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August 22, 2014

Housing Restrictions Keep Sex Offenders in Prison Beyond Release Dates

8-22-2014 New York:

Dozens of sex offenders who have satisfied their sentences in New York State are being held in prison beyond their release dates because of a new interpretation of a state law that governs where they can live.

The law, which has been in effect since 2005, restricts many sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school. Those unable to find such accommodations often end up in homeless shelters.

But in February, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, which runs the prisons and parole system, said the 1,000-foot restriction also extended from homeless shelters, making most of them off limits because of the proximity of schools.

The new interpretation has had a profound effect in New York City, where only 14 of the 270 shelters under the auspices of the Department of Homeless Services have been deemed eligible to receive sex offenders. But with the 14 shelters often filled to capacity, the state has opted to keep certain categories of sex offenders in custody until appropriate housing is found.

About 70 of the 101 sex offenders being held are New York City residents, prison authorities said. Some have begun filing habeas corpus petitions in court, demanding to be released and claiming the state has no legal authority to hold them.

The onus of finding a suitable residence upon release is on the sex offender; the state authorities will consider any residence proposed, but will reject it if it is too close to a school or violates other post-release supervision conditions.

Before February, those who could not find suitable housing would typically be released to shelters like the men’s intake center at 30th Street and First Avenue in Manhattan, once known as the Bellevue Men’s Shelter.

But the corrections department changed its approach this year, after reports by a state senator, Jeffrey D. Klein, detailing how sex offenders were living within 1,000 feet of a school, often in homeless shelters. Prison authorities say they are holding the sex offenders until the shelter system notifies them of additional space in the few shelters far enough away from schools, such as on Wards Island. ..Continued.. by JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN

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August 21, 2014

An Oklahoma program treats juvenile sex offenders as kids, not criminals

8-21-2014 Oklahoma:

Shedding the stigma and reducing recidivism through support, education and therapy – not prison time

OKLAHOMA CITY – Sex offender. The phrase conjures pariahs living under bridges. Adults "grooming" children for devastating abuse. Violent men who take what is not freely given. Broken people.

And yet, here comes Tyler, bounding down the hall with his dusty blonde Justin Bieber haircut and chunky sneakers. He turned 16 today. He and his family have just come from Chuck E. Cheese. Tyler’s mom smiles as she tells the other parents in her support and education group at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center, "Teenagers can regress back to Chuck E. Cheese if they want."

"A grown man can regress back to Chuck E. Cheese if they want," laughs Dr. Michael Gomez, who leads the group.

Under Oklahoma law, Tyler is a sex offender. But here at the University of Oklahoma’s Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, he’s "an adolescent with illegal sexual behavior." Doctors here teach kids like Tyler that 'sex offender' "isn’t their identity," Tyler’s mom, Amanda, says. "It’s a mistake you made." A serious mistake requiring treatment, but one that need not define them. "Kids are kids and should be treated as kids," says Jaclyn Rivera, assistant district attorney in the juvenile division of the Oklahoma County District Attorney Office. Rivera tries many of these cases and, whenever possible, makes treatment here a condition of probation. "You don’t want to be throwing around labels when you’re talking about kids," she says.

Founded in 1986, the University of Oklahoma’s program has pioneered the use of a weekly family-oriented support, education and therapy group to treat these children. Based on simple behavioral-therapy principles like positive reinforcement, positive social involvement with peers and clear structure and expectations, the program has had astounding success. Its recidivism rate – the proportion of kids from the program who go on to commit another sex offense – is 3 to 5 percent, about the same as the rate of sex offenses among the general population.

"You need to have good sense and you need to know the literature. And you have to like adolescents," says Barbara Bonner, the child psychologist and professor of pediatrics who founded the program and still runs it today. Other than that, Bonner says, it’s not the highly specialized, extremely difficult intervention that is often necessary for adult sex offenders – and that most state systems assume is necessary for kids. "We’re not mixing chlorine and hydrogen. We’re just saying, 'Stop it.'"

From the time he was little, Tyler had a classic case of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. He couldn’t sit still. He had no impulse control. He constantly got in trouble at school. Nothing serious, but "a pileup of littles," says Amanda, like leaning back in his chair, pushing in line. "He didn’t have any friends, because kids didn’t want to get in trouble with him." When Tyler was 7, his older sister – 11 at the time – abused him. The children gave each other oral sex, which workers from the state’s Department of Human Services characterized as "an extreme case of 'I’ll show you mine, you show me yours,'" Amanda recalls. She felt guilty about not being aware of the abuse sooner, but DHS set both kids up with counseling, and Amanda hoped the family could put it behind them. Criminal charges were never filed. "We treated it, I thought," she says. "But adolescence started kicking in."

When he was 14, Tyler began doing to his younger siblings what his older sister had done to him: He asked his younger sister to touch him and his little brother for oral sex. She was 7; he was 5. Amanda again called DHS, which investigated and then referred the case to the police. Last year he was adjudicated delinquent – the juvenile-court equivalent of "found guilty" – of lewd acts with a child under 16. ..Continued.. by Beth Schwartzapfel

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August 20, 2014

The Source: Is It Time To Reform Sex Offender Laws?

8-20-2014 Texas Public Radio:

More than 80,000 Texans are registered sex offenders. The crimes range from the violent and truly heinous to the nonviolent and sometimes absurd.

In more than half of U.S. states, including Texas, a teenager that has consensual sex with another teenager can be put on the list. In 13 states, but not in Texas, public urination can put you on the list. And the difficulties of being removed are well documented.

Forced to register, your address is made public, and if you move your neighbors are sent your mug shot with your crime. Failure to register or to update your address upon moving can land you in serious trouble, possibly involving jail time.

These laws were created after high-profile cases of sexual violence against children. With that in mind, are they having the intended effects of protecting kids? What if the violator is a kid?

Many are arguing the empirical evidence isn't there to support the laws, or even the premise of the laws. The idea that a sex offender will always be a sexual predator isn't supported by recidivism rates. The idea that crimes against kids are perpetrated by strangers is also not the case.

So what should be done to protect kids and the public from real predators?

  • Melissa Hamilton, professor of law at the University of Houston.
  • Josh Gravens, Soros Fellow, advocate for reform who was placed on the sex offender registry in Texas at age 12.
  • Phil Taylor, retired licensed sex offender treatment provider.

*The Source airs at 3 p.m. on KSTX 89.1 FM. Audio from this show will be posted by 5:30 p.m. ..Source..

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You Could Get an Email When a Gun Offender Moves Next Door Under New Bill

8-20-2014 New York:

New Yorkers could receive an alert whenever a new gun offender moves into their neighborhood if a bill being introduced in the City Council Thursday gets approved.

The bill would make the NYPD's gun offender registry available to the public in a searchable database where people could sign up to receive an email alert if a gun offender moved into their neighborhood in the hope of reducing the recent rise in shootings citywide.

Under the law, the gun offenders' name and street will be listed along with a recent photograph, a physical description, the date of the gun crime and sentencing information.

"It will make our communities more aware of who is in our neighborhood and what actions they have taken," said Queens Councilman Costa Constantinides, who is sponsoring the bill with Council members Ritchie Torres of The Bronx and Paul Vallone of Queens. "Part of public safety is knowing who is on the field."

Leah Gunn Barrett, executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, said providing the public with more information about gun offenders can only help bring attention to the issue.

"New Yorkers have a right to know," she said.

While overall crime in the city is down, shootings are on the rise. As of Aug. 10, there were 823 shooting victims, up from 736 this time last year, a 12 percent increase. Shooting incidents also rose 13 percent to 702 from 621 this time last year.

There were also 23 shootings this weekend, including two fatalities.

"This weekend was a really tragic weekend," Constantinides said. "The mayor and police commissioner have a plan to deal with this, but this is another tool in their tool box that can help."

Last week Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a $12.7 million plan to use "violence interrupters" to thwart shootings before they take place in neighborhoods most plagued by gun violence.

At a Monday press conference, de Blasio said he was not taking the shootings "lightly," but added that compared to the city's historic crime numbers, "this is going to be one of the lowest years ever for shootings if we continue on this pace."

New York became the first city in 2006 to pass a gun registry law requiring people convicted of gun crimes to register and check in twice a year for four years with police. Other cities including Baltimore and Washington, D.C. have since followed.

Those convicted of felony gun crimes are more likely to be arrested and more likely to commit crimes that involve violence compared to other felons, according to city statistics. They are also four times as likely to be re-arrested for homicide.

But unlike the sex offender registry, the gun offender registry is currently only for internal use by the NYPD.

Legislation to make the gun registry public was also introduced last year but failed to gain Council approval amid concern about stigmatizing people with criminal convictions. The City Council recently introduced a law that would ban companies from asking job applicants about their criminal record.

Glenn Martin, a criminal justice reform advocate who is founder of JustLeadershipUSA, said he was disappointed to see the legislation being reintroduced.

"At a time when the country and New York is being much more thoughtful about crime and what does and doesn't work, you have policymakers placating the public with measures that have no evidence that they are effective," Martin said.

The stigma of being on a public gun offenders database would prevent those listed from getting jobs and housing, added Martin, a former vice president for the Fortune Society who also spent six years in New York State prison.

"If you want people to put down the guns you have to put something more valuable in their hands like hope and opportunity," said Martin. "What people need are jobs, employment, housing and treatment, not further stigmatization."

Constantinides said the bill has been tweaked so that the names of gun offenders would be removed from the public registry after four years.

"There is a rehabilitation piece here," he said. "If you leave that life behind we are not going to put this undue burden on the offender."

But Martin said that might be too little, too late.

"The best way to get people to commit more criminal activity," he said, "is to tell them they are no longer a part of society." ..Source.. by Jeff Mays

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Local Sex Offender Watch Alert Barred

8-20-2014 California:

Sonora, CA — The Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Department can no longer provide a sex offender watch list or alert residents when an offender moves into their neighborhood.

The Sheriff’s Office has been forced by California’s Department of Justice to drop the “Offender Watch” online service which allowed residents to go on line, enter their address and be alerted via email if a sex offender moved in.

Tuolumne County Sheriff Jim Mele says, “Penal code states that a law enforcement agency can publish identifying information on its website only if it determines that the public disorder about a specific offender is necessary to insure public safety, but you can’t do a blanket list of all offenders.

Sheriff Mele adds that information can still be found on the Megan’s Law Web Site. However, that site lists all sex offenders across the nation instead of just local ones. ..Source.. by Tracey Petersen

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Neighbors allegedly assault man in Flint for being on sex offender registry

8-20-2014 Michigan:

FLINT, MI -- A man was assaulted by three men from his neighborhood after they found out he was on the sex offender registry, according to a Flint police report.

Flint police were called to an area hospital in reference to an assault that happened on Crawford Street on Monday, Aug. 18, around 4:20 p.m.

The victim told police he was allegedly assaulted by three men from the south side neighborhood because he is on the sex offender registry list.

According to the report, the victim had what appeared to be a cut on his right wrist, red left eye, and a cut on his bottom lip. Police said the victim also complained of rib pain.

No suspect information was available in the report and no further information was released. ..Source.. by Amanda Emery

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Owego passes sex offender residency restriction law

8-19-2014 New York:

Owego's new sex offender residency law bans Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders from living within 1000 feet of "vulnerable entities"

The Village of Owego board has passed a law prohibiting Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders from living within 1000 feet of places it designates as "vulnerable entities," including schools, libraries and community centers. The law, once in effect, will create an exclusion zone that bans certain convicted offenders from residing in about half of the village.

The law passed the board Monday by a vote of 5 to 1, with one abstention from Mayor Kevin Millar. The last to cast his vote, Millar said he chose to abstain because of a pending state Court of Appeals decision on a similar law in Nassau County.

A map handed out at Monday night's board meeting lists nine different types of vulnerable entities. Places of worship, domestic violence service centers, homeless housing, registered family daycares, registered school-age child care and youth organizations are included. Parks and playgrounds also have 1,000-foot buffer zones around them barring Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders from living there.

"The residency law is a step," former mayor John Loftus said at Monday's public hearing. Loftus, a lifelong Owego resident, has been leading the push for broader sex offender laws in the village.

"Hopefully it will send a message to people that we're at least doing something to look out," he said.

Trustee Eric Yetter cast the lone "no" vote. He said before the vote the law would have the village take its eye off who it needs to be watching.

"This is an emotional issue. I don't want to open our doors to sex offenders coming into town," Yetter said. "I think this is a feel-good measure that doesn't really do anything for us."

Current state law places no restriction on where registered sex offenders may live, with the exception of those on parole or probation. Those offenders may be limited from living within 1,000 feet of a school or child care facility.

The Owego measure, named the Sex Offender Residency Restrictions Law, goes a step further by placing residency limitations on all Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders.

But the fate of the law may hinge on the Court of Appeals' decision in the case People v. Diack, which centers on a Nassau County ordinance barring convicted sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school. Michael Diack was arrested in 2011 and charged with residing 500 feet from a school, in violation of the county's ordinance. He was convicted in 2001 of possessing an obscene sexual performance by a child, served a 22-month sentence and was labeled a Level 1 sex offender. ..Continued.. by Megan Brockett

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Smiddy touts sex offender legislation

8-19-2014 Illinois:

Illinois Rep. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, on Tuesday paid a visit to the 144th annual Whiteside County Fair but it wasn’t just to enjoy the sights and sounds of the fair.

Instead, Smiddy came to deliver a message to his constituents about the presence of registered sex offenders at the county fair.

Currently Illinois State law prohibits any registered sex offender from working or being affiliated with any county fair. The law does not place restrictions on their attendance to the fair.

Smiddy’s message on Tuesday was that he’s working to change that.

“It was a misstep when they drafted the legislation,” Smiddy said. “So, it’s important for us to do this sooner than later.”

Joining him for the press conference were Illinois State Attorney Trish Joyce and Whiteside County Sheriff Kelly Wilhelmi, whose pressure convinced Smiddy to pursue the new piece of legislation.

According to Joyce, an incident at last year’s Whiteside County Fair involving a registered sex offender and a child prompted her and Wilhelmi to investigate the law and look to extend it to the prevention of attendance for registered sex offenders.

“This is an area that sexual predators target,” Wilhelmi said. “It’s disturbing that we haven’t gotten it taken care of. Kids should feel safe at the fair.”

If the legislation passes, which Smiddy said will be revisited in November when the veto session commences, then it will become the Whiteside County Sheriff’s Office responsibility to enforce. ..Source.. by Amy Kent Herald Staff Writer

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August 18, 2014

Mandatory life sentence for NJ child molesters proposed again

8-18-2014 New Jersey:

Convicted child predators could face a mandatory life sentence under legislation one New Jersey lawmaker continues to push.

In August of 1994, just days after 7-year-old Megan Kanka was brutally raped and murdered by a two-time convicted sex offender, State Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Trenton) introduced a bill to toughen the penalty for child molesters by having them spend the rest of their lives in jail. The legislation has never gained traction, but Turner continues to re-introduce it every year.

“My bill would require that any person who sexually assaults a minor – they would go to prison and they would go there for life without the opportunity for parole,” said Turner. “Many studies have shown that people who have a proclivity for assaulting children continue to do so.”

The prison term would be mandatory, and it would apply to anyone who sexually assaults a child under the age of 16. Turner said she isn’t sure why the measure has never passed the Legislature, but she is hopeful it will get serious consideration this year because it is the 20th anniversary of Megan Kanka’s murder.

“We know that we have these registration programs that don’t seem to be working because many of the people who are released from prison for sexually assaulting a minor don’t register, and they continue to prey upon our youth – and this one way we can certainly protect our young people,” Turner said.

Many pedophiles know they have a sickness and they can’t help themselves, and that is why they must be locked up behind bars for the rest of the lives, Turner said. ..Source.. by Kevin McArdle

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