Tuesday, February 23, 2016

One Congressman on record against IML

At least one Congressman is on record against International Megan's Law, which passed Congress on February 1 and was signed into law by President Obama a week later. 

While he seems to support parts of the law that call for the government to notify destination countries of a registrant's travel plans, Rep. Bobby Scott made a well-reasoned argument against the provision requiring sex offender passports be stamped with a "unique identifier."

From Rep. Scott's website:
 First, it is simply bad policy to single out one category of offenses for this type of treatment. We do not subject those who murder, who defraud the government or our fellow citizens of millions and billions, or who commit acts of terrorism to these restrictions.
   Second, by treating all sexual offenders as one monolithic group ignores reality. While some pose a continued and real risk of reoffending and may be traveling to engage in sex tourism or other illicit acts, not all pose the same risk. Indeed, the failure of this provision to allow for the individualized consideration of the facts and circumstances surrounding the traveler's criminal history, including how much time has elapsed since his last offense, underscores how this provision is overbroad. Details such as whether the traveler is a serial child rapist versus someone with a decades-old conviction from when he was 19-years-old and his girlfriend was 14, just missing the Romeo and Juliet exception by one year, are significant and would allow law enforcement to more appropriately prioritize their finite resources.
   Third, a traveler does not have any recourse with the foreign destination country if he or she is refused entry solely on the basis of this ``unique passport identifier.'' While the bill has some due process provisions, those apply only domestically. There is no recourse if a traveler is erroneously denied entry from the destination country.
   Fourth, if the ``unique passport identifier'' is implemented in a way that makes it obvious to not only law enforcement officials but any member of the general public viewing the passport, this could lead to unintended consequences of persecution and harm to the traveler. This is especially troubling given that no factual context about the offense is provided.
   If our goal is to ensure that domestic and foreign law enforcement and customs officials are notified of potential threats, multiple existing provisions of the bill already achieve that goal without raising these problematic implementation and fairness concerns.
A lawsuit has been filed in Federal Court in San Francisco seeking to block implementation of International Megan's Law.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Report highlights flawed logic of residency restrictions

We know that residency restriction are not make communities safer, and in fact do more harm than good. That point is made abundantly clear in a report from the California Sex Offender Management Board.

CASOMB was responding to a bill that would have authorized California towns and cities to implement such restrictions after they were struck down by the California Supreme Court last year.  CASOMB says that's not such a good idea.

When it comes to residence restrictions and, to a slightly lesser extent, exclusion zones, the research and evidence is sufficiently clear. There is no research which supports the use of these strategies, there is substantial research showing that such policies have no effect on preventing recidivism, and there is growing body of research which indicates that residence restrictions actually increase sex offender recidivism and decrease community safety. 
Here's the full report.

Time to rethink sex offender registries

In this age of criminal justice reform and reducing prison populations, is it time to also rethink sex offender registries? That is the question raised by an editorial in In These Times. Erica R. Meiners writes:
Given the costs of registries and their ineffectiveness at reducing sexual violence, it is misguided to exclude them from current prison reform debates. Part of any such examination should be looking past the extreme stigma attached to people convicted of sex offenses and listening to how registries have ruined lives. Shutting people in the registry out of the conversation will push those who require social services and support farther to the margins. And monitoring this expanding population will require new surveillance technologies and practices that can be used against other communities in unforeseeable ways.
Click here to read the full story.

Neb. prison population increasing faster than other states

A new report finds that state prison populations have decreased slightly in the past 15 years. Thirty-nine states have seen declines in the number of prisoners, while 11 states have seen increases.

Nebraska leads the list of states with more people in prison. Read the Sentencing Project's report here.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Be FEARLESS Tonight!

FEARLESS - the place for registered citizens, friends, and family to connect - meets tonight at St. Michael's Lutheran Church, 13232 Blondo Street, Omaha.Topics will include a discussion of entrepreneurship. Hear what others have done to make a living for themselves, and offer your ideas. Join the conversation beginning at 7:00 p.m. tonight. Park in the east lot and enter through the east entrance.

Friday, February 12, 2016

VA proposal would bar accused sex offenders from burial in veterans' cemeteries

The Department of Veteran's Affairs is asking Congress to approve a proposal that would bar veterans accused - not convicted - of a Tier III sex offense from being buried at a veterans' cemetery.

Bryant Jordan reports at Military.com.
The proposed ban would go further than current law prohibiting convicted and registered Tier III sex offenders from being buried in VA cemeteries by barring those who die before being convicted or who flee to avoid prosecution.
Read the full story here.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Slate: IML a step back for criminal justice reform

More voices continue to speak out against International Megan's Law, even after it has been signed into law.

Writing online in Slate, Leon Neyfakh calls IML a step back for criminal justice reform.
After months of hype about the historic bipartisan consensus that we must make the American criminal justice system less harsh, President Obama finally signed a justice reform bill into law Monday. There’s only one problem: Instead of making the justice system more fair and less punitive, the new law will make it more vindictive and petty
Read the rest of the report here.


Texas towns repeal residency restrictions

Several small towns in Texas have chosen to repeal their sex offender residency restrictions, rather than face threatened lawsuits.

Richard Gladden, an attorney with Texas Voices for Reason and Justice, says state law doesn't permit towns with populations under 5,000 from passing such restrictions.
"Unless the Legislature expressly authorizes it, a general-law municipality may not adopt an ordinance restricting where a registered sex offender may live," according to a 2007 opinion signed by then-AG Greg Abbott, who's now Texas governor. Larger cities fall under "home rule," which means they have "a constitutional right of self-government," Abbott wrote.
Texas Voices has threatened to sue 45 towns over their residency restrictions. Several have repealed their ordinances and others are considering doing so. Read more in this Dallas Morning News report.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Lawsuit filed to challenge International Megan's Law

President Obama signed International Megan's Law on Monday, and the fight to have the law struck down has already begun.

On Tuesday morning, California RSOL president Janice Bellucci filed a lawsuit in the San Francisco Federal District Court seeking to have the law struck down.

Read more here.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

LA Times urges president to veto IML

The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board is joining the chorus of voices urging President Obama to veto the International Megan's Law. Congress approved the bill by voice vote on Monday.

IML would, among other things, require that the passports of certain registered sex offenders be marked with a "unique identifier." The Times calls the bill "vindictive."

Sex offenses against minors are particularly horrendous crimes. But when offenders have completed their sentences and periods of supervision, there is no more reason to continue hounding and harassing them than convicted murderers or drug traffickers, who don't bear scarlet letters on their passports.

Read the rest of the editorial here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Court upholds GPS monitoring of sex offenders

A U.S. federal court has ruled that sex offenders can be required to wear GPS monitoring devices for life. The ruling by the Seventh Circuit overturned a previous ruling by a federal judge that found a Wisconsin law unconstitutional, and rests on the discredited notion that sex offenders have a “frightening and high” recidivism rate.
Judge Richard Posner wrote the majority decision.

"The focus must be on the incremental effect of the challenged statute on the plaintiff's privacy, and that effect is slight given the decision by Wisconsin to make sex offenders' criminal records and home addresses public," Judge Richard Posner wrote for the three-judge panel. (Emphasis in original.)Given that anyone with an Internet connection can look up Belleau's name, photo, address and criminal history, "The additional loss from the fact that occasionally his trouser leg hitches up and reveals an anklet monitor that may cause someone who spots it to guess that this is a person who has committed a sex crime must be slight," Posner wrote.

Read the report from Courthouse News Service.

Here is the full text of the ruling and concurring opinion.

Report Highlights Low Morale at Tecumseh Prison

Employees at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution are the least happy among Nebraska Department of Corrections workers, according to a report from the state Ombudsman’s office.

JoAnne Young writes about the survey in the Lincoln Journal-Star.
A high percentage of workers at the maximum security prison who responded to the survey last month said they felt unsafe at work, didn’t feel they could discuss concerns with supervisors, and that they either didn’t know what direction the Department of Correctional Services was heading or that it was headed in a negative direction.
The survey was taken just a few months after two inmates were killed in a riot at the Tecumseh prison. The biggest problem according to survey respondents – pay.
The majority of administrators and employees department-wide -- 68 percent -- said the primary change the department could make to keep people from leaving would be salary advancement each year.
Salary increases far outpaced hiring additional staff, reducing overtime and providing more opportunities for advancement as keys to employee retention.

Read the rest of the Journal-Star report here.

Meanwhile, the state is continuing efforts to recruit and retain employees.

Congress Passes International Megan's Law

Congress approved International Megan's Law in a voice vote on Monday. The bill contains a provision that requires the State Department to mark the passports of registered sex offenders with a "unique identifier."

Proponents say the bill will prevent sex trafficking. Opponents say it amounts to little more than a scarlet letter that will prevent U.S. citizens from traveling abroad.

Read more from The Marshall Project.

With Justice for All: Facts hard to find in House debate on the bill.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Tragedy of Juvenile Sex Offender Registration

A new paper by Southwestern Law School professor Catherine Carpenter documents the damage done to children who are forced to register as sex offenders, often for life. Children as young as nine years old have been listed on public shaming websites.

From the abstract:
Truth be told, we are afraid for our children and we are afraid of our children. The intersection of these disparate thoughts has produced a perfect storm. We have created increasingly harsh sex offender registration schemes to protect our children from sexual abuse. At the same time, fear of our children ensnares and punishes them under the very same laws that were designed to protect them. Yet, what compels action is premised on a false narrative that includes flawed studies on recidivism rates and misguided case decisions that embraced these findings. 
 Link to the full report here.