Sunday, December 16, 2007

4.5 Percent of Inmates Report Sexual Victimization in the Nation's State and Federal Prisons

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WASHINGTON, Dec. 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- An estimated 4.5 percent of state and federal prisoners reported a sexual victimization in a survey mandated by the Prison Rape Elimination Act, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics announced today. About 2.1 percent of all inmates reported an incident involving another inmate, and 2.9 percent reported an incident involving facility staff members. An estimated 0.5 percent of inmates reported being sexually victimized by both another inmate and by facility staff. In half of staff sexual contacts (1.7 percent) the inmates said they were "willing."

The survey was conducted in 146 state and federal prisons between April and August 2007, with a sample of 23,398 inmates. Ten prison facilities had the highest sexual victimization rate, ranging from 9.3 percent in the Coffield Unit in Texas to 15.7 percent in the Estelle Unit in Texas. There were six facilities in which no inmates reported any incidents of sexual victimization.

The inmates reported an estimated 56 incidents of inmate-on-inmate nonconsensual acts per 1,000 inmates. They also reported an estimated 85 incidents of unwilling sexual contacts with staff members per 1,000 inmates and 82 incidents of "willing" sexual contacts with staff per 1,000 inmates.

An estimated 0.8 percent of inmates nationwide reported being injured by sexual victimization, approximately 0.5 percent by other inmates and 0.3 percent by staff members. Injuries included anal or vaginal tearing, knife or stab punctures, broken bones, bruises, black eyes and other less serious injuries.

The survey consisted of an audio computer-assisted self interview (ACASI) in which inmates, using a touch-screen laptop, interacted with a computer-assisted questionnaire and followed instructions via headphones. All of the selected state and federal prisons permitted the survey to be conducted. While inmate participation was voluntary, 72 percent completed the survey.

Survey responses represent inmate allegations. Despite efforts to reassure inmates that their reports would be kept confidential, some inmates may not have felt confident in reporting their experiences. At the same time, some inmates may have made false allegations. Based on administrative surveys in 2006, about one quarter of the allegations brought to the attention of correctional authorities were determined to be unfounded.

The Act establishes a zero-tolerance standard for the incidence of rape in prisons in the U.S. and requires BJS to conduct an annual data collection to measure the incidence of prison rape in at least 10 percent of the nation's correctional facilities. It also requires the Attorney General to provide a listing of institutions ranked according to the incidence of prison rape.

As a consequence of sampling error, the survey cannot provide an exact ranking for all facilities as required under the Act. Furthermore, it does not allow a definitive identification of the three prison facilities with the highest rates of sexual victimization. However, it is possible to statistically identify a small group of facilities with the highest rates of sexual victimization.

Data from local jail inmates are still being collected. Rankings based on a sample of 302 facilities are anticipated next spring.

The report, Sexual Victimization in State and Federal Prisons Reported by Inmates, 2007 (NCJ-219414) was written by BJS statisticians Allen J. Beck and Paige M. Harrison. Following publication, the reports can be found at:

For additional information about the Bureau of Justice Statistics' statistical reports and programs, please visit the BJS Web site at:

The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice and assist victims. OJP has five component bureaus: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; and the Office for Victims of Crime. Additionally, OJP has two program offices: the Community Capacity Development Office, which incorporates the Weed and Seed strategy, and the Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (SMART) Office. More information can be found at:

Sex Offenders and Murderers Welcome

MA - Chicopee aldermen delay sex offender ordinance

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CHICOPEE - The brakes have been put on a proposed sex offender ordinance, while a watered-down tag sale ordinance and aldermanic name change are scheduled to move forward.

The Board of Aldermen's Ordinance Committee discussed all three proposed ordinances last week. The board will vote on the tag sale and aldermanic name change tomorrow at 7:15 p.m. in Aldermanic Chambers in City Hall.

The Ordinance Committee had been working on the sex offender ordinance for months, proposing to limit those sex offenders considered the most likely to reoffend from living within 500 feet of a school, park, passive recreational area and licensed daycare center. On Tuesday they tabled the proposal.

Police Chief John R. Ferraro Jr. has consistently spoken out against the proposed ordinance, saying his force knows exactly where all 26 sex offenders who are categorized Level 3 live in the city. The department does regular checks on the home and work addresses of sex offenders. Ferraro has said he fears an ordinance would force sex offenders to become homeless, which would make it more difficult for police to keep track of them.

In addition, the committee is waiting to see what happens with proposed state legislation that proposes tougher sentencing guidelines and would also create zones where sex offenders would not be allowed to live.

"We're waiting to see what happens at the state level, and we're giving the chief the time to see if what he's doing is working well," At-large Alderman James K. Tillotson, the Ordinance Committee chairman, said. "The police chief was very strong on that. He felt what they were doing now was working well."

Ferraro could not be reached for comment.

"They're (police) visiting the homes. They're visiting places of employment," said At-large Alderman Shane D. Brooks, committee vice chairman. "They're going above and beyond."

The proposed tag sale ordinance has been modified. Originally, people would be limited to three tag sales a year, pay a $5 fee for each tag sale and be fined $50 for violations. Police would enforce the ordinance.

The Ordinance Committee decided to make it a zoning issue, rather than an ordinance. The newest proposal would still limit people to three tag sales a year and a $50 fine, but there would be no fee, and the building inspector would be the enforcement officer.

"We went the less restrictive route," Tillotson said. "We're going to try this and see how this works."

Brooks said the revised proposal makes sense.

"There's probably only seven or eight violators in the city who really abuse it," Brooks said. "We're hoping people are responsible."

And, some day, the Board of Aldermen may be called the City Council. The aldermen have been discussing the name change for almost two decades.

The Ordinance Committee held a final public hearing on the proposal last week. The full board will now vote to ask the Legislature to amend the city charter to change the name and clean up other archaic language in the charter. If the board approves the name change it will go to the mayor for approval and then to the Legislature.

"We've got a job to do. You can call us whatever you like," Brooks said. "We understand our role. It doesn't matter to me."

FL - Judicial corrections - What Georgia can teach Florida about hysteria

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The hysteria about sex offenders, so disproportionately destructive of the lives it prosecutes, is beginning to ebb -- at least in Georgia. Florida should learn lessons from its neighbor.

First, in late October, the Georgia Supreme Court declared "grossly disproportionate" the 10-year prison sentence of Genarlow Wilson, a star high school athlete caught on videotape having sex with a girl at a New Year's Eve party. Wilson was 17, the girl was 15, the sex was consensual. But Wilson was convicted in February 2005 of aggravated child molestation, a charge that carried a mandatory, minimum 10-year prison sentence at the time. In 2006, the Georgia Legislature amended the law to reduce the crime to a misdemeanor punishable by no more than a year in prison. The Legislature inexplicably refused to apply the leaner sentence to Wilson.

It was left up to the high court to restore some justice: "Although society has a significant interest in protecting children from premature sexual activity," the court ruled, "we must acknowledge that Wilson's crime does not rise to the level of culpability of adults who prey on children." Wilson, who should not have been punished to start with, lost almost two years of his life to prison. In Florida, it's a second-degree felony for anyone 18 or older to engage in sexual acts short of intercourse with someone younger than 16, and a third-degree felony even for someone who's younger than 18 to do so. When the offense goes beyond touching, rape statutes apply. In every conviction, the individual is branded a sex offender or a predator.

The Florida Legislature earlier this year passed a "Romeo and Juliet" law that gives judges authority to remove from the sex-offender registry individuals punished for sex acts committed as teens. But the burden is on the offenders to seek redress. Short of being removed from the sexual-offender registry, offenders in Florida must live within the confines of that branding even after having served their punishment. Florida restricts offenders and predators from living within 1,000 feet of that vague designation -- "where children gather." Cities such as Deltona have extended the restriction to 2,500 feet, making most of the city off limits for offenders and predators (the city ordinance doesn't distinguish between the two).

On that score, too, the Georgia Supreme Court has taken a more just approach. Georgia has a statewide 1,000-foot residence restriction for offenders and predators, like Florida. Unlike Florida, the restriction kicks in even when a school or a day care center is built within 1,000 feet of a residence where an offender has been living all along, forcing the offender to leave. That's not to say that Florida's law is necessarily more generous. Earlier this year, several Florida offenders released from prison were forced to live under a bridge in Miami because they couldn't find a place clear of the residence restrictions.

In a Nov. 21 ruling, the Georgia court unanimously struck down that state's residence restriction, calling it overly vague and restrictive. "Under the terms of that statute," the Georgia court ruled, "it is apparent that there is no place in Georgia where a registered sex offender can live without being continually at risk of being ejected." The court reasoned that the restriction violates the Fifth Amendment protection against taking property without just compensation. The reasoning must have sounded familiar to Deltona officials, whose restrictive ordinance is provoking similar arguments from offenders living in the city -- and demands from judges: Deltona is appealing two judges' orders that the city pay the cost of public defenders representing offenders being prosecuted there.

The backlash against residence requirements and similarly punishing laws against sex offenders is justified, and it's taking place in several states as judges measure the restrictions against the evidence. There is no evidence that residence restrictions improve a community's safety. To the contrary. By forcing offenders onto the fringes of society, offenders -- who, unlike predators, rarely re-commit a sexual offense -- are less likely to reintegrate into society, hold jobs, maintain family bonds and feel part of their community. Living restrictions end up doing the opposite of what they're intended for by feeding into ex-offenders' alienation.

Residence restrictions for anyone who's served a punishment should be illegal. It's not just a Fifth Amendment matter, but a matter of basic fairness. Hysteria is not evidence to the contrary.

WA - Landlord defies UW, still houses sex offenders

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Despite the opposition of Gov. Christine Gregoire and the University of Washington, the doors of Carol Clarke's University District rental properties remain open to convicted sex offenders.

Earlier this year, the UW persuaded Gregoire to order the state Department of Corrections (DOC) to remove convicted sex offenders on probation from Clarke's five rental houses in the densely populated neighborhood north of the campus. DOC had to find new housing for 10 of the 13 convicted offenders who lived in Clark's homes.

DOC still won't allow convicted sex offenders under its community-supervision program, or on probation, to live in Clarke's homes. But that hasn't stopped her from accepting convicted sex offenders who are no longer on probation and thus have no restrictions on where they live.

Clarke is adamant that convicted sex offenders deserve a place to live and said most offenders have been model tenants in the seven years she has rented to them.

She said Gregoire and UW "don't own the property. They act like they do."

"I know how hard these [convicted sex offenders] have fought to become better people. They're trying to do it right."

In the months since UW President Mark Emmert brought his concerns about Clarke's tenants to Gregoire, the 69-year-old landlord has allowed two new convicted sex offenders to move in and is accepting rental agreements from others who are off probation.

Eric Godfrey, UW's vice provost for student life, said the university is still concerned about the high concentration of sex offenders in the area, where some 6,000 students live. Godfrey said he wasn't aware Clark was accepting offenders who are off probation as tenants but admits there is nothing the school can do if they aren't on probation.

"This is the first I have heard of it. We have to have a conversation with DOC," Godfrey said.

Three sex offenders on probation still rent from Clarke, because the DOC couldn't find adequate housing for two of them and the third comes off supervision in the next few weeks, corrections officials said. One of the three is a Level 3 offender, considered to be the state's most dangerous and most likely to reoffend.

Once sex offenders complete probation, they are no longer required to abide by the rules set forth by the DOC but must register their addresses with local law enforcement.

Community-corrections officers, local law enforcement, mental-health-treatment providers and an aide from Metropolitan King County Councilman Larry Gossett's office have spoken to Gregoire's staff to try to get her to change her mind about letting offenders on probation live under Clarke's roofs. But a spokesman for Gregoire's office said the governor's decision stands.

"I thought there was no objective foundation for Dr. Emmert to call the governor to say 'get these folks out of our neighborhood,' " Gossett said Friday. "There are more men who are in the Greek fraternities in this same neighborhood who have been accused of sexual harassment, or alleged date rape, and they're not being put out of their houses."

State Sen. Debbie Regala, D-Tacoma, recently met with university officials to express her disapproval over what she considers a "knee-jerk" reaction. Regala thinks Clarke is a good landlord who "is doing the right thing in providing stable housing for sex offenders."

"It is important to recognize that not every sex offender is a predator," she said.

Regala said she suggested to the university that it better educate students about the dangers of being assaulted not by convicted offenders on probation, but by friends and acquaintances.

Seattle police Lt. Clay Monson said he's aware of the UW's demands that all sex offenders be forced from the area, but the department "is not going to do anything special or different" because of it.

Of the 54 residents Clarke has living in her University District homes, 10 are convicted sex offenders. That includes five no longer on probation who have been Clarke's tenants since before Gregoire and the DOC got involved.

Clarke said she carefully reviews each offender's criminal history, mostly renting to pedophiles instead of offenders with a history of crimes against young men or women. The Snohomish woman said she checks references and even talks to the DOC before granting offenders permission to live in her homes.

Corrections officials say they have never heard of a resident in Clarke's University District homes committing a crime against a UW student.

Clarke's house rules are simple: no parties, no drugs, no drunkenness, and tenants must have a job. She encourages offenders — who pay up to $395 for a room and utilities — to go to church.

"These people are so grateful. They will jump all kinds of hoops to stay there," Clarke said. "They are just so good. If I tell them not to stand on the porch and stare at girls, they'll come into the house."

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or

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