Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Alex City Outlook still plods forth with Sex Offender article, but adds quotes from ReFORM-AL

Last week, ReFORM-AL sent out an action alert regarding the announcement from the Alex City Outlook, which planned on publishing the names of all registered citizens in the county. Response has been overwhelming. I believe this rural paper was shocked there was so much opposition to this story. Friday evening, ReFORM-AL founder Derek Logue was approached for an interview by the paper to offer a balance to the article.

We may not have stopped the article from being published, but at least some of the facts were published. It is also encouraging to know that the majority of the Outlook's rural Alabama readers have never looked at the registry.

Thanks to everyone who contacted the Outlook with their questions and concerns. It is encouraging knowing that people do indeed respond to our action alerts!


SEX OFFENDERS: Do you have one living near you
Published 8:07am Monday, September 14, 2015
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There are 152 registered sex offenders in Tallapoosa County, according to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. That means that one in 270 residents in our county is a sex offender.

To view the entire registry click this link ********

Even though the number on the list maintained by the Tallapoosa County Sheriff’s Office is smaller at 126, no one would argue that the number living here is high by any standards.

Tallapoosa County Sheriff Jimmy Abbett said that while the numbers are high, he said that anyone looking at the registry should understand all the details surrounding the crimes. Those are available on the website.

Because of the way the law is, they must appear on the same list with pedophiles, serial rapists and must register quarterly with his office.

“Our registry is one that was put together to be very user friendly,” Abbett said. “You are able to tailor a search so that you can track an offender or be alerted when there is any change or when an offender locates in your immediate area. It is updated immediately and what you see there is the latest information available.

“That’s what the law requires. Now is the law fair? I think most would agree that when you sit down and look exactly at what happened in each case, they may change their opinion on whether they think what happen is really a sex crime.

“But on the other hand, most of the people who are on the registry are people you would want to be aware of, particularly if they are living in a place where you or your family may come in contact with them. So until things change, we are doing what we can to comply with the law and present the information in a way where it is easy to use for anyone who wants to access it.”

While the names are available online in a searchable format, 72 percent of the people surveyed in an informal Outlook poll said they have never been to the site to check to see if they had any offenders living near them.

The website www.city-data.com reports that 1 in 343 people in Alexander City is a registered sex offender, while 1 in 23 people in Kellyton have the same status. Other municipalities show ratios like 1 in 54 in Jacksons Gap, 1 in 106 in Daviston, 1 in 139 in Dadeville and 1 in 200 in Camp Hill.

In Alabama, 1 in 505 people is a registered offender.

Some may get lost in the numbers. But here are some things to consider.

Keep in mind that a sex offender does not have to register until they are released from custody. So readers may look for a name of an offender who has been recently arrested and not find the name.

The discrepancy in the numbers – 152 recorded by the state, 126 by the sheriff’s department and 98 pictures – exists for multiple reasons. Some offenders may have committed an offense that predates the registry, so for tracking purposes they are in the database at the sheriff’s department, but they are not on the electronic registry. Other offenders may be under the age of 18, so the names of those offenders are not published.

Ohio resident Derek Logue is a reform advocate who heads an outreach called REFORM ALABAMA and the website www.oncefallen.com. He is working to end the registries nationwide because he says they creates an atmosphere of hate, vigilantism, unemployment and homelessness.

He said Alabama has the most demanding reporting law in the nation. In his words: “tough isn’t always smart.”

He said that being on a registry makes it almost impossible to find or keep a job or even find a place to live. Logue said a search that is this easy prompts many potential employers to shut down a registered applicant rather than asking questions about why the person appears on the list.

“These registries have proven to not be effective in any way,” Logue said.  “The registry, residency laws and community notification no impact on reducing recidivism.

“The truth is that most of the people on registry are not trenchcoat-wearing pedophiles. They are people who made a one-time mistake and they are paying for it well behind their sentences. In essence, it is a life sentence because of the registry.

Regardless of whether you ever offend or do anything else wrong, your name is always there. You may be outside the bars, but you are still in prison.”

So if all the information is available online, why is it published here in The Outlook today? It is to create awareness and because here in Tallapoosa County, many do not have daily access to the Internet.

Tallapoosa County has a connectivity rate of 62 percent. If you take away the 12.2 percent who say their only access to Internet is through public access from libraries, schools, kiosks and mobile devices, that means that less than 50 percent of our residents have Internet access at home.

“Awareness is a good thing,” Abbett said. “There are a lot of efforts to reform the law and dismiss what the registry is designed to do. But if this information can be used as it is intended, for awareness, then it has done its job.”

Do you want more information?

Go to the county website, ****.

Select “Sex Offenders” in the list on the left side of the page.

Click the “Sex Offender Watch” link in the new page.

At this point the user will be redirected to ******.

Here there are various criteria to use for a search that is organized by tabs into area, name, city and compliance status.

After having chosen one of these options and after having entered the information into the search field, select search.

The results will appear in a scroll down list, and depending on their number, could appear across multiple pages.

For example, a quick search of Alexander City generates 42 results of individuals and their profiles, with the details of their recent and past charges and current location.

The site is updated continuously so that any new registry will immediately appear in the results of a search.

However, for anyone that does not have access to this website, these records can also be viewed at the Tallapoosa County Sheriff’s Office.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Not-So-Sweet-Home Alabama by Steven Yoder

This article was originally published on July 16, 2015 at lifeonthelist.org

The Constitution’s ex post facto clause prohibits passing a law that retroactively increases the punishment for a criminal act that an offender committed before the law was passed. But in an ingenious 2003 Supreme Court ruling, a 6-3 conservative majority held that retroactive placement on a state sex offender registry–being put on a registry that was created after an offender committed his crime–doesn’t violate ex post facto because registration isn’t punishment.

Daily life for those on state sex offender registries makes that claim hard to square with reality. Nowhere is that more true than in Alabama–registrants in that state are subject to a regime every bit as grinding as that of Cold-War Soviet Russia.

Take the case of 60-year-old Michael McGuire. In 2010, after several decades as a hair stylist and jazz musician in Washington D.C., he decided to move back to his hometown of Montgomery to be with his aging mother and extended family.

He’d committed a serious crime 25 years earlier–he’d raped and assaulted his 30-year-old girlfriend, who he’d been with for five years. He was convicted of sexual assault in a Colorado court and served his full jail term, spending three years locked up and a fourth on parole.

After leaving prison, he got his life back together and had no subsequent arrests or convictions.

When in 2010 he arrived in Montgomery, he took the advice of his brother, a local attorney–he visited the police department to confirm that he wouldn’t be subject to the state’s sex offender laws. His crime, after all, happened 26 years before the state’s passage of its most recent 2011 sex offender law, and he’d never been on a registry in any of the states where he’d lived.

What police told him has sent his life into a tailspin. He’s indeed required to be on the state registry–today his photo, name, and address are on the state website. He can’t live within 2000 feet of schools, parks, or playgrounds, which puts nearly all of the city off limits to him. He pays rent on his and his wife’s apartment but can’t live there because it’s in a banned zone. The same is true for the homes of his other relatives since their apartments and homes are too close to those places where children congregate. He can’t live in a home with children, even though his crime didn’t involve a child.

No one will hire him, and he can’t take music gigs because the law also bans offenders from working within 2000 feet of places where children congregate–all of the venues that have offered him work are in banned zones. In fact, 85 percent of jobs in the city are off limits to registrants. Half of Alabama’s registrants are unemployed, eight times the statewide average.

To travel outside the city, he needs a travel permit, which he can get only by applying in person at the police department.

And as is true for all of the state’s registrants, his driver’s license includes the words CRIMINAL SEX OFFENDER in big red letters.

Today he’s homeless, living under a Montgomery bridge. He’s required to show up in person twice a week at the police department to register by filling out a three-page form. If he misses one appointment, it’s a felony. Alabama’s law requires lifetime registration, and there’s no provision allowing registrants to be removed.

Around the country, thousands like McGuire are on sex offender registries for crimes they committed years before passage of the state laws that created those registries.

In oral arguments during the 2003 Supreme Court ruling, then-lawyer John Roberts (yes, that John Roberts) argued that Alaska’s ex post facto application of its sex offender law should be preserved. Registering with the police four times a year, he said, is much like filling out an application to join Price Club.*

The John Robertses of the world may wish to believe that registration involves just a bit of paperwork. But beliefs aside, the sky really isn’t green, it’s blue. Price Club is to sex offender registration what a hotel room is to a jail cell, what a job interview is to interrogation at a CIA black site, what a conference nametag is to the yellow Star of David badge.

Courts are starting to listen–lawyers and their clients have won cases in state courts in Ohio and Maryland in the last few years. And one day, that 2003 decision, much like Plessy v. Ferguson and Dred Scott v. Sandford, will be upended, standing as a testament to judges’ ability to reach decisions they’re comfortable with, rather than those that fit the facts.

*At another point, Solicitor General Ted Olson defended the law by telling the Justices that the reoffense rate among sex offenders is higher than for other crimes–in fact, the opposite is true.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized on July 16, 2015 by admin.

Monday, September 7, 2015

ACTION ALERT-- Coming this Saturday to the Alexander City Outlook-- Naming, shaming, and intimidating Registered Citizens

UPDATE: Derek Logue, founder of ReFORM-AL, was interviewed by the Alex City Outlook and may be in an article accompanying the article announced below. As of 9/13/15 we are awaiting the release of the paper.

I am adding the contact info below so you can voice your concerns to the Alexander City Outlook, who plans on publishing the names of every Registered Citizen in the area in its Saturday paper. You know this disgusting act will lead to more violence and discrimination about registered persons and their loved ones. 


COMING SATURDAY: Does a sex offender live near you?
Published 7:10am Monday, September 7, 2015
Does a sex offender live near you?

It seems like a question that we should all know the answer to. But despite some of the toughest reporting laws in the country and easy access to sex-offender data via the Internet, most people simply don’t take the time to check.

The state feels so strongly, that it requires offenders to register every 90 days.

An informal survey conducted by The Outlook showed that more people had looked at the names of those listed as Ashley Madison users than had visited the Tallapoosa County Sheriff’s Department Sex Offender Registry.

There are 152 registered sex offenders in Tallapoosa County, according to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. That means that one in 270 residents in our county is a sex offender. Looking at the numbers city-by-city, the numbers are even more staggering.

To help raise awareness, The Outlook will publish the names and photos of all the sex offenders in next weekend’s paper.

If you want to be aware, pick up a copy of the Sept. 12 Outlook.

Here is the contact info for the Alex City Outlook. Feel free to let them know what you thunk.

(256) 234-4281

(256) 234-6550

548 Cherokee Road, Alexander City, AL 35010

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 999, Alexander City, AL 35011

Kenneth Boone

Mitch Sneed
Managing Editor