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"No Candy Here" Signs Required for Sex Offenders

Another idiotic policy by fear-mongerers: requiring sex offenders to post "No Candy Here" signs. Others: requiring sex offenders to attend counseling sessions on Halloween evening, ordering them not to answer the door and keep the lights turned off.

A Georgia lawmakers hopes his state will join several others – including Maryland, Indiana, Illinois, and Louisiana – and dozens of cities, towns, and counties across the US that now order registered sex offenders to put out a "NO CANDY HERE" sign. It's a gambit to warn trick or treaters against possible molesters. But it also raises constitutional and societal questions over identifying America's more than 500,000 registered sex offenders by where they live.

There's no evidence sex offenders pose a threat on Halloween: [More...]

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Miami Forces Sex Offenders to Live Under the Bridge

Via NPR:

What began a few years ago as a stopgap solution has become de facto public policy. For sex offenders with few resources who want to stay in Miami, there's just one option: an encampment of tents and shacks on the Julia Tuttle Causeway.

...State prison officials and probation officers are not happy about the situation under the bridge. They believe it is leading sex offenders to stop registering with the state and go underground.

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NJ Supreme Court Tosses Local Laws Restricting Residency of Sex Offenders

For once, Megan's Law has accomplished something positive in the area of civil liberties for sex offenders. The New Jersey Supreme Court has thrown out two muncipal ordinances restricting where sex offenders can live. The opinion is available here (pdf). Shorter version: Megan's Law trumps the local ordinances.

Under Megan's Law, convicted sex offenders may only live in a residence approved by a parole officer, and must notify authorities when they change addresses and employment. The law forbids anyone from using an offender's criminal record to deny housing.

Both New Jersey towns have ordinances that prohibit sex offenders convicted of offenses against minors from living within 2,500 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds and day care centers.

118 other NJ towns have similar laws, and I presume those are invalid as well. [More...]

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MO. Judge Blocks Halloween Sex Offender Restrictions

A judge in Missouri has blocked rules requiring sex offenders to stay home on Halloween and refrain from Halloween-related activity with children

The judge, Carol E. Jackson, of United States District Court in St. Louis, said the law was unclear, questioning language that prohibits “all Halloween-related contact with children” and allows sexual offenders to leave their homes from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. only if they have “just cause.”

Two issues raised by the case were whether sexual offenders could celebrate the holiday with their own children or grandchildren, for example by hanging decorations or carving pumpkins, and on what grounds they could leave home during the curfew.

The judge upheld two other provisions. One requires sex offenders to post a sign that says "no candy or treats at this residence." The other requires them to keep the porch lights turned off.

[More...]

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National Sex Offender Guidelines Released

The Justice Department today released the final Sex Offender Registration and Notification ACT (SORNA) Guidelines. These are the guidelines for the Adam Walsh Act's sex offender registration and notification provisions. A copy of the guidelines is here (pdf.)

The Act is officially known as the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. The Guidelines are in Title I of the Act, named the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). The DOJ office that released the guidelines is the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing,
Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (SMART).

The final guidelines incorporate changes to the intitial guidelines made following a period of public comment. SMART explains the revisions here (pdf).

Sex offenders are society's newest pariahs. Even those as young as 14 (pdf).

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Georgia High Court Tosses Sex Offender Law

Good news from Georgia.

Georgia's top court overturned a state law Wednesday that banned registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools, churches and other areas where children congregate.

"It is apparent that there is no place in Georgia where a registered sex offender can live without being continually at risk of being ejected," read the unanimous opinion, written by presiding Justice Carol Hunstein.

The Southern Center for Human Rights has been instrumental in fighting this law. Background on the law is here.

The text of the opinion is here (pdf.) The sex offender statute is here (pdf.)

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MTV Actor on Suicide Watch in Colorado Jail

MTV actor Vincent Margera (known as Don Vito to viewers of "Viva La Bam" )is on a suicide watch in a Denver area jail after being convicted at trial yesterday of sexual assault on a child for fondling the breasts and buttocks of two teens at an autograph signing event at a skate park.

The charges carry a possible life sentence. If he gets any prison time, it will be the Sex Offender Treatment Board (a parole board)that decides how much time he does, not the Judge.

According to a 2006 Colorado Department of Corrections report, since 1998, 976 sex offenders have received indeterminate sentences. Only three have been granted parole, according to the report.

Margera collapsed when the verdict came in.

When the verdict was announced, Margera, 51, fell on the floor, saying: “Just kill me now. I can’t spend my (expletive) life in prison. I didn’t do anything.”

If he gets probation, it will be for at least ten years and up to life. If he goes to prison and somehow gets paroled, his parole will last for life.

Our sexual assault laws are over the top. Groping should not carry a possible sentence of life in prison. The nation’s hysteria over child sex offenders needs to be ratcheted down a few notches.

No one supports child sex abuse. But the punishment should fit the crime. This one doesn’t.

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Arnie Rounds Up Sex Offenders, Despite Court Challenge

I praised Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in my last post, now I'm criticizing him.

The California courts are weighing challenges to residency restrictions imposed by Jessica's Law and have blocked state parole officers from arresting sex offenders for residency violations.

The Governor doesn't care. He's started a new crackdown of arresting sex offenders.

On Wednesday, the state Supreme Court agreed to block state parole agents from revoking the parole of four sex offenders who are illegally living too close to schools or parks. In a one-paragraph order, the court said it will consider whether Jessica's Law violates the parolees' constitutional rights. The law approved by voters last November prohibits offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park where children gather. The law pertains to sex offender parolees released from prison on or after November 8, 2006.

The ruling applies only to the four offenders who filed suit. So Arnie says he'll continue to pursue the rest:

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Republican Candidates Push the Fear Buttons

It's so typical. When candidates are pandering for votes and struggling to keep their candidacies alive, they resort to fear mongering and proclaiming themselves to be the candidate that will be the toughest on crime. In today's world, that means being the toughest on undocumented residents and sex offenders.

Rudy Giuliani has unveiled his new plan for war on the undocumented.

Giuliani said he would require a uniform identification card for foreign workers and students and create a central database to track the legal status of visitors to the country....Giuliani wants a tamperproof ID card that includes fingerprinting for everyone entering the country and a central database to track when they leave.

For an immigrant to get a chance to stay here, he wants a confession and then the undocumented resident will "go to the back of the line." That sounds racistly reminiscent to me of "go to the back of the bus."

What's next, a Giuliani-Tancredo ticket?

Mitt Romney is going with the tried and true: declare war on sex offenders. Never mind that penalties for sex offenders are already astronomically high, Romney will raise them even higher:

[T]he Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor has proposed increased punishment for those who prey on children online -- stringent mandatory prison sentences, followed by lifetime tracking by Global Positioning System for first-time offenders who "use the Internet to sexually assault children." He calls it "One Strike, You're Ours."

Ah, the evil internets. What's next, a Mitt Romney - John Walsh ticket?

Civil libertarians provide this response to Romney's plan:

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Florida Housing Sex Offenders Under a Bridge

Unbelievable. When will this insanity stop?

The Florida Department of Corrections says there are fewer and fewer places in Miami-Dade County where sex offenders can live because the county has some of the strongest restrictions against this kind of criminal in the country.

Florida's solution: house the convicted felons under a bridge that forms one part of the causeway. The Julia Tuttle Causeway, which links Miami to Miami Beach, offers no running water, no electricity and little protection from nasty weather. It's not an ideal solution, Department of Corrections Officials told CNN, but at least the state knows where the sex offenders are.

Then there's the rats and rodents that swarm over them.

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Civil Commitment Laws for Sex Offenders

In the wake of New York's passing a law last week allowing sex offenders to be held in civil confinement after their prison terms are up, the New York Times examines the dubious wisdom of such laws.

Here's a snippet:

only a small fraction of committed offenders have ever completed treatment to the point where they could be released free and clear. Leroy Hendricks, a convicted child molester in Kansas, finished his prison term 13 years ago, but he remains locked up at a cost to taxpayers in that state of $185,000 a year — more than eight times the cost of keeping someone in prison there.

Mr. Hendricks, who is 72 and unsuccessfully challenged his confinement in the Supreme Court, spends most days in a wheelchair or leaning on a cane, because of diabetes, circulation ailments and the effects of a stroke. He may not live long enough to “graduate” from treatment.

As the Times notes, very few will. This is a six page article that examines the flaws and mistaken assumptions in these laws.

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Ohio Weighs Special License Plates for Sex Offenders

Another terrible idea, this time from Ohio:

Convicted sex offenders in Ohio may be soon be forced to drive cars with a special license plate denoting their offense....Under the proposal, the worst sex offenders - habitual sex offenders, predators, and child-victim predators - would have to display the plate on their vehicle for five years.

Offenders would face a criminal charge if they are caught without the plate, and enablers who loan vehicles to known offenders would face criminal charges, too. If an offender moves out of state, they would get a green sticker.

This is just another shaming punishment and one that will have no effect on the number of sex offenses.

10TV spoke with a local registered sex offender who said this would be a second sentence, once out of prison. A spokesperson for CURE Ohio, which supports former inmates, said the plates would demonize people, and it's more often not an ex-felon, but rather a neighbor or relative, who hurts a child.

I'll be railing against the measure on MSNBC tomorrow at 1:30 pm ET. (Barring getting bumped for a Libby verdict or other breaking news.)

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Sex Offender Residency Laws Under Attack

The trend towards adopting laws restricting where sex offenders may live may be slowing down as more legal challenges are filed and cities and states are finding they are not the panacea once thought.

From the Kansas Department of Corrections, here are "Twenty Findings of Research on Residential Restrictions for Sex Offenders and the Iowa Experience with Similar Policies."

Just a few:

  • Housing restrictions appear to be based largely on three myths that are repeatedly propagated by the media: 1) all sex offenders reoffend; 2) treatment does not work; and 3) the concept of “stranger danger.” Research does not support these myths, but there is research to suggest that such policies may ultimately be counterproductive.
  • Research shows that there is no correlation between residency restrictions and reducing sex offenses against children or improving the safety of children.

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