Battle Creek, Michigan: A local man hoping to open a new business saw his plans destroyed this week, a victim of panic triggered by a TV news report. The onscreen headline tells plenty, SEX OFFENDER PROPOSES STORE. A new food business set to open in a city with a troubled downtown ought to be a welcome development. Also, the soon-to-be shopkeeper, Reece Adkins, is striving to be a productive member of his community after having paid a price for past wrongdoing but who now must live with a scarlet letter, forced to sign the sex offense registry for life. WWMT, a CBS affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, got wind of all this and dispatched an investigative reporter, Walter Smith-Randolph, who produced a big story that ran as LIVE, DEVELOPING coverage. Smith-Randolph—armed with a degree from City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism–didn’t find *any* broken laws, not even breaches of the very restrictive statutes registrants must obey or risk serious penalties for living or working in a banishment zone. His story did find ways to create unfounded fear (such as for people, young and old, who enjoy the toy store next door) and stoke a panic. The big surprise in the news coverage is *Patch’s* story, by Beth Dalbey. Patch is a nationwide network of hundreds of local news websites. Dalbey’s even-toned report lays out what happened to Adkins and sets it in the context of laws that are making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for registrants to reintegrate into society. As the subhead explains, the “controversy illustrates the jobs and housing barriers convicted sex offenders face under the nation’s registry laws.” The piece contains important information about recent court decisions which have struck down harsh sex offense laws because they create “moral lepers” while offering no benefit to public safety. Dalbey’s article is especially heartening because Patch often carries sensational coverage of sexual wrongdoing and has, in years past, published thousands of stories and maps ratcheting up baseless fears about registrants during the Halloween season. Have a look at the one of Smith-Randolph’s reports, the Patch story, and an article from Battle Creek’s newspaper, the Enquirer. -Bill Dobbs, The Dobbs Wire
WWMT TV News (Kalamazoo, MI) | Aug. 8, 2017
Neighbors, community members react to registered sex offender looking to open business
By Walter Smith-Randolph
Excerpts: A registered sex offender wants to open up shop two blocks away from a school, and right next door to a toy store. He says he wants to help the community, but some neighbors say no way! Reece Adkins’s new store is a food auction. It’s just a block away from Battle Creek Central High School, but it’s right next door to a toy store.
Adkins, 41, says he’s not breaking any laws, but neighbors here say it’s just not right. “God has forgiven me for what I’ve done. I’ve been out in this community for four years,” he said. “I’ve proved to myself that I’m not out here trying to commit crimes. This is a good positive standpoint for the community,” he said. But not everyone in the community, like Robert Seales, sees it Adkins’s way. “I think it’s disgusting. I don’t think a sex offender should be downtown where the kids are,” he said.
But the law says nothing about a toy store. It does say Adkins can’t be within 1,000 feet of a school. “I’ve checked with the police department,” he said. Just to double check and be sure, we wanted to see how far the distance is to the closest school. So we decided to track our steps on a GPS tracker on our phone to Battle Creek Central High School, and according to this tracker, we are about a quarter of a mile away from the store–which means Reece Adkins is well within his rights to open up shop. MORE:
Patch — Across Michigan | Aug. 10, 2017
Sex Offender Registry Keeps Michigan Man From His Business
Battle Creek, Michigan, controversy illustrates the jobs and housing barriers convicted sex offenders face under the nation’s registry laws.
By Beth Dalbey
Excerpts: Convicted sex offender Reece Adkins’ predicament isn’t likely to evoke much sympathy from his neighbors. He was convicted 17 years ago of sexually abusing a minor under the age of 13 and placed on Michigan’s sex offender registry for life. The Michigan sex offender law establishes safe zones for kids, and because the planned business is within 1,000 feet of two schools, it’s off limits to Adkins, Battle Creek officials have determined. So he either has to walk away from the business or find a new location that is far enough away from schools and day care facilities that he remains in compliance with the law. The controversy in Battle Creek illustrates the difficulty some of the most reviled of criminal offenders have rebuilding their lives.
Some recent court decisions signal reform of laws that civil libertarians and others argue do nothing to prevent recidivism, instead driving offenders to the fringes of society and actually making repeat offenses more likely. Federal appeals courts have issued scathing rulings about sex offender registry statutes in Michigan and North Carolina over the past year.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lambasted Michigan officials on several fronts in an August 2016 ruling, saying the sex offender registry law turns registrants into “moral lepers” and finding that it violates both the Due Process and Ex Post Facto clauses of the Constitution. The Michigan law is based on “scant evidence that such restrictions serve the professed purpose of keeping Michigan communities safe,” the court ruled, noting that empirical studies have demonstrated that sex offender registration laws have, “at best, no impact on recidivism” and could, in fact, increase recidivism because registrants have difficulty complying with restrictions on where they can live, work and even breathe air.
A 2015 case made international headlines after a western Michigan judge ordered a 19-year-old teen to 25 years on the sex offender registry after he rendezvoused and had sex with a teen he’d met online. She was 14 at the time but claimed to be 17 in their online chats, according to court documents. The judge’s sentence sparked outrage around the country, and another judge said the teen doesn’t have to register as a sex offender and re-sentenced him to two years’ probation under a law that gives young offenders a chance to have their records expunged. MORE:
Battle Creek Enquirer (Battle Creek, MI) | Aug. 9, 2017
Sex offender warned to stay away from his own business
By Noe Hernandez
Excerpts: A convicted sex offender who plans on opening a shop next to a toy store in downtown Battle Creek has been told by police he cannot be at his business and has been asked by his business partner to step down. Adkins’s business partner, Cindy Dian, said Tuesday that she has asked him to publicly step down after reports of his criminal past surfaced in the media. “The idea of the business is to help low-income people with food,” Dian said. “I have taken this week off to think and pray as to how to proceed. “I feel that the damage that has been done by the media is irreparable,” she added. “There’s no way that any business can start after this, but, if told that I have to, I will try my best.”
Major Jim Grafton of the Battle Creek Police Department said Wednesday that Adkins was told Monday not to be in the space that houses his business because it is within 1,000 feet of Battle Creek Central High School and St. Philip Catholic schools. Three weeks ago, he said, a Battle Creek Police Department employee who works with registered sex offenders told him that he could open the business because it was more than 1,000 feet from a school.
Adkins said he believes he has paid his debt to society. “It’s something that’s behind me,” Adkins said Friday. “I’ve learned from the mistakes. I’m trying to move forward because a lot of people have criminal histories. “It’s something you don’t need to live the rest of your life against,” he added. “I’ve done my time; I deserve a chance. I’ve been out of the community going on five years now and I’ve not been in trouble since.” MORE: