Tuesday, May 30, 2017

If Drunk Drivers Were Treated Like Sex Offenders

The latest from SOSEN:
Nobody likes sex offenders. People aren’t very fond of drunk drivers, either. In fact persons convicted of DUI, DWI are thousands of times more likely to be involved in the same type of crime again, and kill or injure far more people including children and young adults each year than previously convicted sex offenders. But no matter how egregious the crime, both groups are entitled to the same rights under our Constitution. In particular, after they complete their punishment, they should be DONE and able to start over. If they offend again, then the punishment should be swift and more harsh. Their families, especially their children, should not be harassed and ostracize simply for living with a former offender. This is what we, as Americans, expect from our legal system and from each other. This satirical analogy is intended to show just how far from those expectations our government’s treatment of sex offenders has become. Hopefully you will agree that this “fake history” is absurd, unconstitutional, and would cause much more harm than good. Unfortunately, it has direct parallels to what has really been happening to sex offenders and their families.
 Read more here.

Monday, May 29, 2017

New Federal Sex Offender Bills Pass House

From the Florida Action Committee, a rundown of some of the federal sex offender bills that have passed the House of Representatives and moved on to the Senate.

Among the bills is reauthorization of the Adam Walsh Act, along with wonderfully-titled bills such as the "Global Child Protection Act," the "Strengthening Children's Safety Act," and the "Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act."

You can read more at the Florida Action Committee website.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Jacob Wetterling Center: Too Much Spent Watching Sex Offenders

A representative the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center says too much money is spent keeping track of registered sex offenders, and not enough is spent on prevention.

Alison Feigh is quoted in a story by television station KAAL-TV.
"We need to use our resources differently," she said. "And it shouldn't be all-in on using resources to watch sex offenders."
The problem, according to Feigh, is prevention efforts don't get a lot of money.
"We have so few resources in prevention; we want to use our resources on things that work," she said.  

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Podcast explores job security for ex-felons and registered sex offenders

The latest Solitary Nation podcast explores the vexing problem ex-felons -- especially registered sex offenders -- have finding steady employment.
Host, Matt Duhamel talks with Carolyn Esparza about his horrific experience with a Pacific Northwest employer over his criminal record from 10 years ago. Moving from Utah to Washington to take a full-time position with the company,                    , Matt faced major backlash within a matter of days due to his past. Though he admits he only provided the half truth about his crime, both Matt and Carolyn agree that the company and their CEO,             , handled the situation poorly.
Click here to listen to the Solitary Nation podcast.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

On the risk posed by those who view child porn

Forensic psychologist Karen Franklin writes a thought-provoking blog post about the prevalence and potential dangers of online pornography.

She also writes that those who view child pornography don't pose a high risk of committing contact sexual offenses.
The fact that reported child sexual abuse has continued to plummet in recent years despite the meteoric rise in child pornography argues against any direct causal link between child porn and hands-on offending. But direct research on child porn consumers is tricky, because such people are less than keen to reveal themselves. This has forced researchers to focus on those who have been apprehended, likely skewing data toward the more deviant and criminally-oriented. 
Despite this limitation, the cumulative data bring good tidings: Overall, men who have been arrested and/or convicted for child pornography offending pose a very low risk to the public. 
Aggregating nine extant studies on reoffense risk using meta-analytic methods, prominent pedophilia researcher Michael Seto and colleagues found that, on average, a man who has been caught with child porn has about a 3.4% chance of committing another non-contact offense. The risk he will actually molest a child is even lower, around 2%.
These extremely low risk levels -- especially for child pornography offenders with no known history of hands-on offending -- is further evidence that much of their misconduct is driven by curiosity and internet-enhanced impulsivity. Once caught, all but the most deviant learn their lesson and apparently refrain from further misconduct
You can read Franklin's post here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Lawsuit against Idaho registry expands...now includes more than 130 plaintiffs

A lawsuit filed last year on behalf of 104 registered sex offenders challenging provisions of Idaho's sex offender registry has expanded to now include 134 plaintiffs.

The lawsuit alleges the state's sex offender registry laws violate several constitutional guarantees -- including double jeopardy, due process, equal protection, religious freedom, and cruel and unusual punishment.
The plaintiffs come from across the state and country. Most were convicted of sexual offenses in the 1980s and 1990s. One of their major complaints is that amendments since then to Idaho’s sex-offender registry laws amount to retroactive punishment, which is unconstitutional.
Read more about the lawsuit in the Idaho Statesman.

Sanity returns to Missouri, at least for now

Hundreds of registered sex offenders in Missouri will be able to remove GPS monitors, thanks to a court injunction against a state law that took effect on January 1. 

As reported in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
The Department of Corrections Board of Probation and Parole said it installed 364 GPS ankle monitors on sex offenders in April because of new security requirements. This was done even though lifetime monitoring was not part of their sentencing agreement.
Officials told them the retroactive requirements are part of a revised state criminal code that went into effect Jan. 1. Offenders who either were found guilty or pleaded guilty to various sex crimes based on an act committed on or after Aug. 28, 2006, were subject to the added security measures.
Read the full article here.

MN sex offenders ask Supreme Court to rule on civil commitment

A group of registered sex offenders in Minnesota is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to rule whether that state's civil commitment program violates the U.S. Constitution.
In a petition filed Friday, attorneys representing the offenders allege that the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) infringes on their fundamental due process rights by operating a program without the basic safeguards of the criminal justice system -- effectively turning the MSOP into a "life sentence." Offenders, the petition argues, lack timely access to the courts and the opportunity for regular reviews to determine whether they still pose a danger to the public or deserve to be released.
Read more here.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Legislature approves harsher human trafficking penalties

The Nebraska Legislature has approved a bill (LB 289) that stiffens penalties for human trafficking. As reported in the Omaha World-Herald:
State lawmakers last week passed a bill that dramatically increases penalties for those who create the supply and demand for human trafficking. A minimum of one year in prison is likely for panderers and solicitors in such transactions. If children are exploited, both the pimps and johns could spend the rest of their lives in prison.
No senators voted against the bill, though some did raise questions about it, including whether or not it will be effective.
“As a general rule, where there is a demand, a supply will develop,” said State Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus, a former prosecutor. “It may be a bit of a deterrent, but a solution it probably isn’t.”
Advocates and experts say they are unaware of research that would show whether tougher punishments produce a noticeable drop in trafficking activity. While more scientific studies on human trafficking are being done, it’s still a growing area of research, one said.
Read more in the Omaha World-Herald.

Text of LB 289

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Fmr. Congressman pleads guilty; now sex offender

In the news, former U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner faces a prison term after pleading guilty in federal court to sending obscene text messages to a minor. 

Regardless of the sentence he receives in September, Weiner will have to register as a sex offender, becoming subject to the same draconian laws he helped pass when he was a Congressman.

In a heartfelt letter in the New York Daily News, Josh Gravens welcomes Weiner to his new life as a registered citizen.
I hope you have a great deal of money saved up. You will need it. Lucrative employment and housing options are nearly nonexistent for those forced to have their worst moments forever enshrined in what is our modern-day scarlet letter list: the public sex offender registry.
Even with access to money and connections, you will still share in the stigma that more than 800,000 other people in this country face daily (others registered include those who peed in a park, older teen with younger teen scenarios, kids as young as 9 or 10, those entrapped by officers pretending to be women online using bait-and-switch, as well as the more commonly assumed reasons for registration — assault, rape and child abuse).
You will probably have restrictions on where you can live and where you can physically be or drive. So many areas are potentially off-limits: parks, schools, places near a daycare or movie theater. Remember, you helped to pass these laws. Will people be any safer now that they are to be enforced on you?
No, society won't be any safer because Anthony Weiner -- or anyone -- is a registered sex offender. Hopefully he'll be able to return to leading a productive life after completing his sentence.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Registered citizens targeted by vigilantes

Writing for Prison Legal News, Matthew Clarke reports on one of the under-reported dark sides of sex offender registration and notification laws -- that vigilantes use information posted on registries to attack, and even murder,
registrants and their families.

Clarke highlights a few notable cases.
In July 2015, Nebraska registered sex offender Phillip McDaniel lost his appeal seeking workers compensation for an attack that had occurred two years earlier at the Western Sugar Cooperative, when a co-worker assaulted him with a brass hammer while calling him a “chimo” – slang for “child molester.”
The co-worker, Jason Bates, had become enraged after discovering that McDaniel was a registered sex offender. McDaniel suffered injuries to his nose, clavicle and left shoulder. He applied for workers compensation but was denied; after he appealed, the Nebraska Court of Appeals upheld the denial, finding that the attack was due to personal reasons even if the only relationship between the two was as co-workers. See: McDaniel v. Western Sugar Coop., 23 Neb. App. 35, 867 N.W.2d 302 (Neb. Ct. App. 2015).
That and other examples Clarke says are a small part of a much larger problem that gets scant public attention.
It is doubtful that any lawmakers would publicly support the assaults and murders of registered sex offenders, yet few have objected to those negative consequences of registries, nor do they typically try to curtail registration requirements or include protections for sex offenders whose publicly-posted information puts them at risk of vigilante attacks.  
Read the full report at Prison Legal News

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Legislature OK's another special committee to investigate state prisons

Maybe the third time's the charm?

From the Omaha World-Herald:
LINCOLN — The Nebraska Legislature will continue its extra scrutiny of the state’s corrections system.
On a 28-11 vote Thursday, lawmakers approved formation of the Nebraska Justice System Special Oversight Committee.
It is the third special committee formed by the Legislature since 2014 to look into chronic problems within the state prison system, which includes overcrowded prisons and inability to retain staff.
Read more here.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Hundreds of Missouri registrants subject to retroactive lifetime GPS monitoring

Hundreds of registered sex offenders in Missouri are now subject to lifetime GPS monitoring -- retroactively -- thanks to a provision in a law that took effect at the start of this year.
The retroactive requirements are part of a revised state criminal code that went into effect Jan. 1. Offenders either found guilty or who pleaded guilty to 13 various sex crimes in question based on an act committed on or after Aug. 28, 2006, are subject to the added security measurements. Previously, the monitoring technology was used for a more limited class of high-risk offenders.
 The law is being challenged in court.
“I don’t think a lawyer can make a straight-faced argument that it’s constitutional,” said Clayton-based attorney Matt Fry, who is suing the state on behalf of D.G. and has many other plaintiffs in the wings.
Read more here.

Colorado officials question costs of polygraph tests for sex offenders

Christopher Osher reports in the Denver Post how state officials in Colorado -- including legislators, judges, and psychologists -- are questioning that state's aggressive use of polygraph tests on registered sex offenders.

The report notes that Colorado has spent $5 million in the past seven years on such tests, despite questions about the accuracy and integrity of the test results.
Studies show that up to 70 percent of U.S. states polygraph sex offenders, but experts have testified that Colorado uses the tests aggressively, even polygraphing juvenile offenders for consensual sexting. Critics contend an entrenched and profitable cottage industry, rife with conflicts of interests, has grown up around polygraphing sex offenders in Colorado. 
“To me, there is no question that it borders on a scam,” said Senate President pro tem Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling. “We incentivize the people who give the polygraph tests to have inconclusive results so an offender has to go back and pay for another one on a more regular basis.”
Read the full report in the Denver Post.

In a related story, read about the potential conflict of interest with the professional polygrapher who sits on Colorado's Sex Offender Management Board. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Omaha FEARLESS meets Monday

Registered citizens and their families know about loss, and how to keep going in what can seem like a hostile world.

We'll discuss what we've lost and how we've come to terms with that loss during Monday's May FEARLESS meeting.

FEARLESS is for registered citizens, their families and friends, to share stories and support one another in dealing with life on the registry. We meet the third Monday of each month at 7:00 p.m., at St. Michael's Lutheran Church, 13232 Blondo Street, in Omaha.

Join us Monday evening!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Court questions why state wants to put boy on registry

The state of Nebraska is still intent on listing a (now 15-year-old) boy on the sex offender registry.

The boy was convicted of criminal sexual conduct in a Minnesota juvenile court when he was 11. When he moved to Nebraska, the State Patrol said he had to register as a sex offender, but the boy's family sued the state and courts have thus far kept the boy off the state's registry. The state, which doesn't require juveniles to register unless they are convicted in adult court, is appealing a 2016 decision by U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf, ruling the boy did not have to register.
"I just wonder ... why the state of Nebraska is pushing this and just not looking the other way. Good old police discretion," Eighth Circuit Judge William Jay Riley of Omaha asked in oral arguments Wednesday. 
Assistant Nebraska Attorney General Ryan Post conceded that if the boy had done in Nebraska exactly what he did in Minnesota, he wouldn't have been required to register as a sex offender.
But, the way the Nebraska law is written, all sex offenders who move here must register, regardless of age.
Post said the State Patrol is just trying to apply the plain language of the law as written.
"We don't believe we can just unilaterally disregard that provision that requires registration in this instance," he told Judges Riley, C. Arlen Beam of Lincoln, and Bobby Shepherd of Arkansas.
Post said when state lawmakers were crafting the bill the State Patrol superintendent told them this was going to happen.
"They actually left it in the bill and passed it," he said.
The court didn't rule immediately on the state's appeal.

Should legislators take up the question as to whether juveniles should be required to be on the registry in such situations, perhaps they could expand the discussion to question whether anyone should be required to register as a sex offender registry for any reason.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Inmates' deaths ruled homicides

Nebraska prison officials say the deaths of two inmates during a March 2 riot at the Tecumseh state prison were homicides.  From the Lincoln Journal-Star report:
Damon Fitzgerald and Michael Galindo both had multiple sharp and blunt force injuries, according to a press release from the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services.
Spokeswoman Dawn-Renee Smith said Galindo's death certificate lists smoke inhalation as the main cause, with other wounds contributing.
Fitzgerald's death certificate lists burn injuries and strangulation as contributing to his death...
Fitzgerald, 39, was serving 310 to 470 years for back-to-back rapes in Omaha in two weeks in 2005.
Galindo, 31, was serving 12 to 21 years, most of it for a 2014 robbery at a Git N Split store in Scottsbluff.
No charges have been filed in the deaths of Fitzgerald and Galindo. Five inmates have been killed at the Tecumseh prison in the past two years. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Lecturers critique child sexual abuse prevention policies

Experts who met to discuss prevention of child sexual abuse at the Bloomberg School of Public Health's fifth annual Child Sexual Abuse Symposium cast a critical eye on policies aimed at preventing such abuse. The Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse hosted the symposium on April 27,

Among the lecturers was Jill Levenson, a Professor of Social Work at Barry University.
Levenson believes that current prevention practices are problematic because they focus too much on reacting to abuse rather than preventing it.
“We spend lots of resources on incarceration, sex offender registries and foster care placements after abuse takes place rather than investing more on reducing social problems and reshaping cultural messaging,” she wrote.
Read more about the symposium here.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Sex Offender Registries -- High Cost Few Benefits

In a long, worthwhile, article from Prison Legal News, Rick Anderson explores the high costs of public sex offender registries that provide few -- if any -- public benefits.
The September 1988 rape and murder of 29-year-old Diane Ballasiotes in Seattle, Washington, followed by the 1989 rape and sexual mutilation of a 7-year-old Tacoma boy, were the seedlings of today’s nationwide sex offender registry laws – a 50-state network that tracks over 805,000 registrants and whose usefulness as a crime-prevention tool has been questioned and criticized...
Attorneys and advocates for change wonder how many of the nation’s more than 805,000 registered sex offenders are in prison or jail on any given day just for violating registration requirements – which are technical violations rather than sex crimes, and did not even exist before 1990. And how much does that, and registry enforcement efforts, add to the rising costs of tracking and monitoring sex offenders? In Palm Beach County, Florida, one officer said 20 deputies are assigned full time to check on sex offenders and confirm their residences.
After a quarter-century, are sexual predator laws and nationwide sex offender registries delivering the benefits they promised? Or have we overreacted to the threat of “stranger danger” with throw-away-the-key excesses, damn the cost?
 Read on at Prison Legal News.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Truth about stories: How men desist from sexual offending

At the NextGenForensic blog, Ian McPhail explores the stories of men who desist from sexual offending. He says the stories we tell about ourselves and the world are influential.
Victor Hugo starts his famous novel with the line, “Be it true or false, what is said about men often has as much influence upon their lives, and especially upon their destinies, as what they do.”  Hugo’s detective Javert, chases Jean Valjean for the length of Les Misérables because he believes what has been said about Valjean—that he is a criminal—and ignores what Valjean has done in the intervening years.  Can a person who commits a crime, like Valjean, become something else through the works of his life?  This is a question Hugo poses to us, his past and present reader.
Read more here.

What stories are told about people on sex offender registries? False narratives about how they are likely to commit more crimes? Or the story about how most registered sex offenders do not commit new crimes, despite draconian laws designed to punish them long after they've served their sentence?

Read the 2014 UNO Study on Desistance from Sex Offending and the Consequences of Sex Offender Laws.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Why fear-based registries are bad public policy

Another op-ed, this one written by Sophie Day at the Crime Reporter, explains why fear-based sex offender registries are bad public policy. Day questions why sex offender registries are not part of the national conversation on criminal justice reform.
The current laws were all enacted with the best of intentions. Parents, afraid for their children, overwhelmingly supported policies that they believed would keep their communities safe.  But as we have seen in the case of the War on Drugs, policies so deeply rooted in fear and misunderstanding will never be successful. In the meantime, they are causing a great deal of harm.Despite what researchers at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business call a “lack of empirical evidence for the recidivism-reducing benefits of registration and notification,” these laws persist and cause a number of problems. The Chicago researchers point to the financial costs associated not just with those convicted and their families, but with the taxpayers who subsidize their registration and supervision.
Read Day's full essay at the Crime Reporter.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Family of inmate killed in Tecumseh prison riot sues state

The family of one of two inmates killed in a riot at the Tecumseh state prison in 2015 has filed a lawsuit against the state. The family of Shon Collins filed the lawsuit in Lancaster County District Court. They say the prison was under-staffed and guards failed to protect Collins and another inmate who was killed during the Mother's Day riot.

From the Omaha World-Herald:
Collins, a sex offender, was in protective custody, separated from other inmates, at the time of the riot because he previously had been threatened and assaulted by other inmates, the lawsuit says.
Yet, on the day of the riot, the suit says, inmates from three housing units, including those in general population and those in protective custody, were all released from their cells to a prison yard to obtain medications.
When the riot broke out, corrections officers quickly were overwhelmed and fled to a prison guard tower, leaving Collins unprotected, the suit says. “The inmates were left to fend for themselves while the staff left their posts and ran for safety.”
The other inmate killed during the riot, Donald Peacock, was also a registered sex offender.

Read more here and here.

Legislature unanimously approves LB 300

The Nebraska Legislature has approved a bill that changes the statute of limitations for civil penalties for sexual assault of a child. 

From the Associated Press, via the Grand Island Independent:
Lawmakers voted 46-0 Wednesday to approve a measure that removes a statute of limitations on civil lawsuits for childhood sexual assault.
Current law requires victims of childhood sexual assault to sue their abuser by their 33rd birthday, and the change would allow victims to sue at any age.
Victims still would have until their 33rd birthday to sue people or entities that enabled the assault, such as a school with an abusive employee.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha, says the measure will help victims who need more time to come to terms with abuse.
The bill now heads to Gov. Pete Ricketts.
Click here to read the final, amended, version of the bill.

Reconsidering penalties for teen sexual activity

An online report at HuffPost describes how many states are reconsidering laws that have imposed harsh punishments -- including prison sentences and sex offender registration -- on teenagers who engage in consensual sexual activity.
More than 20 years ago, when Russell Foster was 19 and his girlfriend Amber was 15, Montana’s laws tore them apart, sending Russell to prison for four years for having sex with a minor.Their story mostly has a happy ending. They reunited when Russell got out of prison. They’re married now, with four kids, and living in Glasgow, Montana. And last month, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, granted Russell clemency. But there have been struggles, too. Russell’s record has made it hard for him to find work, and being a registered sex offender has limited where the family can live.
Read more online at HuffPost.