Target is on Target With ‘Ban the Box’ Policy

Second in a series by Eddie Sidgeweck
From the StarTribune in Minneapolis:

Target Corp. will roll out a national program early next year that will eliminate the box on employment applications that asks job seekers whether they have a criminal record.

The initiative, part of a budding “Ban the Box” movement across the country, calls for employers to wait until a prospective employee is being interviewed or has a provisional job offer before inquiring whether he or she has a criminal past. The idea is that ex-offenders will have a better chance at getting a job if they’re not eliminated at the very beginning of their job search. 

“It’s a big deal in the sense that people with criminal records are going to be given a better chance at employment,” said Dan Oberdorfer, an employment lawyer with the Minneapolis law firm Leonard Street and Deinard. “So earlier in the process employers will have a completely open mind.”
Read the complete story here.

Kudos to Target! I’m going to do all my shopping there in the future. The “ban the box” policy makes sense for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it could make Target popular among the friends and family members of the millions of people this nation sends to prison. Families victimized by a twisted criminal justice system are growing in number. They represent a large and growing group of consumers. I hope they all take notice of this enlightened move by Target.

Speaking of Target: It was in Target’s online store where I first saw the “Come Back With a Warrant” “welcome” mat for your front door. I was going to promote it here in hopes that you might spend some money at Target, but Target is sold out or something. They don’t have any left.

It is the perfect addition to the residence of a former sex-offender in places where law enforcement conducts those extra-legal home invasive verification visits. Fortunately, you can get one online at Amazon. Remember, there is no law that requires you to answer a knock at your door, and this doormat is the appropriate message for some people who might knock at your door.
Nebraska law already gives law enforcement all of the tools it needs and more to make sure that they have information on where you live. There is no justification in law or in good public policy for this extraordinary waste of taxpayer dollars.

Tide Turns Against Repunishment of Former Sex Offenders

by Adam R. Banner

Adam R. Banner has proven himself a formidable opponent to 
those who would challenge his client’s constitutional rights. In recognition of his results in criminal litigation, he has been named one of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Oklahoma. Moreover, he is “Lead Counsel” rated, and Avvo has named him as one of the small percentage of “Superb” rated criminal defense attorneys in Oklahoma. The following is his analysis of how some recent Oklahoma decisions might affect former sex-offender laws in other states.

Recent decisions have relied on the reasoning of the US Supreme Court in Smith v. Doe when analyzing challenges to sex offender registry laws. The Smith decision notoriously held that Alaska’s sex offender registry did not violate the US Constitution’s prohibition on ex post facto laws. The US Supreme Court held that the Alaska registry was constitutional by applying a two-step analysis: first, determining whether the legislation was intended to have a punitive effect and if so, analyzing the results of the “intents-effects” test established by the court in Kentucky vs. Mendoza-Martinez.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court wisely broke from Smith when it decided Starkey v. Department of Corrections on June 25, 2013. Although the Starkey decision relied on the same framework established in Smith, the Oklahoma Supreme Court acknowledged that the challenged state sex offender statutes were not at all the same as the Alaska registration scheme examined by the US Supreme Court in Smith. The inconsistent nature of the two cases was largely due to the fact that Smith was decided prior to the state-level application of the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) which, once adopted, completely altered the complexion of the Oklahoma Sex Offender Registration Act (OSORA).

Oklahoma codified the SORNA amendments on November 1, 2007, and effectively ushered in an era of unconstitutional restrictions on its citizens. Most notable was a new tiered registration scheme, which retroactively changed the length of registration required by every individual subject to the registry. Full Post

Home-Invasive Verification Visits: Illegal Tricks, Sad Stunts

First in a Series by Eddie Sidgeweck

About those random home-invasive visits to registrants’ homes, undertaken here and there by various law agencies but not required by any state law in Nebraska.

In fact, Nebraska’s current state laws supposedly provide law enforcement with the monitoring tools they need, including multiple in-person reports. However, we have documented a number of extra-legal activities. Officers sometimes just show up at the door. We know of some registrants who are required to report in person to the sheriff’s office as many as 12 times a year, despite the fact that Nebraska law at most requires four visits a year.

Where these invasive practices have been challenged in court, they have been snuffed: In Doe v LaDue, 514 F. Supp. 2nd 1131 (D. Minn. 2007), for example. The court found that the home-invasive practices — done without probable cause or reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing — were violations of the U.S. Constitution. 

In Nebraska, we have fresh research evidence that registrants are not likely to reoffend. Ryan Spohn, Ph.D., of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, found that registrant reoffense rates are extraordinarily low. Other research has found that law enforcement practices aimed at disrupting the lives of registrants can increase the chance of reoffense. We know that people convicted of DUI are far more dangerous than registrants but you don’t see law enforcement knocking themselves out to monitor those folks. (I wonder: Is that because too many politicians have DUI offenses? Probably not. But I wonder).

So, the question is why would a law enforcement agency continue a practice that protects no one and in fact probably makes the community more dangerous?

We’re not concluding that it happens here, but in other places, law agencies do these checks so that they can beef up the reoffense statistics for registrants. That’s right — if you can catch enough people in technical violation of laws that are unreasonably restrictive, then you can push the reoffense numbers higher. Problem is, registrants snared in this way are not committing new sex crimes. They’re just easy targets for lazy law enforcement.

It can be a publicity stunt: You go around and find out that your own records were incorrect about an address, or that a registrant had to be at a hospital with his dying mom for four days, and you can nail them with violations and then announce to a gullible news media that you’re keeping people safe. It is a sorry performance, but people do fall for it.

The home-invasive visits also help law agencies attract grant funding (your tax dollars going to waste). Problem is, more tax dollars are wasted chasing the grant dollars, and people who are truly dangerous to the community escape notice while law enforcement is busy knocking on your door.

About that knock on the door: There is no law that requires you to answer your door, especially when the people trying to get in do not have a warrant.

More soon . . .