Monday, October 31, 2016

Public sex offender registries a waste of tax dollars

In an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, National RSOL Communications Director Sandy Rozek explains why public sex offender registries are not effective...financially or as a public safety tool.
Proponents of the public sex offender registry say it's needed to help parents protect their children from sexual predators, but there is no evidence it does that...Academic analyses and research studies have consistently failed to show a public safety benefit, or any beneficial results, from public notification — no reduction in sexual offending by rapists, child molesters, recidivists or first-time offenders. Due to its failure to benefit public safety, the current registry system is wasteful. 
Read the full op-ed here.

Sex offenders face backlash in Minnesota

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports how many communities in Minnesota are scrambling to enact restrictive sex offender residency restrictions. The ordinances are a backlash against recent court rulings against the state's sex offender civil commitment program. More than 40 communities have passed restrictions. As per The Crime Report:
The city of Dayton, 25 miles northwest of the Twin Cities, is the latest flash point. On Friday, the city passed one of the most restrictive measures yet, barring offenders from living near churches, pumpkin patches, and apple orchards. In an emotional three-hour hearing, residents lashed out at the state for attempting to move three convicted rapists to a private group home in Dayton, as City Council members called for a statewide movement against such placements. 
The situation has devolved to the point where threats have been made against the children of the director of the state agency charged with placing offenders in communities.

Read more here.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Supreme Court to rule on sex offender social media ban

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether North Carolina can ban registered sex offenders from accessing social media sites that allow access to minors.

Lester Packingham was charged with maintaining a Facebook page in violation of the state's ban. The North Carolina Supreme Court said the law is constitutional after a lower court said it is not.
"The statute singles out a subclass of persons, who are subject to criminal punishment based on expressive, associational, and communicative activities at the heart of the First Amendment, without any requirement that their activity caused any harm or was intended to," Packingham's petition states.     According to the petition, the North Carolina law bans registered sex offenders from accessing "a wide array of websites—including Facebook, YouTube, and—that enable communication, expression, and the exchange of information among their users, if the site is 'know[n]' to allow minors to have accounts."
Read more from Courthouse News Service.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

More Information on Doe v. Snyder Decision

The state of Michigan is appealing a 6th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that found that Michigan's sex offender registry is, in fact, punishment. As the legal wrangling continues, attorneys for the victors offer some background on the case and decision, and provide some guidance for those who may be affected by the decision.

Read more here.

Canadian judge says national sex offender registry unconstitutional

Perhaps this sort of judicial thinking will migrate south this winter:
An Edmonton judge has ruled that the national sex offender registry is unconstitutional as it is "over broad and grossly disproportionate" and violates people of their charter rights.
 According to an article in the Edmonton Sun, Justice Andrea Moen issued the ruling in a case involving a man convicted of two sexual assaults.

"In my view, including offenders on the registry who have little to no chance of reoffending bears no relation to protecting the public. Subjecting all offenders, regardless of their future risk, to onerous reporting requirements, random compliance checks by the police and internal stigma, goes further than what is necessary to accomplish the goal of protecting the public, and is therefore over broad," said Moen.
 Read more in the Edmonton Sun.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Justice Department will enforce limits on landlord background checks

From the Collateral Consequences Resource Center:
Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued new guidance asserting that housing policies that exclude people with criminal records may violate the non-discrimination provisions of the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) if they fail to consider the nature, severity, and recency of criminal conduct and if they are not narrowly tailored to protect residents or property.  The Justice Department has taken the first step toward judicial enforcement of this guidance.
 Read more here.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Debunking Halloween Sex Offender Hysteria

In the latest Solitary Nation podcast, host Matt Duhamel talks with RSOL Executive Director Brenda Jones about some of the ridiculous restrictions on the activities of registered sex offenders on Halloween and other holidays.

Studies on registered sex offenders have shown no significant increase in risk for non-familial child sexual abuse on or just prior to Halloween, though states and cities continue to pass restrictions that most say are based on fear and moral panic. Some states have enacted postings of signs that read: "No Candy at this Residence", or "No trick, no treat, no candy" for registered sex offenders. (most of these restrictions are for sex offenders on parole or probation)

Watch the podcast here.

Illinois Court Upholds SO Internet Identifier Law

In a ruling that contradicted some previous federal court decisions, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld the state's law requiring registered sex offenders to disclose internet identifiers and websites. 

The case began when a McLean County man who was adjudicated a sex offender as a juvenile failed to tell police about updates to his Facebook page in August 2014.  
Mark Minnis was indicted for failing to register as a sex offender under Section 3(a) of the Sex Offender Registration Act when he did not include the page in registration forms and police found he had changed his cover photo on the social networking site.

The court ruled that the law does not restrict what registrants may say, and any adverse impacts stem from a registrants' conviction and not from the law itself. The decision contradicts federal court rulings from several other states, including Nebraska.
The court cited federal cases from Nebraska, California and North Dakota in which courts struck down similar statutes, finding that publicly accessible sites such as blogs and forums didn’t “reasonably” pose threats from sex offenders. 
But the justices wrote that “these courts failed to recognize the breadth necessary to protect the public” or engage in the appropriate analysis of the issue.

Read more details of the decision from the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Australian editorial: Detaining people after their sentence is "unconscionable"

An editorial from Australia lambastes laws that lock people up after their prison sentence is over. The writer compares such laws with laws imposed in Nazi Germany.
The inherent unfairness of dangerous offender laws was summarised by great English jurist Tom Bingham. In The Rule of Law, published just before he died in 2010, Bingham, who had been the UK’s top judge, said detaining people without charge was “previously the hallmark of authoritarian regimes”.
Locking people away after they complete their sentence on the basis of predictions about reoffending...was a tool used by the Nazis in the 1930s, just as Bingham observed.
Read the full editorial here.

Friday, October 14, 2016

FEARLESS meets Monday evening

The October FEARLESS meeting is at 7:00 p.m. Monday, October 17, at St. Michael's Lutheran Church, 13232 Blondo Street in Omaha.

Among the topics to be discussed: ways to connect with SOs while they are in the Nebraska prison system. Join the conversation and share your story Monday night.

FEARLESS meets the third Monday of every month. It's a safe place for registered citizens, their families and friends, to gather for support and conversation.

Join us Monday night!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

IML Report to Congress Addresses Passport Identifiers, Notifications to Foreign Counries

Three executive branch agencies — the Departments of State, Homeland Security, and Justice — have reported to Congress their plans to implement the International Megan’s Law (IML). The 17-page report also includes a request for an additional $9.3 million in funding each year to implement that law.
Read more, including the full report, here.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Registry all cost no benefit

In an op-ed for the Columbia (SC) State newspaper, Don Thurber writes that sex offender registries cost states millions of dollars while providing little, if any, public benefit. For example, Thurber says the sex offender registry would have done nothing to prevent the abduction and murder of Jacob Wetterling.
Interestingly, Patty Wetterling, who championed the original registry law, now advocates for scaling back registries, recognizing that what they have become has diminished their usefulness and caused untold collateral damage...Scaling back the registry would no doubt raise the hackles of some who love to play the label-and-hate game, but doing so would be the most just and economically expedient thing to do.
Full article here.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Interestingly, Patty Wetterling, who championed the original registry law, now advocates for scaling back registries, recognizing that what they have become has diminished their usefulness and caused untold collateral damage...Scaling back the registry would no doubt raise the hackles of some who love to play the label-and-hate game, but doing so would be the most just and economically expedient thing to do.
Read more here:
Read more here:

Thursday, October 6, 2016

How "risk assessment" tools condemn people to indefinite detention

If you're a registered sex offender, then you've likely undergone some form of risk assessment, purportedly to determine how likely it is that you will commit another sex offense..

Writing for Truthout, Erica Meiners questions whether risk assessment tools are an effective way to predict future criminal activity, or whether they're merely a tool to justify locking people up indefinitely.
While locking people up for potential crimes might sound like a middling Tom Cruise movie, or a new FX series, this future is now. Through predictive policing, criminogenics and risk assessment, our current wave of criminal justice reform argues that we can identify who is dangerous, who is likely to break the law. Risk assessment is increasingly used to determine who will be released on bail, who will be sentenced to prison, who will be granted parole and who will be kept on supervision once released.
This is especially true in the world of sex offenses, where more than 5,000 people are held in civil commitment facilities, sometimes long after their prison sentences end.
While locking up people with convictions for sex offenses for years beyond their legal sentences may sound appealing to people seeking to combat sexual violence in our society, in truth, post-release punishments for people with convictions for sex offenses have done nothing verifiable to reduce rates of sexual violence. There is no research that suggests that sex offender registries and the multiplying regime of community notification laws, for example, have reduced child sexual violence, caught perpetrators, or protected children: Research supported by the US Department of Justice concludes that Megan's Law, a key federal law that contributed to the establishment of sex offender registries, "has no effect on reducing the number of victims involved in sexual offenses." States with civil commitment do not have lower rates of child sexual violence than states without civil commitment. Labeling the passports of people with convictions for sex offenses, or limiting their housing options and employment opportunities, does not reduce child sexual violence. 
Meiners delves into the history of risk assessment, and its resurgence in recent years, with talk of criminal justice reform. But what is the purpose of "reforming" a system that may not actually work?
Similarly, cities pay to expand facilities to monitor those with convictions for sex offenses, including civil commitment institutions, despite the fact that research has demonstrated that registries, and an array of other punitive responses, have neither protected children nor ended sexual violence. If our goal is to end, or reduce, sexual violence, why not focus and support proven preventative measures, including meaningful sex education and non-stigmatizing mental health care? Why not focus on ending patriarchy? 
Read Meiners' full article at Truthout.

When Jesus looks like a sex offender

How should churches react when they find a registered sex offender worshiping in their midst? In a moving post for Patheos, Mennonite pastor Hugh Hollowell explains how his congregation openly welcomes registered citizens - and others.

At our weekly service, we share communion every week. And I always end the words of institution with the same words:  
“Churches have argued over the years about who gets to take communion – just who is welcome at the table. 
Some say it is only for members of a particular church. Others say only the baptized can come. But here in our community, we are clear that this ritual reminds us of a meal Jesus once shared. And in our examination of the scriptures, we don’t see anywhere where someone wanted to eat with Jesus and was turned away. 
So we won’t turn you away either. We don’t care what you’ve done. Or where you’ve been. Or even what you believe right now. All that matters is that you want to be here. And if you do, then you are welcome, and we invite you to come forward.”
Why should such a sentiment seem so remarkable?

Read Rev. Hollowell's blog post here.

Making the case against banishing sex offenders

Sex offender residency restrictions are still politically popular, but are they losing steam legally? Maurice Chammah, writing for the Texas Observer, says many court rulings are going against such laws in states and communities across the country - including many local restrictions in Texas.
In August, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated a Michigan law that retroactively applied various restrictions to people convicted before the laws were passed. Judge Alice Batchelder wrote that the law “has much in common with banishment and public shaming.” Since 2014, state and federal judges have struck down laws restricting where sex offenders can live in California, New York and Massachusetts. In addition to the Texas lawsuits, there are ongoing legal battles over registries and restrictions associated with them in Illinois, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Alabama, Colorado, Nevada and Idaho, among other states.
Research has consistently shown that residency restrictions do not work.

Read the full article from the Texas Observer.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Sex-offender Registries: How the Wetterling abduction changed the country

American Public Media looks at how sex offender registries have expanded in the United States over the last two decades, following the abduction of Jacob Wetterling. While the registries are largely popular with the public, researchers question how useful they are.
The number of people on the nation's sex-offender registries has exploded to hundreds of thousands. But researchers question the registries' effectiveness, note their inconsistencies and suggest they might be doing more harm than good. Even Patty Wetterling has changed her views. 
Read the article here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Family Takes in Sex Offender, Hysteria Ensues

From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the heartbreaking story of the backlash sparked by a family's attempt to take in a family member who is a Level III sex offender.

For 50 years, the Jefferson family has lived in the same home in Birchwood Village on southwestern White Bear Lake.
Patriarch Tom Jefferson started an insurance agency that still operates. Of his five children, a son started a construction business that built several local homes. His twin daughters were lauded for rescuing hurt or lost animals.
What they thought would be a gesture of compassion outraged their community.
Read the rest of the story in the Star-Tribune online.