Sunday, August 31, 2008
A little old, but still relevant! Why don't they use the same reasoning with registry and residency restrictions (a.k.a. Punishment?)
By Mike Baker, Associated Press Writer
RALEIGH — The U.S. government cannot keep sex offenders in custody beyond the end of their prison sentences, a federal judge has ruled, striking down a law aimed at holding some in mental hospitals.
Federal prison officials have moved to prevent the release of five men at a facility in North Carolina, arguing that the men fit the category of "sexually dangerous."
The process of holding such offenders at hospitals, known as civil commitment, was approved under a federal law signed in 2006.
The prisoners won't be released immediately, because U.S. District Court Judge W. Earl Britt suspended the decision until the government has a chance to file a formal motion to stay.
Civil commitment is unconstitutional because the federal government cannot hold a person indefinitely out of fear that the individual will commit a crime in the future, Britt said in his ruling. To do so, he wrote, the government would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person is "sexually dangerous" to commit them indefinitely.
Even then, Britt wrote in the order filed Sept. 7, "there is serious question as to whether the federal government could ever prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an individual is both suffering from a mental illness or abnormality such as pedophilia and unlikely to refrain from sexually violent conduct in the future as a result of that illness."
The Federal Medical Center in Butner houses only male prisoners. And though the ruling immediately affects the Bureau of Prisons' procedures only in the eastern district of North Carolina, Butner is one of only a handful of such hospitals in the nation.
"That's one of the major sites where civil commitment takes place," said Corey Yung, a law professor at Chicago's John Marshall Law School. "So, it's ground zero for this sort of litigation."
Under the 2006 legislation, the government needs to prove only with "clear and convincing" evidence -- a lower standard than reasonable doubt -- that the person is "sexually dangerous." That's not enough proof to afford an offender due process, Britt said.
The federal public defenders who argued on behalf of the sex offenders declined to comment, and the U.S. attorney's office in Raleigh did not immediately return calls.
Several states, but not North Carolina, also use civil commitment to extend the confinement of sex offenders.
States will probably wait until the courts sort out the issue before changing their laws, especially since a court in Massachusetts wrote a much shorter decision recently upholding civil commitment there, Yung said.
"There's no point in rewriting a law until everyone's on the same page," he said.
See the graphs at the bottom of the page! Which once again prove the recidivism rates are LOW and not HIGH like everyone seems to believe!
Research shows that fewer than 7 percent of the sex offenders completing the DOC’s Sexual Offender Treatment Program at the Monroe Correctional Complex return to prison.
Sex Offender treatment is part of the comprehensive effort to increase community safety. DOC believes sex offender treatment is a key component of its Re-entry Initiative, which is designed to help offenders begin to receive the treatments, education and job training they need in prison so that they return to society making choices that will keep them out of prison.
An estimated 95 percent of the sex offenders sentenced to prison eventually return to the community.
That makes the Twin Rivers Sex Offender Treatment Program for men at the Monroe Correctional Complex and a similar program at the Washington Correction Center for Women in Gig Harbor valuable tools in the struggle to help them become law abiding citizens.
DOC knows treatment is not a cure for sexual deviancy. Therefore, the Monroe program’s three main goals are:
- Helping offenders learn to reduce and manage risk
- Providing information to help the department and its community partners monitor and manage offenders more effectively
- Evaluating and improving treatment
Sex offending usually is a learned behavior, therefore a key pillar of the treatment is that offenders can learn to avoid sexual aggression as well as the skills they need to live responsibility in the community. Treatment begins with comprehensive assessments that include psychological tests, clinical interviews and other techniques designed to define treatment goals and strategies for each offender. Counselors study what has sparked past offenses and then help to define the attitudes, thinking and behavior skills that are needed to reduce the likelihood of re-offending.
Program participants receive individual and group therapy. Group sessions generally have 12 to 14 members and meet from six to 10 hours per day.
Group therapy’s goals are to help offenders:
- Take responsibility for assaultive behavior
- Learn how to understand their patterns (cycles) of criminal behavior
- Learn relapse prevention and other management skills to reduce risk of reoffense
- Learn the attitudes, thinking skills and behaviors needed to safely reside in the community
- Prepare to learn new skills and knowledge
Additional classes and sessions address sexual deviancy, life skills and other topics.
Offenders vary widely in their motivation and commitment to change. Treatment is likely to be successful to the extent that the offender is able to:
- Recognize and understand the factors that contributed to his or her offense(s).
- Monitor themselves and their environment to detect changes indicating that their risk to reoffend is increasing.
- Develop the skills necessary to intervene, manage and reduce risky behavior
- Remain willing and able to apply monitoring and intervention skills in a timely and effective manner, including seeking outside assistance when necessary.
Offenders admitted to the sex offender treatment programs must meet the following criteria, although some exceptions are allowed on a case-by-case basis:
- The offender must have been convicted of a sex offense for his or her current or a previous term of incarceration
- He or she must be eligible for release at some future date
- He or she must acknowledge having committed at least one sex offense and believe treatment may reduce the risk of re-offending
- He or she must volunteer for the treatment and agree to follow its rules and expectations
Program administrators may make exceptions to those rules for offenders who report committing sex crimes that did not lead to charges, those who believe they might commit sex crimes upon their release or for those whose crimes were sexually motivated, but they were actually convicted of a non-sex offense such as Burglary or Robbery.
Treatment priority is given to the highest risk offenders. But lower risk offenders may be admitted for such factors as the offender:
- Used a high level of violence when committing his or her crime
- Likely committed more offenses than his or her official record shows
- Expresses an intention to commit future sex offenses
- Engages in sexually aggressive behavior in prison
- Experiences thoughts and fantasies related to sexually abusive behavior and is bothered by them
Offenders can be terminated from treatment for assaults and fighting, sexual behavior, violating confidentiality of others in the program, failing to make progress in treatment or being placed in a high security category such as maximum.
- It seems to me like, if they are having sexual behavior problems, even in prison, then that should be more of a reason they get treatment, not kicked out!
Treatment has been a part of DOC’s comprehensive program to protect the public since 1989. The Twin Rivers treatment program at the Monroe Correctional Complex is one of the largest such programs in the country. Its capacity is 200 offenders at a time, although the 2007-09 biennial budget provided $4.9 million to treat 400 offenders at a time. DOC also plans to build a 200-bed treatment center for sex offenders who are already incarcerated at the Airway Heights Corrections Center near Spokane.
All adult male sex offenders in DOC prisons may volunteer for the program. Because of the lengthy waiting list, most offenders enter treatment only when they are within 18 months of release. Offenders are expected to continue receiving treatment after leaving prison for up to three years through aftercare programs available throughout the state.
Many of the sex offenders don’t volunteer to participate in treatment, although DOC has hired more sex offender experts and is providing more information about the program to offenders in an effort to increase participation.
- I'd like to hear more about these "experts!"
The Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor offers similar treatment for approximately 10 of the 25 female sex offenders incarcerated there.
An analysis of recidivism among sex offenders for the years 1991 through 2000 found that 14 percent of sex offenders sentenced to DOC custody had committed a new offense (although not necessarily a sex crime) within five years of release from prison.
View the article here
TRENTON (AP) — Seven troopers who were suspended after a woman claimed she had been raped at one of their homes will not be charged with a crime, a prosecutor said on Thursday.
Stephanie Kurowsky, a spokeswoman for the Middlesex County prosecutor, said that the case had been closed, but would not comment further.
Lawyers for the troopers said that the system had worked and that their clients had been cleared.
“Our clients are elated that they have been completely exonerated,” the lawyers said in a joint statement. “They look forward to resuming their careers and their lives.”
But it was not clear when or if the troopers, who have been suspended with pay for more than seven months, will return to the State Police.
In December, a woman told the authorities that she had been raped by a group of troopers she had met at a Trenton nightclub. She claimed this occurred at the Ewing Township home of one of the troopers.
No formal charges were ever filed as investigators — first from the Mercer County prosecutor’s office, then from Middlesex County — looked into the account.
The woman’s lawyer, Nat Dershowitz, said his client believed there was enough evidence to go ahead with charges against all seven troopers.
“The victim is extremely upset that the D.A.’s office is not going to present the case to the grand jury and is not going to prosecute the matter,” Mr. Dershowitz said. “She feels she has been left without any justice.”
He said that there had been delays in the investigation and that his client had not been treated fairly. He also said it appeared that the case had been closed administratively, not with a grand jury’s deciding that there was not enough evidence to prosecute.
The accuser was a student at the College of New Jersey, in Ewing Township, at the time she reported being raped.
This is just insane. Isn't there any guards at the shelters watching people? If there is, then what is the problem? This is like the Leper colonies, or how the blacks were treated back in the 50-60's.
The Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office has had a sex offender report to a local shelter.
The offender came in Saturday and reported to the shelter manager that he was a sex offender, Sheriff's Assistant Chief Deputy Herman Walters said.
The offender did as he was supposed to and was taken to a shelter location in the Zachary area that had been set up for registered sex offenders.
- Wonder what this "other" shelter looks like? Probably just like a prison on concentration camp!
"We are working closely with the Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office and other agencies in monitoring the expected influx of sex offenders," said Michael Wynne, a supervisor with Louisiana Probation and Parole and the Central Louisiana sex offender coordinator for the state.
Sex offenders are not being housed in general evacuation shelters, Wynne said.
The adults-only shelter was created after passage of Act 285 of the Louisiana Legislature in 2006, which requires the segregation of registered sex offenders. The Department of Social Services has been tasked with running the shelter.
When sex offenders arrive in a community, they have three days to register and 21 days to make public notification.
At a shelter, offenders are supposed to report their status to security or the shelter director.
Wynne said Probation and Parole officials are working with local law enforcement agencies and the community to ensure sex offenders are not staying in the general shelters and the community is aware of their presence.
"This is a communitywide concern and one we are addressing," Wynne said.
He said law enforcement is on alert, and the community's help is appreciated.
His office already had received calls about potential sex offenders in the community not registering before the weekend.
"We have zero tolerance," Wynne said.
In 2005, a hurricane evacuee was accused of fondling a child while staying in the Rapides Parish Coliseum following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
It's all about getting another conviction under their belt, and not about justice.
Colorado attorney regulators are moving forward with an ethical-misconduct case against the former Larimer County assistant district attorneys who prosecuted Tim Masters, according to a source close to the 8-month-old inquiry.
Terry Gilmore and Jolene Blair, now district judges in the same county, face "at a minimum" public admonishment for violations of professional standards, the source said. The Office for Attorney Regulation, a division of the state Supreme Court, is expected to release specific findings of its investigation in early to mid-September.
Tim Masters' conviction — for Peggy Hettrick's 1987 murder in Fort Collins — was vacated this year following revelations that the prosecution withheld evidence favorable to Masters' innocence claim. Also, advanced DNA analysis found none of Masters' genetic material on Hettrick's clothing.
The judges, through their Denver attorney, Craig Truman, declined to comment.
If Gilmore and Blair contest the alleged violations, the case could go to a hearing before a judge or panel. They also could reach a settlement by accepting certain findings.
"For the integrity of the criminal justice system, at the very least a public censure needs to happen," said Masters attorney David Wymore, who said he has not been informed of the inquiry's findings.
Absent any direct physical evidence linking Masters to the homicide, the former prosecutors relied on a psychologist's theory that Masters' teen art renderings reflected a rehearsal fantasy to kill Hettrick. Last year, Wymore and a special prosecution team discovered that information disputing that theory, including a former FBI profiler's comments, were kept from Masters' original attorneys before his 1999 conviction.
Under Supreme Court law, evidence beneficial to a defendant is required to be turned over to him. Adams County District Attorney Don Quick concluded that the former DA team violated state evidence-discovery rules by retaining the profiler's statements and documentation suggesting Hettrick's wounds were surgically precise.
In appeals hearings, Wymore has questioned whether the DA pair had conflicts of interest because of their social ties with another suspect, the now-deceased Richard Hammond, an eye surgeon and sex offender who lived across the street from where Hettrick's body was found. Though some detectives had identified Hammond as a suspect in Hettrick's death, he was not investigated. Gilmore had been a dinner guest at Hammond's house, and Blair was a patient at his clinic.
State regulators launched an inquiry into the much-publicized case on their own accord. Two other investigations were spawned by Masters' successful appeal: a state attorney general probe to find Hettrick's killer, now underway, and a Weld County DA investigation into whether Jim Broderick, the lead investigator who built the case against Masters, was guilty of criminal misconduct. The Weld County DA declined to prosecute Broderick, even though he criticized the detective's handling of the case.