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