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A roundup of recent Michigan newspaper editorials

January 28, 2019

The Detroit News. January 24, 2019

Sex offender Registry afoul of constitution

Michigan lawmakers seem keen on making important reforms to the state’s criminal justice system, which should expand protections for civil liberties. Another item they should add to the list: Revamping the state’s Sex Offender Registry Act.

The changes are overdue, especially since a federal appeals court decision in 2016 found several aspects of Michigan’s law were unconstitutional. Now the impetus is on the Legislature to fix the problems.

If it doesn’t, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan is prepared to move forward with a federal class-action lawsuit that was filed last year. The ACLU, along with the University of Michigan Clinical Law Program, also brought the former legal action that led to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals’ opinion.

“What is very clear is that Michigan cannot enforce the current (Sex Offender Registry) statute,” says Miriam Aukerman, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Michigan. “It was found unconstitutional, and the practical reality is that the state hasn’t come into compliance with the court’s decision.”

Aukerman says she is hopeful the Legislature will take this on, and that she thinks it’s a great opportunity for Michigan to overhaul the entire framework.

Michigan’s registry for sex offenders is the fourth largest in the country, according to the ACLU, with more than 40,000 registrants. The previous lawsuit stemmed from 2011 changes that retroactively placed lifetime registration requirements on about 75 percent of the individuals on the list. That suit also challenged previous rules that placed much stricter limitations on where registrants could live and go.

The appeals courts found that applying these provisions retroactively ran afoul of the Constitution.

The ACLU argues that sex offender registries are an ineffective approach to protecting the public, and that they divert police attention and resources from monitoring the most serious offenders.

In many cases, those who land on the list for life were convicted decades ago, and remain branded as a sex offender regardless of whether they are an actual threat. Others were teens who were convicted of consensual sex with younger teens.

Michigan’s offender registry is open to the public, and that kind of widespread shaming hampers these individuals from getting jobs and rebuilding their lives. Aukerman says it’s a form of lifetime parole, because those on the registry are required to alert police even when they get a new email address or phone number.

Clearly, the state has an interest in protecting the public from potentially dangerous individuals.

Yet Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry goes overboard in that aim.

The Legislature must address the constitutional pitfalls with the current law, but it should also look at broader reforms that balance public safety with the civil liberties of convicted individuals.


Traverse City Record-Eagle). January 23, 2019

Winter thrills can kill, so snowmobile with care

This weekend, a visiting snowmobiler was leading a group through some Kalkaska woods when his snowmobile’s ski caught an edge and threw the 45-year-old off his sled and into some trees.

This appears to be the eighth snowmobiling death around the state since Christmas.

A 46-year-old woman was flung from her snowmobile in Ishpeming after she hit some rocks along the lakeshore. A 35-year-old man hit a tree in Columbus. A 60-year-old woman went through the ice in Linwood, and a 54-year-old crashed in Ishpeming. Both a 51-year old and a 71-year-old man also lost their lives in snowmobile crashes this weekend.

Fifteen people died on snowmobiles between 2017-2018. Twenty-four people died between 2015-2016.

We love our snowmobiles, but there’s no denying that they can be dangerous.

There are a number of elements that are tough to control when riding — hidden rocks, unseen branches, thin ice — but there are some that we can.

Please be extra cautious when you’re riding in unfamiliar areas. Many of us travel to new snowmobile destinations and may be out of our element, or only drive snowmobiles a few times a year.

Also watch your speed — Department of Natural Resources law enforcement officers said a large percentage of snowmobile crashes happen when drivers take a corner too fast.

Be at your best behind the steering post, which means limiting drugs and alcohol.

Lastly, expect the unexpected, so prepare for emergencies on the trail, with a First-Aid kit, motor repair kits, failsafe communication, food, water and warmth.


Grand Haven Tribune. January 22, 2019

AED needed in every public gathering space

If not for the quick actions of his coach, a Fruitport Calvary Christian senior likely wouldn’t be alive today.

The week before Christmas, Luke Anhalt suffered a cardiac arrest during basketball practice. Fortunately, his coach, Jeff Zehr, was able to revive Anhalt using an automated external defibrillator (AED).

While Zehr deserves a tremendous amount of credit for his actions, it can’t be overlooked that his actions wouldn’t have been possible if an AED wasn’t available at the school.

The defibrillator is a portable electronic device that sends electricity to the heart to treat cardiac arrhythmias and helps re-establish an effective rhythm to the organ. The device has saved countless lives across the world, including retired Grand Haven Department of Public Safety Sgt. Randy Poel.

Poel suffered a cardiac arrest while playing hockey at a Muskegon ice rink in 2010. An AED at the rink saved his life.

Poel has since helped bring more than 80 AEDs to West Michigan venues. Four of them have been used in life-saving efforts.

Through a partnership with North Star Medical in Ada, Poel is able to help provide the devices at wholesale cost, especially to organizations that can’t afford them.

“It’s the best $1,000 to $1,500 someone can spend to get those in your place of gathering, whether it’s a school, church or business,” he said.

An AED is an invaluable insurance policy. The cost to put an AED on the wall is a small price to pay when you consider the fact that it could be your father, brother, daughter or grandmother whose life may need to be saved.

We would encourage every athletic venue to make sure an AED is available; and, furthermore, make sure that those who use the venue know where the AED is located and how to use it.

The devices save lives. Just ask the Anhalt and Poel families. It’s hard to imagine where their families would be right now if AEDs had not been available at the the school and the ice rink.


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