Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Letter to the Editor: New Sex Offender Law will cost the state much more money than it will lose

The Marion County Journal Record serves the rural area of Marion County, and does not have online service. However, this letter to the editor is a very good one and worth sharing. Below is the article, copied verbatim:

Marion County Journal Record
PO Drawer 1477
Hamilton AL 35570

September 14, 2011

Dear Editor,

I am writing in response to your front page article titled, “New State Laws Govern Sex Offenders,” dated September 14, 2011.

The Laws are not needed to "prevent" anything from happening. After all it is a proven fact NO LAW PREVENTS CRIME!!! Yet this new law supposes that it can prevent crime while enforcing stricter standards on individuals who have successfully completed their sentences and the state is trying to find lame excuses to lock up these individuals.

This new law is tantamount to the legislature passing a new law that would restrict travel to anyone who has ever had a speeding ticket and require that they wear a GPS to monitor their speed while driving. The reason would be that convicted speeders are more likely to engage in future speeding so we have to monitor them.  There would be a public outcry! The difference here is that we are dealing with former sex offenders and therefore it is OK. Well, it isn’t.

This new law passed here in Alabama brings Alabama into compliance with the Adam Walsh Act (AWA), which is short for “The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006.”  The controversial federal sex offender law intended to standardize sex offender laws across the country. The AWA is an attempt to pass minimum national standards and continuity in sex offender legislation. Every state must substantially comply with the SORNA (public registry) provisions of the AWA by July 2009 or take a 10% cut in Federal law enforcement grants. That deadline was extended twice, first to July 2010 then 2011.  As of the July 27, 2011 deadline, 14 states, 9 Native American tribes, and 1 US Territory have become "substantially" compliant with the AWA.

The state felt pressured to pass a quick law due to the threat of losing 10% of Byrne/ JAG funds if they failed to comply. Our state government is using “Predator Panic” to keep the flow of federal money to the state, create jobs and to make the politicians look good in the eye of the general public so they can get re-elected. It is all about the money. That, and trying to find lame excuses to lock up people who have successfully completed their sentences… keep them in the system so that the state can continue to receive funding for their programs.

Alabama did not learn from Ohio's bad example. Alabama needed only look at recent history with Ohio's battle over the AWA (known in Ohio as SB 10) to see why the law was such a bad idea. Ohio’s law has twice been declared unconstitutional, which opponents had warned would happen. Thousands of sex offenders have been or will be reclassified — two times. The funding the state stood to lose if it did not conform — typically hundreds of thousands of dollars a year — has been offset by millions spent complying with the law and defending against thousands of lawsuits. (read the full article at )

To make matters worse for the state, the new law does not allocate state funding for enforcement. Combine this fact with the fact that this law will definitely increase the prison population for petty violations; the State of Alabama will be in the same situation as Ohio, spending millions while only recouping hundred of thousands of dollars.

I would also like to mention that the Times Daily in Florence published an article on Sunday August 21, 2011 titled, “Professors warn about new sex offenders law” (read the full article at ). The article states that the effect is that the threat of going back to prison for committing new offenses may seem less objectionable than living on the outside under very restrictive rules. Some of these requirements, particularly the ones that involve informing the public about the identity and whereabouts of sex offenders, are so costly to offenders that they become more, rather than less, likely to commit more offenses.

This new law is a lose/lose situation. The new law violates Due Process Rights, Violates the U.S. Constitution Ex-Post-Facto clauses, and it is unnecessarily punitive to the individual while placing an undue burden on the former sex offender to comply. And in a time when states are experiencing a financial crisis, this new law will cost the state much more money than it will lose… money we don’t have… Money that could be used for education instead of prisons.


Richard Jackson, Jr.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Marshall County woman in land dispute with Registrant 
What is it with WAFF? This is the second stupid registrant bashing story this week. Had the man in question was not a registrant, this would not be news. Plus the woman needs to be in trouble for harassment.

Marshall County woman in land dispute with sex offender

Posted: Sep 23, 2011 7:57 PM EDT Updated: Sep 23, 2011 7:58 PM EDT

There is a land dispute in Marshall County between a woman and a convicted sex offender.
He has allegedly moved onto the woman's property without permission.
That's at 588 Newport highway just outside of grant, the property owner told us she's working to get him off her land.
The man was living next door but was picked up in a roundup last month when it was discovered a child was living there.
He then created a residence next door and law enforcement says they cannot do anything about property line disputes.
"That's definitely an issue when you have little girls running around. I mean, you worry about the children," said Karla Hardin, who says the man is on her property.
Hardin said she always worries about sex offenders living near her but she never believed it would be on her own property.
"So he lives in a shed running a power cord from his shed to his wife's single wide," said Hardin.
Sheriff's officials confirmed to WAFF 48 news that Steven Edward Southers was picked up in a recent roundup when it was determined he was living in a mobile home with a child.
But after he made bond, Hardin says he put up a shed she said is 30 feet on her property, so she sought law enforcement to have him removed.
"I went to the courthouse and I've been told to go to civil court over this because it's a property line issue," said Hardin.
Despite having a survey done Wednesday and the property line marked between the structure and his former residence, Hardin says he hasn't left.
For now Hardin told us all she can do is warn the public about who is living on her property with a sign, but she says even that caused trouble.
"Police were out here last night and they left and my sign is still hanging," said Hardin.
Southers said the deeds were messed up years ago and that he's on his own property.
Hardin says she will have to spend her money for civil court to get him off of her property.
Copyright 2011 WAFF. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"The Silver Haired Legislature" looks to out registrants in nursing homes

This is a bad idea borrowed from similar states like Oklahoma, which is trying to create segregated nursing homes for registrants. And Alabama remembers just how well segregation worked in the past, right? Another stupid report from WAFF 48. They should change their affiliation to FOX.

Cullman County, AL (WAFF) -
It's the last place you might expect to find a sex offender living, but it's places like nursing homes you would think would be the last place they could be lurking. 
Currently in Alabama, there's no law that says a nursing home has to disclose if a sex offender lives there or is being admitted. But a one group is trying to change that.
For three years, Tonya Glassco was the primary caregiver for her 79-year-old mother-in-law, Valeria Freeman.
She and her husband moved in with her and couldn't foresee ever moving out because she was in such poor health and her Alzheimer was getting worse.
When Glassco got sick, she and her husband made the decision to place her mother-in-law in a nursing home. She said it was the hardest decision she ever had to make and it was just her mother in law.
She looked at least four facilities. She asked numerous questions about the facility, its staff and policies. She also asked if there were any sex offenders living in the facility.
Hazel Bentley Kine with The Silver Haired Legislature, a group devoted to addressing the needs of our elderly, said she found out there were attacks being done to our seniors in nursing homes. So she has sponsored a resolution in the Silver Haired Legislature requiring all nursing homes to disclose if a registered sex offender is currently residing or is being admitted into a facility.
Kine said she has written a resolution for the last three years asking simply that notification be given for seniors who are in these facilities of any sexual offender that is on the premise.
Currently, no such law exists in Alabama and Representative Jeremy Oden of Cullman wants to change that. He presented a bill in the house this last session. House Bill 186 requires notification be given to all residents of any sexual offender residing in a facility.
The bill mandates that the owners of the nursing home or assisted living facility that if they receive an individual who may be a sexual predator that they first notify the residents. They also notify The Department of Senior Services and also the local district attorney there is a sex offender in that facility.
It didn't make it up for a vote this session, but Oden plans to reintroduce it in the next session.
Oden said there is no data as to how many sex offenders are living in Alabama nursing homes. He said as far as residents being assaulted, right now there's not a very good record of that but said it's a small number.
But according to a nursing home watchdog group, in 2008 there were over 1600 registered sex offenders living in facilities with seniors across the country. But members of the Silver Haired Legislature said there really is no way of knowing how many seniors are attacked in facilities, because many go unreported. [MY NOTE: Again with the underreporting myth]
Members of The Silver Haired Legislature said if residents don't remember it they can't report it. Even if it is reported, if they can't identify their predator, they can't testify against him.
Frank Brown, President of The Alabama Nursing Home Association said under Alabama law, nursing homes are prohibited from admitting anyone who might be a danger to themselves or the general population.
Nursing homes do screen potential employees for sexual offenses. But as for potential residents Brown said screenings are not required.
Brown, who also owns a nursing home, admits the association hasn't really looked closely at the bill. But he said he really doesn't see this as a problem in Alabama. He said there has been but one or two sexual instances in nursing homes in the state since his 35 years in the business.
Brown said he's not opposed to providing notification, but if nursing facilities are required to do background checks on residents, it will be an expensive process. With the average stay in a nursing facility around six months, Brown said he just doesn't think residents are at risk.
"Is a bank robber going to rob a bank from my nursing home? is a car thief going to go steal another car? folks in nursing homes are awfully sick. they don't get around to much," he said.
Members of the Silver Hair Legislature said if this bill is made into law, it would protect the facility, the residents and the families.
Carol Oden said it would be peace of mind knowing that her family member would be taken care of and she would know that they would not be mistreat in any way and they would be safe.
Glassco said that is a primary concern for her mother-in-law who she says is confined to a wheelchair. She said she just doesn't want anyone to take advantage of her. 
Until House Bill 186 becomes law, it's up to the individual to ask for information relating to sex offenders living in nursing homes and long term care facilities. Brown said if the bill picks up steam The Alabama Nursing Home Association will take a look at it, and suggest changes if needed. He said if it is a good bill, the association will support it. If it is not, they assure the bill would not pass.
Copyright 2011 WAFF. All rights reserved.