Saturday, September 28, 2013

Getting Sex Offender Management Right

Every once in a while, someone will get it right. These three articles, all just out, give accurate, fact-based information and opinions regarding sex offender management and treatment.

"Sex Offenders Aren't all Monsters," written by Dianne Frazee-Walker, appears in a blog titled Prison Law News. Referring often to Nicole Pitman's Human Rights Watch report on juvenile offenders, this article addresses the damage done to youth when they are publicly labeled as beyond redemption.

This excellent article by Lawrence Bench and Terry Allen summarizes the research done by the authors and their findings. They encountered, not surprisingly, opposition to their work, but they fought and won to have it published in a peer-reviewed journal from the Utah Department of Corrections. "Toward a strategic sex offender policy" should be required reading for every legislator who is writing or supporting any sex offender legislation now or in the future.

"To Spot a Predator," written by Josh Dooley, is a horse of a different color and what drove me here again after a too-long absence. While it generalizes and over-simplifies some things, it also makes some good points, and it makes one point extremely well; children are primarily at risk for sexual harm not from strangers, not from registered sex offenders, but from those they know and trust and often love.

This undeniable fact, supported  by every source out there, is in direct opposition to what our society, our media, and our government focuses on and expends virtually all resources on.

The structure in place to track and monitor every single person who has committed any type of offense that can be labeled a sex offense, and some that are not, is a multi-million dollar industry. Many of the elements are mandated by the federal government. The propaganda machine that created, supports and continues to drive this industry has done an excellent job. We are to the point where the announcement that a registered offender has moved to a town or a neighborhood sends  everyone into panic and hysteria over protecting the children.

Before we can even begin to address the undeniable truth of child sexual abuse, we will have to dismantle a large portion of the machinery that moves the public sex offender registry and all that it has spawned. Only then will we have the resources to build something in its place that will address the problem.

Comprehensive services for sexual crime victims, completely missing in what we currently have, are vital. Vastly improved rehabilitation, reentry, and support services for those who have offended, served their sentences, and want to build law-abiding lives are vital. And comprehensive and intensive programs of awareness, education, and prevention in every school and community are vital.

Isn't it time that what we have in place to address the problem at least knows what the problem is?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Is Forty-Plus Years Not Long Enough?

This one is for the old-timers. If you remember Peter, Paul, and Mary, you qualify, and this is for you. You should read the article first, but in brief, Peter Yarrow, in 1969, had a consensual but illegal relationship with a young lady below the age of consent. He served a three month jail sentence and has, for some, ever since been considered a sex offender. He has continued his music and combined his music career with involvement in political issues.

His alliance has been with those of the Democratic party. Those of the opposing party have not hesitated to dredge up Yarrow's past and use it against their political enemies, often with the results they desired.

It is happening again; Yarrow is featured in a fundraiser being held in Ithaca, New York, the end of this month for a Democratic candidate, and the Republican candidate is making as much hay as possible out of Yarrow's ancient record as a sex offender.

What is wrong with this scenario? Our criminal justice system is comprised of one part punishment and one part rehabilitation. The purpose of the punishment is to bring about rehabilitation.

Sometimes it works like it is supposed to. Mr. Yarrow committed a crime in 1969. That is over 40 years ago. He served his court ordered punishment, and in light of the fact that there has been no re-offense in over 40 years, I think we are safe in declaring him rehabilitated. Everything worked just like it is supposed to.

What then is the problem? Is rehabilitation not good enough for some? Is there some other standard of measure needed?

Those who keep throwing Mr. Yarrow's bad choice over 40 years ago in his face and using it to discredit their opponents are despicable hypocrites, and I would rather have Mr. Yarrow and an entire host of former felons who served their time, learned their lessons, and spent the rest of their lives as productive citizens as my political leaders than a bunch of mealy-mouthed hypocrites who are incapable of practicing what they preach.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Are We a Nation of Laws or a Nation of Vigilantes?

According to a press release titled “Vigilante Assaults on the Rise – A Return to a Lawless America?” and posted on the RSOL website, “In a span of only a few months' time, local and national media, fueled by the fires of social media, have documented an alarming rise in open, public vigilante attacks against citizens of this country.”

New Mexico is contributing to that trend. In Albuquerque on Thursday, the 5th, in the early morning hours, a man was assaulted by three others and beaten so severely he was not expected to survive.

The man who was beaten was engaged in an illegal and disturbing act, and he will be charged. He was peering in the bedroom window of two young sisters, ages 13 and 15. He was nude. According to the 911 dispatcher, “Three men from within the residence chased the alleged prowler away from the property and a physical fight ensued.”

The three men were the father, the brother, and a neighbor of the girls. What ensued was not so much a fight as it was a brutal attack that left the victim of the attack barely clinging to life. He was taken to the hospital in critical condition. His condition has since been upgraded to stable.

Comment boards on online articles covering this story praise the trio of men for “protecting family” and “doing what any man would do.”

Running the man off of their property would have been protecting family.

Holding him, forcefully if needed, until law enforcement could arrive would have been protecting family.

Chasing him from the property, assaulting him on the street, and beating him almost to death is not protecting family. It is committing a criminal act. It is a violent assault. It is vigilantism.

New Mexico has its own history of vigilantism going back to 2008. A man named Elton John Richard had been sentenced to two years after pleading to voluntary homicide. He had caught a man breaking into his car, chased him almost half a mile from his property, and shot him in the back and killed him while he was climbing over a fence.

After being in prison for four months, he was freed by a state district judge who reduced his sentence to time served. He gave as his reason that Richard was no threat to the community. That may quite possibly have been true so long as no one else in the community tried to break into his car.

The pattern was set with this case that those who commit acts of vigilante violence in New Mexico will not be held accountable.

And now, five years later, the trend continues. The Albuquerque Journal reports that the father in the assault trio is facing charges of aggravated battery. We shall see. And what of the other two assailants? Will they be charged? We shall see. RSOL has issued a press release calling on the county district attorney to do the right thing and charge those involved appropriately.

There is not a one of us that at some point in life has not suffered an injustice, a harm, an assault, or an act of violence. If we each sought our own revenge, took the law into our own hands, and wreaked vigilante revenge upon out wrongdoers, the streets would run with blood from coast to coast.

We are a nation with a system of rules and laws; injustices, harms, assault, and acts of violence must be dealt with through our established justice system, which includes law enforcement, the legal and court system, and the prison system.

To not deal appropriately with vigilantes is to encourage them and to say that their illegal acts are somehow acceptable.

When crime is committed, it must be addressed by law enforcement.

And this includes crime that is committed by vigilantes under the guise of street justice.