Tuesday, October 30, 2012
By A.J. Higgins
The state of Maine is taking steps to comply with the Adam Walsh Act, a comprehensive, nationwide sex offender registration system enacted back in 2006. The Maine Legislature has already passed a law implementing a three-tiered offender classification system to replace the existing two-tier model. The law also created a new commission to study risk assessment of sex offenders in an effort ot reduce recidivism. The panel held its first meeting today, and A.J. Higgins was there.
One mission of the nine-member Sex Offender Risk Assessment Advisory Commission is to study methods to predict the risk of recidivism for any given sex offender. As a starting point, lawmakers have directed the commission to take a good look at the expansive range of policies and standards adopted by the Colorado Sex Offender Notification Board.
"It's sex offenders A to Z in the state of Colorado," says Laura Yustak Smith, an assistant attorney general who will chair the Maine commission. The commission is looking at how the Colorado board makes policy on registration, as well as on treatment and supervision of sex offenders.
The new commission will assess whether a Colorado-style model could work in Maine - and Yustak Smith says there's not a lot of time to complete the work.
"We have a deadline of January 5th to report back to the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee to provide them with a summary of how Colorado's Sex Offender Management Board functions," Yustak Smith says.
"I think Colorado has been ahead of the curve a bit," says Rep. Anne Haskell, a Portland Democrat and a member of the Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.
Haskell sponsored the bill that created the Sex Offender Risk Assessment Commission and a new three-tier classification system for offenders that will become effective in January.
Under the existing system, offenders were classified as either 10-year registrants, or lifetime registrations. The new system adds a third option - a 25-year registrant. There are also categories based on the severity of the offense, which Haskell says is designed to bring Maine more into line with the federal Adam Walsh Act that set standards for monitoring sex offenders.
Haskell says her original bill lacked an adequate risk assessment component. "The original bill itself created within it a ranking based on the risk of reoffense," Haskell says. "As the committee began to look at that risk of reoffense, it became clear that there were not long-term studies on risk status in order to know whether or not they were going to be effective."
Elizabeth Ward Saxl, executive director of the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, is also a member of the Sex Offender Risk Assessment Advisory Commission. She represents Maine's sexual assault support centers and hopes the commission can help answer a question she's posed to legislators for the last 10 years.
"How do we think comprehensively about risk assessment as part of how we manage sex offenders in our communities?" Ward Saxl says. "And it's a complex issue."
As of July, the U.S. Justice Department reported only 15 states had substantially implemented the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act requirements of the federal Adam Walsh Act.
Hardly a week goes by without someone making the news for committing a sex crime.
Many times it's a crime against a child.
While law enforcement officers are working hard to catch sex offenders, what happens after the crime has been committed?
NewsWest 9 has reported on a number of sex crimes against children and it's always alarming, particularly when the person accused is in a position of authority and trust, a police officer, military recruiter or a teacher.
- See the many police and other videos about sex crimes by these people in authority, which you don't hear much about, and also see this blog post.
But once a sex offender has been caught and convicted, what happens next? Are there safeguards in place to protect families and to keep it from happening again?
- Well, when the majority of sex crimes are by someone the victim knows, the only way to potentially stop this is to remove all kids from their parents or care givers.
It's an important question because as the population continues to grow in the Permian Basin, so does the number of sex offenders who live here.
In fact, the Texas Department of Public Safety's Sex Offender Registry, a website by the way that anyone can access, shows that there are about 650 registered offenders in Ector and Midland counties combined.
On the website, you'll find more than just a name, an age and a picture.
It also includes details about the crime, the level of risk the offender may pose to the community, where they work and where they live.
- Yeah, a pretty little phone book vigilantes can use to track down and harass or do harm to ex-offenders and/or their families.
We also discovered that there are very few restrictions on where a registered sex offender may be employed.
In some cases, they could be working at jobs that bring them right into your home.
When the Halloween hysteria laws affect all who are on probation or parole, for the most part, and not just those who have harmed children, why does the media and other organizations insist on inserting "child," or "pedophile," or "child molester" into the news article title or body? It's misleading the public into thinking all sex offenders are child molesting, pedophile predators who are out looking for kids to molest and kill. STOP IT!!!!!!
We are going to start capturing these, when we can, and placing them into the following folder on SkyDrive.
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By Adam Freedman
Today’s topic: Halloween and the Law: tricks, treats--and due process.
And now, your daily dose of legalese: This article does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader. In other words, although I am a lawyer, I’m not your lawyer. In fact, we barely know each other. If you need personalized legal advice, contact an attorney in your community.
What are “Halloween Laws”?
Did you know that there are special laws that apply only on Halloween night? That may sound scary, but such laws are actually designed to make parents feel safer by restricting the activities of convicted sex offenders on Halloween. These laws are increasingly popular, but--as I’ll explain in a minute--they have been facing a number of legal challenges in state and federal courts.
Halloween Laws Apply to Sex Offenders
Over the past few years, a number of states--including Missouri, Illinois, Maryland, and Louisiana--have enacted so-called Halloween Laws. When I first heard the term “Halloween Law,” I thought that somebody had finally passed the kind of legislation I longed for as a kid: like, say, a law requiring grown-ups to hand out real candy on Halloween, rather than raisins, apples, or other “healthy” snacks. But no, these laws have a much more serious purpose: to keep trick-or-treaters away from potential sexual predators.
What Do Halloween Laws Say?
The typical Halloween Law requires convicted sex offenders to stay in their house on Halloween night, and prohibits them from answering the door to trick or treaters. In some states, sex offenders are also required to post a sign on their door saying “No Candy at this Residence,” or words to that effect. In Maryland, state officials created a stir when the signs that they distributed to sex offenders were pumpkin-shaped and bright orange. These unintentionally jaunty signs quickly became fodder for late-night comics, including a skit on Saturday Night Live.
Are Halloween Laws Unconstitutional?
UNIVERSITY PARK - Despite the rain, Penn State’s first national conference on the topic of child sexual abuse kicked off today (Oct. 29) to a sold-out crowd. The two-day “Child Sexual Abuse Conference: Traumatic Impact, Prevention and Intervention” is being held at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel on the University Park campus.
For the conference, Penn State convened some of the nation’s top experts in child sexual abuse and child trauma research, prevention and treatment for a public forum on this nationwide problem.
Doris MacKenzie, director of the Justice Center for Research at Penn State, and one of the organizers of the conference, opened the conference by introducing Penn State President Rodney Erickson, who spoke about the how the conference, and several other University initiatives to address the problem of child sexual abuse, came to be.
“The origins for this conference go back to one year ago, in the weeks following the release of the Jerry Sandusky grand jury presentment,” said Erickson. “During that time, our thoughts and hearts went out to the victims of these horrific crimes, and as a community we resolved to move forward by using all that is right about Penn State to tackle what is an insidious, hidden and epidemic issue."
“The statistics about child sexual abuse are frighteningly high – one in four girls and one in six boys abused before the age of 18. In 80 percent of the cases the abuse is perpetrated by a family member or trusted friend,” he added. “It deeply saddens and disturbs me to think of these children -- most of whom never tell anyone, even when asked. But that may be starting to change.”
“Child abuse is a tragedy for children, for families and for society, and the time to step up the effort to stop it is now. For our part at Penn State, we believe we can contribute to this effort by doing what we do best; that is teaching, research and service. This conference is one of our many initiatives to serve that end.”
The first presenter of the day was David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes against Children Research Center, co-director of the Family Research Laboratory, professor of sociology, and university professor at the University of New Hampshire. He has been studying the problems of child victimization, child maltreatment, and family violence since 1977 and is considered the foremost expert on childhood victimization, with a special emphasis on childhood sexual abuse. Finkelhor’s presentation is available on WPSU’s YouTube channel.
When looking at sex crimes, recidivism should be defined as committing another sex crime, not just any crime or technical violation, then the recidivism rate would be even lower.
By Laura Smith
GREEN BAY - Prisoners at Green Bay Correctional Institution are learning about financial literacy.
Education is a big part of the state corrections department's re-entry program at GBCI.
Deputy Warden Sarah Cooper says the program is designed to help inmates cope with life after prison.
"There's a lot of different things that we try to teach, and meet core competencies, so that when they do go back to society, they have some skills to succeed," said Cooper.
Cooper added if an inmate can succeed on the streets without going back to a life of crime, everybody wins.
"There's less victims, there's less incarceration, it costs less money and we want the inmates to go out into the community and succeed," said Cooper.
Circles of Support, a Goodwill Industries program, has a similar mission aimed at reducing repeat crimes, also known as recidivism.
Through group meetings and individual sessions, "Circles" helps recently released prisoners transition from incarceration to the community.
"They may come out without a state ID where they can't get a job, they can't do anything without that. So we'll drive them to the DMV and get that taken care of, and we'll just meet them where they're at," said regional director Anne Strauch.
Strauch said statistics show the program, which is funded in part by the Department of Corrections, is on the right track.
"Right now, I just figured out the statistics for 3/4 of the year and we're at 98.5%. So 1.5% have been revoked and back into prison, which is pretty good," Strauch said.
Are the various re-entry efforts in Wisconsin working? According to a new Department of Corrections report , the answer is yes. It shows the rate at which prisoners are committing new crimes after their release from prison is on a downward trend.
"As long as that rate keeps coming down, I think that's a positive sign for safety in Wisconsin," said Department of Corrections secretary Gary Hamblin.
The report tracked nearly the recidivism rates of 125 thousand offenders over a period of 20 years. It looked at people released from prison who re-offend within a three year period.
Recidivism is defined in the study as a new offense resulting in a conviction and sentence to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.
- Like said above, for sex offenders, recidivism should be the commission of another sex crime.
Analyzing follow-up periods of one, two, and three years, the report shows the three-year follow-up recidivism rate decreased by 28.5% from 1993 to 2007.
See the video at the link above. The video below is not from this article, but about this attorney's law firm.
By Jon Humbert
SEATTLE - In some cases, it's "a list for life." The sex offender registry forces convicted criminals to stay in the spotlight.
Not everyone wants to stay there.
"Those two words, 'sex offender,' they make me sick to my stomach," said one such former criminal.
We protected his identity so he could be candid about what he had done. He doesn't want you to forgive him or forget what he did. He just wants you to shift your perception of his crime.
"I did something wrong and I manned up to it. I admitted it in court. I took my punishment," he said.
It was nearly two decades ago, when he was 18-years old. Half his lifetime ago. He says that night he was "drunk beyond anything I've ever been almost to the point of falling down."
He was drunk and out of control with a female friend.
"Kind of in and out of consciousness, not really able to function, and I took advantage of her," he said.
She couldn't give consent. It was a sex crime.
"I agreed. I plead guilty. I did something very wrong," he said.
In the time since, he's been registered as a sex offender, done right by the law and paid his dues. But he wants a change. He wants to get off the sex offender registry.
"Having to be subject to this public embarrassment and scrutiny for the rest of my life -- that seems a little harsh," he said.
Which is where a controversial ad comes in, placed on the back of alternative newspapers. It's from attorney Brad Meryhew.
- eAdvocate's Comments - "Here we see two prespectives, and while I can understand a victim's perspective towards the offender that harmed them, however when that perspective seeks all offenders, we need to be very careful in accepting such a viewpoint. We can never forget, how many adults in society are there that offended in their youth and were never caught? Should they fess up and join the list? Lines of reason need to be established, everyone victim and offender minds need to recognize that, so society can move to a reasonable resolution, helping some along the way."
By Mike Harris
A federal judge Monday temporarily blocked enforcement of a key provision of Simi Valley's new Halloween sex offender law but left the rest of the ordinance intact.
U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson's ruling came days before the holiday on Wednesday.
Anderson temporarily blocked the city from requiring its several dozen convicted child sex offenders listed on the Megan's Law website to post signs on their front doors on Halloween saying: "No candy or treats at this residence."
But Anderson let stand requirements that the offenders refrain from opening their doors to trick-or-treating children and decorating the outside of their homes or front lawns with Halloween ornaments. The convicts also must turn off outdoor lighting on their properties from 5 p.m. to midnight Wednesday.
Attorney Janice Bellucci (Unrelated Video), who last month filed a lawsuit saying the law was unconstitutional, said she was pleased with the ruling even though she had sought to have enforcement of the entire ordinance temporarily blocked pending the outcome of the lawsuit.
Simi Valley City Attorney Marjorie Baxter said the ruling was "a big victory on the majority of the ordinance."