Sunday, October 23, 2011

Calling all to Memebership!

Reform Sex Offender Laws in Wisconsin
EP3870 Galvin Ave
Stratford, WI 54484
My name is Lara and I believe we have much in common. Let me begin by sharing with you that my husband is required to register as a sex offender. I would like to invite you and your loved ones to join me in the effort of effecting change by utilizing both the judicial and legislative processes. You are among the 21,000+ people that are subjected to the extremely punitive effects of the public registry. Just like me, your family is then caught in the crossfire of these laws and becomes the collateral damage. Our current members, consisting of registrants and their families, need for you to join us in this effort.
According to the data released in 2010 from the Department of Corrections and the United States Census Bureau, one of every ninety-nine males in our state is listed on the Sex Offender Registry. This number has grown since then and will certainly continue to grow if we just sit idly by hoping things get somehow get better. However, there is hope for change if we begin to educate our lawmakers, and undertake appropriate legal challenges. Keep in mind that Courts cannot intervene until laws are challenged. We, the registrants, must undertake appropriate legal challenges until courts recognize both the unconstitutionality and unintended consequences being inflicted. The penalties extend to everyone associated with registrants, including their minor children.
We have a two-pronged plan. First, we plan to organize a legislative campaign with the primary goal of preventing any additional requirements from being added by our lawmakers in Madison. This will require us to have a presence in Madison when bills related to registration are under consideration. Second, we hope to fund targeted litigation against the unconstitutional aspects of our current law. To accomplish these goals, we will need financial resources that we currently lack. We are reaching out for help from the registrant community because:  (1) we are the ones most impacted by these laws; and (2) there is no group or organization that is going to undertake this challenge for us.  
We understand that everyone does not have the time or the ability to lobby legislators or speak publicly. That is the reason it is imperative for us to pool our resources of talent, motivation, and membership fees to ensure that our voices be heard in our state capitol.  We need to approach our lawmakers as a cohesive group not just as individuals, it has been proven in the past that numbers turn the heads of our politicians and we certainly have the numbers.
Please support the effort to fight the laws. We can prevail if we work together to change the laws that publically humiliate not only the former offender but their families as well. Working together we can prevent any new misguided legislation from being passed. Become a member of Reform Sex Offender Laws in Wisconsin and become an active participant in our community to make meaningful change. We recognize that most registrants are not wealthy individuals, therefore, we are not asking for much. Please know that your monthly contribution of as little as $5.00 can make a huge difference when a little bit comes from everyone.

Lara Kronberger
Wife of a Sex Offender

Membership Levels


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Are We Beginning to Learn?

Sex Offender Registry: An Unfair Waste of Tax Dollars?

Wisconsin currently treats sex offenders with more care and effort than it treats offenders that are purely violent, and it's time that changed.

Criminal law is designed to be a crime and punishment system. If someone commits a crime, we have established punishments to accomplish clearly articulated goals — including punishment of the offender, protection of the community and deterrence for others considering the same conduct.

In other words, the punishment is designed to stop the offender from repeating his criminal conduct and make other offenders stop before committing their own criminal conduct. The criminal theory relies on the fact that crimes are committed by choice — which theory is evidenced by our willingness to provide a special defense for those who we consider "not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect," (commonly referred to as NGI).

For most of the criminal code, this criminal theory makes sense. However, we have a troublesome issue with sexual offenders.

As with most states, someone who is convicted of a sex crime in Wisconsin is considered a sexual offender and required to register as such for a period of time much longer than the actual sentence imposed.

Unlike any other criminal, we have recognized that there is something about a sexual offender that requires us to stay on our guard for subsequent offenses. The state monitors these offenders — a minimum of fifteen years after their criminal sentence is completed — and publishes a website where neighbors may see exactly where these offenders live. Wisconsin does not do the same for felons convicted of manslaughter, burglary, battery, drug crimes or use of a dangerous weapon — just for those convicted of sex crimes or other sexually motivated crimes.

According to the Wisconsin sex offender registry website, Port Washington and Saukville have about thirty registered sex offenders between them. The offenses that have put these individuals on the registry range from sex with a child under the age of sixteen (where the defendant was eighteen at the time he was charged) to child pornography and first degree sexual assault.

In Wisconsin, a judge may order a defendant to register for life as a sex offender for any crimes committed under the chapters covering crimes against life and bodily security, sexual morality or children, crimes violating statutes specifically for invasion of privacy or representations depicting nudity, or entry or damage into locked dwellings — provided those crimes were for sexual gratification or to degrade or humiliate the victim.

The list of crimes that may lead to sex offender registration is fairly broad, and includes criminal misdemeanors (peeping, as an example, or making obscene drawings), as well as some very serious felonies.
Unfortunately, the registry does not differentiate between the levels of crime.A sex offender is a sex offender.

The Department of Corrections describes different “levels” of sex offender, but the offender still has to notify the state where he is, which e-mail addresses he uses, the name and address of every internet profile, employment information and any school information. Further, the individual is restricted from being around children or places where he might be expected to run into children.

While the law provides that some sex offenders may stop the requirements of the registry fifteen years after the conclusion of their sentences, the judge has freedom to impose a lifetime of registration on any case.

Again, the only imposition on a felon released after a first-degree murder conviction (assuming he is eventually released) is that he will not be allowed to carry a gun or wear body armor, plus he may face an enhanced penalty after any additional criminal conduct. It is this inconsistency between sex and violence that should be most troublesome.

When it comes to any other offense, society at least has the ability to explain the conduct. As wrong as the actions are, we can at least understand someone who steals property out of desperation, someone who beats another out of anger,or someone who gets addicted to drugs out of depression. Again, understanding does nothing to excuse the conduct, but given the worst few weeks imaginable, it is not a stretch to realize that any one of us might get to the situation where some criminal conduct become a choice to consider. Although most of us would never act on the conduct, we can understand how such conduct would benefit us personally.

But not a sex offense. Something is different about a sexual offender.

One way to explain sexually deviant behavior has been to include it within the category of mental diseases or defects. Under Wisconsin law, the NGI defense to criminal liability is available in any case where the crime has an element of intent. Again, the theory is that someone who has no concept of right or wrong, or someone who lacked control of their actions at the time should not be held criminally responsible. These people were incapable of the intent to commit a crime.

Although those defendants who successfully show an NGI defense will not be convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, the law requires them to be committed to treatment. This includes commitment to the Wisconsin Department of Health, and may include lifelong treatment, monitoring or institutionalization.

In most cases, sex crimes do not cleanly fit into an NGI category, either. Someone who is convicted of lewd and lascivious behavior — a criminal misdemeanor under the chapter on crimes against sexual morality, commonly used for indecent exposure charges — may have known exactly what he was doing. He may have intended the shock, the humiliation or the embarrassment that the victim felt. But an overwhelming majority of the population would never get any personal reward from the conduct. These offenders have something different about them because they do feel some reward from that conduct. Still, sexual offenders are generally people we want to hold accountable for their actions.

So what happens to the sexual offenders? In each case, the offender goes through the same criminal process as any other offender. He is sentenced to a fine, probation, imprisonment or any combination of the three allowed by statute. Once his sentence is complete, however, the offender must continue to report to the state. He must abide by particular rules similar to those of probation, and some conduct could result in a criminal charge based entirely on his status as a registered sex offender. In effect, the offender remains on "double-secret probation," to quote a famous movie line.

In some cases, where the offense was truly violent, an offender may be committed to an institution through civil proceedings after his release from custody. This, however, is only available for sexually violent persons — again, distinct from those who might be released from a murder or manslaughter sentence. Offenders committed under this chapter of Wisconsin law are held until such time as they are "no longer a sexually violent person."

The sexual offender registry represents a failure of the current theory of criminal justice.

By requiring an extended registration process after sentencing is complete, the state is evidencing its belief that these offenders are more likely to re-offend than violent offenders. While this may be the case, the issue becomes one of establishing appropriate sentences.

If a criminal sex offense is conducted after a choice, then it is something that can be deterred through criminal punishment, and re-offense means that criminal punishment is not lengthy enough to deter that choice. If a criminal sex offense is not a choice, then the current criminal punishment is nothing more than a waste of taxpayer dollars to buy us a few years away from someone who really has a sickness that makes them dangerous to society.

Wisconsin should re-examine the use of the sex offender registry. If it is something effective at preventing future offenses, it should also be used for violent, nonsexually motivated crimes. If it has no bearing on future criminal activity, it is a waste of our time and dollars. The more appropriate way to address the issue is to determine whether the action was a choice or a defect.

Those who have been convicted after a deranged choice should be punished more severely with more time available to do so, and lengthier, open monitoring, instead of mere registration. Those who have been convicted due to a sickness should be removed from society to go through treatment, and should not be released until they are considered a low threat to reoffend, as the “sexually violent” currently are.

Instead, the state has convinced us that we must be vigilant for our own protection. Wisconsin believes that these people are a threat, but releases them anyway. We have the information to keep our children away — not against the purely violent who can live anonymously among us — only against the sexually deviant.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Collateral Damage as told by a 13 year old... Still think that the punishment fits the crime?

A Child's Story; A Lawman's Untruth

The Nebraska Legislature's Judiciary Committee listened in hushed silence as the courageous 13-year-old stepdaughter of a registrant talked of how -- even in her school -- she is not safe from the hatred that drives the Nebraska Sex Offender registry.

This child's stepfather was Level 1 -- low risk to reoffend and not on the State Patrol's public shaming website prior to the implementation of LB 285 of 2009 -- Nebraska's version of the deeply flawed Adam Walsh Act. The stepfather never touched a victim. He never even came near a victim. He was convicted of online enticement after he "talked" online to a police officer posing as a minor. (Nationally, 87 percent of such online cases are the result of police posing as minors.) Yet now, because of Nebraska law, he and his family cannot even trust that this child can be safe in her own school. Both the stepdad and the girl's mom testified.

But the riveting testimony came from the girl, who told of how a teacher thought it would be a good idea to show her class the Nebraska sex offender registry map so they would know about offenders in the area. Of course, the girl was traumatized. She called her parents, who also were traumatized. In the end, the school tried to appear to make it right. But the issue is this: Nebraska's public shaming website is packed with people who were found to be low or moderate risk to reoffend and who are not dangerous. Somewhere along the line, public officials in Nebraska have to stop telling untruths about that fact.

Before January 2010, Nebraska's public shaming website listed about 500 Level 3 high-risk-to-reoffend registrants. After LB 285 went into effect, that number soared to more than 3,000. In spite of that fact, Nebraska State Patrol Supt. Col. Dave Sankey tried to get away with telling the Judiciary Committee that the Level 1 and 2 offenders always were a small minority of the overall registrant population. A FACTS representative talked with Sankey after the hearing, and Sankey said he was basing his testimony on something he vaguely recalled being told in 2007! The FACTS rep asked Sankey to look up the numbers that were publicized when LB 285 took effect in 2010: The public shaming website tripled in size.

From immediately following the 13-year-old's testimony. here is the clip where Sankey plays it fast and loose with the numbers.

This is significant because laws get passed based on what people like Col. Sankey say at hearings like this. They just throw around the myths and untruths and inaccurate sometimes made-up numbers. Then we get laws like LB 285, which victimize people like the incredibly courageous 13-year-old and her mom and her stepdad.

We have endured more than a decade of making sex-offender laws based on what someone heard at the watercooler, or on what someone recalls from a four-year-old conversation, or on the lies and myths that are rampant around this issue. This shoot-from-the-hip casual lawmaking has to stop, because it is destroying the lives of thousands of people every day.

The Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011, Judiciary Committee interim study hearing was for the purpose of looking at exactly what LB 285 has done in and to Nebraska and its citizens. About 40 people attended. There was invited testimony from Col. Sankey, from two county sheriff's offices, from a prosecutor and from a criminal justice expert. And there was the representative of the Nebraska Attorney General's office, from whose lips fell another inaccuracy: He said that laws like Nebraska's LB 285 have not been found unconstitutional in any other state. Wrong. See Ohio, Kentucky and Alaska, to name a few -- along with numerous rulings in local jurisdictions. In Ohio, the Supreme Court said that the law has crossed the line into being punitive, meaning its retroactive enforcement is unconstitutional.

Then there was testimony from the public. A representative of Nebraskans Unafraid and FACTS made the point that no matter how much the State Patrol says it needs this law to keep a bit of federal funding, the facts show that Nebraska is spending more taxpayer dollars to make citizens less safe with LB 285.

A young man -- a registrant -- told the committee that he cannot find work and he cannot find housing. He has a family. He wants to rebuild his life. His face and name are on the public shaming website (he, too, is low-risk) and State of Nebraska law prohibits him from being the good and productive citizen he wants to be. Another young former Level 1 registrant talked of months and months of searching in vain for decent work to support his family. This man went from being Level 1 under the previous system to being a lifetime registrant under LB 285 (a travesty that is repeated over and over with this law).

A mother told the same story about her son. She was passionate and eloquent -- she wants what all moms want, a good future for her child. He is in his early 20s, and for all intents and purposes under Nebraska's LB 285, his life is over.

A father testified that he no longer has contact with his kids because he does not want them exposed to the brutal treatment described by the 13-year-old. This man once had a six-figure income. After LB 285, he tries to find work doing home repairs. This gentleman said he came to the hearing with no intention of testifying. But the courageous example of the 13-year-old, her stepdad, and her mother inspired him to come forward.

How much more similar testimony might we hear if our society did not heap scorn and hatred and abuse upon registrants and their families? Until now, registrants have been too fearful to bring their stories to light and abusive laws like LB 285 have just sailed through. No more.

Two people who attended the hearing said they were amazed that members of the public who have no responsibility for enforcing LB 285 know more about the law than the officials who testified. Guess that's why public hearings are public.

* * *

Please monitor the Nebraskans Unafraid website for additional video from this hearing. If you would like to 
help Nebraskans Unafraid carry out its mission, mail a check payable to Nebraskans Unafraid to:

Nebraskans Unafraid
PO Box 460664
Papillion, NE 68046

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Reports Everyone should take some time to Read.

ERICA R. MEINERS - Never Innocent: Feminist Trouble with Sex Offender Registries and Protection in a Prison Nation

The Evolution of Unconstitutionality in Sex Offender Registration Laws
More is not always better. Consider sex offender registration laws. Initially anchored by rational basis, registration schemes have spiraled out of control because legislators, eager to please a fearful public, have been given unfettered freedom by a deferential judiciary.
This particular article does not challenge the state’s legislative power to enact sex offender registration laws. Instead, this piece posits that, even if sex offender registration schemes were initially constitutional, serially amended sex offender registration schemes – what this piece dubs super-registration schemes – are not. Their emergence over the last several years demands reexamination of traditionally held assumptions that shaped the original legislation.
Two intertwined causes are responsible for the schemes’ constitutional downfall. The first is a legislative body eager to draft increasingly harsh registration and notification schemes to please an electorate that subsists on a steady diet of fear. When combined with the second cause, a Supreme Court that has yet to signal much needed boundaries, the ensuing consequence is runaway legislation that is no longer rationally connected to its regulatory purpose. Ultimately, this article is a cautionary tale of legislation that has unmoored from its constitutional grounding because of its punitive effect and excessive reach.