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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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

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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

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

Petition for writ of certiorari by the State of Michigan

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

Reply brief by the State of Michigan

News Coverage and Blog Stories

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News Coverage and Blog Stories

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

Court says Michigan Sex Offender Registry Laws Creating ‘MORAL LEPERS’ | Aug. 26, 2016 | By Jacob Sullum

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

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

Sixth Circuit: Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry Is Punitive

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

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

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

Appeals Court Issues Scathing Ruling Against Michigan Sex Offender Penalties

Years later, VT sex offender registry lacks addresses

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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.

Oklahoma state senator charged in child prostitution case

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Oklahoma state senator charged in child prostitution case

By: STATE AND LOCAL – Published March 16, 2017

Child prostitution charges were filed Thursday against an Oklahoma state senator who police say was found with a teenage boy in a motel room in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, according to a local prosecutor.

Republican Sen. Ralph Shortey of Oklahoma City was charged with engaging in child prostitution, transporting a minor for prostitution and engaging in prostitution within 1,000 feet of a church.