Tuesday, August 14, 2018

On America's Civil Death Penalty: The Sexual Offense Registry

Guy Hamilton-Smith writes a guest blog post for the Comparative Penology website, explaining how U.S. sex offender registries promote social isolation and "civil death."

Here is an excerpt:
Oscar Wilde, writing from his cell in the Reading Gaol where he was imprisoned for homosexuality at the end of the nineteenth century, observed that "society reserves for itself the right to inflict appalling punishments on the individual, but it also has the supreme vice of shallowness, and fails to realise what it has done. When the man’s punishment is over, it leaves him to himself; that is to say, it abandons him at the very moment when its highest duty towards him begins.” 
In America, few aspects of law and policy so perfectly embody Wilde's observation of punishment in nineteenth century England as sex offense registries.
Read the full blog post here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

NC court: No proof public safer when sex offenders tracked

A North Carolina court has ruled that long-term GPS monitoring of registered sex offenders is unconstitutional because there is no evidence such tracking protects the public. As per an Associated Press report about the decision:
A divided three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that because officials presented no evidence that satellite-based monitoring is effective, it violates the U.S. Constitution's bar against unreasonable searches. The U.S. Supreme Court set that constitutional standard in a 2015 North Carolina decision. 

Read more about the decision at ACSOL.

Read the court's decision

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

ACSOL: MA court recognizes harm to registrants

Here is a positive commentary from the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws regarding recent rulings from the Massachusetts Supreme Court:
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Council, the state’s supreme court, has ruled in favor of registrants who were trying either to terminate their duty to register or to change the tier level on which they were situated. In doing so, the Court recognized that there are significant challenges facing registrants including stigma and legal restrictions that make it more difficult to find stable housing or employment. The Court also recognized that the effects of registration are “continuing, intrusive, and humiliating” and could lead to threats of physical harm. Further, the Court recognized that dissemination of a registrant’s personal information and photo on the internet magnifies these effects. 
“The Court’s rulings in these two cases are truly monumental,” stated ACSOL Executive Director Janice Bellucci. “They speak the truth that so many courts have avoided.”
Read the rest of the commentary and link to the court's decisions at the ACSOL website.

Monday, August 6, 2018

MA court says state has burden to prove dangerousness

The Massachusetts Supreme Court has ruled that the state bears the burden of proof when determining whether registered citizens should or should not be moved to a less dangerous classification.

Here's an excerpt from an article about the ruling at WBUR.
"We conclude that the risk of erroneous classification and deprivation remains in reclassification proceedings and that that risk must continue to be borne by the government," wrote Associate Justice Scott Kafker. "Therefore, the ultimate burden of proof should remain with the board to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the classification is current and correct." 
The court added, however, that there was also a "burden of production," on the sex offender to provide evidence of a change in circumstances that would warrant reclassification.
Read the full article here.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Failure to Comply Arrests Reveal Flaws in Sex Offender Registries

In an article at the Appeal, Joshua Vaughn notes that in just one Pennsylvania county, in one year, more than three times as many people on the sex offender registry were charged with failing to comply with registry requirements as were charged with new sex crimes.
Hundreds of people every year in Pennsylvania are arrested and face incarceration for failing to comply with sex offender registry requirements. People on the registry are required to provide their address, work information, information about vehicles they drive, social media accounts, and other personal information, as well as regularly have their photograph taken by police. When any of that information changes, police must be notified within three days. The Appeal identified nearly 900 criminal cases where a defendant was charged with failure to comply with sex offender registry requirements in Pennsylvania in 2016 alone. 
But sex offender registry laws do not increase public safety, says Chrysanthi Leon, associate professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware. “We’re really creating a false sense of security for ourselves when we convince ourselves that by detecting and naming and then further surveilling this small group of people will solve any problems,” Leon told The Appeal. Leon said most charged sexual offenses are committed by first-time sexual offenders and not by people who are on the registry.
Read the full article at the Appeal

Did California Suppress Research on Sexually Violent Predators?

Q: What is a Sexually Violent Predator?
A: A person unlikely to commit another sex crime.
State laws that allow sexually violent predators to be locked up even after they have served their sentences are based on questionable assumptions that they continue to pose a danger to society, according to a study published in the American Criminal Law Review. 
The study focused on California where, according to the authors, research indicating that sexually violent predators (SVPs) are less likely to re-commit crimes than other offenders was suppressed because it challenged the constitutional legitimacy of the state’s SVP laws. 
The research in the mid-2000s by Dr. Jesus Padilla, a clinical psychologist at Atascadero State Hospital, a California maximum-security institution that houses mentally ill offenders, found that just 6.5 percent of untreated sexually violent predators were arrested for a new sex crime within 4.8 years of release from a locked mental facility.
Read the full article and at the Crime Report. 

Link to the study

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Appeals court won't delay $28 million Beatrice Six verdict

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals said it won't delay a jury's decision against Gage County, awarding $28 million to six people falsely accused of raping and murdering a Beatrice woman in 1985. The "Beatrice 6" collectively spent years in prison before they were exonerated.
The decision came Tuesday, a week after the appellate court denied the county's petition to rehear its appeal in the case in which six people sued over what a jury in Lincoln in 2016 determined was a reckless investigation that violated their rights and sent them to prison for another man’s crime. 
In a one-sentence order, the 8th Circuit said simply: “The motion to stay the issuance of the mandate is denied.” 
It wasn't immediately clear how quickly Gage County must begin to pay the verdict.
Full story here

Expert: Crime registries turn people into pariahs with "very little to lose"

Another good article explains why registries are a bad idea. In a column at The Appeal, Jessica Pishko writes that public crime registries -- including sex offender registries -- do not work and are even harmful, even though they are popular with the public and politicians.
While public sex offender registries are now required by federal law, other registries for people who have committed certain types of crimes—such as domestic violence or drug-related crimes—are on the rise. They are seen by some victims’ rights advocates as a way to protect the community. But, criminal justice advocates argue that the registries are just another way to assert control over people who have already served their time. With registries, the collateral consequences of incarceration can extend indefinitely.
One quote sums up the damage registries do to people who are listed on them.
Vincent Brumley was put on a registry after being released in 2015 from an Illinois prison where he served time for his participation in a kidnapping and homicide.“That’s all they see me as,” he said in a 2016 interview. “They don’t know what I was convicted of, or if I was guilty. I did my time. Why hold me back?” 
Read more here.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Judge upends Pennsylvania sex offender registration

Pennsylvania lawmakers made changes to the state's Sex Offender Registry law after the old law was found unconstitutional. It appears the new law isn't faring much better with the state's judges, as exemplified by a recent case.
WEST CHESTER >> A Common Pleas Court judge has ruled that a West Goshen man convicted of forcing himself sexually on a sleeping woman will not have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. 
In an order signed July 10, Judge Anthony Sarcione found that the law that defendant George Torsilieri was required to report to state police as a sex offender was unconstitutional. He said the law, the Sexual Offenders Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), violated the fundamental right to reputation under the state Constitution, as well as federal guarantees of due process...
Read more here.

Two years after court ruling, no changes to Michigan registry

Two years after a federal court ruled parts of Michigan's Sex Offender Registry Act unconstitutional, the state legislature has still made no changes to the law.

Michigan Public Radio talked with an attorney for the ACLU of Michigan and a Michigan State Senator about what changes are needed and why they haven't been made yet.

The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the state of Michigan over its handling of the state's sex offender registry. In 2016, the 6th Circuit Court ruled that aspects of Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry Act, SORA, were unconstitutional.The court’s opinion specifically noted portions of the act which allowed the state to retroactively impose punishments on individuals without due process. The state of Michigan appealed the circuit court's ruling, sending Does vs Snyder to the U.S. Supreme Court. In October 2017, the Supreme Court decided not to take up the case, upholding the 6th Circuit Court's unanimous decision. It has now been nearly two years since the original ruling and the Legislature has failed to make any reforms to the law.At the end of June, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against Michigan to force the state to finally make changes to its sex offender registry. 
Read more and listen to the program at Michigan Public Radio.

Friday, July 20, 2018

York City Council drops residence restriction proposal

Some good news from Thursday's York City Council meeting.
YORK – An ordinance that would have banned convicted/registered sex offenders from living within 500 feet of a school or child care facility in York was given a second public reading and then dropped for good.
More heartening were comments by various council members as to why they decided to not proceed with the ordinance.
During Thursday night’s meeting, members of the Ordinance Committee said they’d talked about it further and didn’t feel it was something the city should enact. 
We met about this, looked at closely and the data says that restrictions like this don’t make a community safer and in fact create a false sense of safety,” said Council Member Sheila Hubbard. 
“One thing that stood out to us is that if we drew a circle around all the schools and the child care facilities, people would be displaced and that would be a problem for families,” said Councilman Mat Wagner. “There is no evidence that they are recommitting these crimes and we found this to actually be more detrimental.” 
“I have also heard, from people in York, that they worried this type of restriction would push them (registered sex offenders) to not report their residencies,” said Councilman Ron Mogul. 
“The Ordinance Committee is recommending that it can have a third reading but that the council not pass it,” Hubbard said further. 
Councilman Clarence Hoffman made a motion to drop the matter which Wagner seconded. All the council members agreed with them and no further action will be taken.
Read the full story here

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

York City Council considering residency restriction ordinance

The Omaha World-Herald article does not say how many of the 31 non-incarcerated registrants in York would be subject to the residency restriction ordinance.
YORK, Neb. — The York City Council is considering the creation of residency restrictions for convicted/registered sex offenders and has already held the first of three readings of an ordinance that would establish those restrictions.  
This would pertain to how close a convicted/registered sex offender can live from a school or child care facility.
“According to state law, it is necessary for the municipality to adopt an ordinance in order to impose residency restrictions,” York City Attorney Charles Campbell explained in a written statement to the mayor and council. “I was contacted recently by a concerned citizen who became aware that a convicted sex offender would be locating in close proximity to a child care facility. As we do not have a residence restriction in place, I prepared this ordinance if you wish to consider adopting it.”
 Regardless, there is no evidence that residence restrictions make communities safer. In fact, the York City Council could be taking action that would make the town less safe.
As a social-science writer used to the hedge-y language of “This study suggests that A may cause B,” it felt weird to be exposed to a debate in which the evidence is stacked so highly on one side. So I sent emails to Karen Terry and Cynthia Calkins Mercado, both professors at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice whose primary area of expertise is sex offenders. 
Would it really be accurate, I asked them, to say that there’s literallyno evidence these policies are useful? “You are correct,” Terry wrote back. “To date, there is no empirical evidence that these policies reduce the rate of sexual offending.” Mercado concurred, and added that there’s “considerable evidence that these restrictions make readjustment to the community more difficult and thus may inadvertently increase risk for recidivism.” 
Hopefully, leaders in York will think twice before going forward with this ordinance.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Federal Court dismisses latest challenge to International Megan's Law

The Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws reports on another disappointing court ruling. A federal judge in California has upheld the latest challenge to the constitutionality of International Megan's Law.
A federal district court dismissed the recent IML challenge yesterday when it granted the government’s Motion to Dismiss a legal challenge to the International Megan’s Law (IML). That challenge, filed in January 2018, was based upon alleged violations by the State Department of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA)... 
Due to the court’s decision, the State Department is expected to expand its revocation of existing passports in order to add a “unique identifier” stating that the individual has been convicted of a sex offense involving a minor. The State Department is also expected to add a “unique identifier” to newly issued passports.
Read more at ACSOL's website.

Read the court's decision here.

7th Circuit ruling will force registrants from their homes

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the dismissal of a challenge to Illinois' sex offender residency restriction law. As NARSOL reports, the decision means at least two men, and likely more people will be forced from their homes.
By Larry . . . NARSOL is disappointed to report that the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued a decision affirming a lower court’s decision that will permit the Chicago Police to retroactively evict registered citizens from their homes to comply with the state’s residency restrictions. In Vasquez v. Foxx, 17-1061 (7th Cir. 2018) two registered citizens will now be required to comply with the state’s residency restriction because Illinois law provides that “a child sex offender may not knowingly live within 500 feet of a school, playground, or child-care center.” See 720 ILCS 5/11-9.3(b)(5) (b)(10). 
The issue underlying the challenge was a 2008 amendment that prohibits child sex offenders from knowingly residing within 500 feet of a “day care home” or “group day care home.” (Act of Aug. 14, 2008, Pub. Act No. 95-821, 2008 Ill. Laws 1383) The   lawsuit alleged that: (1) the 2008 amendment to the residency statute imposes retroactive punishment in violation of the Ex Post Facto Clause; (2) application of the amended statute to them amounted to an unconstitutional taking of their property in violation of the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause; and (3) they asserted two due-process claims, one procedural and one substantive: they complained that the statute is enforced without a hearing for an individualized risk assessment and is not rationally related to a legitimate state interest. 
The Seventh Circuit affirmed the trial court’s rejection of the lawsuit on the pleadings. The amended statute is neither impermissibly retroactive nor punitive. The Takings Clause claim was unexhausted in the state courts and the amendment was adopted before they acquired their homes, so it did not alter their property-rights expectations. The procedural found that the due process claim fails because there is no right to a hearing to establish a fact irrelevant to the statute. And the Appeals Court concluded by finding that the law “easily satisfies rational-basis review.”
The decision could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Read the decision here.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Federal Court upholds denial of registrant's right to sponsor wife for citizenship

A federal court ruling of note as reported by

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling that an individual convicted of a sex offense does not have the right to sponsor his foreign-born wife for citizenship in the United States in a decision published on July 5. The court’s decision was based upon its interpretation of language in the Adam Walsh Act (AWA) which allows the Department of Homeland Security to approve such citizenship only if the individual can prove he poses “no risk” to his spouse.
According to the court’s decision, the language in the AWA is intended to protect children from sexual exploitation and violent crime. Notably, the individual in this case is married to an adult, not a child. In addition, the court ruled that denial of a right to sponsor a foreign-born wife for citizenship in the U.S. is not punishment and therefore the AWA can be applied retroactively.
“The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has made a grievous error, an error that destroy families,” stated ACSOL Executive Director Janice Bellucci. “It is difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to prove that he or she does not pose a risk to his or her spouse. Therefore, the net effect is that virtually all individuals convicted of a sex offense have been and will continue to be denied the ability to live in the U.S. with their foreign-born spouses.”
Read the court's ruling here.

Omaha FEARLESS meets Monday

How do we encourage each other, and others who face life on the registry?

Join FEARLESS Monday night to discuss ways we can help each other navigate an uncertain and often challenging landscape.

The July FEARLESS is at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, July 16, at St. Michael's Lutheran Church 13232 Blondo Street (the NW corner of 132nd and Blondo St.) in Omaha.

FEARLESS is open to registered citizens, families, friends, and invited guests.

Join us this Monday night!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Conference call to address scams targeting registered citizens

NARSOL will be hosting a conference call July 19 that may be of interest, to address the reports of telephone scams targeting registered citizens in Nebraska and across the nation.

From NARSOL.org:

By Sandy . . . The use of the registry by vigilantes to target registered citizens is one of the more harmful and deplorable consequences of public sex offender registration. We all know that registrants have, for many years, been harassed, vandalized, assaulted, and murdered.
A new threat started developing in early 2018 and is now sweeping the country. Registrants are being made the victims of telephone scams by those pretending to be in law enforcement in attempts, some successful, to extort money. We are sure that this has happened in more states than those of which we are aware, but we have verified scam activity in Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia.
NARSOL in Action, in conjunction with Registry Matters podcasts, will host a three-hour teleconference, similar to last year’s Halloween conference call, and invite those who have been targeted for this nefarious scheme or have direct knowledge of such an attempt to call in. Callers may remain anonymous while on air if they choose.
Joining primary hosts Larry and Andy (of Registry Matters) on the show will be several NARSOL state affiliate leaders and advocates from states across the nation. We are also inviting other sex offender advocacy groups outside of NARSOL to join us. This assault on our registered citizens is such an affront and outrage that we feel an all-out concerted effort by advocates for the rights of those on the registry is more than indicated; it is essential.

Psychiatrist's suit says state rules were violated at Nebraska mental hospital

From the Omaha World-Herald:
LINCOLN — A Lincoln Regional Center psychiatrist is claiming that violations of state rules and regulations affected the care of patients at the state mental hospital.  
Dr. Farid Karimi made the allegations in a federal lawsuit filed against the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, which operates the regional center, and two former regional center employees.
In the suit, Karimi alleges that he reported the violations to Stacey Werth-Sweeney, who had served as chief operating officer of the regional center, and Dr. Roger Donovick, who was the center’s psychiatric director, but neither addressed his concerns... 
The center treats patients with severe mental illnesses, as well as sex offenders with mental disorders. Patients may be sent to the center by court order or by local mental health boards.
Read more at the Omaha World-Herald.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Studies show ex-prisoners would be better off without intense supervision

An interesting report from the Brookings Institution:
Two-thirds of those released from prison are re-arrested within three years. This incarceration cycle hurts families and communities—and also costs a lot of money. Governments and nonprofits have tried many programs to reduce recidivism, but most are not successful. In a recent review of the literature on prisoner reentry, I summarized the best evidence on how to improve the lives of the formerly incarcerated. One of the most striking findings was that reducing the intensity of community supervision for those on probation or parole is a highly cost-effective strategy. Several studies of excellent quality and using a variety of interventions and methods all found that we could maintain public safety and possibly even improve it with less supervision—that is, fewer rules about how individuals must spend their time and less enforcement of those rules. Less supervision is less expensive, so we could achieve the same or better outcomes for less money. 
Read the full report at the Brookings Institution website.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

2018 ACSOL Conference videos now available online

Watch videos and read the handouts from the ACSOL 2018 Conference, held June 15 and 16 in Los Angeles.

The conference featured many timely and informative presentations.

Click here for a link to the conference website. Scroll down to the section labeled "2018 Videos & Handouts."

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Why sex offender registries keep growing even as sexual violence rates fall

The latest map of registered sex offenders in the United States put out in May by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, shows there are now more than 900,000 men, women, and children on sex offender registries.

While the number of people on sex offender registries is increasing, Steven Yoder, writing for The Appeal, says there are reasons to doubt the accuracy of NCMEC's tally.
Many of those entries are duplicates...or represent people who are not actually part of a state’s population for some other reason. In a 2014 study in the journal Crime & Delinquencya research team found that in the 42 states and two territories studied, 19 percent of those on registries were still behind bars, 9 percent lived out of state, and 3 percent had been deported. Of Florida’s 55,000 registrants at the time, more than 31,000 were in one of those three categories.
There are many reasons to question not just the number of registrants, but the very existence of registries.
[William] Dobbs, an adviser to the Sex Offense Litigation and Policy Resource Center affiliated with the Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, says the inaccuracies are symptoms of a malignant logic at the heart of registries: that people who have served their time should be put on public lists because of the ineffable risk of what they might do in the future. Problems with registries can’t be fixed, he says, because the concept itself is a “broken” one. “It turns people into suspects foreveror at least as long as they’re on it,” he said. “The politicians have created this giant naming-and-shaming train and are fueling it with fear.” 
 Read more of Yoder's article at The Appeal.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Nebraska FEARLESS the subject of newly-published article

Nebraskans Unafraid's FEARLESS is the subject of a newly-published research paper. The paper, written by Lisa Sample, Brooke Cooley, and Tusty ten Bensel, looks at the creation of FEARLESS and how it helps registered citizens and their families.

Here is the abstract from the article.
The term sex offender carries expectations that include a continuous level of sexual criminal risk and untreatable mental health conditions that govern sex offending behaviors. These role expectations by the public can socially isolate individuals who have been convicted of a crime and the people who love them. This is likely to contribute to negative self-images that can result in loneliness, isolation, and depression, and, subsequently, contribute to discontinuing support for sex offender’s loved ones and reoffending. This article highlights the creation and maintenance of a peer-to-peer social support group for registered sex offenders and their family members that helps combat the effects of “sex offender” labels. This group differs from formal organized circles of support model and traditional self-help groups such as Alcohol (AA) or Narcotic (NA) Anonymous. We review this group’s creation, processes and procedures, and outcomes, including changes in cognition, mood, and affect over time for members in the group.
Click here for a link to the full article.

Two FEARLESS meetings are held in Nebraska:
--In Lincoln, at 7:00 p.m. on the first Monday of each month, at Calvary United Methodist Church, 1610 S. 11th Street.
--In Omaha, at 7:00 p.m. on the third Monday of each month, at St. Michael's Lutheran Church, 13232 Blondo Street.

Sunday, June 17, 2018


The June FEARLESS meets in Omaha this Monday evening.

FEARLESS meets at 7:00 p.m. the third Monday of each month, at St. Michael's Lutheran Church, 13232 Blondo Street in Omaha.

Registered citizens, their families, and friends are welcome to come and meet with and learn from others dealing with life on the registry.

Join the conversation Monday night!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Appeals court upholds $28 million judgment to Beatrice Six

A federal appeals court has upheld the $28 million judgment against Gage County, awarded to six people falsely accused of the 1985 rape and murder of a Beatrice woman. The six collectively spent more than 70 years in prison before they were exonerated nearly a decade ago.

The Omaha World-Herald reports on the court's decision.
In Monday’s decision, the three judges unanimously rejected all of the county’s arguments to erase the monetary damages and order a new civil trial. Judge Bobby Shepherd of El Dorado, Arkansas, noted in his opinion that the court has now rendered four rulings in the case, all in favor of the Beatrice Six. 
“We are asked here, in large part, to sweep the pieces off the board — to overturn our prior rulings — in order to vacate the jury’s verdict,” he wrote. “We decline to do so.”
Read the full story in the Omaha World-Herald.

Sex offender registries do more harm than good

In a column for the Canadian publication, the National Post, Marni Soupcoff writes that sex offender registries in both Canada and the United States (but especially the public registries in the USA) really don't make much sense. She uses a recent case from New Hampshire to illustrate her point.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the New Hampshire Supreme Court upheld the felony conviction of a young man who, at age 18, went online and propositioned a 15-year-old girl (whom he knew) for sex. Because of the conviction, the computer sex crime law dictates that he’ll be on the state’s public sex-offender registry for life. If he’d actually had consensual sex with the underage girl, instead of propositioning her online, he’d have been charged with a misdemeanour and wouldn’t have been placed on the sex-offender registry at all.
Pretty silly indeed.  And Soupcoff points out other major flaws with registries, namely, they're costly to maintain and they don't prevent any crimes.
In a Vox article on the subject, writer Dara Lind points out that “(f)ew sex offenders go on to commit another crime,” and “most new sex crime convictions involve people who aren’t registered sex offenders.” Reoffending does happen, unfortunately, but it’s unclear that it would be happening to a much greater degree without registries, or, to put it the other way around, that registries are somehow keeping it in check. A 2009 article in the Economist cites a New Jersey Department of Corrections study that “found that the state’s system for registering sex offenders and warning their neighbours cost millions of dollars and had no discernible effect on the number of sex crimes.” And, as Lind notes, there’s evidence to suggest that registries may inhibit victims from reporting family members, knowing that doing so could impose not only a finite criminal sentence on the offender, but also a lifelong economic and social one, regardless of whether the person is able to rehabilitate himself or herself and turn things around.
Read more of Soupcoff's column at the National Post website.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Dobbs Wire: Registry increases by 3.3% in six months

Bill Dobbs provides the latest report on the number of registered sex offenders in the United States, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) just released its latest map which shows the latest figures for sex offense registries in all states. (NCMEC is a private organization that gets much of its funding from the federal government. Their map is updated twice a year; reliability of the numbers is uncertain.) 

One key indicator continues to increase, the total number listed on registries is now 900,202.  That’s a 3.3% (29,560) rise since the last count six months ago. 

Attached are three charts produced by The Dobbs Wire that will tell you more.   

Chart A   Registries across the country – the numbers
This chart shows the biggest (California) to the smallest (Washington, DC) registries.  A relatively small number of states have a large portion of the total registrants in the country -- the 10 biggest registries have more than half (56%), the 15 biggest have more than two-thirds (68%).    

Chart B  Registries – differences among the states
This chart shows that some states put more of their people on the registry.  One example is Michigan where the registry is 4th largest in the country but the state is only the 10thlargest by population.  Michigan’s registry has more people on it than New York’s, a state with twice the population.  Oregon is the 27th largest state by population while it has the 9thlargest registry. 

Chart C  Registries ranked by per capita registration rate and population
This chart shows wide variation in per capita registration rates around the country – from 120 (Maryland) to Oregon (679) per 100,000 population.  Of the 10 states with the highest registration rates, some are small or medium size in population (Delaware, South Dakota, Wyoming, Arkansas) while others are quite populous such as Florida and Michigan.

The latest figures show some states with notable increases in registration since Nov. 2017:
Texas              8%       (91,912 to 99,175)
Tennessee      3%       (23,262 to 29,123)
North Carolina 4%      (17,621 to 24,173)
Kentucky         3%       (11,299 to 14,123)
Vermont         62%      (1,333 to 2,166)
Rhode Island  23%      (2,600 to 3,207)

The latest figures show at least one state with a notable decrease in registration since Nov. 2017:
Washington     11%     (22,045 to 19,525)

According to this latest report, there are 5,541 registered sex offenders in Nebraska.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Treatment of sex offenders depends on whether they've challenged rules

Here's an interesting article from the Detroit Free Press about the confusion surrounding enforcement of Michigan's sex offender registry laws following a federal court ruling that provisions of the law were unconstitutional. Apparently, no one knows exactly what the law requires or how it is supposed to be enforced.
WASHINGTON — Eight months after the U.S. Supreme Court effectively upheld a decision saying parts of Michigan's sex offender registry law — one of the toughest in the nation — were unconstitutional, thousands of former sex offenders who thought they'd be off the registry by now, or facing less severe restrictions, have seen no changes. 
The law remains in place, unchanged, with the state defending it in more than three dozen lawsuits — many of which it has already lost. The controversy involves a ruling two years ago by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati that said provisions enacted in 2006 and 2011 and applied to offenders convicted before then violates constitutional protections against increasing punishments after-the-fact. Last October, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the state's challenge to that ruling, effectively upholding it. 
The rules prohibit offenders — many of whom have gone years if not decades without committing any crimes — from legally living, working or even standing within 1,000 feet of a school, a regulation that many say makes it hard for them to work, or to pick up or see their kids at school, and has forced some to give up jobs and homes. 
The rules also require offenders to immediately register email addresses or vehicles and report to police as often as four times a year, in some cases, for the rest of their lives. Because the appeals court decision came in civil cases and not class action lawsuits, the state has maintained those rulings apply only to the specific plaintiffs who brought them. 

And with the state Legislature failing to change the law, registrants find themselves in a legal morass, with the requirements they must comply with almost wholly contingent on whether the offender has successfully gone to court.
 You can read the full article and marvel at the morass in Michigan at the Detroit Free Press.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Deceptive headlines stoke sex offender hysteria

Using a much-hyped news story as a springboard, NARSOL has a reminder of the importance of reading beyond the headlines.
By Michael M. . . . The following headline appeared on Tuesday, June 5, 2018 at Fox News: “Virginia sex offender seen snatching 7-month-old from mother in photos released by police.”  It all seems pretty straightforward, at least until you read the accompanying article.
Read the full commentary online at NARSOL.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Guy Hamilton-Smith: Dear Gay

Many registrants will likely be able to easily relate to this moving essay and letter written by Guy Hamilton-Smith.
Ryan is the hardest part of my story to explain. 
We have never met, nor will we, and yet he radically changed the course of my life.The path that I’ve walked since law school was not one that I intended. I did not go to law school advocate for sex offenders. I went to hide. I went for lack of better ideas. I went because it interested me. I went because, while I was fortunate to have parents who put up money to retain counsel, I saw many who did not have adequate representation, nor families standing by their side. 
The day after my arrest, I told my professors at school what had happened. I withdrew from graduate school at the end of that semester, where I studied psychology. Law school had never been on my radar. I asked my own lawyer one day after a pre-trial hearing if you could go to law school with a felony conviction. 
And, so I went.
Read the full essay here.

Challenging the punitiveness of 'new-generation' SORN laws

Wayne A. Logan of the Florida State University College of Law has an article in the 21 New Law Review article worth checking out.

Here is the abstract:
Sex offender registration and notification (SORN) laws have been in effect nationwide since the 1990s, and publicly available registries today contain information on hundreds of thousands of individuals. To date, most courts, including the Supreme Court in 2003, have concluded that the laws are regulatory, not punitive, in nature, allowing them to be applied retroactively consistent with the Ex Post Facto Clause. Recently, however, several state supreme courts, as well as the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, addressing challenges lodged against new-generation SORN laws of a considerably more onerous and expansive character, have granted relief, concluding that the laws are punitive in effect. This symposium contribution examines these decisions, which are distinct not only for their results, but also for the courts’ decidedly more critical scrutiny of the justifications, purposes, and efficacy of SORN laws. The implications of the latter development in particular could well lay the groundwork for a broader challenge against the laws, including one sounding in substantive due process, which unlike ex post facto-based litigation would affect the viability of SORN vis-à-vis current and future potential registrants.
Read the full article here.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Australian report finds public sex offender registries do not work

A report from Australia essentially confirms what we already know...that public sex offender registries do not work.
Public sex offender registries designed to shutdown pedophiles and rapists will not stop recidivism, while a searchable database could see house prices in some neighbourhoods drop by up to 8 percent, claims a new report. 
The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), in its May 20-page report, will add further fuel to an already divisive and controversial policing method. 
Drawing battle lines over law and order, Victoria's opposition party in February signalled their intent to establish a public register for serious adult offenders should they oust premier Daniel Anderson from power in November's state election. 
Victoria's Leader of the Opposition Matthew Guy has said a public register will "protect Victorians from the worst of the worst”. 
However, the AIC study concluded that public sex offender registries "may have a small general deterrent effect on first time offenders [but] they do not reduce recidivism”.
Read the full story here.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Lincoln Fearless Monday

The June meeting of FEARLESS Lincoln is this Monday, June 4.

Registered citizens, their families, and friends are welcome to come and meet with, support, and learn from others dealing with life on the registry.

FEARLESS Lincoln meets at 7:00 p.m. the first Monday of every month at Calvary United Methodist Church, 1610 S. 11th Street, in Lincoln.

Join us this Monday night!

Friday, June 1, 2018

Sex offender registries: Common sense or nonsense?

In a comprehensive article for the June issue of Criminal Legal News, Christopher Zoukis knocks down many of the myths and lies used to justify sex offender registration and notification laws.
There is a laudable and virtually unassailable goal associated with sex-offender registration and restriction laws: protection of the public, especially children. Congress passed SORNA, for example, “[i]n order to protect the public from sex offenders and offenses against children. . . .” 34 U.S.C. § 20901. 
But the “protections” provided by sex offender registration and restriction laws are based on faulty information and more than one false premise. In passing registry laws, legislators frequently cite the high rates of recidivism among sex offenders. Judges do the same. In the 2002 opinion McKune v. Lile, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy cited a “frightening and high” sex-offender recidivism rate of up to 80 percent. 
If it were true, that would, indeed, be “frightening and high.” However, that figure is flat-out wrong. Justice Kennedy based that assertion on an unverified claim in a 1986 Psychology Today article written by a therapist who has since repudiated it. In fact, the therapist has stated that the 80 percent figure is “absolutely incorrect” and that he is appalled that it is still being used to influence public policy and judges.
Over the course of the lengthy article, Zoukis manages to confront most of the false assumptions used to justify sex offender registry laws.

Read the full article online at Criminal Legal News.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

A flurry of bills followed Larry Nassar's conviction. Here's why that's a problem.

Several new laws have been proposed in Michigan following the conviction of former Michigan State University sports doctor Larry Nassar. The bills have broad bipartisan support, but Natasha Lennard writes that the proposed legislation is typical of the knee-jerk sex offender legislation that typically has followed high-profile cases in recent years.
The 1994 Jacob Wetterling Act, the first law to establish federal guidelines requiring states to implement sex offender registries, was named after an 11-year-old Minnesotan who was kidnapped and murdered by a suspected pedophile. Megan’s Law, mandating public notification about registered sex offenders when deemed necessary, was introduced directly in response to the brutal rape and murder in New Jersey of 7-year-old Megan Kanka by a recidivist sex offender neighbor. And the expansion of the sex offenders registry to include juvenile registrants came in part in response to the assault of an 8-year-old Wisconsin girl by a 14-year-old boy. 
It’s an understandable pattern, but a dangerous one. Premised on extreme horrors, sex offender laws have constructed an overreaching, excessively punitive registry system, which empirical studies and human rights advocates have found may cause more harm than good. 
Read Lennard's full article here.