Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Goodwill Industries International, Inc. - People with Criminal Backgrounds



We believe that you can get a second chance. To begin, contact the Goodwill in your community and ask for an employment specialist.

We understand that for people who have been incarcerated, there are many barriers to successful re-entry to public life, including drug dependency, serious illness, debt and limited work options.

Just getting a second chance may seem almost impossible at times.

We offer services to men, women and youth who have served their time and are trying to get back on track.

What to Expect

Some of the services you may access through Goodwill® include:
  • Pre-release services. Get a head start on building your work skills and obtaining the necessary documentation to start your job search before you are released.
  • Basic skill development. Prepare for your GED, and take ESL classes or basic education classes.
  • Employment readiness training. Learn “soft skills” that help you succeed at work, including interviewing and workplace communication skills.
  • Occupational skill training. Learn a skill or trade that can get you back to work, or help you move on to a better job.
  • Job placement assistance. Open doors to employment opportunities with the help of Goodwill employment specialists.
  • Life Skills. Learn new skills that help you round out your life, such as parenting, relationship and communication skills.

To see what programs are available in your community, contact your nearest Goodwill and ask for an employment specialist.


NY - New push to expand DNA samples from NY offenders

Original Article

Why not just collect DNA from everyone from birth, and those who do not have DNA on file, be sent a notice in the mail to visit the local police station to submit a DNA sample? If it saves crime, and people are not hiding anything, then they should be all for it, right?

01/11/2012

ALBANY — The addition of petit larceny to a list of crimes requiring DNA samples from convicted offenders has helped solve 51 murders, 222 sexual assaults, 117 robberies and 407 burglaries over the past 5 1/2 years, New York authorities say.

Now the Cuomo administration wants to expand the statewide DNA databank to include all misdemeanor convictions under the penal code, plus all felony convictions under other statutes such as traffic and business laws. That would mean DNA samples for DWI convictions and securities fraud, for example.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week called for putting New York "on the cutting edge of criminal justice" by becoming the first state to collect DNA on all crimes under the state's penal laws, noting that since 1996 the database provided leads to 2,700 convictions while helping free 27 people who were wrongly accused.
- Why are the innocent in prison in the first place?  You are suppose to convict someone on evidence "beyond the shadow of doubt," and not just based on personal opinions.  If we did that, and also, if found innocent, rewarded the innocent large cash settlements, then less innocent people would be thrown in prison.

"We are missing an important opportunity to prevent needless suffering of crime victims," the governor said. "We are also failing to use the most powerful tool we have to exonerate the innocent."

The databank currently has genetic profiles from more than 386,000 criminals convicted of penal law felonies and 36 misdemeanors, plus samples from nearly 38,000 crime scenes. It links to the FBI's national system with more than 10 million offender profiles and some 400,000 samples of crime scene material.

Legislation to expand the databank passed both houses of the Legislature last year, but it died when lawmakers failed to reconcile the differences.

The expansion would not apply to the lowest-level violations like simple trespassing, loitering, disorderly conduct or privately possessing a single marijuana cigarette.

The Assembly bill had added provisions that would have required better access to DNA evidence for defense lawyers; prohibited other DNA identification indexes; increased the penalty for tampering or misusing DNA samples; and required police to get written consent before collecting a voluntary sample from someone for an investigation. It would require a state commission to review and report on confidentiality safeguards.

"Last year, when the bills crossed, we didn't have the governor's attention because of other matters like the $10 billion deficit," said Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, the bill's sponsor. "I hope that this year we will have the governor's attention and help in passing the bill. But I'd like to see it done the right way."

The Brooklyn Democrat is the Codes Committee chairman. He said, "There's very little in any DNA legislation to protect the innocent substantively because people wrongly convicted don't have equal access to the DNA like the prosecution does."

He said the bill would protect the public. "If somebody is wrongfully convicted, you don't have the real perpetrator, the real person behind bars," he said.

The database began in 1996 with the genetic material from convicted killers and sex predators. It has been expanded three times, in 2006 adding all remaining penal law felonies and three dozen misdemeanors.

Sen. Stephen Saland, a Poughkeepsie Republican and chairman of the Senate Codes Committee, introduced a bill to expand DNA testing to those convicted of any felony and any penal law misdemeanor, which he plans to re-introduce shortly. He said he doesn't want to embrace any ancillary issues but hasn't yet seen the details of Cuomo's proposal.

"DNA is a sword that cuts both ways," he said, helping both to prosecute criminals and exonerate the innocent.

The state District Attorneys Association and the victim assistance organization Safe Horizon say Cuomo's proposal would help convict the guilty and prevent future crimes.

But Robert Perry, legislative director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said unanswered questions remain regarding testing accuracy and sample contamination, the potential for fraud and abuse by authorities of supposedly incontrovertible evidence and the "fundamental fairness" of providing the accused with equal access to DNA information to try to establish innocence.

"In light of the scale of the increase in the number of samples that will be collected and archived in the databank, there must be an equally robust enhancement of oversight and quality assurance procedures," Perry said.

He noted the 2006 article by University of California law professor William Thompson recounting testing errors documented at DNA labs in that state and in Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington, mainly because of inadvertent human errors from cross-contamination or sample mix-ups. Thompson wrote that defense lawyers should fight relentlessly for full disclosure of underlying laboratory records for DNA evidence and for court appointment of an independent expert to review them.

According to the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services, they have never had an incident where their DNA databank was compromised. All profiles are done at the state police laboratory, about 3,000 a month with a capacity for about 10,000, while eight other labs regionally help process crime scene samples.

While Cuomo administration officials were reluctant this week to talk about settling legislative differences, they said statistics make a compelling argument and show how frequently offenders convicted of currently non-DNA qualifying offenses are later charged with violent felonies.


NE - Little outcry over loss of sex offender list funds

Original Article

01/11/2012

By Paul Hammel

LINCOLN — Nebraska just found out it will lose $163,000 in federal funds for failing to comply with a federal sex-offender registry law.

It is among 35 states, including Iowa, that have fallen short in implementing the provisions of the national Adam Walsh Act.

But like officials in many of those other noncompliant states, two Nebraska lawmakers said they're not sweating the loss of funds because the cost and changes that are required to comply with the federal mandate were just too much.

"For the money we're losing, it's just not worth it," said State Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, adding that other states have realized that, too.

Both Ashford and Sen. Amanda McGill of Lincoln said Tuesday that Nebraska ought to consider returning to its old system of dealing with convicted sex offenders or shifting to a tougher version of it.

"I think there's a hybrid approach, based on Nebraska's experience, that would be preferable to the federal one-size-fits-all system," Ashford said.

Before 2009, Nebraska's public sex-offender website listed only those sex offenders convicted of felonies who were deemed most likely to reoffend. Other less-dangerous offenders were not publicly listed, although local law enforcement and school officials were informed of where they lived.

In an attempt to comply with the Adam Walsh Act, Nebraska lawmakers dramatically changed the registry requirements.

All sex offenders, regardless of risk of reoffending, are now listed on the State Patrol's website. Their names remain there anywhere from 15 years to life, depending on the severity of their offense.

And offenders must personally report their address and movements to law enforcement offices, which has required more work for such offices.

That is similar to the sex offender registry law in Iowa, where the state has lost about $200,000 in federal funds for local drug enforcement task forces because of noncompliance.

In Nebraska, the new law has led to a wave of complaints from offenders who have moved on with their lives and have established careers and families.

They maintain that the public humiliation of being listed on the website is an unfair double punishment for themselves and their families for crimes they've already paid for through jail time or probation sentences. Some men told the Legislature's Judiciary Committee last year that being added to the public list threatened to ruin their jobs and businesses and had caused neighbors to shun them and their children.

Some law officers told the committee that providing staff to handle the personal visits from offenders required by the Adam Walsh Act cost too much for what it was worth, although some officials also said it was not a big deal.

McGill, a member of the committee, said she has no trouble getting tough on "true pedophiles" but thinks Nebraska's registry law should treat differently the offenders who had relatively minor crimes, paid their debt to society and don't appear to pose any risk to society.

"We should be worrying about those most likely to reoffend," McGill said, not those who don't pose a risk.
- The registry should be offline for everyone.  Even if it's for those who are "deemed" a "threat" to society, if they wanted to commit a new crime, the registry would not prevent that, the registry is nothing more than public humiliation and used by vigilantes to harass and harm ex-offenders.

Nebraska was deemed noncompliant with the Adam Walsh Act because legislators declined to include young people — adjudicated of sex offenses in juvenile court — on the offender registry.

Ashford said the focus of juvenile court is rehabilitation, not punishment, and that it was problematic to include juveniles who were found responsible for offenses deemed not serious enough for prosecution in adult court.
- The entire prison system is suppose to be about rehabilitation, not punishment, so basically, based on the above statement, they are basically saying for adults, it's about punishment not rehabilitation.

Gov. Dave Heineman, in a recent letter to the Judiciary Committee, appeared to agree with that logic, saying the way juvenile offenders are treated "can have very serious and long-term consequences to the successful rehabilitation." The governor, though, offered his help if legislators chose to seek compliance with the federal mandate.

Both McGill and Ashford said they don't plan to seek compliance. Nor will they seek a major change this year in Nebraska's registry law.

Ashford said the 60-day session is too short to deal with the issue, which is complicated as well as politically charged.

McGill said she doesn't sense the "political will" this year to return to Nebraska's old registry law.

Instead, she proposed a minor change Tuesday that would provide some leniency for "Romeo and Juliet" cases.

Her Legislative Bill 914 (PDF) would allow sex offenders who were 20 years old and whose victims were 15 to ask the State Patrol to reduce the length of time they are listed on the public registry from 25 years to 10 years, if the sex was consensual. McGill said such cases ought to be treated differently from a teen who molests an infant.

The bill would not affect sentences for statutory rape but would expand who could seek a short stay on the public registry in cases where the sex was consensual. Currently, statutory rape involves offenders who are 19 or older and victims who are younger than 16.

Nationally, some states are pressing Congress to relax the requirements of the Adam Walsh Act so they can comply.

At least one Nebraska lawmaker said he doesn't see a need for radical changes in the act at this point.

Sen. Pete Pirsch of Omaha, who introduced the bill that changed the Nebraska sex-offender registry act, said the old act was "deplorable" and only purported to protect public safety. Pirsch said it would be a mistake to return to a system that tried to "prognosticate" whether a sex offender would reoffend.

"There's no scientific way to predict what a convicted sex offender is capable of in the future. It didn't pass the smell test," he said.