Civil rights lawsuits attack excesses of Colorado's sex offender laws

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Colorado's tough sex offender laws are supposed to keep predators under tight supervision.

But a series of lawsuits claim that the system is violating even minor offenders' rights to free speech and association, prohibiting contact with family members -- and, in one particularly bizarre case, telling a 62-year-old man that a discussion with a stepdaughter about her pregnancy constitutes unlawful "third party contact with a child."

Boulder civil rights attorney Alison Ruttenberg has filed at least three federal lawsuits in recent months challenging actions taken by probation officers and others responsible for enforcing the restrictions imposed by the state's Sex Offender Management Board. She's sued treatment providers and board members as well for what she considers over-the-top intrusions into her clients' family lives, choice of reading material and thought processes.

Colorado's controversial "containment" model for monitoring the behavior of sex offenders is based on the premise that there's no known cure for such offenders. But critics of the system have long maintained that it lumps individuals convicted of a minor offense, such as indecent exposure, with violent predators and goes to absurd lengths to "contain" them. A recent report by independent evaluators of the state's in-prison treatment program found many inconsistencies and possibly coercive tactics in the program that may be keeping offenders in prison longer than necessary.

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Photo by Anthony Camera
One of the lawsuits filed by Ruttenberg contends that the SOMB guidelines for managing sex offenders "are poorly researched, not based on peer-reviewed scientific research, and are largely based on [SOMB member] Peggy Heil's personal publications, which are not peer reviewed, and/or based on publications by victim's advocacy groups."

That case concerns a 62-year-old delivery truck driver who was convicted of misdemeanor unlawful sexual contact based on the complaint of an adult female grocery store employee in Canon City. The woman claimed the man groped her buttocks and breast while they were unloading his truck; the man insisted it was an "unwanted hug" offered to someone he'd hugged before.

The man was sentenced to three years on probation, but he soon learned that his status as a convicted sex offender involved several additional requirements. According to the lawsuit, his probation officer and treatment provider informed him that he could no longer visit his male best friend, have any contact with his grandchildren, or even discuss his grandchildren with his wife's adult children -- even though his crime didn't involve children. And his wife was told to remove all pictures of the grandchildren from the residence: "She has to choose between living with her husband and having pictures of her grandchildren displayed in her house."

Continue for more of our interview with Alison Ruttenberg.



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30 comments
superdg62
superdg62

Notice how sex laws use scary and infammatory language, e.g., "assault," even when it is consensual. The age of 18 is only a line drawn in the sand, and so sexual assault on a minor is not inherently immoral. What would be immoral would be what some advocate, e.g., lynching them, no rights, etc. The clinical definition of pedophilia restricts the victim to someone prepubescent. A teen girl could legally sleep with the entire student body, but if she has sex with one person just over 18 suddenly it is an unspeakable crime? I wish the hardcore law and order types would explain that. Fortunately, most of the commenters here get it. BTW, most "sex offenders" in CDOC are not in there for a sex offense; it is just a label DOC puts on inmates. This creates a faux menace and allows them to say they need more tax dollars. They are the real criminals.

vicki.henry
vicki.henry

From The National Institute of Corrections:

"The findings indicate that the current AWA classification scheme is likely to result in a system that is less effective in protecting the public than the classification systems currently implemented in the states studied. Policy makers should strongly consider substantial revisions of the AWA classification system to better incorporate evidence-based models of sex offender risk assessment and management" (p. 1).     http://nicic.gov/Library/026786

Patty Wetterling, after toiling with the current state of the registry laws and restrictions completed this interview and has officially gone on record:  http://www.citypages.com/2013-03-20/news/patty-wetterling-questions-sex-offender-laws/

There are over 750,000 men, women and children (as young as 8 and 10 in some states) required to register.  The crimes range from urinating in public (indecent exposure), sexting, mooning, streaking, false accusations by a soon-to-be ex-wife, angry girlfriend, or spiteful student, viewing abusive or suggestive images of anyone18 years old or younger, solicitation, playing doctor, Romeo and Juliet consensual sexual dating relationships, “allowing a 16 year old girl to perform oral sex on you and a drunken party and you are over 18, rape, prostitution and incest.

Now multiply that number by 2 or 3 and you can see there are easily over 2,000,000 wives, children, mothers, girlfriends, grandmothers and other loved ones of registrants who are harassed, ridiculed, beaten, homes set on fire, vehicles damaged, signs placed in their yards, flyers distributed throughout the neighborhood, wives lose jobs, family forced to move, asked to leave their church and many other scenarios all because they are attempting to provide a support system for someone who has paid their debt to society and just want to earn a living and support their family.  

Jerry Sandusky was NOT on any sex offender registry so one would think that educating the legislators and media with statistics and studies then holding them accountable for irresponsible legislation and in the media's case sensationalism when they know the truth....95% of sexual offenses come from within the family, acquaintances and those having access to the children.  So, a solution, instead of belittling folks on here would be to educate children and teens about ways to stay safe and protect themselves. We teach them what to do in the case of a fire when many times parents are not right there beside them so, why not do the same here?

Vicki Henry

Women Against Registry dot com


gospelgal2000
gospelgal2000

Obviously, in this state you can be placed on the sex offender registry for a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is, by definition, a less serious crime. To subject a person convicted (or plead out) of a misdemeanor to a decade or more of punishment seems to me to be a horrible miscarriage of justice. To subject someone as young as 7 to a lifetime of punishment by listing on the registry (because the crime involved a peer, perhaps even a mutual exploration, or "playing doctor") is surely also a horrible miscarriage of justice. To put such people on a registry that was originally intended so that police could keep track of serious threats to public safety is absurd, and to require that police spend so much time and effort in tracking those who clearly pose no danger is a waste. To require someone whose only crime was groping an adult female to have no contact with children is unduly harsh. And if you think it can't happen to you, stop and think. Unless you have spent all your life deliberately avoiding all human contact, you may be charged with the same thing. Then you, too, can find out what all the fuss is about. Of course, by then it will be too late.

Dudley_D_Wright
Dudley_D_Wright

Whenever I read articles like this I briefly am under the impression that this is the latest news from some kind of Victorian Bizarro world....

Then the realization that this is from "The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave". The land whose citizens have no problems dropping Hellfire Missiles from Predator Drones on children sleeping in their beds at night.

If it saves one child... 

Cindy Hill
Cindy Hill

Wait until your kid gets caught pissing on a public building or feeling up his girlfriend in the back of a car or jerking off in a theater and ends up charged as a sex offender, then call for the death penalty.

oncefallendotcom
oncefallendotcom

The "containment" model should not be confused with "treatment" model, since the containment model does not provide treatment, just Orwellian surveillance which is unnecessary and costly.  

Courtney Niebauer
Courtney Niebauer

The laws aren't hard enough. Sex offenders are scum of the earth and should have no rights.

Tom Tom Sampley
Tom Tom Sampley

a sex offender......especially those that have children as victims......shouldnt have any rights period.....in fact they shouldnt be alive at all. sex offenses should be an automatic death sentence

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

The U$A prudish parochial fear of all things SEX is the core of this insanity.

Why should "sex" assaults be treated any differently than any other physical assault?


michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@gospelgal2000 Very interesting post, gospelgal2000. We're going to make it an upcoming Comment of the Day. Thanks.

ate1386
ate1386

Courtney, are you a KKK member or a Nazi? These laws are barbaric and belong in Russia or Turkey etc. NOT in the USA... Young men and women that did not have a Victim are on the registry for 10, 25 years. Some for life. They have little to no chance to further their education, find employment or a place to live. Family life is next to nothing because of UNJUST conditions set by the AWA or SORNA. Yet our great Supreme Court says it is NOT PUNISHMENT. I only wish they could experience what these young adults are enduring.,.. IT IS PUNIShMENT AND IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL... Further more, the family members suffer along with the registered citizen. But I suppose none of this matters to you... DON'T take any pictures of your children in the bathtub...

superdg62
superdg62

@Courtney Anne But you are missing the point. Sex offender is a broad rubric these days, so most people labeled as sex offenders are not. Further, if they are not doing anything wrong, why restrict them? And it costs a fortune for this nonsense, but the public is no safer from a phantom menace, i.e., a menace that does not exist and has been merely conjured up by people like Peggy Heil and law enforcement.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Courtney Anne ... move to Saudi Arabia.

LJW67
LJW67

@Courtney Anne , a 7 year old who plays doctor with a playmate deserves to be imprisoned for the rest of his life? A child who kills another child doesn't get that kind of punishment. 

Point is I'm sure you mean those who assault someone, like children. Even the, would you be in favor of a parent who made a mistake being put in prison for life? Reason I asks is that those kinds of punishments actually lead to less reporting. They actually lead to additional abuses. 


I'm sure everyone wants child abuse reduced. However, studies show that punishment doesn't make it better and can make it worse. Family treatment and support are keys to reducing child abuse.

the_truth101
the_truth101

@Courtney Anne The Constitution says otherwise.

ate1386
ate1386

Tom Tom... And you should be on the registry for 10-20 years for peeing on that tree...

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Tom Tom Sampley ... you'd be happier living in Afghanistan with your blood lust.

RolyPoly
RolyPoly

@Tom Tom Sampley - please keep in mind that in Colorado a person under 17 is a CHILD when it comes to any kind of SEXUAL CONTACT (kissing / touching on up). Willing participation is completely immaterial. In California a person under 18 is considered a CHILD in this regard.

Maybe you should take stock of your life, or examine your loved ones lives? Care to change your statement?


the_truth101
the_truth101

@Tom Tom Sampley Again, the Constitution says otherwise, and until it is an automatic death sentence then they get their rights once they are off of parole and/or probation.  If you want it to be an automatic death sentence, start writing your senator.

By the way, you should do a little research on what can get someone labeled a sex offender and then come back and tell me that they ALL should be executed.

the_truth101
the_truth101

@DonkeyHotay Prudish attitudes and double standards aside, part of the reason is sex is one of the most intimate things people can do.  A sexual assault is more of a personal violation that getting punched in the face a few times.  But yes, some of the laws are way out of whack with reality.

WanderWoman
WanderWoman

@the_truth101- so when I was 16 or 17 (in many states), the loving relationship I had with my boyfriend was a personal violation - more so than getting punched in the face?

The guy who chats with an undercover cop and says 'nasty' things in an electronic chat room violates someone (who exactly?) worse than punching them in the face?

Having my boob, rear or upper thigh touched I should find worse than getting punched in the face a few times?

Interesting concept....

magicbelle
magicbelle

@WanderWoman @the_truth101 

The horror of Colorado's "sexual touching "Law tears at the fabric of families across the state. It is an Orwellian nightmare of epic proportions that compares to waterboarding or psychological torture techniques. To start the subject..no matter the severity of the misdomener offense is tested in a horribly pornographic intrusion of the body and spirit. Wires attached to genitals to register physical response to disgusting pornography. Pornography so disgusting, children, bestiality, violence..that most subjects have NEVER seen such in their lives nor would they ever seek out such filth. All this forced into the minds of unwilling victims to supposedly measure their response to sexual stimulous. The degradation of the human spirit by these state sponsored perverts is as criminal as most of the crimes their victims have been found guilty of. Test after test, degrading session after session of abuse by so called counselors..boardering on the techniques of the worst the Nazi Gestapo had to offer. Designed to break the victim into falling to their knees and begging forgiveness for even being alive. The questions their victims are forced to submit to are intrusive in the absolute extreme. The limitations are unbelievable in a civilizied society. You cannot associate with your fellow humans because you are unworthy..not in person certainly but also not in a letter..not email. You cannot even view a photo of your own grandchildren much less have one in your home. This when your crime did not even involve a child or even another human being! When you touch this State Run tarbaby you are deemed to be the most horrible sexual predator known in this World or any other. No matter the severity of your crime. Brush up against another human..with NO intention on your part for any sexual contact and you can be thrown into the maw of a system gone berserk with power over your very soul. Pee in an ally..you will be thrown into association with the worst serial rapist Colorado has in it's system and be treated exactly the same. Don't believe this can be true? Take the time to google search "sexual touching laws" in Colorado and when you are through reading this abomonation of nature passed by a lunitic legislature you will be scared to death to so much as hug your grandmother. It is zero tolerance gone crazy. IF many people find out about how horrific this law is and how easy it would be to use it to bludgeon an ex husband/wife/frined/ANYONE..it is as easy as accusing them of touching you with sexual intent. Man on man..man on woman..pick your gender and your victim. Police show up with an innocent looking ticket book to issue a ticket for a misdamener offense. Pay a fine you say..OK..just to get rid of this you place your signature on your $500 ticket to what would make Hell look like a vacation. The State now has it's firm grip on you testicles, your mind and your life will NEVER be the same..not only you but the ripple effect will ruin the lives of those around you, your friends, especially your Family.You cannot travel, you cannot have a cell phone..a computer? OMG! You pervert! Do you know what can be found on computers? One cannot even be in the house you are (mabe) allowed to live in. It would be bad enough if the State were actually involved in this mental torture of many innocents but it's not.It's subcontacted to a for profit agency! The State has lost total control of what these monstrous perverts are doing to it's victims!  They are a giant money sucking machine.Designed to line their pockets. They charge their victims for every test they decide to inflict on them..twice a month lie detector tests..$250 a pop. Sexual predator tests..remember the wires on your genitals? $850 CASH, NO checks. NO cash..no test..go straight to jail. Being thrust into the penal system is their bludgeon..don't toe the line..admit your crime, pay us off and it' straight to jail where we ignore the rapes those victims endure. Sit through endless sessions of psy abuse..how worthless you are, how you will NEVER be cured, CAN"T be cured.  This monstrous system will NEVER want to cure..it would halt the flow of money. It is a self perpetuating system , turning it's captives into worse than what they started with. Breaking them economically and spiritually. This situation was put in place by lunitics, perhaps with good intentions but none the less..it is in desperate need of attention by some intelligent oversight. It has gone rogue and is run amuck. It is a serious criminal travesty of huge proportions and I am shocked that it is taking place. 

ONE last time..READ the sexual touching statutes in Colorado. 

WanderWoman
WanderWoman

@the_truth101 - I thought so... that you were referring to sexual intercourse against ones will, employing force or fear or some kind of incapacitation. Which is absolutely hideous.

However, many people and some laws call a voluntary relationship with a willing minor 'rape' and 'sexual assault' (my first scenario). Many state's criminal codes call any kind of touching over clothing 'sexual assault' (my third scenario). 

Just the mention of these words makes people run for the torches and pitchforks. Why is that? Read this article. What a ridiculous overreaction to not the act itself, but the classification thereof.

Communication with an unborn child via his own relative? Removing photos of your own grandchildren? They cannot be serious.

I do not even want to find out how much all this is costing the taxpayer.

I hope to never be in the position to have to choose, but personally there are many instances of 'sexual assault' that I would rather be subjected to than getting the bleep beat out of me.

And where is the web site for wife beaters and regular violent offenders? Just plain old child abusers?

Godspeed, Ms. Ruttenberg - for those guys, for sanity, for all of us!

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