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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Ind. Decisions - Court hears arguments on sex offender policy

Yesterday the Indiana Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Jane Doe v. J. David Donahue. Here is the description from the Court website:

Inmates who have been convicted of sexual offenses with minors and are therefore subject to a Department of Correction directive restricting their visitation with minors filed this class action against the D.O.C.’s Commissioner and argued the directive violates their visitation rights under a state statute and federal constitutional. The Marion Superior Court granted the Commissioner summary judgment. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Doe v. Donahue, 829 N.E.2d 99 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005), vacated. The Supreme Court has granted a petition to transfer the case, thus vacating the opinion of the Court of Appeals, and has assumed jurisdiction over the appeal. Attorney for Doe:Kenneth Falk,Indianapolis, IN. Attorneys for Donahue: Attorney General Steve Carter,Deputy Attorney General, Francis Barrow,Indianapolis, IN.
Mike Smith of the AP has a story today on the arguments, headlined "Court hears arguments on sex offender policy: Rules to protect kids visiting prison." Some quotes:
A state prison policy violates Indiana law and the U.S. Constitution by prohibiting virtually all visitation between minors and child sex offenders, the Indiana Civil Liberties Union told the state Supreme Court yesterday.

ICLU attorney Ken Falk, representing inmates in a class-action lawsuit, said not every imprisoned child sex offender poses a risk to minors. He said some visits should be allowed if the inmate and child are separated by a physical barrier.

The state argued that the policy was designed to protect children. In a legal brief it said there had been past incidents when children were sexually abused in visiting areas while guards were presen. * * *

Under a policy imposed by the Department of Correction in 2001, inmates convicted of sex offenses against minors were not allowed visits from children. The agency said the offenders had a high risk of committing sex crimes again and could traumatize children in psychological as well as physical ways.

The policy was revised in 2002 to allow certain child sex offenders who had been denied visitation with children to request a review for reconsideration. If granted permission, the child visitor had to be an immediate family member and not a victim of the offender.

But Falk said the standards for getting permission were extremely difficult to meet, and between September 2002 and June 2003 only nine offenders were allowed visitation with a minor under the policy. * * *

Deputy Attorney General Frances Barrow said that even if a child sex offender and minor were separated by a physical barrier, "you still have that psychological effect of face-to-face contact." She said there were more than 2,000 child sex offenders in state prisons and suggested that the department would have to hire more guards to supervise an increase in the number of visits if the policy is struck down.

Listen to yesterday's oral arguments in Jane Doe v. J. David Donahue here, via the Court's "Oral Arguments Online." The vacated Court of Appeals decision is available here.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 10, 2005 07:29 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions