Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dungeons, dragons, and prison bureaucrats

If asked to describe the typical Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) enthusiast, most of us would probably think of a harmless, glasses-wearing, socially awkward math genius who attends school and possibly lives in his parents’ basement.  (Think Napoleon Dynamite.)  But despite this docile stereotype, prison bureaucrats in Wisconsin don’t take any chances.  In fact, in Singer v. Raemisch, the state just spent a lot of money and five-plus years of litigation—starting in the prison grievance system and culminating in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals—to ban all things D&D among its inmates.  But why all the fuss?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Judge convicts defendant of a felony for being homeless

In last week’s post we saw how easy it is to fall into the gravitational pull of the sex offender registry.  This week we’ll see how tough it can be to comply with its requirements.  In the case of State v. Dinkins, the 56-year-old defendant was looking forward to being released after serving ten years in prison.  Unfortunately for him, however, he had been ordered to register as a sex offender and was required, prior to his release, to give his residential address.  But, as might be expected of someone who has been sitting in the slammer for ten years, he didn’t have anywhere to live upon his release from prison.  Therefore, three days before his ten year prison term would have been completely served, an opportunistic prosecutor charged him with another crime—a felony—for failing to register as a sex offender.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sex offender registries: They’re not just for sex offenders anymore

Our nation’s preoccupation with tracking sex offenders comes at a high cost.  Between the fifty states and the federal government, we’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars on sex offender registries each year, in addition to the billions spent on incarceration and community supervision.  However, these registries aren’t all they’re cracked-up to be, in part because they’re flooded with useless information.  For each violent rapist, a registry may contain dozens of teenagers who had consensual sex with younger teens, and dozens of other teens who were convicted of “sexting,” urinating in public, or similar behavior.  But, perhaps the biggest problem with sex offender registries is that they’re not just for sex-related crimes anymore.