Sunday, March 11, 2007
View the article here.
The police can expect to get overloaded with stuff like this. And it will only increase as more media whips everyone into a frenzy.
Residents around the area of Vichy Avenue can breathe a sigh of relief today. The Napa County Sheriff's Department announced Saturday that they called off an investigation into a man who asked two young girls to help him dry his vehicle, prompting them to call the cops.
"We received information from the gentlemen, who read one of the articles (in the Register)," Sheriff's Sgt. Doug Pace said. "That subject admitted that he had parked on Rose Lane and was drying his car off after getting it washed at the Shell station. He has since been found to have done nothing wrong. He was doing nothing wrong and he was simply drying his car and we have simply closed the case."
The incident that spooked the two girls occurred on Thursday, when the girls approached the man as he was drying his Mercedes Benz. They asked him what he was doing and he told them that he was drying his car and asked him if they wanted to help, Napa County Undersheriff Mike Loughran told the Register.
It was then that the girls declined his offer and alerted their parents about the interaction. Sheriff's deputies arrived shortly after and looked into the possibility that the man was a registered sex offender.
"He wasn't a sex offender," Pace said.
Shortly after the incident, Napa Valley Unified School District alerted parents about a suspicious man who was roaming the area and could possibly be a child abductor. Sheriff's investigators determined that wasn't the case and that the man felt remorse for scaring the two girls.
"He was like 'I feel terrible.' Of course he was doing nothing wrong in his mind, he felt sorry that the children were upset and he even stated that he had two children of his own. It was very nice of him to call and clear it up."
Although the man had done nothing wrong, Pace said that the girls did the right thing by contacting their parents.
"If they feel that something scares them ... whether it's a real threat or not, (they should) definitely run to their parents."
View the article here.
Legislation to protect children from sexual crimes cannot offer one-size-fits-all justice.
Nothing can be more unimaginable than the loss of a beloved child to a sexual predator. It is both admirable and understandable that several parents in this situation have embarked on impassioned crusades to pass protective legislation in the names of their lost children. Yet, in matters of criminal justice, the state must take a measured approach, even in response to horrific crime.
The emotional tug toward laws in the name of Jessica Lunsford, abused and buried in a shallow grave, or Adam Walsh, a 6-year-old abducted and murdered two decades ago, is powerful. The memory of these crimes evokes a desire to deal severely with the offenders and to make sure that other children are better protected.
Yet the demand for stringent, nonnegotiable accountability in these measures may actually foster unintended consequences that work against the protection of children. The proposed legislation would sweep in not only the most heinous offenders that constitute about 1 percent of the total, but many others who may be less violent and who are relatives of the victim.
The Jessica's Laws prototype includes mandatory 25-year sentences for first-time child sexual abuse offenders and an automatic death sentence for those convicted twice. The Adam Walsh Act passed by Congress requires states to register offenders and publicize their whereabouts.
In the case of Jessica's Laws, a complaint against a parent offender could, with conviction, engender an automatic 25-year prison sentence. The effect of harsh mandatory sentencing has been to drive families with these issues further underground. With the Adam Walsh Act, a convicted 14-year-old offender who may have coerced a younger child into sexual contact of any kind has to register for life along with the serial pedophile.
Maintaining the distinction between these two types of offenders is critical to sound public policy in this treacherous arena. While those who work with serial offenders acknowledge that treatment is rarely successful, this is not the case with juvenile offenders and for opportunistic offenders who know their victims. For youths 10 to 17 with only one victim, there is a 3 percent rate of recidivism among those who complete specialized treatment.
Coping with the complexity of the range of sexual crimes and the very different circumstances that give rise to them requires laws that recognize the likelihood of recidivism, the responsiveness to treatment, and the circumstances of a family, in which 90 percent of sexual crimes take place.
As the Legislature debates bills that respond to these national campaigns, it should take a step back and consider the serious objections raised by treatment professionals, victims' rights groups and tough-on-crime prosecutors. These groups are as concerned about safety for children as any, but they recognize that criminal justice in this arena depends on supporting victims and families in coming forward.
View the article here.
Amen! Same stuff I've been preaching for almost a year now.
Demonizing sex offenders by passing tough, mindless laws rather than treating them makes little sense.
By Richard B. Krueger, Richard B. Krueger is a psychiatrist and an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons.
March 11, 2007
INCREASINGLY, legislation dealing with sex offenders is being passed that is punitive, untested, expensive and, in many cases, counterproductive — demonizing people who commit sexual offenses without offering any empirical information that the new laws will reduce sexually violent crime.
Last week, for instance, New York became the 19th state to enact so-called sexually violent predator legislation. This legislation provides for the indefinite "civil commitment" of sexual offenders who have served their time in prison and are about to be released.
The legislation was passed despite a lack of evidence that such laws actually reduce sexual violence and despite recent reports of warehousing and chaos in some programs and relentlessly rising costs in others.
It is just one example of the kind of punitive laws being passed across the country. Other measures include increasingly strict residency restrictions (such as those imposed by Proposition 83 in California, approved by the voters in November), more stringent rules for community notification regarding sexual offenders and monitoring by GPS (also mandated under Proposition 83, with cost projections of $100 million annually, according to the state's legislative analyst).
In many states, politicians are eager to pass such legislation, which is enthusiastically supported by the public. Indeed, ask citizens what they think and you're likely to hear that they support laws to "get rid of perverts" who, in the eyes of many people, "deserve what they get."
This is not new. In general, dispassionate discussion of sexuality is difficult, even more so when it comes to sexual crimes. Ebbs and flows of public attention and vilification have often occurred in this country.
In the 1930s and '40s, castration was practiced in California, where sex offenders and homosexuals received this "treatment." Also, the first generation of sexual psychopath laws was passed during this time, mandating indefinite commitment for sexually violent predators. In the 1980s, society was roiled by a series of high-profile day-care-center abuse cases (such as the McMartin case and others that proved later to be unfounded). In the 1990s, there was a media uproar over supposed "ritualistic" and "satanic" sexual abuse.
These days, the pendulum continues to swing further toward the punitive end of the spectrum, with ever more draconian sentencing and post-release conditions. Under the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection Act, signed into law by President Bush in July, all sex offenders will be listed on the Internet, making information on offenders, regardless of whether they belong to a low-, medium- or high-risk category, publicly accessible; this includes people, for example, whose only crime is the possession of child pornography.
Obviously, this makes it increasingly difficult for ex-offenders to obtain residences or jobs — the mainstays of stability — and it subjects them to ongoing vigilantism and public censure. Although notification may make sense for some, it does not make sense for all.
In California, the most recent debate has been over whether Proposition 83, the law passed last year banning registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park, can be retroactively applied to the 90,000 offenders who have already been released from prison. (Two federal judges ruled last month that it may not.)
What is being created is a class of individuals that is progressively demonized by society and treated in such a way that a meaningful reintegration into society is impossible.
Yes, sexual abuse is a serious matter. Yes, individuals who commit sexual crimes should be punished. Unquestionably, a small percentage of sex offenders are very dangerous and must be removed from society. What's more, we know that sexual crimes are devastating to victims and their families and that we must do all we can to protect ourselves from "predators."
But demonizing people rather than treating them makes little sense, and passing laws that are tough but mindless in response to political pressure won't solve the problem either.
The reality is that, despite the popular perception to the contrary, recidivism rates for sexual offenders are among the lowest of any class of criminals. What's more, 90% of sex offenders in prison will eventually be released back into the community — and 90% of sexual offenses are committed by people known to their victim, such as family members or trusted members of the community — so rehabilitation is critical. It is not possible, affordable, constitutional or reasonable to lock up all sex offenders all of the time.
Society's efforts to segregate sex offenders are backfiring, resulting in unintended consequences. Homelessness is increasing among sex offenders, for instance, making it harder to monitor them and causing some law enforcement officials to call for a repeal of residency restrictions.
One of the greatest challenges to workable civil commitment programs is that offenders are so feared that, when they are ready to be reintroduced into society, no community will accept them — so instead they remain institutionalized indefinitely, creating ever-increasing costs without an end in sight.
Why has this demonization occurred? One reason is that offenders are hot news, and the more heinous the sexual crime, the more the media focus on it. Thus, our minds create a stereotype of egregious evil with respect to all sex offenders. We no longer distinguish between the most egregious cases and the others, despite the fact that the most terrible crimes represent only a small proportion of all sexual offenses.
But there are less serious crimes, and we should acknowledge that. Possession of child pornography is categorically different from a sexual assault. So is exhibitionism. The wife of a man who committed a hands-off crime involving possession of child pornography put it this way: "Each of these horrendous crimes drives another nail into our coffin."
Another reason for the demonization is that society has failed to fund research on the treatment and management of people convicted of sexual crimes — despite the fact that states are willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on unproven programs for treatment and containment.
The current public discourse on sex offenders is, therefore, without a base of empirical studies. Psychiatry, psychology and our national research institutes have eschewed involvement with such research.
No one is suggesting that sexual crimes should go unpunished or that some of the newer approaches — such as medication, intensive community supervision or even carefully considered civil commitment — are without value. What is becoming clearer, however, is that the climate in the United States makes reasonable discussion difficult.
What can be done? Some scholars, in an effort to interpose rationality between public fear and legislation, have suggested the concept of "evidence-based legislation." This is analogous to "evidence-based medicine" and would call on legislative bodies to inform their proposed laws with the best available scientific evidence — something that is rarely done now.
What is happening now with individuals who have committed sexual crimes is the modern-day equivalent of a witch hunt. Our images of the worst determine what we mete out to all sex offenders. It is time to reexamine our approaches and develop empirically based, scientifically sound measures and treatments to bring rationality back to this discussion.
View the article here.
This is no better than what exists now, with the exception of the elderly people who pose little risk. What a waste of time.
ATLANTA - With a federal lawsuit still hanging over last year's sweeping sex offender crackdown, lawmakers will begin debating a bill attempting to address concerns critics have raised about the law.
Senate Bill 249 would allow sheriffs to keep closer tabs on offenders by making them register with local law enforcement officials not only in the counties where they reside, but also where they work or go to school.
Sen. Jim Whitehead, R-Evans, introduced the bill as legislators began a mid-session break.
He said he filed the proposed changes on behalf of the Georgia Sheriffs' Association, which represents the 159 county-elected sheriffs in the state.
"They think that there needs to be some tweaking, so to speak, that maybe we didn't put something in there (last year) that we should have," said Whitehead, chairman of the Senate Public Safety and Homeland Security committee. "To protect people the way they needed to, they needed to have a few things changed."
There are more than 13,100 registered sex offenders in the state, according to Georgia Bureau of Investigation officials.
Besides widening the registration procedure, Whitehead's bill no longer would allow homeless offenders to use their vehicle tag information in place of a physical address.
The bill also requires offenders registering with sheriffs to provide a palm print along with their physical description to meet provisions of the 2006 federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.
Last year, the General Assembly passed House Bill 1059, which Gov. Sonny Perdue signed into a law that placed new restrictions on where convicted sex offenders could reside and work.
The law also increased prison sentences for many sex crimes and required lifetime electronic monitoring of the most dangerous sex predators.
Terry Norris, executive vice president of the sheriffs' group, said a training conference about the law drew more than 300 deputies from across the state with numerous questions about how to enforce some of its provisions. Whitehead's bill would ease some of the confusion, Norris said.
"The changes in this particular bill were brought forth by our sheriffs' offices throughout the state in an effort to better respond to their obligation to track and monitor sex offenders," he said.
The law's stricter requirements on how close offenders could live or work near children stirred up the most controversy last year and helped propel the federal lawsuit.
The way the law was written, offenders could not reside or "loiter" within 1,000 feet of child-care facilities, schools, churches, school bus stops, parks, playgrounds and swimming pools.
Offenders also cannot work within 1,000 feet of child-care facilities, schools or churches.
The school bus stop provision was particularly contentious after sheriffs said it was nearly impossible to enforce because of the large number of stops, which can often change based on local school system needs.
Human rights groups that filed the federal lawsuit against the law argued that 10,000 registered offenders would have to move because of school bus stops.
U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper last year blocked Columbia County from enforcing the distance rule after the county's school board officially designated its bus stops. After that ruling, other school systems held off on the designations, waiting for the full suit to be heard.
There has been no movement in the case since last winter, said Sara Totonchi, public policy director for the Southern Center for Human Rights, which filed the lawsuit along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.
The last motion on which Cooper ruled was a proposal to lift the 1,000-foot rule from applying to nine unidentified offenders who were elderly or disabled.
The decision did not cover those offenders statewide, but Whitehead's bill might solve the problem if it's approved this session.
His measure would allow a superior court judge to review individual cases for offenders determined no longer to pose a risk.
To be considered for a waiver against moving, the offenders would have to be staying in hospice or nursing home or be permanently, physically disabled because they were sick or injured.
Offenders 75 or older also could avoid moving if at least a decade had passed since they were released from prison or placed on parole or probation.
"Having that sort of process for people who are elderly and dying to be exempt from the residency restrictions is imperative," Totonchi said. "I do hear from folks who are elderly who have lived in their homes for 30 years and really don't have the capacity to leave their homes.
"This provision would still require that they register, but they just wouldn't be forced from their homes."
Columbia County Sheriff Whittle said the proposal to make offenders register in separate counties if they work or go to school in another place than where they live would help keep closer track of child predators.
"They may be right next door to a day-care center, and it's by design," Whittle said. "That's what we're trying to prevent."
House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, R-St. Simons Island, said late last week that he had not read Whitehead's bill nor realized it already had been introduced.
Keen, who sponsored HB 1059 last year and spent most of the session working on the massive bill, said he has been speaking with sheriffs about their suggestions for the revisions.
"I told them that I don't have any opposition that will strengthen any existing language," he said, adding that he recognized such a sweeping law might require some changes.
But Keen said he would be cautious of making any moves to create loopholes for certain offenders.
"When you start drafting exemptions, you have to be very careful," he said. "I'm certainly open to them as long as it doesn't weaken the intent of the law."
Here are some of the changes proposed in Senate Bill 249:
Child-care facilities: Places would have to be licensed by the state to count as part of the 1,000-foot living restriction rule. This would clear up confusion about whether homes where people informally take care of a few children should be included in the 1,000-foot rule.
Measuring distance: The 1,000-foot rule would be measured from the offender's door instead of his or her property line to the nearest property line of any off-limits building. This would make it easier for those in apartment complexes or on large plots of land to be in compliance.
Elderly and disabled offenders: A judge could grant an exemption to offenders if they are staying in hospices or nursing homes or are at least 75 years old and have been out of prison for at least a decade.
Registration in multiple counties: On top of registering in the county where they reside, offenders also would have to register with sheriffs in counties where they work or go to school.
Living in cars: Being homeless or having post office boxes already is unacceptable when offenders register their addresses with sheriffs. The bill also would not allow turning in vehicle information instead of a physical address.
MAKE THE CALL
Senate Bill 249, which attempts to tweak last year's sweeping sex offender law based on sheriffs' suggestions, will next be heard in the Senate Public Safety and Homeland Security committee. To express an opinion for or against the bill, contact the committee chairman and bill sponsor Sen. Jim Whitehead, R-Evans, at 404-656-5114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
READ THE BILL
To read Senate Bill 249, visit the Web site www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2007_08/sum/sb249.htm
View the article here.
With schools, libraries, parks, and those placed marks are off limits by the software are EVERYWHERE, how is anyone going to be able to walk or drive anywhere without being in violation of breaking the law? What's next, detour signs for sex offenders so they know of a safe path to travel without violating the law? Again, from the sounds of this article, ALL sex offenders will be wearing these, not just high risk offenders. Who is going to pay for them? Sex offenders should not have to pay for them to obey the law. You want the law, you pay for it... Also, since they can no longer go to these places, I think they should all refuse to pay taxes for these places, since they cannot use them anymore. What about malls, amusement parks, movie theaters. Children are all over the place. I bet you will see more and more vanish off the radar and go underground and then the public will be in worse shape than they are without this. You treat someone like an animal, they'll act like an animal, and eventually lash out. Society is the ones making them into monsters, instead of trying to help them overcome this by therapy, you force millions of people to pay for this and punish millions for the few high profile cases. 90 - 95% of sex offenders are not predators, so what are you doing? You are all brain-dead, nothing about ANY of these laws will prevent someone who is determined to commit another crime from doing so, NOTHING. You treat them like an animal, I'm sure they'll act like an animal. I bet tons of people have stock in GPS software to make their wallets fatter. That is why they are so strong with pushing something they know will not keep a predator from offending again, if they really wanted to.
YOUNGSTOWN — Justin Miller wants to be part of society again.
But society has a hard time letting guys like Miller back in. Miller's a sex offender. A sexual encounter with a minor gave him a 10-month jail sentence.
It also gave him a lifetime of registering his whereabouts with local police agencies wherever he chooses to live. It's a common routine for sex offenders and society.
Most criminals, once their sentence is done, go back to live a life they choose out of the scope of authorities — unless they commit more crimes. But the high recidivism rate for sex offenders keeps them under law enforcement watch for the rest of their lives.
The desire to monitor actions of Miller and others like him in the Mahoning Valley is taking a technological leap forward — and it's with the help of cell phones, a Global Positioning System and computer-based mapping of the city.
Within the next week or so, Miller and two others will be the first offenders monitored by Community Corrections Association with improved GPS tracking devices.
The new system goes the current electronic monitoring system one better by allowing officials instant notification when an offender is in an area he should not be in, or if the offender has shelved his monitoring device. The current system doesn't reveal where an offender has been until a day after his travels.
"I'm eager for it. I want to be someone who can show the Mahoning and Trumbull community that I'm ready to come back into society and be good," said Miller, 21, of Warren.
His sentence includes six months of the electronic monitoring.
"The new system, I can't wait to get on 'cause it will be a lot easier to track me. They can pinpoint me as I'm walking down the street," he said.
Jessica Brown is a probation officer at Community Corrections Association and has become the agency's electronic monitoring specialist at its halfway facility on Market Street.
The new tracking technology allows her to create restricted areas for each offender and use each person's electronic bracelet and cell phone to determine if they're in an improper zone.
If a sex offender is prohibited, for example, from schools, libraries and parks, those sites are designated on a computer-generated map by Brown.
"I print out the map and give it to the offender. I can put in as many exclusion zones as necessary," Brown said. "There's no secrets here."
The computer, with data specific to each offender, corresponds to a real-time GPS tracker. The system equips a sex offender with a text-only cell phone he takes with him whenever he ventures from home.
If the person wanders into a prohibited zone, the tracking device alerts Brown via a tone alarm and text message on her cell phone. She, in turn, sends a text message to the offender's tracking unit, which beeps until the warning is acknowledged by him with the press of a button.
Miller said Brown "can text my monitor and say, 'Hey you're getting too close to where you're not supposed to be.' People around me will just think it's an old-fashioned cell phone."
Another text message to Brown's cell phone is dispatched when the offender leaves the prohibited area.
On Brown's computer, the offender shows up as a red dot until he leaves the forbidden zone — then his dot turns green.
"If they remain in the exclusion zone, we notify their probation officer," said Richard J. Billak, CCA chief executive officer.
The system also messages Brown if an offender has left home without his tracking unit, which corresponds with a transmitter on an ankle bracelet. When the two aren't together, the monitor sends a text message.
Three of the five GPS trackers will be put online within the next week or so. The units, which cost about $2,000 new, cost CCA $900 each because they reprogrammed the old-style monitors. The first three are assigned to two sex offenders and a robber. Each offender is charged $6 per day for use of the device.
CCA monitors offenders for the Ohio Adult Parole Authority and probationers from local courts.
The Youngstown criminal system has around 125 sex offenders on court-ordered supervision, with about 10 percent of them considered sexual predators, Billak said.
"Those are the ones you'd want to monitor," Billak said of the predators. "The city would need about 20 GPS units."
City Prosecutor Jay Macejko said real-time GPS trackers are being discussed for municipal court probationers for whom victims received protection orders. Municipal Judge Robert A. Douglas Jr. said the mayor is willing to provide the funds.
Billak said the intent of GPS active trackers is to prevent more crime, and wider use is possible. "There's legislation in Columbus looking at having certain sex offenders on [GPS] active trackers for life. Now it's just for the duration of their parole."
Miller said he's not allowed to be near schools (colleges are OK), day-care centers, playgrounds, public libraries and other locations where children gather. He said his probation officer has prohibited him from taking a computer class at Youngstown State University because access to computers could also mean access to pornography.
Miller said he's trying to find a job but, as a sex offender, it's difficult. He's hoping a good record on the new GPS tracker will help him find a job.
He said he wants to attend YSU in the fall. When checking out the campus one day, he realized the university is near a public library, so he called his parole officer.
"I called my PO, and he said as long as I stayed at the school, I was OK," Miller said. "The furthest part of the campus, across the street, is Ursuline High School, that's going to be a problem, too. But as long as I stay on campus, I'll be OK."
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Here we go again. Pass a law in some childs name. This ought to be illegal. When a childs name is attached to a bill, who is going to want to vote against it? You could make ANY law you wanted, attach a childs name to it, and it will pass. These license plates are only a easy way to publically shame offenders, nothing more. Do you think if a predator pulls up to a young girl, they are going to walk to the back of the car to see if that have a green plate? This is stupid. Any predator who is determine to commit another crime, this will NOT stop them. It's only a Scarlett Letter...
The bill would target offenders and predators who are already are required to register with county sheriff's offices.
WOOSTER — Legislation named in memory of a Wooster-area girl who was raped and murdered by a sex offender who lived in her neighborhood was officially introduced to a state Senate committee.
Sen. Kevin Coughlin, a Republican from Cuyahoga Falls, presented Senate Bill 56, requiring green license plates on vehicles driven by sex offenders, to the Judiciary and Criminal Justice Committee. He introduced it on the Senate floor last week.
SB 56 was among a series of bills related to sexually oriented offenders discussed by members; others would require additional rehabilitation and confinement for sexually violent predators, increase penalties for offenders who fail to register after incarceration and require some offenders to wear global positioning system devices that would constantly monitor their physical location.
Coughlin's bill has been coined Kristen's Law after Kristen Jackson, who was abducted by Joel Yockey while walking home from the Wayne County Fair in September 2002, raped, murdered and dismembered. Yockey, a convicted sex offender whose past offenses were not publicized, lived in the same neighborhood as the Jackson family. In a plea bargain, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole; he died last month, apparently of natural causes.
Number in Ohio
Coughlin told committee members last week that there are more than 15,000 registered sex offenders in the state.
Perpetrators of sex crimes are more likely to be repeat offenders — 78 percent were convicted of new sex-related offenses within five years of their release from prison, he said, citing statistics compiled by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
SB 56 would target offenders and predators who are already are required to register with county sheriff's offices, including those convicted of rape, sexual battery, gross sexual imposition, importuning and sex-related crimes involving children, Coughlin said. Such offenders would be required to display a fluorescent green license plate on their vehicles, providing clear evidence to any onlooker of their past crimes. The plate would serve as a deterrent to potential future offenders and would enable parents, children, law enforcement and others to monitor sexual offenders' activities.
"We are dealing with a unique and highly repetitive criminal base, and we need to make it as easy as possible for our children — and law enforcement — to be able to recognize when known sexual predators are lurking near our schools and parks or other places," according to Coughlin's testimony. "By making these vehicles easily identifiable to our children, parent and law enforcement officials, we are taking the power out of the hands of these repeat offenders and putting it back into the hands of the community."
Those who fail to display the license plates would be subject to a first-degree misdemeanor charge and face up to six months incarceration and a $1,000 fine.