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Tuesday, September 04, 2012
Ind. Decisions - More on 7th Circuit decision last week on Indiana sex offender registry
- "US appeals court: Indiana sex offender registry lacks due process" from the AP
- "Court rules state sex offender registry unconstitutional," a report from Maureen Hayden of CNHI. A quote:
Schepers argued he was mistakenly classified as a “sexually violent predator” by the Indiana Department of Correction, which maintains the registry along with the Indiana Sheriff’s Association. Schepers also argued that the registry erroneously lists two rape convictions for him, instead of one.
In its ruling, the appeals noted the DOC allows currently incarcerated sex offenders to challenge pending registry information, but does not give sex offenders who’d already been released from prison the same opportunity.
“The policy provides no process whatsoever to an entire class of registrants — those who are not incarcerated,” and is therefore “constitutionally insufficient,” Circuit Judge Diane Wood wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel.
Ken Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, told the Reuters news service that he was “very happy” with Tuesday’s decision.
Falk said the state’s sex offender registry is plagued with errors. “There are examples of people who are being labeled as sex offenders who are not, and cannot get their names off the registry,” Falk said. “That is a stigma that follows you forever.”
In making its ruling Tuesday, the appeals court said the state would benefit by developing procedures to correct registry errors: “Erroneously labeling an offender a sexually violent predator imposes unnecessary monitoring costs on state law enforcement and reduces the efficacy of the registry in providing accurate information to the public,” the ruling said.
A legislative summer study committee has already started to take a look at the state’s sex offender registry, prompted in part by concerns that Indiana is out of compliance with a federal law that requires states to adopt strict standards for registering sex offenders and monitoring their whereabouts.
- "Righting the registry," an editorial from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. Some quotes:
The appellate court ruled that wrongly labeling an individual as a “sexually violent predator” was a violation of the due process clause.
“The policy provides no process whatsoever to an entire class of registrants – those who are not incarcerated,” and is therefore “constitutionally insufficient,” wrote Circuit Judge Diane Wood in the unanimous decision. She also noted that a means to correct errors could benefit the state.
“Erroneously labeling an offender a sexually violent predator imposes unnecessary monitoring costs on state law enforcement and reduces the efficacy of the registry in providing accurate information to the public,” Wood wrote.
The registry is operated by the DOC but administered by individual counties through the sheriffs’ departments, with varying attention to detail. The Allen County Sheriff’s Department meticulously maintains its list, removing the names of offenders listed in error.
“Accuracy is absolutely our goal here,” Cpl. Mike Smothermon said in an interview earlier this year. “The integrity of the information is our first priority.”
An effort to improve the registry statewide is currently under way through hearings of a legislative study committee.
At its first meeting last week, sheriff’s department Cpl. Jeff Shimkus, speaking on behalf of the Indiana Sheriff’s Association, told lawmakers that the 92 counties have finally settled on a set of “best guidelines.”
“We want the offender to understand his obligations, as well as law enforcement,” he told the Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee.
A registry that wrongly includes some offenders places a burden on the law enforcement officers charged with its oversight and can overwhelm the very audience it is intended to protect.
Tuesday’s decision should help turn the sex offender registry into the useful tool it was meant to be.
Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 4, 2012 09:54 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions