Sunday, March 18, 2007

Great video that explains the truth about sex offenders

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Finally someone telling the truth!

Guest column: Sex-offender ordinance deserves more discussion, research

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Finally someone with the guts to tell it like it is! Most sexual crimes are committed in the persons home, from a family member, or close friend or neighbor.

The city of Green Bay's proposed plan for sexual offender residency restrictions has sounded an alarm and thrown light on a real problem. But finding real solutions to this problem is no easy matter.

The new zoning ordinance proposal is an attempt to do something about the disproportionately high percentage of Brown County's sex offenders living in Green Bay. But we need to ask if there is a more effective way to keep children safe.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice Center for Sex Offender Management, there is no evidence indicating that residency restrictions improve the safety of children. Research has been done in Colorado and Minnesota on the proximity of offenders to children.

The research found no correlation between where an offender lives and re-offending.

In Iowa the number of sex offenders failing to register has more than doubled since the state enacted a 2,000-foot residency restriction law.

This is one reason among many that led the Iowa State Prosecutors Association, the Iowa State Association of Counties, and the Iowa Sheriffs and Deputies Association to attempt to repeal the residency restriction law.

The state of Kansas, after seeing the unintended consequences of residency restriction laws in other states, has placed a moratorium on local governments from passing similar ordinances until more effective public policy can be found.

Before the Green Bay City Council votes to enact the proposed new zoning ordinance, there needs to be more time given to discussion among the political leaders of Green Bay and surrounding communities and with the Department of Corrections.

The proposal needs to be revisited in light of all available evidence to ensure the most effective plan possible for increasing public safety.

In order to find real solutions that will keep Green Bay a safe place to raise children, we need to think and act as one metropolitan community.

We cannot allow Green Bay to become an island of difficulties in the midst of outlying municipalities where public transportation, affordable housing and social services are scarce.

There are leaders in the city of Green Bay who are wonderfully gifted problem-solvers and visionaries and who care deeply about our community.

I trust that they will be joined by the entire regional community in finding effective solutions to a problem that involves all of us.

Sex offender license plates doesn't solve the problem

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Finally someone with common sense and a brain...

How many colors are there in the rainbow? Pretty soon, that's how many license plate colors there will be on Ohio's roadways.

There is the yellow plate for those who are convicted, serial drunken drivers. The government knows these people have a record of driving while intoxicated, have given them their licenses and, yet, allow them to operate a vehicle speeding down the road.

Just make sure to stay out of their way.

Now, a state law is in the works to create a green license plate for registered sex offenders. The idea is that seeing a car with this plate coming down the street would alert children or adults as to the driver's possible motives.

This is just too much for law-abiding people to have to bear. How about simplifying things, for once? If someone convicted of a crime is likely to re-offend, then just keep them in the state's custody.

This would mean putting more funding into the Adult Parole Authority, the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections and sex offender rehabilitation programs in the state's prisons.

For those of us on the outside, it's an investment worth making.

Of course, parents are the best and first line of defense against someone out to harm their children. But if the government is aware of people who are going to re-offend, why dress it up with color-coded license plates, hoping everyone will know what they mean? That's neither a proactive nor efficient way of protecting an innocent element of society.

Lawmakers need to rewrite the laws so violent offenders do more prison time, not mark them when they get out and hope they don't hurt anyone else.

Sex offender registry system far from perfect

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He was just a father who thought he did everything right.

When his 15-year-old daughter wanted a new job, he sent her to the interview with a friend to make sure she’d stay safe.

It didn’t work.

Instead, his daughter might have became a crime victim when the man she thought would interview her allegedly climbed on top of her, offering to show her how to give a massage.

The suspect in the case, Jeffrey Wright, faces criminal charges related to the “job interview.” He is currently in jail awaiting trial.

Wright was on the state’s sex offender registry, which is intended to allow people to check on where sex offenders live or work. The registry is intended to help prevent such cases as this.

But in this case, the sex offender registry wouldn’t have helped.

“For one thing, if I was going to look it up, he was telling her that his name was Jeff Turner,” the teen’s father said.

“Even after we saw his real name, I did get on the Web site, and if you went to the address that the police showed us, that’s not where he was at.”

Making a list, checking it twice

Keeping the registry updated is a tough job for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department. Tressia David works in the office, where she sees local sex offenders on a weekly basis.

When sex offenders return to the community from prison, David knows to expect them. David takes their pictures and keeps track of where offenders work and live. But she knows not everyone is properly registered.

It does sort of give the community a false sense of security,” she said.

Monroe County Sheriff’s Detective Shawn Karr said the list is not meant to harass sex offenders.

“As long as we know where they’re at and they comply, we leave them alone,” he said.

Part of the problem of keeping up with the registry is manpower. With only three detectives, the sheriff’s department has no one dedicated to making bi-annual checks on where sex offenders live and work.

Karr said he’d like to see more emphasis put on the registry. In fact, this year the detectives have already charged eight people with failing to properly register.

“We’re doing better,” Karr said. “We still have a long way to go.”

How many are there?

There are 115 sex offenders registered in Monroe County. An additional 36 more are in jail. Five aren’t listed on the Web site because they are juveniles.

David said she works with other law enforcement agencies to ensure the list is complete. She also hears from members of the public who call to check on whether a person who is not on the Web site needs to be registered.

With more cases filed every year, David said, the number of offenders who are required to register will continue to grow.

“Eventually we’re going to need more help,” she said.

Crime and punishment

Sex offenders who fail to register can face a D felony charge. That carries a jail term of six months to three years and a maximum $10,000 fine.

While it may seem fairly simple to determine whether a person lives where they say they live, deputy prosecutor Bob Beck said it is not.

He said one case that was referred to the prosecutor this year involved a person who moved to a different apartment in the same building.

“Something like that is tough to prosecute,” he said. “I don’t know if a jury would convict a guy for that.”

Beck said offenders sometimes just don’t understand the law, although others are more sinister.

“It’s really hard to distinguish among them,” he said.

Beck also said rules can be difficult for offenders to understand. For example, offenders are required to register if they plan to spend at least seven days in Indiana, meaning an offender who is on vacation for 10 days would need to register.

“We’ve got a guy who keeps claiming he was just visiting,” Beck said. “Anytime you arrest somebody, you have a problem proving it.”

Untold numbers

For David, the registry is important work. She maintains a professional attitude with offenders so that they will want to come in and talk to her when they move. The job is sometimes difficult, because offenders will ask that their pictures be removed because they can’t get a job. Others bring spouses who complain to David that she is causing the family difficulties. Their stories do not go unheard.

“I can think of people that I have sympathy for,” she said.

Despite the complaints, David keeps on doing her job. She said she sometimes worries about those who may be in the community who do not register. She worries about the untold numbers who could re-offend.

“And that’s my major fear,” she said.

Who’s on the list?

Individuals convicted of any of these offenses are required to register in Indiana:

  • Rape
  • Criminal deviant conduct
  • Child molesting
  • Child exploitation
  • Vicarious sexual gratification
  • Child solicitation
  • Child seduction
  • Sexual misconduct with a minor as a class A, B or C felony
  • Incest
  • Sexual Battery
  • Kidnapping, if victim is under 18 years of age
  • Criminal confinement if victim is under 18 years of age
Offenders must register for 10 years after being released from prison, jail or a secure juvenile facility; placed in a community transition program; placed in a community corrections program; placed on parole or placed on probation, whichever occurred last.

Individuals must register for life if they are convicted of two or more unrelated offenses; or if they committed a sexual or violent offense when the offender was 18 years or older against a victim less than 12 years old at the time of the crime. Also included are offenders who cause serious bodily injury or death to the victim; used force or threat of force against the victim or a member of the victim’s family or rendered the victim unconscious or otherwise incapable of giving voluntary consent.