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.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Judge rejects Idaho sex offender registration lawsuit

Bad news regarding the lawsuit challenging Idaho's sex offender registry.
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A federal judge has rejected a lawsuit challenging Idaho's sex offender registration laws. But the 134 anonymous sex offenders who brought the lawsuit have the option to refile the case if they can show the current laws caused them actual harm. 
U.S. District Judge David Nye says that could be difficult. He explains in this month's ruling that common arguments claiming registration requirements are embarrassing, invasive and burdensome have already been rejected in previous cases.
Full story here

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Convicted of violating a law that does not exist

Commentary from the Cato Institute on a relevant case to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this fall.
Herman Gundy stands convicted of violating a law that, for all intents and purposes, doesn’t exist. You may recall from high school civics that the Constitution separates the powers of the federal government among three coordinate branches. You may also recall from “Schoolhouse Rock” that a bill becomes a law after it’s passed by the two houses of the legislative branch and signed by the president. Unfortunately for Gundy, things are no longer so straightforward. 
The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) set up a national system of sex offender registration and made it a crime for sex offenders to fail to register with local authorities when they moved to a new state. While serving time on a federal drug charge, Gundy was transferred from prison in Pennsylvania to a halfway house in Brooklyn. According to the government, that counted as interstate travel sufficient to trigger reporting obligations of which he was never advised.
Read the full commentary at the Cato Institute website.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Sex offender registry: More harm than good?

Here's a thorough article from the CT Mirror, taking a clear-eyed look at the sex offender registry in the state of Connecticut and nationally.

In the 1990s, in response to a number of horrific and highly publicized crimes against children, states and the federal government created stringent penalties for sex offenders, notably registries where offenders’ names and addresses are available to the public. 
But now critics across the country are demanding review and revision of these policies, saying they are based on false assumptions, are a waste of money and do more harm than good. 
The registries and related policies “are absolutely and fundamentally flawed. They do nothing to support prevention, are not a deterrent and do nothing for people who have survived sexual violence,” said Prof. Alissa Ackerman of California State University Fullerton, a criminologist and national expert on the treatment of sex offenders.
Read the full article here.

Sunday, May 20, 2018


The May FEARLESS meeting is scheduled this Monday, May 21.

With summer just around the corner, many people are planning vacations. We'll discuss traveling as a registered citizen.

FEARLESS meets at 7:00 p.m. Monday, at St. Michael Lutheran Church, 13232 Blondo Street, Omaha.

Join us!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Sex offender residency restrictions waste money, create havoc

In an essay at the Criminal Legal News website, NARSOL communication director Sandy Rozek provides a compelling argument why sex offender residency and presence restrictions are bad public policy and should be abolished. These arguments are well-known, but it's good to be reminded of them occasionally.
Compelling logical, factual reasons to totally abolish distance restrictions in residence and presence for those required to be on sex-offender registries include: (1) absolutely no validation from empirical evidence; (2) conditions which contradict every valid opinion and statistic about rehabilitation; (3) a complete failure in solving the problem it is intended to address; and (4) the creation of problems that cause a decrease in public safety and destroy lives.
You can read the full article at the Criminal Legal News website.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Sex offender recidivism fact-based research statistics

AVNetnews, from Sarasota, Florida, has a rundown of several sex offender recidivism studies. They include a few older, less credible, studies and a few more recent and scientifically valid studies.

Here is their introduction:

The following Sex Offender Recidivism Fact-Based Research Statistics show that “facts are stubborn things”, refuting the shill, rants and other myths, such as the unsupported “frighteningly high recidivism”. We must read this and understand these laws hoping to protect kids are in reality destroying kids and their families.

Note that the 2013 Nebraska Sex Offender Registry Study is not included among the recent studies listed by AVNetnews.

Check out the AVNetnews report here.

Kansas governor signs bill to compensate wrongfully convicted

Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer has signed a bill that will compensate people who are wrongfully convicted of a crime in Kansas.
His signature on House Bill 2579 made Kansas the 33rd state to enact a wrongful conviction compensation statute. It was described by advocates as the “gold standard” for the nation. Individuals found by a court to meet the definition of wrongfully convicted would receive $65,000 for each year held on that conviction and $25,000 for each year wrongfully served on parole, probation or on a sex offender registry. The payments are not subject to state or federal taxation. 
Exonerees in Kansas would receive cash, the social services and a “certificate of innocence and expungement” designed to formally clear their names. In the event of a civil award or settlement from a lawsuit brought by an exoneree, compensation from the state would be deducted or repaid.
Kansas legislators worked with the Midwest Innocence Project on the bill's language. A representative from the Innocence Project hopes the Kansas law can be a model for other states.
“We hope that neighboring states we work in — Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa and Arkansas — will take notice and follow Kansas’ lead,” said Tricia Bushnell, executive director of the Midwest Innocence Project.
Read more about the Kansas law here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A silenced minority

Another good blog post. Registrants should not be afraid to stand up and speak up for themselves. One person can make a difference.
Educators usually say the most essential pillars of successful outcomes are a caring community of learners, enhancement of the learning objective, and reciprocal relationships and transparency to facilitate both sides of an issue. When it comes to an understanding, sexual offenses or those impacted by the registry, there is only one side because those that can contribute meaningful dialog are conveniently excluded or not allowed to voice objections or grievances.
Read more here.

The uncivil war on sexuality

A blog post tackles fallout from the #MeToo movement.
The sex offender registry and draconian laws aimed at offenders has destroyed lives of individuals and families. Today a new form of offender registration has transpired. This new offender registry creates life sentences using the internet as its delivery method carefully skirting libel and slander policies under the blanket of free speech. Naturally, this is not a registry, but social movements are utilizing social media platforms to quasi-create a public registry with no hopes of being removed or deleted, and it’s creating more harm than good.
Read the full post online here.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Homeless sex offenders lose court fight to remain at tent camp

Homeless registrants who have been staying at an encampment in Hialeah, Florida, lost a court decision Thursday. Miami-Dade County can now proceed with plans to either evict or arrest the residents.
A Miami-Dade judge on Thursday cleared the way for the county to dismantle a tent village of homeless sex offenders outside Hialeah, and a lawyer for some of the residents said the ruling leaves them no choice but to live on a roadside or street somewhere else. 
"They'll most likely be relocating to another street corner," Legal Services lawyer Jeffrey Hearne said after the hearing before Judge Pedro Echarte Jr. in Circuit Court. "New encampments will pop up. And this cycle will continue."
Read more here.

Time Magazine has a look inside sex offender therapy

Time Magazine has a long article looking inside a sex offender therapy group.
They sit in the circle, the man who exposed himself to at least 100 women, next to the man who molested his stepdaughter, across from the man who sexually assaulted his neighbor... 
Some of the men’s crimes aren’t all that different from the allegations against public figures such as Kevin Spacey, Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein and Roy Moore. Unlike the famous men, they cannot afford lawyers to draft nondisclosure agreements, or arrange hush-money payments, or appeal guilty verdicts, as Cosby’s attorneys are planning to do following his conviction on sexual assault in April. (Cosby could also be ordered to seek therapy.) Nor can they attempt to stage professional comebacks or publish mea culpa memoirs. 
Instead, these men were all found guilty and had their names added to a state sex-offender registry. They will remain on that list for decades and, in some cases, the rest of their lives.
Read the full article at Time online.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Another scam reported targeting registered sex offenders

SOSEN reports on another scam that is targeting registered sex offenders.
The following is from one of our member families. 
We had a scare yesterday. Someone called saying they were from (our) County Sheriff’s Department and that my loved one had moved without reporting it within three days. They wanted $2,000 dollars to cover his court fees then directed us to a specific street downtown which is where my loved one’s registration office is located. They indicated he would not be arrested, but would have to show up in court next Friday. They kept him on the phone and said he could not hang up while driving. He was very upset and drove to the bank. I went with him and tried to convince him it might be a scam. When we got to the bank I called the County Sheriff’s Department and they said it was NOT true. He then called his PO and was told it is a scam that is going on and he had heard it from others. Her loved one was finally convinced. He suffers from a TBI injury and PTSD from the military which made the panic worse. 
Please, if you get any such call wanting you to respond with money hang up and call your registry office or police department and report it immediately. Any such call that you receive via phone or by mail please recognize it for what it is…a scam. 
Read more at SOSEN.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

ACLU sues to stop Miami homeless sex offender camp evictions

The situation with the shameful humanitarian crisis that is the encampent of homeless registered sex offenders in Miami continues, as a lawsuit has been filed to try and prevent officials from dismantling the camp. The Miami New Times has a report on the lawsuit.
In 2007, New Times broke national news with a story about how a group of sex-offenders was forced to live in tents underneath the Julia Tuttle Causeway because of restrictive laws barring them from living within thousands of feet of schools or playgrounds. Their case became a focal point in efforts to reform the nation's laws governing sex criminals. After a local outcry, the Tuttle colony was uprooted — but soon rematerialized near Hialeah, once again sparking national debate.
Read more here

Military eyes child sex assault solutions without Congress

As reported in the Tampa Bay Times,
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. military officials have sought to ward off congressional efforts to address child-on-child sexual assaults on bases, even as they disclose that the problem is larger than previously acknowledged. 
Members of Congress expressed alarm and demanded answers after an Associated Press investigation revealed that reports of sexual violence among kids on U.S. military bases and at Pentagon-run schools are getting lost in a dead zone of justice that often leaves both victim and offender without help. 
With at least three potential legislative fixes being drafted, military officials have had a clear message during briefings with lawmakers and their staffs: We can handle this on our own. It's a strategy that began months ago, after the Pentagon received AP's questions and well before officials understood the scope or severity of the problem. 
Read the full story here.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Be FEARLESS in Lincoln Monday night

The next Lincoln FEARLESS meeting is this coming Monday evening. FEARLESS is a place for registered citizens, their families, and friends to meet in a supportive environment to learn about ways to cope with life on the registry.

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

Join us in Lincoln this Monday night.

Complex residency restrictions difficult to enforce; essentially useless

Here's an article from Columbia, Missouri, that begins by explaining how difficult it is for law enforcement to enforce Missouri's complex sex offender residency restrictions and ends up, perhaps inadvertently, proving the uselessness of residency restrictions. Certainly, many of the experts quoted in the article don't seem to think much of the restrictions.
Although Missouri law focuses on proximity of offenders to children, in nine out of 10 cases, victims and their assailants aren’t strangers, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. 
Beth Huebner, professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis sees residency restrictions as “a false safety.” 
It’s not how sex offenders get access to children. 
“Often times, the perpetrators are family members or close friends. Many of those cases go unreported, and people don’t know how to report them or feel shame,” Huebner said.Assistant Division Director of Mental Health Services at the Missouri Department of Corrections Scott O’Kelley admits that a lot of sex offender laws and restrictions are based on “fear and revulsion,” rather than science. 
Huebner said, “The assumption behind those restrictions (is) that if we limit individuals’ access to children, then we will have lower recidivism rates. But there is no evidence in Missouri that it has happened.”
You can read the full article here

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Reporter investigates the harsh realities of civil commitment

Investigative reporter Barbara Koeppel takes a critical look at the practice of civil commitment in the United States in a report for the Washington Spectator. The introduction to the article calls civil commitment "the third rail of the criminal justice system."
Organizations and professionals familiar with the abuses of civil commitment are its harshest critics. The American Psychiatric Association told its members to “vigorously oppose” it. Two judges, from Minnesota and Missouri, found the laws “punitive and unconstitutional.” Tapatha Strickler, a clinical psychologist who worked at the civil commitment facility in Larned, Kansas, calls it “an abomination.” But the practice persists at huge cost to individuals and taxpayers.
You can read the full report at the Washington Spectator.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The sex offender registry: It's not what you think

The Criminal Legal News website features a column by NARSOL communications director Sandy Rozek, in which she explains how mainstream media headlines can lead to a distorted view of those required to register as sex offenders.
“Texas sex offender added to 10 most wanted sex offenders list.” “Virginia man arrested for sex crimes after third victim comes forward.” “Arizona sex offender sentenced to 100 years for child porn.”  
These are the sorts of headlines that inundate the news and media outlets regarding those in the criminal justice system because of sex crime charges. The cumulative result is to leave the public with the impression that everyone who is labeled a sex offender has done some horrible things and deserves not only lengthy sentencing and harsh punishment but also inclusion on a public sex offender registry for as long as possible. 
However, the headlines that would show how untrue this is are seldom if ever seen. 
Read the full column at the Criminal Legal News website.

Superintendent defends decision to allow former registrant to volunteer at school

Here's a bit of positive news to start your May. The superintendent of an eastern Iowa school district is defending his decision to allow a former registrant to volunteer in the district, even though the decision could cost him his job.

The story is reported by Iowa Public Radio.
Trent Yoder has been volunteering with Mid-Prairie Schools since 2015, in part to be more involved in the education of his two children, who are students in the district. He has also helped build theatre sets and led a spelling club. That's despite the fact Yoder was convicted of sexual exploitation of a child in 1998, for filming a high school student changing clothes in western Iowa. He was listed on the state’s sex offender registry until 2008. In a letter to parents, Mid-Prairie Schools Superintendent Mark Schneider said he initially rejected Yoder's request to volunteer in the district, after his past conviction surfaced in a background check. But Yoder appealed the decision, supplying letters of support from his pastor, a retired Mid-Prairie Elementary School teacher, and an Iowa district judge who reportedly wrote, “I believe Trent’s past performance is far more relevant to the issues of safety and liability than is a seventeen-year-old criminal conviction.Based on these references and what Schneider describes as "Yoder's remorseful and open manner", the superintendent allowed the 47-year-old to volunteer in the district, with the understanding he would be supervised by another adult at all times. Amid community pushback, Yoder has said he won't volunteer for the rest of the school year, which ends May 30.In an open letter, Schneider offered his sympathies to victims of sexual exploitation, a fate he said "no child should ever suffer". But he also said his own grandchildren attend Mid-Prairie schools and that he "would never knowingly put my grandchildren or anyone else’s children or grandchildren in harm’s way."Schneider urged parents to consider a person's ability to learn from past mistakes. But his past decision could lose him his job. Schneider has said he'll resign if he doesn't get the school board's support.
Hopefully, the situation can be resolved without the superintendent having to resign, and a father able to continue volunteering at his children's school. Regardless, it is good to see such public support for a former registrant.