Sunday, September 28, 2014

Action Alert: Ask Your Virginia Delegate & Senator to Sponsor a Fiscally Responsible Bill for 2015! Approximately 29,800 Certified USPS Re-Registration Letters Were Mailed Out by the VSP in 2013 and the Postage Alone Cost Approximately $268,000, Stop the Madness!


It appears the cost of USPS certified letters for VSP re-registrations have increased, in 2013 approximately $9.00 in 2014 it's now $10.18!

Another good reason for the State of Virginia to stop sending out these letter and to set automatic/reoccurring registration dates based on an RSO’s DOB per the below recommendation. 

Original Post:
Instead of the Virginia State Police (VSP) printing, processing and mailing USPS certified letters to all the Registered Sex Offenders (RSO’s) under VSP supervision 1-4 times per year they should setup a schedule for re-registration based on the offenders DOB. 
First, Some Quick Math:
Per the VSP 2014 Report on Sex Offender Monitoring in October 2013
1.      8,145 of the 20,360 RSO’s in Virginia were under VSP supervision
2.     Based on a 2010 FOIA we know approximately 83% of the Virginia Registry are classified as Violent, that would be 7,470 of the October 2013 offenders
3.     The remaining 17% is classified as Non-Violent that would be 675 offenders in October 2013. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

ACLU of Arizona Files Suit Against New “Revenge Porn” Law for Being Unconstitutionally Vague

Remember, Virginia passed a “Revenge Porn “Law during this year’s General Assembly session, it's a misdemeanor and not a registerable offense but it could be elevated to either or both at any future session.

Arizona’s Law Against Revenge Porn: Nice Try, But It Makes All Nudes Illegal, September 23, 2014

If you shared or re-published any of the images of nude celebrities that leaked online earlier this month, you could be charged with a felony under a new Arizona law. 

You could also be charged for sharing an image of a woman’s unclothed breast while she’s feeding her infant, or for publishing images of the stripped Abu Ghraib prisoners piled inhumanely in a pyramid. There’s even potential risk from publishing the latest nip-slip image of a celebrity suffering a wardrobe malfunction or caught in an ungraceful sprawl while exiting a taxi sans underwear. 

That’s essentially the argument in a lawsuit filed in Arizona today by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a coalition of media groups, librarians and others who are challenging the law on the constitutional grounds that it restricts free speech and freedom of the press protections guaranteed under the First Amendment. They also say it violates the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, and is “unconstitutionally vague” and “vastly overbroad” in reach.

September 23, 2014 Virginia State Crime Commission Meeting

Today was the Virginia State Crime Commissions first meeting of 2014. 

Senator Tommy Norment is the Chair for 2014 and Delegate Rob Bell is the Vice-Chair. 

There are 6 new members to the 13 member Commission for 2014. 

Every member received my business card, a Dissemination of Information Law rack-card and a Legal Do’s and Don’ts brochure. The 3rd brochure Building a Better Registry is still being printed and will ship in a few days.

The VSCC presentations from today’s meeting are posted on-line 15 minutes before the meeting begins, click links below. 

I.        Introduction of New Members and Staff
II.     Discussion of Work Plan, Staff Work Load and Work Product of Staff

The Child Pornography presentation was on Reproduction of Child Pornography and there were 3 points/issues discussed. 

#1- §18.2-374.1:1 currently says “knowingly possesses” in section A. but not in C.  

Question: Should it be added to C.?  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Restoring Integrity to the Virginia Registry: 3rd (and last) Brochure for 2014/2015

 3rd New Brochure in anticipation of the upcoming
2015 Virginia General Assembly session
Building a Better Sex Offender Registry for Virginia
Note: I can email a PDF of this brochure to anyone who wants it, Blogger does NOT allow documents (pdf, .doc, .xls, etc) to be posted- Mary

Reminder of 1st Virginia State Crime Commission Meeting for 2014 Scheduled for This Tuesday September 23 at 10AM in Richmond Virginia

Back on September 4th I posted the full 2014 schedule for the Virginia State Crime Commission.  

The first meeting will be held in 2 days and as usual I will be in attendance based on the draft agenda. 

September 23, 2014 - 10:00 A.M. Senate Room A, General Assembly Building

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
V.     Child Pornography
VI.   Barrier Crimes 

If Tuesday’s discussion ends with proposals to change current law or to create a new law for Child Pornography I will be sure to post about it here afterwards. 

Mary Devoy

Friday, September 19, 2014

Cathy Young- In Challenging “the Myth of the Lying Woman,” Feminists Have Been Creating their own Counter-Myth: That of the Woman Who Never Lies

Crying Rape, September 18, 2014
False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
By Cathy Young

In the 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 decried the 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.”
False 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.

'Not Every Stranger is Out to Harm' Child-Predator Fears Today Fuel Policies, Questions By Michael Hartwell

'Not every stranger is out to harm', September 18, 2014
Child-predator fears today fuel policies, questions
By Michael Hartwell

LEOMINSTER -- Every so often Doug Davis, co-owner of the Davis Family Farm Adventures in Sterling, has to turn a customer away.  

For the past decade, Davis Farmland has required all adults visiting the business to have one child 12 or younger with them.  

Davis said sometimes adults, men and women, miss the sign and try to buy a ticket to Davis Farmland. He said those adults misunderstand what the place is.  

In fact, requiring adults to be accompanied by a child is a growing trend that has attracted both accolades and criticism from parents.  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What Happens When a State Continues to Implement 25 years to Life Sentences for Sex Offenses Year After Year for a Tough on Predator Stance? Utah is Finding Out and it’s Not Good for the State or the Offenders.

Sex offenders driving up Utah’s prison population, September 15, 2014
Utah bucks national prisoner decline trend as sexual-crime crackdown feeds prison system.
By Marissa Lang

Prison populations around the country have been in steady decline for the past 10 years. 

In Utah, it’s a different story. 

The 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. 

Sex offenders now take up 42 percent more beds than they did 10 years ago, making them the largest group inside the Utah State Prison. 

It’s a 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. 

Sex 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.  

A third 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. 

Virginia: We Need More Innocence Commissions by A. Barton Hinkle

Hinkle: We need more innocence commissions, September 17, 2014
By A. Barton Hinkle

The five 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. 

That 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.  

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Legal Do's and Don'ts for Virginia's Registered Sex Offenders

2nd New Brochure
Do's and Don'ts for Virginia's Sex Offenders 
Note: I can email a PDF of this brochure to anyone who wants it, Blogger does NOT allow documents (pdf, .doc, .xls, etc) to be posted- Mary

  • The VSP only posts on-line a 44-page PDF of 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 here and 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.

Ignorance of the Law is Not an Acceptable Defense in Virginia, So How About Advising the 21,000+ RSO's of Their Legal Obligations?

1st New Brochure in Anticipation of the 2015 Virginia General Assembly Session
Why Virginia Needs a Dissemination of Information Law
Note: I can email a PDF of this brochure to anyone who wants it, Blogger does NOT allow documents (pdf, .doc, .xls, etc) to be posted- Mary

Friday, September 12, 2014

Steven Yoder: The Promise (and Perils) of Predicting Sex Crimes

I believe in knowing and understanding all sides of an argument, that way a sound and balanced solution is a real possibility. 

As I have been advocating for a risk-based classification system here in Virginia as opposed to the current conviction-based system, some readers might be surprised that I’m posting the below article on this blog. 

But I’ve 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 distinctions.   

After 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. 

One-size does NOT fit all! 

The status quo is failing our citizens. 

Let’s 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.  

Mary Devoy 

The Promise (and Perils) of Predicting Sex Crimes, September 11, 2014
By Steven Yoder

Attorney-General 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. 

A 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. 

“Actuarial” 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. 

Such 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.  

For those 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. 

Research 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. 

News Alert: Virginia Supreme Court Ruling “A Hanover County Judge went Too Far in Requiring a Sex Offender to Surrender his Constitutional Protection Against Unreasonable Searches”

Yes! Yes! Yes! 

I reside in Hanover County so I am extra pleased with this ruling. Not only did the Virginia Supreme Court rule correctly but it was a 6-1 decision, in Virginia! Wahoooo! 

I have always had the highest respect for Mr. Benjamin. Not just as a Virginia attorney but for his integrity. 

Mary Devoy

Va. justices: Judge erred in ordering lifetime waiver of probationer's 4th Amendment rights, September 12, 2014
By Larry O’Dell

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 Friday. 

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. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Vera Institute of Justice - 50 States in Recalibrating Justice: A Review of 2013 State Sentencing and Corrections Trends. Again, Virginia Isn’t Even on the Chart as a State Working Towards Reform.

Well, the 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 either. 

When will 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

In 2013, 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 policy. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sentencing Law and Policy Blog: Intriguing Concurring Sentiments About Federal Child Porn Downloading Cases from Judges Noonan and Reinhardt

FYI, the Ninth District includes
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Washington
  • Guam
  • Northern Mariana Islands

Intriguing concurring sentiments about federal child porn downloading cases from Judges Noonan and Reinhardt

Late last 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: 

What I've Taken Away from Reading Mistakes were made (but not by ME): Why we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions, and hurtful acts

Back on August 7th I posted a 41 minute video presentation from the 2014 TAM Conference given by Dr. Carol Tavris: Who's Lying, Who's Self-Justifying? Origins of the He Said/She Said Gap in Sexual Allegations if you haven’t watched it you really should its amazing.
Later 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-wrote with Elliot Aronson titled 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.

I have 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 yourself. 

Self-justification 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.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Photographer Noah Rabinowitz Goes Inside the Tiny Town Built for Sex Offenders

Inside 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

  • Miracle Village, 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 their sins
  • Many offenders find it near impossible to find housing in Florida, where they are not permitted to come within 1,000 feet of children
  • Brooklyn-based photographer Noah Rabinowitz spent three days in the village capturing the people who live there
  • Rabinowitz says he was more interested in capturing a self-governed society, rather than what had brought them together

Arkansas Advocates Question Effectiveness, Fairness of Sex Offender Registry By Dave Perozek

Advocates Question Effectiveness, Fairness of Sex Offender Registry September 7, 2014
Prosecutors See No Need For Change
By Dave Perozek

Carla 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. 

"So 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. 

Experts 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. 

Registering 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. 

"Notification has never been known to do much except scare the crap out of people around the offenders," Walker said.

Survey: Virginia Law Enforcement Agencies Lack Written Interrogation Policies By Frank Green

Survey: Virginia law enforcement agencies lack written interrogation policies September 7, 2014
Study author urges overhaul to help prevent wrongful convictions
By Frank Green

Nearly 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 recorded. 

The 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 confessions. Washington came within nine days of execution.

Properly 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 Law. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Saki Knafo: Nonprofit Floats Unusual Alternative to Private Prison

Nonprofit Floats Unusual Alternative To Private Prison, September 5, 2014
By  Saki Knafo

A group 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.  

Citizens 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 quixotic effort.  

Charlie 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.  

What both 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.”  

Thursday, September 4, 2014

2014 Virginia State Crime Commission Announces the Subjects and Issues They Will be Studying This Autumn

The last 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. 

And YES, 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 comment portions. 

The draft 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, General Assembly Building
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
V.      Child Pornography
VI.   Barrier Crimes 

October 21, 2014 - 10:00 A.M. Senate Room A, General Assembly Building
I.        Law Enforcement Lineups
II.     Human Trafficking
III.   Harassment by Computer/Digital Impersonation
IV.    Sexting
V.      Special Conservators of the Peace