Archive for August 21, 2009

Court Throws Out Residency Restrictions

August 21, 2009 Comments off (New Hampshire) : Court Throws Out Sex-Offender Residency Restrictions.

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.

IN Supreme Court Lets Park Ban Stand

August 21, 2009 Comments off : Indiana court lets sex offender park ban stand.

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

CA : Putting More Kids at Risk

August 21, 2009 Comments off : Homeless Sex Offenders on the Rise.

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.

Fed Judge Reverses Decision on Sex Registry

August 21, 2009 Comments off : Federal judge unleashes Utah’s sex-offender registry
-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.