Friday, September 30, 2016

Pennsylvania Court Strikes Down Retroactive Registration

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that sex offender registration requirements cannot be increased for people who enter plea bargains before subsequent changes to the law take effect.

As reported at, Justice Max Baer wrote the ruling in the case that involved three men who were convicted before changes were made to Pennsylvania's law in 2012.
"In this commonwealth, when trial courts accept plea agreements, the convicted criminals...are entitled to the benefits of their bargains," he wrote.
 Read the full text of the court's decision here.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Election's coming: Know your voting rights

With the 2016 election just a few weeks away, this essay from the Collateral Consequences Resource Center is a good reminder of the importance of knowing the voting laws in your state - especially if you have been convicted of a crime.

In Nebraska, people with felony convictions can vote, with a few caveats.

Here is an explanation of felon voting rights from the Nebraska Secretary of State's website.

The laws vary from state to state, so contact your local election authority if you have any questions regarding your right to vote.

And remember election day is Tuesday, November 8.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Iowa Civil Commitment challenged in federal court

A federal lawsuit challenging Iowa's civil commitment program is continuing. Nine men say the program is unconstitutional because they're not given the counseling and services needed for them to be released. 

It's estimated that more than 5,000 people are held in civil commitment programs in 20 states, though many of those programs are now under close scrutiny.
In Iowa, U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett rejected the state's motion to dismiss the lawsuit in March, using "Hotel California" lyrics in his 50-page ruling to describe Iowa's Civil Commitment Unit for Sexual Offenders program: "You can check-out any time you like, But you can never leave!" 
Bennett concluded the men — whom he described as like "the unlucky guest at the eponymous hotel" — have raised legitimate issues about treatment, staffing and funding for the program, which was enacted in 1998 and currently houses 113 men in a century-old former insane asylum.
 A trial was scheduled for November, but that has been delayed, according to the Associated Press.

Federal judge dismisses IML lawsuit

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the International Megan's Law, saying the lawsuit was premature, according to a report in the Washington Post.
U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton said Friday it was also not clear yet who would be subject to the passport identifier and what form the identifier would take.
The law would place a unique identifier on the passports of people convicted of sex crimes against children. Attorney Janice Bellucci, who represented plaintiffs in the case, says she plans to mount another challenge to the law by the end of the year, perhaps in a different state.
“It really is our goal to prevent anybody’s passport from being marked with a conspicuous, unique identifier,” she said.
Read Judge Hamilton's order to dismiss here.

Friday, September 23, 2016

How much punishment is enough for viewing child porn?

Writing online for Mimesis Law, U.S. Senior District Judge Richard Kopf asks how much punishment is enough for those caught viewing child pornography. He appears sympathetic to those sentenced to long federal prison terms for possession and distribution of child porn. 
Judge Richard Kopf
So evening comes, and you descend to the “man cave” in the basement, you access your Dell and scroll down to your peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing program to get kiddie porn. You don’t know, really, why this stuff fascinates you. You also don’t fully understand how your P2P works, but you do know that your computer now automatically shares kiddie porn with other like-minded individuals and they in turn share with you. In fact, your particular P2P program does not have an “on and off” switch.
Anyway, you spend several evenings a week “privately enjoying” videos of little girls getting screwed.  The “Vicky” series is a favorite. You are at once repelled and attracted.  Never, in the physical world, would you watch such things being done to a child. In the same vein, not even the devil incarnate could force you to do such things to a child.
Read the full essay at Mimesis Law.

Related: Judge Kopf is much less sympathetic to actual producers of child pornography.

More: Bloomberg News looks at why federal prison sentences for child pornography are often greater than sentences for rape and molestation.

Laws named after victims are bad ideas

Ted Frank, in a Los Angeles Times op-ed, argues that laws named after crime victims are not a good idea. Frank says laws - including Megan's Law - are "the worst form of knee-jerk lawmaking," designed more to win votes than solve a problem.
“Megan’s Law,” a federal law, required all states to create draconian registries of convicted sex-offenders and notify the community of sex offenders in their midst. But such registries don’t just affect offenders — they also expose and victimize their family members. Depending on how a state implements it, Megan’s Law can also punish indefinitely crimes that are technically “sex offenses,” but are exceedingly unlikely to pose a danger to the public, such as public urination or consensual sex acts or sexting between juveniles. Even the U.S. Department of Justice has noted that registration requirements are being implemented without empirical evidence that they reduce crime.
Read the full article here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Watch "Solitary Nation" podcast featuring Dr. Lisa Sample

Dr. Lisa Sample was the guest one the initial episode of the weekly podcast, "Solitary Nation." Host, Matt Duhamel, talks with Dr. Sample about her research on sex offender laws, desistance from sex offending, and the effect the registry and public notification have on registrants and their families.

Watch the 20 minute podcast here.

Find more information about the Solitary Nation podcast here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Do Sex Offender Registries Make Us Safer?

A reporter for a California television station asks whether sex offender registries actually protect the public.
While covering a rally where sex offenders were protesting the International Megan’s Law, I got a chance to talk to some registered citizens, as they prefer to be addressed. They shared some details about what life looks like when your name comes up on Megan’s list.

Read and watch the report here.

Journal-Star: Rework Sex Offender Registries

The Lincoln Journal-Star Editorial Board says it's time to rework sex offender registries in the United States, with now more than 800,000 people listed on registries across the country.

Most of them are on the list for life, carrying the stigma and onerous restrictions of a registered sex offender with no chance of ever getting off the list. All offenders are treated the same, whether they are first-time, misdemeanor offender for, say, indecent exposure or serial rapists. 
That stigma created by the public listing has, in a way, made it much harder for all offenders -- even less dangerous ones -- to become productive citizens. They are targeted for vigilante attacks and unable to get jobs or find a place to live.
Read the full editorial here.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Sex Offender Fights Removal From Hospice

Courthouse News Service has a story from Florida about an elderly registered sex offender, with end-stage Alzheimer's disease, fighting to stay in a hospice despite its proximity to a school.

    A Palm Beach County court petition filed Aug. 31 claims Jack Ehrhart, a hospice patient with end-stage Alzheimer's disease, has been threatened with arrest if he does not move out of Heartland of Boynton Beach, a nursing home near a local preschool.     The City of Boynton Beach purportedly issued a notice to Ehrhart and the hospice accusing them of violating an ordinance that prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of a school, daycare center or playground. 
Read more here.

Sex Offender Struggles to Find Home in Milwaukee

If you want more proof of the insanity of sex offender residency restrictions, watch this report about a man - released from prison after 22 years - trying to find his way in Wisconsin's largest city.

Story here.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Call to Action: State Department to Brand Passports

Notice from Registrant TAG:

We are reaching out to all and affiliates to respond the recent State Department notice on implementation of the unique identifier provision of IML. public-inspection. 21087.pdf FR-2016-09-02/html/2016-21087. htm It was signed by: Bureau of Councilor Affairs   Sen   Senior Advisor David T Donahue 6826     202-647-9584 We request emails, faxes, phone calls etc be sent to the attached individuals to protest this implementation In ones own words but here are general talking points are as follows: "I (we) protest the State Department's implementation of International Megans Law (IML) and the specific provision for a unique identifier on American Citizen's passports. The notification provisions and the Passport Identifier marking the passport holder as a registered sex offender puts the lives of American citizens and their families in danger when traveling to foreign countries. As such, those Americans will be designated (by their own government) as unworthy of the protections afforded U.S. Citizens and invite abuses at the hands of foreign governments. So too will their families who accompany them be subjected to mistreatment by foreign governments whose standards may fall below those of the U.S. Reports already confirm American citizens and families have been harassed, threatened, items stolen, and travel plans destroyed by the current Angel Watch alert system. The passport mark will further identify the holder as a former offender to any who require passports in commerce, such as hotels and banks, who may also use this information as a means to extort or threaten the passport holder. Neither the notification or the passport mark will serve any role in curbing or curtailing child sexual exploitation as has been noted by leading experts. Instead, it will stifle legitimate travel, split families apart and prevent lawful international business activities. Statistics indicate, not only a low rate of re offense for former offenders, but that offenses are overwhelming committed by those not on sex offender registries." Please send protest emails, fax and phone calls to : U.S. Department of State, Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR)   Email: socr_direct@state.govTel: (202) 647-9295 or (202) 647-9294  Fax: (202) 647-4969

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Passport Services (CA/PPT)Deputy Assistant Secretary Brenda Sprague 6826202-647-9584Special Assistant Dan Pauly SA-17A 4th FL202-485-6374Staff Assistant Zlatko Pasalic SA-17A 4th FL202-485-6387Managing Director, Issuance Operations FlorenceG. Fultz SA-17A 4th FL202-485-6379Director, Office of Management Analysis andCoordination William Wood SA-17A 4th FL202-485-6386Senior Advisor for International Affairs R. MichaelHolly SA-17A 4th FL202-485-6377Managing Director, Support Operations Barry J.Conway SA-17A 4th FL202-485-6372Director, Office of Program Management andOperational Support Aileen D Smith SA-17A 4th FL202-485-6547Acting Director, Office of Planning and ProgramSupport Winnie Fuentes SA-17A 4th FL202-485-6604Director, Office of Adjudication Don SimpkinsSA-17A 4th FL202-485-6611Director, Office of Passport Integrity and InternalControls Kelly Ozolek-Cella SA-17A 4th FL202-485-6649Director, Office of Acceptance Facility OversightCarmen Marrero SA-17A 4th FL202-485-6515Director, Office of Technical Operations AmandaJones SA-17A202-485-6511Director, Office of Passport Legal Affairs and LawEnforcement Liaison Jonathan Rolbin SA-17A 4thFL202-485-6590Staff Assistant Sara E Phillips SA-17 4th Floor202-485-6388Staff Assistant Carlos M Santamaria SA-17 4th Floor202-485-6389 Congressional Passport Supervisor Patience TaitSA-17A, Suite 3.200202-485-8226Director, Office of Passport Integrity and InternalControls Kelly Ozolek-Cella SA-17A 4th FL202-485-6649 Director, Office of Passport Legal Affairs and LawEnforcement Liaison Jonathan Rolbin SA-17A 4thFL Bureau of Councilor Affairs   Sen   Senior Advisor David T Donahue 6826     202-647-9584 Tweet John Kerry at @JohnKerry Contact congress with this link:  https://emailcongress. us/signup State Department Phone Directory documents/organization/112065. pdf