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March 9, 2008

Fostering self-help in tracking sex offenders

The New York Times has this interesting article about sex offender tracking, headlined "Woman With a Mission: Keeping Tabs on Sex Offenders." Here are excerpts:

For the past decade, Ms. [Laura] Ahearn has been painstakingly compiling such information about sex offenders and distributing it — first by hand, then by e-mail — to their neighbors, including updates like a new car or new scar.  Last week, her nonprofit advocacy group, Parents for Megan’s Law and the Crime Victims’ Center, received a $593,000 federal grant to take the project national, using the sharp new mapping program that enables such a computerized tour.

“Probably safer than giving it in person,” said Ms. Ahearn, 44, a tough-talking smoker and workaholic who started the group as a grass-roots crusade with several volunteers and now has 25 part- and full-time employees and a million-dollar annual budget. “Sex offenders may be good at what they do, but all of us are getting better at what we do.”

Senator Charles E. Schumer and Representatives Timothy H. Bishop, Pete King and Carolyn McCarthy all joined Ms. Ahearn in her inconspicuous office in a strip mall here to announce the federal grant.  The group plans to use the money to compile sex offender data from all 50 states into maps on a revamped version of parentsformeganslaw.com, its Web site, scheduled to make its debut on May 1; to create a national e-mail notification program to alert people about offenders in their ZIP code; and to establish a toll-free number that Ms. Ahearn says will be the first national Megan’s Law help line.

Critics call Ms. Ahearn’s zealous pursuit of sex offenders counterproductive and unconstitutional, and contend that overexposure can deter the offenders from checking in with the authorities. “Mapping out sex offenders makes them greater social lepers than they already are,” said Seth Muraskin, executive director of the Suffolk County chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “You’re fostering punishment, not rehabilitation, and you’re leaving them very vulnerable to mob justice.  You’re basically challenging vigilantes to come to their doors.”...

Ms. Ahearn, a mother of two, was studying to become a social worker when New York State enacted Megan’s Law in 1995, and she found that it was difficult, despite the new disclosure requirements, to get the names and addresses of local sex offenders from the authorities. So she began pressuring politicians and the police, all the while compiling her own local registry and posting it online, complete with offenders’ addresses and graphic details about their crimes.

March 9, 2008 at 05:39 PM | Permalink


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Useless waste of tax dollars giving her that grant. East State and now the nation has sex offender registries. For a moment there I actually thought this was a dated article someone dragged up from some archives from back in 2000 or something.

Posted by: Mark | Mar 9, 2008 8:04:54 PM

Critics call Ms. Ahearn’s zealous pursuit of sex offenders counterproductive and unconstitutional, and contend that overexposure can deter the offenders from checking in with the authorities.

Before today, I'd say that these "critics" don't understand the concept of state action.

Posted by: | Mar 9, 2008 8:41:56 PM

If she would be doing that to anyone other than "dangerous" sex offenders, she'd be doing prison time for stalking and harassment. Instead, the government gives her money and a green light to keep up harassing people. Of course, no honest psychologist will tell you they can actually predict future dangerousness and more and more non-violent offenses are subject to reporting as a "sex offender" and I doubt that the "victims rights" industry will bother to try to sort out the violent from the non-violent offenders (although as mentioned, even with the violent offenders, predicting whether that person is a high risk to reoffend is essentially a guess).

In the future, this generation's obsession with and hysteria over "sexual predators" will look as insane as previous generations hysteria over "reds," Communists, witches, drug dealers, the unclean, lepers, etc.

And to 8:41:56, when information from the government is being compiled and passed on by a third party (in this case a private citizen), there is still a release of information by the government and thus a state action. You could get the same info you can get from these "victims rights" vigilantes from doing a search in your state's public notification database (or court records or other public documents) - what they are doing is digesting the information in an easier to understand format so that their subscribers do not have to take the time to get the information themselves. To explain why this is still government information even when passed by a third party, look at the Emergency Alert System which is operated by the National Weather Service (part of the Department of Commerce so thus unquestionably a state actor). The EAS system is used by the government to issue severe weather warnings, civil defense messages (for example if there was a terrorist attack or an accidental chemical spill), or Amber Alert messages. If your local radio station issues an Amber Alert or a Winter Storm Warning that you hear, that is a state action because participation in the EAS system is a requirement for FCC licensing and the radio station is acting as the government's agent. If you then voluntarily pass on the Amber Alert or talk about the coming winter storm to your neighbor, the information still is ultimately coming from the government, despite you being a private citizen and not acting as the government agent (as mentioned, the broadcasters would be the government's agent in the release of the alert or warning). No matter how many levels the "Amber Alert" or the Winter Storm Warning will go through, it is still information provided by the government through state action. The government action is from the original release of information - subsequent actions by third parties do not alter the fact that without government action, there would be no information to pass on.

Posted by: Zack | Mar 10, 2008 11:50:47 AM

John Doe v. Town of Plainfield, Indiana, No. 32A01-0605-CV-188, summarized in the court’s own words in pertinent part:

“[Courts have] identified a number of factors that should be considered to determine whether a plaintiff’s interest in privacy is so significant as to outweigh the strong presumption favoring public identification of litigants.” These factors include: (1) whether the plaintiff is challenging governmental activity; (2) whether the plaintiff would be required to disclose information of the utmost intimacy; (3) whether the plaintiff would be compelled to admit his or her intention to engage in illegal conduct, thereby risking criminal prosecution; (4) whether the plaintiff would risk suffering injury if identified; (5) whether the party defending against a suit brought under an anonym would be prejudiced; (6) whether the interests of children are at stake; (7) whether there are less drastic means of protecting legitimate interests of either the party seeking anonymity or the opposing party; (8) the extent to which the identity of the litigant has been kept confidential; and (9) the public interest in knowing the litigant’s identities . . . . Doe argues that four factors are relevant to this analysis. Specifically, Doe argues that the following factors support his position: (A) he is challenging governmental action; (B) disclosure of Doe’s name would subject him to threats of physical harm to himself and his child; (C) Plainfield will not be prejudiced by the anonymity of Doe’s name; and (D) there is no strong public interest in the disclosure of Doe’s name . . . . In summary, all relevant factors favor anonymity and we conclude that Doe’s need for anonymity outweighs the presumption of openness in judicial proceedings.

The Indiana court cites: See Indiana Black Expo, Inc., 923 F.Supp. at 140 (relying on Doe v. Shakur, 164 F.R.D. 359, 361 (S.D.N.Y. 1996)); Doe v. Stegall, 653 F.2d 180, 186 (5th Cir. 1981), reh’g denied; James v. Jacobson, 6 F.3d 233, 241 (4th Cir. 1993)); Doe v. Provident Life & Accident Ins. Co., 176 F.R.D. 464, 467-468 (E.D.Pa. 1997).

California and the federal district courts routinely allows pseudonymous filings, for example Roe v. San Diego, 356 F.3d 1108, (9th Cir. 2004), Doe v. Schwarzenegger, et al., No. C 06-06968 JSW, Northern District of California, and Does I thru XXIII v. Advanced Textile Corp., 214 F.3d 1058, 1068 (9th Cir. 2000) (granting request for anonymity, court noted that it “must decide whether the public’s interest in the case would be best served by requiring that the litigants reveal their identities.”).

See also, United States Department of Justice v Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (1989) 489 US 749, 109 S Ct 1468, 103 L Ed 2d 774 (489 U.S. at p. 770.) (The privacy interest in maintaining the practical obscurity of rap-sheet information will always be high.)

The government will always get away with all it can, but there does seem there might be some conflict here in case law when it comes to giving grants to private citizens.

Posted by: George | Mar 10, 2008 2:55:05 PM

Government CHILD ABUSE, Ms. Ahearn wants your child and family listed, it pays.
I believe someone better start educating the parents and their children about the Sex Offender Laws in America. Parents and their children need to know how to protect themselves and their loved ones. Most parents are unaware of the standing laws, until their children are arrested. Maybe if someone would share some information with our citizens, the sex offender registries will stop growing so rapidly. American children are listed as adult sex offenders and are subjected to the same very harsh penalties that will last their lifetime. Many states are banishing ALL past sex offenders from parks and playgrounds with NO discrepancy of age or likelihood of dangerousness or re offense. In 2006 President bush passed the Adam Walsh Act, which will place children as young as 14 on the National Sex Offender Registry. Although this law again is based on murdered children, anyone and EVERYONE listed is going to pay dearly for someone else's heinous crime. Some states have already began that process. It is VERY IMPORTANT that we start protecting American's children and their families from this Sex Offender insanity, it is not only a list of scary old men or people who kill children. People who are NOT a danger to anyone are forever listed. OUR CHILDREN ARE LISTED and NO ONE CARES. Our children are in juvenile centers, jails and prisons and listed on registries and being harmed endlessly. They enter adulthood, homeless, unemployed, lacking education, basically treated like scum and it is not considered child abuse but, merely an unintended consequence of registration. I say it is a very intentional plan to hurt, punish, destroy anyone labeled a sex offender and it must STOP NOW. So, please start educating people. The harm caused by these laws is outrages.
It is time for change.
Parent and caregivers:It is in your best interest to get informed about the laws Check out: Ethical Treatment For All Youth and their links, Our government and Ms. Ahearn will NOT share this information with you, It's not in Their best interest. http://www.ethicaltreatment.org/criminalization.htm

As previously shown, the language used to label children who behave in a sexual manner typically confuses indecent or socially inappropriate behavior with coercion and violence.4 It is one thing to prohibit such behavior and discipline children for it. It is quite another to describe almost any sexual activity among children, even when it is mutually desired, as “molestation,” “abuse,” “assault,” and “rape.” Such language is a slap in the face to those children who have been truly victimized by real abuse. It also misleads the public into thinking that all children who act sexually are dangerous and merit criminal charges.

Help stop the Madness the children in America need you.

Posted by: America land of the free? | Mar 12, 2008 8:30:43 AM

Ms. Ahearn’s zealous pursuit ; children of past offenders are Ms. Ahearn’s targets.

source - http://www.turnto23.com/news/15581671/detail.html

Sex Offenders React To Tougher Residency Restrictions - Bakersfield News Story - KERO Bakersfield

Noted in article: Oser recalled one recent event, in which his children were handed flyers with his information at their school bus stop by a parent.

"The lady at the bus stop passed a picture of me around without knowing my circumstances, and passed it to other kids right in front of my kids," he said.

He claims his house was subsequently littered with eggs several weeks later, believing that the children who received the flyers were responsible.

"Where's the justice for my kids?" he said.

Posted by: America land of the free? | Mar 13, 2008 8:12:46 AM

Laura Ahearns "This law is not a punishment but a protection, and the government must not get into the risk-assessment business in handling convicted sex offenders. Instead, it must make all information available to the public so necessary precautions can be taken.

It's no wonder she wants every Tom, Dick and Harry and Betty Sue listed for life. Even those who pee in bushes, streak, moon and pat their friends on the butts or hug.
It pays BIG TIME. You will NEVER hear her balk about the thousands of American's youth unjustly being prosecuted and being listed and how their lives are forever ruined.

It pays and tax free to boot,

Parents For Megan’s Law is exempt from federal taxes under section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

$50,000 +

Computer Associates International, Inc.

New York State Senator John J. Flanagan

$25,000 - $49,000

New York State Senator John J. Flanagan

New York State Senator Kennth P. LaValle

$5,000 – $25,000
BEHR'S Babies & Kids
The Elena Melius Foundation
KeySpan Foundation
Long Island Community Foundation
Sayville Ford-Paul Llobell
NY State Assemblywoman Patricia Eddington
NY State Senator Owen H. Johnson
NY Senator Charles Fushillo
Rehn & Fore Certified Public Accountants

$1,500 – $5,000
Long Island Game Farm
Members Mortgage Corporation-Kerry Fleming
Pat Dolan-News12 Long Island
Selden Florist
Sportique Jaguar of Huntington
Weitz Kleinick & Weitz

$500 - $1,500
All Island Testing Association
Babylon Democratic Committee
Baron & Pagliughi
Huntington Town Councilman Mark Capodanno
Coca Cola
J.T. Carroll
Decision Women In Commerce and The Professions, Inc.
Empire State Carpenters
Empire State Carpenters Local Union 7
Robert Gaffney
Philip Ingerman
King Family Foundation
Key Span Lamplighters
Law Firm Of Ron LaVita, Esq.
Lewis, Johs, Avallone, Aviles & Kaufman
Lindy's Taxi-John Tomitz
Local 338 RWDSU-UFCW
Long Island Networking Elite
Long Island Power Authority
Falisha Mamdani
The Elena Melius Foundation-Gary Melius
North Fork Bank
Pergament Investments
RGM Liquid Waste Removal
Nassau County Police Reserves-Loring Miller
United Science Polygraph-Robert Mylott
NYS Fraternal Order of Police
Nassau County Detectives Association
Parents of Murdered Children
Nancy Potts-Smith Barney
Slattery Skanska
Smithtown Messenger-Phillip Sciarillo
Sports Illustrated
Suffolk County Correction Officers Association
Suffolk County Democratic Committee
Suffolk County Detectives Association-Peter Smith
Suffolk County Deputy Sheriff's Association
Suffolk County Republican Committee
The Noone Group
Town of Babylon
U.S. Marshal Service
Vytra Healthcare Long Island
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Whelan
World Wide Host
Tom Yllanes

Alliance Contracting Inc.
Circuit City Foundation
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Suffolk County Corrections Officers Association>br> Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association


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Posted by: America land of the free? | Mar 13, 2008 9:44:42 AM


I am astonished this woman received government funds to proceed with works which are truly unconstitutional, and can only serve as a detriment to society.

I suppose we are now living in a "Big Brother" police society; whereby we are photographed at random, stalked, registered, spied upon, and presumed guilty before proving we are innocent.

Posted by: Christian | Apr 22, 2008 4:54:05 PM

Well ... I definitely think that I don't want any sex offenders anywhere near my children, so the mapping is a useful feature, however, sometimes innocent people get caught up in the system, such as consenting teens whose parents pressed charges, and those people don't deserve to be harassed. It's hard to say what's the right thing 100% of the time, but I would rather know where they are and be able to avoid them than not know and pay a consequence of ignorance.



Posted by: Alina Phoenix | May 6, 2008 8:53:38 PM

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