--- The Basic Facts ---
Legislatures have enacted the laws, sex offenders are challenging the laws, and courts must decide whether the challenges are valid.
Legislatures find: sex offender registration and community notification are needed to protect the public from the high recidivism of sex offenders; and that, recidivism will be reduced by the watchful eye of an informed public. Legislatures DO NOT publish what statistics or other evidence they base their findings on! Often a legislature will simply say, such-and-such state found, therefore we find the same, without ever validating the underlying evidence. Further, the general public is not made privy to that evidence either.
Sex offenders claim: registration and community notification is further punishment; and that, they and their families are being subjected to vigilantism, harassment and denied privacy traditionally afforded to anyone convicted of crime. Further that, these laws have encroached into their personal lives to such an extent that they are being denied a meaningful society in which to rehabilitate, this also amounts to further punishment. In addition, offenders are being ostracized from society!
Department of Justice
Sex Offender Community Notification, by Peter Finn, February 1997 (SOCN-1997)
Sex Offender Community Notification: Assessing the Impact in Wisconsin, by Richard G. Zevitz and Mary Ann Farkas, December 2000 (SOCN-2000)
-- Highlights --
1) There is no evidence that community notification reduces recidivism.(p2);
2) Notification incites excessive community fear and anger, and creates a false sense of security.(p13);
3) Notification makes it difficult for registrants to find housing.(p14);
4) Notification makes it difficult for offenders to reintegrate into society, because of constant harassment and ostracism, which may cause psychological damage and maybe recidivism.(p14);
5) Notification impairs the ability of registrants to find and hold jobs(p14)
1) Registrants reported: 83% lost housing; 77% suffered threats or harassment; 67% were ostracized by acquaintances or neighbors; 67% of registrants family members suffered emotional harm; 57% lost jobs (chart p10);
2) The majority of registrants felt notification would ultimately cause recidivism, resulting from the pressures of media and the community (p 10);
3) Registrants, knowing public reaction when they will be released, felt inhibited in their therapy (p10);
4) Registrants were concerned about pressures placed on family members.
Courts are holding: the purpose of registration and community notification is to protect the public and not to further punish the offenders; and that, claims of vigilantism and harassment is hypothetical, excepting in very rare cases, and would occur anyway as the result of the crime. Public safety outweighs privacy claims. These are the principle holdings in case after case.
In recent US Supreme court cases, Smith et al. -v- Doe et al., and, Connecticut Dep't of Public Safety et al. -v- Doe, and others, lawyers do not present any substantial evidence, beyond mere assertions of their clients, to refute earlier court holdings.
However, buried in the bowels of the Department of Justice archives are two reports which address these very issues, and to our knowledge, were never presented to the U.S. Supreme court, or anywhere else:
These "Research in Action" reports were produced by the Department of Justice's research arm, the National Institute of Justice. We will reference them as SOCN-1997 and SOCN-2000. See sidebar for highlights and links to them.
--- Harassment & Vigilantism ---
Parole and Probation officers were asked about whether they had received reports of harassment from their sex offender clients (SOCN-1997 [p14]), to which they responded, very little. This is the last thing a person on probation or parole would want to tell their supervising officer, for it would mean a forced move because of community unrest.
When sex offenders (registrants) were asked about harassment 77% suffered harassment and some received threats (SOCN-2000 [p10]). The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) confirmed that harassment and ostracism was occurring. (NCMEC-1998 and again in 2003). See also SOCN-2000 chart p10!
The State of Colorado,Colorado Bureau of Investigation has defined "Vigilantism:"
Vigilantism: it is the unlawful attacking or harassment of an identified sex offender, his/her significant others, his/her property, or any member of his/her community supervision team.
Vigilante:a member of a volunteer committee organized to suppress and punish crime summarily (as when the processes of law appear inadequate); broadly : a self-appointed doer of justice. Merriam-Webster OnLine Dictionary. (someone who takes the law into his/her own hands ignoring the constitution).
Harass: to annoy persistently; to worry and impede by repeated raids. Merriam-Webster OnLine Dictionary.
Kevin Kinder: Florida Story|
Vigilantism Out of Control
TAMPA -- A judge sentenced a convicted child molester who violated his probation to 60 years in prison. Kevin Kinder, 31, served six years of a 17-year prison sentence for molesting four boys in 1992. The state then held him under the Jimmy Ryce Act until 2001, when doctors said he was well enough to go free. Prosecutors said, Kinder had porn on his home computer, took employer's car, drove to and from his workplace (not permitted on probation).
The sentence was a major victory for Judy Cornett, mother of victim. She has spearheaded a campaign to expose him as a sex offender wherever he goes and has taken her story from the local news to the national talks shows. She distributed fliers about Kinder to his neighbors, which Kinder said cost him a rental unit and led to rejections for several jobs.
Read his full story to see how she stalked him for years, and she admitted she used the registry to find him each time he moved (obviously he was following the law by registering):
--- Subtle Denials Without Recourse ---
Beyond the defined "vigilantism & harassment" are "subtle denials" which cannot be documented. i.e., the simple amenities of life like saying "hello or goodby, please and thank you, etc.," or "job applications being denied for reasons not related to the job," or "loans turned down," and when apartment leases come up for renewal and they are not renewed, the offenders and their families don't know why?
Unrecoverable costs of being frequently forced to move, in many states fees related to registration and DNA, forced to renew drivers' licenses more frequently than other drivers, costs of being forced to appear at a local law enforcement agency to verify address (often requires taking time off work due to police business hours), damages from vigilantism: One sex offender's wife's car was burned after the community was notified of her husband's return to their home.
These and others abound in the lives of sex offenders, and no recourse!
The posting of names and photos of offenders on the Internet, some for up to 10 years and many for life, cause offenders and their families to be ostracised from society, the public despises them. Some offenders have even committed suicide or have been murdered.
Police mistreat offenders when they go in to register, as do parole and probation officers. Simply because they are forced into registration. See our page on "Subtle Vigilantism" under the color of law, police classifying an offender higher than what he was, just to keep him from moving in.
The children of sex offenders are harassed when they go to school, left out of all activities that may have their parents present. In the community these children are not allowed to have their friends over to their house, as the parents will not permit it, they can't even come over to play. The family unit is being destroyed all resulting from the constant community notifications.
--- Who is Harassing Sex Offenders ---
Both government reports recognize that harassment is occurring, and on p6 of the SOCN-1997 report, it was suggested that limiting access to registrant's information (need to know basis, and keep track of who is given information) would enable law enforcement to more easily identify who in the community was doing the harassment.
While this did happen in "Idaho" and only for a short period of time, it isn't hard to find out who is harassing. In our article "The Stalking of the Sex Offender! Whats Wrong with Megan's Laws?" we identified many who are harassing registrants.
A Judge, a Prosecutor, a Mayor, Elected Officials, Police, parents, teachers, the general public and many others.
A few recent newspaper articles: "Parents Plan Protest Outside Sex Offender's Home;" "Convicted sex offender beaten by neighbors." See also our page on "Vigilantism."
David Seibers: Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, New Mexico Stories|
Vigilantism Out of Control
- Perpetrated by Public Officials Under the Color of Law -
Excerpts of 7-27-2003 Detroit News article By Ron French about David Seibers:
Bill Forsyth, Kent county prosecutor, did something he hadn't done in 27 years -- a simple, common-sense act that would launch Siebers on a cross-country odyssey, frighten thousands of parents and cost police departments hundreds of thousands of dollars. He warned the public.
This act, by a prosecutor, set in motion the vigilantism and harassment of David Seibers which has resulted in several acts of vigilantism and his home being burned to the ground. Unique to this case is, he informed the newspapers and the police.
"Forsyth took Megan's Law further. He informed Grand Rapids residents of Siebers' impending release. Police allegedly told family members of one of Siebers' victims to arm themselves, according to the Grand Rapids Press." ... ""We've never tailed someone out of prison," Michigan State Police Lt. Gary Gorski said. "But I never heard that sort of discussion (by a prosecutor about an ex-con). It was believed he was a dangerous guy." ...
With police still following him 11 days after his release, Siebers left Michigan, sure he was escaping scrutiny. He checked into a hotel in Toledo, Ohio on Sept. 17. By noon, police were at his hotel. Warned by Michigan authorities, Toledo police drove Siebers to the bus station and bought him a $50 ticket on the next bus out of Ohio. "They decided to run him out of Dodge," said Lucas County Sheriff's Detective Ernest Lamb, who was at the hotel. "I'd never seen that anywhere but the movies." ...
"Seven hours later, Siebers stepped off the bus into Ashland, Ky." Police were waiting for him at the bus stop. "(Toledo) called us and told us about his criminal history, and sure enough the bus came in and there he was," Ashland Police Capt. Don Petrella said. "There are other people in this area who are registered sexual offenders. But this guy had no connections in the area." ... Siebers' parents drove from Grand Rapids to Kentucky, picked up their son and headed west, not knowing where the journey would end, trailed by Ashland police to the county line.
Albuquerque, New Mexico is where he ended up with his parents aging Airstream Trailer. As soon as he registered he was evicted from the RV Park where he was staying. Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez held press conferences denouncing Siebers. He asked businesses to donate money to buy Siebers a bus ticket out of town. He ordered police to keep Siebers under 24-hour surveillance until he left the city.
The newspapers were breathless in their coverage. "Hound him. Hound this predatory sex creep," raged the Albuquerque Tribune's Kate Nelson in a column that typified the hysteria. "Hound him into someone else's neighborhood. Then hound him from there. Hound him and hound him and hound him." Nelson now says that column "sticks in my throat," but that she was expressing the fear many in Albuquerque felt.
When asked by the media where Siebers should go, Mayor Chavez suggested "a cave in Afghanistan. Perhaps his arrival could be timed to occur simultaneously with an Air Force bomb run."
Scott Goold offered Siebers a room in his home, in a middle-class subdivision in Albuquerque. Within hours, neighbors picketed his home. Residents dissolved the neighborhood association because Goold was president, and they formed a separate association without him. "I'm shunned," Goold said. "I've never seen people so intensely angry."
By January, the atmosphere was poisonous. The tires of Siebers' van were slashed. A week later, a man chased and beat Siebers 100 yards from three police officers. By the time police pulled the man off, Siebers was unconscious. He had a gash across his cheek and broken ribs. The man was charged with a misdemeanor, but the charge was dismissed when police didn't show up to testify at the trial.
The around-the-clock surveillance ended April 11, 2003. A day later, someone burned Siebers' trailer to the ground. Mayor Chavez, accused of encouraging vigilantism by the American Civil Liberties Union, avoids talking about the ex-con since the blaze.
Note: Michigan registry law permits ONLY the state police to notify the receiving state of a sex offender who is moving to their state and their intended address. The law permits no more!
Note: The registry laws (see Warnings) of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and New Mexico, all prohibit and criminalize, using the information from the registry to harass or commit a criminal act against a registrant!
Many have said that "Protesting is a right enjoyed by all Americans," and is not illegal. In a broad sense that may be true, but protesting outside a person's home (sex offender) is not a right and is illegal.
Ironically, the very law that protestors claim gives them the right to protest (Megan's law), also criminalizes their protest, because such is harassment of the sex offender and prohibited by Megan's Laws! The example set by protestors is, violating the law is OK for them, but let a sex offender do likewise to the community and he would be arrested!
Protests of sex offenders at their homes is harassment of them and/or their family. The police have done nothing to stop such protests, in fact, in a few cases they -and other public officials- have joined in. All breaking the law, and there is no one to control such protests.
When people protest a sex offender's home, to get him or her to move out of their community (protesting is likened to a conspiracy to deny the sex offender [& their family] their equal rights under the law. i.e., a peaceful home, and to be secure from harm.), such actions could make the protestors, subjects to a Civil Rights lawsuit (Title 42 section 1981 and or section 1985(3)).
However, so far, sex offenders have remained silent, trying to blend into the community. However, at some point this will change, when sex offenders have no place to go they will stand and fight, its human nature. Further, when police do nothing, when law requires them to stop unlawful actions, then they are taking part, and may also be sued, under the color of law!
If Megan's laws are to protect society from recidivist sex offenders, where is the Megan's law equivalent to protect sex offenders and their families, from the vigilantee actions of society in general? Equal protection under the law!
--- Florida ---
2002-4-17: Grandmother, by viewing the state's registry, notices that there is a registered sex offender living near a school. There are no laws preventing that, and the sex offender has broken no laws either.
2002-4-18: When a man listed on Florida's sex offender registry moved next to Spring Hill Elementary School, the Hernando County Sheriff's Office made no effort to notify the school. Based on concern that sex offenders may sue for harassment, it's the sheriff's policy to make no effort to notify schools and day care centers about sex offenders who may be nearby, said Lt. Joe Paez, a Sheriff's Office spokesman.
2002-4-20: Sheriff to review sex offender policy. Currently, the Sheriff's Office follows state laws that require it to notify schools and day cares about certain sexual offenders that remain under court sanctions or those dangerous enough to have been legally declared "sexual predators." But that requirement covers only a small portion of the more than 150 sexual offenders who live in Hernando County. Schools and day cares have been left to discern for themselves whether any of the rest listed on the state's sex offender registry live close by.
2002-4-23: Letters to the Editors: Sheriff's Office failed to act on sex offender notification. (Actually Sheriff was following the law of the legislature rather than the vigilantism of the public).
If this is the kind of protection and service we can expect from the current administration in the Sheriff's Office, I think we, as a community, should start recruiting another candidate for the 2004 election. I cannot imagine re-electing a sheriff who does not hold our children's safety higher than anything else, and that is the issue today.
My vote may have been the one to put Mr. Nugent over the top in the 2000 election. He should not count on my vote in 2004. I am a mother, and I will always side with my children. There should be no other way, and I cannot, in all good conscience, cast my next vote for an officer who does not hold the same ideals in that area. -- Kelly Cherubino, Spring Hill
2002-4-24:Sexual offender injured in attack: Trying to leave Spring Hill for good, he is hit in the face by bolts thrown through his car windshield.
After drawing criticism for moving next door to an elementary school, convicted sex offender Gerald Collins decided to pack up and leave Spring Hill. But on Monday night, after Collins loaded a moving van to leave the neighborhood near Spring Hill Elementary School, someone threw metal bolts through his windshield and injured his face. Collins, 39, of 5579 Mariner Blvd., Spring Hill, was treated for broken facial bones at Brooksville Regional Hospital.
Collins told authorities Monday that he and his friend, who drove the moving van, left his home and stopped to get gas at Cumberland Farms on Mariner Boulevard, just a short distance from the house. While there, Collins said, he saw two white men drive into the parking lot in a white pickup truck with a utility tool box on the back. Collins told authorities that the men watched him while he was in the store and one man walked over and looked into his car.
He and his friend then made their way to Cortez Boulevard, setting out for Titusville. Collins said the truck followed. He said he stopped at the Hess Express and told his friend to keep driving. He then headed east on Cortez. The pickup truck headed west.
Collins said the driver threw some objects out of the window and they smashed his windshield and hit him in the face. He pulled off the road and walked to the sheriff's Ridge Manor substation. Deputies found two large holes in Collins' front windshield, a large nut and bolt lying on the hood of the car and other nuts and bolts inside the car. They called an ambulance, and Collins was taken to the emergency room, where doctors closed gashes on his face with eight sutures.
Note: A crime is committed against the sex offender, however, the Sheriff was more concerned about the community's critizism of his office.
2002-8-10 E-mail will trail sex offenders: People who sign up for e-mail updates will be alerted (by Sheriff's Office) whenever sexual offenders or predators move to a new address in Hernando.
On Florida's Sex Offender registry is this Warning to the public: It is illegal to use public information regarding a Sexual Predator or Sex Offender to facilitate the commission of a crime. ....
Note: Sheriff bends to community pressure in fear of his job, ignoring his legal responsibility to the sex offender. i.e., catching the men in the white truck, or stopping the protests!
Many states' Megans' laws have "Warnings" to advise the public that they cannot use the registry to harass or commit a criminal act against a sex offender. See State-by-state list of Megan's Laws Warnings. Unfortunately other states have simply ignored any warnings whatsoever!
Time and time again in newspaper reports you hear of police citing these "warnings," but you never hear of them enforcing them, and that is the main problem. The general public ignores these warnings!
Until the police or legislators give these warnings some teeth,
the vigilantism and harassment will continue.
--- Beyond the Department of Justice Reports ---
Important to this discussion of evidence supporting sex offenders' claims are two other studies, one in 1996 and the other in 2000. See sidebar.
Again, in our review of the major cases on Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification, neither of these reports have been presented as evidence supporting sex offender claims either.
Community Notification in Washington State:
1996 Survey of Law Enforcement (SOCN-1996)
In 1996 Washington state had 11,802 sex offenders, and only 9,912 of them had registered, of that number only 942 were subject to community notification. 33 of them suffered some form of harassment, a residence was burned down, protest until offender moved, threatening phone calls or varbally harassed, rocks or eggs were thrown at homes, small grass fire on a lawn, a vehicle was damaged, and two juvenile offenders were assaulted at school. Half of these acts were against the offender's family. SOCN-1996 [pgs-i,14,15]
Police, during community notification meetings or on the flyers passed out, placed specific warnings that "advised citizens that legal action will be taken against those responsible for the harassment and that the law will be repealed if it results in citizen vigilantism. SOCN-1996 [p-14] At the point of the report, police had held 22 community meetings about sex offenders moving into that community. Police noted, at 15 of the 22 meetings audience members had negative reactions or made threatening comments, thats 68% of the meetings. SOCN-1996 p-14].
Revisiting Megan's Law and Sex Offender Registration:
Prevention or Problem (SOCN-2000a)
This report is, by far, the most comprehensive discussion on the topic of Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification and the fallout from it. Not only does it support every finding of all the above reports, it was visionary to later incidents which we have identified through news articles above.
While our focus is "Harassment and Vigilantisism" and "Subtle Denials," SOCN-2000a addresses --25 PLUS-- related issues, and we could not do it justice by quoting portions here; it needs to be read in its entirety.
--- Witness Protection Programs ---
If a sex offender that is normally required to register under a sex state offender registration law, is also participating in either the Federal Witness Protection Program, or state equivalent, then pursuant to Title 18 USC Section 3521(b)(H), their name and address is protected, and may not be disclosed to the public.
This raises some critical issues, first of all is, the very presence of the section 3521 is a statement that, persons listed in registries are targeted by the general public when information is publiclly disclosed. A governmental admission!
We are going to leave this issue with this comment, it appears the government's need for information to convict someone else, outweighs the need to keep the public safe from sex offenders in the witness protection program! Public safety being necessary only when the government says so! This could form the basis for another equal protection under the law constitutional claim.
It is our understanding that folks in these programs, are living under new identities and relocated, to remove whatever threat there was to them under their real identity.
Given those facts what remains is, the threat the offender poses to the public in his/her new location as the result of being a sex offender who is required to register.
While the federal law also requires the Attorney General to create an alternate method of keeping track of these sex offenders, that doesn't alter the issues of public safety in the new community.
--- Conclusions ---
WHY HAVE COURTS BEEN DENIED, Department of Justice, Research in Action reports and other reports, which support the claims of sex offenders (as to harassment and vigilantism) in Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification lawsuits??
In addition, why are the "Warnings" not enforced by local police in states that have warnings in their laws? Further, why do some states have "No Warnings" to protect sex offenders from the general public? Questions of Equal Protection under the law!
We simply don't know why lawyers have not presented these reports in these court actions!
The lack of any effective protection of sex offenders registered under Megans laws, is a question of Equal Protection under Megan's law!
Copyright ©2003 LAMP.
"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one striking at the root."
- Henry David Thoreau -
-- References --
Finn,P (1997-February) ______: Sex Offender Community Notification
Freeman-Longo,R (2000-______) Vermont: Revisiting Megan's Law and Sex Offender Registration: Prevention or Problem
French, R (2003-7-27) Detroit News Michigan: Convicted sexual predator finds no post-prison solace
Goffard, C (2002-4-28) St. Petersburg Times Florida: Trusting in sex offender treatment
Goffard, C (2002-5-11) St. Petersburg Times Florida: Sex offender arrested in lawyer's office
Goffard, C (2002-5-15) St. Petersburg Times Florida: Sexual offender to leave county
Goffard, C (2002-5-19) St. Petersburg Times Florida: Sex offender's past stalks him
Goffard, C (2003-8-1) St. Petersburg Times Florida: Child molester to return to prison
Jones, J (2002-8-10) St. Petersburg Times Florida: E-mail will trail sex offenders
Karp, D & Carlton, S (2001-11-15) St. Petersburg Times Florida: Offender in boys' rapes freed under Ryce Act
KBCI-TV (2003-8-22) KBCI-TV: Idaho’s Central Sex Offender Registry Goes Public
Kelly Cherubino (2002-4-23) St. Petersburg Times Florida: Letter to the Editor
King, R (2002-4-17) St. Petersburg Times Florida: Elementary school learns sex offender is living next door
King, R (2002-4-18) St. Petersburg Times Florida: Silence is the rule with sex offenders
King, R (2002-4-20) St. Petersburg Times Florida: Sheriff to review sex offender policy
King, R & Jones, J (2002-4-24) St. Petersburg Times Florida: Sexual offender injured in attack
Matson,S & Lieb,R (1996-November) Washington: Community Notification in Washington State: 1996 Survey of Law Enforcement
NBC30.com (2003-4-24) MBC30.com Conneticut: Parents Plan Protest Outside Sex Offender's Home
Powers, S (2003-8-9) The Caledonian-Record Vermont: Onorato's Wife's Car Burned In Driveway
Zevitz,R & Farkas,M (2000-December) Wisconsin: Sex Offender Community Notification: Assessing the Impact in Wisconsin