Category Archives: residency restrictions

Danbury wants to kick sex offenders out of its shelter

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Anyone who has been following sex offender issues across the country knows that it is an extremely difficult task balancing the safety of the community and the human rights of sex offenders. But this is just plain ridiculous.

Danbury apparently has one of only three or four shelters throughout the state that do not have a prohibition on sex offenders living there. Danbury Mark Boughton is not happy (Boughton was most famously in the news for soliciting the help of Federal agents to crack down on illegal immigrants in Danbury)*.

“These people had nothing to do with Danbury before they were sent here,” Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton said. “Danbury is one of only five or six shelters in the state without a prohibition against sex offenders. This is outrageous.”

What’s outrageous is the fear-mongering. Sex offenders need somewhere to live, too. Or would you rather that they disappear into the wild and no one can keep tabs on them?

In a letter dated Wednesday to Chief Court Administrator William J. Lavery, Boughton wrote: “We have grave concerns of a concentration of sex offenders in our shelter, therefore, we are promulgating new rules that will only allow one or possibly two Danbury resident sex offenders present at any time.”

Concentration? There are only three sex offenders, Mayor, three. Apparently he’s okay with one or two sex offenders with prior ties to Danbury living in the Danbury shelter. I don’t see how it makes a damn difference where they come from. Does Danbury have special rules for living that these “outsiders” won’t know?

The homeless shelter on New Street has 15 beds in the summer and 20 in the winter, director Claudette Fogarty said. She said she isn’t there to judge who gets a bed at night and that people who were convicted of sex offenses stay at the shelter like other people, usually without a problem.

Fogarty said the shelter is open to people who are 18 years old or older. Families with young children do not stay there. She said sometimes the state’s probation office phones to ask if a particular person is staying there. She will answer, then alert the client about the call.

“They’re just people. This is my job,” Fogarty said. “It’s not my job to judge them.”

Fogarty said people on the state’s sex offender list have a tough time finding apartments, and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development won’t let them have public housing.

“We’re bashing our heads against the wall on this,” Fogarty said. “These people need housing.

Fogarty said to the best of her knowledge – and she has been working at the shelter for 20 years – there has not been a problem caused by a person on the sex offender registry. The list includes anyone convicted of a sexual crime, not just those guilty of offenses against children.

Nothing more than plain old fear-mongering. SEX OFFENDER! BOO! Are you scared yet? Go crawl into your bed and lock your doors, the big bad anonymous, not yet violent SEX OFFENDER is out to get you!

Disgusting.

While we’re on this topic, the Saucy Vixen is asking for your help, criminal defense lawyers.

All sex offender related posts can be found here and residency restriction posts can be found here.

*See previous coverage of the immigration mess here, here, here, here, here, here and here . [Please be aware, all of these links are to posts that were written when I was on typepad. They were imported but the formatting in the blockquotes is all messed up. Sorry.]

Residency restrictions map

This [pdf] is a map of Tippecanoe County, IN, where “John Doe” is asking to be found not to be a sex offender anymore and also challenging the legality of residency restrictions [previous coverage here].

I know next to nothing about the geography of Indiana and even less about Tippecanoe County, but doesn’t it look like most of the inhabitable urban area of the county is covered by the restrictions?

KY: Residency restrictions not retroactive

A judge in Kentucky has ruled that residency restrictions cannot be applied to sex offenders that were convicted before the law went into effect.

Jefferson District Judge Donald Armstrong Jr. dismissed the cases of three Louisville men charged with living too close to schools and a youth treatment center, ruling that the law is unconstitutional because it adds punishment to their initial convictions.But Michael Goodwin, an attorney for one of the men, said Armstrong “has recognized that when an individual is punished by a judge and jury, the legislators can’t, many years later, adopt a second punishment for the same person.”

This was a Superior Court decision (Supreme Court for you New Yorkers), so this isn’t the end. In fact, a different Superior Court judge ruled that the restrictions were constitutional. KY’s Supreme Court will have to decide this sooner or later.

Under the old law, offenders had to live at least 1,000 feet — a fifth of a mile — from locations including a school building or licensed day-care center. The new law measures the 1,000-foot distance from the property line.The new law applies to all offenders, even if they are no longer on probation or parole, or under any type of judicial supervision.

Indiana challenge to residency restrictions

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After residency restrictions went into effect in Tippecanoe County, 28 sex offenders have been asked to move their homes. One of them, John Doe, is saying no. John Doe was convicted in 1988 and released from jail in 1992. Since then, he has no arrests. He has lived at his current address for 7 years. However, new legislation is forcing him to relocate.

Legislation took effect July 1, 2006, that prohibits those offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, public park or youth program center.

Wording of the law does not make it clear whether it applies to offenders convicted before that date.

But the Tippecanoe County prosecutor’s office is enforcing it as applying to any such offender in the Indiana Sheriff’s Sex and Violent Offender Registry.

John Doe is taking advantage of an IN law that permits sex offenders who are 10 years removed from their release to petition a court to be no longer considered a sex offender.

Here [pdf]are the motions and petitions he filed in court, which include the petition to no longer be considered a sex offender, a Motion for Preliminary Injunction and a Motion for Permanent Injunction.

The legislation is challenged on ex-post facto, takings clause and double jeopardy grounds.

photo courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mysticchildz/540087127/ , license info: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

State-wide struggle over ways to deal with sex offenders

The Courant had this article over the weekend, chronicling the efforts across the state to deal with sex offenders after release.

The debate in Stafford was feisty and political.First Selectman Allen Bacchiochi, a Republican, had proposed an ordinance that would ban convicted sex offenders from public parks and recreation areas.

At the selectmen’s May 10 meeting, Democratic Selectman Gordon Frassinelli questioned the utility and deterrent value of the ban, likening the initial written warning and $100 fine on the second offense to an unshoveled sidewalk violation.

Bacchiochi snapped back, “Do you want to protect the children or do you want to protect the person who has already been a sex offender? I want to protect the children of this town.”

“I think that’s pretty universal,” Frassinelli replied in a quiet voice.

Stafford is the latest to wade into the debate, with the selectmen passing the ordinance, copied from one in Danbury, last month. Afterward, Bacchiochi immediately pulled it back for legal and enforcement review before sending it to a town meeting vote.

A state-wide bill to restrict sex offenders from living within 1000 feet of schools and child-care centers passed the House but didn’t come up for vote in the Senate. Connecticut has been slow to enter the fray, which has seen a rush of bills nationwide. This has actually been a good thing. As the debate has gathered steam, more data has become available and Connecticut has been able to see the effects of passing such laws.

If it saves even one child, it will be worth it, proponents say.But new research and treatment experts say it has a slim chance of doing even that.

“I know of no case where it’s saved a child from being molested,” said psychologist Dennis Gibeau, program director for the Center for the Treatment of Problem Sexual Behavior in Middletown. “The idea that we’re instituting laws that restrict where sex offenders can live, where they can frequent, doesn’t really address the issue of protecting children.”

Bridgeport is amending a proposal that would restrict sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of schools and child-care centers and prohibit them from parks unless accompanying their own children. Its sponsor, Councilman Keith Rodgerson, projects it will come before the common council again in July.

Rodgerson says there is more council and city support for the move since his research showed the unequal density of sex offenders in Bridgeport compared with Fairfield County towns and the state at large. Bridgeport has almost 16 offenders per square mile, while Danbury and the state as a whole have less than one.

“You walk out of your front door and you’re going to bump into one,” Rodgerson said.

Other cities in the State are dealing with the problem in the context of CT’s small size. New London considered a residency restriction ban, but it wasn’t pursued. The Mayor said it would have been hard to enforce.

No parent, politician or pundit could find fault with the intent of keeping children safe from sexual abuse. Of more than 600,000 registered sex offenders in the nation, Connecticut has almost 4,500.But can the recent laws, some of which virtually leave the convicted offender nowhere to go, work?

First of all, in 80 to 90 percent of sex offenses, the predator knows the victim, experts say. The stranger in the park case is rare.

Second, many of the ordinances, including the Danbury one, do not differentiate between child molesters and other offenders. The crimes of the 10 registered offenders in Stafford range from first-degree sexual assault to public indecency.

Third, the jury is still out on whether registering offenders or restricting their activities reduces the number of sex crimes.

“The general idea of limiting sex offenders in mixing with children certainly makes good common sense,” Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said. Blumenthal supported the public safety legislation and has suggested more aggressive steps, such as electronic monitoring of serious offenders.

But a study released in April by the Minnesota Department of Corrections, tracing 224 repeat sex offenders, concluded that not one would have been deterred by a residency restriction law. Social proximity was the key factor, it found, with half of the offenders establishing contact with victims through friends or acquaintances. Only 35 percent of the offenders made direct contact with victims, and none of the juvenile cases involved contact near a school, park or other prohibited area.

At least the media is now taking note of the DOJ study that debunks the myth that sex offenders have a high rate of recidivism.

At the forefront of the debate is the presumption, once a child molester, always a child molester.A premise in the Danbury and Stafford ordinance states, “the recidivism rate for released sex offenders is alarmingly high, especially for those who commit their crimes on children.”

But a 2003 Bureau of Justice Statistics study followed 9,691 released sex offenders, 4,295 of them child molesters, in 15 states from 1994 to 1997. In that span, only 5.3 percent of the total group repeated sex crimes, and 3.3 percent of the child molesters were arrested for another sex crime against a child.

“The conventional wisdom is that they all go out and reoffend. I don’t think you’re going to find the data to support that,” said Charles Olney, research associate at the Center for Sex Offender Management in Maryland, a project for the U.S. Justice Department. “That 100 percent recidivism rate – I’ve only heard it in speeches.”

Dan Casagrande, the Danbury corporation counsel who helped draft the sex offender ordinance, pointed to an Indianapolis ordinance that was struck down in federal court as too restrictive. “It kept anyone on the registry from entering the city of Indianapolis. You can’t even be on the interstate,” he said.

Police in Georgia and Iowa have said the laws have seriously undermined efforts to keep track of offenders. “We’re going to see sex offenders who are unable to live in communities and they’re going to go further underground where they can’t be monitored,” Renee Redman, legal director of the ACLU Foundation of Connecticut, said.
It will be interesting to see how cities (and the state) react to growing data on residency restrictions and whether they attempt to shape bills in a meaningful way.

Here is my post on what acceptable registry and residency restriction laws would look like.

The Motions some people file

Here’s something to make you chuckle this Sunday morning:

On April 5, 1996, this Court ordered Plaintiff to show cause why this Court should not impose Rule 11 sanctions upon him for filing a motion for improper purposes. The motion which Plaintiff filed was entitled “Motion to Kiss My Ass” (Doc. 107) in which he moved “all Americans at large and one corrupt Judge Smith [to] kiss my got [sic] damn ass sorry mother f[...] you.”

Washington v. Alaimo, 934 F. Supp. 1395 (1996). Awesome :D

Behind the picket fence

Today’s Sunday Globe Magazine has a wonderfully insightful and detailed article on residency restrictions and their effectiveness.

The residency laws bring up serious civil liberties concerns, including that these measures apply to convicts after they have been punished and released and served their parole, and that in many cases, homeowners are exempt while renters may be required to move. And then there’s the fact that this type of post-release regulation doesn’t exist for other criminal classes: We don’t prohibit arsonists from living near gas stations.

But a less-discussed argument against the laws is that they don’t actually work to prevent sex crimes against children. Studies have shown, for example, that the majority of these crimes are perpetrated by family members or acquaintances, that many sex crimes are never reported, and that sex offenders often molest outside the area where they live. Some scholars go so far as to say that the measures could put children in greater danger, not less – because the sex offenders go underground, because therapy works to prevent re-offense, and because limited resources are wasted enforcing the laws. “There is no evidence that residency restrictions work, and there are some pretty good arguments why they are not likely to be effective,” says David Finkelhor, the director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. “No one who has any real professional experience in the management of sex offenders thinks these laws make much sense.”

The article traces the history of Megan’s Laws and the recent residency restriction laws, has quotes from legislators, LEO, parents, offenders, psychiatrists and professors, and cites the recent Bureau of Justice Statistics. It attempts to dispel some of the myths surrounding these laws.

The public also needs to know that children are getting safer. According to the Children’s Bureau of the Department of Health and Human Services, sex crimes of all kinds have dropped substantially since the mid-1990s, after increasing between 1977 and 1991. Between 1991 and 2005, the most recent year for which data are available, substantiated sexual abuse cases dropped by 51 percent. The decline, says David Finkelhor of the University of New Hampshire, is due to the increased incarceration of sex offenders, more intervention and prevention efforts, and better mental health treatment, including more widespread use of antidepressants and other psychiatric medicines. Residency restrictions didn’t do a thing to help.

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