Thursday, July 28, 2016

Dozens Protest International Megan's Law Following Court Hearing

Dozens of registered sex offenders and advocates staged a peaceful protest outside a federal courthouse in Oakland, California. The demonstration followed a hearing on a government motion to dismiss a challenge to International Megan's Law. 

According to California RSOL:
More than 40 people today participated in a peaceful protest held outside the federal district court in Oakland.  Participants included registrants and supporters from California as well as several other states, including Florida, Missouri and Oregon.  Today’s protest included the burning of sex offender registration cards by six registrants led by CA RSOL Treasurer Frank Lindsay.
Today’s protest was a tremendous success,” stated CA RSOL President Janice Bellucci.  “We effectively communicated to the public and to the media our position that the International Megan’s Law (IML) violates the U.S. Constitution.”
The protest immediately followed oral arguments made in support of, and in opposition to, the federal government’s motion to dismiss the case.  During the court hearing, the government argued that the federal government needs to notify foreign countries when registrants intend to visit in order to prevent child sex tourism and child sex trafficking.  The government also argued the need to add a “conspicuous unique identifier” to the passports of hundreds of thousands of registrants in order to stop them from visiting multiple countries during a single trip.
Registrant attorney Bellucci argued that notifications sent to foreign countries have a “chilling effect” upon registrants, many of whom are now afraid to travel overseas.  She also argued that notifications are harm registrants’ ability to travel overseas in order to meet with family members, conduct business and pursue cultural interests.  She further argued that they place registrants and anyone who travels with them at risk of physical harms.
During today’s hearing, Bellucci asked Judge Hamilton to deny the government’s motion to dismiss the case and instead to allow registrants to amend the complaint. The judge did not issue a decision today, however, a decision is expected within the next 30 days.
Read more here and here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

"Sex Offender" Label Ruining too Many Lives

Lenore Skenazy has another outstanding editorial, this time in the New York Post, how being labeled a sex offender ruins too many young (not to mention old, and middle age) lives.
What’s the most common age of sex-offenders?It’s not a trick question, but unless you follow this stuff closely you’ll almost certainly answer wrong.In fact, most people are shocked to learn that the most common age of people charged with a sex offense isn’t a creepy 39, or 51.It’s 14.That’s right. As the US Bureau of Justice reports: “The single age with the greatest number of offenders from the perspective of law enforcement was age 14.”
Read the full article here.

Federal Judge Criticizes Sentencing Guidelines in Child Porn Case

A federal judge criticized mandatory sentencing guidelines when he sentenced 45-year-old Shawn Cheever to 10 years in prison for possession of child pornography, according to a report in the Denver Post

U.S. District Senior Judge John Kane said a five-year sentence would have been more appropriate to allow Cheever to complete required sex offender treatment and return safely to the community.
Kane issued a 40-page sentencing opinion that says the federally-imposed sentencing guidelines for child pornography possession cases are greater than necessary.Kane wrote in his opinion that his extensive research on the history of the Child Sexual Abuse Protection Act of 1994 found that there were no studies, statistics, or basis to explain or justify why the mandatory minimum of 10 years was enacted or whether any other term was considered.
Cheever's attorney has appealed the 10 year sentence.

Read more about Judge Kane's opinion here.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Nebraska Research to be Highlighted in New Book

Nebraskans Unafraid collaborates with Lisa Sample, Ph.D., of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Dr. Sample's research into the experiences of Nebraska registrants is the basis for a book, Living Under Sex Offense Laws: Consequences for Offenders and Their Family Members, to be published in 2018 by Routledge.

Dr. Sample wrote about the book for the Nebraskans Unafraid July Newsletter:

The chapters include discussions on registrants gaining basic needs, creating and maintaining social relationships, spillover effects of the laws on registrants’ families, the effects of the laws on children, and registrants’ thoughts for sensible legal reform.  What is different about this book than others of a similar nature is the information you have provided has allowed us not only to identify challenges due to laws, but also how you have overcome these over time.  We believe it is this information that other registrants and criminal justice professionals will find most valuable.  The stress the laws create for registrants and their families is an important topic, but how you have managed to cope with this stress over time is of equal value and a topic that is severely under-studied.

Dr. Sample's research finds that in general Nebraska's sex-offender laws do not enhance public safety and in some cases the laws make communities more dangerous. The laws are enforced differently from local jurisdiction to local jurisdiction. At the same time, the laws cause social and economic harm to people who are innocent or who have completed their sentences.

Research interviews with registered citizens and their family members are ongoing. To share your experiences, contact Dr. Sample, by phone at 402-554-3127, or e-mail  

You Are Invited to Join a Class-Action Lawsuit Against Sex-Offender Laws

The Women Against the Registry organization is mounting two class-action lawsuits in the 8th U.S. District, which includes Nebraska.

Everyone in Nebraska who has been deprived of livelihood, home and family (as I have) should become a part of one of the two lawsuits. I have just filled out the form to join the lawsuit. You should do the same.

One lawsuit is being filed on behalf of Registered Citizens and the second is being filed on behalf of family members who have been harmed by the law.

Here are the links you need to become part of one of the lawsuits:

General information and info form about the lawsuits

FAQ on the Registered Citizens lawsuit

FAQ on the Family Members lawsuit

Saturday, July 23, 2016

How a Texas legislator's comments helped fuel harsh sex offender laws

The Austin American-Statesman looks at how a statement by one state legislator nearly 20 years ago helped fuel today's draconian sex offender laws across the country. 
July 1997: State Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, a former schoolteacher and proponent of the state’s strict 1995 Ashley’s Laws for sex offenders, attends a conference in Bellevue, Wash., about sex offender registries. She begins her speech by noting that “putting the modern sex offender into the traditional criminal justice system is usually as successful as keeping a snake in a shoebox.”
Shapiro continues: “Sex offenders are a very unique type of criminal. I like to say they have three very unique characteristics: They are the least likely to be cured; they are the most likely to reoffend; and they prey on the most innocent members of our society.” She cites no evidence.
Subsequent research has shown those statements about high sex offender recidivism rates to be false. The article is part of  an investigation into the Texas sex offender registry.

Read more here and here.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Study: Fewer children involved in sex trade than previously thought

A new Justice Department study concludes that far fewer children are engaged in the sex trade than previous estimates. As reported in the Washington Post:
All too often, the estimates were based on flimsy or out-of-date data, leading to estimates that strained credulity. Among the claims that fell apart under scrutiny:
 Researchers estimate the number of juveniles involved in the sex trade in the United States is between 9,000 and 10,000.

Read the Justice Department study here.

Marshall Project looks at party platform statements on criminal justice

The Marshall Project breaks down the Republican and Democratic Party platform positions on criminal justice. The Republican Party approved its platform this week, and Democrats will approve theirs during their upcoming convention.
Platforms are not binding on candidates, but they distill a consensus of the forces within the party at this point in history.
Read the Marshall Project's analysis here.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Illinois' other registry

It's not well-publicized, but the state of Illinois is one of a handful of states that has "Murderer and Violent Offender Against Youth Registry" in addition to its more famous cousin, the sex offender registry. 

The Chicago Tribune fills in the details.
The Child Murderer and Violent Offender Against Youth Registry came into being in June 2006. It evolved into the Murderer and Violent Offender Against Youth Registry in January 2012.
That happened largely through the work of Batavia resident Patricia Rosenberg. She campaigned for passage of "Andrea's Law," named for her daughter, Andrea Will, who was strangled in 1998 by Justin Boulay, her former boyfriend, at Eastern Illinois University.
Illinois and four other states — Indiana, Kansas, Montana and Oklahoma — have murderer registries. Illinois' website includes information such as a murderer's or violent offender's address, birth date and physical description, as well as the nature of the criminal conviction. A recent photograph also accompanies each entry.
The registry website also includes a reminder that anyone who uses information to commit a criminal act can be prosecuted.
There are more than 3,600 people on Illinois' murderer registry, and some object to being on the registry.
Brumley said friends have seen his name on the murderer registry and confused it with the Illinois Sex Offender Registry, which tracks people who have been convicted of sexual abuse, possession of child pornography or similar crimes.
He said he wants his neighbors to know they have nothing to fear from him.
"I've had comments on that already, where people think you're a sex offender," Brumley said. "I'm not a registered sex offender." But because of the similarity between the two registries, "it's like I'm being treated like one." 

Sex Offense Policy Research website

A new website, featuring the work of some of the top scholars in the field, will provide the latest research on sex offense policy. The website is for the Sex Offense Policy Research working group, which held its second annual meeting in Boston this summer. Dr. Lisa Sample is the president, and a founding member, of the group.

From the SOPR website:


 Find more information at the SOPR website.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Moving beyond harsh punishment of sex offenders

Ever more punitive punishment of offenders neither deters new crimes nor help sexual assault victims. So argues Sarah Cate, an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Southern Mississippi, in an online editorial for Common Dreams.
Victims of assault experience physical and psychological consequences that require adequate health care, financial support and paid leave time if they are employed. Maintaining employment and thereby economic security and access to health care is critical to helping someone recover from assault. About half of all sexual assault victims lose their jobs or are forced to quit their jobs after their victimization. Workplace flexibility, providing time off and medical care coverage are all essential ways to support sexual assault victims. We leave women “on their own” every day by not providing for everyone a safe workplace, housing, public transportation and employment with adequate pay and benefits.
Regarding sex offender registries, Cate says they are not effective.
Despite the persistent belief that punishment increases public safety and “sends a message,” research suggests that increasing already long sentences has no deterrent effect. Additionally, the United States’ exceptionally broad sex offender registries, community notification, and residency restrictions have not been found to promote public safety. These harsh punishments may even be counterproductive as they marginalize people so severely it increases the likelihood they might offend again.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pokemon causing safety concerns

While the Pokemon Go craze is sweeping the country, the game is causing some safety concerns. In California, for instance, the game has led people to a facility that houses registered sex offenders, among others.
The location-based game has a "Pokestop" at the outdoor sign for Sunny Acres, a 72-acre ranch in San Luis Obispo that includes a sober-living facility where 35 people live, KSBY-TV reported Tuesday.
"We have some criminals, we have some alcoholics, we have drug addicts, we have mentally ill, there are some sex offenders, yes," Sunny Acres founder Dan De Vaul told the station.
An Associated Press call seeking comment from De Vaul was not immediately returned Wednesday.
But De Vaul, 72, told the Los Angeles Times that he was upset."I have no idea what Pokemon is," he said. "I have no idea who put the stop - if it was sabotage - because we don't want kids showing up here."
If children visit the property, some sex offenders living there might be placed at risk of being sent back to prison for violating conditions of their probation or parole, De Vaul said.
A similar situation is reported in Phoenix, Arizona.
One of the beacons used in the game is the New Windsor Hotel. It's on the list of historic places which is why it may be on the Pokemon Go app. But when you search Arizona's DPS Sex Offender Registry, you'll see 546 W Adams Street is home to 43 registered sex offenders. 
No word on whether anyone has been harmed by a registered sex offender after being led astray, though people have reportedly been robbed, stabbed, and injured while they were engrossed in the game.

A man in Georgia reported that he was sexually assaulted while he was playing Pokemon.
And players have already reported wiping out in a variety of ways as they wander the real world — eyes glued to their smartphone screens — in search of digital monsters. Twisted ankles, mishaps with revolving doors and walking into trees have been among the painful results.
The game has also induced people to post pictures of themselves on social media chasing creatures in all sorts of dangerous situations, like while driving.

Be careful. The world can be a dangerous place if you're not paying attention.


Join FEARLESS this coming Monday to hear an update from Dr. Lisa Sample. Dr. Sample will provide information on a book she is writing along with Tusty ten Bensel of the University of Arkansas Little Rock, "Living Under Sex Offender Laws: Consequences for Offenders and their Family Members." Dr. Sample will also provide information about the Sex Offender Policy and Research (SOPR) Working Group, which met recently in Boston. (Click here for more information)

FEARLESS is a safe place for registered citizens, their families and friends to meet, the third Monday of each month at 7:00 p.m., at St. Michael's Lutheran Church, 13232 Blondo Street, Omaha.

Join the conversation Monday night.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Nebraska among states suing federal government over transgender bathroom rules

Nebraska has joined nine other states in a lawsuit against the federal government over guidelines allowing transgender students access to restrooms and other facilities, according to a report in the Omaha World-Herald.
The complaint, filed in federal court in Nebraska, alleges that the U.S. Department of Education violated the Administrative Procedure Act and “numerous” other federal laws by redefining the term “sex” under the federal civil rights and education law to include gender identity.
"There’s kind of a pattern, where agencies have taken action beyond the scope of their authority,” Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said Friday, “and that’s why we have to step in and say you simply don’t have authority to unilaterally do this type of stuff.”
The guidelines, announced in May, require public schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Jury awards Beatrice Six $28 million

A federal jury has awarded six people wrongfully convicted in the 1985 rape and murder of a Beatrice woman $28 million in damages in a civil suit against Gage County and officials involved in the investigation.

The six spent, collectively, more than 70 years in prison. They were pardoned after DNA evidence linked another man, who died in 1992, to the crime.

From the Omaha World-Herald:

In 1989, investigators relied heavily on confessions from three suspects with histories of mental illness, two of whom told authorities that their memories came from dreams and nightmares. And investigators proceeded with the prosecutions even though none of the six perfectly matched the perpetrator’s blood or could be conclusively tied to his semen.
"They stole my brother from me. And there’s no amount of money that could replace the years that we lost from him,” said Nancy Aspinwall, the sister of Joseph E. White, the only one of the six to refuse a plea bargain. Her brother died in a workplace accident in 2011, less than three years after winning his freedom.
Gage County is now faced with paying an award that exceeds its annual budget of $27 million, according to documents filed with the state. The damages amount to nearly $1,300 for each of the county’s roughly 21,900 residents. 
What’s more, the county lacks the type of liability insurance needed to cover damages from what equates to law enforcement malpractice, said Myron Dorn, chairman of the Gage County Board.
“From the county’s perspective, I’d say it’s surprising,” he said. “We had not been prepared for anything like this type of award.”

More research confirms residency restrictions don't work

Some newly-released academic reports highlight common themes: sex offender registries are not effective and residence restrictions should be abolished.

Read the reports, download them, share them with legislators.

Grand Challenges: Social Justice and the Need for Evidence-Based Sex Offender Registry Reform

Hidden challenges: Sex Offenders legislated into homelessness

No Place to Call Home - Rethinking Residency Restrictions for Sex Offenders

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Public Defender explains why many of her clients prefer prison to registry

Rachel Marshall, a public defender in Oakland, California, writes at that many of her clients would rather spend more time in prison than be on the sex offender registry.

I had always assumed that sex offender registration was limited to those who committed the most egregious and dangerous offenses. I had also trusted that the Supreme Court was right when, in 2003, it stated that sex offender registration laws are not punishments but merely administrative requirements to protect public safety.
But I realize now that many of my clients would choose to take on more jail time, more fees — anything to avoid being labeled a sex offender for life. That's because our current sex offender registration laws apply an unbending and inhumane one-size-fits-all approach that does not prevent future sex crimes and in fact makes us all less safe.
Read what Marshall wishes more people understood about the sex offender registry.