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.