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Just published: A new article by legal scholar Melissa Hamilton spotlights the key role of *scientific evidence* in a ground-breaking 2016 federal appeals court decision known as Doe v. Snyder—and how that holding is already impacting other challenges to draconian sex offense laws. The court’s ruling created much excitement and was heralded by the Washington Post: Court says Michigan sex offender registry laws creating ‘moral lepers’. Have a look at this incisive and timely essay, the US Supreme Court is now deciding whether to review Doe v. Snyder. –Bill Dobbs
Boston College Law Review | Feb. 22, 2017
Constitutional Law and the Role of Scientific Evidence: The Transformative Potential of Doe v. Snyder
by Melissa Hamilton
Excerpts: In the United States, sex offenders are uniquely regarded as moral lepers, in need of constant supervision and forced to the margins of society. The public’s fear of persons who have committed crimes of a sexual nature is so extreme that policymakers across jurisdictions have become convinced that traditional criminal law and sentencing regimes are inadequate to protect public safety. Thus, legislatures have adopted a variety of statutes—purportedly civil in nature—to manage sex offenders beyond their prison terms.
In late 2016, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit’s concluded in Does #1–5 v. Snyder that Michigan’s sex offender registry and residency restriction law constituted anex post facto punishment in violation of the constitution. In its decision, the Sixth Circuit engaged with scientific evidence that refutes moralized judgments about sex offenders, specifically that they pose a unique and substantial risk of recidivism.
Doe v. Snyder is a shining example of a court actually engaging with scientific evidence that refutes moralized judgments about a particularly disfavored group. Equally important, a reasonable interpretation of the Sixth Circuit’s opinion by many is that more of Michigan’s civil sex offender law, and other state laws like it, are now subject to a broader invalidation. MORE:
PDF version: http://bclawreview.org/files/2017/02/05_hamilton.pdf
A House committee voted this week to retain and study HB 192, our bill to force the Department of Corrections to get all of its administrative rules approved by lawmakers. That’s a very good result. Helen Hanks, the assistant commissioner of Corrections, is now drafting rules for the sex offender treatment program to bring them before the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules. We at Citizens for Criminal Justice Reform made that happen. Now the real work begins.