Wednesday, April 30, 2014

NU/FACTS Publishes Registry Survival Guide eBook: A Handbook for Families

The April issue of Ninety-Five%, our monthly donor newsletter, includes excerpts from the opening chapter of our newly published eBook, Registry Survival Guide - Nebraska: A Handbook for Families.

Early reviews of the Guide are positive: We're being thanked by registrants who have not been able to get good information about compliance with the law from other sources.

To defray the costs of researching, writing and continually updating the Guide, we are asking $5.95usd. The Guide may be obtained online at this link.

NU decided to publish the Guide because of the many comments we have heard from registrants and their families that they are not able to get clear information from law enforcement about issues involved in complying with Nebraska's vague, convoluted and nonsensical laws regarding former offenders. If registrants in Nebraska find the Guide useful, we will consider producing similar guides for other states.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Thoughts on Politicians' Perversion of the Law

Wild-eyed blathering manic panic, driven by politicians who champion sex-offender punishments that are just plain stupid, has reached a point where it even wrecks the lives of the demonstrably falsely accused.

A case in point: A football coach arrested on suspicion of a child porn offense, but the charges are dropped when it is found that the charges are based on images he took of his own little kids after they had their nightly baths. Even after the charges are dropped, however, the man is fired from his job.

Our Notes from the Handbasket correspondent has some thoughts on this perversion of the law.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Reason and Justice Re-emerging in Decisions on Former Sex Offenders?

by Gus

The issue of punishing sex offenders more is always a popular one. The U.S. Supreme Court opened the door in Smith v. Doe (538 U.S. 84, 2003) for states to make sex offender registries as onerous as they'd like without worry about constitutionality, saying that registries were civil and regulatory, not punishment.

With a track record like that, and like the recent Kebodeaux decision, its no surprise that those who view the punishment for sex offenders as unending would be skeptical about US v. Paroline, which was decided today.

The Paroline case involved restitution in cases where a defendant was convicted of child pornography charges where a victim depicted in one of the files seeks monetary damages from the defendant. To be sure, the continuing emotional damage from users downloading and keeping images of their sexual abuse is worthy of monetary damage awards.

"Amy," the woman seeking damages in this case, estimates her total damages at $3.4 million over her lifetime. That number isn't in question. Paroline, who possessed two images of her sexual abuse, should be on the hook to pay Amy. But how much?

Amy seeks the full $3.4 million from Paroline. The district judge awarded none and the appeals court said the full amount would be OK.

The issue then is this: should each defendant be on the hook to pay Amy $3.4 million each?

In a 5-4 split decision today, the U.S. Supreme Court said no.  However, they didn't go further than that. Justice Kennedy penned the opinion and had this to say on the matter:

"There remains the question of how district courts should go about determining the proper amount of restitution. At a general level of abstraction, a court must assess as best it can from available evidence the significance of the individual defendant’s conduct in light of the broader causal process that produced the victim’s losses."

This will ultimately make a mess of things at the district level and wind up back on the high court's docket in a year or two. However, the silver lining is there, albeit hard to see: In the first decision in recent memory, the Supreme Court took an action that didn't completely hammer a defendant just because he was a sex offender.

The tide may be turning up at that high court the way it is here in the real world. Not all people labeled as sex offenders are evil, predatory, child-rapist-murders whose punishments can never be harsh enough.

Three justices dissented saying that, without a high burden of proof, no restitution should be awarded. Sotomayor went the other way and said that each defendant should be on the hook for millions.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Omaha World-Herald Story Misses the Point (or Several Points)

by Gus

 Parents, teachers hear from child molesters themselves about how they target kids

The link above is the title of an article written by Lauren Sedam with the Omaha World-Herald. The subject matter covered goes to the heart of one of the biggest arguments against the registry and public disclosure of registrant's information: most child sexual assault cases are perpetuated by a trusted individual, not a stranger.
If strangers don't pose the risk, then public registries are useless. However, this story nearly completely ignores this point. From the article: 

About one in five girls and one in 10 boys are sexually abused, she said. Offenders, Jensen said, are master manipulators. They are rarely strangers, and they often work their way into children's lives slowly, making both children and parents comfortable. “Stranger danger is OK, but if that's the only thing you talk to your kids about, you're missing the majority of risk,” Jensen said.

First, the one-in-five number is a huge fallacy, perpetuated by surveys done by groups like the CDC and others that ask questions like "have you ever had sex while drunk, sleeping, or times where you couldn't consent?" Most people have had sex while drunk, but if you're female, they want to consider it rape/assault.

These studies are done to perpetuate a perception that there is a problem so that funding can be grabbed for prevention of the "problem".

Second, "Stranger danger is OK"? Its not OK. The piece doesn't cite the fact that over 90 percent of sexual assault cases are committed by trusted family and friends. Do we focus all our attention on preventing car accidents on less than 10 percent of what causes them? We do not. Drunken driving, distracted driving, and other factors cause a huge portion of the fatal accidents in the U.S. There are virtually no education or preventative measures taken to help prevent hitting deer or handling manufacturer defects. Focusing on former offenders with registries and fear-mongering campaigns is tantamount to focusing all of our traffic-safety efforts on preventing collisions with deer.

Why do they ignore the FACTS?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

News From WAR (Women Against the Registry)

News Release from Women Against the Registry (WAR)

Florida Action Committee                                         WAR
Press Contact:                                                             Press Contact:
Gail Colletta                                                               Kimberly DuBina                   

For Immediate Release

Florida Is At It Again-Putting Children At Risk

A large, national coalition of C.U.R.E, CURE-SORT, F.A.C, USA Fair and W.A.R members have joined together to ask Florida legislators, “Why are the  many children and families of former offenders being placed in danger from missed opportunities of effective legislation?” “Are the children of citizens on the sex offender registry less valuable to law makers?”

As of December 20, 2013 there were 62,318 people listed on the Florida state sex offender registry and the number is growing every day. Legislators have neglected to accept that these registered citizens have families and children who too, are affected by these restrictive laws and thus are victims of vigilante crimes, harassment, community ostracism and detrimental restrictions placed on them.

The mounting empirical evidence outlined in current research studies conducted by some of our nation’s finest scholars contradicts the use of residency restrictions and pocket parks as a public safety tool. In fact, “research has shown when former sex offenders have stable housing, employment, and social/familial support (as are any former offender) they are less likely to commit new offenses. Residency requirements drastically reduce this stability” (Statement from the Child Molestation Research & Prevention Institute Website). 

Residency restrictions are frequently imposed as conditions of probation and parole and as a facet of registration laws in Florida. They raise constitutional issues in addition to the practical problems created by minimizing access to therapeutic treatment and public services which are essential for successful re-entry from incarceration. "The proliferation of these types of restrictions is making it more difficult for corrections to fulfill their mandate of helping offenders make a successful reentry into society," said Charles Olney, a research associate for the Center for Sex Offender Management , an affiliate of the U.S. Justice Department.
Olney and other experts also question how effective the laws are at protecting children, because strangers are responsible for only about 6.7 percent of sexual attacks on minors. Although incidents of strangers kidnapping and sexually assaulting a child often make headlines, the Justice Department estimates just over 1% of the 60,000 to 70,000 reports of sexual assault filed each year involved an abduction by a stranger.
"People are very, very fearful of strangers being near their children, and most of these laws are based on a knee-jerk reaction to that fear," Olney said.

“Family members of registered sex offenders (RSOs) are the often-overlooked victims of collateral damage. Increasingly restrictive policies expose RSOs and their families to public scrutiny and place severe limits on RSOs’ employment, housing, and academic opportunities. These policies were designed to protect the public from sexually dangerous individuals, but the collateral consequences of the laws to others were presumably unanticipated.” (Levenson, J. S., & Tewksbury, R. (2009). Collateral damage: Family members of registered sex offenders. American Journal of Criminal Justice)

The Coalition speaking for the families of registered citizens agree that preventative measures are a priority and legislative reform is essential to include protecting all of America’s citizens and their children. It is also paramount to public safety to recognize not all former offenders pose equal risk to the community so not all former offenders should be subjected to the same restrictions.  We are calling on law makers to eliminate restrictions such as residency bans and pocket parks which have proven to be unconstitutional in many jurisdictions. Furthermore they place further burdens on law enforcement agencies that are charged with protecting all our citizens. All children and families need to be considered when enacting laws. Reform should be based on the empirical evidence.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Guest Post: Deserving a Chance for a Pardon

by Marie at Notes from the Handbasket

A 25-year-old registered sex offender has been granted a hearing before the Nebraska Board of Pardons. This is excellent news for this young man because if he is pardoned, he will regain his civil rights and he will no longer be on the sex offender registry. 

According to the Omaha World-Herald article, it is unusual for a sex offender to be granted a hearing because

[t]he Pardons Board rarely considers the applications of sex offenders. But board members said they are willing to listen to this one because Weich has lived an exemplary life except for one crime committed as a 14-year-old.
An exemplary life should be rewarded. 
He didn't rape, fondle or even touch anyone. In 2003 he and two other teenage boys made a secret video of two or three female classmates using a shower at his mother's house in Pierce, Neb. The incident involved a game of truth-or-dare and the camera also caught one of the girls using the toilet, according to documents in his Pardons Board application.
A non-contact crime committed as a 14-year-old, not repeated. He was charged as an adult because the crime was not discovered until he was 18.

This man has gained some powerful allies. A state trooper for one and Nebraska's Attorney General, Jon Bruning, for another.

Other factors in [this man's] favor include pre-sentence psychological evaluations that found he is not a sexual predator and showed he was a minimal risk to reoffend. He completed all of his probation requirements, which included more than 20 sessions with Dr. Kevin Piske, a Norfolk psychologist who specialized in treating sex offenders.
Not a sexual predator, unlikely to reoffend, got through probation with no trouble. Saw a psychologist for awhile. This man is a success story.
The psychologist was one of 93 people who submitted letters in support of [the man], which likely represents a record number, said Sonya Fauver, the board's administrator.
Ninety-three letters of support! Many friends in his corner. 
[His] status forced him to give up on his dream of playing football for a major college program. He had been invited to walk on at Kansas State University, but he was told the school couldn't take a chance on a sex offender. He also had to leave the dorms. 
Although it was difficult, he found off-campus housing and finished his second semester at Kansas State.
Later, he was offered a football scholarship and began playing at Wayne State College in Nebraska. Again, he wasn't allowed to live on campus. He got his degree in business management in 2012.
The registry still haunts [him], especially when it comes to finding employment and housing. He said he has held some temporary jobs but hasn't been able to get an offer related to his major when employers learn he is a registered sex offender.
Recently, he had the opportunity to show the National Football League his punting skills. One of his college coaches called him "the best punter he has seen in his 30 years as a coach" so it seems this young man may have a chance at a position in the NFL.
“How many people do you know in the world who would even have a chance to make it in the NFL?” [one of his supporters] asked. “But he can't because of this. It just doesn't seem fair.”
No, it doesn't seem fair to have lived an exemplary life and yet be held back because he is a registered sex offender. 

Among the 93 letters is a letter from 

...retired District Judge Patrick Rogers, who presided over [the man's] trial. 
“I commend him for all of his accomplishments since 2007, even while carrying the burden of his offense,” Rogers wrote. “He could have easily given up, as I believe so many others do.”
But do so many others give up? 

Statistics show that, like this man, very few registered sex offenders commit another sex crime. 

Like this man, most registered sex offender are first-time offenders.

Like this man, most are deemed at low risk to reoffend.

Like this man, most are not considered sexual predators.

Those are not signs of people who gave up. Those are signs of people who arevery much like this Nebraska man.

Like him, they have trouble finding employment. Like him, they have trouble finding a place to live. 

Like him, they have hopes and dreams for the future that have been stymied by their status as a sex offender.

This young man who lives an exemplary life deserves every chance at his hopes and dreams, just as other law abiding citizens do. 

Just as every other law abiding sex offender does.

This young man is not the exception. He is the rule.