Monday, April 30, 2018

Instagram now bans registered sex offenders

From the Florida Action Committee:

On April 19, 2018, Facebook owned Instagram, revised its Terms of Use.
The new version replaces the prior version, which had been in place since 2013, can be found here:
Sadly, included in this months change is a ban on anyone registered as a sex offender. The restriction did not appear in the prior version.
A comprehensive online news search revealed no issues with sex offenders using the platform in the past.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Passport revoked

The federal government is revoking the passports of registrants under the International Megan's Law. Here is the experience of one Illinois registrant, courtesy of NARSOL.
By Scott . . . I’m on the board of Illinois Voices for Reform and have been actively involved with the organization since 2012. I am on the registry for life as currently required by Illinois law due to an incident involving a minor back in 2008. I served two years of probation and successfully completed sex offender counseling in 2012. My wife and I love to travel, and we were fortunate to be able to travel to Europe for a week at the end of March. I gave the federally required 21 days international travel notice to my local police department. I had no problems traveling to Europe other than the usual hassle of being sent to secondary at O’Hare airport upon return to the U.S. which is typically a 5-10 minute inconvenience. 
Approximately two weeks after I returned from Europe, the U.S. State Department sent out a passport revocation letter as required by International Megan’s Law.
Read more here.

Read a copy of the passport revocation letter.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Uproar over former registrant allowed to volunteer at Iowa school

The Des Moines Register has an article about concern over a former Iowa teacher, who was convicted 20 years ago of exploitation of a minor for recording female students changing in a school restroom, now allowed to volunteer at his children's school. The man served a short prison sentence and was on Iowa's sex offender registry for 10 years. He is no longer required to register.
_____ has volunteered for Mid-Prairie schools since 2015. District officials granted him special permission despite his previous conviction. 
The school district did not notify parents about _____'s past or the decision to allow him to volunteer. Superintendent Mark Schneider said he did inform school principals that _____ must be with another adult at all times. 

_____, who has two children who attend junior high school in the district, has chaperoned elementary school field trips and built sets for the last four high school plays, Schneider said.
Some of the man's former students say he shouldn't be allowed to volunteer at a school, but he has received letters of support from, among others, his pastor, a former prosecutor, and a district judge.

Read more in the Des Moines Register.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

NJ court rules juveniles can't be kept on sex offender registry for life

The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that requiring juveniles to be listed on the sex offender registry for life violates the state's constitution.

As usual, much of what is said about the deleterious effects of placing minors on the sex offender registry also applies to adults.
"Indeed, categorical lifetime notification and registration requirements may impede a juvenile's rehabilitative efforts and stunt his ability to become a healthy and integrated adult member of society," Justice Barry Albin wrote in the decision. 
Read more about the decision here and here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

NARSOL: Sex offender registry facts and statistics

From NARSOL, here is a handy compilation of facts and statistics about sex offender registries complete with supporting links.

Check it out at the NARSOL website.
The palm card is a collection of the most salient facts regarding sexual offending, quickly available for reference or for distribution. Since space is at a premium, citation references are omitted with one citation being given that will point here.

Also, from the Florida Action Committee, check out a Sex Offense Registry Fact Sheet compiled by Dr. Emily Horowitz, a professor with the Dept. of Sociology and Criminal Justice at St. Francis College.

Sex Offense Registry Fact Sheet

Monday, April 23, 2018

Case could help prevent Congress from outsourcing its power

Elizabeth Slattery and John-Michael Seibler of the Heritage Foundation comment on a Supreme Court case that could have ramifications for registered citizens.
How much authority can Congress give to the attorney general to effectively write the criminal laws? 
That’s a question the Supreme Court will address next term in a newly added case, Gundy v. United States. This case goes to the heart of the Constitution’s separation of powers and, specifically, how much Congress can pass the buck to the executive branch to make our nation’s laws. And that, in turn, is about safeguarding liberty. 
In Gundy, the court will review Congress’ delegation of authority to the attorney general to decide whether and how to retroactively apply the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act of 2006, also known as SORNA.
Read the full commentary here.

Federal courts examining constitutionality of sex offender registries

A look at how several recent court decisions against sex offender registries in several states, and the predictable backlash from elected officials in response to those decisions. 
Colorado’s sex offender registry still hangs in limbo seven months after a judge said it violated the constitutional rights of former offenders, subjecting them to an extended punishment and public shaming. 
U.S. District Judge Richard P. Matsch’s ruling is the latest to reject states that are reaching for more stringent controls on sex offenders even after they have served their sentences. 
Criminal justice reformers say it’s about time the courts strike back. The lifelong punishments that sexual offenders face beyond the courtroom and prison conflict with the country’s tradition of rehabilitation and second chances, they say. 
But with federal appeals courts now involved in scrutinizing laws in Colorado, Alabama and Michigan, state attorneys general say they are worried that their legislatures’ work to keep communities safe may be undermined.
Read the full article here.

Friday, April 20, 2018

NC lawsuit moves forward in twice delayed hearing on motion to dismiss

From the NARSOL website, Robin Vander Wall gives an update on a federal lawsuit challenging North Carolina's sex offender registry law.
At a hearing in federal court (Middle District, NC) on Monday, April 16, 2018, NARSOL,NCRSOL, and two John Doe plaintiffs were represented by Attorney Paul Dubbeling to defend against the state of North Carolina’s Motion to Dismiss a lawsuit filed in January, 2017 seeking declaratory and injunctive relief under section 1983 of Title 42 of the U.S. Code (Civil Action for deprivation of rights). Forty six named defendants were represented by Attorney Lauren Clemmons of the N.C. Attorney General’s office. 
At issue in this case are a variety of grievances presented by the complainants about the N.C. Sex Offender Registry and the prohibitions and restrictions that flowfrom them. Chief among them is that the registry laws are punitive and violate the federal constitution’s prohibition against the ex post facto effect of civil regulatory schemes that are burdensome and deprive citizens of liberty interests in accordance with an analysis first articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court in Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 372 U.S. 144 (1963) and applied by that Court in the seminal registry case of Smith v. Doe, 538 U.S. 84 (2003).
Read more at the NARSOL website.

Read the original complaint here.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The sex trafficking panic is based on myths

In a compelling article, BuzzFeed contributors Jenny Heineman and Brooke Wagner deconstruct the myths about sex trafficking in the United States. 
Good data is hard to come by in an industry kept largely in the shadows. That’s why, from 2012 to 2014, we spent nine months walking a stretch of road in Las Vegas well known as a gathering point for sex workers and their customers. We were part of a team who tailed along with those sex workers as they plied their trade, ducking into cars and alleyways to sell their services. We handed out condoms and other harm-reduction material, and we had a definite purpose — we were researchers, paid through an Obama-era grant from the US Department of Justice. 
Our goal was to collect the data needed to provide an accurate estimate of the extent of sexual human trafficking in the United States. The primary investigator, Ric Curtis, designed the study based on his experience collecting data from other “hard to reach” populations, like intravenous drug users in Atlantic City. His method offered a guide for researchers to collect data, without relying on law enforcement, on young and underage people engaged in what we defined as survival sex (trading sex on the street for something else of value like money, shelter, food, and clothing). The study had several teams collecting data in major cities across the US that had been dubbed as “hubs of sex trafficking.” 
What the study revealed, after interviewing 949 people across 6 cities — 171 of them in Las Vegas — was that many of the assumptions that inform government policy on sex workers are merely myths. And those myths are easily disproved once you bother to get the data, which we did.
Read the full article at BuzzFeed.

Registered father prohibited from seeing son in NICU

Another story of a father prevented from visiting his young child in the hospital because the father is a registered sex offender. This story is from St. Louis, Missouri.
The man was 19-years-old when the offense happened in 2004. The victim of the aggravated criminal sexual abuse was 13. 
14 years later, he is a husband and a father. 
His son was recently born about a month early and was rushed to the hospital after he stopped breathing. 
The dad said he showed up to Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital and his I.D. was checked, which is hospital policy. 
“They called security and explained because I was a registered sex offender I had to have an escort to go anywhere,” he said.
Recall the recent case of a Wisconsin man, and registered citizen, who sued a Milwaukee hospital after he was prohibited from being with his son.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Pennsylvania Megan's Law "legislative fix" no fix at all

Pennsylvania lawmakers thought they fixed problems with their state's sex offender registry that led the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to declare portions of the law unconstitutional. Not surprisingly, they likely didn't fix anything.
Pennsylvania lawmakers insist they have fixed problems with Megan’s Law that threatened to allow thousands of sex offenders to avoid having to register with the state. 
Not so fast, say defense attorneys. 
Just eight weeks have passed since Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill aimed to address court rulings that declared key provisions of the sex offender registry as unconstitutional. But already, lawyers are filing legal challenges to the new law.
Read the full story here.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

OnceFallen: The forgotten victims of National Crime Week

Derek Logue of writes about some notable victims who don't get mentioned during a week set aside to remember crime victims -- registered sex offenders who are victims of vigilantes and government policy.
The week of April 8th to April 14th of 2018 has been declared “Nation Crime Victim’s Rights Week,” and while discussions about crime victims are commonplace, this recognized memorial week provides a greater platform for the victims’ rights group to promote their advocacy. There is, however, a narrative that has been neglected this week—the victimization of registered citizens and their loved ones by virtue of the public registry and the laws they inspire. 
Read more here.

In the age of #MeToo, can there be forgiveness, second chances?

An Associated Press article explores the possibility of forgiveness in the age of #MeToo.
If a man abuses his co-workers and apologizes, should he be forgiven? What about a man who sexually assaults a stranger asleep in bed? Is redemption possible? 
Last week, Tom Ashbrook, who was fired as host of the popular National Public Radio program “On Point,” asked in a column in The Boston Globe if there was a way back after being fired in February for creating an “abusive work environment.” Investigators for his employer, Boston radio station WBUR, cleared him of sexual misconduct allegations. 
“My behavior was offensive and overbearing to some,” Ashbrook wrote, going on to ask: “Is there room for redemption and rebirth, in our time of Google trails and hashtag headlines?” 
There should be, say many experts who study issues surrounding sexual abuse. Forgiveness must be possible if society wants to reduce instances of sexual misconduct, but experts say, it will take work and willingness to change from both the perpetrators and society at large.
Read the full article here.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Iowa court rules two men can't be held in civil commitment

The Iowa Supreme Court struck a blow against Iowa's civil commitment program, ruling that the state couldn't hold two men indefinitely past their court-mandated sentences.

Here are a couple key quotes from the Associated Press article.
"Preventive detention is very limited in American law because it is seen as antithetical to fundamental liberty interests and the presumption of innocence," wrote Justice Brent Appel in the Iowa Supreme Court's majority opinion Friday... 
He said sexually violent predator statutes "threaten to deprive individuals of what from time immemorial has been the weightiest of interests — the interest in individual liberty." He said the vague and flexible standards of the statutes allows, if not encourages, "a better-safe-than-sorry approach" of locking up sex crime violators indefinitely.
Read more here.

Read the court rulings here and here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Writing sex offender laws based on fake recidivism numbers is rational, court says

More on the Illinois Supreme Court's decision to reverse a lower court decision and uphold the state's ban on child sex offenders in public parks. Commentary from Jacob Sullom at Reason.
Last week the Illinois Supreme Court upheld a state law banning sex offenders from public parks, overturning a 2017 appeals court ruling that deemed the statute "unconstitutional on its face because it bears no reasonable relationship to protecting the public." The seven members of the higher court unanimously disagreed, saying, "We conclude that there is a rational relation between protecting the public, particularly children, from sex offenders and prohibiting sex offenders who have been convicted of crimes against minors from being present in public parks across the state." 
In reaching that conclusion, the justices relied on alarming claims about recidivism among sex offenders, even while acknowledging that the claims have been discredited. The decision, written by Justice Mary Jane Theis, shows how fear overrides logic in dealing with sex offenders and how toothless "rational basis" review can be, allowing legislators not only to draw their own judgments but to invent their own facts.
Read the full commentary at Reason.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Missouri legislature considers tiered registry

A report in the Columbia Missourian says a bill that would create a tiered registry system is advancing through the Missouri legislature. Under the state's current system, nearly everyone is on the list for life.
A Senate committee heard a bill that already has passed the House which would do three things: 
  • Require stricter background checks for those wishing to work in a childcare facility.
  • Impose a mandatory life sentence without eligibility for parole for a person convicted of a predatory sexual offense.
  • Create a tiered system to allow sex offenders to petition to be removed from the sex offender registry.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol registered sex offender report, which is updated daily, indicates that there are around 15,500 sex offenders in the state who are not in prison.  
(Rep. Kurt) Bahr’s bill, HB 2042, would create a tiered system, similar to what the federal government uses, to make it possible for people who have committed an offense that falls into the first two tiers to petition to have their name removed from the registry.
Read the full story here

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Illinois park ban remains in effect

A disappointing ruling from the Illinois Supreme Court, from Illinois Voices for Reform:
This morning (4/5), the Illinois Supreme Court issued a ruling in the Pepitone case regarding the law prohibiting individuals convicted of a sexually-based offense against a minor from being in parks, paths, and bike trails. A lower court had ruled the law unconstitutional, but the State of Illinois appealed the ruling to the Illinois Supreme Court.  
The Illinois Supreme Court overturned the lower court's ruling, saying in effect that the legislature is in a better position than the courts to determine if the law is "rational" in its attempt to protect children. Thus, in Illinois, it remains illegal for an individual who was convicted of a sexually-based offense against a minor to be in parks or on paths or bike trails. 
Obviously, we are very disappointed in the ruling. We believe the Court failed in its responsibility, and instead passed the burden of responsibility back to legislators, elected officials who are always worried about appearing "soft on crime." 
The case is not completely dead just yet. It has been sent back to the lower court for evaluation based on its ex post facto claim. The lower court did not consider the ex post facto claim before since it ruled positively on the "rational basis" argument. However, now that the "rational basis" argument has been overturned, the lower court will now consider the ex post facto argument. If they win that argument, then the law would not apply to anyone convicted before the law was passed. 
While this ruling is sad and depressing, we encourage you all to keep the faith. We knew that change would not come quickly or easily, and we are starting to see very positive rulings coming from other court decisions. In addition, we had some very good recommendations come out of the task force last year, and we will be working with lawmakers in the coming years to try to get some of the recommendations implemented. 
In the meantime, we always think it's best to look for the things we CAN do rather than dwell on what we CANNOT do. For example, some nearby states do not have a ban on being in a park, thus a short road trip can afford you the opportunity to visit a park. In addition, the ban does not apply to federal parks, and there are a few of those in Illinois and the surrounding states. Finally, there is no law against visiting a private park (but be sure to check their rules before going!) 
While the Pepitone case was not filed by our partner attorneys, Illinois Voices did file an Amicus Brief ("friend of the court"). We applaud attorney Katherine Strohl for her efforts and dedication in this case. We will continue to support her as the case goes back to the lower court for consideration of the ex post facto claim. 
Please visit our website for updates on all of the legal cases we are mounting or following. And if you are able, please contribute to Illinois Voices so we can continue the fight against unfair and unconstitutional laws. 
If you have any questions or concerns, please email us at Remember that we are all volunteers, so we may not be able to respond to every email or it may take some time for us to reply. 
As always, thank you for your support.   

Read the court's decision here.

Attorneys General fighting 2017 Colorado sex offender ruling

Attorneys General from other states want the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a Federal Judge's decision that found Colorado's sex offender registry cruel and unusual punishment. Judge Richard Matsch's decision allowed three men to be removed from Colorado's registry.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter is leading the charge to challenge the decision.

Read more here.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Briefing the Supreme Court: Promoting Science of Myth

Melissa Hamilton has an excellent essay in the Emory Law Journal that is worth reading.

The Supreme Court recently decided, in Packingham v. North Carolina, whether North Carolina’s ban on the use of social networking websites by registered sex offenders is constitutional.  1 The principal legal issue in the case was whether the ban violates the First Amendment’s right to freedom of speech. The Supreme Court found the law unconstitutional for that reason.   
Yet another issue arose in the briefing and oral arguments before the Supreme Court. The litigants and certain amici curiae engaged in some debate about whether such a restriction is necessary in the first place. That is, various parties argued about whether the ban serves to protect the public from what North Carolina and the representatives of twelve other states in a collective amicus brief contend are high risk sex offenders who commonly use the internet to locate children for purposes of sexual exploitation.  3 In opposition, Packingham’s submissions, as the individual petitioner, and the amicus brief by a group of sex offender treatment professionals refute such allegations.  4 
This debate is important because it goes to the heart of the foundational basis of North Carolina’s justification for the ban. The Supreme Court has previously approved civil restrictions on sex offenders, such as public registries and residency restrictions, based on the belief that their recidivism risk is “frightening and high.”  5 Yet some experts point out that the scientific evidence is to the contrary.

Read the full essay in the Emory Law Journal.

Scam targets registered citizens

A reminder to registrants about a scam that has impacted registered sex offenders in many states, including Nebraska.

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office warned in January that several people may have fallen victim to the scam, which involves a person calling a registrant, claiming to be from the Sheriff's Office, and telling the registrant that he/she would be arrested for a violation if the registrant does not send the caller payment in the form of iTunes or other money transfer.

The same, or a similar, scam is being reported in other states.

Remember: no legitimate law enforcement officer will ask you for money over the phone. If you receive such a call -- DO NOT send the caller any money -- but do contact the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department to report the scam attempt.