Effective 1-16-15 everything pertaining to the 114th Congress will be tagged ( .News-114-Congress and
the ( .News-Congress tag will be past Congresses. See "Quick Links" right hand column.

March 2, 2015

California Sex Offender Residency Restrictions Decision

See Also: (Key: Note voice of CSOMB Member) Jessica’s Law sex offender buffer zone struck down and Housing Restrictions For Sex Offenders Unconstitutional, California Court Rules and California court rules San Diego sex offender law unconstitutional and California Supreme Court rules blanket sex-offender residency restriction fails rational basis review and State Supreme Court overturns sex offender housing rules in San Diego; law could affect Orange County, beyond and Court Nixes Key Part of Sex Offender Law; Authors Cite Danger and Court Rejects Blanket Sex Offender Restrictions and Housing limits on sex offenders rejected and California Supreme Court Overturns Sex Offender Residence Restrictions and California court rules against sex offender law application and Court: No blanket enforcement of sex offender law and California Supreme Court rejects blanket ban on where sex offenders can live

Another decision today by the same court People v Mosley, a very narrow decision on one specific question, is making this difficult to understand in the broader context. We need lawyers to construe the two decisions to make this all make sense.

CA-RSOL has this to say: The California Supreme Court has spoken but what have they said?
3-2-15 California:

From the In re Taylor decision:

As will be explained, we agree that section 3003.5(b)‟s residency restrictions are unconstitutional as applied across the board to petitioners and similarly situated registered sex offenders on parole in San Diego County.

Blanket enforcement of the residency restrictions against these parolees has severely restricted their ability to find housing in compliance with the statute, greatly increased the incidence of homelessness among them, and hindered their access to medical treatment, drug and alcohol dependency services, psychological counseling and other rehabilitative social services available to all parolees, while further hampering the efforts of parole authorities and law enforcement officials to monitor, supervise, and rehabilitate them in the interests of public safety.

It thus has infringed their liberty and privacy interests, however limited, while bearing no rational relationship to advancing the state‟s legitimate goal of protecting children from sexual predators, and has violated their basic constitutional right to be free of unreasonable, arbitrary, and oppressive official action.

Nonetheless, as the lower courts made clear, CDCR retains the statutory authority, under provisions in the Penal Code separate from those found in section 3003.5(b), to impose special restrictions on registered sex offenders in the form of discretionary parole conditions, including residency restrictions that may be more or less restrictive than those found in section 3003.5(b), as long as they are based on, and supported by, the particularized circumstances of each individual parolee.

Accordingly, we will affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeal. ..Source.. In re Taylor 3-2-15

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March 1, 2015

What could go wrong? DOJ to fund research on campus sex assault policies

3-1-15 National:

The United States Department of Justice wants to know if what your college is doing about sexual assault is effective. It’ll give you some cash to figure that out.

The DOJ’s National Institute of Justice, “alongside the Office on Violence Against Women and Office of Justice Programs,” has now opened the application process for researchers to obtain grants to study the issue.

The Daily Californian reports:

The justice institute hopes to shed light on newer, more promising methods of addressing sexual assault on college campuses, the proposal said.

The program comes in response to the April 2014 White House Task Force Report to Protect Students From Sexual Assault, which advocated improved understanding of campus sexual assault investigations and adjudications on campuses.

In May of last year, the White House released a list of universities, including UC Berkeley and three other California schools, under investigation for possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints.

According to the proposal, applicants for the grant must be the entity with primary responsibility for conducting and leading the sexual assault research.
UC Berkeley senior Aryle Butler, a member of the survivor advocacy organization End Rape On Campus, says that “the DOJ grant is a good initiative to analyze our campus more objectively.” But, she added, if Berkeley decided to apply for a grant, “there should be an additional layer of oversight and protection to the research to ensure that statistics are not deflated or inflated.”

Of course, this is the same federal government that told us one in five women are sexually assaulted while in college, a rather dubious statistic, to say the least. ..Source.. by The College Fix

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February 28, 2015

Bill would repeal Adam Walsh sex-offender act in Nevada

2-28-15 Nevada:

After years of languishing in Nevada courts, legislators are reconsidering sex-offender laws affecting juveniles and the way criminals are ranked and registered.

State Sen. Richard “Tick” Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, and Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, introduced Senate Bill 99 in February to repeal the state’s version of the federal Adam Walsh Act. Critics have said the law disenfranchises juveniles who could be reformed, and many think the way the law categorizes offenders — based on the crimes committed rather than risk of re-offending — might not really serve the public interest.

The law has been challenged in Clark County courts, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Nevada Supreme Court, which placed an emergency injunction against the law in October, the day before it was supposed to finally be enacted.

The Nevada Legislature passed Assembly Bill 579 in 2007 to make the state compliant with the Walsh Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2006. The law was named after Adam Walsh, the 6-year-old son of TV personality John Walsh, who was abducted and murdered in Hollywood, Fla., on July 27, 1981.

Las Vegas attorney Maggie McLetchie has been litigating the issue since 2008. She said the Legislature was wrong to think that the federal government could compel Nevada to follow its guidelines.

McLetchie was scheduled to challenge the law in the state’s high court in early February, but oral arguments were canceled to give the Legislature another chance to work on it.

SEXUAL DELINQUENTS

One problem with the Walsh Act is that community notification and lifetime registration applies to youths convicted of sex crimes as long as they’re over 14. But opponents of the law say juveniles should be treated differently than adult offenders.

Las Vegas attorney Donna Coleman has been serving on a committee evaluating the Walsh Act for the state attorney general’s office. She said she would testify in favor of the bill to repeal it.

The fragile minds of juveniles might not be able to cope with the pressures of community notification and appearing in online sex offender registries, Coleman said.

“We are at a very high suicide rate for juveniles,” she said. “We don’t want to push them over the edge.”

A 2014 study by the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission found that most juveniles convicted of a sexual offense were not motivated by “deviant sexual arousal or a focused intent to harm others,” which would indicate a risk of future sexual offenses. Youths usually commit sexual crimes due to developmental or social issues, or because they were abused themselves.

Most juveniles respond well to therapy, the report said, so they will not become adult sex offenders.

The proposed law would ensure that juveniles would not be subjected to community notification, though schools would continue to get the information. When youths reach age 21, a court hearing would assess whether they were a risk to the public, Coleman said.

Juveniles who commit particularly heinous sexual crimes likely would be tried as an adult and thus be subjected to adult registration rules, she added.

Sgt. Brian Zana with the Nevada Division of Parole and Probation’s sex offender unit compared publishing youth offenders on the public register to branding them with a “Scarlet Letter.” He said the division supports the idea of holding hearings when a juvenile offender turns 21.

“You have to remember children make mistakes,” he said.

Treatment of juvenile sex offenders was addressed in the first Walsh Act case to reach the Nevada Supreme Court. Justices upheld a lower court ruling that said the law did not violate the state constitution. But in an opinion penned by Justice Michael L. Douglas, the court acknowledges problems with the law.

“We share the juvenile court’s concerns regarding the wisdom of this legislation. Nevertheless, we are bound to follow the law,” the opinion reads. “Of utmost concern, it does not appear from the legislative history that the Nevada Legislature ever considered the impact of this bill on juveniles or public safety.”

Another problem is that the statute applies to offenders retroactively, and some people could end up on Internet sex offender registries for crimes that happened as long ago as 1956. In a worst-case scenario, the law could even be applied to people convicted long ago under Nevada’s voided and unconstitutional criminalization of consensual homosexual acts, McLetchie said. SB 99 would not repeal that, too.

RATING RISKS

The old sex offender law was pretty simple: Offenders individually were rated by specially trained mental health professionals from low to high according to their risk of re-offending. But how long people have to register as sex offenders is not based on this risk rating under the Walsh Act.

The current law categorizes offenders into tiers based on the crime they committed and might not truly be in the public’s interest, according to a 2012 multi-state study sponsored by the National Institute of Justice. Researchers found that many with the highest risk of re-offending often ended up on lower tiers with shorter registration terms under the Walsh Act.

“It’s not that cut and dry,” Zana said of categorizing offenders based on convictions.

Many first-time offenders automatically would be rated on the lowest tier under the Walsh Act but would be ranked higher if considered individually based on their risk of re-offending. This includes crimes such as lewdness with a child under 14 and incest, he said.

Under Walsh Act standards, the lowest registration tier is assigned to those convicted of a crime against a child or a sexual crime. Offenders have to register for 15 years.

Tier II offenders committed a sexual crime or one involving a child if it is punishable by imprisonment for more than a year. Those who re-offend after being assigned Tier I graduate to this level and have to register for 25 years. Tier II crimes include felony luring of a child, sexual abuse against children, sex trafficking and child pornography.

Those in the highest tier, which applies to people convicted of crimes including kidnapping and sexual abuse against a minor under 13, must register for life. Top-level crimes also include sexual assaults and murders involving rape.

All of the tiers also include attempts or conspiracies to commit those crimes and similar convictions from other states.

The Legislature said during the 2008 special session that more than 2,000 parolees would move from a low-risk rating under the old law to the highest tier under the Walsh Act.

“You get a needle-in-the-haystack problem,” McLetchie said.

Zana said he has been studying the proposed repeal for a couple weeks, and that while it’s not perfect, he said it’s heading in the right direction.

He said the current law is confusing and a handful of sexual offenses aren’t included, such as peeping and taking secret “up-skirt” photos. “Those are entry-level sex offenses,” Zana said.

Like so-called gateway drugs, Zana said people committing these offenses often get bored and move on to worse crimes.

Nevada was one of the first states to pass the Walsh Act, Segerblom said, adding that the Legislature rushed to comply with federal guidelines out of fear of losing criminal justice grants.

But the cost to implement it — estimated at $4 million in 2009 — far exceeds the less than $200,000 Nevada would have lost. To Segerblom’s knowledge, the state never has received federal funds to help with implementation of the Walsh Act.

LIFETIME MONITORING

Assemblyman Phillip O’Neill, R-Carson City, requested a separate bill draft to change laws about the lifetime monitoring of offenders and the system for dealing with violations. For the proposed changes, O’Neill has been working with the Nevada Department of Parole and Probation, which has been trying to change lifetime registration laws for years with no success.

The complexity of the legislation is one reason it hasn’t gained momentum in the past, according to parole department Lt. David Helgerman. Many hesitate because on the surface the bill seems to remove lifetime supervision altogether, but Helger­man said the department is actually trying to replace it with an extended probation period.

“We would not recommend something we thought would be a detriment to public safety,” Helgerman said.

Currently, lifetime registration begins for sex offenders after they have finished parole. And to punish violations would require an offender to be charged with an additional felony in the jurisdiction in which they were first charged. If they have moved to another city, officers must scramble to meet the 72-hour deadline to get the violator to court, where they could then be released on bail.

“There’s a long list of problems,” he said about the law.

O’Neill’s bill would replace lifetime registration by extending the maximum probation terms and giving courts more deference in sentencing sex offenders. Rather than new charges, violators would face a parole hearing. The proposed changes also would make it easier to hold hearings for violators in other jurisdictions and would make it easier to transfer probationers and parolees out of state, Helgerman said.

Helgerman said the majority of the sex crimes an ex-convict would have to register for come with life sentences in prison, so lifetime supervision requirements are “redundant.” The four charges that don’t carry maximum sentences of life in prison right now — battery to commit sexual assault, child pornography, incest and exploiting people with mental illnesses — would all get extended prison sentences under the new bill.

O’Neill’s bill also would prevent sex offenders from being released on bail after violating the terms of their registration.

Helgerman said the state has 783 offenders on lifetime supervision.

“This bill would give our current law more teeth,” Helgerman said.

LEGISLATIVE SOLUTIONS

Segerblom said that the current law unnecessarily “lumps everyone together” and burdens local law enforcement agencies. Nine years after the federal Walsh Act passed, most states have rejected it. Only 17 states have enacted it, and the count might include other states, like Nevada, where the law was approved but not fully enforced because of lawsuits.

“We had a really good sex offender law before the Adam Walsh Act,” Segerblom said. “Sometimes you just need to say, ‘I’m sorry.’ A bad law is a bad law.”

SB 99 addresses some of what opponents point to as the Walsh Act’s problems. The current draft of the bill gives offenders a way to appeal tier designations and lifetime monitoring after 15 years, and it calls for individual assessments of juveniles based on their risk of reoffending. The bill also would give juvenile courts the ability to exempt youths from community notification and registration.

The state attorney general’s office has defended the Walsh Act through every legal challenge, and Attorney General Adam Laxalt plans to continue to do so. When asked if Laxalt would support efforts to repeal the Walsh Act, Assistant Attorney General Brett Kandt said there’s no reason for the attorney general’s office to change course “unless and until the Legislature says so.”

Kandt said that he hasn’t seen any studies about problems with the Walsh Act, and the attorney general only engages with the Legislature on bills that would affect public safety, which he did earlier this session. Laxalt’s office sent a memo in January urging lawmakers to support Assembly Bill 45, which would allow the Department of Corrections to give sex offenders risk ratings of moderate-low and moderate-high in addition to low, moderate and high.

This risk ratings system would have no effect on the length of time an offender has to register under Walsh Act standards.

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office did not return repeated calls to ask whether he would sign a bill to repeal Nevada’s version of the Walsh Act. ..Source.. by Contact Wesley

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Judge orders D.C. to pay record $9.2 million in wrongful conviction case

2-28-15 Washington DC:

A D.C. Superior Court judge ordered the District government Friday to pay a record $9.2 million in damages to Kirk L. Odom, 52, who was wrongfully imprisoned for more than 22 years in the rape and robbery of a woman in her Capitol Hill apartment in 1981.

The amount, set by Judge Neal E. Kravitz, is the second — and largest — award in a case tried before a District judge under the District’s wrongful conviction law, which was approved in 1980. It also is one of the largest non-jury awards in an exoneration case in the United States.

“Mr. Odom spent more than twenty-two years of what should have been the prime of his adult life behind bars for a crime he did not commit,” Kravitz wrote in a 37-page opinion that recounted Odom’s “profound” physical and psychological suffering over the decades that included several prison rapes, his diagnosis with HIV — the virus that causes AIDS — suicide attempts, depression and family estrangement.

“It was readily apparent to the court at trial that Mr. Odom is only a shell of the young man he was at the time of his wrongful conviction, and only a shell of the grown man he would have become had he not been wrongly convicted and unjustly imprisoned,” Kravitz wrote.

In an interview , Odom, who was 18 at the time of the crime, said he welcomed word of the award from his attorneys, but added, “They can’t pay me enough money to give me back the years that I’ve lost.”

Odom, who lives in Southeast Washington with his wife of nearly 10 years, whom he met at an HIV support group, said he is attempting to reconnect with his adult daughter, born weeks before his original trial. “I’m just kind of continuing to move on with my life. It’s hard, but we’re working on it together, which is a good thing,” he said.

Odom’s case is among what are expected to be several civil claims against the District by former prisoners exonerated through DNA evidence.

The Washington Post has reported that Odom is one of five D.C. men convicted of rape or murder whose charges have been vacated since 2009 because they were based on erroneous forensics and testimony by an elite unit of FBI hair experts.

Odom was exonerated in July 2012 after DNA testing showed that he was innocent and that another man — a convicted sex offender — committed the crime for which he was tried and sentenced in 1982 and incarcerated until 2003.

Since December 2009, DNA results have cleared Donald E. Gates, then 58, of a rape and a murder for which he had spent 28 years in prison. D.C. Superior Court judges have also exonerated two other men, Santae A. Tribble and Kevin Martin.

Another murder conviction, that of Cleveland Wright, was vacated, and his attorneys with the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia continue to ask the court to declare him innocent.

The ruling by Kravitz, appointed to the bench in 1998 by Bill Clinton, is the first time in two decades a prisoner’s claim under the D.C. Unjust Imprisonment Act has been decided by a judge at trial, and comes as courts around the country are coming to terms with how to respond to a growing number of DNA and other types of exonerations.

In ruling that under the D.C. law, prisoners have six months from their exoneration — and not their incarceration — to file suit, and that they can seek damages for time spent on parole as well as in prison and for physical and emotional injuries, Kravitz’s opinion could help establish a precedent for other District cases.

Kravitz spent pages starkly enumerating Odom’s suffering, which experts called “extreme,” caused by more than 20 years “enduring a world of deprivation permeated by sexual and physical violence and the terror it bred — a world in which he had no privacy, no control over his activities, no connection to his family and friends, and no opportunity to work or to raise his only daughter.”

Odom’s insistence that he was innocent led to a psychotic episode while he was imprisoned, and was repeatedly challenged when he was paroled as a registered sex offender, Kravitz wrote. His sexual victimization, HIV condition and sex offense conviction fed feelings of shame, stigma and distrust, similar to symptoms experienced by prisoners of war, the judge stated.


By Spencer S. Hsu February 28 at 11:46 AM

A D.C. Superior Court judge ordered the District government Friday to pay a record $9.2 million in damages to Kirk L. Odom, 52, who was wrongfully imprisoned for more than 22 years in the rape and robbery of a woman in her Capitol Hill apartment in 1981.

The amount, set by Judge Neal E. Kravitz, is the second — and largest — award in a case tried before a District judge under the District’s wrongful conviction law, which was approved in 1980. It also is one of the largest non-jury awards in an exoneration case in the United States.

“Mr. Odom spent more than twenty-two years of what should have been the prime of his adult life behind bars for a crime he did not commit,” Kravitz wrote in a 37-page opinion that recounted Odom’s “profound” physical and psychological suffering over the decades that included several prison rapes, his diagnosis with HIV — the virus that causes AIDS — suicide attempts, depression and family estrangement.

“It was readily apparent to the court at trial that Mr. Odom is only a shell of the young man he was at the time of his wrongful conviction, and only a shell of the grown man he would have become had he not been wrongly convicted and unjustly imprisoned,” Kravitz wrote.

In an interview , Odom, who was 18 at the time of the crime, said he welcomed word of the award from his attorneys, but added, “They can’t pay me enough money to give me back the years that I’ve lost.”

Odom, who lives in Southeast Washington with his wife of nearly 10 years, whom he met at an HIV support group, said he is attempting to reconnect with his adult daughter, born weeks before his original trial. “I’m just kind of continuing to move on with my life. It’s hard, but we’re working on it together, which is a good thing,” he said.

Odom’s case is among what are expected to be several civil claims against the District by former prisoners exonerated through DNA evidence.

The Washington Post has reported that Odom is one of five D.C. men convicted of rape or murder whose charges have been vacated since 2009 because they were based on erroneous forensics and testimony by an elite unit of FBI hair experts.

Odom was exonerated in July 2012 after DNA testing showed that he was innocent and that another man — a convicted sex offender — committed the crime for which he was tried and sentenced in 1982 and incarcerated until 2003.

Since December 2009, DNA results have cleared Donald E. Gates, then 58, of a rape and a murder for which he had spent 28 years in prison. D.C. Superior Court judges have also exonerated two other men, Santae A. Tribble and Kevin Martin.

Another murder conviction, that of Cleveland Wright, was vacated, and his attorneys with the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia continue to ask the court to declare him innocent.

The ruling by Kravitz, appointed to the bench in 1998 by Bill Clinton, is the first time in two decades a prisoner’s claim under the D.C. Unjust Imprisonment Act has been decided by a judge at trial, and comes as courts around the country are coming to terms with how to respond to a growing number of DNA and other types of exonerations.

In ruling that under the D.C. law, prisoners have six months from their exoneration — and not their incarceration — to file suit, and that they can seek damages for time spent on parole as well as in prison and for physical and emotional injuries, Kravitz’s opinion could help establish a precedent for other District cases.

Kravitz spent pages starkly enumerating Odom’s suffering, which experts called “extreme,” caused by more than 20 years “enduring a world of deprivation permeated by sexual and physical violence and the terror it bred — a world in which he had no privacy, no control over his activities, no connection to his family and friends, and no opportunity to work or to raise his only daughter.”

Odom’s insistence that he was innocent led to a psychotic episode while he was imprisoned, and was repeatedly challenged when he was paroled as a registered sex offender, Kravitz wrote. His sexual victimization, HIV condition and sex offense conviction fed feelings of shame, stigma and distrust, similar to symptoms experienced by prisoners of war, the judge stated

Kravitz also provided one model for determining compensation, calculating damages at $1,000 per day of Odom’s incarceration, $250 per day of his time spent on parole and $200 per day between his exoneration and trial, citing Odom’s “serious and continuing” psychological injuries.”

In a statement, D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine said his office is reviewing Kravitz’s order.

Attorneys for the city had argued in Odom’s trial in November that he should be granted no more than the $1.1 million in federal damages he already received, because his case was handled by the U.S. attorney’s office, which conducts almost all criminal prosecutions in the city.

“We have great sympathy for Mr. Odom,” Racine said. “However, we respectfully believe that the District should not have to pay the amount ordered in a case in which it was not involved in prosecuting or convicting the plaintiff, and in which the federal government has already paid Mr. Odom the maximum amount identified by Congress for his incarceration.”

In his opinion, Kravitz concluded that the D.C. Council clearly intended its legislation to offer remedies beyond what was provided by federal law.

One of Odom’s attorneys in his civil damages suit, Anna Benvenutti Hoffmann, of the New York City law firm Neufeld, Scheck and Brustin, said, “It’s troubling to see the District try to disclaim moral and legal responsibility for Mr. Odom’s wrongful conviction.”

Hoffman added, “The District created the Unjust Imprisonment Act because it recognized the moral obligation D.C. has to an innocent person investigated by D.C. cops, convicted in a D.C. court by a D.C. jury, sentenced by a D.C. judge, and who spent many years wrongly incarcerated in a D.C. prison.”

Odom’s exoneration claim was led by Sandra K. Levick, chief of special litigation at the Public Defender Service.

In 2007, Nancy Gertner, then a federal judge in Massachusetts, awarded $102 million to four men and their survivors. The men were convicted of a mob murder they did not commit. ..Source.. by Spencer S. Hsu

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Rape on Campus: Study Links 40 Percent of Reported Gang Rape Attacks to College Athletes

2-28-15 National:

Campus sexual assault has become an all-too-frequent problem in America's universities.

United Educators, the company that offers liability insurance to schools, put out a new study titled Student Sexual Assault: Weathering the Perfect Storm. The study examined their client colleges from 2011 to 2013. U.E. was able to collect a wider set of information on both the alleged victim and the perpetrator, as well as how the school responded.

Al Jazeera examined some conclusions made from the United Educators study on campus assault.

One of the conclusions the report made is campus sexual assault involving multiple perpetrators was often committed by college athletes. They made up 40 percent of gang rape attacks reported to schools. The report points to the athletic "culture that promotes hyper-masculinity, sexual aggression and excessive alcohol consumption."

en percent of the sexual assault reports U.E. looked at involved more than one perpetrator.

The study also found fraternity members were more likely to be repeat offenders.

Fraternity members made up 10 percent of accused perpetrators in the study. However, these students made up 24 percent of repeat offenders. Athletes made up another 20 percent. The report concluded that 1 in 5 rapists were repeat offenders.

Both alleged victims and rapists were more likely to be drinking prior to the assault. In 11 percent of "physical force assaults," the attacker was more likely to be drinking and the victim was not. This was also found in 7 percent of attacks, where the alleged rapist inferred consent from the victim's silence.

U.E. suggests drinking enables some students "to more easily use force to obtain sex when their partner refuses" and "contributes to misinterpreting sexual interest or ignoring their partner's hesitation."

The release of the study comes in the wake of the conviction of two former Vanderbilt student athletes for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. Two years after the attack, Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey, both 21, were found guilty in January. The two face 15 to 80 years for the crime. Vandenburg was a former tight end for the school's football team. Batey was a wide receiver. The convicted rapists' defense team claimed both defendants were too drunk to be in their right minds. Two other students will be put on trial at a later date. ..Source.. by Jaclyn Diaz

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February 27, 2015

Warner and Bipartisan Coalition of Senators Introduce Legislation to Prevent Sexual Assaults on College Campuses

2-27-2015 Washington DC:

Joined by survivors and advocates, bipartisan group of 10 Senators reintroduces strengthened version of Campus Safety and Accountability Act with added input from colleges and universities, students, law enforcement, and advocates

Today, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and a bipartisan coalition of 10 Senators introduced a strengthened version of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act. With added input from survivors, students, colleges and universities, law enforcement and advocates, the bill would flip the current incentives of a broken system to provide real accountability and transparency from higher education institutions. The legislation would professionalize the response to and reporting of sexual assaults that occur on campuses to better protect and empower students, while also protecting the rights of accused students.

“It’s time we empower students and end this culture that has fostered this epidemic. Our legislation does just that, by encouraging prevention and demanding more transparency, consistency and accountability from universities nationwide,” said Senator Warner. “As the father of three college-age daughters, I am heartbroken and appalled by the stories we’ve heard about the prevalence of campus assault and the uneven way many universities have chosen to respond to it. It’s time to put a stop to these crimes once and for all.”

The legislation was introduced Thursday by Mark Warner (D-VA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Dean Heller (R-NV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) and Gary Peters (D-MI).

The legislation would secure landmark reforms for how colleges and universities address and report incidents of sexual assault that occur on their campuses. It incorporates feedback from key stakeholders to strengthen how student surveys are conducted and strengthens training standards. The provisions safeguard both survivors and accused students. It extends the amount of time survivors have to file a case with the Department of Education, and sets new notification requirements for both survivors and accused students involved in the campus disciplinary process. ..Source.. by Press Release

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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee Passes End Slavery Initiative

2-27-2015 Washington DC:

On Tuesday, February 24, 2015, Senator Corker introduced bold, bipartisan legislation to help eliminate slavery and human trafficking around the globe. End Modern Slavery Initiative Act of 2015

“Today more than 27 million people, many of them women and children, suffer under forced labor and sexual servitude in over 165 countries around the world, including our own,” said Corker. “As I have seen firsthand, the stark reality of modern slavery is unconscionable, demanding the United States and civilized world make a commitment to end it for good.

Despite the pervasive nature of this horrific practice, modern slavery is a crime of opportunity that thrives where enforcement is weak, so raising the risk of prosecution can achieve significant results. That’s why I’m proud to join my colleagues and a number of other supportive organizations to introduce a transformative initiative that will work in concert with foreign partners and other private entities to help end slavery worldwide.”

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Misguided legislation won’t protect children

2-27-2015 Delaware, National:

This week, my graduate seminar at the University of Delaware hosted several scholars who study sex trafficking, both trafficking laws and the people they affect. Together, this group of scholars and activists from around the world share some common concerns about what happens when well-meaning policymakers use the wrong tools to address problems. Sen. Chris Coons has the opportunity to address one aspect of this with the bill pending now in the Senate Foreign Relations committee, H.R.515, International Megan's Law to Prevent Demand for Child Sex Trafficking.

While the proposed law would like to end exploitation of children, the approach it proposes will not help.

The law focuses on people listed in sex offender registries (or Megan’s law databases). The core problem with this approach is that empirical research has established that people on the registry are not the ones who will commit new sex crimes.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s own 2002 study shows this: New sex offenses are much more likely to be committed by people not already caught or registered as sex offenders. When the concern is sex trafficking, this is even more misguided, since no connection has ever been made between the two groups. Despite our fears of sex offenders, there is no empirical reason to expect registered sex offenders to be the ones exploiting children abroad.

Beyond this basic mistake in the target of the bill, it would create more unneeded bureaucracy: The U.S. Marshals Service already notifies receiving countries of registered sex offender travel.

Finally, in addition to not helping children, my own research shows how restrictions like these actually harm them. The family members of people on the registry experience many of the same restrictions. Just this week I spoke with someone who was not be able to have her brother walk her down the aisle, because he is registered for “sexting” six years ago. Even though his local and state law enforcement offices had approved his travel, when he changed planes in California he was prevented from leaving the country. On top of missing the wedding, he lost the $2,000 ticket.

Rather than add to the stigmas and other burdens that affect the families of sex offenders (who are also often the victims, since much sexual violence occurs within families).

I urge Sen. Coons to oppose H.R.515, in the interest of fairness, small government and the recognition of what will actually work to protect children. ..Source.. by Chrysanthi Leon is associate professor of sociology and criminal justice and women and gender studies at the University of Delaware.

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February 25, 2015

Officials try to predict if inmates will commit new crimes, with uneven results

2-25-15 Arkansas, National:

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — States are trying to reduce prison populations with secretive, new psychological assessments to predict which inmates will commit future crimes and who might be safe to release, despite serious problems and high-profile failures, an Associated Press investigation found.

These programs are part of a national, data-driven movement to drive down prison populations, reduce recidivism and save billions. They include questionnaires often with more than 100 questions about an offender's education, family, income, job status, history of moving, parents' arrest history — or whether he or she has a phone. A score is affixed to each answer and the result helps shape how the offender will be supervised in the system — or released from custody.

Used for crimes ranging from petty thievery to serial murders, these questionnaires come with their own set of risks, according to the AP's examination.

Many rely on criminals to tell the truth, and jurisdictions don't always check to make sure the answers are accurate. They are used inconsistently across the country, sometimes within the same jurisdiction. The same defendant might be scored differently in the same crime.

Supporters cite some research, such as a 1987 Rand Corp. study that said the surveys accurately can predict the likelihood of repeat offenses as much as 70 percent of the time if they are used correctly. But even the Rand study, one of the seminal pieces of research on the subject, was skeptical of the surveys' overall effectiveness. It's nearly impossible to measure the surveys' impact on recidivism because they are only part of broader efforts.

Some surveys have the potential to punish people for being poor or uneducated by attaching a lower risk to those who have steady work and high levels of education. The surveys are clouded in secrecy. Some states never release the evaluations, shielding government officials from being held accountable for decisions that affect public safety.

"It is a vast improvement over the decision-making process of 20, 30 years ago when parole boards and the courts didn't have any statistical information to base their decisions on," said Adam Gelb, director of the Public Safety Performance Project at the Pew Charitable Trusts, which is working with the Justice Department to shape reforms nationally.

There are dozens of different surveys in use.

In the case of Milton Thomas in Arkansas, a parolee accused of raping a 70-year-old woman, the state's predictions were inconsistent.

Three risk assessment surveys produced three different results. When Thomas, 58, was up for parole in 2013 after serving time for theft, the Arkansas Parole Board assessed him as a high risk to re-offend.

He was released in November of that year, and the state's community supervision agency assessed him again. This one determined Thomas was a low risk, Thomas said, and required the minimum amount of supervision and no rehabilitative programs. After Thomas was arrested on the rape charge last July, the parole board assessed him again and downgraded his risk from high to moderate.

While these results seem to defy common sense, the board said the system worked and there was a simple reason for lowering Thomas' risk: varying accounts of Thomas' age when he was first arrested.

In 2013 in Texas, a routine risk assessment used on sex offenders when they are released from prison found convicted rapist Darren Vann to be a low-risk to re-offend. About a year later, in Indiana, Vann confessed to police that he killed seven women.

Experts said the risk-and-needs assessment surveys should be evaluated every few years. Texas, which in 2000 started using the instrument that evaluated Vann, is just now doing this, a state spokesman said.

The Justice Department's position on the surveys is inconsistent. On one hand, the department is helping bankroll this movement by providing millions of dollars to help states develop and roll out new policies. Yet it's also putting on the brakes and is reluctant to use them for the federal prison population.

"Criminal sentences must be based on the facts, the law, the actual crimes committed, the circumstances surrounding each individual case, and the defendant's history of criminal conduct," Attorney General Eric Holder told the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in August. "They should not be based on unchangeable factors that a person cannot control, or on the possibility of a future crime that has not taken place."

Cost savings, however, make these tools appealing to states.

North Carolina, for instance, could save $560 million by 2017, a Justice Department report concluded. Between 2011 and 2014, the North Carolina prison population decreased by more than 3,000 people, according to the state. These reforms, including the use of risk assessments, have saved the state nearly $84 million, and it plans to route $32 million of those savings for community treatment programs. ..Source.. by EILEEN SULLIVAN and RONNIE GREENE

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