emotionally charged conversation about rape, few topics are more fraught than
that of false allegations. Consider some responses to the news that
singer-songwriter Conor Oberst had been falsely accused of sexual assault. Last
December a woman writing in the comments section of the website
xoJane, going by the name Joanie Faircloth, claimed Oberst raped her when she
was a teenager. The charge spread across the Internet; Oberst denied it and
brought a libel suit against Faircloth when she refused to retract the story.
In July she completely recanted, admitting that she had made it all up
to get attention. Yet instead of showing sympathy for the ordeal of the
musician—one known for being supportive of feminist issues—some chided him for
taking legal action to defend himself against a false, career-damaging charge.
In the Daily Dot, pop culture critic Chris Ostendorf decriedthe lawsuit, arguing that it could intimidate real
victims of rape and that it promoted the idea of men as victims of false
accusations—even though that’s exactly what Oberst was. After Oberst dropped
the suit, Bustle’s Caroline Pate praised his decision and referred to the saga
as “a roller-coaster for both parties”—treating the false accuser and the
wrongly accused as morally equivalent—and called the revelation of Oberst’s
innocence “crushingly disappointing.”
rape accusations are a lightning rod for a variety of reasons. Rape is a
repugnant crime—and one for which the evidence often relies on one person’s
word against another’s. Moreover, in the not-so-distant past, the belief that
women routinely make up rape charges often led to appalling treatment of
victims. However, in challenging what author and law professor Susan Estrich has called “the myth of the lying woman,” feminists have
been creating their own counter-myth: that of the woman who never lies.
populations around the country have been in steady decline for the past 10
In Utah, it’s a different
number of men and women in the state’s prison system has continued to rise,
with the highest drivers being nonviolent criminals and sex offenders, who are
staying in longer and taking up more beds than ever before, according to data
collected by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
offenders now take up 42 percent more beds than they did 10 years ago, making
them the largest group inside the Utah State Prison.
fact that is coming under scrutiny as state lawmakers and public safety
officials search for ways to improve the system, get the prison population
under control and stop the "revolving door" in which so many
offenders seem to get caught.
offenses and how the state deals with them, in particular, have raised tough
question about how Utah
handles these crimes, whether offenders are getting adequate treatment and at
what point they are being released back into the community.
of all prisoners in the state prison system are in for sex crimes, according to
Pew data. And that number’s going up, Board of Pardons and Parole member Clark
Harms said recently.
or six masochists who read this column by choice rather than by accident know
it’s not exactly given to cheerleading for more government. So they’ll want to
note this edition – which argues for not just more government spending, but a
whole new state agency.
agency would be an Innocence Inquiry Commission – something North Carolina has that no other state has.
You might have heard about North
Carolina’s from recent news coverage of Henry
McCollum and Leon Brown, who were set free this month after serving three
decades in prison for a crime they did not commit.
The VSP only posts on-line a 44-pagePDFof legal statutes. They do not hand out copies of this PDF during the initial registration or at any re-registrations, they do not mail out this PDF to RSO's who are without Internet (even when asked) and the VSP Compliance Officers do not carry copies of it when they are doing the residence checks.
I post the laws hereand they are in easily
understandable terms, not legal mumbo-jumbo. And I update it if any new laws are enacted on July 1st.
For the last 6 years, I've
been carrying around, handing out and mailing (when asked) a 6-page Word Document with the full
list in easily understandable terms, revised every year.
Last week I decided to boil
the full list down into a handy tri-fold brochure with the Top 15 laws RSO’s need to know and
where to find the rest.
always said that static assessment tools are insufficient at rating any future
risks because it ONLY looks at the past and not at any progress or growth that
has occurred in the last 5, 10, 15 or more years since the crime. To properly
evaluate anyone a combination of both static AND dynamic factors must be part
of the process plus 3 or more people should be tallying the results and making
reading the full article (below) I
understand both sides of the issue better than before and I still believe a
Risk-Based classification system in Virginia would elevate our Registry to be a
smarter tool allowing State resources to be better directed towards those who
are more likely to re-offend instead of treating everyone as a high-level
threat when we know (based on the recidivism rates) that is NOT the case.
does NOT fit all!
status quo is failing our citizens.
face it there is no crystal-ball to predict the future, but if the State of
Virginia is going to classify it’s offenders it would be smarter to do it with
Static (past) AND Dynamic
(current) Factors together as opposed to the Current Static-Only process that
we’ve been doing for almost 20 years resulting in approximately 83% of the
VSP Registry being classified as Violent and only 17% as Non-Violent. An
imbalance like this is the result of one-sided thinking; it’s time to look at
both sides and then make some changes.
The Promise (and Perils) of
Predicting Sex Crimes,
September 11, 2014
Eric Holder’s August 1 speech criticizing the use of risk assessment in
sentencing decisions may not lever the issue to the top of the policy agenda.
But a new paper could revive the debate about the effectiveness of risk tools
in evaluating the chances of recidivism among those convicted of sex crimes.
forthcoming article in the Arizona State Law Journal argues that state
criminal justice systems which use risk assessment tools may overestimate sex
offenders’ likelihood of committing another crime. That message may complicate
the efforts of those who advocate reform of sex offender policies. A key goal
of reformers is to have states use actuarial risk assessments to classify
offenders, instead of basing risk levels on their crime of conviction, as
required by the 2006 federal Adam Walsh Act.
risk assessments are designed to let state criminal justice systems evaluate
risk as car insurance companies do. A list of factors that correlate with
recidivism is used to group offenders into categories. Offenders with factors
that correlate with higher reoffense rates are judged at greater risk; those
with fewer factors are put in a lower tier.
assessments are increasingly used in release decisions for all types of
offenders. A 2008 survey by the Association of Paroling Authorities International found
that 32 out of 37 responding states used risk assessment tools to help
determine conditions of parole or probation.
convicted of sex crimes, the stakes in risk assessment are high. Those
identified as likely to commit a new offense appear on public state sex
offender registries. In many states and cities, they’re also banned from living
near schools, parks, or daycares.
shows that actuarial risk assessments perform better than what they
replaced—relying on experts to use their experience to make unstructured
clinical judgments. Studies done in the late 1990s concluded that professionals
don’t perform much better than chance in predicting recidivism.
RICHMOND, Virginia — A judge went too far in
requiring a sex offender to surrender his constitutional protection against
unreasonable searches after leaving prison, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled
In a 6-1
decision, the justices found that the court-imposed lifetime suspension of
Ronald Stuart Murry Jr.'s rights under the Fourth Amendment was unreasonable.
The court ordered a new sentencing hearing for Murry, who is serving 16 years and
seven months in prison after being convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl.
results for Virginia
(below) are not very hopeful.
We aren't even on the map!
Back in February there was an article
about another Vera Institute report on States reforming their sentencing
including scaling back on mandatory minimum sentences and allowing judges to
sentence based on the facts of the case, not the charges. That article from 6
months ago wasn’t good news for Virginia
the Commonwealth stop proposing and passing laws based on fear, myth, vengeance
and prejudice and start legislating based on facts and data-driven research?
Vera Institute of Justice-
Recalibrating Justice: A Review of 2013 State Sentencing and Corrections Trends, July 2014
35 states passed at least 85 bills to change some aspect of how their criminal
justice systems address sentencing and corrections. In reviewing this
legislative activity, the Vera Institute of Justice found that policy changes
have focused mainly on the following five areas: reducing prison populations
and costs; expanding or strengthening community-based corrections; implementing
risk and needs assessments; supporting offender reentry into the community; and
making better informed criminal justice policy through data-driven research and
analysis. By providing concise summaries of representative legislation in each
area, this report aims to be a practical guide for policymakers in other states
and the federal government looking to enact similar changes in criminal justice
week, two judges on the Ninth Circuit made noteworthy an otherwise forgettable
decision in US v. Hardrick, No. 13-50195 (9th CIr. Sept. 4, 2014) (available here),
through their concurring opinions in a run-of-the-mill affirmance of federal
conviction of a child pornography downloader. Here is the text of Judge
Noonan's Hardrick concurring addition:
that day I emailed back and fourth with Dr. Tavris. In one of her email’s she
told me about a book that she co-wrotewith Elliot
Aronsontitled Mistakes were made (but not by
ME): Why we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions, and hurtful acts in
2007/2008 and that she and the other author are revising it at the end of 2014
adding new chapters.
already recommended this book to all the Virginia
lawmakers and now I am recommending it to all the readers of this blog.
It has something for everyone.
Here is a
small sampling of what I have taken away from Mistakes were made (but not by
ME): Why we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions, and hurtful acts
We all share the
impulse to justify ourselves and avoid taking responsibility for any actions
that turn out to be harmful, immoral or stupid.
Most of us will
never be in a position to make decisions affecting the lives and deaths of
millions of people, but whether the consequences of our mistakes are trivial or
tragic, on a small scale or on a national canvas, most of us find it difficult,
if not impossible to say “I was wrong; I made a terrible mistake”. The higher
the stakes - emotional, financial, moral – the greater the difficulty.
In fact, most people
when directly confronted with proof they are wrong, do not change their point
of view or course of action but justify it even more tenaciously.
Lying to the public
to convince them of something you know is untrue is not the same as lying to
not only minimizes our mistakes and bad decisions it is also the reason that
everyone can see a hypocrite in action, except the hypocrite. It allows us to
create a distinction between our actions and our moral convictions.
the tiny town built for sex offenders: Photographer captures the spiritual
'safe haven' in Florida
where 200 convicted sex criminals and their relatives live side by side,
September 7, 2014 By Joel Christie
just outside Everglades in south Florida,
was established in 2009 by the late evangelical pastor Dick Witherow
Borne out of religion, it is
place where registered sex offenders can live without judgement and repent
Many offenders find it near
impossible to find housing in Florida,
where they are not permitted to come within 1,000 feet of children
Noah Rabinowitz spent three days in the village capturing the people who
Rabinowitz says he was more
interested in capturing a self-governed society, rather than what had
brought them together
Swanson doesn't object to Arkansas'
sex offender registry, but she thinks it should contain a lot fewer than the
14,000 names currently listed.
many on the registry are not a threat to society," Swanson said. "I'm
against it being flooded with so many sex offenders" the predators can't
be adequately tracked.
and some studies agree with Swanson, director of Arkansas Time After Time, an
organization formed in 2010 to advocate for reforming the sex offender laws.
sex offenders and notifying neighbors for those deemed at a higher risk to
re-offend isn't necessarily bad, but there are problems, said Jeffery Walker,
chairman of the University of Arkansas at Little
Rock's criminal justice department.
has never been known to do much except scare the crap out of people around the
one-third of more than 180 recently surveyed law enforcement agencies in Virginia lack written
interrogation policies, and only a handful require that questioning be
survey, the first of its kind in the country, was released today, less than a
week after the DNA exonerations of two mentally disabled North Carolina men who “confessed” to the
1983 rape and murder of a girl during faulty police interrogations.
In Virginia, two mentally
disabled men, Earl Washington Jr. of Culpeper and Curtis Jasper Moore of
Emporia, were wrongly convicted of rapes and murders as a result of false
came within nine days of execution.
conducted and recorded police interrogations can go a long way toward
preventing false confessions, said Brandon L. Garrett, the author of the study,
“Interrogation Policies,” and a professor at the University of Virginia School
of activists in Washington, D.C.,
have proposed a novel solution to a problem that has affected the United States
for decades: the practice of locking people up in private prisons that critics
say are more concerned with making money for their shareholders than with
helping lawbreakers turn their lives around.
United for the Rehabilitation of Errants, or CURE, a prison reform group
comprised mainly of former inmates, wants to convert a private jail in D.C.
into what they say would be the first nonprofit lockup in the country, if not
the world. At this point, the idea is just that -- an idea. The group, which
claims some 20,000 members throughout the country, convened its first meeting
about the proposal on Friday at D.C.'s Harrington Hotel, but has yet to figure
out any of the logistics of what they admit would be a complicated, even
Sullivan, the executive director of CURE, acknowledged that the idea might make
him sound like a knight "chasing after one of those windmills."
Still, he argues that his idealism may be exactly what is needed.
the private and government-run prisons are doing is just holding people,” said
Sullivan. “They’re playing defense; we need to play offense. We need to give
people an opportunity to change their lives.”
time I posted about the 2014 Virginia State Crime Commission Meetings was back on June 11, 2014.
Finally the VSCC
has posted what issues they will be studying/meeting about
for the September 23rd , October 21st, November 10th
and December 2nd 2014 public hearings. This is the farthest
into the year I’ve ever seen (in the last 6 years of tracking and attending the
VSCC meetings) for the study topics to be posted/announced.
there are Sexual issues being considered and studied plus Barrier and DNA issues so I will be in attendance
at every meeting and if needed, I will make a statement during the public
agendas could change one week prior to the scheduled meetings; if they do I
will post any announced changes.
September 23, 2014 - 10:00 A.M. Senate Room A, GeneralAssemblyBuilding
I.Introduction of New Members and Staff
II.Discussion of Work Plan, Staff Work Load and Work Product of Staff
III.DNA Notification Project
IV.Expungement of Juvenile Records
October 21, 2014 - 10:00 A.M. Senate Room A, GeneralAssemblyBuilding
In 3 days
this one post has been clicked on/to by more than 300 viewers.
far I have only received answers to the poll from Florida
(two senders) readers.
need those of you who have read the quick survey (below) to send
me the answersfor YOUR state so I can build an accurate and
complete 50 state spreadsheet.
please take 10 minutes out of your day if you are from any state other than
Virginia, Florida or Illinois and answer the below questions.
very, very much!
readers here in Virginia
know for 5 out of the last 6 Virginia General Assembly sessions one of my Top
8 Legislative Goalshas been a Dissemination of Information Bill.
Basically the Virginia State Police (the monitor and manager of RSO’s in Virginia) would have a
full list of current legal restrictions and regulations (State and Federal)
available at registration and when new laws pass and go in effect on July 1st
they would update the list and disperse it to all RSO’s.
This would eliminate needless violations that carry a felony punishment.
2010 an article on how the Commonwealth makes no effortto advise
Virginia’s RSO of their legal obligations but are quick to charge them with a
felony if they fail to abide by them stated that New Mexico spells out the restrictions on a website, while North
Carolina and Indiana, require offenders to read over a list of the laws and
sign that they understand it while in the presence of a law enforcement
officer. And in Kentucky,
offenders receive a notice each time a law changes. Of course this was 4
years ago so who knows what they do in 2014.
decide to find out how all 50 States handle this issue and this is where I need your help.
üFor the legal restrictions and regulations (including
Employment Limitations, State-to-State Travel and Halloween) that
ALL Registered Sex Offenders in Virginia
must abide by, go here.
üFor information on International Travel for Registered Sex Offenders, go
üFor the National Recidivism Rates of Registered
Sex Offenders in America,
üFor all sexual crimes and the official statutes in
üFor the annual
Virginia State Police Monitoring Sex Offender Reports plus the break down
of growth from December 2008 to October 2013, go here.
üFor the last 10 years of annual Virginia Criminal
Sentencing Commission Reports including the #1, 2 and 3 Fiscal Impact requests
(#1 was “Sex Offenders” for 7 out of 10 years)
for legislation from Virginia
lawmakers, go here.
VSP Virginia Crime Report for 2012, go here.
üThe annual Virginia Attorney
General Reporton Domestic and Sexual Violence, 2008 to
2013, go here.
do not post articles about Virginia RSO’s messing up and facing new charges for
their error or blatantly ignoring the laws but one very important point that I made
back on July 27 (link above) was that
the court order an RSO has obtained to be on school property does NOT follow you when your child
changes/advances to a different school.
is the reason I’ve decided to post the below article today so readers learn from
father’s mistake. I do my very best to help all of you maneuver through the
minefield of legal
restrictions and regulations that change every year here in
Virginia because the Commonwealth makes no effortto advise
Virginia’s RSO of their legal obligations, a goal
I will continue to work on.
Mix-up nearly costs sex offender 5
years in prison,
August 27, 2014
A Missouri ballot measure that would allow
allegations of past actions to be used against people facing child sexual abuse
charges could lead to more wrongful convictions of the falsely accused, a
prominent defense attorney said Wednesday.
The proposed constitutional
amendment is backed by prosecutors, sheriffs and police chiefs' groups.
It would allow past criminal
acts — even alleged crimes that didn't result in convictions — to be used to
corroborate victim testimony or demonstrate a defendant's propensity to commit
such crimes when people face sex-related charges involving victims younger than
If approved by Missouri voters in November, Constitutional
Amendment 2 could make it more difficult for defendants to persuade juries and
judges of their innocence, said Kim Benjamin, a Belton attorney who is the past
president of the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
"You're now defending your
entire life, your entire reputation, rather than this one act," she said.
"It causes a tremendous risk for more people to be wrongly