Friday, December 23, 2016

Sex offenders say Illinois parole system is broken

A group of registered sex offenders have filed a federal lawsuit in Chicago, saying residence restrictions keep them in prison even after they've been granted parole. They say the restrictions amount to life sentences.
The trouble begins with the courts’ interpretation of the sentencing law, which permits parole terms from three years to life at a court’s discretion.Rather than setting determinate parole periods within that timeframe, however, state courts routinely sentence sex offenders to indeterminate parole, the complaint states.When a sex offender serves that time outside prison, he earns credit towards termination of his parole.But when the offender is not able to leave prison because he cannot legally live in any of his proposed “host sites,” he can never earn termination of his parole, effectively sentencing him to life in prison, according to the lawsuit.
Read the full story from the Courthouse News Service.

Colorado county forced to disband internet sting unit

The Denver Post reports that a Colorado District Attorney's office was forced to disband its child sex offender internet investigation unit, after a complaint from a defense attorney.
A grievance filed by defense attorney Phil Cherner with the Colorado Supreme Court Standing Committee on the Rules of Professional Conduct about the CHEEZO operation led to the unit being disbanded.
At issue are ethics rules for Colorado lawyers that state: An attorney shall not lie, deceive or engage in subterfuge. The subterfuge rule applies to any employee of a lawyer’s office, according to state ethical guidelines.
The investigators, a husband and wife, misrepresented their ages, posing as children, during the course of their operations.

Read the full story here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

New evidence that US sex offender laws increase crime

Writing at qz,com, Steven Yoder explains how U.S. sex offender policies -- such as residency restrictions, public notification, and sex offender registries themselves -- increase ctrime.
In a study released in July 2016, researchers from the California and Canadian justice departments looked at more than 1,600 California sex offenders on probation or parole. Overall, the group’s sex-crime recidivism rates were low–less than 5% during the five-year follow-up period. But those who were homeless were over four times more likely to commit a repeat sex crime than those who weren’t. “Collectively, transient status seems to be associated with higher sexual recidivism rates,” the researchers concluded. That’s likely because those who lack stable homes, jobs, and social connections are more prone to reoffend. 
That is one of several examples Yoder cites of how these laws are counterproductive.

Read more here.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Holiday Travel Tips for Sex Offenders

Before going over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house for the holidays, registrants may need to notify the authorities of their travel plans.

One of the numerous requirements of the Sex Offender Registration Act is that every Nebraska registrant must notify authorities before he or she embarks on a trip longer than three days. The notice must be given within three working days before the trip.

Although some county officials ask for the address of your destination(s), you are not obligated by Nebraska law to share that information with your resident county.

If you travel within Nebraska, you must notify your local county of your “temporary domicile.” In Nebraska, a temporary domicile means any place at which the person stays for a period of at least three consecutive working days.

So, if you’re traveling from Omaha (Douglas County) to grandma’s house in Grand Island (Hall County) for a week, you must notify the Sheriff's Office in both counties.

As a Nebraska registrant, if you travel to another state, it is your responsibility to know what that state’s legal requirements are; otherwise you could be facing a felony. Some states’ requirements are statewide, and others are by county and city. In some states you could have 3-10 days before you must register the location at which you are staying, and in some areas it could be within the first 24 hours.

Each state is different, and fully-researching the laws of your destination is imperative. Not only may you be required to follow their local registrant laws, you could be required to register. For example, if you visit the same Florida location for five or more consecutive days, or any place within the state for 30 days aggregate during any calendar year, you must register. Then, when you return home, you remain on the Florida registry. For life (regardless of the duration of your Nebraska registry).

Traveling internationally is a bit stickier, but information about your destination country and its requirements may be found here:

No matter your destination, if your trip required you to report it, you must contact your county sheriff when you return.

Contacting both your local registration office and the registration office in the state/county you are visiting, even when traveling intrastate, may save you some trouble. A phone call to your destination's local authorities is recommended, ensuring you know how they interpret/enforce the local laws. Often this will be a fairly informal process, but the burden falls on you to understand and follow the registration requirements.

This information is not legal advice, and should not be considered as such. Please check the laws of your originating and destination cities every time you travel, as laws may change.

Friday, December 16, 2016

FEARLESS Panel at National RSOL Conference

FEARLESS, a support resource for registered citizens, their family and friends, started in Nebraska and has taken hold across the nation.

A FEARLESS panel discussion was featured at the 2016 National RSOL Conference.

The next Nebraskan's Unafraid FEARLESS meeting will be held Monday, December 19, at 7:00 p.m., at St. Michael's Lutheran Church, 13232 Blondo St., Omaha. Join us!

New Research on Sex Offender Housing and Mobility

A new study, published in the American Journal of Criminal Justice, looks at housing patterns of registered sex offenders 15 years after conviction. 
Study summary: Richard Tewksbury, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Louisville, and Elizabeth Ehrhardt Mustaine, a sociology professor at the University of Central Florida, teamed up with doctoral student Shawn Rolfe to build upon previous research that Tewksbury and Mustaine did together on sex offender housing. The earlier study, published in 2006, found that the majority of registered sex offenders changed residences after conviction but that only some had difficulty finding housing that was comparable to where they lived prior to conviction.
For the new study, the three researchers examined the housing conditions of 212 of the sex offenders who had been investigated for the earlier study, which focused on a metropolitan community in Jefferson County, Kentucky. The authors wanted to see whether and how offenders’ circumstances had changed 15 years after their initial arrest and a decade after the previous study.
Read more here.

Monday, December 12, 2016

CASOMB Releases Educational Video on Sex Offender Registry

The California Sex Offender Management Board has released an educational seven-minute video on the sex offender registry. Some of the information is California-specific, but much applies to all states. It's well worth watching and sharing.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Courts push back on child safety zones

Federal courts seem to be taking an increasingly dim view of "child safety zones" -- areas where registered sex offenders are prohibited from being.

So says Jacob Sullum, who writes at about two recent decisions which struck down a state law in North Carolina and a local ordinance in Indiana. Between those decisions and the recent 6th Circuit decision finding that Michigan's registry is punitive, perhaps the tide is turning against at least some aspects of these laws.

Sullum concludes his essay:
After years of deferring to pretty much anything legislators did in the name of protecting children from sexual predators, the federal courts are finally beginning to ask whether these laws make sense in light of the goals they are supposed to achieve.
Read the full article at Reason.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Court strikes down NC presence restrictions

A three-judge panel has affirmed a lower court ruling that portions of North Carolina's law restricting where registered sex offenders can be is unconstitutional.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit issued its decision on Wednesday.

In this case, the statute in question made it a Class H felony (punishable by “a presumptive term of imprisonment of 20 months) for sex offenders to “knowingly be” at any of the following locations:
(1) On the premises of any place intended primarily for the use, care, or supervision of minors, including, but not limited to, schools, children’s museums, child care centers, nurseries, and playgrounds.
(2) Within 300 feet of any location intended primarily for the use, care, or supervision of minors when the place is located on premises that are not intended primarily for the use, care, or supervision of minors, including, but not limited to, places described in subdivision (1) . . . that are located in malls, shopping centers, or other property open to the general public. [Or]
(3) At any place where minors gather for regularly scheduled educational, recreational, or social programs.  NCGS 14-208.18(a).
The court held, first, that the provisions of subsection (3) are unconstitutionally vague; “neither an ordinary citizen nor a law enforcement officer could reasonably determine what activity was criminalized by subsection (a)(3).”
David Post has more on the decision in the Washington Post.
Read the decision here.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Website provides information on sex offender research

A new website highlights research about the complex web of sex offender laws in the United States.

The Sex Offender Research Information Center is the website of sociologist and author Emily Horowitz.

Check it out here.

SORA: The human cost of junk science

This is from New York, but could apply to nearly any state in the nation. How reliable are risk assessments?
Of the nearly 40,000 persons on New York’s sex offender registry, 9,679 are displayed on its public website as Level 3, a warning that he or she presents the maximum risk of committing a sex crime of maximum seriousness. 14,087 persons are displayed as Level 2, meaning they’re moderately likely to commit a moderately serious sex crime.
With so many Frankensteins at large, it’s a wonder anyone dares leave the house.
 Full article here.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Op-ed: Sex Offender Registries Discourage Rehabilitation

Writing in the Washington Exainer, Sandy Rozek says the decision by a Connecticut YMCA to prohibit a registered sex offender from running in a race is another black eye for the very concept of the sex offender registry.

The man had run the race for several years without incident, but was flagged this year because he had registered for the race in advance.
With no empirical evidence showing public notification of any safety benefit to society, it serves one purpose: To impede the law-abiding registered citizen from moving forward with his life. It allows entities such as the YMCA to exclude those for whom there is no reason to exclude.
It serves only to tell those like Jeffrey that no matter what you do, it will never be good enough. It removes the goal of rehabilitation from the justice system, leaving its only goal punishment.
Read the full article here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Challenges for elderly sex offenders

As registered sex offenders grow older, many find it difficult to find adequate assisted living or nursing home care in states with strict residency restrictions. 

Reporter Nicki Gorny reports in the Ocala (Florida) Star-Banner about the challenges many of these people face.
By the time deputies arrested Thomas Bernard Brown for failing to register as a sexual predator, he had built up a 10-year record of consistent registration in Marion County.That’s 42 check-ins, as his attorneys and his friends pointed out at a sentencing hearing in June. When it came to No. 43, Brown, 72, who has since been diagnosed with early stages of dementia, says that he simply forgot.“My only crime, your honor, is that I have become old and forgetful,” he told Circuit Judge Robert Hodges that day.
Full story here.

Related: An elderly registrant faces eviction from a Florida hospice because it's too close to a pre-school. Story here

Friday, November 18, 2016

Be FEARLESS this Monday

The November Fearless gathering will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, November 21, at St. Michael's Lutheran Church, 13232 Blondo Street, in Omaha. Fearless is a place for registered citizens, their families and friends to connect, offer support, and share their experience of life on the registry.

This month we'll discuss ways registered citizens can avoid isolation. Join us this Monday evening for lively conversation and refreshments!

Molly Ivins: How we hurt ourselves when scared to death

Thursday, November 17, 2016

New evidence that registries, residency restrictions, increase re-offense rates

From the Life on the List blog, a California study finds evidence that residency restrictions lead to higher recidivism rates.
An innocuous study done by the state of California this July set out to test the predictive validity of the Static-99R, one of the more widely used instruments in assessing the recidivism risk of those who have committed sex offenses. The researchers sliced and diced the population of offenders to understand which groups were highest risk.
One discovery they made was nothing short of shocking–homeless registrants on probation or parole were six times more likely to reoffend than those who weren’t homeless. “Collectively, transient status seems to be associated with higher sexual recidivism rates,” the researchers concluded.
Read the full blog post here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Are sex offenders human?

That is not a trick question.

Judith Levine and Erica Meiners pose that question as they consider a few recent documentaries, and other films, that attempt to, with varying degrees of success, humanize sex offenders.
Asking whether the sex offender is human only legitimizes the question and reinforces the doubt it arises from: if you have to ask, maybe the answer is no. And if one category of people can be less than fully human for their (real or imagined) bad acts, so can others—just ask the legions of young black men tarred as “superpredators” in the 1990s. As Trump takes office having risen to power by dehumanizing, criminalizing, and promising to seize the rights of broadening categories of Others, humanizing remains a necessary political step. But it’s not an end in itself. A movement for justice must start from the fundamental truth that everyone born in a human body is endowed with all human qualities and also with inalienable human rights—and move forward from there.
 Read the full piece here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Watch Catherine Carpenter's presentation from 2016 RSOL Conference

One of the speakers at the 2016 RSOL National Conference was Southwestern Law School Professor Catherine Carpenter.

She spoke about children who are forced to register as sex offenders, and tied that into adult sex offender registration.

Watch the hour-long presentation here.

Michigan asks Supreme Court to stop Does v. Snyder ruling

As expected, the state of Michigan has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the 6th Circuit Court's ruling that found the state's sex offender registry laws to be unconstitutional.

The state's request was referred to Justice Elena Kagan for consideration.

Story here

Update: The Supreme Court has turned down Michigan's request to stay the lower court's ruling.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Ohio to consider changes to sex offender registry

An Ohio legislative committee will consider changes to the state's sex offender registry, as reported in the Dayton Daily News.
The proposals include going from an offense-based classification system, in which offenders are assigned to a tier and given registration requirements based on the criminal offense they committed, to a more risk-based system in which judges would have more discretion. 
The proposed changes would also allow sex offenders the ability to petition for a change of status after years of good behavior or due to a change in their risk level due to advanced age or illness.
Other proposed changes include reducing the number of crimes that would qualify for Tier III registration, give judges more discretion, and give people a chance to petition a court to deregister or move down a tier.

Bar Wright, with the Ohio RSOL chapter, told the paper the organization likes the changes.
“I think in some areas it does not go far enough and we’ve expressed our concerns,” Wright said. 
She’d like to see more retroactive applications so that someone recently convicted under the current law would have recourse to get their registration status changed. 
Another recommendation of the committee is to remove all residency restrictions, such as barring sex offenders from living near schools. 
Full article here.

Friday, November 11, 2016

YMCA bans registered sex offender from road race

A YMCA in Connecticut is being taken to task after it prohibited a registered sex offender from running in a local race.
The man, Jeffrey Roy, had run in previous editions of the race but this year when he preregistered for the race, his name was flagged as being on the registry for his role, along with two other men, in the 2006 sexual assault of an intoxicated 14-year-old girl at his mother’s home in Mystic.
The YMCA’s decision to ban him led his father, Jim, a well-known local runner who headed the successful effort to erect the John Kelley statue on West Main Street, to cancel his membership at the YMCA and criticize YMCA officials for their decision. Other runners and friends sent letters and emails to YMCA officials asking them to reverse their decision before last Sunday's race.
The YMCA did not reverse its decision, citing safety concerns, which apparently apply only to those who pre-register for the race.
In past years, the younger Roy had registered just before the start of the race. This year, his father signed him up early, which allowed the YMCA to discover he was on the registry.
Full story here.

Must watch: Patty Wetterling speaks at Birchwood (MN) city council meeting

Patty Wetterling shared her wisdom with residents of Birchwood, Minnesota during a recent city council meeting. The town has considered a sex offender residency restriction ordinance, and Wetterling speaks with compassion for both offenders and victims and tries to dispel fear.
“It's fear that tears people apart,” she said at a meeting in Birchwood, a community divided over a sex offender issue over the last year. “I know fear. I know how destructive and harmful it can be. Hope and information are empowering.”
Read more here.

Watch the remarkable video here.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Lawsuit filed against Tennessee sex offender registry

A lawsuit has been filed against retroactive enforcement of another state's sex offender registry, this time in Tennessee. The lawsuit mirrors a successful challenge to provisions of Michigan's sex offender registry.
The case, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Nashville, argues that Tennessee's registration laws are illegally applied retroactively. It notes that the laws and restrictions on those offenders have become significantly more burdensome since the laws were first enacted in 1994.
Read more in the Tennessean.

Read the text of lawsuit.

Monday, November 7, 2016

International "Sex Offender" Registries Expand

The Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws reports on the latest government report on the proliferation of sex offender registries around the world.
There are now 24 nations that have existing “sex offender” registries as well as an additional 16 nations that have considered or are considering the creation of “sex offender” registries.
The 24 nations that currently have registries are Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Maldives, Malta, New Zealand, Nigeria, Portugal, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, Trinidad & Tobago, United Kingdom, and the United States.
The 16 nations that have considered or are considering registries are Austria, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Cayman Islands, Fiji, Finland, Hong Kong, Israel, Malaysia, Poland, Samoa, St. Lucia, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and Zimbabwe.
The federal government report was recently issued by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (SMART).
Read the SMART Office report.

Judge concerned over FBI tactics in child porn sting

A federal judge says he has "ethical and legal" concerns about the FBI's tactics in a massive internet child porn sting operation.

Judge Robert Bryan expressed his concern during a hearing in the trial of three Washington state men arrested as a result of what was dubbed "Operation Pacifier" -- in which the FBI seized the server of a dark web child porn site and continued operating the site for two weeks while hacking into the computers of site users.
During the hearing, the deputy director of the DOJ’s New York-based Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Keith Becker, argued that allowing the site to remain active was an “investigative necessity.”“The government itself did not post or create child pornography,” Becker told the court.Bryan interrupted him.“Y’all were doing just exactly what the people who were in charge of that website were doing before you arrested them,” he said.At another point, as Becker was describing the “huge social costs” that would result if the court were to exclude evidence in these cases, Bryan stopped him again.“You talk about social costs? There are huge social costs in constitutional violations, too,” the judge said.
Read the full story from the Seattle Times here.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

New play about Florida sex offender village

A new play, set to be staged in the spring of 2017, tells the story of Miracle Village, a community of registered sex offenders near Pahokee, Florida.

"America is Hard to See" is based on interviews with residents of residents of Miracle Village and Pahokee.

Read about the show here and here.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Rethinking Nebraska's Sex Offender Registry

Omaha television station WOWT asks whether everyone listed on Nebraska's Sex Offender Registry should be on the list. 

Reporter John Chapman talks with a young man who is on the registry for having sex with an underage girl he thought was 19 years old.
For that mistake (Jeromy) Wilson was charged with first degree sexual assault of a child. He plead no contest to third degree sexual assault and went to prison for a year.“I wasn’t denying the fact that I made a mistake, but I was also trying to savor the fact that she had falsified her information to me,” Wilson explained, “And I’m still trying to maintain some of my dignity.”Now Wilson has a lifetime spot in the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry. He says people are using the registry to harass him, to call his clients to prevent him from working. 
The report also includes comments from UNO's Dr. Lisa Sample.

Read and watch the report here.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

More registries, but do they work?

More states are tracking more people on more online registries. They include sex offender registries, and registries for various crimes from murder to arson, among others. An Associated Press article in the Jacksonville (IL) Journal-Courier asks whether all these registries actually make us safer.
Backers say helping people know more about their neighbors will make them safer. Yet studies have shown offender registries do little to reduce crime.
Anti-domestic violence groups in states that have considered expanded registries suggest that money spent to maintain them would be better used on programs to stop violence before it happens. Keeping sex offender lists updated alone costs well over $1 million each year for many states, a price partially covered by fees offenders must pay.
Some researchers contend the lists, searchable online, can prevent offenders from finding jobs and homes, making it more likely they’ll offend again.
Read more here.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Public sex offender registries a waste of tax dollars

In an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, National RSOL Communications Director Sandy Rozek explains why public sex offender registries are not effective...financially or as a public safety tool.
Proponents of the public sex offender registry say it's needed to help parents protect their children from sexual predators, but there is no evidence it does that...Academic analyses and research studies have consistently failed to show a public safety benefit, or any beneficial results, from public notification — no reduction in sexual offending by rapists, child molesters, recidivists or first-time offenders. Due to its failure to benefit public safety, the current registry system is wasteful. 
Read the full op-ed here.

Sex offenders face backlash in Minnesota

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports how many communities in Minnesota are scrambling to enact restrictive sex offender residency restrictions. The ordinances are a backlash against recent court rulings against the state's sex offender civil commitment program. More than 40 communities have passed restrictions. As per The Crime Report:
The city of Dayton, 25 miles northwest of the Twin Cities, is the latest flash point. On Friday, the city passed one of the most restrictive measures yet, barring offenders from living near churches, pumpkin patches, and apple orchards. In an emotional three-hour hearing, residents lashed out at the state for attempting to move three convicted rapists to a private group home in Dayton, as City Council members called for a statewide movement against such placements. 
The situation has devolved to the point where threats have been made against the children of the director of the state agency charged with placing offenders in communities.

Read more here.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Supreme Court to rule on sex offender social media ban

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether North Carolina can ban registered sex offenders from accessing social media sites that allow access to minors.

Lester Packingham was charged with maintaining a Facebook page in violation of the state's ban. The North Carolina Supreme Court said the law is constitutional after a lower court said it is not.
"The statute singles out a subclass of persons, who are subject to criminal punishment based on expressive, associational, and communicative activities at the heart of the First Amendment, without any requirement that their activity caused any harm or was intended to," Packingham's petition states.     According to the petition, the North Carolina law bans registered sex offenders from accessing "a wide array of websites—including Facebook, YouTube, and—that enable communication, expression, and the exchange of information among their users, if the site is 'know[n]' to allow minors to have accounts."
Read more from Courthouse News Service.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

More Information on Doe v. Snyder Decision

The state of Michigan is appealing a 6th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that found that Michigan's sex offender registry is, in fact, punishment. As the legal wrangling continues, attorneys for the victors offer some background on the case and decision, and provide some guidance for those who may be affected by the decision.

Read more here.

Canadian judge says national sex offender registry unconstitutional

Perhaps this sort of judicial thinking will migrate south this winter:
An Edmonton judge has ruled that the national sex offender registry is unconstitutional as it is "over broad and grossly disproportionate" and violates people of their charter rights.
 According to an article in the Edmonton Sun, Justice Andrea Moen issued the ruling in a case involving a man convicted of two sexual assaults.

"In my view, including offenders on the registry who have little to no chance of reoffending bears no relation to protecting the public. Subjecting all offenders, regardless of their future risk, to onerous reporting requirements, random compliance checks by the police and internal stigma, goes further than what is necessary to accomplish the goal of protecting the public, and is therefore over broad," said Moen.
 Read more in the Edmonton Sun.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Justice Department will enforce limits on landlord background checks

From the Collateral Consequences Resource Center:
Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued new guidance asserting that housing policies that exclude people with criminal records may violate the non-discrimination provisions of the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) if they fail to consider the nature, severity, and recency of criminal conduct and if they are not narrowly tailored to protect residents or property.  The Justice Department has taken the first step toward judicial enforcement of this guidance.
 Read more here.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Debunking Halloween Sex Offender Hysteria

In the latest Solitary Nation podcast, host Matt Duhamel talks with RSOL Executive Director Brenda Jones about some of the ridiculous restrictions on the activities of registered sex offenders on Halloween and other holidays.

Studies on registered sex offenders have shown no significant increase in risk for non-familial child sexual abuse on or just prior to Halloween, though states and cities continue to pass restrictions that most say are based on fear and moral panic. Some states have enacted postings of signs that read: "No Candy at this Residence", or "No trick, no treat, no candy" for registered sex offenders. (most of these restrictions are for sex offenders on parole or probation)

Watch the podcast here.

Illinois Court Upholds SO Internet Identifier Law

In a ruling that contradicted some previous federal court decisions, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld the state's law requiring registered sex offenders to disclose internet identifiers and websites. 

The case began when a McLean County man who was adjudicated a sex offender as a juvenile failed to tell police about updates to his Facebook page in August 2014.  
Mark Minnis was indicted for failing to register as a sex offender under Section 3(a) of the Sex Offender Registration Act when he did not include the page in registration forms and police found he had changed his cover photo on the social networking site.

The court ruled that the law does not restrict what registrants may say, and any adverse impacts stem from a registrants' conviction and not from the law itself. The decision contradicts federal court rulings from several other states, including Nebraska.
The court cited federal cases from Nebraska, California and North Dakota in which courts struck down similar statutes, finding that publicly accessible sites such as blogs and forums didn’t “reasonably” pose threats from sex offenders. 
But the justices wrote that “these courts failed to recognize the breadth necessary to protect the public” or engage in the appropriate analysis of the issue.

Read more details of the decision from the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Australian editorial: Detaining people after their sentence is "unconscionable"

An editorial from Australia lambastes laws that lock people up after their prison sentence is over. The writer compares such laws with laws imposed in Nazi Germany.
The inherent unfairness of dangerous offender laws was summarised by great English jurist Tom Bingham. In The Rule of Law, published just before he died in 2010, Bingham, who had been the UK’s top judge, said detaining people without charge was “previously the hallmark of authoritarian regimes”.
Locking people away after they complete their sentence on the basis of predictions about reoffending...was a tool used by the Nazis in the 1930s, just as Bingham observed.
Read the full editorial here.

Friday, October 14, 2016

FEARLESS meets Monday evening

The October FEARLESS meeting is at 7:00 p.m. Monday, October 17, at St. Michael's Lutheran Church, 13232 Blondo Street in Omaha.

Among the topics to be discussed: ways to connect with SOs while they are in the Nebraska prison system. Join the conversation and share your story Monday night.

FEARLESS meets the third Monday of every month. It's a safe place for registered citizens, their families and friends, to gather for support and conversation.

Join us Monday night!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

IML Report to Congress Addresses Passport Identifiers, Notifications to Foreign Counries

Three executive branch agencies — the Departments of State, Homeland Security, and Justice — have reported to Congress their plans to implement the International Megan’s Law (IML). The 17-page report also includes a request for an additional $9.3 million in funding each year to implement that law.
Read more, including the full report, here.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Registry all cost no benefit

In an op-ed for the Columbia (SC) State newspaper, Don Thurber writes that sex offender registries cost states millions of dollars while providing little, if any, public benefit. For example, Thurber says the sex offender registry would have done nothing to prevent the abduction and murder of Jacob Wetterling.
Interestingly, Patty Wetterling, who championed the original registry law, now advocates for scaling back registries, recognizing that what they have become has diminished their usefulness and caused untold collateral damage...Scaling back the registry would no doubt raise the hackles of some who love to play the label-and-hate game, but doing so would be the most just and economically expedient thing to do.
Full article here.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Interestingly, Patty Wetterling, who championed the original registry law, now advocates for scaling back registries, recognizing that what they have become has diminished their usefulness and caused untold collateral damage...Scaling back the registry would no doubt raise the hackles of some who love to play the label-and-hate game, but doing so would be the most just and economically expedient thing to do.
Read more here:
Read more here:

Thursday, October 6, 2016

How "risk assessment" tools condemn people to indefinite detention

If you're a registered sex offender, then you've likely undergone some form of risk assessment, purportedly to determine how likely it is that you will commit another sex offense..

Writing for Truthout, Erica Meiners questions whether risk assessment tools are an effective way to predict future criminal activity, or whether they're merely a tool to justify locking people up indefinitely.
While locking people up for potential crimes might sound like a middling Tom Cruise movie, or a new FX series, this future is now. Through predictive policing, criminogenics and risk assessment, our current wave of criminal justice reform argues that we can identify who is dangerous, who is likely to break the law. Risk assessment is increasingly used to determine who will be released on bail, who will be sentenced to prison, who will be granted parole and who will be kept on supervision once released.
This is especially true in the world of sex offenses, where more than 5,000 people are held in civil commitment facilities, sometimes long after their prison sentences end.
While locking up people with convictions for sex offenses for years beyond their legal sentences may sound appealing to people seeking to combat sexual violence in our society, in truth, post-release punishments for people with convictions for sex offenses have done nothing verifiable to reduce rates of sexual violence. There is no research that suggests that sex offender registries and the multiplying regime of community notification laws, for example, have reduced child sexual violence, caught perpetrators, or protected children: Research supported by the US Department of Justice concludes that Megan's Law, a key federal law that contributed to the establishment of sex offender registries, "has no effect on reducing the number of victims involved in sexual offenses." States with civil commitment do not have lower rates of child sexual violence than states without civil commitment. Labeling the passports of people with convictions for sex offenses, or limiting their housing options and employment opportunities, does not reduce child sexual violence. 
Meiners delves into the history of risk assessment, and its resurgence in recent years, with talk of criminal justice reform. But what is the purpose of "reforming" a system that may not actually work?
Similarly, cities pay to expand facilities to monitor those with convictions for sex offenses, including civil commitment institutions, despite the fact that research has demonstrated that registries, and an array of other punitive responses, have neither protected children nor ended sexual violence. If our goal is to end, or reduce, sexual violence, why not focus and support proven preventative measures, including meaningful sex education and non-stigmatizing mental health care? Why not focus on ending patriarchy? 
Read Meiners' full article at Truthout.

When Jesus looks like a sex offender

How should churches react when they find a registered sex offender worshiping in their midst? In a moving post for Patheos, Mennonite pastor Hugh Hollowell explains how his congregation openly welcomes registered citizens - and others.

At our weekly service, we share communion every week. And I always end the words of institution with the same words:  
“Churches have argued over the years about who gets to take communion – just who is welcome at the table. 
Some say it is only for members of a particular church. Others say only the baptized can come. But here in our community, we are clear that this ritual reminds us of a meal Jesus once shared. And in our examination of the scriptures, we don’t see anywhere where someone wanted to eat with Jesus and was turned away. 
So we won’t turn you away either. We don’t care what you’ve done. Or where you’ve been. Or even what you believe right now. All that matters is that you want to be here. And if you do, then you are welcome, and we invite you to come forward.”
Why should such a sentiment seem so remarkable?

Read Rev. Hollowell's blog post here.

Making the case against banishing sex offenders

Sex offender residency restrictions are still politically popular, but are they losing steam legally? Maurice Chammah, writing for the Texas Observer, says many court rulings are going against such laws in states and communities across the country - including many local restrictions in Texas.
In August, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated a Michigan law that retroactively applied various restrictions to people convicted before the laws were passed. Judge Alice Batchelder wrote that the law “has much in common with banishment and public shaming.” Since 2014, state and federal judges have struck down laws restricting where sex offenders can live in California, New York and Massachusetts. In addition to the Texas lawsuits, there are ongoing legal battles over registries and restrictions associated with them in Illinois, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Alabama, Colorado, Nevada and Idaho, among other states.
Research has consistently shown that residency restrictions do not work.

Read the full article from the Texas Observer.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Sex-offender Registries: How the Wetterling abduction changed the country

American Public Media looks at how sex offender registries have expanded in the United States over the last two decades, following the abduction of Jacob Wetterling. While the registries are largely popular with the public, researchers question how useful they are.
The number of people on the nation's sex-offender registries has exploded to hundreds of thousands. But researchers question the registries' effectiveness, note their inconsistencies and suggest they might be doing more harm than good. Even Patty Wetterling has changed her views. 
Read the article here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Family Takes in Sex Offender, Hysteria Ensues

From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the heartbreaking story of the backlash sparked by a family's attempt to take in a family member who is a Level III sex offender.

For 50 years, the Jefferson family has lived in the same home in Birchwood Village on southwestern White Bear Lake.
Patriarch Tom Jefferson started an insurance agency that still operates. Of his five children, a son started a construction business that built several local homes. His twin daughters were lauded for rescuing hurt or lost animals.
What they thought would be a gesture of compassion outraged their community.
Read the rest of the story in the Star-Tribune online.