Monday, October 26, 2009

Can Sex Offenders be Banned From Church?

Most recently, Profs Berman and Dorf weigh in. If churches are anything like schools, I am surprised that the law does not provide for limited exceptions for attending church services. Perhaps the state could have thought of that, or will they add a provision to avoid going to court?

Or, with the constitutional analysis pending, will sex offenders be further separated into legal categories, such as dangerous, dangerous to children, and not dangerous, not violent, and no risk? Many, from what I understand, present absolutely no risk of reoffending whatsoever. And that's the point of these laws, correct? Let's get them off the registries! It will make it easier to track the ones requiring the attention.

What might that do to the notion of tracking, registries, and bans from residence in proximity to schools, school bus stops and such?

Friday, October 16, 2009

One Parthenogenetically Reborn Business

American prisons make the inmates they are made for: the thesis of Prof. Sharon Dolovich and many works to whom she refers in her new SSRN piece (download here) to appear in Harvard Law and Policy Review symposium.

Mass incarceration has become a virgin birth industry. It keeps laying eggs and the eggs are us. From the view of an egg who both justice and society failed, and having collected a five year degree from the Texas Dept of Criminal Justice along with an M.A. in Government from Notre Dame, and J.D. from The American University, I could not agree more. Prof. Dolovich puts it all together.

Her title,

Incarceration American Style

Here is the RUNAWAY FREIGHT TRAIN which reproduces itself at great cost to the taxpayer:

"society never has to confront the fact that the perceived need to control an out-of-control population may stem from the conditions, both inside and outside the prison, to which the incarcerated have been subjected.

The absence of any meaningful re-integrative project is thus revealed as both cause and effect of the system’s reproductive success; without such a project, prisoners’ re-entry efforts will in many cases be doomed to fail, and one can expect no real social investment to reintegrate those regarded as (non)people unfit for society.

Here is an effective recipe for simultaneous social abandonment and continued carceral control, as those who have been incarcerated and subsequently deprived of any meaningful social or psychological support are sure to become ever more marginalized from the body politic, and the more marginalized they become, the more likely they are to wind up back in prison."

That troubles me. It could be you too, innocently convicted and trying to re-make your life. Do you know anybody like that?

There is hope here:

Emphasize "the humanity and individuality of the people we put behind bars. It is embodied in Taifa and Beane’s call for an evidencebased approach to tackling the risk factors for criminal conduct; in Judge Gertner’s endorsement of evidence-based sentencing practices and guided discretion; and even in Clear and Austin’s macro-level demand that policymakers reduce the prison population by eliminating mandatory sentencing.

The self-perpetuating character of the American carceral system will not be disrupted until society as a whole begins to see that it is fellow human beings we are incarcerating. Until this fact is recognized, the wise strategies for change proposed by these authors will not be widely or seriously considered. But once it is recognized, those same strategies will be irresistible.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Actual Innocence and DNA Testing Waivers

In this post exploring DNA testing waivers, the real issue of interest to me is why innocent accused plead guilty to crimes they did not commit. Does this interest anybody else? Does it not trouble you?

A snippet: Defense lawyers who have worked on DNA appeals strongly oppose the waivers, saying that innocent people sometimes plead guilty -- mainly to get lighter sentences -- and that denying them the ability to prove their innocence violates a fundamental right. One quarter of the 243 people exonerated by DNA had falsely confessed to crimes they didn't commit, and 16 of them pleaded guilty....

from the Post article Doc cites.

Prison Reform and Justice Go Hand in Glove

New York could be the model for prison/crim justice reform efforts nationwide. See the NYT article here, contributed by Robert Gangi, executive director of the Correctional Association of New York, a nonprofit organization that monitors prison conditions.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Stimulating the Stimulus

Here is a crazy idea: devalue the dollar which will lead to immediate demand abroad for us goods and services creating exports and an influx of cash to exporters and the overall economy. The free market at work works well! Cons: consequences of a falling dollar?

I see the Wapo leads with an article on the economy today, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi reviews the options for rapidly lifting lagging employment indicators.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

On a Slow News Day ... Dominated by War, Health Care and Letterman's Sex Life

Purchasing a lawsuit by the good citizens of North Carolina is shown here (the comments on Prof Berman's blog are interesting). The law banning sex offender from church because it has a day care is being challenged, AP reports here (where experts Prof Jonathan Turley, G-town U., Sara Tofte, Human Rights Watch, and Sara Totonchi, Southern Center for Human Rights weigh in). Katherine Parker of ACLU is assisting in this case.

And thank you anonymous for your kind comment which you posted here. Actual innocence is alive and well in criminal justice reform.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Whats the Point?

Jumping into the thicket I am going to venture that award winning producer Roman Polanski has done his time. It is 30 years of self imposed exile. To jail him now is merely a gesture to the idea that justice must be strict admitting of no compassion, that to set an example Roman must be punished more than that which he has imposed on himself. I disagree with this justice. Justice should be able to bend over backwards to fit unique circumstances.

What happened was rape and illegal. The victim no longer wishes to see Roman punished. It is over and has been for a long time. The state's interest in putting Roman in jail is far from clear at this point, has no point. The exile has been long enough.

On this, Robinson at Wapo has spoken here, calling the crime "brutalization." In his opinion, I'm not sure what he really thinks. Should Roman go to jail? I guess he thinks so. What purpose would it serve?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Supreme Court takes up Sex Offender Issues

The Court, already committed to one ruling on laws involving sex offenders, on Wednesday added another: Carr v. U.S., 08-1301. That case, from Indiana, asks the Court to interpret the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act of 2006, requiring those convicted of sex crimes to register with state and federal databases. The question before the Court is whether it was unconstitutional for the U.S. Attorney General to apply the law retroactively to an individual whose underlying crime occurred before the law was enacted by Congress — in other words, an “Ex Post Facto” clause issue. (The other sex offender case the Court has on its decision docket, but not yet scheduled for argument, is United States v. Comstock, 08-1224, testing the constitutionality of continued imprisonment of a sex offender considered to be dangerous, after that individual has completed serving a prison sentence for the crimes.)

Docket: 08-1301
Title: Carr v. United States
Issue: Whether a person may be criminally prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. § 2250 for failure to register when the defendant’s underlying offense and travel in interstate commerce both predated the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act’s enactment ; whether the Ex Post Facto Clause precludes prosecution under § 2250(a) of a person whose underlying offense and travel in interstate commerce both predated SORNA’s enactment.