Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Danger of Social Isolation

This may not be surprising. Research presented recently at the American Psychological Council Annual Convention indicates that loneliness and social isolation may be a greater health hazard than obesity. Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, presented the findings of her research at the conference.
"Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need -- crucial to both well-being and survival. Extreme examples show infants in custodial care who lack human contact fail to thrive and often die, and indeed, social isolation or solitary confinement has been used as a form of punishment," said Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, professor of psychology at Brigham Young University. "Yet an increasing portion of the U.S. population now experiences isolation regularly."
According to Holt-Lunstad, loneliness is a growing problem, with an increasing number of Americans, especially older Americans, experiencing social isolation.

Social isolation and ostracism is a problem as well for ex-felons, people re-entering society after a prison sentence, and registered sex offenders -- who are often excluded from social and community activities by ill-conceived, knee-jerk, laws. These laws harm not just registered citizens, but their family members, who also face social ostracism.

Considering what is known about the negative effects of social isolation, can laws that effectively exclude people from the lives of their communities and, often, their own families be considered a public health issue?

Unless, and until, the laws change, how can formerly incarcerated people in general, and registered sex offenders specifically, become more socially engaged? Listen to a Solitary Nation podcast on this very subject.
In this unique episode of Solitary Nation, Matt Duhamel talks with Dr. Kipling Williams from Purdue University.  He is the nation’s leading authority on social ostracism and social rejection.  The conversation focuses on how rejection effects everyday people and especially the formally incarcerated.   Dr. Williams also offers tips for people with felony records on how they can reduce anxiety and pressure from social ostracism. 
This is an informative podcast episode not only for people who’ve been incarcerated, but for all ages and social situations.  The information that Dr. Williams provides can even relate to school bullying among children and teenagers.
Registered citizens, their families and friends can connect with others in similar situations at Fearless. In Omaha, Fearless meets at St. Michael's Lutheran Church, 13232 Blondo Street, in Omaha, on the third Monday of each month.  In Lincoln, Fearless meets on the first Monday of the month (though September's meeting will be held on September 11, due to Labor Day) at Calvary United Methodist Church, 1610 S. 11th Street in Lincoln.

Lincoln Fearless meeting September 11

The Lincoln FEARLESS meeting, normally held the first Monday each month, will be one week later than normal in September, due to the Labor Day holiday.  Fearless will meet at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, September 11, at the Calvary United Methodist Church, 1610 S. 11th Street in Lincoln.

Registered citizens, their families, and friends, are invited to share stories and learn from others dealing with life on the registry.

Join Lincoln Fearless on September 11!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

It could be you registered for a sex crime

This interview with David Booth of the Sex Law and Policy Center aired on KABF 88.3 FM in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The reality is that it's incredibly easy to be registered for a sex crime. Lenore Skenazy of Free Range Kids discussed how your child is more likely to be victimized by the registry than by someone on the registry, at a recent conference. There is a load of truth to her claim, and it points to a much larger issue. These registries are punishment, and the lengths of punishment are only bound by the creativity of policymakers. In no way are we saying that sexual wrongdoing isn't harmful. People who commit sex abuse should be held accountable, but we argue they must also be given a chance at rehabilitation. Their punishments are not making communities safer. People on registries are frequently subject to invasive and homophobic assessments and testing; civil commitment where people are unconstituionally detained with no relief or treatment; restrictions on where registrants can live, work, and be present; lifetime registration, alienation, stigmatization, and discrimination. These collateral damages are also experienced by the people who support and love them, so in reality registries are destroying families.
Listen to the interview here.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Retiring judge comments on residency restrictions

Recently retired Massachusetts Supreme Court Justice Geraldine Hines commented on residency restrictions for registered sex offenders during a recent interview. Justice Hines was on the court when it struck down Massachusetts' local residency restrictions.
And not being immodest here, but one that I contributed to writing — the decision about where registered sex offenders can live. I think it takes a lot to understand why the law should protect a person's right to be, no matter what crime they've committed. And in that situation we had cities and towns all over the Commonwealth passing ordinances or developing regulations that people who were registered sex offenders can't live within certain places in their towns and when you have a whole lot of towns doing that that means that people aren't able to live anywhere. And that's a very difficult thing to explain to lay people who are understandably concerned about who lives next to them but, you know I'm really proud that our court understood the liberty interests protecting people.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Authorities: Approximately 97% of registrants compliant with state law

As reported in the Omaha World-Herald:

The U.S. Marshals Service partnered with several law enforcement agencies Wednesday to check that nearly 100 sex offenders living in Gage and Saline Counties were in compliance with state regulations. 
The operation led to the seizure of five guns from one offender and pending weapons charges. Three others were found to not be in full compliance with state law, said Tim Hanson, an investigator with the Gage County Sheriff’s Office. 
Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Will Iverson said the compliance checks in the two counties looked into things such as whether sex offenders have registered with authorities and whether they’re living where they’re supposed to be.

FEARLESS meets Monday

The August FEARLESS meeting will be held at 7:00 p.m. Monday, August 21, at St. Michael's Lutheran Church, 13232 Blondo St. in Omaha.

We'll hear from Lavon Stennis-Williams, the Executive Director of Reconnect, Inc., which helps people transitioning from prison back into their communities with education, job readiness, and personal development.

Learn more about the services offered by Reconnect, Inc. Monday evening.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Iowa court rules warrantless search of phone legal

In a case from Iowa, the 8th Circuit Court has ruled that the warrantless search of a sex offender's phone was not unconstitutional.
In 2015, Jackson was on supervised release at an Iowa correctional reentry facility. The facility banned mobile phones but he had one anyway.
Jackson’s probation officer searched his phone without a warrant and saw a website that apparently depicted underage females. The government later secured a warrant to search the phone and found thirty-seven images of child pornography.
The court ruled the search legal on the grounds that the man did not have the expectation of privacy on his phone.

Story here

Ohio committee recommends dumping residency restrictions

A positive story from Ohio, as that state's Criminal Justice Recodification Committee is recommending, among other changes, getting rid of residency restrictions for registered sex offenders. 
Read more about the proposed change here

Maybe more states and cities will follow suit and ditch residency restrictions.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Dear Reporters: Consider the truth about sex offender registry

Steven Yoder writes an open letter to local reporters to put facts before fear when covering stories about registered citizens.
Good reporting means better governance. An issue as important as sexual violence badly requires your objectivity and independent judgment to move our leaders away from policies that waste money or cause needless pain, and toward those that actually work.
Read the letter at Steven Yoder's blog, Life on the List.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Nebraska Supreme Court rejects sex offender's appeal

On a technicality, the Nebraska Supreme Court rejected an appeal by a registered sex offender who argued some parts of the state's supervised release law are excessive. The story is reported in the Omaha World-Herald.
The appeal by _______ _______was the first challenge of criminal sentencing changes allowed under Legislative Bill 605, which was passed in 2015 to help reduce prison overcrowding and decrease repeat crimes. 
________ was convicted of third-degree sexual assault of a child, a felony, in 2013. Upon his release he was required to report his address under the Sex Offender Registration Act.
Read more here

Friday, August 11, 2017

Registry keeps Michigan man from his business

So much for second chances, fresh starts, and entrepreneurship.
BATTLE CREEK, MI — Convicted sex offender Reece Adkins’ predicament isn’t likely to evoke much sympathy from his neighbors. He was convicted 17 years ago of sexually abusing a minor under the age of 13 and placed on Michigan’s sex offender registry for life. But staying on the right side of a law a federal appeals court says turns offenders into “moral lepers” means he can’t legally work, shop or even go into the Cereal City Food Auction he and a business partner plan to open in Battle Creek later this month.
Full story here.

Threats to arrest SO's at KC mission prompt lawsuit

The Jackson County Missouri Sheriff's threat to arrest registered sex offenders at the City Union Mission has prompted a federal lawsuit, claiming the sheriff's actions are unconstitutional. The sheriff says the sex offenders are breaking state law by "loitering" within 500 feet of a park.
The suit contends that the Missouri law does not adequately define the term “loiter” and is unconstitutionally vague.
“We want to get that cleared up,” said Jonathan Whitehead, attorney for the mission. “Seeking shelter, food or prayer is not loitering.”
The sheriff’s office is now saying that the law “applies to kitchens and shelters of the mission, even though those buildings are being used for religious ministry and not for ‘loitering,’ ” according to the suit.
“As a result, the sheriff’s office has threatened to arrest certain mission employees or guests on mission property,” according to the suit.
Read more here.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Are sex offender registries reinforcing inequalities?

Trevor Hoppe, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Albany has an essay online at The Conversation.
Public sex offender registries are at the forefront of what I’ve described in my research as a “war on sex.” 
Offenders convicted of sex crimes are now singled out for surveillance and restrictions far more punitive than those who commit other types of crime. More than 800,000 Americans are now registered sex offenders. Tracking them has created a booming surveillance industry.
Read more at The Conversation.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The effects of putting kids on the sex offender registry

Elizabeth Letourneau, PhD, the Director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse spoke about research into the effects of youth sex offender registration during the 2017 Moore Center Symposium.

Watch Dr. Letourneau's presentation here.

Registered sex offender, landlord, provides safe hosing for others

We need more landlords like this, as reported in the Telegraph of Wocester, Massachusetts.
WARE – Many of the 23 registered Level 3 sex offenders who live in Ware rent from another Level 3 sex offender who owns several properties and plans to provide a home for other offenders who need help. 
Joel Pentlarge, 67, a disbarred attorney and former town official, declined to say how many of his tenants are Level 3 sex offenders, the category considered the highest risk of reoffending. 
“Not enough,” he said during a recent interview in a basement apartment in his four-unit complex at 14 Park St. that also serves as his office. Another Level 3 sex offender lists the unit as his secondary place of residence. 
One of Mr. Pentlarge's tenants is convicted sex offender and former priest Paul Shanley.  A key quote from the article, and a point that is often overlooked.
“I think members of any group that is discriminated against should help each other,” he said. “Obviously, if someone is getting out (of prison) and has a safe and secure place to live, hopefully a job, and access to appropriate services, that substantially reduces their chances of reoffending.
Read more here.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Journal-Star lauds decision keeping teen off regisrty

The Lincoln Journal-Star editorial board says the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals decision prohibiting the Nebraska State Patrol from listing a 15 year old boy on the sex offender registry was the right call.

The decision clarifies Nebraska's law and will benefit more than one family in Nebraska.
The plaintiff is one of about 30 minors on Nebraska’s sex offender registry who was listed simply because he registered upon moving to Nebraska after his juvenile case was adjudicated in another state. 
Now, the Attorney General’s Office and other state officials have clarification from the courts. A spokesman for the Nebraska State Patrol, which oversees the list, said the agency is already taking the appropriate, needed action to remove these juveniles from the registry.
Read the full editorial in the Lincoln Journal-Star. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Lincoln Fearless to meet Monday

Registered citizens, families and friends, in the Lincoln area can join the next Lincoln Fearless meeting this Monday, August 7, beginning at 7:00 p.m.  

Fearless Lincoln meets the first Monday of each month at Cavalry United Methodist Church, 1610 S. 11th Street in Lincoln. 

Fearless is a chance to find support, share stories, and connect with other registrants and family members. Be FEARLESS Monday night!

Family says city's sex offender law goes way too far

From Courthouse News Service, another heartbreaking example of how residency restrictions harm families.
MILWAUKEE (CN) — Prosecuted as an adult when he was 17 for having sex with another teenager, a married man with three children has been sleeping in his truck since a Milwaukee suburb forced him out of his house because he’s a sex offender, he says in a constitutional complaint.Lashun Gray sued the City of Franklin in Federal Court on Tuesday. 
Read more at Courthouse News Service.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Why reporters should stop using "predator"

Steven Yoder explains on his blog, Life on the List, why reporters should stop using the word "predator" when referring to people who have committed sex offenses.
In May, the AP Stylebook changed its guidelines for how reporters should refer to people with substance abuse problems. “Avoid words like alcoholicaddictuser and   abuser unless they are in quotations or names of organizations,” says the 2017 version. 
For those with addictions, that change won’t just shift how they’re portrayed but how they’re treated. A piece by Zachary Siegel in Slate last month noted that even veteran clinicians were more likely to recommend punitive measures for people described as “substance abusers” and rehab-oriented treatments for those referred to as “people with substance abuse disorders.” Even when people’s conditions are the result of personal choices, reporters avoid charged labels—that’s why those with diabetes aren’t described as “sugar abusers,” Siegel says. 
So it’s time for editors to stop letting reporters use “predator” in describing those who’ve committed sexual offenses.
Read the full essay at the Life on the List blog.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Court (again) says Nebraska can't list teen on sex offender registry

A federal court on Monday upheld a previous ruling prohibiting the Nebraska State Patrol from listing a 15-year-old boy on the sex offender registry.
Attorney Joshua Weir, who represented the boy and his family, said Monday that common sense finally prevailed. 
He said he didn't realize that the State Patrol was putting minors — whose cases were handled in juvenile court in other states and who later moved to Nebraska — on the public registry until this case came up.
The state was seeking clarification from the court regarding the state's law which requires all sex offenders who move to Nebraska from another state to register in Nebraska, regardless of age. 

Monday's decision is a victory for more than one family.
There are about 175 juveniles on the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry, about 30 of whom are in the same situation as A.W., the boy in this case. 
Spokesman Cody Thomas said in an email that the State Patrol "has reviewed the ruling and has begun the process to remove affected individuals from the registry."
Read more about the decision in the Lincoln Journal-Star.

Read the ruling here.