Sunday, October 14, 2007

MN - Agencies hired sex offender as informant

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10/14/2007

"Doc" slipped in and out of Warroad, buying drugs and guns while living outside the law himself.

DULUTH - Craig Allen Hartline is a convicted sex offender, but when he moved to Minnesota last year he didn't register, which is a felony. He earned $14,000 while working here, but didn't file a tax return and admits he hasn't filed one since 1983.

He also drove his van back and forth across the state, without a license.

How did Hartline go unnoticed by state law enforcement authorities?

He didn't.

They were paying him.

Officials said Friday they were surprised and somewhat embarrassed to learn they planted an unregistered sex offender in Warroad last year when they hired the 55-year-old Hartline, called him "Doc" and set him up to buy drugs and guns in the back of a secondhand store.

Agents fitted "Doc's Superthrift Store" in the town's old Hardware Hank building with hidden microphones and cameras. The purchases he made there for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and local police led to charges against 53 people, 30 of whom have pleaded guilty so far.

Police and prosecutors were happy with Doc's work, but admit being distressed to learn in preparation for trials that he had been convicted of a sex offense in Massachusetts in 1993, was registered in that state as a sex offender and hadn't registered in Minnesota as required when the BCA invited him to work here.

He told agency officials he had pleaded no contest to a trumped-up charge and didn't think it was something he had to disclose, and it hadn't turned up during an earlier background check.

"We hit some bumps in the road with this operation," Roseau County Attorney Lisa Hanson acknowledged. "But for the most part it went smoothly, and the results were good."

While attorneys who represent some of the defendants acknowledge that sometimes it takes a crook to catch a crook, they say it's unfair for Doc to get off for his crimes while their clients battle charges they wouldn't face if he hadn't offered them the opportunity.

"The BCA has an entire program to compel [sex-offender] registration, and then they give this guy a pass and let him handle weapons and not pay taxes," said Fred Friedman of Duluth, chief public defender for northeastern Minnesota. "Someone ought to be ashamed of themselves."

'We don't turn a blind eye'

Whether things would have been done differently if officials had known about Doc's background is uncertain.

"Had we known his whole background, it would have been factored in to our decision on whether to use him," said Dave Bjerga, the BCA's assistant superintendent. "But I don't know what the decision would have been."

A representative for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), which had used Hartline in a similar operation in North Dakota just before the Warroad sting, said she wouldn't be able to comment on whether he's still working for ATF.

"It would be nice if we were able to say all our informants have clean backgrounds, but unfortunately that's probably never going to be the case," said Sherry Duval, public information officer for the ATF's office in St. Paul. "But we don't turn a blind eye. If we know they're committing criminal activity while we're using them, they're done."

A year ago, Doc suddenly left Warroad, a Canadian border town of 1,700, after only four months there and 63 law-enforcement officers suddenly swarmed in to make arrests. Local folks said it didn't surprise them to learn that Doc was a snitch.

"He left just as suddenly as he came," Jackie Bengtson, owner of the Main Street Bar & Grill, said at the time. "We didn't feel creeped out by him, but he was a shady character."

Attorney Bruce Biggins of International Falls, who helped win an acquittal in July for Lonnie Gene Davis -- the only defendant so far to go to trial -- said he and co-counsel James Austad of Grand Rapids, Minn., argued to the jury that Hartline had entrapped their client by complaining frequently of back pain and begging Davis, who worked for him in the store, to sell him some of his prescription pain pills.

'BCA X-1886' revealed

That trial also provided a window into the background of Hartline, who had previously been identified in court documents only as "BCA X-1886." He testified that in the 24 years since leaving the military, he had informed for more than 10 agencies in a dozen states, not because he had gotten in trouble himself but rather because "this is the career I've chosen."

He estimated that he had made more than 7,500 controlled buys of narcotics and guns, leading to 3,000 felony arrests. In early 2006, he was finishing up an undercover storefront operation run by the ATF in Dunseith, N.D., when BCA agents recruited him to work in Warroad.

His contract with the BCA promised $2,000 a month, plus $50 to $100 for each controlled "buy." Hartline said, and authorities confirmed, that he grossed more than $14,000 for his Warroad work.

"It's somewhat gratifying," he testified. "I make an impact on the communities that I go to. ... I consider myself a professional at what I do, and I don't like to be labeled as a snitch."

Under cross-examination, Hartline matter-of-factly admitted to a record that includes three DWIs, a domestic violence conviction involving an ex-wife and a sexual assault conviction involving a woman he was seeing while working as an informant.

He admitted that he didn't pay taxes on what he made from the BCA, and in fact had not filed a tax return since 1983. He also admitted that when he drove to meet BCA agents who were recruiting him, he didn't even have a driver's license.

Prosecutor Hanson said Friday that "no charges are pending" in Roseau County against Hartline for failing to register as a sex offender, though she has not ruled out that possibility.

She said his status in Massachusetts didn't turn up in the BCA's first record check because that state didn't have all its records in a computerized database at that point.

As soon as the BCA learned he was a sex offender, agents made him register while he was working his next undercover job in the state, Hanson said.

Even after Doc's stint in Warroad, he left behind possible signs of a repeated history.

One of the defendants convicted of selling him drugs filed a notice of claim with the city and Roseau County. She alleged that, in September 2006, he slipped her a date-rape drug in a drink and sexually assaulted her.

Hanson said no criminal investigation was done because the woman never reported the allegations to police. Hanson also pointed out that the woman's notice of claim, typically the precursor to a lawsuit, was not filed until after she learned of Doc's sex-crime conviction.


LA - Bossier deputy arrested, charged with aggravated incest

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10/13/2007

A Bossier Parish sheriff's deputy has been arrested on a warrant for aggravated incest, Bossier Parish Sheriff Larry Deen says.

The arrest follows an investigation involving the Bossier sheriff's office and Bossier-Webster District Attorney Schuyler Marvin's office.

Clifford Wayne Hawn, 57, of Benton, was taken into custody Friday night and booked into the Bossier Maximum Security Facility with bond set at $50,000, Deen says.

Hawn, who worked for the Bossier sheriff's office for just under four years and was assigned to the Corrections Division, has been terminated, Deen says.

Bossier sheriff's detectives began investigating the case after being contacted by the victim's father, who had intercepted an e-mail that had been sent by the victim to a friend. In the e-mail, the victim wrote that she had been sexually molested numerous times by Hawn over a span of several years.

Bossier sheriff's investigators took the victim to the Gingerbread House in Shreveport, where she was questioned by a forensic interviewer and confirmed what had been written in the e-mail. The Gingerbread House is a non-profit organization that investigates and treats cases of sexual abuse of children.

If convicted of aggravated incest, Hawn faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison without benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence.


TX - Freedom, 14 years in the making

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Why the hell aren't they using DNA? I thought it was 100% accurate? Then why are they not using it so this does not occur? I would gladly give my DNA if they wanted it, so someone could not say I did something I did not do.

10/14/2007

Fourteen years of prayers have now been answered for Ronnie Taylor and his family.

Taylor is getting his first taste of freedom this week after serving 14 years behind bars for a rape he didn’t commit.

DNA testing proved his innocence, but he’s not bitter.
- Why did they not get DNA in the first place when he was originally convicted?

“It’s bad, but it wasn’t all bad. There was some good come out of it. I got to find myself,” Taylor said.

Now he’s playing catch-up at his own family homecoming party.

As he visits with family, he thinks of the other family he left behind in prison.

“Those dudes I’ve actually been around more than my own family,” Taylor said.

Now that he’s on the outside, he’s talking about the other injustices he’s seen.

There’s a lot of dudes in prison, there’s a lot of them they got wrong. Sad part is they don’t have any help,” Taylor said.
- Happens all the time. And you will notice most are black and hispanic! Racism? I think so!

Taylor plans to use his freedom to share his story with others – a story of how the system failed him when he was wrongly identified as a rapist.
- Why did they not get a rape kit done, and test the DNA? This is total BS!

You taking people and putting them in jail on a word. I just don’t think that’s right. I mean, I ain’t no genius, but I just don’t think that’s right. I think that’s bad,” Taylor said.

He credits his survival on making sure he found something to smile about every day.

Now that includes family and making up for lost time.

An independent panel has been appointed to review 180 cases linked to Houston’s Crime Lab, checking for faulty testing like that which led to Taylor’s incarceration.

The man responsible for the rape that Taylor was blamed for is already in prison for another crime. Roosevelt Carroll is a known sex offender. He lived less than a mile from the victim in the case back in 1993. He can’t be prosecuted anymore, because the statute of limitations has run out.
- So what! What about the victim? Guess the victim doesn't matter here.


An ongoing war with no easy answers

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Again with the word "punishment!" I thought these laws are restrictive and not punishment! Then why the hell does everyone keep saying "punishment?" Because that is what it is, so the laws are unconstitutional, period!!

10/14/2007

Over the past two decades, the introduction of legislation targeting sex offenders has exploded, stirring a debate on whether stricter laws are going too far or not far enough.

The Human Rights Watch released a report, "No Easy Answers: Sex Offender Laws in the United States," last month that urges reform of state and national sex offender registries and residency requirements.

"The evidence is overwhelming," the report states, explaining that not only do registered sex offenders have difficulty finding jobs and homes that fall under the registry's requirements, but they are also subject to harm, such as public retaliation.

A majority of lawmakers and law enforcement officials, however, contend that while laws may make life harder on the sex offender, it is part of the punishment they face for breaking the law. And the public has a right to know who they are living next to, they argue.

State Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, said the monitoring of sex offenders is "an ongoing war." As a parent and state lawmaker, Bradley said there's never too much that can be done to protect children.

"It's a problem we are going to continue to face," said Bradley, who has sponsored laws targeting sex offenders. "(Lawmakers) are going to continue to come back to Springfield every year and try to improve the laws."

The human rights group said a law restricting sex offenders from living near schools and playgrounds and an online registry that provides offenders' personal information violates their basic rights.

"Politicians didn't do their homework before enacting these sex offender laws," Sarah Tofte, a researcher for the program, said on the group's Web site. "Instead they have perpetuated myths about sex offenders and failed to deal with the complex realities of sexual violence against children."

The group is urging that registration laws should be narrowed, online registries should be eliminated and residency restrictions should be abolished, the report states.

Officials said they are familiar with the opponent's argument, but still disagree.
- Because you are blind and not seeing what they are trying to say!

It's not like sex offenders weren't aware of the consequences of their actions, said Pulaski County Sheriff Randy Kern. "They should have thought about that before they did what they did," he said.
- When the rules of the game keep changing over and over and over again, how can you expect anybody to know the rules? These laws violate the US Constitution and you know it. You just get off of torturing people. Maybe you should go work at Gitmo!


FL - Fla. program targets kids' online safety

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One in five children are sexually solicited online. There was a time when children could drive, then they realized that they were at risk so they set a minimum age. There was a time when children could drink, then they realized that they were at risk so they set a minimum age. There was a time when children could go see any movie, then they realized that they were at risk so they set a minimum age. They never even let kids into adult books stores, there have always been a minumum age. The government is targeting the wrong folks if they really want to protect kids. The internet is such a dangerous place perhaps it is time to set a minimum age. NO KIDS ALLOWED!!!!

10/14/2007

Attorney General Bill McCollum rolled out a plan to promote safety online for students with his CyberSafety program.

She was bored surfing the net. He said he was looking for a friend on instant message.

She needed attention. He told her she was beautiful.

They met at a bookstore. He took her to a nearby apartment.

"He made me take off my shoes and stripped me down," said 15-year-old Nicole, a Coral Springs High School student. 'He laid on top of me and touched me. I thought, `If he is going to kill me let it be now.' I didn't want to live through it."

Nicole, like many other teenagers, is a victim of a sexual predator.

"If you have the Internet in your home, you potentially have a predator in your home," said Capt. Wil Hernandez, with the attorney general's state Cyber Crime Unit. "It's a door allowing them to come in."

Nicole's mother, Jaemi Levine, retold her story when Attorney General Bill McCollum introduced his CyberSafety program Thursday at Miramar Town Hall.

The program is a plan to teach students, educators and parents how to recognize, avoid and report online predators.

Although one in 11 teems using the Internet are sexually solicited online, fewer than 10 percent of the conversations are reported, Hernandez said.

"My family's life drastically changed. I never thought I could feel the type of rage I felt," Levine said.

'I created MAP, Mothers Against Predators, to tell people: `Don't turn them off, turn them in.' "

McCollum presented the one-hour multimedia presentation that will be offered at all schools for all grade levels.

In addition to showing how to watch for predators when chatting online, victims of sexual predators vividly tell their real-life stories.

"It's a secret world, and most of the time you don't know the people they're talking to," McCollum said.

CODE-LIKE LINGO

McCollum broke down the code-like lingo predators use on the Internet.

"A/S/L -- age, sex, location -- three of the most dangerous letters in the alphabet," McCollum said while holding a poster. "LMIRL -- let's meet in real life -- the most deadly combination of letters."

The Child Predator Cyber Crime unit has introduced the program to schools around the state since August and introduced it to Broward County at Thursday's conference.

"We've put in safety cameras and security checkpoints at schools. This now takes it to the next level," Broward County Schools Superintendent Jim Notter said. "This is about educating the parents about the need to protect our children from Internet predators."

Notter said the attorney general's curriculum will soon be part of the training for principals, assistant principals and guidance staff.

SCHOOLS CHOOSE

Schools will have the choice to implement the curriculum.

"It could be integrated with school curriculum, after school classes or the PTA, for example," Notter said. "It focuses on ensuring that all children understand the negative that could occur while they are on the Internet."

Part of McCollum's message was convincing parents the answer is not banning the Internet.

"The attorney general is not saying don't go on MySpace," Notter said. "He's saying to look out for things. He's saying don't become trapped or entrapped by some of the sick minds that travel the Internet.

"When you tell young children not to do something, it's only going to be more appealing to them," Notter said.


FL - Proposed bill to protect children

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Treat everyone like a criminal. Why fingerprints? Can't they look at his license, get his name, and do a background check? I think they want fingerprints for another reason, like a database for all humans, for tracking purposes.

You see, now everyones rights to privacy are being wiped out, all in the name of security and protecting the children. More and more of everyones rights will be wiped out. I think America needs to wake up and smell Big Brother coming to erode all your rights!! You are all being treated as a potential criminal, which everyone is, but why do all this? Since 09-11, everyone is afraid of their own shadow, so it sounds to me like the terrorists have won! Hell, just fingerprint all society and do background checks on EVERYONE regardless of the job. If it's good for some then it's good for you as well.

10/14/2007

All over Florida, tens of thousands of happy kids are suiting up for football, kicking soccer balls or working on a fade-away jump shot under the supervision of volunteer coaches whose personal backgrounds might or might not have been routinely run through police files.

It's a sad fact of growing up, says state Sen. Jeremy Ring, that any activities involving a lot of innocent, trusting young people will attract the wrong kind of adults. And although cities, counties and school boards run background checks and take fingerprints of employees who have contact with kids, there is no such statewide requirement for volunteer coaches.

"We've got a serious loophole that has to be closed, a very serious problem that the Legislature has to address," said Ring, a Margate Democrat. "We don't do background checks with people who work with our children every day. It's unconscionable."

Ring has sponsored a bill (SB 344) requiring fingerprints of sports coaches to be checked by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Within five working days of being designated with a team, a coach would have to submit background information, and a set of prints and the "sanctioning authority" of a league would promptly forward them to the FDLE.

Ring said Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach, will cosponsor the proposal for consideration in the House during the spring 2008 regular session of the Legislature. In addition to standardizing the requirement of background checks, it would require sponsoring organizations to annually certify that all of their coaches have been screened - or are in the process - and would make it a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail, for a coach to falsify background information.

He sponsored the same bill this year but it died in committees without a hearing.

"There's no fiscal impact on the state," said Ring. "It's just good fiscal policy to protect our children."
- "The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation." - Adolph Hitler

As a circle of teen-aged players in helmets and shoulder pads exercised at a southside park, coach Darryl Newman said fingerprinting is a good idea. As a private investigator and process server, the 10-year coach said he knows how important it is to parents.

"The more ways you can direct who's dealing with these kids, the better," said Newman. "If you don't do a background check, and you don't know something about someone with a record of violence, it could be bad for the kids."

But like others in the field, he said city and county recreation departments should cover the cost.

Ring said Irv Kiffin, the recreation director in Lauderhill, gave him the idea. Kiffin said it made sense that, if teachers and day-care workers and others working with children are screened, cities and counties ought to thoroughly check their volunteer athletic coaches.

"Some do, some don't," he said.

While anyone with Internet access can check a name through the state's sexual-predator database, Kiffin said there are many other types of offenders that cities and counties won't want hanging around their playing fields. People with drug records, convictions for domestic violence or negotiated-down pleas to many misdemeanor offenses should also sound an alarm, he said.

No one at any level of government wants to compromise child safety. But at a time when local governments are being pressured to cut property taxes, when many city and county services are feeling the financial pinch, some local sports and recreation officials are concerned about who will pay for fingerprinting.

Ring's bill makes it each volunteer coach's responsibility. But local sports authorities and team sponsors might have to subsidize the cost, or pay it entirely, since coaches are already giving their time and talent for many free hours every week.

Sharon Berrian of the Florida League of Cities said it might cause already-strapped cities to cut back on sports and recreation offerings.

"We appreciate the good intentions, but it is an unfunded mandate," she said. "This is something we will take a look at and analyze, but somebody's got to pay for it."

Cragin Mosteller, a spokeswoman for the Florida Association of Counties, said, "We appreciate Sen. Ring's efforts and look forward to working with him. At this point, the association is analyzing the bill to fully understand its fiscal and practical impacts."

The FDLE estimates that it would run about 2,500 more fingerprint checks each year, at a cost of $15.25 per volunteer. But that's on top of other screening costs, like verifying Social Security numbers, tracking past addresses and other data. FDLE said it has run 24,386 computer record background checks on volunteers in the last six months.

Tallahassee Parks and Recreation Director David Chapman said some volunteers will probably be willing to pay the cost, as Ring's bill provides, or local governments might pick up all or part of it. Either way, he said, his agency is going ahead with it.

"We're in the process of doing it right now," said Chapman. "It's something we've been working on for quite some time and we'll implement this whether the Legislature mandates it or not."

Chapman and Pat Plocek, recreation director for Leon County, said they have not had any problems with sexual predators or other criminals trying to associate with their youth programs. But Plocek said that in checking names, addresses, Social Security numbers and other data, the county's risk-management office usually rejects two or three volunteers each year - without giving him reasons.

"We do screening not only for coaches but for anyone working in the concession stands and other areas where they'll have contact with the kids," said Plocek. He estimated that adding fingerprinting to the background checks would quadruple the cost, to about $80 per person.

"It probably reduces the number of people willing to volunteer," said Plocek. Besides the cost, he said, "I'm not sure all the volunteers want their fingerprints on file," for perfectly innocent reasons of privacy.

Karen Harrell, risk manager for the county, said costs will vary depending on how far-ranging a background search is required.

"Fingerprints are the be-all and end-all of identification," she said.


ME - Packed prisons

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10/14/2007

Maine's overcrowded prisons are not just a problem for inmates. High cost to taxpayers, a lack of anti-recidivism programs and the stress placed on community systems is bringing the problem home to the rest of us.

Four mattresses rest against a wall of the Maine Correctional Center's Multi-Purpose Unit, former office space permanently converted to cells.

Fifteen women are crammed around a lunch table. They are assuming four new cellmates are on their way, and speculate where the mattresses might go since the cells are full.

Jill Polley of Lewiston will be at the Windham facility until 2009, on a probation violation for an original drug charge. She, like all the women in the MPU, is waiting to get into the Women's Center - another unit at the MCC - that was intended to handle all of Maine's imprisoned women but now is too full to hold them.

There, they get psychological, educational and occupational programming. The idea is to help the women while they're in, to be successful when they get out, so they don't come back at a cost of $103 a day to Maine taxpayers - $35,000 a year.

Polley has four kids on the outside. She's looking forward to a class on parenting while incarcerated.

Because of prison overcrowding, inmates like Polley are shut out of such programs, instead idling away months in the MPU.

Bitterness and frustration run rampant in Polley's cell block and in many other units at the Maine Correctional Center - both male and female - because of the overcrowding. In the maximum security area, which is the first stop for inmates coming from the courts, cells designed for one hold two. In the minimum security area they house four men to a cell.

Of Maine's two state prisons - the MCC in Windham for minimum- and medium-risk inmates, and the Maine State Prison in Warren for medium- and maximum-risk inmates - the bottleneck is at the MCC. Inmates there are backed up, waiting to be placed in housing for the duration of their sentences.

Once they are placed in one of the facilities, the problem is not quite as severe. But it still has strained resources and increased risk at both facilities.

In Windham, specialized sex offender and drug treatment programs for men can only hold half the population that need it. At Warren, there is one drug treatment counselor for more than 900 inmates, drastically underserving the population that needs it.

Overall, Maine's prison population has increased 33 percent in the last 10 years - far exceeding predictions - rising to a record 2,155 inmates last month. To care for them, the state's Corrections budget has doubled over that same time period, to $132 million in 2006, and now to $153 million in 2007, becoming the fourth-largest state department budget.

Given the state's tight budget, officials say the top priorities are security and to provide the basic needs for the existing population. Programs aimed at reducing recidivism have to take a back seat, which, officials say, ultimately means more pressure on local police, courts and social service agencies when they have to deal with former inmates again.

Legislators and state officials plan to begin meeting this fall to find a long-term solution.

Reasons for overcrowding

Corrections officials give varying reasons for the overcrowding. From his perspective as Androscoggin County's district attorney, Norm Croteau said a combination of two forces appear to be at work: More people are going to prison or those going to prison are being sentenced to longer stays.

In the last 10 years, both the number of arrests in Maine and the prison population have increased at different rates. From 1997 to 2006, the average number of inmates per day went from 1,509 to 2,007, an increase of 33 percent. The total number of arrests annually over that same period went from 42,469 to 49,654, an increase of 17 percent.

Denise Lord, associate commissioner of Corrections, said the arrest numbers and prison population numbers don't go hand in hand. Arrest rates are indicators of instances of crime in the community, while prison population numbers represent policy response to crime, signifying a change in sentencing policies and practices.

The department doesn't have any current statistics on whether courts are meting out longer sentences in Maine. The department is now actively compiling data to determine some of the forces behind the problem.

However, the Legislature has approved a number of laws in the last decade that establish minimum sentences for certain crimes, which officials believe has influenced the problem. In addition, at least one prison official believes that after the larger Warren prison opened, more longer sentences were issued and approved by judges that had the effect of sending inmates to Warren instead of crowded county jails.

As for more people going to prison in Maine, Croteau attributes part of that to better law enforcement.

"We've improved in society as time's gone on so law enforcement is probably more efficient, probation is probably more efficient and people are being brought into court more often," Croteau said.

That is particularly true for women. Between 1989 and 2006, arrest rates went up 85 percent for women, 7 percent for men. Officials have said that the increase for females has come from increased drug charges and traffic violations.

Sleeping on the floor

Two corrections officers were working in a tower overlooking a cell block at the MCC in Windham last month. The block is where prisoners first come in from the courts, and they are held at a maximum security level until they are classified otherwise, which sometimes can take months, said Jeff Merrill II, deputy superintendent in charge of security at the center.

This is where the worst overcrowding occurs. Each block was designed for 46 - however they have never held so few. Individual 66-square-foot cells within each block that were meant for one inmate have been doubled up, making room for 92.

Several months ago, before some inmates were boarded out to the county jails, there were an additional 35 inmates sleeping on the floor in the block's common area.

"We tried putting a third guy in each cell, which doesn't really work out," said Merrill.

It jeopardized the safety of the block. Prisoners locked up in cells would shout out to those on the floor - most of them newly arrived and scared - and they weren't able to tell who was threatening them.

"You can't see the cells very well, if you have them all locked up," said Corrections Officer Paul Cummings. "So when the prisoners yell, 'We're gonna get you, we're gonna get you," the prisoners on the floor don't know who's going to get them. That puts a lot of stress on the prisoners, Cummings said, which puts a lot of anxiety on the officers that have to work around them.

Some areas of the correctional center do have empty beds, such as in the minimum security unit, but they can't be filled on a whim.

"When you get people in, it's really luck of the draw. Are they going to be minimum or are they going to be medium?" Merrill said. "If they turn out medium, you can't put them in minimum."

Short- and long-term solutions

Lawmakers managed to put a bandage on the situation last spring by sending low-risk inmates to county jails at a cost of $85 a day. There's a pre-release center for women opening in Bangor at the end of October and a proposal for a new prison in Washington County is being examined, but "building our way out of it isn't working," said Martin Magnusson, commissioner of Maine's Department of Corrections.

Long-term answers will more likely develop once lawmakers this fall begin looking at the entire court and correctional systems for solutions.

Potential targets:

  • Determine which services to offer inside prisons to help ensure people don't come back. When such programs are successful, they save money in the long run.
  • Identify potential changes in Maine's sentencing procedures to use sentencing alternatives and community corrections more, particularly for non-violent offenders. These options cost much less, but there's a stigma to get past.

"I think we rely on incarceration as our predominant form of punishment and we reinforce that as a society," Lord said. "There has to be a consequence for criminal behavior and that consequence is translated into incarceration and longer periods of incarceration."

In a related issue, Gov. John Baldacci has promised cost savings to the Corrections budget with a proposal for the state to take over the county jails.

County officials have frowned on the proposal, and the chairmen of the Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee are hesitant to support it. "It doesn't work for my community, it doesn't work for any community in the state," said Rep. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, House chairman.

A tale of two women

The Women's Center at the MCC has become a nationally renowned program. Two other programs there for men, a drug treatment program and sex offender program, are also promising, officials say.

When the Women's Center opened in 2002, officials anticipated not having to fill its 78 beds for 10 years. They had 52 females at the time, today they have 130, according to the younger Merrill at the MCC.

He doesn't want to crowd the Women's Center too much, or else it will lose its impact.

"We didn't want it to affect the whole women's population the way it affected the women when they were in the MPU and really breaking down emotionally, and by the time they come here it's like 'Phew, OK, I'm through the hardest part,'" Merrill said.

Carella Brooks of Lewiston waited seven months to get into the center. Since then she's been certified to do construction work, which will help her when she is released in 2009.

While the unit is secure, doors don't lock at night, and a variety of programs help the women keep busy.

"It's nice up here because it's more relaxed, you have more freedom. You have windows you can actually open and close, which is a big plus," Brooks said. "It gives women a chance to be more incorporated, to go back out into society."

In contrast, in the MPU, the women bemoan the thought of getting another inmate, since they're already stretched for space.

Back on that August day, four men hauled a bunk bed frame into the unit, their first of two trips. The frames get moved around the center regularly, Merrill said.

The women speculated the new inmates would be placed in a former conference room, slightly larger than a two-person cell.

"Four girls cannot fit in that room! Three can't even fit," one woman said.

The sunnier atmosphere in the women's center shows in Brooks' attitude.

"I try to make the best of it," Brooks said. "You have to realize that you put yourself in here and you can't blame anybody else for your mistakes. When you come here you have to learn to accept the consequences of your own actions. They don't call us inmates or prisoners. We're residents, we're not treated like subhumans. We're respected up here by staff as long as we treat them with respect."


Criminal Justice Resources: Sex Offender Laws

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Again with the word "punishment!" These laws are punishment and everybody knows it, yet when you go to court to sue, they say the laws are not punishment but restrictive! BULLS**T! Go to the above link for more info.

At the federal, state and local levels, laws have been enacted to regulate the punishment, supervision and treatment of convicted sex offenders. These laws encompass registration and notification requirements, residency restrictions, and civil commitment.

It began in 1994 with the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act (BJA), which requires states to implement a sex offender registration program, and amended by Megan's Law (PL 104-145) in 1996 to include a community notification system. In that same year, the Pam Lychner Sexual Offender Tracking and Identification Act (PL 104-236) was passed mandating lifetime registration for certain classes of offenders. See Overview and History of the Jacob Wetterling Act (BJA).

This article focuses on recent developments in the administration and implementation of federal laws and to a limited extent analysis of state and local developments. In addition, selected research on sex offenses, risk assessment, treatment and punishment are noted, along with a section on the new Adam Walsh Act. Since this is a rapidly developing area of law the emphasis is on key publications and resources.