Monday, March 21, 2011
By Alex DiBranco
Over a year ago, I wrote about a law in Louisiana that treats oral and anal sex as felony "crimes against nature." It's a vestige of extreme homophobia that has been mainly struck down by the Supreme Court, but the law remained on the books and serves a new purpose: putting sex workers behind bars as felony sex offenders. It's oh-so-tricky: it's not the actual act of oral or anal sex that's illegal now, it's the solicitation of that comes with significantly higher penalties than only offering to sell plain ol' vanilla sex, which does not qualify as a felony sex offense.
Jordan Flaherty at Colorlines, who first brought the story to national attention, has followed up with a heartening recent development: a coalition of civil rights advocates, including the Center for Constitutional Rights, have launched a lawsuit against the discriminatory law. Their plaintiffs include transgender individuals (who are disproportionately targeted, along with women of color and gay men), a mother of four, and a grandma.
Least you think this represents a small minority of those otherwise appropriately charged as sex offender, the New Orleans registry lists 292 people convicted of sex work, versus 85 forcible rape convicts and 78 for child molestation. It's a waste of taxpayer money and government attention to keep tabs on people who should never have been considered sex offenders.
By Dean Narciso
Homeowners associations increasingly are seeking to ban sexual offenders and predators in an attempt to improve safety and maintain property values.
"There's an explosion in Franklin County," said David W. Kaman, a lawyer with Kaman and Cusimano, which specializes in association law.
A 2003 state law and more-restrictive municipal laws already prohibit Tier 3 sexual predators - those convicted of the most-serious sex crimes - from living within 1,000 feet of sensitive areas such as schools, playgrounds and day-care centers.
The association laws are far more restrictive, however, and are considered outright bans intended to protect higher-density areas, such as condominium communities, said Kaman. He recently met with 40 associations in Delaware County's Genoa Township to discuss the issue and has meetings scheduled with 40 more in Springfield and nine in Westerville in late April.
In the past six years, 30 Tier 3 sexual offenders have been denied entry to association-run communities in Ohio, without a single legal challenge, Kaman said.
It's an issue associations are considering now because a new state law requires them to file their bylaws with county recorders or lose their ability to enforce them.
"It opened up some eyes," Diana Howell, president of the 47-home Lake of the Woods homeowners association in Genoa Township, said of the law change and Kaman's presentation.
"The Realtors check the neighborhoods for offenders. And that's an issue if you have one living next door to you," she said, citing a study showing that property values can drop about 17 percent in neighborhoods where sexual offenders live.
"I know I would not move in next door to a sexual predator. And I'm assuming that as a member of society, that there are other people a lot like me," she said.
"I think we're going to see more of this," said Charles T. Williams, a partner in Williams & Strohm, which also represents homeowners associations. "I think people are very, very concerned about personal safety and their security."
- Only when it comes to the boogie man, sex offenders, not all the murderers, gang members, drug dealers/users, DUI offenders and all the other criminals living in your neighborhood. So they are not worried about safety, really, just about exiling sex offenders, if they were, then they'd do a background check on everyone, and anyone who has a felony record, would be denied housing, period!
Critics of the bans say they violate offenders' civil rights and amount to cruel and unusual punishment.
"It's an understandable outflow from the notification provisions, where you get a postcard if you're living within 1,000 feet of a registered sex offender," said Stephen Johnson Grove, deputy director for policy at the Cincinnati-based Ohio Justice and Policy Center, an advocate for prisoners' rights.
But eliminating housing or jobs from offenders "is really a damage to our communities," he said. "If people can't get housing, none of us are safer."
He said the vast majority of sex offenders know their victims. Often they're related, or are in a position of trust, such as a teacher, coach, clergy member or youth leader.
Howell isn't sympathetic.
"It's also cruel what they've done to be labeled what they are," she said of offenders. "They've got rights; we have rights."
The 2,400 homes in Dublin's Muirfield Association don't have restrictions against people convicted of sex crimes, but residents have discussed them, said Walter Zeier, general manager of the association. "It's a huge concern."
Association members have been told that 100 percent of the voting residents would need to approve a rule change. "Our deed doesn't have provisions to change it," he said.
Zeier also worries about potential legal challenges.
"It shocks me that no one has challenged it here," he said, when told that such laws have been challenged, unsuccessfully, only in New Jersey.
Johnson Grove said he thinks that courts would uphold the restrictions.
Constitutional laws are "a limit on the powers of government, not on (homeowners associations)," he said.
- The constitution covers everyone, government or not!
By ANGELA DELLI SANTI
TRENTON - The father of a Florida rape and murder victim, whose death led 44 states to enact stricter sex offender laws, was in New Jersey on Monday to encourage passage of a law imposing mandatory minimum sentences on child predators and anyone convicted of aiding them.
Mark Lunsford is pushing for enactment of the "Jessica Lunsford Act," which would impose a mandatory 25-year term without parole for anyone convicted of sexually assaulting a child younger than 13. Anyone who hinders their apprehension or prosecution would face three years behind bars.
- So, his own son molested a child who was 14, so did he lower the age to 13 so it doesn't affect his own son?
"There is no reason for anyone to put their hands on these children and to receive minimum sentences and probation — it's hard time, 25 years," Lunsford said. "These are our children, our youngest children, and we have to do more to protect them."
New Jersey's bill and similar legislation across the country is named for Lunsford's 9-year-old daughter, who was kidnapped, raped and buried alive by a convicted sex offender in 2005. Jessica's laws are intended to keep child sex offenders locked up longer to reduce their ability to re-offend.
The Assembly sponsor, Republican Nancy Munoz of Summit, said 54 colleagues have signed onto the bill. The legislation, first introduced in 2005, awaits a hearing in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
In the Senate, the bill is sponsored by Republican Diane Allen of Burlington. The bill has yet to be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Both houses of the Legislature would have to pass the bill and it would have to be signed by Gov. Chris Christie in order to become law.
"It just is amazing to me that we haven't passed this law. Our children are not as safe as the children in most other states," Allen said. "I worry if we don't get it done this year, how many children are we going to lose? I don't know but even one is too many."
- So what about all the children lost by murderers, gang members, DUI offenders, drug dealers/users, etc? Do they not count?
Allen said those who commit sex crimes against children are far more likely than other offenders to commit a similar crime again. She said 40 percent are charged with a similar crime within a year of being released.
- That is not true, and I am tired of the lies and deceit. Many studies we have linked here, show that sex offenders have the LOWEST recidivism rates of any other criminal, except murderers. Also, where did she find this "40%" statistic? Out of thin air?
Rosemarie D'Alessandro of Hillsdale, whose 7-year-old daughter, Joan, was raped and murdered by a neighbor while delivering Girl Scout cookies in 1973, has teamed up with Lunsford to advocate for the harsher sentencing law.
"Mark and I are trying to make something good out of something so horrible that our minds can't even go there," she said. "What we're doing is keeping our children alive in every way possible — their energy goes on, their legacy goes on in helping people and helping society."
- Since the facts show that most people are abused by their own family, if you wanted to "protect" children, then you'd remove them from their own home and put them on an island somewhere, so they can be "safe!"
Lunsford's daughter was killed by twice-convicted sex offender John Evander Couey, who died of natural causes while awaiting execution. D'Alessandro's daughter was killed by former chemistry teacher Joseph McGowan, who remains in prison in part because of the compelling testimony of the victim's mother, who has been heard at each of McGowan's parole hearings.