Friday, November 29, 2013

Advocating for Registered Sex Offenders' Rights Isn't for Sissies

I have long been aware that anyone and any organization who put themselves out there in favor of fact-based laws and constitutional rights for those on the registry are subject to criticism and even slander. I have encountered a few "crazies" who are easy to ignore because they are--well--crazy. I don't think I have ever actually encountered pure hatred until now.

I was making some comments on a recent article, and the only point I was pushing is that there should be a clearer distinction between statutory offenses and forced ones.

The situation was one in which a man, now grown, has been charged with rape resulting from what the evidence clearly indicates was a consensual relationship when he was 18 with a 14 year old young lady. The encounter was clearly a violation of the law. I stated that I recognized his culpability and that he was deserving of appropriate punishment.

Most of the comments were somewhat vicious toward him, and the word rape was thrown around freely. My comments were focused on the characteristics of a statutory offense and that there should be clearer distinction between such an offense, especially when the age difference between partners was not great, and a forced rape.

I was not well received, and in defense of my position, I revealed the personal information that at 16 I had dated, and before I was 17 married, a man 7 years older than myself. The first comment to this was that my parents should have been jailed for "inappropriate parenting" and that they were "criminals." My only response was, "Not in 1958."

This was when another poster took up the fight. He wrote, "they should have think you are around children is disgusting...and sad...for the children that are exposed to your thinking....i loathe you and the others of your ilk...

Forgetting my self-imposed rule not to argue with an idiot, and in spite of being impressed that he knew the word "ilk," I expressed my dismay that he was willing to be so rude and vicious toward someone he didn't know and that he had no idea what my thinking was.  I then wished him happy Thanksgiving and blessings.

That was a mistake.

He next wrote: 
Shelly Stow ?....I don't need any happy wishes or anything else from you period....your round about defense of a rapists [sic] tells me all i need to know of can use semantics to try and make your case but you are a miserable human being think you reproduced is disgusting.....i find you STRANGE to say the least....when your generation dies off and your way of thinking is history, then we can all be thankful.....your ancient way of justifying rape will be well....we hope for a better future without the disgusting beliefs of you and your ilk...
Ilk again. And all of this because I got married at 16 to someone 23 and because I thought that statutory rape and forced rape should be more clearly delineated.

And he continued...                                                                                                                            can only hope you have a neighbor like this piece of crap....looking forward to your defense strategy then....I am so thankful I do not live or exist anywhere near your locale....maybe when your granddaughter meets another man like this one you defend? will come around to a different way of thinking and come out of the "leave it to beaver" Jim Crow world you came from....have fun at your next tea bigot fox fake news rally....
 I finally decided I was outclassed in the idiot category and quit sparring with him. But I was shaken by his degree of hatred, pure vitriol, and his willingness to make assumptions about me and my life that he drew from the air. The man clearly has a problem, but it goes beyond that. It must be the subject matter that renders him not only illogical but irrational; surely he doesn't display such idiocy all the time. In spite of my resolve not to respond to him again, I couldn't stop thinking about it.

I was so disturbed that I asked  Lenore over at Free Range Kids for her take on it, and she too blogged about it.

So, what is the take-away here? I guess develop a thicker skin. Just accept that what I do and believe will make enemies.

And don't get in comment exchanges with idiots.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Just How Offensive Can a Sex Offender Be?

A short while ago I read an opinion piece entitled, "Viewpoint: Sex offenders need stronger punishments," in the Baylor Lariat.

The author ridiculed the 5th annual conference held by Reform Sex Offender Laws, Inc. in Los Angeles the end of August and said that he found a conference held by those who seek reform to these laws to be offensive.                            
I find his taking offense at this offensive. The author said that these laws placing people on a public registry, often for life, laws that impede their rebuilding their lives, are needed to protect children. I find this to be untrue.

It is no secret to anyone, except possibly the writer of "Viewpoint...," that virtually all child sexual abuse is committed by those close to the children in their lives, specifically their family members, their peers, and their authority figures, individuals who almost certainly have no previous arrest records for sexual offenses. This fact renders the public sex offender registry impotent as a means of protecting children from sexual crime.

In fact, experts in the field credit the registry and the entire sex offender industry that has grown up around it with obfuscating the real problem of child sexual abuse by keeping the focus turned in the wrong direction.

The author of this opinion piece states disbelievingly, "Yet those that are labeled as sex offenders...believe that laws that limit where they can live or where they can go are too restrictive and repressive." I find this surprising. How could this author not know that empirical evidence supports that view and goes even further? Research shows no correlation between these types of restrictions and public safety; therefore, whatever resources are spent on supporting and enforcing these restrictions are wasted.

They are indeed too restrictive and repressive in that they work against the goals of rehabilitation and community reintegration, which do work toward public safety; however, their greatest shortcoming is that they are not based on facts or empirical evidence; this is why they are ineffective.

And finally the author appeals to the plight of the victims and the loss of their innocence and their years of pain. I find this disingenuous and hypocritical, for he is supporting a system that has in its bloated budget little to nothing for victims' services, which helps past victims, or for prevention, which is designed to help present victims and reduce the number of future ones. He uses the pain of victims, which is indeed real, to support his emotional appeal, yet he suggests nothing that will help victims or work toward prevention.

I find that this author has written an opinion on a subject about which he has done no research and has little to no factual information.

However, this need not be a terminal disorder. If he wishes to find the truth, he will find these to be helpful.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Healthy Communities Include Former Sex Offenders

I appreciate the position presented by Becky Jones (11/15 Overexposure of sex offenders) that putting out too much information about former offenders is "not healthy for any community" and might even "lead to further crime against them" (I find the word "further" interesting here).

I would agree that it is "not healthy" when the children of former offenders are bullied and harassed at school because of the prior crimes of their parents. It is definitely "not healthy" for the parents of former offenders to have the cars they are driving, cars listed on the public registry as belonging to their registered-sex-offender-sons, vandalized, smashed, or shot at. And when, this past summer in South Carolina, a wife was brutally murdered along with her former-sex-offender-husband, that definitely was "not healthy."

However, while I agree with these points, I question Ms. Jones's final point that "We should be made aware of their presence in our neighborhoods...." I ask on what basis Ms. Jones holds this position.

Studies done examining the benefit of public notification of those on the registry have found none. No correlation is found between public notification and public safety. Indeed, negative factors have been found that decrease the stability of registrants living in the community, and that decrease of stability is correlated with less public safety.

I suppose that having one's children beat up and one's parents shot at would decrease one's stability.

It is time to re-think our laws and practices dealing with the management of former sex offenders living in the community. Studies also verify that the majority will not commit another sexual offense. We must base our laws on facts and research-based evidence.

That is the only way to build communities that are "healthier" for everyone.

Friday, November 8, 2013

A Sex Offender an Attorney--What Are the Odds?

This article presents the case of a former sex offender, still on the registry, who is a third year law student at the University of Richmond School of Law after receiving "the law school’s most prestigious, $30,000 John Marshall scholarship."

Many questions are being asked, and Zach Jesse has an attorney who has wisely advised him to answer none. His attorney made this statement. “If Zach passes the Virginia bar exam, he will have a hearing before the character and fitness committee of the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners to determine if he will become a member of the Virginia State Bar. I anticipate that the members of the committee will be asking the same types of questions you want to ask, so you can understand that I can’t let Zach answer questions on or off the record prior to his formal hearing.”

If Zach is admitted to the Virginia State Bar, he will be the first felon and certainly he first registered sex offender to earn that honor.

But why? There have been other such applicants. One who did not succeed with the character and fitness committee had been merely charged with a sexual crime; he was not convicted.

Is rehabilitation not recognized as a possibility? Should we not reward, or at least acknowledge, those who demonstrate it? In general, criminal justice systems profess to hold rehabilitation as a goal equal to just punishment. Virginia, however, on their official criminal justice website, doesn't even give rehabilitation lip service; they instead publish, "Welcome to the Web site of Virginia’s Judicial System. Our aim is to assure that disputes are resolved justly, promptly, and economically through a court system unified in its structures and administration."

Well. Promptly and economically. And justly. Not hoping for rehabilitation. Not making it a priority that those passing through the system are encouraged to repent, to strive to do better, to work hard to succeed--which makes it all the more remarkable that Zachery Jesse has done exactly that.

If odds were being given that Zach will end up practicing law in Virginia--or anywhere--I doubt many, if any, would take the bet.

But on the other hand, Zach is most clearly a young man who has proven he can beat the odds.

Zach, the best of luck to you. I hope you succeed. My money is on you.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Lies About Sex Offenders

The more the evidence shows otherwise, the more places pop up wanting sex offender residency restrictions and "child-safe zones."

Almost every day brings another town or another county proposing some sort of restriction limiting where those on the registry can legally live, go, or work, or placing some special conditions on their being there.

The concept of a "child-safe" area, just like all areas of restrictions to those on the registry, is flawed at the core. It makes assumptions that are untrue. One is that those who abuse children are strangers seeking out places where children congregate. This is true of the tiniest fraction, less than 1% most data shows. Virtually all child sexual abuse is committed by those close to the children in their lives, specifically their family members, their peers, and their authority figures.

Using what empirical evidence tells us then, a true "child-safe zone," one that would separate children from those most likely to do them sexual harm, would separate children from their family members and closest friends and associates.

This flawed concept also assumes that registered offenders frequently re-offend, and that too is false. The majority of registrants, whether on the registry for a youthful, foolish act or for a serious crime, will not sexually re-offend and are seeking only to rebuild their lives, support their families, and live law-abiding lives.

An additional falsehood is that any registrant seeking employment in a place such as a children's hospital is there for nefarious reasons. The public registry makes registrants getting any job very difficult. If they have the opportunity for a job, no matter where it is, they are highly unlikely to turn it down.

These false assumptions, these lies, result in ludicrous situations, such as registrants being banned from entering a public library or scanning paraphernalia being installed in public schools, paraphernalia that is programmed to sync with only one thing--the sex offender registry.

Some schools disallow the presence of a sex offender altogether regardless of the circumstances. A few allow a visiting parent who is a registrant in the building--so long as he has a school personnel escort with him. In addition to the fact that schools probably have more surveillance cameras per square foot than banks do, registrants are considered so dangerous that they need special supervision. Imagine the humiliation to the child or teenager when he is quizzed by his peers about why his dad had an assistant principal walking around with him. That isn't just ludicrous; it is cruel.

I beg any who are considering implementing any of these restrictions or procedures to spend some time looking at the empirical evidence and following it. We have enough laws based on foolish whims, false assumptions, and deliberate lies. We don't need more.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Sometimes I Just Hate Being Right

I thought I was through with Halloween; it seems that Halloween is not through with me.

For several weeks now, this has been my message wherever I could possibly find a place to put it:
Increased risk from sex offenders on Halloween: NONE. No instance can be found of a child being molested or bothered by a registered offender in connection with Halloween. Studies find zero increased risk.
Risk from poisoned or tampered-with candy or fruit: NONE. The only instance of poisoned Halloween candy was in the '70's when a father poisoned his own children's Halloween candy in order to collect their insurance. 
Increased risk from auto/pedestrian accidents: TWO TO FOUR TIMES. Children are two to four times more likely to be killed by such accidents on Halloween than any other day of the year.
So law enforcement, if any are reading this: We don't want you checking whether registrants have their lights on or not or x-raying candy. We want you on traffic patrol.

 From the 50 or 60 headlines that responded to my search engine Friday morning, no one paid attention. Almost every one was a variant of, "Police protect trick or treaters; keep registered sex offenders at bay."

But a few carried a darker and more tragic message.

Five children were killed by vehicles while trick or treating Thursday evening.

According to a report covering five years summarized in USA Today, " average of 2.2 children are killed in pedestrian accidents from 4 to 10 p.m. on Halloween, compared with one child every other evening at the same time."

And this year five were killed.

I thought long and hard about writing this. I am still thinking long and hard about posting it, but I am almost sure that I will. I asked myself, "If five children had been assaulted by someone on the registry on Halloween, would it be in the news?" We all know the answer to that. If one child had been assaulted by someone on the registry, it would be all over the news. But, apparently, just as in every previous year, no registrant took advantage of Halloween to stalk and molest a child trick or treating. The results are the same in the many jurisdictions and the states where no restrictions are placed against registered offenders regarding Halloween as well as the places where restrictions were in place.

And for the lives of five precious children lost, we mourn, and we pray for comfort for their families, and we say, "Rest in peace, Erica (SC), Autumn (GA), and Shane (TN). " We say, "Rest in peace, little ones from Texas and from Nevada whose names are not yet publicized."

Rest in peace.