Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Year Later, Nebraska News Media Appear Unaware of UNO Research

It has been a year since the release of the University of Nebraska-Omaha research showing that sex offenders have an extremely low rate of reoffense. It is possibly the lowest among any former offenders.

A second UNO study documents the damage done to families and to public safety by current Nebraska law.

Despite this good work done in their own backyard, Nebraska news media continue to breathlessly make stories on the rare occasions when a registered citizen reoffends. Little to no depth or serious thinking about this "police-blotter" mentality. The one story that was produced about the UNO recidivism study had a glaring error in it that never was corrected.

Elsewhere in the nation, as evidenced here and here, we are getting accurate and thoughtful reporting on this issue. Nebraskans Unafraid will continue to help you look beyond the borders of the state for reliable reporting.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dallas Morning News Gets It Right

The Dallas Morning News does some spot-on reporting about residency restrictions for registered citizens, which do not protect the public and do not deter crime.

An excerpt:
First, it’s important to note that — contrary to popular belief — registered sex offenders have one of the very lowest recidivism rates. Minnesota looked at 224 cases of people convicted of a second sex crime.
The conclusion: “Not one of the 224 sex offenses would likely have been deterred by a residency restrictions law.”
An academic study in the journal Criminal Justice and Behavior also found no safety benefit. But it noted real potential to make things worse: “The time that police and probation officers spend addressing sex offender housing issues is likely to divert law enforcement resources away from behaviors that truly threaten our communities.”
Evidence is mounting that our broad-brush approach to sex offenders is doing more harm than good. We mistakenly came to equate “sex offender” with “pedophile predator.”
Read the story here.

Slate Reporting Richly Researched, Supported With Facts, Rooted in Reality

Recommended reading for everyone in Nebraska: Slate's insightful series on the downright stupidity of sex-offender laws.

Each of these pieces is richly researched, supported with facts and rooted in reality. How enlightened we might be if Nebraska news media were capable of reporting like this.

Take the time to read all five installments of this series. It will be good for you.

Our draconian policies about sex offenses reflect our ignorance of them:
Sex Offender Laws Have Gone Too Far

Three maps show states that register people as sex offenders for consensual teenage sex, peeing in public, and prostitution:
The Ridiculous Laws That Put People on the Sex Offender List

In some states, people face a lifetime of restrictions for nonviolent offenses committed decades ago:
Listed for Life

Several states ban people in the registry from a bizarre list of jobs:
Not Wanted: Sex Offenders

The best ideas for fixing sex offender laws:
Reforming the Registry

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Thanks for Being Fearless

Fearless is off to a great start. Good turnout last night, useful conversation, new connections and renewed strength.

We'll see you again on Monday, September 29, 7 p.m. at Saint Michael Lutheran Church, 13232 Blondo Street, Omaha. Park in the lot on the east side of the church and come in through the east entrance, which is right off the parking lot.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Nebraska Law Premised on a Fabrication

Every now and then, we call attention to the Guidelines for Using the Nebraska State Patrol Sex Offender website.

This is one of those times. We highlight Guideline #5:
The Nebraska Legislature’s finding from the 1990s that all sex offenders are dangerous was not based on any scientific, empirical evidence. It was a politically-motivated “made up” finding that was based on popular myth. There is a vast and growing body of evidence that the reverse is actually true – that sex offenders are among the least likely to reoffend. The Legislative Finding is made up in the same way that the oft-repeated “50,000 online predators” number was made up.
Ryan Spohn, Ph.D., who completed the University of Nebraska-Omaha research that shows Nebraska sex offenders have extremely low reoffense rates, is struck by the fact that Nebraska law codifies an unfounded opinion.

". . . it flew in the face of basically every published research study to come out over the last 10 years," Dr. Spohn said.

Click here to read a complete Nebraskans Unafraid interview with Dr. Spohn.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Be Fearless

Fearless meets on Monday, August 25, 2014. Time: 7 p.m. Location: Saint Michael Lutheran Church, 13232 Blondo Street, Omaha.

Park on the east side if possible and enter through the east door. If you happen to enter the west door, take the stairs or elevator to the lower level.

Together we are strong. Together we are Fearless.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How Nebraska Police Complaint Processes Fail the Public

EXCERPT from ACLU Nebraska news release:
After receiving many individual reports of intimidation or difficulty making a complaint to a local law enforcement agency, the ACLU of Nebraska investigated the practices of the 31 largest law enforcement agencies in Nebraska. The findings were released Tuesday in a report entitled For the Good of the Public: How Nebraska Police Complaint Processes Fail the Public. The report found most agencies had complaint procedures that did not comply with expert guidelines.
“Whether witnessing an officer driving poorly or excessive force, the public should be able to easily make comments about local law enforcement without feeling intimidated,” said ACLU of Nebraska Legal Director Amy Miller. “Unfortunately, all but one agency made it very difficult to file a complaint, and some agencies used intimidating language that could discourage someone from making a valid complaint. Without ways to report complaints, law enforcement agencies lack transparency and accountability.”

Monday, August 11, 2014

Be Fearless – First Meeting is August 25

We call it the Fearless Group.

It is a safe place where registered citizens, their families and friends can connect and learn from one another. The first meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday, August 25, 2014 at Saint Michael Lutheran Church, 13232 Blondo Street, Omaha.

Two more meetings at the same time and location are set for September 29 and October 20, 2014.

We recognize that many people in Nebraska will be unable to travel to attend this group. But there is nothing that prevents you from forming your own group in your locality. We will support efforts to create Fearless Group meetings across the state.

This group is exclusively for registered citizens, their family members and friends. We will not permit news media, law enforcement, treatment professionals, probation officers, etc. to attend this group. We will work with you to ensure this security measure is effective. The first meeting will be devoted primarily to discussing with you how we can make the group most useful for you and your particular circumstances.

If family members and friends prefer to meet separately from registered citizens, or vice versa, our space can accommodate two separate meeting rooms. We anticipate that the meeting will last about two hours. Anyone is free to leave at any time.

Here are a few of the things to keep in mind about this meeting:

  • Who you see, what you say and what you hear here STAY HERE. Please respect the confidentiality of everyone and we in turn respect yours. The following exceptions exist: Anyone who indicates that they may be at risk of harming themselves or others, or who admits to committing crimes that are yet unknown to the police will create a legal liability for the group and we are required by law to report this to the authorities.
  • This group is strictly for those 18 years of age and older.
  • The Fearless Group is not intended for individuals who are actively contemplating suicide or suffering from a severe mental/emotional disorder. Anyone experiencing an active sexual addiction, or feels that they are at risk of re-offending, committing suicide or harming someone else is encouraged to seek professional assistance. This group is not equipped to handle these special needs.
  • Any form or manifestation of violence is strictly prohibited. This includes physical assaults, shouting, aggressive behavior, verbal threats, behavior which is mean spirited, degrading, rude, etc.
  • If we are talking as a group, please respect everyone’s right to be heard. Please keep your remarks to five minutes or fewer.
  • Venting is OK. Endless whining is not.
  • There are no dues or fees, but we encourage free-will donations to help us underwrite the cost of rent for the space we are using, coffee, snacks and printed materials. Leave cash in the bucket if you wish to give.

The Fearless Group is a response to a theme that emerged in research by Dr. Lisa Sample, University of Nebraska-Omaha Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Registered citizens and their family members expressed a need for a place where they can simply talk freely about their situations. Many do not even trust therapists because of the "mandatory reporting" law.

The Fearless Group initiative is, in effect, an extension of the research that Dr. Sample is conducting. It is our hope that, in addition to providing a needed sense of community support, the initiative will help Dr. Sample, her students and her colleagues continue their work. It is important to document the damage done by Nebraska law as well as the successes won by registered citizens in a state with a law that seems designed to make them fail.

Nebraska law forces registered citizens out of their homes and jobs, harms family relationships and leads to public shunning and shaming. The Fearless Group is an effort to repair and prevent that damage.

Thoughts About Recourse

What is the cure for politicians, police,  parole officers who exceed their authority? Some useful thoughts about recourse are posted here.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

An Open Letter to the Holdrege City Council

Someone in Holdrege, Nebraska, is floating the idea of a 500-foot residency restriction for some registered citizens.

Top of your to-do list should be getting good accurate information about state law on these matters. You should read the law yourself because in at least one Nebraska city, the Council got wrong info from the city attorney and the city has a massive legal exposure as a result.

Nebraska state law says if a community wants such a restriction, maximum distance is 500 feet and it can't be retroactive. We find that most such proposals are pushed by someone who wants to force a registered citizen out of a home. State law says you cannot do that.

Across the state and nation, residency restrictions have proven to be utter failures (your police chief seems to get that but of course he can't say that publicly because he is afraid of people who are afraid of registered citizens).

Alexandria, Nebraska, last year decided AGAINST residency restrictions because they are of no use for public safety and the ACLU advised Alexandria that it likely faced a costly legal challenge. Here are some useful links on this topic:

Law Enforcement Out of Control

Friday, August 8, 2014

Sex, Lies and Law Enforcement

The next time you hear some law enforcement source quote numbers in connection with sweeps, stings or compliance checks on registered citizens, keep in mind that they're probably lying.

All sorts of deceptive tricks are being used to inflate numbers so that law enforcement agencies can continue to rake in the grant dollars (your tax dollars) that are shoveled out to "protect the public" (that's in quotes because it, too, is a lie).

In Nebraska, the news media typically swallow whole whatever law enforcement has to say about a registered citizen. We're not surprised. Nebraska, after all, is the state where:

  • We have been treated to the spectacle of the governor and the attorney general holding a news conference to announce an investigation into possible criminal violations in the State Department of Corrections. How about starting the investigation with the guys in charge, like the governor and the attorney general!? Nebraska news media are not asking that obvious question.
  • There is evidence of a widespread law enforcement evidence-planting scandal about which nothing is being done, except to expend taxpayer dollars in multimillion-dollar settlements.
  • And so much more. 

In Florida, by contrast, you have news people who do more than simply recycle the sheriff's press release.

This is from from WTSP in Tampa Bay/Sarasota:

POLK COUNTY, Florida – In the decade since Chris Hansen and "To Catch a Predator" popularized Internet sex stings, more than 1,200 men in Florida alone have been arrested, accused of preying on underage teens and children for sex.
But as the stings put more and more men behind bars, detectives are working harder and harder to keep up their arrest numbers. And the tactics they're using to put alleged sexual offenders in jail are sweeping up large numbers of law-abiding men, too. MORE

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Newsletter: 'Safe Space' Initiative Will Go Forward

Nebraskans Unafraid will provide a place where registered citizens, their families and friends can meet and learn from one another, according to the July issue of the Ninety-Five% Newsletter published by NU.

The initiative has the endorsement of one of the nation's leading experts in sex offender law and its impact on families.

“Families affected by these laws need a place where they can connect with others who understand what they are going through,” said Lisa Sample, Ph.D., Reynolds Professor and Masters Program Coordinator in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

NU is obtaining a venue and determining a schedule for a meeting place where folks may meet with others who are in similar circumstances, and learn from one another about surviving life on Nebraska’s public shaming website. The initial plan is to provide separate rooms where registered citizens could meet and where their family members and friends could gather. Details will be announced in future posts.

The “safe space” idea is a response to a theme that emerged in research by Dr. Sample. Registered citizens and their family members expressed a need for a place where they can simply talk freely about their situations. Many do not even trust therapists because of Nebraska's "mandatory reporting" law. That's the law that requires therapists to turn over to law enforcement some of their patients.

The “safe space” initiative is, in effect, an extension of the research that Dr. Sample is conducting. It is our hope that, in addition to providing a needed sense of community support, the “safe space” initiative will help Dr. Sample, her students and her colleagues continue their work. It is important to document the damage done by Nebraska law as well as the successes won by registered citizens in a state with a law that seems designed to make them fail.

Nebraska law forces registered citizens out of their homes and jobs, harms family relationships and leads to public shunning and shaming. “Safe space” will be an effort to repair and prevent that kind of damage.

Extortionist Charles Rodrick Gets It in the Shorts

The sun is setting on extortionist and sex-offender industry superstar Charles Rodrick of Arizona, owner of websites that work in combination with the Nebraska State Patrol's site to blackmail registered citizens.

The websites owned by Rodrick include Online Detective, Offendex, SORarchives and SexOffenderRecord. According to court records, the Offendex website received revenues in excess of $30,000 per month. A federal district court in Arizona this week entered a default judgment against Rodrick in a lawsuit filed by registered citizens from five states. The court agreed that Rodrick and others he controlled violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act by extorting money from individuals in order to have their personal information removed from those websites.

The plaintiffs want the websites taken down. They also seek punitive damages, attorney fees and court costs.

If what follows seems to have a slightly bitter tone, remember what the research at the University of Nebraska-Omaha is showing: The State of Nebraska, in combination with the Charles Rodricks of the world, is destroying families, creating joblessness and homelessness and ruining kids' lives -- all based on the corrupt notion that its OK to abuse a group of people.

Here's hoping that:

1) Rodrick is reduced to abject poverty and lives a long and pain-filled life before enduring years of dementia, then slowly dies alone and in obscurity (well, that's intemperate . . . I don't really want that happen . . . please forgive my lapse in compassion);

2) this is the first stride in dismantling the entire sex-offender industry, which encompasses not only scum like Rodrick but the complicity of politicians who insist on pushing former offender laws like the one we have in Nebraska;

3) the plaintiffs in this lawsuit immediately retire to live in wealthy comfort underwritten by all of the cash that can possibly be generated from Rodrick and his ilk.

Click here to read more.

Monday, August 4, 2014

UNO Researchers Document Harm Done by Nebraska Sex-Offender Law

Registered citizens or family members who participated in this study are encouraged to stay in touch with the researchers at their email addresses: Lisa Sample ( Danielle Bailey (

Ground-breaking research into why most former sex offenders do not reoffend concludes that Nebraska’s policy of putting every registered citizen on a public website harms families and might contribute to the very problems that the law was intended to deter.

“ . . .  We have found that sex offenders in this study, representing predatory pedophiles to possessing child pornography, have not re-offended since their initial crime of conviction.  Most attribute this to the informal social relationships they have created or maintained since conviction.  Surprisingly, many have added members of the research team as more formal sources of social support, and attribute our interest in their lives as an added factor in their desistance,” according to a report on the study released today.

“Most importantly, we have found that registrants’ lives change over time, thus affecting their need for social support to continue desistance,” the report said.

Not one of the registered citizens in the study credits harsher laws for desistance from re-offense. In fact, the report said, harassment by law enforcement and others as a result of the law can contribute to conditions that make re-offense more likely.

The ongoing study is being conducted by Lisa Sample, Ph.D., and doctoral candidate Danielle Bailey at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Nebraska-Omaha. Two-hundred twenty-one registered Nebraska citizens have come forward to participate in the study. So far, 155 of them have been interviewed.

“The questions asked during these interviews were meant to uncover how these sex offenders had managed to defy media stereotype and live in the community without sexually reoffending.  A common response across all subjects was that their desistance was mostly attributed to the help of family, friends, and/or their faith,” the report said.

“With this in mind, the study was then extended to registrants’ family members and friends to 1) triangulate information provided to us by registrants, and 2) give registrants’ loved ones a chance to voice their thoughts on what it is like living with people who are so socially stigmatized.”

To date, 30 family members of registered citizens have been interviewed. Five-thousand pages of interview material have been transcribed.

“The “sex offender” label shadows everyone in the family, in that there is a constant state of paranoia and fear among spouses/partners about being judged, being labeled, or being ill-treated by members of the public,” the report said. 

The research shows how misguided law, poor-quality news reporting and knee-jerk policymaking – all based on inaccurate information about former offenders – conspire to damage and destabilize families. In spite of research that shows former sex offenders have low rates of re-offense, news media stereotypes paint every individual on the public website as a predatory danger. Such inaccurate reporting then encourages institutions like churches, gyms and schools to issue blanket bans of former offenders, many of whom are parents and are thus barred from participating in their childrens’ lives, according to the study. Because the study is finding that social networks and strong family ties help former offenders desist from reoffending, current Nebraska law is eroding the factors that help prevent re-offense.

“The stigma of the “sex offender” label put forth on public registries creates single parent households, as responsibilities for child care and employment fall to the spouses/partners of registrants who are not allowed to participate in their own family activities as they did prior to conviction,” the report on the research said.

“Children often react to the prohibition of their registrant parent from their activities with anger, acting-out behaviors, and/or socially isolating themselves.”

The study found that Nebraska’s draconian law, enacted as LB 97 and LB 285 of 2009, has had the effect of creating a strong community of “social refugees” among former offenders in Nebraska. Advocacy groups established after the law’s passage as well as the researchers at UNO have therapeutic value for the registered citizens.

“Registrants and their family members have responded to their ‘refugee’ status by creating their own organizations and advocacy groups that engender a sense of collective identity that thwarts some of the isolation they feel,” the report said. 

The study’s conclusions:
  • There are negative consequences socially, professionally, and parentally for being on the public registration website, and these consequences are not only felt by registrants but also by their spouses/partners, parents, and children.
  • To the degree to which these consequences exacerbate the senses of loneliness, anxiety, isolation, and fear associated with sexual offending and disrupt family and friend relationships, public notification may exacerbate the behaviors it is meant to deter.
  • In fact, no registrants mentioned sex offender laws or their prohibitions from public spaces as a motivating factor in their desistance from crime.
  • Sex offender laws have, however, created a sense of a collective identity among those in this sample that helps abate their social isolation and feelings of rejection.  
  • In contrast to juvenile delinquency literature, deviant peers among the adults in this sample provide them with social support that helps them avoid behavioral triggers and manage their behaviors as opposed to encouraging them.
  • This study demonstrates the importance of social integration in ending sexual reoffending.
  • Findings also suggest the need for some social support interventions for those living with or related to registered sex offenders who are also experiencing social isolation, rejection, and stigmatization not for a crime they committed but simply because they live with someone who committed one. 
  • Changes to child abuse mandatory reporting laws would allow families to seek therapy and counseling without fear of legal reprisals for the thoughts and feelings they share.  In this way, perhaps these changes can be seen as preventative crime control measures to ensure the children of registrants do not grow up to be angry, anxious, and frustrated criminal adults.