Saturday, May 20, 2017

Josh Gravens: Anthony Weiner, you helped make sex offender registration laws more complicated and now you will suffer under them

Anthony Weiner, you helped make sex offender registration laws more complicated and now you will suffer under them, May 19, 2017

Mr. Weiner, 

You are an idiot. You have thrown away a lovely family, a wife so devoted that she stood by you as you became the laughingstock of the country. Your last name didn't help you much. It only gave your case an instant punchline. 

But enough of the Weiner jokes. While you could teach me about being a politician, I can teach you about being a conscious citizen. You know all about being a policy maker; I can tell you the part that you don't know: what it is like to be on the receiving end of bad policy, policy only looking to score political points and with exactly zero research to back it up. 

Do you remember those committee hearings you attended on the Adam Walsh Act (a failed attempt to standardize the complexities of sex offender registration)? Hopefully you paid attention, because sex offender registration laws and compliance with such laws are far more complex than simply avoiding sending nude pics via the wrong phone app. You helped make sure that, over the past decade, registration laws became some of the most draconian laws known to man. 

For starters, should you fail to comply precisely with any single registration requirement, you will receive a new felony sex charge. In many states, it is a felony sex charge to misunderstand often confusing or vague registration laws. The assumption is that you are now as dangerous as your alter ego once made you sound (Mr. Danger) — although research has shown no public safety benefit to the registry (in fact, the opposite). 

Let's say that you decide you want to part your hair a different way, or for some reason you want to get blonde highlights, or you grow a beard for No Shave November. You will be required to appear in person at a registering authority, which is usually a police department, to update your information. These rules vary across the country and range from a required update within 24 hours to seven days. Again, failure to notify the police of your new beard will result in a felony charge, possibly even prison time. 

Why do I know all about this, you might ask? I grew up on the sex offender registry. Why was I registered? For two incidents of touching my sister when we were kids (I was 12). As you have developed your political career over the past two decades, those same decades saw my childhood and now adult life drowning in joblessness, inability to find any place to live, intense terror for my own and my family's lives, and countless educational and life opportunities taken from me. 

I and my family live under the oppressive and ever-expanding weight of the sex offender registry. I was not afforded the juvenile system's intent to assist with rehabilitation. My record, unlike that of youths who murder, steal, commit arson, etc., was readily available to every person with access to the internet. Only a sympathetic judge and a stroke of luck took my name off the public list. Most kids who end up registered do not get that same luxury.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

2017 Virginia General Assembly has Ended So What Laws Will Change for Virginia’s Current (and Future) Registered Sex Offenders on July 1, 2017?

The 2017 Virginia General Assembly Session began back on Wednesday January 11th , it  adjourned on Saturday February 25th and the reconvene session (AKA Veto Session) was held on Wednesday April 5, 2017. 

This morning I finally finalized the 2017 General Assembly Legislation page so that all the details on what Bills failed and what Bills passed are in one location. That page will remain up until November and then it will be replaced with a new 2018 GA Legislation page in anticipation of the next VA GA session. 

So now that’s all over…………. what new laws begin on July 1, 2017 that will affect Virginias current (not just future) Registered Sex Offenders (RSO)? Is there anything significant that you need to know about or to avoid or are now required to do?  Yes there are 2 changes. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Action Item: If Colorado Can Figure it Out, Why Can't Virginia?

For at least 5 years I’ve been asking every Virginia Delegate, Senator, Secretary of Public Safety and Governor to patron a Bill to decriminalize consensual Teen Sexting in Virginia. And while many of them agree in private on my proposal no one has yet to sponsor such a Bill even though the number of juveniles being arrested in Virginia for Child Pornography rises every year with the 13-14 year olds being the highest arrest group. 

Well Colorado (see below article) is about to pass a law to make consensual Teen Sexting a petty offense where applicable, they are adding a 4-year age gap as I’ve been proposing and if the image is posted/emailed it can be a misdemeanor offense. This prevents teenagers who did not use any force, threats, intimidation, secret filming or extortion from facing a felony conviction that could include a prison sentence and lifetime registration as a public Violent Sex Offender. 

I don’t expect the first proposal to be the magic-bullet, it may take a few years like in Colorado but we should at least  be making a concerted effort to make sure our Child Pornography statutes aren’t being used against juveniles with a lifetime stigma as a public Violent Sex Offender when that is not how they were ever intended to be used. 

Please contact your one Virginia Delegate and one Senator THIS month and ask them to sponsor a Bill in 2018 to start the ball rolling on this very important reform initiative for Virginia. 

If you aren’t sure of what to ask them for go to the past posting on this Legislative Goal #10 

Thank you! 

Mary Devoy 

After two years of debate, Colorado teen sexting bill heads to Gov. John Hickenlooper, May 6, 2017
House Bill 1302 was approved the state Senate on Thursday after unanimously passing the House

A compromise teen sexting bill is heading to the desk of Colorado’s governor after passing both chambers of the state’s legislature and more than two years of fierce debate about how to address the complicated issue that’s becoming more prevalent.
“It’s all equal parts relief and happiness,” said Rep. Yuelin Willett, R-Grand Junction, who has been one of the champions of the legislation. “I think it’s actually a better bill than when it started. I think it actually ended up around the right place after about 30 stakeholders fought over it for two years.” 

House Bill 1302 was approved the state Senate on Thursday after unanimously passing the House. 

The legislation, expected to be signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper, would make consensual exchanges of nude images by children a civil infraction and gives prosecutors a range of options — from a petty offense to a felony — to use against teens who possess or distribute sexts against a victim’s will. 

The legislation proposal would make any juvenile who is at least 14 and has a nude image of another teen without their permission, and who is within four years of the victim’s age, commit a petty offense. Anyone — who is at least 14 years old and within four years of the victim’s age — who posts a nude image of a juvenile online or in another form would commit a Class 2 misdemeanor. 

Under the bill, offenders whose actions fall under the petty offense or civil infraction could never be charged with a Class 3 felony child pornography offense — the only charge currently applicable to teen sexting, which can land a child on a sex offender registry. The felony accusation, however, can still be leveled against juvenile offenders if a district attorney feels it is appropriate in egregious cases.

Registration, Tracking of Sex Offenders Drives Mass Incarceration Numbers and Costs By Rick Anderson

The “five broad reforms” (proposals) made at the end of this article, four of them have been my goals for the last 9 years.
·                Legislative Goal #3
·                Legislative Goal #4
·                Legislative Goal #6 

A really well written piece.

Registration, Tracking of Sex Offenders Drives Mass Incarceration Numbers and Costs, May 5, 2017

The September 1988 rape and murder of 29-year-old Diane Ballasiotes in Seattle, Washington, followed by the 1989 rape and sexual mutilation of a 7-year-old Tacoma boy, were the seedlings of today’s nationwide sex offender registry laws – a 50-state network that tracks over 805,000 registrants and whose usefulness as a crime-prevention tool has been questioned and criticized.

Other cases from that same era – including the widely-reported 1989 kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling in Minnesota, which was solved only late last year – led to a series of 1990-2000 state and federal statutes that established central registries for sex offenders, as well as residency restrictions and civil commitment laws. 

Attorneys and advocates for change wonder how many of the nation’s more than 805,000 registered sex offenders are in prison or jail on any given day just for violating registration requirements – which are technical violations rather than sex crimes, and did not even exist before 1990. And how much does that, and registry enforcement efforts, add to the rising costs of tracking and monitoring sex offenders? In Palm Beach County, Florida, one officer said 20 deputies are assigned full time to check on sex offenders and confirm their residences. 

After a quarter-century, are sexual predator laws and nationwide sex offender registries delivering the benefits they promised? Or have we overreacted to the threat of “stranger danger” with throw-away-the-key excesses, damn the cost?

As even pro-registry crusader Patty Wetterling (Jacob’s mother) has said, wondering if things have gone too far: “We’ve cast such a broad net that we’re catching a lot of juveniles who did something stupid or different types of offenders who just screwed up. Should they never be given a chance to turn their lives around?” 

Americans generally express belief that the registry system, which has federal oversight, helps to protect them, their families and their children from sexual predators. In reality, however, researchers and officers of the court such as Eric Tennen, a Boston criminal defense attorney who specializes in sexual assault cases, say registries fail to achieve their professed goals. 

For starters, according to Tennen, “because of the myth that sex offenders reoffend at very high rates, many people believe that most sex offenses are committed by repeat offenders. In fact, up to 95 percent of all sexual offenses are committed by first time offenders,” who obviously are not required to register until after they’re caught. 

Research has found that sex offenders have lower average recidivism rates in comparison to other offenders, though they are more likely to commit another sex offense than non-sex offenders (just as drug offenders are more likely to commit another drug-related crime, thieves are more likely to commit more thefts, etc.). According to an often-cited 2003 study published by the Department of Justice that examined recidivism rates of 9,691 sex offenders released from prison, the three-year arrest recidivism rate for sex-related crimes was 5.3 percent while the overall recidivism rate for any crime was 43 percent. As many sex crimes are not reported, however, resulting in incomplete data, recidivism rates for sex offenders are often questioned. 

Eli Lehrer – president and co-founder of the R Street Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank – said that while the registries are intended to track predatory strangers who could reoffend, studies show that roughly 90 percent of sex offenders know their victims. “Random kidnappers, like the man who took Jacob Wetterling, are quite rare,” he explained. By most estimates, about a third of victims are family members of their abusers and most of the rest are victimized by someone their parents know. 

Pedophiles, Lehrer noted, seldom kidnap their victims despite suggestions to the contrary in movies and novels. “The Polly Klass Foundation estimates that fewer than 100 children are kidnapped by strangers each year in the manner that Jacob Wetterling was,” Lehrer wrote in a recent study entitled “Rethinking Sex-Offender Registries,” published in the quarterly journal National Affairs.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School: Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse Symposium included Screening of David Feige’s Documentary Untouchable

Back on April 27th I drove to Baltimore, MD to attend the Moore Center (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School) for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse symposium.

Morning Session
·                Opening Remarks
-        Ronald J. Daniels, JD, president, Johns Hopkins University
·                Keynote Address
-        Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO, Annie E. Casey Foundation
-        Elizabeth J. Letourneau, PhD, director, Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse and Professor, Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
·                Youth intimate partner violence and aggression: What have we learned from the Shifting Boundaries prevention experiments?
-        Bruce Taylor, PhD, senior fellow, National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago and Co-Developer of Shifting Boundaries
·                Reconstructing sexual abuse prevention through trauma-informed practices
-        Jill Levenson, PhD, LCSW, professor of social work, Barry University

Afternoon Session
·                Lunch and Learn: Does registering juveniles as sex offenders reduce juvenile sex offending? Results from six states.
-        Geoff Kahn, MSPH, graduate student, Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
·                Child Maltreatment Poster Session
·                Film Screening “Untouchable”
·                Panel Discussion: Child Sexual Abuse Policy and Practice
Moderated by Fred Berlin, MD, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and including:
-        David Feige, attorney and director of "Untouchable”
-        Jill Levenson, PhD, LCSW, professor of social work, Barry University
-        Ryan T. Shields, PhD, associate director, Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
·                The Family Impact of Child Sexual Abuse
-        Stephen Moore, MD, MPH '93, president and CEO, CarDon & Associates, Inc., chair, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Advisory Board, and Mrs. Julia Moore, founding donors of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse
·                Closing Remarks
-        Elizabeth J. Letourneau, PhD 

Anyone following me on Twitter (@MaryDofVA) saw my retweets from Dr. Elizabeth Letourneau (@eletourn) that evening with quotes from presenters. 

I was so glad I made the long drive to attend this gathering not only did I meet some researchers/experts that I have been emailing with for many years I was able to view the David Feige (@DFeige) Documentary Untouchable (@UntouchableDoc) that I have been waiting for over a year to be released on DVD or via Netflix. 

Sex Offender Registration: Why Fear Isn’t Smart Policy By Sophie Day

Well written and 100% accurate!

Sex Offender Registration: Why Fear Isn’t Smart Policy, May 4, 2017
By Sophie Day

As momentum around criminal justice reform builds nationwide, sex offenders are one population that is consistently left out of the conversation. 

As of 2008, there were 737,000 individuals living on the sex offender registry in the United States, according to the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking—almost double the 386,000 registered individuals in 2001. 

After the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act was passed in 1994, as part of President Bill Clinton’s Omnibus Crime Bill, registration became a federal mandate for individuals convicted of a number of different categories of sex offenses. 

Megan’s Law, passed in 1996, added a community notification component. With the passage of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (or SORNA), the number of register-able offenses broadened and average lengths of registration increased. The intervening years between their inception and the present have not shown these laws to be effective in accomplishing their goals of community safety or reducing the number of children who are victimized. 

So why aren’t champions of prison and sentencing reform talking about it? 

The current laws were all enacted with the best of intentions. Parents, afraid for their children, overwhelmingly supported policies that they believed would keep their communities safe.  But as we have seen in the case of the War on Drugs, policies so deeply rooted in fear and misunderstanding will never be successful. In the meantime, they are causing a great deal of harm. 

Despite what researchers at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business call a “lack of empirical evidence for the recidivism-reducing benefits of registration and notification,” these laws persist and cause a number of problems. The Chicago researchers point to the financial costs associated not just with those convicted and their families, but with the taxpayers who subsidize their registration and supervision. 

Additionally, they point out, neighbors of those on the registry often suffer loss in property value, based simply on physical proximity. 

Placement on the registry does not take into account individual risk level, meaning that people are assigned to a somewhat arbitrary term of registration, along with a tier, based solely on the broad category of crime they committed. 

Much advocacy work has been undertaken in recent years to address the labeling and registry of juveniles convicted of sex offenses, citing data about low recidivism rates and discussing the harm done to young people who end up registered and greatly restricted when they pose little risk to the public. 

This work has already been successful, with some states beginning to remove juvenile offenders from the registry. These same arguments can be made for large portions of the adult men and women who are currently registered across the United States.