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Criminal Justice Resources: Sex Offender Residency Restrictions

May 24, 2010 Comments off

llrx.com: Criminal Justice Resources: Sex Offender Residency Restrictions –

There are laws in more than 20 states and hundreds of communities limiting or proscribing where convicted sex offenders may live and work. See Lawsuits Test Crackdown On Sex Criminals, Stateline.org, April 18, 2008; Sex-Offender Residency Laws Get Second Look, USA Today, Feb. 26, 2007. These residency zones or exclusions are frequently imposed in conditions of probation and parole or as a facet of registration laws. They raise constitutional issues in addition to the practical problems created by shutting off access to family members, affordable housing, employment, therapeutic treatment and public services.

This article collects recent court decisions, research papers and reports that have addressed the efficacy of exclusionary zoning laws and the impact of these restrictions on sex offenders reentering their communities. For additional resources on Megan’s Law and the Adam Walsh Act, see generally Ken Strutin, Sex Offender Laws, LLRX, Sept. 28, 2007; and Sex Offender Resources (NACDL).

Case Law

Restrictions have been challenged on a variety of constitutional grounds, such as substantive due process, equal protection, right to travel, ex post facto, bill of attainder (e.g., banishment), and taking of property. See Anti-Sex-Offender Zoning Laws Challenged, Stateline.org, Dec. 9, 2006. Recent appellate decisions show how these laws fare in the gristmill of constitutional analysis, and offer insight into possible paths to Supreme Court resolution. See Exactly When And How Will Scotus Confront Sex Offender Residency Restrictions?, Sentencing Law and Policy Blog, May 14, 2008.

  • Georgia: Mann v. Dept. Of Corrections, 282 Ga. 754, 653 S.E.2d 740 (2007)
    “Although we earlier determined appellant’s property interest in his rent-free residence at his parents’ home to be ‘minimal,’ Mann, supra, 278 Ga. at 443 (2), we find appellant’s property interest in the Hibiscus Court residence he purchased with his wife to be significant. As a registered sex offender, the locations where appellant may reside are severely restricted by OCGA § 42-1-15 (a); as recognized by other states, those locations may also be subject to private limitations, see Mulligan v. Panther Valley Prop. Owners Assn., 766 A2d 1186 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2001) (discussing homeowner association covenants prohibiting sale of property to sex offenders), and we note that HN5 nothing in OCGA § 42-1-12 et seq. expressly precludes Georgia cities and counties from enacting additional restrictions. See Wernick, In Accordance with a Public Outcry: Zoning Out Sex Offenders Through Residence Restrictions in Florida, 58 Fla. L. Rev. 1147, 1163-1164 (2006) (discussing ordinances enacted by local governments in Florida that have expanded state statutory buffer zones). Nevertheless, appellant and his wife were able to find and purchase a house that complied with the residency restriction in OCGA § 42-1-15. The evidence is uncontroverted that the Hibiscus Court property was purchased for the sole purpose of serving as their home. OCGA § 42-1-15, by prohibiting appellant from residing at the Hibiscus Court house, thus utterly impairs appellant’s use of his property as the home he shares with his wife.”
  • Illinois: People v. Morgan, 377 Ill. App. 3d 821, 881 N.E.2d 507, 317 Ill. Dec. 339 (Ill. App. Ct. 3d Dist. 2007)
    “Defendant, [a convicted sex offender] . . . , was convicted following a jury trial of knowingly residing within 500 feet of a school building that persons under the age of 18 attended (720 ILCS 5/11-9.3(b-5) (West 2006). Defendant was sentenced to 30 months’ probation and fined. Defendant appeals his conviction and fines. We affirm in part and vacate and remand in part. Turning to the subsection at issue in the instant case, we adopt the reasoning and analysis employed by the Fifth District in Leroy and apply it to the subsection under consideration before us. In doing so, we find that the law is constitutional. We conclude that, in accordance with the analysis employed by the court in Leroy, section 11-9.3(b-5) does not constitute an impermissible ex post facto law. Therefore, defendant’s argument must fail.”
  • Indiana: State v. Pollard, No. 05A02-0707-CR-640 (Ind. Ct. App. May 13, 2008)
    “For all of these reasons, we hold that Indiana Code section 35-42-4-11, otherwise known as the residency statute, is an ex post facto law as applied to a person in Pollard’s circumstances. The residency statute is a criminal statute that criminalizes residency because of the resident’s status as a sex offender. In addition, the statute’s effect is punitive because it is applied retroactively to sex offenders who established ownership and property rights in a residence prior to the effective date of the statute, and because it forces them to relinquish some or all of their ownership rights or face a felony charge. Perhaps most importantly, Indiana’s residency statute does not exempt ownership established prior to the statute, provide a constitutional taking procedure, or exempt ownership impacted by later construction of a protected facility or area.”
  • Iowa: Wright v. Iowa Dept Of Corrections, No. 01 / 06–0863 (Iowa April 11, 2008)
    “Floyd Wright, who was convicted of a sexual offense against a minor in 1977, challenges the district court’s ruling that he was subject to the residency restrictions of Iowa Code section 692A.2A (2005), which prohibits sex offenders from residing within two thousand feet of certain facilities such as schools. Wright contends that he is not subject to the statute because he was not a “registered” sex offender. Even if the statute were applicable, Wright contends it would violate his equal protection and substantive due process rights and would be invalid as a bill of attainder. The district court rejected his arguments, and so do we.”
  • Missouri: R.L. v. Missouri Department Of Corrections, 245 S.W.3d 236 (Mo. 2008)
    “The same long-standing principles applied in Phillips apply in this case. As with the registration requirements in Phillips, the residency restrictions at issue in this case impose a new obligation upon R.L. and those similarly situated by requiring them to change their place of residence based solely upon offenses committed prior to enactment of the statute. Attaching new obligations to past conduct in this manner violates the bar on retrospective laws set forth in article I, section 13.”
  • Ohio: City of Middleburg Heights v. Brownlee, 2008 Ohio 2036, 2008 Ohio App. LEXIS 1739 (Ohio Ct. App., Cuyahoga County May 1, 2008)
    “Defendant John F. Brownlee, Jr. (appellant) appeals the court’s granting an injunction prohibiting him from residing within 1,000 feet of a school. After reviewing the facts of the case and pertinent law, we reverse the court’s ruling and order the injunction vacated. In the instant case, appellant bought his home in 1972; he committed the offensive acts in February and March 2003; and the statute’s effective date is July 31, 2003. Accordingly, the court erred when it applied R.C. 2950.031 to appellant, and his first assignment of error is sustained.”
  • Ohio: Hyle v. Porter, 117 Ohio St. 3d 165, 2008 Ohio 542, 882 N.E.2d 899 (2008)
    “We hold that HN1R.C. 2950.031 does not apply to an offender who bought his home and committed his offense before the effective date of the statute. The judgment of the First District Court of Appeals is reversed.”
  • United States:Validity Of Statutes Imposing Residency Restrictions On Registered Sex Offenders, 25 ALR6th 227
    “In recent years, a number of state or local statutes imposing residency restrictions on registered sex offenders have been enacted. In Doe v. Miller, 405 F.3d 700, 25 A.L.R.6th 695 (8th Cir. 2005), cert. denied, 126 S. Ct. 757, 163 L. Ed. 2d 574 (U.S. 2005) (applying Iowa law), the court of appeals held that an Iowa statute that prohibited persons who had committed a criminal sex offense against a minor from residing within 2,000 feet of a school or child care facility, did not violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, was not retroactive criminal punishment in violation of the Ex Post Facto Clause, did not interfere with the right of sex offenders to travel, and did not violate the right against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment. This annotation collects and summarizes those cases in which the courts have determined the validity of state or local statutes imposing residency restrictions on registered sex offenders.”

Articles

Scholars and researchers have examined the effectiveness of residency restrictions on sex offender behavior and its lawfulness as punishment.

  • Banishment By A Thousand Laws: Residency Restrictions On Sex Offenders, 85 Wash. U. L. Rev. 101 (2007)
    “Across America, states, localities, and private communities are debating and implementing laws to limit the places of residence of convicted sex offenders. Nineteen states and hundreds, if not thousands, of local communities have adopted statutes which severely limit the places where a sex offender may legally live. In this article, I trace these new laws to historical practices of banishment in Western societies. I argue that the establishment of exclusion zones by states and localities is a form of banishment that I have termed ‘internal exile.’ Establishing the connection to banishment punishments helps to explain the unique legal, policy, and ethical problems these laws create for America. Ultimately, residency restrictions could fundamentally alter basic principles of the American criminal justice system. While those supporting these laws have the interests of children at heart, the policies they are promoting will be worse for children and society.”
  • Constitutional Collectivism And Ex-Offender Residence Exclusion Zones, 92 Iowa L. Rev. 1 (2006)
    “The US has often been imperiled by the competing interests of individual states, and while past threats have most frequently assumed economic or political form, this article addresses a different threat: state efforts to limit where ex-offenders (those convicted of sex crimes in particular) can live. The laws have thus far withstood constitutional challenge, with courts deferring to the police power of states. This deference, however, ignores the negative externalities created when states jettison their human dross, and defies Justice Cardozo’s oft-repeated constitutional tenet that “the peoples of the several states must sink or swim together.” The article discusses the continued need for this tenet in the face of state expulsionist tendencies and invokes in support the Court’s decisions invalidating state laws barring entry of the poor and solid waste. In both instances, the Court, while acknowledging the exigencies motivating states, invalidated the laws because they betrayed the national imperative of dealing with challenges faced by all states. As the article establishes, a kindred understanding and resolve is now necessary as states seek to isolate themselves from the shared national responsibility of offender reentry.”
  • Controlling Sex Offender Reentry: Jessica’s Law Measures In California (SSRN 2006)
    “This paper examines current research on the effectiveness of electronic monitoring and residential restrictions in preventing recidivism amongst sex offenders in California, as well as the experiences of other states that have experimented with these techniques. The paper focuses on four questions: 1) What are the trends in California sex offense data and other states with sizable sex offender populations? 2) What does research and other state experiences tell us about the effectiveness of electronic monitoring in preventing recidivism and absconding of sex offenders? 3) What does research and other state experiences tell us about the effectiveness of residential restrictions in preventing recidivism of sex offenders? 4) In light of California’s sex offender population, and CDCR’s current methods for supervising paroled sex offenders, what challenges would CDCR and other state agencies likely face in implementing expanded electronic monitoring and residential restrictions?”
  • Does Residential Proximity Matter? A Geographic Analysis Of Sex Offense Recidivism, 35 Crim. Just. & Behavior 484 (2008)
    “In an effort to reduce sex offense recidivism, local and state governments have recently passed legislation prohibiting sex offenders from living within a certain distance (500 to 2,500 feet) of child congregation locations such as schools, parks, and daycare centers. Examining the potential deterrent effects of a residency restrictions law in Minnesota, this study analyzed the offense patterns of every sex offender released from Minnesota correctional facilities between 1990 and 2002 who was reincarcerated for a new sex offense prior to 2006. Given that not one of the 224 sex offenses would have likely been prevented by residency restrictions, the findings from this study provide little support for the notion that such restrictions would significantly reduce sexual recidivism.”
  • Has Georgia Gone Too Far-Or Will Sex Offenders Have To?, 35 Hastings Const. L.Q. 309 (2008) $
    “Given the wide range of issues that were presented by Georgia’s latest sex offender residency restriction, this note will discuss how Georgia’s new residency restriction statute, as originally written, violated (1) the Ex Post Facto Clause, (2) the Eighth Amendment, (3) Procedural Due Process under the Fourteenth Amendment, and (4) the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. Lastly, the note will analyze potential issues under the Dormant Commerce Clause and other policy considerations to argue that, in practice, the use of such harsh residency restrictions might make for a more dangerous situation for children, sex offenders, and the rest of society.”
  • How To Stop A Predator The Rush To Enact Mandatory Sex Offender Residency Restrictions And Why States Should Abstain 86 Or. L. Rev. 219 (2007) “A new trend in state legislation emerged as twenty-two states entered legally unsettled waters by enacting various residency restrictions for convicted sex offenders. Legislators tout the need for such residency restrictions to reduce child sex offenders’ opportunities for contact with potential victims. However, courts disagree whether these new laws are constitutional, and research increasingly questions their utility. This Comment will first look at the primary legal questions facing the courts, examining various legal challenges to state residency restrictions and the limited research surrounding the efficacy of such restrictions. Next, this Comment will address the 2006 California ballot measure Proposition 83, which serves as a practical case study of these new restrictions and their unsettled legal ramifications. Finally, this Comment will examine Oregon’s nonmandatory residency restriction and explain why it serves as the best model for achieving the goals of protecting our children, monitoring the sex offender population, and withstanding judicial review. Ultimately, this Comment will attempt to show that research on mandatory residency restrictions may affect the way future courts rule on these restrictions. This Comment will also attempt to persuade those presently in favor of mandatory residency restrictions that more flexible, nonmandatory restrictions will increase the likelihood of achieving their stated objectives.”
  • In The Zone: Sex Offenders And The Ten Percent Solutions (SSRN 2008)
    “This Article challenges prevailing judicial orthodoxy that many sex offender residency restrictions are constitutional under the federal Ex Post Facto Clause. The paper applies the analytical framework in Smith v. Doe, the Court’s most recent case involving sex offender legislation. It also forges a new way of thinking about these regimes as land-use policies that “negatively” zone individuals out of the urban cores. The paper proposes an innovative “positive” zoning scheme, the Sex Offender Containment Zone, that zones high-risk convicted sex offenders back into the city and that is effective, humane, and constitutional.”
  • Irregular Passion: The Unconstitutionality And Inefficacy Of Sex Offender Residency Laws, 102 Nw. U. L. Rev. 307 (2008)
    “The Comment concludes that non-tailored residency laws are unconstitutional. These same laws are also unwise and ineffective in terms of their stated goals, rendering them poor policy decisions. Given their ineffectiveness and the threat they pose to fundamental rights, this Part argues that it is important that courts assess the laws rigorously and without bias, particularly because the political outlash against sex offenders is immense, irrational, and hard for legislators to reverse. Until courts correctly deem these non-tailored residency laws unconstitutional, both the rights of sex offenders and the safety of their potential victims will be at risk due to the crippling political outrage surrounding the issue.”
  • Never Going Home: Does It Make Us Safer? Does It Make Sense? Sex Offenders, Residency Restrictions And Reforming Risk Management Law, 97 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 317 (2006)
    “One of the most hotly debated issues in criminal law today is how to manage the perceived risk of sex offenders loose in the community. Beyond mandatory registration and community notification, over a dozen states, including Illinois, have enacted residency restrictions that forbid sex offenders from living within a certain distance of schools, parks, day care centers, or even “places where children normally congregate.” This Comment scrutinizes these laws to see if they make sense, and more importantly, if they make us safer. The answer to both questions appears to be no. After detailing the statistical, political, and constitutional problems that render these restrictions ineffective and unconstitutional, I shift my attention to envisioning a better system of risk management. I end by critically examining best practice methods of states across the country that more effectively allocate finite resources to identify and control high risk offenders to prevent them from harming again, while allowing the vast majority of offenders who are low risk to better re-integrate into and become productive members of society.”
  • Off To Elba: The Legitimacy Of Sex Offender Residence And Employment Restrictions, 40 Akron L. Rev. 339 (2007)
    “This article will look at why sex offenders are treated differently than other criminal offenders. Sex offenders are subject to sanctions and prohibitions above and beyond what other criminal offenders must face. Next, the article will look at some of the residence and employment restrictions placed on sex offenders to determine if they are rationally related to any legitimate government interest without overbearing the sex offender’s constitutional rights. Finally, the article will offer an alternate means of sex offense prevention that encourages sex offender assimilation back into society instead of further exclusion.”
  • Reentry And Reintegration: Challenges Faced By The Families Of Convicted Sex Offenders, 20 Fed. Sent. R. 88 (2007) $
    “Our article will focus on the adult family members of convicted sex offenders and the many challenges they face in reuniting with their loved ones post-incarceration. We will explore the general knowledge on families of prisoners and incorporate preliminary findings from our ongoing research on the experiences and needs of families of convicted adult, male sex offenders.”
  • Sex Offender Re-Entry: A Summary And Policy Recommendation On The Current State Of The Law In California And How To ‘Safely’ Re-Introduce Sex Offenders Into Our Communities (SSRN 2006)
    “This paper attempts to provide a comprehensive review of the current and pending sex offender legislation in California, examine their effectiveness or ineffectiveness and any possible loopholes, and conclude with a broad recommendation on where the state of California’s law and policies surrounding the safe release and supervision of sex offenders into the community should be heading. In doing so, the paper will rely on current statistics on sex offenders in California, policy recommendations by various organizations on this topic, media profiles and case histories of recent real-life sex crimes, and actual data from the California online sex offender registry to discover the profile of the “real” sex offender in California. This paper will also examine the roll of public outcry and moral panic in the implementation of these laws and the effect this may have had on their specific provisions and eventual effectiveness in order to provide a more comprehensive review of the impetus behind such regulations and hopefully to inform future legislation of the lessons of the past.”
  • Sex Offender Residence Restrictions: Sensible Crime Policy Or Flawed Logic?, 71 Fed. Prob. 2 (Dec. 2007)
    “Although 22 States now have laws that restrict where sex offenders can live, with 1,000 to 2,500-foot exclusionary zones being most common, research on the effects of sex-offender residence restrictions is limited. Only one study (Minnesota Department of Corrections, 2007) has specifically examined the relationship between residence restrictions and reoffending. That study was prospective, because no such law was in place where the study was conducted (Minnesota). There is a growing body of evidence, however, that residence restrictions have unintended consequences for sex offenders and communities. These adverse effects include homelessness for sex offenders; transience; lack of accessibility to social support, employment, and rehabilitative services; registry invalidity; and the clustering of sex offenders in poor, rural, or socially disorganized neighborhoods. Residence laws are often based on erroneous assumptions about sex-offender high reoffending rates and the belief that most sex offenders target strangers for victimization. In addition, they are rarely coupled with the administration of proven risk-assessment instruments and procedures. In the absence of evidence that residence restrictions are effective in achieving their intended goal of improved community safety, their unintended adverse effects may outweigh their benefits. It is crucial that research be conducted to determine whether residence restriction laws are effective.”

Reports

State legislatures and government bureaus along with civil rights and other interested groups have published reports on the outcomes of residence and employment restrictions for sex offenders.

  • IX. Residency Restriction Laws in No Easy Answers: Sex Offender Laws In The U.S.
    “The inability of convicted sex offenders to find housing when they are released from prison has become a significant barrier to their successful reintegration into society. This is particularly problematic for registrants who have limited resources, or for those who because of work, community, or family obligations want to live in particular locations. Residency restrictions prevent offenders from living in the areas closest to jobs and public transit, since schools, daycare centers, and parks are often built in the center of main residential areas of cities and towns.”
    (Human Rights Watch 2007)
  • Impact Of Residency Restrictions On Sex Offenders And Correctional Management Practices: A Literature Review (California Research Bureau 2006)
    “Today some communities in the United States banish sex offenders from living in their midst, resulting in a difficult dilemma: where can these offenders live, and where can they best be supervised and receive treatment, if available? This report describes local ordinances and state statutes restricting where a sex offender may reside, discusses what research has found so far about the success of these restrictions, considers the impact that these restrictions are having on criminal justice management practices and sex offender treatment regimens, and examines constitutional implications.”
  • Residential Proximity & Sex Offense Recidivism in Minnesota (Minnesota Department of Corrections 2007)
    “In an effort to curb the incidence of sexual recidivism, state and local governments across the country have passed residency restriction laws. Designed to enhance public safety by protecting children, residency restrictions prohibit sex offenders and, in particular, child molesters from living within a certain distance (500 to 2,500 feet) of a school, park, playground or other location where children are known to congregate. Given that existing research has yet to fully investigate whether housing restrictions reduce sexual recidivism, the present study examines the potential deterrent effect of residency restrictions by analyzing the sexual reoffense patterns of the 224 recidivists released between 1990 and 2002 who were reincarcerated for a sex crime prior to 2006.” See also Sex Offender Recidivism in Minnesota (Minnesota Department of Corrections 2007).
  • Sex Offender Residence Restrictions (Report to the Florida Legislature 2005)
    “Sexual violence is a serious social problem and policy-makers continue to wrestle with how to best address the public’s concerns about sex offenders. Recent initiatives have included social policies that are designed to prevent sexual abuse by restricting where convicted sex offenders can live, often called “sex offender zoning laws,” or “exclusionary zones.” As these social policies become more popular, lawmakers and citizens should question whether such policies are evidence-based in their development and implementation, and whether such policies are cost-efficient and effective in reaching their stated goals.”
  • Statement On Sex Offender Residency Restrictions In Iowa (ICAA 2006)
    “The Iowa County Attorneys Association believes that the 2,000 foot residency restriction for persons who have been convicted of sex offenses involving minors does not provide the protection that was originally intended and that the cost of enforcing the requirement and the unintended effects on families of offenders warrant replacing the restriction with more effective protective measures.”


CO: Sex Offenders Can Now Be “Cured”

May 12, 2010 Comments off

denverlegalview.com: New Colorado Sex Offender Bill Headed for the State Senate.

House Bill 10-1364, a controversial piece of legislature extending Colorado’s Sex Offender Management Board (SOMB), is up for a final review by the state Senate after receiving some last minute changes. The main thrust of the bill, to extend the SOMB for another five years, was met with little resistance. Rather, contention surrounding the original bill centered on a bit of modified language pertaining to the Sex Offender Management Board’s directive, removing language supporting the theory that there is “no known cure” for sex offenders.

This has always been a bogus argument. To believe that an individual who has committed a sex-related crime can never change or rehabilitate (or be “cured” to use their subjective term) is an inane, uneducated viewpoint. There is no more sense or logic behind this belief than there is to believe that murderers, domestic abusers, drunk drivers and drug users can never change. Recidivism rates for sex offenders are lower than those of other offenders.

This was an important omission because, in Colorado, those convicted of sex offenses are offered treatment based on the assumption that there is no known cure for their condition.

Now, that’s a stupid statement. Why even provide treatment to people whom you believe cannot be successfully treated…

In the face of heavy criticism, Democratic House members agreed to a compromise – language directing the SOMB to acknowledge the existence of “some adult sex offenders” who fit into a group for whom there is no known cure.

Implementing the Adam Walsh Act’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Provisions: A Survey of the States

May 12, 2010 Comments off

Sage Journals Online: Implementing the Adam Walsh Act’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Provisions: A Survey of the States (2010) –

Download PDF report here: Registration Required to view complete document.

Andrew J. Harris, University of Massachusetts-Lowell, Andrew_harris@uml.edu
Christopher Lobanov-Rostovsky, Colorado Division of Criminal Justice

With the 2006 passage of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (AWA), the United States Congress established a range of requirements for sex offender registration and notification (R&N) systems operated by states, tribal jurisdictions, and U.S. territories. In the years since the law’s passage, these congressional mandates have generated concern within some covered jurisdictions and among national organizations over matters such as the perceived undermining of jurisdictional autonomy, the variance between the law and emerging “best practices,” and perceived threats to the viability of state-based sex offender management efforts. To examine these concerns, a national survey was conducted in the fall of 2008 to evaluate the consistency between AWA requirements and existing state policies and practices, and to assess state-based barriers to AWA implementation. The survey results identified several areas of inconsistency between AWA mandates and state practices, particularly those relating to inclusion of juveniles, classification methods, and retroactive application of R&N requirements. The study revealed the barriers to AWA implementation within many states to be multifaceted and complex, suggesting the potential need for a recalibration of federal policy governing registration and notification. Implications for the respective roles of federal and state governments in the shaping of sex offender policy are discussed.

DE: Sex Offender Registry too Strict

May 12, 2010 Comments off

DelawareOnline: Offender registry called too strict – Delaware’s list includes juveniles as young as 9.

Their youthful faces stare from the pages of Delaware’s online sex offender registry, some obviously scared, some scowling, some expressionless.

These are photographs of children who committed sex crimes. They are branded, a condemnation that can haunt them forever.

Delaware has some of the youngest sex offender registrants in the nation – one as young as 9 – according to backers of legislation that would give Family Court judges some discretion in deciding which juveniles belong on the registry and which do not.

In registering offenders who are younger than 14, Delaware’s registry system is more stringent than required by the federal Adam Walsh Act, a law that some states complain is too strict.

Due to political, legal and social concerns, the push to give Family Court judges a say in the matter has run into a wall of opposition. Attorney General Beau Biden opposes the legislation. Election-minded legislators don’t want to give opponents the opportunity to paint them as soft on sex offenders. Publicity about sex crimes has made the issue of sexual offenses even more politically toxic.

“I can’t even get it out of committee,” said Rep. Melanie George, D-Bear, referring to the bill she introduced last year that would give Family Court judges the power to decide if children younger than 14 should be listed on the registry. It also would give them discretion to decide whether juveniles older than 14 should be listed if they are convicted of certain lower-level offenses.

A law like that might have kept “Kevin’s” name off the registry. But thanks to what critics say is Delaware’s one-size-fits-all system, he’s a marked man. Now in his 20s and living in another state, Kevin agreed to an e-mail interview on the condition that his real name and certain details of his case be withheld.

At age 13, Kevin was caught “messing around” with a younger child and was convicted of two misdemeanor sex offenses. “We were just kids,” he said, describing the encounter as consensual but declining to go into detail. Juvenile records are sealed and not available for review.

Kevin’s listing as a moderate-risk offender put him on the registry — listings of low-risk offenders can be accessed only by law enforcement — and being on the public registry has followed him into adulthood.

Like all registered sex offenders, Kevin must provide his name, date of birth, address, employer, driver’s license number, Social Security number, professional licenses, passport, immigration status and school affiliations to the offender registry. He must update any change in these details of his life within three days or face a felony charge. His photo, name, physical description, address, car license number and crime are on display to anyone. There are restrictions on where he can live, and his status is a red flag on job applications.

“All this has done is made my life difficult. It’s not like the public is being protected. I was just 13,” Kevin said. Kevin said the incident was his one and only legal offense. His name did not appear during a search of Delaware Superior Court and Court of Common Pleas records.

It’s tales such as Kevin’s that bother Lisa Minutola, chief of legal services for the Public Defender’s Office. Minutola has spoken with a few youth offenders whose names still appear on the registry years later, and “they definitely had horror stories of not being able to get employment, not being able to get an education,” she said.
Age limits

According to Minutola, the Delaware registry has one person who was listed at age 9 who is now in his teens. Three individuals were placed on the registry at age 10, she said. The registry, which has 2,725 entries, isn’t searchable by age.

Only six states actually define the youngest age at which an offender must be registered, “which leaves open the possibility that even very young children who evidence sexual behavior problems may be subject to registration,” according to the Center for Sex Offender Management, a project of the U.S. Department of Justice. Of the six states that do define the youngest registration age, North Carolina sets the limit at 11; Indiana, Ohio, Idaho and Oklahoma begin registering offenders at 14, and in South Dakota the minimum age is 15.

Biden took steps to strengthen Delaware’s sex offender registry soon after he took office — and he’s not amenable to legislation he believes would weaken it.

According to Biden and Deputy Attorney General Christina Showalter, keeping juveniles off the registry or easing restrictions would threaten public safety.

Grier Weeks, executive director of the National Association to Protect Children, says “It’s not a black-and-white issue. Are there juveniles who commit sex crimes who do not belong on sex-offender registries? Of course,” Weeks said.

Facts

A 2009 study published in the International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology tracked juvenile sex offenders from adolescence through age 26. Fewer than 2 percent were arrested for an adult sex offense by age 27.

Delaware’s juvenile sex offender statute “is ruining the next generation,” Pittman told a joint meeting of the state House and Senate judiciary committees on March 31. “Delaware has the youngest registrants in the country, and when you say in the country, it means in the world,” Pittman said. “Having offenders who are younger than 14 on the registry is problematic.”

Pittman said recent studies indicate that juvenile sex offenders have a recidivism rate of 5 percent to 14 percent — substantially lower than the rates for other juvenile crimes, which range from 8 percent to 58 percent.

In 2006, Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed the Adam Walsh Act, which contains a provision known as SORNA: the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act. That act requires juvenile offenders as young as 14 to register for life if convicted of more-serious sex offenses. States that do not comply will lose 10 percent of their funding from the federal Byrne Grant anti-crime program.

Delaware revised its law in an attempt to comply with the act, but in doing so it “cast an overly wide net that will tragically engulf nearly all adolescent sexual behaviors, including those prepubescent-like, exploratory behaviors committed largely out of curiosity,” Pittman said in a prepared summary of her analysis of Delaware’s law.

Politics

If the recent studies indicating that juvenile offenders are unlikely to commit another offense are true, Delaware’s law could run counter to the 2002 state Supreme Court decision in Delaware v. Sapp.

In that case, the court advised the General Assembly to keep in mind that the registry statute must be related to the government’s interest in protecting the public from the danger of recidivism of sex offenders.

In other words, statistics must back up any sex offender registry legislation effort. If the statistics aren’t there, these sex offender laws will be killed. This is why you constantly see the falsely-cited high recidivism data in the media. We have posted the actual official USDOJ Recidivism studies multiple times on these blogs. How hard is it for the media to find this data if they truly have an interest in publishing factual information? Politicians and activists do a good job of espousing the false data much more loudly than we can publicize the true data.

Duluth Ordinance to Ban Sex Offenders from Affordable Housing

May 9, 2010 Comments off

duluthnewstribune.com: Ordinance would ban sex offenders from most affordable housing -Three city councilors are proposing an ordinances that would prevent convicted Level 3 sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a church, playground or day care. But critics say the measure would push those offenders back toward a life of crime.

If you look closely, there’s a spot on the Aerial Lift Bridge where Level 3 sex offenders could live.

Otherwise, if an ordinance proposed by three Duluth city councilors passes on Monday, the number of areas sex offenders who are most likely to reoffend can live in Duluth would be severely limited. The ordinance would all but bar them from most low-income housing areas in the city.

That’s according to a map put together by the city of Duluth that shows where the offenders would be banned — which is within 2,000 feet of any church, playground or day care.

Not that the councilors who proposed the ordinance have any problem with that. But some experts disagree. Studies suggest that limiting where sex offenders can live doesn’t reduce the rate of repeat offenses — but actually increases it, said William Donnay, the director of risk assessment and community notification for the Minnesota Department of Corrections.

A Department of Corrections study of all 224 sex offenders from 1990 to 2002 who returned to prison for another offense found that in not a single case would the reoffense been prevented by restricting where the offender could live.

Donnay says other studies show that making it harder for an inmate to find housing increases that person’s instability, leads to homelessness and increases chances of reoffending. An ordinance like the one proposed by the Duluth City Council, he said, provides a false sense of security for residents.

“People conclude because of the residency restrictions, there are never any sex offenders in my neighborhood,” he said. “It’s not where they’re sleeping at night, who they’re hanging out with, who they are associating with. It’s where are they spending their time during waking hours? That’s what we need to look at in terms of recidivism.”

Tom Roy, executive director of Arrowhead Regional Corrections, which supervises the offenders, said he also believes the restrictions might increase the likelihood of reoffending. “We would support efforts that would tend to support sex offenders rather than destabilize their lives,” Roy said.

Offenders would largely be banned from the areas and facilities they typically use for housing now, such as the Seaway Hotel and the CHUM shelter.
———————————————-
areavoices.com:Duluth News Tribune.

It really worries that me experts with the Minnesota Department of Corrections and Arrowhead Regional Corrections say the ban would probably make it more likely that the Level III sex offenders would re-offend. Is it spin? Surely the ordinance would make their jobs harder in finding a place to live for the offenders, but their foremost interest is in making sure their offenders don’t re-offend. So I’ll take their word that the ordinance will make it worse, not better.

If you’re interested in looking through the data cited to me by the DOC, it mostly went with this 2007 study. And it seems pretty conclusive that this ordinance won’t make our neighborhoods safer. One of the things pointed out to me by the DOC that I didn’t quite squeeze into my article: in an overwehelming amount of the re-offenses (89 percent), the victim was known to the offender — meaning the council ordinance would have no real affect on that percentage. Of course, if the council ordinance reduces the 11 percent were strangers number, then that’s a positive, right?

The city council has only received four emails on this topic so far — all in opposition to the ordinance.

Sex Offenses Common Among Troubled Vets

April 24, 2010 Comments off

sltrib.com(Utah): Sex offenses common among troubled vets.

In multiple federal studies conducted over the past decade of inmates in U.S. prisons, Veterans were found to be more than twice as likely to be serving time for a sex offense as non-veteran inmates.

Former Marine Mark Peterson is serving time in the Utah State Prison at Draper for the sexual abuse of a teenage girl. He staunchly denies that his service was in any way related to his crime. Convicted in 2001, Peterson was released last year — only to return after his parole officer found he was viewing pornography, he said.
(Viewing any type of pornography while on parole/probation results in arrest as a “parole/ probation violation”. The pornography does not have to be illegal for this to happen.)

Some therapy may be available, but Lynn Jorgensen, who helps incarcerated veterans re-enter society, said he is limited in what he can do for sex offenders. For instance, Jorgensen said, he has helped many parolees find transitional housing at veterans homes in Salt Lake City — but those homes won’t take vets who have been convicted of sex crimes.

The Effects of Transitioning to the Adam Walsh Act’s Federally Mandated Sex Offender Classification System

April 16, 2010 Comments off

Sage Journals Online (registration required): Widening the Net – The Effects of Transitioning to the Adam Walsh Act’s Federally Mandated Sex Offender Classification System

Andrew J. Harris- University of Massachusetts Lowell, Andrew_Harris@uml.edu, Christopher Lobanov-Rostovsky- Colorado Sex Offender Management Board, Colorado Division of Criminal Justice, Jill S. Levenson- Lynn University

With the 2006 passage of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (AWA), the U.S. Congress set forth a range of minimum standards governing the operation of sex offender registration and notification (SORN) systems throughout the nation. Many of these standards are based on the AWA’s uniform system of registrant classification, which distinguishes registrants solely based on offense history and the nature of the conviction offense, without regard for additional risk factors. The current study evaluates the impact of the federal registration classification system on the distribution of individuals within state sex offender registries, specifically drawing on the experiences of Ohio and Oklahoma, two of the first states to undertake a reclassification of their registrant populations under the new federal guidelines. The findings indicate that the federal reclassification process produces a redistribution of registrants from lower SORN levels to higher ones and reveals statistically significant differences between newly reclassified “high-risk” individuals and those designated as high risk under prior registration classification systems. Findings also suggest that juveniles and those potentially subject to AWA’s retroactivity provisions may be disproportionately placed into the highest SORN tiers. Implications of these findings for practice and public policy are discussed.

Key Words: sex offenders • Adam Walsh Act • sex offender registration and notification

Look To Research, Not Fear Or Politics

April 16, 2010 Comments off

courant.com: All Sex Offenders Are Not Equal- State Must Look To Research, Not Fear Or Politics.

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act was passed and signed by President George W. Bush in 2006. The law attempts to expand the scope of sex offender registries at the state level as well as create a national sex offender registry. States were told to sign on or risk losing a small amount of grant money.

Last week, a bill that would have brought Connecticut in line with the Walsh Act was — wisely — allowed to die in committee.

The Walsh Act has been widely criticized on many fronts, for everything from including adolescents as young as 14 on the list to violating several provisions of the Constitution. Only one state, Ohio, has adopted it.

Laws such as the Walsh Act, often named for victims of crimes the law is trying to prevent, are of course well-intentioned. But they tend not to be based on research, and so do not achieve an optimal level of public safety. Indeed, they can unintentionally make things worse.

For example, if Connecticut officials followed the research, they would not expand the state’s sex offender registry, but reduce it.

All states have sex offender registries to which residents have online access. Some states put offenders on their registries based on their risk to the community. Connecticut is one of the states that place people on the registry because they are convicted of a sex offense.

Many people assume everyone on the registry is either a rapist or pedophile. If that were so, the list would be much smaller. But it also includes an array of porn possessors, voyeurs and people who as older teenagers had consensual sex with an underage girlfriend or boyfriend. As a result, the state now has more than 5,000 people on the sex-offender registry, an increasingly unwieldy group for hard-pressed police departments to monitor.

Some on the list are dangerous and must be watched, but many are not. As the list is now presented, it’s difficult to tell one from the other. They are listed by the crime they were convicted of committing, but it’s not clear whether a conviction for “risk of injury” or “second-degree sexual assault” means the person is a danger to others. (The registry also misses people who pleaded to a lesser offense to stay off it.)

Ohio Official Sex Offender Recidivism Data

April 15, 2010 Comments off

This is an Official Report from the State of Ohio
Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
April 2001

Ten-Year Recidivism Follow-Up Of 1989 Sex Offender Releases

Understand that “re commitment for a new crime” includes minor probation violations ranging from not reporting, to any failure to abide by any probation requirement. We know for a fact that probation officers often use any excuse possible to re-arrest a sex offender and they do. In one case, in Ohio, a released sex offender on probation was re-arrested because he shared a name with another sex offender in the county. In another, possession of an “R”-rated movie named “Kids” was used to re-arrest a sex offender on probation. And in another case, a sex offender on probation was threatened with arrest and charges for having a video security system at his residence.

The category of “re-committment for a technical violation ” indicates that the sex offender was found to be in violation of his probation and re-incarcerated for violating some probation requirement (see above) . Therefore, the focus on this data should be on re-arrest for another sex crime. After all, this is what all the societal hysterical concern is all about:

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The baseline recidivism rate of sex offenders followed-up for ten years after
release from prison was 34%. This rate was comprised of:

Recommitment for a New Crime 22.3 %

  • For Sex Offense 8.0 %
  • For Non-Sex Related Offense 14.3 %


Recommitment for a Technical Violation 11.7 %

  • For Sex Offense 1.3 %
  • For Sex Lapse 1.7 %
  • For Non-Sex Related Offense 8.7 %

The total sex-related recidivism rate, including technical violations of
supervision conditions, was 11.0%.

Recidivism rates differed considerably based on a victim typology:

Sex offender type…………………General recidivism………….. Sex recidivism

Rapists – (adult victims) ………..56.6% …………………………..17.5%

Child Molester – extrafamilial ..29.2% ……………………………8.7%

Child Molester – incest …………13.2% …………………………… 7.4%

Sex offenders who returned for a new sex related offense did so within a few years of release. Of all the sex offenders who came back to an Ohio prison for
a new sex offense, one half did so within two years, and two-thirds within
three years.

Paroled Sex offenders completing basic sex offender programming (level 1)
while incarcerated appeared to have a somewhat lower recidivism rate than those
who did not have programming. This was true both for recidivism of any type
(33.9% with programming recidivated compared with 55.3% without
programming) and sex-related recidivism (7.1% with programming recidivated
compared with 16.5% without programming).

CONCLUSION:

The recidivism rate for child -victim sex offenders (outside family) for a new sex-related crime in Ohio is 8.7%
The recidivism rate for all sex offenders for a new sex-related crime in Ohio is 8.0%

This is hardly the exaggerated claims of recidivism made by the media and hysterical society.
Spread the word, educate society. Ignorance is dangerous.

These Ohio statistics are in line with federal United States Department of Justice data, which reports:

Recidivism Rates of Sexual Offenders (5.3% re-arrested, 3.3% of Child Victimizers re-arrested)
vs.
Recidivism Rates for NON- Sexual Offenders (67% re-arrested, 47% re-convicted)

See this page for USDOJ report: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/crimoff.htm#recidiv

Furthermore, see the REPORT TO THE OHIO CRIMINAL SENTENCING COMMISSION: SEX OFFENDERS JANUARY 2006
by the OHIO CRIMINAL SENTENCING COMMISSION

“Research has shown that sex
offenders recidivate at a lower rate than other offenders.

A review of 61 recidivism research studies
involving 24,000 sex offenders found that only 13.4 percent committed a new sex offense (Hanson and Morton-Burgon 2004). It further shows that when sex offenders do recidivate, they are more likely to commit a non-sex offense”



Do Sex Offender Boundary Laws Work?

April 5, 2010 Comments off

inforum.com (ND): Do sex offender boundary laws work?

There’s no doubt that a ban on sex offenders living within 1,200 feet of Fargo’s schools or parks would be popular. Dave Piep­korn, the city commissioner backing that idea, said the reaction he’s had from Fargo residents has been “overwhelmingly positive,” and in a nonscientific online Forum poll last week, 86 percent of the 2,188 votes were in favor.

The enthusiasm explains why sex offender residency laws have grown quickly in the decade or so since they were first enacted. A report by the Center for Sex Offender Management, a project of the Department of Justice, states that from 2000 to 2008, the number of states with restrictions for sex offender housing went from five to nearly 30.

Yet Fargo’s police chief and the head of an area nonprofit that works with victims of sexual violence are both dubious about the effectiveness of such laws. And they’re not alone.

Studies of sex offender residency laws in areas they’ve been tried haven’t found any positive effect on recidivism rates. Authorities who deal with sex offenders – police, prosecutors and probation and parole agents – often end up opposing the buffer-zone restrictions.

“It’s almost totally driven by emotion,” said Richard Tewksbury, a University of Louisville professor of justice administration who studies sex offender laws. “Without exception, all the research shows there is no impact.”

Pushed to margins

Gary xxx is a Level III sex offender, a 65-year-old who must register for life because of two indecent exposure convictions in North Dakota, the latest in Cass County in 2007. Level III is the designation for sex offenders who are deemed the highest risk to re-offend.

He had difficulty finding a place to live at first, being turned down by a handful of landlords before ending up at xxxx. in Fargo – one of four Level III offenders in the apartment building.

Much of the city would be off-limits. That’s one of the troubles with broad bans on where sex offenders can live, said Tewksbury. If they can find a place at all, it’s in “the poorest, most disorganized, least desirable areas of the city,” he said, where it is more common for children to be unsupervised.

It also tends to make it harder for sex offenders to access treatment, find jobs and have a support system – all keys to crime-free life.

“We simply make life more difficult in the important ways,” Tewksbury said. Davis agreed, saying that isolation makes his recovery much harder. “The only way to be back in society is to be around people,” he said. Police Chief Keith Ternes said “We’ve put a scarlet letter on those people”.

Hardship without upside

Ternes is worried the 1,200-foot ordinance could lead more offenders to stop registering, as they must do under state law, which would in turn take up more of the police’s time.

That’s what happened in Iowa, one of the first places where offenders were barred from living by schools or parks. The state repealed the law upon the urging of law enforcement officials. It’s a case Ternes has pointed out publicly.

Tewksbury said he has conducted a study of re-offending rates in Iowa during the time the law was in place, though it hasn’t yet been published. Recidivism was unchanged, though the law put a greater burden on both the offenders and the authorities responsible for keeping tabs on them.

“It poses many hardships, with no real possibility of benefits,” he said.

The police chief is also skeptical that a geographical separation between places kids go and offenders’ homes does much to keep children safe.

A sex offender who’s looking to strike again can simply travel to those same areas, Ternes said. Also, a study in Minnesota showed that’s a rare occurrence.

That study of 224 repeat sex offenders from 1990 to 2005 found that 16 (7%) of them made contact with a juvenile victim within a mile of their home, but none of the contacts happened near a school, park or playground.

Piepkorn said he thinks some researchers “have an agenda” to support rights for sex offenders and said he’s been getting most of his negative feedback from out-of-state groups.

Greg Diehl, the executive director of the local Rape and Abuse Crisis Center, said though he can see the rationale of Piepkorn’s proposal, he doesn’t think much of the 1,200-foot law, either. He’d rather see new approaches implemented.

“I’m not sure that this would solve a whole lot of anything,” Diehl said. “The biggest issue is there are no easy answers.”