Sunday, June 20, 2010

Collaterally Damaged - (Children of sex offenders)

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Collateral Damage - Family Members of Registered Sex Offenders



OR - Community Outrage After Charge Against Homeless Sex Offender is Dropped

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NY - Schumer: Close loopholes in sex offender law

Original Article (Listen)

Once again, Mr. Schumer is assuming all sex offenders are child molesters or pedophiles, which is not the case. He is once again trying to pass blanket laws, punishing all sex offenders instead of preventing those who have harmed children from these types of jobs.

06/20/2010

By MICHAEL GORMLEY

ALBANY -- State laws nationwide prohibit sex offenders from working as school teachers and coaches, but most laws don't cover karate instructors, youth coaches, carnival workers, clowns, magicians, or dance instructors in the private sector when public funds aren't involved.

Sen. Charles Schumer (Contact) of New York wants to change those circumstances, and is proposing a national measure that would apply to sex offenders in these and other jobs even when their employers don't get public funds. The measure would cover people who are paid or volunteer to do the work.

"Convicted sex offenders should not be able to hold any job or volunteer position where they have interaction with children in New York or across the country, period," Schumer said. "The fact that these sex offenders are able to coach our children's teams, operate rides at fairs, and teach them dance and music is beyond scary and we must take immediate action to stop it. My hope is that my new legislation closes this huge loophole so no children are put into harm's way."
- Just stop the BS Mr. Schumer!  Not all offenders, like you seem to think, have harmed children, and like usual, you are grandstanding and passing laws to punish all offenders.  Just wait until your son or daughter is slammed with the sex offender label, then let's see what you think.

Additional jobs that could come under the measure would be tutors, youth mentors, workers at recreation centers, video arcades, and children's museums.

The measure would require states to pass laws prohibiting employment of sex offenders in those private sector jobs or lose out on specific federal funding.
- This is basically bribery!

"Dangerous loopholes exist in local and state laws which allow convicted sex offenders to work in positions of trust where they can have unlimited access to potential child victims," said Laura A. Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan's Law and the Crime Victims Center.
- Once again, another person who apparently thinks all sex offenders are child molesters, predators and pedophiles.  These types of people, who are close minded, should not be able to recommend laws, only the true experts who deal with sex offenders on a daily basis should be able to.  People like John Walsh, Mark Lunsford, Laura Ahern, Marc Klass, etc, all think all sex offenders are child molesting, pedophile predators out foaming at the mouth to find their next "child" victim, which is a load of crap!  But, it brings them a lot of money to their BUSINESS, and that is why they do what they do, IMO!


Video Link



TX - Texas Senate Committee Meeting - Criminal Justice - Adam Walsh Act

Original Article (Listen)

We were able to capture the entire 5 hours worth of testimony, many from sex offenders and family members, and the videos are below, which I recommend EVERYONE watch. These are the people from Texas Voices, and I congratulate them on everything they have done and continue to do. And yes, this is a repost, but with the new videos added!

06/17/2010

By Stephanie

On June 10, 2010, I accompanied a small group of people to the Capitol in Austin to advocate for victims of sex crimes before the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee. They convened to consider "Interim Charge 1" which was designed to study the efficiency and fairness of current Sex Offender Registry requirements, and to look at issues surrounding compliance with the Adam Walsh Act (AWA).  Our group's specific issue dealt with efficiency in the current system, addressing problems at the level of District Attorneys in Texas. We had been invited to this meeting by an aide to Sen. John Whitmire, the committee chairperson, and we were assured by the aide that our issue was appropriate to the discussion. In fact, a couple of days before the hearing, the aide had contacted Ken King, founder of Justice for Sex Crime Victims, to tell us that the normal 3 minute time limit had been lifted; he encouraged us to bring as many people as we wanted to speak and to even bring letters to read from those who could not personally attend. We were excited by this news; we felt that it implied that the committee wanted to hear from us, and we felt welcome. Here is what actually happened......

The nine of us gathered at a room in the Capitol that was so full, an overflow room was opened next door to accommodate everyone. Many of the attendees were wearing badges that identified them as being with Texas Voices which turns out to be an advocacy group for convicted registered sex offenders. Ken King, founder of Justice for Sex Crime Victims, later estimated the number of sex offenders and their supporters at around 150 people.

The first part of the meeting was exactly what I thought it would be - there were four or five professionals representing different agencies who explained current numbers and what might happen if Texas complies with the Walsh Act versus their predictions of how not complying might affect people. That part was great, very professional and educational. As I listened to witnesses speak and to the remarks and questions of the panel, I gradually became aware that the central issue to the committee chairman, Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston), seemed to be the committee's recommendation as to whether or not Texas should comply with AWA, a federal set of standards to deal with sex offenders more effectively. He closely attended to, and positively reinforced, testimony designed to discourage Texas from participating in the establishment of national standards.

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (AWA) was named for the son of John Walsh, host of "America's Most Wanted".  It was signed into law in 2006 by President George W. Bush. There are financial incentives to the individual states to comply; but, apparently, these incentives do not approach reimbursing the state for the associated costs of compliance. Numbers were reported that indicated that Texas would be eligible for just under 2 million dollars in federal money if we comply, whereas the costs of compliance are estimated at over 38 million for the first year. There are also concerns about parts of the law that impact convicted sex offenders retroactively, about applying the same standards to juvenile offenders as to their adult counterparts, and about the adequacy of the tiering system to identify the highest risk offenders.

On the other hand, the AWA seeks to establish national databases - both a national registry which collects and posts the same information about convicted offenders regardless of what state the offender resides in and a national sex offender DNA database. Additionally, the Walsh Act will establish a National Child Abuse Registry to stop the adoption of children by convicted child abusers. Beyond that, it toughens penalties for crimes against children and seeks to close loopholes to which predators throng. As of today, only 3 states and 2 Indian Nations are in full compliance. Texas is not one of them.

After the invited professionals spoke, the bulk of the committee's time was spent listening to registered sex offenders and their various supporters. Here are a few things that I learned:

First, there is a distinction being made between "sex offenders" and "sexual predators". "Sexual predators" seemed to be defined as repeat sex offenders and were recognized as dangerous. On the other hand, "sex offenders" included teens who essentially committed statutory crimes involving small discrepancies in birth dates and cyber criminals, among others.

Second, there were descriptions by many attendees that, if accurate, may indicate that district attorneys are targeting the poor and young for marginal offenses because they are the easiest cases to win, regardless of the appropriateness of the charges.

Third, being on a sex offender registry makes life difficult for convicted offenders who, often with extra time on their hands because of problems finding employment, are organizing themselves and finding sympathetic legislators to target with their complaints.

Some of the sex offenders and their supporters raised valid concerns, both with the system as it now exists and with state compliance to the Walsh Act. Many speakers who started their statements with "I am a registered sex offender" went on to offer self-serving, minimizing descriptions of their convicted crime. There was a new term being floated (new to me, anyway) besides AWA. I think it is significant that the acronym of choice to describe the Walsh Act by Texas Voices and Sen. Whitmire, leaves out the initials standing for "Child Protection and Safety". The other new term was "Romeo and Juliet relationship", a rather bogus euphemism for statutory rape. As I have said, and Dr. van Dam predicted in The Socially Skilled Child Molester, there truly are kids getting caught in birthday issues, even though they are in the same peer group, because of current wording of statutes and a general misunderstanding of what actually represents predatory behavior, among other reasons. Dr. Carla van Dam, The Socially Skilled Child Molester, Romeo and Juliet is the wrong analogy, however. They were teen lovers who ended in tragedy because of the insanity of a long-standing family feud; their issues had nothing to do with age differences.

Even more inappropriate were speakers who claimed to fit that incorrect metaphor, explaining that they were in their twenties (or older) with a young teen (under 17) and "in love". To me, this falls way outside the boundaries of a mistake or indiscretion and into the territory of someone who needs to be scrutinized for possessing predatory tendencies. Our little group sat more or less patiently during hours of testimony, where we were treated to statements which alleged a "hysteria" about sex offenders, negatively compared a so-called "war on sex offenders" to the "war on drugs", sniped at the Walsh Act because it was signed by President Bush, attempted to deride a persistent Texas DA by noting that she was "a woman", and generally complained about how unfair the sex offender registry is. More than one male offender, convicted as an adult for molesting a female child, complained bitterly on the negative impact the registry has on their daughters because they cannot have their little girlfriends over and cannot enter their children's schools. One guy even cried as he recounted in minutiae how being on the sex offender registry has made it difficult for him to find a well-paying job. I wondered, what about your victims? They are affected for the rest of their lives in unpredictable ways, too, only they were innocent, not the perpetrators. There was much complaint about how unfair the system was to convicts; true to form, I did not hear much - if anything - that acknowledged the negative long-term effects with which their victims have to live.

For 3 and a half hours, our little group sat through this. As we had been told, the time limits were lifted for all of these speakers, legitimate or not. Chairman Whitmire solicited additional information from nearly everybody before us, no matter how transparently lame and self-serving their comments were. Seeing the respect that people with whom I disagreed were being given, though, had me hopeful that our group would receive the same treatment when it was our turn. I felt like these people, some right and some wrong, many young and poor, all probably legitimately feel disenfranchised by the system, and I was willing to be patient so that they, too, might have a voice. However, we were not treated the same.

About 3 hours and 10 minutes into the proceedings, the first member of our group was called. A mother who felt like this was her one opportunity to stand up for her daughter and all innocent child victims of sexual abuse, Janay Rosenthal was so nervous that she had thrown up 3 times outside the Capitol before coming in that day. As we had been instructed, she brought several letters from different non-profits that she planned to read. These included a position statement for general counsel, Tom Burton, from Justice for Children and one from the Texas Chapter of the Protective Mothers Alliance (PMA), founded by Lundy Bancroft. However, Sen. Whitmire derailed her nearly immediately by admonishing her that she only had 3 minutes (contrary to what we had been told and had observed), and by asking her not to read. He tried to reframe her concerns into civil matters, clearly conveying that he thought her statements were beyond the scope of the proceedings. She never backed down from her points, even when her words were twisted. The rest of our group watched in shock as a palpable climate shift chilled the treatment of this mother compared to the warmth with which mothers of sex offenders had been treated.

Next in our group to be called was a 17 year old former victim who wanted to speak out for the first time. Sen. Whitmire allowed that child to speak about 2 words. Her father, Ken King, was at the edge of the table to support her, and Whitmire ignored the young woman to focus on Ken King. This former child victim had a couple of questions for Whitmire, who responded with, "It doesn't work where I get the questions; I ask the questions." Ken tried, at one point, to redirect the attention back to allowing his daughter to speak, but was overridden by Whitmire. So, Ken began his statement. I thought it was rather brilliant in the quickness with which he adjusted to the changes we were encountering in treatment and tone, and also for its inclusiveness. Ken made the point that our group, with its concerns about Texas DA's who do not proactively pursue dangerous offenders, were compatible with earlier speakers whose offenses seemed marginal in the first place. He identified the decision to prosecute inappropriate cases as a district attorney problem, just as not pursuing cases involving more dangerous predators is. Whitmire's reaction was dismissive and patronizing. Ken stood up to the Chairman, attempting to defend our first speaker and his daughter, explaining that we had been invited to speak on this topic by Whitmire's own office. Ken finally chastised Sen. Whitmire for not giving the people representing victims the same consideration that he lavished on the offenders and their supporters.

The remaining 3 speakers of our group were tolerated without further incident, although we were all limited to 3 minutes, unlike the offenders. Just as I was thinking that maybe this was simply about wrapping up, and maybe it was just unfortunate that we were at the end, another woman came to speak on behalf of the offenders. Again, she was not timed and was treated warmly.

We felt blindsided. As we struggled afterward to understand what had happened, one hypothesis seemed to explain the strange situation we had encountered the best. There were repeated statements made during the proceedings that indicated that Sen. John Whitmire does not think Texas should comply with the Walsh Act. He commented that he thought it had been signed by legislators who did not read it, he implied that the Act was flawed because it had been signed by President Bush, and he clearly thinks that the Texas registry is too stringent as it is, and would be much worse if national standards were imposed. My impression of the proceedings was that the people who provided testimony which supported any of these opinions, even marginally, were welcome. On the other hand, people who tried to mention the plights of victims were minimized. It was indeed a good day to be a sex offender in the Texas State Capitol.

Since last Thursday, I came across a couple of media entries that suggested perhaps our hypothesis was on target. KLBJ reported that the sex offender list in Texas might be getting smaller if several legislators have their way on getting Texas to back out of the Walsh Act (Here, Listen).  An entry from yesterday on the Texas Tribune website highlights Sen. Whitmire's spin on the proceedings as seeking to identify and remove low risk offenders, mainly the teenager cases, from the registry so that law enforcement can focus its resources on the more dangerous predators. With the same self-serving attitude which he respected in the testifying offenders, he paints himself as "courageous" for "doing the right thing". (Listen)

I will say one more time that there are clearly inequities in both the current system and, perhaps, in the Adam Walsh Act, especially as it relates to juveniles. These, in fact, do need to be addressed and corrected. However, It seems to me as if collecting horror stories over how the system can go wrong was not an end in itself so much as it was ammunition-gathering against Texas complying with the Walsh Act. That the Walsh Act may need to have adjustments does not seem like a good reason to withhold Texas from participating in the benefits of a national program. Sen. Whitmire said more than once that one thing he does not want to do is to turn Texas into a haven for sex offenders. If other states start complying (and there are two more today than last week), and Texas does not require offenders to be on a national registry, I cannot see how Texas can help but become such a refuge.

And as for the Chairman's ideas about his own bravery, the most courageous person in the room on June 10, in my opinion, was the 17 year old victim who waited for 3 hours in a room full of sex offenders for the opportunity to exercise her voice, and whom John Whitmire never allowed to speak. How was that the right thing? So heads up, Texas. Be aware that when the Legislature meets again in January, it is likely that there will be forces in Austin persistently trying to undermine the gains that the Adam Walsh Act would bring to vulnerable Texans. Regardless of whether or not you believe that Texas should comply with the Act, the topic will no doubt come up in 2011, and this is a good time to start letting our Texas state legislators know how you feel.

In closing for now, I am reminded of the words of DA Kevin M. Burke who worked on the priest sex scandal in the Boston Archdiocese. He is quoted as observing, “But what really struck me, in communications with the archdiocese, was that there was never any concern shown for the victims. Not the slightest nod of concern for these young people whose lives were turned upside down by this abuse.” See here, p. 2. So it was for the majority of the Texas Senate Criminal Justice committee session on Interim Charge 1, in which victims and their supporters were marginalized in favor of convicted criminals by the Democratic Chairman. Here is the link to the video of the proceedings if you would like to judge for yourself (Requires Real Audio):