Saturday, July 27, 2013

Killing Sex Offenders--It Just Makes--SENSE??

By now the news of registered sex offender Charles Parker and his wife Gretchen being brutally slain in their home in rural South Carolina has spread beyond the boundaries of that state, although barely. A search for "sex offender" on a national database yields story after story about misconduct by registrants--parole violations, failure to register, a sexual assault, even a bank robbery in which the headlines loudly announce that the captured robber was also a sex offender--but, except for the affected counties in South Carolina, few seem to care that a husband and wife team, two crazed, skinhead vigilantes--self-proclaimed by words and tattoos--used the state's online registry as a hit list and road map to the Parkers' home and slaughtered them and, when apprehended, announced that they already had tomorrow's target picked out, another registrant chosen from the registry.

But that isn't what this post is about. That was covered in this press release that went across the state of South Carolina and to all other states as well.

This post is about something a psychologist said in an interview about the crime and the motive behind it.

" 'Parallel that to the prison system,' said psychologist Dr. Roger Rhoades. 'Are there a lot of sex offenders hurt or killed (there)? Yeah.'

Rhoades said that if you want to see some sense in what happened in Jonesville, you have to take a 'prison mindset,' and suddenly the case becomes clear.

'The bottom line is if this happened in a prison, there wouldn't even be a glitch, it would just be another day in prison life,' he said."

Did everyone get that? See some sense? The assault and murder of those in prison for a sexual offense is a commonplace, every-day event that makes sense within the prison context? And what makes this so horrible is...he is correct.

Violence in prison has always been accepted as just part of the penalty one pays for going there, especially for those with sexually-related offenses.

This is unacceptable. America imprisons more citizens per capita than any other civilized nation. America imprisons more citizens for sexual offenses than any other nation, period. It is totally unacceptable that men, women, and juveniles are thrown in prison for offenses ranging from trivial to serious, anything that can have the word "sex" attached to it, and then have those responsible for their safety turn their backs and shrug their shoulders and say, "Oh, well..." when they are raped, assaulted, and murdered.

To stop vigilantes from using sex offender registries as hit lists of their victims, registrants' addresses, at the very least,  must be removed from public view, but a responsible governor can do this; it was done in Maine immediately following a vigilante murder there of two registrants.

But what will it take to stop those with sexual offenses from being brutalized and murdered in prison? What will it take for the public to stop seeing that as just something that happens, something that makes sense? What will it take?

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Sex Offender Battle

There is a battle going on. It is exemplified perfectly in these two opposing headlines that were right next to each other in a list of subject-related articles: “Prevent Rape and Kidnapping With a Sex Offender Map Online” and “Nature of sex crimes limits registry's effectiveness.”

The first is an advertisement posing as an article: it is touting the necessity of subscribing to an alert system that provides information about registered sex offenders via your computer. It is mysteriously lacking any reference to factual information. In fact, it includes false information, such as saying that no one on the registry is allowed to live close to schools, parks, daycare facilities, or other similar places. Since some jurisdictions have such restrictions and some do not, the implication that any registrant living there is breaking the law is erroneous.

It goes on to offer “advice” as to how to respond if one is unfortunate enough to actually spot someone on the registry in a--gasp--public place. “Once you’ve become familiar with the sex offenders that are living in your area it’s important to keep in mind that if one is recognized by you, do not confront them as they may be dangerous and unstable. It’s important to notify your local police department immediately.” I would like to be a fly on the wall when the calls come flooding in to the local police precinct alerting them that Mr. XXX, a registered sex offender, is shopping at the corner store right NOW!

The second article includes references to many studies. It includes quotes from law enforcement and from experts in the field. The essence of its message is captured here: ”But while sex offender registries do inform the public about who might be living nearby, they don't (and can't) warn people against the more likely threat — the potential offender who is already in their lives….Incidents of sexual assault where the perpetrator was a stranger to the victim certainly do occur, but in the overwhelming majority of cases, the perpetrator is someone the victim knows.”

In the words of a prosecuting attorney when asked about the effectiveness of the registry in preventing sexual assaults, " ‘The registry does not prevent that….The registry would be more appropriate to the stranger situation, but at least 95 percent (of incidents) are not the stranger variety….I very rarely have what I'd term a stranger rape where the victim does not know the defendant.’…”

And the battle continues—myth versus reality, opinion versus fact, emotional appeal versus documented research, the words of those making a buck from the sex offender industry versus the words of experts and those actually in the field.

The battle continues.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Having Sex Is Fine; Talking About It Is a Crime

A bill that purports to address human sex trafficking, HB 130, has passed unanimously in the Ohio House of Representatives this past week.

One section, Section 2907.07 B (2), states:

No person shall solicit another, not the spouse of the offender, to engage
        in sexual conduct with the offender, when the offender is eighteen years 
        of age or older and four or more years older than the other person, and 
        the other person is sixteen or seventeen years of age whether or not the 
        offender knows of the age of the other person….

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo), has gone on record as saying, “The buying and selling of people is big business, folks…now we must finish what we started. Ending demand makes sense.”

The situations to which Section 2907.07 B (2) would be applied have nothing to do with buying and selling people or with supply and demand. This section does not address human trafficking. It does not address any issue that falls within the purview of the criminal justice system. With the legal age of consent in Ohio being sixteen, this does not address any behavior that is illegal or is the concern of anyone beyond two persons who are both of legal age to decide with whom they wish to have sexual contact.

Human trafficking is already defined in such a way that consensual sex is included provided that money is part of the exchange. This section makes no such requirement. This section does not make the act of sex with someone sixteen or seventeen illegal; that would remain legal. This section makes discussing it prior to the act illegal.

This section will require that a 21-year-old individual be charged and punished as a sexual criminal, including a requirement to register, for asking a 17 year old if she—or he—would be interested in having sex.

Any young man today is aware of the potential for allegations of rape or sexual assault. One way to minimize that risk is to engage in conversation prior to initiating sexual contact, conversation that makes clear that the other person equally desires the contact. This section of HB 130 makes that conversation illegal and punishable by law.

The entire bill, complete with Section 2907.07 B (2) has passed the Ohio House unanimously. It will be taken up by the Senate after summer break.

Section 2907.07 B (2) must be struck from the bill. To place individuals at risk of becoming felons because they wish to determine that a prospective sexual partner is fully willing is nonsensical at the highest level.