Tuesday, May 15, 2018

court-mandated treatment for "bad men" comes with problems

In a Time article titled Can Bad Men Change?, Eliana Dockterman writes about sex offender group treatment. For those who think these are bad people, Dockterman does not disappoint:
They sit in the circle, the man who exposed himself to at least 100 women, next to the man who molested his stepdaughter, across from the man who sexually assaulted his neighbor. The group includes Matt, whose online chats led to prison; Rob, who was arrested for statutory rape; and Kevin, who spent decades masturbating next to women in movie theaters.
Bad people do bad things. The simplistic view. Dockterman's view.

The pattern in the article is consistent: Dockterman brings up something positive about registrants...and then she follows that up with an emotional appeal to our horror of bad men.

Here is an example:
The more than 800,000 registered sex offenders in the U.S. may feel that their parole restrictions are onerous, but the mere presence of a known offender in almost any community precipitates clashes of competing interests and legal battles that have only intensified in the wake of the #MeToo movement. In at least 10 recent lawsuits filed in states from Pennsylvania to Colorado, civil rights proponents argue that sex offenders face unconstitutional punishments that other criminals do not, and they note that there are no government registries for murderers or other violent felons in most states. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case challenging the limits of the registry in its October term.
Yes! Those who know someone on the registry see those lawsuits as a move toward the restoration of civil rights for registrants.

Don't get too excited, though. Dockterman's splash of cold water:
But advocates for the millions of women, men and children who have experienced sexual violence are pushing back on any reforms, and 12 states have passed or proposed further restrictions on offenders in the past year. “What most of my clients want is their attacker gone,” says Lisa Anderson, a lawyer who represents survivors of rape. “If I could brand them with a scarlet letter on their forehead I would, because I don’t want any woman hurt like that again.”
Dockterman is willing to quote someone saying that she would like to brand them with a scarlet letter on their forehead without calling out the violence in that particular fantasy, and without pointing out that some of those offenders did prison time because of their fantasies.
Most people find it difficult to reconcile the hope that rehabilitation is possible with the impulse to push these men to the periphery of society forever.
These men. Dockterman will not let go of her disgust for those who committed sex offenses.

Again she quotes Anderson, a victims' advocate who is also a rape victim:
“It’s hard for me to believe that someone could violently ignore the will of another and then be taught not to cross that line,” says Anderson. “But if it’s possible to teach them empathy, then that should be mandatory.”
In three group sessions with registrants, a counselor, and a social worker, has Dockterman seriously not learned that not all registrants ignored the will of another? The writer does not challenge the wildly inaccurate statement from Anderson.

Dockterman acknowledges that people disagree about those who have committed sex crimes:
Sex-offender therapists and victim advocates are often on opposite sides on questions of crime, punishment and rehabilitation, though both ultimately hope to reduce sexual violence. The data on treatment is limited, but what there is points toward the value of therapy. While there are no recent, official statistics on national sex-offender recidivism, an overview of studies looking at the numbers in Connecticut, Alaska, Delaware, Iowa and South Carolina found that the rate is about 3.5% for sex offenders. That figure takes into account all crimes, including parole violations, not just sex crimes.
The reader might see that 3.5% as good news but Dockterman quotes a judge to ensure that readers see things her way:
“Parents of young children should ask themselves whether they should worry that there are people in their community who have ‘only’ a 16% or an 8% probability of molesting young children.”
Dockterman misses every single way that hyperbolic quote is ridiculously dishonest. Children and adults can be victims of sex offenses and there is no way to calculate the risk of an individual registrant. The judge meant only to frighten us with the specter of bad men.

Good people can do bad things and bad men can change--with and without therapy.

Some people who commit sex offenses can benefit from counseling. Granted.

However: Court-mandated therapy and therapy inside a prison are inherently problematic. Therapists, social workers, and probation/parole officers get to decide the goal of the therapy and when therapy is finished.

When a private citizen chooses his therapist and decides what he wants from the therapy, therapy can be beneficial. A registrant ought to be able to choose a therapist who has more empathy for her clients than this:
People have been sharing their problems with Cheryl all her life, even before she was a therapist. [Dockterman earlier identifies Cheryl as a clinical social worker.] During a session, she lets every emotion show, frowning in sympathy and rolling her eyes when patients try to fool her. She began her career working with children who had been abused. When first offered a chance to work with sex offenders, she refused. But she decided to go to a session out of curiosity. “I was like, ‘Oh, God, I’m walking into this group of disgusting, dirty, icky men,” Cheryl says. But when she arrived, the men looked like her neighbors and friends, and some genuinely wanted to change. She decided to take on the challenge, and later she and Jennifer started up a practice. 
They both still work with survivors and know that the damage these men have wrought on their victims cannot be undone. But they have come to believe counseling can curtail most offenders’ impulses and allow them to function safely in society. “I hear the awfulest stories and even have to excuse myself to throw up,” Cheryl says. “Sometimes these guys come in here complaining about having to drive a little further to get groceries because they’re on the registry, and I’m like, ‘To hell with you. Think of how your victim feels.'” [My emphasis.]
Is that the way therapy ought to work? Instead of recognizing the difficulties of being on the registry and how that affects her clients, Cheryl measures their complaints about real-life difficulties against how she imagines their victims feel.

The article discusses how cognitive distortions can keep people from seeing that their own actions and thinking hurt others. How I wish Dockterman had noticed that Cheryl's story is a perfect illustration of cognitive distortion.

Making life more difficult for those on the registry does not help victims, nor does it prevent future sex crimes by those not on the registry. A willingness to make life more difficult comes of a desire for vengeance. Is that how a therapist ought to think?

Cheryl forgets who the client is...or does she? Who is the client here? Is it the registrant who needs to get his life back in order or is it the government entity sending her more clients? If Cheryl and Jennifer fail to please the courts, their practice dries up.

When a therapist is allowed to keep a client until the client thinks the way the therapist wants him to think, that is a problem. When a registrant, required by his PO or a judge to attend therapy, cannot escape unhelpful or damaging therapy without running the risk of going back to prison for a probation/parole violation, that is a problem.

These are not bad men. They are, with rare exceptions, men, women, and children who committed a crime, completed their sentence and now might need some help from a therapist to get back into society.

Dockterman closes her article bleakly:
After those meetings end and the men leave the house for good, Cheryl and Jennifer may never know what becomes of them. Mostly, they hope they won’t read about them in the news.
If that is the best that Cheryl and Jennifer can do, their therapy isn't worth much. That 3.5% figure should let them rest easy.

Of course people can change.

Those who have committed sex offenses are not animals to be trained nor are they contagions to be contained.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

BOP backs down on the restrictive book policy

Good news. The federal Bureau of Prisons has rescinded the policy changes that would have made it more expensive and more difficult for inmates to receive books.

Ann E. Marimow at the Washington Post reports:
The restrictions were already in place in facilities in Virginia and California and were set to start this month at a prison in Florida.
Under the rules, inmates in at least four facilities were required to order books only through a prison-approved vendor and, at three of the prisons, to pay an extra 30 percent markup.
The reversal came after two days’ of inquiries from The Washington Post asking about the vendor, the markup and the rationale for the restriction.
Prison officials said in an email Thursday that the bureau had rescinded the memos and will review the policy to “ensure we strike the right balance between maintaining the safety and security of our institutions and inmate access to correspondence and reading materials.” 
Officials declined to identify the vendor and explain the costs added to the book purchase prices.
A "review" should not be necessary to decide that inmate access to correspondence and reading material is essential.
You shouldn’t have to be rich to read,” said Tara Libert, whose D.C.-based Free Minds Book Club has had reading material returned from two California prisons in recent months and has stopped shipping to two others because of the policy. [My emphasis.]
If the BOP cannot maintain safety and security, they need to work on that. Perhaps the BOP should ask Congress to stop making laws that send more people to prison and for longer sentences. Safety and security are much more manageable in smaller prison populations.

The BOP seems to have backed down on this policy change but keep a watch out for an attempted end-around.



Saturday, April 28, 2018

inmates and books; federal inmates and very expensive books

Books in prison can change lives; books in prison can save lives.

Because they believe in the power of books, the Appalachian Prison Book Project (APBP) distributes books for free to inmates in the Appalachian region. Maggie Montague writes about what she learned during her time as an intern with APBP:
One book can change the course of a person’s life. Letter after letter describes the impact of books. Books are solace. Books are freedom to explore beyond the incarcerated space. Books bring joy and knowledge. Books make time move a little faster.
 Book lovers everywhere know this. Even people who aren't avid readers can see this.
Incarcerated letter writers are eager to learn how to defend themselves legally, how to create with their hands, how to build a sustainable life after, how to read, how to speak another language, and how to understand the people around them.
People interested in preparing prison inmates for success on the outside know that it cannot be done without reading. Books are essential.

Montague points out a growing problem for those who want to put books in the hands of inmates:
The barriers between books and incarcerated people grow each day. Publisher only. Vendor Only. Only white envelopes only. (Yes, they used two “only”s.)
In Justice Today, a national criminal justice news outlet, reports that the Bureau of Prisons is slowly and quietly erecting one of those barriers between books and federal inmates:
[A new policy] bans all books from being sent into federal facilities from outside sources including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. These retailers are usually the only means by which prisoners can receive books because most facilities reject reading material sent from individuals or small bookstores due to regulations aimed at eliminating contraband.
To be fair to the BOP, they are not banning books.

No, they are simply making it far more expensive for inmates to have books. Books must be ordered through the prison and the prison applies a 30% tax to the purchase price. Shipping fees will be added, too.

How is that 30% fee going to be used? Presumably, it goes to the Inmate Trust Fund along with commissary profits but who audits the Inmate Trust Fund and its profits? 

Is the Fund activity made public to inmates, since they are the ones contributing to and benefiting from the profits? The answer is No at the institutions with which I am familiar.

We have already seen that phone service providers like Securus  and City TeleCoin gouge inmates and their families with excessive fees while giving kickbacks to prisons. Is that what is happening with book orders?

Friends and families will no longer be able to take advantage of free shipping opportunities. Friends and families will no longer be able to send gifts of books to loved ones in prison.

People working to reduce boredom in prison, to keep inmates engaged in the outside world, and to help inmates prepare for employment...those people will be frustrated by this short-sighted policy. 

In Justice Today says:
The BOP’s new policy is likely to be harmful because books are a critical part of the rehabilitation process, allowing prisoners to learn and develop new skills. A 2013 RAND study found that prisoners who received education in prison had 43 percent lower odds of recidivating than those who did not. 
If the number of books in prison makes sanitation and housekeeping difficult (reasons for the policy change provided in the memo circulated at Coleman Federal Correctional Complex), it is time for prisons to learn from libraries. Solve the sanitation and housekeeping problems; keep the books.
Prison staff already examines incoming packages so if contraband commonly enters prisons in books (does it?), prison staff should up their game to find and eliminate the contraband to ensure that books can reach the recipient, free of contraband. 

When an inmate orders a book, will the prison simply order it from Amazon and receive it with free shipping? 



Contact the BOP Director and your Congressman to protest this policy change.

Director Mark S. Inch
Federal Bureau of Prisons 
320 First St., NW 
Washington, DC 20534

Monday, April 23, 2018

Missouri's awful choice

This is a terrible story about terrible legislation in Missouri, terrible legislation that offers hope to some.
Almost all sex offenders in Missouri are on a state registry for a lifetime, whether they made a one-time mistake, or made repeated or extreme offenses.
Rep. Kurt Bahr, R-St. Charles, wants to make it possible for certain people to petition to remove their name from the list and for the registry to be more transparent for the public. 
A Senate committee heard a bill that already has passed the House which would do three things:
  • Require stricter background checks for those wishing to work in a childcare facility.
  • Impose a mandatory life sentence without eligibility for parole for a person convicted of a predatory sexual offense.
  • Create a tiered system to allow sex offenders to petition to be removed from the sex offender registry.
 Notice that only one of the three offers hope to registrants.
Bahr’s bill, HB 2042, would create a tiered system, similar to what the federal government uses, to make it possible for people who have committed an offense that falls into the first two tiers to petition to have their name removed from the registry.
Those whose offenses fall into tier one would be able to petition after 10 years of good standing, and those in tier two could petition after 25 years. Sex offenders who fall into tier three, who have committed repeated and more serious crimes, would be on the registry for a lifetime.
Moving from all-lifetime to 10-25-lifetime tiers might be an improvement for some but that isn't what Bahr's bill would do. It would make it possible to petition for removal from the registry after 10 years for tier 1, and after 25 years for tier 2.

Removal after 10 and 25 years is not guaranteed.
Ryan Glidwell, who spoke in support of the bill, is a registered sex offender who testified that he made a “10-second mistake” almost 15 years ago when he flashed a minor over an internet webcam. Though he’s completed his probation, he will be on the sex offender registry for the rest of his life unless Bahr’s bill becomes law.
And maybe not even then.
“This bill recognizes that there is a need to define the predatory and persistent (offenses), that treating a group of individuals with a one-size-fits-all approach might not be the best way, and this bill takes into consideration that, over time, some people do, by the grace of God, change,” Glidwell said.
Courtrooms already recognize that one size does not fit all. That's why some get long prison sentences and some get probation.
“With the list right now, you don’t know what the offender is. Is the guy down the street — is he a rapist or did he flash somebody on Skype? This bill would state the nature of the charge, as well as the tier,” Bahr said, “so it gives the public more information to make a better decision as to what threat is this person.”
No. The information provided on the registry cannot predict whether a registrant is a threat or not, and it cannot tell how much of a threat a registrant is.

The information on the registry can frighten people when they read about a conviction, no matter how long ago the offense happened and no matter how long the registrant has been offense-free. Frightening people is not useful, except to those who benefit from the sex offender industry.
Bahr said with the tiered system and clarification of sexual offenses in the bill, every sex offender will not be punished the same way.
Every person on the registry is punished in the same way: they are listed on the registry. It is nice, though, to see that Bahr recognizes the registry as punishment.
“The problem with the status quo is that you have people who have committed significant crimes who are punished at the same level of those who have committed crimes that are much less significant,” Bahr said.
Read that again and see that Bahr seems to think the current harsh sentences are a good start but some should be even harsher. His bill would cover that by imposing a mandatory sentence of life without parole for those convicted of a predatory sex offense.

The bill defines predatory offenses to include statutory rape and statutory sodomy. If we remember that statutory rape and sodomy often refers to consensual sex between partners only a few years apart in age, mandatory life without parole is clearly draconian.

How long before a legislator introduces a bill to add more crimes to the predator category? The registry is a constant threat that it could be worse.

This bill promises to sentence scary predators to life without parole while it dangles the carrot of the possibility of getting off the registry for others. The bill offers hope to more people than it would condemn to LWOP so anti-registry people find themselves supporting this monstrosity of a bill--a kind of Sophie's choice.

Forcing a choice between sacrificing predators to LWOP and saving some of the "better" offenders--those who made a 10-second mistake, for example--is evil.

Abolish the registry.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

is the registry "cruel and unusual" or not?

In 2017, a Colorado judge called the registry cruel and unusual punishment and now attorneys general in the Tenth Circuit are appealing the Colorado decision. 

The court ruling is correct, of course, as anyone acquainted with the registry and its effects can tell you. Other criminals, with minor exceptions, are not subject to legislated shunning and legislated discrimination and legislated cruelty the way those who commit sex offenses are.

In August, when U.S. District Senior Judge Richard Matsch decided in favor of the three Colorado plaintiffs, he was quoted by Alan Prendergast in Westword,
"A convicted offender is knowingly placed in peril of additional punishment, beyond that to which he has been sentenced pursuant to legal proceedings and due process, at the random whim and caprice of unknowable and unpredictable members of the public.
Knowingly placed in peril. Legislators know what they have done. They know what happens to those on the registry. They know that jobs are hard to find, that housing is hard to find, that families suffer.

How do we know they know? Because the legislators are the ones who write the laws, the ones who vote for the laws, the ones who ignore all evidence of the damage done by registries, the ones who hear stories from registrant families and do nothing.

It is true that those on the registry are at the random whim and caprice of unknowable and unpredictable members of the public, but they are also at the random whim of completely knowable legislators. When legislators want to introduce a bill easy to pass, creating additional hurdles for registrants has been almost a sure thing.

Those additional hurdles are imposed on registrants without benefit of due process, a right guaranteed to all citizens in the Fourteenth Amendment.

Being turned down for an apartment or for a job is predictable for those on the registry. What is unknowable and unpredictable are the laws that can be passed long after a person has been convicted and sentenced for his or her crime, laws that change the time on the registry from fifteen years to lifetime, laws that suddenly make it illegal to live in one's own home, laws that too often lead to homelessness and despair.

Judge Matsch continued,
"This risk continues for the entire time a sex offender is on the registry, and perhaps even beyond that if he is fortunate enough to eventually deregister." [My emphasis throughout.]
Getting removed from the registry is a good thing but even past registry status can be discovered with an internet search. Unscrupulous websites that post registry listings do not keep their sites in sync with the official registry sites. Old information remains online.

Getting off the registry is not the same as being free of the registry.

Oklahoma News at KFOR reports on the reasons behind the appeal:
Now, several attorneys general are urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit to reverse the decision.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said although the ruling involves only one Colorado case, it has wide-ranging implications for access to sex offender registries nationwide if upheld.
 AG Hunter is correct: this ruling does have life-changing implications for registrants all over the country. That is not what he's thinking about, though.
“This ruling undermines the rights of victims and survivors of sex crimes, who must forever endure the trauma caused by horrific acts,” Attorney General Hunter said.
If the victims and survivors must forever endure the trauma even with rapists and assailants and trench-coated lurkers and middle-school sexters on the registry, what does Hunter claim the registry does for the victims and survivors?
“It also obstructs citizen access to public information on sex offenders in their communities and threatens public safety.
There is no good evidence that shows the registry having any positive effect on public safety. AG Hunter continues talking through his hat:
"Registry systems are one of the most cost-effective ways to protect the public while reintroducing sex offenders into society.
Cost-effective? Tracking the location of law-abiding citizens who are unlikely to commit another crime is in no way cost-effective.

His claim that registries reintroduce registrants back into society is ridiculous. The registry keeps people from rejoining society. He surely knows this, though perhaps without the kind of heartbreaking understanding that registrants have because their families are broken up or driven into poverty.

With 874,000 on the registry in the U.S., Hunter should be careful spouting untruths.  The number of people who understand the realities of life on the registry continues to grow.

AG Hunter falls back on an emotional appeal:
"Parents and victims have the right to know.
Parents and victims do not have more rights than other citizens. Common courtesy and loving kindness require--at the very least--that we do not make things worse for people who are victims and survivors but there are no extra rights for those who endured something awful.

He continues:
"My attorneys general colleagues in the 10th circuit and I believe the court was wrong to second-guess this policy and the judgement should be reversed.”
There is no way that the attorneys general are completely unaware of the damage done to those on the registry. So what could be behind this lawsuit and Hunter's foolish talk?
Hunter says undoing the registry in one state compromises the integrity of the uniform registry system, and jeopardizes the ability of states to obtain federal funding.
What was that, AG Hunter? Are you talking about money? Federal funding might dry up if the registries are taken down?

Oh, that is sad. Sad, indeed.

Here's a thought for those attorneys general who worry about losing funding: Getting rid of the registries will save money.

Without sex offender registries, those law enforcement officers who have been knocking on the doors of law-abiding registrants to tell them they cannot have a jack-o-lantern on the porch...

...those officers can now concentrate on people who commit crimes.


Friday, February 23, 2018

without opposing testimony

The South Dakota Senate has been hard at work:
Bills to toughen the punishment for attempted human trafficking of minors and repeatedly failing to register as a sex offender continue to make their way through the legislature. 
Senate Bill 61 would increase the penalty for sex offenders who fail more than once to register after moving to a new address. Currently law penalizes second offenses the same as first offenses, a class 6 felony. Under the bill, a second offense and any subsequent offense would be a class 5 felony.  
South Dakota has about 4,600 people on its sex offender registry, said Attorney General Marty Jackley. The state has about a 98.5 percent compliance rate, where offenders re-register and follow the restrictions that come with being a sex offender. This bill is for the 1.5 percent who don't comply, he said. 
Why more punishment for something that the South Dakota Attorney General admits rarely happens...and for something that is not even another sex offense?

Because a lazy, unthinking Senator wants to propose a bill that will pass.

Because no one stands up for those on the registry.
Both bills passed unanimously and without opposing testimony. They will move to the house floor. [My emphasis.]
Because they can.

Follow what is happening in your state legislature and also at the national level and if you find a lazy legislator writing bills on the backs of registrants and their families, speak up. Protest.

Talk to your legislators and remind them that people on the registry are also their constituents.

Ask why they are willing to make life more difficult for their constituents.

Ask why they aren't protecting their constituents, their neighbors, their community.

It is hard to stand up the first time, to walk into a Senator's office and say that you are a registrant or a family member of a registrant. Do it once, though, and you might be surprised. With over 861,000 people listed on sex offender registries, it only follows that millions of people, some of whom work in legislative offices, know a registrant.

Make an appointment to speak to your legislator and tell stories about how the registry affects you and your family. That is the best way for legislators to see people and not imagine monsters.

Send letters to your legislator and remind him that you and your family are out there. Remind him or her that your family votes. If you are able to vote, make sure to say so. That is the best way for legislators to see votes.

Stand up, speak up.

Is it scary to do that? You bet it is. Do it once, though, and you might be surprised at the people who hear you and respond with their own stories about someone they know on the registry.

Find out how to testify in front of the legislature or a legislative committee. Google and Bing and Duck Duck Go and your community librarian are excellent tools. There are no stupid questions when you want to know badly enough.

You will not need to start from scratch because organizations all over the country are dedicated to changing sex offender laws--if not dedicated to abolishing the registry. Contact those organizations and ask how to prepare and deliver testimony.
Their very purpose is to work with you and help you make a difference in your state. Perhaps your state has its own organization and you will be able to meet other registry-affected families near you.

The registry is so obviously wrong that it is possible to change the stance of good people. Arm yourself with data showing that the registry protects no one.

Show them a scrapbook with all the news stories about sex offenses committed by someone not on the registry...and the stories about new sex offenses committed by registrants, if you can find any.

Be seen, be heard.

Do everything you can to make sure the next article about legislation to increase difficulties for those on the registry does not conclude with the sad, infuriating words, without opposing testimony.

Monday, February 5, 2018

will Nebraska legislature upend justice?

The Omaha World-Herald reports that the Nebraska Legislature is looking at policies and procedures for sexual assault reports from within the legislature and its staff. The #metoo movement has all kinds of people and institutions wondering if they will be the next in the sexual harassment/assault spotlight.

The World-Herald tells the story of a state senator who crossed the line:
The female legislative staffer said it started with sexual innuendo and remarks like “Do you want a back rub?” and progressed to suggestions from her boss, a male state senator, that she accompany him, alone, to social events. 
Then one night, at midnight, came a telephone call: “Can I come over to your house?” 
That’s when the staffer, now retired from the Nebraska Legislature, put her foot down. 
“There were things that you kind of toss off, but when he did that, I said ‘This has to stop,’ ” said the staffer, who spoke on the condition that she not be named. 
These kinds of stories, relayed in more than two dozen interviews with current and past legislative staffers, state senators and lobbyists, suggest the State Legislature is not immune to the type of sexual harassment that has spawned the #metoo movement across the country.
The Legislature almost certainly has people among its history who have done things they shouldn't have, who have committed crimes that weren't reported or were reported and ignored.

Also, its history almost certainly includes people who look at past experiences with clear eyes and recognize unacknowledged truths of harassment and assault, and people who look at past experiences and wonder uncertainly if they could say #metoo.

If the #metoo movement makes it easier for victims to report assaults, it will have accomplished a great deal.

At the same time the senators are learning to recognize and acknowledge, they are considering LB 988, a bill that would make affirmative consent, also known as "yes means yes", the law in Nebraska.

Sex without consent is already considered a crime and that is not changing but this bill would change where the burden of proof lies.

Currently, the burden of proof is on the prosecution, requiring that the prosecution must prove--beyond a reasonable doubt--the truth of the accusation. The defendant isn't required to prove anything.

The beauty and good sense of this? When a person's freedom is at stake, we must be certain he is guilty. Blackstone's formulation is at the base:  “For the law holds, that it is better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer.”

American law has always been formulated that way: innocent until proven guilty. Even when it seems the whole world is sure the defendant is guilty, the law must presume he is innocent and treat him that way until he is proven guilty. 

A good example is the OJ Simpson: The jury did not find OJ innocent; they found him not guilty. The jury decided that the prosecution failed to prove guilt. 

Could the jury have been wrong? Of course, but the slightest possibility that the jury could send an innocent man to prison is so abhorrent that it is worth letting a guilty man go free.

If passed, LB 988 would mean that the accused would have the burden of proof. This turns justice on its head.

The defendant would have to prove that he deserves his freedom and the prosecution would have simply to make the accusation.

When we remember that an estimated 97% of federal and 94% of state criminal cases are resolved with a plea agreement instead of a trial, we can see that justice has already been knocked askew. A plea agreement means the prosecution no longer has to prove guilt to a jury.

It has only to convince the defendant that it is better to take the plea than to risk more severe charges and a harsher sentence if found guilty in a trial.

The prosecution can already convict defendants without the need to prove guilt to a jury. Why pass legislation that would remove the burden of proof from the prosecution altogether?

Freedom is too important to risk convicting the innocent.

Perhaps the possibility that legislators someday might need to defend themselves against accusations--false or not-- will make them move more cautiously.