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January 3, 2009

What might 2009 have in store for . . . sex offender law and policy?

Continuing the 2009 "what's in store" series, let's turn to sex offender law and policy.  To begin, it bears recalling how dynamic this area was throughout 2008. 

Last year began with the Supreme Court taking up the Kennedy child rape case, although its Court's ruling was a lot more about the death penalty than about sex offending.  Last year ended with the Ninth Circuit finding in Gonzalesthat a Californians 28-year sentence for a sex offender's failure to re-register his address was excessive under the Eighth Amendment.  In between, we saw: various states struggle with and sometimes resist the mandates of the federal Adam Walsh act; various federal district courts struggle with how to deal with harsh child porn sentencing guidelines; various other lower courts strike down as unconstitutional various extreme sentences and restrictions placed on sex offenders; various efforts to use technocorrections to track and regulate sex offenders.

As for 2009, I am expecting a lot more of the same, with both state governments and federal authorities and lower court judges in all jurisdictions struggling to balance competing concerns of public safety and fairness and the inevitable political and public hysteria about the most vilified type offender.  For anyone trying to keep track of what's going on state-by-state, the Vera Institute of Justice recently published these two essential documents for policy-makers: The Pursuit of Safety: Sex Offender Policy in the United States (available here) and Treatment and Reentry Practices for Sex Offenders: An Overview of States (available here).  In addition, academics should remember that the latest issue of the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law includes a symposium on sex offender law and policy.

Other posts so far in the 2009 "what's in store" series:

January 3, 2009 at 11:19 PM | Permalink


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In Texas some legislation was just filed pending the coming session to give judges authority to reduce the length of time registration is required. Hard to say what its chances are, but jut a few years ago its hard to imagine the legislation even being discussed, much less filed.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Jan 4, 2009 2:44:09 PM

My profession is Social Worker, but my interest in reading your blog is b/c I am the mother of a SO. He made a poor choice to have sex with two girlfriends while they were in High School. He is 26 years old now and will pay for the rest of his life for something half of the high schoolers do these days. His case went all the way to the Supreme Court, but was never read. "Denied" all the way up without even knowing it was consensual. And had our son not been so scared and honest no one would have known. The girls agreed it was consenual and wanted nothing to do with the case. As a mother of a SO I am still hoping and praying for changes in our system.

Posted by: mh metts | Jan 4, 2009 7:51:45 PM

I too pray for changes in these ridiculous sex offender laws. I regularly follow your blog as a source of reliable information and analysis which is not found elsewhere. Thank you. www.constitutionalfights.org

Posted by: constitutionalfights | Jan 6, 2009 4:07:05 PM

I am a registered first time sex-offender. Try to imagine getting out of prison and be told that I had to come up with almost $800 to attend treatment and a lie detector test ...or go back to prison for failing to comply. What?? I attended treatment in prison, which was 8 hours a day 5 days a week for 5 months, then took after-care for a year and even an experimental re-visit to the original treatment through a continuing treatment program at another camp. In other words, I got all that they had to give. It was intense. When I got out and they demanded I attend treatment, I reminded them that I had already been through enough treatment to last a lifetime ...and I volunteered for it. Being TOLD I would have to attend didn't seem therapeutic to me. Plus there was the threat that if I didn't I would go back to prison, which is what the therapist told me, eyeball to eyeball. My hackles were up as I don't believe that any sort of therapy should be applied with a stick. At that point it looked like just a money thing to me, I didn't think my attitude would be very good and my sense of taking responsibility for what I did was pushed under the bus. If it was in the publics interest then they should they pay? Plus the $500 polygraph test can't be used in court to help or hurt me, so what's the deal? I got out with a $45 gate check and that was the total sum for me to start a new life with and to stay out of trouble. Later I moved to Virginia and they have worked with me by assessing that I qualified to attend After-Care instead of primary therapy. Good people. Being in Aftercare is a revisit and I appreciate being treated humanely with my pride in all of my previous work left intact. I am sorry for the harm I have caused, but now I have a greater understanding of how I allowed myself to offend. I know my precursors and have my crime story written, my "Crime Cycle" to understand my risk factors, and when it's all said an done, I could re-offend any time I chose to. That's the point, when I chose not to from a complete understanding of how I offended and how much it hurt someone I claimed to care for, as well as myself. No, I don't want to ever revisit that again. So, I decide not to, to avoid all the pain. If all prison programs could teach that kind of understanding of the pain caused to all sides, including ourselves, I think we'd have a much lower recidivism problem than we currently have.

p/s My plea-bargain got tossed under the bus, by our new laws. I pled for 5 years and the day I got out I was informed that I would have to do 5 more years of parole, plus paying the expense of being on treatment during that time. Oh yes, I am not allowed to drive by myself either. My crime was under my own roof with a step daughter. My crime had nothing to do with a victim unknown, or a kidnapping or cruising to look for victims. There is no mention on my commitment papers stating that my driving privilege would be restricted by the Superior Court Judge. I've sent two high-priced attorneys that looked into it, free of charge, and they later told me that while they didn't think they could do that, they did it any way. So, now I have a third attorney that has brought in a fourth attorney and we may make some headway. I do not believe that it is constitutional to have my plea-bargain over-turned by a committee instead of a jury, a judge and everything out in the open for all to see, including myself. Any advice would be appreciated. Ric

Posted by: Ric | Jan 13, 2009 1:55:30 AM

Dude, you are a sex offender, get over yourself. If you don't like the time, don't do the crime. You deserve no rights because you committed an illegal act. Did you really expect to do something wrong, immoral, and illegal-then get rewarded for it, your are living in a fantasy world. Wake up or someone will do it for you. You are in for a rude awakening Sir. The only advice I can give you is to keep your hands to yourself and stay away from kids...Duh! You need no other advice scumbag.

Posted by: ladylaw | Mar 12, 2009 12:46:02 PM

why is he not allowed to get better? he's making an effort. why do you disallow this man the hope of improving? why is it YOUR sins can be forgiven and his can't?
is it because his sin violated our two big idols in this country- fear of sex and worship of children?
he didn't commit murder did he? if he had commited murder, you'd be letting him live where he wants without a sign in his yard.
how do you know he can't get better?

Posted by: ran | Jun 8, 2009 9:07:24 AM

The problem with ladylaw, and many other people, is ignorance. Ladylaw saw two words, and she turned into a banshee. Based on what Ric said, he did the crime and paid for it with time - he paid his due to society.

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Posted by: OBDII scanner | Sep 19, 2011 3:20:24 AM

I am sorry for the harm I have caused, but now I have a greater understanding of how I allowed myself to offend. I know my precursors and have my crime story written, my "Crime Cycle" to understand my risk factors, and when it's all said an done, I could re-offend any time I chose to.

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