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Michael, a 50-year-old Level 3 sex offender living in Worcester, says if therapy had been provided to him when he was convicted of raping a child in 1984, he most likely would have changed his way of thinking and his behavior and would not have re-offended in 1994 and 2004.
Shawn, 33, another Level 3 sex offender, said the intensive therapy he has been receiving since his release from prison 18 months ago is helping him develop coping skills, something that experts say should prevent him from committing another sex offense.
While studies show that intensive therapy greatly reduces the chances that sexual offenders will repeat their behavior, it is often not mandated and is not available to all sex offenders in Massachusetts. A study released in 1999 by the federal Office of Sex Offender Management showed that sex offenders who received relapse prevention treatment had a re-arrest rate of 7.2 percent compared to a 17.6 percent re-arrest rate for untreated sex offenders.
“We don’t have laws yet that allow sex offenders to be incarcerated for life, so any treatment they get is going to be helpful because they’re going to come out,” said Kim L. Dawkins, executive director of the Rape Crisis Center of Central Massachusetts. “If they get no treatment and they come out, the behavior is more likely to continue to be a problem.”
Ms. Dawkins said the key is to prevent sex offenses by teaching young boys the difference between proper and improper behavior.
Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said prosecutors always recommend therapy for convicted sex offenders. “The problem is, when someone gets a prison sentence, the therapy is optional while in jail. For different reasons, they don’t take these classes,” Mr. Early said. In addition, the prison sentence is usually not long enough for a sex offender to successfully complete a treatment program, which traditionally takes from three to six years or even longer, he said. The average sentences for a sex offender range from about 12 months for indecent assault and battery on a child to about 75 months for rape of a child.
While therapy is required for sex offenders who are on parole or probation, five out of six registered sex offenders complete their sentences and therefore are not required to get therapy when they are released. Since 1996, the state Parole Board has operated the Intensive Parole for Sex Offenders program that requires therapy for sex offender parolees. Don Giancioppo, executive director of the Parole Board, said none of the 300 sex offenders who completed the IPSO program has been convicted of subsequent sex offenses.
In the program, specially trained parole officers are assigned 10 to 15 sex offenders, compared with a caseload of as many as 50 parolees for a non-IPSO parole officer. They make at least weekly visits to the sex offender’s home and place of employment.
The offender must undergo weekly therapy sessions, can have no contact with children, is not allowed to use computers and has a curfew. Every six months, the offender must submit to a polygraph about his or her compliance with the conditions of parole. Since December, all sex offenders on parole have been required to wear GPS tracking devices.
The IPSO program, originally started in the Framingham office, expanded to Lawrence, Springfield and Worcester last year. Seventy-five sex offenders are in the program at the four sites, but 45 sex offenders assigned to the Parole Board’s other four offices in Brockton, Mattapan, New Bedford and Quincy do not have access to the program.
Participation in a sex offender treatment program is a significant factor in the classification of sex offenders as to their risk to re-offend, according to Charles McDonald, spokesman for the state Sex Offender Registry Board. Of about 10,000 registered sex offenders in Massachusetts, about 5,000 are Level 2 and 1,400 are Level 3, those considered to have the highest risk of re-offending. Mr. McDonald said the board strongly favors treatment, particularly the “cognitive behavior relapse prevention” form of sex offender treatment.
That type of treatment is similar to the Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve Step program, in which the person must first acknowledge that he or she has a problem. Once the sex offender expresses regret for having committed the crime and develops empathy for the victim, the offender develops a relapse prevention plan that outlines the situations that trigger them to sexually offend and how to successfully deal with them.
Shawn, who works in Worcester, was convicted of indecent assault and battery on a child relative and is classified as Level 3. He was released from the Worcester County House of Correction in West Boylston in October 2005, after serving 14 months. Weekly group and individual therapy sessions are conditions of his probation, which he will be on for 19 years.
“Therapy is helping,” said Shawn, who like Michael asked that his full name not be used. “It helps me deal with everyday problems. If stress is building up, I can talk about it instead of letting it build up and I have no release. It also helps to know that there are other people out there dealing with the same things I am. I try every day to try to right the wrong that I did by being a good person, going to work every day and trying to build up relationships that I let slip with my mom and dad.”
When Michael was convicted in 1984 of rape of a child with force, there was no treatment for sex offenders. Michael said he spent 60 days in the state prison in Concord for that conviction. He said he was convicted in 1994 on a child pornography charge out of Michigan, for which he served 28 months in a treatment center in North Carolina. He said he got little benefit from that program. The state Sex Offender Registry does not list the 1994 conviction.
In 2004, Michael was convicted of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14 and purchase or possession of child pornography. He was sentenced to three years at the Worcester County House of Correction. He said he was credited for two years he spent in jail awaiting trial and served the rest of his sentence at Bridgewater State Hospital. Michael said he was not there long enough to complete a treatment program.
“People tell you that treatment is a minimum of three years. I kept getting in there with these one-year-left-to-go things,” said Michael. He said he is now paying for therapy.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers says sex offender treatment should be mandatory in legislation to combat sexual violence. Most pending sex offender-related legislation in Massachusetts, however, does not include treatment. State Rep. Karyn E. Polito, R-Shrewsbury, said she did not include mandatory treatment in her bill because of the cost. But treatment is an area the state could do more and she is willing to explore it, she said.
According to the state Department of Correction, $2.85 million is budgeted for sex offender treatment this fiscal year. But a large portion of the funding is allotted for treatment of the sexually dangerous at Bridgewater State Hospital.
“I think treatment is important both in prison and post release, but it needs to be forever. They are like any other addict,” Ms. Polito said.
- I don't think paying outrageous prices forever is right. If they had a place to go, like AA or NA, like SA or something where they can talk about issues, feelings, etc, it would help. But many cannot afford paying insane prices to receive treatment.
Mr. Early said he would like treatment to be required for all convicted sex offenders. One of the problems, he said, is that the Truth-in-Sentencing Law did away with split sentencing that would have given an inmate some prison time and some probation. Therapy and a GPS system are often conditions of probation, he said. If an offender on probation fails to successfully complete therapy, he or she can be sent back to prison.
“If they don’t have the split sentence, the day they are released from jail they are put back into society without these classes. We don’t have any hooks or claws into the person to make them cope with the problem,” Mr. Early said. “If these people are functioning with the sword hanging over their head, so to speak, it would help make society safer.”
Psychiatrist Martin P. Kafka and psychologist John Cusack are members of the Massachusetts Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers. Both work at McLean Hospital, a nationally renowned psychiatric hospital in Belmont. Mr. Cusack said mandatory therapy does not work, because you cannot force someone to do treatment against their will. But treatment for sex offenders is effective, and significantly more so for juvenile offenders, Mr. Cusack said. In addition, being arrested and having to go through the courts is a serious enough deterrent to keep most juveniles from re-offending, he said.
- Yes, it's like alcoholics, you can't make someone take the treatment and it work, they have to want to take it, then it works.
Dr. Kafka, president of the association, is an expert in the use of drugs to treat offenders with sexual compulsive disorders and is an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital. He uses two testosterone-lowering drugs in some extreme cases. Neither has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In an Oregon study from 2000 to 2004, 275 sex offenders took the drug Depo-Provera and none of the men committed new sex offenses, he said.
An emerging method of pharmacological treatment for sex offenders is identifying whether the sex offender has psychiatric disorders. Dr. Kafka said more studies need to be done, but many sex offenders have mood disorders, attention deficit disorder, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, Asperger syndrome, schizophrenia and substance and alcohol abuse problems that also need to be treated.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
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Leesburg (AP) - A civil rights leader who worked closely with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has been charged with incest.
The Rev. James L. Bevel, 70, was arrested late last month in Alabama, where he has been living, after being indicted on one count of unlawfully committing fornication.
On Saturday, defense attorney Buta Biberaj said no plea had been entered yet and it would be premature for her to comment. A bail hearing is set for June 14.
Bevel appeared briefly in Loudoun County Circuit Court on Friday but did not speak.
According to the indictment, the crime occurred in Loudoun County in northern Virginia between Oct. 14, 1992, and Oct. 14, 1994, when the accuser was 13 to 17 years old.
Bevel, who worked with King and witnessed his assassination in Memphis, Tenn., in 1968, has played a key role in some of the country's major civil rights protests.
He organized the 1963 Children's Crusade in Birmingham, Ala., and was a leader of the Freedom Rides to desegregate public accommodations throughout the South in the early 1960s. And he was an architect of the March on Washington in 1963 and the Selma-to-Montgomery march in Alabama in 1965. He also helped organize the Million Man March in Washington in 1995.
If convicted, Bevel could face up to 20 years in prison.
View the article here | Her on the Registry
Some evidence suggests lighter sentences for women
VILLA HILLS - As the attractive, blond Jeni Lee Dinkel walked into court, some male bystanders elbowed each other and whispered, "Where was she when I was 15?"
It's that "societal double standard" that Kenton Commonwealth's Attorney Rob Sanders said led him to recommend five years probation for the 51-year-old Villa Hills mother caught having sex with her son's then 15-year-old classmate. She also will have to register as a sex offender.
The Hollywood makeup artist who's worked on dozens of movies, including "Wild Things" and "Bad Boys," could have gotten up to five years in prison if found guilty of the charge at trial.
"It's not that we treat defendants any differently because of their sex," Sanders told The Enquirer in May. "But we have to be realistic about the way society looks at them."
Experts say they did not know of any large-scale study comparing the sentences of male and female child molesters, but said anecdotal evidence certainly suggests women are treated differently.
"I think it is probably fair to say the penalties are not typically as great for women," said David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.
- And what kind of message is this sending women? That it's ok to do this, because you are a women? This is nothing but discrimination, pure and simple.
Part of the disparity is based on gender bias, said Finkelhor, who has a doctorate in sociology.
But some of it is related to other factors. Finkelhor said female child molesters are less likely to have a prior criminal record and to have used physical force against the victim.
Finkelhor said men are more likely to commit violent crimes, and society has more hostility to male sexuality when it goes awry.
"There has been a tendency, well-documented over the years, to charge women less severely, just because they are female," said Alan Listiak, coordinator of sex offender program certification at the Minnesota Department of Corrections.
"It is our attitudes toward women," he said. "We think of them as mothering and nurturing. We don't see them being antisocial like some males are."
- And they are sexualized on TV, radio, movies, music, everywhere.
For example, he said, most people assume a bank robber is a man, even if they do not see the heist.
While Dinkel likely will not get prison time when sentenced July 2 by Kenton Circuit Judge Gregory Bartlett, Finkelhor said the fact she was even prosecuted suggests some gender stereotype has disappeared.
"Probably 20 years ago it would have been very unlikely they would have prosecuted the case," Finkelhor said. "Police forces are no longer just a good ol' boys club where they sit around and guffaw about the kids who got lucky."
- Oh yes they are. Police get off on sex crimes all the time, just check out BadCopNews!
Some recent cases in Northern Kentucky bear out the theory that women are treated differently.
A former Grant County Middle School dropout-prevention coordinator served no time in jail for having sex with two students.
Sheliah Cull was sentenced to three years probation in October 2003 after pleading guilty in Grant Circuit Court to four counts of third-degree sodomy and one count of third-degree rape. She was 32 at the time.
Prosecutors said Cull engaged in sexual activity with a 14-year-old and 15-year-old. Prosecutors said she bought the boys gifts including underwear with the phrases "well hung" and "in heat" printed on them.
Rene Heinrich, the attorney for Dinkel's victim, likes to talk about the 10 men who are being held in the Campbell County jail in lieu of a $100,000 bond after being nabbed during an April online predator sting. In those cases, the men chatted online with adults posing as minors.
"There were no real victims," Heinrich said.
Dinkel, by contrast, has been free on a $2,500 bond since she was charged on April 16.
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Our view: Experience in other places shows flaws with residency restrictions.
Having an address within a big red circle on a map might make us sleep a little easier.
But it's no guarantee that our children are any safer from the danger of sexual predators.
Some communities around the country that have a couple of years experience with no-residency zones for sex offenders are rethinking their effort in light of evidence indicating that maybe this feel-good action isn't as effective we all think it should be.
Several counties in our area have established zones that prohibit convicted sex offenders from living within a certain distance of schools, day-care centers, playgrounds and other places where children gather in large numbers. These zones are particularly effective in excluding sex offenders from living in densely populated areas such as villages and cities.
The idea of residency restrictions is to prevent child molesters from having a vantage point from which to shoot fish in a barrel. On the surface, setting up boundaries makes perfect sense. But in practice, even hard-nosed, law-and-order advocates are saying these types of restrictions may need to be modified, if not revoked. States like Iowa, Georgia and Oklahoma are among a growing number of states that are bucking popular demand by reconsidering their laws.
While it may be premature for local communities to revoke their just-passed residency restrictions, government officials in our area owe it to their constituents to learn all they can about the effectiveness of residency programs from the places with the most long-term experience dealing with them.
This is not a plea for leniency for sex offenders, nor is it a signal that anyone wants to be weak on sex crimes. Certainly not.
If our goal as a society is to protect our children, then we need to evaluate and re-evaluate all our actions to determine whether we're accomplishing that goal or just lulling ourselves into a false sense of security. That's not being easy on crime. It's being responsible to citizens, taxpayers and children.
Among the biggest problems cited in cities like Tulsa, Okla., Atlanta and Des Moines, Idaho, according to a Feb. 26 article in USA Today, is that the residency restrictions actually make sex offenders more difficult to keep track of. Because they have difficulty finding places to live, they often don't tell police where they are, or they give fake addresses so they can actually live within restricted areas. According to a New York Times article from March 2006, 400 of Iowa's 6,000 registered sex offenders were listed as "whereabouts unconfirmed" or living in tents, parking lots or rest areas. A year earlier, that number was 140.
The laws also force sex offenders to move around more or become homeless. Research shows that the less stable their lives are and the less social support they get, the more likely they are to fall into past behaviors.
One police deputy was quoted as saying, "We'd rather know where these people are living than to have the restriction."
The residency restrictions are also adding to the burden on police and prosecutors, who now must devote a greater percentage of their resources to checking out potential residency violations. That not only takes them away from other law enforcement activities, but also adds to already strapped government budgets.
When high density communities restrict sex offenders from living within their borders, those individuals are forced to move out to rural areas, putting those communities' children at greater risk of encountering a sex offender.
And while the laws restrict where a sex offender might live, they don't restrict where a sex offender can go. These laws don't keep sex offenders, for instance, from voting in a school building or buying a ticket to a high school football game or attending a grade-school graduation or swimming in a public pool or spending the day at the local library. Laws can dictate a person's residence, but not their movement outside that residence. And police simply can't keep tabs on everyone all the time.
More reasons to rethink the laws: A study in Colorado actually showed no correlation between where a molester lives and the crimes they commit. And sex offenders surveyed in Florida said they know not to commit their crimes close to their homes where police are watching. So they go to rural areas, where the chances of being recognized are less.
The residency laws also don't protect the children who are victims of sex abuse within their own families, crimes that often go unreported or undetected. And they don't protect them from sex abusers who haven't yet been caught.
So some communities, against a wave of public sentiment, are working on modifications to their residency laws to make them more efficient and effective.
For instance, some states are recognizing that not all sex offenders are equal. An 18-year-old who had sex with his 16-year-old girlfriend is not the same threat to children as a 42-year-old man who sodomized a 4-year-old boy. Many sex registries don't make the distinction. So communities and states are trying to identify the most serious sex offenders for observation and restriction -- those that one Iowa state senator called "true predators."
Another modification is loosening the restrictions to make them more reasonable. In Georgia, according to the USA Today article, the vice chairman of the state legislature's judiciary panel is cooperating with the state Sheriff's Association to shorten the list of places that sex offenders can't live near -- such as some bus stops and churches.
No one wants sex offenders in close proximity to children. And politicians are keenly aware of being perceived as soft on sex offenders if they do anything that might make them appear sympathetic to child molesters.
But devoting limited and valuable resources to placebo laws is not the best way to protect our children from predators.
And in many cases, they could be doing more harm than good.
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Looks like Mark had them remove the article above, but I saved it in a PDF, here.
Old I know, just archiving it here. Mark may have been through a lot with his daughter, but it's the same as this man, who was arrested for child porn, and his daughter was killed. So what is the difference?
According to documents released Monday afternoon, investigators say they discovered child pornography on Mark Lunsford's home computer.
Lunsford, the father of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, who was killed in February, denies looking at the images, while the sheriff's office says none of the images had been "downloaded, filed or saved."
- Then how the hell did they get onto the machine? I am a programmer, and I know this is BS! If someone visits a child porn site, the images are stored in the Internet cache on the machine, and when the user empties the cache, then the files are erased from the cache, but still on the machine. Images do not just magically appear on someones machine.
The 852 pages made public by the State Attorney's office in Brooksville contained transcripts of interviews with accused killer John Couey's house mates Dorothy Dixon, Matthew Dittrich and Madie Secord and also information about the hundreds of leads investigators checked out during the opening days of Jessica Lunsford's disappearance.
Prosecutors continue to prepare for their capital murder case against Couey, who they say admitted to kidnapping and murdering the 9-year-old Homosassa girl.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Contained in the documents released by the State Attorney's office were notes from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that mention the pornography. The images, documents say, were found Feb. 24 — the day Jessica was reported missing from her South Sonata Avenue home — by Citrus County sheriff's detectives during their investigation of the missing girl.
Though the documents did not go into specifics about the images, Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino said the images were found on Lunsford's computer. However, he said his office is not pursuing charges.
- Why not? It's child porn and he or someone using the machine apparently visiting a site that had child porn. Is it because he's a public figure?
"There was no evidence found by law enforcement that the computer was used in the manufacturing or production of child pornography, only that there were a limited number of items that were viewed," Magrino said. "To expend additional law enforcement resources and prosecutor resources to make a case, when balancing societal goals. I mean, Mr. Lunsford's been through enough."
- So images were downloaded, and if they were downloaded, whomever was at the machine had to have seen them. Yes he has, he lost his daughter, but there was still child porn on the machine. If his daughter was still alive and he was not who he is, you'd be throwing him in prison.
Along with the images, a list of more than 50 "sexually oriented" Web sites that Lunsford visited on the morning before Jessica disappeared was released by prosecutors last month. Talking in his office Monday, Magrino declined to give an exact number of images that investigators found, but said it was in the "single digits."
- So you know that he visited porn sites, no big deal, that's legal, but child porn doesn't just pop up on the machine without visiting a web site with child porn.
He said while Lunsford said he viewed pornographic images, the questionable images could have gotten on the computer any number of ways, such as through "pop-ups" or by accident.
- That is a load of BS. Yes pop ups happen, but if the site is a legitimate web site with only adult porn and not child porn, then those pop ups would not occur. You are just denying the facts.
Sheriff spokeswoman Gail Tierney said a "handful" of images were found by members of the sheriff's computer forensics unit in the computers delete bin. She said the images had not been downloaded, filed or saved.
- Ok, this is a different story. If they visited a web site, the images would be in the Internet cache and not the recycle bin. In order for the images to be in the "delete bin" he would have had to save them to another folder, and then in a panic or some other reason, deleted them, which just moves them into the recycle bin. So sounds to me like he was viewing and saved child porn on his machine. Not downloaded, files or saved is an out right lie. Like I said above, if they are in the "delete bin" then they were saved and later deleted.
Tierney said Sheriff Jeff Dawsy has been "in agreement" with the State Attorney about not pressing charges because the office felt Lunsford has been through enough, and added that any attempt at prosecution "would have been challenging" because the images had not been saved.
- BS! They were in the "delete bin" they could opened the recycle bin, and copied them to a disk for evidence. Even if they were emptied from the recycle bin, they can still retrieve the images, if they wanted to. The problem is, they knew who he was and didn't want to press charges.
Magrino acknowledged there would likely be some public outcry concerning the images and his office's decision not to prosecute. He theorized the Public Defender's Office might even use the information to build its case for defending John Couey, the man accused of Jessica's kidnapping and murder.
- I never heard any outcry, why not? He should be prosecuted for possession of child porn!
He said any criticism is just a minor distraction.
"This office is focusing its attention on prosecuting a murderer," he said.
- And if the murder never occurred, you'd eventually bust him for child porn like you are other people. You are just protecting him for some reason, like Mark Foley whom everyone seems to have forgot about.
Contacted by phone, Lunsford said he was not worried about the latest details emerging from the case. He said he looked at nude photos of women, but that he never looked at child pornography.
- I don't by this for a minute!
"I never touched that (stuff)," he said.
Saying it was "embarrassing," he said he did look at adult pornography on the Internet by clicking on links but that he never actually opened any files. He said he remembered talking to investigators about the images during their investigation and told them what images he viewed, and that he was assured everything was fine.
He feels such behavior, as long as it's legal, should remain private but said he understood why the information was released. But like Magrino, he said he's not getting distracted from his own mission.
- His mission should be "justice" and that is to get Couey and whomever downloaded child porn.
He said he continues pressing for tougher sex offender laws across the nation, including a radio interview with a North Carolina radio station and attending hearings in Kentucky. He said that won't change now.
- And now his own son is busted for a sex crime. How ironic! And he's singing a different tune now.
"My focus is on tougher laws for predators. If you don't like me because I look at naked women, I don't care," Lunsford said. "I'm not putting a black mark on my daughter's name."
View the article here
Old article I know, but added it so it's archived in case the other is deleted.
John Evander Couey (born September 19, 1958) is an American criminal.
Couey is presently on trial in Citrus County, Florida, and faces the death penalty.
On March 18, 2005, John Evander Couey confessed to having kidnapped and murdered nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford.
According to police reports, Lunsford was abducted on February 23, 2005 after attending a local church service.
John Couey stated he went to Jessica's house at about 3am, entered through an unlocked wooden door, awoke her, told her (Exact Quote) "Don't yell or nothing" and had Jessica follow him.
Couey occupied the trailer along with two other women. Couey admitted in his video taped and recorded deposition to having sexual intercourse with Jessica in his bedroom. They then both slept nude together the first night at which time he then again assaulted her in the morning, leaving her in the closet with the instructions not to leave. She stayed in the closet the entire day as John Couey reported for work at "Billy's truck lot", never attempting to escape.
John Couey related that Jessica did not appear a virgin the first time they had sexual intercourse, stating she did not cry or yell out, and in fact smiled and said it felt like she was having her period. The coroner's report stated that Jessica's vagina showed prior healed notches, clefts and scars in her hymenal remains in a 6, and 12 o'clock position that were present before John Couey's rape, though he stated in his court deposition that it could be of natural occurrence as well as molestation.
On March 19, 2005 at exactly 12:13am, police found Jessica's body at a residence located on West Sparrow Court, buried in a hole approximately 2 1/2' deep and 2' circular, covered with leaves. The body was removed from the ground at exactly 3:37am and transported to the coroner's office.
Her body had undergone "moderate" to "severe" decomposition. and according to the publicly released autopsy reports was skeletonized on 2 fingers that Jessica had poked through the bags before suffocating to death. The coroner ruled that death would have happened even in best circumstances within 2-3 minutes from lack of oxygen.
In addition, Couey has an extensive criminal record that includes 24 arrests for burglary, carrying a concealed weapon without a permit and indecent exposure. In 1991, he was arrested in Kissimmee on a charge of fondling a child under age 16. During a house burglary in 1978, Couey was accused of grabbing a girl in her bedroom, placing his hand over her mouth and kissing her. Couey was sentenced to 10 years in prison but was paroled in 1980.
View the article here
CHEYENNE - Wyoming is about to put sex offenders on the map.
Acting in response to a state law passed this spring, the Wyoming Attorney General's office intends to throw the switch on a new Web site July 1 that will list convicted sex offenders in the state, provide their photographs and criminal histories and give detailed mapping information about where they live.
Some critics say that posting the information will force sex offenders to fear for their own safety and drive them underground. And some question whether listing all offenders, as opposed to state's long-standing practice of listing only those deemed to pose the greatest risk to society, is unfair to people who were convicted of lesser offenses years ago but who have turned their lives around.
Attorney General Pat Crank said he's not concerned that posting all sex offender information might lead to any violence against offenders themselves. And he says the public has a right to know who offenders are and where they live.
"No, I guess if we're going to err, I think it's better to err on protecting our citizenry from people who have already shown that they will sexually assault their fellow human beings," Crank said. "I think it's a good thing that we're going to give our citizens the maximum amount of information so they can protect themselves and their loved ones."
Crank's office currently operates a Web site that lists about 120 sex offenders statewide. The existing site shows only those offenders who have been determined in court to pose the greatest risk to society. And while the state currently lists offenders by county, it provides no way to search by name and doesn't offer any way to determine quickly whether offenders live in a particular area.
Risk hearings abolished
Wyoming's new sex offender law does away with the process of holding court hearings to determine the level of risk that offenders pose. Instead, the state's new Web site will list all sex offenders who have been convicted since 1985, regardless of where they received the conviction.
"That will be a pretty dramatic change," Crank said. "If you were to look at our Web site you would have somewhere around 110 to 120 sex offenders. Come July first, you would be able to access information on about 1,400 convicted sex offenders."
In addition, Crank said the new system will allow people to search for offenders by name and by zip code to show all offenders who live in a particular area.
"The new system that we're trying to develop will be much more user-friendly, and much more searchable," Crank said. "There will also be mapping data attached to that, and I think what we're trying to shoot for is that our Web site will allow you access to Google Maps that will show you accurately where that offender lives."
This year's legislation included $200,000 to pay for improvements to the state's sex offender registry. That money will pay for computer equipment for county sheriff's offices to keep offenders addresses up to date. Crank said he expects the equipment will be installed statewide by Sept. 1.
Faith Wicks, wife of a convicted sex offender in Powell, said the prospect of having her husband listed on the forthcoming state Web site, complete with mapping information showing the location of her family home, is causing her fear and putting a strain on her marriage.
Wicks said she's talked with other women across the state who likewise dread having their husbands listed on the Web site. She said the women universally fear that their homes and families could be targeted for violence when the information about their husbands' criminal history goes public.
"They're not going to be able to keep this up to date," Wicks said of the new Web site. "People are going to be moving every two freaking weeks; they're going to go underground."
Listed on site
Mike Wicks, who had sex in 1991 and 1992 with teenage girls under 18, is not deemed a high -risk to reoffend and is not listed on the state's current Web site. But he and others like him will be listed on the new site.
"I didn't realize that I was going to have to pay for someone else's crime," Faith Wicks said. "My right to privacy is being stripped, so is every other woman's who is married to someone who has done stupid stuff. But the same thing doesn't go for a woman who is married to a two- or three-time burglar, an assault and batterer, or a murderer. Why don't they have them put a big cowbell around their necks?"
Rep. Jane Warren, D-Laramie, said she's concerned that the new state law is inhumane because it doesn't make distinctions among sex offenders.
Warren, a counselor, has worked with sex offenders. She says they run the gamut from the steadily employed family man who was convicted in his youth of having sex with a teenage girl a few years his junior to the unemployed, drug-addicted transient with multiple convictions for preying on children.
"I think the differences are far greater than the similarities," Warren said of offenders. "The only similarity at times, is the event itself, or the act. You have differences in terms of the individual's other criminal behaviors, or other problems."
"Because we don't have any of those differentiating factors any more, they're all somehow listed as the same," Warren said. "And in my opinion, that is not a humane way to deal with people."
Mike Blonigen, Natrona County district attorney and president of the Wyoming County and Prosecuting Attorneys, said the new law will ease some of the workload on prosecutors' offices around the state. He said they will no longer have to hold court hearings to assess the danger of sex offenders.
Practical effect unseen
Beyond that, Blonigen said he doesn't see the new law will have much practical effect.
"I've never quite understood this uproar," Blonigen said, adding that everyone who will be listed on the state's Web site was convicted in public courts, based on public records. He said he sees no reason why the information shouldn't be readily available to the public.
Blonigen said he believes that some sex offenders in the past had looked to come to Wyoming because its registration law was relatively lax. He said the new law should change that.
With the new Web site featuring maps showing where convicted sex offenders live, Blonigen said he has some moderate concern that it could lead to vigilante attacks against offenders or other similar problems. However, he said the state's existing Web site has already listed photographs and address information about the offenders considered to be the most dangerous, but said there haven't been significant problems with any violence against them.
"Most of our communities are so small, with the possible exception of Casper and Cheyenne, that if there's a sex offender in the community, most people know it," Blonigen said.