SHREVEPORT - Dr. Paul McIntyre counsels offenders. He says they're not lost causes. "A lot of these sexual offenses is a learned behavior," says Dr. McIntyre. "Anything learned you can unlearn."
One registered sex offender we're naming John, agrees. He says rehabilitation is possible, but says its up to the offender. "They have to want to be or they won't be. It's that simple. If they go there just because it's a requirement, they're wasting their time, their money and the counselors time also," says John.
"They have to go through an intensive training course in prison before they get out, and then when they get out its continued through probation and parole," says Dr. McIntyre.
If they want additional help, they can see someone like Dr. McIntyre. "It's a psychological deal in their mind that this is the way I have a relationship. This is the way I find affection by hurting and raping somebody else," says Dr. McIntyre.
And if they can't find work or housing: "the first thing he'll do is go back to what he knows," says Dr. McIntyre.
John says he was lucky enough to get help and find work when he was released from prison. He's the resident manager for a home that helps to rehabilitate offenders.
"Of the nine, 10 years that I've been doing this, I have an 85 percent success rate of men who are going forward with their lives. I have had one sex offender out of 10 that is now arrested and in prison on a sex related charge," says John.
The public perception of sex offenders is that the majority of them re-offend. But according to research by the U.S. Department of Justice, recidivism rates aren't as high as you might expect averaging between 14% - 20% over five year follow up periods.
- And most other studies put the recidivism rates lower, from 3.5% on up.
And sexual offenders who follow probation and treatment programs have lower re-offense rates than offenders who don't.
Dr. McIntyre says accused murderer _____ is a classic example of someone who didn't stick with the program. _____ is accused of killing 12 year old Justin Bloxom back in March.
"He cut himself off from me from talking and trying to get his head right; he went back to his old ways. I'm not saying he did it, I'm not saying he didn't do it, but if you're a predator and you don't want to give that lifestyle up you're going back to prison; bottom line," says Dr. McIntyre.
So, there's no guarantee that they won't offend again, as it's a life long challenge for some. And every sex offender has different issues mostly based on the offense committed.
For instance, sex offenders who rape children tend to re-offend regardless of treatment.
- I am no expert, but I doubt this statement.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
By Margaret Griffis
A town hall meeting, a huge turnout, a hodgepodge of issues -- it’s democracy in action
What happens when you invite Miami’s new mayor and police chief over for a little sex, liquor, and loud music? A super-charged town hall meeting, that’s what. And a successful one at that.
Nearly 200 residents, politicians, community activists, and city police attended the first-ever town hall meeting for Miami’s Upper Eastside, held on April 21 at Legion Park. It was organized by the City of Miami’s Neighborhood Enhancement Team at the request of Shorecrest Homeowners Association president Jack Spirk and his counterpart at the Palm Grove Homeowners Association, Bob Powers. Representatives from Morningside, Belle Meade, and other Upper Eastside neighborhoods were also in attendance. As community meetings go, the turnout for this inaugural town hall session was exceptional.
Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado (Email), the featured guest, spoke about how difficult it was in the past to hold such meetings. He said he wants to bring government to the people and improve their quality of life. He then turned the discussion over to Miguel Exposito, the city’s new police chief. Exposito proudly noted that violent crime is down 28 percent in the city thanks to a crackdown on crimes against persons. He promised to concentrate on property crimes next.
What seemed like a very dry meet-and-greet changed dramatically when a different issue came up: Sex offenders moving into the Upper Eastside from their encampments on the Julia Tuttle Causeway. Commissioner Marc Sarnoff explained that, owing to a change in law he helped to instigate, the colony living under the causeway bridge was dismantled and the sex offenders were sent to live elsewhere -- mostly Homestead, Allapattah, and apparently Shorecrest.
- Yep, and Ron Book, the creator and destroyer of the Julia Tuttle Causeway leper colony is the person who moved them here and elsewhere, using tax payer money!
Sergio Torres, administrator of Miami’s Homeless Assistance Program, came forward to discuss the situation and acknowledged that 14 offenders had moved into the Upper Eastside and were being heavily monitored. One of them, however, had already committed another offense, though of what sort wasn’t clear.
Chris Masciatti, co-chair of the Shorecrest United Association, exasperatedly questioned why the city moved so many into the neighborhood, where they could “reminisce about the old times when they were raping children.” The simple answer was that a lack of nearby schools and other protected facilities created a legal bubble for them to obtain residence. The simple answer didn’t do much to placate residents who saw a complicated problem, and in their view, a dangerous one.
The meeting then addressed several noise complaints that ranged from incessant fire alarms at half-empty condominiums to late-night musical entertainment at several area clubs. A hip young woman, Sandra Gonzales, stood up to complain about how noise from the Brazilian hot spot Boteco, on NE 79th Street, was affecting her family. She tried to explain that her “parents are getting old -- my dad is 60 and my mom just turned 50.” But the crowd -- mainly aging Boomers -- drowned her out, roaring with laughter.
She went on to express her outrage at being held hostage by club noise, then stumbled onto something that interested a larger portion of the audience. Gonzales said, “I’d rather have a bunch of people that don’t drink, gathering together -- ” Again she was drowned out, but this time she was hailed for her clear support of the Alcoholics Anonymous franchise known as the Little River Club, also located on NE 79th Street.
An extraordinary number of people in the audience appeared to be members or supporters of the Little River Club, which is embroiled in a long-running dispute with its residential neighbors. On club supporter, Allan McDonald, fidgeted through much of the meeting, clearly wanting the organizers to hurry on to the next issue -- his issue.
McDonald’s hopes seemed to be dashed when the mayor prepared to leave the meeting without discussing the issue. “Everybody is here, and nobody addresses it.... I want to know why,” McDonald appealed to the mayor, Sarnoff, and other city representatives.
He was cut off by a brief discussion about Biscayne Boulevard landscaping, before making a second attempt to focus on the Little River Club. “Nobody here cares about the trees,” he said loudly. “We’re all here about the gate.” That was a reference to the controversy surrounding the club’s rear parking area.
Then a grandmotherly figure, Victoria Peach, walked up to the stage at the front of the meeting room and movingly extolled the virtues of the club. The mayor acknowledged their interest but deferred discussion to another time because of legal issues surrounding the matter.
The main dispute between the Little River Club and its neighbors is over their parking lot. Since the 1950s, access to the club’s lot has been from NE 80th Street, which would be a quiet residential road if not for the extra club traffic. Some club members have allegedly driven recklessly and threatened residents when confronted. Neighbors want that gate closed and to have club members enter their parking lot from 79th Street, a busy commercial corridor. The club has appealed to the city to keep the current configuration.
Abbie Cuellar, who is a board member of the Shorecrest Homeowners Association, was surprised and delighted by the turnout: “People were very confused as to what their Shorecrest neighbors want. There’s mistrust on both sides, but if we each could listen for just a minute, we could all be good neighbors, and hopefully they [Little River Club members] will come to understand that. The goal is to live in harmony.”
Haydee Wheeler, director of the city’s Neighborhood Enhancement Teams and the person behind the evening’s agenda (with help from the homeowner associations), was also very pleased with the exceptionally big turnout, telling the BT she’s willing to add the Little River Club to the next meeting’s agenda, pending recommendations from the legal department. “We are not about providing lip service,” says Wheeler. “We are definitely working closely with them to make a difference in their community.”
Jack Spirk, who has long advocated for quarterly town hall meetings, was “blown away” by the attendance. “Only once in the past ten years have I ever seen a turnout like that,” he says. “I believe that if residents get to hear from their elected officials and city service providers, they’ll have a better understanding as to how their government works. And elected officials and service providers get to hear the concerns of the residents and what their needs are. It’s a win-win situation. I think we proved that Wednesday night.”
By MICHAEL BUNCHER
For the past 15 years, the public has been left with a false sense of security. A federally funded study has determined that Megan's Law does not work.
Conducted by independent psychologists along with staff from the state Department of Corrections' Office of Policy and Planning, this comprehensive study looked at 21 years of sex offense rates. It confirms in New Jersey what other studies have found elsewhere. Megan's Law "has no demonstrable effect in reducing sexual reoffenses."
Megan's Law struck out on every important area related to protecting the community from sexual offenders. Not only is there no evidence that it reduces sexual reoffenses, Megan's Law:
- Fails to positively impact sex offender rearrest rates,
- Fails to change the type of reoffenses or first time offenses that occur, or
- Fails to reduce the number of victims involved in sexual offenses.
As the state agency charged with representing those required to register under Megan's Law, the state public defender agrees completely with the study's findings and with its ultimate conclusion that "given the lack of demonstrable effect of Megan's Law on sexual offenses, the growing costs may not be justifiable."
What is equally remarkable is that other research cited by the New Jersey study, as well as our own experience, shows that Megan's Law can be "counterproductive" to public safety. Notification laws have been found to isolate offenders from normal relationships, undercut their opportunities for housing and employment and subject offenders to threats and assaults.
In some instances, the willingness and ability to obtain treatment can be negatively impacted by Megan's Law. As a result of these factors, the study's researchers determined the unintended consequences of Megan's Law may be to increase the risks of recidivism rather than to protect the community.
In the face of overwhelming evidence of the law's ineffectiveness, advocates for the law nevertheless seek to justify its continuance by claiming that its purpose was never to reduce reoffense rates, but was only "designed to provide parents and communities with information" concerning the whereabouts of a sexual offender living in their neighborhood. However, this practice is meaningless unless it brings about the positive result the Legislature clearly intended when the Megan's law was passed to reduce "the danger of recidivism posed by sex offenders."
The Legislature's perceived effectiveness of the law served as a cornerstone to its passage. The recent study's findings telling us the law does not reduce sexual reoffenses, and worse, may be counterproductive, require a change in course.
In 2007, New Jersey reportedly spent $3.9 million with, as the study found, no appreciable benefit to public safety. Given our current budgetary shortfall this money could have been, and now should be, put to much better use by investing it in efforts that will actually protect New Jersey's children.
- Which is treatment, therapy, housing and jobs for ex-offenders, and reintegration into society.
We agree with several of the report's recommendations calling for sex offender therapy to be provided in state prisons (which does not now occur), affordable treatment for sex offenders living in the community, and effective parole and probationary supervision commensurate with a realistic individualized assessment of an offender's risk level.
Other interventions known to be effective should be emphasized. We know that making a successful transition from prison reduces sex offender reoffense rates. To accomplish this, as a report published just this year by the Counsel of State Governments emphasizes, resources would be better spent "to ensure that sex offenders re-entering communities have appropriate and sustainable housing options" to assist them during their pivotal transition back into the community.
According to the counsel's report, efforts to further stability after incarceration by way of jobs and housing can reduce reoffense levels. This pragmatic approach is crucial to protecting our communities.
We owe the public much more than continuing to rely on a policy that has been proven as accomplishing little else but the creation of a false sense of security.
Two women are now facing felony charges after filing a false rape report this weekend in Fort Smith. Police arrested 19-year-old Heather Smith and her 21-year-old roommate Jeni Melton, after they claimed two unidentified men came into their apartment and raped Smith.
Police were called to Roosters Bar on Garrison Avenue around 4:41 a.m. Saturday. Officers spoke with Smith and Melton about the alleged incident.
The women told police they had left Roosters around 3 a.m. and shortly after they arrived at their residents on Birnie Avenue, two men came into their home uninvited. According to the report, one suspect pinned Melton to the floor, while the second raped Smith in a back bedroom.
The women told police after the two men left they were afraid to stay at the apartment, so they began walking down N. 6th. While walking, they stopped a taxi cab for help. When they entered the cab, they found both suspects inside. The women said they were dropped off at the corner of 8th and Garrison and called police.
Police spoke with Razorback Cab Company and found that the suspects were dropped off at a residence on S. 24th. Officers responded to the home and glanced in the front window, locating the two suspects asleep on a couch in the living room. Officers noticed two .44 caliber revolvers and a semi-automatic .45 caliber handgun on the coffee table next to them, and notified the SWAT team. A search warrant was executed on the residence and the two men inside were arrested.
After several interviews and a 12-hour investigation, both men were released and will not face any charges. An additional witness to the incident came forward and police discovered major discrepancies in the initial allegations.
Smith and Melton were re-interviewed, arrested and charged with Filing a False Police Report, which is a felony. Both are being held in the Sebastian County Detention Center without bond.
Another Related Article
There are probably no other two words that can elicit anxiety, fear and anger in a community more than “sex offender.”
- Any why is that? Because the media and politicians continue to blow everything out of proportion with fear-mongering statistics and sound bites.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise to see the passionate opposition developing in Montville regarding a proposal to build a sex offender facility in the community. In all honesty, few people would voluntarily support the idea of having a sex offender living next door, never mind the idea of a facility were dozens or so might congregate.
It is a matter of public safety.
- And treating offenders is a matter of public safety as well.
But the truth is, there already are nearly two dozen sex offenders living in Montville. In fact, there are sex offenders living in nearly every community in the state. And none of these individuals have had the benefit of a pre-release treatment program that is now under consideration in Montville. Are any of our communities any safer because there is no such facility anywhere in the state?
- And by not providing treatment, which should have been done while in prison, then this only increases the risk a person will re-offend and harm another person.
It is exactly for that reason — public safety — that we believe there is some logic and merit to the state’s plan to establish a sex offender facility in Montville, a facility that will provide treatment and assistance to convicted sex offenders before they are released from prison to help them acclimate themselves back into society. Or should we just continue to simply release sex offenders into our communities with no treatment and keep our fingers crossed?
- I agree, treatment is necessary, for most offenders, and if they do not get it, then it's more likely there will be another victim. And people always say "it's for the children," well, if that is the case, then why the opposition? Plus, not all offenders have harmed children either, but the vast majority of the public sees "sex offender" and immediately thinks "child molester," or "pedophile," or "predator!"
Because the individuals to be served by this facility are still serving their prison sentences, such a facility needs to be within a prison setting. That requirement limits the options of where such a facility can be.
The Cochegan House, an established halfway home at the Corrigan-Radgowski facility in Montville — and run by the same organization that would run the sex offender facility — is a suitable location for this new facility.
Two years ago, the General Assembly saw the benefit of establishing a sex offender facility and approved legislation authorizing the expenditure to create one. Lawmakers saw it as a public safety issue, and concluded — rightfully so — that in the interest of the public’s safety, this was a proposal that needed to be implemented.
There was never a doubt that such a plan would be controversial, and, most likely, very unpopular with residents of the community selected to house such a facility. But the decision to create the facility was good public policy then — and still is.
In the past year, we have witnessed similar situations, such as the plan to build an ash landfill in Franklin. The state, long ago, adopted a public policy to eliminate landfills and use incinerators for the disposal of garbage. It was known then that at some point, a new ash landfill would be needed, and very strict guidelines were developed regarding where and how such a facility would be built without endangering the environment or surrounding community.
But we allowed “not in my back yard” opposition to trump public policy, and the Connecticut Resource and Recovery Authority is now paying a premium to dispose of incinerator ash out of state.
Sex offenders will be released into our communities when they complete their prison sentences. We do not have the luxury of dumping sex offenders out of state as we do with incinerator ash. Establishing a pre-release treatment facility, within a prison setting, is in the public’s best interest.
The problem with some studies, is they take into account any crime, instead of another sex crime, so those studies will of course show a higher recidivism rate. If you take into account only new sex crimes, then the recidivism rates drop drastically.
By ROBERT RIZZUTO
Sex offenses are often considered the most heinous of crimes mainly because of the impact they have on the victims.
The question of what to do with people who commit sex offenses is not a new one, but has been the point of debate as around 20 states, including New York, have implemented laws designed to deal with sex offenders after their criminal sentence is served.
Some people believe these laws and included programs were birthed of fear rather than hard facts while others contend they are a good first step toward dealing with an issue that potentially affects everyone's public safety.
The common thought is that sex offenders, once they act on their urges, will not be able to control themselves in the future, posing a perpetual risk to society. The idea that they are more prone to re-offend than people convicted of other crimes is simply not true, according to a 2007 study spearheaded by the Florida Institute of Technology.
In the study, the four authors concluded that the public perception of sex offender recidivism was much higher than the actual documented instances.
"Approximately 1-2 percent of adult males will eventually be convicted of a sexual assault, but this does not mean that they are all equally likely to repeat their crimes," the study reported. "Recidivism rates vary based on the type of offense and other risk factors such as offender age, degree of sexual deviance, criminal history and victim preferences."
The United States Department of Justice found that 5 percent of 9,691 sex offenders released from prison were re-arrested for new sex crimes within three years, according to a 2003 report released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
At the same time, the violent non-sexual recidivism rate was gauged to be around 14 percent. But for criminal offenders of all types, the likelihood of repeating the crime diminishes with lengthier periods of time that the person abstains from the problematic behavior.
"Common misconceptions may interfere with offenders' treatment and reintegration into society as well as influence legislatures to pass laws that are misguided and inefficient," the authors wrote.
The study also concluded that sex offenders who did not participate in psychological treatment had a higher recidivism rate, around 17 percent, than those who received cognitive therapy, which was around 10 percent.
In the United States Supreme Court case of Kansas V. Crane, the court acknowledged the states' right to commit convicts ,who have already served their criminal sentences, to a mental hospital through a civil proceeding, as long as due process is followed and the convict is shown to lack control of their actions.
In 2007, at the urging of then Gov. Eliot Spitzer, the legislature passed article 10 of the Mental Hygiene Law, which allows sex offenders who are deemed to have a "mental abnormality" that makes them likely to re-offend to be institutionalized if a jury or the state Supreme Court if a jury trial is waived, agrees with the conclusions of their mental evaluation.
The mental evaluation is conducted by the state Office of Mental Hygiene and the Attorney General's office conducts the litigation, on behalf of the state.
Based on the conclusions of the mental evaluation conducted at the end of a criminal sentence, OMH may recommend that a sex offender be civilly confined, as is the case with Nushawn Williams, the Brooklyn native who became infamous after infecting several Chautauqua County females with the HIV virus in the 1990s.
Another option is strict and intensive supervision and treatment (SIST) in the community. According to OMH's annual report on article 10's implementation, the primary goal of SIST is to successfully manage, in the community, sex offenders who are determined to suffer from mental abnormalities that predispose them to commit sexual offenses, but who are not deemed to be dangerous enough to require civil confinement.
"SIST provides increased public protection through mandatory treatment and intensive supervision, while avoiding the high costs associated with confinement in a secure treatment facility," the annual report stated.
The offenders are held to certain "extensive" conditions upon release, that mirror specialized conditions imposed on sex offenders subject to traditional parole supervision. Their SIST often involves global positioning satellite tracking, polygraph monitoring, specification of residence, prohibiting contact with identified past or potential victims, type and frequency of treatment sessions, and other related treatment and supervision requirements.
With civil confinement, the sex offender will receive treatment, care and be kept under the control of OMH within the secure treatment facilities located on the grounds of either the Central New York Psychiatric Center or the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center. The cost, per resident, is said to be $175,000 per year, according to OMH.
According to OMH, the secure treatment facilities operate Sex Offender Treatment Programs within the framework of the Risk-Need-Responsivity Model, which matches the residents' risk to the level of services provided. Through the course of the four-phase treatment process, the physicians target the residents' criminogenic needs in treatment, maximizing their ability to benefit from treatment by tailoring it to their learning style, motivation, abilities, and strengths.
Cognitive behavioral therapy and relapse prevention strategies are also utilized in the treatment interventions. All interventions are designed to promote growth in key areas such as treatment engagement, general self-regulation, sexual deviancy management, and development of pro-social attitudes and behavior, with the intended outcome of reducing residents' risk of sexual recidivism. The final treatment goal is the residents' safe re-integration into the community.
Since the program began in 2007, it has underwent some changes, according to Jill Daniels, a spokesperson for OMH.
"When the law first passed, the whole concept was brand new to the Office of Mental Health, but we based the program on best practices from other states and existing programs," she said. "But some of the mental health evaluating has been tweaked to better identify who needs to be confined and who would be best suited to receive treatment in the community."
Ms. Daniels explained that the treatment staff at the centers was cut at one point, as program administrators realized that there was a better way to use their resources.
"We are still learning from our own experience, and changes are made throughout that process," she said.
It does cost much more money to treat someone in civil confinement than to treat them in the community, according to OMH and other mental health advocates.
The Coalition of Behavioral Health Agencies have previously called for restructuring of the Sex Offender Management and Treatment program (article 10), citing that it cost OMH $38 million to operate it in fiscal year 2008-09. The group claimed that the spending is excessive, "especially where evidence of a psychiatric cure is not clear."
- If you are looking for a "cure," you will be looking forever!
"When OMH's sex offender program was initiated, mental health stakeholders were assured that this program would not place a financial drain on the mental health system," the executive director of the Coalition of Behavioral Health Agencies wrote in a 2009 article for the New York Nonprofit Press. "Now the system is experiencing an increased demand for civil confinement, while community-based mental health programs that serve New York's most vulnerable citizens are struggling to make ends meet."
Aside from the consideration about finances, and the impact the program might have on other community-based programs, some people have criticized the prospect of the government confining someone beyond the length of their criminal sentence.
According to the 2009 annual report on article 10 of the mental health law, as of Oct. 31, 2009, there were 190 people being civily confined in state facilities taking part on the four-phase program. Phase four of the program involves community re-entry plan development, leading to the offenders eventual release.
As of Oct. 31, 2009, no one has ever been released from the program, or even graduated to phase four, a fact that some people applaud while others wonder if the confinement will be life-long.
"When we have someone in criminal confinement, the overall goal is treatment to prepare them for reintegration into society," Ms. Daniels said. "Whether this will happen with this population of people, only time will tell."
- I'm beginning to doubt this is the true goal, to reintegrate these people! It appears to me like it's more of a place (prison outside of prison, concentration camp or Gulag) to lock them up and forget about them!