Monday, March 28, 2016

Newspaper takes a closer look at sex offender registry

A recent article we linked to examining the effectiveness of sex offender registries is actually part of a series of stories published in the Sentinel of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, that looks at the registry from a variety of perspectives.

Also included is an in-depth article explaining that the counselor who co-authored a Psychology Today article that’s been used for 30 years to justify the belief that sex offenders have a high recidivism rate actually opposes sex offender registries and regrets that the article has been used to further ever more draconian laws.

Another article contains the perspective of a Pennsylvania registrant trying to put his life back together.

This article explains how some family members of registered sex offenders are speaking out against the registry.

Kudos to reporter Joshua Vaughn for writing an even-handed series of articles without falling into the morass of hysteria that so often accompanies this topic.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Questioning the effectiveness of sex offender registries

A reporter for the Sentinel of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, has the audacity to ask whether sex offender registries, despite their public popularity, actually work as advertised.
“These kind of laws have a limited usefulness, which is they make it difficult for offenders to keep their anonymity but that’s about it,” said Kristen Houser, chief public information officer for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.
The article, by Joshua Vaughn, includes comments from experts who dispel many of the common myths about the registry and sex offenders.

For instance, a Pennsylvania State Trooper asserts that a 2011 update to that state's sex offender registry law was passed merely to bring the state into compliance with the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.
SORNA was sponsored by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, who has the statement on his website “Convicted sex offenders often evade current state registration requirements and go on to commit additional offenses” on his website about his support for the legislation. Given more than a week to prepare, staff for Sensenbrenner was unable to provide any data or evidence used to support that statement.
 Read more of the article here.

IML: America's International Shame

Writing online for the Huffington Post, University of Miami Associate Professor of Law Tamara Rice Lave pulls no punches in condemning the recently passed International Megan's Law.

Lave lays out in detail why the law will not accomplish its stated goal. Yet the law sailed through Congress without debate or question.
When it comes to legislation controlling sex offenders, facts are beside the point. And so out of misguided hysteria, the United States has passed a law requiring sex offenders to have a permanent mark on their passport. And make no mistake — this is going to curtail their ability to travel outside the country, including to places like England and France, not exactly hotbeds for child sex tourism.
On Wednesday, a U.S. District Judge will hear a motion for a preliminary injunction seeking to stop implementation of the International Megan's Law.

Read Lave's post here.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Colleges facing backlash from men accused of sexual misconduct

An article in the Washington Post explains how colleges are facing a legal backlash from young men who say they are unfairly targeted and punished in sexual assault investigations.

On the one hand is the need for schools to take such accusations seriously, but many students have been suspended or expelled - even when no criminal charges have been filed.
“We’re trying to walk the razor’s edge between being more attentive to the issue but still being fair to all our students,” said Dana Scaduto, general counsel at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, who has testified before Congress on the issue.At least 75 men have sued their schools since 2013, complaining largely of reverse discrimination and unfair disciplinary proceedings. Most were never charged with a crime because the accuser didn’t go to police or authorities decided there wasn’t enough evidence.
That includes a recent case involving a former Yale University basketball player.

You can read the Washington Post report here.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A nation of registries? Utah adds white-collar crime registry

Every state maintains a sex offender registry, and many states have expanded registries to include other crimes.

The Wall Street Journal reports on Utah's new white collar crime registry.
Utah’s white-collar registry will include anyone convicted of second-degree frauds or other financial felonies since January 2006. A total of about 230 people are expected to be on the registry when it is formally launched in a few months, officials said.
The state will generally keep people registered for 10 years after a first offense. A second offense adds another decade, and people with three convictions never get off.
Experts say the number of Americans on various registries may now number over one million.
In addition to the 50 states that publicly track sex offenders, five states including California require registration for arson. Minnesota, Illinois and six others maintain lists of methamphetamine producers. In Indiana, a public website lets visitors use Google Maps to find the location of homes that have been used as meth laboratories. Tennessee requires registration for animal abuse— something nine other state legislatures are debating. Florida law requires registration by anyone convicted of a felony of any kind for up to five years after completing the sentence.Utah itself maintains a sex-offender and kidnap-offender list, as well as its new financial-crimes registry.
 Left unanswered is whether any of these registries are effective, or whether the resources used to create and maintain them could be better spent.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Court rules Nebraska can't list boy on registry

Sanity prevails in the courtroom. as a federal judge says Nebraska cannot list at 13-year-old boy on the state's sex offender registry.

The boy was 11 when he was adjudicated for criminal sexual conduct in Minnesota. He subsequently moved to live with family in Nebraska, and state officials said state law required him to register. The boy's family filed a lawsuit to prevent that from happening.

A ruling in the case was issued on Monday.

Senior U.S. District Judge Richard G. Kopf said if the boy had done in Nebraska exactly what he did in Minnesota he would not have been required to register as a sex offender "and he would not be stigmatized as such.""It therefore makes no sense to believe that the Nebraska statutes were intended to be more punitive to juveniles adjudicated out of state as compared to juveniles adjudicated in Nebraska," the judge wrote in a 20-page order.
Read the full story in the Lincoln Journal-Star. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Be FEARLESS on Monday, March 21

The topic for FEARLESS on Monday, March 21, 2016 is twofold: 1) How do we deal with times of transition in our lives? 2) What have we done to rebuild our lives, what has worked and what has not worked?

FEARLESS meets at Saint Michael Lutheran Church, 13232 Blondo Street in Omaha. Park in the east lot and come in through the east entrance. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and usually runs until 9 p.m.

FEARLESS is a place of safety, connection and support for Registered Citizens, their friends and loved ones.

Ex-cop: Some SO sentences excessive

Retired police officer Marshall Frank, in an op-ed at, argues that the punishment for some sex offenders has become too excessive. Frank argues the cause of a friend of his who is serving a six year sentence for child pornography, and will be on the registry for the rest of his life.
Applying strict registry rules to all sex offenders is morally wrong and humanly destructive. Each case should be evaluated on their own merits. It is time for state and federal lawmakers to revisit and amend registry rules and laws so they apply to the most egregious of predators.
 Click here to read the full article.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Report: Registries may increase recidivism rates

A report by University of Michigan Law School professor J.J. Prescott examines the effect sex offender registration and notification laws have of the incidence of sexual assault.

Prescott's analysis finds that registration may reduce the number of sex offenses. However, that reduction is limited to friends and neighbors, and the increased recidivism rates due to public notification more than offset any reduction that results from registration. A couple key quotes:
“The more difficult, lonely, and unstable our laws make a registered sex offender’s life, the more likely he is to return to crime—and the less he has to lose by committing these new crimes.”  “If these laws impose significant burdens on a large share of former offenders, and if only a limited number of potential victims benefit from knowing who and where sex offenders are, then we should not be surprised to observe more recidivism under notification, with recidivism rates rising as notification expands.”
Read a summary of the report here. The full report is available here.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Fighting juvenile sex offender registration

Some states force children as young an nine and ten years old to register as sex offenders, sometimes for life. Some people have taken up the fight against the practice.

Read Sarah Stillman's in-depth report in The New Yorker about how parents, advocates, and registrants are fighting to roll back juvenile sex offender registration.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Court considers whether RSO required to register when moving overseas

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether a registered sex offender should be required to notify authorities when moving to another country.
The case, Nichols v. United States, focuses on Lester Nichols, a convicted sex offender who moved from Kansas to the Philippines in November 2012, eight months after he was released from prison. A month later, he was arrested and deported back to the U.S. for failing to update his sex offender registry. 
The Hill reports that Justices seemed skeptical of the government's argument that Nichols was required under SORNA to notify Kansas within three business days of his move.