Monday, May 17, 2010
See the ruling here (PDF)
As as expected, this is front page news everywhere.
By JESSE J. HOLLAND
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Monday that federal officials can indefinitely hold inmates considered "sexually dangerous" after their prison terms are complete.
The high court reversed a lower court decision that said Congress overstepped its authority in allowing indefinite detentions of considered "sexually dangerous."
"The statute is a 'necessary and proper' means of exercising the federal authority that permits Congress to create federal criminal laws, to punish their violation, to imprison violators, to provide appropriately for those imprisoned and to maintain the security of those who are not imprisoned by who may be affected by the federal imprisonment of others," said Justice Stephen Breyer, writing the majority opinion.
- But I thought these sex offender laws were not punishment?
President George W. Bush in 2006 signed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which authorized the civil commitment of sexually dangerous federal inmates.
The act, named after the son of "America's Most Wanted" television host John Walsh, was challenged by four men who served prison terms ranging from three to eight years for possession of child pornography or sexual abuse of a minor. Their confinement was supposed to end more than two years ago, but prison officials said there would be a risk of sexually violent conduct or child molestation if they were released.
A fifth man who also was part of the legal challenge was charged with child sex abuse, but declared incompetent to stand trial.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruled last year that Congress overstepped its authority when it enacted a law allowing the government to hold indefinitely people who are considered "sexually dangerous."
But "we conclude that the Constitution grants Congress legislative power sufficient to enact" this law, Breyer said.
Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, saying Congress can only pass laws that deal with the federal powers listed in the Constitution.
Nothing in the Constitution "expressly delegates to Congress the power to enact a civil commitment regime for sexually dangerous persons, nor does any other provision in the Constitution vest Congress or the other branches of the federal government with such a power," Thomas said.
Thomas was joined in part on his dissent by Justice Antonin Scalia.
Chief Justice John Roberts last year granted an administration request to block the release of up to 77 inmates at a federal prison in North Carolina. These were people whose prison terms for sex offenses were ending. The justice's order was designed to allow time for the high court to consider the administration's appeal.
The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act also establishes a national sex offender registry, increases punishments for some federal crimes against children and strengthens child pornography protections. Those provisions are not being challenged.
- Again, I thought these laws were not about punishment? Everyone knows they are all about punishment, and it's mentioned twice in this one article.
State laws allowing civil commitments of sex offenders also are unaffected.
The case is U.S. v. Comstock, 08-1224.
By Ellen Brown
My journey began about 11 years ago, when I was working as a home-based writer, and memories of sexual abuse and rape suddenly began flooding my consciousness. It was a good thing I was self-employed, at the time, because what happened over the course of the next few years sent me spiraling out of control.
In the beginning, I experienced intense flashbacks and body memories, which forced me to re-live the abuse that occurred when I was young. At times, I was blind-sided by waves of physical and emotional pain.
At first, I couldn’t believe what was happening to me, and hoped and prayed I was inventing these horrifying images. That the physical pain I was feeling was fake. That I was creating these fantasies. Because that was more comforting than believing that the people I trusted had betrayed me.
But the more I resisted, the more the memories persisted. On and on, like a nightmare that would seemingly never end.
The good news is that when I finally allowed myself to believe the memories were true, the flashbacks and body memories tapered off and eventually stopped. But there was still plenty to overcome. Over the course of the next several years, I did a great deal of healing, in therapy and support groups and with the help of my wonderfully loving husband, Jeff and some supportive survivor friends.
They say that dealing with child abuse or any difficult loss takes time, and that’s true. But in my opinion, it doesn’t need to take THAT much time, and sometimes, if you’re not careful, it can take a lifetime to move beyond the pain. One day, I realized that my life was slipping away, and I had allowed my entire identity to become tied up in being a “survivor.”
At that point, I realized I had a choice. I could continue to wear my “survivor label” like a badge of honor and blame others for what I didn’t like about my life. Or I could take responsibility for my life, and realize that my past didn’t have to define me. Yes, I was a survivor of sexual abuse and rape, but I was so much MORE than that. I didn’t want to just survive, I wanted to THRIVE!
It was probably no coincidence that I began exploring my spirituality at this same time. I had never been religious, (and I’m still not) but suddenly I wanted to believe that all these memories had bubbled up for a reason, that there WAS, in fact, some divine plan. That something good would come of these horrible revelations.
Over the next couple years, I traveled on a spiritual journey of faith and forgiveness that transformed my life. While I wouldn’t wish what happened to me on anyone, the abuse I experienced taught me an important lesson: that I possess an amazing strength and compassion that can never be broken, a powerful spirit that can never be extinguished. Painful though they were, those experiences shaped me into the strong, compassionate woman I am today.
My spiritual journey ultimately led me to the realization that I could make a difference in the lives of people who have faced adversity, including survivors of abuse. Though it took me awhile to decide what form that might take, I finally decided to become a coach, because I wanted to help people move forward rather than taking them back to the past to explore their wounds.
After graduating from the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland’s 18-month-long Gestalt Training Program and the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching, (an ICF-accredited program) I became a certified professional coach.
Today, as a life transitions coach, I am honored to help clients navigate challenging life transitions such as job loss and the loss of a loved one (and the transition from survivor to thriver) with courage, hope and optimism, so they can create the lives they truly desire.
Visit my website at http://ellen-brown.com/ to sign up for an introductory coaching session or a coaching package that’s right for you. Since coaching sessions are conducted by phone, I can work with clients anywhere in the world.
Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach in Cleveland, Ohio who works with clients, by phone, all over the country, to help them overcome their challenges with courage, hope and optimism. She is also a regular contributor to ShareWIK.com.
It appears they are now showing publicly submitted comments as well, but when you go to the site, you have to check the "PUBLIC SUBMISSION" check box to see other peoples comments. See here for a photo example.
From the Federal Register:
ADDRESSES: Comments may be mailed to Linda M. Baldwin, Director, SMART Office, Office of Justice Programs, United States Department of Justice, 810 7th Street, NW., Washington, DC 20531. To ensure proper handling, please reference OAG Docket No. 134 on your correspondence. You may submit comments electronically or view an electronic version of these proposed guidelines at http://www.regulations.gov.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Linda M. Baldwin, Director, Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking; Office of Justice Programs, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC, 202–305–2463.
Posting of Public Comments Please note that all comments received are considered part of the public record and made available for public inspection online at http://www.regulations.gov. Such information includes personal identifying information (such as your name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter.
If you want to submit personal identifying information (such as your name, address, etc.) as part of your comment, but do not want it to be posted online, you must include the phrase ‘‘PERSONAL IDENTIFYING INFORMATION’’ in the first paragraph of your comment. You also must locate all the personal identifying information you do not want posted online in the first paragraph of your comment and identify what information you want redacted.
If you want to submit confidential business information as part of your comment but do not want it to be posted online, you must include the phrase ‘‘CONFIDENTIAL BUSINESS INFORMATION’’ in the first paragraph of your comment. You also must prominently identify confidential business information to be redacted within the comment. If a comment has so much confidential business information that it cannot be effectively.
The U.S. Justice Department has proposed major regulatory changes to the Adam Walsh Act, a 2006 federal law requiring all states to crack down on sex offenders by July or risk losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grant money.
The proposed changes, which were posted in the Federal Register on Friday (May 14) and face a two-month public comment period, address some of the most controversial provisions of the law, which many states have criticized as cost-prohibitive and overly strict.
Named after the murdered 6-year-old son of “America’s Most Wanted” host John Walsh, the Adam Walsh Act dramatically ramps up criminal penalties for sex offenders who fail to register with authorities, and requires states to group offenders into “tiers” based on the severity of their crimes. States also must include more personal information about sex offenders that appears on public registries, such as their home and work addresses.
If states do not comply with the law by July, they will lose 10 percent of their funds under a congressional grant program that pays for local anti-crime initiatives, including police salaries.
As Stateline has reported, however, many states disagree with key provisions of the law that they see as too strict, including a stipulation that some juvenile sex offenders as young as 14 be placed on public registries. In Delaware, as the Wilmington News-Journal recently reported, some offenders as young as 9 are listed on the public sex offender Web site. Youth advocates and others have said that posting images and personal information of juveniles can lead to harassment (same for adults), and that juveniles should not be grouped with more serious, adult criminals.
The changes proposed Friday give states the discretion to decide if they want to include juveniles on their registries.
Under another proposed change, sex offenders whose crimes pre-dated the Adam Walsh Act, and who have exited the justice system, would not be forced to abide by its registration requirements. While courts have found the provision constitutional — holding that registration is not a new criminal penalty but a civil, regulatory requirement instead — states have argued that it is overly burdensome to track down and register sex offenders who already have served their time and re-joined the population. The Justice Department recognized that concern, giving states “greater latitude” not to register certain offenders.
“It may not be possible for jurisdictions to identify and register all sex offenders who fall within the (Adam Walsh Act) registration categories, particularly where they have left the justice system and merged into the general population long ago,” the new rules say.
Only one state — Ohio — has complied with the Adam Walsh Act so far (not exactly). Several others have asked for a one-year extension to meet the law’s demands. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (Contact) already has granted all states a one-year extension, underscoring the difficulty states have had in complying with the law.
While there is broad political agreement on the overall goals of the Adam Walsh Act, the changes proposed Friday show that states’ concerns are being heard in Washington, D.C. Members of Congress also have acknowledged that they may have overreached with the legislation.
“I don’t think anyone disputes the goals of the Adam Walsh Act,” U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (Contact), a Maine Republican, recently told the Bangor Daily News. “But there are many states having a hard time, as is Maine, in complying with the law, and we should look at what the states are saying.”
By Robert Longley
So, you're going to write your Congressman? Good idea. Make it a good letter.
People who think members of Congress pay little or no attention to constituent mail, are plain wrong. Concise, well thought out personal letters are one of the most effective ways Americans have of influencing law-makers. But, members of Congress get hundreds of letters and emails every day. Whether you choose to use the Postal Service or email, here are some tips that will help your letter have impact.
It's usually best to send letters to the representative from your local Congressional District or the senators from your state. Your vote helps elect them -- or not -- and that fact alone carries a lot of weight. It also helps personalize your letter. Sending the same "cookie-cutter" message to every member of Congress may grab attention but rarely much consideration.
Keep it Simple
Your letter should address a single topic or issue. Typed, one-page letters are best. Many PACs (Political Action Committees) recommend a three-paragraph letter structured like this:
- Say why you are writing and who you are. List your "credentials." (If you want a response, you must include your name and address, even when using email.)
- Provide more detail. Be factual not emotional. Provide specific rather than general information about how the topic affects you and others. If a certain bill is involved, cite the correct title or number whenever possible.
- Close by requesting the action you want taken: a vote for or against a bill, or change in general policy.
The best letters are courteous, to the point, and include specific supporting examples.
Addressing Members of Congress
To Your Senator:
The Honorable (full name)
(Room #) (Name) Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
To Your Representative:
The Honorable (full name)
(Room #) (Name) House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
The above addresses should be used in email messages, as well as those sent through the Postal Service.
Finding Their Addresses
Senate and House of Representatives
U.S. Senators (web sites and mailing addresses)
Write Your U.S. Representative (A service of the House that will assist you by identifying your Congressperson in the U.S. House of Representatives and providing contact information.
U.S. Supreme Court
Contact Information - US Supreme Court
The Justices do not have email addresses, but they do read letters from citizens.
Here are some key things you should always and never do in writing to your elected representatives.
- Be courteous and respectful without "gushing."
- Clearly and simply state the purpose of your letter. If it's about a certain bill, identify it correctly. If you need help in finding the number of a bill, use the Thomas Legislative Information System.
- Say who you are. Anonymous letters go nowhere. Even in email, include your correct name, address, phone number and email address. If you don't include at least your name and address, you will not get a response.
- State any professional credentials or personal experience you may have, especially those pertaining to the subject of your letter.
- Keep your letter short -- one page is best.
- Use specific examples or evidence to support your position.
- State what it is you want done or recommend a course of action.
- Thank the member for taking the time to read your letter.
- Use vulgarity, profanity, or threats. The first two are just plain rude and the third one can get you a visit from the Secret Service. Simply stated, don't let your passion get in the way of making your point,
- Fail to include your name and address, even in email letters.
- Demand a response.
See the video at the link above. How many laws, in the name of children, do we really need? None of them are actually working, yet we continue to pass more, why? So some politician can attach him name to it, so he looks better to the public, and to further his own career? Isn't that called exploitation? These laws are about nothing but vengeance! As usual, one person commits a crime and thousands pay for it!
By Dave Savini
Under Measure, No One Convicted Before Registry Took Effect Would Be Able To Skirt Requirement
SPRINGFIELD - The names of tens of thousands of sex offenders may soon be added to the state registry.
- Violating the Constitution and their oaths of office again. A law like this, is an ex post facto law, which is FORBIDDEN by the Constitution, but hey, when the Constitution is not worth the paper and ink it's written with, anything is possible.
These are offenders who have come off the list or were never put on it because they committed their crimes prior to 1999.
New legislation to register these offenders was prompted by a Dave Savini investigation.
"What happened to me happened to me for a reason -- that I'd be the one to share my story," said former assault victim Mindy.
Mindy is both a salon owner and artist who has painted a new picture for the children of Illinois in the form of a new law to protect them from sex offenders.
- Another law that won't "protect" anybody!
"These people are dangerous and something needs to be done," Mindy said.
- Not all sex offenders are dangerous. We have a justice system for a reason, when someone commits a crime, punish them, but punishing them after the fact, is unconstitutional, period! You can't come back many years later, legally and constitutionally, and say, "Oh hey, we did not punish you enough 20 years ago, so we are going to punish you again and again, until we feel satisfied!"
Mindy kept her last name private, but went public with the story of her abduction and assault, which happened 30 years ago in Niles. She was seven. The offender, _____, served only three years but never had to be on the list of registered sex offenders because he got out before the law that tracks them went into effect. Now he's still living in Niles in the same neighborhood where he abducted Mindy.
Mindy said her goal was to be a "voice for all the children who never made it home and for all the innocent children that can't protect themselves."
The 2 Investigators tracked down _____ and told Mindy's story six months ago. _____ represents thousands of offenders not on the public registry because they were released prior to 1999.
_____ had no comment for CBS 2, except to say he didn't want to be on any list. All that is about to change, because state lawmakers passed what they called "Mindy's Bill" this month.
State Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago.) created the bill based on Mindy's story. Martinez doesn't think there should be any grandfather clause when it comes to sex offenders.
Mindy's testimony in Springfield led to new proposed rules that will require a staggering number of offenders to now register their whereabouts -- no matter how old the crime.
- So, are you going to go back, review all marriage certificates, and arrest all those who married an underage child?
"I think the victims need to know this at all times. Families need to know this at all times," Martinez said.
Just this month, another sex offender, _____, not on the registry because his crime was old, moved into a new neighborhood where he allegedly molested a child. He even got a job at a carnival. The new law would track offenders like him and _____ for life.
"It meant a lot to me to take something so terrible and turn the whole thing into something positive for others," Mindy said.
The legislation would require all adult sex offenders to be registered no later than five days after the bill goes into law. The bill -- which was also sponsored by State Rep. Deb Mell (Email) -- is now headed to the governor's office.