Friday, June 30, 2006

Georgia dodges a bullet... for now

As noted in Judge Temporarily Blocks Sex Law:

A Federal Judge today temporarily blocked the state of Georgia from preventing registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of school bus stops. The law was supposed to take effect Saturday. It prohibited sex offenders from living or loitering 1,000 feet from any public place where children could be. Opponents of the law claim it is too strict and sex offenders would have a hard time staying in the state. ...

Which, as noted a couple days ago, was the whole idea. NIMBY - not in MY backyard! ("But yours, hey I'm fine with that." The finest Georgian moral character.)

... "Either move out of state of they'll have a hard time finding a place to live in Georgia," says Hart County Sheriff Mike Cleveland.

He's referring to the nearly 11,000 registered sex offenders living in the Peach State. 34 live in Hart County. The new law would have banned them from living or loitering 1,000 feet from any public place that children might be. ...

There's another possibility you're not looking at, Sheriff Cleveland. They go underground. Now they're isolated, in unstable situations, in knowing violation of the law, under stress -- and VERY likely to reoffend.

Creating new victims.

Is this smart?

False advertising

Just in case you might still think that laws restricting sex offender residency are a good idea, take a look at this article's title: Registered Sex Offenders may still be moving into "predator-free" zones.

"Predator-free zones?" There is BIG trouble waiting to happen in this dangerously sloppy thinking. Given that half the sex offense convictions handed down are first-time convictions (the crimes were committed by never-convicted sex offenders), this is rather akin to removing only half the mines from a minefield and then declaring it a "mine-free field" and a safe place to play.

What had I said about people who move into pricey communities whose covenants prohibit registered convicted sex offenders letting their guard down? You've got it right here. They think they're in "predator-free" zones and will continue to do so -- until the day they learn the awful truth.

But there's more:

GRAND RAPIDS -- People in a northeast Grand Rapids neighborhood discovered the unlawful move. A registered sex-offender had moved in to a Travis NE address a month after a law took effect that was supposed to keep him out. ...

In this case they found a registered convicted sex offender. But as earlier articles posted here note, these laws are creating a dramatic increase in the numbers of unregistered convicted sex offenders who decide it's become way too difficult to live lawfully and go underground.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Wasted effort

A good idea but fatally flawed: Conference focuses on rehabilitating sex offenders

Experts say imprisoned sex offenders must be rehabilitated so they don't re-offend when released back into society.

The conference was held by the Center for Effective Public Policy, whose goal is to help corrections and community service agencies improve their way of re-introducing sex offenders to public life.

Secretary of Corrections Roger Werholtz thinks more attention should be paid to rehabilitating sex offenders.

“I think that's where we're going to get the biggest pay off, in terms of improved public safety, is lowering that level of negative behavior once they are released from prison,” said Werholtz said.

More than 150 people, mainly Kansas Department of Corrections staff, were on hand for the training.

Why do I say it's flawed? Because it took place in place in Kansas, where they are busy enacting laws to separate them from society when released. Such bullying post-release will negate any positive rehabilition. The conferees should have just stayed home.

The moral character of a Georgian on naked display here. 'Toughest' isn't justice:

If the purpose of HB 1059 was to run all the sex offenders out of Georgia, it will fail.

The law's chief sponsor, House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, R-St. Simon's Island, has said: "We want people running away from Georgia. Given the toughest laws here, we think a lot of people could move to another state... If it becomes too onerous and too inconvenient, they just may want to live somewhere else. And I don't care where, as long as it's not in Georgia."

Keen told colleagues in the Legislature that offenders unable to comply with the tough standards "will, in many cases, have to move to another state."

Will someone please tell Jerry Keen that will not be happening? His bill might look good on paper, and it might sound good to his constituents, but the Catch 22 -- make that Catch 1059 -- could theoretically put more children at risk than it protects.

On July 1, Georgia's new, more restrictive sex offender law goes into effect, unless a federal judge decides to extend to all sex offenders the same protection of an injunction issued Monday to eight who filed suit challenging the law.

One of the provisions of Keen's law: A registered sex offender's residence must not be within 1,000 feet of any child care facility, church, private or public school -- now including school bus stops -- or any area where minors congregate.

Sex offenders who can't find suitable places to work or live by July 1 have limited options: Go to jail or go underground. (My money is on few rushing to turn themselves in.)

What HB 1059 does is give the uninformed public a false sense of security, said Kyle Sandusky, a sex offender living in Marietta. "Because as a registered sex offender I can't get into a nice apartment complex or anything other than a flea bag roach infested motel," he said.

Sheriff's departments are responsible for measuring and certifying residences and registering sex offenders. From the beginning, many of them have complained the law gives sex offenders no way out. And that creates a great deal of stress.

Though 16 other states reportedly have laws similar to Georgia's new law, Georgia stands alone in restricting sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a bus stop.

This law punishes families, Sandusky said. "The families of Georgia's offenders are not guilty of any crimes," he said.

"These offenders paid their debt to society and are trying to rebuild their lives. They have families, pay taxes and contribute to society in whatever way they can," he said.

Doesn't a proverb talk about keeping one's enemies close? Because sex offenders who are child molesters can pose such a life-altering threat to children, doesn't it make sense to keep them where we can see them?

I thought Georgia was in the Bible belt. I guess it isn't any more.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Target-rich environment

Developers Ponder 'Sex Offender-Free' Communities:

Some Texas entrepreneurs are coming up with solutions to protect North Texas neighborhoods from sex offenders. Their plan includes banning registered sex offenders from buying homes in certain subdivisions. ...

The concept is “Sex Offender-Free” communities. Both a Lubbock-based housing developer and a North Texas businessman are trying to create them.

“We are a resource for families looking for homes that don’t have registered sex offenders nearby,” says Taylor Goodman, president of, which was launched on June 16. ...

“It’s a false sense of security to believe that where you live, if it’s restricted, is going to protect you,” says Maria Molett, a sex offender treatment provider. “It’s not.”

Critics say the danger is in becoming too comfortable. They also say these restrictions will dissuade sex offenders from registering. “If we’re talking about protecting the community,” says Molett, “the more restrictive these rules are, the less people are going to cooperate with them.” ...

I & S Investments already has sex offender-free subdivisions in Lubbock and in Kansas. The owner tells us he believes their policy has boosted their sales by at least three to four times.

Where is the best place for a child molester on the prowl to go? To one of these communities! Parents will become too comfortable and think their children are safe there, because there are no sex offenders living in the community. And they're paying good money for that assurance; they will truly believe they're buying safety.

Remember, though, that half the sex offense convictions every year are first-time convictions, and these covenants don't stop the sex offender who hasn't been caught yet, no matter where he lives. Even walled perimeters, armed guards and deep background checks on every single person wishing to enter the compound isn't going to stop these sex offenders.

It'll be interesting to see what happens the tragic day a sexual assault occurs in one of these communities. There will be lots of acrimony, no doubt, when these people learn how they threw good money away.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Snake oil sales rise in Kentucky

Kentucky's overreaching new law is going to be nothing but trouble:

ERLANGER - Kentucky's new sex offender law is long and complicated, but one segment is clear:

"No registrant ... shall reside within one thousand (1,000) feet of a high school, middle school, elementary school, preschool, publicly owned playground, or licensed day-care facility."

That's the section creating the buzz.

And it will likely get louder when the law kicks in July 12. It applies to all registered sex offenders, whether convicted of a crime against an adult or a child....

The law began as House Bill 3, passed unanimously in the House and Senate in March and signed into law by Gov. Ernie Fletcher in April. Many applaud it, saying it will make communities safer. ...

But others are pessimistic about the effects the restrictions will have on offenders, communities and law enforcement. ...

Current law prohibits sex offenders on probation or parole from living within 1,000 feet of a school or licensed day care. The measurement is the shortest distance between the walls of the facility and the offender's home.

The new law applies to all sex offenders.

It also broadens the restriction to include playgrounds and measures property line to property line.

"Playground" is not defined in the statute, but the state's Office of Legal Services defines it as publicly-owned property that has items brought to it to entertain kids, such as a swing set, pool or baseball diamond.

The new law does not have a grandfather clause, so if a school, day care or playground opens within 1,000 feet of an offender's home, the offender must leave.

(I was going to say this is ripe for abuse, but read on.)

... Iles, 50, has lived in Deer Chase subdivision in Erlanger for 18 months. Residents there, several with kids, have wanted him out since he moved in - and may now get their wish.

A piece of land abutting Iles' backyard was donated to the city a few years ago for a park. Plans call for a playground. There's no timetable but when a park does open, Iles will have 90 days to move.


But the ACLU's Lutgens said people will be forced from their homes for a solution that's not effective. "There's no correlation between these crimes and where they live," Lutgens said.


That lack of correlation concerns Christie Feldman.

Feldman is the supervisor for District 7 Probation & Parole, which includes Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties. Her office registers all sex offenders in those counties and helps those on supervised release (about 80 this month) find places to live. The office is hiring more staff in July and October, expecting a flood of calls from offenders not on supervised release who need help determining where they can live.

"I don't necessarily think the idea of the law is a bad thing, but what concerns me is it may give the community a false sense of security," said Feldman. "I've never had a victim of one of these offenders call and say 'This guy is living too close to a school.' I agree with keeping them out of those areas, but some will argue they'll do it no matter where they live."

Feldman said making them continually move could also result in a higher noncompliancy rate. "As time goes by, will it be easier for them to just not register?" said Feldman.

(Earlier articles noted that non-compliance under simple registration and notification laws runs around 5 to 10%, but that under these zoning laws non-compliance zooms to 50% or more.)

Colebank said they could be driven into isolation, which could create more of a hazard.

"With many of the people we treat, isolation played a role in them committing the offense, and we risk replicating that," said Colebank.

So Kentuckians are buying a false sense of security, and paying for it with significantly increased risk of recidivism, thus turning more Kentuckians into victims. Brilliant, folks. Just brilliant.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

"Sarah's Law, Sven's Law, lynch law... it's the law of the desperate politician"

From The Times Online (UK):

WHY, HAVING resisted for six years, has the Government suddenly decided that it is after all keen to consider “Sarah’s Law”, which would allow people to identify convicted sex offenders? One answer can be found by looking at this week’s other surprise political development: Tony Blair’s extraordinary appearance as co-presenter on a BBC radio World Cup phone-in show.

Both were stunts driven by the desperate desire to make some sort of emotional connection with a disaffected public. “Only connect!” wrote E. M. Forster. “Only connect the prose and the passion.” Substitute politicians for prose, and you have the cri de coeur of our lonely political class.


It is a sad fact that nothing in society today seems to unite as many people as the football. Nothing, that is, except perhaps hatred of paedophiles. Which might explain why a Government in danger of being knocked out in the next round could consider bringing on Sarah’s Law to connect with popular concerns. Why else would John Reid, the Home Secretary, suddenly be converted to the idea? There has been no new wave of violent paedophile attacks, no new evidence that such laws make children any safer. New Labour, however, is coming under so many attacks and feeling so unsafe, it seems prepared to turn child sex offences into a political football.

Whether they involve tail-ending Sarah’s Law or Sven’s Law, these stunts reveal a government lacking any sense of leadership or purpose. New Labour’s supposed control freaks have lost it — and they are not the only ones. One chief constable attacked the Home Office for having “surrendered” policy on sex offenders to media pressure. He had a point, but it was a bit rich: didn’t the Metropolitan Police recently try to reorganise the entire drugs regime around press stories about celebrity coke-heads? We might call it Kate’s Law.


ONE THING that Sarah’s Law definitely will not protect us from is fear — and neither will its high-profile opponents. Indeed, the debate over this legislation appears to be a contest to see who can scaremonger most effectively.

The Home Office and supporters of Sarah’s Law are stoking fears of an imaginary army of predatory paedophiles lurking at the school gates. For their part, opposition politicians and police chiefs complain that focusing on a few high-profile offenders could “divert attention from people who could pose a much greater risk” — by which they mean members and friends of a child’s family — and could also lead to “lynch law”.

All sides seem to agree that we live in a nightmare world populated by lurking sex fiends, pervert relatives and lynch mobs of angry mothers, in which we can trust nobody (except, of course, the politicians and police). Some of us might think that these fearful ideas “pose a much greater risk” to our children’s prospects of growing up in a free society.

"A vigilantes' charter? The bitter legacy of Megan's Law"

From The Independent (UK):

In the ten years since American states were forced to publish the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders, there have been a series of vigilante attacks. As John Reid considers a similar approach in Britain, Andrew Buncombe reports on a law which has had unforeseen consequences

Published: 24 June 2006

The mother of William Elliott insists her son was 19 and his girlfriend just two weeks shy of her 16th birthday when the couple had sex - behaviour about which people may have differing opinions, but which in the state of Maine was enough to earn him a conviction for statutory rape.

The information about the couple's ages was not available when a vigilante, Stephen Marshall, went online to search for registered sex offenders to kill. Instead, he simply read that in 2002 Elliott pleaded guilty to two charges of sexual abuse of a minor and had served four months in jail. Marshall was also able to access his complete address.

In the early hours of 16 April this year, armed with that information and two handguns, Marshall drove to Elliott's home in the small town of Corinth and shot him dead. The same night, he visited the house of 57-year-old Joseph Gray - also registered on the sex offenders list - and killed him as his petrified wife stood helplessly by.

"My son was not a paedophile," Elliott's mother, Shirley Turner, said. "He shouldn't have been labelled like that. All he wanted to do was to love that girl and make a family. [Without the registry] he'd still be alive today. I'd still have him."

The Home Secretary, John Reid, is currently considering new legislation in Britain to make information about registered sex offenders available to the public - introducing a version of what is known in America as Megan's Law. Meanwhile, here in the US - where the Home Office minister Gerry Sutcliffe is due to see Megan's Law in operation - a contentious debate is continuing about the wisdom and the effectiveness of making such potentially explosive information publicly available.

US public law 104-145 - the legislation commonly known as Megan's Law - was passed by the federal government in 1996 and required law enforcement authorities in each state to make information available detailing the names, addresses and identities of registered sex offenders. Each of the states operates the process differently, deciding for themselves what amount of information to provide to the public and how best to make the information available. Some states, for instance, only make available information about the most dangerous offenders, while in Maine everyone convicted of a sexual offence is listed.

But in the past few years, the debate about whether or not to make such information available has taken on a new intensity after the murder and attempted murder of registered sex offenders by vigilantes who obtained their names, addresses and conviction details simply by clicking on the internet.

In addition to the two April killings in Maine by Marshall, 20 - who turned his .45 calibre Magnum on himself when police cornered him near Boston - two sex offenders were killed last year in Bellingham, Washington state, by a vigilante posing as an FBI agent. Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, a man is in jail for the attempted murder of two other registered sex offenders in 2003.

Critics say that while Megan's Law may be well intentioned, there is a real danger of making the information about offenders too easily available to all.

"This is the only law I have seen that causes more violence than in prevents," said Jack King, a spokesman for the National Association of Criminal Defence Lawyers. "There are a lot of versions. Some make sense and will only provide the block number of a dangerous, repeat offender. But some states don't differentiate if someone was caught urinating behind a pub and was convicted of indecent exposure."


But there is widespread evidence that other registered sex offenders have suffered violence and - much more commonly - harassment and abuse. A study carried out in Florida and published last year in the Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice found that a third of convicted male sex offenders sampled had experienced "dire events". The study found that only 5 per cent had suffered assaults or injuries, but that the 33 per cent who said they had suffered negatively had typically undergone the "loss of a job or a home, threats of harassment or property damage". It added: "Some participants noted positive effects of Megan's Law, including motivation to prevent reoffence and increased honesty with friends and family."

Janice, the wife of Joseph Gray, says that her husband had always been honest with her. When they married a decade or so ago, she knew about his 1992 conviction for the indecent assault, battery and rape of a child. She declined to speak about the specifics of his offence, but said "it was not what it sounds".

Speaking yesterday from her home near Bangor, Maine, she told The Independent how she had seen Marshall shoot her husband. "I saw Mr Marshall standing at my window at 3am. I saw him execute my husband," she said, detailing how her husband had died in her arms after he was hit by two bullets.

After the killings, it emerged that Marshall had travelled to Maine from his home in Nova Scotia, Canada, with the names and addresses of 29 sex offenders obtained from the internet that he had saved on his laptop. The night he killed Gray and Elliott he had driven to the homes of four other registered sex offenders living in north-east Maine.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

O.K. Carter is right on target!

Amazing! Three days ago I noted that columnist O.K. Carter had posted some interesting numbers, but had gotten one point wrong -- recidivism stats. Today his column picks up that issue, and he is exactly on target! Myths about sex offenders make policy:

Sometimes, an urban myth becomes so pervasive that it is accepted as the unquestioned truth in every quarter -- from city hall to police headquarters to the media.

Consider as example the recent hoopla at Arlington City Hall that ended up creating a tough new policy related to how close repeat sexual offenders can live from places where children congregate. The new ordinance requires that repeat offenders live at least 1,000 feet from such places.

At last count, Arlington had about 400 registered sex offenders, of which 237 were charged with sexual offenses when the victim was 16 or younger. There may well have been, as is the case with criminal activity of all types, many offenses before the arrest that resulted in prison time.

The general wisdom is that sex offenders' condition is chronic, that they are unwilling or unable to change their behavior. In criminal justice, this is called recidivism.

But is the myth of massive recidivism true? Fortunately for society, the available statistical evidence shows this conventional wisdom to be bogus.

Consider the Department of Justice's 1994 study of 9,691 imprisoned male sex offenders from 15 states.

What the study determined was that, yes indeed, released sex offenders were four times more likely to be arrested for another sex crime than were men released from prison for other crimes.

That bit of information, typically interpreted out of context, is probably as responsible for public fears and governmental paranoia on this topic as anything.

But here's the context: The study tracked sex offenders for three years and discovered that 5.3 percent were rearrested for another sex crime, slightly more than one offender out of every 20.

How does that compare to the general, all-categories-of-crime prison population?

According to the study, of the 272,111 people released from prisons in the 15-state study area, 67.5 percent were "rearrested for a felony or serious misdemeanor within three years." That's more than 13 of every 20 prisoners released. Now that's recidivism.

And sex offenders?

"Sex offenders were less likely than non-sex offenders to be rearrested for any offense," the report noted.

And how about the most heinous category of sex offenders: child molesters? An estimated 3.3 percent were rearrested for the same crime within three years. That low rate is probably because such offenders have mandatory post-release counseling. Though even this statistic is alarming, recognize that, as previously noted, about two-thirds of released male prisoners involved in other types of crime will rob, mug, burgle or extort again.

Incidentally, the majority of sex offenses involving children -- 71 percent, according to Bureau of Justice statistics -- are committed by relatives, friends or neighbors. In short, by someone the child knows.

In that context, the 1,000-foot rule adopted by the council is comforting but essentially worthless. If parents are worried about victimization of their children by sexual predators, the first checklist should be the people they or their children know.

O.K. Carter's column appears Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays. Carter also co-hosts P3: People, Politics and Possibilities at 9:30 nightly on Comcast cable Channel 16. 817- 548-5428,

I like this guy. He's got the guts to be straight with the facts when he gets them (I don't know what led him to the quoted study, but I'm glad he saw it). The Star-Telegram has got a rare treasure with this columnist.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Can't use libraries or bus stops

Expect this one to fail bigtime when challenged. New curbs placed on sex offenders:

Registered sex offenders in unincorporated Sacramento County are no longer allowed to visit libraries, day care centers, video arcades, skate parks, public swimming pools, county parks, youth sports facilities and bus stops. ...

Libraries and bus stops? It must have been really, really important.

Passed as emergency legislation, the ordinance took effect immediately Tuesday.

I hadn't realized that California libraries and bus stops, not to mention swimming pools, etc., were experiencing suge a huge rash of assaults that emergency legislation was required. Or was this the work product of more compulsive legislators?

This appears to have been applied ex post facto:

Jake Goldenflame, an attorney and registered sex offender, said the addition of libraries to the other list of sites now off-limits for offenders in Sacramento County makes the measure even more vulnerable to challenge. ...

"Why can't I go … look up an item of history?" said Goldenflame, a San Francisco resident who often lobbies the Legislature on the issue.

If so, we would seem to have a little bit of mischaracterization going on:

Jeff Rose, a county assistant chief district attorney, said criminals understand that they lose privileges upon conviction.

Yup. And more and more on an ongoing basis after release. That's a great message to send to those whom you really, really want to go straight after their sentence is served. But hey, they're only sex offenders and the ones we push into re-offending when they otherwise wouldn't don't really hurt anyone, right?

Trading your privacy to make you "safe"

I've said for a long time that rights taken arbitrarily away ex post facto away from sex offenders are rights lost to all, but I confess I never expected to see compulsive legislators taking away everyone's privacy rights in order to provide them a little "safety." Checking student data for sex offenders stirs debate:

RICHMOND, Va. -- A new law that requires Virginia colleges to give personal information on admitted students to police for cross-checking with sex offender lists is raising eyebrows among privacy watchdogs and education leaders.

Under the law that takes effect July 1, the state's public and private colleges will send state police the names, Social Security numbers and birth dates of all students who are accepted at their schools. Privacy law experts believe it's the first time a state has ever imposed such a requirement.

Proponents say the law will help protect students from sex offenders, and state police are confident the personal information will be secure. But others are raising concerns about privacy rights and risks that the data could be misused or stolen.

"I am not aware of anything on this breathtaking a scope when it comes to violating the potential prospective students' privacy," said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers.

"Certainly the damage to privacy interests of innocent people is obvious."

The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protects the personal information of enrolled students, but does not apply to those who have merely been accepted.

"This law may not technically violate federal law, but it certainly violates the spirit of federal law intended to maintain student privacy rights," said Kent Willis, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Virginia.

The law does not bar sex offenders from entering college but provides a way to keep track of them. ...

One of the compulsive legislators who voted for this is suffering a bit of a hangover, it would seem:

But one lawmaker who voted for the bill said he's having second thoughts.

"The bill went through with little or no debate," said Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax County. "There may have been another solution." ...

Gee, do you think??? He sure didn't; he just ran with the pack.

I don't think I'll point out how this scheme could be circumvented. I don't think it would be difficult.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

When the pendulum swings

Tulsa, Oklahoma has made itself 99.5% offlimits, as noted in New Laws May Create Clusters Of Sex Offenders:

Sex offenders can no longer live within 2,000 feet of public or private schools, parks, playgrounds or licensed childcare centers. That means 99,5 percent of Tulsa is now off limits.

That will create clusters of sex offenders all living together in the few remaining areas that are legal. News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright looks at how laws with good intentions are having some unintended consequences.

Tulsa Police detective Tim Lawson: "The Governor signed emergency enaction, 12 to 15 different laws that deal with sex offenders." Detective Lawson's job is to educate sex offenders, when they come into register, where they can and cannot live. He just received a map Monday that shows sex offenders cannot live anywhere in the green, red or blue circles.

The News on 6 went to one of the little white areas that are allowed, other than one apartment complex, it's all commercial buildings and a highway. "It basically limited the entire city. Might be 12-14 blocks in the city where sex offenders can reside."

Other cities across the state are the same because the laws are statewide. Tulsa Police opposed the laws because they grouped all sex offenders into the same category, even though all sex offenders don't pose the same threat. "The lady who exposed herself at a concert is not the same threat as the guy perpetrating on children at a daycare."

One man pleaded no contest to raping his 42-year-old ex-girlfriend, yet he can't live near children and Tulsa Police must spend as much time monitoring his address as the person who preyed.

Another reality is the vast majority of people who molest children did so to a relative inside their own home, not to strangers at playgrounds or daycare’s. The original sex offender law was to make them register so citizens could know where offenders live and protect themselves, but has now gone well beyond that. "There's only going to be so much before there's lawsuits and the pendulum will swing back the other way and we'll lose ground as opposed to maintaining the integrity of the act as it was initially written."

Tulsa Police also fear these laws will drive sex offenders underground, they won't register and police won't know where they live and society will be worse off than when police at least knew where they lived.

The sex offenders the News on 6 talked to say they feel this is the only crime where the punishment never ends. When murderers get released, they can live anywhere they want.

"maintaining the integrity of the act as it was initially written." There was no integrity to the act as it was originally written! It was sold on a false basis ("they all do it over and over and over") by demagogue politicians seeking cheap political gain through demonizing the unpopular.

And it was also sold on the basis of "this is all we're going to do, nothing more" -- a true politician's promise, because the instant they got what they asked for, they started going for more.

By now this should be obvious to everyone: whenever you see a politician seeking to "crack down" or "get tough" on sex offenders, you're seeing a politician with no answers whatsoever to real problems.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Interesting numbers

O.K. Carter gets it wrong on one point, but has some interesting numbers in By any measure, sex offenders involve a cost:

Though the ordinance has a feel-good quality, a recent Arlington council measure requiring repeat sex offenders with victims 16 or younger to live at least 1,000 feet from places children gather will in actuality provide little or no benefit.

Start walking down the sidewalk from your front door and four to five minutes later you'll have covered that 1,000 feet. Drive it, never exceeding 30 mph, and 1,000 feet takes all of 23 seconds. And children live and play everywhere, not just at schools and parks.

But the fact that the City Council -- in fact, hundreds of city councils nationwide -- are passing such measures does testify to something very real. Many residents and the elected officials who represent them feel very uncomfortable in proximity to such offenders. The ordinances that have resulted are an attempt to somehow do something, however small, that will protect children, be enforceable within the court system and limit temptations for offenders. Arlington has 400 registered sex offenders, of whom 237 victimized someone 16 or younger. Recidivism, or a tendency to repeat offenses, is common within this type of criminal activity. So the concern reflects reality, not paranoia.

Information about offenders, which crimes they've committed and where they live in your city is easy enough to find because federal law requires all states to maintain publicly accessible offender registries. Many states, including Texas, make the data available online.

This also brings up an interesting question about just how uncomfortable residents are when they know that a sexual offender lives nearby.

One answer was provided last month via a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research written by economists Leigh Linden and Jonah Rockoff. Basically the study determines how residential property values are affected by proximity to sex-crime felons. The study, NBER Working Paper No. 12253, also has a catchy title: There Goes the Neighborhood.

Here's the study's bottom line: When a sex offender moves into a neighborhood, values of homes within a tenth of a mile drop an average of 4 percent. Though this study was conducted in North Carolina, if the same holds true in Arlington -- and why wouldn't it? -- it would mean a drop in average home value somewhere in the $5,000 to $6,000 range.

A tenth of a mile is 528 feet, on average 1.5 blocks in a straight line, except that the impact is circular, a tenth of a mile in every direction, a circle two-tenths mile across. That translates to an impact across about seven blocks.

Put another way, residents of a neighborhood find the presence of a sexual offender to be so distasteful or frightening that they're willing to make a financial sacrifice equal to burning what for the average Arlington household would be more than a month's gross salary.

Residents typically respond to more crime around them, the study says, by either endorsing more anti-crime policies like the one the Arlington council just approved, or by moving away. Neither outcome is free.

When all the social costs of sex offenses are added up, including items like property value losses and extra policing, the public cost of each case rounds out to about a million dollars each, Linden and Rockoff say. By illustration, Arlington originally considered hiring as many as three extra police officers just to enforce the new ordinance but eventually opted to hire only one.

It all adds up, a cost here, a cost there, certainly not all of which can be measured in dollars.

Where does he get it wrong, you ask? Here: "victimized someone 16 or younger. Recidivism, or a tendency to repeat offenses, is common within this type of criminal activity. So the concern reflects reality, not paranoia."

There are studies that show this simply is not the case. This site has references to one or more studies in the linked paper. Unfortunately it also links to a much more in-depth study out of Canada that refuted at length O.K. Carter's assertion of high recidivism... but that study has been moved or removed. (If anyone knows the page's owner, would you contact him or her?

Punitive restrictions

A little honesty appears in an article in "The News-Press" (SW Florida), Florida sex offenders hard to track, noting that many of these measures are in fact punitive:

... Sex offenders can stay off the registry if they don't run afoul of the law or have any other reason to be checked. And because of punitive restrictions facing registered sex offenders, there are numerous reasons to avoid getting on the list. ...

At the same time, there has been an onslaught of restrictions on where registered sex offenders can live, work or even swim.

Ziesmer's attorney, assistant public defender Bill Miskovich, described onerous registry requirements. Sex offenders must report moves in person to local law enforcement and to the Department of Motor Vehicles to change their licenses, Miskovich said.

Some have a hard time paying the $15.25 it costs to get a new license or can't afford to miss work to stand in line at the DMV.

"One guy was selling his plasma to get money for a license," Miskovich said.

Although some "want to go under the radar" he said, others just fall prey to the usual hassles of moving and forget to re-register, he said.

On June 1, there were 37,936 sexual offenders and predators on the Florida registry. Of those, about 500 are dead and 10,000 are imprisoned or deported. Of the rest, 1,397 do not have a verified current address and are listed as "absconded." ...

Officer Ryan Stimpert, sex offender coordinator of the City of Sarasota Police Department, estimates 5 percent to 10 percent of sex offenders don't comply with registration. ...

Others question whether the sex offender registry is a useful tool and if punitive laws associated with registration may discourage compliance.

"As soon as they register, they have no place to live. It's difficult to find a job. They can't work anywhere children congregate, which eliminates minimum-wage jobs," said Neil McLoughlin, assistant deputy public defender in Lee County.

"Registration is not going to prevent (an offender) from reoffending," said Scott Matson, with the nonprofit Center for Sex Offender Management in Silver Spring, Md.

And, Matson said, children are at greater risk of abuse from family and church members than from strangers.

The public would be better protected if resources went to keep tabs on the 10 percent of sex offenders who are truly dangerous, Matson said, instead of trying to track every offender. ...

Interesting. 5 to 10% non-compliance. In an earlier posting on this blog it was noted that Linn County, Iowa, used to have about a 10% non-compliance rate. Then they passed a 2000-foot blanket non-residence zone law. Now Linn County Sheriff Don Zeller reports 45 to 50% non-compliance.

But this isn't stopping many from trying to be "more punitive than thou."

Update: Somebody needs to tell the Boston-area police chiefs:

Chiefs applaud bylaw barring offenders

Local police chiefs say they will keep a close eye on a recent proposal in Marlborough geared at barring certain sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of schools, parks or playgrounds.

If it passes, they might look to follow suit.

"Anything we can do to protect children, I am for it," Westborough Chief Alan Gordon said.

Hope Chief Gordon is up to the apparently intellectually daunting task of figuring out that these laws actually reduce, not increase, childrens' safety.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Is it law... or order?

Nice comments over at the Free Republic website.

Take a look at "thoughtomator" at post #6: he wants people to "administer the justice that Americans refuse to administer."

Advocating murder. Guess it's order he likes, not law.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Sunbury's cowards

Refreshing honesty im this article: City may pass law that bans sex offenders:

"That ordinance that we're creating right now ... virtually it prevents them from living in the city of Sunbury because of the broadness of the ordinance," Sunbury Police Department Sgt. Joseph Jones, acting police chief, said at a May 19 press conference.

In fact, the city happens to cover little more than 2 square miles, so it would seem that the ordinance would make it all but impossible for the targeted offenders to live within the city's boundaries.

"It's one of those things that it's hard not to vote for," Williamsport attorney Cliff Rieders said. "It's difficult to be courageous when you're dealing with sex offenders, as it should be."

But Mr. Rieders, an experienced constitutional attorney and past president of the Federal Bar Association's Middle District of Pennsylvania Chapter, said an ordinance such as Sunbury's has clear constitutional implications.

"... The requirement to register as a sex offender is (according to) state law and therefore has been accepted as a part of the post-punishment phase of dealing with a sex offender," Mr. Rieders said. "But a (local) ordinance which goes beyond state law is going to be considered very questionable for somebody who has already served their time."

An ordinance such as Sunbury's is a violation of the Constitution's delegation clause, Mr. Rieders said, because the authority to regulate such activity is not delegated to a municipality. "If you permit local ordinances to effectively say who can or cannot do business or who can or cannot live somewhere then you disrupt the state scheme for regulating those same activities," he said.

In addition, the ordinance also is a violation of due process, Mr. Rieders said, because it allows a municipality to create an additional punishment for someone who already has served time as required by state law.

City solicitor Michael Apfelbaum, when asked if he had considered that such an ordinance could be an infringement on the rights of such citizens, said: "I did not see sexual predators as a protected class of citizens. We're not taking any rights away from them. ... That category of individual is not a protected class, like race, sex, religion or handicapped. Sexual predator is not on that list."

And there we have it. Passing such laws is an act of cowardice, according to attorney Cliff Rieders, and according to Michael Apfelbaum if one is not more equal than the others, one may be readily rendered less equal. Calling George Orwell...

Legislative cowardice. We've seen that happen before on a number of occasions, not so many years ago and well within living memory. Nice to see the historical company with which Sunbury has allied itself.

In-person verification fails: showing Show-Mes

Something that seems to escape a lot of lawmakers is that in-person verification of registration information is totally useless. Somehow the lawmakers of the "Show Me" state fell into this stupid (or merely unthinking -- Missouri clearly needs a new slogan: might I suggest "We're All Suckers Here"?) trap, as reported in this inflammatory-titled piece, Predators in hiding:

Arvel Walls Jr. obeyed the law. Or so officials thought.

On the registry for a 1993 statutory sexual seduction conviction in Nevada, he dutifully reported in person quarterly to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department to reconfirm his residency in the 5200 block of Spruce Avenue.

But when Star reporters knocked on that door, a woman answered with a puzzled look on her face.

“I don’t know Arvel Walls,” she said. “We’ve lived here for about five years.”

The next day she contacted the Sheriff’s Department and asked to have her address removed from the registry.

“He was compliant,” said Sgt. Gary Kilgore, who oversees the county’s registry. “Other than giving us the wrong address.”

Duh. It shouldn't take Missouri's best & brightest (that is what they elect, right?) for than five minutes of concentrated thought to figure this one out.

You don't ask for the confirmation; you go to an independent means of verification!

Some locales have figured this out and use the Post Office's methods of guaranteed delivery instead. (I am not really familiar with all of these, what comes to mind is a letter that is "registered, return receipt requested".) The announcement of the successful delivery of the letter at a secific address to a person who ID'ed himself to a postal employee counts for much more than a vocal "yessir, I still live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" at some government office.

There's an added benefit to this method: it eliminates much of the in-your-face element that drives some of these guys underground, making them much more dangerous than before.

The question to lawmakers then would seem to be:
- are you interested in reducing recidivism, or
- are you interested in playing the bully for the popular vote?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Jasper AL: NIMBY!

Jasper targets sex offenders with new laws:

Jasper has some new laws aimed at sex offenders, and they are tougher than state restrictions. About 25 sex offenders live in Jasper. Yesterday, the Jasper City Council approved three laws that further restrict where adult registered sex offenders can live and work.

One law bars sex offenders from living or working within one mile of schools, day-care centers, public and private parks or other recreation facilities. Alabama law has a two-thousand-foot restriction.

City officials say the new law would eliminate about two-thirds of the city for sex offenders to live or work.

Violating the law is a misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to six months in jail and up to a 500-dollar fine.

A second law requires police to notify businesses and residents within two-thousand feet of where a registered sex offender lives or works.

The state requires notification within 15-hundred feet of residents in cities other than Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery and Huntsville.

Also, hotels, motels, apartments and recreation facilities also must post in lobbies or entrances photos of all the sex offenders who live or work on the property. State law does not have such a provision.

Failure to post the photos is a misdemeanor charge.

And the third new law says businesses within 500 feet of a school, day-care center, park or recreation facility cannot hire a sex offender.

If they do, they risk having their business license revoked and being charged with a misdemeanor.

Talk about over the top! The residency restrictions are difficult enough, but not being able to work withiin a mile of "schools, day-care centers, public and private parks or other recreation facilities". I just looked at Jasper on a map and Jasper proper (the area where there is a grid of streets indicating a relatively high density of housing and businesses) appears to be roughly 2 miles square.
This means that just one single school or park dead-center would make over 75% of the portion of the city where one will find the vast majority of employment and housing completely off-limits.

The article notes that about 2/3 of the area in the Jasper city limits is rendered off limits. It's a pretty easy guess that the available 1/3 is the peripheral areas where there is likely to be very little in the way of either housing or unemployment.

It's easy to guess the intent of this law from its effect: force them to move elsewhere -- "Not In MY Back Yard, but okay in yours!!"

Consider too what happens when all the other cities do the same. Unable to work, unable to establish residency, what are the remaining options...?

Not very thoughtful, the City of Jasper, Alabama.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Wyoming's "Safe Zones"

When I first saw the headline Wyoming Wants To Restrict Where Sex Offenders Can Live, I figured there at least is one place where it won't be filled up with "no residence" zones.

I was wrong. It's Wyoming, PA. But it's being sold there with the same stupidity as everywhere else:

Monday, June 5) Wyoming Borough leaders want to increase children`s safety by implementing an ordinance that would restrict where registered sex offenders can live.

Mayor Bob Boyer says he saw weaknesses in borough laws and there`s now maps showing the creation of safe zones.

The safe zones would radiate 15 hundred feet out from the center of each area, essentially squeezing future registered sex offenders to the edges of the community.

Some think the ordinance could cause legal troubles for the borough, but leaders say a number of communities in the state have already gone down this path.

Can you guess the effects? Yup. Next will be the complaints about the "clustering" as the housing available to the registered sex offenders decreases. Then they'll start noticing that more of the registered convicted sex offenders will decide to become unregistered convicted sex offenders.

And just wait until the day some child or woman, relying on Mayor Bob Boyer's proclaimed "safe zones" actually being such, gets attacked. Naturally Mayor Bob Boyer will claim no responsibility.

P.T. Barnum said there's one born every minute. Given the way the American public is snapping up this snake oil, I think Barnum was low by a factor of 10.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

GA Compulsive Legislators fall off wagon

From Barring sex offenders:

A tough new law effective July 1 may have sparked one Floyd County registered sex offender’s move to Wisconsin...

Registered sex offenders were already barred from living within 1,000 feet of a school or a park. Beginning in July, the prohibition also will include school bus stops, churches, daycare centers and other places — such as swimming pools — where minors congregate. ...

It’s too soon to gauge the effect of the new law locally. On Monday, Blanton and Cpl. Ron Morris will begin crosschecking the offenders’ addresses with the Floyd County Schools’ bus routes. ...

“We’re just starting to dig into this thing,” Blanton said. “We don’t really know what it’s going to cost us yet as far as manpower, but we’re going to take it one thing at a time.” ...

State legislators supporting the law openly stated they hoped the restrictions would force sex offenders out of the state, but some law enforcement officials fear some will simply stop reporting and try to hide. ...

Blanton said he’s ... learned some sex offenders already are going underground, mainly in metropolitan counties. ...

There also are tales of unique situations. A female sex offender in Cobb County was living in the middle of a 16-acre family-owned tract, but the edge of the property line fell within 1,000 feet of a bus stop. Rather than move, Blanton said, she had the tract subdivided to put the house on a separate lot. ...

“It’s going to be hard to predict how this will all play out until we’ve gotten into it a little more,” Blanton said. “We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”

So, Georgia's compulsive legislators passed legislation that, as seen from earlier posts to this blog, do nothing to increase public safety but which do induce more and more sex offenders to commit crimes (even if the crime is the victimless one of not registering) and cause more to go underground, making them more dangerous because they're then cut off from work, society, stable housing and church: all factors in reducing recidivism.

And for all these negative effects without upsides -- They don't even know how much this is going to cost, except that it's going to be expensive!!

Well, these compulsive legislators were elected by the good people of Georgia, who'd better hope they have deep enough pockets to bear the costs of their legislators' addiction to passing feel-good do-nothing (or worse) legislation.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Q&A on Compulsive Legislation

Some of those who write sex-offender legislation are clearly Compulsive Legislators according to the terms of this bit of satire. For example:

... Do you legislate without considering the constitutionality of the legislation first?

Do you legislate without considering the how your legislation will affect others? ...

... A compulsive legislator is described as a politician whose legislation and desire to legislate has caused growing and continuing public problems. ...

LEGISLATING, for the compulsive legislator is defined as follows: Any sponsoring or co-sponsoring of legislation, for self or others, whether well intentioned or not, or even for money, no matter how seemingly slight or insignificant, where the ultimate effect is uncertain or depends upon chance or wishful thinking. ...

Sounds like an awful lot of the authors of sex-offender legislation from observation of nothing more than their handiwork. Laws that violate the constitution, laws that cause continuing and growing problems, laws whose desired effect will be achieved only by chance or not all all outside of wishful thinking.

Compulsive Legislation is clearly a rampant and growing disease in our legislative bodies.