Thursday, February 10, 2011

NACDL - The Problem of Overcriminalization

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SC - Are sex offender policies keeping you safer?

Original Article


By Cleve Bryan

They move among us in our daily lives.

Thieves, murderers and other convicted criminals finished with prison pass us in the grocery store or running the bridge and we have no way of knowing who they are by sight.

No way of knowing, unless they've committed a sexual crime.

People break in our homes and offices, but we send our children out into the world. And we need to have a way to track those who mean to do them harm,” says South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson.

His office oversees prosecuting violators of the sex offender registry maintained by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED).

We're going to go to every length legally and morally that we can to protect our children,” says Wilson.
- Morally? Really? I don't think morals has anything to do with this.

State law requires sex offenders, whether adults or a minors, tell their local sheriff's department twice a year where they live.

Then local schools are notified, and the offenders appear in a public online database.

The registry and notification system is for a sex offender life, even if the crime was committed as a juvenile.

For me it's not punishing them again, it's about ensuring the safety of kids, it always comes back to the child,” says Wilson.
- It's about punishment.  Nothing about the laws protect anybody.  And Hitler used children to further his cause as well, but that wasn't morally right either.  If it was really about children, like you say, then all criminals would be on a registry we can all check.

For the most violent offenders (criminal sexual conduct with a minor, kidnapping, etc.) there are residency restrictions.

They cannot live within 1 thousand feet of schools, playgrounds and other places where children are commonly located.
- Even though most sexual crimes are not committed at these places, but in the victims own home or close family or friends.  They don't care about facts, only what makes them look and feel good.

Not only are we going to hold you accountable, but we're going to watch you,” says Wilson.

But are these policies actually making us safer?

Lifetime registration and notification does not make sense,” says psychologist Elizabeth Letourneau from the Medical University of South Carolina.

She has been studying sex offender issues for 20 years and find that registry and notification doesn't prevent offenders from committing new sex crimes.
- Of course they don't, like I said above, it's just exploitation to further ones own career or help them "look tough" on crime while doing nothing.

It's a wash, these policies don't effect sex offender recidivism,” says Letourneau.

She says the registry doesn’t significantly reduce the overall number of sex offense either.

95 percent of sex offenses are committed by first time offenders, who are not going to be on any registry,” says Letourneau.

Wilson disagrees about the importance of the registry, saying it is a useful tool for detering first time offenders.
- Of course he disagrees.  If what he says was true, then why does the registry grow and grow each and every single day?  It's not deterring anybody, protecting anybody, but it is costing tons of money and doing nothing to prevent crime.  Just attach "for the children" to any law, and the sheeple will believe it's for good, but it's just a propaganda scheme to help someone else.

"It sends a powerful message to people who would commit these crimes: Not only are we going to hold you accountable, but we're going to watch you," says Wilson.

9 out of 10 sex offenders are people you know.

Knowing the 2 or 3 that are caught in your neighborhood, may seem like a good tool for keeping your family safe, but it doesn't seem to be working that way, certainly not in our extensive investigations of South Carolina data,” says Letourneau.

What the data does show is that since lifetime registration went online in 1999, the number of plea bargains offered sex offenders to non-sexual crimes increased.
- This world is friggin' upside down.  We call good bad and bad good and ignore the facts, just so we can get more money or further our career.  It's pure exploitation!

For juveniles many more sex-crime cases are dismissed.

What you have are kids who may actually be committing sex offenses who need treatment, and there's good treatment, who aren't going to get it because if you're case is dismissed or you plead to a non-sex offense, you're not going to get any kind of sex offender intervention,” says Letourneau.

Studies of residency restrictions point to no difference in offenders who do commit new crimes doing it near their homes or several miles away.

Letourneau says laws that try to push sex offenders away from highly populated areas can hurt their opportunities for treatment or family support.
- This is true.  Instead of trying to help prevent sexual crimes by treatment and education, they are making people homeless and not giving them the help most need, so they are keeping the system going to keep the money train rolling, and so they can use sex offenders and "for the children" to help themselves.

We know that people are less likely to re-offend in anyway if they have stable jobs and stable housing,” says Letourneau.

Unless lawmakers change the laws, Letourneau says South Carolina is stuck with expensive and ineffective policies that only target the most extreme violators for which the state already analyzes and places under civil confinement.

We need to look at prevention,” says Letourneau.

One area where the state is being progressive is hunting down sex offenders online.
- Once again, most who are online doing this, are not known sex offenders.  So, you cannot really call them sex offenders since they have not been convicted of a crime yet.  So once again, it's usually the first time offenders.

Criminals now, those meaning to do harm to our kids, they're coming through the internet,” says Wilson.
- And where is the facts to back that up?  Most studies I've seen, say that kids are talking sexually with people online, but they do not tell you by whom.  They leave you to believe it's other adults.  In some cases that is true, but in most cases, it's other teens.

The Attorney General’s Office is expanding resources to nab hundreds of sexual predators before they act.

The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force finds sexual predators before they act as well as tracks down violators of child pornography.
- That doesn't make since to me.  It's like calling someone a murderer who hasn't committed murder, but simply based on something they have said, like "I'll kill you!"  Just because someone says that, doesn't make them a murderer.

It's certainly my opinion an epidemic and we've seen folks travel from far away to try to solicit and engage children within our state,” says Wilson.
- And those folks should be arrested and punished, and get help.  But, are we educating the children?

Letourneau agrees prevention needs more attention as well as a more nuanced approach to handling current sex offenders.

There are nearly 11,000 registered South Carolina.

We need to figure out more rational, effective policies for helping them live safely in our communities,” says Letourneau.

NE - Sex Offender Registry challenge gets federal court date

Original Article


By Ben Schwartz

When it went into effect on Jan. 1, 2010, the updated Nebraska Sex Offender Registry Law caused an immediate sensation in Nebraska.

The bill, espoused by Attorney General Jon Bruning to protect children, toughened penalties for convicted sex offenders and extended some penalties to people previously convicted as well. Federal Judge Richard Kopf issued a partial injunction against the law in December 2009 after it was challenged by Omaha attorney Stu Dornan.

The challenge is set for trial in federal court May 23. Dornan will be opposed at trial by Bruning, who once said of sex offenders, “I’m never going to apologize for dropping the hammer on these guys.”

Dornan, who served four years as Douglas County prosecutor prior to starting a private practice in 2007, told the Bulletin Feb. 1 he filed the challenge because, “It’s a constitutional issue. If the constitution doesn’t protect these guys in this situation, it doesn’t protect any of us.”

In August, Kopf ruled that some aspects of the changed law could be challenged, mostly dealing with limiting offenders’ computer access. He enjoined those parts of the law from going into effect, but much of it remains in tact until the trial.

Dornan’s challenge didn’t stop North Platte attorney Robert Lindemeier from challenging the law in Lincoln County District Court in January 2010. Judge John Murphy enjoined the entire law from going into effect statewide. Shortly thereafter Kopf ordered Lindemeier’s challenge, and all other challenges filed in state courts, removed to federal court.

Requirements of the law

The requirements for registration of sex offenders were changed in order for Nebraska to become compliant with the 2006 federal Adam Walsh Act, according to the Nebraska State Patrol website.

Under the amended law, in addition to current registration data, offenders are required to submit email addresses and other digital account information (Facebook and MySpace accounts, etc.) along with school information, professional licenses or certificates, travel and immigration documents, a DNA sample, and palm prints, among other things.

Failure to report all Internet communication identifiers, as well as failure to report any changes to those identifiers within 24 hours, could constitute a felony offense, according to the website.

The durations of required registration also changed.

Offenders convicted of misdemeanor offenses must register for 15 years, felony offenders for 25 years, and aggravated or repeat offenders for life. Currently, offenders must register for either 10 years or life.

All currently registered sex offenders and previously registered offenders must comply, the website said.

The new system junked the currently-utilized “risk level classification” and inform the community of all registered sex offenders, not just the ones considered at high risk to repeat, according to the website.

With those changes came alterations to the verification process too. Offenders reporting for 15 years must verify their addresses in person annually; 25 year reporters bi-annually and life reporters quarterly.

The law also expands registration requirements to all offenders convicted of sex crimes, not only those considered at high risk to re-offend.

KS - Kansas considers increasing buffer zone to 2,000 feet, and marking sex offender drivers licenses!

Original Article



When a convicted sex offender from California moved 200 feet from Scarborough Elementary School last year, it upset an entire Olathe neighborhood.

Neighbors mobilized to get the man to move away and see that a similar situation didn’t happen somewhere else.

The effort has made its way to the statehouse, where Kansas lawmakers this month are considering a bill that would bar some sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or licensed day care. It also would mark their driver’s licenses with the word “offender” — in different colors to show whether the victim was a child or adult — and bar offenders from school property.

The residency rule would apply to offenders whose victims were younger than 16.

A previous similar proposal failed over objections from rural legislators who feared it would send sex offenders to their districts. The bill under discussion now is crafted to ease their concerns.

The offender near Scarborough “served as a spark to illuminate a problem that affects every neighborhood and every school and every child in Kansas,” Michell Prothe of Olathe told a state Senate panel this week in Topeka.

In that case, the neighbors discovered that the man was supposed to be under the supervision of a probation officer in Kansas but was not, and eventually he had to move.

Senate Bill 39 (PDF), which Olathe Republican Rob Olson introduced in the Legislature recently, is before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Hearings will continue next week.

I strongly believe this bill will correct some critical lapses in current state law which will give law enforcement the tools necessary to protect our children,” Olson told the committee.

Some, however, have questioned the effectiveness of residency restrictions in stopping sex crimes against children.

Former Sen. Karin Brownlee of Olathe cited a 2006 report for the Ohio Sentencing Commission that found 93 percent of molestation victims were well known to their perpetrators.

An earlier Ohio study found that 89 percent of sex offenders had never been convicted before and that only 2.2 percent of child molesters were strangers to their victims.

If they are first-time offenders, then a residency requirement wouldn’t have stopped them,” Brownlee said.

Leslie Ramirez, a leader in the Scarborough area campaign, told the Senate committee that she was aware of these studies. But she said they often lump all sex offenders together rather than look at pedophiles.

She said other studies have found that sex offenders who target children choose to live near where potential victims gather.

Prothe said: “We do not believe these types of child sex offender laws provide a false sense of security as some have suggested.”

She acknowledges that passing the legislation won’t guarantee that children won’t be sexually assaulted.

But the chances will be decreased if we implement a healthy buffer zone between children, their parents and the people who have proven they harm innocent children,” she said.

A bill prohibiting sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of a school was proposed in 2007 but died when it was opposed by rural lawmakers. They feared that such a prohibition would prevent sex offenders from living just about anywhere in a city, forcing them into rural areas.

Larry Campbell, a former state lawmaker and current Olathe city councilman, said that problem prompted a request to city planners to plot areas on a city map that were 2,000 feet from a school or licensed day care.

It showed there were still plenty of places in the city where they could live,” he said.

Donna Sibaai of Wichita told the committee that many states and cities surrounding Kansas have residency restrictions for child sex offenders. In Missouri, she said, offenders cannot live within 1,000 feet of a school or child care facility. She said Oklahoma imposes a 2,000-foot restriction.

We need the legislation not only to help us protect our kids,” she said, “we need it so we don’t invite child sex offenders into our borders.”

KS - Judge sets $1 million bond in slaying case - Woman (Misty N. Cullens) murders a sex offender

Original Article


By Steve Fry

A 25-year-old woman arrested in the shooting death Monday of a man at an East Topeka duplex would have to post a $1 million bond in order to be released from jail, a Shawnee County District Court judge ruled Tuesday.

Misty N. Cullens, of Topeka, made her first court appearance before District Judge Rebecca Crotty.

The judge told Cullens she was setting bond at $1 million due to the seriousness of the case. For Cullens to be released, a cash or professional surety bond would have to be posted for her, the judge said.

Cullens was arrested in connection with second-degree murder in the shooting of [name withheld], who would have turned 21 on Tuesday. Cullens was wearing jail garb when she made her first appearance.

Crotty appointed the public defender to represent Cullens, who didn't have a job and didn't have money to hire a defense attorney. Cullens told the judge she had worked at a Walmart for six months before she lost her job in January.

Cullens moved to Topeka from Texas after she had a baby in March 2010, she told the judge.

Other than a traffic-related offense in 2010, Cullens doesn't have a criminal history.

[name withheld] was shot at 2989 S.E. Highland Court, a duplex where he lived in the Pine Ridge housing complex.

Topeka police Sgt. Steve Taylor said Monday that Cullens lived at the same address. Cullens was booked into the Shawnee County Jail just after 11:30 a.m. Monday in connection with the incident, which was reported to police about seven hours earlier.

[name withheld] was a registered sex offender in Shawnee County since May 2009 for aggravated indecent liberties with a child younger than 14 and lewd fondling and touching, according to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation's website.

Taylor characterized the slaying as domestic-related.

When officers were called to the residence, a total of five people were at the scene and were taken to police headquarters for questioning, including one adult male, two adult females and two juvenile females.

Taylor said Cullens was at the duplex when police arrived.

The slaying was Topeka’s second homicide in 2011.

The first occurred when [name withheld], 57, was stabbed to death early Jan. 4 at the St. Gregory Suites, 635 S.W. Harrison. A decision in that slaying on whether to file a case or to decline charges hasn't been decided by prosecutors.

CA - Cops begin enforcing homeless laws again

Original Article

I guess since a growing number of sex offenders in California are made homeless due to the draconian laws, they will just start rounding up the sex offenders and throwing them in jail/prison?


By Juliette Vara

SAN DIEGO -- The city of San Diego has reached an agreement that will let police ticket and arrest homeless people who sleep on the street for the first time in about five years, city officials said Wednesday.

Under terms of a settlement of a lawsuit filed by homeless advocates, San Diego police officers can issue citations for illegal lodging and even take someone into custody. But there has to be a bed available in a shelter.

"If that person refuses bed space, they could get a citiation," said Assistant Police Chief Boyd Law. "If they continue to refuse, they could be arrested."
- So what are they going to do about the homeless sex offenders, who are most often not allowed in these homeless shelters?

Boyd said on most nights there are on average five available shelter beds in the downtown area.

Previously, police were not allowed to cite the homeless between 9 p.m. and 5:30 a.m.

The terms of the settlement are being incorporated into training guides for police officers, who will first make any homeless person they encounter aware of available services and try to provide help.

"Our streets are atrocious,'' City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said. "It will help people in San Diego get a bed and help themselves with treatment."

The problem of illegal lodging is critical downtown, where transients line the sidewalks in some areas at night -- a concern of both safety and neglect visible to residents and visitors to Petco Park, the Gaslamp Quarter and downtown hotels.

"What we're announcing today is vitally important to downtown San Diego,'' said Kevin Faulconer, the city councilman who represents the area. "This step will make downtown a nicer place for residents, businesses and tourists.''

"The only way for this to be effective is if there were thousands of beds available to house people downtown," said Amy Gonyeau with Alpha Project, a homeless advocacy group.

City officials believe the majority of the homeless will turn down the offer of shelter space, but will move on to avoid a ticket, which can be fine of up to $1,000. But one homeless person told Fox 5 that the threat of a fine wouldn't change his mind about shelter beds.

"I'll take all those tickets and get warm with them," said Billy Miles. He and his wife live on the streets of the East Village. Given a choice to live outside on a sidewalk or in a shelter, Miles said he would choose a sidewalk.

"I'm almost 60 years old, and it don't take much for me to get sick," he said. "All those people don't shower, don't shave. It's a disease factory."

The settlement approved by U.S. Magistrate Judge William McCurine was reached after numerous meetings between plaintiff lawyers Timothy Cohelan and Robert Scott Dreher, the City Attorney's Office and Faulconer.