Monday, May 9, 2011

ME - Bills would change Maine sex offender registry

Original Article

Looks like Maine is trying to do the right thing, but time will only tell.

05/09/2011

By Kevin Miller

AUGUSTA - Lawmakers heard testimony Monday on bills to stiffen penalties against sex offenders and to revamp the way information on offenders is presented on the state’s popular online registry.
- Stiffening penalties to those who have already been charged and sentenced, is a violation of the Constitutions Ex Post Facto clause, and others.

For several years, legislators have debated creating a tiered sex offender registry that differentiates between offenders based on the severity of their crimes and the risk they pose to society.

The debate intensified in 2006 after two events: the passage of a federal law requiring states to implement tiered systems as part of a nationwide registry and the murder of two sex offenders in Maine. The killer, who later took his own life, did not know his two victims or the extent of their crimes but apparently tracked them down through the state’s registry.

Two bills heard Monday by the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee seek to address the issue.

The first, LD 1514 (PDF), would create a three-tiered system along with requirements that offenders register for 10 years, 25 years or for life. The bill also would establish a risk assessment process to determine what level a perceived threat the person poses to society.

The second measure, LD 1025 (PDF), also would create a risk classification system and require the registry to show whether someone would be listed for 10 years or for life.
- So if you are doing the above in LD-1514, then why a second bill to do the same thing?

Sen. Bill Diamond
Bill sponsor Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, said the problem now is that the average person viewing the registry cannot differentiate between a low-risk offender — such as a teenager who had consensual sex with an underage girlfriend or boyfriend — and high-risk predators.
- Still, even if you made this classification, which is good, and only put the truly dangerous on the registry, as long as the registry is online viewable by the general public, vigilantism will continue.  It should be taken offline and used by police only.

Including whether someone was required to register for 10 years or for life may help the public gauge that offender’s risk, Diamond said.

We really do have a registry that needs a lot of work,” Diamond told committee members. “If we are going to have a registry that is going to be a tool for the public, as it should be, then it needs to be more efficient and more reliable.”
- My question is, why do we need a public shaming registry in the first place?  One that is offline, used by police only, makes more sense, and protects those wearing the scarlet letter.

Walter McKee, an attorney representing the Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said his organization supported providing the public information accurately describing the nature of the offense.

But John Pelletier, speaking on behalf of the Maine Criminal Law Advisory Commission, a nine-person body established by statute to examine state criminal laws, expressed concerns about classification systems based on risk assessments because those assessments may not always be reliable or consistent.

Committee members also heard testimony on bills that would create mandatory minimum prison terms for failing to comply with registry requirements and to lengthen prison terms for crimes committed against children by family members or authority figures.

Diamond said the latter bill, which he sponsored, attempts to address the fact that an estimated 90 percent of children who are the victims of sex offenses were assaulted by a family member or someone they knew.

Another measure, LD 624 (PDF), aims to address a gap in the current law that apparently allows a caregiver who sexually assaults a dependent or incapacitated person within their care to escape having to register.

Sen. Stan Gerzofsky
Bill sponsor Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, said he was unaware of the omission. The bill received support from law enforcement officials, prosecutors and advocates for the elderly or disabled.

The Maine Department of Public Safety, meanwhile, is seeking lawmakers’ assistance in discouraging private sex offender registries from popping up on the Web with Maine data.

LD 1317 (PDF) states that information collected by the department’s State Bureau of Identification as part of the registry cannot be disseminated to the public except as part of the state-run registry.
- Good.  Does this include Family Watchdog, the National Sex Offender Registry, and all the others?

Bureau director Matthew Ruel testified that the state updates its registry information daily. But when an individual or organization uses the Freedom of Access law to obtain bulk amounts of information on sex offenders in order to create their own private registry, that information is only a snapshot of that particular moment. The private registry would not show when a person has met the 10-year obligation, has successfully petitioned to be removed or other important, updated information.

The second it leaves our hands, it is old, stale information,” Ruel said.

The committee will hold a work session on the bills on a future date.


OR - Former Deputy (John Hinkle) Faces 40 Sex Crime Charges

Original Article

05/09/2011

SAINT HELENS - A former Columbia County sheriff's deputy accused of sex crimes against a relative made his first court appearance Monday afternoon.

John Hinkle, of St. Helens, is facing 40 charges, including 10 counts of rape, 10 counts of sex abuse, 15 counts of incest and five counts of sodomy.

Oregon State Police say they arrested Hinkle on Friday, a day after the relative came forward.

FOX 12 has learned that Hinkle used to work as a marine patrol and a school resource officer for the Columbia County Sheriff's Office.

Neighbors say he resigned last spring.

The case against Hinkle is expected to go before a grand jury Thursday.

His bail is set at $400,000.


WI - Burlington tones down proposed sex offender ordinance

Original Article

05/09/2011

By CHRISTINE WON

BURLINGTON - Balancing child safety against protecting sex offenders' rights, city officials have toned down an ordinance proposing to limit where sex offenders can go.

Concerned about the constitutionality of an overly broad measure, city officials shelved a previous proposal to render much of the City of Burlington effectively off-limits to sex offenders by creating expansive child safety zones - within 300 feet of places children often frequent like parks or schools.

Instead, the city opted for revisions to the proposal that narrow its scope to only sex offenders whose offenses have been against children or violent in nature, limit the zones to the actual parcel of property where the children are and allow offenders to visit religious facilities, among other changes.

"We believe this to be fully constitutional," City Attorney John Bjelajac told the Burlington City Council last week. "We're ready to defend it."

A few spoke about doing even more.

Under the revised proposal, offenders cannot loiter within 300 feet of a child safety zone but they can live there.

That would mean, like Burlington Police Chief Peter Nimmer illustrated, an offender could hypothetically mow his or her lawn next to where children are playing for the fifth time that week but the currently proposed ordinance would not do much.

Alderman Tom Vos questioned what the city would really gain from the revised proposal, which would allow sex offenders to live next to a school or a day care.

A few representatives from the St. Charles School Board attended the Tuesday meeting to express their support for an ordinance creating safety zones.

"We hope like heck you'll adopt something," Attorney Todd Terry, board member, said. "I think it's tremendous."

He went on to say parents have previously raised concerns about offenders living near the school and cast his support for a 300-foot residential buffer zone.

Extending the 300-foot perimeter for offenders' residences became "problematic," Bjelajac explained, saying reincluding that residential restriction could potentially create more hurdles for an ordinance that would already be a lightning rod for legal battles. Still, he told the board, if the lack of a residential perimeter proves to be a problem, the city could always make amendments.

He said the revisions came as a result of some concerns from aldermen and citizens, including possibly infringing upon offenders' First Amendment rights guaranteeing freedom of religion. The previous proposal allowed offenders to visit religious facilities only during hours of scheduled services that did not include children and required them to obtain written approvals from religious leaders beforehand.

While officials say it's not presently a problem in the city with 24 registered sex offenders in the community of about 10,500, they took up the matter in an effort to give police a way to deal with ones who have been discharged and are free to go and live where they wish.

The proposal goes to City Council on May 17 for consideration. If adopted, Burlington would be one of the few municipalities in the county to do so - Union Grove and Caledonia enacted similar ordinances in 2008 - whereas other communities like Racine and Sturtevant have dropped it due to enforcement and legal challenges.

The revised proposal at a glance:
  • Child safety zones are the actual parcel of property where children often are including parks, playgrounds, schools, sites operated by Boy Scouts or such organizations; also Chocolate Fest grounds when children are present.
  • Registered offenders who have committed sex offenses against children or that were violent in nature cannot live in child safety zones and cannot loiter within 300 feet of them. Those already living there would be grandfathered in.
  • Offenders are allowed to go to religious facilities even within the zones.


TAALK - Empowering Boys and Men Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse

Original Article

04/30/2011

Expand your understanding of the impact of child sexual abuse on boys and men. Male survivors will gain hope and be empowered to actively engage in their healing and others will learn how their understanding and compassion may be all that's needed for a male in their life to disclose and begin his healing journey. Join our host, Diane Cranley (Web Site, Facebook, Twitter, BlogTalk Radio), as she talks with Kathy Barbini - Producer and Director of “Boys and Men Healing” and “The Healing”. Simon Weinberg - Co-producer “Boys and Men Healing” and is the film’s Outreach Director; Howard Fradkin, Ph.D. - LICDC has counseled over 1000 male survivors over the course of his 28 year career as a Psychologist.


FBI & Pentagon officials purchased and downloaded child porn - 5,200 employees caught

But will they be charged like any other civilian? That is the question. My guess, is they won't, because they are above the law, apparently. And why is this not major news on every single news outfit? What are they hiding?

Every one of them should be arrested, thrown in prison, and once they are out, on the sex offender registry for life, and forced to life by the same sex offender residency laws everyone else lives by. But I am sure this will be pushed under the carpet and buried.

Click the PENTAGON link above to see more. More videos here., and more on Project Flicker here.



Are We Being Smart About Sex Offenders?

Original Article

05/08/2011

By Julia Dahl

A John Jay College professor explores whether laws that severely restrict the lives of thousands of sex offenders actually keep us safer.

It’s been five years since the enactment of the Adam Walsh Act, a federal law named for the murdered son of America’s Most Wanted host John Walsh that compels all 50 states to comply with a set of strict regulations for the registration and monitoring of sex offenders. Since passage, the deadline for compliance has been extended several times as states balked at some of the act’s more controversial elements. So far, only four are in compliance, with yet another deadline looming in July.

Why are so many states dragging their feet? According to John Jay College of Criminal Justice Professor Karen J. Terry, author of “A ‘Megan’s Law’ Sourcebook,” the answer may have more to do with tight state budgets than any particular ideology. Terry, whose essay, “What is Smart Sex Offender Policy?,” appears in the May issue of Criminology & Public Policy, spoke with The Crime Report’s Julia Dahl about whether monitoring sex offenders for life is really the best way to keep our kids safe from sexual predators.

The Crime Report: In your essay for Criminology & Public Policy you write that sex offender registration laws are “not based on a sound theoretical framework of crime prevention and control.” What are they based on?

Karen Terry: Emotion. No politician is going to say, ‘I don’t want to pass legislation to help protect a child from being raped and killed—I’m going to look out for the rights of sex offenders.’ We’re scared of violent sexual offenders, and when we hear about kids who have been kidnapped and raped and killed [by strangers] we take steps based on those unique cases as opposed to the broad range of cases that are more likely to happen.

TCR: What kinds of cases are more likely?

KT: Ninety percent of kids who are abused are abused by someone they know, someone in a position of authority, like a parent, a babysitter, or a teacher. With these registries, we’re warning our kids about strangers who could come and attack them when we should be warning them about people that they know. Is it good to let them know about a particular person who lives nearby? Sure, but I don’t think that’s necessarily going to keep them from ever being sexually abused.

TCR: Most states already have registration and notification laws for sex offenders. How does the Adam Walsh Act differ?

KT: It’s more restrictive than the previous notification and registration laws. There are a number of requirements within the act that make the monitoring of sex offenders even stricter and allow them even less mobility in the community. One controversial aspect [in the law] states that any juvenile over the age of 14 would be subject to these requirements. But if you look at the empirical evidence, what article after article shows is that the majority of kids who commit sexual offenses as juveniles do not go on to offend as adults.
- Most adult sex offenders do not re-offend either, see here.

Another part of the law that states disagree with is the risk assessment procedure [which categorizes sex offenders in three levels—level three being the most serious]. Now, many states use an actuarial risk assessment procedure, which means they look at different factors related to the person’s offenses when they assess them. The Adam Walsh Act says if someone has committed a certain type of offense they automatically get categorized at a certain level. It makes a lot more offenders level-three offenders, which then makes it much more expensive for the state.

TCR: If states don’t comply, though, they risk losing federal funding.

KT: Right. I believe they would lose 10 percent of their Byrne funding. But the more restrictive the level of supervision, the more expensive an offender will be for the state. A number of states have [concluded] that it would cost them more to enact it that it would for them to not get the funding.

TCR: Has there been research done on whether these stricter registration laws are effective?

KT: It depends on how you measure it. Most people have looked at recidivism—have the laws reduced recidivism for people on the registries. But generally it doesn’t seem to prevent crimes from happening.

We’re already so far down the road of trying to become compliant with the regulations of the Adam Walsh Act that I don’t think that anyone would advocate just getting rid of all these laws. But when you’re talking about the very extensive supervision and monitoring for life of people who might not ever commit another crime like this—that’s pretty extreme. What you can change perhaps is the number of people who are categorized as level-three offenders. There are ways in which you can modify [the law] so it’s less restrictive, but you still are able to monitor the most serious offenders. When you cast the net too wide you lose sight of who the most serious offenders actually are.


GA - New law to overhaul Georgia’s sentencing laws was long overdue

Gov. Nathan Deal
Original Article

This may or may not help ex-sex offenders in the state. Judging based on the past, I doubt it, but one can hope.

05/09/2011

Two bills passed in the waning days of Georgia’s 2011 regular legislative session will both advance the cause of criminal justice in the state, and both are years overdue.

The first and probably more important is one Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law. It creates a state panel to study and overhaul Georgia’s sentencing laws. Those laws have been misshapen by years of short-sighted get-tough politics, resulting in a system that too often gets tough on the wrong people and sucks away money and capacity the state needs for cracking down on the right ones.

It has been an expensive and irresponsible miscalculation: Georgia has the nation’s highest incarceration rate, and its taxpayers pour a billion dollars a year into prisons. The Associated Press reported that Georgia annually spends $3,800 per child in public schools, and $18,000 per inmate in state correctional facilities. That’s a warped statistic by any reasonable measure.

Deal, who deserves kudos for leadership on a problem that should have been corrected (so to speak) years ago, signed the bill in a ceremony in Hall County. It’s one of several local governments — Muscogee is another — that have established drug courts as less expensive and more productive alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders. But the governor had strong support from the other two branches of government as well: Lawmakers supported the bill overwhelmingly, and state Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol Hunstein led the charge for the judiciary.

The other bill is the product of more than seven years of work by the Supreme Court’s Jury Composition Committee and its chairman, Justice Hugh Thompson. It represents the first major reform of the jury system in Georgia in almost 50 years.

Specifically, it is a belated update of a jury selection system that relied almost exclusively — and “exclusive” would be the operative word here — on voter registration lists. That’s obviously an inadequate and incomplete cross-section of a society, especially as Georgia has grown increasingly diverse, and it’s doubly absurd in the era of digital information collection.

As a result of the Jury Reform Act of 2011 (PDF), counties seeking to assemble jury pools will now have access to data banks such as driver’s licenses and records, birth and death certificates and other official lists of names in the public domain.


IL - 7th Circuit addresses sex offender registration law

Original Article

05/03/2011

By Michael W. Hoskins

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has joined a majority of other circuits nationwide in finding that the federal sex offender registration law is not a retroactive punishment on those who were convicted prior to 2006 and traveled after the law was enacted.

But whether or not the 7th Circuit’s ruling or any of the others remain intact is a question the Supreme Court of the United States may soon answer, since it’s granted certiorari in a case that examines whether sex offenders convicted before that 2006 law took effect can be required to follow registration requirements for any travel after the fact.

The 7th Circuit ruled today on United States v. Donald Leach, No. 10-1786, from the Northern District of Indiana. The three-judge appellate panel affirmed a ruling by U.S. Judge Robert Miller that involves a convicted sex offender who moved out of state in 2008.

Convicted on a Class C child molestation felony in 1990, Donald Leach was released from prison in 1994, but he failed to register under Indiana’s first registration law which was in effect at the time. He returned to prison on an unrelated theft conviction and was released in 2004, and he signed a form requiring him to register if he left the state. He notified the Wabash County sheriff’s office twice as he was required to do at the time, but in late 2008 he failed to update his registration in Indiana or South Carolina where he relocated.

Congress passed the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) in 2006 and the U.S. attorney general put rules in place in mid-2008 requiring offenders to register if they moved out of state. Leach eventually reported his move in early 2009 to Indiana’s child support enforcement office, but he didn’t register in South Carolina and was later arrested under SORNA for failure to register. He pleaded guilty and received a 27-month imprisonment sentence and three years of supervised release, but preserved his right to appeal. Judge Miller upheld his conviction and sentence, and Leach appealed that ruling on grounds that his registration under SORNA was an ex post facto violation of his constitutional rights.

The 7th Circuit affirmed that lower court decision in an eight-page opinion, basing its ruling in large part on the SCOTUS decision from June 2010 in another Indiana sex offender case – Carr v. United States, 130 S. Ct. 2229, 2240 (2010). The justices in that case held that offenders who travel between states and don’t register under SORNA after the law’s effective date can be prosecuted, but applying the law to any pre-SORNA travel is unconstitutional. In this case, Leach’s move came in 2008.

But what the SCOTUS didn’t answer in that case and remains unresolved is whether SORNA overall is an ex post facto violation if it’s applied to any convictions prior to 2006. Most circuits have ruled that it is not, and the 7th Circuit now joins them.

Using its own caselaw to determine that this statute isn’t retrospective and penal in nature, the 7th Circuit found Leach didn’t satisfy that two-prong requirement. The 7th Circuit also noted that Leach’s citation of Wallace v. State (PDF), 905 N.E. 2d 371 (Ind. 2009), doesn’t apply here because the question isn’t whether Indiana has adopted a compliant registration system or whether that state’s law complies with SORNA.

We recognize that SORNA imposes significant burdens on sex offenders who, like Leach, may have committed their crimes and completed their prison terms long before the statute went into effect,” Judge Diane Wood wrote for the panel, outlining all the ways offenders must notify authorities under this statute. “But that does not make them retrospective: SORNA merely creates new, prospective legal obligations based on the person’s prior history.”

The nation’s highest court might soon rule on that very issue, after granting certiorari in January a case out of the 3rd Circuit that follows the rationale cited in this newest ruling by the 7th Circuit and others. The case is Billy Joe Reynolds v. United States (PDF), 10-6549, and it raises a number of questions about the SORNA, including whether the law violates the ex post facto clause of the Constitution, the Commerce Clause or due process rights. Whether that question is addressed remains to be seen, and merit briefs are due later this year on that case.


OH - It’s All in the Telling

Original Article

05/06/2011

By ARIEL KAMINER

My husband is a registered sex offender. His sex crime was more than two decades ago and involved an adult woman. He is not a pedophile, and he is not on parole or probation. When people find out, however, we are often harshly condemned. If our children have play dates in our home, I believe we should tell the parents about my husband’s past.

I feel that they should learn from us, and not from the Internet or gossipy neighbors. He disagrees. NAME WITHHELD, OHIO


On first read I thought you were arguing for your obligation to disclose, as a way to protect innocent children. But you’re arguing for your right to disclose, as a way to protect your husband. In a sense, you are proposing to ruin his reputation in order to save his reputation, an unusual approach.

What’s troubling, from an ethical standpoint, is the extent to which you have set these two goals — protecting children and protecting your husband — against each other.

Saving your husband’s reputation is a legitimate concern; he committed a terrible act, but he satisfied his debt to society. According to our legal system, he is allowed to re-enter society without ringing a bell to warn of his advance.

Given that his crime did not endanger children, I wonder why you propose to mount his defense from the beachhead of your own children’s play dates.

I wonder this in particular because as vulnerable as your husband, or by extension you, might feel to the punishing effects of gossip, surely your children are more vulnerable. They stand to suffer all the social and economic effects of his ostracism, but to do so while still learning how to make their way in the world. And unlike your husband, who committed the crime, or you, who stood by him, they had no role in creating the situation in which they now find themselves. For that reason, let your decision be guided by what’s best for them, not for him.

That’s the ethical issue. Beyond that, it’s just tactics. It’s impossible to predict whether the parents of your children’s friends will react better to the news if it is delivered personally or discovered accidentally. You may persuade your husband that disclosure is in his interest, but if so, proceed carefully. Once that news gets out, there’s no retracting it, and there’s no removing its effect from your children’s reputation.