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Group Issues Report on Sex Offender Registry

September 29, 2009 Comments off

Augustafreepress.com (Georgia) : Group issues report on sex-offender registration.

The Justice Policy Institute, a national organization focusing on juvenile and criminal justice issues, warned that compliance with the Adam Walsh Act will provide little in the way of public safety benefits at substantial costs, particularly for those who must now be on sex offender registries for juvenile offenses.

To provide policymakers with more information about the negative impacts of SORNA, JPI is broadly releasing their report Registering Harm: How Sex Offense Registries Fail Youth and Communities. (This report had a limited release in 2008.) Registering Harm concludes that while the prevention of sexual violence should be a priority for policymakers and the criminal justice system, the registration and community notification of youth convicted of sex offenses is unlikely to improve public safety, can have a lifetime of negative effects on a young person, and often penalizes an entire family. Furthermore, advocates say placing youth on sex offense registries is contrary to the purpose of the juvenile justice system, and SORNA has been found to be unconstitutional and in violation of children’s rights.

“There is a growing concern that this well-intentioned legislation is having serious negative consequences, particularly for young people,” said Tracy Velázquez, executive director of JPI. “Our juvenile justice system was set up to give delinquent youth a second chance; due to the very public and punitive nature of the online registries, the Act denies them this chance.”

“Courts have ruled as recently as this month that SORNA is unconstitutional as it is retroactively punitive,” added Velázquez, referring to the recent ruling by the ninth circuit court. “We know that states are being pressured to pass this legislation through threats of withholding federal dollars. However, in light of these serious civil rights issues, we urge state lawmakers to resist rushing into compliance, and to instead focus on insisting that their federal counterparts change this flawed legislation.”

Registering Harm examines the public safety implications associated with implementing SORNA, which would expand registries already established at state levels, requiring states to list all registrants on a national online database and to include children convicted of certain sex offenses. Although originally all states were required to come into compliance with SORNA in July 2009 or face losing a portion of their Justice Assistance Grant Program funds, no states were in compliance at that time and the U.S. Attorney general extended the deadline for compliance to July 2010. Most troubling, according to the report, is that under SORNA youth as young as 14 would be placed on registries, making them more likely to experience rejection from peer groups and positive social networks and therefore more likely to associate with delinquent or troubled peers. Additionally, as the Ninth Circuit Court pointed out, the registration of adult for decades-old juvenile offenses “threatens to disrupt the stability of their lives and to ostracize them from their communities,” notwithstanding years of living law-abiding and productive lives.

The report also notes that many of the offenses committed by youth are normative teenage behaviors. These behaviors are now criminalized and punished in ways that can last a lifetime. The report also concludes what similar reports, such as “The Pursuit of Safety” by the Vera Institute of Justice, also find, which is that registries do little to protect public safety, and may even endanger youth. And while states may lose federal dollars by not complying, JPI’s analysis shows that meeting the Act’s many requirements will likely cost more. SORNA implementation would leave law enforcement tasked with database management rather than community protection.

“Rather than educating the public about general practices for keeping children and communities safe from sexual violence, this Act encourages a disproportionate allocation of resources and inappropriate focus on registries and the people on them,” said Velázquez. She added that in some states, people can be placed on registries for offenses such as public urination or lewd bumper stickers on their car, which would make it difficult for people using the registry to determine who could be a possible threat to their families or neighborhoods.

Key findings in Registering Harm include:

– The Act mis-allocates resources to a fraction of sexual violence incidences. Registries are designed to warn the public, and particularly parents, of “stranger danger;” however, sexual assaults are seldom committed by strangers. The Bureau of Justice Statistics found that more than nine in 10 sexual offenses against children were committed by either a family member or acquaintance. In addition, 87 percent of the people arrested for a sex offense in 1997 had not been previously convicted of a sex offense and therefore would not appear on a registry. The resource mis-allocation caused by the expansion of registries in the Act has an especially significant impact given the budget crises faced in many states.

– Overbroad registration or notification practices make it difficult for the public to determine who on the registry may pose a public safety threat and who doesn’t. Even the tier system of SORNA still provides little context to people who receive notification or view a public registry. In a review of all state registries, Human Rights Watch found that only five states provided enough understandable information on online registries for the public to be able to interpret the charge and the age of both the registrant and the victim.

Registration and notification overburdens law enforcement. State and federal laws are enacted at the local level, leaving local law enforcement agencies and corrections departments to implement and shoulder the burden of registration and notification legislation. Law enforcement is forced to dedicate a great deal of time and resources to monitoring people on the registries, finding people who have failed to register, and constantly ensuring that information on the registry is correct.

Registries and notification create barriers to education, employment, housing, and other social networks and outlets, making it difficult to live successfully in the community. Many states compound the barriers posed by registries with residency restrictions. This leads to increased risk of probation or parole violations or illegal behavior, which may lead to further incarceration.

Public dollars could be better spent on effective prevention strategies that more comprehensively address ways to reduce sexual violence and abuse. The report recommends that policymakers on federal, state, and local levels employ proactive preventative strategies like educating communities about effective ways to prevent sexual violence, which can be a more effective way of increasing public safety.

“Our public policies should be driven by what works to keep people safe,” added Velázquez. “SORNA is one example of well-intentioned but unsound legislation that will have particularly toxic results, especially for youth. We need to move past emotion and rhetoric, and start putting in place more rational, effective policies for all.”

The report can be viewed here: www.justicepolicy.org/content-hmID=1811&smID=1581&ssmID=80.htm.


Our Priorities Need Re-evaluation

September 29, 2009 Comments off

clantonadvertiser.com (Alabama): Priorities need reevaluation.

Where is our sense of justice and fairness? The past few weeks, the Elmore County Courts have tried the No. 1 assistant to a man who shot and killed a man in a department store parking lot in cold blood to steal his vehicle. It could have been me, you, or anybody. The man had stopped by on his way from work to buy baby diapers. The man was unarmed and was unaware he was about to die, leaving his wife with a baby to raise. It was a senseless, intentional and random shooting. His No. 1 assistant was tried and given 13 years with allowance for time served in jail. He will probably be out in three or four years and can get on with his life as he chooses.

In this same court, there was a man in his 20’s who mentioned to someone that he had a sexual relationship with a girl who was 15 when he was 17. Two years difference in age between teenagers. He was given 30 years in prison. He will serve many years and wear a scarlet letter as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Why don’t we require robbers and thieves to wear a sign to that effect when out in public and those convicted of DUIs to have car tags with drunk driver on it?

Another thing going on is these cities passing laws requiring sex offenders not to live within 2,000 feet, some places 2,600 feet, from a church, school, daycare or park. The result is there is nowhere in cities for them to live, therefore they are dumping them out in rural areas where law enforcement is thinly spread. Alabama state law requires the sheriff to keep up with these people but does not pay the county anything to do it. The law enforcement agencies could better use their time doing other things.

IN City Sex Offender Ordinance to Change

September 29, 2009 Comments off

news-tribune.net : Jeffersonville’s sex offender law could get update.

The future of Jeffersonville’s sex-offender ordinance is unclear, as the Indiana Supreme Court has decided not to take a case in which the Indiana Court of Appeals sided against the city.

The ordinance banning sex offenders from entering city parks was originally passed in January 2007. It allowed for offenders to request an exemption if they could show “good cause” for entering a park. Eric Dowdell, who was convicted of sexual battery of a 13-year-old girl in 1996, applied for such an exemption so that he could watch his son play Little League baseball.

Initially he was denied but, following a legal challenge, the Court of Appeals ruled in June that Jeffersonville’s ordinance was unconstitutional as it applies to Dowdell because he served his sentence and completed his requirement to register on the sex offender list before the ordinance was passed.

In the Court of Appeals ruling, Chief Justice John Baker described the exemption process as “extraordinarily burdensome and virtually illusory,” noting that the offender must provide a “legitimate reason” for the exemption and would have to go through the application process each time a new activity arises.

ND : No Interest in Offender Notification Meetings

September 29, 2009 Comments off

grandforksherald.com : Police less likely to hold sex offender notification hearings.

A little more than 10 years ago, 400 anxious people packed an elementary school gymnasium in Fargo to grill two police officers about an ex-sex offender coming to their neighborhood. It was the first notification hearing held in North Dakota to alert residents to the presence of a high-risk sex offender. Two months earlier, Minnesota had held its first notification meeting in Eagan, a Twin Cities suburb.

For a time, such gatherings were regular occurrences. Today, not so much. “It’s been more than a year since we’ve held a public meeting,” said Jay Middleton, a community resources officer with the Grand Forks Police Department. “The reason we quit is lack of turnout.”

It’s the same in Fargo and other cities. “Even the media isn’t coming” to such meetings anymore, Fargo Police Sgt. Jeff Skuza said recently, explaining why his department will rely instead on news releases, the Internet and e-mail alerts to notify residents about a high-risk offender in their midst.

SD Sex Offender Task Board Discuss Changes

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KSFY South Dakota : Sex Offender Registry Task Force Discusses Changes.

A South Dakota sexual assault study task force met Monday in Pierre. The committee was created to review the current state laws on the sex offender registry and determine what changes need to be made to comply with federal standards. The committee is also looking into making some possible changes when it comes to people wanting to get their names off the list….who do not pose a threat to the public.

http://www.ksfy.com/news/local/60078227.html?video=YHI&t=a

OH : A National Embarrassment

September 29, 2009 Comments off

Ohio’s draconian sex offender laws (Senate Bill 10, Adam Walsh Act, Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act) have become an national embarrassment. Ohio is the only state in the country to have substantially adopted the Adam Walsh Act provisions, after more than 3 years. Why is that ? Because most other states can see that these laws are impracticable, financially unsustainable , ineffective and riddled with constitutional violations. Yet, in Ohio, our illustrious General Assembly passed these laws unanimously on an emergency basis in 2007 in order to gain the 10% Byrne Funding, which amounts to a pittance when compared to the cost of implementation of these laws – not to mention the enormous cost the state is paying to defend these laws in courts in every county of the state ! For facts, see http://www.constitutionalfights.org

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OH : Keeping Track of Sex Offenders is Hard

September 29, 2009 Comments off

Columbus Dispatch Politics : Homeless offenders a headache – Keeping track hard for sheriff’s offices.

Registered sex offenders live in Schiller and Goodale parks in Columbus. Another gives his address as behind Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, while still another stays in an old railroad steam tunnel in Cambridge.
And five live in vehicles parked on the streets of Marietta, from a pair of vans to a purple Dodge Neon.

How are sheriff’s offices supposed to obey Ohio law by keeping track of such offenders and notifying neighbors of their presence? Short answer: They can’t.

“This is a horrendous problem for us,” said Steve Martin, chief deputy with the Franklin County sheriff’s office. “We’re doing everything that is humanly possible to monitor these people.”

But he acknowledges that’s difficult for those who don’t have a fixed address, such as the homeless. At least 160 people are “homeless” on the state’s sex-offender database of more than 18,000 sex offenders, and many more are listed as living in such places as tents or vehicles, or on porches or park benches.

Examples of sex offenders’ “homes” from the database: “Dayton Mall area” in Montgomery County; on “Courthouse Square” in Warren; “diversified” in Columbus; in a “Ford Fairmont station wagon” on River Road in Cincinnati; “under bridge by post office” in Newark; “across from Big Lots” on 2nd Street in Ironton; and “garage behind barber shop” on Reading Road in Mason.

Deputies are supposed to tell everyone living within a 1,000-foot radius when a sex offender moves in and monitor the offenders to make sure they keep their addresses current, as required by the law. But keeping track of them is a challenge facing virtually every sheriff’s office in Ohio, said Robert Cornwell, director of the Buckeye State Sheriffs Association. “The real challenge comes in verifying that somebody lives someplace like under a bridge,” he said. “How often do you go back and check on them to see if they’re still living there?”

Martin said deputies met with the Franklin County prosecutor’s office earlier this month to explore a possible change in state law. Until then, sex offenders without a permanent fixed address are being asked — not required — to check in daily with the sheriff’s office.

Deputies struggle with who to notify when a sex offender lives in some place like a park, Martin said. Do they notify everyone around sprawling Schiller Park, for example, about the sex offender who lives there?