Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ohio to pay more for less safety [Adam Walsh Act strikes]

Early adopters take the arrows... and expenses. Good luck Ohio, you bought that pig in a poke.

Sex-offender law may task sheriff’s offices
NEWARK — Changes to Ohio’s sex-offender laws likely will expedite the judicial process, but they could bog down law enforcement, local officials said.

On Jan. 1, the labels of sexually oriented, habitual and predator will be gone and replaced with a three-tiered system. Classification hearings will be a thing of the past because offenders will be designated as Tier I, II or III — Tier III has the strongest notification requirements — depending on the crime they are convicted of.

The legislation passed by the Ohio General Assembly this summer will be retroactive, meaning all 33,000 sex offenders in Ohio could be affected, said Jennifer Brindisi, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.

Although the switch to tiers will remove an additional hearing from the prosecutor’s schedule, it could require many more visits with offenders for those in charge of the registry, said Detective Brock Harmon, of the Licking County Sheriff’s Office.

“We are anticipating it’s going to be a lot busier because of the new laws,” he said.

Harmon, who is the sole detective in the office charged with keeping up sex-offender records, said with the changes he potentially could have a rapist now classified as a sexually oriented offender, the lowest level under the active tags, automatically become a Tier III offender. This adjustment would, among other changes including lifetime registration, require the offender, who checked in annually as a sexually oriented offender, to meet with Harmon every three months, he said.

More responsibility could lead to increased infractions, Harmon said.


He added that it is possible that defendants facing a lifetime of registration as a sex offender might choose to fight the charges instead of working with the prosecution and pleading guilty.


Oswalt said he does expect to see the law challenged in higher and local courts, but added he does not have much sympathy for those affected by the modifications.

“If you don’t think you should be a Tier III offender, you shouldn’t have committed the crime,” he said.

This is so pathetic, but then again it seems Ohio has yet to see a "sex-offender" law not worthy of passage.

I hope Ohioans will be happy when somebody who appears to authorities to be truly dangerous and likely to re-offend gets labeled a "Tier 1" due to his prior conviction. And then re-offends.

Or when their limited law enforcement resources get eaten up tracking the very large number of new "Tier 3s" who were formerly determined to be "Level 1", least likely to re-offend.

Or when a whole bunch of those formerly Level 1s, now Tier 3s, decide to drop off the map because it's way too much "in your face" and law enforcement has to go looking for them -- and remember, it's roughly $25000/year to incarcerate each one of those you catch, over and above the expense for prosecution. Money that won't be spent on prosecuting those whose crimes actually hurt people, as opposed to evading registration. (Which is not to say that evading registration doesn't create a danger in itself -- it can, so why encourage it?)

But the most pathetic remark in this article belongs to Oswalt: “If you don’t think you should be a Tier III offender, you shouldn’t have committed the crime,” he said.
Has he ever heard about the antiquated, archaic, irrelevant notion of ex post facto law? Guess not because he, and many others, haven't.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Homeless sex offenders' isolation can add to problem

Elliott Bloom, a convicted sex offender, lived in his car for nine months this year, parked on a street corner in Miami.

"I just pulled the chair back to sleep," says Bloom, 30, a chef-in-training who was convicted two years ago for having sex with a 15-year-old girl.

He had a tough time finding an apartment because state law bars him from living within 1,000 feet of places children gather, putting most of Miami off-limits. He listed his address on the mandatory registry of sex offenders as "transient.

In Richmond, Va., Keith Francis registered his address as "under Canal Bridge." Francis, 51, convicted in Florida in 2001 of luring a minor he met online, says, "I put plastic down and have a few blankets."

Francis works temporary jobs but says he doesn't have enough money for an apartment. He says he could probably go to a homeless shelter, but, "I used to be a Boy Scout. I like to camp outside."

Nationwide, thousands of sex offenders like Bloom and Francis are registering as homeless or giving police vague addresses such as highway mile markers.

Some blame the residency restrictions that keep offenders away from youngsters. Others cite lack of money or rejection by landlords after background checks reveal their criminal record. "As sex offenders are more and more in the media, people are starting to think twice before renting to them," says Patty Morris, supervisor of sex offender compliance at the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

'The modern-day lepers'

Many sex offenders lack jobs or family support, says Jo Ellyn Rackleff, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections. She sees more of them becoming homeless, and that worries police.

"A homeless sex offender is a much more dangerous sex offender," says Elizabeth Bartholomew of the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation.

They are less likely to receive mental health care and substance abuse treatment and are more difficult to monitor, says Jill Levenson, a sex-crimes policy analyst at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.

"Being homeless is also demoralizing," Levenson says.

Sex offenders are likely to behave better if they have a stake in their community and "something to live for," says psychiatrist Fred Berlin, founder of the Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic. Sex offenders are increasingly being shunned and isolated. "They are the modern-day lepers," he says.

David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, says research on criminals suggests that having an unstable home makes them more likely to commit another crime.

"How much it increases the risk is hard to say," says Finkelhor, who questions the value of residency restrictions. "Homelessness and all the stresses that go along with it is more of a risk factor than being in a neighborhood with children."

At least 27 states and hundreds of cities have passed laws in the past decade to restrict where sex offenders live.

The laws don't necessarily keep sex offenders away from kids, says Florida's Rackleff. "What people don't realize is these offenders are in our communities," riding buses and walking around, she says.

"It's a waste of resources to check where they're sleeping," says Corwin Ritchie, executive director of the Iowa County Attorneys Association. He says sex offenders may sleep in one place and spend their days elsewhere. He says it is better to monitor where they go.

States are increasing their use of electronic devices, often attached to an ankle or belt, to monitor sex offenders. California has 2,300 Global Positioning System units for paroled sex offenders but plans to have10,000 for all parolees by June 2009, says Bill Sessa of the California Department of Corrections.

Housing in Washington, D.C., is so expensive that a third of parolees lack permanent housing, and many homeless sex offenders considered high-risk are tracked with GPS devices, says Leonard Sipes, spokesman for the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency.

Keeping track by satellite

"We need to know where these offenders are," says Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. He says the effect of residency restrictions has varied nationwide, but states are putting more resources into tracking sex offenders.

States report widely varied information on online sex offender registries. Many states allow sex offenders to be homeless but require them to report a location, even if it's a shelter or "under a bridge."

"People will use homelessness as a way to evade monitoring," says Melissa Roberts of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

Several states see a rising number of homeless sex offenders. In Connecticut, 46 are registered as homeless or at shelters, up from fewer than a dozen three years ago, says Sam Izarelli of the state's sex offender registry.

"I've seen an increase in homelessness," says Paula Stitz, manager of Arkansas' registry. "It's difficult for a lot of these sex offenders to find a place to live." She says one person lived in a van under the Broadway Bridge in Little Rock for two years.

In Miami, Bloom says he and his pregnant girlfriend finally found an apartment that complied with state and local residency restrictions and moved in last week. He may not be staying long. Unless the therapist he sees as a condition of his probation gives approval, he will have to move out once the baby is born.

But isn't the boost politicians get for passing such laws, saying they're making us all much safer, worth it all?