News Articles

The sex-offender panic is destroying lives

On September 21, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

"The sex-offender panic is destroying lives

"The Washington Post - By Radley Balko 09/19/17

The video below tells the story of Shawna, an Oklahoma woman who is still in mandatory treatment because 15 years ago, when she was 19, she had sex with a boy who was 14. Over at the Marshall Project, David Feige has more about the unlikely people swept up in the sex-offender panic for offenses most of us wouldn’t associate with a typical sexual predator. Take the case of Adrian:

Adrian was a junior at North Dakota State majoring in business management, when he travelled to Miami for spring break. There, he met a girl at an 18-and-over club. They flirted and danced, then walked to the beach where they had sex. They spent about five days together, hanging out on and off and occasionally hooking up.

Adrian returned to college after the trip and all seemed well, until seven months later when he got a call from a detective with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. As it turns out, the girl had used a fake ID to get into the club. She was actually 15 years old at the time. Her mom filed a complaint when she found out what had happened.

Asked to return to Miami to answer some questions, Adrian took a bus back to Florida. He explained to the detective that everything was consensual, and that he’d assumed the girl must have been 18 or older since she was in the club. Officers recorded his statement, thanked him for his co-operation, handcuffed him and placed him under arrest. Unable to post the $40,000 bond set by a judge, Adrian remained in jail for nearly eight months. It was the first and only time he’d ever been arrested.

In Florida, as in most other states, the fact that the girl was a willing participant was not a defense. Having admitted to the affair and facing some twenty years in prison, Adrian had no choice but to plead guilty to four counts of lewd and lascivious battery of a person under 16. That guilty plea guaranteed he’d spend the rest of his life listed on Florida’s sex offender registry . . .

Five years after his guilty plea, Adrian had been rejected from more jobs than he could count. Unable to find housing that complied with a Miami ordinance that prevents registrants from living within 2,500 feet of any public or private school, daycare center or playground, Adrian was forced into homelessness. He slept in a car parked in a lot — one of the few places sex offenders are actually allowed to reside. His college career was over, as was any hope he ever harbored of having a productive life. Then, two years ago, almost a decade after his conviction, Adrian failed to properly register his whereabouts with the police. As a result, he was sentenced to three years in prison.

Yes, we should discourage 19-year-olds from having sex with 14-year-olds, and 21-year-olds from having sex with 15-year-olds. But these people aren’t predators. They aren’t pedophiles. They showed poor judgment and had non-coercive sex with partners who were physically mature. (Yes, the law says any sex with a minor is de facto coercive.) Perhaps we should punish them, but we shouldn’t seek to utterly destroy them. And in Adrian’s case, the lack of intent makes what happened to him all the more unjust. It’s all the worse when you consider how little evidence there is that these laws do anything to protect society from actual predators.

Meanwhile, the Washington state Supreme Court has just upheld a state law allowing prosecutors to charge minors who send nude photos of themselves to other people …. as child pornographers. If convicted, that means mandatory prison time and a lifetime on the sex-offender list.

Tenth Circuit splits in holding revocation enhancements for SOs unconstitutional

On September 10, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

"Tenth Circuit splits in holding revocation enhancements for SOs unconstitutional

"By Robin September 5, 2017

By Robin . . . Splitting two-to-one in a case out of Oklahoma, a panel of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that 18. U.S.C. 3583 (k) violates the 5th and 6th Amendments by requiring a revocation judge to impose a longer sentence for the original conviction based on the facts presented for purposes of revocation (and upon which revocation relied). This peculiar enhancement only applied to individuals who were originally convicted of a sexually-based offense and subsequently revoked while serving time on probation.

The italicized language is what the Court struck from 3583 (k): If a defendant required to register under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act commits any criminal offense under chapter 109A, 110, or 117, or section 1201 or 1591, for which imprisonment for a term longer than 1 year can be imposed, the court shall revoke the term of supervised release and require the defendant to serve a term of imprisonment under subsection (e)(3) without regard to the exception contained therein. Such term shall be not less than 5 years. 18 U.S.C. § 3583(k) (emphasis added). The italicized language violates the Constitution by increasing the term of imprisonment authorized by statute based on facts found by a judge, not by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt, and by tying the available punishment to subsequent conduct, rather than the original crime of conviction. U.S. v. Haymond, No. 16-5156 (10th Cir. 2017) at 25. For additional analysis by the Court, please visit Sentencing Law and Policy.

Reasonable shelter denied to registrants facing horrific storms

On September 10, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

"Reasonable shelter denied to registrants facing horrific storms

"By Sandy September 6, 2017

By Sandy . . . With hurricane season upon us, and some especially dangerous ones already sweeping through Texas, Louisiana, and now Florida, we are beginning to hear of bad situations and civil rights violations..

From Texas, the reports are fairly consistent that registrant evacuees on parole or probation were required to report to police or sheriff headquarters and be sheltered in jails.

Derek Logue, in his “Riders of the Storm” essay wrote that, in Texas, “ KXAN of Austin, TX reported a screening process was in place to weed out registered persons, adding they would be placed in ‘appropriate shelters’ without elaborating further.”

This report, edited some for length, was received just today by the director of Texas Voices and was forwarded to NARSOL.

[This is] to inform you what the TDCJ parole division did to some of us in the (City name redacted) area. On Friday, Aug 25 at 1:30 a.m. I received a call that I was required to report to the parole office at 8:00 a.m. to board a bus to be evacuated. I informed them I would have to leave my 90-year-old mother alone to do that. They told me if I didn’t report a blue warrant would be issued for my arrest. With less than 24 hours before the storm hit they put us on a bus to the Ben Reed Transition center in Houston. The local parole officers could offer no explanations or reasons for the decision to evacuate us from our city to a place that was predicted to be in the direct path of the storm and receive record-breaking rainfall…the facility began to flood Friday night and Saturday night. By Sunday night we had to evacuate the building and wade through knee deep, diesel oil and sewage polluted water to another building at 3am. By 9 am that building we moved to was flooding and we moved to an upstairs hallway where we spent 2 days sitting in a hallway with no place to lie down or sleep, no staff supervision, and no food…Finally after several calls to Austin TDC (both the parole and institutional division) some TDCJ personnel showed up Tuesday afternoon. We were served a half of an egg sandwich and told we were going to be moved to 2 different TDCJ prison units. That included the 38 of us evacuated from our city area as well as the 500 residents of Ben Reed. …[W]e boarded a bus which left Houston at midnight. By 8:30 am we were checked into the Holiday unit and given a mat on the gym floor. We were lied to every step of the way by everyone involved. We were told that we would stay in our street clothes and get to take our hygiene items into Holiday, but that turned out to be incorrect. We were stripped out, dressed in prison whites, and our property was taken as we were re-incarcerated without the right of due process. The 38 of us were finally sent back to our city on Thursday afternoon. I [want] to make sure that TDCJ looks at where they fell short in this situation… I am mostly curious as to what right TDCJ parole division had to put us back in prison without due process! This is just a brief overview of what went on, and I know that we were more fortunate than a vast number of people who suffered catastrophic losses due to the storm. I in no way mean to diminish their loss. In “Riders of the Storm,” Derek Logue also writes, “KSLA reported shelters open in Louisiana were also going to screen for ‘sex offenders.’ ” Other sources in Louisiana have sent this: Louisiana Law: RS 29.726 E (14) 9c (i) requires that registered sex offenders that seek public sheltering must be housed separate and apart from the general population. The state’s plan is to have a “unique population” shelter at a state prison in northern Louisiana, with capacity for 120—in a state with over 12,000 registrants! That means separation of families. Single parents will be directed to give custody to other family members, or the state will take custody. “This includes … ensuring that sheltering needs are met for special needs persons (… children separated from single parents designated as registered sex offenders, etc). [LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES ESF-6 EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT OPERATIONS PLAN] Apparently, registrants who have special medical needs will not be allowed in the medical shelters. None of the plans address this possibility. .

It is a huge issue that registered citizens are expected to abandon their family (most significantly, their children) just to go to these “special” shelters.

In Florida, a posting on the Polk County Sheriff’s Twitter page says, “If you go to a shelter for #Irma, be advised: sworn LEOs will be at every shelter, checking IDs. Sex offenders/predators will not be allowed.” To the credit of many of the respondents to the Tweet, criticism about Sheriff Grady Judd’s posting was heavy.

Illinois columnist butchers Gospel, panders to baseless fear – August 26, 2017 – By Sandy

On August 27, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

"Illinois columnist butchers Gospel, panders to baseless fear

"By Sandy: NARSOLAugust 26, 2017

By Sandy . . . The editorial “We all must provide protection from sex offenders” (Daily Journal, 8/26/17) contains many of the elements commonly found in much media coverage on sexual offense issues.

It opens with the expected fear-mongering: “The mere mention of a child sex offender can conjure up uncontrollable emotions. The reality of a child sex offender frequenting your neighborhood sometimes warrants a drastic response.”

It includes the obligatory – and insulting – comment that suggests the victim in such a case is forever destroyed: “The offender gets his or her life back. The victim never does.” This ploy is something that legitimate victim advocates scorn; the appropriate focus is on recovery, not being a perpetual victim.

It throws in a little name-calling and denigration: “ Why can’t this creep be moved to another neighborhood?”

It even brings up scripture, totally misapplying the words spoken by Christ. “The Good Book says we should tie a heavy stone around the child sex offender’s neck and drop him in the deepest part of the sea, but we are selective when it comes to the Good Book.” Incidentally, a look at the actions of Christ show that some of His greatest love and mercies were shown to those guilty of sexual sins. His greatest condemnations, conversely, were reserved for those who were so quick to condemn others and failed to see their own, much greater sins.

What it does not do is what its title implies must be done – help protect children.

Policies that make homeless outcasts of those on the registry are shown to decrease public safety, not improve it.

Focusing on an undesirable stranger, a man who is on the sex offender registry living in the woods 21 years after a conviction, is misdirection and obfuscation that is worse than saying nothing.

He called it a “quality-of-life” measure.

Keeping children safe is a parent’s chief concern, but hyped-up fear mongering that totally ignores the vast body of research done on the subject for the past 15 plus years does no service to anyone. It does communities no service because it does not contribute to public safety. It does former offenders no service because it invalidates and often makes impossible everything needed for stability and rehabilitation. And most of all, it does children no service because the overwhelmingly greater risk for harm to them comes not from those on the registry for a previous sexual offense but from those close to them in their lives who are not on the registry, specifically their family members, their peers, and their authority figures.

This is an emotional issue, but laws must not be driven by emotions; they must be driven by empirical evidence if they are to be effective. No empirical evidence exists that supports “child-safe zones,” public registration/notification, or fear-mongering, hate-driven editorials as valid approaches to improving public safety or reducing child sexual abuse.

https://narsol.org/2017/08/illinois-columnist-butchers-gospel-panders-to-baseless-fear/

As some states reconsider sex-offender registries, an Alabama resident argues the state’s for-life requirements are too much

On August 22, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

As some states reconsider sex-offender registries, an Alabama resident argues the state’s for-life requirements are too much

"By Cameron Kiszla/ July 15, 2017

A lawsuit before a federal appeals court may have broad implications for Alabama’s sex offender laws, which some critics claim are the harshest in the United States.

Montgomery resident Michael McGuire is suing the state of Alabama for relief from the residency restrictions, travel limits, sex offender registration and other punishments that accompany a conviction of a sexual offense. The case is before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

McGuire was convicted of sexual assault in Colorado more than 30 years ago, before many of the modern punishments around sexual crimes were enacted into law, and his argument hinges on constitutional protections against punishments created after a crime is committed

After serving three years in prison and another on parole, he was released in 1989. He did not find himself in trouble with the law again until 2010, when he moved back to his native Montgomery to be closer to his mother and family.

Upon returning to Alabama, McGuire went to a Montgomery police station to confirm if, as a convicted felon, he was in breach of any state laws. It was at the station he learned he had to register as a sex offender. He couldn’t live with his wife, mother or brother in Montgomery, because the state required him to stay away from kids, schools and daycares. Soon he was jobless and living under a bridge, with “Criminal Sex Offender” stamped in red letters on his driver’s license. “He feels like he’s in prison again, a prison without bars,” said Phil Telfeyan, McGuire’s lawyer. “He is restricted where he can live, where he can take jobs. It’s like being a permanent prisoner.”

Alabama’s sex offender laws are among the most stringent in the nation. Home to more than 11,000 registered sex offenders, Alabama is among four states that put sex offenders on a mandatory registry for life and the only state that puts the sex offender stamp on a driver’s license.

And while there’s little sign the state’s voters want to ease up on those restrictions, policymakers in other states are beginning to question whether their registries are doing what they’re intended to do: make the public safer.

“Very few people on the registry are going to commit another offense, and it has nothing to do with the public knowing where they are,” Sandy Rozek, communications director for National Association for Rational Sex Offense Laws, an organization that supports making sex offender registries accessible only to law enforcement. Critics of registries say they’re based on a flawed perception of how often sex offenders reoffend and where they come into contact with their victims. “They’re kind of ‘feel good’ laws,” said Emily Horowitz, a professor of sociology and criminal justice at St. Francis College in New York. “We’re all deeply disturbed when harm is done, especially sexual harm, and they came out of emotionally charged, high profile instances.”

She pointed specifically to a study by Ira Mark Ellman, a professor of psychology and law at Arizona State University, and Tara Ellman, who looked at sex offender recidivism in their 2015 study “Frightening and High.” They found the most common statistic, that up to 80 percent of sex offenders reoffend, is a baseless accusation that has been repeated to the point of being held as fact, even by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The likelihood of re-offense declines for each year after release without a new sex offense, even for offenders initially considered at the highest risk to re-offend,” the Ellmans wrote in their study.

https://www.annistonstar.com/free/as-some-states-reconsider-sex-offender-registries-an-alabama-resident/article_d8f12a3c-699a-11e7-a777-d71fa6cbf90b.html

Collateral Consequences Resource Center: Big win for sex offenders in PA as registration held punishment

On August 22, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

"Collateral Consequences Resource Center: BIG WIN FOR SEX OFFENDERS IN PA AS REGISTRATION HELD PUNISHMENT

"By Aaron J. Marcus July 20, 2017

Yesterday, in Commonwealth v. Muniz, __A.3d__ (Pa., July 19, 2017) (47 MAP 2016), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held what for a long time has been obvious to many: that sex offender registration is punishment. Five Justices declared that Pennsylvania’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act’s (SORNA) “registration provisions constitute punishment under Article 1, Section 17 of the Pennsylvania Constitution — Pennsylvania’s Ex Post Facto Clause. The majority of the Court held in no uncertain terms:

1) SORNA’s registration provisions constitute punishment notwithstanding the General Assembly’s identification of the provisions as nonpunitive; 2) retroactive application of SORNA’s registration provisions violates the federal ex post facto clause; and 3) retroactive application of SORNA’s registration provisions also violates the ex post facto clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

This is a radical shift from prior Pennsylvania and federal law. Although the reasoning of the justices to get to this result is a little convoluted because several in the majority did not believe that the court even needed to address the Federal claim, the end result is clear. The decision directly affects roughly 4500 people in addition to Mr. Muniz.

Mr. Muniz was convicted in 2007 of indecent assault of a minor. 18 Pa.C.S. § 3126(a)(7). He fled at the time of sentencing and was not apprehended until 2014. During his absence, the Legislature passed SORNA, which greatly expanded the length and obligations imposed on those subject to sex offender registration. When Mr. Muniz was finally sentenced, SORNA applied and he was classified as a lifetime registrant. He challenged SORNA saying the law was punitive and cannot apply retroactively. Five Justices agreed.

Complicating the opinion slightly, for the law nerds amongst us, is how the five justices reach this single conclusion. Three Justices announced that SORNA is punitive under the Federal Constitution’s Ex Post Facto Clause. They applied the United Supreme Court’s test announced in Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez and found that although the Pennsylvania Legislature intended SORNA to be civil and non-punitive, the law imposes too many restrictions on individual liberty by making registrants report in-person, potentially hundreds of times, is too akin to historical punishments like shaming and probation, and pursues the same purposes as punishment – to punish and deter. Additionally, the court found that because SORNA imposes severe consequences on those “who in fact do not pose the type of risk to the community that the General Assembly sought to guard against” and includes “those convicted of offenses that do not specifically relate to a sexual act,” the law is excessive and over-inclusive. Thus, SORNA is “punishment” and cannot constitutionally apply retroactively.

Those same three Justices also concluded that although the same test is applied under Pennsylvania Law, Pennsylvania’s Ex Post Facto provision, the state clause is broader, and provides greater protection than the federal clause, thus ensuring that SORNA’s retroactive application independently violates state law as well.

Two Justices concurred in the result and much of the lead opinion’s reasoning, but got there in a slightly different way. Two Justices concluded that there was no reason to render a decision under the Federal Constitution and believed that the same result could be obtained under the State constitution exclusively. Although they concluded that “the United States Supreme Court’s interpretation of the federal ex post facto clause is entirely consistent with our understanding of Pennsylvania’s clause,” “nonetheless, as the lead opinion’s thorough analysis makes clear, applying the federal ex post facto standards also leads to the conclusion that SORNA is punitive and cannot be applied retroactively.” Although a little tricky, the narrowest reading appears to be that five justices agree that even if Pennsylvania law requires the application of identical tests as those applied federally, under an independent assessment of state law, the balance tips the scales in favor of punishment. Chief Justice Saylor was the lone dissenter.

The effect of the decision is to immediately alter the registration terms of thousands of registrants across Pennsylvania who saw their periods of registration increase dramatically on the date SORNA took effect. For those individuals, their periods of registration will likely revert back to the periods they were originally given at the time of their convictions. This means that hundreds if not thousands of people could suddenly find that they have completed their original registration terms and will now be removed from Pennsylvania’s registry altogether.

Finally, the Court says nothing about whether the decision has an effect on SORNA prospectively. However, if the law now says that SORNA is punishment, registrants, attorneys, and the courts will have to take a long hard look at the current statutory scheme and decide whether it can continue to be enforced in its current form, or whether certain protections typically attached to criminal sentences must now apply. This is a big win for registrants and those opposed to the misguided approaches Legislatures have taken to sexual crimes in recent years. Only time will tell how broad this ruling actually is.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Sex offender registry makes no sense

On August 22, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

" LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Sex offender registry makes no sense

" Lindsey Miller, Midland Odessa American - Posted: Sunday, March 26, 2017

I think we can all agree that sex offenses are one of the most heartbreaking crimes to take place in the world. Most people convicted of a sex offense are required to be on the sex offender registry. However, is the sex offender registry effective? Does it really protect our community? Do housing restrictions and banishing sex offenders from schools, parks, amusement parks, etc., really protect society? Are our government’s resources being adequately utilized this way?

According to multiple studies, residency laws do not protect our children or the society. In fact, research continues to prove these restrictions “do not reduce sexual re-offense, do not reduce the rate of new sex offense cases, do not stop or reduce child sexual abuse, are not based on facts and evidence, and do not contribute to public safety.” Additionally, research shows residency restrictions to “create instability, harm families, waste resources” and “are nothing more than a comfort factor”.

One myth widely believed by society is that “all sex offenders reoffend”. Many might be shocked to hear that only 5.5 percent reoffend, while only 3.3 percent of these involved children. Another myth is one we teach our children, “stranger danger”. Statistics show only 7 percent of molestations occur by strangers, leaving the other 93 percent to adults within, or friends of, the child’s family.

Did you know children are on the registry? There are over 800,000 registrants nationwide. 24,000 are juveniles: 16 percent are younger than 12, while 1/3 are between 12-14. The majority of these kids were partaking in “normative” sexual behavior with other minors, or simply urinating in public! This hardly seems fair, right?

Did you know there are also many innocent persons convicted of sex crimes? The U.S. Department of Justice has calculated that 8-12 percent of incarcerated persons are “factually or actually innocent”. Also, $214 million of state tax dollars have been wasted to imprison innocent people in Illinois alone. What about Texas? The federal government?

What does all this boil down to? We are wasting time, resources, and energy on a registry built on nothing more than fear.

Request for review by the U.S. Supreme Court – documents

On August 22, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

" Request for review by the U.S. Supreme Court - documents

" Petition for writ of certiorari by the State of Michigan

http://www.scotusblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/16-768-cert-petition.pdf

" Opposition brief for John Does #1-5 by the Michigan ACLU and Michigan Clinical Law Program

http://www.scotusblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/16-768-BIO.pdf

" Reply brief by the State of Michigan

http://www.scotusblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/16-768-pet-cert-reply.pdf

News Coverage and Blog Stories

On August 22, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

" News Coverage and Blog Stories

" Washington Post | Aug. 26, 2016 | By Fred Barbash

Court says Michigan Sex Offender Registry Laws Creating ‘MORAL LEPERS’

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/08/26/court-mich-treating-sex-offenders-as-moral-lepers-restrictions-struck-down/

" Reason.com | Aug. 26, 2016 | By Jacob Sullum

6th Circuit Says Mich. Sex Offender Registry Is Punitive and, Not Incidentally, Stupid

http://reason.com/blog/2016/08/26/6th-circuit-says-michigans-sex-offender

" Mimesis Law | Aug. 26, 2016 | By Andrew Fleischman

Sixth Circuit: Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry Is Punitive

http://mimesislaw.com/fault-lines/andrew-fri-sixth-circuit-sex-offender-registry-is-punitive/12483

" Simple Justice | Aug. 27, 2016 | By Scott Greenfield

The 6th Circuit Finally Said The Magic Word: Punitive

https://blog.simplejustice.us/2016/08/27/the-6th-circuit-finally-said-the-magic-word-punitive/

" Michigan Radio | Aug. 26, 2016 | By Jack Lessenberry

Michigan's sex offender law is unfair and probably UNCONSTITUTIONAL
http://michiganradio.org/post/michigans-sex-offender-law-unfair-and-probably-unconstitutional#stream/0

" Slate | Aug. 26, 2016 | By Mark David Stern

Appeals Court Issues Scathing Ruling Against Michigan Sex Offender Penalties
http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2016/08/26/appeals_court_strikes_down_michigan_sex_offender_penalties.html

Years later, VT sex offender registry lacks addresses

On August 22, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

"Years later, VT sex offender registry lacks addresses

"By: April McCullum, Free Press Staff Writer – Published March 17, 2017 - Burlington Free Press | March 17, 2017

Vermont families are unable to find out whether a high-risk sex offender lives in their neighborhood, years after the public sex offender registry was directed to include those details. After more than eight years of discussion, the online Vermont Sex Offender Registry still lacks detailed information about where high-risk offenders live.

Members of the public can view photos, names and towns of residence for people on the online registry, but not to the level of street addresses. Sex offender registries in other states, including New Hampshire and New York, include offenders' last known street addresses.

Vermont lawmakers requested that the online sex offender registry include street addresses for high-risk or non-compliant offenders in a 2009 law, and again in 2015. The Vermont Department of Public Safety was told to ensure that the data were free of errors and that the registry had fixed problems identified by the State Auditor's Office before they were allowed to post addresses.

http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/politics/government/2017/03/17/years-later-vt-sex-offender-registry-lacks-addresses/99215736/

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