Saturday, January 31, 2009
DES MOINES --- Sex offenders would be restricted from loitering or being present --- rather than residing --- near places where children play or gather under changes being proposed by state public safety officials.
Ross Loder, lobbyist for the state Department of Public Safety, told a legislative panel his agency is working with justice department officials to craft legislation that will comply with new federal sex-offender requirements --- including a provision to repeal Iowa's 2,000-foot residency restriction and convert to presence and loitering restrictions that focus on where offenders are while they're awake instead of while they're asleep.
Among the provisions would be language to shift the focus from restricting where sex offenders can reside to establishing exclusion zones where they could not be present without permission or loiter within 300 feet of a restricted area, he said.
Aside from the claim that the requirements deter offenders from registering their addresses, authorities said it is addresses only a small portion of sex crimes against children. Only 1.5 to 2.5 percent of molestation cases involve a stranger, Ferguson said. In the vast majority of cases, the perpetrator is family member, step-parent or friend of the family, he said.
Aside from the obvious Constitutional abridgment of rights which comes from banning a group of citizens from any presence in a public place, they go on to admit that 97 - 98% of sex crimes against children come from family and acquaintances. So the proposed legislation could have absolutely no affect on over 98% of these crimes.
Soon in Iowa, if you are a sex offender and you walk your dog through a park or library or school grounds, or if you take that short-cut through the park to get home, or you jog past that daycare center....you're going to prison!
Friday, January 30, 2009
montanasnewsstation.com : House endorses more limits for young sex offenders.
HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The House solidly endorsed a bill Friday that would prevent juvenile sex offenders from living near schools, public parks, or daycares.
The measure was endorsed 91-9. Before moving to the Senate, it must still pass one more largely ceremonial reading in the House.
The bill would extend the same limitations in place for adult sex offenders to juveniles rated most likely to re-offend.
Republican Rep. Ray Hawk of Florence (idiot) is the bill's sponsor. He says the need for it came to his attention when he learned a juvenile offender was living within 30 feet of a school playground in his district.
The bill is House Bill 55.
So if I have this correct, juvenile sex offenders can attend the school, but they cannot live near it. Okay, I got it! Sounds like typical inane government.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Individual State Courts
Individual State Courts of Appeals
United States District Courts
United States Courts of Appeals
Individual State Courts & Courts of Appeals (the best compilations found of links to state courts)
United States District Courts and United States Courts of Appeals (includes a map search to find your district court)
Federal Court Blogs:
- 9th Circuit
United States Courts of Appeals Links
Federal Defender Blog: Highlights of Supreme Court and Circuit Courts
Ohio District Courts of Appeal
http://www.sconet.state.oh.us/District_Courts/ (with clickable map to directly link to each district court page)
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
GRAND RAPIDS -- A man found dead on the streets Monday had tried in recent weeks to gain admittance to at least one of two Heartside missions, but was denied a bed because he is a registered sex offender.
Officials say its possible Thomas Pauli might be alive today except for a state law prohibiting him from establishing a residence even for one night within 1,000 feet of a school, in this case, Catholic Central High, also located in the Heartside district.
"It's heartbreaking. I have a hard time even talking about it," said Marge Palmerlee, executive director at Degage Ministries.
There are no exceptions to the so-called Megan's Law, which sets boundaries and restrictions for those on the list.
Added Shaffer, "These men and women are clearly 'The Scarlet Letter' folks of our day. And where do they go? I have no answer."
Mr. Pauli was convicted of second-degree criminal sexual conduct in 1991, over 17 years ago.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
January 26, 2009--The Iowa Department of Corrections says it must immediately release more than a dozen sex offenders from prison. The move comes following a pair of Iowa Supreme Court rulings made last week.
Prison officials kept fifteen sex offenders locked up for not completing their treatment program. But the state's high court ruled the department can only suspend an inmates' "earned time" if their offense was committed after January 2001. The decision means the fifteen offenders have served their time.
Officials say all fifteen will be released in the next 48 hours.
desmoinesregister.com (editorial) : Constitution protects even sex offenders. The lesson in this sudden release of 15 inmates should not be obscured by the nature of their crimes: Constitutional rights belong to everyone, and Iowa's courts deserve credit for recognizing that.
Every one of these people should sue the state!
Monday, January 26, 2009
The High Court in Belfast: In his ruling, Mr Justice Stephens distinguished between the wider debate on whether or not it was right to publish detailed information about sex offenders when they are to be released and the narrower debate on whether it was in the public interest to publish recognizable photos of the individual in question.
High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland, Queen’s Bench Division Callaghan -v- Independent News and Media Ltd
Judgment was given by Mr Justice Stephens on January 7th, 2009:
An un-pixelated photograph of sex murderer Kenneth Callaghan, from which he could be identified, cannot be published. Mr Callaghan has served 21 years of a life sentence and is due for supervised release, and Mr Justice Stephens ruled that the publication of such a photograph, by disrupting his supervision and support regime, would increase the risk to the public by increasing his risk of re-offending.
He granted a separate order that no photograph of any prisoner in the Prisoner Assessment Unit of the Northern Ireland Prison Service could be published without 48 hours’ notice.
Mr Justice Stephens considered the Human Rights Act 1998, incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law; the expectation of privacy as outlined in Mosley -v- Newsgroup Newspapers; the balancing exercise required between competing convention rights; the specific position of photographs in the media as discussed in Douglas Ors -v- Hello Ltd Ors and Von Hannover -v- Germany; Articles 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and 2 (right to life) in the convention and the right to freedom of expression.
He distinguished between the “wider debate” on whether or not it was right to publish detailed information about sex offenders when they are to be released into the community, as occurs in the United States under “Megan’s Law” and the “narrower debate” on the specific question of whether it was in the public interest to publish recognisable photographs of this individual.
Counsel for the Northern Ireland Office referred to several research publications, including the Harvard Law Review (posted on this blog) and a report of the NSPCC entitled Megan’s Law: Does it protect children?, and called Prof Bates Gaston, chief psychologist of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, to give evidence.
Her evidence, supported by the research publications, was that successful integration of offenders into the community and the consequent reduction of risk of harm to the public, depended heavily on stable accommodation and employment for the offender.
“She stated . . . that public information such as contained in Megan’s Law does not reduce the risk of harm to the public, but rather increases the risk of re-offending and therefore of harm to the public. In particular, identification to a local community disrupts the two key elements of accommodation and employment,” Mr Justice Stephens said.
He therefore ruled that a restriction on publication of unpixelated photographs was a proportionate response and necessary in a democratic society.
He also found that the publication of photographs of other prisoners in the Prisoner Assessment Unit would be likely to be an interference with the statutory responsibility of the Northern Ireland Office with regard to such prisoners, and made orders prohibiting the publication of such photographs without 48 hours’ notice to the Northern Ireland Prison Service.
The full judgment is on www.courtsni.gov.uk
This is more evidence that while Europe is moving in the direction of more freedom and democratic rights, the U.S. is moving in the opposite direction.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
A state Supreme Court judge sitting in Rockland today invalidated Rockland's law restricting where sex offenders can live. Justice William Kelly, in an eight-page decision, found that state has specifically taken the responsibility for sex offenders.
Kelly also wrote the state law specifically empowers local probation officers to decide where sex offenders can live without any borders. He also cited a similar decision banning residency boundaries in New Jersey by a judge in the Garden State.
Kelly nullified Rockland's 2007 law. As the first decision on the pre-emption issue, Kelly's ruling becomes precedent and could nullify 80 similar laws across the state that establish some boundaries in which sex offenders cannot live.
In Rockland, for example, sex offenders were prohibited from living, working, and loitering within 1,000 feet of schools, day care centers, libraries or any facilities. Kelly's decision would dismiss misdemeanor charges against up to 13 sex offenders living in prohibited areas.
Oberlander's lawyer, David Goldstein, raised the legal arguments. He said the 1,000 feet or any boundary is arbitrary and meaningless as far as protecting the public.
"The state law of letting probation officers use their discretion is more effective," Goldstein said. "The county law was an over-reaction with a nebulous 1,000-foot magical line."
He said Kelly's decision on the pre-emption issue has implications statewide and could overrule other residency laws.
Corey Rayburn Yung, John Marshall Law School, Chicago
Harvard Journal on Legislation, Vol. 46, 2009
In 2003, the United States Supreme Court issued its only two opinions regarding the constitutionality of sex offender registration and notification statutes. The two opinions, Smith v. Doe ("Smith") and Connecticut Department of Public Safety v. Doe ("DPS"), upheld the Alaska and Connecticut registry and notification laws against Ex Post Facto Clause and due process challenges. Three years later, the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act ("SORNA") was passed as part of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. The federal statute was very different from the state statutes that the Court reviewed. Most notable among the differences was the creation of the federal crime of "failure to register" which was punishable by up to ten years imprisonment. Despite the significance of the disparities between the state and federal laws, district courts across the country have virtually rubber stamped the criminal provisions of SORNA as constitutional. The district courts' reasoning has been almost entirely based upon superficial, mechanical applications of the Court's decisions in Smith and DPS. This article contends that most district courts have been severely misguided in reading the two Court opinions and the statutory provisions of SORNA. Consequently, this article concludes that either Congress should amend SORNA or courts should strike down portions of SORNA on Ex Post Facto Clause, due process, and Commerce Clause grounds.
Keywords: Sex Offenders, Registration, Notification, SORNA, Adam Walsh Act, Ex Post Facto, Due Process, Commerce Clause
To view the complete document, click the "download" link at the top of the link.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry. Provides that the State Police shall publish on the publicly available Internet sex offender database and mail to all persons for whom registration is required the text of all general laws affecting such persons solely because of their inclusion in the Registry. The State Police shall publish and mail the text of all such laws upon their enactment, if such laws are emergency acts, or upon the adjournment of the reconvened session following the regular or special session at which such laws were enacted.
This is as it should be. With the litany of laws being imposed upon sex offenders, at minimum, the State must be held responsible for notifying registered sex offenders of the new laws when they are enacted. It is unfair to assume that every registered sex offender will research (or even understand) new bills and laws which may apply to them.
Georgia General Assembly : Senate Bill SB 14 - Local Boards of Education; no person on the national/state sex offender registry shall be eligible for election/service on board...
A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Code Section 20-2-51 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to election of county board of education members, persons ineligible to be members or superintendent, ineligibility for local boards of education, and ineligibility for other offices, so as to provide that no person who is on the national or state sex offender registry shall be eligible for election to or service on a local board of education; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.
Section1 "(e) No person who is on the National Sex Offender Registry or the state sexual offender registry shall be eligible for election to or service on a local board of education."
Granted: it is very unlikely that a sex offender would be elected to such a position, but isn't it the right of the electorate to decide? And doesn't a sex offender have the right to run for election?
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Of all the ill-considered ballot initiatives approved by California voters over the years, few can match Jessica's Law for sheer self-destructiveness. The measure, billed as a way to protect children from sexual predators when it appeared on the ballot in 2006 as Proposition 83, is worsening the yawning state budget gap amid zero evidence that it's protecting anyone -- in fact, according to a state panel, it may be threatening public safety.
This page warned that the initiative would be an expensive mistake, but that didn't stop 70% of voters from approving it. That may be because sexual predators are nobody's idea of a good neighbor, and voters thought that forcing sex offenders to wear GPS tracking devices for life and forbidding them to live within 2,000 feet of schools and parks would keep them at bay. What they didn't consider were cost and practicality.
(Again, note the improper use of the phrase, "sexual predator". According to the law, "predators" are defined as the worst sub-group classification of sex offenders. Most sex offenders are lower-tier, lower-risk "sex offenders", yet the media continues to use the term "sexual predator" in an effort to scare the reader.)
Among its many failings, the measure doesn't distinguish between criminals who are at high risk of re-offending and those who aren't. That means a teenager convicted of having sex with his underage girlfriend, as just one example, is subject to GPS monitoring and residence restrictions for the rest of his life, even if he never commits another crime. It also fails to specify what agency is responsible for monitoring those thousands of former inmates, or to devote money to pay for it.
State corrections officials announced Jan. 12 that they are now monitoring all 6,622 paroled sex offenders with GPS devices, after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger set aside $106 million in last year's budget for the program. Where the state will come up with the money while facing a $42-billion shortfall over the next 18 months is an open question. What's more, the state will monitor sex offenders only for as long as they remain on parole -- after that, it's up to municipal agencies, none of which have the staff, equipment or spare funding to do the job.
The expense might be worthwhile if Jessica's Law were actually reducing sex crimes. Yet research has found no connection between where a sex offender lives and the likelihood that he'll offend again, nor is there any evidence that GPS monitoring lowers recidivism. Further, it's very hard for parolees to find homes that aren't near schools or parks, leading to a 12-fold increase in the number of homeless sex offenders since the law was passed in 2006. A lack of stable housing only increases the odds that an ex-con will return to crime -- or as the state Sex Offender Management Board put it in a report Tuesday: "Residency restrictions that preclude or eliminate appropriate offender housing can threaten public safety instead of enhancing it."
Lawmakers rarely show the courage to fix problems created by get-tough-on-crime voter initiatives, but there will never be a better time to improve Jessica's Law. The state budget and the prison system are in crisis and must be reinvented, and amending this law -- which the Legislature can do with a two-thirds vote -- would benefit them both. Ideally, the measure should be overturned, but at a minimum the Legislature should create a review process that allows low-risk offenders to escape the residency and monitoring rules. California simply can't afford to pay more to be less safe.
By law, Husted cannot run for the Legislature if he does not live in his district.
A legislator may be forced to forfeit his seat if he is not a legal resident of the district he represents.
Former Speaker of the Ohio House Jon Husted testified before the Montgomery County Board of Elections on Jan 7th, 2009, to answer allegations that he does not live in Kettering, where he is registered to vote.
This is a formal request to investigate the eligibility of Jon A. Husted to vote and run for office in Montgomery County.
"We have independently verified the following facts:
1. Jon Husted is a candidate for the State Senate in the 6th District and is registered to vote at 148 Sherbrooke Dr, Kettering, Ohio 45429.
2. His spouse owns a house located at 2305 Haverford Rd, Columbus, Ohio 43220. Property records attached from Franklin County Auditor Joseph R. Testa indicate that this is the couples permanent place of residence as they take the 2.5% homestead tax reduction.
3. The Ohio Revised Code requires that the 2.5% homestead reduction requires you to own and occupy your home as your principal place of residence. A homeowner and spouse are entitled to this homestead tax reduction on only one home in Ohio.
One can conclude then that either Mr. Husted is committing voter fraud or he is committing tax fraud."
See our posting : "Ohio Senator Jon Husted: Corruption, Fraud, Arrogance" for more details (including his involvement in Senate Bill 10; Adam Walsh Act).
Monday, January 19, 2009
Understanding the Diversity of Sex Offenders - Implications for Informed Public Policy
Dr. Kurt Bumby- Center for Effective Public Policy; Center for Sex Offender Management
December 8, 2008, Honolulu, Hawaii
Registered Sex Offenders in Nation per
Most sex offenses against minors are
committed by parents and relatives.
The vast majority of sex offenses against
children occur in the home.
Over 90% of sex offenses of children under age 17
are committed by family members or acquaintances.
Sex offenses comprise less than 1% of criminal offenses.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
"Enhancing Child Safety and Online Technologies"
Final Report of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force to the Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking of State Attorneys General of the United States.
Directed by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.
Bullet Points include important findings:
1. This research found that cases typically involved post-pubescent youth who were aware that they were meeting an adult male for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity.
2. Bullying and harassment, most often by peers, are the most frequent threats that minors face, both online and offline.
3. Unwanted exposure to pornography does occur online, but those most likely to be exposed are those seeking it out, such as older male minors.
4. Social network sites are not the most common space for solicitation and unwanted exposure to problematic content, but are frequently used in peer-to-peer harassment,
5. Those who are most at risk often engage in risky behaviors and have difficulties in other parts of their lives.
6. More focus should be placed on the role that minors themselves play in contributing to unsafe environments.
Many youth in the United States have fully integrated the Internet into their daily lives.
For them, the Internet is a positive and powerful space for socializing, learning, and engaging in
public life. Along with the positive aspects of Internet use come risks to safety, including the
dangers of sexual solicitation, online harassment, and bullying, and exposure to problematic and
illegal content. The Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking, comprising 50 state
Attorneys General, asked this Task Force to determine the extent to which today’s technologies
could help to address these online safety risks, with a primary focus on social network sites in the
To answer this question, the Task Force brought together leaders from Internet service
providers, social network sites, academia, education, child safety and public policy advocacy
organizations, and technology development. The Task Force consulted extensively with leading
researchers in the field of youth online safety and with technology experts, and sought input from
the public. The Task Force has produced three primary documents: (1) a Literature Review of
relevant research in the field of youth online safety in the United States, which documents what
is known and what remains to be studied about the issue; (2) a report from its Technology
Advisory Board, reviewing the 40 technologies submitted to the Task Force; and (3) this Final
Report, which summarizes our work together, analyzes the previous documents as well as
submissions by eight leading social network sites regarding their efforts to enhance safety for
minors, and provides a series of recommendations for how to approach this issue going forward.
Due to the nature of the Task Force, this Report is not a consensus document, and should be read
in conjunction with the separate Statements from Task Force members included in the appendix.
At the outset, the Task Force recognized that we could not determine how technologies
can help promote online safety for minors without first establishing a clear understanding of the
actual risks that minors face, based on an examination of the most rigorously conducted research.
The Task Force asked a Research Advisory Board comprising leading researchers in the field to
conduct a comprehensive review of relevant work in the United States to date. The Literature
Review shows that the risks minors face online are complex and multifaceted and are in most
cases not significantly different than those they face offline, and that as they get older, minors
themselves contribute to some of the problems. In broad terms, the research to date shows:
• Sexual predation on minors by adults, both online and offline, remains a concern. Sexual
predation in all its forms, including when it involves statutory rape, is an abhorrent crime.
Much of the research based on law-enforcement cases involving Internet-related child
exploitation predated the rise of social networks. This research found that cases typically
involved post-pubescent youth who were aware that they were meeting an adult male for
the purpose of engaging in sexual activity. The Task Force notes that more research
specifically needs to be done concerning the activities of sex offenders in social network
sites and other online environments, and encourages law enforcement to work with
researchers to make more data available for this purpose. Youth report sexual solicitation
of minors by minors more frequently, but these incidents, too, are understudied,
underreported to law enforcement, and not part of most conversations about online safety.
• Bullying and harassment, most often by peers, are the most frequent threats that minors
face, both online and offline.
• The Internet increases the availability of harmful, problematic and illegal content, but does
not always increase minors’ exposure. Unwanted exposure to pornography does occur
online, but those most likely to be exposed are those seeking it out, such as older male
minors. Most research focuses on adult pornography and violent content, but there are also
concerns about other content, including child pornography and the violent, pornographic,
and other problematic content that youth themselves generate.
• The risk profile for the use of different genres of social media depends on the type of risk,
common uses by minors, and the psychosocial makeup of minors who use them. Social
network sites are not the most common space for solicitation and unwanted exposure to
problematic content, but are frequently used in peer-to-peer harassment, most likely
because they are broadly adopted by minors and are used primarily to reinforce pre-existing
• Minors are not equally at risk online. Those who are most at risk often engage in risky
behaviors and have difficulties in other parts of their lives. The psychosocial makeup of
and family dynamics surrounding particular minors are better predictors of risk than the use
of specific media or technologies.
• Although much is known about these issues, many areas still require further research. For
example, too little is known about the interplay among risks and the role that minors
themselves play in contributing to unsafe environments.
Members of the Internet community should continue to work with child safety experts,
technologists, public policy advocates, social services, and law enforcement to: develop
and incorporate a range of technologies as part of their strategy to protect minors from
harm online; set standards for using technologies and sharing data; identify and promote
best practices on implementing technologies as they emerge and as online safety issues
evolve; and put structures into place to measure effectiveness. Careful consideration should
be given to what the data show about the actual risks to minors’ safety online and how best
to address them, to constitutional rights, and to privacy and security concerns.
Parents and caregivers should: educate themselves about the Internet and the ways in which
their children use it, as well as about technology in general; explore and evaluate the
effectiveness of available technological tools for their particular child and their family
context, and adopt those tools as may be appropriate; be engaged and involved in their
children’s Internet use; be conscious of the common risks youth face to help their children
understand and navigate the technologies; be attentive to at-risk minors in their community
and in their children’s peer group; and recognize when they need to seek help from others.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Says Delays, Interference Are Violating People's Rights
POSTED: 9:09 am EST January 15, 2009
BOSTON -- An insider at the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board claims the process of deciding which sex offenders are the most dangerous to the public has been seriously compromised by politics and mismanagement. NewsCenter 5's Sean Kelly reported on Thursday the former hearing examiner is now suing the board.
"The public's interest is not the priority," said Attilio Paglia.
"What is the priority?" asked Kelly.
"I feel it's their own private agenda," answered Paglia.
Paglia spent eight years at the Sex Offender Registry Board as a hearing examiner until he abruptly resigned in December 2008. Paglia determined how convicted sex offenders living and working in neighborhoods all over Massachusetts should be classified, from the most dangerous to the least likely to re-offend.
Paglia told Team 5 Investigates there are serious problems with that classification process. He claims the Sex Offender Registry Board repeatedly tried to get him to change his decisions in violation of state regulations. "There were attempts to take away my authority or limit me or prevent me from acting impartially," said Paglia.
Paglia is suing the Board, his former boss, Martin Whitkin, as well as the Board's former general counsel; Dan Less who he said pressured him to change his decisions at the expense of people's rights. "I mean it was an unprecedented amount of interference. There's this need to grandstand to the Executive Office that management at the board is tough on crime," said Paglia. "
Paglia's attorney, John Swomley, frequently defends sex offenders appealing their classifications before the board. "I think what they want to do is have these decisions made through the hearing process but made through the back rooms of the sex offender registry board," said Swomley.
Paglia isn't the first employee to blow the whistle on the agency. Dr. David Medoff is a former board member who talked to Team 5 Investigates about his concerns. "The way the registry is being run now, in my opinion and in the opinion of many others who are trained in this area actually can in some instances undermine public safety," said Medoff.
Two years ago, Team 5 Investigates first exposed flaws in the state's system used to classify sex offenders. Our investigation revealed how this highly politicized agency uses a former house painter and nail salon technician to help determine how dangerous sex offenders are, without relying on any scientific research.
Team 5 also revealed how the agency made _____, a level 3 sex offender, the most dangerous and likely to re-offend, even though ____ had never been convicted of any sex crimes. "The state has robbed me of my life, man, and they ain't trying to do nothing to correct it," said Thomas.
Now Paglia claims what happened to _____ could easily happen again. And he said the state is deliberately delaying the dissemination of public information about criminals who could be a threat to your children. "Government agencies love statistics and if there's a slow month, there's a need to make everything look like it's steady," said Paglia.
So, often times weeks and months pass preventing the public from being able to find out about dangerous sex offenders. For example, the board didn't disclose _____'s classification as a level 3 sex offender for three months. "Their actions speak nothing of public safety. Their actions work against public safety," said Paglia.
Officials at the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security who oversee the Sex Offender Registry Board refused to comment. So did the board's spokesperson, citing the pending litigation.
Watch video of report here
(video not appearing properly at time of posting but embedded video works)
View lawsuit here.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Every sex offender on state parole in California is now being monitored by GPS technology, a major accomplishment that is six months ahead of previous projections, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Matt Cate announced today.
Today, a total of 6,622 sex offenders - all active sex offender parolees in the community - are now being monitored by GPS. These offenders are fitted with an ankle bracelet that transmits its location to parole agents, who also visit these individuals on a routine basis.
komonews.com (Olympia, Washington) : Lawmakers consider implanted chips for tracking sex offenders
Lawmakers are considering a controversial bill that would outfit sex offenders with a surgically-implanted device that tracks their movement. The devices would replace the ankle bracelets that are currently used to track offenders. The bracelets have been criticized as a lacking device as offenders have successfully removed them in the past before disappearing off of the radar.
"(The devices would) be a little more difficult to take off," said Rep. Maralyn Chase, D-Edmonds.
Chase is among a handful of lawmakers are looking into radio chips that can be planted under the skin. Some of the designs are no larger than a grain of rice.
The radio chips would allow police to track an offender from a sex offender using the same technology used at the Tacoma Narrows bridge toll.
The Department of Corrections admits even with the current devices, officers often lose signal. DOC officials also note that no tracking device can prevent crime.
The constitutional challenges which will erupt in response to these inane laws will most certainly not receive the amount of media attention that the introduction of these laws do. No other crimes are punished with such draconian measures and they are being imposed after these people have served their sentences and made their plea agreements. Therefore, they not only violate Equal Protection but also Ex Post Facto provisions of the U.S. Constitution and individual state constitutions. Aside from that point; how far will we as a nation allow our legislators to go before we demand our constitutional rights be protected?
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- A movement is afoot to revise "Jessica's Law," with some officials saying the California law limiting where sex offenders can live is counterproductive.
The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that a state board has found that the restrictions on where released sex offenders can live has left many of them homeless and more likely to return to a life of crime. Also, state taxpayers wind up paying $25 million a year to house some of them.
The law passed by California voters two years ago bans sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools, parks and other areas where children gather. But the state Sex Offender Management Board said in a report sent to lawmakers this week that has drastically curtailed where the offenders can live and hasn't shown to be effective in reducing crime.
"It seems unwise to spend such resources as a consequence of residence restriction policies which have no track record of increasing community safety," board members wrote.
State lawmakers would need a two-thirds majority to change the law. State Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, who helped push the law through, still supports it.
Withinthescope : Board Urges Refusal of Money and Requirements of Adam Walsh Act .
Urging the California State Legislature and Governor Schwarzenegger to elect not to come into compliance with the federal Act, the Board argued:
"Instead of incurring the substantial - and un-reimbursed - costs associated with the Adam Walsh Act, California should absorb the comparatively small loss of federal funds that would result from not accepting the very costly and ill-advised changes to state law and policy required by the Act. Any funding cuts to the JAG / Byrne grants to local law enforcement should be offset with other funds to ensure that the vital public safety work of those programs is continued."
As the Board reasoned, in addition to "particularly problematic” policy choices made by the Act, the potential loss of $1.2 million in federal funds compared poorly with a "minimum" of $32 million in costs that would be incurred by California in order to obtain compliance with the new law.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
wpxi.com : High Schoolers Accused Of Sending Naked Pictures To Each Other.
GREENSBURG, Pa. -- Three teenage girls who allegedly sent nude or semi-nude cell phone pictures of themselves, and three male classmates in a Greensburg Salem High School who received them, are charged with child pornography.
Police said the girls are 14 or 15, and the boys charged with receiving the photos are 16 or 17. None are being identified because most criminal cases in Pennsylvania juvenile courts are not public.
"It was a self portrait taken of a juvenile female taking pictures of her body, nude," said Capt. George Seranko of the Greensburg Police Department. Police said school officials learned of the photos in October. That's when a student was seen using a cell phone during school hours, which violates school rules. The phone was seized, and the photos were found on it, police said. When police investigated, other phones with more pictures were seized.
Police said the girls are being charged with manufacturing, disseminating or possessing child pornography while the boys face charges of possession.
news.cnet.com : Police blotter: Teens prosecuted for racy photos.
What: Teenagers taking risque photos of themselves are prosecuted for violating child pornography laws.
When: Florida state appeals court rules on January 19.
Outcome: A 2-1 majority upholds conviction on grounds the girl produced a photograph featuring the sexual conduct of a child.
Technically, those images constitute child pornography. That's what 16-year-old Amber and 17-year-old Jeremy, her boyfriend, both residents of the Tallahassee, Fla., area, learned firsthand. (Court documents include only their initials, A.H. and J.G.W., so we're using these pseudonyms to make this story a little easier to read.)
On March 25, 2004, Amber and Jeremy took digital photos of themselves naked and engaged in unspecified "sexual behavior." The two sent the photos from a computer at Amber's house to Jeremy's personal e-mail address. Neither teen showed the photographs to anyone else.
Court records don't say exactly what happened next--perhaps the parents wanted to end the relationship and raised the alarm--but somehow Florida police learned about the photos.
Amber and Jeremy were arrested. Each was charged with producing, directing or promoting a photograph featuring the sexual conduct of a child. Based on the contents of his e-mail account, Jeremy was charged with an extra count of possession of child pornography.
newarkadvocate.com (Ohio) : Newark Teen Girl Charged with Child Pornography.
NEWARK -- A 15-year-old girl is accused of distributing nude photos of herself to other minors, and one state legislator is questioning whether she should be labeled a sex offender.
The Licking Valley High School student was arrested Friday after school officials discovered the materials and brought in the school's resource officer for a police investigation.
After spending the weekend incarcerated, she pleaded deny Monday to both charges: illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material, a second-degree felony; and possession of criminal tools, a fifth-degree felony.
The child pornography charge for a convicted adult requires a Tier II sexual offender classification, but for a juvenile of this defendant's age, the judge has flexibility, said Jennifer Brindisi, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.
State Rep. Jay Hottinger, R-Newark, wrote the state's Megan's Law bill, the predecessor of the Adam Walsh Act, and said this case was not something the legislature envisioned.
"Clearly it was in an illegal act," he said Tuesday. "Clearly it was an unacceptable act, and there needs to be consequences from that, but we need to make sure the punishment is a reasonable punishment."
Licking County Assistant Prosecutor Erin Welch said Monday the investigation into the incident remains open, including exploring whether charges will be filed against the minors who received the photos.
If the prosecutor's office elects to bring those teens into court, they could be facing a different section of the same charge pending against the sender of the pictures and classification as sex offenders, as well.
According to Ohio law, 2907.323(A)(3) states anyone possessing material that shows a minor in a state of nudity is guilty of a fifth-degree felony. The violation also might qualify the juvenile as a Tier I sexual offender, which requires annual registration for a decade.
Brindisi said the Adam Walsh Act reduces much of the discretion allotted to judges in Megan's Law and transformed sex-offender classification to an offense-based system.
"It's pretty black and white," she said.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
The Internet may not be such a dangerous place for children after all.
A task force created by 49 state attorneys general to look into the problem of sexual solicitation of children online has concluded that there really is not a significant problem.
The findings ran counter to popular perceptions of online dangers as reinforced by depictions in the news media like NBC’s “To Catch a Predator” series. One attorney general was quick to criticize the group’s report.
The panel, the Internet Safety Technical Task Force, was charged with examining the extent of the threats children face on social networks like MySpace and Facebook, amid widespread fears that adults were using these popular Web sites to deceive and prey on children. But the report concluded that the problem of bullying among children, both online and offline, poses a far more serious challenge than the sexual solicitation of minors by adults.
“This shows that social networks are not these horribly bad neighborhoods on the Internet,” said John Cardillo, chief executive of Sentinel Tech Holding, which maintains a sex offender database and was part of the task force. “Social networks are very much like real-world communities that are comprised mostly of good people who are there for the right reasons.”
The 278-page report, released Tuesday, was the result of a year of meetings between dozens of academics, experts in childhood safety and executives of 30 companies, including Yahoo, AOL, MySpace and Facebook.
The task force, led by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, looked at scientific data on online sexual predators and found that children and teenagers were unlikely to be propositioned by adults online. In the cases that do exist, the report said, teenagers are typically willing participants and are already at risk because of poor home environments, substance abuse or other problems.
In what social networks may view as something of an exoneration after years of pressure from law enforcement, the report said sites like MySpace and Facebook “do not appear to have increased the overall risk of solicitation.”
Attorneys general like Mr. Blumenthal and Roy Cooper of North Carolina publicly accused the social networks of facilitating the activities of pedophiles and pushed them to adopt measures to protect their youngest users. Citing studies that showed tens of thousands of convicted sex offenders were using MySpace, they pressured the networks to purge those people from their membership databases.
Those with blind hatred of anyone associated with any sex-related offense should read carefully and understand that destroying families is not good for anyone in our society:
(From name withheld):
"My husband was convicted on one count of possession of child pornography. The judge classified him as a "violent" offender even though he had no prior arrest for anything, which made it impossible to get out on bond until sentencing which in over 3 months later . We have 3 children 2 of which are under 18 so they can't visit him or anything. He has worked hard his whole life rarely missed work took vacation days for court believing he wouldn't be convicted since he was out of town due to work ... but was still found guilty and incarcerated immediately after the verdict. Our family has been destroyed by this dhr (sic) went to the school to talk to our kids about this we live in a small town where everybody knows everybody's business our kids are embarrassed about this and picked on continuously they have serious emotional problems and significantly lost a lot of weight (one 25 pounds in less than a month shes since been put on antidepressant).
From daughter (name withheld):
"I want my dad to come home but they wont let him I want to see him but cant"
From other daughter (name withheld):
"My step-dad is a good man who never hurt anyone he was found guilty of poss. one porn and classified as violent I cant even see him. He was our sole support we've lost our insurance and everything please help me."
Since I cannot contact them directly, if you are the woman who wrote this note and wish for this post to be removed, please contact us at Constitutionalfights@yahoo.com and we will immediately remove it from our blog. We post this as a powerful testimony to the damage these laws are doing to families across the nation. We urge you to contact your elected officials to urge them to change these abhorrent laws.
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Monday, January 12, 2009
With over 11,000 views, overall traffic tripled from June to November 2008, but predictably declined during the Christmas month of December.
Most of our visitors are from Ohio, as this blog focuses primarily on the Ohio Adam Walsh Act laws, but covers news and information about these laws nationally. Second place went to California with Texas, Illinois, New York Florida, Virginia and Maryland following in site hits.
Just slightly over half of our viewers are male at 51%.
68% of visitors are over age 35.
81% white, 9% black, which is not far from the national ethnic distribution.
71% have no children. We would very much like to see more parents made aware of this blog.
50% of visitors earn under $60K income, while 50% earn over $60K.
55% of viewers have a college degree or graduate school education.
Finally, 80% view this blog at home, versus 20% at a workplace.
15% of visits are from hardcore addicts of our blog.
51% of visits are by regular viewers.
34% of visits are from passers-by.
SPEARFISH - The 2009 South Dakota Legislature will be asked to change the state's juvenile sex offender laws because of a November ruling by the South Dakota Supreme Court. The court said in a Nov. 5 decision that the current system for registering juvenile sex offenders is unconstitutional and violates the equal protection clause. The boy, who was ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Reindl said she appealed that ruling because it is out of line with adult sex offender laws.
Adult offenders, through suspended imposition of sentence or by petitioning the circuit court, can have the registration requirement lifted. (apparently in South Dakota, this is possible; In most states, it is not).
The statute that required the sex offender registration for juveniles did not offer an "out" of the lifetime registration requirement, Reindl said.
The Supreme Court's ruling has had a significant effect on the state's juvenile sex offender system, according to South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long.
Reindl said there are going to be other issues related to subsequent convictions of people for failing to register although they should not have been on the list at all. "The ripple effects are bigger than any of us contemplate right now," she said.
Reindl said her motivation for pursuing the case to the Supreme Court was in the interest of her client, who would have been branded for life, although adults have a way to get off the sex offender registry.
Reindl blamed far-reaching 2006 federal guidelines for putting pressure on states for lifetime sex offender laws. "I feel the federal legislation, which includes the Jacob Wetterling Act and the Adam Walsh Act, has pressured states into drafting laws for lifetime sex offender registration. The new acts do not match up with existing laws in South Dakota, which were drafted in 1997."
She said these laws can make people feel secure, but sex offender registration laws do not protect the public from convicted violent criminals who aren't required to register.
"The Adam Walsh Act is far-reaching and broad, but does it really protect children from legitimate offenders who are a risk? A protective net could be a tool in this cause, but it's not a perfect solution," she said.
KINGSTON – Passions ran high over a proposed local law that would set restrictions on where high-risk sex offenders could live. The law would “… prohibit sex offenders from residing, having employment or otherwise enter or remain within one thousand feet of areas and facilities that would provide them easy access to potential victims.” That would include schools, daycares, playgrounds and public pools, among other places.
Ulster County Legislature Criminal Justice and Safety Committee Chairman Frank Dart cautioned against acting in haste: “Would you rather have a sex offender that you know is living next door to you, or, have a sex offender and drive him under ground, and you don’t know if he is living behind a plaza, in the woods, and you don’t know where he is?”
“This could endanger the public, if we act too fast," ”warned Democrat Brian Shapiro.
In the end, the Democrats prevailed. The proposed local law goes back to committee.
In United States v. Arzberger, 08 cr. 894 (AKH/JCF), 2008 WL 5453739 (S.D.N.Y. December 31, 2008), the defendant, who faced charges of receipt and possession of child pornography, opposed the government’s motion to modify the terms of his bail by adding certain non-discretionary conditions set forth in the Adam Walsh Amendments to the Bail Reform Act, including a curfew, electronic monitoring, a direction to avoid contact with any potential witnesses and prohibition from any dangerous weapon. Arzberger challenged the provisions as unconstitutional under the Fifth and Eighth Amendments, both facially and as applied, and that they violated the Separation of Powers Doctrine.
In a lengthy decision, Magistrate Judge Francis first reviewed the sparse precedents on the issue (three of the four of which had found the Amendments unconstitutional), and then analyzed each proposed condition separately under the Due Process clause. He concludes: “The Adam Walsh Amendments are unconstitutional on their face to the extent that they would impose conditions that infringe protected liberty interests without providing the accused with an individualized assessment of the need for such conditions.” The court rejected the defendant’s facial challenge under the Eighth Amendment, held the as-applied challenge under the Eighth Amendment was premature, and also held that the Adam Walsh Amendments do not violate the Separation of Powers Doctrine.
It is heartening to see reason prevail in an area of the criminal law that one Sixth Circuit judge wrote in a dissenting opinion is approaching the hysteria of the Salem Witch trials. In United States v. Paull, No.07-3482 (6th Cir. January 9, 2009), as highlighted on Professor’s Berman’s website here, Judge Merritt filed an opinion that dissents from the court’s decision to affirm a 17.5 year sentence in a child pornography possession case. Judge Merritt begins:
As a recent October 23, 2008, Wall Street Journal article by Amir Efrati points out, our federal legal system has lost its bearings on the subject of computer-based child pornography. Our “social revulsion” against these “misfits” downloading these images is perhaps somewhat more rational than the thousands of witchcraft trials and burnings conducted in Europe and here from the Thirteenth to the Eighteenth Centuries, but it borders on the same thing. In 2008 alone the Department of Justice has brought 2,200 cases like this one in the federal courts.
(Note: it should be noted that the opinion of this magistrate was a dissenting opinion in this case but is important none-the-less)
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Lara Geer Farley, Washburn Law Journal
Reforming sex offender laws will not be easy. At a time when national polls indicate that Americans fear sex offenders more than terrorists, legislators will have to show they have the intelligence and courage to create a society that is safe yet still protects the human rights of everyone.
In recent years, the words “sex offender” have transformed into a loosely and frequently used term. Congress and state legislatures have enacted sex offender laws because of highly publicized, horrific crimes, particularly those committed against children. As federal and state governments introduce stricter punishments, requirements, and prohibitions for sex offenders, the offenders become branded by the negative stigma associated with their status. While many sex offenders commit heinous crimes, experts and officials question whether the strict laws imposed against all sex offenders, including non-violent offenders like Evan B., actually increase the safety of those the laws seek to protect.
This Note will argue that the most recent development in this area of law, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 (AWA), contains over-inclusive sex offender registration requirements and punishments. Implementation of the AWA will undoubtedly cause problems for state governments, law enforcement, non-violent sex offenders, and citizens, both as taxpayers and intended beneficiaries of the AWA. Specifically, the AWA is an unfunded mandate that places severe and unfair registration requirements and punishments on sex offenders, and requires offenders to register without distinguishing between violent and non-violent offenders or evaluating the likelihood of recidivism.
Part II of this Note examines the development of sex offender registration requirements in the federal and state governments. It addresses the transformation from the initial freedom left with the states to determine their own standards to the recent, more expansive, and mandatory federal requirements under the AWA. Part III of this Note discusses the purpose of the sex offender requirements under the AWA and reasons why the AWA’s over-inclusiveness hinders achievement of that purpose. Part IV concludes with a call for reform of the AWA, in order to better achieve the AWA’s purpose.
Over the past two decades, federal and state governments have introduced stricter punishments, requirements, and prohibitions for sex offenders. The most recent development in this area of law, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, contains over-inclusive sex offender registration requirements and punishments. Implementation of the AWA will undoubtedly cause problems for state governments, law enforcement, non-violent sex offenders, and citizens, both as taxpayers and intended beneficiaries of the AWA. If the AWA is not reformed, its requirements will drain public resources, unnecessarily deprive sex offenders of their liberty, and produce few public safety gains. The AWA’s requirements are over-inclusive. The AWA does not differentiate between violent and non-violent offenders. The AWA also does not individually evaluate the likelihood of offender recidivism. Therefore, the AWA does not allow law enforcement officials to focus on the small number of sex offenders who actually need monitoring— offenders who committed severe offenses and are likely to recidivate. Rather, under the AWA, law enforcement officials must attempt to supervise all sex offenders, a daunting task that police have neither the funds nor officers to adequately achieve. As a result, unsupervised sex offenders—both violent and non-violent—slip through the system and the dangerous offenders continue to threaten public safety. A reformed AWA could prevent tragedies like Evan B.’s from occurring. There was no need to require Evan B., a non-violent offender with little risk for recidivism, to register as a sex offender. Evan B. was a high school boy who made an innocent mistake. Unfortunately, over-inclusive sex offender registration requirements did not allow Evan B. to serve his sentence and resume his life. Rather, Evan. B.’s life headed in an ominous downward spiral—his community shunned him; he dropped out of school; he could not find employment; he moved away from his friends and family; he became depressed; and he killed himself. Lawmakers should reform the AWA to require only violent offenders who are likely to recidivate to register. Therefore, non-violent offenders unlikely to recidivate will not be branded as sex offenders—a scarlet letter that may stigmatize them for life. Furthermore, law enforcement officials will be able to focus on only dangerous offenders necessitating supervision and registration. Law enforcement officials will notify community members about violent and dangerous sex offenders that live nearby and will educate them about how to keep their children safe. If reformed, the AWA will successfully serve its purpose as a method of public safety.
U.S. Department of Justice Statistics: Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison in 1994 (latest available):
"Within 3 years following their release, 5.3% of sex offenders (men who had committed rape or sexual assault) were rearrested for another sex crime."
U.S. Department of Justice Statistics: Criminal Offender Statistics
Sex offenders were about four times more likely than non-sex offenders to be arrested for another sex crime after their discharge from prison –– 5.3 % of sex offenders versus 1.3 % of non-sex offenders.
* Approximately 4,300 child molesters were released from prisons in 15 States in 1994. An estimated 3.3% of these 4,300 were rearrested for another sex crime against a child within 3 years of release from prison.
State of Michigan, General Recidivism: Parole Board Statistics: 1990 through 2000:
Sex Offenders 2.46% average recidivism.
State of Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction -Ohio Official Sex Offender Recidivism Data:
Recidivism rate for child -victim sex offenders (outside family) for a new sex-related crime in Ohio is 8.7%
The recidivism rate for all sex offenders for a new sex-related crime in Ohio is 8.0%
Approximately 60% of boys and 80% of girls who are sexually victimized are abused by someone known to the child or the child's family (Lieb, Quinsey, and Berliner, 1998). Relatives, friends, baby-sitters, persons in positions of authority over the child, or persons who supervise children are more likely than strangers to commit a sexual assault.
The National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted Runaway and Thrownaway Children : Official Most-Recent Study Statistics from The National Criminal Justice Reference Service: "results DO NOT indicate an increase in child abductions by strangers"
The Victimization of Children and Youth: A Comprehensive National Study (University of North Carolina, University of New Hampshire):
"The great majority of sexual victimizations were perpetrated by acquaintances"
U.S. Census statistics do not record statistics related to crime.
"The Census Bureau releases some statistics on the criminal justice system in our data on government employment and finance, but none on crime, criminals, or victims."
Any statistics you read about sex offenders from U.S. Census statistics is a blatant falsehood.
Furthermore, there is no accurate count of sex offenders within the states or nation, but the numbers are estimated to be approximately 665,000 U.S. citizens who have been convicted of some "sex crime". That' s about one person in 455 U.S. citizens, folks.
Friday, January 9, 2009
Residential proximity to schools and daycare centers: Influence on sex offense recidivism. (PDF file)
Study Background and Purpose
Residential restrictions for sex offenders have become increasingly popular despite a lack of empirical data demonstrating that offenders' proximity to schools or daycare centers contributes to recidivism. Using a matched sample of recidivists and non-recidivists from Florida (n-300), we investigated whether sex offenders who lived closer to schools or daycare centers were more likely to reoffend sexually than those who lived farther away.
No significant differences were found in the distances that recidivists and non-recidivists lived from schools and daycare centers. We compared the proportions of recidivists and non-recidivists who lived within common buffer zones. Offenders who lived within 1000, 1500 or 2500 feet of schools or daycare centers were no more likely to reoffend sexually than those who lived farther away. There was a virtually non-existent correlation between reoffending and proximity to schools or daycare centers.
International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology,
Vol. 53, No. 1, 5-28 (2009)
Sage Publications (registration required to view full text)
Lifers on the Outside: Sex Offenders and Disintegrative Shaming
Monica L. P. Robbers, Marymount University, Arlington, Virginia
This article examines the effects of labeling though informal and formal sanctions on sex offender reintegration, using qualitative analysis from a probability sample of 153 registered sex offenders in four counties in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It also provides an overview of sex offender legislation and literature. Results of the study indicate that the majority of respondents experienced negative treatment because of their status as a sex offender. Results also indicate that formal and informal sanctions are stifling opportunities for sex offenders to be fully reintegrated into society and that treatment programs are not as effective as they could be. Implications for sex offender policy and further research are discussed.
from Sex Offender Statistics
Congress passed the Adam Walsh Act, a federal law that requires states to include children as young as age 14 on registries — often for the rest of their lives — in an attempt to protect our children from sexual violence. But the Adam Walsh Act won’t keep our children safe. Instead, this law will consume valuable law enforcement resources, needlessly target children and families, and undermine the very purpose of the juvenile justice system. Thankfully, states can opt out of compliance with this law, and make smart investments in programs and policies that will actually protect our children and our communities.
Why expanding registries won’t protect our children.
Congress’ well-intentioned effort to protect our children by expanding sex offender registries won’t work because registries fail to recognize the complex realities of sexual offending. A large percentage of sex offenses are committed by people known to the victim — including family members. A U.S. Department of Justice study shows that, among youth who were victims of sexual violence, almost half (49 percent) of youth under age six and 42 percent of children ages six to 11 in the study were sexually assaulted by a family member. Overall, the study concluded that 34 percent of youth victims (0–17 years old) were sexually assaulted by a family member and 59 percent were assaulted by acquaintances. In other words, only 7 percent of youth victims in this study were assaulted by strangers. Since most people who commit sex offenses are “first-time offenders,” meaning that they have never been convicted of a sex offense, the majority of people committing sex offenses would not already be on the registry. Having a registry can therefore create a false sense of security within families and communities, who might rely on the registry to identify people who may be a threat to their safety.
Being on a registry can hinder a person’s ability to access rehabilitative services needed to lead a productive life and engage in appropriate, legal behavior. Registries can impede access to employment, housing and education, which have been shown to be an integral part of the re-entry process and a necessity for young people who are trying to turn their lives around. Instead of funding preventative programs, registries burden our already over-taxed law enforcement resources and create public safety hazards.
The Adam Walsh Act consumes resources that should be spent on programs proven to protect our children and communities The Adam Walsh Act requires states to register more people and keep track of them for even longer periods of time, without the availability of substantial additional federal funding. All states currently have some form of registry and community notification, but fully implementing AWA poses significant financial and logistical challenges. As an unfunded mandate, the AWA provides little federal funding for implementation and stands to cost states more than they will receive in federal funding. AWA requires states to participate in a national registry and to disseminate the registry widely throughout communities. States that intend to comply with AWA should be prepared to finance new software and technology costs to fully implement the registry.
The Adam Walsh Act needlessly targets children and families
In the push to target people that may actually pose a significant danger to the public, youth convicted of sex offenses have been swept up in legislation that publicly brands them as sexual predators. Research has shown, however, that juvenile sexual offending is very different from adult sexual offending, and that youth are not committing the majority of sex offenses.
The Adam Walsh Act compromises public safety
Reliance on registries creates the illusion that parents can protect their children from sexual violence simply by checking an online database. A survey of mental health professionals found that 70 percent of those surveyed felt that “a listing of sex offenders on the web would create a false sense of security for parents who might feel that they can protect their children simply by checking a web site.” Despite registry requirements and stiff penalties for not registering, registries are often inaccurate and out of date. The result is misdirected apprehension and the alienation of people who live at an address listed on the database, but who have never been convicted of any crime.
In every state, the first-year cost of implementing the Adam Walsh Act outweighs the cost of losing 10 percent of the state’s Byrne grant money. The Justice Policy Institute calculated estimates of the potential costs of coming into compliance with Title I of the Adam Walsh Act based on the fiscal impact drafted by one state. States that complete individual, comprehensive analyses based on their unique statutory and law enforcement characteristics may arrive at different figures. Regardless of individual state differences in statutes, technology, and law enforcement resources, the added staff and technology needed to come into full compliance with the AWA is sure to exceed the Byrne funds that would be lost by not complying.
In the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission’s Fiscal Impact Statement for Proposed Legislation, Senate Bill No. 590 – ID# 08-0244808, the state found that implementing a registry and notification system that would be in compliance with the Adam Walsh Act would cost $12,497,267 in the first year of implementation.
Justice Policy Institute: Cost for states to comply with AWA
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Congress overstepped its authority when it enacted a law allowing the federal government to hold sex offenders in custody indefinitely beyond the end of their prison terms, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.
The law allowing civil commitment of "sexually dangerous" federal inmates intrudes on police powers that the Constitution reserves for states, many of which have their own similar statutes, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said.
Civil commitment power "is among the most severe wielded by any government," Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote. "The Framers, distrustful of such authority, reposed such broad powers in the states, limiting the national government to specific and enumerated powers."
In upholding a decision by U.S. District Judge W. Earl Britt of Raleigh, N.C., the 4th Circuit became the first federal appeals court to rule on an issue that has divided courts nationwide. A judge in Minnesota reached the same conclusion as Britt, while courts in Hawaii, Oklahoma and Massachusetts upheld the measure.
Thursday's ruling is binding only in the states included in the 4th Circuit: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Maryland.
U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Charles Miller said it was too early to comment on what steps the government might take next. The department could appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court or seek a rehearing before the full federal appeals court.
Elizabeth Luck, a spokeswoman for the federal public defender's office in Raleigh, declined to comment. The public defender represented five inmates who challenged the law after they were kept in custody beyond the end of their sentences at the federal prison hospital in Butner, N.C.
Civil commitment was authorized by the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which also establishes a national sex offender registry, increases punishments for some federal crimes against children and strengthens child pornography protections. Those provisions are not affected by the ruling.
The appeals court found no merit in the government's argument that it had constitutional authority to enact the civil commitment law under the Commerce Clause, ruling that "sexual dangerousness does not substantially affect interstate commerce." The government also relied on a clause authorizing Congress to enact "all laws which shall be necessary and proper" for executing federal powers, but the court said that applies only to powers enumerated by the Constitution.
"Congress's perceived need for the sort of civil commitment statute at issue here does not create constitutional power where none exists," Motz wrote. "Congress must instead seek alternative, constitutional means of achieving what may well be commendable objectives."
Motz was joined in the opinion by Judge G. Steven Agee and visiting U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris.