Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What is the actual sex offender recidivism rate?

Steven Yoder writes an outstanding article for Pacific Standard, asking what is the real sex offender recidivism rate. The answer is it's much lower that commonly believed - certainly it's not "frightening and high" as Justice Kennedy asserted in 2003 - and is even low considering under reporting of sex offenses.

Read the article.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Many sex offenders in prison long after their sentences end

Writing for The Marshall Project, Christie Thompson explains why sex offenders in many states remain in prison long after they've served their sentences.
Unlike anyone else convicted of a crime, some sex offenders across the country are being forced to stay in prison even after serving their time. In Utah, it is because there are too few spots in a treatment program required for parole. In Illinois, it is because of strict parole requirements (no computers, no smartphones, no children at any time) and residency restrictions that few families can accommodate. In Kentucky, it is because nursing homes and assisted living facilities won’t take them. And in New York, it is because the 1,000-foot school zones encompass almost entire urban centers such as New York City.
Read the full report here.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Senate to vote on AWA reauthorization

The U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote on reauthorizing the Adam Walsh Act this week. The bill provides funding for the AWA for the next two years.

More information here and here.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Study: One percent of black men in U.S. is a registered sex offender

A new study finds that one-percent of black men in the United States is a registered sex offender. University of Albany Assistant Professor of Sociology Trevor Hoppe analyzed data from 49 states that shows the number of registered sex offenders increased by nearly 25-percent between 2005 and 2013.
Embedded in those increased registration rates, researchers find that in every state but Michigan, a higher sex offender registration rate was found for blacks than for whites. In nine states, black Americans were registered as sex offenders at three times the rate of whites, including Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin. In Florida, South Dakota, Texas, and Utah, more than 2 percent of black men were publicly registered sex offenders.
Nationwide, the sex offender registration rate for black Americans (501 sex offenders per 100,000 adults) was more than twice that of whites (238 sex offenders per 100,000 adults). In addition, roughly one out of every 119 black men living in the 49 states analyzed were registered sex offenders, encompassing nearly 1 percent of all black men.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Counselors: Registry unfairly stigmatizes many

Two Grand Island counselors, who work with sex offenders, say the sex offender registry unfairly stigmatizes many people who pose little risk to society. The comments by Carole and Jerome Denton are reported in the Grand Island Independent.
Many people listed on the Sex Offender Registry have trouble getting jobs or living accommodations, even though the offenses they committed were comparatively minor or they have truly been rehabilitated, the Dentons said. Being on the Registry destroys their lives and their families, Carole Denton said.  They agree that dangerous predators need to be on the Sex Offender Registry. But they say most people who have been arrested and rehabilitated will not reoffend. “One size does not fit all,” she said.
Read the full article, by reporter Jeff Bahr, here

Monday, May 16, 2016

Pennsylvania Supreme Court to hear SORNA challenge

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will hear a challenge to that state's sex offender registration laws. The plaintiffs say the expanded law should not be applied retroactively.
Last week, the state's justices agreed to hear appeals by three men convicted of child molestation — from Clearfield, Lancaster and Cumberland counties — who say they shouldn't be forced to register for life, as the new law mandates of them.
When each was convicted nearly a decade or more ago, their offenses only required them to register for 10 years, and their attorneys argue that the new rules violate due process and are an after-the-fact punishment, which is prohibited in both the U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutions.
Read more here and here.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

How reliable are sex offender locator sites?

There are a number of websites and apps that claim to track the locations of registered sex offenders. However, as KAKE News of Wichita, Kansas, reports, those sites are often not very reliable.
One example of the inaccuracies of the registered offender search website that's run by the state of Kansas is the case of Kelly Farr. Farr is a registered offender currently facing two counts of raping a 12-year-old girl. For three weeks after Farr posted bail, the state's online offender registry indicated he was in the Sedgwick County Jail, when he was actually more than 250 miles away in his hometown of Leoti, Kan.
The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office informed the state of Farr's new address when he was locked up, but not when he was released. The oversight was later corrected because KAKE News started asking questions about Farr's actual whereabouts.

Friday, May 13, 2016

How government distorts SO recidivism rates

A new report examines how government agencies and officials twist statistics to claim that sex offender recidivism rates are higher than they actually are.

Read the report, written by Alissa Ackerman and Marshall Burns, from the Justice Policy Journal.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Court rules polygraph requirement unconstitutional

A federal court in Colorado has ruled that a requirement that a registered sex offender answer certain questions on a polygraph test is unconstitutional. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the government overstepped its bounds when it threatened to send the registrant back to prison for refusing to answer questions about his sexual history.

As per California RSOL:
The questions the registrant refused to answer are (1) after the age of 18, did you engage in sexual activity with anyone under the age of 15, (2) have you had sexual contact with a family member or relative, (3) have you ever physically forced or threatened anyone to engage in sexual conduct with you and (4) have you ever had sexual contact with someone who was physically asleep or unconscious?
You can read the court's full decision here.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Despite evidence, residency restrictions continue to be popular

A report from Pew Charitable Trusts finds that many states and cities are imposing increasingly harsh residency restrictions on registered sex offenders, despite evidence that such restrictions do not improve - and may actually undermine - public safety.

The report focuses on new statewide restrictions in Wisconsin, but notes that other states are pushing more punitive laws.
In all, 27 states have blanket rules restricting how close sex offenders can live to schools and other places where groups of children may gather, according to research by the Council of State Governments. Hundreds of cities also have restrictions, according to the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA). And many laws are becoming more restrictive — along with Wisconsin, they expanded last year in Arkansas, Montana, Oklahoma and Rhode Island. 
Some states are scaling back residency restrictions, and one expert quoted in the report says he has found no restrictions that actually reduce recidivism rates.
What they can do is make offenders even greater outcasts. A U.S. Department of Justice report released in October 2014 said there is fairly clear evidence that residency restrictions are ineffective, and the laws cause a “loss of housing, loss of support systems, and financial hardship that may aggravate rather than mitigate offender risk.”

Friday, May 6, 2016

Can't afford treatment? Go back to prison

A registered sex offender in Minnesota is going back to jail after his probation was revoked. Why? According to an article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Jonathan Earl Brown was sent back to prison because he couldn't afford to pay for his court-mandated sex offender treatment program.
In Minnesota, sex offenders are often ordered by local judges to pay for their own treatment as a condition of probation. Yet many walk out of prison too broke to afford the co-payments. Brown was homeless, jobless and so destitute that his probation officer suggested he sell his blood to cover his $42 co-payment, court records show.
Yes, Brown's probation officer suggested he sell his blood - not so he could buy food or pay for a place to live, but to pay for treatment. The court's decision in this case was not unanimous.
In an unusually blistering dissent, Chief Judge Edward Cleary said that preventing indigent sex offenders from obtaining treatment, due to lack of funds, sets them up for failure and undermines public safety. Quoting a Charles Dickens novel, “Martin Chuzzlewit,” the judge wrote: “Dollars! All their cares, hopes, joys, affections, virtues, and associations seemed to be melted down into dollars.” 
The article points out that the Minnesota Department of Corrections does provide grants to help cover the cost of sex offender treatment programs. But the supply of funding does not cover the demand for said funds.

Nebraska case cited in decision against NC presence restrictions

A federal judge has ruled that parts of North Carolina's law restricting where registered sex offenders may be is unconstitutional.

The judge relied on several precedents - including the 2012 Doe v. Nebraska decision - to find that those restrictions violate the First Amendment by preventing people from doing things like going to polling places or attending church services.

He also took the state of North Carolina to task for not providing evidence to support its case.

Read the ruling here.


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Federal lawsuit challenges Illinois sex offender registry laws

Five registered sex offenders have filed a federal lawsuit challenging portions of Illinois' sex offender registry law. Specifically, the plaintiffs claim provisions restricting where child sex offenders may be present are unconstitutionally vague.

Read more about the lawsuit here.

Read the full text of the complaint here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Columnist: Registry does more harm than good

Writing in the Times-Herald of Port Huron, Michigan, columnist Grace Grogan makes a rational, well-reasoned argument why the sex offender registry does more harm than good.

Grogan's column is a response to a post on the city's Facebook page. Someone discovered that a registered sex offender was living in their neighborhood.
The sex offender registry was designed to be a list of those people we truly need to fear, pedophiles who prey on innocent children and violent rapists. What it has become is a joke — a catch-all of anyone and everyone who has committed anything from a minor error in judgment to a serious, horrendous sexual crime.
Read the full column here.