Wednesday, January 16, 2013

OK - Sex offender law changes may be coming

Original Article

01/15/2013

By Joleen Chaney

OKLAHOMA CITY – A stunning change involving sex offender laws could be making its way to Oklahoma.

I think it can open up an opportunity but being in prison around other sex offenders, if they want to reoffend, they’re going to find a way,” sex offender [name withheld] said. “If a person want [sic] to do something, they’re going to find it, if it’s the daycare down the street or church or a kid walking home from school.”
- But the issue is, most ex-sex offenders do not re-offend, that is a fact.

[name withheld] is a registered sex offender.

It is labeled on his driver’s license, on his criminal record and on every aspect of his life.

It was statutory sex with a minor,” [name withheld] said.

He claims he did not know the girl was underage but a judge decided otherwise.

[name withheld] went to prison and as a stipulation of his eight-year probation, he was told to stay off the computer.

No social media at all. No Facebook, MySpace at the time,” he said. “Actually I wasn’t allowed to use any internet access while I was on probation.”

However, a new California law could eventually ease the rules for some Oklahoma sex offenders.

It allows them to go online but requires them to disclose their internet activities and identities.

An Okla. attorney said California’s new law won’t fly.

The California law that was approved by 81 percent of the voters is unconstitutional,” attorney David Slane said. “You cannot require people to disclose who they are before they are able to talk on the internet.”

Slane said you can’t take away a person’s First Amendment rights, even online.

But he said he believes other states are going to do the same thing.

Slane said he is ready to fight the law if and when it gets to Okla.

As for [name withheld] who is fighting to get his name off the sex offender registry, he said he believes the law may be fitting for predators who use the internet to prey on victims, he agrees with the fight against it.


PA - Phillipsburg abolishes pedophile-free zone

Original Article

We are so sick and tired of people inserting "pedophile" into their news articles. A majority of ex-sex offenders are not pedophiles, by definition or diagnosis by an expert.

01/15/2013

By Douglas B. Brill

Phillipsburg Town Council tonight eliminated a law that restricted where sex offenders could live.

Phillipsburg enacted the pedophile-free zone amid a flurry of municipalities approving similar laws that often made almost entire communities inaccessible to sex offenders.

But Phillipsburg wasn’t enforcing the law because state courts found it unconstitutional, Mayor Harry Wyant Jr. said after the council voted unanimously to abolish it.

Everyone felt we should have the control to do that, but we don’t,” Wyant said tonight.

Phillipsburg’s law barred convicted sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school or 2,500 feet of parks, playgrounds and recreation centers.

But about a week after it passed in 2005, a similar law was challenged in Cape May County. A former teacher who spent a year in prison for having sex with a 16-year-old female student wanted to move with his wife and kids to Lower Township and claimed a pedophile-free zone put 90 percent of the township off-limits to him.

A state judge ultimately tossed out Lower Township’s ban.

At least 10 communities in Warren and Hunterdon counties were among at least 80 in New Jersey with pedophile-free zones on the books as of 2007. But many of them said after the Cape May County ruling that the zones wouldn’t be enforced.

More recently, the state legislature took up a bill that would make smaller pedophile-free zones.

At least 12 Pennsylvania communities including Upper Mount Bethel Township adopted pedophile-free zones, but police rarely report that they’re being enforced.

Easton Councilman Ken Brown abandoned a 2008 proposal that would have made most of the city off limits to sex offenders. He said at the time that he wanted to protect children but realized the law couldn’t punish someone legitimately trying to re-enter society.


IA - Ordinance tightening restrictions on Cedar Rapids landlords moves ahead

Original Article

01/16/2013

By Rick Smith

Landlords here are getting closer to being required to conduct mandatory criminal background checks of their prospective tenants.

A special City Council committee on Tuesday said they supported an amendment to the city’s rental housing ordinance that would make the background checks mandatory and would position the Police Department to provide landlords with a comprehensive tenant criminal-background check for an estimated fee of $6 for each check.

The full City Council is slated to take up the matter in February, said the committee members — Monica Vernon, Pat Shey and Justin Shields.

Many landlords now check a potential tenant’s criminal background in Iowa for free via the Iowa Courts Online service. Civil cases in Iowa in which a person has been involved also appear using Iowa Courts Online.

However, Vernon said that the new city requirement for a criminal-background check of tenants is likely to require a landlord to do more than a check of Iowa Courts Online.

I think the bar will be higher than that,” Vernon said after Tuesday’s meeting.

Some landlords, she added, already use a background-checking service for a cost that provides criminal data from more than 30 states.

Police Capt. Steve O’Konek said the Cedar Rapids Police Department’s criminal checks would consist of a check of data from all 50 states, as well information on outstanding arrest warrants and from sex-offender and terrorist watch lists. Each check would be completed within 24 to 48 hours of the request, O’Konek added.

Such checks can only be so comprehensive because O’Konek said that some jurisdictions across the country do not make their criminal data available for checking, one of which is Chicago and Cook County, Ill., where Chicago is located.

A lack of information easily available from Chicago is of note because Cedar Rapids has become an attractive spot in recent years for new residents and visitors from the Chicago area.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Shey and Vernon both suggested that a landlord would be able to require that a prospective tenant obtain his or her own criminal background check from Chicago authorities before a Cedar Rapids landlord had to rent to them because of the lack of availability of such information through the Cedar Rapids Police Department.

The City Hall attempt to toughen the city’s rental housing code is designed to improve housing and neighborhoods and make the city less friendly to criminals, city officials have said.

An earlier city attempt failed when landlords objected to certain provisions and succeeded in court in 2011 in getting them set aside.

City officials on Tuesday made it clear that requiring background checks does not mean that a landlord can’t rent to a tenant who has had prior criminal problems. Landlords should be allowed to give tenants second chances, Vernon said.

However, landlords who don’t conduct background checks or who rent to criminals and then are found to have nuisance properties might have their ability to rent properties in Cedar Rapids taken away, the committee members said.


CANADA - Sex Offender Support Circles Having Positive Impact in Alberta

Original Article

01/15/2013

By Justina Reichel

Majority of those supported by CoSA groups have not re-offended

Although it has been operating in Edmonton for less than two years, a program to help stop released sex offenders from re-offending in their communities is experiencing remarkable success.

Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) is composed of community volunteers who provide a “circle” of support for sex offenders released from jail to help integrate them back into the community while holding them accountable.

The main goal of CoSA, whose mantra is “No More Victims,” is to reduce the risk of future sex crimes by assisting and supporting released offenders who are often shunned by their friends, families, and communities out of fear.

Susan Logan, executive director of the Edmonton-based Mediation and Restorative Justice Centre, was the main driving force in bringing the program back to Edmonton, where it had previously failed due to a critical lack of funding.

CoSA has clearly demonstrated through its history that, given support, people can live without re-offending, not only sexually but in other crime areas,” Logan told The Epoch Times.

By creating that pseudo-community, providing those supports to the person, it gives them that opportunity. Otherwise, if they’re just stigmatized and isolated it’s very difficult for them to make the changes they need to make to be able to live crime-free in communities.”

Logan says she has seen a fundamental change in the individuals who have been involved with various CoSAs in Alberta.

In the majority of groups that CoSA has done, people have not re-offended sexually. They may have done other things, but they have not re-offended sexually,” she says.

CoSA has clearly demonstrated through its history that, given support, people can live without re-offending.
— Susan Logan, Mediation and Restorative Justice Centre

But even when [re-offending] happens, these are people who develop caring relationships to try to support the person as best they can, no matter what’s happening.”

The program returned to Edmonton in 2011 and has been operating in Calgary since 2002. Logan estimates at any given time there are between 10-15 circles working with offenders in Alberta.

Logan notes the Alberta program is particularly crucial because of central Alberta’s Bowden Institution. Bowden is a main prison centre for sex offenders on the Prairies, who are regularly released from the institution after serving their terms.


CT - Montville rescinds sex offender ordinances

Original Article

01/15/2013

By Izaskun E. Larrañeta

Montville - The town avoided a potential civil rights lawsuit when it rescinded two ordinances Monday that placed restrictions on where registered sex offenders would be allowed in town.

The Town Council voted to repeal the ordinances that created so-called child and senior safety zones. Marked by signs, these zones were designed to keep registered sex offenders from town-owned and town-leased property such as the senior center, senior buses, parks, playgrounds, beaches and sports fields.

Since the ordinance was introduced, Councilors Rosetta Jones and Dana McFee have voiced their concerns that the town was setting itself up for a lawsuit.

"The ordinance itself was not really enforceable," Jones said. "It was one of those ordinances that looks good on face value, but it really didn't do anything."

Both ordinances have drawn criticism from the state American Civil Liberties Union, which argued that the restrictions violate basic rights. The ACLU also took exception with the town's belief that seniors are targets of sex crimes.

Andrew Schneider, executive director of the ACLU, said he was pleased that the town decided to do the right thing. He said if a plaintiff had approached the ACLU for representation, they would have seriously considered taking on the case.

He said the law was "unnecessary, impractical and created a false illusion of safety." He said the ordinances are aimed at people who have already paid their debt to society. "It's a law that's directed at some imaginary problem, and it amounts to the unconstitutional punishment of banishment."

Jones led a successful petition drive in December and collected 537 signatures to bring the issue of the senior safety zone before the council either at a special town meeting or for its inclusion on the Town Council agenda.

Jones said she is not an advocate for sex offenders but is trying to prevent the town from entering a costly legal battle.

"We have to uphold the Constitution, or we can get into trouble," said Jones.
- If that were true, then you'd not have any sex offender laws, because they are unconstitutional on various grounds.

The ordinances would have allowed the town to issue a $99 fine to a sex offender found in either type of safety zone. A police officer would determine the person to be a sex offender by asking for a name, address and phone number.

McFee said the civil ordinances were "totally worthless" because, unlike a criminal violation, a civil one has no enforceable penalty.

He said it is impossible to identify sex offenders unless they have those words tattooed on their forehead. He also said the "feel-good" ordinance gave seniors a false sense of safety.

"Win, lose or draw — this sets us up for a federal lawsuit, which is going to be costly," McFee said. "We're already paying for enough lawsuits."

Chairperson Candy Buebendorf and Vice Chairperson Bill Caron could not be reached for comment.

After the vote Monday evening, Councilor Gary Murphy tendered his resignation for personal reasons.

Murphy also could not be reached for comment. Former Mayor Joseph Jaskiewicz was selected to take his place on the council.

The safety zones first were proposed as the town fought the state's plan to open a residential sex-offender treatment facility on the grounds of the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center. The 24-bed January Center opened in February.

Jones said since the treatment facility opened, there have been no reported incidents.

Former state Sen. Edith Prague of Columbia had supported the ordinance for seniors and wanted to see it become a statewide mandate.

Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, who replaced Prague, said she is still looking at the matter and has spoken to the chairman of the legislature's Aging Committee.

See Also:


FL - Innocence Projects seeks the wrongly convicted


Original Article

01/14/2013

By Chris Olwell

PANAMA CITY BEACH - Now in its tenth year, the Innocence Project of Florida gets 800 requests annually from prisoners hoping the renowned truth seekers will take up their cases and prove their innocence, a representative Monday told the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

With a staff of seven and an annual operating budget of $600,000, the Innocence Project takes a closer look at only a small percentage of those cases, said development coordinator Jackie Pugh. But the Innocence Project has seen the release of 13 men incarcerated for crimes that DNA test conclusively prove they didn’t commit.

It’s a noble task, and I’d like to tell you that I’m going to work myself out of a job, but I don’t think that I am,” Pugh said.

The Innocence Project’s goals are three-pronged: locate and free wrongfully convicted people through DNA evidence, help the exonerated re-enter society and prevent wrongful convictions in the future. In 2010, the Legislature providing funding for the Florida Innocence Commission, a group of attorneys, judges, lawmakers and academics, to study how wrongful convictions occur and make recommendations for preventing them.

Last year, the commission identified bad witnesses and bad confessions as causes, and recommended several steps police and prosecutors could take to decrease the possibility of putting the wrong people behind bars.

Many of the 13 men freed by the Innocence Project were implicated when witnesses identified them out of photo lineups, which police have been known to manipulate, Pugh said. The Innocence Commission recommended that the person administering a photo lineup be someone who not only doesn’t know who the suspect is but also doesn’t know if the suspect is in the lineup.

One man, [name withheld], was convicted after he confessed to several rapes and murders that he hadn’t actually committed. Why? Because he had the mental capacity of an 8-year-old, and people with the mental capacity of an 8-year-old have been known to tell authority figures what they think they want to hear, Pugh said.

That’s just one reason a suspect might confess to a crime he or she is innocent of, so the Innocence Commission also recommended that police record entire interrogations rather than just confessions.

Mike Stone, the president of the Greater Bay Area ACLU, told attendees that the United States has five percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of its prisoners.

We have a huge number of prisoners and we don’t know how many of them are innocent,” Stone said.

At this point, the Innocence Project only takes cases where DNA evidence is present, despite the likelihood that many more inmates were wrongfully convicted in cases where DNA evidence doesn’t exist, Pugh said.

We are looking at non-DNA cases, but right now we don’t have any in the pipeline,” Pugh said.