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ME Legislature Considers Adam Walsh Act Changes

October 2, 2008 Comments off

kennebecjournal.mainetoday.com : Statehouse Testimony targets sex offenders.

AUGUSTA — Victims of sex crimes and the offenders often live in the same home, where the crimes also occur.
That was part of the message brought by Kurt Bumby, senior manager of the Center for Sex Offender Management, to a committee of legislators wrestling with the problem of how to manage sex offenders and increase public safety. “Being grabbed in an alleyway sometimes happens, but those are the exceptions,” Bumby said. “Strangers tend to be the exception.”

The Committee on Criminal Justice & Public Safety met Monday at the Department of Public Safety offices in Augusta for a briefing on Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act. In the second of three informational meetings, the panel heard from Bumby as well as from officials in four other states where policymakers have grappled with similar issues. “We either reinvent the wheel or take a day and bring in the experts,” Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, said. “This should enhance the effectiveness of what we’re trying to do.”

Diamond, Senate chairman of the committee, said the committee is dealing with three issues:

* legal challenges of Maine’s retroactive registration requirement filed by sex offenders;

* the federal Adam Walsh Act, which is aimed at expanding the national sex offender registry and keeping track of sex offenders no matter which state they live in, while increasing penalties for crimes against children; and

* a tiered system to classify offenders based on offense or risk to reoffend or both.

“We have our hands full,” Diamond said.

Sen. Earle McCormick, R-West Gardiner, said he was looking for information on how the state’s sex offender registry can be more effectively administered. “If we have a three-tier system, how do we figure who are the high risks?” McCormick said.

Bumby told committee members that sex offenses are a small percentage of all crimes committed, but get a disproportionate amount of publicity.

He also said offenders are a diverse group. “Research is clear that sex offenders don’t all look the same, and those variations have important implications for management strategies,” Bumby said. “One-size-fits-all strategies are not likely to get us the results we want.”

“Depending on whom they target, recidivism rates vary,” Bumby said. “Sex offenders are not all alike. Do we want policies to treat them alike? Will that serve the public?”

He recommended concentrating on higher risk offenders to lower the recidivism rate.
“It seems we do better to increase public safety when we focused on higher-risk offenders,” Bumby said.

Bumby also said a federal study showed that longer sentences do not result in much variation in the rate of committing another sexual offense. He also said that despite a sharp increase in restrictions on where convicted sex offenders live, there’s no evidence those restrictions affect the recidivism rate.

Later, Roger Werholtz, secretary of the Kansas Department of Corrections, said the state legislature there imposed a permanent moratorium to prevent municipalities from restricting where sex offenders can live.

Update to Ohio Supreme Court Decision

October 2, 2008 Comments off

Cleveland.com: Supreme Court upholds man’s predator’ status ;
Stricter classification went into effect after his sentencing.

… But since the case was based on Ohio’s former sexual predator statute, the court’s 4-3 ruling is actually less significant because larger challenges to the current offender classification system are looming.
In January, Ohio’s Adam Walsh Act kicked in with a far stricter, three-tier, retroactive sexual offender classification system that requires frequent registering with local police and listing in a public database.

That new system is already being challenged in lower courts across Ohio — with some judges, including one in Cleveland, already having declared it unconstitutional. It is expected to eventually reach the high court.

“If they had decided that the old law was unconstitutional, then that would have had a huge impact on Adam Walsh,” said Amy Borror, from the Ohio public defender’s office, which is challenging the new laws and had awaited Wednesday’s ruling.

In State v. Ferguson, the case decided Wednesday, Andrew J. Ferguson of Cleveland argued that a 2003 amendment to the former sex offender law reclassifying him a predator for life was a form of added punishment.

Writing for the court’s majority, Justice Maureen O’Connor said retroactive classification in this case is not punitive because the General Assembly intended the provision to be a public safety issue.

“It is a remedial, regulatory scheme designed to protect the public rather than to punish the offender,” O’Connor wrote.

She was joined by Chief Justice Thomas Moyer and Justices Robert Cupp and Terrence O’Donnell.

Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger wrote a dissent that was joined by Justices Paul Pfeifer and Evelyn Lundberg Stratton. Lanzinger questioned why the majority did not use the same analysis the court had used in a case earlier this year when it concluded that residency rules for sexual predators were not retroactive.
Even if she were persuaded the old law was retroactive, Lanzinger said, “I cannot accept that the challenged amendments are merely remedial and do not impair vested, substantial rights.”

Justice Lanzinger clearly understands the Constitution, along with Justices Pfeifer and Lundberg. They grasp the concept of expost facto provisons of the United States and Ohio Constitutions. However, Justices O’Connor, Moyer, Cupp and O’Donnell have demonstrated their incompetence, which insists on their immediate removal from the Court.