Thursday, June 16, 2016

Sex Offenders Who are Still Locked Up (Civilly Committed SVP’s) May Have Won Right to Vote Again in Virginia


A recent Texas decision regarding civilly committed SVP’s in Texas voting in elections because they are NOT incarcerated and they are NOT under DOC supervision. State approves mail-in ballots for civilly committed sex offenders in Littlefield, June 9, 2016 

The Virginia SVP’s who are confined at the VCBR aren’t going to be serving on any juries and they should be able to qualify for an absentee ballot. If the recent Governors Order did in fact restore SVP’s voting rights it’s not the end of the world, the sky is not falling. In 38 states and the District of Columbia, most ex-felons automatically gain the right to vote upon the completion of their sentence. And in two states incarcerated prisoners can vote. 



Sex offenders who are still locked up may have won right to vote again in Va., June 16, 2016
By Laura Vozzella

RICHMOND — Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s sweeping order to restore voting rights to ex-felons may have had another unintended consequence: giving the right to vote to at least 132 sex offenders who have finished their sentences but remain locked up because they have been deemed too dangerous to release. 

In Virginia, such individuals can be sent through a civil court proceeding to the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation in Nottoway County, southwest of Richmond. 

Sex Offender Registration: Driven by Fear or Real Risk? By Jessica DaSilva

Sex Offender Registration: Driven by Fear or Real Risk? June 14, 2016
By Jessica DaSilva

June 7 — Sa-id Abdullah, 59, doesn't deny that he committed a low-level sex offense when he was addicted to drugs in 1987. Yet when he pled guilty in 1991 in connection with an acrimonious divorce proceeding, he said he never envisioned the charge would brand him for almost 30 years.  

Six months away from completing his five years of probation in 1996, the New York Legislature passed a bill creating an online database of convicted sex offenders, including anyone previously convicted still serving probation like Adbullah.  

Abdullah's hand shook while he told Bloomberg BNA about how for the next two decades he faced criminal and civil legal battles, insecure employment, and alienation despite getting clean, returning to school, remarrying, and becoming a substance abuse counselor. Abdullah's name was finally removed from the list in May 2016.  

Such a struggle highlights the shortcomings of a system that attorneys working in that area of criminal law say is ineffective, illogical, and fails to protect communities.  

“The fact is that we have no idea of who is going to offend or re-offend,” said Professor Heather Ellis Cucolo—an attorney, adjunct professor, and director of New York Law School’s Online Mental Disability Law Program. “The ironic part of all this is that some of the factors that might potentially lead to a greater risk [of re-offense] are the factors that are imposed as a result of registration and notification.”  

Fear and Legislation 

New York's registration and notification system was enacted in response to the high-profile rape and murder of 7-year-old Megan Kanka, Cucolo explained. However, she said that type of crime is incredibly rare.  

Sex offenses make up only about 5 percent of crime in general, Cucolo said. Of all sex offenses, those committed by strangers who kidnap children only make up 10 percent, she added. Children are overwhelmingly at risk from someone they know like a relative or other close adult, she said.  

Despite those numbers, the New York Legislature created the entire registration and notification scheme based on a rare occurrence, she said.  

“The panic and the fear that is evoked by these types of crimes necessitates this type of reaction from the public and thus from the politicians and the legislators,” she said. “But the large majority of individuals on the registry do not need to be on the registry.”  

Measuring Risk 

When convicted of a sex offense, defendants receive a risk level based on a 15-category list that determines how long their names must stay on the registry, said Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma, a New York City criminal defense attorney and Abdullah's lawyer.

 However, that list usually yields “ridiculous” or “unfair” results, such as lower risk levels for possessing child pornography featuring a victim that the defendant knows, Margulis-Ohnuma said.  

That's because the risk factors are not based on the likelihood of re-offending or riskiness, but victim impact and fear, Cucolo said.