For my Social Problems class (sociology class) the assignment was to write a paper about a subculture you are a part of, I chose to do mine about registered sex offenders. Because this is a unique and misunderstood subculture I asked to do a presentation and this is it. The presentation portion is only 6:00 minutes followed by some Q & A. afterward.
Thursday, May 8, 2014
By TONY DOKOUPIL
In the run up to Halloween one year, Sharie Keil saw something that really made her jump: Missouri governor Jay Nixon, then the attorney general.
He was on television to announce that registered sex offenders were hereby banned from participating in her favorite holiday. On threat of a year in jail, they had to stay inside and display a sign saying they had no candy. The goal was “to protect our children,” as Nixon put it, but Keil heard only a peal of political hysteria.
- If they really wanted to protect children, then they'd also do the same for DUI offenders, people driving cars, and many other things, but, it's about making themselves "look tough" on crime! Many children are hit, and possibly killed on Halloween, not from a known sex offender but people driving drunk or a child running in front of a car. It's pure hysteria, like she said!
She is not a sex offender nor, at 63, a new-age apologist for pedophiles or predators. She is a mother, however, and in 1998 her 17-year-old son had sex with a pre-teen girl at a party. He was convicted of aggravated sexual abuse, which got him six months in county jail and a lifetime of mandatory registration as a sex offender. Ten years later, after the Halloween law, Keil felt shocked into action.
”As my husband says, I decided to go on the war path,” she remembers.
Today, she’s at the forefront of a growing fight against sex offender registries, a shame-free alliance of offenders and their families, supported by researchers and some advocates who helped pass stringent anti-abuse laws in the first place. They’re organized (albeit loosely) under Reform Sex Offender Laws, a five-year-old lobby that claims 38 state affiliates and a steady patter of legal and legislative victories.
Most of their progress, however, has been limited to a slice of the registry: juvenile offenders. That would remove Keil’s son, but this former soccer mom and chapter head of the League of Women Voters wants to abolish the public registry altogether. She funds a powerful RSOL affiliate, Missouri Citizens for Reform, which has helped push sweeping changes through the Missouri House four years in a row, only to see the effort smothered in the Senate or, last summer, stabbed by a governor’s veto.
“Changing the registry would provide relief for tens of thousands of Missourians,” Keil says. “Since there are nearly 800,000 people on the registry nationally, millions of lives would change for the better.”
Today, New Hampshire’s Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that will turn on the basic constitutional principle that criminal laws cannot be retroactive, thus punishing someone for an act that was legal at the time. Nor can the punishment for a crime be changed after the fact.
Though the case concerns a sex offender, the principle applies to every crime, and fairness dictates that the court uphold the state constitution’s requirement that “retrospective laws are highly injurious, oppressive and unjust.”
The case involves a man convicted of sexually assaulting his 14-year-old stepdaughter a quarter-century ago. For purposes of disclosure, the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union sued on his behalf, and he is being represented by William Chapman, a Concord lawyer who often represents this newspaper.
The man, now a disabled senior citizen, was convicted before a 1998 state law required that sex offenders register with authorities. That law has since been toughened roughly a dozen times. The registry, once confidential and available primarily to law enforcement, is now public.
Today, an offender’s name, address, photograph, conviction date and crime are all posted on a state website for all to see, and people on the registry are required to personally appear before local police four times per year.
The outcome could turn, as it did when the U.S. Supreme Court heard a similar case involving an Alaska sex offender registration law in 2003, on whether the court considers listing on the registry to be a punishment or regulation necessary to protect the public.
In the Alaska case, the high court deemed, in a split ruling, that registration is a regulation necessary to protect the public and thus not punitive.
In truth it was both, but since then the internet has exponentially increased the punitive effect of the registry.
Inclusion on it for life is the equivalent of the Colonial-era practice of “shaming,” which required that offenders wear a sign proclaiming their crime.
Think adulteress Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter.
Meanwhile, the public protection value of the registry remains doubtful. The overwhelming majority of those convicted of a sexual offense never re-offend, but it is next to impossible, once on the registry, to get off it with expert testimony or good behavior. That makes the registry so inclusive that it is of little use in alerting the public to convicts who remain dangerous.
In the Alaska Supreme Court case, then Justice David Souter voted to uphold the law out of respect for the legislative process, but he also wrote that “the fact that the Act uses past crime as the touchstone, probably sweeping in a significant number of people who pose no real threat to the community, serves to feed suspicion that something more than regulation of safety is going on; when a legislature uses prior convictions to impose burdens that outpace the law’s stated civil aims, there is room for serious argument that the ulterior purpose is to revisit past crimes, not prevent future ones.”
Appearance on the sex offender registry exposes those on it to humiliation, discrimination in employment and housing, threats and potential violence. It also leads to homelessness, which, because it makes offenders harder to track, is counterproductive.
For years, a disturbingly high number of people have been convicted of embezzling funds from their employer, town government, local sports league or nonprofit. Could the Legislature suddenly decide that the public needs to be protected from them, too, and pass a law requiring that, no matter when their offense was committed, their photograph and address should appear on a public website for all time?
- They should, to be fair! If it's "okay" to violate one groups rights, then they should do it to everybody so we are all treated equally!
We say no, that would be retroactive punishment and thus unconstitutional. The same principle holds in the case being argued today.
By Alan Van Zandt
ST. JOSEPH - Sheriff's departments from nine counties across northwest Missouri will be taking advantage of a law allowing them to charge sex offenders for maintaining the Sex Offender Registry program.
Representatives from four of those counties met at the Buchanan County Sheriff's office Monday to talk about the charges.
Starting June 1, counties will begin charging $10 for a first time registry and $5 for each change to a sex offender's current registration.
In Buchanan, Andrew, Nodaway and Holt counties alone, that represents more than 400 offenders.
"I think what it does is it holds their feet to the fire and makes them understand that there are people watching and that it is their responsibility," said Nodaway County Sheriff Darrin White.
"I think all of us are share in the philosophy that they need to pay for the problem they're creating," added Buchanan County Sheriff Mike Strong.
- So when are you going to start charging all other ex-felons for the problems they are causing?
Strong said the small fee will not come close to paying for the cost of maintaining the sex offender program. He says his office spends more than $80,000 per year to register and monitor sex offenders.
By MARY LOCHNER
Treatment for adult and juvenile sex offenders reduces the risk of recidivism, according to experts and research, but a lot of offenders’ success in the programs comes down to a major attitude adjustment.
A local who works with juvenile sex offenders said young offenders who begin treatment typically express attitudes supportive of sexual assault when they come in. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he had not been authorized to interview by his agency.
“What it comes down to, for all of them, is a lack of empathy,” he said, “and an overall mental justification on their part for their actions, and not taking responsibility for their actions.”
Those who offended against children, he said, will often say the victims were probably too young to remember what happened to them, or that they seemed fine afterward. Juveniles who offended against other teens will typically say she was asking for it.
“Most of them come in and say, ‘If I was put in a high-risk situation where I felt I wouldn’t ever get caught regardless of what I did, yeah, I would reoffend.’”
Treatment consist of helping sex offenders identify their own assault cycle – thoughts, behaviors, and high-risk situations that lead up to them committing sexual assault – and teaching them to be aware of it and alter it. They also learn strategies for identifying and challenging thinking errors; developing empathy for others; and taking responsibility for their own actions, he said.
Programs targeted at reducing recidivism among sex offenders are typically more successful with the juvenile than the adult population, he said.
Going to jail for a sex offense might seem like a steep consequence to a young person, he added, but not being held accountable is likely worse for that person in the long-term.
“It puts him at much higher risk for reoffending, because there’s no connection between what they did and how it affects the person they offended against. Especially when they’re younger, treatment is essential for drastically decreasing their chances of reoffending.”
- Men are not the only ones who commit sexual crimes!
A UAA Justice Center analysis on the impacts of treatment on adult sex offenders found that length of time in treatment was correlated with less risk of re-offense, and that “Those who completed all stages of treatment through the advanced stage had a zero re-offense rate for sexual re-offenses. This included Sexual Assault offenders (rapists) [sic], who generally tend to re-offend more quickly and at a higher frequency.”
By Courtney Khondabi
CHARLESTON - "I got goose bumps,” said Laura Jones.
Laura Jones said it is alarming to learn that sex offenders are living near schools. She said it is even more alarming to learn there is a special group of convicts classified as Sexually Violent Predators.
13 News found 37 listed on the West Virginia Sex Offender Registry and some are living near schools.
We found two in Cabell County. One lives about 530 feet from Cox Landing Elementary school in Lesage.
We found three in Kanawha County. Two are living in shelters just 1050 feet from Sacred Heart Grade School.
"It's horrible, this definitely needs to change," said Jones.
We have learned that all of these 37 worst sex offenders are from out-of-state. 30 are from Ohio and the rest from Pennsylvania, Indiana and Florida.
We wanted to know why and here is what the State Supreme Court tells us:
Prosecutors in West Virginia have the option to recommend cases for special status, but it seems they are not going through the steps.
We also wanted to find out why so many are from Ohio.
According to the Division of Corrections, they may have relatives in West Virginia or they lived in the state at one time.
In addition, West Virginia laws are not as strict about where sex offenders can live.
In Ohio, no convicted sex offender can live within 1,000 feet of a school. Kentucky has a similar law.
In West Virginia there are fewer restrictions, and many are allowed to live wherever they want.
Lt. D.B. Swiger of the West Virginia State Police said they do their best to keep up with where sex offenders are living.
The law requires sexually violent predators to report to state police four times a years and troopers make sure their information is up-to-date every 90 days.
"When we became the caretaker of the sex offender registry there wasn't any extra budgeting planned for that so it’s another task we have taken on that's essentially unfunded, we are going to get our job done no matter what it takes," said Lt. Swiger.
Lt. Swiger encourages parents to use the registry and to keep up with who is living in your neighborhood.
Laura Jones said she will definitely check the registry, now that she knows how many sex offenders live near her family.