Sunday, December 24, 2017

Corey's Goal aims to educate schools on disciplinary issues

The parents of an Illinois teenager who committed suicide in January are taking steps to turn the grief over their son's death in a positive direction. They have created a charity that could benefit young people across the country in years to come.
Nearly a year after their son's meeting with Naperville North High School officials, which led to his suicide, Corey Walgren's family is taking action to prevent it from happening to another student. 
The Walgren family recently created Corey's Goal, a charity aimed at helping raise awareness and educating schools, students and parents about the handling of serious school disciplinary matters. The Corey's Goal website is full of useful information about what a student's constitutional rights are, how schools can help better support the emotional well-being of students, and risks parents should know about.
 Read more here and here.

Corey's goal website

CA: Federal Court Limits Residency Restrictions to Parolees

From ACSOL, word of a positive decision from a Federal Court in California:
A federal district court ruled on Dec. 22 that residency restrictions adopted by cities and counties may only be applied to registrants while on parole.  
“This is a significant victory for registrants and their families,” stated ACSOL Executive Director Janice Bellucci.  “The Court’s decision dramatically reduces the ability of a city or a county to restrict where a registrant may live.” 
According to the court’s decision, the general rule is that local governments are preempted by state law from adopting laws that restrict the daily lives of registrants because state law “fully occupies” the field of restrictions on a registrant’s daily life.  The decision also stated that although Jessica’s Law created an exception to that general rule, the exception is limited to registrants on parole due to the statutory context of that law.  
The court added that its decision is consistent with state court decisions which have determined that different provisions in Jessica’s Law are also limited to parolees.  The Dec. 22 decision is the first judicial determination regarding the authority granted to cities and counties by that law.  
In its decision, the court noted that the City of Adelanto conducted a public City Council Workshop during which the Mayor, City Attorney and Councilmembers made several derogatory comments regarding registrants including the following: sex offenders need to “get the heck out of town”, should be forced to relocate to a “leper colony”, and the City should hang “neon sign[s] in [the] windows” of registrants’ homes as well as “paint the street red in front of their house[s].” 
The court ruling is the result of a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment filed by a registrant in the case which challenges residency restrictions in the City of Adelanto.  According to the lawsuit, registrants are prohibited from living in most of the city.  The case was filed in U.S. District Court, Central District of California in December 2016. 
After the court’s Dec. 22 ruling, the case will continue in order to address claims that the city’s residency restrictions violate the 14th Amendment and the ex post facto clause of the U.S. Constitution.
 Read the decision here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Registering with Dignity: A Practical Guide to Reentry and Life on the Registry

The Sex Law and Policy Center has compiled a useful and informative guide for people forced to register as sex offenders and their loved ones.

From the SLAP website:
Over the past year, we’ve diligently worked to draft a reentry guidebook specifically for people on the registry and the people that love and support them as they navigate the ins and outs of registration and reentry. There is a discussion about the varying pieces of federal legislation requiring registration for sex offenses. One section details constitutional protections, while another section outlines what to expect from registration. Community supervision and how to successfully complete it is covered later on, as is the reentry process and sex offender treatment. This guide explains a registrant’s rights to sexual expression and what to do if they feel their rights are being violated. There is an additional section specifically for women and juveniles on the registry. This guide also helps your loved ones understand what to expect from loving and supporting someone on the registry. In short, it helps registrants, and those they love, understand their rights as someone on the registry.
Find more information and a link to the  85-page guide here.

Friday, December 15, 2017

CT Sentencing Commission approves changes to sex offender registry

The Connecticut Sentencing Commission approved proposed changes to the state's sex offender registry, which could allow some people to petition to be removed from the registry. The changes were among several proposals the commission approved this week, and they will be sent to the governor and legislature for their upcoming session.
On the sex registry proposal, it would give those on the registry an opportunity to petition to shorten their registration period or apply for removal from the public registry. In order to do so the registrant would have to show that they have reduced their risk to the community. 
Under the recommendation a person could be on the registry for shorter periods than under the current system, and others would be on for longer periods. 
In order to petition the registrant would have to show that they have reduced their risk to the community. Under the new system a person could be on the registry for shorter periods than under the current system, and others would be on for longer periods. 
Thomas Ullman, a former public defender from New Haven, said it was a “good proposal.” 
This can only help people who are stuck on the registry who we all believe should not be on,” Ullman said. He said being on the registry affects those on the registry’s “ability to get housing, jobs — it leads to criminality. 
Judge Robert Devlin, co-chair of the Sentencing Commission, acknowledged that “anything involved with sex crimes is controversial.” 
However, Devlin added, the proposed changes are good because it pushes the sex offender registry from an “offense-based system to a risk-based system.” 
Robert Farr, co-chair of the Sentencing Commission and a former lawmaker, said the changes proposed are fair for everyone. 
It’s not a tougher on crime or easier on crime legislation,” Farr said. “It’s a smarter on crime.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Let's have a Fearless Christmas party!

Help us celebrate the holidays at Fearless Monday, December 18.
We meet at 7:00 p.m., at St. Michael's Lutheran Church, 13232 Blondo Street in Omaha.

You can bring treats to share, but that is not required.

Join us for a Fearless Christmas Party Monday night!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Judge overturns Vermont town's residency restrictions

Another town has seen its sex offender residency restriction struck down in court. A judge has declared the restriction in Rutland, Vermont unconstitutional. The judge, Samuel Hoar, Jr., had strong words about the town's ordinance.
"What the city has done here is effectively to declare an entire class of persons to be a public nuisance, by simple virtue of their physical existence," Hoar wrote in a 13-page decision issued December 8. "Plaintiffs have been convicted and punished; the city cannot now say to them, anymore than they could to any other citizen, 'We don’t want your type in our town.' The boldness and breadth of this assertion is virtually without precedent."
Full story here.

Lawsuit says Indiana sex offender law is harsher on new residents

A lawsuit filed against the Indiana Department of Corrections claims the state's sex offender laws are harsher for people who move into the state than for Indiana residents. The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of three men, claiming the law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, according to the Indianapolis Star.
The suit cites Wallace v. State, in which the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that Richard P. Wallace, also a convicted sex offender whose conviction occurred prior to the act's enforcement, was not subject to certain statutes of the Sex Offender Registration Act. 
In that case, the court ruled that imposing the statutes of the act against Wallace violated the Indiana Constitution by "(imposing) burdens that have the effect of adding punishment beyond that which could have been imposed when his crime was committed."
Interestingly, a federal judge had already issued a preliminary injunction against the law, in a similar case earlier this year. That case involved three men who were sentenced before Indiana's sex offender registry laws were implemented.
"When the plaintiffs arrived in Indiana they were not afforded the same status as persons who had resided in Indiana all along," Judge Richard L. Young wrote in his injunction. "As a result of the DOC's policies, long-term Indiana residents who have never traveled out of state are treated differently than new Indiana residents. This differential treatment offends the fundamental right to travel." 
 The ACLU says Indiana continues to enforce the law despite the injunction.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Sex offender registries as modern day witch hunts

In an essay at In Justice Today, Guy Hamilton Smith writes that 21st Century American sex offender registries are akin to modern-day witch hunts. He says sex offender registries should get much more attention from advocates of criminal justice reform than they now do. 

An excerpt:
Even as we find ourselves in a new era marked by bipartisan acknowledgement of the need for criminal justice reform, in some areas we continue to be influenced by this same appeal to boogeymen, even if their shape and form changes. Instead of “super” predators, we’re now faced with “sexually violent” ones. 
As with witches, the modern-day sex offender largely a creature of our own creation, acting as a sort of repository for many of our collective moral anxiety around sex. While a baked-in ick factor often turns many erstwhile warriors into silent observers, awareness and informed response is badly needed from those within the criminal justice community.
Read the full essay at In Justice Today.

NARSOL Christmas Special

NARSOL is planning to host a special conference call from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. (eastern time) on Christmas Eve.

From the NARSOL web site:
If there is sufficient interest, NARSOL is holding a special Christmas program to hear from those restricted from participating in Holiday events or anyone alone wishing to be in the company of friends. We plan to invite calls regarding what you consider to be unreasonable restrictions imposed by supervising authorities or any statutory schemes that impede your holiday activities. We plan to open phone lines for the entire program to hear from you and offer our support.
Click here to learn more and register for the Christmas Eve conference call.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Connecticut considers downsizing sex offender registry

Another state is considering changes to its sex offender registry. The changes Connecticut is considering would reduce the number of people on the public registry.
Under the plan, a Sex Offender Registry Board would decide who has to register and for how long. Low-level offenders would for the first time be able to petition to be removed or placed on a list unavailable to the public. At least seven other states have rolled back existing sex offender registries so far.
Read more here.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Children on Sex Offender Registries at Greater Risk for Suicide Attempts

A new study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health finds that children required to register as sex offenders are harmed as a result of being listed on the registry.
The most troubling findings, the authors say, pertained to suicidal intent and victimization experiences. The study found that registered children were four times as likely to report a recent suicide attempt in the last 30 days, compared to nonregistered children. Registered children were nearly twice as likely to have experienced a sexual assault and were five times as likely to have been approached by an adult for sex in the past year. Registered children also reported higher rates of other mental health problems, more peer relationship problems, more experiences with peer violence and a lower sense of safety.
Read more about this study here.

Monday, December 4, 2017

A new scarlet letter for harassment charges

In a tongue-in-cheek column in the Gainesville (Fla.) Times, Ron Martz writes that we need a registry for men accused of "sexual misconduct," similar to sex offender registries.
It doesn’t matter if it’s Matt Lauer, Al Franken, Roy Moore, Bill Clinton, Georgia H.W. Bush, Charlie Rose or John Conyers doing the touchy-feely thing or some other form of sexual harassment or misconduct. Unwanted touching or misconduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual battery and/or assault (laws differ from state to state) and deserve to be punished in the same manner as all other sex offenses. 
To that end, I am proposing that each state be required to create a Sexual Harassment/Misconduct Registry modeled on the existing sex offender registries.
None of these famous men is likely to end up on a sex offender registry. And they shouldn't. Neither should anybody else.
Sex offenses, real or concocted, constitute the one class of crimes that require no hard evidence beyond the mere allegation. There is no presumption of innocence with sex crimes; there’s only the assumption of guilt. 
Repentant murderers can find public sympathy and redemption. So too can drug and alcohol abusers. 
Not so for accused sex offenders. Once tarred, forever scarred. 
Read the Martz's full column here.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Lincoln Fearless to meet Monday

The December Lincoln Fearless meeting will be held Monday, December 4, at the Calvary United Methodist Church, 1610 S. 11th St. in Lincoln, beginning at 7:00 p.m.

Fearless Lincoln meets the first Monday of each month. Registered citizens, their families and friends are invited to provide support to others dealing with life on the registry.

Join us Monday in Lincoln!

Former Minnesota sex offender challenges residency restrictions

From the website, a case to watch in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Nebraska. A man is challenging residence restrictions in West St. Paul, Minnesota.

On Oct. 2, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition for certiorari in Snyder v Doe, a decision from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that said that Michigan’s sex offender registration law violated the Ex Post Facto Clause’s ban on retroactive punishment. The law restricted where former sex offenders could live. 
The 6th Circuit is at odds with many other opinions that have rejected constitutional challenges to sex offender laws, but that didn’t convince the Supreme Court to take the case. The court invited the Solicitor General to file a brief, but he declined, saying the case was correctly decided. 
Some observers say that Snyder could persuade other courts to take a hard look at sex offender restrictions, particularly since the court expressly recognized scientific studies showing that sex offenders as a group do not pose a significant recidivism risk. 
Thomas Evenstad, now a resident of West St. Paul, is asking the Minnesota District Court to do that very thing. He is suing the city of West St. Paul over its ordinance that prevents him from living within 1,200 feet of a school, child care facility or group home. 
 Read more on the case here.

ACLU: Nebraska counties charge excessive fees for inmate phone calls

A report from the ACLU of Nebraska says counties are charging excessive fees, and profiting, from phone calls made by inmates in county jails, as reported in the Omaha World-Herald.
While an inmate in a state prison can make a 15-minute call for $1.50, those detained in the state’s county jails can expect to pay much more, from $7 to up to $19 for the same call, the report said.  
Jails contract with for-profit telephone services that handle collect and paid calls by inmates. The contractors then share a portion of the profits with the local county, a practice that the ACLU compared to the “for-profit debtors prison” of the Victorian era. 
“Most county jails in Nebraska use private, for-profit companies that literally have pictures of sheriffs swimming in piles of money in their advertising,” said Amy Miller, an attorney with the ACLU of Nebraska.
Read the full article at the Omaha World-Herald online