Sunday, August 30, 2009
I have attached an updated version of the Guide to Ohio’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Laws (SORN). The original version of this guide was issued last year by my predecessor. The updated guide is substantially identical to the original guide, except with respect to juvenile offender registrants.
Since the original guide was issued, four appellate districts have ruled that a juvenile court has discretion to determine which tier it places juvenile offender registrants. While this is markedly different than the requirements for adult registrants, whose tier classification is determined solely based on the offense for which they are convicted, we believe that the recent appellate decisions correctly interpret the statute with respect to a juvenile court’s discretion. We have made this substantive change on page 26 of the guide, and have attempted to better clarify the differences between the requirements for adult and juvenile registrants on page 23.
I should point out that there are two cases pending before the Ohio Supreme Court which separately address the SORN law with respect to juvenile and adult registrants. We are closely monitoring these and other cases and will continue to evaluate the accuracy of the guide in light of future court decisions.
I hope that you find the guide to be of assistance to you. If the Attorney General’s Office can be of further assistance in applying the SORN laws, please feel free to contact Assistant Attorney General Justin Hykes at email@example.com or 614.387.4257.
Ohio Attorney General
30 East Broad Street, 17th Fl ● Columbus, Ohio 43215 ● PHONE 614.466-4320 ● FAX 614.466-5087 www.ag.state.oh.us
View the Guide to Ohio’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Laws “SORN” ;
2009 Update Following Passage of the Adam Walsh Act
This guide is also posted in text form, its entirety at:
"This has been a nightmare. My conviction was from Texas in 1995, but I moved back to Ohio after being released. I wasn't required to register in Texas, but I was once I moved back to Ohio. All was okay until the Adam Walsh Act came about and I filed a petition against reclassification to no avail. Where the problem came in was when I moved from Auglaize County, Ohio to Holmes County, Ohio in June 2008.
As required, I notified Auglaize County on June 2, 2008 that my move was complete. That was when I was told I had to travel over 3 hours back to sign a paper before they could transfer me, but they would give me a couple weeks to do it since I was out of money due to the move. I found out that this was not correct ; the AG office said it was not proper procedure and they offered to do the transfer. Holmes County arrested me the same day. No warning letter, no phone call, or anything else. I had called them to gave my new address and contact info.
Auglaize County admitted at the trial that I was never out of compliance with them and that there was no way for me to appear in the new county until they transferred ownership of my eSORN file.
The AG office says it is wrong, and so does the Department of Justice SMART office, but nobody seems to do anything. Meanwhile I am facing 30 years for failure to change my address, when I was doing all I could to follow the orders given to me.
I need help big time. I have been labeled a monster, but my sex offense was against my spouse during a bitter divorce in Texas. Want to see a real messed up case look at it--my jury was the police officer investigating the case and the court administrator--how's that for fair? The Judge said I would of had a better trial if I had fully paid my lawyer."
If any of our readers has the ability to provide assistance to this man, please contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
View documentation of his situation
Update Sept 3, 2009: This man was sentenced today to 3 years in prison with an additional 5 years Post-Release Control (probation)- a true travesty and injustice ! His appeal bond was granted, thankfully.
The Indiana Supreme Court ruled this summer that an offender who owned his home before a new residential law restricting proximity to a school, public park or youth center could not be forced to move by the law.
The defendant was being charged with behavior after the implementation of the statute, not before.
"In other words," we said, "he is not charged with owning a home, but continuing to reside in a home in violation of defined space limitations after the law was passed."
Still there was consistency in the court's position. The state's high court only months before had struck down the conviction of a man for failing to register as a sex offender, noting in similar fashion that he had completed his sentence for child molestation before the state's Sex Offender Registration Act was passed.
So it is that we find more confusion than consistency with the court's most recent ruling this month letting stand without comment a Plainfield ordinance barring sex offenders from the town's public parks.
This goes well beyond the narrower residency statute. It bans those who have served criminal sentences and who pay taxes in support of public parks from even setting foot in those parks. And even where their crimes were not committed in those parks.
The defendant in the Plainfield case had completed his sentence and probation when he was told by police while visiting the town's recreation center with his young son that he could not return.
People who love the law for its fair play should have some issues with this kind of "Scarlet Letter" justice that continues to punish after the proverbial "debt to society" has been paid.
Now, supporters of these arguably overreaching restrictions will argue that it is the high rate of recidivism by sex offenders that targets them for ongoing restrictions to protect the larger society, especially innocent children.
The data on repeat offenses is more confusing than the Indiana Supreme Court's recent rulings. One can cherry pick what they want to support a particular position. For example, a Justice Department study of 272,111 felons released from prison in 15 states during 1994 found sex offenders were less likely than non-sex offenders to be re-arrested for any offense, but that sex offenders were about four times more likely to be arrested for another sex crime after discharge from prison. (The study found that only 5.3 percent of sex offenders were rearrested for another sex crime)
But if the science convincingly supports the need to restrict the right to public property, or residency, or other basic rights for convicted sex offenders, then let that need be reflected in amended criminal codes that extend probationary periods upon conviction. That way, judges can rightfully impose those restrictions on a case-by-case basis within the broad parameters of probation. Those who violate specific terms of probation can be abruptly returned to prison, where they belong.
One thing that should be remembered here is that "sex offender" is itself a rather broad term, incorporating everything from the chronic perverts who prey on young children to, in some states, the 19-year-old youth caught and prosecuted for having consensual sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend.
Simply denying fundamental rights to a class of citizens even a class loosely defined by past criminal conduct -- under the guise of protecting society probably renders us all a little less free and secure.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
CNN / Anderson Cooper AC360° : Recidivism rates for sex offenders.
All of this got us thinking – what are the recidivism rates for sex offenders? We found this report released a few years ago by the Department of Justice. It is a study based on convicted sex offenders who were released from prison in 1994.
Here are some of the findings from the study:
- Within 3 years following their 1994 state prison release, 5.3 percent of sex offenders (men who had committed rape or sexual assault) were rearrested for another sex crime, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. If all crimes are included, 43 percent of sex offenders were rearrested for various offenses.
- Sex offenders were less likely than non-sex offenders to be rearrested for any offense –– 43 percent of sex offenders versus 68 percent of non-sex offenders. But 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 percent of sex offenders versus 1.3 percent of non-sex offenders.
Click here for the full report.
Sex offender's body found in rooming house.
Police are searching for clues in the stabbing death of a Newark man in a West Harrison Street rooming house late Monday night, two days after his 25th birthday.
In an upstairs bedroom, they discovered the body of John T. Stouffer, a resident of the home. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Stouffer was stabbed multiple times in the head, chest and back and died from internal bleeding, Licking County Coroner's Office Investigator Mickey Lymon said. There was no indication of forced entry into Stouffer's room, one of eight that shares common areas in the two-story home, such as a living room and kitchen, with the others, Snow said.
Stouffer was sentenced to five years of community control and classified as a Tier I sex offender, which has the least stringent registration requirements, in April 2008.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Dennis Raymond McCarthy, 64, was murdered in his home by an intruder about 4 a.m. Sunday. An autopsy determined he died from multiple stab wounds suffered after he awoke to his wife screaming because someone had entered their home through an unlocked rear door.
The person responsible is identified as a stocky white man in his 20s, about five feet, eight inches tall, with brown hair and wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt. The man fled the house and his whereabouts are unknown.
Solving McCarthy's slaying, and determining the motive for it, has fallen into the hands of Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Gary Muir, a 31-year police veteran who has been involved in some of the area's most grisly crimes.
Muir believes McCarthy's death was not random violence by a frightened burglar, but rather that McCarthy was targeted possibly because of past criminal history. He was convicted in 2008 for second-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a 4-year-old family member and acquitted in 2004 of allegations he molested five girls, aged eight to 10 years old. He had been released from jail August 17 and was serving a nine-month probation at home with an electronic tether.
"There was no attempt to harm his wife, there were no items stolen from the home and the person responsible -- once he was discovered -- could have easily run out the back door but instead attacked him (McCarthy)," Muir said.
Anyone with information in the McCarthy killing is asked to contact state police at (248) 634-3512 or (313) 237-2450.
This murderer must be captured and sentenced to life in prison (1st degree murder). Justice is justice.. and justice is blind. Murder is and has always been in this country, a more severely punished crime than sex abuse, although you'd never know that from recent laws which banish and ostracize sex offenders in our communities, even after they have served their sentences.
The local authorities who posted this man's sex offender registry information online should be prosecuted for criminal negligence and accessory to murder , in providing the murderer directions to his home via online registry
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
ksdk.com (St. Louis) : Imperial church billboards ask, "What's forgivable?"
Jefferson Hills Christian Church in Imperial is asking a series of serious questions on billboards along Interstate 55 south of St. Louis. Those billboards ask whether God or people should forgive a certain list of offenses, such as: sex offenders, suicide, cheating on your boyfriend, and little white lies.
"As Christians, we believe there is no unforgivable sin," said Pastor Benke. "Jesus Christ is our perfect savior, and that means there's not a single sin a person can't turn to God with and find forgiveness."
One driver, Keith Murphy, was asked if sex offenders and people who commit suicide are forgivable.
"It all depends on the situation and what happened, how it all went down," he said.
Another commuter, Erica Downs, said three out of four of the sins in the new billboard campaign are forgivable. Which one is not? "The sex offenders," she said. So what does Downs think about the campaign?
"I guess it's a good one," she said. "I guess that's what the Bible says, that you're supposed to forgive everyone, but I don't think human nature really goes along with that all the time."
Benke said it's important people understand what's contained in Christian scripture.
"And then, quite frankly, the church gets that message wrong, as well," he said. "But the Bible teaches there is no sin that isn't forgivable in Jesus."
To see the billboards visit www.whatsforgivable.com; for more information about Jefferson Hills Church, visit their website at www.jhchurch.org.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Enter Big Brother to the rescue to decide whether YOUR kids might have been sexually exposed in your home. We hope you understand what this means; if your child demonstrates any of the signs listed in this article, schools may report your family to local police!
Through its Children’s Advocacy Center, Hope Circle helps police and prosecutors conduct recorded interviews with child victims of physical and sexual abuse. The nonprofit group also offers counseling services for victims and non-offending family members through a partner group, Assault and Victimization Intervention and Deterrence.
Laurie McClure, director of Hope Circle, is asking teachers, administrators, counselors and coaches to offer help to children who show signs of potential abuse. Concerns should be reported to social workers or local police, she said.
In the majority of cases — 25 — the alleged offender was a relative other than the child’s parent. Eleven alleged offenders were parents, and one was a stepparent, according to data Hope Circle provided to the National Children’s Alliance. (Again, the evidence shows that most sex offenses occur within the family, not strangers in parks)
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Laurel,Del.- Those who own rental property in Laurel may face some new rules when it comes to renting to sex offenders. The Laurel Town Council considered the first reading of a new ordinance this week that prohibits rental property owners from renting to sex offenders if the unit is located 1,000 feet from a school, youth center or day care.
The ordinance would prohibit renting to high-risk sex offenders.
It would also prohibit landlords from allowing more than one sex offender to reside in any one building, with some exceptions.
Landlords who rent to a sex offender must inform people who live within 500 feet of the rental unit.
The stupidity of these laws is astounding. Making life as difficult and unstable as possible for an ex sex offender will only increase the risk of re-offending. And this is not to mention the constitutional and moral questions which arise from such social banishment laws. On whichever basis, towns like Laurel will get what they deserve as a result.
"They are charging us $100 a year, too. They started last year. We received a letter in June that I had to pay $100 and again in August that it was now an additional $100 for the next year. I did not pay it and they took it out of my state tax refund. I am tired of changing the rules. I went from an 15 year registry to a life sentence."
Friday, August 21, 2009
Dover has until the end of the month to appeal a recent court ruling. The Dover District Court has thrown out the city’s ordinance that restricts where sex offenders are allowed to live.
The case hinged on Dover’s failure to prove that its policy actually improved child safety.
And in the fall of 2006, the Dover City Councilors unanimously adopted a provision that barred any registered sex offender from living within 2500 ft., nearly half a mile, of a school or day-care center.
Barbara Keshen, of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, says if the government takes away someone’s rights in the name of a greater public good then the government’s got to prove the policy works. But she says, Dover officials couldn’t do that.
TAPE: there’s no evidence, there’s no statistics, there’s no studies, there’s no reports that actually back that up.
It didn’t help that prosecution for sex crimes against children went up in Dover the year after the city adopted its ordinance.
The state of Iowa relaxed a similar law this year after law enforcement complained it drove offenders underground.
"I would say 9 out of 10 peer reviewed studies find that they generally don’t work", said Bridgewater State College Professor Richard Wright, who teaches Criminal Justice. Wright says researchers have discovered a series of unintended consequences that come with these sorts of policies.
TAPE: residency restrictions really do undermine an offenders capacity to re-enter society and not offend. You are taking away their family. You are taking away a stable form of housing....you may be affecting their opportunities for employment.
Despite the well-documented drawbacks, ordinances restricting where sex offenders can live are popular.
Newsweek magazine reports that 30 states and hundreds of cities and counties have embraced such laws.
In some places, the result of such laws are sex offender ghettos. For example, in Miami more than 70 offenders with no place else to go, live under a causeway in makeshift tents.
Ultimately, Professor Wright argues if the goal is to reduce sex crimes against children, forcing people away from society only puts children in greater jeopardy.
TAPE: it’s far easier to point the finger, to blame and say these sex offenders are horrible people, evil animals....they are not fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, boyfriends. It’s far easier to make the problem this abstraction that can be solved by demonizing people and isolating them.
Statistics show that 80- 90% of sexual assaults against kids are done by someone kids know. That means the likelihood that some stranger is stalking random children from their apartment across the street from a playground is rare.
Indianapolis - The Indiana Supreme Court has declined to overturn an ordinance banning registered sex offenders from parks in the Indianapolis suburb of Plainfield.
The court declined to hear the case by a 4-1 vote, letting stand without comment a state Court of Appeals ruling upholding the 2002 ordinance.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana had sought a ruling to clarify the court's stand on such local ordinances. The court has generally declined to strike down laws restricting the activities of sex offenders but has found constitutional problems with enforcement in certain cases.
John Doe v. Plainfield, Indiana
Sacramento - A law that was enacted to protect children from sex offenders, may be putting kids more at risk.
Jessica's Law came about following the rape and murder of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford of Florida, by a sex offender. The law increased sentences for sexual predators and bars them from living within a half mile of schools and parks.
But restrictions on where offenders can live, is forcing more of them on the streets.
"We were fearful that the numbers would go up when Jessica's Law came into effect because the residency restrictions made whole parts of California impossible for offenders to live," said Suzanne Brown-McBride, of California Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
In July of 2000, the total number of sex offenders registered as transient in California, was around 2,000.
The number registered as transient this month... nearly 4,500 - almost a 10 percent increase since last month, and a 119 percent increase since July 2007.
-A previous order found the list violated the First Amendment.
A federal judge on Thursday vacated an earlier decision that protected a sex offender from turning over his Internet names and passwords to Utah's Department of Corrections.
Judge Tena Campbell said the case against the state is moot because the Legislature has corrected the formerly overreaching sex-offender registry rules.
A man referred to in court papers as John Doe was convicted in military court of sexual offenses in 2005. He was later released from prison and forced to register personal information, such as his name and address, with the Department of Corrections' online sex-offender registry.
John Doe's crime did not involve the Internet, but a Utah law that took effect July 1, 2008, added registry requirements forcing Doe and other offenders to provide Internet screen names, passwords and Web sites where they are registered. The measure included e-mail, chat, instant messengers and social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook.
Doe challenged the law, saying it violated his First Amendment right to free speech among other things. In 2008, Campbell agreed, ruling the new law was too restrictive.
Utah's Legislature has since amended the registry. Now Corrections only can use Internet identifiers to investigate sex crimes, and that information is now deemed private under state records laws.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Attorney General Mike Cox and six state legislators today announced Internet child protection legislation which would ban convicted Internet child sex predators from social networking websites like MySpace and Facebook; banning registered Internet child sex predators from social networking websites, like Facebook, MySpace and craigslist, with a felony penalty for violations. (Sponsors: Sen. Bruce Patterson, Canton; Rep. Joe Haveman, Holland)
This will surely be challenged in the courts.
Read our prior post: Sex Offender on Social Site = Felony
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Research in California shows that only a tiny fraction - 3.38 percent - of released sex offenders are convicted of a new sex offense within 10 years of release. The study followed 3,577 prisoners who were released between 1997 and 2007 after serving time for sex offenses. (Note: this was before Adam Walsh Act enactment)
In an even larger parallel study by California's Sex Offender Management Board, tracking 4,204 paroled sex offenders, only 3.21 percent were convicted of a new sex offense within 5 years of release.
In both studies, almost all of the recidivism came within the first year post-release. Sex offenders were returned to custody for parole violations at a lower rate than other paroled prisoners, despite the fact that they were supervised more intensely. And they were more likely to be rearrested for crimes other than sex offenses.
The findings are consistent with a smaller study two years ago of recidivism by civilly committed Sexually Violent Predators. Of 93 such high-risk offenders released from Atascadero State Hospital without completing treatment, only 4.3 percent reoffended within six years.
Download the 5-year data HERE; the 10-year data are HERE. (.doc files)
Is this a joke?
Two Connecticut probate court judges say they're concerned that sex offenders are visiting probation officials in the same building that houses the New Haven Regional Children's Probate Court.
Probate Judges Frank Forgione and John Keyes say sex offenders are among the clients visiting the Adult Probation Office at the State Street building.
Forgione says probation officials told him they're making every effort to ensure children are not in danger. But the New Haven Register reports there were no guards at the probation office door or the front lobby of the building Friday afternoon.
Judicial Branch spokesman Steve Ment says sex offenders have been going to the same probation office since 1991 and he hasn't heard of any incidents.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
The Indiana Supreme Court is being asked to prevent an Indianapolis suburb from banning sex offenders from public parks in a case that could expand a trend of state court rulings finding constitutional problems with restrictions on sex offenders.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana appealed a state Court of Appeals ruling that upheld Plainfield's ban last September. So far the high court hasn't said whether it will hear the case brought by a sex offender listed only as John Doe in court documents.
The case could join a handful of recent Indiana rulings on laws that restrict sex offenders' activities after they've done their time.
Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that a state law that prohibits convicted sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, public park or youth program center could not be used to force a sex offender to move from a home where he had lived for 20 years.
In April, the high court overturned a man's conviction for not registering as a sex offender because he had already completed a sentence for child molestation before the state's Sex Offender Registration Act was passed.
The Supreme Court has also been asked to hear the appeal of the Court of Appeals ruling in June that found Jeffersonville officials unconstitutionally applied a park ban against a man who no longer was required to register as an offender.
Joel Schumm, a professor at the Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis, said Wednesday that Indiana appears to be more willing to consider such cases than other states where similar bans are generally upheld. "The court's shown a willingness to take a hard and thoughtful look at these kinds of cases," he said.
Schumm said the ACLU of Indiana is simply asking the court to take the "next step" in restricting such ordinances by finding that Plainfield's ban also violates a state constitutional prohibition on excessive punishment.
Besides arguing that the ordinance retroactively increased the penalty for the plaintiff's original offense, the ACLU contends that the use of public parks is a constitutionally protected "core value" that all citizens have the right to enjoy unless they forfeit that right by committing a crime in a park.
Registered sex offenders who visit the parks are subject to fines of $100 to $200.
Opponents like the ACLU argue that the bans often unconstitutionally continue to punish individuals who already have served prison sentences and probation.
The plaintiff in the ACLU case was convicted in 2001 for child exploitation and possession of child pornography. He was released from probation in August 2004. He was visiting the Splash Island water park with his young son in June 2005, when police warned him not to return because he was listed on the sex offender registry.
Falk countered: "There are lots of public places. Do we ban people from sidewalks? Do we ban people from public buildings?"
The Supreme Court's decision in the case could affect other Indiana communities. Officials in Lebanon, about 25 miles northwest of Indianapolis, is contemplating its own park ban, and the ACLU has put its lawsuit on hold against the Indianapolis suburb of Greenwood, which bans people convicted of certain sex-related and drug-related offenses from its parks.
More litigation will likely ensue until the high court clarifies the law, and it should "settle the law so that every community in Indiana will understand that the law is settled," the ACLU said in court documents.
The Plainfield case has been awaiting transfer to the high court for nine months, which is unusually long, said Schumm, the university professor. That might indicate the court is preparing an opinion or having trouble agreeing on what to do, he said.
If the Supreme Court doesn't hear the case, the Court of Appeals ruling upholding Plainfield's ordinance stands. If it does hear the case, the Supreme Court could reverse, uphold or modify the decision.
James Nichols said he was flabbergasted when a Chatham County sheriff's deputy arrested him in March for a simple weekly activity -- going to church. Nichols, 31, had served six years in prison for indecent liberties with a teenage girl and attempted second-degree rape. He was released last September and started attending Moncure Baptist Church. He met with the pastor, disclosed his crimes and often sat in the front row for worship.
But after the Chatham Sheriff's Office investigated an alleged sexual assault by another person in the church parking lot in March, Nichols was arrested because he was attending the church, which has a child-care facility on its premises. "Anyone in this world has a right to practice their religion, and whether they've made any mistake in their life, they should have the right," Nichols said.
But a state law that took effect in December forbids registered sex offenders from being within 300 feet of a school, playground, day care or children's museum. "The law we passed doesn't let them go to church, because there are nurseries in churches," said state Rep. Verla Insko, D-Chapel Hill, the only legislator in the House and Senate to oppose the law.
Nichols, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, is challenging the law in Chatham County. A coalition of social workers and psychologists who treat sex abusers have been fighting it in the General Assembly. Some think churches should play a key role in rehabilitating offenders.
State Sen. David Hoyle, the Gastonia Democrat sponsored the law. Proponents, like him, want to keep sexual offenders away from children at all costs, even after they've finished their prison time.
"I go to church anytime I get a chance," said Nichols. "I believe in it. It helps me keep my mind on track. It helps me be a better person not just to myself but to someone else."
We urge all readers to contact Senator David W. Hoyle to explain to him our state and U.S. Constitutions, which forbid the government from making any law which abridges the freedom of religious worship.
(See First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution)
Monday, August 17, 2009
Article by Corey Rayburn Yung, The John Marshall Law School - August 16, 2009
This article addresses four central questions. First, what is the difference between normal law enforcement policy and a “war” on crime? Second, assuming such a line can be discerned, has the enactment of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (“AWA”) in combination with other sex offender laws triggered a transition to a criminal war on sex offenders? Third, if such a criminal war is emerging, what will be the likely effects of such a transition? Fourth, if such a criminal war is emerging with substantial negative consequences, can it be stopped?
By reviewing America’s history of criminal wars, primarily in the War on Drugs, the article identifies three essential characteristics of a criminal war: marshaling of resources, myth creation, and exception making. It concludes that the federalization of sex offender policy brought about by the AWA elevated law enforcement to a nascent criminal war on sex crimes. This change could have repercussions as substantial as the drug war has had on American criminal justice and society.
Is this really what this country is to become? A panel of three citizens gets to vote on whether a human being who committed a sex offense over a decade ago is allowed to move into the area?
The three board members attending Wednesday's meeting — Renee Keehan, Louis Del Frate and Ben Heiman — voted to allow Konshak to buy and move into a home at xxxx Street.
Konshak served almost 10 years in prison for a sex crime in 1992. He has stayed out of trouble since being released and is working full time at and living in an apartment at xxx xxxxx Ave.
The board voted to approve three other appeals.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
How much different is the drug-user, drug-dealer, murderer, alcoholic, drunk driver, thief, animal abuser, or wife-beater? Any one of these offenders could be seen as unable to change...but our justice system and nation's history has always been all about giving them a chance to change. And we do. The bias against one group of people is insane and irrational.
One gross mistake in life is hardly a reason to throw away a human life in this country. And those with the personal biases and prejudices who advocate hanging sex offenders who have served their time are nothing more than those who want minorities hanged from trees.
...A seven member legislative committee is looking to see if South Dakota's sex offender registry is too tough.
"We're looking at the possibility of making exceptions to get off the list after a certain period of time depending on the seriousness of the offense," Abdallah said.
Senator Gene Abdallah is the chairman of the committee looking at the changes. Abdallah says some of the offenders on the sex offender registry don't deserve to be on it their entire life.
"We've had examples of 16 and 18 year olds dating, and he's considered an adult at 18, and she's not, and something happens and he gets on the sex offender registry and is on there for life," Abdallah said.
Abdallah doesn't want to call it weakening the laws, he says he is still in favor of keeping some of the most serious offenders on the registry for life.
"I'm not in favor of weakening or diluting any laws when it comes to sex offenders or crime for that matter, but I do feel we should be fair," Abdallah said. Being fair to some of those that are serving an online life sentence, on the sex offender registry.
The committee studying South Dakota's sex offender registry will meet Tuesday in Pierre and take testimony from the South Dakota Attorney General, prosecutors, and defense attorneys, as well as input from the public.
Abdallah hopes to have a bill written for the entire legislature to consider by December.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
A community of convicted sex offenders living beneath a bridge in Miami has got so big it is now attracting international attention.
The "shanty town" is the only place in the city where they are not in close proximity to children and can thus stay within the law. It has raised the difficult issue of how convicted sex offenders should be reintegrated into society and where they should live.
Watch video report:
Friday, August 14, 2009
80% of Tulsa is off limits to sex offenders because they can not live near schools, parks, daycare centers or playgrounds. Officials say if sex offenders can't legally register their addresses, they won't register at all.
Sgt. John Adams oversees the Sex Offender Registry for the Tulsa Police Department. He told 2NEWS, "I want to know where they are at. I don't want them underground. And that is what is happening is they are going underground. So it has made our jobs a lot tougher."
Adams says since the tougher residency restrictions took effect in 2006, the number of offenders on the registry has fallen from 512 to 321. Adams doesn't believe they moved away, but instead are in violation.
It was all just a matter of time. Once you demonize a group, it becomes much easier to just euthanize them all. Ask the Jews in Nazi Germany.
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A state lawmaker plans to file legislation next year to impose life in prison or the death penalty on repeat child molesters. Rep. Rex Duncan of Sand Springs says the idea is the result of the arrest of Marcus Berry.
Berry is a two-time convicted sex offender who police say kidnapped a two-year-old girl from her front yard in Tulsa on Wednesday.
Officers say the girl was naked and in a pickup truck with the 56-year-old Berry when they found them.
Berry was convicted in 1986 and again in 1993 when he was sentenced to 30 years in prison. But he served less than 13 years before being released.
Duncan says his bill will allow the death penalty to be considered for those convicted of a second molestation offense.
( "A two strikes, your'e dead" law)
Rex Duncan's email address.
Two sex offenders were successful in their bid to keep their names off the internet version of the Vermont Sex Offender Registry. At least for now.
A judge ruled Wednesday, Aug 12, 2009, that the names of Vermont residents convicted of sexual offenses in other states cannot be posted on the state's expanded internet registry.
Two Caledonia County men who were convicted of sex crimes in other states in the 90s went to court arguing the public posting violates their offenders' rights. But the merits of their lawsuit were not heard because lawyers discovered an error in the way the new law was written.
So for now, no people with out of state offenses will be on the list. Lawmakers say they'll fix the problem in January.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
The following cases are expected to be heard by the Ohio Supreme Court this Fall 2009, although we cannot yet locate them on the Clerk of Courts Calendar schedule. We will post any information which is found relating to this cases. If any reader has information about these cases as they approach the Ohio Supreme Court, please send links to email@example.com
Cases Accepted for Review in the Ohio Supreme Court:
Chojnacki v. Dann (2008-0991, 2008-0992, consolidated)
Certified conflict: "Whether a decision denying a request for appointment of counsel in a reclassification hearing held pursuant to Ohio's version of the Adam Walsh Act, Senate Bill 10, is a final appealable order."
On March 23, 2009, the Court ordered the parties to brief the following issues:
- Whether sex offender reclassification hearings conducted pursuant to the provision of Am.Sub.S.B. 10 are criminal or civil proceedings.
- Whether sex offenders are entitled to the appointment of counsel for Am.Sub.S.B. 10 reclassification hearings if those proceedings are civil in nature.
In re Adrian R. (2009-0189)
PropLaw I: The retroactive application of Senate Bill 10 to juveniles whose offense was committed prior to the enactment of Senate Bill 10 violates the juvenile’s right to Due Process as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 16 of the Ohio Constitution.
In re Smith (2008-1624)
PropLaw I: The application of SB 10 to persons who committed their offenses prior to the enactment of SB 10 violates the Ex Post Facto Clause of the United States Constitution.
PropLaw II: The application of SB 10 to persons who committed their offenses prior to the enactment of SB 10 violates the Retroactivity Clause of the Ohio Constitution.
PropLaw III: The application of SB 10 violates the United States Constitution’s prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishments.
PropLaw IV: A juvenile court has no authority to classify a juvenile, adjudicated delinquent for a sex offense, as a juvenile sex offender registrant when the statutory provisions governing such a hearing were repealed at the time the hearing was conducted.
*Oral argument will be held on the same day as State v. Bodyke (2008-2502)
State v. Bodyke, (2008-2502)
PropLaw I: Application of S.B. 10, Ohio's version of the Adam Walsh Act, to offenders whose crimes occurred before its effective date violates the Ex Post Facto Clause of the United States Constitution.
PropLaw II: Application of S.B. 10, Ohio's version of the version of the Adam Walsh Act, to offenders whose crimes occurred before its effective date violates the Retroactivity Clause of the Ohio Constitution.
PropLaw III: Application of S.B. 10, Ohio's version of the Adam Walsh Act, to offenders who were classified under Megan's Law effectively vacates valid judicial orders, and violates the Separation of Powers Doctrine embodied in the Ohio Constitution.
PropLaw IV: Application of S.B. 10, Ohio's version of the Adam Walsh Act, to offenders who have previously been sentenced for sex offenses violates the Double Jeopardy Clauses of the Ohio and United States Constitutions.
PropLaw V: Application of S.B. 10, Ohio's version of the Adam Walsh Act, to offenders who have previously been subject to the provisions of either the 1996 or 2003 version of Megan's Law violates Due Process and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment as prohibited by the Ohio and United States Constitutions.
PropLaw VI: Application of S.B. 10, Ohio's version of the Adam Walsh Act, to offenders who, pursuant to agreement with the Prosecutor and before the Act's effective date, entered pleas of guilty or no contest impairs the obligation of contracts as protected by the Ohio and United States Constitutions.
*Oral argument will be held on the same day as In re Smith (2008-1624).
A case pending before U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks of Austin raises some serious concerns about the way the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles conducts business. The board apparently has established a policy that allows corrections officials to classify some parolees as sex offenders although they have not been convicted of a sex crime.
The finding does not involve a jury or judge. It is based on a psychiatric evaluation ordered by the state and an internal finding that the parolee could pose a public safety threat. Until June, the parolees were not given copies of the state-mandated evaluation and they and their lawyers were not allowed to attend the hearings.
That policy was modified as the case before Sparks prepared to go to trial. Still, parole officials insist there is no legal requirement for a live hearing and note that to give everyone a hearing would cost $1.7 million in additional staff, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
There are apparently about 650 parolees who have been placed under sex-offender rules without sex-crime convictions.
In the case pending before Sparks, parolee Ray Curtis Graham claims the restrictions imposed on him by state corrections officials meant he had to undergo sex-abuse therapy and barred him from becoming a minister and going to church, the Austin newspaper reports.
There have been at least three other similar lawsuits filed in Austin over the board's policy, along with more than a dozen other lawsuits across the state. This type of policy undermines the criminal justice system and is not good public policy.
The courts are looking over this issue and several federal judges have questioned the legality of the state's policy. But it could take years in the legal system before the matter is resolved.
The parole board needs to reconsider this policy before the taxpayers are left with a huge tab for legal fees over a very questionable policy.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Two convicted sex offenders have gone to court to block the state from posting their names on the Internet.
The public posting is required under a new law that expands Vermont's sex offender registry.
But the lawsuit says the new registration requirements violate the offenders' rights. It says by making their names public, the state will punish the offenders again for a crime for which they've already done time.
The lawsuit was filed in Washington Superior Court. David Sleigh is a St. Johnsbury lawyer who filed the case on behalf of two Caledonia County men.
(Sleigh) "They have not been found to be predators; they don't present a general risk to anyone. And it seems to us unfortunate and wrong to all of a sudden put them, pictures, address, everything else, on the Internet and expose them to the opprobrium, and humiliation and perhaps vengeance that might attend that posting."
(Dillon) Sleigh said his clients were convicted in the 1990s - one in Massachusetts and the other in New Hampshire. He said both served their sentences and have been released from probation.
(Sleigh) "This constitutes additional punishment applied after the fact. And that's unconstitutional. Secondly, we've argued that this is a material change in the bargain that these two clients made, both of them entered plea agreements for certain consideration. Now years later there's an additional component of punishment that's being added."
(Sears) "They're not seen as punishment. Registry requirements are not seen as punishment. And I think that's the key issue. But there's always some concern when it's prospective, or after the person's already served their time."
(Dillon) But Attorney Sleigh said Supreme Courts in two states - Alaska and Indiana - have ruled that the retroactive registry requirements did constitute a form of additional punishment.
After reading articles and research, such as the two articles which proceed this story, it is simple to understand how stupid and useless our legislators are:
Springfield -- Gov. Pat Quinn signed new laws Tuesday designed to limit sex offenders' use of technology.
One law taking effect Jan. 1 makes it a felony for registered sex offenders to use social networking sites, a move aimed at taking another step toward shutting down an avenue of contact between an offender and victim.
Now, let us look at real -life data, which politicians obviously do not do:
pewinternet.org : Adults and Social Network Websites.
A study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
While media coverage and policy attention focus heavily on how children and young adults use social network sites, adults still make up the bulk of the users of these websites. Adults make up a larger portion of the US population than teens, which is why the 35% number represents a larger number of users than the 65% of online teens who also use online social networks.
Still, younger online adults are much more likely than their older counterparts to use social networks, with 75% of adults 18-24 using these networks, compared to just 7% of adults 65 and older.
Adults are much less likely than teens to have a profile on a social network website. About three in ten (35%) adult internet users age 18 and older have a profile on a social networking site like MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn.
The median age of a MySpace user is 27 years old. Facebook users are more likely to be men and to have a college degree. The median age of a Facebook user is 26 years old.
chicagonow.com : Virtual Concentration Camp for Sex Offenders.
Is this a necessary ban to protect the state's children? Or a misguided move guaranteed to keep criminals who've paid their debt living on the margins of society?
As it stands, Illinois sex offenders must register their whereabouts for at least a decade--and in some cases for life, can live only in restricted locations, and are barred from many common jobs.
The new law further bars offenders from using popular services like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter--sites that hundreds of millions of adults (most likely, like you) use for professional networking and career development.
Given the existing draconian level of restrictions already placed on sex offenders after they've served prison time--and the responsibility of parents to police their children's Internet use--is it really necessary to bar an offender seeking to get his or her life back on track from posting a resume on LinkedIn?
It's reasonable for any crime victim and their friends and family, in Illinois or elsewhere, to call for the offending party to be locked away forever and permanently barred from the company of other humans. But is it always necessary? Or for that matter, just?
A maniac with a gun can shoot a child, leave them physically and emotionally scarred for life, go to prison for 20 years, get out on parole, and continue on with their lives. Right or wrong, it happens all the time.
So why do we treat sex crimes differently than other crimes of violence? Why is it only sex offenders who are shunned by lifelong additional legal means in every area of their lives after they've served the jail time that for even the most violent of non-sexual offenders would be considered enough of a punishment?
Monday, August 10, 2009
Are 1 in 7 youth threatened by “online predators”?
Articles about online dangers frequently cite statistics from a 2005 University of New Hampshire study that 13% of youth were sexually solicited by online predators. (This statistic is sometimes referenced as coming from the National Center on Missing and Exploited Children, which funded and published the study).
As the authors of the research upon which these numbers are based, we believe these statistics often have been misunderstood. The following points are important caveats that those using or quoting this statistic need to understand in order to avoid further confusion.
1) These solicitations did not necessarily come from “online predators”. They were all unwanted online requests to youth to talk about sex, answer personal questions about sex or do something sexual. But many could have been from other youth. In most cases, youth did not actually know the ages of solicitors. When they believed they knew, they said about half were other youth.
2) These solicitations were not necessarily devious or intended to lure. Most were limited to brief online comments or questions in chatrooms or instant messages. Many were simply rude, vulgar comments like, “What’s your bra size?”.
3) Most recipients did not view the solicitations as serious or threatening. Two-thirds were not frightened or upset by what happened.
4) Almost all youth handled unwanted solicitations easily and effectively. Most reacted by blocking or ignoring solicitors, leaving sites, or telling solicitors to stop.
5) Extremely few youth (only 2) were actually sexually victimized by someone they met online. This number was too small to be the basis of a reliable estimate of how many youth in the population get sexually victimized from online meetings.
Nonetheless, we were able to make estimates in the study of some of the more serious types of sexual solicitations. We prefer citing the statistics about these as more representative of threatening or dangerous situations that youth encounter online.
* 1 in 25 youth (about 4%) got "aggressive" sexual solicitations that included attempts to contact the youth offline. These are the episodes most likely to result in actual victimizations. (About one-quarter of these aggressive solicitations came from people the youth knew in person, mostly other youth.)
* 1 in 25 youth (about 4%) were solicited to take sexual pictures of themselves. In many jurisdictions, these constitute criminal requests to produce child pornography.
* 1 in 25 youth (about 4%) said they were upset or distressed as a result of an online solicitation. Whether or not the solicitors were online predators, these are the youth most immediately harmed by the solicitations themselves.
Reports and papers about this study, information about other research we have done, and contact information for the authors are available at our website www.unh.edu/ccrc. Please feel free to contact us if you have questions about any of our research.
Research funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, OJJDP, and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Program support provided by the Verizon Foundation.
1 in 7 Youth: The Statistics about Online Sexual Solicitations Fact Sheet:
published by The Crimes against Children Research Center (CCRC)
The actual number of youths who are really, truly, solicited by predators is closer to one in twenty-five, they say. And those are "aggressive" solicitations that might have had potential to spill into real life. The researchers found that ONLY TWO of the youths surveyed had been victimized by someone they’d met online. Not enough to make any conclusions.
If you want to keep your kids safe from real sex offenders, we need to scrap our current sex offender registries and completely rethink the way we define and punish sex offenses in this country. That’s because, currently, a significant percentage of those people listed in sex offender registries pose almost no threat to children, making it difficult for us to know who really does pose a threat to our kids and what we should do about them.
What about the real bad guys? As the Georgia Review Board found, only 5% of those on their sex offender registry were “clearly dangerous” and “should be subject to tight restrictions and a lifetime of monitoring.” These would be your true scum of the Earth; the sick fiends who really have preyed on children or raped repeatedly. Here’s a question I want answered about these scum: Why do we need a sex offender registry for them at all? Why are they not behind bars for life? I am sick and tired of this nonsense.
When only a small percentage of those on the lists are the ones we truly need to fear (the child molesters and rapists), isn’t there a better solution? Like: LOCK THEM UP AND THROW AWAY THE KEY! Or, if we are not going to do that, at least create a separate registry for these more serious offenders. Call it the “Scum of the Earth List” and make these people were bright neon monitoring bracelets and anklets so we can see them.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Richland County Court of Appeals Fifth Appellate District reversed the Richland County Court of Common Please decision which ruled Ohio Senate Bill 10 (Ohios' Sex Offender Classification and Registration scheme, a.k.a. Adam Walsh Act) unconstitutional in its entirety.
Again through cowardice on the bench, they refused to acknowledge the retroactive implementation as being a violation of the Ex Post Facto provision of the Constitution, by calling is a "remedial civil statute". They also deny that SB10 violates the plea agreements of those who plead with an expectation of certain classification and notification requirements which were later extended outside the courtroom through this law.
Read decisions here.
Every American state keeps a register of sex offenders. California has had one since 1947, but most states started theirs in the 1990s. Many people assume that anyone listed on a sex-offender registry must be a rapist or a child molester. But most states spread the net much more widely. A report by Sarah Tofte of Human Rights Watch, a pressure group, found that at least five states required men to register if they were caught visiting prostitutes. At least 13 required it for urinating in public (in two of which, only if a child was present). No fewer than 29 states required registration for teenagers who had consensual sex with another teenager. And 32 states registered flashers and streakers.
Because so many offences require registration, the number of registered sex offenders in America has exploded. As of December last year, there were 674,000 of them, according to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children. If they were all crammed into a single state, it would be more populous than Wyoming, Vermont or North Dakota. As a share of its population, America registers more than four times as many people as Britain, which is unusually harsh on sex offenders. America’s registers keep swelling, not least because in 17 states, registration is for life.
Georgia has more than 17,000 registered sex offenders. Some are highly dangerous. But many are not. And it is fiendishly hard for anyone browsing the registry to tell the one from the other. The Georgia Sex Offender Registration Review Board, an official body, assessed a sample of offenders on the registry last year and concluded that 65% of them posed little threat. Another 30% were potentially threatening, and 5% were clearly dangerous. The board recommended that the first group be allowed to live and work wherever they liked. The second group could reasonably be barred from living or working in certain places, said the board, and the third group should be subject to tight restrictions and a lifetime of monitoring. A very small number “just over 100” are classified as “predators”, which means they have a compulsion to commit sex offences. When not in jail, predators must wear ankle bracelets that track where they are.
Despite the board’s findings, non-violent offenders remain listed and subject to a giant cobweb of controls. One rule, championed by Georgia’s House majority leader, banned them from living within 1,000 feet of a school bus stop. This proved unworkable. Thomas Brown, the sheriff of DeKalb county near Atlanta, mapped the bus stops in his patch and realised that he would have to evict all 490 of the sex offenders living there. Other than the bottom of a lake or the middle of a forest, there was hardly anywhere in Georgia for them to live legally. In the end Georgia’s courts stepped in and suspended the bus-stop rule, along with another barring sex offenders from volunteering in churches. But most other restrictions remain.
Sex-offender registries are popular. Rape and child molestation are terrible crimes that can traumatise their victims for life. All parents want to protect their children from sexual predators, so politicians can nearly always win votes by promising curbs on them. Those who object can be called soft on child-molesters, a label most politicians would rather avoid. This creates a ratchet effect. Every lawmaker who wants to sound tough on sex offenders has to propose a law tougher than the one enacted by the last politician who wanted to sound tough on sex offenders.
So laws get harsher and harsher. But that does not necessarily mean they get better. If there are thousands of offenders on a registry, it is harder to keep track of the most dangerous ones. Budgets are tight. Georgia’s sheriffs complain that they have been given no extra money or manpower to help them keep the huge and swelling sex-offenders’ registry up to date or to police its confusing mass of rules. Terry Norris of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association cites a man who was convicted of statutory rape two decades ago for having consensual sex with his high-school sweetheart, to whom he is now married. “It doesn’t make it right, but it doesn’t make him a threat to anybody,” says Mr Norris. “We spend the same amount of time on that guy as on someone who’s done something heinous.”
Money spent on evicting sex offenders cannot be spent on treating them. Does this matter? Politicians pushing the get-tough approach sometimes claim that sex offenders are mostly incorrigible: that three-quarters or even nine out of ten of them reoffend. It is not clear where they find such numbers. A study of nearly 10,000 male sex offenders in 15 American states found that 5% were rearrested for a sex crime within three years. A meta-analysis of 29,000 sex offenders in Canada, Britain and America found that 24% had reoffended after 15 years.
Publicising sex offenders’ addresses makes them vulnerable to vigilantism. In April 2006, for example, a vigilante shot and killed two sex offenders in Maine after finding their addresses on the registry. One of the victims had been convicted of having consensual sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend when he was 19. In Washington state in 2005 a man posed as an FBI agent to enter the home of two sex offenders, warning them that they were on a “hit list” on the internet. Then he killed them.
Murders of sex offenders are rare, but harassment is common. Most of the offenders interviewed for this article said they had experienced it. “Bill”, who spent nine months in jail for having consensual sex with a 15-year-old when he was 27 and is now registered in North Carolina, says someone put up posters with his photograph on them around his district. (In at least four states, each offender’s profile on the online registry comes with a handy “click to print” function.) The local kids promptly stopped playing with Bill’s three children. And someone started leaving chopped-up sausages on his car, a possible reference to castration. Bill and his family moved house.
Jill Levenson, of Lynn University in Florida, says half of registered sex offenders have trouble finding jobs. From 20% to 40% say they have had to move house because a landlord or neighbour realised they were sex offenders. And most report feeling depressed, hopeless or afraid.
“Mike” spent a year and a half behind bars for statutory rape after having sex with a girl who said she was 17, but was two years younger. He was 22 at the time. Since his release, he has struggled to hold down a job. Once, he found work as a security guard, but his probation officer told him to quit, since the uniform lent him an air of authority, which would not do.
He is now unemployed, and lives in a flophouse in Atlanta between a jail and a strip club. The area is too desolate to have any schools or parks, so he is allowed to live there. His neighbours are mostly other sex offenders and mentally ill folk who talk to themselves. “It’s Bumville,” sighs Mike. His ambition is to get a job, keep it and move out. Any job will do, he says.
Several studies suggest that making it harder for sex offenders to find a home or a job makes them more likely to reoffend. Gwenda Willis and Randolph Grace of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, for example, found that the lack of a place to live was “significantly related to sexual recidivism”. Candace Kruttschnitt and Christopher Uggen of the University of Minnesota and Kelly Shelton of the Minnesota Department of Corrections tracked 556 sex offenders on probation and found less recidivism among those with a history of stable employment.
Publicly accessible sex-offender registries are intended to keep people safe. But there is little evidence that they do. A study by Kristen Zgoba of the New Jersey Department of Corrections found that the state’s system for registering sex offenders and warning their neighbours cost millions of dollars and had no discernible effect on the number of sex crimes. Restricting where sex offenders can live is supposed to keep them away from potential victims, but it is doubtful that this works. A determined predator can always catch a bus.
Laws that make life hard for sex offenders also affect their families. A survey by Ms Levenson found that 86% of family members felt stressed because of registration and residence rules, and 49% feared for their own safety. “It’s very difficult,” says Bill. “Pretty much all the things that make you a good father are now illegal for me to do.” He cannot take his children to a park, a pool, or a museum. He cannot be at any of their school events. And his children are ostracised. “The parents find out I’m registered and that’s it,” he sighs.
The penalties for sex offenders who break the rules can be severe. In Georgia the first time you fail to provide an accurate address or register annually with the county sheriff to be photographed and fingerprinted, you face ten to 30 years in prison. The second time: life. Yet because living on a public sex-offender registry is so wretched, many abscond.
Some states have decided that harsher sex laws are not always better. Iowa has sharply reduced the number of sex offences for which residency restrictions apply. Previously, all Iowan sex offenders who had abused children were barred from living within 2,000 feet of a school or child-care centre. Since where offenders lived was defined as where they slept, many would spend the day at home with their families and sleep at night in their cars at a highway rest stop. “That made no sense,” says Corwin Ritchie of the Iowa County Attorneys Association. “We don’t try to monitor where possible bank robbers sleep.”
The Iowan politicians who relaxed the law gave themselves cover by adding a new rule against “loitering” near schools. Mr Ritchie thinks the new rules are better, but he would rather get rid of the residency restrictions entirely and let probation officers make recommendations for each individual offender.
Nationwide, the trend is to keep getting stricter. In 1994 Congress ordered all states that had not yet done so to set up sex-offender registries or lose some funding. Two years later it ordered them to register the most serious offenders for life. In 2006 it passed the Adam Walsh Act, named for a six-year-old boy who was kidnapped and beheaded, broadening the categories of offence for which registration is required and obliging all states to upload their registries to a national database. States had until this summer to comply with that provision. Some objected. In May they were given another year’s breathing space.
Other countries now seem to be following America’s lead. Hottest on its heels is Britain, where the sex-offenders’ registry includes children as young as 11. The British list is not open to the public, but in some areas parents may ask for a check on anyone who has unsupervised access to their child. France, too, now has a closed national directory of sex-offenders, as does Austria, which brought in some American-style movement restrictions on sex offenders earlier this year. After the disappearance in Portugal in 2007 of Madeleine McCann, a British toddler, some European politicians have called for a pan-European registry.
Human Rights Watch urges America to scale back its sex-offender registries. Those convicted of minor, non-violent offences should not be required to register, says Ms Tofte. Nor should juveniles. Sex offenders should be individually assessed, and only those judged likely to rape someone or abuse a child should be registered. Such decisions should be regularly reviewed and offenders who are rehabilitated (or who grow too old to reoffend) should be removed from the registry. The information on sex-offender registries should be held by the police, not published online, says Ms Tofte, and released “on a need-to-know basis”. Blanket bans on all sex offenders living and working in certain areas should be abolished. Instead, it makes sense for the most dangerous offenders sometimes to face tailored restrictions as a condition of parole.
That package of reforms would bring America in line with the strictest laws in other rich countries. But few politicians would have the courage to back it. “Jane”, the mother of a sex offender in Georgia, says she sent a letter to her senator, Saxby Chambliss, urging such reforms. “They didn’t even read it,” she says. “They just sent me a form letter assuring me that they were in favour of every sex offender law, and that [Senator Chambliss] has grandchildren he wants to protect.”
America’s sex-offender laws are the strictest of any rich democracy. Convicted rapists and child-molesters are given long prison sentences. When released, they are put on sex-offender registries. In most states this means that their names, photographs and addresses are published online, so that fearful parents can check whether a child-molester lives nearby. Under the Adam Walsh Act of 2006, another law named after a murdered child, all states will soon be obliged to make their sex-offender registries public. Such rules are extremely popular. Most parents will support any law that promises to keep their children safe. Other countries are following America’s example, either importing Megan’s laws or increasing penalties: after two little girls were murdered by a school caretaker, Britain has imposed multiple conditions on who can visit schools.
Which makes it all the more important to ask whether America’s approach is the right one. In fact its sex-offender laws have grown self-defeatingly harsh (see article). They have been driven by a ratchet effect. Individual American politicians have great latitude to propose new laws. Stricter curbs on paedophiles win votes. And to sound severe, such curbs must be stronger than the laws in place, which in turn were proposed by politicians who wished to appear tough themselves. Few politicians dare to vote against such laws, because if they do, the attack ads practically write themselves.
In all, 674,000 Americans are on sex-offender registries—more than the population of Vermont , North Dakota or Wyoming (and growing every day). The number keeps growing partly because in several states registration is for life and partly because registries are not confined to the sort of murderer who ensnared Megan Kanka. According to Human Rights Watch, at least five states require registration for people who visit prostitutes, 29 require it for consensual sex between young teenagers and 32 require it for indecent exposure. Some prosecutors are now stretching the definition of “distributing child pornography” to include teens who text half-naked photos of themselves to their friends.
How dangerous are the people on the registries? A state review of one sample in Georgia found that two-thirds of them posed little risk. For example, Janet Allison was found guilty of being “party to the crime of child molestation” because she let her 15-year-old daughter have sex with a boyfriend. The young couple later married. But Ms Allison will spend the rest of her life publicly branded as a sex offender.
Several other countries have sex-offender registries, but these are typically held by the police and are hard to view. In America it takes only seconds to find out about a sex offender: some states have a “click to print” icon on their websites so that concerned citizens can put up posters with the offender’s mugshot on trees near his home. Small wonder most sex offenders report being harassed. A few have been murdered. Many are fired because someone at work has Googled them.
Registration is often just the start. Sometimes sex offenders are barred from living near places where children congregate. In Georgia no sex offender may live or work within 1,000 feet (900 metres) of a school, church, park, skating rink or swimming pool. In Miami an exclusion zone of 2,500 feet has helped create a camp of homeless offenders under a bridge.
There are three main arguments for reform. First, it is unfair to impose harsh penalties for small offences. Perhaps a third of American teenagers have sex before they are legally allowed to, and a staggering number have shared revealing photographs with each other. This is unwise, but hardly a reason for the law to ruin their lives. Second, America’s sex laws often punish not only the offender, but also his family. If a man who once slept with his 15-year-old girlfriend is barred for ever from taking his own children to a playground, those children suffer.
Third, harsh laws often do little to protect the innocent. The police complain that having so many petty sex offenders on registries makes it hard to keep track of the truly dangerous ones. Cash that might be spent on treating sex offenders—which sometimes works—is spent on huge indiscriminate registries. Public registries drive serious offenders underground, which makes them harder to track and more likely to reoffend. And registers give parents a false sense of security: most sex offenders are never even reported, let alone convicted.
It would not be hard to redesign America’s sex laws. Instead of lumping all sex offenders together on the same list for life, states should assess each person individually and include only real threats. Instead of posting everything on the internet, names could be held by the police, who would share them only with those, such as a school, who need to know. Laws that bar sex offenders from living in so many places should be repealed, because there is no evidence that they protect anyone: a predator can always travel. The money that a repeal saves could help pay for monitoring compulsive molesters more intrusively—through ankle bracelets and the like.
In America it may take years to unpick this. However practical and just the case for reform, it must overcome political cowardice, the tabloid media and parents’ understandable fears. Other countries, though, have no excuse for committing the same error. Sensible sex laws are better than vengeful ones.
Critics of sex offender registries have expressed concern over the impact they have on the privacy rights of individuals and have questioned the inherent fairness of punishing someone who has already served their court mandated sentence. Several states have raised questions about the constitutionality of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act and, to date, no states have received approval of their programs from the federal government.
Implementing Washington's on-line database also raises important questions. With the new classification system, offenders in the state who were considered low level offenders may now be reclassified at a higher level. This could mean that people who have been living peacefully in neighborhoods for years will have their pictures sent out to schools, community organizations and others as part of the state's community notification requirement.
Even if offenders are not classified at higher levels, their friends, co-workers and neighbors now will be able to search for their names on-line and find out whether they have ever been convicted of a sex crime. The longer registration periods mean those wishing to put a mistake from their past behind them will have more difficulty moving on with their lives - and, in turn, will be forced to suffer the stigma of being a registered sex offender for greater lengths of time (in most cases, for their lifetimes).
There is also a legitimate concern that the registry could be used as a means to harass, threaten or even harm those listed in the database. There have been cases in other states where people have used the information in sex offender registries to do just that, or even worse.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
A registered sex offender has won his legal battle against the city's sex-offender ordinance after a District Court judge ruled it unconstitutional.
The decision is specific to the Garrison City's ordinance, but an appeal to the state Supreme Court could have significant legal implications for other communities with similar ordinances.
In his ruling, District Court Judge Mark Weaver said Dover City Code, 131-20, which prohibits registered sex offenders from residing within 2,500 feet of a school or day-care center, is unconstitutional because it violates Richard Jennings' equal protection rights and doesn't accomplish its intended purpose of protecting children.
The ordinance came under challenge last year by the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, which filed a motion to dismiss the ordinance on behalf of Jennings.
As a result of the decision, the city will no longer enforce the ordinance, Police Chief Anthony Colarusso said Monday afternoon. The city has 30 days to decide whether it will appeal the decision.
In his ruling, Weaver said because the ordinance impacts the rights of certain individuals to use and enjoy property, he applied an intermediate scrutiny test, which evaluated whether the state provided evidence showing the ordinance met its objective of protecting minors.
Since the ordinance passed in 2005, police were not able to show a significant decrease in prosecutions for sex crimes against children and in one case there was an increase.
Weaver went on to say the ordinance doesn't prevent sexual offenders from being near children as it only restricts how close a sex offender may live to a school or day care center but doesn't prevent them from otherwise being near these locations. The ordinance also doesn't protect children from sex offenders living in other areas of the city, Weaver said in his ruling.
"There's a lot of misinformation and hysteria about sex offenders," she said. "People obviously care about their children and want to see them cared for but legislating out of fear is not a way to accomplish that."
"Certainly if the city was to appeal to the Supreme Court that would be a statewide ruling," he said. "We realize the implications of taking the case to the Supreme Court."