Tuesday, January 24, 2012

US Courts Beginning to See the Injustice

U.S. appeals court says sex offenders have right to libraries

(Reuters) - By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - A federal appeals court ruled on Friday that a policy barring registered sex offenders from public libraries in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was unconstitutional, a decision that could have reverberations across the nation.

"The First Amendment includes a fundamental right to receive information," a three-judge panel of the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote.

"By prohibiting registered sex offenders from accessing ... public libraries, the city's ban precludes these individuals from exercising this right in a particular government forum," the court said.

But the panel left open the possibility of allowing restrictions less stringent than an outright ban.

The case stemmed from a 2008 "administrative injunction" by then-Mayor Martin Chavez, who ordered city libraries to send letters to registered sex offenders holding library cards to tell them they were no longer allowed in libraries.

The policy was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of a sex offender who until the mayor's action frequently used the city's libraries to check out materials and attended lectures and meetings there.

Friday's decision could have nationwide implications, as the state of Iowa, three cities in Massachusetts and jurisdictions in North Carolina and Texas all have tried to enact some sort of sex offender library ban, according to an Indiana University law school article.

The opinion upholds a 2009 decision by U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo of New Mexico, who ruled the city went too far with its "complete and wholesale ban." The city appealed.

The appellate court noted in its 44-page ruling that the case "presents us with a difficult issue" because of the city's goal to protect the public versus First Amendment rights.

"We are sympathetic to the city's desire to ensure that its public libraries provide a safe, welcoming environment for its patrons, especially children," the judges wrote.

"We therefore are especially mindful that registered sex offenders, whom studies have confirmed have a considerable rate of recidivism, may threaten to shatter the peace and safety of this environment."

However, the judges said city officials failed to look at other less restrictive approaches, including designating certain hours for sex offenders, requiring them to check in with library staff or restricting areas of the library that they could use.

Albuquerque Assistant City Attorney Gregory Wheeler said the city had adopted a less restrictive policy following the district court's ruling, so Friday's decision will have little immediate impact.

Nevertheless, the city is analyzing the ruling to decide whether to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, he said, adding, "We are always looking for ways to provide more protection."

Peter Simonson, executive director of the ACLU of New Mexico, hailed the ruling.

"People have a First Amendment right to receive public information, and the government needs to explicitly justify its actions if it's going to infringe on such a fundamental right, Simonson said in a statement.

US Supreme Court - Are They Now Seeing the Big Picture?

Supreme Court allows sex offender to challenge registration requirement

WASHINGTON -- The US Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a man who was convicted of a sex crime before the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act was passed may challenge his conviction for failing to register a change of address.

View full document:  REYNOLDS v. UNITED STATES

A Win for Privacy - A Win for the Constitution

Supreme Court - US. vs Jones 10-1259

See full article at the Wall Street Journal
Justices Rein In Police on GPS Trackers

WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court ruled Monday that police violated the Constitution when they attached a Global Positioning System tracker to a suspect's vehicle without a valid search warrant, voting unanimously in one of the first major cases to test privacy rights in the digital era.

This is a victory for all citizens.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Missouri Lawmakers - Wisconsin can learn from them

Contrast Nebraska Kissing Bill to Missouri Lawmakers' Work

Nebraska State Sen. Bill Avery is dropping his attempt to make unwanted kissing a sex crime. Contrast this waste of taxpayer resources on useless grandstanding to the work done by lawmakers in Missouri, who are actually interested in good public safety policy. 

A Missouri Legislative committee recommends removing politically driven hate-mongering from state law regarding the public shaming of former sex offenders. The Report of the Missouri House of Representatives Interim Committee of Criminal Justice (attached below), issued last month, includes this recommendation:

Instead of the current all-encompassing registry, there should be two separate registries. The first would be a law enforcement only registry. This list would be comprised of those offenders who are deemed to have a minimal risk of reoffense.  The goals of this first law enforcement only registry would be to:
1. Inform local law enforcement of the offenders living within their jurisdiction; 
2. Allow those offenders determined to have a minimal risk of re-offense to remain productive members of society; 
3. Require the offenders to meet certain requirements, such as registering, periodic check-ins with law enforcement, completion of any required programs or treatment, and not reoffending;
4. Maintain the ability for citizens to access information on sexual offenders in their community upon making a request to law enforcement, as is currently available. The second list would be a publicly accessible sexual offender registry.  It would consist of the more severe and ongoing threats to society and would provide the public access to information regarding these offenders, including their name, location, and crime convicted of, among other information.

By including on the public registry only those offenders who have been determined to be most likely to re-offend and who may pose a significant threat to society, it allows the public sexual offender registry to regain its original purpose of being an effective and useful public notification tool.

This is something that is great to send to our representatives as a guideline of what is really best for public safety as well as the reintegration and rehabilitation of offenders here in Wisconsin.


Check this out...

Child porn hysteria news

  1. Cartoon characters need protection from sexual abuse, Australia’s supreme court recognized. According to the voodoo theory of child porn, each time someone looks at the cartoon, the cartoon figure will be victimized again. Or maybe the paper, or the computer hard disk will be victimized. 
  2. Police see rise in child porn cases committed by children: Of course, children are live walking child pornography themselves. When they look in the bathroom mirror, what do they see? Child pornography, of course.  And children need to be protected from themselves. Putting them in a court of law to save them from victimizing themselves. Sorry, we have difficulty understanding this nonsense witch hunt beliefs.
  3. Rethinking Sex Offender Laws for Youth Texting |NYT. Excesses of Child pornography hysteria victimize innocent children of law abiding middle class parents. So there is a tendency to fix the worst excesses of child pornography laws. This is a small step to reduce victims of child pornography laws. Fewer people care about adult men who spend 20 years in prison for possession of pictures. Child porn laws victimize children directly, as  "child pornographers", Milton Diamond has proven that child porn prohibition laws also victimize children indirectly, by increasing real child sexual abuse, 
  4. Pornography sentence unconstitutionally cruel, judge rules. Forensic Psychology web site quoting Judge Weinstein. Worth reading.
  5. Sex Gulag, a great web site:

To see the rest of the article click here.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

New Story for the New Year

States struggle with national sex offender law

By Maggie Clark - Stateline Staff Writer


Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed a bill last month making Pennsylvania the 16th state to comply with the federal act aimed at creating more detailed registries for sex offenders.

Six years ago, Congress passed what is known as the Adam Walsh Act, aimed at protecting children from predators by collecting sex offender data in a national public registry and requiring those people listed in it to report their movements to law enforcement. Adam’s law required states to place convicted sex offenders in one of three tiers, based on the severity of their crimes. The act, named for a 6-year-old boy who was kidnapped and murdered in Florida in 1981, gave the states five years to comply.   

The vast majority of states did not comply on time. As the five-year deadline of July 2011 was approaching, only four had met the terms of the law. The Obama administration issued new guidelines earlier in 2011 that gave states more discretion in implementing the act and clarified how to share information, and in the past year, 12 more states have become compliant. But most still are not, even though they will lose 10 percent of their justice assistance grants from the federal government in fiscal year 2012 as a penalty for inaction. 

It’s not that states are uninformed about the law; it’s that they have substantial objections to it. Many see it as an unfunded mandate requiring them to spend millions of dollars collecting information and placing it in the national registry. They are reluctant to bear the cost of updating their own technology to register digital fingerprints, palm prints and DNA, and of paying for the additional time that law enforcement officers would spend processing sex offenders who appear before them in person.  

Advocates for juveniles also complain about what would be a lifetime listing for some juvenile sex offenders, which they say goes against any commitment to rehabilitate juveniles, rather than punishing them for long periods of time.  

Last month, Pennsylvania became the 16th state to sign on to the act, just barely averting the federal aid penalty. Pennsylvania changed its previous law to add juveniles to its registry and require out-of-state and homeless people convicted of sexual offenses to register with law enforcement. “We can hope that by making our laws tougher,” Governor Tom Corbett said in signing the bill, “we can spare others the pain and grief that has visited too many families.” Pennsylvania had about 11,000 registered sex offenders as of June 2011. 

But many other states are continuing to voice their objections to what the federal law expects of them. Susan Frederick, senior federal affairs counsel at the National Conference of State Legislatures, expects states to continue to press Congress for more discretion about which offenders to place on the three-tiered national registry, and for how long. Currently the law requires that convicted sex offenders, including juvenile offenders, remain in the registry for anywhere from 15 years to life, depending on the severity of their crime. 

To ask for modifications in Adam’s law to render it less strict is a politically difficult request. Even in the face of compelling evidence that the federal law needs to be amended if all states are to comply, Congress may be reluctant to make changes. “It’s a political argument, and nobody wants to be seen as soft on sex offenders,” says Frederick. “The parents of these children come to committee hearings and share their stories, and it’s very difficult to look those parents in the eye and say we need to have flexibility for registering offenders.”

Costs and benefits 

In the absence of changes to Adam’s law, however, some states will argue that complying with it is simply not worth the costs. Even though they lose 10 percent of their justice assistance money, that is usually less than they would end up paying for compliance. Ohio, which was the first state to become compliant in 2007, had within two years spent about $10 million just defending itself against lawsuits from offenders sentenced to the registry, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. In contrast, Ohio would have lost only about $2 million for non-compliance during the same period. 

These calculations may be the main reason why other large and budget-challenged states such as Texas, California, and New York have not taken steps to comply. A Texas Senate study conducted in 2010 found that implementing the act in that state would cost about $39 million, in comparison to a loss in federal grants of $1.4 million per year. Texas legislators have also argued that the state’s current sex offender system, which was handling 66,587 registered sex offenders as of June 2011, is already backed up and that imposing another layer of requirements would only add to the strain of struggling law enforcement agencies.

 “The money that states will lose will be far less than they’ll have to pay for coming into compliance,” says Amanda Peterutti, associate director of the Justice Policy Institute, “and states are looking at those costs and saying ‘no way.’ ” 

Nebraska, which became compliant with the Adam Walsh Act in 2009, is now having second thoughts. Before compliance, Nebraska already maintained a three-tiered classification system for its more than 3,000 sex offenders, based on psychological evaluations and projected risks of re-offending. The names of those in the lowest tier of offenders were kept on an internal list, the second tier list was distributed to schools and other children’s centers, and the third, the list of most dangerous offenders, was made public. But when the state complied with the Adam Walsh Act, the previous tier system was abolished and all sex offenders were placed on a public list, no matter the severity of their crime or their risk of re-offending.

 “In retrospect, we question whether we are really protecting people with the high number of people out there who aren’t truly a risk,” Nebraska state Senator Amanda McGill said at an October hearing. Nebraska’s legislature will likely consider a bill in the 2012 session to authorize a study of the effects of the law in the state. 

—Contact Maggie Clark at maclark@pewtrusts.org