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.