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. 

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. 

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?