Saturday, April 3, 2010

GA - Have Sex-Offender Laws Gone Too Far? (Yes, they have)

Original Article


Georgia’s high court put a guy who briefly detained—but never touched—a 17-year-old girl on a sex-offender registry. Conor Friedersdorf on why this stigma should be reserved for monsters.

A Georgia man must register as a sex offender despite never having committed a sexual offense, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled this week. _____, a small-time robber, is due to appear on a state registry alongside serial child rapists. He is prohibited from residing near churches, parks, or schools, and on moving, he’ll always stoke anxiety among his neighbors.

His is one case among many that shows the absurdity of sex-offender registries kept in so many states, and even teenagers caught "sexting" are finding themselves ensared in the law. I’d prefer that first-degree rapists, child molesters, sex traffickers, and child pornographers be imprisoned for life. If they must be released, monitoring is a reasonable condition. But folks who aren’t sexual predators shouldn’t bear the same stigma. It is neither just nor prudent: Sex-offender registries best protect us when their scarlet letters are reserved for folks who are actually horrors.

Is it prudent to lavish disproportionate attention on this 28-year-old man, especially given the scarce resources available to monitor truly dangerous ex-convicts?

_____ is more like a juvenile delinquent from a teen drama on the WB. As an 18-year-old, he and three conspirators arranged to purchase marijuana from a 17-year-old girl. “Instead of making a deal,” The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports, “they drove her to a cul-de-sac, took the pot and abandoned her.” Odious behavior, but it hardly warrants a lifetime branded as a sex offender. Substantial time behind bars seems harsh enough.

Attorneys for the defense argued that putting their client on a sex-offender list constitutes cruel and unusual punishment—after all, the stigma alone has destroyed many lives. The majority opinion found otherwise. “Because the registration requirements themselves do not constitute punishment,” it states, “it is of no consequence whether or not one has committed an offense that is ‘sexual’ in nature”—this despite the fact that every single American would consider it “punishment” if he or she were put on a sex-offender list, and almost all presume that folks on the lists are convicted sexual deviants.

_____ served five years in prison, and successfully completed another five years on probation. A decade later, is it prudent to lavish disproportionate attention on this 28-year-old man, especially given the scarce resources available to monitor truly dangerous ex-convicts?

Carefully drawn registries are better suited to reducing the recidivism rate among predators—let the police and the citizenry focus its vigilance. Instead sex offender lists are adding not only low-level drug criminals, but also teens who text naked pictures of themselves to one another, and other high schoolers whose mistake is sex with a slightly younger classmate.

In Georgia, all is not lost. The absurdity of current law is plain even to members of the state legislature. Decent reform legislation passed its lower chamber 165 to 1. Should the bill pass into law, so-called sex offenders could petition to be removed from the state’s registry if their crime isn’t sexual in nature, among other reforms.

Overall, however, it seems likely that the worst aspects of sex-offender registries will spread. Consider efforts by The Animal Legal Defense Fund to establish animal-abuser registries in various states. Legislators in California are already considering a bill. “The idea is to protect a vulnerable population at risk of abuse," spokesman Stephan Otto told USA Today—“much as sex-offender registries warn communities of sexual predators in the area, so the public, shelters and law enforcement can work together to keep animals safer.”

Two objections are worth raising.

Most obviously, animal cruelty shouldn’t be the focus of anti-recidivism efforts in a country where overwhelmed parole officers cannot even provide effective monitoring of convicted rapists, murderers, and child molesters.

And where else are registries of ex-convicts likely to lead? Originally, these lists were meant for rapists and child predators—a class of criminal stigmatized due to the especially odious nature of their crime and the perception that recidivism is especially galling and common.

As we’ve seen, however, it isn’t just sexual predators being affected by this approach; all sorts of crimes are now deemed offenses that make someone a sex offender, a designation that by now offers far more heat than light. Aren’t other lists as likely to end in abuses, especially if appellate judges don’t even acknowledge that being placed upon them is itself a punishment?

Certain categories of crimes, whether “terrorist” or “sex offender” or “animal abuser,” seem to tempt Americans into abandoning the normal rules that govern criminal justice. Inevitably, these departures wind up unfairly punishing people who don’t rightfully fit the hated labels, but are nevertheless branded with them.

Neither “sex offender” nor “terrorist” is going away as a label that invokes special sets of rules. Perhaps that is as it should be. But experience shows that extra vigilance is required to do justice when these designations are in play—and prudence demands that we go no further, lest we live in a country where it is commonplace for citizens to appear on various government lists that restrict ever more liberties for the sake of the children.

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

Philip Zimbardo - The Lucifer Effect (Why good people turn bad)

Playlist Link | Wikipedia | Web Site

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

OR - Sheriff to citizens: Be vigilant, not vigilantes

Original Article


By Arwyn Rice

People should leave paroled sex offender _____ alone, or risk being arrested for harassment, Curry County Sheriff John Bishop told a meeting of 25 concerned Brookings citizens Thursday night.

_____, 69, was released from Oregon State Penitentiary and transported to Curry County two weeks ago after completing a 23-year sentence for kidnapping a 17 year old girl in Josephine County.

Brookings resident Matt Quale organized the public meeting at the Pacific Sea Cove Condominiums community room. Bishop and Brookings Police Lt. Donny Dotson were invited to the meeting to answer citizens’ questions about _____, any risk he may pose to the public, and what the public can do to stay safe.
In a Friday morning interview, _____, who has been living in various motels in Brookings, said he would have liked to have attended the meeting and answer the public’s questions himself, had he been invited.

I would have welcomed the opportunity to meet face-to-face with people and answer their questions; so they could meet me in person,” _____ said. (More of his interview with the Curry Coastal Pilot can be found to the right.)

At Thursday’s meeting Bishop advised citizens on how not to make matters worse.

You must be careful not to harass (_____)” Bishop said. “He has rights. I don’t want to see any of you arrested because of his presence.”

_____ has been instructed to call 911 or his parole officer immediately if he is harassed, Bishop said.

He also noted that the more stressed _____ becomes, the more likely he is to commit another crime.

_____ has a criminal history that dates back to 1959 when, at the age of 18, he was convicted of stealing a vehicle. In 1971, he was convicted of assault and battery of a 17-year-old girl in Lane County. In 1973 he was convicted of kidnapping and raping another 17-year-old girl in Lincoln County.

In 1976, _____ escaped from the Oregon State Hospital and traveled to Omaha, Neb., where he was convicted of abducting two children from a parking lot, tying one to a tree and choking the other.

After serving an eight-year prison term in Nebraska, _____ was returned to Oregon State Penitentiary to finish out his sentence for the 1973 conviction.

He was paroled in July 1986 and on the same day he was released from prison he abducted a girl at knife-point, forcing her into his vehicle. The girl escaped unharmed when _____ was stopped and arrested during a routine traffic stop.

_____ spent the last 23 years of his life in prison, Bishop noted. Just being out of prison is stressful.

He is used to being told when to eat, when to sleep, when to make his bed,” Bishop said. “Now he has none of that.”

_____ would be better off in a transition program, such as a halfway house, and should be located near a Buddhist Temple, _____’s registered religious affiliation, according to Bishop.

It may be difficult for _____ to get the support he needs in Curry County to stay straight, he said.

The parole board set _____ up to fail,” Bishop argued.

Oregon law requires paroled felons to be released to the county where they lived when they were arrested.

Bishop, with the help of a parole officer, is seeking legal ways to relocate _____ to a county where such services are available. _____ is open to the idea, Bishop said.

Upon learning of _____’s release last month, Bishop protested _____’s parole classification.

_____ is classified as a run-of-the-mill sex offender,” Bishop said. However, he believes that _____ is a textbook “predatory sex offender.”

The non-predatory classification limits what information authorities can share with the public, Bishop said.

Bishop has been in contact with the Oregon State Parole Board, Gov. Ted Kulongoski (Contact), Curry County’s state representatives and “all six candidates for governor” in an attempt to transfer _____ to another county, “If one of them can get something done they will get a lot of votes from this county,” Bishop noted.
- Exactly, they do it for votes and to look good to the people for those votes, so they can further their own careers, like I've said a million times.

Even if Bishop can convince the parole board to relocate _____, the board can’t just move him, Bishop said. The county where _____ would go needs to accept the move.

Such moves are often accomplished by “trading” parolees, he said.

Parolees needing specific services can be moved to a county where they are available, in trade for an offender in that county who is hard to place in their community.

An example would be a paroled stalker who cannot be located within five miles of the victim, but all possible homes are inside that area.

Several people who attended Thursday’s meeting noted that _____ has been spending a lot of time at a local Brookings business, both shopping and just hanging out.

He has the right to be there,” Bishop said.

One audience member noted that as long as _____ is spending his time in a public place, he should be encouraged to stay there, where people can see him and know what he is doing.

Bishop and others at the meeting agreed.

The audience still wanted to know how to “help” _____ get the transfer to another county.

What can we do?” many audience members asked.

You can write letters,” Bishop said, listing the Oregon State Parole Board, the governor and state legislators as recipients.

Bishop also stressed what _____ is not.

_____ has not killed,” he said, and he has not been known to stalk his victims or plan his attacks.

_____ has not broken into homes, his crimes were committed when an opportunity presented itself, Bishop said. Nor does _____ have a history that suggests that he would hang around schools or parks to choose victims.

_____’s victims were alone in public places, and attacks occurred when _____ was under the influence of alcohol, Bishop said.

Because of this pattern, _____’s parole requirements include a ban on alcoholic drinks.

If you see him with a can of beer, call us,” Bishop said.

_____ must undergo regular mental health evaluations, sex offender treatment and adhere to a curfew.

_____ is also not allowed in or near places where children congregate, such as area playgrounds, the skate park, youth sports fields, schools and several specific businesses in Brookings and Harbor where teens and children are known to congregate.

However, non-playground areas of Azalea Park, such as the hilltop gazebo near the bandshell, are not off-limits.

Bishop told the group that the best way for girls and young women to avoid becoming a victim is, “Be aware of your surroundings.”

Simply knowing what is happening in one’s immediate area can help anyone avoid becoming a victim of many types of crimes, he said.

Bishop also recommended that people do not use shortcuts that may take them out sight of public places, such as through empty, wooded lots and alleyways.

Several audience members noted that there are areas where students walk to and from school that are exposed or provide cover for an attack. Quale said volunteer patrols have been keeping an eye on those areas before and after school since _____’s release.

Additional volunteer security has been added at Brookings-Harbor schools, Quale said.

Bishop offered the following safety tips:
  • Girls between the age of 8 and 17 should not walk or be in public places alone;
  • High school age girls or women should walk or go out in groups of two or more;
  • Younger girls should stay in groups of four or more, or be escorted by parents.

These kinds of precautions should be in place for basic safety at all times, not just when the community perceives a specific threat, Bishop said.

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

WI - How many registered sex offenders have never committed sex crimes?

Original Article



_____ is a criminal, but he has never been convicted of a sex crime. Yet type his name on the state’s sex offender registry and you’ll find his picture.

That’s because the statute that lists offenses that earn a spot on the registry includes the crime of false imprisonment of a child, regardless of whether or not there is a sexual motivation.

In 2000, _____ forced a 17-year-old male to drive around with him in the Green Bay area to settle a drug debt. _____ was also 17 at the time. He contested his inclusion on the sex offender registry to the state Supreme Court, which on March 19 ruled against him.

I think the people of Wisconsin would be surprised to know that the sex offender registry is watered down with these people,” says _____’s attorney, Shelley Fite, who works for the Office of the State Public Defender.

There is no simple way to tell how many people might be on the sex offender registry for non-sexual crimes. Fite says it would require an analysis of the cases against each of the thousands of offenders on it.

_____, now 27, might be an unlikely figure to win a lot of sympathy. He’s now serving a prison sentence for a felony drug offense, and since 2000 he’s been convicted of others. But Fite said _____ considers having to register unfair.

Probably most people can imagine all the implications in terms of restricting places to live, restricting jobs you can get,” she says. “Obviously it can have a profound impact on someone’s personal relationships, relationships with neighbors.”

While rife with incidents of criminally stupid behavior, the criminal complaint against _____ in the false imprisonment case from Brown County makes no mention of anything sexual. The victim had earlier introduced _____’s co-defendant, _____, also 17 at the time, to a friend who stiffed _____ and _____ on a $100 cocaine deal. _____ and _____ decided to force the teen to go with them when they went to collect. The man that owed the money promised to pay up, and according to Fite, _____ and the victim spent the rest of the evening watching television and then went to a party together.

Ironically, both were originally charged with taking a hostage, which is not included on the sex offender registry. They pleaded to the lesser crime of false imprisonment.

That’s what caught him in the trap,” says Fite.

_____ and _____ were convicted and ordered to register as sex offenders. _____ did. _____ didn’t and was subsequently convicted of failure to register as a sex offender, getting him another year in jail.

In similar cases in Florida, New Mexico and Ohio, courts have sided with the offender, Fite says, and she plans to ask _____ if he wants to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

There is a federal constitutional claim here,” she says.

_____ didn’t ask for the law to be changed. He just asked the court to review whether the law is constitutional as it was applied to the facts in his case.

In an opinion written by Justice Annette Ziegler, the court ruled that it is. Though it’s not necessarily a sex crime, false imprisonment of minors has been linked to child sexual abuse, the court determined, and it’s difficult to determine whether or not an offender has a sexual motivation in committing the crime. In other words, according to a dissent penned by Justice Ann Walsh Bradley and joined by Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, the facts of the case were not even considered. If they were, Bradley wrote, the court would have come to a different conclusion.

I conclude that there is no rational basis for making _____ register as a sex offender when everybody acknowledges that there was nothing sexual about his offense,” she wrote.

Bradley added that in siding with the state, the majority rejected the notion that the purpose of the sex offender registry is to protect the public from sex offenders.

When the registry is clogged by offenders who bear no meaningful relationship to its legislative purpose, the court undermines the legislative purpose in creating the registry,” she wrote. “The majority holds its analysis up as ‘a paradigm of judicial restraint.’ To the contrary, I conclude that it has abdicated its responsibility.”

The majority opinion mirrors the position of Rebecca St. John, an assistant attorney general who argued the case in oral arguments last fall.

She said that although no one has alleged that _____’s motivations were sexual, “it’s impossible to know for sure whether _____ or his co-actors would not have sexually assaulted the minor they falsely imprisoned, whether for personal arousal or just to humiliate and control the minor, if the opportunity had arisen.”

The facts of the case, she said, “do not matter.”
- Yeah, we don't care about facts, we only want a conviction, so our resumes look better!

The Legislature, she argued, has the authority to classify offenses within the statues however it sees fit.

But Fite countered that by that reasoning, the Legislature can redefine any law regardless of whether or not it makes sense.

If the Legislature chose to define homicide as spitting on the sidewalk, it can choose to make that definition,” she said. “But that would be, at least I would argue, irrational.”

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

CA - California bills target sex offenders online

Original Article


By E.J. Schultz

Sex offenders would be required to share Internet identifiers.

SACRAMENTO  -- New York passed a law a couple of years ago requiring sex offenders to report e-mail addresses to the state's offender registry.

The result: At least 4,336 registered sex offenders were purged from social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace thanks to the new data, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (Contact) recently announced.
- They are making more blanket laws and punishing all sex offenders, many of whom their crime had nothing to do with the Internet, yet they are discriminating and kicking all off the sites, even when a crime has not been committed. That is basically profiling and discrimination.  Many sex offenders use these sites, like everyone else, to keep track of friends and family.

Several California lawmakers want to follow New York's lead.

Newly introduced bills would require sex offenders to share online identifiers -- such as e-mail accounts and instant-message aliases -- while at the same time prohibiting offenders on parole from using social networking sites.

"These social networks become a real trolling place for predators," said Sen. George Runner (Contact), R-Lancaster, author of one of the bills. "I think we should create as many speed bumps as possible to keep them off those social networks."
- Really Senator?  Well a study does by a TON of AG's and other companies (here) say this is all blown out of proportion, but you, you've got to get your name in the neon lights and say "look at me!"

But the bills are far from foolproof. Supporters concede that offenders could switch e-mail addresses and not tell the authorities. But if they are caught, they run the risk of going back to prison -- and "that's a pretty big risk," Runner said.
- Do you really think that a person who is a true predator and wants to harm another child cares?

In Fresno, an estimated 10% to 15% of sexual assault cases involve victims who were first contacted online, according to the Fresno Police Department. About 1,600 sex offenders live in Fresno.
- Prove it! Where is the study to prove this, or are you just making stuff up like you usually do?

Lt. David Newton, head of Fresno's criminal investigations bureau, supports the bills, but said they aren't ironclad. "We don't necessarily believe this may prevent many sexual assaults from occurring," he said. But "this is going to provide another arrow in our quiver."

He said the ban on social sites use by offenders will allow investigators to levy additional charges against predators.

Opponents fear the bills would lead to overzealous prosecutions and needlessly send more people to already crowded prisons.

Sex offenders already must register for life, including those who commit less-serious crimes such as indecent exposure, said Ignacio Hernandez, a lobbyist for California Attorneys for Criminal Justice (Contact), which represents criminal defense lawyers.

"All this would do is prohibit people from using these social networking sites for lawful, positive, productive purposes -- and that really makes no sense," he said.

A similar bill failed last legislative session, as concerns arose about the costs of collecting the new information and imprisoning offenders who violate the new rules.

A report last year suggests children face no greater danger online than they do in real life. Rather, the biggest risks on the Web are harassment and bullying among children -- not adults targeting kids, said a report by the Internet Safety Technical Task Force, created by 49 state attorneys to study the threats children face online.
- But you see, politicians do not care about facts, they only want to make themselves look better while they are pretending to care.

"The image presented by the media of an older male deceiving and preying on a young child does not paint an accurate picture of the nature of the majority of sexual solicitations and Internet-initiated off-line encounters," reported the task force, which included academics and representatives of Internet businesses and nonprofits.

However, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (Contact), who helped create the task force, criticized the report, saying it relied on inadequate research and downplayed the threat of online predators.
- Yeah, it would not help him rally people so he can further his career and to look tough, so he just assumes the study was invalid, by the very people he hired to do it.  Typical politician, if it doesn't fit his perception, then it's bogus.

Current law requires sexual offenders to register their home addresses with local authorities every time they move. Under the bills, new e-mail accounts would have to be registered days after they are created.

The bills are SB 1204 by Runner, AB 1850 by Assembly Member Cathleen Galgiani (Contact), D-Livingston, and AB 2208 by Assembly Member Norma Torres (Contact), D-Pomona.
- All people trying to use "for the children politics" to further their own careers, while actually doing nothing.

The registry information is sent to the state and portions are displayed publicly at the Megan's Law Web site. Social networking sites such as Facebook already run checks against offender information. Having e-mail addresses would improve the process, said Chris Kelly, a state attorney general candidate and the former privacy officer and head of global public policy for Facebook.

Kelly, a Democrat, said Facebook already has strong protections in place, including a "real name culture" that weeds out users employing fake monikers. The site also flags suspicious users whose friend requests are rejected at a high rate or who overuse the search function.

"None of these systems are foolproof, but they go far beyond what most people assume has gone on," he said.

The state legislation comes after Congress in 2006 passed a law, known as the Adam Walsh Act, setting minimum standards for sex offender registries, including collecting Internet identifiers. States that don't comply by July 2011 risk losing some federal grants -- about $3 million in California.
- The Adam Walsh Act, like assumed above, does not require collecting Internet identifies.  Look it up for yourself.  Just more of the usual disinformation.

California's Sex Offender Management Board has recommended the state not implement the federal law, partly because the costs of making the changes would exceed the grant loss.

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

TX - Texas Voices calling for new rules on sex offender registry

Original Article


By Stephanye Gilyard

While recent news reports have some people saying not enough is done to monitor convicted sex offenders, not everyone is convinced all registered sex offenders pose a threat to society.

"I think that when somebody thinks sex offender, they think of a person hiding behind a bush to catch a child," said Mary Sue Molnar, director for Texas Voices of San Antonio. "Some of these are consensual relationships."

According to its Web site, Texas Voices believes in the creation of laws that benefit the safety of children and society in general, differentiating between those who are dangerous offenders and those who are not.

Molnar has dedicated her career to giving a voice to sex offenders she believes do not pose a threat and should be removed from the registry.

"I get e-mails every day that say, 'please help us,'" Molnar said.

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin