cases not even within the jurisdiction of their own state. Most of the legislation was written from a few high profile cases such as; Megan Kanka, Jessica Lunsford, Adam Walsh and Jacob Wetterling.

Women Against Registry, Inc. was founded in 2011 by wives, mothers, sisters and other family members to bring awareness to the public, lawmakers and the media of the collateral damages that their families are facing due to the existing laws. With well over 769,000 persons on the national sex offender registry, an estimated 2.5 million people are affected by these laws. They are now taking a stand to educate and present empirical research and studies which proves such consequences associated with sex offender laws suggest they may be doing more harm to offenders than they do good for society.

With the publications of numerous studies and empirical research, Women Against Registry is calling for legislators to repeal laws that are creating more harm than they are good for our children and families. We are calling on our trusted leaders to know the evidence and research before writing legislation.

In an effort to present much needed understandings to the effects of these laws on family members, Women Against Registry often cites a research study by Jill Levenson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Human Services at Lynn University and Richard Tewksbury, Ph.D.,Professor at University of Louisville Department of Justice Administration called Collateral Damage: Family Members of Registered Sex Offenders.

"Researchers have identified ways in which sex offender registration and notification (SORN) laws can impede community reintegration efforts of RSOs and potentially contribute to recidivism. The purpose of this study is to explore the impact of SORN laws on the family members of registered sex offenders.”

Noted in the report: out of 446 interviewed 87% of families suffered hardships due to the registrant finding and sustaining employment,out of 437 interviewed 44% have been threatened or harassed, out of 441 interviewed 30% have suffered bodily harm or property damages due to Meagan’s Law Notification. Further research can be cited and quoted by numerous scholars to back the standing of those members of Women Against Registry.

With evidence presented and accessible to the law makers and media, family members are now “Pushing Back” against legislation that hinders the safety of all children and those who love them. It’s time to regulate laws based on evidence and validity rather than those written out of fear of what could or could not happen in the future.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Ninety-Five% Can Be Mighty-Fine% at the Polls

The February issue of Ninety-Five%, the monthly newsletter for Nebraskans Unafraid donors and friends, has hit mailboxes.

It has valuable information for registrants and their families, in particular people whose voting rights are restored. If you were convicted of a felony (aside from treason), your voting rights are restored two years after completion of your sentence. All you need to do is register. Don't wait. If it's been two years, sign up to vote. I became eligible to vote again late last year. I can tell you that voting was never sweeter for me.

You must vote if you're eligible. If you're not eligible, you must tell your family members and your friends about your experiences with Nebraska politicians and give them guidance. You and your circle can help remove from the public trough people like Jon Bruning and Pete Pirsch.

If there are 4,000 registrants in Nebraska (a number that grows daily), and each one of them has family or other close ties to, say, three other people, that adds up to 12,000 folks not listed but affected negatively by the Nebraska State Patrol Sex Offender website. Twelve-thousand votes, plus who knows how many registrants who are eligible to vote, adds up to a respectable impact at the polls.

Chief architects of the Nebraska State Patrol Sex Offender website, and thus of the damage done to you and your families, are Bruning, who wants to be your governor, and Pirsch, who wants to be your attorney general.

Whaddaya say? Let's make Jumpin Jon and Pistol Pete go out and get real jobs.

Friday, March 7, 2014

'Novel' Idea: When You've Served Your Sentence, It's Over

Received the following email (below the dashes) after posting the true story from the Nebraska courtroom (previous post). It makes perfect sense and it is the attitude that should be adopted by each and every offender once the sentence has been completed.
_ _ _

Ever hear of anyone using the argument once incarceration is over all rights are restored? They are illegally labeling people as sex offenders when they are not. Once the sentence is complete they are supposed to be back to the same status as everyone else. INCLUDING right to privacy!  Under the bill of attainder [they] can not make laws rules or requirements for a singled-out group of people.The law of this nation is that when the debt is paid it no longer exists. The person is no longer considered a sex offender. I think the fact that we go along with it and sign papers stating we agree we are sex offenders is what allows them to do this. If people who have completed their sentences agree not to agree that they are sex offenders, how can they argue that they are unless they admit it?  Every time a law changes and the so called SO signs it they agree to be under it. They acknowledge it applies to them.  

True Story: Judge Meets Low Expectations

True story from a Nebraska courtroom:

The former sex offender, who never went to prison but was placed on probation -- for good reason -- petitions a state court in Nebraska for a set-aside, as the law permits him to do.

It has been many long years since his offense. He has letters from psychologists saying he is not a re-offense risk. The psychiatrist/attorney who evaluated him says he is NOT a pedophile. He completed all terms of his probation without a problem.

He tells the court that the set-aside will not remove him from Nebraska's public shaming/lifetime punishment State Patrol Sex Offender website. All it will do is help him in finding work because he has a family to support and bills to pay.

The sputtering, bursting-with-rage prosecutor opposes the motion. Her argument? "He's . . . he's . . . he's on the registry!"

Wait a minute. Right in our own backyards, we have scientific proof that being on the registry has little value insofar as determining whether someone is fit to work, pay taxes, be a good citizen, etc. Which is all this guy wants to do after fully paying for his crime.

The judge meets our low expectations and sides with the angry prosecutor.

Connecting the dots: If you are a Nebraska sex offender and you successfully complete your sentence, you successfully undergo treatment, you successfully re-integrate with your family and community -- your reward is that the state will help prevent you from working and put your family in danger with its politically motivated Nebraska State Patrol Sex Offender website.

This judge and this prosecutor support the idea that no matter what this individual does, the criminal "justice" system's intent is to keep its jackboot on his throat for the rest of his life.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Are We Starting to Question Crazy, Hysteria-driven Sentences?

The U.S.  Supreme Court has indicated it has an interest in whether its view on the scope of the legal duty of users of child pornography to pay the victims might be affected by a ruling it made last month in a criminal drug case.  In a brief order in Paroline v. United States, the Court called for supplemental briefs on the impact on that case of its decision January 27 in Burrage v. United States.

In a plain-language interpretation, you could say this case is going to begin to tell us whether we want to continue imposing crazy, hysteria-driven and out-of-all-proportion sentences on sex offenders.  SCOTUSblog

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

No Travel Restrictions on "Confronting the Lie"

Confronting the Lie has struck a nerve. It is receiving national distribution via sites such as the Sex Offender Issues network, and in Nebraska on sites like KETV-Channel 7's Facebook page(!).

We also are receiving supportive comments, through comments on this blog and other channels.

One blog comment bears repeating. It comes from "mother - family - friend of all":
If the law makers had their pictures on the internet with a list of all the things wrong they have done + their addresses, car plates, what do you think they would say and do. I know first hand. My family and everyone I like and love is also in danger of those vigilantes out there that just want an excuse to attack or kill other human being. These ex offenders did their time. took classes, got mental help, and now are able to join our society . Give them and their families this right they have earned. We don't do the Murders, drug dealers this way an d they hurt our kids too. If the offenders repeats his crime again (which 99% will not do!) Send them away for a longer time (at least 25 years NO EARLY OUT PERIOD!!!!! How can they change if YOU won't let them with your unfair laws. 

A Child's Story

Years ago, a child told the Nebraska Legislature's Judiciary Committee how the state's anti-sex offender laws encourage bullying of the children in school. The Judiciary Committee did nothing for this child.

These are the laws that Attorney General Jon Bruning and state Sen. Pete Pirsch claimed were to "protect" children. This of course is not true. The laws were politically motivated and scientific research shows they only harm children.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Opinion: KETV Incompetence Harms Community

Nebraskans Unafraid / FACTS extends its gratitude to Lisa Sample, Ph.D., and individuals across the nation who assisted with the production of Confronting the Lie.

Confronting the Lie is a response to the latest trash-TV report in Omaha that is based on decades-old myths and lies that have been debunked by researchers across the nation. Dr. Sample is one of those researchers.

Confronting the Lie may be viewed in this playlist. It will be available soon in DVD format, combined with Nebraska - A State of Shame, one of our previous projects.

Confronting the Lie had a proximate trigger and a broad context. The proximate trigger was last week's shallow story by a personality at KETV-Channel 7 in Omaha that once again reported as "fact" the thoroughly untrue notion that sex offenders are just re-offenders. That is so wrong that it is tantamount to KETV reporting about ships sailing off the edge of the flat world.

The broader context is that KETV is not the only place all these lies keep making their way into what is loosely termed "news."

Nebraskans Unafraid / FACTS has attempted to share factual information with KETV and other stations in the past. All of that material has been steadfastly ignored. Some might say we are being unduly harsh. If you think that, then you have not lost your job, your home and your family because the state Legislature decided in 2009 to make political hay with your life.

So what some think harsh we would willingly trade for what we have endured. And after what we have endured, we are stronger. And we are getting even stronger. We will not go away, we will not be silent and we know this:

Because it cannot afford to lose viewers, a small TV station like KETV-Channel 7 in Omaha cannot really report the facts about the low re-offense rates of former sex offenders. That would be unpopular.

Like a seventh-grader faced with a choice of standing for the truth or being popular, KETV and the other stations will opt for untruth and popularity. They are fighting for an ever-dwindling pool of viewers. So it boils down to ratings.

But at what cost to the community? KETV might not purposefully damage the community. But it is ignoring work done by a nationally recognized researcher in a nationally prominent criminal justice program that is located a few minutes from the Channel 7 studio. That is so far removed from anything that might be called journalism that it is painful to have to point it out. That is incompetence. And it does harm the community.

The primary aim of the anti-sex offender laws that were enacted in 2009 was to boost the political careers of Attorney General Jon Bruning and State Sen. Pete Pirsch. Bruning himself says that Nebraska now puts people on the public shaming site that would pose no risk to his own children. Bruning of course will insist that he wanted to protect children, not boost his political career. Yes, and Vladimir Putin says those soldiers invading the Ukraine aren't Russians. Some lies, we suppose, are just . . . necessary.

If someone does not pose a risk to the children of the state attorney general, or to anyone else's children, or to anyone else, what possible excuse can there be for destroying their lives and their families? That is not hyperbole. It is fact that is borne out in the research that is being conducted by Dr. Sample at UNO. It is fact discerned by U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf, who issued a ruling that ripped the law and its makers unmercifully.

And that was yet another in a long string of facts about this issue missed by KETV.

Expert Says Current Law Will Only Increase Harm to the Community

In Confronting the Lie - Part Three, University of Nebraska-Omaha criminal justice professor Lisa Sample, Ph.D., says she wants to make sure policy-makers base their decisions about sex offenders on science. And the science says that the vast majority of sex offenders do not re-offend. Endlessly punishing them and their families, especially by putting them all on a public shaming website, will lead to more -- not less -- re-offending.

Research by Dr. Sample's colleague, Ryan Spohn, Ph.D., bears that out: Sex offender re-offense rates in Nebraska are extremely low -- but they went up after the enactment of LB 285 of 2009, the law that put them all on the shaming website.

Asked what she would recommend to Nebraska policy-makers who are sincerely interested in public safety, Dr. Sample said:
  • Take people who do not pose a risk of re-offense off the public shaming website and bring back risk assessments.
  • Don't enact laws that prevent former offenders from having jobs, housing, good family and community connections because those are the very things that keep them accountable and free of re-offending.
  • Don't confuse news media coverage of a horrible crime with a complete picture of the situation. Legislating to the extreme horrifying instance is like legislating based on something you saw in a movie.

Confronting the Lie II: Working Around a Law That Seems Designed to Make You Fail

Because local TV personalities cannot get beyond their own limitations, Nebraskans Unafraid presents Confronting the Lie - Part II. If someone you know cites something they saw on local TV about former sex offenders, refer them to this series of videos.

In this segment, nationally recognized expert on sex offending and the law Lisa Sample, Ph.D., discusses research she is conducting that shows even some of the worst sex offenders are capable of reforming and redeeming their lives. She has found that the law is not much help and that offenders succeed despite laws based on ignorance and lies.

Tomorrow: Confronting the Lie - Part Three. What would it be like to have laws written solely to provide for public safety?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Confronting the Lie - Part Two Preview: Succeeding Despite the Law

Prominent criminal justice researcher Lisa Sample, Ph.D., says that if all she had to go on was information from the news media, she, too, might think that former sex offenders inevitably will reoffend.

"Then I was put in this unique position of knowing a bunch of them who didn’t,” Dr. Sample says in Confronting the Lie - Part Two, which was produced by the advocacy organization Nebraskans Unafraid and is being released Tuesday, March 4. "They haven't reoffended, and there are very good reasons for that. In their opinion, it would be DESPITE sex offender law, not because of it." "Despite" because Nebraska law seems like it is designed to deprive former offenders of jobs, homes and the family and networks that keep people accountable and living lives that they value.

For seven years, Dr. Sample has been interviewing sex offenders, including two that she described as "textbook predatory" offenders who have worked hard to stay accountable to family, friends and their communities, and they have not re-offended. Dr. Sample says the rate of sex offender re-offense is very low in Nebraska, and her research is designed to find out why. Former offenders and family members who want to participate in the strictly confidential research can contact Dr. Sample's University of Nebraska-Omaha team at (402) 554-2610.

Nebraska's law is misbegotten, placing every former offender on a public shaming website regardless of risk, creating a major public-safety problem, Dr. Sample said. We cannot sort out the dangerous few on the website and we are distracted trying to monitor people who pose little risk.

Because the website is so damaging to family members of former offenders, Dr. Sample says, sex offenders in Nebraska have reached out to one another and, on their own, established the kinds of connections they need in order to succeed and provide support to moms, dads, children and siblings of former offenders. Dr. Sample said that is a good thing even though it was not part of the law's intent.

"Because I’m an academic and trained in criminology, I believe it’s a good thing. But I feel confident that the general public and law enforcement wouldn’t understand why it would be a good thing for sex offenders and their families to have friends and support networks,” she says.

Confronting the Lie - Part One

Dr. Sample's preliminary desistance study findings

Study on Nebraska re-offense rates


Confronting the Lie I: Patiently Explaining the Difference Between Re-offending and Data-Entry Error

Nebraskans Unafraid Presents Confronting the Lie - Part One

Confronting the Lie is a wide-ranging interview with Lisa Sample, Ph.D., a leading national expert on sexual offending, re-offense and the law.

Dr. Sample questions the usefulness of a recent Omaha TV station's little story about wrong addresses on the Nebraska offender registry. The KETV-Channel 7 story fails in that it does not include factual information that can be gleaned from decades of research on this topic.

Nebraskans Unafraid presents Confronting the Lie as a public-service antidote for wrong, incomplete and harmful information in most local TV news reports on this topic. Please share it with your friends, neighbors and colleagues at work. Everyone needs this information because ignorance is dangerous.

Coming tomorrow: Confronting the Lie - Part Two: The research across the nation and in Nebraska.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Coming Monday From NU: Confronting the Lie

Nebraskans Unafraid on Monday, March 3, will release Part One of Confronting the Lie, an interview with nationally recognized expert on sex offending and the law, Lisa Sample, Ph.D., of the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

Parts Two and Three of Confronting the Lie will be released later in the week.

For decades now, research findings about sexual offending show that the vast majority of former offenders do not reoffend. In fact, re-offense rates among sexual offenders are among the lowest.

Major factors that lower the risk of re-offense include stable housing; employment; and connection with, and support from, family members, communities and social networks.

Laws and public websites that expose former offenders and their families to public scorn, violence and invasive unwarranted intrusions into their homes do not make our communities safer. In fact, these laws increase danger to the public. Such laws have the effect of depriving former offenders of homes, jobs and the freedom to live with their families, the very things that help prevent re-offense.

Most news media reports on sexual offending are not informed by these facts. Because they focus on the most sensational and rare cases, and they are good at exploiting fear, the news media typically are not at all reliable sources for accurate information on this topic.

Within the last year in Nebraska, local TV news personalities presented as, quote, news, unquote, things that included:

  • Picking names of former offenders at random from the public shaming website and going with a camera to their doors. If a former offender was not at home, the TV personality claimed to have found an absconded offender.

  • Telling viewers, as Halloween approached, to be sure to check the public shaming website. This in spite of information that had been supplied to the station about research showing no evidence anywhere of increased risk either from a registrant or on this specific holiday.

  • Reporting without any professional skepticism on a law enforcement representative’s assumption that a former offender is re-offending because an address on the registry is incorrect. This despite evidence locally and nationally that most of those errors are due to law enforcement data-entry mistakes.

The last example, by a personality from KETV-Channel 7 in Omaha, was a single-sourced story with only one supporting example. The same story reported that of 900 registrants in Douglas County, only 90 were found to have incorrect addresses. A professional reporter might have pursued this question:

“Wow. Ninety out of 900. Is it possible you are wasting your time and taxpayer dollars trying to watch all 900? Especially since research conducted at the University of Nebraska-Omaha found that only about 1 percent of the people on that website are likely to re-offend?”

As an antidote to the wildly inaccurate information on local TV, Nebraskans Unafraid engaged a professional reporter to interview a nationally recognized expert on sexual offending and the law.

NU interviewed Dr. Lisa Sample of the University of Nebraska-Omaha on February 28, 2014.

Dr. Sample is a Professor and Reynolds Professor of Public Affairs and Community Service. She is also the Masters Program Coordinator for the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. She received her Ph.D. in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Missouri Saint Louis. Her research interests include criminal and juvenile justice policy. More specifically, she conducts research in juvenile and criminal justice sentencing disparities, drug control policies, prison reentry programs, and sex offender behavior and policies. She has worked with several state and local agencies to evaluate programs intended to address juvenile truancy, prisoner reentry, drug use, and methamphetamine manufacture and sale.

Watch this blog on Monday, March 3, for the link to Confronting the Lie, Part One.

In "Gandhi," Art Imitates Life in Nebraska

Watch this brief clip from the movie Gandhi. In the place of  "Indian," use "registered sex offender."  Then it becomes a fair description of circumstances in Nebraska for former offenders and their families.  There is an ancient principle that harsher the abuse heaped upon an oppressed group, the stronger become the oppressed. We are witnessing this now in Nebraska.