Tuesday, August 11, 2009

VT - Sex offenders sue to overturn expanded sex registry

View the article here

08/11/2009

By John Dillon

Two convicted sex offenders have gone to court to block the state from posting their names on the Internet.

The public posting is required under a new law that expands Vermont's sex offender registry.

But the lawsuit says the new registration requirements violate the offenders' rights. It says by making their names public, the state will punish the offenders again for a crime for which they've already done time.

VPR's John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The Legislature expanded the sex offender registry following the rape and murder of 12-year-old Brooke Bennett last year.

Starting October 1st, the public Internet registry of sex offenders will include people who have been convicted of sex crimes in other states. This and other changes will add about 1,200 new listings to the public registry.

The lawsuit was filed in Washington Superior Court. David Sleigh (Contact) is a St. Johnsbury lawyer who filed the case on behalf of two Caledonia County men.

(Sleigh) "They have not been found to be predators; they don't present a general risk to anyone. And it seems to us unfortunate and wrong to all of a sudden put them, pictures, address, everything else, on the Internet and expose them to the opprobrium, and humiliation and perhaps vengeance that might attend that posting."

(Dillon) Sleigh said his clients were convicted in the 1990s - one in Massachusetts and the other in New Hampshire. He said both served their sentences and have been released from probation.

(Sleigh) "This constitutes additional punishment applied after the fact. And that's unconstitutional. Secondly, we've argued that this is a material change in the bargain that these two clients made, both of them entered plea agreements for certain consideration. Now years later there's an additional component of punishment that's being added."

(Dillon) State officials said they had not seen the lawsuit yet and could not comment. But Bennington Senator Dick Sears (Email) (PDF), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said lawmakers expected a legal challenge. Sears said his committee had heard that some offenders were choosing to live in Vermont because the state had more lenient registration requirements.

(Sears) "And we felt very strongly that we didn't want Vermont to be seen by those offenders as a safe haven for sex offenders. The secondary reason for the expansion, quite frankly, was that's what the public called for - 54,000 people signed petitions asking for stronger sex offender laws as well as expansion of the registry."
- So just because people sign a petition, doesn't make it right, or constitutional!  The constitution FORBIDS ex post facto laws.

(Dillon) The lawsuit comes as a legislative committee this week is scheduled to review how the state is implementing the new registry law.

Sears said lawmakers carefully considered the constitutional arguments against the expanded registry.

(Sears) "They're not seen as punishment. Registry requirements are not seen as punishment. And I think that's the key issue. But there's always some concern when it's prospective, or after the person's already served their time."
- You live with the laws, then tell me it's not punishment!

(Dillon) But Attorney Sleigh said Supreme Courts in two states - Alaska and Indiana - have ruled that the retroactive registry requirements did constitute a form of additional punishment.
- Of course it is, and the US Constitution forbids ex post facto laws as well, so that in itself makes the law unconstitutional.

The lawsuit names his clients as John Doe and John Roe. Sleigh said he's asking the court to keep them anonymous because the whole point of the case is to shield their identities.

The court has agreed to that request.


"The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of a civilization. We must have a desire to rehabilitate into the world of industry, all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment." - Winston Churchill (United States Constitution)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues, All Rights Reserved


GA - Defending (some) sex offenders


08/11/2009

Sarah Geraghty, a human rights lawyer in Georgia, argues that America's sex-offender laws punish too many too harshly.





"The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of a civilization. We must have a desire to rehabilitate into the world of industry, all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment." - Winston Churchill (United States Constitution)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues, All Rights Reserved


FL - Texas sex offender cuts off GPS tracking device, arrested in Lehigh

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08/08/2009

A registered sex offender from Texas was arrested in Lehigh Acres Friday after cutting off the GPS tracking device he was ordered to wear and failing to report his whereabouts, authorities said Saturday. Lee County deputies located _____, 51, at 35 Alabama Road and arrested him shortly before 2:30 p.m. _____ was convicted of a sex crime in Jefferson County, Texas in 1980 and declared a sexual offender, officials said. He had since been released from the sanction imposed by the conviction, but terms of his probation included wearing a GPS tracking device and registering a new address each time he moved. An investigation reveals that _____ moved to Florida and stopped doing both, officials with the Lee County Sheriff's office said. According to a state probation officer, _____ cut off his GPS tracking device in December 2008 while he was living in Immokalee. He then moved to Lehigh Acres, where he had been renting a room since mid-June. _____ is facing fugitive from justice charges from Texas. Since he never reported his change of address when he moved to Lehigh Acres, the Lee County Sheriff's Office Sexual Predator/Offender Unit is also charging him with failure to register as a sex offender. Source: Lee County Sheriff's Office


"The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of a civilization. We must have a desire to rehabilitate into the world of industry, all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment." - Winston Churchill (United States Constitution)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues, All Rights Reserved


AZ - DOC Admits Issue With Ankle Monitor

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08/11/2009

By Sarah Buduson

Officials: We Weren't Alerted Device Had Been Removed

PHOENIX - Department of Corrections officials said on Monday they were never alerted that a convicted sex offender had removed his ankle monitor.

Police said _____ went on a crime spree last Thursday that included rape, robbery and kidnapping after removing the tracking device.

He was captured after he called police to request help.

The convicted sex offender had been released from prison that day. By 4 p.m. police say he had taken off the Pro Tech Monitoring (Contact) ankle bracelet.

Corrections officials are supposed to be notified immediately when there is any problem with the devices.

"In my case, typically we receive a notification that somebody's tampered with their ankle or removed within 30 seconds or a minute,” Chuck Thomas said.
- But not in this case!  More proof the GPS monitoring devices are a waste of tax payer dollars!

Thomas runs Probationary Monitoring Services of Arizona (Contact), which monitors some DOC parolees for the state.

He said an alert will not be sent if a monitor has a dead battery or is out of range of cell phone service.

However, Thomas said officials are usually immediately notified if the tracking device is not working properly.

Yes, you can get out of them,” he said. “But not without somebody knowing about it in some way shape or form.”
- But he did in this case!

DOC officials have refused repeated interviews requests, but said in an e-mail response that they are investigating why an alert was not sent.
- So basically all they've said above, is a lie.  They were not notified this man removed it!

Pro Tech Monitoring, which manufactured the monitor _____ was wearing, was not available for comment Monday evening.


"The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of a civilization. We must have a desire to rehabilitate into the world of industry, all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment." - Winston Churchill (United States Constitution)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues, All Rights Reserved


Residency rules endanger us

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08/11/2009

By JILL S. LEVENSON

Attention should be paid to Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum's (Contact) recent comments calling for reconsideration of sex-offender residence laws.

Those who question the utility of such policies often are accused of being unconcerned about the safety of children or advocating for sex offenders. The finger pointing becomes a diversion from an inconvenient truth: No research exists to confirm that residential restrictions reduce sexual reoffending, protect children or prevent sex crimes.

Such laws do create transience and homelessness, making dangerous offenders more difficult to monitor and undermining the reintegration of lower-risk offenders.

Anyone who suggests that the current Julia Tuttle bridge fiasco was not caused by local ordinances needs only to look at the data: The number of sex offenders registered as transient in Miami-Dade County has grown consistently since local ordinances were passed in 2005, and in June 2009 the number of offenders with no residential address was 175.

The secretary of the Department of Corrections told county commissioners that ample housing was available under the state's 1,000-foot restriction, but that 2,500 feet makes it almost impossible for sex offenders to locate housing.

Many offenders seek shelter with family members after incarceration, but housing restrictions eliminate those options.

Why should we care? Because if they can't find a place to live, law-enforcement agents and probation officers won't be able to supervise them closely. Does that sound like effective crime-prevention policy?

No compelling reason has ever been offered as to why the state's 1,000-foot restriction was not adequate. If the rationale of these laws is to prevent offenders from living within viewing distance of children, why would 1,000 feet (more than three football fields) be insufficient for this purpose? A recent Florida study found no evidence that increasing distance buffers provides any public protection benefit. No differences were seen in the recidivism rates of sex offenders who lived within 1,000, 1,500 or 2,500 feet of schools and daycares. In other words, sex offenders who lived closer to schools and daycares were not more likely to reoffend, and living farther from schools and daycares did not diminish the probability of sexual reoffending.

Lawmakers, researchers, mental-health professionals and criminal-justice practitioners are all on the same side -- to prevent sexual violence and protect kids. The most important question is how to best accomplish these goals. Unfortunately, the best intentions do not always translate into the best practices. It is time to admit that the emperor has no clothes and start working together to formulate effective solutions to the problem of sexual abuse.

Jill S. Levenson is associate professor and sex crimes researcher at Lynn University in Boca Raton. She is also chairperson of Broward County's Sexual Offender Residence Task Force, appointed by Broward County commissioners.


"The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of a civilization. We must have a desire to rehabilitate into the world of industry, all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment." - Winston Churchill (United States Constitution)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues, All Rights Reserved


FL - EDITORIAL: Draw line on sex offenders

View the article here

08/10/2009

Florida politicians are so worried about looking soft on sex offenders that the state is running the risk of not being smart about sex offenders.

In two stories, one last month and one last week, Post reporter John Lantigua examined the community of registered sex offenders who live under interstate highway bridges in Miami. They live there because it's the only piece of real estate that complies with all the local ordinances preventing sex offenders from living within certain distances of schools, day care centers, parks or playgrounds. Under state law, that distance has to be 1,000 feet. But cities in Miami-Dade, like some in this area, have established 2,500-foot boundaries. In Dade, that has left only the areas under the bridges as a legal residence.

Let's get the basics out of the way early. No, we don't believe that the state should coddle sex offenders. Yes, we understand why many people believe that living in conditions that resemble Somalia befits sex offenders. We get all that.

The danger, though, is that if Florida gives sex offenders no reasonable place to live within the rules, they will ignore the rules. They will move. They won't report where they are living. The state will lose track of them. In early 2005, the Citrus County Sheriff's Office had lost track of John Evander Couey, a registered sex offender. In March of that year, he killed a 9-year-old girl named Jessica Lunsford. Her name went on a law toughening rules on sex offenders.

It's understandable that governments would try to out-tough each other on sex offenders. As the state's sheriffs pointed out last year, though, it's also potentially self-defeating. In 2008, the sheriffs backed a bill by Sen. Dave Aronberg (Email), D-Greenacres, that would make the boundary 1,500 feet statewide. It passed the Senate 39-0 but died in the House, killed by Miami-area legislators who were worried about looking ... well, you know.

Sen. Aronberg filed the bill again this year. It went nowhere. He said in an interview that he plans to introduce the legislation again next year. Since Sen. Aronberg is running for attorney general, also in 2010, he clearly doesn't see the bill as politically damaging. Mr. Lantigua reported that Tallahassee lobbyist Ron Book - whose daughter was sexually molested - has led the push to expand the boundaries. Sen. Aronberg said that Mr. Book now supports a statewide standard.

In responding to a terrible crime, Florida has at times overreached. The push to fingerprint everyone on the grounds of a school, which was part of the Jessica Lunsford Act, was unworkable. With Florida's registered sex offenders, the state needs to focus less on their living conditions and more on where they live.


"The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of a civilization. We must have a desire to rehabilitate into the world of industry, all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment." - Winston Churchill (United States Constitution)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues, All Rights Reserved