Friday, March 31, 2017

Bill to immediately restore ex-felon voting rights closer to approval

The Nebraska Legislature gave initial approval to a bill that would allow ex-felons to regain their right to vote immediately after completing their prison sentence or probation. There is currently a two year wait before voting rights can be restored.

The Legislature gave first round approval to the bill (LB 75) on Friday. It must clear two more votes before being sent to the governor. The initial vote was 28-8 in favor of the bill.

More information here.

ND lawmakers know better, still approve residency restriction

North Dakota lawmaker have approved a statewide residency restrictions for registered sex offenders considered to be at high risk to re-offend. If approved, the law would prohibit 583 people from living within 500 feet of a school.

The West Fargo Pioneer reports that the director of North Dakota's sex offender program spoke against the bill, as did one legislator.
The lone dissenting vote against Meier’s bill came from Rep. Luke Simons, R-Dickinson, who believes decisions on sex-offender residency restrictions should be left up to local municipalities.
Simons said several representatives approached him after the vote and told him they wished they could have voted with him. "But they were afraid the news media would have ripped them up too much," he said. "It's such an unpopular opinion that nobody wants to talk about."
Remember, there is no evidence that residency restrictions accomplish anything.

Nebraska Sex-Offender Website Guidelines

It is time for a refresher course in using the Nebraska Sex-Offender website managed by the Nebraska State Patrol. There are eight basic guidelines, and we have posted one a day until today. Here is the eighth and final guideline. Share these guidelines as much as you possibly can.

Guideline 8:  Never forget the consequences of other laws that publicly labeled people as dangerous (see photo that we have been running with the posts on these guidelines). Nebraska's Sex Offender Registry website has harmed many children.

View all of the the Guidelines here.

Nebraska Sex-Offender Website Guidelines

It is time for a refresher course in using the Nebraska Sex-Offender website managed by the Nebraska State Patrol. There are eight basic guidelines, and we'll post one a day until we're done.

Guideline 7:  If you find that you have a neighbor listed on the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry website, and your neighbor lives with her or his family, holds a job and leads a productive life, that person probably is no more dangerous than you yourself are. Under no circumstances should you buy into typical popular news media stories about sex offenders. News media and law enforcement work together to scare you. The tactic backfired in 2010 in Lincoln, Neb., when law enforcement invited news media to tag along while they went around to bust sex offenders. A 22-year-old mom who stayed for the weekend at a childcare provider’s home with her young toddler was cuffed in front of the child and hauled off to jail. This is how the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry website protects children? By ripping young moms away from their children for technical violations? The example also typifies news media gullibility. They excitedly report it when a “registered sex offender” reoffends. The fact is, that’s news because it is so rare. Neither law enforcement nor news media will report on the vast majority of registrants who never reoffend but continue paying the state-imposed penalty of public shame.

View all of the the Guidelines here.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Nebraska Sex-Offender Website Guidelines

It is time for a refresher course in using the Nebraska Sex-Offender website managed by the Nebraska State Patrol. There are eight basic guidelines, and we'll post one a day until we're done.

Guideline 6:  Evidence shows that a stable home life, employment and reintegration into their communities are among factors that reduce the likelihood of reoffense. This means that the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry website makes Nebraska more dangerous because it causes people to lose their jobs and their homes, and it causes their families to suffer. The latest Public Safety Brief from the Council of State Governments states that the vast majority of child molestations — well over 90 percent — are first-time offenses committed by someone known to and close to the family. The Nebraska Sex Offender Registry website does not protect children, it puts children at higher risk because it focuses attention on people who are not going to molest a child. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics has found that just 14 percent of all sexual assault cases reported to law enforcement agencies involved offenders who were strangers to their victims. Sexual assault victims under the age of 18 at the time of the crime knew their abusers in nine out of 10 cases: the abusers were family members in 34 percent of cases, and acquaintances in another 59 percent of cases.

View all of the the Guidelines here.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Papillion, Sarpy County, sued over dismissed child porn charges

The Omaha World-Herald reports that Papillion, Sarpy County, along with the Sarpy County Attorney and several law enforcement officers, have been named in a federal lawsuit over the 2015 arrest of a former Nebraska resident.
Wadith “Paul” and Stacey “Nikki” Nader had their lives turned upside down in 2015. 
That year, Paul Nader was arrested, charged with seven counts of child pornography and held in the Sarpy County Jail for almost a month. His arrest was reported on TV and online, along with his booking photo. Reporters talked to his neighbors about how he interacted with his kids. 
Then, seven months after the arrest, the charges were dismissed.
Nader was held in jail for a month and was not allowed to see his children for 79 days after he was released from jail. The charges against him were dismissed in October of 2015.

Read more in the Omaha World-Herald

Nebraska Sex-Offender Website Guidelines

It is time for a refresher course in using the Nebraska Sex-Offender website managed by the Nebraska State Patrol. There are eight basic guidelines, and we'll post one a day until we're done.

Guideline 5:  The Nebraska Legislature’s finding from the 1990s that all sex offenders are dangerous was not based on any scientific, empirical evidence. It was a politically-motivated “made up” finding that was based on popular myth. There is a vast and growing body of evidence that the reverse is actually true – that sex offenders are among the least likely to reoffend. The Legislative Finding is made up in the same way that the oft-repeated “50,000 online predators” number was made up. This round, easy-to-remember number (which is just a lie) was fabricated by the network that brought you “To Catch a Predator.”

View all of the the Guidelines here.

Why we still need statute of limitations for rape

Writing at, Elizabeth Nolan Brown explains why the recent push to eliminate the statute of limitations on sexual assault cases is not such a good idea.
Since the start of 2017, legislatures in Minnesota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Washington state, and Washington, D.C. have considered bills that would drastically expand or outright end the statute of limitations for pressing charges in sexual assault cases. In late 2016, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a measure removing the state's statute of limitations on rape and other sexual offenses entirely; prosecution was previously limited to 10 years. 
Supporters of these changes argue that certain circumstances may make it hard for victims to come forward in a timely manner. Those abused in childhood may not come to terms with it until well into adulthood. Those in abusive relationships may be afraid to report. Or sometimes victims do report and there's not enough evidence to prosecute at the time but DNA evidence discovered later changes that. But while all of this may be true, none of it holds up to scrutiny as an argument for ending statutes of limitations entirely.
Read Brown's full argument here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Briefing the Supreme Court: Promoting Science or Myth?

Must read via the Florida Action Committee:

Melissa Hamilton’s forthcoming article in the Emory Law Journal is a must read. It discusses the recent Packingham SCOTUS hearing and how after all this time and all these studies, the MYTH of high recidivism rates is still being thrown around the courts.
Read Melissa Hamilton's report here.

Nebraska Sex-Offender Website Guidelines

It is time for a refresher course in using the Nebraska Sex-Offender website managed by the Nebraska State Patrol. There are eight basic guidelines, and we'll post one a day until we're done.

Guideline 4:  The Nebraska Sex Offender Registry website prior to Jan. 1, 2010, included only individuals who were at high risk to reoffend. Since Jan. 1, 2010, the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry website has included people who are not dangerous as well as people who are innocent of what they were accused of doing. These are individuals who accepted plea agreements rather than deal with our society’s “guilty until proven innocent” attitude toward sexual offenses. By listing them on the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry website, the state violated their plea agreements and legal action is being pursued to hold the state accountable.

View all of the the Guidelines here.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Supreme Court has not decided whether it will review Does v. Snyder

News from the U.S. Supreme Court – the court has NOT decided whether it will review Doe v. Snyder, last summer’s ground-breaking decision by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals

The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to review an important ruling (Doe v. Snyder) which was handed down last summer by a federal appeals court, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.  The request was discussed in a private conference last Friday and today we learned the result – the Supreme Court has made NO decision on the request for review.  They did not reject it, they did not grant it.  Instead the Supreme Court asked the Solicitor General for their opinion, in the form of a legal brief.  The Solicitor General is the lawyer who represents the federal government – the Trump Administration -- in Supreme Court matters.  What does this mean?  The Supreme Court did not outright reject the request for review but they apparently have some interest in this case and might still decide to grant review in the near future.  So stay tuned for further action by the Supreme Court.

What’s at stake:  Doe v. Snyder is a big victory and when the 6th Circuit issued its decision it became the first federal appeals court to rule that parts of a sex offense registration law are punishment, and unconstitutional if they’re applied retroactively.  Michigan’s sex offense registry law was challenged and it was cut back by the 6th Circuit’s decision.  Michigan lost so they’re hoping to undo the damage to their registration law by asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the 6th Circuit decision. 

What about Supreme Court review of this case, good or bad idea?   If the Supreme Court rejects the request for review, the 6th Circuit decision stands and is in effect for Michigan and the other states (Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee) in that federal circuit.  If the Supreme Court agrees to review the case, anything can happen – the Supreme Court could uphold the 6th Circuit’s decision or change it or even uphold the Michigan registration law.  If the Supreme Court grants review, by the time the case is actually heard the currently vacant seat on the court is likely to be filled with a Trump administration nominee.  With so much uncertainty, some would prefer the Supreme Court refuse to review the case and just let the 6th Circuit decision alone.  The 6th Circuit decision means that a number of people will be freed from the registry but that is up in the air while the Supreme Court decides what to do.  Bold and ground-breaking, the 6th Circuit ruling is already influencing other courts.   –Bill Dobbs, The Dobbs Wire

Here’s what the U.S. Supreme Court had to say this morning, March 27, 2017:

The Acting Solicitor General is invited to file a brief in this case expressing the views of the United States. LINK HERE

Update: National RSOL considers what the the Supreme Court's action could mean. LINK HERE

Nebraska Sex-Offender Website Guidelines

It is time for a refresher course in using the Nebraska Sex-Offender website managed by the Nebraska State Patrol. There are eight basic guidelines, and we'll post one a day until we're done.

Guideline 3: The Nebraska Sex Offender Registry website includes some people who have been evaluated and deemed to be at high risk to reoffend, but you cannot tell who those people are. Under Nebraska law, some of them are on the registry for only 10 years because Nebraska no longer pays any attention to risk of reoffense.

View all of the the Guidelines here.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Nebraska Sex-Offender Website Guidelines

It is time for a refresher course in using the Nebraska Sex-Offender website managed by the Nebraska State Patrol. There are eight basic guidelines, and we'll post one a day until we're done.

Guideline 2:  The Nebraska Sex Offender Registry website includes many people who were evaluated and deemed to be of low risk to reoffend, and thus were not on the website prior to Jan. 1, 2010. Some of those people are now on the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry website for life even though their offenses were committed years ago and they long ago completed their sentences.

View all of the the Guidelines here.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Nebraska Sex-Offender Website Guidelines

It is time for a refresher course in using the Nebraska Sex-Offender website managed by the Nebraska State Patrol. There are eight basic guidelines, and we'll post one a day until we're done.

Guideline 1: The majority of the people on the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry website are not dangerous. The Nebraska Sex Offender Registry website is not based on any scientific risk of reoffense.

View all of the the Guidelines here.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Court blasts NY officials for holding SO's past release date

A New York court is taking state prison officials to task for policies that allow sex offenders to remain locked up long past their release dates.

The case in question involved a man, in prison for second-degree rape, who remained locked up four months after he was to have been released -- due to residency restrictions.
Under the Sexual Assault Reform Act, Gonzalez is not allowed to live within 1,000 feet of a school or any place where children congregate during his probation. The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision interpreted this statute a little more than three years ago to include homeless shelters falling within that distance.As The New York Times reported at the time, this rule has had a “profound effect in New York City, where only 14 of the 270 shelters” are eligible to intake sex offenders. There are dozens of sex offenders like Gonzalez who have been forced to stay in prison beyond their release dates because the law’s residency restrictions.
The court ruled that state officials did not do enough to help Mr. Gonzalez find adequate housing.

Read more from the Courthouse News Service.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Dobbs Wire: Vermont does the registry different

Like all states Vermont has a sex offense registry and there’s a website to make the information available worldwide, 24/7.   “Community notification” is the official purpose but extreme ‘naming and shaming’ a more honest take.  The typical registry website has a great deal of personal information about registrants including name, age, photo, home address, details about the offense and victim, and more.   Vermont does it a little different, the town or city is included but not the street address – apparently out of concern for  accuracy and that address information can facilitate harassment or even vigilante attacks.  There’s pressure to add the addresses for some categories of registrants.  Have a look at this Burlington Free Press story which takes a surprising turn at the end -- don’t miss Karen Tronsgard-Scott’s perspective, she’s the director of Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.  –Bill Dobbs, The Dobbs Wire 

Read the article in the Burlington Free Press.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Unjust, Irrational, and Unconstitutional Consequences of Pedophilia Panic

Writing in the April online edition of Reason magazine, Jacob Sullom, takes on the irrationality that exists in our nation's sex offender laws. In his wide-ranging essay, Sullom writes that public fear and disgust lead to strange and uneven outcomes in sex offenses involving minors.
Under federal law...looking at child pornography can be punished as severely as sexually assaulting a child. Receiving child pornography, which could mean viewing a single image, triggers a mandatory minimum sentence of five years. The maximum penalty for receiving or distributing child pornography is 20 years, and federal sentencing guidelines recommend stiff enhancements based on factors that are very common in these cases, such as using a computer, possessing more than 600 images (with each video counted as 75 images), and trading images for something of value, including other images.
Many federal judges have begun to question the sentencing guidelines.
As a result of congressional edicts, the average sentence in federal child pornography cases that do not involve production rose from 54 months in 2004 to 95 months in 2010, according to a 2012 report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC). Many federal judges have rebelled against what they perceive as patently unjust sentences for such offenses. In 2005 the Supreme Court ruled that federal sentencing guidelines (as opposed to mandatory minimums set by statute) are merely advisory, freeing judges to depart from them in the interest of justice. After that decision, according to the 2012 USSC report, "the rate of non-production cases in which sentences were imposed within the applicable guideline range steadily fell from its high point in fiscal year 2004, at 83.2 percent of cases, to 40.0 percent of cases in fiscal year 2010, and to 32.7 percent of cases in fiscal year 2011."

Read Sullom's full essay at Reason online.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Committee hears testimony on "ban-the-box" bill

The Nebraska Legislature's Business and Labor Committee heard testimony Monday on legislation (LB 420) that would remove criminal history check boxes from private employment applications. 
State Sen. John McCollister of Omaha explained that Legislative Bill 420 would prevent employers from requiring disclosure of criminal history on the application only. During the interview process, employers would be allowed to ask about an applicant’s criminal background.
The bill seeks to give those convicted of felonies a chance to be judged on their qualifications and work history, not a past criminal violation.
Those testifying in favor of the bill included former felons.
Two former inmates convicted of sex crimes told committee members how they have filled out dozens of job applications only to get one or two callbacks. 
Read more here.

 Text of LB 420

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Sex offender laws: Shaming the Constitution

"Shaming the Constitution: The Detrimental Results of Sexual Violent Predator Legislation" is a new book by Michael L. Perlin and Heather Ellis Cucolo.

Here is a summary from the publisher, Temple University Press.

Convicted sexually violent predators are more vilified, more subject to media misrepresentation, and more likely to be denied basic human rights than any other population. Shaming the Constitution authors Michael Perlin and Heather Cucolo question the intentions of sex offender laws, offering new approaches to this most complex (and controversial) area of law and social policy.

The authors assert that sex offender laws and policies are unconstitutional and counter-productive. The legislation largely fails to add to public safety-even ruining lives for what are, in some cases, trivial infractions. Shaming the Constitution draws on law, behavioral sciences, and other disciplines to show that many of the "solutions" to penalizing sexually violent predators are "wrong," as they create the most repressive and useless laws.

In addition to tracing the history of sex offender laws, the authors address the case of Jesse Timmendequas, whose crime begat "Megan's Law;" the media's role in creating a "moral panic;" recidivism statistics and treatments, as well as international human rights laws. Ultimately, they call attention to the flaws in the system so we can find solutions that contribute to public safety in ways that do not mock Constitutional principles.

Find out more here.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Sex offender registries based on a lie

Two recent editorials - one by Radley Balko in the Washington Post and the other by David Feige in Slate - explain that the common justification for harsh sex offender registries - "frightening and high" recidivism rates - is a lie.

Feige highlights some relevant statistics.
In reality, sex offenders have among the lowest same-crime recidivism rates of any category of offender. Indeed, in the most comprehensive single study on reoffense rates to date, the U.S. Department of Justice followed every sex offender released in almost 15 states for three years. The recidivism rate? Just 3.5 percent. These numbers have been subsequently verified in study after study. The state of Connecticut Criminal Justice Policy and Planning Division did a five-year study that found a recidivism rate of 3.6 percent. A Maine study found that released sex offenders were arrested for a new sex crime at a rate of 3.9 percent. Government studies in Alaska, Delaware, Iowa, and South Carolina have also replicated these results—all finding same-crime recidivism rates of between 3.5 and 4 percent.
Also, read the 2013 University of Nebraska-Omaha study.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Legislature debates bill to reform mandatory minimum sentences

The Legislature began debate Tuesday on a bill (LB 447) that would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for some crimes.
The bill would eliminate the mandatory minimum sentences for Class IC and ID felonies. Those minimum sentences of three or five years must be served before any good time can be counted against a sentence. 
Class IC felonies include use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, possession of certain amounts of illegal drugs, and distribution and manufacture of hazardous drugs in a school zone. Class ID offenses include possession of certain illegal drugs (10-28 grams), assault on a police officer or health care professional, some hate crimes, possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking offense or by a prohibited person, and manufacture or distribution of child pornography. 
Read more about the debate here and here.

Text of LB 447 

Monday, March 6, 2017

NY Times questions "frightening and high" sex offender recidivism rates

Writing in the New York Times, Adam Liptak calls the long-standing, and discredited, popular myth of "frightening and high" sex offender recidivism rates "dubious." That myth was used by a lawyer for North Carolina in an argument before the U.S. Supreme Court supporting that state's law banning registered citizens from many popular social media sites.

The "frightening and high" claim went unchallenged in the North Carolina case, but Liptak writes that may soon change, thanks to a 2016 federal appeals court decision.
Judge Alice M. Batchelder, writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, described “the significant doubt cast by recent empirical studies on the pronouncement in Smith that ‘the risk of recidivism posed by sex offenders is “frightening and high.’”
The appeals court struck down a particularly strict Michigan sex-offender law as a violation of the Constitution’s ex post facto clause, saying it retroactively imposed punishment on people who had committed offenses before the law was enacted. The state has asked the Supreme Court to consider the case, Does v. Snyder, No. 16-768. The first paragraph of its petition says that the risk of recidivism “remains ‘frightening and high.’”
The constitutional question in the case is interesting and substantial. And hearing the case would allow the court to consider more fully its casual assertion that sex offenders are especially dangerous.
Read Liptak's full column in the New York Times.

Related: How the Supreme Court spread a false statistic about sex offenders.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Parenting polices relaxed for Colorado RSOs

A 2014 court ruling is prompting Colorado to relax stringent laws that can often prevent registered sex offenders from having contact with their own children. 

Among the judges responsible for the 2014 ruling is current U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.
The panel ruled that the constitutional rights of an Oklahoma man being released from prison for possession of child pornography were violated when a judge required him to get approval from the probation department before having contact with his youngest daughter.
The judge failed to make specific findings as to why restricting contact with the daughter was warranted, the panel ruled. There was no evidence the man had “abused or sexually molested children,” and he had “had a positive relationship with four of his five children,” the panel found.
According to this report in the Denver Post, Colorado officials have been working to change the rules in order to comply with the ruling.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Who is a sex offender?

From Daily Kos, a frank and thoughtful commentary on child porn and those who consume it.
You are not going to like this article. In fact, unless you are on the sex offender list or someone you care about is being forced to live with this stigma, chances are that you have almost no sympathy for those who have been found guilty of sex crimes. I would like to ask you to think about these people with an open mind. 
Read more here.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Committee advances bill to immediately restore ex-felon voting rights

A Nebraska Legislative committee has advanced a bill (LB75) that would immediately restore voting rights to ex-felons who have completed their sentence.

Current law requires a two year waiting period before voting rights are restored. The Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee advanced the bill on a 5-1 vote after a hearing Wednesday.

Read more here.

LB75 text