Thursday, May 2, 2013

Human Rights Watch Report Regarding Registration Requirements for Children Who Commit Sex Offenses

An interesting CNN article recently discussed a new Human Rights Watch report the examines the use of sex registration requirements to deal with children who commit sex offenses. The report is entitled "Raised on the Registry: The Irreparable Harm of Placing Children on Sex Offender Registries in the U.S." and states in its opening:
Upon release from juvenile detention or prison, youth sex offenders are subject to registration laws that require them to disclose continually updated information including a current photograph, height, weight, age, current address, school attendance, and place of employment. Registrants must periodically update this information so that it remains current in each jurisdiction in which they reside, work, or attend school. Often, the requirement to register lasts for decades and even a lifetime. Although the details about some youth offenders prosecuted in juvenile courts are disclosed only to law enforcement, most states provide these details to the public, often over the Internet, because of community notification laws. Residency restriction laws impose another layer of control, subjecting people convicted of sexual offenses as children to a range of rules about where they may live. Failure to adhere to registration, community notification, or residency restriction laws can lead to a felony conviction for failure to register, with lasting consequences for a young person’s life.

This report challenges the view that registration laws and related restrictions are an appropriate response to sex offenses committed by children. Even acknowledging the considerable harm that youth offenders can cause, these requirements operate as, in effect, continued punishment of the offender. While the law does not formally recognize registration as a punishment, Jacob’s case and those of many other youth sex offenders detailed below illustrate the often devastating impact it has on the youth offenders and their families. And contrary to common public perceptions, the empirical evidence suggests that putting youth offenders on registries does not advance community safety - including because it overburdens law enforcement with large numbers of people to monitor, undifferentiated by their dangerousness.
The entire Human Rights Watch Report is available here.  The CNN article is available here.

DOJ Report Recommends More Compassionate Release for Prisoners

According to a New York Times article, a recent report by the Department of Justice Inspector General recommends that the federal Bureau of Prisons utilize compassionate release more often to save money and reduce overcrowding.
The federal Bureau of Prisons could save taxpayer money and reduce overcrowding if it better managed a program for the “compassionate release” of inmates who are dying or facing other extraordinary circumstances, according to a new report by the Justice Department’s independent inspector general.

The federal prison system does not allow the parole of inmates before their sentences are completed, but in the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, Congress authorized the bureau to request that a judge reduce an inmate’s sentence for “extraordinary and compelling” circumstances. Such compassionate release does not have to be for reasons of terminal illness, but it generally is.

The 85-page report, released on Wednesday by Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz, examined compassionate releases from 2006 to 2011. It recommended that the bureau make greater use of its ability to release inmates who are taking up bed space — and using costly medical services — but who pose relatively little risk to the public because of factors like their age or poor health.

“We concluded that an effectively managed compassionate release program would result in cost savings for the B.O.P., as well as assist the B.O.P. in managing its continually growing inmate population and the resulting capacity challenges it is facing,” it said. “We further found that such a program would likely have a relatively low rate of recidivism.”

The recidivism rate within three years for all former federal inmates is around 41 percent. By contrast, just 5 of the 142 inmates released for compassionate reasons — or 3.5 percent — in the studied period were rearrested within three years, it said...

Charles E. Samuels Jr., the bureau’s director, said that he accepted most of the report’s recommendations, and that some improvements were already under way.
The entire article is available here.  The DOJ Inspector General Report is available here.