February 2, 2015

Senate bills further restrict sex offenders

2-2-2015 New York:

The Senate passed a package of seven bills last week that would extend protections against registered sex offenders living among the general public.

One bill (S.396/A.3653) sponsored by Sen. Patrick Gallivan, R-Elma, chair of the Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee, and Assemblyman Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit, would require county executives and school superintendants be notified if a sex offender is transferred into a community program in their area. The notice must be given no later than 10 days before an offender is transferred.

"Local officials have a right to know about the transfer of sex offenders into a community program or residential neighborhood so that they have time to properly address public concerns and security issues. Once notification is made, local officials will have the information necessary to appropriately respond and keep their community safe," Gallivan said.

Another bill (S.833/A.978) would prohibit level-three sex offenders from living on college campuses. A first offense would be a class A misdemeanor and subsequent offenses would be a class D felony. The bill is sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Joseph Robach, a member of the Higher Education Committee, and by Assemblyman Michael Miller, D-Queens.

"Students should feel safe and not have to worry about their well-being when living on campus, but unfortunately sexual offenses and assaults happen far too often in college housing. We can take a step towards preventing such crimes by prohibiting level-three sex offenders from living on college campuses and in college dorms, which will help provide a safe learning environment for future generations," said Robach, R-Rochester.

And a bill (S.851) would prohibit level-two and level-three sex offenders from staying in emergency housing and homeless shelters used to house families with children. The bill is sponsored by Senate Co-Leader and head of the Independent Democratic Conference Jeff Klein, and is supported by all members of his conference.

"Allowing high-level sex offenders to stay in family shelters where vulnerable women and children are trying to get back on their feet is not only troublesome but dangerous," said Klein, D-Bronx. "With more than 60,000 homeless New Yorkers sleeping in New York City shelters and thousands more out on the street, we need to take every measure to protect those in our care."

Klein's bill is also sponsored by Assemblyman Matthew Titone, a member of the Committee on Social Services. "The issue of high-level sex offenders taking up residence in emergency shelters intended for homeless families remains a concern since first coming to our attention in 2007. Federal law prohibits public housing admission to level-two and level-three sex offenders – and we are seeking to extend that protection to our most vulnerable children and families," said Titone, D-Staten Island. "Today 80 percent of New York's homeless are women and children; every day that the current law remains in place, each of New York's 25,000 homeless children remains in avoidable risk."

Bill S.2084 would amend the correction law to prohibit the court from granting sex offenders legal custody or unsupervised visitation of a child. Republican Sen. John Flanagan, a member of the Rules Committee, sponsors the bill, but there is no similar bill in the Assembly.

"Many times, the children of sex offenders are at greatest risk for abuse and we must provide them with any and all protections to help keep them safe from harm. While parental rights are extremely important, the safety of any children involved must be the most important factor in any custody decision," said Flanagan, R-East Northport. "Altering the permissible contact that a sex offender is able to have with children, including their own, can potentially save numerous children from emotional, physical and sexual harm."

The Senate also passed a bill (S.869) that would make it a class A misdemeanor to knowingly harbor or employ a sex offender who has failed to register and failed to verify their address and employment. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst.

"This legislation addresses the serious problem of dealing with those who protect convicted sex offenders who they know have not registered with the Division of Criminal Justice Services. Under the proposed bill, a person would be obligated to tell officials that a convicted offender is living with or working for them," Ranzenhofer said.

Another bill (S.1608/A.1819) would clarify the definition of "domicile" and "residence" in the sex offender registry law, and require a notification process of reporting for sex offenders with multiple residences. This bill is sponsored by Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, and Democratic Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, chair of the Committee of Mental Health.

Bonacic said, "This is a necessary piece of legislation because often offenders spend significant amounts of time at residences other than their registered primary domicile or residence. That means the local police and the residents, families, and school officials are not informed of an offender in their community. This puts our children, unnecessarily, at risk. This bill will fix that loophole."

Another bill (S.845/A.75) would create a sex offender public awareness program, which would include services to schools, community groups and clergy on a community level. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Robach and Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz, D-Queens.

"Preventing crimes in our communities starts at the grassroots level. The Sex Offender Public Awareness Program is a proactive approach to educating our schools, community groups and clergy about the release of sex offenders back into society so we can prevent further victimization," Robach said. "Government's most fundamental role is to protect the public, this legislation helps us in that effort." ..Source.. by RICHARD MOODY

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