By Christopher Zoukis The Federal Bureau of Prisons incarcerates over 14,500 sex offenders within its roughly 200 facilities. This equates to approximately eight percent of
The Supreme Court of Kentucky has held that a probationer’s period of probation cannot be extended to require completion of a sex offender treatment program.
Elmer David Miller was originally charged with felony first-degree unlawful transaction with a minor. He entered into a plea agreement for a misdemeanor charge of criminal attempt to commit first-degree unlawful transaction with a minor, because the victim was over the age of sixteen. The plea agreement included two years of probation and required Miller to “[a]ttend any counseling recommended by probation and parole.”
Following the recommendation of the Division of Probation and Parole, Miller enrolled in the state’s sex offender treatment program. Shortly before his period of probation ended, his probation officer informed the trial court that Miller would be unable to complete the program before the expiration of his probation term. The court then held a hearing and extended Miller’s probation until he finished the three-year sex offender treatment program.
Miller challenged the trial court’s order and the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that he had not agreed to the extension of his probation and, in fact, had opposed it at the hearing. The appellate court remanded the case for a determination of whether Miller’s term of probation should have been allowed to expire or should have been revoked for his failure to complete the treatment program. See: Miller v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, 2010 Ky. App. Unpub. LEXIS 1001 (Ky. Ct. App. 2010).
On discretionary review by the Kentucky Supreme Court, the state agreed that the Court of Appeals was correct in concluding Miller’s term of probation could not be extended. The Court concurred, stating the statutory two-year period for misdemeanors is an “absolute limit, absent some overriding statute or waiver by the defendant,” neither of which applied in this case.
Venturing far into the swamp lands of southern Florida, alligators lazily crawl through murky irrigation waterways and sugar cane lines the marshy fields. Further down the muddy road, old plantation flats border the homestead grounds.
Prior to the 60s the dwellings were used to house seasonal Caribbean sugar cane workers. Eventually, modern machinery replaced human laborers and the plantations deteriorated.
Today, plantation workers harvesting sugar cane are a memory of the past. The area is now known as Miracle Village, tucked-in miles away from the closest town, Pahokee.
The name Miracle Village is a reminder of a tranquil country retreat, but in 2009 the Christian non-profit organization — Mathew 25 Ministries — transformed the abandoned, rat-infested plantation into housing for sex offenders released from prison.
Last head count, according to Pat Powers, executive director of Miracle Village, the grounds housed 155 sex offenders.
It’s an even trade. The residents maintain the lawns and houses in return for the opportunity to live in a supportive community, minus ceaseless shame for being a registered sex offender.
The past several weeks I have been researching the sex offender laws applicable for sex offenders living in Rhode Island and in South Carolina. While not surprising, the laws are anything but rational and they are certainly not empirically based. This goes across the board, not merely in Rhode Island or South Carolina but at both the state and federal levels.
The Adam Walsh Act of 2006 requires sex offenders to be classified in one of three tiers of supervision. Tier 1 sex offenders have lighter restrictions placed upon them (e.g., report to their sheriff’s department every year, most likely be on the public sex offender registry, and comply with any state or local residency requirements), while Tier 3 sex offenders have extraordinarily onerous restrictions (e.g., report to their sheriff’s department every 90 days, possibly be placed on GPS monitoring, have regular in-home and at work spot inspections, etc.).
On its face it looks as if sex offenders are monitored — and have restrictions — according to their risk of reoffense.*1 After all, there are distinct qualifications for each tier assignment.*2 But what is the difference between a Tier 1, Tier 2, and a Tier 3 sex offender? The answer to this, not surprisingly, is not much. There are some differences in offense conduct or frequency, but not many. To put this in context, there are very few Tier 1 sex offenders compared to the number of Tier 2 sex offenders. And there are fewer Tier 3 sex offenders than Tier 2 sex offenders. But most sex offenders are merely grouped together in the second tier category.
If we accept that most sex offenders will be placed in Tier 2, with those particular restrictions and registration protocols, then we are also accepting that the one-size-fits-most view be employed. This results in a dilution of effective sex offender community monitoring. Essentially, those with a higher risk and those with a lower risk, who are clumped into Tier 2 sex offender registration and monitoring requirements, will receive the same level of community monitoring, outpatient treatment, and communal notification. This seems like a foolhardy public policy decision, from both a public safety and fiscal perspective.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons recently promulgated its first comprehensive Program Statement on sex offender programs and treatment, PS 5324.10, Sex Offender Programs (Feb. 15,