Tuesday, May 12, 2009
I have inserted "sex offender" into the title, since this reporter seems to think the laws are all about pedophiles, which is wrong! I have also emailed the author about his misleading title.
By MARK ROSMAN (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Municipalities are told that N.J.'s Megan's Law is the final word on subject
Four years ago Manalapan, Marlboro, Freehold Township and other communities throughout New Jersey began enacting laws that limited the places in town where a convicted sex offender could live.
The thought behind the laws was to prohibit convicted sex offenders from living near schools, parks, day care centers and other locations where children congregate. The local laws prohibited a convicted sex offender from living within a certain distance from those locations — generally 1,000 to 2,500 feet.
On May 7 the New Jersey Supreme Court rendered those laws obsolete.
The state's highest court upheld a 2008 Appellate Division ruling that said New Jersey municipalities cannot impose residency restrictions on convicted sex offenders. The court said New Jersey's Megan's Law is the only law that may deal with convicted sex offenders.
Megan's Law established guidelines that require persons who have been convicted of sexual offenses to register with law enforcement agencies when they move into a community.
Based on what is called the offender's tier rating, school administrators and residents may be advised of the person's presence in the community. In some instances only police have the knowledge that a sex offender is living in the municipality.
It will now be up to state legislators to determine if the scope of Megan's Law should be expanded to limit where in a municipality a convicted sex offender may live.
The Appellate Division's ruling stemmed from litigation that had been brought by several individuals against Galloway Township and Cherry Hill. The appeals panel rejected those towns' laws that prohibited convicted sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of any school, park, playground or day care center.
In rendering its decision, the three judge appellate panel found that Megan's Law was "pervasive and comprehensive" and should be the only law that dictates sex offender registration, notification, reintegration and rehabilitation.
The Supreme Court upheld the Appellate Division's ruling.
Before the case had advanced to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court, a state Superior Court overturned the local laws in Galloway Township and Cherry Hill. The municipalities appealed and lost their case.
In response to the Supreme Court's decision on May 7, state Sen. Bill Baroni (Contact) (RMercer and Middlesex), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, "Today the Supreme Court told local municipalities they don't have the power to protect their children, but they are wrong. Local municipalities were acting in good faith by implementing laws to protect children from sex offenders. A unanimous ruling of the court now prevents towns from defending their most vulnerable citizens from predators."
- More grandstanding. If you have a state law, then that should be sufficient. When you have every town passing their own laws, it becomes a nightmare.
"This ruling further demonstrates how out of touch the Supreme Court is with the needs of families in New Jersey. The Legislature needs to act immediately to allow towns to implement common-sense measures to protect children from sexual predators," Baroni said.
- I think it shows how "out of touch" you are, and how you like to grandstand to make yourself look good to the people.
In 2005 in Manalapan, a law was enacted that sought to restrict where convicted sex offenders would be permitted to live and it also addressed the length of time that convicted sex offenders would be permitted to loiter in certain locations.
In one instance in which a convicted sex offender indicated that he might challenge that local law, the individual moved out of Manalapan before doing so.
Stuart Moskovitz was Manalapan's municipal attorney in 2005 and drafted the final version of the ordinance that became law.
He reacted to the Supreme Court's ruling by saying, "Actually, a number of these ordinances were declared improper several years ago. (Manalapan's) held up because we carefully drafted it to keep it alive as long as possible. At the time I expressed concerns to the Township Committee about the constitutionality of any such ordinance, but a federal court in Iowa had indicated that, written properly, such an ordinance would pass constitutional muster."
"I refused to add things that (some people) wanted which would have made it impossible for the ordinance to have survived, such as (banning convicted sex offenders from living near) school bus stops. The result was that our ordinance survived while many others had failed and led to our being one of the very few municipalities in the area that actually relied on the ordinance. You may recall one resident was forced to relocate. My job, of course, was to write what the Township Committee wanted written. I did that in a way that allowed the ordinance to survive long after others failed. That they have all been declared unconstitutional is consistent with the advice I originally gave to the Township Committee," Moskovitz said.
By Greg Volk, PsyD - Volk Human Services
It may be appropriate to issue a warning that reading this section of the article may challenge your preconceived notions, lead to intense emotions, and cause a great deal of discussion. That is good because talking about sexual perpetrators is difficult and necessary. Most people are of the mindset that society should castrate them (if they are male) and/or ship them off to a remote island somewhere in the middle of the ocean. While this mindset is understandable, it only serves to perpetuate the illusion that offenders are somehow inhuman and can be isolated effectively from society. The reality is that approximately 85 percent of all sexual offenders will be back in the communities from which they came or ones that are similar. Given this number, understanding and treating sexual offenders can be considered to be the number one prevention effort in the area of sexual abuse, particularly when one considers that successful treatment outcomes for sex offenders reduce re-offense rates in the neighborhood of 40 percent for adults and 85 percent for youth. These success rates are higher than many other treatment interventions including that for addictions. Why then is treatment for these offenders so rare?
In many situations, it is because people are so strongly offended themselves by the offenses that it is impossible to be objective and provide the necessary treatment. We prefer to think of sexual offenders as monsters because it makes them so much different than you and I. This is another false belief that can cause individuals to ignore the realities of sexual abuse and miss key warning signs such as those discussed in Part One. There is no profile that categorizes sexual offenders specifically, they come from all walks of life. They are not typically the “dirty old man” down the street.
More commonly, it is a seemingly upstanding person who is already involved in your life. Clergy, partners, school personnel, youth leaders, and others who have a reason to be actively involved in your child’s life are the most likely perpetrators of abuse. Anyone who takes an unusual interest in your child or for whom your child demonstrates some hesitance should be suspect.
Individuals who have adult love interests and seem to gravitate toward children of the same age and gender should be suspect. However, it is awareness, not fear that should guide your understanding.
There are many factors that contribute to the sexual abuse of children. When looking at perpetrators, there are specific factors at which to look.
Pedophiles have a particular sexual attraction to prepubescent children but may also maintain age-appropriate sexual relationships. However, pedophiles are by no means the only perpetrators of sexual offenses, or even sexual offenses toward children. In thinking of pedophiles there are prerequisite factors that combine with other factors to result in child sexual abuse.
These prerequisite factors are sexual arousal to children, distorted thinking, impulse control deficits, diminished capacity, and interpersonal problems.
The other factors which may contribute to abuse occurring include patriarchal attitudes, values regarding sexuality, marital discord, sexual dysfunction in the marriage, inadequate parenting, social isolation, unsupervised access to children, unemployment, substance abuse, poor social skills, low self-esteem, traumatic sexual experience as a child, sexually abusive role models, and a non-nurturing childhood.
Male offenders often fit two broad profiles - regressed or situational offenders and fixated or preferential offenders. Regressed or situational offenders generally have more profound social skill deficits and problematic upbringings that contribute to identification with children. They tend to be opportunistic in offending. They may seek relationships with more age-appropriate individuals but struggle with them. Fixated or preferential offenders have a stronger identification with children that is driven by specific sexual arousal toward children primarily and their pursuit of sexual contact with children is often more aggressive and predatory. Female offenders tend to fall into one of several categories including experimenters who are young and typically offend against 2-4 year old males, teachers/lovers who begin as a caretaker and fails to see the behavior as abusive, predisposed individuals with their own history of abusive (often lengthy) and who pair nurturing behaviors with abuse, and male-coerced offenders who engage in the sexually abusive behavior through the intimidation of a male partner.
From a treatment perspective, we want to intervene with offenders by providing information regarding normal and appropriate sexuality, fostering the development of empathy, decreasing cognitive distortions, reducing access to potential targets, bolstering social skills and self-esteem, and advocating for factors that reduce risk including stable employment, stable housing, and social support. In working with sexual offenders, the primary client is always the community being aware of potential risk to the community is on the forefront of any effort. At times, what decreases risk is counter-intuitive to common thoughts and beliefs and this is why this topic is so important.
For example, the offender registration process and laws such as those which prevent offenders from living within a certain radius of places where children congregate are meant to increase community safety, but in fact do not accomplish this and in many ways actually serve to increase risk to children.
The increased risk results from offenders failing to register and adopting more transitory living arrangements to avoid confinement and the adverse effect of this additional stress on psychosocial functioning. Offenders who have guidelines on their presence in places where children congregate but who do not have a residency restriction tend to be more stable in the community and the overall risk is reduced and the ability to supervise the offenders in the community is increased. Another seemingly counter-intuitive issue is related to incarceration. Particularly with youth and younger adults, incarceration can increase the risk of re-offense for individuals who are primarily driven by social skills deficits rather than antisocial attitudes.
Statistics from North Dakota indicate that low and moderate risk offenders tend to have significantly fewer incidents of re-offense when given probation versus incarceration. The primary distinction for those who evaluate and treat offenders is the determination of risk because high risk offenders do have a profoundly higher risk of reoffending if on probation instead of incarceration. From a societal perspective, it is a difficult issue to know that for many offenders probation can more effectively reduce risk than incarceration when you have children and families who have suffered as a result of the offenders actions and want some type of strong consequence.
In terms of protecting our children, it is important to think of prevention as the deflection of perpetrators getting access to our children rather than detecting perpetrators since detection is nearly impossible. Probably the single most important thing that you can do is to be involved in your child’s life. Do not leave your child at events such as sports practices or other extra-curricular activities. You should attend these events as well in order to monitor the quality of relationships the leaders have with your child, others who may be around and take an interest in the children, and situations in which your child might be unattended. Not only does this provide the protection of your direct observation, it also provides your child with your much needed attention.
Other high risk situations include leaving your children with men who do not have children of their own or at least children of the same age group as your own; leaving your children with men who do not appear to have many or any adult relationships; individuals who provide special gifts to your child or invite them on special outings with them; unsupervised screen time on the internet; and being a single or divorced mother looking for a relationship.
Low risk situations that you can be aware of and further decrease risk include putting pictures of your children in your workspace if the public comes to your office; not having access to a cell phone including while you are sleeping; and not having a security system in your home. You should replace locks when your keys are lost or stolen and you might consider owning a dog.
As a psychologist, I advocate for children and others to be involved in activities such as awareness skills, social development, and the martial arts which are conducive to the development of self-esteem, awareness, and defensive skills. For children in particular, the training can be invaluable in terms of self-confidence, understanding how to protect yourself if attacked, and the development of both discipline and awareness. Predators look for children who will be an easy target. Rather than instilling fear with notions such as stranger danger, it can be of more benefit to have children who exude confidence and have the support and attention of their family. These children are visibly noticing their surroundings, communicate well, and are confident in social environments - all factors that are protective against sexual offenders. Children who are withdrawn or shy, unquestioningly obedient to adults, and who are frequent without direct adult supervision are targets.
If you would like more information about this issue or others related to psychological development, please call Dr. Volk at 662-1911 or toll-free at 1-877-846-4554.
(For a copy of this News story see the Tuesday, May 12, 2009 issue of the Devils Lake Journal) 05/12/09
The challenge against the Barre City ordinance restricting where registered sex offenders may live was almost inevitable given the raft of questions about individual rights and due process involved.
The residency restrictions are a perfectly understandable attempt to keep the community safe from a truly heinous crime, yet deeply troubling in that it seeks to punish even people who have served their sentences and are meeting all conditions imposed by the court.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the suit on behalf of a man ordered to leave his apartment with his family or face a daily fine, also argues that there is no proof that keeping registered sex offenders from living in the neighborhood had any impact on the safety of that area.
A day after the suit was filed, Barre granted _____ a reprieve, allowing him to stay in the apartment without incurring the daily fine for up to 60 days while the court weighs the issue.
The idea that residency restrictions do little to reduce the threat from sex offenders is even included in Vermont's toughened sex offender law signed by Gov. Douglas (Contact) this year. That calls into question the whole purpose of the Barre ordinance. An ineffective measure that only makes us feel safer against crime is worse than taking no measure at all.
The Barre ordinance prohibits sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, park or day care center. That renders much of the city off limits to sex offenders. The message is clear: Send them packing.
So, where does _____ go?
Give him a bus ticket to St. Johnsbury, or Burlington? How about Calais? Certainly not Rutland which also restricts where registered sex offenders may live.
Unless we are ready to keep such individuals in government-maintained safe houses for life, we have no choice but to find a room for them in town somewhere.
The good officials of Barre are correct in wanting to protect their residents. This is not the way to do it.
It seems, the PJ vigilante "InvisibleGirl" is once again follownig me around, and trying to get my Twitter account closed!
I also have emailed Twitter to let them know about your stalking habits! If you go to these lengths to shut me down, you must think I'm a threat to your vigilante enterprise! Get out some, get the therapy you need and get a life! See this article, which clearly shows most of them need a lot of help!
And so, I do know now, that Delbius, Invisible Girl and Del Harvey are all the same person (Allison Shea) of PJ. She is one psycho-bitch who cuts herself for whatever reason, and I would not doubt it one bit, if she went by the name Stitches aka Stitches77 as well. The name kind of suits her, due to the cutting, but I have no proof Stitches is the same. Stop stalking me bitch!!! Get a life!!! If you think I am doing something wrong, which I am not, then contact the police and stop the damn stalking. And I mean by going around to all the news articles, forums, etc, posting lies about me, and also attempting to get my pages shut down. You are one psychotic bitch who needs some serious help, so get some.......
Del Harvey aka Allison Shea (Pasadena, CA)
"For instance, I'll pick up a phone and hear (without turning it on) a dial tone and then a woman's voice speaking. Or I can hear someone using that pressurized air stuff and I'll feel it on my forearms."
"Lots of stuff like that. But, like I said, the anti-psychotic drugs usually keep that to a minimum."
AL - Wenonah High mother on quest to outlaw teacher-student sex (A mother, trying to outlaw consensual sex!)
By MARIE LEECH
Regina Fuller thought she had an open-and-shut case against one of her son's teachers at Wenonah High School.
She had cell phone and text message records dating back at least a year between the two of them, some of them sexually explicit.
Fuller filed a police report and was told a detective would contact her. Several weeks went by, no call.
"I finally called them and they told me they couldn't do anything because my son was 17 at the time," Fuller said.
In Alabama, the law allows consensual sex as long as both parties are at least 16 years old, said Brandon Falls, a district attorney in Jefferson County's 10th Judicial Circuit Court. That means teachers and other school employees can legally have consensual sex with students older than 15, and will not face criminal punishment, he said.
The most a teacher or administrator could face if the sex is consensual is administrative punishment, which could lead to revocation of their teaching license, educators say.
The teacher, Fuller said, "was allowed to resign and the whole thing just fell under the radar. Meanwhile, she can go get another job in another school system and nobody will know they are hiring a sexual predator."
- I don't think two adults having sex is considered a sexual predator.
The Birmingham school system allowed the teacher to resign in February and said officials' hands are tied.
"We filed a police report and we reported it to the state Department of Education," said interim Superintendent Barbara Allen. "Beyond that, there's nothing more we can do. It's out of our hands."
Legislators are trying to change what some call the "Sweet 16 Loophole" that frequently means teachers who engage in inappropriate behavior with students suffer little or no punishment.
House Bill 810, passed by the House of Representatives last week, now awaits consideration in the Senate before the legislature adjourns this week. The bill, sponsored by Speaker Pro Tempore Demetrius Newton, D-Birmingham, would make it a crime for a teacher or school employee to engage in a sex act with a student age 19 or younger.
Teachers or school employees caught having a sexual relationship with a student would not be able to use the teen's consent as a defense.
"The public needs to understand there is a huge loophole in the law," said Ronald Jackson, executive director of the grassroots group Citizens for Better Schools. Jackson got involved when he was contacted by Fuller and has been pushing lawmakers to get the new law passed.
- I don't think something that lets two consenting adults have sex, is a "loophole!"
"The real problem is all the secrecy that surrounds this," he said. "Right now, the public is blind as to whether a teacher has had sexual misconduct with a student. We want the state to make those instances public, whether the employee has criminal charges against them or not."
A 2004 study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education found that nearly 10 percent of U.S. public school students have received unwanted sexual attention from school employees.
The report, "Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature," said that more than 4.5 million students are subject to sexual misconduct by an employee of a school sometime between kindergarten and 12th grade.
- So how many of those are of the age of consent? You can't count them, IMO!
From 2001 to 2005, the Alabama Department of Education reported more than 60 teachers had their teacher certificates revoked for sexual misconduct.
Larry Craven, general counsel for the state Department of Education, sexual encounters among teachers and students is not tolerated in schools regardless of age.
"It is the most serious thing we deal with," he said. "There is no more serious charge or allegation that we hear."
When an allegation is made of a sexual encounter involving a teacher and student, Craven said, the state investigates the matter regardless of whether criminal charges have been filed.
The problem is, he said, without criminal charges, these cases can be difficult to prove.
"We've had victims over 16 who refused to testify because, for some reason, they had some sort of emotions for their teacher," Craven said. "If we don't have any evidence, we don't have a case."
- This is just pure insanity! 16 is of the age of consent, so it's two adults having sex!
If the case can be proven, the teacher's license will be revoked, he said.
Craven said he deals with an average of 15 to 20 cases a year involving allegations of sexual misconduct involving teachers and students.
"The vast majority of our teachers have no criminal history," he said. "They are good teachers."
- And more than 90% of all sex crimes being committed, are by those NOT on the registry! The registry is just a punishment tool, to make them wear a Scarlett Letter for the rest of their lives, like in the old witch hunt days!
Fuller said she has a hard time trusting any teachers these days.
"You do everything you can to protect your children," she said. "You tell them to respect their teachers. I feel like my son been violated and my quest to keep my child safe has been violated."
- Why don't you ask him if he feels the same way?
Fuller was contacted in November by Wenonah High School Principal Regina Carr-Hunter, who told her there was a rumor circulating about her son and his teacher having sexual relations.
Carr-Hunter asked Fuller if she believed there was some truth to it. At the time, Fuller said she just couldn't and things seemed ordinary at home.
But things came to a head in the Fuller household when her son came home at 3 a.m. on a school night in December. He came to her room to apologize, but Fuller was already livid.
Making things worse, his cell phone rang mid-apology.
"It was his teacher calling him at 3 in the morning," she said. "I found that awfully suspicious and started going through his cell phone."
She came across the text messages and had her son's cell phone carrier release records dating back a year.
Armed with that information, she marched her son, the records and his cell phone up to the school.
"During that meeting, I was assured (the teacher) would be arrested," she said. "My son had been violated. It was unethical and immoral."
- I bet he doesn't feel the same way!
Fuller doesn't just blame his teacher, however. Her son is partially to blame, she said, and he isn't being forthcoming with information.
"I didn't raise my son to be a liar. I teach my kids to walk with their shoulders up and their head up. But his spirit is hung down," Fuller said of her son, who is graduating this month. "Not only does he know I'm disappointed in him, but he's disappointed in himself."
By Loretta Boniti
RALEIGH – A state lawmaker is working to keep students safe from sex offenders at school even if the student is no longer considered a minor.
- Well, if the person is not a registered sex offender and if both are 18 and older, then what is the problem? This is consensual sex!
Rep. Bruce Goforth (Email), D-Buncombe County, says he believes school officials who take indecent liberties with students should be placed on the sex offender registry, despite the student's age.
- How is it considered "indecent liberties" when it may be two adults having sex?
Goforth told a House committee Monday that as the law stands right now, if a teacher, resource officer or coach has a relationship with a legal age high school student, it is often not considered a felony and therefore not an offense that qualifies for the registry.
"There has been a lot of indecent liberties with children around the state and a lot of people have been pleaded down with the ages of 17, 18 and 19 to misdemeanors and they are not required to sign the sex registry," Goforth said.
- Someone who is of the age of consent, is an ADULT, not a child! Hell, why don't you just ban all sex, period! Then people like you can quit procreating!
Education officials say they are on board with anything to keep students safer at schools. But they do have some precautions of their own already in place.
"The state laws of North Carolina now require any local school district to send to us any criminal history of any teacher," says June Atkinson, N.C. superintendent of public instruction.
Atkinson says even if teachers aren't placed on the sex offender registry for their actions with a student, there are steps the state can take to keep them out of the classroom.
"We have the authority to revoke a teacher's license based on any criminal activity, and typically we revoke anywhere from 20 to 35 teacher licenses a year," Atkinson said.
Goforth said he's not sure these steps are enough. He said nothing is too much to keep kids safe.
- You are an idiot, who is just grandstanding. Someone over the age of consent, IS NOT A CHILD!!!
"As schools go into the hire mode, they need to know who's out there," Goforth said.
This bill passed the judicial committee on a unanimous vote. It is now heading to the House floor for consideration.
By CAROL MARBIN MILLER
Thousands of Floridians were mistakenly warned that sex offenders were no longer on the state's registry that tracks their whereabouts.
Eleven thousand Floridians -- many of them recovering victims of sexual assaults -- were notified over the weekend that the state would no longer be tracking registered sex offenders whose whereabouts concerned them.
As it turned out, the e-mailed notifications were sent out by mistake.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which tracks the movement of about 40,000 registered sex offenders and predators, sent out 11,000 e-mails beginning Saturday afternoon notifying Floridians that individuals on the sex offender registry had been removed from the list. Some of the notifications went to victims of sexual assault who follow their assailants through the registry.
The e-mails were sent in error, said Michael Morrison, an FDLE spokesman in Tallahassee.
Though FDLE tried to alert everyone who received the original notification that the alerts were erroneous, not everyone got the word.
Ivette Gonzalez, a Miami prosecutor, said she received an anxious phone call Saturday from a woman whose ex-husband she prosecuted. The offender had sexually abused a girl his then-wife was raising. The woman did not want her ex-husband to go to prison, but was insistent that he be on the Sex Offender Registry, Gonzalez said.
"She was pretty upset," Gonzalez said. She said, "You told me he would be a registered sex offender. What is this e-mail I'm getting?"
The conversation left Gonzalez upset as well, she said. As a prosecutor, "your integrity is everything," and Gonzalez was concerned she had made a promise that was not kept. By Monday, she was able to inform the woman the alert was just a mistake.
Since the alerts went out, the FDLE received 10 phone calls and 20 e-mails from Floridians anxious about the whereabouts of a particular offender or predator, said Kristen Perezluha, an FDLE spokeswoman in Tallahassee.
As of Monday evening, the FDLE had not completely resolved the problem, nor identified exactly what went wrong, Perezluha said. The agency was planning to send out another e-mail to everyone who received the original alert Saturday afternoon informing them that the notifications were a mistake.
The FDLE registry, which formally tracks the movement of convicted sex offenders, was not affected by the computer mishap in any way, Perezluha said. "It was just a glitch of the e-mail system, and it did not affect the registry," she said.
- A glitch? I don't buy that at all!
"Still, we are working to determine what happened, why the alerts were sent out, and what needs to be done so that it doesn't happen again," she added.
The original notifications were three paragraphs long, and contained the names and dates of birth of the offenders of interest.
"An offender is removed from the registry when no longer required to register under conditions specified by Florida Statute," the alert said. "No further e-mail notifications will be generated concerning this individual unless the individual qualifies for listing with the registry in the future."
The second e-mails said: "Due to a technical issue, the Florida Alert System may have sent you an automated message in error today stating that a registrant is no longer required to register. Again, this message was an error and does not reflect the current registration status or requirements of this registrant."
"Immediate steps are being taken to address this issue with the alert system and prevent any further such erroneous alert messages from being sent," the notification added. "We apologize for any confusion or concern this may have caused."
One of the alerts was sent Saturday to Lauren Book (Ron Book's daughter), who as a child was molested by her nanny, and later discussed the ordeal openly. Book now operates an educational foundation, Lauren's Kids, that offers seminars and workshops that encourage children to immediately report sexual abuse to their parents or authorities.
Book's abuser, _____, was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment for the five years she molested Book, beginning at age 12. Another 10 years were added to her sentence when _____ flouted a judge's order to have no contact with Book.
Book was reluctant to criticize administrators of the state's sex offender registry, who have been vigilant in informing her of changes in _____' status. But she added that administrators of the registry waited too long before they corrected the mistaken alerts, and left others hanging altogether by not informing them of the error.
"I just wish they had put something out sooner, so that other people didn't worry, or weren't so afraid," Book said. "The not knowing is scary, especially if you are not in counseling."
By Jordan Schrader
RALEIGH – If they want to repent their sins, sex offenders in Buncombe County and elsewhere had better do it at home.
- A direct violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution!
Some church services are among the activities that are off limits because of tough restrictions on registered sex offenders' movements, passed all but unanimously last year by state lawmakers who invoked a young girl's tragic murder.
- Notice the first paragraph, then this one. Seems this reporter is trying to scare offenders from going to church at all, but, the statement above says "some services," not all are banned, which makes sense. But he needs that scary article title to reel people in.
This week, though, the General Assembly will likely start to rethink a ban that keeps sex offenders from going within 300 feet of a place “intended primarily for the use, care or supervision of minors.”
Questions have come up about whether this rule applies to a church with a nursery, a hospital with a pediatrics unit, a store like Wal-Mart with a toy aisle or an eatery like McDonald's with a play area, Rep. Rick Glazier (Email) said.
“I think there's increasingly an argument that a lot of what we did is unconstitutional,” said Glazier, a Fayetteville Democrat.
The process of undoing it could start as soon as today. Glazier, along with Rep. Bruce Goforth (Email), an Asheville Democrat, and others, have introduced a bill proposing a number of changes in sex-offender laws. Most of them will be put on hold for now, Glazier said, but they will try to move ahead with changes in the 300-foot rule.
Legislators will try to meet a deadline of Thursday for a vote in the House, making a committee vote today likely.
Arrested for churchgoing
The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina has received two reports of men being arrested for going to church, said Sarah Preston, a lobbyist for the group.
Another man complained he couldn't go to the library, Preston said. Unemployed, he wanted to use the library for job hunting, but it had a children's section.
More than 270 sex offenders live in Buncombe County, where sheriff's Lt. Ross Dillingham said 10-12 churches have called the sheriff's office about the law.
Sex offenders cannot attend North Asheville Baptist Church services when they're held at North Buncombe High School, Dillingham said. They're banned from school property.
The law is tough for sheriffs to interpret because there have been no court rulings in the state, Transylvania County Sheriff David Mahoney said. In Georgia this year, a federal judge blocked a similar state law.
“I suppose that if we were to receive a complaint … I think we would have to just really go by the letter of the law,” Mahoney said. “If that means it's at McDonald's, then so be it.”
Goforth, among the most vocal advocates in the legislature for sex-offender restrictions, said the far-reaching ban was an unintended consequence.
“We want them in church to try to turn their lives toward Christ,” Goforth said, so “they would no longer prey on society.”
- Not all "prey on society!"
Known as Jessica's Law, a set of restrictions that took effect in December was named in honor of a 9-year-old who was kidnapped, raped and buried alive by a registered sex offender in 2005 after moving to Florida from Gaston County.
The law was sponsored by Rep. Julia Howard (Email), a Mocksville Republican who is now among the legislators pushing for a change. The law's other main backers were also Republicans, including then-Rep. Charles Thomas of Arden.
It set a number of restrictions that are not being considered for rollback, notably a mandate of at least 25 years in prison and lifetime electronic monitoring for raping a child.
Grier Weeks, director of the National Association to Protect Children, said the debate highlights the fact that such laws are ineffective because they can't be enforced.
The most serious offenders should be in prison or on probation, where they can be monitored, Weeks said.
- Do you think a "serious offender," who is out on probation and/or parole, cannot commit another crime, if those chose to?
“If somebody is sexually dangerous to children, you absolutely want to keep them from going where children congregate,” he said, “but the only effective way to do that is to have teeth in it.”
Other sex offender bills
Even as they rethink some restrictions on sex offenders, legislators are moving to add more. Bills moving through the legislature would:
- So when will enough laws be enough? Every single year they are changing things, making offenders, police and everyone else' life harder. How can you enforce something that changes constantly?
- Require school employees convicted of taking indecent liberties with a student to register as a sex offender. Introduced by Rep. Bruce Goforth, D-Buncombe. (Why is this needed? If someone, regardless of them being a teacher, commits a sex crime, then they should be punished. So why is a separate law needed for teachers? And what if the student is an "adult," 18 or older? If they convict the teacher, then what about bosses and employees?)
- Keep registered sex offenders off juries. (Why? Do you prevent other felons off juries? I think you do, so why make another law specifically for sex offenders? So you can grandstand?)
- Keep offenders from driving buses with children on them.
- Keep them from being EMS personnel. Authored by Rep. Carolyn Justus (Email), R-Henderson, the bill passed the House unanimously last week. (So what about policement, fire fighters, etc?)
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Worcester - Republican State Representative Karyn Polito (Email) has spent much of her political career fighting for tougher legislation when it comes to sex offenders in the Bay State.
Now, she is taking that fight a step further after learning a man convicted of groping a teenage girl and exposing himself on the MBTA Green Line still holds a state license to sell real estate.
"When it comes to holding a license, that's a privilege," Polito said.
- You could consider anything a "privilege!"
She's drafting legislation that would expand the list of crimes requiring offenders to register with the state -- it would also bar those offenders from getting any professional state license.
According to Polito, under Massachusetts law, this situation would only require the man to register as a sex offender if he were convicted of a second or subsequent offense.
Polito said her legislation -- if passed -- would change that.
"This would prevent the using of loopholes on arbitrary bases with the sex offender registry system," Polito said.
Worcester defense attorney Michael Erlich said he supports strict penalties, but he says- blanket legislation could backfire and get in the way of the court's ability to prosecute offenders.
"When you have minimum mandatory requirements it takes away the ability to negotiate- best for everyone - especially young children," Erlich said.
Polito said those children are at the forefront of her legislation.