Sunday, February 23, 2014

The case of the malicious sheriff

Newbie Georgia Republican legislator Sam Moore has struck a blow--albeit an unpopular one--for constitutional rights, fact-based legislation, and common sense. His bill would remove restrictions on registered citizens, once their sentences are satisfied, that restrict their movements and prohibit their presence in places such as schools and parks. 

Shocking as it is in Georgia, there are many jurisdictions throughout the U.S. that do not place these restrictions on registrants. Following what research shows, that these restrictions offer no public safety benefit and that community re-entry is the best path to rehabilitation, which in turn is the strongest deterrent against re-offense and the greatest assurance of increased public safety, these towns and counties follow as a matter of course that which Georgia finds shocking; furthermore, they do it with no increase in sexual re-offense or children being snatched from school playgrounds and parks by registered citizens on the prowl.

At least one representative of the Georgia law enforcement community appears not to have read this research or, if he has, gives it no credence.     " 'In my 34 years of law enforcement I have never heard of such an insane law having been introduced,' said Cherokee Sheriff Roger Garrison Friday. 'Sexual predators are one of this country’s most violent (type of)
offenders.' " Sheriff Garrison appears not to know that those who can be classified as predators make up only a very small portion of the total of all registrants. He seems to make the same uninformed and ignorant mistake made by many, that of thinking that everyone on the registry is dangerous or has offended against a child or children.

As a member of law enforcement and thus one sworn to respect and uphold the rights of all citizens, not just the ones he likes, the sheriff's stance is troublesome. Furthermore, as one who is charged with fulfilling the dictates of the criminal justice system, which includes rehabilitation as well as punishment, it goes far beyond merely troublesome.

The Utah state contact of Reform Sex Offender Laws, Inc. took  exception to Sheriff Garrison's harsh words and wrote him a letter. He began by saying, "I respect the office of the Sheriff where I live and anytime I see the police in my community.  It is a tough job, dangerous, and takes a lot of dedication." Then he continued, saying to Sheriff Garrison, "You sir, disappoint me," and he told him why. His primary points are that the good sheriff is indulging in generalization and fostering an attitude of hate toward all registered citizens.

Sheriff Garrison replied immediately and succinctly. He wrote, "Your [sic] right I do hate sex offenders. I'm glad you don't live in Cherokee County. Stick to the issues in your community not mine!"

I contend that a person with the inability to show respect to all persons in his jurisdiction is unfit to hold an office of public trust. Nor is this limited to the state of Georgia or to a specific sheriff. I hear from many registrants and family members of registrants, and the attitude Sheriff Garrison displays is experienced by many.

But thankfully, so is its opposite. Many registrants and their loved ones have reported being blessed--and that is exactly the way they describe it--with parole officers, probation officers, and/or law enforcement/
registration/compliance officers and personnel who treat them with decency, dignity, and respect. These individuals have not only learned the golden rule but apply it in their everyday lives and work.

That is a lesson that Sheriff Garrison of Cherokee County, Georgia, would do well to learn.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The kidnapping children EXPERIMENT???

Really? An experiment? About kidnapping children??

When I read the write up for this and then watched the video, I was infuriated.

It plays into the worst types of myths and stereotyping and scare tactics designed to...I'm not sure what it's designed to do. Terrify parents? Make them think that children are at significant risk of being taken in public, in broad daylight, with adults there who have been "alerted" to the situation by the child? By a kidnapper who persists in his attempts with adults there with telephones?

Has it ever happened? Under the circumstances portrayed in this "experiment?" I sincerely doubt it.

The dedication of the film sets the stage for the reaction the filmmakers hope to elicit: "...the candle that burns for all the angels who have been kidnapped and 'disappeared.' " It would have been nice if they had given a number, or an estimate of a number, but the number of those who are truly kidnapped by strangers and just "disappear" would be so tiny that it would leave the viewer wondering what the hyperbole was all about.

As a piece of fear-mongering, this "experiment" gets an A-; it could have been better acted.

But in the categories of usefulness, realism, and anything even bordering on good taste--it's an F.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Should victims have a say in sex offender legislation?

During a trial for any offense against a person, and most definitely when the charge is of a sexual nature, the testimony from the victim is the strongest factor in conviction. At sentencing, much credence is given to victim impact statements. When an inmate is eligible for parole, statements from the victim can make the difference between parole being granted or not.                  

But how about when former victims are involved with legislation affecting persons totally unrelated to the harm done to them and with the potential to affect persons far into the future? Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? Yet with the victims of sexual crime, it happens. Lauren Book has built a career by being involved with legislation, not only that which is appropriately focused on prevention but also that which targets registered sex offenders even though her abuser was not on the registry.

One has only to look at the alphabet soup listing of bills and legislation named after children who were murdered to see the impact that victims' families have. Yet the legislation pushed by these people do not target those who murder but rather those who commit sexual offenses, and there is no evidence that the motivation for the most notorious of these, the Adam Walsh Act, was even connected to a sexual crime.

And now a victims' group is protesting that the "victim's viewpoint" was not given enough consideration in a thorough examination that was done by an independent agency into the Colorado sex offender management program and procedures. The report emphasizes that  facts and empirical research were not considered or followed and that, therefore, a great deal of money was wasted monitoring low level former offenders who didn't need it. At least one victims' advocacy group takes umbrage at this finding.

I would ask what valuable input former victims have in helping develop policy for the future? Virtually all of them were victimized by those who weren't on the registry. Virtually all of them were victimized by those who were in their lives in a trusted capacity. Two or three may have been the victims of prior offenders but most likely no more.

What would they be bringing to the table other than a desire for revenge against the generic group of registered persons? If they wish to be truthful and admit that nothing that affects former offenders would have made any difference to their victimization, a statement to that effect could be submitted. If they want to be honest and say that nothing that affects former offenders will prevent 97% or more of future sexual offenses from occurring, they can issue a statement to that effect. If they want to be honest and say what the Kansas SOMB said in a report to its legislature, that “Right now, it appears that the best alternatives are in the form of community wide education and training regarding steps that can be taken to educate parents . . .," the Colorado report already suggests that.

Former offenders were included because they were able to answer questions pertinent to the investigation. Former victims have no such ability. Former victims who haven't healed and are seeking something to help them feel better will not find it in negating the fact that they were victims of people in their lives that they trusted and quite possibly loved, not of people who were on a registry. That was true yesterday. It will be true tomorrow.

The people that these laws will affect tomorrow are not the people who will be committing tomorrow's crimes.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Jay's letter

This is a special blog post. To understand it, you will need to read the Potpourri section of the RSOL February issue of the Digest. In short, this is a newsletter written by an inmate in a state penitentiary who has organized a group of inmates who are working, as RSOL is doing, for meaningful reform. It was distributed to family and friends and other inmates. Be sure and scroll below the end of the letter on page 3 to an open letter written to a congressman about the issue.