Sunday, February 21, 2010

NY - Bill To Ban Sex Offenders As Supers Gains Ground

Original Article

02/21/2010

Spurred by recent reports that a convicted sex offender was working as a super in an Upper West Side brownstone -- and pressuring tenants for sexual favors -- Assemblyman Micah Kellner (Contact) and Senator Charles Schumer (Contact) proposed legislation Sunday to prevent a repeat.

The bills would prohibit convicted sex offenders from becoming a super or manager in any multifamily apartment building in New York or nationwide, unless they disclose their past.

"Building workers know more about our lives than most of your friends and families," Kellner said. "They know your schedule, they know your kids' names. And when they knock on your door, you let them in because you trust them. You never think that possibly on the other side of that door is a truly dangerous sexual predator who has done just vile and disgusting things."

"The fact that these offenders have access to apartments where children are present is scary," Schumer said. "And that's why the legislation that Assemblyman Kellner is doing and the legislation that I am doing should close this all too large loophole."

The legislation would require a sex offender to disclose his or her conviction and obtain the signed consent of the building owner before possessing keys to a residence.

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"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin



PA - School In Philly Spys On Students at Home with Webcam! (FBI Investigating)

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"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin



NH - Selectman Charged With Child Pornography

Original Article

Short article and no photo, as usual. See the video at the link above.

02/21/2010

Joint Investigation Leads To Arrest

BARTLETT - A Bartlett town selectman has been charged with possessing child pornography.

Jonathan Tanguay, 38, was ordered held on $50,000 bail after he was charged with four counts of possession of child sexual abuse images.

Tanguay was arrested after a joint investigation by the Attorney General's Office, state police and the Carroll County Sheriff's Department.

Each charge carries a potential sentence of 7½ to 15 years in prison. Tanguay is scheduled to appear in court next month.


"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin



CA - Out of sight, out of mind? Some argue remote homes for sexual predators too risky

Original Article

02/21/2010

By Keith Matheny

Desert Center — The clean, new mobile home looks out of place in this remote stretch of desert, set far off California Highway 177. The nearest other buildings are a vacant, boarded-up shack and a dusty, empty storefront.

It is here in this tiny unincorporated town of 300 some 50 miles east of Indio that the state of California is paying $2,000 a month for a sexually violent predator to live.

_____, 57, has a criminal record that includes four felony convictions for sex crimes — rape, two instances of attempted rape and lewd and lascivious acts with a child, involving a 13-year-old girl.

After his last prison stint, _____ in 1997 was declared a sexually violent predator by state officials, and committed to a state mental hospital.

California's Sexually Violent Predator Act, enacted in 1996, allows for civil commitment of sex offenders found to pose extreme danger to society after release from prison. The sexually violent predator label, according to state law, applies to a small group of inmates found by mental health professionals to have diagnosable mental disorders likely to cause them to commit another offense.

They are the worst of the worst,” said Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco.

_____ is one of 19 men committed under the program ever granted conditional release, according to the California Department of Mental Health.

Robert S. Knapp, acting director of Atascadero State Hospital, wrote on May 1, 2007: “It is my opinion, to a degree of medical certainty, that the patient, Mr. _____, would not be a danger to the health and safety of others in that it is not likely he will engage in sexually violent criminal behavior due to his diagnosed mental disorder if under supervision and treatment in the community.”

In September 2008 Riverside County Superior Court Judge Ronald L. Taylor concurred, and ordered _____'s conditional release.

At county officials' urging, Taylor ordered _____ placed in Desert Center, one of Riverside County's smallest, most rural communities.

Pacheco said his goal with _____'s conditional release was to “keep him out of the populated areas, and let's make sure we keep an eye on him.”



_____ has lived in Desert Center since September, wearing a GPS ankle bracelet, his restrictions including no Internet and semi-regular polygraph tests.

_____ declined to comment for this story.

The court's order forced the state to pay more than $34,000 to prepare the property for a mobile home, whereas the program typically uses ready-to-move-in locations, California Department of Mental Health Assistant Director Nancy Kincaid said.

Round-the-clock security guards are used in the first weeks after a sexually violent predator is placed in a community, both for neighbors' protection and to protect the predator from angry community members as emotions run high, Kincaid said. State officials determined _____'s remote placement required two guards over eight weeks, which cost another $44,000.

Rent, utilities, food and a delivered water supply for _____ cost the state about $2,000 a month. His outpatient sex offender treatment costs about $2,000 per month as well, Kincaid said.

Over the course of a year, the costs associated with _____'s conditional release would total approximately $126,000, not including travel expenses for treatment, according to figures provided by Kincaid. She said she wasn't sure what travel costs are in _____'s case, but said they are higher than is typical due to the more than two-hour drive to get _____ to sex offender treatment in western Riverside County multiple times per week.

The cost for an individual in inpatient treatment is $185,000 per year, Kincaid said.

The state bears the costs of living for conditionally released predators if they don't have the financial means — many do — or until the individual is employed and begins to pay their own expenses, Kincaid said.

Many of the other 18 conditionally released sexually violent predators were placed in rural locations, often as a necessity due to Jessica's Law requirements that sex offenders live more than 2,000 feet from a school or park where children gather. But _____'s placement is the most remote.

Mental health officials disagreed with placing _____ in Desert Center, preferring two ready for move-in sites in the Whitewater area. The remote location will impede _____'s reintegration into society and will make it more difficult to gauge whether he's changed, state mental health officials argued in court filings.

John Beach, who owns property near _____'s new home, has gone to court to try to get county officials to release records that could show whether they had an improper involvement in determining _____'s placement.

Putting _____ here against the advice of the mental health experts means that _____ could eventually be released from court supervision and still be a threat and still hurt a young woman,” Beach said.



_____'s days are mostly spent alone in his mobile home, where he has satellite television. He has no car and, in these early months as a conditionally released predator, no job, Kincaid said.

His excursions largely consist of trips to treatment and the occasional outing to a store or other location, accompanied by personnel from Liberty Healthcare, the state-contracted company that oversees the conditional release program, she said.

At the Desert Center Café less than a half-mile from _____'s home, bring up his name and the outrage rises in waitress and nearby resident Cheryl Magsam's voice.

We have girls that work the nighttime shift alone,” she said.

Sheriff's officials came last summer to the community to talk to residents, but by then _____'s placement was a done deal, Magsam said.

They dumped him on the desert,” she said.

Desert Center area resident Dawn Rettagliata can see _____'s mobile home from the parking lot of McGoo's general store where she works.

She said she resents that county officials pushed to locate _____ in her neighborhood, and that a judge approved it.

We don't count for anything, because we don't make enough of a vote to change anything,” she said.



A similar negative reaction occurs every time a sexually violent predator is placed in a community, said Monica Williams, a graduate student with the University of California at Davis, whose doctoral dissertation is on community responses to sexually violent predator placements.

Threats to landlords have caused some to back out of providing a residence, Williams said.

Communities a lot of times don't find out until the placement is happening or is very close to happening,” she said. “They feel like they have no say in the process.”

California officials in 2003 tried 116 different locations in Monterey County for the first conditionally released sexually violent predator, _____, but met vehement community opposition at every turn. _____ was ultimately located in a trailer on the grounds of a state prison in Soledad.

On three occasions the state has conditionally released sexually violent predators as homeless — a move decried by mental health officials.

It increases the danger to the individual, to society and it increases state expenses dramatically to monitor them,” Kincaid said.

Even more difficult to follow up on are the more than 175 sexually violent predators unconditionally released by courts since the program's inception, often over the protests of state mental health officials.

No one monitors them beyond their required registry as a sex offender — which is not always followed as required — and many leave California, Kincaid said. Whether these predators go on to commit new sex crimes isn't tracked, she said.

_____ spent nine years in a California prison for molesting as many as 500 boys on camping outings dating back to the 1960s.

_____ then spent more than three years in a state mental health facility as a designated sexually violent predator, where he refused treatment. He was released by a judge in 2004 after a second jury deadlocked on whether _____ remained a danger.

_____'s release deeply troubled the prosecutor who had him committed as a sexually violent predator.

If I had to pick from a list of former and current SVPs (sexually violent predators), he would be, by far, the first one I would be most concerned about,'' Ventura County prosecutor David Lehr, who handled _____'s initial commitment to Atascadero, told The Sacramento Bee in 2006.

Lehr's fears proved well-founded.

_____, now 75, was arrested in Cambodia in August 2009 along with two other alleged American sex tourists.

_____ was dubbed “The Pied Piper of Pedophiles” by police, as he was alleged to have rode a motor scooter through the poorest neighborhoods of the Cambodian city of Siem Reap, dropping a trail of Cambodian money to lure young boys back to his home to sexually assault them.

_____ has pleaded not guilty to molestation charges, and his case remains pending in federal court in Los Angeles.



Kincaid said she believes the sexually violent predator program is working.

Everything we know in science right now does say that these are people who cannot be cured, but who can be treated,” she said.

Similar to alcoholism, gambling and other forms of addiction, treatment is necessary for a lifetime, and participants need to remain active in and committed to their treatment, Kincaid said.

None of the 19 conditionally released sexually violent predators are known to have committed new crimes, she said, though four were returned to mental health facilities for violating terms of their release.

Two conditionally released predators have since moved to unconditional release, Kincaid said.

Whether _____ will eventually be free without conditions is uncertain.

Each time there is a court hearing to update his progress, he has opportunity to petition the court for unconditional release or lifting some of his conditions,” Kincaid said.


"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin



MN - Are sex offenders patients or prisoners?

Original Article

02/20/2010

By Jason Hoppin

Civil commitment program grows in cost, controversy

In 1956, when he was 15, _____ molested a 4-year-old girl and was sent to reform school. What happened over the next several decades sent Minnesota down a path that state lawmakers are still grappling with.

At 19, _____ had sex with a 13-year-old girl. Three years later, he and a friend beat and repeatedly raped a woman. Two years after that, he spotted 14-year-old baby sitter _____ through a window, lured her outside and choked her to death while trying to rape her. Before he was caught a few weeks later, he raped a 22-year-old woman and molested two sisters, ages 11 and 12.

_____ was sentenced to 40 years in a Stillwater prison, but escaped in 1975, swam across the river to Wisconsin and headed east. Eleven days after his escape, he hid in a Michigan woods and assaulted a 12-year-old girl. After a Michigan jury read their guilty verdict, he told the girl he was going to kill her.

_____ served his Michigan sentence and was returned to Stillwater. With his release set for 1992, the state committed him under the Psychopathic Personality Commitment Act, but the Minnesota Supreme Court overturned that decision in 1994.

Panicked that an obviously dangerous offender was about to be released, Gov. Arne Carlson called a special session of the Legislature, which quickly passed just the second sex offender civil commitment law in the country. Two days later, the Ramsey County attorney hauled _____ before a judge.

Minnesota's sex offender civil commitment program was under way. But it has grown in expense and controversy since then, especially as none of its now more than 550 patients has ever been successfully treated and released.

And now, state officials are grappling with another pricey expansion — $89 million sought by Gov. Tim Pawlenty (Contact) to add 400 beds to the program. It was the governor's largest state construction request this year.

But some lawmakers have urged everyone to take a deep breath and look at the program before expanding it. The Senate didn't include the project in its proposal, but at the last minute the House did, and lawmakers still haven't determined whether to fund it.

Pawlenty has harshly criticized the DFL-controlled Legislature, saying lawmakers' priorities are out of whack.

"That facility is needed, while at the same time, they have things in their bills to fund things like recreation centers, arts facilities," Pawlenty said.

GOAL IS TO CURE THEM

Up in sleepy Moose Lake, 500 of Minnesota's most frightening offenders live behind 12-foot fences protected with razor wire. On average, each offender has victimized 16 people, mostly children. Of those victims, about 60 percent were younger than 13, and 85 percent were younger than 18.

In one 98-bed wing, patients, as they are known, mingle by the door as lunch draws near. There are two guards behind a semicircular desk with several monitors, overlooking two interior floors of 160-square-foot, double-occupancy rooms set off to either side.

Down the middle of the open area are steel tables, and about halfway down are private shower stalls with three-quarter doors. The sex offender unit does not have communal showers.

The patients are allowed to mingle freely or play games. On this day, one man leans over a steel table that has a partially completed jigsaw puzzle. The border is done, but he stares into the empty middle, blocking out what's going on around him.

And because the program's goals are treatment, the patients are allowed more creature comforts in their rooms — TV monitors, headphones, books, even plants.

In fact, the program isn't even run by the state Department of Corrections — the Department of Human Services runs it. That distinction helps keep the civil commitment programs legal — courts approve them if the goal is to "cure" sex offenders, a notion some question — but it also explains some of the confusion and criticism of them.

While prison inmates cost taxpayers $63 a day, sex offenders in civil commitment cost $328 a day.

That means treating each of the approximately 550 patients costs taxpayers $119,720 a year — roughly equal to Pawlenty's annual salary.

As the program grew over the years, its operating budget peaked at $75 million in 2008. To save money, the program has shed more than 200 positions and its annual budget is down to $65 million, which approximates the 2009 payroll of the Minnesota Twins.

Dennis Benson, who runs the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, has heard the criticism. He projects that with an expansion, efficiencies of scale will bring the cost of treating each offender down to about $250 a day.

But that's still expensive — much more than housing prisoners. Benson's answer is that they aren't prisoners.

"They have rights and entitlements that people in corrections don't have," Benson said, adding that in order to meet constitutional requirements, the program must provide treatment that is research- and evidence-based.

State Sen. Linda Berglin (Contact), DFL-Minneapolis, said she is concerned about the cost of the program and opposes adding all 400 beds.

"As long as we have beds to fill, the inclination will be not to do the hard work of figuring out other appropriate alternatives besides those beds," Berglin said.

Berglin suggested a new option, something between releasing an offender into society and sending him into the costly sex offender program.

"I think the problem is we don't have alternatives," Berglin said. "So somebody gets presented to a judge, and the judge is given two alternatives: send them home or send them to this program."

Pawlenty recently proposed doubling the sentences for first-degree sex offenders, suggesting the program might cut the cost of housing patients in the commitment program simply by keeping them in prison longer.

SJODIN CASE TRIGGERED CHANGES

It wasn't always this way. But this generation's _____ changed that.

On the evening of Nov. 22, 2003, college student Dru Sjodin finished a shift at a mall in Grand Forks, N.D. She was speaking to her boyfriend on a cell phone as she walked to her car when the call abruptly ended.

Less than two weeks later, police arrested _____ in Sjodin's disappearance. A convicted rapist, _____ was a Level 3 sex offender who, six months earlier, had completed a 23-year sentence for the stabbing and attempted kidnapping of a woman. When the snowmelt came in April 2004, Sjodin's body was found near Crookston.

From January to November 2003, the state Department of Corrections, which refers inmates whose sentences are about to expire for civil commitment, asked judges to commit a total of 14 inmates.

That December, 235 offenders were sent before judges. Following _____'s arrest, Minnesota Corrections Commissioner Joan Fabian decided that all Level 3 sex offenders would be recommended for commitment.

The sex offender program was on a growth curve. In 2006, the Legislature approved a 400-bed expansion at Moose Lake, a former 100-bed facility that opened shortly after the Legislature approved the civil commitment law.

But the Legislature did not approve all the money requested by the Department of Human Services. Instead, it agreed to pay for the beds but nothing else — not new group therapy rooms, not a new kitchen to feed everyone, not other infrastructure.

The new unit opened six months ago and eventually will quintuple the original population without adding the means to service the patients.

To augment the original restaurant-sized kitchen, Human Services has added a trailer fitted with several ovens. Inmates eat in three shifts on tables set up in a gymnasium, so only half of it is usable for pick-up games of basketball.

And there is only one room in the entire 400-bed unit made for group therapy sessions, where more than a dozen chairs are placed in a circle, with a white board and tissues nearby. To manage, the department has converted recreation rooms and clinical offices in each of the five wings to be used for daily therapy sessions.

There is a question of whether the patchwork conditions blur the line between a therapeutic or punitive program, threatening to jeopardize the entire civil commitment program.

"Our job is to provide meaningful treatment, and that's also in keeping with the law," Benson said. "To do that, you've got to have adequate space, adequate beds and adequate infrastructure, or there could be constitutional challenges to the programs."

The new proposal would add a 400-bed unit at Moose Lake, as well as the infrastructure the Legislature failed to include in 2006.

PREVENTION VS. TREATMENT

Civil liberties advocates have long raised concerns that civil commitment is merely an indefinite extension of an offender's prison sentence. Those concerns are emphasized in Minnesota, which has released only one person, and even then only temporarily.

When Eric Janus looks at the cost of the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, he sees a waste. The cost of treating offenders there and expanding the program could be better spent on prevention, he said, including changing societal attitudes about sexual violence.

"If you put the same amount of money you're spending at Moose Lake and put it into prevention, you'd do a whole lot better at preventing crimes than you're doing right now," Janus said.

Janus, the dean of William Mitchell College of the Law and who once represented _____, released a book last year critical of civil commitment programs.

"They're pretty clearly designed to prolong the incarceration of sex offenders whose criminal sentences have expired or are about to expire," Janus said.

One widespread problem with the programs has to do with the nature of treatment and recovery — to get better, offenders often need to acknowledge what they've done, and that includes confessing to previously unknown crimes. In fact, the state uses polygraph tests on offenders to make sure they've come clean.

Such disclosures have therapeutic value, Janus said, "but when the disclosures result in further incarcerations, that really discourages further participation."

Of the 550 or so offenders in the program, 98 are currently refusing treatment, though Benson pointed out the figure used to hover around half the population.

"There are people that are motivated to change," Benson said. "The choices are: You can sit around and watch TV all day or you can seek treatment."

One case against the Minnesota Sex Offender Program is being closely watched.

While construction of the new Moose Lake facility was under way, the state housed overflow prisoners at an annex of an adjacent medium-security prison run by the Department of Corrections.

Inmate _____ alleged in a federal lawsuit that the program began to feel more like prison, with strip searches and restraints.

While _____ first pursued the case without a lawyer, a federal judge soon took a look at it and appointed him counsel — a local law firm and the American Civil Liberties Union (Contact). ACLU lawyer Theresa Nelson said the case goes to a key point — whether the line between a therapeutic and a punitive program has been blurred.

"In the hospital setting, it's got to be reasonably related to the treatment," Nelson said. "All of these policies, all of these rules, don't do that. They don't even look at whether a lot of these policies are countertherapeutic."

PUBLIC SAFETY AT ISSUE

What will happen when Minnesota finally releases a sex offender? The outcry over sex offenders, combined with laws restricting where they live, has roiled other states.

In Georgia, one sex offender was forced to live in the woods behind an office park. In Florida, parole officers routinely recommend that sex offenders live under a Miami causeway, and dozens now live in the colony. In California, sex offenders sometimes are forced to live in trailers on prison grounds, ostensibly free but literally steps from where they served out their sentences.

A substantial number of Minnesota's civilly committed sex offenders who are in the later stages of treatment have been sent to the state hospital in St. Peter. And four of those live in a state-constructed home within the grounds of the St. Peter hospital.

They are learning how to live in society again: shoveling snow, washing dishes, even taking supervised trips to the bank. All four refused requests for interviews.

While there is no timeline for their release, the four patients are the closest to being released into society. What happens when they are finally released could very well have implications for the future of the program.

"We do everything we can to ensure public safety to the extent that we can," Benson said. "If and when that day comes, we'll do everything we can."


"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin



WY - Bill would ban sex offenders from living near schools

Original Article

02/21/2010

By BEN NEARY

CHEYENNE — Registered sex offenders in Wyoming wouldn’t be allowed to move into residences close to schools under a bill moving forward in the state House of Representatives.

The House on Friday gave preliminary approval to House Bill 83, sponsored by Rep. Steve Harshman (Email), R-Casper, a high school teacher and coach.

Harshman said he brought the bill at the request of a parent who has children in elementary school after a sex offender moved in next to a school in his district. In addition to barring sex offenders from moving into residences within 2,000 feet of schools that teach students age 18 or younger, the bill also would bar offenders from loitering within 2,000 feet of schools or driving school buses.

As much as anything, it’s an issue of sending a message they’re not going to drive our school buses, they’re not going to hang around our school,” Harshman said after the House vote.

Harshman’s bill would make exceptions to allow sex offenders onto school grounds in some circumstances, including if they themselves are students, if they need to pick up or drop off their own child or if they’re making deliveries to a school. More than 20 other states have enacted similar bills, he said.

Some lawmakers questioned how the bill would apply in smaller Wyoming communities, saying the restriction would effectively mean offenders couldn’t live anywhere in town. The bill wouldn’t require sex offenders who already live near schools to move away.

Rep. Del McOmie (Email), R-Lander, questioned the 2,000-foot restriction.

Folks, that’s almost half a mile, and we have communities in Wyoming where that’s outside the city limits,” he said. “So we might want to look at that a little bit.”

Rep. Jack Landon (Email), R-Sheridan, asked whether there was any discussion in the House Judiciary Committee, which recommended approval of Harshman’s bill, about how most sexual offenses against children are committed by their own family members. Landon also questioned whether the law would penalize the children of sex offenders, who would be forced to walk farther to get to school.

Harshman said after the House vote that Wyoming has come a long way in recent years by tightening its laws on sex offender registration and other laws. “Just four years ago, we were a haven, there’s no doubt. We were identified nationwide, folks were moving here,” he said.

Linda Burt, executive director of the ACLU in Wyoming (Email), wrote to House members this week saying her group has successfully challenged similar residence restrictions for sex offenders in other states.

The ACLU is generally against these restrictions as they have unintended consequences that make situations more difficult for law enforcement and do not necessarily provide more safety for our children,” she wrote.

Burt said Friday that one of the best ways to keep children and other people safe from sexual offenses is to provide treatment for offenders while they’re incarcerated.

We don’t do that in Wyoming,” Burt said. “This is something that has recently been cut out of the Department of Corrections budget. That would be much more effective than residency requirements.”

The Wyoming Department of Corrections last summer cut inmate sex offender and mental health treatment programs. The department made the cuts as part of 10-percent budget cuts that Gov. Dave Freudenthal (Contact) imposed on state government in response to falling state revenues.

Steve Lindly, deputy director of the corrections department, said the department provides educational and risk management assessment for sex offenders but no longer provides therapeutic treatment.


"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin