Saturday, December 13, 2014

SEX OFFENDERS should not be allowed to purchase lottery tickets; they just might win

~~by Shelly Stow

If proof were ever needed that an individual, once listed on a sex offender registry, no matter for what offense nor how long ago, is forever more thereafter considered unworthy of anything good ever happening in his life, this is it.

A registrant in Florida won a three million dollar scratch-off lottery, and the wrath of every hater in the United States and then some was raised beyond the boiling point.

Now granted, Timothy Poole is no poster boy for righteous living. He has a somewhat extensive record for other types of crimes committed before he was convicted of a sex offense. But it is not because of his larceny nor any of the other crimes that the hue and cry is heard from coast to coast that he should, by any means possible, be denied his winnings. It is because he is a SEX OFFENDER.

Florida has no prohibition against any convicted felon profiting from lottery winnings, not even SEX OFFENDERS. I am currently making book that Florida's next legislative session will see a bill introduced that will do just that. The only uncertainty is whether the proposed legislation will target those with any felony conviction or will focus only on SEX OFFENDERS.

Mr. Poole, since his release from prison in 2006, has maintained a record as spotless as the proverbial driven snow. He works for the family business, a taxi company, and he plans to use the money to help his mother and improve the business. None of that quashed the flood of outrage or deterred the cesspool of nasty headlines, articles, and commentary as to why he should not receive the money and how inherently wrong it is for him to have won it to begin with.

Among the more colorful headlines are, "Who’s winning big in state lotteries? Sex offenders," "People Left Wondering About Justice When Child Molester in Florida Hits the $3 Million Jackpot," "Sex Offender Wins Millions in Florida Lottery Proving Karma Really Isn’t a Bitch," and my personal favorite, "Convicted pedophile Timothy Poole wins $2.2 million in Florida Lottery." The language in the articles does not fall short of living up to the venom suggested by the titles. Mr. Poole is a large man, over 400 pounds, and one of the articles calls him "This fat 450-pound goblin..." And since pedophilia is a medical/psychological condition and not a chargeable crime, one cannot help but wonder how that particular writer can justify his word choice.

These reactions, seeping with vitriol, are not unexpected but nevertheless highly disturbing. If one who has committed any of the myriad of offenses that trigger registration is never, ever, hell no, to move past that to a point in life where good things can happen, where happiness is allowed, what does that say about our professed commitment to rehabilitation? How does that square with the volumes of research telling us that community reintegration of former offenders is the greatest assurance of enhanced public safety?

And does that mean that we, the public, the haters, those who would wrest Mr. Poole's winnings from his hands, are deliberately sacrificing that safety so that we can doggedly hang on to our refusal to believe that people can change?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Really--the nerve of some people!

~~by Shelly Stow

The headline says it all: "Freed Texas day care owners still want exoneration."

I mean, they spent only 20 plus years in prison for a crime that never happened, but they are free now. Isn't that enough?

They--Fran and Dan Keller--ran a day-care facility in the 1980s. They were charged with "child abuse involving satanic rituals." Sound familiar? And yes, this one came complete with "recovered memories" also. "... therapists testified that they helped three children recover memories of satanic rituals and sexual abuse at an Austin preschool the Kellers operated."

But they weren't convicted solely on the testimony of the therapists, goodness me, no. There was physical evidence too. "During their trial, the only physical evidence came from an emergency room doctor who testified that internal lacerations on one child were evidence of abuse."

And that was enough for a jury of their peers to find them guilty of the charges and sentence them to 48 years in prison, of which they served 21. They maintained their innocence for every day of those 21 years, but hey, doesn't everybody who goes to prison say they are innocent?

In 2013, Dr. Michael Mouw, the emergency room doctor whose testimony was instrumental in the guilty verdict, said, according to official court records, that "...what he thought were lacerations were actually normal physiology." Based on that, the Travis County prosecutors agreed that "...the case's evidence was faulty..." and the Kellers were released on bond a year ago.

And now they have the audacity to ask that their convictions be thrown out.

Well of course the Travis County Prosecutors' Office isn't about to do that. You just can't go around proclaiming people innocent once they have been found guilty in a court of law, especially not on a charge of sexually molesting children, not without "... new evidence that unquestionably establishes innocence — something like an ironclad alibi or DNA proof."

What a shame that the burden of proof hadn't been that high in order to find them guilty.

They have lost 21 years of their lives in prison for something they did not do, something that never happened. They were divorced in prison, so they have lost more than the years. There will be those--probably many--who will continue to believe they were guilty--the "Where there's smoke, there's fire" principle.

I pray I am wrong, but I do not believe they will win this. They have been told they must prove their innocence. How do you prove that you are innocent of doing something that didn't happen? This will be decided by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, a group of judges who "typically takes a skeptical view toward overturning jury verdicts. The court will be guided by the recommendations of Senior District Judge Wilford Flowers, who presided over the Kellers' 1992 trial and their recent appeals — and who has already twice ruled that they had failed to prove their innocence."

I am not a jurist nor an attorney; I have in the past described myself as someone who can't read legalese without my eyes rolling back in my head, but it seems to me, in my simple, ignorant, non-legal mind, that the state of Texas failed in 1992 to meet its burden of proof in finding them guilty.

Shouldn't that be enough for an exoneration?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

But officer, really...that's not who I am...

by Shelly Stow

Things come in threes, they say--whoever "they" are. I sincerely hope not. Before eight o'clock on this gloomy Saturday morning, I had read two articles dealing with this topic, and I sincerely hope not to see a third. The two I read did an adequate enough job of raising my blood pressure.

The topic? Mistaken identity. Men arrested, held in jail, brutalized, lives destroyed, all because they were mistaken for a wanted sex offender.

And the most horrible and unconscionable element of all is the subtle, sub-textual inference that all that happened to them would be "okay" if they had been the sex offenders for whom they were mistaken.

Case number one occurred in North Carolina, and it took only four months for charges to be dismissed against Tommy Wall, but those four months were all it took for him to be fired from his job of 23 years and to be financially devastated to the point of losing his home and everything he had, including what was most important, his reputation. And why was he arrested? How could this confusion occur? Law enforcement had video of the man they sought, and he was bald. Mr. Wall is bald. How he got on the radar of law enforcement is not revealed, but he was arrested and held in jail for four months because he is bald. His attorney, the third assigned to his case and obviously the first to actually investigate the charges, noted that the video of the bald man actually sought by police showed a large mole on the top of his head. Mr. Wall had no such mole.

"The investigation should have been done a lot better," Webb [his attorney] said. "He has a big, big obstacle to overcome, because once you’ve been targeted and tainted with such a crime as this, it's going to follow you wherever you go."

The second case is even more egregious for several reasons. The wrongly imprisoned man is mentally ill. He was in a Georgia county jail for 525 days--almost a year and a half. He was raped and brutalized while under the custody and "protection" of the Fulton County Jail. And based on all available information, he was arrested because, when he was stopped by police, whether for an actual traffic violation or not is not made clear, he could not produce his driver's license; he is African-American; and his first name is Randy. Law enforcement were looking for a wanted sex offender who was African American and whose first name was Randy. They decided that they had just found their man.

He insisted he was not Randy Williams, the wanted man, but Randy Wiggins. And insisted. And insisted for a year and a half. And for a year and a half, Fulton County law enforcement and the district attorney's office and judicial system combined did not, according to all available information, do a fingerprint comparison between the Randy they were holding in jail and the Randy they thought they had arrested. The truth did not come out until Mr. Wiggins was taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation.

Both men are free now. Both men will most likely bring legal action against the respective authorities, and I for one hope they get every penny they ask for and then some.

But what I hope for even more is that this not happen again. If a man were wrongly arrested for murder, there would be no immediate assumption of guilt, especially on the part of employers and others who know him. When the truth came out, it would be a case of mistaken identity, boy, the police can be stupid sometimes, and that would be it.

When a man is arrested for a sexual crime, be it a rightful or a wrongful arrest, the damage is done. Jobs are lost. Friends and acquaintances often flee. Brutalization occurs in jails and prisons, violence that is seen by many as proper consequences of committing--or even thought to have committed--a sexual crime.

What will it take for my hope to become reality? I don't know, but law enforcement must be accountable for their actions. They must take every precaution to assure they are not arresting, charging, and detaining an innocent person. A simple check to see if a bald head is sporting a large mole, a simple fingerprint comparison--is that too much to ask?

If the charge is for a sexual crime, apparently so.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

And the greatest event of the year is...the bashing of The Shirt!

“It’s vulgar. It’s demeaning and insulting to women. It is definitely sexist. It symbolizes the entire male-privilege concept and the way men view women, as nothing but sex objects.”

“It’s just a shirt. Maybe it was inappropriate for the situation, but it isn’t important enough to overshadow the tremendous scientific accomplishment that was made. It’s a tempest in a teapot. It just isn’t that big a deal.”

For days now, I have watched the case of the offending shirt develop and have tried to be sure that I balanced what I read as evenly as possible between the pros—Matt Taylor good; shirt unimportant—and the cons—shirt evil; Matt Taylor a sexist pig.

I continued reading; I soon decided that I abhorred the vitriol with which some of the more strident shirt-haters expressed their opinions, but I equally despised the nastiness with which their opponents attacked them. There appeared to be no heroes in this battle.

I dabbled in a brief, back-and-forth with Jack Marshall on his ethics blog, which, incidentally, I never miss reading. My primary contention was that those vilifying the shirt—and Dr. Taylor—the strongest were lacking in credibility as sincere feminists because they were passing up the opportunity to highlight the role of females on the project, choosing instead to crucify Taylor for having the total lack of sensitivity and the unmitigated gall to wear that shirt for a television interview. As I phrased it to Jack in a comment, “That to me says their first priority is male-bashing at any cost with female accomplishments coming in a distant second.”

He expressed limited agreement with that but maintained that, “If he [Taylor] wore that shirt around female colleagues it was automatic sexual harassment anywhere in the US, and completely disrespectful to any woman, scientist or otherwise, in the room, regardless of what any law or policy said.”

My opinion was validated when I stumbled upon a blog, or a collection of blog posts, here. I read: 
You know what I find the most damning about this?
I spent three hours trying to find an interview or even an esposé on Kathrin Altwegg, one of the lead scientists on this mission* hoping to see something on the subject matter important to the research undergone, anything, even a modicum of a write-up about the women involved in the Rosetta Mission. Instead all I found was this tripe [the shirt issue]. 
*Altewegg also has 23 publications to her name relevant to the Rosetta missions, in case you were curious. Why isn't anyone talking about these achievements? Why is it all about what Matt Taylor wore? Why isn't there a single blogger giving these women the credit they deserve? 
This was a monumental opportunity for an intrepid blogger to sit down, reach out to the ESA and say "Hey, we'd like to interview some of the women on this mission because we feel like they've set a great platform for young girls to get involved in science in technology. These women participated in a scientific achievement that decades from now, others like them can look back and trace the roots of future scientific progress to the work these women did."
And then the piece de resistance came with this: 
As a female in the science community, I thank you for this.
It's really an amazing feeling when you are recognized for your achievements and not a lot of people realize how much is being done by females in science due to it being overpowered by "men scare women from science” (or some other bullshit like that which isn't true at all). 
Seeing this all over social media really just upset me
1- because I am super passionate about space science and development and that landing was a HUGE event.
2- because I am female and i think the way Matt Taylor's shirt is being perceived is completely stupid….So what if he has a ridiculous sense of fashion?…Humanity makes more out of an ugly shirt than the biggest event in science in the past couple of years and we need to realize those are now the people we share a planet with.
I understand that some want gender equality and whatever else but…you people need to get your shit together. 
And I believe that says it all. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Sex Offenders and Halloween--will it ever stop?

What do these four headlines have in common?

"Staying safe and avoiding sex offenders while trick or treating on Halloween"

"Sex Offenders in Colorado Can Open Doors on Halloween" (sub-text: and we've got to put a stop to that)

"Police out in force for Halloween; extra eye on sex offenders in Effingham"

"County sex offenders required to report on Halloween"

Not a very hard question, is it? These are headlines of just four of a multitude of articles that appeared in online and print media in the four weeks before Halloween. Multitude? Yes...multitude. I captured 50 separate articles, coming from 22 separate states. Those are the ones that crossed my desk in the regular course of my work. When I did an actual search, they are less than half the number that one search brought up.

The states that seem to have put forth the most are, like the first one above, from states that have no restrictions in place for registrants on Halloween. One assumes that someone did his or her homework and knows this is a non-problem and no laws are needed. Not satisfied with that, enterprising law enforcement and journalists took it as a challenge and issued warnings left and right about the danger of those on the registry on this night above all. They cautioned every parent to check the registry carefully before letting the kids go trick or treating. Two of those states now have legislators considering bills that will bring their states in line with the ones that have restrictions. And so it spreads, like a fungus or a cancer.

Additionally, after Halloween a plethora of new articles appeared, all with the same theme: "We did it! We protected your children on Halloween from the big, bad sex offenders. No children were molested by anyone on the registry!" Well guess what, California and Florida? Guess what, Nevada? None were molested in Alabama or Kansas or Missouri either, or any of the other 20 or more states that have no state laws and very few or no jurisdictional ones that affect registrants on Halloween. None were molested anywhere by anyone on the registry while trick or treating--ever, as far as research has been able to determine.

But this is not what the public thinks. How could they when headlines and TV anchors shout at them for weeks about the necessity to take extra precautions on Halloween against "sex offenders"? This was made clear when, in response to an article titled, "Operation Scarecrow helped keep sex offenders away from kids on Halloween," I commented:
"Kept kids safe from sexual predators"--that is such a joke. I don't imagine any kids were attacked by hyenas either, so you might as well take credit for that also. I admit to that being a bit of hyperbole, but the fact is that children are at ZERO increased risk for sexual crime on
Halloween, and all of the law enforcement hype and political hype across the nation is just that--hype that has nothing to do with actually protecting children and much to do with making the public think so. There is no record of a child being molested by a registrant while trick or treating--ever. Now, if increased patrol cars and even foot patrols were out and visible, you may have had an impact on traffic safety and thus have saved a child from being hit by a car. That is what children are at increased risk for on Halloween, and six were killed this year trick or treating. We need facts and truth in laws, in law-enforcement, and in journalism.
I was immediately challenged by a well-meaning reader who wrote:
"the fact is that children are at ZERO increased risk for sexual crime on Halloween" Really, Shelly? And where did you obtain that fact from? From your extensive...several minutes worth of...thinking about the issue? Kudos to the officers for looking out for the kids. I'm glad they take the issue more seriously than Shelly does.
To his credit, when I nicely replied and gave an excellent research source as my evidence, he apologized and complimented me on my response. He is a rare, rare exception.

When did this start? I remember many articles last year, and the year before that, and....? Time out for research.

I searched "Halloween restrictions for sex offenders." I used the time frame of September 1 through November 15. I started at 2000 and came forward. I looked at every single entry. I did not look at any actual articles. If the entry did not clearly link danger from registered sex offenders with Halloween, I did not count it. Early on and continuing forward, the entries include reports of courts overturning or disallowing these restrictions. Frankly, I was surprised there were so many. Everyone needs to go to court over this. The entries also include material from advocates, experts, and research debunking the entire premise and the laws that are useless because there is no problem for them to address. This is by no means a "real" piece of research, but these are my results:

  • 2000  0 articles
  • 2001  1 article, written by someone denouncing the rumors of children's deaths by poison in treats; he calls it Halloween sadism; sex offenders are not mentioned, but I found it interesting.
  • 2002  0
  • 2003  3; California, Louisiana, and a third I was unable to determine announced their creation of laws restricting the activities of registrants on Halloween.
  • 2004  1
  • 2005  11; Megan's Law was mentioned in two of the entries
  • 2006  8
  • 2007  15
  • 2008  60 ?? My guess is that SORNA was becoming a motivating factor.
  • 2009  23
  • 2010  40
  • 2011  66
  • 2012  100
  • 2013  117
  • 2014  177
With very few exceptions, the pattern is clear--an increase every year. I do not expect a decrease for next year, but maybe more will be announcing the overturning of some of these laws. The evidence is clear and compelling that they are laws that have no purpose and no merit. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

When it comes to sex offender facts, freedom of speech is squashed

~~by Shelly

This will be filed under Halloween, but it extends far beyond that.

A little town in Indiana named Bedford did something this Halloween that I found particularly despicable. The past week or so I have been commenting fast and furiously, as often as possible, against the need to expend extra-ordinary efforts protecting trick-or-treaters against registrants and for the more-needed addition of traffic patrols Halloween evening and night. I was getting rather blase about it because the articles were much the same: for the town's or county's registered citizens, no decorations; no lights; no costumes; no handing out treats; no being on the streets; mandatory meetings.

Then this morning, this headline really caught my eye: "Police use creative video to warn community about sex offenders before Halloween."  The opening paragraphs give the full picture--pun intended--better than I could paraphrase it:
Halloween is just days away, and one central Indiana police department is getting the word out about local sex offenders. 
The Bedford Police Department made a Facebook video that shows the faces of the nearly 50 sex offenders living in the city.
My first thought was, "Well, crap. What if some kid sees his or her daddy or uncle or grandpa on there? Will there be any end to the grief for that child, to the harassment and bullying that will result from peers?"

My second thought was, "This is SO wrong." I started hunting for a way to post an objection. The article did not have a comment board attached. I found a Facebook page for the news outlet that posted the original article and dropped in this comment:
This is horrible...and total nonsense. A little research would reveal that children are at zero increased risk for sexual harm from registrants or from anyone else on Halloween; it would reveal that exhaustive research has failed to turn up any cases of children being harmed by a registrant on Halloween. It will also reveal that every year several children are killed and more injured in auto-pedestrian accidents. What children are at increased risk for on Halloween is death by car. So, if the authorities of Bedford actually care about child safety and want to protect children on Halloween, they should direct their efforts to increased traffic patrol and traffic safety.
These two blog entries just came out and are very informative:
At With Justice for All: "This is getting boring, but it's Halloween again"
At Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment: "Halloween & Sex Crime: Myth vs. Reality"
It was delegated to some back page, but it was there--if you hunted for it. I then tried to find a Facebook page for the Bedford Police Department, and when a friend sent me the link to the page about the video, I put the comment there along-side a dozen or so others about the video display. Mine was the longest and therefore prominent. When I went back a few minutes later, my comment was gone--and so was the window for me to write another comment. They not only removed my comment; they also blocked my posting on that page. I then went to their main Facebook page; I was blocked from there also.

Maybe I shouldn't have said it was horrible or called it nonsense. I seriously doubt that would have made a difference, but I still wonder. The rest of my comment was fact and truth. If the Bedford Police Department Facebook moderator cared at all for the truth, he could have just removed the horrible and nonsense part and left the rest.

This is the greatest challenge that those of our advocacy face: getting the truth before the public. Our venues are limited; our blogs are read by each other and very few others. Mainstream publications and venues must be hit in the face with significant articles by prominent writers or results of research before they will publish anything giving the actual facts.

So what does this mean? First, we have a hard job ahead of us, but we already know that. More importantly, we will not be silenced. If one of us is blocked, ten more will find a way and a place to make our voices heard. There is no option. Facebook can block us; letters to the editor may be deemed not worthy of publication; law-enforcement sites may ignore or remove our comments. We will find a way. We will not be silenced.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

This is getting boring, but it's Halloween again

I really thought this year was going to be different. Last year the "big, bad sex offender at Halloween" hype started as early as August and was in full swing in September. This year, all was quiet on the scare tactics front through the end of September and was slow going into October. However, the past few days have picked up speed, and some of the articles are so self-righteously infuriating about how they are making
Halloween safer for children by--take your pick--visiting all registrants in their district on Halloween/not allowing registrants to decorate; hand out candy; wear costumes; leave their houses; have their lights on/requiring registrants to come to "informational" meetings or seminars/some other equally idiotic nonsense. Most places limit the restrictions to those on parole or probation, but some do not.

Children are at increased risk of harm from one thing on Halloween, and that is being killed or injured in an auto-pedestrian accident. I read one article where part of law-enforcement's efforts on Halloween included increased traffic patrol. One.

Last year I wrote the "Official Halloween Blog." I don't think I can improve on it for factual information, so I am repeating it here. Happy, safe trick-or-treating, everyone.

Originally printed 10/10/2013

Why advocate for not monitoring registered offenders on Halloween? What's the harm? I'm so glad you asked.

  • Most Halloween restrictions apply to everyone on the registry or everyone under supervision, whether or not their offense had anything to do with a child. This broad-brush application is bumping up against constitutional protections. Many registrants are forced to gather in one place for special "therapy sessions" or "pep-talks" or movies shown by law enforcement. If the registrant is not under community supervision, this sounds a lot like unlawful detention to me.
  • It is an unconscionable waste of taxpayer money. There are so many other areas in which law enforcement could be gainfully occupied on Halloween other than checking that registrants have no lights on and no jack-o-lanterns on the porch or showing movies to a roomful of registrants. One of these areas is traffic duty since the only increased risk to children on Halloween is not assault by registered sex offenders but car-child accidents.
  • Many, probably even most, registrants are family men. They have children. Under these restrictions, they cannot decorate their houses with or for their children; they cannot attend the carnival at the school with their children; they cannot take their children trick-or-treating. 
Now it's time for the experts to weigh in:

This is from an academic research study:
“There were no significant increases in sex crimes on or around Halloween, and Halloween incidents did not evidence unusual case characteristics. Findings did not vary across years prior to and after these policies became popular.

“In order to contextualize sex crimes against children we examined over 5 million victimizations that took place in 30 states on or around Halloween in 2005. The most common types of crime from among the incidents reported on Halloween and adjacent days were theft (32%), destruction or vandalism of property (21%), assault (19%) and burglary (9%). Vandalism and property destruction accounted for a greater proportion of crime around Halloween compared to other days of the year (21% vs. 14% of all reports). Sex crimes of all types accounted for slightly over 1% of all Halloween crime. Non-familial sex crimes against children age 12 and under accounted for less than .2% of all Halloween crime incidents.

“Other risks to children are more salient on Halloween. According to the Center for Disease Control, children ages 5 to 14 are four times more likely to be killed by a pedestrian/motor-vehicle accident on Halloween than on any other day of the year. Regarding criminal activity on Halloween, theft and vandalism are particularly common. Sex crimes against children by non- family members account for two out of every thousand Halloween crimes, calling into question the justification for diverting law enforcement resources on that day away from more prevalent public safety concerns.”

This is from non-academic commentary:
 “The intimidation campaign is a silly diversion of manpower and a waste of your tax dollars. Police and the politicians who are in search of tough-on-crime votes will tell you otherwise, but don’t believe the myth that Halloween is the night child sexual predators wait all year for. The facts tell a different story... Over the past several decades, there has not been one reported instance that I can find of a convicted sex offender molesting a child on Halloween night.”

And finally, this is a Halloween safety research and resource guide for parents published October, 2011, by a highly regarded world wide organization called There is nothing to quote from them. There is only the fact that they have researched every element of harm to children in connection with Halloween; their guide covers every possible eventuality and tells parents how to guard against it. It has many graphs, charts, and results of studies. Not one time within its 8 pages do the words “sex offenders” or “registry” appear. I believe that is called an argument from silence.

So please, enjoy Halloween; help your kids enjoy Halloween. And please spare a moment to think about the children whose Halloween enjoyment is curtailed because one of their parents is a registered sex offender and they are unfortunate enough to live in one of the jurisdictions where unneeded laws and restrictions make Halloween all trick and no treat for them.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Lions in Cages....

I love metaphors. They help words paint pictures; they make meanings clearer; they are usually beautiful and always descriptive.

I read one this morning that, while very descriptive, misses the mark quite a bit on beautiful. It does, however, get high points for misleading, inflammatory, and downright sickening.

It was used in an on-line article that, not surprisingly, is very well written. The editorial is not attributed, but whoever wrote it was paying attention in journalism school. It has a very effective “hook”—the lead-in. It follows standard usage and punctuation rules. The vocabulary level is above average, and it makes good use of the well-chosen words.

This writer, however, fails in one lesson that surely is still stressed in journalism school: even in editorials and opinion pieces, stick to the truth. This writer, again not surprisingly, is clever. The untruth is presented in the metaphor. It is therefore implied, not directly stated and is all the more effective—and misleading, inflammatory, and sickening--due to that fact.

The metaphor, in words and graphic, implies that all who are listed on a sex offender registry are dangerous—and not merely dangerous but wild-animal dangerous, raging wild lions that need to be caged and constantly monitored, even in the cages, to keep them from terrorizing the community.

This is a lie, and it is no less a lie for being clothed in figurative language and vicious-appearing cartoon-figure graphics.

I know it is a lie from personal experience. I know many on the registry. They are good husbands and fathers, good neighbors and employees and employers and fellow church members. They are good citizens and good people. They are as far from being dangerous as I am from qualifying for the Olympics.

A large volume of literature says it is a lie.

The Federal Probation Journal, Volume 74, Number 3, in an analysis of the Kentucky Prison System specifically, a study titled, “Evaluation of Kentucky's Early Inmate Release Initiative: Sentence Commutations, Public Safety and Recidivism,” has this to say:

THE PRISON SYSTEM is one of the most expensive and largest public systems in the nation….
41.2 percent of drug offenders returned to prison are reincarcerated for a subsequent drug offense, 31.2 percent of reincarcerated public order offenders are reincarcerated for another public order offense, 21.6 percent of violent offenders returned to prison are returned for a subsequent violent offense, and only 2.5 percent of reincarcerated rapists are returned to prison for a subsequent rape….
 Hmmm; only 2.5% of rapists are convicted for a rape re-offense.

And, from Sex offense recidivism, risk assessment, and the Adam Walsh Act, a study published by Dr. Jill Levenson at Lynn University in Florida:
According to a study by the U.S. Department of Justice, 5.3% of American sex offenders are rearrested for a new sex crime within three years (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003).
Sex offenders are among the least likely criminals to kill their victims (Sample, 2006).
Harris and Hanson (2004) concluded: “Most sexual offenders do not re-offend sexually over time … this finding is contrary to some strongly held beliefs.
Sex offense recidivism rates are much lower than commonly believed. The best estimates suggest that 5-14% of known sex offenders will commit a subsequent sex crime within three to six years, and after 15 years, three-quarters will not have recidivated. These recidivism rates are far lower than those for other types of criminals.
Media attention to child abduction and sexually motivated murder creates a sense of alarm and urgency among parents and often inspires sex crime legislation. Such cases are actually extremely rare; it is estimated that about 100 such events occur in the United States each year (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 2005). By comparison,…over 1100 children died in 2002 as a result of physical abuse or neglect at the hands of their own parents or caretakers (Child Welfare League of America, 2003).
Those are the extreme cases. Certainly more than 100 on the registry rise to the level of dangerous and in need of law-enforcement monitoring, but surely that point can be made without resorting to images and comparisons with wild animals in cages. And many, many more than 1,100 children each year suffer abuse and neglect at the hands of their parents or caregivers but stop short of being murdered. In fact, we know for a certainty that virtually all sexually abused children are victims of those parents and caregivers and others close to them in their lives, not of anyone already on a sex offender registry.

However, no one would compare all parents, as a group, to dangerous, ravenous lions that must be caged in order to protect society. It is even less appropriate to suggest that all on the public registry must be so treated.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Do we need to be afraid of dirty old men?

I read something this morning that I need to throw out for consideration.

In brief, a senior citizen--73 years senior--has been forced from his home in Michigan. His conviction--and not the first--was for indecent exposure to school children. His home was close to the school on the route a bus took to reach the school. According to reports, he stood naked on his front porch as the bus went by.

If reports are true and accurate, most would call him him a dirty old man, including myself. My question is, is it necessary to bring to bear the weight of the state of Michigan's sex offender registry and the forceful removal of an old man from his home to deal with a dirty old man?

The courts had already required that he erect a fence around his property that could not be seen through. Unsatisfied with this, an assistant prosecutor filed an appeal asking the court to force him to move. This won the day, and the bare-butted old gentleman no longer lives where innocent children will have their delicate sensibilities shocked at the view.

Most of my readers, including myself--I do read my own posts and usually enjoy them--remember our own youthful encounters with the dirty old man in the neighborhood. Those of us over the age of forty remember how we dealt with it. We shrieked, we screamed, and we ran for home or school, depending on our destination of the moment. We babbled out to mom or dad or Mrs. Smith what we saw, and we got, quite possibly, minimal reaction.

If it was a small town, we might have heard, "Oh, Mr. Turner's daughter let him get outside again," or "Someone needs to tell Sheriff Tate to have a come-to-Jesus talk with Mr. Parker again." Then we were given a brief explanation that sometimes some people do things when they are old or when they are sick or when they have mental illnesses that people not so afflicted do not do. Then we were told to always run home or to school and tell an adult about it but not to worry about it. My friend told me her mother told her that if it happened again, to point at him and laugh before running away.

In a larger city where everyone didn't know everyone, the explanation and the advice sufficed.

And we did what our parents told us, and we went our merry ways. And we were not assaulted or kidnapped or traumatized or fearful for our lives or our safety. And that is what we in turn told our children when they came running home babbling about the man on the corner who unzipped his pants and waved his willy at them.

But somewhere along the way, that wasn't good enough. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, we decided that the precious sensibilities of our children were being assaulted and that they were in imminent danger of terrible harm. We didn't have the sense to realize that it was our reaction that scared our children senseless rather than what they had seen. We decided that we needed to protect our children in every situation rather than teach them how to protect themselves. We decided that such people were perverts, and that perverts needed to be registered and shamed, and their families shamed, and the strong arm of the law and of the courts was not only the appropriate way to deal with the situation but the only way.

And we added yet another category of offender to the registry in order to "protect the children."

And we continue to teach our children that they are not safe in the world and that they don't have enough sense to know what to do when something unexpected occurs and that they can't take care of themselves.

In my humble opinion, we are doing a great disservice, not only to the dirty old men but to our children also.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Nothing left for this one but WTF

My last post to this blog is dated May 31. On Jun 1 my husband suffered a serious injury, one that has required inpatient therapy, which still continues, and requires my being with him almost all of my waking hours. I am just now trying to carve out a few early morning and late night hours to get back into my work. This is my first effort here, and I absolutely cannot let this situation go by without exploding over it.

That last post concluded with this sentence:

And most disturbing of all is the fact that the sex offender registry, something sold to the public on the grounds that it would protect children, is now a weapon used against children and putting them in unfathomable danger.

Keep that sentence in mind.

This is the situation that pushes me back here right now instead of on the freeway heading to the rehab hospital.

In short, according to the Washington Post article, a 15 year old girl texted naughty pics of herself to her 17 year old boyfriend. He responded by sending her a video of like images of himself. Her mother saw the video, and it went downhill from there.

The Manassas City, Virginia, police, in their attempts to make a felony case against him for possession of and for production of child pornography, seek to serve him with a warrant forcing him to submit to photographs being taken of his erect penis for "comparison purposes." The erection will be induced by means of drugs in a hospital setting.

Most people are finding that point the central horrifying element.

I do not, as vile and disgusting as it is, nor do I find the fact that he could spend the years between a conviction and his 21st birthday in prison the most egregious, although depending on what might happen to him in prison, I could change my mind on that point.

According to the Post, he would also face inclusion on Virginia's public sex offender registry, possibly for life.

Let's go back to the last sentence of my last post.

We are talking about a kid here. This young man is in high school.  He plays football. He goes to classes every day. He's a KID.

There is no suggestion that he sent pictures of his girlfriend or of himself to third persons. Why, in the name of all that is holy, are the police, and one assumes the Manassas County District Attorney's office, determined to ruin the life of this KID? Why are they using something that was sold to the public on the grounds that it would protect children as a weapon against this 17 year old kid and putting him in unfathomable danger?


Update--7/11  The Manassas Police Department has withdrawn its attempt to seek the warrant forcing this young man to submit to a medically forced erection in order to photograph it. I fully believe they have taken this action because there was a great hue and cry against what they proposed, a hue and cry from many quarters. We must learn from this. We must keep up the pressure, keep up the expressions of outrage at any and every opportunity. We must watch this case carefully. Will they continue their case against him? Will the district attorney file charges? We watch and wait.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

I want to title this WTF but I'll settle for What the Hell?

This has gone too far. In "If It Saves One Child," I referenced a case where three-year-olds were "investigated" for "sexual fondling" in their pre-school bathroom for looking at and touching each others' wee-wees. The article reports that, in the wake of the publicity about the incident, the mother of another student at the school "...called the state's child abuse hotline to report she witnessed her child, who was not involved in the first incident, touching himself." 

Then there was the case where the mother of a three-year-old was given a ticket when her son, playing outside, couldn't get into his house in time and urinated in his yard in view of horrified--my emphasis and my sarcasm--neighbors and, unfortunately, the policeman who gave the ticket.

What was fortunate is that, in both of these cases, nothing resembling actual charges were filed, and subsequent reports indicate that they were dismissed as being without merit.

However, a six-year-old in Wisconsin was not as lucky. When he and playmates engaged in a "playing doctor" episode and the mother of one of the children pressed charges, she found a district attorney not only willing to prosecute the case but eager to do so. This case is fraught with accusations and a host of issues, but the bottom line is this: this child, charged with and adjudicated for first degree felony sexual assault, will be required to be on the public sex offender registry when he turns 18 for something he did at age 6. In the words of the article, "...District Attorney Lisa Riniker has guaranteed that one local 6-year-old boy will have a series of awkward therapy sessions as an adolescent, and again as a middle-aged man—if he lives that long. In a less-rosy outcome, Riniker’s targeted kid just might succumb to the stress of life as a publicly listed sex offender, and retreat from society, or even kill himself."

This is appalling; this is unacceptable; this is criminal in itself.

And now, today this is printed. A nine-year-old boy in Ohio has been charged with gross sexual imposition for pulling down another child's pants and touching him inappropriately. This is a breaking story, and nothing has yet been finalized as to how it will be handled. Even though the news report stresses how prosecutors use discretion in handling juvenile cases, it is filled with words such as, "sex crime," "criminal," and "criminal charge," and it is titled, "9-year-old boy charged with sex crime."

Nine is older than six. Nevertheless, this, from all appearances, is a case of childish play and curiosity. If it must go beyond the purview of the parents of the children and the possibility of some counseling, why is
family court not adequate? Why are prosecutors and even the possibility of criminal charges and sex crimes part of the equation? If the juvenile prosecutors and the Juvenile Court referenced in the article preclude the possibility of this child having a criminal record and being required to register as a sex offender, then they are doing it right, and I hope that is so. However, my confidence level is not high.

The trend is to criminalize, more and more, behavior that is not criminal, behavior that is merely stupid, and, most disturbingly, behavior that is part of normal childish curiosity and play, behavior that is part of normal child development.

And most disturbing of all is the fact that the sex offender registry, something sold to the public on the grounds that it would protect children, is now a weapon used against children and putting them in unfathomable danger.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth

On May 20, an editorial was printed in the Keene, New Hampshire's Sentinel. Titled "State's sex-offender registry overreaches,” it says much that is good and grounded in facts.

Its primary thesis is that inclusion on a public sex offender registry is punishment and not merely regulatory. When this scheme was first conceived, it was pronounced to be a regulatory mechanism, and the Supreme Court agreed. Since then, being placed on a public registry has indeed become, increasingly each year, a
death knell for many.

Employers have fired productive workers due to threats of boycotts and, in some cases, vandalism to their property because they employed a sex offender. Many registrants can’t even get hired.

Registrants with children suffer many varied punishments: inability to keep suitable housing in which to raise their children, forced separation from their families due to the housing and a myriad of other issues, having their children terrified by vigilantes vandalizing the home or the family vehicle, and seeing them come home in tears and even bruises from the treatment received at the hands of their peers due to daddy being on the sex offender registry.

Registrants and their family members are indeed targets for all sorts of acts of vigilantism, up to and including murder, as witnessed not only in Maine, as the article points out, but also in Washington State--twice--in California, in South Carolina, and, ironically, in a very suspicious case right there in Keene itself--and these are only the tip of the iceberg.

So--well done, Sentinel.

Until you said, "Given the recidivism rates involved in sexual assault cases, especially those victimizing children, there’s a lot to be said for keeping the public informed of legitimate threats."

Which recidivism rates, Sentinel? Those of the latest study by the Department of Justice showing the re-arrest rate for a second sexual offense by a registrant to be 5.7% and the re-conviction rate to be 3.5%? Or possibly New Hampshire's own  2010 state report of sex offenders returned to prison within five years for a sexual re-offense, as reported by the Citizens for Criminal Justice Reform. "... the 5-year new victim re-offense rate for sex offenders was just 1.2%….

"These low numbers suggests sex offenders respond well to supervision and treatment, and don't commit new sex crimes at the rate the public thinks they do, said Michael Lawlor, Connecticut’s chief of criminal-justice policy."

And as far as those who victimize children, two facts come into play. Children who are sexually abused are
overwhelmingly victims of those in close and trusted positions in their lives, many of them conditions of incest. Studies show that, once these types of offenders are arrested and dealt with in the court system, they have extremely low levels of re-offense, lower than the average lows, and it has nothing to do with "keeping the public informed." These are not the "legitimate threats"; they almost always are correlated with those whose chosen victims are random strangers, and those situations are rare.

Those who advocate for fact-based legislation governing the treatment of those who have sexually offended appreciate the Sentinel's tearing away some of the myths and exposing the facts. We will appreciate it more when all of the facts are revealed.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Of sex trafficking and International Megan's Law and cabbages and kings

~~by Shelly

A piece of legislation called International Megan’s Law—HR 4573—passed the U.S. House of Representatives, according to this article, June 20.

The bill’s sponsor, U.S. Congressman Chris Smith, has been pushing this bill, in various forms, for years. It is aimed at sex trafficking in general and will largely affect American registrants traveling out of the country, but named after Megan Kanka, a seven year old child who was murdered twenty years ago, and touted as “…the model needed for the U.S. to persuade other countries to take action to stop both child sex tourism within their borders and protect children in the United States and elsewhere,” the focus perceived by the American public is on the taking of American children for use in the forced sex market.

Sex trafficking is the new buzz-word in the sex offender industry. We have all read of its horrors—huge numbers of “sex slaves” descending on the Super Bowl; vast numbers of children scooped off the streets and forced into a life from which they cannot break free.

I cannot speak for other countries. I know there are some where life, especially a child's life, is very cheap and poverty is overwhelming. But this legislation was not passed by creating fear in our hearts for what was happening to children in third-world countries. It was passed by creating fear in our hearts that OUR children, MY child, could fall prey to the network of monsters scouring the streets of our cities and villages and taking our children.

I know about “throw-away” kids. I know teenagers run away, leave home for various and sundry reasons, and I am certain that a disproportionate number of them become entangled in prostitution, and this is terrible. But is this what people think of when they are told that legislation must be passed that will somehow keep their children safe from being forced into the sex and pornography trade?

Facebook pages declare “Every 30 seconds another person becomes a victim of human trafficking.” Another site says, “Abolish sex trafficking; 200,000 are at risk for sexual exploitation this year.” These are the type of pseudo-statistics that are not based on any study or scientific attempt at measuring or counting. They cannot be proved—or disproved. Facts are so twisted with myth that the reality is impossible to sort out.

As far as children, this FACT is worth noting: several sources, including the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, place the number of actual, real abductions of children and teens in the U.S for any nefarious purpose at an average of 115 a year, and almost all of those are recovered.

The bill’s sponsor, Congressman Smith, said, “The stories of the victims are tragic — ruined childhoods, devastated families, lifetimes of memories of assaults and sometimes worse.”

The implication is that these are families Mr. Smith has spoken with, stories he has heard personally, and tragedies with which he is intimately acquainted.


This is where I have trouble. As I said, I cannot speak and do not speak to what may be happening outside of the United States. And I cannot speak for anything outside of my own personal experience, but my own personal experience is this:

Like almost all American children, I went to school for twelve years and then college for six. I knew lots of kids and families. I had three children. They all had masses of friends and went to school with even greater masses of other children. I knew their friends and their families. They were involved with sports, which put us in contact with children and youth from schools all over the city.

I now have grandchildren. I know many of their friends and their families. I today have a huge circle of friends and acquaintances and contacts.

I taught high school for 28 years. I taught Sunday School and still do. I was on the Board of Education at my church’s parochial school. The number of young people and of families that I knew over all those years is literally incalculable.

In all of those years, with all of those youth, with all of those people, I never knew of a single child or person who just disappeared and was never heard from again. I never knew of a single child or person who was recovered from forced sex slavery or child pornography and told her—or his—story. I never knew a single family who had a child just disappear. I never knew anyone who knew of a single child or person to whom this happened. I never heard of a family to whom this happened. I never heard a rumor of someone to whom this happened.

Does that mean anything? I don’t know. I do know that what this legislation will do has little to do with children being taken in the United States. What it will do in reality is, again, target a very broad category of people, almost none of whom have ever kidnapped a child or operated a “sex ring” or produced child pornography, and apply restrictions to them which are inappropriate and which infringe on their rights to travel.

And which will do absolutely nothing to “protect children in the United States.” Again.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sex offender alert: get those bumper stickers off that window!

~~by Shelly

This will sound like my friend Lenore Skenazy at Free-Range Kids, but honestly, this has just gone too far.

Besides being poorly written and edited--it says "several police departments" and identifies none; it uses "sick" when it means "stick"-Freudian slip?--this article and what it says are ridiculous.

The premise is that seeing bumper-sticker-type stick figures portraying a family with young children will incite someone with pedophilic tendencies to--what?-follow the car home, kill the parents, and abscond with the children? Attack the car at a stop light and drag the children from the car?

The article, and presumably the warning of these police departments, whoever they are, also cautions against anything on the car that identifies the school that one's child goes to. The only rationale I can think of here is that someone intent on abducting a random child would not know that schools contain children until he sees a bumper sticker announcing, "My child is an honor student at Roosevelt Elementary."

And don't even get me started on the ridiculous notion that children are abducted from schools by strangers on a regular--or irregular--or any kind of--basis.

Lenore's mission is to debunk the notion that our children are at risk every minute of every day from every conceivable danger. I wonder if she will re-think her position now that she has been alerted to the potential horrors that await those who put stick figures on their cars.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

"We have to say you can't go out and kill sex offenders, but .... you really should"

This opinion piece masquerading as a public safety announcement has mastered the art of double-speak to a high degree.

The stated purpose of the piece is to inform their reading public that they will be publishing names and information on all registrants who move into the community. Yeah, they know that the info is available online and through the DPS and even to people's computers if they sign up, but they want to be sure they cover any gap, all in the interest of public safety, of course.

Really? After quoting the standard warning from the website about not using the information to injure or harass, this is their take on it: "In other words, just because you might know there is a convicted sexual offender in your neighborhood, it doesn’t mean you have the right to take the law into your own hands."

Take the law into your own hands---why? Because someone lives in your neighborhood?

And now the seed is planted. Being a convicted sexual offender, regardless of how rehabilitated, regardless of how law abiding a life is being lived now, regardless of how long ago the offense was, regardless of potential danger to children or other family members, is a reason for someone to "take the law" into his hands. What does that even mean, "take the law"? Surely we can hope that the law doesn't bully the children of registrants or egg their houses or beat them up or shoot at their cars for no reason whatsoever or ambush them and kill them.

Emboldened now, the article continues, "Many people wonder how the justice system can release predators and pedophiles back into society. Many of us wish they could be locked up forever or sent to an island somewhere ... or even more drastic measures be taken." Even more drastic bullying children, egging houses....committing murder?

Then, in an attempt to justify their thinly disguised attempts to encourage vigilantism, they continue: "We don’t condone any extralegal actions, though we don’t believe the judicial system is designed to adequately address the problems of sex offenders in society," and, "Despite how heinous the nature of their crimes might be, they have to be given the chance to prove they can hew to the straight and narrow. Unfortunately, many people with these deviant predilections never reform..."

Even a child could translate this: "The law just turns them loose and doesn't know how to deal with them, so it's up to us...they aren't ever going to change."

Even if that were true, even if statistical evidence did not abound that, once charged and punished, only a very small percentage of former sexual offenders will commit another sexual offense, the nastiness that seeps through every word of this article is the same sort of nastiness that left two little boys in Washington State without a father and took the life of a wife along with her registered husband in South Carolina and has swept and is still sweeping our nation like a blight, aided and facilitated by a hit list called the public sex offender registry.

And finally, for those of their readers who may have a few compunctions about picking on kids or vandalizing houses or attacking neighbors with baseball bats: "While you are legally restricted from harassing them, we don’t think a friendly reminder that we are watching is out of the question."

Other than really, really wanting their definition of "friendly," I wish they would at least look at the research showing that, along with housing and employment, community support for former offenders is essential in creating conditions that keep re-offense at its lowest and public safety at its highest. I mean, after all, this whole thing is about public safety....right?

Ironically, the title of this piece of writing is "Remaining Vigilant." Thanks to it, registrants struggling to build law-abiding lives and keep themselves and their children and families fed and with roofs over their heads now have another reason to be constantly vigilant for those who would harm them, their property, or their lives.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

When is free speech not free?

~~by Shelly

We know we can't yell fire in a crowded theater. Or incite to riot. Or threaten the president.

What about gloating on air at the death of someone we don't even know because he is a registered sex offender? What about encouraging hate-mongering and violence against people who have paid their debts to society and have integrated into society as law-abiding citizens?

Comments posted on articles about the murders of or attacks on those on the registry make it clear that there is an element out there willing to encourage and praise such illegal vigilante activity, up to and including murder.

But from recognized radio personalities?

A portion of the Kimberly and Beck show from September 19, 2013, has these persons verbally high-fiving it with a caller who is expressing joy at a neighbor's death as a result of his house burning. Kimberly and Beck were encouraging all she said. Whichever of the two is the female seemed especially delighted that he might have been murdered, wondering aloud if someone might have tied him to the bed and set it on fire.

According to the broadcast, the man who died, Robert Harris, was on the public sex offender registry. He committed a sexual crime in 1993. These radio "personalities," one of them, with the other making grunts of agreement, said, "They never are rehabilitated." Since he has not re-offended in the 21 years since his original crime, for which he served his punishment, the ignorance of that remark is obvious.

It is disgusting that this hate-mongering and the dissemination of incorrect information was allowed to be made over the air. Among other comments, they said that he "got what was coming to him." That is the talk of vigilantes. He served his court-assessed punishment and was living a law-abiding life. Are they suggesting that private citizens have the right to mete out punishment over and above what the courts deem appropriate?

The radio station has received emails expressing consternation and condemnation. Due to the lag-time between when we discovered this abuse of public broadcasting and when it happened back in September, the station managers obviously feel our concerns are moot and warrant no response.

But what if their programming encourages more attacks on registrants? What if their hate-mongering finds fertile ground in some unstable mind and sends it out in search of a registrant to harm?

What if the cost of free speech turns out to be more lives?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

In defense of the judge who sentenced the man who raped his three year old daughter to probation

From one of the many, many articles and op/eds written about this case: "A Delaware man convicted of raping his three-year-old daughter only faced probation after a state Superior Court judge ruled he 'will not fare well' in prison."              
Those words, "will not fare well" in prison may go down as among the most, if not the most, infamous words ever attributed to a judge. What was the judge thinking, critics ask, and the cynical and even not-so-cynical find ready answers: he was rich, one of the DuPont family heirs; naturally he could afford the best of the best in legal representation; he was initially charged with two counts of second degree child rape, which carry mandatory minimum sentences of ten years each. He was allowed to plead down to a charge that requires no mandatory minimum and enabled the judge to pronounce the sentence of probation with required participation in a sex offender rehabilitation program.

In all criminal justice reforms movements, a common and very valid complaint is “cookie cutter” or "one size fits all" sentencing, usually driven by the aforementioned mandatory minimum sentences, and not enough judicial recognition of individual circumstances or judicial discretion to individualize as warranted. Although ill phrased and highly criticized, this judge's ruling may do exactly what was best for all concerned in this case.

Sexual assault of a child is an awful thing. The younger the child, the more horrible it seems; the fact that it is one’s own child is something that society cringes from and therefore shuts its eyes to. Incest is one of the most frequently charged categories of child sexual abuse. It is also the sub-category that responds the best to therapy and treatment. Therefore, it is the sub-category that, after confrontation, facing up to what one has done, and treatment, yields the very lowest of all low sexual re-offense rates, with some studies showing zero re-offense over lengthy periods of time for incest offenders.

Rather than vilification of a judge who may have just chosen the wrong words to define an otherwise appropriate decision, I would like to see this situation create instead an awareness of the prevalence of the crime and discussion, if not a public outcry, highlighting the need for a comprehensive program of education and prevention in communities and schools in all states. Our present practice of punishing the crime after it has occurred and doing next to nothing to prevent it before it occurs does not work. Some studies show as high as 96% of all new sexual crime is committed by first time–never before charged–offenders. And by far the greatest majority of that is committed by persons known, and not only known but often also trusted and loved, by the victims; and for children under the age of twelve, slightly over half are related to their victims.

This is something that flourishes, and has flourished for millennia, whether we want to admit it or not, in darkness and in secret. It is time to bring it into the light, and the best way to do that is to place the emphasis on treatment and prevention rather than excessive punishment and a lifetime of shaming that harms the victim as much as the offender.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Do sex offenders really deserve the best possible defense?

Many of you, along with me, read the blog Ethics Alarm written by fellow blogger Jack Marshall. The best description of my relationship with Jack is love/hate, and today the love is shining through.

The post is titled, "The 'Too handsome to rape' defense," and I gotta admit, I cringed at the title.                                                          
My position on rape is clear: it is a crime and deserves vigorous prosecution and imposition of punishment. I don't  see rape as an "iffy" issue. I subscribe to the theory of, "If you don't think it's rape when it's happening, it--I'll allow a probably--isn't." And the age of consent issue between an individual over it and one under it is simple also: I do not advocate anyone breaking any state or federal law, but at the same time, I will fight until I have no breath in my body to stop the criminalization of consensual sexual activity between two under-age teens.

Now that I've said enough to bring the radical feminists down on my head--again--I'll explain why I'm lovin' Jack today.

Within that post with the title that made me cringe, his primary purpose is to explain why the young man in question--and by extension, everyone--is entitled to, and his attorneys are obligated to produce, the most vigorous legitimate defense possible, and he goes on to explain why, "He's too hot to need to rape," is a legitimate defense.

He says this:
Lawyers are ethically obligated to advance whatever non-frivolous arguments and theories that are most likely to achieve their clients’ objectives, whether it is avoiding prison or rationalizing the crimes of the Japanese army. That is their job and societal function, and it is essential to our avoiding a jack-boot system where any of us could be thrown in jail by popular opinion or government edict. The laws are there to be used by every citizen, even when the citizen’s objectives are unethical, or when the citizen is a cur. 
Our rights are all protected well by this principle, and it’s high time we stopped bitching about it.
After my heart stopped palpitating, I quietly joyed in the words.

The cause for which I advocate, the cause that fills this blog, is not a popular one. It insists that once a sex offender has served his punishment, no matter how horrific the crime, if he expresses, through words, actions, or simply lifestyle choices, remorse and an intent to sin no more and a desire to show he is rehabilitated, that he must be given the opportunity to do just that, that this is what will best serve public safety, and that the laws that govern his comings and goings must be based on facts and evidence as to what facilitates that and what hinders it. This stance draws the sharpest criticism and most hostile reaction toward me and my fellow activists as well as the defense attorneys who are seen as "getting baby-rapers" off and setting them free to continue their pillaging.

The fact that the term "baby-raper" could be accurately applied to the tiniest, tiniest fraction of all who commit sexual offenses does not for a moment deter those who use it against everyone who is perceived of "supporting sex offenders," including their attorneys.

And so today Jack Marshall has shown us clearly why they are required to support their clients as vigorously as possible. In so doing, we are all protected.

Thank you, Jack; tomorrow I may hate what you write, but today, you're my main man.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Georgia private probation companies expand sex offender industry

In 1994 the Jacob Wetterling Act established the first national sex offender registry law, and Indiana’s “Zachary’s Law” placed their state registry online.

In 1996 “Megan’s Law” was passed at the federal level, forcing states to maintain publicly accessible registries and allowing all levels of community notification.                                                
In 1997 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld civil commitment in Kansas v. Hendricks, and a year later, Delaware passed the first law requiring registrants to carry a special ID card.

In 2005 strict mandatory minimum laws were created with the Jessica Lunsford Act followed by the Adam Walsh Act in 2006. (1)

These laws are the result of horrific acts of violence often resulting in murder and with actual or assumed sexual motivation against youth. They were driven in equal parts by grieving parents wanting justice, politicians who, for reasons both altruistic and self-serving, were willing to take up the cause, and a media fired by the sensationalism inherent in the issue.

The cases that drove the laws are rare anomalies; with instant telecommunications and every story being repeated beyond counting, the impression is easily given and received that these heinous incidents happen every day. They don’t. They represent the tiniest fraction of all sexual offenses, but the transition is easily made in the public’s mind: sex offender = violent, predatory pedophile and potential murderer.

And an industry was born—a multi-million if not billion dollar industry—containing but not limited to these branches; the only order attempted is alphabetical.

  • Apps for cell phones/messages to emails-- manufacture; sales; supply; monitor
  • Electronic license plates
  • Expert witnesses
  • Federal marshal grants/other federal grants
  • GPS –manufacture; supply; monitor
  • Manufacturers and sales of polygraph equipment
  • Medical care for the incarcerated
  • Non-government companies who post registry information and charge to remove it
  • Parents of victims--publicity; financial
  • Politicians-getting/staying elected
  • Polygraphers—give exams as part of probation requirements; under state contracts
  • Private civil commitment facilities/management/treatment
  • Private monitoring and tracking companies
  • Private prisons/staffing for/management of
  • Registry management companies
  • Screening systems in schools, libraries--manufacture; sales; install; monitor
  • Security systems/alert systems—manufacture; sales; install; monitor      
  • Telephone/email services: inmates to outside world; family to inmates
  • Treatment providers, usually with “locked-in” state contracts  
  • Webinar “instructors”

And now come private probation companies.

According to an article by Nicole Flatow at Think Progress, March 25, 2014, the Georgia legislature has passed a bill which gives private probation companies, already being sanctioned and investigated for abuses and misconduct, even more power to operate, power that has critics recalling the days of debtors’ prison due to their ability to have someone jailed for failure to pay the probation fees.

As Flatow points out in her article, “Private probation firms are a growing industry that, like private prisons, stand to profit from criminalizing more conduct, and have an incentive to lobby for policies that send more individuals to probation and/or jail.” (2)

Sex offenders are easy targets; who will come to their aid? Anyone who does so is accused of being a pedophile or a rape apologist. Any politician who does so is sounding the death knell for his career.

This is more than a sex offender issue. This is a civil rights issue. This is a constitutional issue. This is the slippery slope. This doesn’t just affect those on the registry.

Who will next fall prey?

(1) Source for timeline: Timeline of Sex Offender History


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Do we really need new sex offender laws every time a child is killed?

First, we need to get out of the way the accusations, based on the title of this post, that I don't care about the victims. I care about the victims much, much more than those who persist in supporting a system that all but ignores the victims and apparently doesn't care about any victims except those victimized by registered sex offenders.

Florida has just passed a plethora of laws, and is looking to pass more, under the guise of protecting children from those registered sex offenders

According to the FBI Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Statistical Briefing Book, 2008, family members and acquaintances are responsible for, depending on the age of the child, 98 to 95% of sexual crime against children. The remaining small percentages are committed by strangers, and those already on the registry are a small percentage of those small percentages, leaving the focus on registrants, the public registry, and all of its appendages a useless but very expensive exercise in futility, virtually worthless in addressing the serious issue of child sexual abuse.

As far as these new bills in Florida are concerned, careful analysis seems to reveal one impetus: an opportunity to make political hay driven by the tragic death of a child, Cherish, by a repeat sex offender. Even though Florida has some of the most self-defeating and draconian laws on the books, the civil commitment program that has been in place has actually done a good job. Much has been made of the fact that "...Florida has a serious problem with repeat offenders. Hundreds of violent sexual offenders have committed new sexual crimes after being released from prison...." That sounds so alarming, and of course any violent crime is alarming and should be answered with a prison sentence commiserate with the crime, but using all of Florida's numbers relevant to this reveals a totally different perspective.

Those hundreds of violent offenders--a few short of 600--represent the failures of the program over a 14 year period of time. During those 14 years, the program screened and released 31,000 individuals. That means that, under the program in place, 30,400 released sex offenders did not commit a second offense over the 14 years. It appears the program had a 98% success rate with violent offenders over the time period. The number of total re-offenses, including the almost 600 violent ones, for the 14 years is 1,400. For those who like recidivism--sexual re-offense--rates, that is less than 5%. Some states come in lower, some a bit higher. Florida is right in the middle, right at the figure the DOJ arrived at after a multi-state, mega-study released in 2003.

These new laws are not needed. I predict that the rates will not change. Somewhere around 5% of released offenders either will not choose or will not be able to alter their behavior and will be, deservedly, returned to prison. And children in Florida will continue to be sexually abused at exactly the same rate as they have been and by the same people, and so few of them will be registered sex offenders that everyone on the registry could drop dead today and the amount of sexual crime against children will be the same tomorrow.