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-- Articles of Merit --
The following articles, focus on our advocacy area, and have been written by folks which we feel deserve special merit.
From our Mission Statement:
... "We are a "Rights Advocacy" web site, advocating for the LifeAfter offender and the circle around that offender, his/her family, friends, associates, and many others who through life's circumstances come into contact with offenders, who are also affected by registry and community notification laws."
These writers are here because we feel they have addressed the humanity of the issue they wrote about, and fairly considered the facts. They have not taken sides, nor have they slammed one side or the other, their focus appears to be only the issue raised. Hence receive special mention.
Issues surrounding sex offenders seem to bring out the worst in many folks, a hidden hatred, where reason and logic no longer prevails. When a journalist comes along that can present the issue and overcome the hatred then they deserve special merit.
Granted there are probably many more and if anyone knows of one please let us know.
.At the six-corner intersection of hysteria, ignorance and bureaucratic rigidity, we find the sorry figure of Alan Meister of Oak Park. Three weeks ago, Meister, 29, was at a repair shop having his car alarm serviced when Cook County sheriff's deputies showed up, handcuffed him and took him to jail. Why? Because county officials determined that the property line at the house where Meister lives with his wife, their three small children and his parents is 460 feet from the property line of a Berwyn day-care center. This matters because a 1998 law demands that child-sex offenders live at least 500 feet from schools or day-care centers, and Meister is a registered child-sex offender.
: by Eric Zorn
When letter of law doesn't measure up|
Just as important to this article are comments received after the article appeared:
Eric Zorn's Notebook: Z-MAIL -- CHILD SEX OFFENDERS
California's Sex Offender Database: Is Your Home at Threat Level Red?
.Quick. Can you recite the name, address, and crimes committed by the sexual offenders on your street or in your neighborhood? Apparently many people can. During the first 96 hours after the Megan's Law database was launched on December 15, 2004, there were 14 million hits to the website, out of a total of only 35 million people in California. In fact, the site at Meganslaw.ca.gov was so clogged that many received a message, "Server busy. Try again later." ...
The "Big Brother type" database is not good news for the 63,000 offenders. The American Civil Liberties Union claims this group may become the victims of vigilante attacks, plus it is argued that many of these ex-cons committed illegal acts decades ago, purport to be reformed, thus should not be revealed at all. ... But what truly concerns me is never mentioned: the ramifications for non-offenders. It is not politically correct to mention anything that could detract from the noble and worthy goal of protecting children, but what if the database does not indeed defend anyone and what if it destroys the lives and livelihoods of non-offenders by its mere existence? I argue it could. ...
Over forty percent of the offenders listed in Tarzana, Burbank and Northridge live in houses rather than apartments. Ironically, it could become commonplace to pay offenders to relocate. Why not pay a convicted felon $5000 to move to the other side of town when it will result in a $25,000 - $50,000 increase in equity? As odd as it seems, offenders could find they profit from the negative exposure on the Internet. Lastly, there is the fear factor. Evidence suggests that offenders are more likely to re-offend under stressful conditions, such as when they are ridiculed or unable to find work. In other words, our communities and children may be in greater jeopardy when these people are publicly exposed. ...
: by Charlotte Laws, Ph.D.
»3-29-04 Michigan: BRIAN DICKERSON: Teenage sex mustn't mean shame for life!
Some public policy disagreements are intractable, defying the American impulse to seek common ground in the face of conflict. But reforming the way Michigan deals with sexually active teenagers -- an imperative that has preoccupied me in this space for many years now -- should not be such a difficult nut to crack. .
There is, to be sure, a broad spectrum of attitudes toward teenage sex. Some parents see sexual exploration as a natural and not especially sinister adolescent reflex; others regard it as destructive behavior that should be severely sanctioned by the courts. But in hundreds of conversations with parents, teachers and law enforcement officials, I've discovered virtually no one who defends Michigan's practice of condemning promiscuous teens to a lifetime of shame and ostracism.
Even those at opposite margins of the debate acknowledge the difference between the 17-year-old caught in a backseat with his 15-year-old girlfriend and the violent criminal who rapes multiple victims at knifepoint. But our state's criminal statutes make little distinction between the two. Sexually precocious teens and violent rapists are both required to register their names and addresses in Michigan's public roster of dangerous sex criminals for 25 years. The law brands both a continuing threat to neighbors, coworkers and classmates.
In many instances, a youth who shoots, stabs or bludgeons a stranger faces fewer lifelong legal consequences than a classmate who admits to consensual sex with a slightly younger partner.
(BRIAN DICKERSON, Detroit Free Press)....more....
»3-24-04 Michigan: BRIAN DICKERSON: A plea deal thwarted, a life is ended!
Ernest Hemingway wrote that every true story ends in death. This is a true story.
It begins two years ago with a troubled 14-year-old girl who documented her sexual exploits in a diary. She called herself a predator. But Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca was more interested in her slightly older sex partners. He charged four of them with criminal sexual conduct, a felony.
In May 2002, when what became known as the Bloomfield Sex Diary case broke, I argued that Gorcyca had overreacted by bringing criminal charges for what amounted to consensual sex between promiscuous teenagers. I noted that, if convicted, the defendants would be listed on Michigan's sex-offender registry until they reached middle age.
After a public uproar, Gorcyca relented. Under a plea agreement blessed by two sentencing judges, all four defendants were permitted to plead guilty to a lesser charge of seduction. The prosecutor and defense attorneys agreed that none of the defendants would be imprisoned or listed on the sex-offender registry.
It should have ended there -- a fiasco averted, a case of overzealous prosecution brought to a sane resolution. But it didn't. Last month, more than a year after the charges against them were resolved, all four defendants were notified they'd be registered as sex offenders after all.
One of them, 20-year-old Justin Fawcett of West Bloomfield, was particularly devastated. On Feb. 27, three days after Fawcett's probation officer broke the news that he'd be publicly branded for the next 23 years, Fawcett's father e-mailed me to express his fear that Justin would kill himself.
Judges, probation officers and defense attorneys I spoke to this week attributed Justin Fawcett's legal dilemma to new marching orders from Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox's office, which recently advised the Department of Corrections to place defendants like Fawcett on Michigan's sex-offender registry whether or not the offense they've been convicted of is specifically mentioned in the registration statute.
Cox's spokesman, Matt Davis, says the attorney general's advisory was designed to bring the Department of Corrections in line with a recent Michigan Court of Appeals ruling. The ruling, in a 2002 case called Michigan v. Meyers, says defendants may be listed on the registry for any crime "that by its nature constitutes a sexual offense against an individual who is less than 18 years of age."
So if you're a state legislator, pay attention. Because you enacted this indiscriminate law, and it's way past time for you to fix it. If you're a prosecutor, take heed. Because the criminalization of teenage promiscuity is destroying young lives. And if you're a parent, wake up. Because if you think this couldn't happen to your teenager, you've missed the whole point of Justin Fawcett's story.
(Brian Dickerson, Detroit Free Press)....more....
» 2-5-04 Nightline: Address Unknown: Well-Intentioned Legislation Doesn't Always Produce Good Laws!
W A S H I N G T O N, Feb. 4ó Good laws are almost never produced in the cauldron of public passion. The fact of the matter is that when we are angry, when our primary motive is punishment, we are impulsive and very rarely smart.
on Megans' Laws
EDITORIAL: On Wednesday's Nightline with Ted Koppel, the topic was Megan's Law pointing out some of the problems with that law.
Nightline reported that 50 states reported 461,134 registered sex offenders and that 32 states reported that 77,729 offenders were missing, or have failed to register their new address when they moved. These offenders are presumed to be a threat to society and knowing where they live protects society.
Nightline pointed out that the law came into being because one previously convicted sex offender committed a new horrendous offense which resulted in the death of a child. Hence the laws' real focus is to protect children, that being the claim of politicians and the media.
There is no doubt that some offenders will recidivate, but that is true of any crime type, including those which do not contain any sexual connotation. However, the registration and community notification laws only focus on sex offenders.
The Department of Justice in their, "Summary of State Sex Offender Registries, 2001" reported that, in April of 1998 there were 277,000 registered sex offenders, and in February of 2001 there were 386,000 registered sex offenders.
Extrapolating those numbers shows that approximately 3,205 sex offenders are added to registries per month across the United States, and today the total registered offenders number some 586,000.
Nightline then showed sex offenders being rounded up because they have allegedly failed to register their new address when they moved. That folks, is the center of the problem. The show never addressed "Why" sex offenders have failed to register their new address when they moved.
Today in Washington state, in King County, there are 294 Homeless or Transient registered sex offenders. Homeless or transient, is this the result of Megan's laws? Some folks will sidestep that issue by saying this is the result of that person's crime, and somehow ignore that but for today's Megans' laws most of these Homeless and Transient sex offenders would be productive members of society having completed their sentences.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports there are 3,142 counties across the United States. Think about how many sex offenders are homeless or transient in all of those counties. We know that Washington state's homeless numbers are very high due to public pressure to keep sex offender housing out of what seems every county, news reports attest to that.
The point is, Megan's laws have a downside, and that downside is, there are people being harmed by the laws. Many folks will simply want to brush this aside and say, so what they are only sex offenders.
Here we have received hundreds of e-mails from families of sex offenders. These e-mails tell stories that make you want to cry, homelessness is a main theme as is joblessness. The e-mails that really hurt are those that tell stories of how children of sex offenders are being ostracized by their friends and the community. I wish we could print these but these families are already suffering, and need no more.
We have stories where families have had to break up, or were forced to break up by state employees (Probation and Parole officers) because a parent was convicted of a sex offense. At times that sex offense can be as small as urinating in the park, but it is a sex offense according to the state, therefore society must be protected from this vicious criminal.
There have been studies showing that Megan's laws do not protect anything or anyone, they do nothing but give the perception of safety. There are other studies documenting the harm caused by Megan's laws, but these are ignored.
So when someone says these laws are needed to protect society, ask yourself, do they protect all those in society? Then find a homeless or jobless sex offender, or one with a family and children and ask them how well they are protected by Megan's Laws? I think you will get a slightly different story than those reported by the media.
Support Megan's laws, never, not while it causes documented harm which is being ignored by legislatures nationwide. The issues is not whether this offender or that offender should be subjected to Megan's Laws, the issue is whether there should or shouldn't be a Megan's law at all. The fault of the law is inherent in the law! Laws should not place people in harms way!
Never forget, the Intent of Megans law is to protect, and when it does the opposite, it needs to be eliminated.
The Sicilians have a wonderful line which captures the essence of that: "Revenge," they say, "is a dessert best eaten cold." Passing a piece of legislation with a particular victim or, for that matter, criminal in mind is bound to prove less than satisfactory over the long haul.
Megan's Law may be trying to do too much. So much, in fact, that it's turning out to be unenforceable. That's neither fair to the convicted sex offender who's done his time and now has his sickness under control, nor is it providing any real protection to the most vulnerable among us. It needs to be fixed on both counts.
(Ted Koppel, ABC Nightline)
» 2-5-04 West Virginia: Protecting Even Those We Dislike!
Thoughtful leaders have warned in the past that the threats to liberty we should guard most vigilantly against are not those imposed by governments against the majority of their people. Instead, they are those imposed against the few - with the support of most of their neighbors.
Americans have a tradition of heeding that advice. Our basic document of government, the Constitution, along with laws enacted during the space of two centuries, stand behind our natural inclination to defend the rights of even those who are unpopular with the rest of us.
Several weeks ago it was suggested that the state of West Virginia should issue special vehicle license plates to those convicted of sex-related offenses. At the time, we argued against the proposal. We pointed out that an existing state registry of convicted sex offenders safeguards communities against those who might be a continuing threat. Special license plates could penalize innocent members of ex-offenders' families, we warned. Then, more recently, Belmont County began disseminating posters bearing photographs and names of those who have failed to make court-ordered child support payments. Officials said the technique is an excellent way of finding the guilty and, in some cases, pressuring them to pay up.
In neither case - special plates for sex offenders or posters featuring deadbeat parents - was there much complaint (except among those targeted) from the public. Many seemed to think the two measures were good ideas, in fact. No one wants to defend convicted sex offenders or those who refuse to help support children they have helped to bring into the world.
But is this a trend? Where does it stop? Should those convicted of drug-related offenses have their pictures posted in pharmacies? Should drivers with too many speeding tickets be required to put red license plates on their cars? Should every parking meter feature the photograph, name and address of a scofflaw who hasn't paid his parking tickets? Of course not. But the slope between those possibilities and ideas already suggested - or implemented - is a slippery one.
Protecting the public, as the sex offender registries do, is an acceptable use of labeling people and disseminating that information. Using the technique merely to heap scorn on them is vastly different. In effect, it is punishment not called for under criminal laws - with good reason.
But the line - what kinds of offenders should be subjected to public ridicule and, perhaps danger - can be shifted easily. We know where the line lies today. But what about tomorrow? Whose privacy will be deemed of no consequence next month or next year? And who will make the decision on that?
But when the primary effect of such exposure is to invade a person's privacy and open him up to public ridicule and, perhaps, intimidation, there is a risk that basic rights revered by nearly all Americans will be infringed upon. That risk should not be taken.
» 12-28-03 Texas: We should keep our promise, put back clause!
The Texas Legislature should change a law that is unfair to 87 people in Galveston County and about 6,000 in Texas.
Changing the law isnít going to be popular. The people who are being treated unfairly are on the stateís list of registered sex offenders. Many people arenít going to be inclined to treat them fairly. But itís the right thing to do.
The people in this group agreed to a deal the state offered. They were told that if they accepted the deal, theyíd be given deferred adjudication. Stay clean and in 10 years the case will be dismissed. Set aside, for a moment, your questions about the wisdom of making such a deal with someone accused of such a serious crime. Those deals were made ó and appear to have been made routinely ó in cases that involved accusations made during bitter divorces.
Itís pointless to question, at this point, who was innocent and who was guilty because the cases never were tried. People accused of sex crimes were offered this deal, and some took it, believing prosecutors that the cases would go away if they simply stayed clean for 10 years. Then the state changed the rules.
(Heber Taylor, The Galveston Daily News)
» 12-21-03 Texas: Cases dismissed, but many still on list!
David Dockens is serving a life sentence, even though heís never been convicted of a crime. It isnít supposed to happen here; punishment without a finding of guilt is the sort of thing that occurs elsewhere. Still, it happened to Dockens, and heís not alone.
A three-month review by The Galveston County Daily News of Department of Public Safety and county criminal justice records found thousands of people in the same situation.
Dockens is one of about 85 people in Galveston County and more than 6,000 statewide who, because of a 1997 change in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, must register as sex offenders even though charges against them were dismissed..
(Ted Strueli, The Daily News, Galveston County)
» 11-5-03 Michigan: Some may not deserve label: Sex offender!
If all goes well, state legislators will take an important step today toward fixing Michigan's flawed sex-offender registry. The House Criminal Justice Committee is poised to approve legislation that would exempt promiscuous teenagers from having to keep the police and the public abreast of their whereabouts for 25 years.
Rep. Larry Julian's bill also would allow judges to remove some nonviolent offenders from the sex-offender registry after 10 years if their criminal convictions have been expunged. The only thing controversial about Julian's bill is that it has taken lawmakers so long to acknowledge the difference between child molestation and teenage experimentation.
Michigan's failure to distinguish between predatory assault and sexual curiosity is especially obnoxious in communities where television reporters use the sex-offender registry to "expose" so-called predators in the act of handing out Halloween treats or walking their dogs. Yes, that humiliated man in the TV lights could be a child molester. But he could just as easily be a HYTA offender who's trying to get on with his life.
Let reason prevail: Julian's bill is a victory for common sense and for Citizens for Second Chances, an advocacy group for people with family members on the sex offender registry. Linda Zimmerman, one of the organization's founders, said she's disappointed the bill doesn't allow teenagers whose criminal records have been expunged to petition for immediate removal from the list. Eventually, she hopes, all non-predatory offenders will be afforded hearings to decide whether they represent a threat to the community. "We know that we have to move in small increments," Zimmerman says.
The more thoughtfully the names that appear on the list are selected, and the more thoroughly non-predators are excluded, the more useful a tool the sex offender registry will become.
(by BRIAN DICKERSON, FREE PRESS COLUMNIST)
» 10-22-03 ! Killing the Good Samaritan!
The pricetag for decades of gender warfare is usually expressed in general terms -- for example, through data-filled studies that reflect how "boys" are slighted in education. The ordeal of Michael Wright -- a student at Oklahoma University (OU) at Norman -- captures the human factor. And it leads me to a question: What does the devil look like?
On a recent Thursday, two police officers appeared at Michael's house, apparently to investigate his stalking of a female OU student. Stalking is a serious crime which is defined as "the willful, malicious and repeated following and harassing of another person". It can place a young man on a registry of sex offenders that could haunt his future and limit his options in life. Indeed, Oklahoma is a state in which convicted sex offenders must register his/her address, which is made available to the public. No wonder Michael suffered "a great deal of nerve-wracking anxiety" before being exonerated. What mistake did Michael make?
... Slowly, you come to view the world through the eyes of the devil. People are guilty until proven innocent. Acts of kindness and common decency are meticulously dissected for hidden motives and agendas. People are not individuals but categories. Those closest to you -- family, friends and neighbors -- do not receive the benefit of the doubt; they receive the "benefit" of your suspicion. With no religious implication, I say: a devil is at large. He tells us that acts of kindness and common decency do not exist; the worst possible interpretation should be placed on acts that appear to embody those values. Individuals do not exist; only categories.
(by Wendy McElroy)
» ?-??-03 ! SEX OFFENDERS HAVE RIGHTS?
Community notification of sex offender's information is impeding on an individuals right to privacy, outlined in the first amendment. A philosopher by the name of John Stuart Mill is an advocate of rule or social practice utilitarianism. He believes "That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others," (Hayden 144).
Mill is inferring that laws that limit someone's basic rights can be interfered with when the law would prevent harm to others. The goal of community notification is to prevent re-offenses, and that is the justification for interfering with released sex offenders right to privacy. Community notification, though, is not proven to be preventative to re-offenses.
The recidivism rates, the rate of returning to past criminal behavior, of sex offenders, are one of the lowest compared to all other crimes, with the exception of murder. According to a study performed by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, http://www.wa.gov/wsipp/, recidivism rates from before community notification was implemented, and in 1995, after community notification was implemented showed that community notification had no impact on recidivism rates.
Even if someone was to argue that having these laws would somehow prevent the incidents of sexual abuse from happening, it is shown here that that claim is not sound. Impeding on ones right to privacy is not needed, because it only denies someone their right to privacy without any adverse effects. Overall, the laws of community notification being implemented do not improve well-being or happiness. In fact, they even promote acts that might impede on people's well being.
(by Kelsey McCarthy)
» 9-10-03 Inside prison, outside the law! John Geoghan's murder raises troubling issues of inmate 'justice' - and society's indifference.
Many Americans reacted to news of Geoghan's murder with little more than a shrug. That reaction, prisoner advocates and ethicists argue, is dangerous because it tacitly accepts - even encourages - the ruthless system of inmate vigilante "justice" that may have motivated Geoghan's killer. It is also, they say, one of the main reasons such abuses are allowed to continue behind locked doors. ...
"Does society - do people on the outside who look the other way, who don't want to know that systematic abuse by inmates and by guards goes on inside US prisons every single day - do they have some responsibility, too?" she asks. "I think so. It's happening in our name and with our tax dollars." ...
(by Mary Wiltenburg, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor )
» 7-31-03 Missouri: Sex offender law: Should be overturned, but not likely!
Missouriís law requiring sex offenders to register with county sheriffs is being challenged on constitutional grounds. Similar laws exist in all states now. All are based on faulty premises. These laws require offenders who have served their time to undergo an additional punishment by having to put their names on a public register with who-knows-what implications. According to an Associated Press report, the suit says our state law "restricts personal freedom without a due process hearing, is applied to past offenders, adds punishment without a jury trial, treats different groups of offenders similarly, requires registration after other punishment ends and creates a special class of people without a compelling state interest."
If we are to label people who MIGHT revert to bad behavior, we will find no logical limits. To abide by the spirit of Meganís Laws, we might as well tattoo a red star on the forehead of every former sex offender. This would be a much more accurate and effective way to keep track of this particular group of targeted untouchables. If we donít like this idea, we should not like Meganís Laws either. There is no difference in principle.
(By Henry J. Waters III, Publisher, Columbia Daily Tribune)
» 6-7-03 Wisconsin: OPINION: Joel McNally: Pols, their monsters, and us. Anyone who tries to understand our criminal justice system by listening to the inflammatory rhetoric of politicians and the media has a perfect right to be scared out of his wits!
Who can blame those who swallow such gross distortions of reality for feeling they are living in a world gone mad? And most people rarely ever hear any other point of view because, after all, who is going to stand up for child molesters?. (Joel McNally - Columnist for The Capital Times)
» 5-20-03 New Mexico: Registration laws must balance rights of all! Recognizes "Sex Offenders" have rights.
Like so many policy conflicts in a democracy, Albuquerque's new sex-offender registration program appropriately is raising grave concerns about the fine line between preventing future sex crimes - particularly against children - and preserving fundamental rights.
In that respect, it is very much like the ongoing national debate over compromising the Bill of Rights in order to combat terrorism. Both are driven by fear. Both seek to make the world safe. And both tear at the very fabric of America.
(Opinion: The Albuquerque Tribune)