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More fear mongering! Why don't ALL American have to register their email addresses with the government? So you can track it for cyber crimes, like identity theft, hacking, etc? If it's good for sex offenders, which I don't think it is and violates the freedom of privacy, then it's good for you as well. What is next? After social networking, then what? You must be up for election or something and taking over where McCain left off, he started this nonsense.
Washington – In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee today, Congressman Earl Pomeroy urged passage of legislation he introduced earlier this year to help protect children from sex offenders on the Internet. The Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators (KIDS) Act of 2007 will require sex offenders to register their e-mail and instant messenger addresses with the National Sex Offender Registry. The Department of Justice will make this information available to social networking sites who can use that information to block sex offenders from using their sites to prey on children. The bill would also make it a crime for anyone over the age of 18 to misrepresent their age with the intent to use the Internet to engage in criminal sexual conduct with a minor.
“Keeping our children safe should always be a top priority. This bill provides social networking sites with one more tool to protect our children from dangerous predators on the Internet,” said Congressman Pomeroy, who was instrumental in the creation of the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Website last year. “Just as we’ve always told our kids not to talk to strangers, now we must echo that warning when they log on to the Internet.”
Pomeroy introduced the KIDS Act on January 31, 2007, and the bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee. Today’s House Judiciary Committee Oversight Hearing, “Sex Crimes and the Internet: Danger is Just a Click Away,” discussed issues and strategies involved in combating the use of the Internet to facilitate the commission of sex crimes against children. The hearing examined Pomeroy’s bill and a number of others on this topic.
In one example of why this legislation is needed, in 2006, a Bismarck, North Dakota man was charged and convicted for luring a minor with a computer. According to the criminal complaint, he engaged in sexual talk in a chat room with a 16-year-old-girl and tried repeatedly to get her to meet him. He was finally caught after the girl’s father contacted the police. This father was able to discover that someone was preying on his daughter online, however, parents are not always able to monitor their children’s online communications in time to prevent terrible tragedies from occurring.
By requiring convicted sex offenders to register their email addresses and other online identifiers, the KIDS Act will help social networking sites prevent convicted sex offenders from registering for their services as well as identify those convicted sex offenders who may currently be using their services. This legislation would also provide criminal penalties of up to 10 years for those convicted sex offenders who try to get around these protections by lying about their online identifiers.
The KIDS Act is supported by several Internet safety organizations including the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Enough Is Enough, a non-profit that works on protecting kids online and the National Association of School Resource Officers.
Since the introduction of the KIDS Act of 2007, eleven states including Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Virginia have passed similar legislation requiring sex offenders to register their online identifiers. Moreover, nearly a dozen other states are currently considering similar legislation to protect our children from sexual predators on the Internet.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
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HAYWARD - An 18-year veteran of the Hayward police department is facing prison time after admitting to having oral sex with two boys.
Forty-one-year-old Jeff Cristofani will register as a sex offender after pleading no contest to two counts of oral copulation with a minor. The plea means he could be sentenced to more than two years in prison.
Cristofani acknowledged he had oral sex with two boys -- one in December 2001 and another in April 1997.
In exchange for his plea prosecutors dropped three other charges. Prosecutors alleged that Cristofani also threatened a 17-year-old boy against telling anyone about what happened.
The sex crimes came to light after one of the victims agreed to secretly record a meeting with Cristofani.
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This is for those sex offenders on probation or parole. See the bold text!
The Tennessee Board of Probation & Parole has sent letters (PDF) to sex offenders it supervises, advising them that they are prohibited from participating in Halloween activities.
Board Executive Director Bo Irvin said, "Protecting the safety and welfare of the public, especially children, is our primary goal. We put these restrictions in writing so there can be no misunderstanding about what is and is not an appropriate activity for a sex offender under our supervision."
The letters advise sex offenders that:
- Neither they, nor anyone in their home can answer the door to trick or treaters on Halloween.
- They cannot pass out candy.
- Their homes cannot be decorated for Halloween, either inside or outside.
- They cannot host Halloween parties at their homes.
- They cannot go to haunted houses, corn mazes, hay rides or any other seasonal activity.
- They cannot be at any function where children are gathered, including private residences.
- They cannot give any Halloween treats to children.
- They cannot wear costumes.
- They cannot take any child trick or treating.
Curfews are another tool probation and parole officers can use in supervising sex offenders. During the rest of the Halloween season, officers will also be making extended visits, both announced and unannounced, to verify compliance.
The Board of Probation and Parole (http://www2.state.tn.us/bopp/home.htm) is an independent seven-member board whose members are appointed by the Governor. The Board is charged with the responsibility of deciding which eligible felony offenders will be granted parole and released from incarceration to community-based supervision. Along with the supervision of those granted parole, the Board is also responsible for supervising felony offenders who are placed on probation by criminal courts.
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STRONSVILLE -- A Strongsville youth football coach, who is also a Wakeman police officer, was caught having sex in a Cleveland Metroparks bathroom.
Metroparks police told us there were three different partners involved with Dan Deusenberry. One of the partners was identified and arrested. There are still two unidentifed suspects.
The Wakeman police chief Tim Hunker took immediate action, and placed the officer on administrative leave.
"If he doesn't resign, my recommendation is termination," Hunker told Channel 3 News.
Channel 3 tried to talk with Deusenberry at his Strongsville home. He declined an on-camera interview, but said he's now getting help for what he calls "deviant sexual behavior."
Mark Hopkins, a parent and the commissioner of the youth football league where Deusenberry coached, didn't know about the man's crime when he suspended him 3 weeks ago. The coach had failed to get a background check required of all coaches in that league.
"I'll change some things. I won't be as nice of a guy to volunteers, said Hopkins. "I'll make sure they're done sooner than three weeks ago and required before they step on the field."
Deusenberry pleaded guilty to public indecency charges and will be sentenced next month.
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State's crackdown easier to apply to strangers; 93 percent of offenders know victims
Even at 46, Deena Harbaugh says it's hard to see her father as a monster.
She loved the "good Daddy" who took her for rides on his motorcycle and watched sports with her. She hated the "bad Daddy" who came into her bedroom at night and molested her for years.
As a sexual abuse survivor, the Dallas woman understands the emotional appeal of harsher sentences for child abusers. But she says the new get-tough Texas laws promise more than they can deliver because they won't affect the vast majority of sex offenders.
"We're focusing on stranger danger," she said of the crackdown, which includes 25-year minimum sentences and the death penalty for some child rapists. "That's not who's molesting the vast majority of our children."
According to federal statistics, juvenile sexual assault victims know their perpetrator a staggering 93 percent of the time. Often, it's a family member. Frequently, it's another child. Rarely is it a stranger.
Texas' push to increase punishment for sex crimes was driven by top state officials wanting to send a "no tolerance" message. Although the laws are politically popular, most such crimes are never reported; those that are prosecuted often end in a plea bargain with a relatively light sentence, and about a third of sexual offenses are committed by juveniles not covered by the enhanced penalties.
Like most survivors, Ms. Harbaugh never told anyone what her father did. In nine years as a counselor, she's known just one client who prosecuted. It wasn't her.
Even when abusers are prosecuted, they rarely get long sentences. A Dallas Morning News analysis of sentencing in more than 13,000 cases of aggravated sexual assault of a child since 1991 found that four of every 10 offenders initially received no prison time at all. And when an offender was sent to prison, less than one in five got 25 years or longer.
Among the reasons: Parents are reluctant to take a relative or friend to trial; children may make poor witnesses; and despite depictions of the tattooed ex-con hiding in the bushes, most sex offenders look like the harmless guy next door.
"We all have a kind of image of what a monster is ... one of them is that guy lurking out there who's going to kidnap our child and sexually molest and abuse them," said Dr. David Lisak, psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, who works with prosecutors, judges and police.
"Unfortunately, the majority of sex crimes involve people like 'Uncle Jimmy,' " he said, "and Uncle Jimmy's not a monster. And all of a sudden we're not so sure Uncle Jimmy should be put in prison."
The strict sentencing laws sweeping the country are a direct response to the horrific abduction of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford of Florida. She was abducted and raped by a convicted sex offender, then buried alive, still clutching a stuffed animal.
"Jessica's Law" as the legislation was called, "sends a message to those monsters who want to hurt our children," declared Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a Republican who championed the bill in the Legislature. "Not in Texas."
Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, had the same reaction when she heard about the Lunsford case.
"It took me about 30 seconds to call my chief of staff," she said, to tell him to find a way to punish sex offenders "firmly and harshly."
The measure she authored took effect last month, but dealing with sex offenders "firmly and harshly" is harder than it seems, experts said.
"It is our family members; it's our friends. It's our big brothers; it's our Little League coach," said Torie Camp, deputy director of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, a nonprofit organization of rape crisis centers across the state. "And when it comes to putting away that person in prison, it gets really difficult."
Ms. Riddle said she's confident the new law will deter and punish those who know their victims and strangers – "anybody who has such a hole in their heart, such a high degree of evil, that they would sexually assault or sexually abuse a child."
Such talk sounds good, Dr. Lisak said, but "it's actually very rare that that kind of political reaction makes for good public policy."
Crimes in which a child is snatched by a stranger are extremely unusual, despite public paranoia. Of almost 800,000 missing children in a one-year period, just 115 were victims of a stereotypical kidnapping, and half of those involved sexual assault, according to the Department of Justice.
The legislative changes are "a way for everybody to feel like they've done something that's going to be real helpful – but not have to really deal with the issue," said Dr. Liz Hodges, director of the incest recovery program at The Family Place in Dallas.
Dr. Hodges said a better way to combat child sexual assault would be more affordable counseling services and greater awareness and education to increase reporting.
Deena Harbaugh worries that instead of keeping more sex offenders off the streets, the new laws may discourage victims from speaking up.
When she was being abused, she didn't know her father's actions were criminal. But even had she known, she said, she probably wouldn't have prosecuted because she wouldn't want the responsibility for sending Daddy to prison or death row.
"I just wanted the abuse to stop," she said. "I didn't want my dad to be killed."
She also didn't want to destroy her family.
Carole Hemler, Ms. Harbaugh's mother, said she had concerns about her husband's behavior, such as when he wrestled with his daughter in a way that didn't always seem playful. But she didn't recognize what was going on at the time.
"I never really dreamed that my husband would do something like that," she said.
Like Deena, she said she's not sure she would have prosecuted.
"I don't know that I would have, especially when you're talking about 25 years or death," she said. "I hope I would have had the strength to say, 'I'm getting a divorce.' "
The abuse continued until Ms. Harbaugh was around 15, when her father fell ill. He died three years later without ever being confronted about the abuse.
Ms. Riddle said she doesn't worry that fewer victims will come forward. Most children don't comprehend the concept of a 25-year sentence, she said.
"If you're the one abused and you're more concerned about your dad going to prison than you are for your safety or your child's safety, that's your decision," she said.
Dr. Hodges said families find it difficult to report a relative or friend because it's hard to believe a loved one would do such a thing. Wives, in particular, may find it difficult to acknowledge that their husband is capable of molestation because they believe it reflects poorly on them. And reporting the offense may destroy the family. They may also be pressured into not reporting friends accused of abuse.
"It's not hard to get the guy hiding in the bushes," she said. "But it's hard to get people to look into their children's bedrooms. We ask children every night in this country to live with their rapist."
Ms. Hemler said she wishes she'd known what was happening so she could have helped her daughter. "I cannot tell you how much shame there is ... that you did not protect your child," she said.
'Far more awareness'
LaTonsha Carraway did what few people do: She prosecuted her abuser as a child, testifying against her father for impregnating her when she was 13 years old.
Ms. Carraway, 33, of Dallas, would like to hear politicians rail less about strangers who snatch children and more about stamping out sexual abuse at home.
"There has to be far more awareness," Ms. Carraway said.
That's why she's telling her story for the first time, painful as it is.
She experienced all the misplaced shame and guilt, the unwillingness to break up the household that keeps many victims from stepping forward. But she said that if children can endure sexual abuse, they can endure the pain of prosecuting.
Though there is often little physical evidence in cases of child sexual assault, Ms. Carraway had indisputable proof: a DNA test that proved her father was also the father of her child.
Freddie Carraway was sentenced to 16 years in prison; he served five.
In the 1990s, after he went to prison, legislators began tightening release policies. Today, 80 percent of sex offenders serve their entire sentences, said Geralyn Engman, manager of the prison system's Sex Offender Rehabilitation Program.
Ms. Carraway is in touch with her family only infrequently. Aside from an occasional twinge of loneliness, she said, she's never regretted pressing charges. She did not send her father to prison, she said, his actions did.
"I'm the person who kind of broke the family secret," she said. "But I don't feel bad about that because I think about the next generation. ... Somebody has to protect the children."
Sometimes victims speak up years later. "What perpetrators fail to realize is that kids keep their mouth shut," Ms. Harbaugh said, "but then we grow up, and then we're adults – and we tell their dirty little secret."
"Mary," who agreed to speak on the condition that she be identified with a fictitious name, reported her uncle for sexually assaulting her – but not until she was 26, years after the abuse ended.
The new law eliminated the statute of limitations for many sex crimes – which used to be 10 years after the victim's 18th birthday – and many survivors are pleased with that aspect. That's good, experts say, because victims rarely come to terms with their abuse until well into adulthood.
Mary reported her uncle for sexually assaulting her when she was 11. The abuse lasted a few months, the Dallas woman said.
It stopped when "I got in trouble for spitting on him," she said. She told her mother what he was doing, but was befuddled by the response.
"The first question she asked me was, 'What were you wearing?' "
Then her mother asked, "What do you want to do about it? It's your choice.' "
"I was just a scared little kid," Mary said, "so she didn't do anything."
Mary said she struggled emotionally for years, even attempting suicide. Then last year, she reported the abuse out of concern for children in the family.
Her mother asked her to keep quiet. "She said, 'You don't know what you're doing; you don't know how this is going to affect the family.' "
But Mary filed charges anyway. At the request of police, she taped a conversation in which her uncle admitted the abuse.
"I've had to disassociate myself from my family," she said, but she has no regrets. "People like that, that don't support me, I don't need 'em if they think that it's OK to molest children."
Last month, her uncle received deferred adjudication – a type of community supervision that is not considered a conviction.
Mary's not surprised he won't serve any time behind bars. Unlike the public image of sex offenders, he's a hardworking, churchgoing family man.
Most Texans are shocked to learn that someone charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child can be sentenced to community supervision, but The News analysis found that 36 percent of such cases resulted in deferred adjudication.
That hasn't changed much since 1991, when a study of seven Texas counties, including Dallas, showed that offenders got deferred adjudication in 40 percent of cases involving sexual assault of a child.
Though prosecutors are frequently criticized for using it, there are good reasons for it, said Shannon Edmonds, director of governmental relations for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association.
"They do it because there is a problem with the case," he said. For instance, physical evidence may not exist. Children may be easily confused on the witness stand. They may not want to testify at all, or their parents may want to spare them the trauma of a trial. Their truthfulness may be doubted, and there have been cases in which children have made false allegations.
And, like Mary's uncle, many sex offenders look good on paper – they support their families, go to church and play golf at the country club, making it harder for judges or juries to see the need to put them behind bars.
In those cases, deferred adjudication offers a way for authorities to keep an eye on an offender and, if he breaks the rules, put him in prison.
When legislators were debating the new law, prosecutors fought to retain deferred adjudication. It stayed, though juries are no longer allowed to give probation on certain charges.
Losing the chance to get jury-ordered probation, combined with the 25-year minimum sentence if the case goes to trial, may result in plea agreements to longer sentences.
"People who got 10 years on a plea bargain may now get 20 years," Mr. Edmonds said. "People who got five years may now get 10 years."
The new laws are "sheer demagoguery," said veteran Dallas defense lawyer Vincent Perini, noting that long sentences were already available. And while plea bargains could result in longer sentences than before, the ability to plead to a lesser offense still exists.
"You wind up going elsewhere to get what you need," he said. "Both sides are creative."
Mr. Edmonds does not expect the death penalty for child rapists to be used frequently – if at all.
Prosecutors may be hesitant to seek the death penalty because defense attorneys can use the fact that the victim was left alive to show that the offender does not deserve to die.
And more important, it's not clear whether the U.S. Constitution allows for execution in any crime that doesn't involve the death of a victim.
"Since there is a chance it will be found to be unconstitutional, whatever prosecutor decides to charge this is going to have to commit his county to a trial that's going to cost several millions of dollars and years of work – and that's not something that prosecutors do lightly," Mr. Edmonds said.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a Louisiana case this session regarding the legality of the death penalty for rape of a child.
'I'm the bad guy'
Nine men enrolled in the sex offender rehabilitation program at the Hightower Unit in Dayton, near Houston, doubt that the harsher sentences will do much good unless awareness and reporting are increased.
Of the group, only one was sentenced to 25 years or more. And seven of them assaulted someone they knew.
If his victim hadn't spoken out, Rob Avara, 49, said, his behavior would have continued unchecked. "I would absolutely have been one of those hidden sex offenders," said Mr. Avara, who is nearing the end of a nine-year sentence for sexual assault of a child.
Most of the men said they've never made amends because contact with victims generally is prohibited.
But if he could, Mr. Avara said, he'd tell her: "It's not your fault. You did nothing wrong. I'm the bad guy."
Those who know their abusers shouldn't worry about turning them in, he said.
"Nice guys don't do that," said Mr. Avara, a father of nine. "If I was a good daddy, I wouldn't be sitting here on my blessed assurance. Good daddies aren't in prison. ...Good men don't rape women. It's the bad ones."
What is the hysteria about? If you have a kid, go with him/her on Halloween, be a responsible parent and be with your child. Then nothing will happen. This is blown way out of proportion. Not a single kid has been harmed by a sex offender on Halloween, not one!!!!! And the media is helping spread this hysteria.
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It's unjust to saddle teens with damning label for life
The state of Georgia regards 28-year-old Wendy Whitaker as such a threat to public safety that it posts her photo and address on the Internet, bans her from living near schools, churches and playgrounds and forbids her from working with children.
What makes Whitaker such a terrible danger?
Eleven years ago, when she had just turned 17, Whitaker engaged in a single act of oral sex with a boy in her sophomore class on school property. That's it.
Though less than two years separated the couple — the boy was about to turn 16 — Whitaker was arrested for sodomy, a charge to which she pleaded guilty and completed five years probation. However, that plea also means that Whitaker will serve a lifetime on the state's sex-offender registry, placing her in the same category as truly dangerous people such as rapists and child molesters. It also imposes severe — some might argue unconscionable — limits on where she can live and work.
Whitaker's case shares many of the same features — and outrages — as that of Genarlow Wilson, the Douglas County man whose 10-year prison sentence for consensual teen sex has recently sparked national condemnation.
Neither Whitaker nor Wilson had a history of sex crimes. Like Whitaker, Wilson was 17 when he engaged in consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old classmate. And like Whitaker, Wilson faces a lifetime on the sex offender registry, a designation that will follow them anywhere they go in the United States.
In fact, Wilson continues to reject a plea bargain that would considerably shorten his 10-year sentence in large part because he does not want the sex-offender label to cast a shadow over his adult life.
"I don't feel like one mistake should cost me 10 years in prison and a lifetime on the sex-offender registry," Wilson says. "I want to be able to go to school and have kids."
Severe tag for low-level acts
That concern is understandable. Federal law requires states to create registries of offenders convicted of sex crimes or offenses against children. It also requires local law enforcement agencies to provide information to schools, day care centers and parents about sex offenders living in the community. In Georgia, sheriff's offices publish the photos of newly registered offenders in their jurisdictions in their local newspapers, and the GBI maintains a registry of all offenders.
However, 22 states, including Georgia, have gone further by imposing residency or work limits on offenders on the registry. Of those, Georgia's law is among the most extreme.
According to a recent count, 14,572 people are now listed on the Georgia registry. While a large number are rapists and child molesters, only 38 are classified by the state as predators, someone "who suffers from a mental abnormality or personality disorder or attitude that places the person at risk of perpetrating any future predatory sexually violent offenses."
- 38!!! Those are the people we need to worry about, not all 14,572 people. This is a serious waste of time and resources.
Obviously, the public has every reason and right to know the whereabouts of those offenders, 12 of whom are behind bars. Just as obviously, the sex offender registry should include those convicted of rape and child molestation, and place restrictions on their activities.
However, the registry doesn't need to include the lowest level offenders, least of all teenagers punished for sex acts that, unfortunately, are now common among high school students. Half of teens ages 15 to 19 have had oral sex, according to a 2005 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. That does not mean that half of teens belong on a sex-offender registry.
Unfortunately, changing state law to remove people such as Whitaker and Wilson is difficult. Instead, the instinct of politicians is always to toughen such restrictions, often without thinking through questions of effectiveness or fairness.
Just last year, the General Assembly again tightened the restrictions. Previous law had barred sex offenders from living or loitering within 1,000 feet of schools, day care centers, parks, rec centers or skating rinks. The 2006 law added churches, swimming pools and school bus stops to that list.
For the first time, the new law also barred sex offenders from holding jobs within 1,000 feet of schools, child care centers or churches.
Repeatedly forced to move
With those changes, offenders who had previously been in compliance with state law suddenly found themselves in violation. If they didn't move or find new jobs, they faced prison.
For Whitaker, a full-time college student studying criminal justice, the law has meant that she and her husband of seven years had to leave their new house in Harlem, Ga., because it was near a mother's morning-out program.
"This is a home we love," she says in a written statement on how the law affected her life. "It has a white picket fence and big American flag outside."
The couple also gave up attending Sunday services for fear of violating the provision against loitering near churches. Whitaker and her husband have now moved twice because of the law, while still paying the mortgage on their original home. She and her husband bunked with her brother-in-law for a time, but Whitaker was concerned that she would eventually be in violation of the law because her niece was about to start school and a school bus would be stopping near the house.
Jeffery York, 23, of Polk County, faces a similar predicament. He, too, was convicted of sodomy for having oral sex with a 15-year-old when he was 17. Because his home was near a school, he moved in with his grandmother last year. When it turned out that she lived within the 1,000-feet limit of a child-care center, York was forced to move again. He now lives in a camper van in the woods without running water or electricity. "I feel like my life is just stuck in the mud because of all the restrictions on me," says York.
The bus-stop provision of the registry law is the most disruptive. Under challenge, the provision is not being enforced now. "There is literally a school bus stop on every corner. The law went way too far — it tried to criminalize people's very existence," says attorney Sarah Geraghty of the Southern Center for Human Rights.
A change is needed
The Southern Center and the Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a class-action lawsuit challenging the residency restrictions; Whitaker and York are among those included in the case, which is still in the courts.
"We know that there is not a danger to society from someone like Wendy Whitaker or Jeffery York," says Geraghty. "We need a law that recognizes when people are not a danger to children."
Georgia law should be changed to reflect the difference between the youthful indiscretions of teenagers, such as Whitaker, York and Wilson, and the predatory acts of dangerous deviants. In addition to putting unfair and unnecessary restrictions on their lives, their inclusion on the list complicates the job of law enforcement agencies charged with tracking those listed on the registry.
"By putting everybody on the registry, you are giving a false sense of security to society," says former DeKalb District Attorney J. Tom Morgan, an internationally recognized expert on the prosecution of sex crimes. Morgan says a zealous prosecution of teens for sex crimes can lead to such absurdities as the Oregon case in which two immature 13-year-old boys faced felony sex abuse charges because they ran down their school hall in February and swatted girls on the backsides.
If convicted, the middle school students would have been on Oregon's sex offender registry for life. Although the two boys spent five days in jail and were barred from school for the rest of the year, a judge dropped charges against them in August after they apologized to their classmates.
Discretion must be allowed
And, unfortunately, it's not hard to imagine similar injustices emerging. In one possible example cited by Morgan, "you've got a 17-year-old who snaps a picture of his girlfriend's breasts using his cell phone, and he's guilty of possessing and distributing child pornography."
Georgia should reserve its sex registry for those who truly pose a danger to others and eliminate those who were involved in consensual, nonviolent acts. It should also create a graduated system that imposes the greatest restrictions on the worst offenders.
The law should also allow sex offenders a greater chance to have their names removed from the registry. Florida, for example, allows teens involved in a consensual sexual encounter with a partner within four years of their age to petition for removal of their names. In Indiana, courts have discretion to rule that young violators found to be in a "dating relationship" with an age difference of four years or less should not be included in the state's sex-offender registry.
This is a complicated and at times highly emotional issue in which flexibility, not hard and fast rules, provide the best balance between justice and public safety.
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IT'S ELECTION TIME - BUST OUT THE SEX OFFENDER ISSUES!!!
You see, it's election time, so bust out the sex offender issues. This man is exploiting the fact that if he uses sex offenders as his campaign, he'll get elected. He knows he won't be elected any other way, so he uses sex offenders to get the gullible sheeple to vote for him, and I'm sure they will follow along as well. You people make me sick! We have a bunch of kids who run for office who love to badger each other, make each other look bad, so they look holier than thou! Sick!!!!!!!
Five convicted sex offenders are featured prominently in a Warren campaign flier that is unusual even in a city known for its no-holds-barred politics.
The double-sided election mailer features color photographs lifted from Michigan's sex offender registry and aimed at a Warren councilwoman hoping to become the city's next treasurer.
The flier states that Carolyn Kurkowski Moceri want to give each of the men --and all other people on the state roster who reside in Warren -- a break on their property taxes, based on remarks she made about a year ago about sex offenders.
- She was trying to make a point, and you evil vampires are blowing it out of proportion...
The group behind the flier defends the content as accurate, but Moceri is crying foul.
Moceri insists her remarks were a "tongue-in-cheek" observation last year about a proposed ordinance to make municipal parks and recreation facilities off-limits to sex offenders.
"It's disgusting to think they would print this. I would never want a child molester to have a tax break. They misinterpreted my words and now they're taking liberty with it," she said.
Officials with Political Action for Voter Education, a Warren-based political action committee that produced and designed the flier, stand behind the content.
"That's what political literature is all about, right?" PAVE Treasurer Thomas Diehl told The Macomb Daily. "The issue has been out there for quite some time."
- No, they need to stop acting like kids and be adults about things. This is bullying, just like in high school...
According to the flier, the five men were listed on the sex offender registry Sept. 30. It doesn't include their names but shows the crime for which they were sentenced, including two for criminal sexual conduct with victims under age 13; two for child sexually abusive activity; and one for accosting children for immoral purposes.
PAVE is a pro-Mayor Mark Steenbergh group. Steenbergh, who is term-limited this fall after three 4-year terms in office, is running against Moceri for treasurer.
Four of the pictured men -- one from each of Warren's four ZIP codes -- remained listed as city residents Thursday.
Joe Munem, a political consultant and PAVE member, said the PAC deliberately chose offenders from each of the city's ZIP codes.
"They're a symbol of every sex offender in the city and that Carolyn Moceri said might be subject to tax relief," he said.
Munem, who also works as Warren's communications director under Steenbergh, pointed out the photographs on the state registry "are out there for the world to see."
"We weren't looking for these guys to have their neighbors come over with pitchforks and knives," he said.
The flier was timed to coincide with the availability last week of absentee ballots in Warren. Munem said it also was mailed to registered voters not on Warren's absentee ballot list. He declined to say how many were sent.
"During the middle of a race I'm not going to discuss mail strategy," he said.
Diehl, whose home address is listed as PAVE's address on the flier, said he has not encountered any public backlash over the content.
PAVE quickly followed with a follow-up punch. A second flier shows an image of one of the five offenders, plus a photo depicting a "family" of five -- and questions who is more deserving of a tax break.
Moceri said she'll be forced to dip into her family's savings to deliver a counter-blow. She said voters soon will receive a flier from her candidate committee in direct response to the PAVE materials. She said the effort might cost her up to $20,000, with the printed reaction likely to go into approximately 25,000 mailboxes.
Moceri said her initial concern about a blanket parks ban for people on the registry was that she believed it would have unfairly target so-called "Romeo and Juliet" young lovers accused of sexual activity who at the time were under the age of 16 -- the age of consent under Michigan law. Such offenders should not be considered predators, she said.
The measure was introduced by City Councilwoman Melinda Moore. The council recently approved the ban by including changes to exempt former Romeos and Juliets.
In a city where mud is part of the political fiber, Moceri also is part of an unrelated controversy involving campaign literature by a local political party.
She and Paul Wojno, a former state representative running for city clerk, are seeing red despite the endorsement of the Warren-Center Line Democrats.
In at least two fliers, the group touts the pair and other candidates, but used their photographs in opposition of four Warren candidates: Wojno's opponent, Councilman Mike Wiecek; council president and mayoral candidate James Fouts; council hopeful Gloria Sankuer; and Steenbergh.
"They're taking major liberties with us," Moceri said. "This is false advertising, because it alludes that I'm against (some) people that I'm not."
Wojno is particularly dismayed because he claims he emphatically told party officials he didn't want his name or image included in aggressive pieces targeting candidates not endorsed by the group.
"It's very troubling," said Wojno, a former state lawmaker. "If I choose to make comments against anyone I'm running against, that should come from my camp."
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The Bangor Village Hall bulletin board will soon have information displayed on registered sex offenders who live in Bangor.
At the village board meeting Oct. 9, trustees directed Police Chief Scott Alo to post names, addresses and photos of known Bangor sex offenders found on the Wisconsin Department of Corrections Sex Offender Registry Web site.
The Web site, which is publically accessible, serves as an online database to inform the public of the whereabouts of registered sex offenders who have been convicted of registerable offenses on or after Dec. 25, 1993.
The searchable site lists photographs, addresses and conviction information.
Board Trustee Jeff Schurhammer brought the matter before the board. Although Schurhammer was not available for comment about his reason for bringing up the issue, the move comes after two sex offenders living in Bangor were arrested in separate incidents.
In September, a registered sex offender allegedly sexually assaulted a child. And in August, another sex offender was arrested for disorderly conduct after allegedly watching children in Village Park.
In both incidents, though, authorities didn’t know either was living in Bangor. One sex offender’s last address was listed as the La Crosse County Jail, while the other’s convicted offense occurred in 1988 — prior to the Web site’s listing.
According to the DOC Web site, there are seven registered sex offenders listed with Bangor addresses. One was convicted of first-degree sexual assault and one was convicted of first-degree sexual assault of a child. Three of the offenders were convicted of second-degree sexual assault of a child, and two were convicted of third-degree sexual assault.
Village President Robin Gjertsen supported the move of posting information on known sex offenders living in Bangor.
“People should know what people look like so if they’re living next to them, they have some idea they are there,” he said.
Alo said had no comment on the board’s directive.
There are some drawbacks to the available information about sex offenders on the Internet, though. As the cases in Bangor show, there can be gaps in the information, and much of the responsibility of notifying a community of the location of a sex offender depends on the offender notifying the DOC of a move.
“The only thing you can guarantee is they are still on the register,” said West Salem Police Chief Ashbeck. “One downfall of printed media is it can be outdated.
“Like anything in life, (the system) is not fail-safe. It’s probably a decent chance that offenders might not report a change of address as they should.”
Chief Tim Hauser said Onalaska hasn’t made public postings on bulletin boards of registered sex offenders.
“We don’t post because the service is already provided by the department of corrections.”
Hauser feels the information on the Internet is pretty reliable.
“It happens, but it’s rare that offenders don’t register. For the most part, they are doing what they’re told and registering.”
According to the DOC Web site, “(The online registry) is not a list of every person who has ever committed, been arrested for or convicted of a sex offense.”
The website also states, “It is against the law to misuse the information from the sex offender registry for personal, unlawful or vigilante purposes.”
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Video available at the site. Make the tax payers pay for the GPS, they asked for it!
SACRAMENTO - The state is having trouble enforcing Jessica's Law. It prohibits convicted sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools or playgrounds. The question is, who is responsible for checking on them?
There was a surprising revelation on Friday that'll make thousands of California families feel uneasy, and it's all because Jessica's Law was written too vaguely.
"While the law mandates GPS-monitoring lifetime for certain registrants, it is not clear about who will be doing that monitoring," said Suzanne Brown-McBride of the Sex Offender Management Board.
The state says after a three-year parole period, it's no longer their responsibility to monitor sex offenders. As a result, no one is watching more than 500 sex offenders who fall under lifetime GPS, but are no longer on parole.
Ultimately, the number will reach the thousands.
"My interpretation is they're off my jurisdiction. If they're not on parole, they're not under my supervision," said California Corrections Secretary James Tilton. "So it's important for us to communicate that to local law enforcement."
- If they are off probation and parole, you cannot legally monitor them for life, thus giving them a life sentence, regardless of what they've done. If and when they commit another crime, lock them up.
Some cities and counties are upset sex offender monitoring has fallen in their laps. They hardly have the money to take on this new task, which can cost $8 a day just to rent the GPS ankle bracelet.
"In general, the county budget is stretched, and this would be an additional burden," said Dan Wall, a lobbyist for Los Angeles County. "It would basically require us to rob Peter to pay Paul, and some other program is going to suffer."
The GPS issue is the latest in a long string of problems associated with Jessica's Law, which 70 percent of voters approved last November. That includes lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of banning sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a park or school.
- That is because of the fear and myths the media and politicians have been spreading to instill fear in everyone. They probably have stock in the GPS market as well, I wouldn't doubt it. So the public sees a law that says "sex offender" on it, and pass it without even considering what it will do, cost, etc. The sheeple will believe anything, and if they pass a law this easy, we are in trouble! Did they see the facts that 90% of sex offenders are NOT a threat, and the recidivism rates are LOW and not high like the myths being spread? No! If they'd know the facts, they might have thought about it more. Was a flier or something sent out explaining what exactly Jessica's law does? Or did everyone rely on the media and politicians to spread lies about the facts?
The Corrections Department asked the Sex Offender Management Board to clarify within 60 days who's responsible. In the meantime, local governments will have to make a choice -- come up with the money, or let sex offenders go without GPS monitoring.
- Only dangerous sex predators should be on GPS, and even then, they should not be on it for life. Every 5 or so years, they should be re-evaluated to determine if they are still a risk, and if not, the GPS removed. And if any of them commit another crime, then they are back in prison for a lot longer time. But you cannot let "Big Brother" monitor them for something they MAY do. The thought police in action...
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The Kentucky Supreme Court has agreed to decide the constitutionality of a state law mandating that sex offenders cannot live within 1,000 yards of a school or playground after a Kenton County judge declared it unconstitutional.
A key issue in the high court's review of the case will be whether the residency restriction law is punitive or merely part of the regulation of sex offenders. The difference is important because the former makes it an unconstitutional ex post facto law, while the latter is allowed.
- It's punitive, plain and simple.
An ex post facto law is one passed to punish a person after the commission of an act. In the residency requirement laws, it applies to all sex offenders, even those who committed their crimes and served out their punishments years ago.
- And this is exactly what it is. I do not see how anybody can see it otherwise. It's punishment, and therefore unconstitutional. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. The Constitution is plain and simple. Above link is from wikipedia, and it doesn't say anything about punishment, it just says "is a law that retrospectively changes the legal consequences of acts committed or the legal status of facts and relationships that existed prior to the enactment of the law", so that is pretty simple to understand to me. People were sentenced under a contract, and after the fact, the rules are changing, so therefore is unconstitutional. Here is another link about what ex post facto is.
It's an issue states across the country are grappling with after they passed laws in the past decade or so to require sex offenders to register with police and then limited where they can live. In Miami, for instance, Florida's laws are so restrictive that the only legal place for a sex offender to live is under the bridge across the Biscayne Bay.
- And who is safe in this situation?
In Ohio, the state Supreme Court is reviewing the case of Gerry Porter, who bought a house in Cheviot in 1991. He was convicted of sex crimes in 1995 and 1999, and is now being forced to move because the house is within 1,000 feet of a school - its back yard is 983 feet from St. Jude Elementary School.
- If he must move, then the state needs to purchase the house for fair-market value and compensate him.
A Hamilton County Common Pleas Court ruled against Porter, saying the move does not violate any of his substantial right. The 1st District Court of Appeals upheld that ruling. However, in another case, the 2nd District Court of Appeals found the residency restriction was unconstitutional.
A similar situation occurred in Kenton County, where District Judge Ann Ruttle upheld the law in a brief, two-page decision, while District Judge Martin Sheehan wrote a 36-page decision throwing out the cases against 11 sex offenders.
All of them were convicted of the sex crimes before the residency requirement laws were changed in 2006. After the new law took force they were charged with violating it because they lived too close to a school or park.
"This court concludes that Kentucky's sex offender residency restrictions constitute a form of banishment, a punishment that is historically and traditionally punitive," Sheehan wrote.
"This court concludes that Kentucky's sex offender residency restrictions promote retribution, a traditional aim of punishment.... This court finds that the residency restrictions imposed by Kentucky law do not bear a rational connection to the interests they are intended to serve and are excessive in relation to any non-punitive purpose which can be inferred."
Sheehan's order said that much of that protection is illusory. The laws are popular with the public because their main impact is against sex offenders, "the political pariahs of our day," he said. A problem with residency requirements is that it merely limits where a sex offender can live, Sheehan said, not what he can do around children.
"Residency restrictions do no restrict the sex offender from sitting on a bench in or near the very playground which serves to restrict his residency," Sheehan said.
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RICHMOND - Killer-turned-artist Manny Hernandez on the prison where he’s finishing an eight-year term: “It’s a blessing to be here.”
Fellow murderer and inmate Raymond Hall likens it to heaven.
“I love this place,” said their warden, Cynthia Tilley. “It’s so calm.”
They’re praising the Carol Vance Unit, founded in 1997 on the outskirts of Houston. It’s the oldest of a rapidly growing number of faith-based prison facilities across the nation.
Even as they proliferate, fueled by the fervor of devout volunteers, these programs are often criticized. Evidence that they reduce recidivism is inconclusive, and skeptics question whether the the prevailing evangelical tone of the units discriminates against inmates who don’t share their conservative Christian outlook.
However, evidence is strong that violence and trouble-making drop sharply in these programs, and they often are the only vibrant rehabilitation option at a time when taxpayer-financed alternatives have been cut back.
Inmates at Vance offer another compelling argument. Unlike many of America’s 2 million prisoners, they feel they are treated with respect. They have hope.
“A bunch of cats in prison, they never had anyone show them love - even their mother and father,” said Anzetta Smith, who served 18 years for attempted murder before graduating from Vance this year. “You get in the program, and everybody shows you love.”
Impressed by the Vance operation, Texas officials have opened 12 additional faith-based dorms elsewhere in the state, accommodating about 1,300 inmates. At one dorm, at the maximum-security Allred prison near Wichita Falls, infractions by the inmates dropped more than 90 percent once they entered the program.
At Vance, a minimum-security prison, fights among inmates are rare, said Tommie Dorsett, a former parole officer who has directed the unit’s Christian-based InnerChange Freedom Initiative since its inception.
He could recall only one incident in those 10 years when a correctional officer used force. “And that officer overreacted,” Dorsett said.
Security at Vance is the state’s responsibility. But the intensive, daylong programming is entirely in the hands of InnerChange, a project of the Prison Fellowship ministry founded by Chuck Colson, the former Nixon aide imprisoned because of the Watergate scandal.
Vance and eight other InnerChange programs in Kansas, Minnesota, Arkansas, Missouri and Iowa operate on the strength of Prison Fellowship’s private financial resources and legions of volunteers.
In Florida, by contrast, the Department of Corrections has taken a more direct role, transforming three prisons - two for men, one for women - into “faith- and character-based institutions” which it runs itself. The department says that inmates at the three prisons committed 30 percent fewer infractions than comparable inmates elsewhere. A state task force recommended creating five more faith-based prisons.
The InnerChange program at Vance is open, on a voluntary basis, to men with less than two years left on their sentences. Sex offenders and inmates with bad disciplinary records are excluded. The days are filled with spiritual and academic classes, community meetings and work duties. Bibles are a common sight on the bedside tables in the inmates’ cubicles. Religious paintings, including eye-catching works by self-taught artist Manny Hernandez, decorate the walls.
Tilley, the warden, said that the security staff is asked to treat the inmates politely. The atmosphere can be a pleasant shock to men arriving from tougher prisons.
“In my other prison, on a daily basis there was rape, drugs,” said Raymond Hall, who was convicted at 16 of murder and hopes to complete his 15-year sentence in early 2009. “When you come to Carol Vance, it’s like a load is lifted. It’s like heaven.”
Hall had just completed a class where readings included Bible passages and pastor Rick Warren’s best-seller, The Purpose Driven Life.
The instructor, Doug Jeffrey, urged the men to focus on using their resources - family, faith, education - to plan for succeeding when they go free.
“When you got accepted for this program, maybe that was the first time you realized God has a plan for you,” Jeffrey said. “You guys are a chosen nation. You go out from prison with a different mind-set from guys not in this program.”
Each inmate is assigned a volunteer mentor who provides counseling before and after release, assisting with job hunting and housing. Outgoing inmates are feted at a graduation ceremony, then leave the prison with their mentor - a sharp contrast to most Texas inmates, who exit with no assistance beyond $50 and directions to the bus station.
Florida’s program also welcomes help from a wide range of volunteers, mostly but not exclusively from Christian organizations. Among them is Allison DeFoor, a former sheriff and judge who volunteers at the Lawtey prison near Jacksonville.
“It didn’t feel like any prison I’d been to in my life,” DeFoor said. “It felt more like a college.”
However, the department’s chaplaincy director, Alex Taylor, sees possible problems ahead if well-motivated inmates are concentrated in a few facilities.
“These type of inmates have a calming effect - they help maintain good work levels and good behavior,” Taylor said. “If we put them all in one institution, it could have a bad effect on the bad guys elsewhere.”
Elizabeth Alexander, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, has qualms about whether the faith-based programs are fair to non-Christian inmates but hesitates to criticize them because they fill a void. Twenty years of tough-on-crime policies have sharply reduced the number of rehabilitative prison programs, she said, and volunteer-driven religious initiatives offer states a low-cost way to meet some of the demand.
In all, at least 10 states have faith-based prison dorms. The Corrections Corporation of America, which operates private prisons, has separate “faith pods” housing about 1,660 inmates at 24 prisons in 13 states.
“The inmates have far fewer discipline issues,” said CCA’s John Lanz.
Although disciplinary trends have been easy to track, it’s been harder to compile data proving that faith-based programs succeed at their core mission - reducing recidivism.
Nationally, federal experts estimate that two-thirds of inmates released from state prisons are re-arrested for serious offenses within three years, and 52 percent go back behind bars. Proponents of faith-based programs insist that they can achieve lower rates. But supportive data remains scarce, and some skeptics say that the programs “cherry-pick” motivated inmates who would be less likely to re-offend under any circumstances.
Only about 10 percent of the inmates released from Florida’s faith-based prisons have been reincarcerated. But an independent study last year also found very low recidivism among Florida inmates with similar characteristics who didn’t go through the faith program.
Similarly, proponents of the InnerChange program at Vance have touted a 2003 study asserting that only 8 percent of its graduates returned to prison. But critics belittled that finding, saying that it measured recidivism only for inmates who completed the program and got jobs, not for the larger number who dropped out and had a high recidivism rate.
“It’s not that these programs are a bad idea,” said Dan Mears, a Florida State University criminologist. “But there’s no good evidence that they work.”
To some graduates, like Anzetta Smith, their own positive experience is evidence enough.
He now works for a tent manufacturer and dates a nurse who shares his newly deepened faith.
“There’s a team of support that’s willing to help with any problem you have,” said Smith, 47, after a weekly self-help meeting in Houston. “Our chances of staying out are way better because of it.”
Leaders of InnerChange and other faith-based programs say they don’t tolerate coercive proselytizing and welcome inmates of all faiths, as well as nonbelievers.
At Vance, the inmates include Quan Pham, 28, a Buddhist whose family came from Vietnam to Texas when he was 2. He’s now in the eighth year of a 10-year sentence for aggravated robbery committed while he was attending the University of Houston.
Pham said he was comfortable with the volunteers who teach Christian principles at Vance. “They say, ‘Try it, you might like it,’ but they don’t try to impose it on you,” he said. “They don’t expect anything from you except to participate.”
However, the InnerChange program in Iowa is the target of a lawsuit filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which contends that state money was used for religious indoctrination. It alleges that cooperative inmates received preferential treatment, while some Roman Catholic inmates - not embracing the evangelical approach - were denigrated.
A federal judge agreed with Americans United. He ordered that the program be shut down and said that InnerChange must reimburse its $1.5 million payment from the state. The case could have ramifications for faith-based programs nationwide. It’s now under appeal, and the program has been allowed to continue temporarily using only private funds, as is the policy at Vance and other InnerChange programs.
Alex Luchenitser, an Americans United attorney, said his group’s primary concern is equal treatment of all inmates, regardless of their faith or lack of one. “Legally, it’s not relevant whether these programs are effective or not,” he said.
InnerChange officials have repudiated the anti-Catholic attitudes recounted during the Iowa trial and insist that they welcome a diversity of inmates.
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A veteran Kissimmee police officer was suspended without pay today after a warrant was issued for his arrest for inappropriately touching a 15-year-old girl.
Leo Martinez turned himself in to the Seminal County jail this afternoon after he learned of the warrant, according to Kissimmee Police Department. He is being held on $10,000 bail at the John E. Polk Correctional Facility for lewd and lascivious behavior conducted by a person over 18.
On Wednesday the Kissimmee Police department was notified that a complaint had been made against Martinez at the Seminole County Sheriff's office. The police department opened an internal investigation and Martinez was immediately placed on administrative leave with pay.
A 15-year-old girl told deputies that in July 2007, while Martinez spent the night at her house, Martinez climbed on top of her in bed and kissed her neck and ear.
She screamed and kicked at him until he got off, according to the offense report from Seminole County.
During an earlier, separate, incident, Martinez had thrown the girl over a chair and got on top of her, the report said.
Seminole County obtained a warrant for Martinez today and he was placed on leave without pay, according to Kissimmee Police.
"Officer Martinez is entitled to due process," said Capt. James Napier, of the professional standards division, in a press release. "Officer Martinez will remain suspended without pay until the internal investigation is completed."
The Kissimmee Chief of Police called the allegations "disturbing."
Martinez has been with the department since 2000 and works in the DUI unit.