Friday, April 8, 2011

MD - Judge throws book at city's gun registry

Original Article

04/08/2011

By Brian Kuebler

BALTIMORE - Judge Alfred Nance ruled the city's gun offender registry "unconstitutionally vague and overly broad" Friday afternoon.
- How ironic.  I am willing to bet this same judge was okay with the sex offender registry, but when it may affect him, it's then unconstitutional.

The ruling threatens the existence of the city's recent Gun Offender Registration Act aimed at tracking gun offenders as they are released from jail.

The registry works similar to a sex offender registry where gun violators are forced to register with the police department every six months for a period of three years.
- Why not for life, like sex offenders?

Last year ABC2 News went on a ride-a-long with a unit as it knocked on the doors of the list's participants. Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld told us then the registry works and in 2009, only 20 percent of former gun offenders re-offended.
- Well, without the full study, they probably have a low recidivism rate without the registry.

"This is something very constructive and it taps into a lot of different aspects of the mindset of criminals," said Bealefeld in a 2009 interview.

Today reached by phone, the police department stands by the registry and its "continued and effective use in the war on guns."
- Why is everything a war?

The ruling today may open the door for other defense attorneys to continue challenging the law. The Director of the Mayor's Office on Criminal Justice Sheryl Goldstein said today the ruling only applies to Phillips' case and also stands by the registry.

"The Gun Offender Registry has been a very effective tool and we plan to continue to implement it," said Goldstein.

Goldstein went on to say both the Baltimore City State's Attorneys office and the Solicitors office are looking into the possibility of an appeal.

The Gun Offender Registry Act is only the second such registry in the country and in modeled after a similar law in New York City.


TX - States Resist Federal Sex-Offender Registry

Original Article

04/09/2011

By ANA CAMPOY

The federal government's attempt to track sex offenders more effectively is hitting resistance from states concerned over the plan's costs and reliability.

A federal law, named the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act after the murdered son of "America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh, seeks to create a uniform national system out of a hodgepodge of sex-offender-registration laws in different states. Proponents of the law, which passed in 2006, say it will close loopholes they believe allow criminals to move from state to state undetected.

States have until July 27 to comply, or they will lose federal funds. Ohio, Delaware, South Dakota and Florida already have adopted the law. The Justice Department says many states have introduced legislation that would put them in compliance.

Objections have arisen in such states as Texas, where officials say existing local laws are tougher on sex offenders than the new standards. The federal act "contradicts what our research over 30 years indicates," said Allison Taylor, executive director of Texas's Council on Sex Offender Treatment, an advisory body with a governor-appointed board. "Public safety would not be enhanced."

Texas also complains that the price of implementing the federal law—about $38.8 million, according to one state estimate—far exceeds the $1.4 million in federal money the state would lose if it didn't comply.
- Exactly, it costs more to implement the laws, then if they would just not implement them and lose a little money. Why would you want to spend $38.8 million just to receive $1.4 million in funds? Doesn't sound like a good investment to me.

"In this budget climate, we don't have the luxury of spending an additional $40 million," said Dan Patrick, a Republican state senator who represents part of Houston. Texas is facing a budget deficit of as much as $27 billion in the next two years.
- How ironic. This is a man who has been pushing for tougher and tougher laws, which can be seen by reviewing the other Texas posts on this blog.

Federal officials say states' worries about costs are overblown. Scott Matson, a senior policy adviser in the U.S. Justice Department office that is helping states implement the act, said one estimate pegged the cost at $18 million in Ohio, but the program turned out running closer to $400,000.

Mr. Walsh said it would be "a crime" if Texas failed to adopt the law, since the participation of every state is necessary to catch offenders on the run. "What if you were raped tonight in the parking lot or if your child is molested by a sex offender that jumped from another state?" he said in an interview.
- Well, you'd find the person responsible and arrest them. By passing draconian laws, it will not prevent rape or child molestation, not protect anybody. You, IMO, have a personal vendetta against all sex offenders, by making them pay for your son's death, when it has not been proven your child was even sexually abused. And what you are pushing, "is a crime," IMO, because you are trampling on their constitutional rights. And you are a known fear monger, who pushes bogus facts and statistics.  Also, if I get this straight, John Walsh is saying if all states had the Adam Walsh Act, nobody would get raped or molested ever again?  Wow, what an idiot!

Police say the vast majority of sexual assaults are committed by family members or acquaintances of victims, not unknown perpetrators who might appear in a database. In Houston, Lt. Ruben Diaz, who heads the sex crimes unit at the Harris County sheriff's department, said it was very rare to find the perpetrator of a new sex crime among those already in the registry.
- Exactly, because it's also a known fact, if you don't ignore the facts, that sex offenders have the lowest recidivism rate of any other criminal, but they continue to grandstand and pass laws based on the myth that sex offenders have a high recidivism rate.

But he said the current Texas registry was "a powerful tool," which the unit uses to track offenders and ensure they comply with the terms of their parole or probation. Some academic studies have suggested that public registries may deter sex crimes.
- Yes, it may be, but it doesn't need to be online where it's basically an online hit-list for vigilantism. It should be taken offline and used by police only!

Other states are also balking at the federal standards. In a letter to Congress last month, the office of California's attorney general cited "serious concerns" with implementing the Adam Walsh act, including not only cost, but also its inclusion of some juvenile offenders.


Let's Talk About Sex

Web site
YouTube Channel

About The Film
LET’S TALK ABOUT SEX takes a revealing look at how American attitudes towards adolescent sexuality affect today’s teenagers. We live in a society that uses sex to sell everything from lipstick to laptops. Yet fear and silence around sex and sexuality also permeate our culture. Teens are paying a terrible price for this confusion in unintended pregnancy, STDs, and even HIV. And American taxpayers are paying billions to treat these entirely preventable problems.

The film’s director James Houston, an Australian fashion photographer now based in New York, tries to make sense of our contradicting attitudes about sex and sexuality by talking to the people they most affect: teens and their families. The film’s groundbreaking research includes testimony from experts and an examination of how other nations have succeeded at protecting adolescent sexual health where the U.S. is failing. A winner of the Youth Award at the Mostra de Ciencia e Cinema Festival and an official selection of the Provincetown International Film Festival, LET’S TALK ABOUT SEX challenges the viewer to take on this often uncomfortable subject and help protect the future of our young people.

Trailer

Video Link

Shocking Facts

Video Link


IRELAND - Electronic tagging of sex offenders a legislative priority, says Shatter

Original Article

04/08/2011

By MICHAEL O'REGAN

MINISTER FOR Justice Alan Shatter said electronic tagging of sex offenders was a priority.

He said he was particularly anxious to progress the necessary legislation at an early stage to extend to the courts the possibility of imposing the measure when sex offenders were convicted.

When measures have been finalised for sex offenders, consideration will be given to what new measures may be appropriate to violent offenders.”

Mr Shatter said the Sex Offenders Act 2001 had introduced the sex offenders’ register, post-release supervision orders and civil orders restricting offenders in certain ways. Proposals aimed at amending the Act were at an advanced stage, he said.

Seán Crowe (SF) said there was great concern about the monitoring of such offenders, particularly in communities where there had been a sexual attack: “Is there a way to build confidence in respect of this matter? There are major concerns regarding a number of offenders who have been released.’’ Mr Crowe said that when offenders moved out of a particular area, there was concern about whether the Garda was monitoring their activities.

Mr Shatter said it was important the matter be considered in a comprehensive way. “It is not just a question of what happens when an offender who has served a prison sentence is released,” he said. “It also relates to how we approach these matters in the context of the prison service.’’

Mr Shatter said there was a particular need to ensure offenders participated in programmes which were of a sufficiently sophisticated and diverse nature to meet the different needs that existed.

One of the items of legislation he hoped to bring forward, he said, would involve examining again the circumstances surrounding the granting of remission to sex offenders and certain other offenders, to ensure they participated in appropriate programmes.

International research, said Mr Shatter, had shown participation in such programmes reduced the risk of reoffending. He said he might suggest a general debate so members of the House would have the opportunity to express views and have an input into legislation.


NV - SOSEN CEO Mary Duvall speaks about sex offender laws


CA - Protection or Punishment? New Sex-Offender Laws Prompting Questions

Original Article

See Also: The next frontier in restricting sex offenders

04/07/2011

By Ashby Jones

This much makes sense: You don’t want convicted sex offenders teaching in elementary schools, leading youth church groups or coaching Little League.
- Why not?  Not all sex offenders have harmed children!

But at what point are restrictions on sex offenders too onerous, too punitive, too blatantly unfair?

It’s a question some are asking in the wake of new restrictions approved out in Orange County, Calif. County supervisors there recently passed a law significantly restricting the movements of registered sex offenders, banning them from entering some beaches, parks and harbor areas. Click here for the LA Times story.

Writes the LAT:

Under the rules, sex offenders who visit any of dozens of public spaces without prior approval from county officials face up to six months in jail or a $500 fine. The ban covers some of the region’s top attractions including the Orange County Zoo, Irvine Regional Park, Newport Harbor and Dana Point Harbor.

The rationale for the law, as articulated by Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas: “We are setting up a safety zone by keeping parks and recreation zones safe from predators.”
- Not all sex offenders are child molesters or predators, and if a person is truly a predator, do you really think this would stop them?

But critics immediately expressed skepticism about the law, saying it would be difficult to enforce and seemed to be constitutionally suspect.

For instance, Franklin Zimring, a UC Berkeley law professor, said the law was overly broad and misdirected, because more than nine out of 10 sex crimes targeting children are committed not by strangers in a park, but by family members or acquaintances.

Jill Levenson, a veteran social worker and professor of human services at Lynn University in Florida, told the LAT that such laws should be tailored to avoid unintended consequences.

There may very well be certain sex offenders who shouldn’t be in parks, but rather than a blanket law, that should be part of assessment … based on the risks and needs of individual criminal offenders,” she said.


CA - The next frontier in restricting sex offenders

Original Article

04/05/2011

By Rina Palta

A new law passed in Orange County represents a “new frontier” in sex offender supervision, according to the LA Times: the new law bans registered sex offenders from entering designated spaces, under the threat of a $500 fine or six months in jail.

Up until recently, states were rapidly passing laws restricting the housing options for those convicted of sex crimes. But that practice has slowed as of late, as some states have begun repealing their sex offender restrictions, saying they don’t prevent crimes and are burdensome to enforce.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas would apparently disagree:

"Rackauckas and other supporters said the idea was to keep sex offenders away from children and families. “Parks do not belong to sexual deviants,” Rackauckas said in a statement. “Parks belong to children who want to play there and parents who want to enjoy nature with their children.

Critics, however, see the law as politics rather than sound policy:

Franklin Zimring, a UC Berkeley law professor, said the law was overly broad and misdirected because more than 90% of sex crimes targeting children are committed not by strangers in a park but by family members or acquaintances.

“It’s trying to solve a problem nobody knows exists,” he said, adding that laws imposing restrictions on sex offenders were snowballing because they were politically popular.

The law would be the first of its kind in California. Meanwhile, further to the south in San Diego, a judge recently ruled that portions of Jessica’s Law–which says that a registered sex offender can’t live within 2,000 feet of school or park–are unconstitutional because they’re overly broad.


How The Weirdos Behind ‘To Catch A Predator’ Blew $US1.2m

Original Article

04/08/2011

By John Cook

Remember ‘To Catch a Predator’, the awful festival of horror and shame from Dateline NBC that briefly captured America’s heart in the mid-aughts? We thought we’d check in with the creepy internet vigilantes behind it, and guess what? They’re broke.

To Catch a Predator” was a series of Dateline internet stings where fake 13-year-old girls and boys would lure would-be statutory rapists to fake houses set up by NBC News. Instead of the promised pre-teens, they’d encounter NBC News correspondent Chris Hansen, who would explore their awfulness and berate them in an interview before sending them out the door and into the arms of awaiting cops.

For a while, it was the best thing NBC had going, beating The Office and matching The Apprentice in ratings in 2006. Then one of the caught predators shot himself in the head while NBC News cameras waited outside his home, and people started to wonder whether reveling in the sickness and criminality of damaged people whose crimes were hypothetical and who wouldn’t have even been there if NBC hadn’t lured them there was really such a good idea. The network pulled the plug in 2008.

The stings were conducted by Perverted Justice, a loosely organized online vigilante outfit founded by a Portland man named Phillip John Eide in 2003. Eide – who changed his name to Xavier von Erck in 2006 – and his volunteers initially just documented the predators they caught and exposed them online, but soon they started working with law enforcement and local TV stations. When NBC News took them national, the network paid Perverted Justice more than $US100,000 per sting. “Von Erck” was an odd partner for a national news organization – he looked like Kevin Smith, called the civilian victims of al Qaeda “shameless and pathetic” on his blog, and once pretended to be a woman to seduce an online enemy in an attempt to ruin him. All told, NBC News paid him somewhere in the neighborhood of $US1.2 million between 2006 and 2009.

Where did the money go? Back in 2006, “Von Erck” had big plans for his franchise. He founded a nonprofit called Perverted Justice Foundation Inc. to receive NBC’s funds, and hoped to apply them to the tax-exempt goal of “promoting internet safety” and helping cops “apprehend internet based sexual predators”.

In 2006, according to PJFI’s application for tax-exempt status, he predicted that NBC would pay the foundation $US2 million in consulting fees by 2008, and that it would soon be raising hundreds of thousands of dollars from major corporate donors like Wal-Mart and Microsoft. It planned to develop special software to help parents monitor their kids’ internet usage. It hoped to send its members on speaking tours to spread the word about predators and to publish guides and brochures for parents and kids. PJFI set up a web site and started paying “Von Erck,” treasurer Dennis Kerr, and secretary Allison Shea $US120,000 annual salaries. Shea and Kerr were active volunteers for Perverted Justice prior to the NBC deal; Shea, who also goes by the name Del Harvey, is now Twitter’s “director of trust and safety.”


ME - Bill to Expand Maine Sex Offender Exclusion Zone Suffers Blow

Original Article

See Also: Emotions run high as Senate strikes down sex offender residency bill

04/07/2011

By A.J. Higgins

The third effort in six years to prohibit sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of a school sustained a setback in the Maine Senate today. Passionate arguments by minority Democrats convinced four members of the Republican majority to oppose the bill, which was sponsored by GOP leadership. Democrats maintain the state's current 750-foot residency exclusion zone around public or private schools for convicted sex offenders whose victims were under age 14 is adequate, and that further restrictions will only drive offenders underground.

The argument for expanding residency restrictions for sex offenders to keep them nearly half a mile away from a school has never carried much weight with state Sen. Stan Gerzovsky. The Brunswick Democrat and veteran of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee has seen the proposal brought up before.

"I can't remember any testimony in front of the committee that supported this bill, either this session, the 124th, the 123rd," Gerzovsky said. "I've never heard any testimony that supported this."

Existing state law establishes a 750-foot residency exclusion zone around public or private schools for convicted sex offenders whose victims were under age 14. But LD 8 (PDF), sponsored by Senate GOP Leader Jonathan Courtney, of Springvale, would allow communities without a police chief to create a 2,500-foot buffer zone around schools to keep offenders away from kids.

The same residency restriction could be applied in unorganized townships to provide a measure of protection for parents in those areas. But Gerzovsky couldn't disagree more.

"It does just the opposite, it drives people underground," Gerzovsky said. "It's the last place we want these people. We want these people to be supervised. We want these people to be where we can keep an eye on them. We want them to be easy contacts for their probation departments and our law enforcement."

As a group of students watched the Senate floor debate from the gallery, Gerzovsky emotionally confronted arguments by the bill's supporters, who claim that the proposal would improve public safety.

"The kids that are up in this balcony need real public safety," Gerzovsky said. "They need to know that these people are reporting to their probation officers, that they can be found, that they can't go and hide like they have in other states. So I say ladies and gentlemen of the Senate, do what's right. Give us some public safety. Keep that in your mind--not bad policy that will always turn into bad politics. Do what's right."

"I strongly believe that if these people are half a mile away from the school and are being pushed into the wilderness, then they are probably not seeking the treatment that they need," said state Sen. Garrett Mason, of Lisbon Falls.

Mason, a Republican, is the senate chair of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, and a proponent of the beefed up residency restriction for sex offenders. But he hoped the numbers would be on his side in the Senate where Republicans hold 20 seats and Democrats retain 14, with one independent.

There was also reason to believe that Republicans would support a bill whose main sponsor was also the Senate GOP floor leader, Jonathan Courtney. Courtney said his bill is needed because current law isn't providing enough protection.

He recalled a story about a young woman in his district whose rapist was convicted but ultimately released back into the community, and within 2,500 feet of a school. Courtney said the woman got angry and took a stand.

"She says, 'You know what? You're not going to do this to somebody else. You're not going to live next to a school and I'm going to stop you.' And she did," Courtney said. "She came out and she brought the news cameras and she stood out and she re-lived that awful, heinous thing she went through. And she did that because she felt that she wanted to make sure that when kids at Massabesic High School and Massabesic Middle School walked home from school, they didn't have to walk by this--monster."

Sen. Elizabeth Schneider, an Orono Democrat, said Courtney's bill would prompt sex offenders from larger communities to seek refuge in rural areas.

"We would end up with more sex offenders in those rural areas because they would have more difficulty finding housing in urban areas," Schneider said. "And I have to stand up and speak out for my rural communities, and frankly, I don't think we want to be the place where the sex offenders get pushed out into."

Democrats in the Senate voted as a block and convinced four Republicans to oppose Courtney's bill, which now faces further debate in the House.