Monday, October 3, 2011

PA - Do We Really Need Megan’s Law?

Original Article

You can leave your comment on the article at the link above.

10/03/2011

By SANDY HINGSTON

Maybe not, but what legislator would vote against a dead child?

The Inquirer reported yesterday that a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling on an Allegheny County law is causing local municipalities to revise their Megan’s Laws. The sections of the law in question placed restrictions on where sex offenders could live, creating, the court said, “localized penal colonies” that increased the chances of recidivism by isolating offenders from jobs and support. Statutes in Doylestown and Hilltown townships and Hatboro Borough have already been rescinded, and Abington, Newtown and Lower Pottsgrove, the Inquirer reports, are among localities considering following suit.

Megan, you’ll recall, was seven-year-old Megan Kanka of Hamilton Township, New Jersey, who was raped and murdered by a sex-offender neighbor after he promised to show her a puppy. It was a cowardly, heinous crime, no doubt about it. And the flurry of laws enacted to “honor Megan’s memory” and prevent another such crime was well-meaning. Megan’s parents argued that had they known the neighbor was a sex offender, they would have kept a closer eye on their daughter.

It happens all the time—a terrible crime, a public outcry, and a hasty legislative attempt to prevent any similar crimes from taking place ever again. After Casey Anthony was acquitted in the death of her daughter Caylee, the cry went out to pass “Caylee’s Law,” a federal statute that would charge parents with a felony if they didn’t report a missing child within 24 hours or a child’s death within one hour. There are pushes and petitions for all sorts of laws based on a single, tragic instance: “Jessica’s Law,” “The Adam Walsh Act,” “Kyleigh’s Law,” “Tyler’s Law,” “Judy and Nikki’s Law.” We’re so outraged by the actions of one offender that we determine to punish all persons, down through the ages, who behave like that offender. They’re laws born of knee-jerk reactions, of the heart, not the head. They’re rarely effectual and rarely even used. But they satisfy our deep, primal urge for punishment and revenge.

More than a dozen years ago, the Los Angeles Times ran a terrific piece by Mark Fritz called “The Politics of Parental Grieving.” It’s more than worth a read. One statistic Fritz cited back in 1999 is especially telling: The American Bar Association reported that “40 percent of the federal criminal laws passed since the Civil War had come in just the last three decades, often ‘in patchwork response to newsworthy events’ rather than an ‘identifiable federal need.’

Why do lawmakers pass them? Because they’re popular even when they’re irrational. Who could dare vote against a law named for a dead little girl? Fritz quotes a lobbyist who says, “Any time real emotion based on human tragedy enters the public policy arena, it becomes more difficult to enact policy that recognizes the limitations of the world we live in.” These laws named after dead kids are, as Fritz writes, the result of “a tragic tale, a family calamity transformed into arresting allegory, a freak occurrence offered up as a terrifying trend.” In fact, as the Inquirer points out, “stranger danger” crimes are exceedingly rare; 93 percent of all child victims know their assailants. What such laws do is create a false sense of security for parents; we know they’re in place, so we become less vigilant, not more. How many of us have ever actually gone to the trouble of checking the state registry for registered sex offenders in our neighborhoods?

I don’t begrudge any parents who have lost a child the right to set out on whatever crusades they feel the need to embark on. It’s impossible for me to say how I’d react if tragedy took one of my kids. But at the very least, by now we should have wised up enough to look with extra caution on laws that spring up out of the cauldron of parental grief, to make sure they meet rational needs and not just irrational ones.


NY - New York Enacts New Sex Offender Law Which Increases Danger to Public

Original Article from "Sex Offenders - A Reality Based Discussion

10/03/2011

By David Hess (Blog)

On September 23, Gov. Cuomo announced a list of bills that he has approved. Among them was a bill that requires Level 2 registered sex offenders to report their employment addresses. (Level 3 offenders are already required to do so). This new law requires these employment addresses to be posted on the Internet registry. This law applies retroactively to all Level 2 registered sex offenders, including those who have lived and worked safely in the community for up to 15 years. (While most with criminal convictions find that the consequences of their convictions decrease over time, the consequences of a conviction for a sex offense often increase with the passage of time).

A recent study has found that such policies make communities less safe. Recidivism is more likely in the absence of stable employment and stable housing. This law will cause some former offenders to lose their jobs and make it much harder for others to find employment.

This new law is not based on any facts or research, quite the opposite. Illinois lawmakers recently pointed out that the main reason lawmakers vote for such laws is that they are afraid not to. There is too much political risk in appearing soft on sex offenders, even if legislation is counter productive. Sadly, elected officials would rather increase the risk to communities than increase the political risk to themselves.


MI - Royal Oak Woman is a Force for Change in Sex Offender Laws

Francie Baldino
Original Article

10/03/2011

By Judy Davids

Francie Baldino is on a mission to remove low-risk individuals convicted of minor sexual offenses from Michigan's Public Sex Offender Registry.

More than 30 people, all of whom say their lives and futures have been turned upside down by the blanket registration of all sex offenders, gathered over the weekend in Royal Oak to discuss the impact of changes made to Michigan Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) in July.

Royal Oak resident Francie Baldino (Facebook) started Michigan Citizens for Justice (Web Site, Facebook), a support group that has fought to reform sex offender laws, after her son was imprisoned as a teenager for having sex with his girlfriend, who was 14 years old at the time.

Baldino said the teenagers met while hanging out in Birmingham when her son, [name withheld], was 16 and the girl was 13. The pair started a relationship. “They spent every minute together,” Baldino said.

The girlfriend lived with her father in Lake Orion. Baldino said the girl's father originally approved of her son — so much so that he often left the teenagers alone together.

When the dad got wind his daughter was having sex, he told my son to stay out of the picture,” she said. “My son was rebellious.”

[name withheld] was 18 at the time, Baldino said, and the girl’s father pressed charges for criminal sexual conduct.

My son was convicted of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, and he went away for 10 months,” Baldino said. “He was released on probation and told to ‘stay away from her,’ but he broke down after (she) asked to see him. He ended up getting another criminal sexual misconduct.”

This time, [name withheld] was 19, and the girl was just shy of her 16th birthday – the age of consent in Michigan.

For breaking his probation, [name withheld] was sentenced to 5-15 years in prison, even though the girl testified in court that the pair had consensual sex. [name withheld] served 6½ years.

He went in as a kid and he came out as a man,” Baldino said of her son. “All of the terrible things you hear about prison are true. But he took classes, got a job and did what he could to keep busy.”

Baldino said it was “quite an ordeal” and “sad for her family.”

To keep from falling apart, Baldono became a relentless voice for reforming sex offender laws — particularly the Sex Offender Registration Act, which was enacted in 1995 to monitor people who pose a potential danger to society. Baldino does not believe its purpose was keep teenagers from having consensual sex. “It was meant to protect people from child abusers and rapists,” she said.

Changes to Sex Offender Registration Act

When the state made drastic changes to SORA in July, “It was a huge thing,” Baldino said. Changes included a new petitioning procedure for removal from the registry in cases of consensual sex — so-called Romeo and Juliet — cases if:

  • the victim was 13 or older at the time of the offense.
  • the petitioner is no more than four years older than the victim.

The new law also removes juveniles younger than 14 from the registry.

[name withheld], who was paroled in early August, petitioned the court and was the first person in Oakland County to be removed from the sex offender registry in late August. In Michigan, more than 46,000 people were on the list in 2010, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Michigan Citizens for Justice

While Baldino is estatic that her son won his petition, she remains fervent about educating the public and supporting those whose lives have been negatively affected by laws that she says “scream injustice.”

When this happened to my son, I didn’t realize how many labels he would get — ‘sick,’ ‘scary,’ ‘creepy,’ ‘pedophile’.” Her son is none of those things, she said.

During the weekend gathering in Royal Oak, Baldino listened to families in similar situations who said their sons or daughters were falsely accused, pleaded guilty to crimes they did not commit to avoid jail time or, in one case, are serving time for sending indecent text messages.

Baldino said members of her group are skittish about having their names or pictures being used in public. “They are afraid of retaliation,” she said. One woman at the meeting said her son told her not to say anything because he feared for his safety in prison.

Saturday, the group moved through a long agenda, which included how to speak to state representatives, letter-writing campaigns, starting petitions and receiving updates on laws.

There was also time allotted for individuals to share their stories and struggles. Baldino listened intently to each, offering support.

Not many people know the devastating effects of sex offender laws unless they have experienced it themselves,” she said.

Earlier Story About Ms. Baldino And Her Son:

Video Link


UK - Sex offender scheme expanded to Hampshire

Video Description:
DCI Mark Ashthorpe explains the pilot scheme where parents can check if an adult who is in contact with their children is a sex offender, that has been trialled in Southampton and now includes Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.


PA - Court ruling has communities overhauling Megan’s Laws

Original Article

10/02/2011

By Bill Reed

When 7-year-old Megan Kanka was raped and murdered by a neighbor, a twice-convicted child sex offender, the reaction in communities large and small was: God forbid something like that should happen here.

Bolstered by online registries of convicted sex offenders, towns enacted laws to keep such criminals from living near schools, parks, day-care centers, and bus stops.

But many of the estimated 150 Pennsylvania cities and towns with such laws are repealing or reconsidering them after a state Supreme Court ruling in May invalidated one statute. New Jersey municipalities did the same after the N.J. Supreme Court ruled residency restrictions invalid in 2009.

"The repeals are overdue," said Don Driscoll of the Community Justice Project, who argued the case against Allegheny County before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. "The laws contributed to enhanced risk of public safety, instead of the opposite. They exclude sex offenders from stabilized housing, employment, and treatment, all of which have been identified as factors in recidivism."

Since the May 26 ruling, Doylestown and Hilltown Townships and Hatboro Borough have wiped the laws off their books, and Abington, Lower Pottsgrove, Newtown, and Falls Townships are considering doing the same.

Doylestown and Hilltown supervisors also were prompted by a letter from the Delaware Valley Insurance Trust to repeal the law to avoid liability. The trust provides coverage to about 40 cities and towns in the Philadelphia area.

"I suspect [other towns] will be following suit," said Jeffrey P. Garton, solicitor for Doylestown and Newtown Townships.

The laws are similar to Allegheny County's, which prohibited sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of any child-care facility, community center, public park, recreation center, or school. They were enacted around 2005 to expand on Megan's Law, which requires convicted sex offenders to report their addresses to police but does not restrict where they can live.

Allegheny County's law violated the state legislature's intent behind Megan's Law, the seven judges on the state Supreme Court ruled, by banishing sex offenders to "localized penal colonies" with little access to jobs, support, or their families.
- I think you mean concentration camps?

All 50 states and the federal government have versions of Megan's Law, named for the Hamilton Township, N.J., girl who in 1994 was lured into her neighbor's house with the promise of seeing a puppy, then was raped and strangled. Her parents said they would have been more vigilant had they known the neighbor was a convicted sex offender.

When Newtown Township enacted its residency law in 2006, "it made sense as public officials to protect residents, to pass a law that would control where they [registered sex offenders] live," Jerry Schenkman, a township supervisor who voted for it, said last month.

Because the legislature had not established residency criteria and the courts had not ruled on the issue, "it was wide open for towns to step up," said Schenkman, a lawyer. "Every municipality was on its own."

Doylestown Township Police Chief Stephen White encouraged passage of his town's law six years ago. "It's good to control what you can control, such as keeping sex offenders away from schools and playgrounds," he said recently.
- But, that is the problem, you cannot control people like you seem to think you can.  If a person is intent on committing a crime, they will.  And how many sex crimes can you tell me about that occurred at a school or playground?  Most sex crimes occur in the victims own home and/or close family.

Yet officials in Doylestown, Newtown, and other towns said they rarely if ever needed to enforce the laws. Some had forgotten the laws were on the books.

"There was no one who didn't comply," White said about Doylestown Township, which had a map of the restricted areas on its website.
- Of course not, they don't want to look "soft" on criminals, especially the modern day lepers.  It could cause them to lose their jobs. And all the while, they also took an oath to defend the Constitution and the rights of others, which they are not doing.  Just politics as usual.

With or without the residency law, the bottom line, White said, is that the Megan's Law website was enhanced a few years ago to provide registered sex offenders' addresses, photos, and descriptions of their offenses.

"What everyone needs to do is plug in their zip code and see who lives in their neighborhood," he said. "They are able to protect themselves and really make a difference."
- No, not really, you cannot protect yourself from someone intent on harming you, period, but, you can live in fear!  Then you can go screaming "Big Brother, please protect us!  We will gladly lose our rights, if you protect us!"

Under Megan's Law, adults convicted of or pleading guilty to sexually violent offenses must register for 10 years or a lifetime, depending on the offense. When offenders are released from prison or move, they must provide their addresses to their local police departments, which post the information at the state database.
- And Adolph Hitler required the same for Jews and others he despised.

There are 11,244 active registrants on the website, including 505 classified as "sexually violent predators." When "predators" move into a neighborhood, police also distribute fliers to residents.
- So, instead of closely monitoring 505, they are monitoring all 11,244.  That is the problem, and in any case, if someone is truly a dangerous person, do you think they will obey the law in the first place?

Jill S. Levenson, an associate professor at Lynn University in Florida and a nationally recognized expert on sexual violence, said that online registries and residency restrictions were flawed, giving parents a false sense of security.

"Most victims are assaulted by someone not on the registries," she said. "Most are by new offenders."

Registries are ineffective because they focus on "stranger danger," but 93 percent of children and 80 percent of adults know their attackers, she said.

"Stranger danger is a naive way to look at registered sex offenders," Levenson said. "It's better to educate parents on the patterns of sex offenders to gain access to children. It's more likely someone they know and trust."
- Yeah, like their own mother, father, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, or close friend, in their own home, not at some park, school, bus-stop, beach or library.

Laws restricting where sex offenders may live were prompted by "heinous crimes" such as the attack on Megan Kanka, which are "extremely rare and not typical," said Levenson, a clinical social worker.

"There is no relationship between how close a registered sexual offender lives to children and whether he will reoffend. It's not more likely. Distance has no bearing on reoffending."
- You need to also stop just using "he!"  Females commit sex crimes as well.