Monday, July 11, 2016

TONIGHT: Pervert Park: Film Description

Pervert Park: Film Description: Florida Justice Transitions trailer park is home to 120 sex offenders, all battling their own demons as they work toward rejoining society. This film considers how the destructive cycle of sexual abuse — and the silence surrounding it — can be broken.

Monday, July 4, 2016

VA: Experts hope therapy can help prevent sex offenders from repeating actions

Many sexual offenders are court-ordered to undergo mental evaluations and therapy after convictions. Rudy Flora has been working as a therapist for sexual offenders for more than 30 years.

"We do what's called a psycho-sexual evaluation, and we do explore childhood issues, family issues, marital issues," Flora said.

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Happy Independence Day from the Florida Action Committee - Florida Action Committee

Happy Independence Day from the Florida Action Committee - Florida Action Committee

IL: Concerns voiced about sex offenders

"The city's legal representative, attorney John Foley of Anna, said that such action could be a precedent-setting move – one that might involve Constitutional issues and possible legal action."

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Sex Offender Laws Have Gone Too Far

Is the American approach to sex registration working? Who goes on the registries, for how long, and for what kinds of crimes? Do the answers suggest that they are helping to keep kids safe—or sweeping in too many people and stoking irrational fears?

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Sex offender sentenced after moving to Jacksonville Ricardo Irvine failed to register after moving from Indiana

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A judge sentenced a man to 41 months in federal prison for failing to register as a sex offender after traveling from Indiana to Jacksonville.

Ricardo Lamont Irvine, 43, pleaded guilty in December.

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NJ: How convicted sex offenders fly under the radar

New Jersey is one of a minority of states that performs a risk assessment of offenders before they are classified as having a low, moderate or high potential to commit another sexual assault, said Dr. Andrew Harris, a criminal science researcher at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. 

Like most states, the federal government does not recognize risk-based assessments, he said, so when a New Jersey offender goes to another state, he may be subject to more stringent reporting and notification requirements. Depending on how an individual is classified in a state, he may have to report his address annually, or as often as every three months. 

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NEW YORK: Elected officials, residents want sex offenders out of North Buffalo neighborhood

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Residents in a North Buffalo neighborhood said they did feel safe. But that was before two level II sex offenders moved into a developmentally disabled home on Rosemary and Kenmore Ave.

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Friday, June 24, 2016

Florida Action Committee Recent Posts

ACLU Files Reply Brief in Miami-Dade SORR Case

June 23, 2016
Moments ago the ACLU, who graciously represents us in a lawsuit challenging the Miami-Dade County Sex Offender Residency Restriction (SORR) ordinance, filed a Reply Brief in the...
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NY: Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Residency Restrictions

June 23, 2016
About 100 sex offenders who have completed their sentences are being kept in prison because the 1000 foot residency restrictions leave them without any possible release...
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Not Forgotten: 250 Homeless at Railroad Tracks in Miami

June 22, 2016
Every so often, we like to reach out to the inhabitants of the homeless encampment by the railroad tracks in Miami, through our site, to let them know they are not forgotten....
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RTAG’s International Travel Matrix

June 21, 2016
Registrant Travel Action Group (RTAG –, an RSOL affiliate organized to protect the international travel rights for lawful travel of registrants, is...
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National: Why sex offender registries don’t work

“He is a lifetime sex registrant. That doesn’t expire. Just like what he did to me doesn’t expire, doesn’t just go away after a set number of years.” In a statement released to Buzzfeed, the victim of rapist Brock Turner found a small sliver of justice in the fact that Turner, a former Stanford student, would have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, just as she would have to live with the effects of the assault for the rest of hers.

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NY: Audit finds problems at NY homeless shelters

ALBANY - A state audit Thursday raised concerns over the state of disrepair in homeless shelters outside New York City, with the report finding at least 67 to be in poor condition.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office partnered with a handful of county comptrollers to analyze shelters and hotels used to house the homeless, examining 387 in 49 counties outside the city.

Of those, 320 were found to have "adequate" living conditions, meaning they are a "reasonably acceptable" short-term alternative to homelessness, according to the report.

NV: Amended lawsuit challenges Nevada law governing registration of sex offenders

CARSON CITY — An amended lawsuit has been filed challenging a 2007 Nevada law governing registration and community notification of sex offenders and seeking to block its implementation next month.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Why Sex Offender Laws Do More Harm Than Good

By Deborah Jacobs

There are few crimes more heinous than child molestation. Whether violently attacked by a stranger or preyed upon by a trusted adult in the home, school or place of worship, children who survive such assaults are often left to walk a lifelong path of sorrow and pain.
Unfortunately, our government has failed to take steps that will make a meaningful difference in preventing sex offenses. Megan's Law, civil commitment, and the newest trend in anti-sex offender legislation, banishment zones, which restrict sex offenders from living within certain geographic areas, all play to the fears of the public. But when it comes to stopping sex assaults, these measures do more harm than good.

To understand why, one must look at the realities of sex crimes in America today. The vast majority of sex offenses are committed by trusted adults-family members, friends, clergy-and go unreported because of manipulation of the victims, unconscionable decisions by other adults, or both. We saw this most vividly when lawsuits uncovered that the Catholic Church hierarchy had hidden and ignored countless cases of child sexual abuse for decades, choosing to protect its reputation over the children under its care. Unfortunately, this happens in family hierarchies even more frequently.

Because the most common type of sex crime so often goes unreported, most sex offenders never become part of the criminal justice system and therefore are not affected by Megan's Law or banishment zone laws. As a result, these laws give the public a false sense of security, letting us believe that sex offenders have been exiled from their neighborhood, or that if a sex offender does live nearby, we will receive notification of his presence. If we believe that, we are fooling ourselves and, worse, doing our children a disservice. Sex offenders live in every American community, and children need supervision no matter what.

Laws like banishment zone ordinances actually make us less safe, as they impede offender rehabilitation and thereby increase the likelihood of reoffense. People who transition from prison into society face countless challenges, and most have very limited resources, financial or otherwise. People who want to lead law-abiding lives after serving a prison sentence need to establish stability in their homes, jobs and families. Those are difficult things to achieve, but add to this the consequences of Megan's Law and limits to where offenders can live, and few have hope of succeeding. Indeed, the fear of the stigma of Megan's Law can force offenders underground, out of the watchful eye of police and parole officers.

Banishment zone laws may very likely force sexual offenders to move from environments in which they have support networks into other communities in which they have no support, putting residents in their new communities at risk. Further, people who are labeled as sex offenders lose jobs, get evicted, are threatened with death, and harassed by neighbors.

Some have had their homes burned down or been beaten in acts of vigilantism. Coping with this kind of stress is almost impossible, and without exceptionally strong support systems, most are doomed to fail.

If you doubt whether we should care about the stress and suffering of someone who committed a sex crime, consider the consequences for society when the ex-offender fails. When nothing works out - job, home, family-individuals are more likely to give up and

Rather than banishing sex offenders and asking them to succeed in a hostile environment, we should focus resources on programs and policies that will actually reduce the likelihood of sex offenses occurring in the first place. We need to develop and fund public education programs that teach about the effects of sex abuse and the importance of reporting abuse so that it can be stopped.

We need to improve our systems for handling reports of abuse, looking to models like Wynona's House in Essex County, which brings different agencies together to ease the burden on victims reporting abuse. And we need to provide mental health treatment for victims and offenders, in prison and out.

There is no simple fix to the devastating problem of sex abuse. Instead of politically popular measures that make no difference or in fact make us less safe, we need to turn our attention and resources to ways of addressing the epidemic of sex abuse that, while perhaps not as politically popular, will actually work so that more potential victims can be spared.
The issue is not whether our children should be protected from sex offenders, but how to accomplish that in an effective and meaningful way. Our children deserve nothing less.

Deborah Jacobs is the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.

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Florida Action Committee Recent Posts

US Dept of Justice Report backs up advocates claims of ineffective registration policies

June 7, 2016
A July report issued by the US Department of Justice’s SMART office (Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking) backed up most...
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Nevada to add thousands to sex offender registry

June 7, 2016
In 2007 the Nevada state legislature passed a law to bring it’s state into compliance with the 2006 Adam Walsh Act. In the almost decade that has since followed, several...
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Interested in being a plaintiff in our internet identifier challenge?

June 2, 2016
Our attorneys are still screening potential plaintiffs for our Internet Identifier challenge which will be filed next month. We are looking to intake as many prospective...
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What’s the Real Rate of Sex-Crime Recidivism?

May 30, 2016
One sentence in a 1986 mass-market magazine continues to sway court cases involving sex offenders. By Steven Yoder In the early 1980s, rehabilitation counselor Robert Longo could...
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International Megan’s Law (IML) Protest – July 27 in Oakland

People across the country should recognize this as a start to a much bigger picture in our freedom and rights. This Day should be made a National Civil Liberation Day or something to that accord!!

  1. the act of setting someone free from imprisonment, slavery, or oppression; release.
    "the liberation of all political prisoners"
    • freedom from limits on thought or behavior.
      "the struggle for people's liberation"
Posted On 5 Jun, 2016
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Join California RSOL in protesting International Megan’s Law (IML), the law to prevent Registrant international travel, at the U.S. District Court in Oakland, California, July 27, 2016.

The government has filed a motion to dismiss our lawsuit against IML, the recently signed law by President Obama, to keep Registered citizens in permanent internal exile. The court hearing for that motion will be at 9:00 a.m. in Courtroom Three of Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton, 3rd Floor, 1301 Clay Street, Oakland, California, 94612.

We need as many of our supporters to fill the courtroom as possible to show the court, and America, that there are many Registrants, families of Registrants, and friends who suffer under the yoke of unconstitutional, ex-post-facto, punishment. The government’s travel notifications to foreign countries, its “unique identifiers” placed upon the passports of Registrants, as well as its requirements that Registrants provide the U.S. Government advance travel plans – under threat of imprisonment – amount to a complete ban on international travel for those on the Registry. These policies are already taking a terrible toll on those who, long ago, paid their debts to society. The Registry has become a continuously expanding regime of ever-escalating torment.

After the hearing, which will probably end by 10:00 a.m., there will be a rally in the plaza immediately outside of the courtroom in front of the entrance.

We expect to have media covering the event and Janice Bellucci, President of RSOL, and lead attorney for the lawsuit, will speak, along with other members and supporters of RSOL.

Please join us there! If you cannot, then please consider donating to California RSOL to help make our work in challenging this, and many other terrible laws, such as residence and presence restrictions, possible. Please also consider volunteering your time.

Thank you for your support! Please contact us at with your questions or concerns or offers of assistance.

When: July 27, Hearing at 9:00 a.m., The rally begins at approximately 10:00 a.m. in the plaza in front of Court entrance.

Where: U.S. Federal District Courtroom 3, Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton, 3rd Floor, 1301 Clay Street, Oakland, California, 94612

Thursday, June 2, 2016

WI: Attorney buys homes to rent to sex offenders

TX: Advocates Push For Early Release of Severely Ill Sex Offenders

Charles Dill spent 14 years in prison after being convicted of indecency with a child in Collin County. His wife, Helga, recalls how he suffered from heart problems behind bars and had several operations.

Three weeks after his release in 2014, he died. His wife says she learned later that he had leukemia. She thinks the state's refusal to release her husband earlier, like they sometimes do for other inmates with severe medical issues, was both cruel and a waste of taxpayer resources. She's hoping that lawmakers will consider changing the state's rules regarding medical release of sex offenders next session.

One top lawmaker on criminal justice issues sympathizes with Hegla Dill's point of view but believes his colleagues won't touch the thorny issue out of fear of how it may be used against them.

"It takes 15 or 20 minutes to explain it, and somebody beats you up in a 30-second TV commercial: 'John Smith supported paroling sex offenders,'" said state Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat and chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

When Texas prisoners become so sick that they are deemed too incapacitated to be a public threat and have just months to live, prison doctors will sometimes recommend them for medical parole.

That option is not available to inmates who were convicted for sexual offenses unless they are in a vegetative state.

Helga Dill recalled how the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles blocked her husband's medical parole efforts three times, she said. 
The board eventually released him from his 20-year sentence with standard parole. She is now an advocate for other sex offenders in Texas prisons.

Inmates with terminal illnesses or requiring long-term care like her husband are not physical threats to their communities anymore and should be released into nursing homes or back home, with electronic monitors, saving the state millions in health care costs, said Helga Dill, former chairman of the Texas Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (Texas CURE).
Helga Dill said she fought for five years to secure the early release of a blind, double-amputee prisoner. The struggle, she said, was over the fact he was a sex offender. He was in no position to harm another person, Dill said.

"We want to make sure people understand that these guys are not hurting anybody," she said.

Under medical parole, officially known as Medically Recommended Intensive Supervision, the parole board approves early parole and release of offenders with terminal illnesses or other severe illnesses or disabilities, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The parole board decides each case based on recommendations from the Texas Correctional Office of Medical and Mental Impairments, which screens prisoners.

Sex offenders who aren't in a "persistent vegetative state or do not suffer from organic brain syndrome with significant to total mobility impairment are not eligible for MRIS," according to the department. 

While Whitmire, who chairs the Senate committee that oversees the state's prison system, supports re-examining the issue, his counterpart in the House doesn't agree.

"It is unlikely that we would lessen the stringent guidelines for the MRIS program as it relates to these offenders," said Martha Bell Liner, chief of staff to state Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Houston, who chairs the House Corrections Committee "Chairman Murphy's official stance is that the safety of all Texans is his top priority, and we do not want to take any actions that would erode the safety of our communities."

As of 2014, it cost Texas $54.89 a day to support prisoners and $4.04 for those on parole supervision, according to the Legislative Budget Board. Sick prisoners can cost significantly more.

Some years, the state's costs for caring for certain particularly sick prisoners have hit $1 million, Whitmire said adding that if their illness effectively neutralizes them as a threat to society, the issue becomes a fiscal concern.

"If they're a public safety concern, I wouldn't be for them being out. End of conversation," Whitmire said. "But if my colleagues and others are worried about the politics of letting someone out that has a serious crime 20, 30 years ago that is now unable to pose a public threat, put them in a nursing home that is supervised."

Whitmire said expanding eligibility for medical parole would be tough but smart policy.

A major hurdle to overcome might be the general perception that sex offenders have a high recidivism rate, said Mary Sue Molnar, executive director of Texas Voices For Reason and Justice, an advocacy group that promotes changing laws affecting people who have to register as sex offenders. More than 87,000 people are on the state's registry, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

A majority of that population does not commit another sex offense after being released, Molnar said, pointing to findings from around the country, as well as a 1997 Texas report, which found that 4 percent of sex offenders released from prison during a three-year period were arrested again in relation to a new sex crime.

"There's perception, and there's myth, and then there's truth," Molnar said. "I think they need to start looking at the research before they start making that decision."

Despite his support for changing the current rules, Whitmire said he doesn't plan to file a bill next session because he believes it will go nowhere. Supporting medical parole for certain sex offenders may save money but remains politically toxic, he said.

"But if you're too scared," he said, "you shouldn't be in this business."

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Is this how we educate the public with labels?

Check out Tampa Bay Times crossword puzzle from May 28, 2016. 

Question 36 down
Clue: sex offenders
Answer: Molesters (WOW!)

Let this paper know how politically incorrect they are at:
They claim 'education' is first importance with their paper. Hmmm... I guess they better learn first before teaching others.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Pennsylvania Dept. of Corrections to discard terms ‘offender,’ ‘felon’ in describing ex-prisoners

"I’ve offended friends, family, co-workers, colleagues and even thousands of people I’ve never met. It happens embarrassingly often. Fortunately I’m not defined by my worst day or even by one of my “off days.” Nope, not me. I’m defined by the sum of my days and my title — Secretary of Corrections."

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Australia: Study into how juries judge sex offenders

The findings reveal jurors don't always engage in prejudicial reasoning in child sex abuse trials where there are multiple complainants, or where ...

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

CNS - Sex Offender's Lawsuit Dismissed Too Quickly

CNS - Sex Offender's Lawsuit Dismissed Too Quickly
Mar 29, 2016 - (CN) - A lawsuit by a sex offender on probation who claims he was unfairly forced to admit his guilt before entering a sex offender treatment ..

Class Action Lawsuits

2013 Wallace Sex Offender Lawsuit

National: Civil Rights Group Files Lawsuit Questioning Constitutionality of International Megan’s Law

"The concern for sex offenders’ safety may seem counterintuitive; however, it is also well founded. For example, according to the language of the bill, it doesn’t appear that there are any provisions that would monitor whether foreign governments share information about sex offenders with others outside the people who need to know. These are sex offenders who have been convicted of some of the most atrocious crimes. Could the American government control who has this kind of sensitive information? If not, does this law unduly put sex offenders at risk? Do we even care?"

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Florida Action Recent Posts

Member Submission: RE: Sex Stings

May 23, 2016
Another sex sting, this time it looks like Georgia is getting in on the Federal Govt “goodies.” (millions in grant $$). A few disturbing things to notice here. Just...
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NY Times Movie Review on ‘Pervert Park’

May 23, 2016
There are no pleasant moments in “Pervert Park,” only wretched and thought-provoking ones. Whether you can make it through them is an open question. The title of this documentary...
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Must Listen: Registrant Issue Discussed on Bill Mick Live

PA: WPXI Pittsburgh TARGET 11: Legislation to restrict where sex offenders can live in Pa. remains in limbo

Four years after a Target 11 investigation exposed the problem, investigative reporter Rick Earle found more than 20 registered sex offenders on the ...

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SC: Greenville News Issues arise with South Carolina sex offender registry

Victims of sexual assault and anyone else who monitors South Carolina's sex offender registry may be viewing false information, The Greenville News ...

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Interesting Forum

These comments may be from 2012, they are still very interesting the further you read down the different views. Forum

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

IL: 5 child sex offenders sue, say many restrictions unconstitutional

The statutes at issue prohibit child sex offenders from being at "any facility providing programs or services" for people under the age of 18; "participating in a holiday event" where there are children under 18; being at any public park building or property or loitering on a public way within 500 feet of public parks; and loitering within 500 feet of a school building where there are people under 18.

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Colorado Supreme Court Ruling on Polygraph Admissions - Florida Action Committee

Colorado Supreme Court Ruling on Polygraph Admissions - Florida Action Committee

Advocate Websites Newly Discovered...

Helping Individuals with criminal records Reenter through Employment 
The Legal Action Center is the only non-profit law and policy organization in the United States whose sole mission is to fight discrimination against people with histories of addiction, HIV/AIDS, or criminal records, and to advocate for sound public policies in these areas.

Situation Room: Should Sexual Offenders Get ‘Scarlet Letters’?

MTV staffers tackle the thorny question of what 'justice' means

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Untouchable Movie

Untouchables Film Synopsis


When the most powerful lobbyist in Florida discovers that the nanny has sexually abused his daughter, he harnesses his extraordinary political power to pass the toughest sex offender laws in the nation. UNTOUCHABLE chronicles his crusade, and its impact on the lives of several of the 800,000 people forced to live under the kinds of laws he has championed. The film interweaves intimate portraits of men and women who have been branded sex offenders with the heartbreaking stories of those who have suffered sexual abuse. It is a film that pushes viewers toward an uncomfortable place, requiring them to walk in the shoes of those who have survived sexual abuse, but to still bear witness to the experiences of those we revile.

WATCH: WFTV Reports on Seminole Lawsuit - Florida Action Committee

WATCH: WFTV Reports on Seminole Lawsuit - Florida Action Committee

Wisconsin registrant finds jail easier than navigating the residency restrictions. - Florida Action Committee

Wisconsin registrant finds jail easier than navigating the residency restrictions. - Florida Action Committee

Hearing on IML to take place on July 27 - Florida Action Committee

Hearing on IML to take place on July 27 - Florida Action Committee

Kentucky chips away at their residency restrictions - Florida Action Committee

Kentucky chips away at their residency restrictions - Florida Action Committee

TX: Lawsuit fears force small Texas towns to drop sex offender laws

RHOME, Texas — At least 23 Texas towns have now repealed local sex offender ordinances after the threat of legal action forced many to strip their laws, or end up in court.
Earlier this year, the small Wise County town of Rhome repealed its ordinance.

Mayor Michelle Pittman says as a "general law" community of less than 5,000 people, they were informed by lawyers for Texas Voices for Justice and Reason they didn't have the power to have a local law on the books.

The threat of a lawsuit was too much.

"Any litigation has a financial impact,” she said. “Our big concern was whether we could bear that, being a small city.”

Parents like Jennifer Peek say they are equal parts stunned and angry to learn there is no longer an ordinance that prevents convicted offenders from living within 1,500 feet of a school or playground.

"I'm sorry that our concern isn’t more with the safety of our children, rather than the freedom of a sex offender," she said.

News 8 has been following the story for months, ever since the town of Alvarado in Johnson County hinted last year it may face a legal challenge over part of its ordinance.
In January, even more towns started to repeal their laws, while others decided to fight the lawsuits.

Attorney Richard Gladden, who filed on behalf of Texas Voices, says about two dozen towns have fully repealed local laws dictating everything from where sex offenders can live to if they need to post sex offender signs during holidays like Halloween.

The lawsuits cite a little-read 2007 legal opinion from then-Attorney General Greg Abbott, who wrote that general law towns “…may not adopt an ordinance restricting where a registered sex offender may live” because they don’t have constitutional authority to do so.
Home-rule cities — those with populations over 5,000 - aren't impacted.

In Eustice, Texas, about 60 miles southeast of Dallas, they have long discussed a local ordinance. But Mayor Elicia Sanders say they fear as a town of only 1,000, they, too, would be sued.

She says parents have voiced concerns, especially since James Cassels - convicted of sexually abusing a 5-year-old boy in Alaska - recently moved across the street from the local ISD campus.

"Small town kids are just as valuable and precious as big city kids,” Mayor Sanders said. “[Residents] don't understand why big city kids get safety zones and small town kids don't get 'em.”
She concedes that there have been no reported issues with Cassels since he relocated to town. His mother says he is trying to find a new place to live.

Josh Gravens, a criminal justice reform advocate who is also a registered sex offender, says residency restrictions continue to be problematic.

"Let's be real about what these ordinances are: they are about banishment," Gravens said. "They don't stem child sex abuse whatsoever."

He points out in some small towns, it's almost impossible for a registered sex offender to not be within 1,500 or 2,000 feet of a playground, school, or a church with a daycare.

"They would be breaking the law all of the time," Gravens said.
The issue actually caught the eye of lawmakers last session in Austin, but the bill died on the house floor.

Rep. Matt Krause says next year, lawmakers should finally address the issue. He has heard of colleagues eager to push for legislation, and says he may draft something himself.

"I had never thought about it," he said. "It's concerning, and the legislature needs to take a look at it."

In North Texas alone, towns like Hutchins, Alvarado, Justin, and Rhome have repealed ordinances. Others cities, like Krum, Argyle, and Westworth Village are fighting the lawsuits.

The governor's office declined to comment on the issue.

The lawsuits have no impact on restrictions imposed by the courts on where an offender may live as part of their probation or parole.

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Letter: State Supreme Court made right decision to keep sex offender records public

Comments needed on this editorial link!

Go Ms. Zink! Criminal records should be kept consistently public. It is a form of accountability for both the convicted and the criminal justice system, and provides the public with information needed to make decisions regarding safety.

If it is objectionable that those records be public because it will put lower-level offenders at risk of social and employment mistreatment, then there are two issues. Either we need a fourth sex offender category which covers those people — who are ambiguously guilty or were minors when the crime occurred — or we have a flawed justice process that causes people to want to keep that information private as it is misleading. “All facts are friendly.”

Children are consistently vulnerable to sex offenders. We need to be firmly vigilant and keeping those records public. I applaud our state Supreme Court for making the right decision to keep those records public.

One other thought: The current scale used to rank sex offenses is confusing as it is opposite of the other scales used for misdemeanor to felony offenses. First degree is the lowest and third degree is the most egregious. It would be helpful to standardize those scales.

Shelly Hansen, W. Richland

Read more here:

Alabama Passes a Bill to Regulate Abortion Clinics Like Sex Offenders

Alabama lawmakers passed two bills in the waning hours of their legislative session on Wednesday that could close two of the state's five abortion clinics and make it harder for women to receive abortions in their second trimester.

One of the bills prohibits abortion clinics from operating within 2,000 feet of an elementary or middle school—the same restriction that applies to sex offenders. If Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signs the bill, it may force two of the state's five abortion clinics to close, including a clinic in Huntsville that is the only one providing abortion care in the northern half of Alabama. The clinic just moved to its current location, across the street from a school, in 2014, in order to comply with other abortion restrictions passed in Alabama in 2013.

The sponsor of the bill, Alabama state Sen. Paul Sanford, likened the restrictions to those imposed on sex offenders. "We can put a restriction on whether a liquor store opens up across the street and make sure pedophiles stay away from schools," he told the Times Daily in February. "I just think having an abortion clinic that close to elementary-age school children that actually have to walk on the sidewalk past it is not the best thing."

The second bill would ban a common second-trimester abortion procedure.

Throughout the day on Wednesday, Democrats tried to mount a filibuster in order to run out the clock on the legislative session before a vote could be brought on both bills. But Republicans gathered enough votes to move the legislation forward.

Democrats who opposed the bills voiced their concerns over the House's rushed proceedings. "You have no right to continue to cut out debate," Rep. Mary Moore said. "That's what the process is all about. That's what makes democracy different than dictatorships."

After Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard attempted to start a vote on one of the abortion bills, members of the House Black Caucus entered the chamber and began singing "We Shall Overcome." In response, Hubbard called security, saying members couldn't hear the floor vote.

"With two hours left in session, the Republican Caucus shut down debate and bent the rules to jam through this misguided legislation," said Nikema Williams, vice president of public policy at Planned Parenthood Southeast, in an emailed statement. "This legislation is bad for women and bad for Alabama. It goes to show how issues of racial justice and access to health care are interconnected and cannot be fought alone."

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MS: No policies in place to address sex offenders in schools

Lawrence school district officials have a way to find out whether registered sex offenders are enrolled at schools, but the district isn’t sure whether it wants to know that information.

Though most crimes committed by juveniles are not public record, juveniles convicted of sexually violent crimes are required to be publicly listed on the Kansas Bureau of Investigation offender registry. For those 18 and older, all serious sex, violent and drug offenses are posted.

But because the district does not monitor the online database, a 
registered sex offender attended Lawrence High School for nearly 18 months. Had the district been aware of his past crimes, state law would have required that all teachers and staff involved with the student be notified. The LHS student newspaper The Budget first reported two weeks ago that a registered sex offender had been attending the high school.

Following the student’s recent arrest for alleged sex crimes against a minor, district leaders aren’t sure how a similar situation would be dealt with in future. For the district to begin monitoring the offender registry would require a policy decision by the school board, said David Cunningham, director of human resources and legal services for the district. Cunningham said the possibility of regularly monitoring the offender registry is a broad issue that he thinks would require a lot of conversation.

“I don’t know what the board would want us to do or whether that would be something from a policy or legal perspective that would be appropriate,” said Cunningham, who is also a member of the board’s policy advisory committee. “It kind of depends on what is the goal? What do you want to accomplish once you have the information? What are you going to do with it? So, I would say that’s something that we have not discussed at this point.”

The student in question transferred from another school district three years after his conviction in another Kansas county. In 2011, when he was 13, he was convicted of two sex crimes against an 8-year-old girl: aggravated indecent liberties with a child and lewd and lascivious behavior. He began attending LHS in 2014, and earlier this year the now 18-year-old student was charged with similar crimes.

In February, the student was charged with one felony count of aggravated indecent liberties with a child under the age of 16. The two did not attend the same school, and the victim told officers that she and the student were dating but had only met a few times, according to the arrest affidavit. The victim said she was 14 and the student stated he “knew (the victim) from following her on Instagram and mutual friends,” according to the affidavit. The case is pending in Douglas County District Court.

Even serious sex, violent and drug offenders are entitled by law to an education. In Kansas, registered offenders can enroll in public school without schools receiving direct notification from state or local law enforcement. The responsibility of checking the offender registry is left up to schools, but there are no requirements that schools check the registry or policies regarding how registered offenders should be educated if schools are aware of their past crimes. School districts can make policies requiring the appropriate staff to monitor the registry, but the Lawrence school district does not have such a policy.

How student offenders are handled

Despite the right to an education, districts can take precautions if they realize a registered offender has enrolled. But without any laws or policies outlining how schools track or accommodate registered offenders, how the district would handle a similar situation in the future isn’t clear. School board member Shannon Kimball, a former attorney and member of the board’s policy advisory committee, said the implications of creating a policy to monitor the offender registry would have to be carefully considered.

“It’s a matter of balancing a student’s right to an education versus another student’s right to be safe in receiving their education,” Kimball said. “…What would we do with the information? Does that mean that every student that’s a registered sex offender we somehow have to isolate them from the rest of the population? I don’t know that that’s the right answer or an appropriate answer, but those are issues we’d have to think very carefully about.”

Potential policy changes are first considered by the board’s policy advisory committee, which is made up of Cunningham, Kimball and school board President Vanessa Sanburn. If after study the committee decides to recommend a change to district policy, the committee then submits the recommendation to the school board for final approval.

There are alternatives to educating registered offenders alongside other students. For instance, the district could decide to place the student in the district’s virtual school. Cunningham said that he thinks such decisions should be made case by case. Though he said he couldn’t discuss the specific situation from this year, generally speaking, Cunningham said that making a decision to educate students separately has to be balanced against their statutory and constitutional right to attend school.

“I don’t know that one should make generalized decisions based on (registered offender) status alone,” Cunningham said. “…You’ve got to balance everybody’s rights to some extent here. So, I don’t know that you can say that there’s an absolute rule or policy that ought to be in place related to this.”

Cunningham said the student in question began attending LHS in August 2014 and was a student at the school until February — the month he was charged with his most recent alleged crimes. As a registered sex offender, the details of his past convictions are listed on the offender registry, along with his home address and the address of LHS.

Both adult and juvenile offenders are required to register the address of any school they attend; however, state law does not require state or local law enforcement agencies to notify a school district when a registered offender provides a school address.

State laws and board policies

Other states and school districts have more directly addressed how registered offenders who enroll in public schools are handled. While no school can bar students because of their criminal history, some have firmer policies or practices in place regarding how they are educated.

In Missouri, districts typically choose to educate students who are registered sex offenders separately, said Kelli Hopkins of the Missouri School Board Association. The MSBA has a policy based on state law that states those convicted of a sex offense involving a minor are banned from school campuses, though the rule doesn’t apply to “a student entitled by law to be on district property for educational services if the student's presence is necessary to obtain those services.” Hopkins said that what ends up happening is that most students who have committed such crimes are not educated alongside others.

“In practice, what really happens is if you’ve got a child who is on the sex offender list, they’re going to find a way to educate that child at an alternative setting,” Hopkins said. “Some districts have alternative schools, some will do it via home school, some will have a private tutor meet them at the public library, other locations.”

On the other hand, Nebraska does not have specific procedures in place, according to Jim Luebbe, director of policy services for the Nebraska Association of School Boards. Luebbe said that he is not aware of any specific instances of known juvenile sex offenders moving from one district to another, or how the local enforcement officials would handle such a situation.

“I don’t know how well the sex offender notification process is working in Nebraska or whether there is any special procedure in place if the offender is a juvenile still attending school,” Luebbe said via email.

In Kansas, while state law — the School Safety and Security Act — does not require districts to monitor the offender registry, it does mandate certain actions when a school employee finds out a student has been convicted of a felony other than felony theft. The employee is required to inform the school superintendent, who must then provide the reported information and identify the student to all school employees who are directly involved in teaching or providing other school related services to the student. But in order for the act to apply, a school employee must first be aware of a student’s crimes.

In contrast to the Lawrence school district, the administrators with the Baldwin City district do “periodically check” the offender registry, according to Superintendent Paul Dorathy. Dorathy said via email that Baldwin doesn’t currently have any registered offenders enrolled in its schools, but that the district does have a policy based on the School Safety and Security Act that would require the appropriate administrators and teaching staff to be informed if a student was a registered offender.

The Eudora school district does not have a policy or procedure that involves having a district employee check the offender registry, according to Kristin Magette, director of communications. Magette said that information could be provided by a School Resource Officer, and that a student who is a sex offender would not be excluded because of that status.

“In the case of a sex offender in our schools, we would focus on training for staff and ensuring adequate enforcement of a restraining order,” Magette said via email.

Checking the offender registry

State law requires the department of education to notify schools of the online offender registry “for the purpose of locating offenders who reside near such school.” The department sends an email twice per year that informs all schools that the online database provides information about registered offenders, according to Denise Kahler, director of communications for the Kansas State Department of Education. Kahler said there are no laws or policies requiring districts or schools to check the offender registry.
“Schools may inquire and may have policies to inquire about students’ placement on an offender registry but there are no laws or requirements for such a policy,” Kahler said in an email.

Even though the Lawrence district does not have a policy requiring that the offender registry be checked, someone at LHS eventually became aware that the student was a registered offender. Cunningham said he was told someone who worked at LHS notified administration after he or she saw a news article and “drew a connection.” Cunningham said he did not know whether that notification occurred before of after the student’s most recent arrest in February.

“I don’t know at what point in time they became aware of it and then at what point in time they made administration aware of the situation,” Cunningham said. “So, a number of things occurred there with various people, but I don’t have specific knowledge of who or when.”

The student was arrested in February, which Cunningham said was the same month he stopped attending LHS. Once district and school administration were made aware that the student was a registered sex offender — whenever that may have been — Cunningham said he could not say whether a decision was made about whether the student would continue to be enrolled in regular classes at LHS.

“To the extent that we might have had conversations around his status as a student, that would all be confidential because it would be a student matter,” he said.

Potential policy changes

The Lawrence district has about 5,700 students who attend its six secondary schools; however, that does not mean that district staff would have to check the names of all those students against the online database in order to identify registered offenders.
On the KBI website, it is possible to create a “community notification” for certain addresses. If such a notification were created using the addresses of the district’s six secondary schools, an email notification would be sent when anyone was registered within a certain radius of the school. Such a notification would certainly include an offender who was required to register a school address — such as the student in question — and would narrow the list from hundreds to dozens.

KBI spokesman Mark Malick confirmed that creating a community notification would cause a notification to be sent within five days of the receipt of an addition or update to an offender’s registry information. A Journal-World search of the registry for the six secondary school addresses did not indicate additional registered offenders who are students in the district at this time.
If the Lawrence school district were to create a policy regarding checking the registry or how to handle registered offenders who enroll, it would first be discussed in the school board’s policy advisory committee. The committee then makes a recommendation to the board, which makes the ultimate decision.

Kimball said she thinks the board policy committee needs to have “a deeper policy discussion” about the topic. Though she said she didn’t think there were necessarily negatives to checking the registry, Kimball said the district would have to determine logistical details, such as how often it was checked and how it would interact with the notification requirements of the School Safety and Security Act.

“Given that there’s that vehicle (the offender registry) available, then I think we have to discuss how do those two things work together, and I think there does need to be some discussion about that from a board policy perspective,” Kimball said. “…(The act) does not place an affirmative duty on the school district to go out and try to investigate these things, so that’s an interesting question: how all of these things are meant to — or maybe unintentionally — affect each other.”

Kimball said that once the policy committee completes its recommendation regarding the discrimination and harassment policy in mid-May, she thinks considering the issue of student offenders will be the next priority.

“I do think we need to have some detailed discussions in the policy committee and have a better understanding of what’s going on before we can really make a good, solid policy recommendation,” Kimball said. “But I would anticipate that we would be doing that.”
District spokeswoman Julie Boyle echoed Kimball's sentiment Friday afternoon.

"We will take a look at whether revisions to policy and/or adjustments in current practice are needed to glean more information about any prior criminal history of students entering our schools," Boyle said via email.

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~Adlia Stevenson U.S. Vice President (1893–1897) and Congressman (1879–1881)

On a Personal Note

Thanks for the opportunity to express my thoughts regarding the issue of citizens’ rights, particularly addressing certain sex offenders’ crimes that do not fit the devastating, inequitable and endless punishment given.

As you know, many young men and women lives across the nation are being destroyed by incarceration, life-time registry and restrictive laws that do more harm than good. For those individuals, there is no second chance.

Below is a personal letter to President Obama:
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“Dear President Obama,

I truly agree with your sentiments that individuals, such as ex-felons, should be able to receive a second chance at life. Since we all know that one can veer off that path of life and travel along rough, rocky terrain, sometimes running off and ending up in some ditch. We all have made our fill of mistakes and sometimes those held a costly consequence that changed life forever. So we lived through it, trying harder to make things right with family, friends and those around us, but what about those who aren’t able to make things right even if they tried…because they’re labeled as too dirty, a leper, a person who is rejected from society and home.

But what if they’re a seventeen year old and had sex with a fifteen year old, consensual at that? Or they’re a teen that had gotten so enraged after a breakup that he sent out naked pictures of his girlfriend on his cell phone or email? Or an individual urinates where someone just happens to see them?

All are wrong and a travesty but do they deserve the life of no second chance with a registry that ends all. They are labeled, no jobs, no where to live…they have been deemed a menace to society, a plague. These certain circumstances, and many other situations similar to these, I believe still deserve a second change.

Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

After my son’s early release and two years of prison, I thought I had handled that fact graciously knowing after serving his time he would be able to get that fresh start, that second chance. He was an exemplary inmate, GED, college courses and vocational classes. Little did I know that a second chance on the outside was the farthest from the truth? He now struggles and lives in a trailer park sharing a trailer with another and surrounded by others in the same rocking boat, one to float endlessly in shark infested waters. I see him little because of probation requirements (he couldn’t live with us because we were 800 feet near a school). My family is afraid of what would happen to them if he lived with them…vigilantism. My son has no other place to stay since others condemn him of his crime that is screamed from the highest rooftop. Sex offender, sex offender!

Not all sex offenders are pedophiles or predators but some are simply young kids that make one stupid and rash decision that eventually changes everything, and they have no idea what they’ve done until their life is never their own. Exactly, where is that second chance for those sex-offenders who are lumped together with pedophiles and predators? Now, it makes me sick to think of my son’s future and many like him that are on the registry and many with no second chance…ever. I am asking you as a mother and as another concerned citizen of the United States that these laws are looked at again and taken into serious consideration in what they are doing to the Constitution of the United States, not for sex offenders in general but the future rights of every citizen, before anymore are put into effect. They unjustly strip an offender of their rights and place them in a guillotine that can be easily set off by anyone and at anytime. Where is the second chance for ex-sex offenders in the present, pending and future laws?”
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What truly saddens me is the weakness and deterioration of what the sex offense issue is doing to our once, great nation. Across Europe, others are seeing the injustice and disregard of rights, but we ignore this problem and it makes me wonder where humanity is heading….

We have become a hysterical society in which our latest witch-hunt is a sex offender--no matter his/her crime.

Below is a email sent from a foreign advocate to a father of a sex offender:
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“The tragic story of your son's death is just so sad that it's difficult to explain how. It was very hard to read your letters. It seems almost unbelievable that this can take place in a democracy! From our point of view, there is no justice in this. Not in any way: not for you, your son, the former girl friend – or even the state.

It is an abusive legal system. It seems barbaric. And we are so very sorry that this takes place. That's why it's so important for us to try to neutralize the debate with this…, hopefully making some changes. ….. to show the every day life of the sex offenders, trying to show how they keep on being punished, even after served prison time…..But we will for sure tell the story of the injustice that your son has been exposed to.”
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I appreciate everyone's commitment and backing to protect everyone's civil rights, plainly as noted in the Constitution of the United States and is presupposed, giving ALL men are “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”