Wednesday, September 26, 2012
By Lisa Finn
Suffolk County Executive vows to keep his promise to have two controversial homeless sex offender trailers gone by January.
Two contentious sex offender trailers that have had residents outraged over their placement in Riverside and Westhampton since 2007 will be gone by the end of the year, according to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.
"I remain committed to removing the trailers by the end of the year," Bellone said Wednesday morning.
Bellone's statement comes after Southampton officials vowed to keep fighting to overturn a recent State Supreme Court decision that dismissed the town's lawsuit involving the trailers.
"The county executive has said he's going to get rid of the trailers by the end of the year and I'm very happy about that," said Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine. "It's good news. I just hope that it's true."
"We will be holding his feet to the fire," Romaine added. "This has been a long, long fight in which Riverhead, specifically, has been victimized."
- As well as the ex-offenders you are exploiting and turning it into a political issue!
- Yeah, God forbid, we don't want these ex-offenders talking with anybody, they might molest us!
Romaine said he and Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman sponsored a resolution enabling the county to contract with Community Housing Innovations, Inc., to build scattered site housing for homeless sex offenders under a new plan.
- What difference does it make? If you idiots are forcing them from a parking lot on jail property, then where are they going to be able to house them without you doing the same thing?
"I was told that none of that housing would be located in my district," Romaine said. Romaine's district includes Riverhead, the North Fork, Shelter Island and parts of Brookhaven Town.
- Maybe not yours, but someone else's, so like usual, you are just pushing the problem off to someone else, but hey, that's politics!
The scattered site housing, Romaine added, would provide homeless sex offenders with "decent living conditions," including showers and cooking facilities; some individuals, he said, are currently "forced to go out" for meals and other services that the trailers don't provide.
- Yeah right, so would the place you are protesting now!
In a press conference earlier this year in Southampton, Bellone pledged to have the trailers removed.
- No matter where these modern day lepers are forced to live, people will always cry!
Southampton Town, Romaine said, lost its lawsuit on technical reasons, "not on the law itself or the justice involved. So it becomes more important now for the county executive to keep his word."
If the trailers are not gone by January 1, Romaine said Bellone will have to account for why "it did not happen, in light of his promise."
- As Winston Churchill once said "Politics is the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen."
Schneiderman, who said he was unable to comment on Southampton Town's lawsuit, since it involved the county, said he had spoken with Bellone a few weeks ago.
Schneiderman said he had heard that a new, larger trailer in Westhampton was holding more than the eight sex offenders that had been agreed upon; 14 have been sited there at one time, he said. When he called Greg Blass, the commissioner of the county Department of Social Services, he said Blass told him, technically, they were able to site 18 homeless sex offenders at the Westhampton facility.
Schneiderman added, "In my business, your word matters. If you make a commitment and your break a commitment, the value of your word goes to zero."
- It's politics, is their word worth anything in the first place?
And, Schneiderman added, if January comes and the trailers are still sited in Riverside and Westhampton, "There's going to be a real problem."
By Elaine Blaisdell
OAKLAND — The Board of Education is considering instituting a new sex offender policy for those who wish to attend their children’s events or activities.
In the past, sex offenders required permission to attend events but there wasn’t an official policy in place, according to Keith Harvey, director of human resources.
“By law we don’t have to allow sex offenders on school grounds,” said Harvey.
The policy would require that sex offenders fill out an application with the principal two weeks prior to the event, according to Harvey. The principal will make the determination within two weeks.
During the board meeting on Sept. 11, Harvey provided the board with information regarding the proposed sex offender policy. The board will review the proposed policy for at least a month, said Harvey.
“The policy goes into effect immediately if approved by the board,” said Harvey.
During the board meeting, Harvey also presented information on policy regarding appeals and hearings to the board. The appeals policy hasn’t been updated since it was adopted in 1988, according to the board’s public information office. The appeals policy will be operating in the same manner as the sex offender policy as far as implementation goes, said Harvey.
“It’s just a revision of the current policy, which is very outdated,” said Harvey.
The purpose of the policy is to set forth procedures for appeals and hearings to the board and to provide employees, parents and students an avenue to dispute a ruling or decision in specific situations to a higher authority, according to the board’s public information office.
Harvey also discussed appeals and hearings policies for student suspension and expulsion and for employee suspension or dismissal.
The policies can be viewed on the board’s website at www. ga.k12.md.us by clicking on BOE related information then by clicking on Boardroom Review.
The board held a special meeting on Tuesday to discuss the Fiscal Year 2012 audit and to make personnel announcements.
By Ryan Gustafson
[name withheld], the Level Three sex offender who has been trying to find a place to live in our area for the past few months, has been released from the Moose Lake Treatment Center and moved to the state prison in Lino Lakes.
Department of Corrections officials say [name withheld] will remain at that facility until he finds a place to live.
But he has already been turned down from four separate locations, and there have been two notification meetings where the public was able to influence the decisions of local landlords.
Officials worry this could become a trend.
Blue Earth County Community Corrections director Josh Milow says, "I think it could get worse. I think we are setting some difficult precedent with this situation. I've worked in the system a long time, working with sex offenders, Level II and Level III sex offenders, and I haven't seen a situation like this."
The odd thing about so many of these Level III sex offender cases we've covered over the years is the offender often received no prison sentence for the sexual assault.
[name withheld], a level III moving to New Ulm last November... [name withheld], moving to Le Center back in 2008, and now [name withheld], only went to prison after violating their probation.
Jim Fleming says, "His initial sentence - he pleaded guilty and received a stayed sentence. So he was in the community."
Fleming finds many aspects of the sex offender program troubling, including the subjective nature of deciding whether an offender is Level 1, 2 or 3.
And budget restraints for a fast growing population may force the Legislature to take a closer look at how we deal with the problem.
Milow says, "We don't dictate who gets to come out of prison, or who comes out of facilities. So we have to do the best job we can do when they're in our community."
More is not always better! Also see the comments here.
By Corey Friedman
Sheriff, attorney general say N.C. should comply with federal law; more information would be added to public registries
More information about registered sex offenders — including where they work and the cars they drive — will be added to North Carolina’s online offender registry if lawmakers comply with new federal rules.
North Carolina is among 35 states that have not adopted standards in the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, passed in 2006. State Attorney General Roy Cooper is urging lawmakers to pass the reforms.
“Tracking sex offenders nationally can make communities safer and better protect people, especially our children,” Cooper said in a statement to The Wilson Times. “North Carolina risks being left behind if it fails to strengthen the sex offender registry, and legislators should do what’s necessary to protect the public.”
Wilson County Sheriff Calvin Woodard said SORNA would give residents more information about sex offenders in their communities and set harsh public penalties for serious sex crimes.
“It’s public awareness,” Woodard said. “It tells people, ‘If you do this, it’s going to be like The Scarlet Letter.’ They’re going to have an “S” and “O” for sex offender on their chest. It keeps them in check.”
- So if you are so adamant about public awareness, then why not put all criminals on a public registry so we can all be aware of the criminals who live around us?
SORNA enjoys broad support from law enforcement, but the measure has faced high legislative hurdles in Raleigh. A bill to study the federal law’s implementation introduced more than a year ago remains stalled in the Senate’s Judiciary II committee, which Republican Sen. E.S. “Buck” Newton of Wilson co-chairs.
Newton said lawmakers will study the federal law carefully and determine whether North Carolina’s registry system should be changed. He said no one from the N.C. Department of Justice or other law enforcement agencies had contacted him about SORNA.
“We’re not too enthusiastic about being told what to do by the Justice Department,” Newton said. “We’ll make sure we do what’s right for the citizens of North Carolina.”
Included in the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, SORNA requires county sheriffs to collect more information about registered sex offenders and makes more of that data available on searchable public websites.
If state lawmakers vote to comply with SORNA, the North Carolina Sex Offender and Public Protection Registry would include offenders’ workplace addresses, the addresses of their schools or colleges and the license plate numbers and descriptions of any vehicles they own or operate.
“It’s the same principles and purpose of the laws we have now — protecting the public by providing information on known offenders,” said John Aldridge, special deputy attorney general at the N.C. Department of Justice. “By coming into full SORNA compliance, we have an expansion of that database of offenders, and that seems to get to the heart of it.”
- The heart of it being money!
SORNA also encourages states to include a reverse lookup function for phone numbers and email addresses on public sex offender registries. Website visitors could enter a phone number or email address, and if it’s registered to a sex offender, the site will show that offender’s conviction history and personal information.
Advocates say that feature would allow parents concerned about inappropriate text messages or emails their children receive to help identify the senders.
Aldridge said he wasn’t sure whether his office would recommend adding a reverse lookup function to North Carolina’s public registry.
“There would be quite a lot of things that would need to be done,” he said.
The federal law discourages posting sex offenders’ phone numbers and email addresses on public websites because “availability of this type of information could allow sex offenders to network with one another, reinforcing negative behavior and providing opportunities for coordinated criminal activity,” according to a U.S. Department of Justice briefing.
- Give me a break! Are you people so ignorant you really think ex-offenders are going to get together to plan some mass molestation or something? Apparently so!
SORNA also would expand the number of registered sex offenders in North Carolina by adding juvenile sex offenders to the public registry. Under current law, judges can require juveniles to register as sex offenders, but their information is stored in a juvenile sex offender registry accessible only to law enforcement, Aldridge explained.
- Yes, the more people they have on the list, the more money they get, and the same with prisons, the more in prison, the more money!
“That would be a fairly substantial change,” he said. “Even though they are on the juvenile registry right now for North Carolina, (the public registry) would be greatly expanded if we became SORNA-compliant. With SORNA, it would be an automatic determination.”
SORNA groups sex offenses into three tiers based on severity and requires registration for 15 years with annual address verification for Tier I offenders, 25-year registration and verification every six months for those in Tier II and lifetime registration and three-month verification for Tier III offenders.
Woodard said sheriff’s deputies already visit each of the county’s 133 registered sex offenders at their homes once or twice per year, an additional form of address verification not required under state law.
“Even though they check in, we go check them, too,” Woodard said. “We go above and beyond. We don’t check them just the mandatory, the minimum. We go above the minimum.”
SORNA also expands the number of crimes that require registration as a sex offender and sets standards for registration and address verification.
Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking, a new agency that SORNA created.
Jurisdictions that didn’t pass SORNA rules by July 2011 will see a 10 percent cut in Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant funding. North Carolina law enforcement agencies and court systems took in $37.2 million in Byrne grants during fiscal year 2009.
- It's basically bribery. If you do this for us, we'll give you some money!
If state lawmakers vote to comply with the federal law, they can use grant money to pay for it. The funds cut from federal grants to North Carolina “may be reallocated ... solely for the purpose of implementing SORNA,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
South Carolina already was updating its sex offender registry system when lawmakers there chose to comply with SORNA requirements. Computer software for the required updates cost the state $207,520 with an annual expense of $187,520.
“It’s something we’ve been working toward for quite a while,” South Carolina Law Enforcement Division spokeswoman Kathryn Richardson said. She said complying with SORNA didn’t require the state to hire more employees.
“Our current staff took on additional duties and worked very diligently to implement this,” Richardson said.
Some SORNA policies don’t require changes to state law, and the North Carolina attorney general’s office already has implemented those policies. They include providing more information about out-of-state convictions and creating a system to collect digitized fingerprints and palm prints for all registered sex offenders.
“We’re pretty much at the point now where until the law is changed, we’ve gone as far as we can go,” state Justice Department spokeswoman Noelle Talley said.
Cooper sent a letter to state House and Senate leaders in 2010 and 2011 urging them to adopt the legal changes that SORNA requires.
“North Carolina is a leader by making significant strides in the development of its sex offender registration, monitoring and notification programs,” Cooper wrote in the 2010 letter. “However, to maintain this standing and stay a step ahead of the criminals, we must make the required legislative changes to meet federal requirements of SORNA.”
Wilson County’s sheriff said he’s a strong supporter of SORNA compliance and believes the disclosure requirements will help law enforcement and the public.
“I personally feel like people need to know who’s staying beside them if they’ve committed a sexual crime,” Woodard said.
- Like we said above, what about other crimes, which are more dangerous?
Woodard called the federal law “a technology-informed piece” that will help law enforcement agencies share information about sex offenders in their jurisdictions.
“People who commit any type of crime are getting smarter, and it’s always going to take law enforcement and the justice system to get one step smarter,” he said. “It’s networking and technology at its best. Everyone’s on the same page under this program, and that’s wonderful.”
General Assembly, where a bill to merely study — not implement — the federal law failed to reach a Senate floor vote last year.
The House Judiciary Committee introduced House Bill 772 to study SORNA compliance in April 2006. If passed, the bill would create a joint legislative study committee composed of five state representatives and five senators.
That committee would study SORNA requirements and compare the cost of implementing them with the loss of federal grant funding for failure to do so, according to the bill.
House members passed the bill on a 116-0 vote on June 3, 2011, and sent it along to the Senate three days later. The bill’s been stuck in committee for more than a year.
“We can certainly take a look at it in the next session, and if there are some changes we need to make to improve our registry, I’m certainly open to doing that,” said Newton, one of three Judiciary II committee co-chairmen.
Newton, a Wilson attorney, said the bill “hadn’t had any traction” in the 2012 short session because lawmakers were struggling to pass the state budget.
Newton said lawmakers periodically review the state’s sex offender laws and are committed to public protection.
“We’re always looking at our criminal laws and our sex offender laws,” he said. “We want to make sure we have the best policies in place for the citizens of North Carolina.”
Newton characterized SORNA as an unfunded federal mandate that would burden the state’s sheriffs with onerous requirements.
“We don’t need to be distracting law enforcement with policy mandated out of Washington that costs a lot of money,” he said.
No cost estimate for SORNA implementation has been produced, according to the N.C. Department of Justice, but officials say there would be significant expenses.
Aldridge, the special deputy attorney general, said implementing the law would create “a substantial increase in the need for additional personnel for law enforcement.”
The Department of Justice and State Bureau of Investigation would need more employees to manage the expanded sex offender database and ensure compliance with the new federal laws, Aldridge said.
Newton said he wasn’t sure if senators would hear the SORNA study bill in committee when the General Assembly convenes in January. While he hasn’t indicated he supports full SORNA compliance, Newton did express support for the law’s provisions to add more information to public sex offender registries.
“Generally speaking, more information for the public to be able to make themselves aware and protect themselves is a good thing,” he said.
- Yeah right, except when it comes to accessing government information. If more information is good to help people "protect" themselves, then why doesn't the government become transparent like Obama and others said it would become? Because more information exposes their corruption, that's why!
Senate leaders “strongly support efforts to crack down on registered sex offenders and increase transparency on their whereabouts,” said Amy Auth, spokeswoman for President Pro-tempore Phil Berger.
“While we have not determined our formal agenda for next year, we will continue to look at different ways to ensure that parents and law enforcement have the tools they need to protect families,” Auth said in a written statement.
While law enforcement groups have championed SORNA and cheerlead for compliance in every state, some counter that more stringent sex offender laws and longer registration periods could violate offenders’ constitutional rights.
- There is no "could" about it! If we were adhering to the Constitution, then the laws would be found unconstitutional, but the Constitution is not worth the paper and ink it's written with, so therefore, anything is now possible.
SORNA’s three-tier registration system lumps statutory rape convicts with violent sexual predators, attorney Katherine Godin of the Rhode Island American Civil Liberties Union noted in a May 12 memo to state lawmakers there.
“Under the (Adam Walsh Act), an 18-year-old who has sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend will be branded a sex offender for the rest of his life and will be seen as posing the same threat to the community as someone who commits rape or first-degree child molestation,” Godin wrote in the memo.
States toughening their treatment of convicted sex offenders may lull residents into a false sense of security, the Rhode Island ACLU argues, by ignoring the statistical likelihood that children will be abused by a family member or close family friend.
“In fact, this community notification system distorts the fact that most sex crimes are not committed by some scary man lurking in the bushes,” Godin wrote. “Instead, 97 percent of child sex abuse victims up to 5 years old knew the offender prior to the offense.”
Academic studies show that offenders placed on public registries reoffend at roughly the same rate as those convicted before the registries were maintained, said M. Lyn Exum, an associate professor of criminal justice and criminology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
“I think there is this scarlet-letter stigma that is carried with this, and whether that’s good or bad, that’s a moral judgment,” Exum said. “There’s not compelling scientific research to show that individuals on sex offender registries have lower recidivism rates.”
Studies show that 5 percent of registered sex offenders will be convicted of another sex crime within three years of their registration. In a 15-year span, about a quarter of sex offenders will reoffend.
In some studies, the number of registered offenders convicted of a subsequent sex offense was slightly lower than the number of non-registered offenders.
“Those on the registries do offend less, but it’s a very small percentage,” Exum said. “In the research world, we say those percentages are not statistically significant.”
- Hell, even the facts are not statistically significant!
Nearly half of registered sex offenders said being listed on a public registry has limited their job prospects and cost them friendships, according to self-reported survey data.
“A significant minority report being attacked — being tracked down and confronted in such a way that they were physically assaulted,” Exum said.
While the public may need information about sex offenders in their communities, some scholars and civil liberties groups say those offenders deserve the opportunity to turn their lives around.
“In some ways, you’re sort of cutting off your nose to spite your face,” Exum said. “You’re putting these people on a registry and making it harder for them to reintegrate, which could increase the chance that they recidivate.”