Monday, January 30, 2017

Sex Offender Laws Fair for Some, Draconian for Others

Robert Weiss writes in Psychology Today:
In my previous posting to this site, “Is it Automatically OK to Hate Sex Offenders?,” I discussed the various types of sexual offenders, noting that some are more likely to respond to treatment and less likely to reoffend than others. In this follow-up article, I discuss the fact that even though not all sex offenders are created equally, they are uniformly subjected to the same highly punitive and largely inflexible sentencing laws. Both my previous posting and this article are drawn from an academic report I was asked to write for Sex Offender Law Report.
Full article

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The government made me a sex offender

How easy is it to become a sex offender, at least in the eyes of the government? An essay in the San Diego Reader - by a man who is not a registered sex offender - explains.
I stood silently as the customs official swiped my passport through the card reader at his station. He swiped it again then lifted his head and stared at me judgmentally. Turning to his terminal, he began typing frantically. “Is something wrong?” I asked, knowing that something indeed was wrong. “Is it the magnetic strip?”“No,” he stated tersely. “The computer has flagged you as a sex offender.” 
 Read more here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Lawsuit says NC registry has gone too far

Another lawsuit has been filed challenging a state's sex offender registration laws, this time in North Carolina. Two registrants are named in the lawsuit.
The offenders contend that North Carolina's law violates the U.S. Constitution by imposing added penalties after conviction and sentencing, for example by extending the years an offender must register. The lawsuit says they are unconstitutionally banned from practicing their religion by being forbidden from entering churches, and from petitioning their government representatives by effectively being excluded from the General Assembly building.
Full article here.

Read the complaint here.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Nebraska Lawmakers Should Consider Facts, NOT Politically Popular (and Dangerous) Myth About Registered Citizens

Another attempt to pile on punishment for Registered Citizens has emerged in the Nebraska Legislature with Sen. Brett Lindstrom's not-very-well-thought-out knee-jerk reaction to a court ruling.

Because a court correctly recognized that very few Registered Citizens are dangerous (despite what Nebraska law wrongly assumes), Lindstrom now wants to insert government into family matters in a way that is intrusive, wrong and will not protect anyone from harm.

Lindstrom's proposed bill will give a vindictive former spouse a means to stir up a custody battle and victimize children, who should not become pawns in couples' ugly divorce fights.

Nebraska senators considering this (and any other attempt to make bad law worse) should instead look at the facts -- established by the Legislature itself -- surrounding Registered Citizens:


People on Nebraska's Registry are mostly not dangerous (UNO study commissioned by the Legislature).


Ever-expanding laws hammering Registered Citizens (motivated mostly by political ambition and NOT by concern for public safety) are not effective.


There are some sensible policy changes that lawmakers could make that would indeed create a safer Nebraska.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Questioning severity of punishments for SO's

Rebecca DiBennardo, a PhD candidate at UCLA, questions whether sex offenders are punished too harshly, especially considering recent discussions of criminal justice reform.
Even as we reduce sentencing for drug, firearm possession, and other crimes, sex offender laws in the United States continue to expand and become more severe. Since the 1996 passage of “Megan’s Law,” for example, all 50 states require sex offenders–including juveniles in 37 states–to register and provide their personal information (including pictures and home addresses) on publicly available databases, often for the duration of their lives. 
Read more here.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Bill would immediately restore voting rights to ex-felons

Nebraska Sen. Justin Wayne has introduced legislation that would immediately restore voting rights to felons who have served their time, eliminating the current two-year waiting period.

The story is reported in the Lincoln Journal-Star.
Approximately 7,819 former felons in Nebraska were restricted from voting in the 2010 elections, the ACLU reported. Every year, the Nebraska Department of Corrections estimates 2,000 people with a felony conviction complete their sentence.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Court rules Minnesota civil commitment program is constitutional

A federal appeals court has overturned a lower court decision in ruling that Minnesota's sex offender civil commitment program is constitutional. Judge Donovan Frank ruled against the program in 2015.
The appeals court ruled that Frank erred in finding the program unconstitutional, saying he held the state to an overly high standard when he declared the program shocked the conscience. The panel concluded that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that any of the state's actions or shortcomings in the program "were egregious, malicious, or sadistic as is necessary to meet the conscience-shocking standard."Dan Gustafson, lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit, said they're "really disappointed" and are considering an appeal to either the full 8th Circuit or to the U.S. Supreme Court. He said Frank's ruling had given them some hope that they weren't just being "warehoused."

More than 700 people are confined under the program. In 20 years, just one person has been released from civil commitment in Minnesota.

Read more here and here.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Bill proposed in response to RSO custody case

Nebraska State Sen. Brett Lindstrom is prepared to introduce a bill in response to a Supreme Court decision allowing two girls to remain in the home of a registered sex offender.

Joe Duggan reports in the Omaha World-Herald that the bill would make it harder for a parent who moves in with a registered citizen to maintain custody of his/her children.
The current law presumes a child is at risk when a felony sex offender occupies the same residence. But it also allows the parent who chooses to live with a sex offender to present evidence that mitigates the risk.If a judge finds the risk is not significant, the burden shifts to the parent seeking to remove the children...Lindstrom’s legislation, which he will introduce sometime after the Legislature convenes Wednesday, would amend the current law to say that unsupervised contact with sex offenders “shall be presumed to not be in the child’s best interests.”It would then be up to the parent to convince the court that living in unsupervised contact with a felony sex offender is in the child’s best interest.Another provision of Lindstrom’s bill would require one parent to notify the other in writing before allowing a sex offender to move in.
Read more in the Omaha World-Herald