We received this comment from a registrant in Douglas County:
“Well, when I went in to do my 6-month SOR registration at the Douglas County Sheriffs office, when I asked Andrew Berkshire politely for a copy for my own records, he responded: ‘It’s all digital now, there’s nothing to sign off on, and we can’t print you a copy of the form.’ I was taken aback by this because that copy I request each time is my only proof I registered! So the next day I called Tim Dunning’s phone directly and left a message about why I couldn’t get a copy. One of the lieutenants called me back and affirmed that they indeed aren’t ’able to make printouts anymore.’ Am I the only one they are denying or is this happening to other people at the Douglas County Sheriffs office?”
Yes, it is happening to others and it has to stop. FACTS checked with sheriff’s offices in Sarpy, Lancaster, Dodge and Hall counties. In Sarpy and Hall counties there is no problem: If a registrant wants a copy of the papers s/he just signed, the registrant gets the copies. Dodge County Sheriff Steve Hespen didn’t return our call.
Lancaster County told us that the record is “out there on the website” after the person who takes verification information “pushes the button” and you can’t get a hard copy that proves you complied. The Lancaster spokeswoman could not say which website when we asked. She just insisted that the info is “out there.”
This means you can go to prison in Nebraska because of a clerical error. The state’s record on this is not good enough to be trusted.
A registrant (author of this post) who ALWAYS gets a copy of the verification papers had this experience:
A state trooper and his U.S. Marshall sidekick show up at my door and show me their records that show my address is incorrect in registry records. They tell me they want me to get that fixed. Then they quickly duck into their SUV when I start taking their picture. (I can photograph and videotape what I want to on my own property).
I go through the file of verification records I keep — hard copies of the papers I sign. Guess what? I have always given the correct address. The error is not mine – it happened when someone was pushing the button, as the Lancaster County spokesperson told me. Under Nebraska law I could go to prison for the county’s clerical mistake and if I did not have hard copies to prove my innocence — well, you know the rest of that story. I simply cannot trust that the county or the state will properly document my compliance with the law, and because of my activism on this issue they might have some reason to fail in the task. I always will ask for and receive hard copies of the record that I made my compliance visits.
FACTS recommends that Douglas and Lancaster counties stop depriving registrants of their ability to document compliance. We didn’t make the laws, you did. Now live with them properly or change them.
A exceptionally powerful video op-ed in the New York Times shows how laws like Nebraska’s LB 285 are embarrassing failures.
“In the past 25 years, the laws governing sex offenses have gone from punitive to draconian to senseless. The term “sex offender” simply covers too wide a range now, painting the few truly heinous crimes and the many relatively innocuous ones with the same broad brush. This overly broad approach wastes resources that could be better spent, for instance, on clearing the huge and unforgivable backlog of untested rape evidence kits.
“We see even deeper problems: the explosion of sex offender registries, stringent yet demonstrably ineffective residency restrictions, and the bizarre world of “civil commitment,” where we punish what someone might do rather than what he or she has done. All of this suggests that our entire approach to dealing with sex offenders has gone tragically off the rails.”
What is the University of Nebraska-Omaha research commissioned by the state Legislature finding about former sex offenders? How effective in “protecting the public” have been the new laws that were put in place with passage of LB 285 of 2009?
Answers to these and other questions are included in the May issue of Ninety-Five%, the monthly newsletter for donors to FACTS and Nebraskans Unafraid. The newsletter drops in the mail soon. In June, we celebrate one year of the publication of Ninety-Five%.
An interim report was delivered to the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee in December 2012, and its findings are eye-opening. We have a copy of the report and our donor newsletter gives you details. The newsletter also continues our series on the absurdities in Nebraska law on former sex offenders.
The newsletter is sent each month to donors who make gifts of $5 per month or more to FACTS. You may send your check FACTS, PO Box 460664, Papillion, NE 68046.
Nebraska registrants always should document verification visits — whether it is the legally mandated check-in with the sheriff’s office, or the legally questionable visit to your home.
FACTS has reports that Douglas County now tells registrants that records are kept electronically and no paperwork needs to be signed. Since it is a violation of the law for you not to check in, FACTS recommends that you find a way to document your visit. We are not saying anyone would lie about whether you actually checked in, but it is possible so you should protect yourself. One way to do that is to always ask for a copy of the verification form so you have a record that you did in fact report.
The home visits also should be documented. You have a right to photograph or videotape what happens on your property, a fact recently reinforced in an Omaha World-Herald story. Even though there is no clear legal authority for officers to come to your home just to check up on you, you should always be nice to them. But be sure you make a record that they were there. One good way to do that is to use your camera.
MEMO TO OMAHA REGISTRANTS who completed their sentences two or more years ago:
You probably are eligible to vote and you should get registered. Uh, we mean get registered to vote. We know you’re already, you know, registered.
There is a mayoral race coming up, and you should be sure to express yourself at the ballot box. FACTS neither endorses nor opposes any candidate. But candidates for public office have records, just like you do.
So, three simple steps:
- Register to vote. Here is a useful link. Here is another useful link.
- Make sure you know the record of what each candidate has done or failed to do on the sex offender issue.
- Vote in your family’s interest.
Nebraska law restricting, monitoring and publicly targeting former sex offenders is premised on one sentence in state law that says sex offenders are high risks to reoffend.
So what would — or should — happen if it is proven that the sentence is not true? What if it is proven that former sex offenders are no more likely, or less likely, to reoffend than anyone else?
Know what? That sentence, enshrined in Nebraska law, IS UNTRUE. And it is not just a bunch of former offenders saying that. All of the research proves it.
In 2009, the Legislature passed the state’s version of the Adam Walsh Act (AWA), which tossed out risk assessment and substituted the AWA’s conviction-based system, throwing every former sex offender in the state onto the public website.
So what would — or should — happen if it is proven that people who are on Nebraska’s website for life (seemingly the worst of the worst) actually ARE THE LEAST LIKELY TO REOFFEND?
Know what? Research shows that AWA and Nebraska do have it wrong — the “lifers” are least likely to reoffend.
It is obvious Nebraska sex offender law does more harm than good and the case is strong for returning to the pre-2010 system at a minimum.
When we found out that cutting people open and letting them bleed actually was fairly harmful medical practice, we changed the practice. Maybe more to the point, when we found out that a propensity for criminality could not be predicted based on the bony bumps on a person’s head, most of us stopped trusting phrenology.
- All of the research shows that Nebraska’s version of AWA, LB 285 of 2009, does not protect the public.
- The state’s mounting losses in the courts over the law in question already have cost Nebraska taxpayers at least half a million dollars.
- Even the Omaha World-Herald recognizes the need to change Nebraska’s dark-ages law on former sex offenders.
A sympathetic company is looking for a new employee, and is posting here first! If you are an out-of-work registrant who likes working outside and is handy with tools, this could be the job for you.
JOB DESCRIPTION Employee will work on empty homes, with little to no interaction with other people. Applicants must be able to work independently, have a moderate to high level of computer skills, be very organized, trustworthy, and reliable. Most work will be relatively unskilled, and semi-skilled work can be trained.
REQUIREMENTS Applicants must have their own internet connection, reliable truck, supply their own tools, and insurance.
PAY This position will be paid by the job and applicants should expect months-long periods of light and heavy workloads.
LOCATION This position will be a work-from-home location. Applicants from all over Nebraska are sought, but current preference is in western Nebraska (Alliance and North Platte).
TIMEFRAME After training begins, work will flow as quickly as a week after hiring, but could be closer to a month.
Interested applicants please contact Eric at (402) 905-8160 for more information.
A law enforcement officer poses as a 15-year-old girl and a man in his 50s, who also happened to be a prosecutor, tries to entice via Internet the posing officer into sex. Many people are in prison after being convicted on such charges.
But an Alabama judge tossed out the charges against the prosecutor, saying that there was no victim in the case. That’s right — the judge says the charges don’t hold up because the posing officer was not in fact a child victim.
Either the judge recognizes such prosecutions as the entrapments that they are. Or the rules are just different if you’re a state prosecutor. Judge for yourself by reading more here.