Thursday, November 27, 2008
By Barbara Polichetti - Journal Staff Writer
Late in June, in the waning hours of the General Assembly’s 2008 session, a law passed making it a felony for any registered sex offender to live within 300 feet of a Rhode Island school.
The three-paragraph law dropped Rhode Island squarely into the middle of a heated national debate over the treatment of sex offenders who have served their prison sentences.
For the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Hannah Gallo (Email), D-Cranston, and supporters of the measure, the new law is a common-sense response to citizens’ repeated concerns over registered sex offenders who end up living near elementary schools, playgrounds, bus stops and other places children congregate.
“To me,” Gallo said, “it just doesn’t make sense as to why we would let sex offenders live near a school where they can stare out the window at children and perhaps go out and prey” on them.
- You are assuming all sex offenders "prey" on children, which is not the case! All people have rights, to live where they chose, and you are stamping on their rights and violating the Constitution. Read it some time, you might get an education!
Opponents say that all the new law accomplishes is to make Rhode Island the latest state to try to slap a one-size-fits-all solution on a complex problem, and that there is no data to support the theory that restricting where sex offenders live helps to keep them from repeating their crimes.
“The law is ill-conceived and incredibly vague,” Steven Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, said. “Quite simply, it’s a bad idea.”
He points out that in 2006, four years after Iowa became one of the first states to implement restrictions on where convicted sex offenders can live, its statewide association of county prosecutors spoke out publicly against the law.
“The Iowa County Attorneys Association believes that the 2,000-foot residency restriction for persons who have been convicted of sex offenses involving minors does not provide the protection that was originally intended,” the association said in a statement.
THE IDEA for Rhode Island law, Gallo said, came from her constituents concerned about sex offenders in the community. One of the most recent examples, she said, was a case last year in which a registered sex offender moved in less than a block from Cranston’s Glen Hills Elementary School, and there was little that could be done to assuage parents’ worries.
- Sex offenders have been around since the dawn of time, and you are just bypassing the Constitution and trampling on peoples rights, to appease the public, and to "look good" to the sheeple! Show me the evidence on the number of sex offenders who have harmed a child near a school or bus stop, or, where these residency restrictions actually work? Why don't you look at the facts, instead of your personal opinion?
There are about 1,550 registered sex offenders in the state, according to the attorney general’s office, which works with state Department of Corrections as it follows sex offenders after their release. Paula A. Kocon, a special-project coordinator for the Department of Corrections’ Sex Offender and Community Notification Unit, said the state uses a three-tier ranking system to indicate an offender’s likelihood of repeating his or her crime. Level 1 is considered the least likely and Level 3 is considered the most likely.
- So who designates this level, and who does the reviewing of sex offenders to put them into a tier?
Kocon was at the Warwick police station Monday night as officials tried to answer worried parents’ questions about Level 3 sex offender Leo Nadeau’s recent move to the Craig Street area, less than a half-mile from the complex with Toll Gate High School and Winman Junior High. Parents were notified of Nadeau’s arrival in the area in accordance with state laws that allow a public notification process for Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders.
Parents repeatedly expressed a fierce desire to protect their children from harm and said it didn’t seem fair that their sense of safety in their own neighborhood had to be sacrificed for one individual. They noted that Nadeau’s house was across the street from a playground basketball court, which has led many of them to keep their children away from that park.
- Look idiots, all people have rights, period. If you trample on anyone's rights, your rights should be trampled on as well. They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
“So our lives are disrupted,” one man shouted out from the back of the room.
- No they are not, you are letting fear rule your life, and you are disrupting your own life.
COL. STEPHEN P. McCARTNEY, the Warwick police chief, said the department has had many such meetings, and he understood residents’ fears.
“The problem is that it is a very complicated and complex issue,” said McCartney, who is also president of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association. “The first thing you have to keep in mind is that we are talking about people who have finished their incarceration and, in a sense, paid their debt to society.
- What do you mean "in a sense, paid their debt to society?" They HAVE paid their debt to society!
“At the same time, we have to understand that from a psychological point of view, parents are very concerned and want to control the environment to make it safe for their children, so they put a lot of pressure on their legislators. Then a law gets passed, and it’s our job to enforce it.”
- Yeah, the laws that get passed, are knee-jerk reactions from fear spread by the media and politicians. I am sick and tired of people trampling on anyone's rights. If you trample on my rights, you should have the same rights trampled on as well, period.
In the neighboring city of Cranston, Col. Stephen McGrath says he supports the intent of the new law, but sees some problems with enforcement since it is not specific as to what boundaries are to be used in determining the 300 feet and what exactly defines a school. He also said that he shared the view of some national studies that say residency restrictions can give citizens a false sense of security.
“People have to remember that these offenders can drive and are free to travel about,” he said. “There is not a law that prohibits them from visiting someone who lives near a school and staying there for a matter of hours. Obviously, we want to strengthen laws that protect people, but some of the logistics of actually enforcing them can be problematic.”
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL’S office also responded cautiously to the new law.
“We are aware that there may be problems with this law, and we are also aware of the argument against such laws, which is based on studies that show that in at least 9 out of 10 cases of child molestation, the victim knows their attacker well through either family or friends,” Michael J. Healey, spokesman for the attorney general’s office said. “But Senator Gallo is trying to address an issue that is a matter of public safety and much concern, and she deserves a lot of credit for that.”
- Yes, she does, but she must also use common sense, and listen to the experts, and not violate the Constitution just for temporary safety!
Brown said his office has not ruled out a court challenge to the law. With a little over 20 states having such laws, there have been several such challenges across the country, he said, with varying results.
“Among other things, this law does not differentiate between Level 1 and Level 3 offenders,” Brown said. “And it also has no expiration, so conceivably people could be limited as to where they live for the rest of their lives.
“It absolutely gives the public a false sense of security because the statistics are abundantly clear that more than 90 percent of child molestation crimes are committed by family and friends of the victim.”
GALLO SAID SHE was aware of reports that challenge the effective of residence restrictions, but she, along with many fellow legislators, still thought that buffer zones were a good idea.
- Why? Care to elaborate on why you think so?
State Rep. Peter G. Palumbo (Email), D-Cranston, co-chairman of a House committee on sexual offenders, said he supported such restrictions because even if the minority of cases involved strangers, there were still horrifying occurrences such as the nationally chronicled New Jersey case of 7-year-old Meagan Kanka, who was molested and murdered by a convicted sex offender who lived near her.
- So did the person live near a school? It doesn't matter if you make the buffer zone 100 miles, THEY CAN STILL GET IN A CAR AND DRIVE!
“These guys, for whatever reason, have some sick, twisted monster in them,” Palumbo said, “and if we let them live near our schools, they’ll be sitting there looking at the kids, and it will be tempting for them.”
- Wow, you think like this, and are a member of the committee on sex offenders? So I see no sex offender will get a fair hearing or anything else with you on the board. Not all sex offenders have harmed children, and you are once again, making a blanket statement and putting all sex offenders into one group, assuming they are all like John Couey or worse. That is total BS!
Said Gallo: “Children are basically trusting, and when they’re walking to school, they’re more likely to be more receptive to someone who lives in their neighborhood who approaches them rather than a complete stranger.
“I think parents have the right to know that their children can walk to school safely. They should not have to live in fear of their neighbors.”
- So stop blowing stuff out of proportion and increasing the fear factor!
"We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given up by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed."--Martin Luther King, Jr.
With the government's relentless assault on our pocketbooks and freedoms, the economic and fiscal picture for many Americans is bleak. The national debt is approaching $10 trillion. People are losing their homes and jobs, and five million have fallen into poverty. At the same time, lucrative tax breaks exist for the corporate rich, while the average citizen is heavily taxed. The Constitution and civil liberties have been undermined at every step. And don't expect any of these developments to let up anytime soon.
Understandably, many are bewildered. But now is not the time to shrink from our responsibility as citizens. In fact, we should welcome the chance to regain control of a government out of control. And if there is to be any change, it is going to be brought about by us, "we the people," not the politicians. No president, no congressman and no judge can do what you can.
There is no better time to act than the present. Fear, apathy, escapism or reliance on some government official to save us will not carry the day. It is within our power as citizens to make a difference and seek corrective measures. That principle is the basis of the American governmental scheme.
We need to think like revolutionaries. Thus, there can be no room for timidity or lukewarm emotions. What we need is passion, dedication and courage. And in the words of Martin Luther King, we have to demand change from the oppressors.
There are certain things that are common to every successful struggle. Here are a few suggestions from my book, The Change Manifesto (2008):
- Get educated. Without knowledge, very little can be accomplished. Thus, you must know your rights. Take time to read the Constitution. Study and understand history because the tales of those who seek power and those who resist it is an age-old one. Understand the vital issues of the day so that you can be cognizant of the threats to freedom.
- Get involved. Become actively involved in local community affairs, politics and legal battles. Think nationally, but act locally. If our freedoms are to be restored, taking action at that local level must be the starting point. Getting involved in local politics is one way to bring about change. Seek out every opportunity to voice your concerns, and demand that your government representatives account for their actions. Be relentless.
- Get organized. You can overcome the behemoth with enough cunning, skill and organization. Play to your strengths and assets. Conduct strategy sessions with others to develop both the methods and ways to force change.
- Be creative. Be bold and imaginative, for this is guerilla warfare--not to be fought with tanks and guns but through creative methods of dissent and resistance. Creatively responding to circumstances will often be one of your few resources if you are to be an effective agent of change.
- Use the media. Effective use of the media is essential. Attracting media coverage not only enhances and magnifies your efforts, it is a valuable education tool. It publicizes your message to a much wider audience. It is through the media--television, newspapers, Internet sites, bloggers, and so on--that people find out about your growing resistance movement.
- Start brushfires for freedom. Recognize that you don't have to go it alone. Engage those around you in discussions about issues of importance. Challenge them to be part of a national dialogue. One person at a city planning meeting with a protest sign is an irritant. Three individuals at the same meeting with the same sign are a movement. You will find that those in power fear and respect numbers.
- Take action. Be prepared to mobilize at a moment's notice. It doesn't matter who you are, where you're located or what resources are at your disposal. What matters is that you recognize the problems and care enough to do something about them. Whether you're eight, twenty-eight or eighty-eight, you have something unique to contribute. You don't have to be a hero. You just have to show up and be ready to take action.
- Be forward-looking. Develop a vision for the future. Is what you're hoping to achieve enduring? Have you developed a plan to continue to educate others about the problems you're hoping to tackle and ensure that others will continue in your stead?
- Develop fortitude. What is it that led to the successful protest movements of the past? Resolve and the refusal to be put off. When the time came, Martin Luther King, for one, was willing to take to the streets for what he believed and even go to jail if necessary. King risked having an arrest record by committing acts of nonviolent civil disobedience. He was willing to sacrifice himself. But first, he had to develop the intestinal fortitude to give him the strength to stand and fight. If you decide that you don't have the requisite fortitude, find someone who does and back them.
- Be selfless and sacrificial. Freedom is not free--there is always a price to be paid and a sacrifice to be made. If any movement is to be truly successful, it must be manned by individuals who seek a greater good and do not waver from their purposes.
- Remain optimistic, and keep hope alive. Although our rights are increasingly coming under attack, we still have certain freedoms. We can still fight back. We have the right to dissent, to protest and even to vigorously criticize or oppose the government and its laws.
The key to making a difference is in understanding that the first step begins with you. As Mahatma Gandhi said, "We need to be the change we wish to see in the world."
You can email Ricky's mom at email@example.com, and donate ANYTHING you can, here, and enter the above email address into the TO box, after clicking the SEND MONEY link. Any donation is appreciated!
Blind Woman with 2 Children in Sever Financial Distress.
Ricky's Life and that of his mother Mary, who suddenly went blind, is in the state of panic because of the United State's government and it's ignorant lawmaking.
Ricky has a story:
Ricky was a good teen with a promising career in the armed forces. But his life was for ever ruined by the united states government... unless we can get these laws changed. Now, while living with his mother, who recently went totally blind.. Ricky and his mother are living on just over $500.00 a month. That means all Ricky, his blind mother and Ricky's little 12 year old brother are about starving to death. Soon to be evicted.
Ricky and Amanda
Ricky and Amanda met at an Iowa teen club on a Saturday night in December of 2005. Ricky was 16 and Amanda told him she was nearly the same age. They got to talking, learned they were from the same town outside the area and hit it off. They started dating and had sex on two occasions, definitely not the right thing for kids that age to do, but not uncommon. It ended when Amanda told Ricky's mother she was only 14 and asked her not to reveal this to Ricky. Actually, she was 13.
Several months later Amanda ran away from home. At the urging of the friend she was staying with, she contacted the police and told them she was afraid to go home. The police picked her up and took her home.
Ricky was questioned by police and acknowledged that he did have sex with Amanda on two occasions but that this ended when he learned that Amanda had deceived him about her age. Ricky and his mother met with Amanda's parents to discuss the situation. Given the circumstances, Amanda's parents weren't interested in pressing charges. But the District Attorney had different ideas. On May 3 Ricky, now 17, was arrested, charged with two felony counts of third degree sexual abuse and found himself in jail.
The public defender that represented Ricky made it clear that going to trial could very well result in a 20 year prison term for the sexual abuse felonies he was charged with. Ricky was advised that if he pled guilty to one count of lewd or lascivious acts with a child, there would be a deferred judgment, he would not have to state a felony conviction on job applications and he would not have to register as a sex offender. But minutes before the plea hearing, Ricky was informed that the laws in Iowa had just changed and that the plea deal would include the requirement that he be registered as a sex offender for a period of 10 years. He wept at this devastating news but decided to take the plea deal anyway to avoid the possibility of a long prison term. A deferred judgment was issued on the charge of lewd or lascivious acts with a child and Ricky was sentenced to two years probation and was registered as a sex offender.
Ricky's family left Iowa and returned to Oklahoma where they had previously lived. Because of the three year age difference between Ricky and Amanda, Oklahoma law required that Ricky register as an aggravated lifetime sex offender. Shortly thereafter, in response to federal incentives created by the Adam Walsh Act, Oklahoma adopted a law requiring Ricky to be registered for life with tier 3 predator status, which is reserved for the most dangerous sex offenders. When the Oklahoma authorities became aware of Ricky's sex offender status, he was removed from high school. He's prohibited from being in the presence of children other than his younger brother. He can't go near schools, day care centers or parks. His brother, age 11, can't bring friends into their home. (If his brother had been a girl, Ricky would have been removed from his home.) His social life has been destroyed. He's been ostracized, taunted, harassed and videotaped by neighbors and members of his community. He flees when spoken to by girls his age. His identity has been devastated. He's lost his sense of security, his expectations for any kind of normal life and his ability to trust.
Prior to this tragic series of events, Ricky had planned to join the Navy and ultimately to pursue a career in law enforcement. With the assistance of an Oklahoma legislator, he was given the opportunity to earn his GED. His life now consists of studying online at home for a college degree and caring for his mother who has recently lost all of her vision. Despite the obvious obstacles, Ricky now hopes to someday become an Attorney.
Lawmakers have taken a "get tough" stand on sex offenses. The resulting polices have had serious unintended consequences. We as a society feel very strongly about protecting our children from sexual predators, and we should. But when this public zeal crates political incentives to enact policies that create the kind of tragedy we see in Ricky's life, we are reminded that popular outrage is not a reasonable foundation for sound and effective legislation. We as citizens of this nation must look more deeply at the complete set of implications that go along with legislation, considering not only the strength and toughness of the laws we adopt, but the justice that will or will not result when these laws are applied to the real situations that occur in our society. Society pays a price when we recklessly overreach in creating tough laws on hot button issues. Most of us pay none of it, but bask in the sense of security it brings. The price is paid by a small minority, in denominations of human lives. There isn't a single politician who's worried about losing the votes of people like Ricky and his family. When the broader community fails to rise up against such injustices, we ensure that they will persist. In this democracy it is we, the people, who are ultimately accountable.
Please consider signing the petition below. It is a call for legislative action to change the laws that have done such great harm to Ricky and others like him. When we unite in encouraging our legislators to act responsibly to correct these injustices, we pay the just price for our freedom.
Go to their website to see the rest of their info. http://www.rickyslife.com
Those lawmakers in Oklahoma should be hanging their heads in shame! Their shortsighted laws about keeping Ricky on a Sex Offender Registry for life, has made it impossible for this young man to find a job.
Ricky is 19 years old now. He is a fine young man who would willingly work TWO jobs just to help support his BLIND mother and his 12 year old little brother. But, no, they would rather see this family barely able to eat, and on the verge of losing their home, than to stand up and admit they have enacted laws which destroy families.
Lawmakers! Take a good look in the mirror and ask yourselves if this is what you intended when you set out to "save just one child"? Ricky was a child! His little brother is still a child. Their mother is Blind! And you, with your Lifetime Registry make it IMPOSSIBLE for Ricky to earn an income? Would you rather they become homeless and begging for bread? How many children will THAT save?
Ricky was seduced by a 13 year old girl who lied about her age. Yes! I am blaming the "victim". She was NOT a victim. She was a willing participant, engaging in intimacy twice with a guy she was dating. What is it about this act which makes it "The Crime of the Century"? The girl is now eating just fine. She has a roof over her head. And what about Ricky??? His 12 year old brother??? His Blind mother??? Who are the REAL victims here???
How many other Rickys and their families are being destroyed by your laws? Do any of you have an ounce of compassion and a degree of common sense which would allow you to recognize the truly dangerous criminals from the Rickys of this world who are not a threat to anyone?
This is the Christmas Season. A time for Peace and Goodwill. And a time for Giving. Maybe you could give this family their lives back. Get Ricky and the other Rickys off that Registry. And, if I dare say, maybe you could help atone for what your laws did to this family, and send them a Holiday check so they at least have a roof over their heads to celebrate Christmas in.
I do not believe you are BAD people. But, I do believe you have enacted BAD laws. You can just as easily change them.
EXCERPTS FROM COMING OF AGE IN AMERICA: THE MISAPPLICATION OF SEX-OFFENDER REGISTRATION AND COMMUNITY NOTIFICATION LAWS TO JUVENILES
View the article here
Read other horror stories of teens being labeled "sex offender"
By Elizabeth Garfinkle, University of California Berkeley
Published in California Law Review
January 2003, Vol. 91 Issue 1, pp. 163-208.
Despite the scientific community's understanding that "[c]hildhood sex play is not psychologically harmful under ordinary circumstances and is probably a valuable psychosocial experience in developmental terms," every state in the nation has an age-of-consent law making sexual activity below a certain age a crime. In about half of all states, this includes sexual activity between age-peers under the age of consent, which is usually eighteen. In 60% of states, lewd-conduct laws make all sexual activity illegal under the age of fourteen. Since every state now has a minimum age well over twelve, according to the above research, the majority of children could be guilty of a sexual offense, in addition to being irreparably harmed victims in Congress' eyes. And in many states, and age-of-consent violation triggers a Megan's Law registration requirement.
...Unsurprisingly, in a number of studies, the majority of adolescents found guilty of sexual offenses used no force at all. Of the ones that did use force, only 4% to 31%, depending on the study and the age of the victim, involved the use of some sort of weapon. The lack of a clear distinction between consensual and nonconsensual illegal sexual behavior results in an often arbitrary distinction between perpetrators and victims, with the majority of perpetrators being low-income boys, most of whom are already being observed by the juvenile justice system and thus subject to extra scrutiny...(pp. 186-187)
Part I of this Comment examined how only the most horrifically violent sexual offenses were invoked by the creators of Megan's Law. The Comment postulated that lawmakers were motivated to protect children from murders that were especially scary because they involved sex; they were not motivated by the numerous relatively minor sex crimes that fall under Megan's Laws. However, even if a registration requirement were narrowly tailored and triggered only by murder or seriously violent assaults, the only kind of crime with a lower recidivism rate than sex offenses is murder. Thus, even a notification requirement that was only triggered by the kinds of horrible crimes invoked during the Megan's Law debates would still not be effective in preventing those crimes because so few of these offenders pose a danger of reoffending. (p. 200)
Children who commit sexual offenses generally have the same vulnerabilities and are in the same need of protection as the child victims whom the proponents of Megan's Laws claim to protect. But Megan's Laws have the unique propensity to gravely harm some children in the hope of protecting an unknown few. Many child sex offenders are victims of sexual abuse themselves. Many more engage in common sexual behavior, sometimes healthy, sometimes inappropriate, that they will most likely learn to manage. Megan's Laws stigmatize and isolate these children, limiting their opportunities for normal growth and exacerbating the kinds of vulnerabilities that lead to future criminality, both sexual and nonsexual. When lawmakers vociferously declared that children were in more need of protection than convicted sex offenders, they never indicated that some of the sex offenders they were targeting were themselves vulnerable children.
The American criminal justice system has long been a battleground between the warring goals of punitive retribution and utilitarian crime prevention. In many aspects, retribution is winning to such an extent that payments for crimes are exacted throughout the offender's life. Mandatory minimums have exponentially increased time behind bars for certain drug violations. In many states, felons forfeit their political rights even upon release. And more states are enacting automatic transfer to adult court for some juvenile offenses. Juveniles fortunate enough to remain in the juvenile justic system have generally been protected from these increased consequences. Now Megan's Laws have dismantled this last protective holdout. By applying Megan's Laws to juvenile adjudications, states throw out a century of juvenile justice jurisprudence and scholarship to protect an even older tradition of fear about childhood sexuality. In so doing, lawmakers perpetrate irreparable damage to the very children they claim to protect. (p. 205)
Written by James Straub
BLUE HILL — Generation after generation of youngsters has ventured from home and into the cruel world with this time-honored parental advice echoing in their minds: “Don’t talk to strangers.”
Turns out the well-intentioned words to live by are way off the mark when it comes to protecting our offspring from the horrors of child sexual abuse.
It would be better to admonish our children to beware of Uncle Charlie, the youth choir director, the babysitter and others near and dear to them.
It would be better yet to teach them the value of talking openly to their parents.
Barbara Schwartz, noted expert in the field of sex offender treatment, made those points before an audience of about 100 area residents who packed the Blue Hill Farm Country Inn Nov. 19.
Schwartz’s talk, “No More Victims: Sex Offenders and the Community,” was sponsored by “Breaking the Silence,” a support group for victims of sexual abuse, family members and community.
In introducing Schwartz, host Jim Schatz said that society is marginally effective at taking deviant behavior out of the community, but not at all effective at taking such behavior out of the offender.
Focusing on child molesters, Schwartz spoke for nearly two hours on managing sex offenders in the community.
“Stranger danger is not where we should put our energy,” Schwartz said, adding that children are far more likely to be sexually abused by a family member, babysitter, minister, Scout leader or some other trusted adult.
Despite a media blitz that creates a scary climate through shows such as “CSI” and “Law and Order,” sadistic pedophiles — those who hurt or kill children — are extremely rare, accounting for less than 10 crimes a year in the United States, Schwartz said.
“They’re all about sex and murders,” Schwartz said of popular television fare.
Far more common are fixated pedophiles, those obsessed with prepubescent children.
“A fixated pedophile is the individual we think about when we think of a child molester,” said Schwartz.
Statistically, 90 percent of child sexual abuse victims in the United States are molested by family members, friends and close acquaintances, Schwartz said, adding that more than 50 percent are molested by other children or adolescents.
“We can teach kids to be afraid of strangers,” she said, “but the guy next door that you’ve known for 20 years is the real danger.”
There is a fine line to observe, however.
“If we scare them too much, they become paranoid about all adults,” Schwartz said. “Who are they going to tell?”
When children tend to fear or distrust all adults, sexual crimes against them go unreported.
Schwartz said it is wise to teach children appropriate boundaries, personal distances and the right to privacy.
She said parents should not force their children to kiss or sit on the laps of relatives and friends, and they should teach their children that when an adult tells them “it’s our secret,” that’s a cue to come and tell their parents what is happening.
“Teach them to use their intuition and their instincts,” said Schwartz. “If it seems yucky, it probably is. Tell someone.”
The ultimate goal regarding child sexual abuse is “no more victims,” but until the goal is reached, there will be victims and offenders.
Schwartz, who serves as the director of Maine’s sex offender therapy program with the Department of Corrections, directed many of her remarks at keeping the community safe.
She urged her audience to educate themselves about sexual predators in order to offset the misinformation and the myths surrounding the subject.
Among those myths is the belief that sex offenders always repeat their crime.
“It’s not true,” Schwartz said, adding that the recidivism rate among child molesters is 15 percent across the board, including those who have received treatment and those who have not.
- I don't think I believe that. This is one persons opinion, without providing the studies to prove this. There is many "studies" out there, that range from 3.5% recidivism rate, all the way up to 80% or more. I tend to believe the lower is the more accurate. You can review offenders records, to see if they have multiple sexual crimes, and that should prove it. Why doesn't someone get the records of all 630,000 sex offenders, examine their criminal history, and then put out the results of the study? I think you might be shocked, but, that is my opinion!
Another myth, she said, is that treatment doesn’t make a difference. Studies refute that and clearly show that treatment reduces recidivism rates.
The popular notion that banning sex offenders from places where children gather will significantly protect children is ill informed, Schwartz said.
“If you want to molest a child, being 2,000 feet from a school isn’t going to keep you from doing that,” she said. “Ninety-three percent occur in our homes. Places frequented by children are the safest places. The isolated kid is at risk.”
Schwartz also labeled as a myth the notion that the only way to deal with child sex offenders is to put them behind bars.
Likewise, the notion that tougher legislation is the only solution is a myth.
“I’m not suggesting we don’t incarcerate sex offenders,” she said, “but, again, don’t paint them with a broad brush.”
Schwartz offered alternatives, such as putting sex offenders on probation, GPS monitoring, strict loitering laws and more.
- I don't agree with the highlighted either. GPS and strict loitering laws still will not prevent a sexual crime, it has been proven, and even she said further above, that banishing sex offenders will not do anything, so loitering laws and residency restrictions do nothing. Parents need to teach their children, and if many children are congregating in the same place, then there is more chances that they will NOT be harmed. Like the lady said, it's the isolated child who is in more danger.
She said a “containment approach” works well when a team of probation officers, counselors and other support providers surround the offender with supervision.
Shunning offenders from the community is counterproductive, as offenders become unable to find housing or employment.
Schwartz said they end up homeless or in very temporary shelters and drop off the radar screen.
“If they can’t find a job, they can’t pay for therapy,” Schwartz said. “They need appropriate therapy and they need circles of support and accountability to reintegrate back into communities. That’s something communities can organize for little money.”
She said communities can identify appropriate rental housing for offenders, who often make great tenants because they come with probation officers, must not be involved with drugs and must pay their rent on time. Communities also can offer jobs and welcome offenders into a church with appropriate safeguards.
Schwartz works in Maine prisons where she directs the RULE program, a therapy program for sex offenders.
The program is based on the principles of “responsibility” for the impact of their offenses on victims and community, “understanding” their actions, “learning” new patterns of behavior and “experiencing” new skills to live in a community.
“It’s all about no more victims,” said a participant in the RULE program who had come to the talk with Schwartz.
His presence reinforced the responsibility aspect of his prison therapy program as he encountered several audience members who remain victims of sexual offenses.
The audience, too, appeared to benefit from meeting face-to-face with a sex offender.
The “Breaking the Silence” group was formed more than a year ago as victims and families coped with allegations of sexual abuse by a mentor at Liberty School in Blue Hill. Howard Evans was charged last March with unlawful sexual contact and two counts of assault.
In August, he pleaded guilty to the charges.
Several audience members said issues raised by Evans’ unlawful behavior remain unresolved.
“More needs to be done for victims to rehabilitate them back into the community,” said one woman. “It takes a lot to speak out. There is re-entry for victims as well as offenders.”
- Right now, with the current hysteria and disinformation out there, it's almost impossible for an offender to re-enter society!
Schwartz said forming groups to support victims is an excellent community response. She praised the “Breaking the Silence” group for its work.
The local support group will meet more frequently in response to a recent arrest of a Blue Hill man on three counts of unlawful sexual contact stemming from alleged incidents with a 10-year-old girl in 2004.
“Breaking the Silence will meet every other week,” said program organizer Hugh Curran.
The group meets at the Blue Hill Congregational Church. For information, call 667-4580.
IN - Instead of NEWS 25 reporting real news, they stoop to media vigilantism to harass sex offenders, and scare the hell out of people, for more ratings and viewers! What happened to the good old days?
Story by: Courtney Fischer
EVANSVILLE - NEWS 25 is working to keep your family safe.
- Yeah, nice little opening comment. It should read "NEWS 25 is working to harass sex offenders, increase fear, so we can get more viewers and ratings!"
How close do sex offenders live to where your kids wait for the bus each morning? We've compared the bus stop and sex offender lists.
About 360 sex offenders live in Evansville. According to Indiana law, they can't live within 1,000 feet of a public school, a park, or a youth program center.
But what about other kid friendly places-like the bus stop? No state law says sexual predators have to stay away while kids stand on the corner each morning.
"I always worry about kids waiting at bus stops-that's the nature of the job," says Mike Mentzel.
He's in charge of Evansville's school busses. He showed NEWS 25 a map of where sex offenders live and where bus stops are located.
NEWS 25 asks, are kids safe right now getting on a bus where these stops are?
- They are just as safe as they have ever been. What about a drunk driver coming along and plowing into them? Or a gang member doing a drive by, or a drug dealer selling them drugs that could kill them?
"Yes," Mentzel says. "In the years I've been here-15-we've never had an incident."
- But that comment doesn't make for a good sound bite, and I'm surprised the reporter left it in the article.
We took the map, and checked out just how close are those bus stops to sex offenders. Across Evansville, sex offenders live very close to where kids catch the bus.
On the corner of Edgar and Oregon NEWS 25 saw two young children get on a bus. Guess what? Within one city block that corner live five sex offenders-all of them convicted of child molestation, including one who lives in the house just a few feet from the stop.
- Yeah, so what? Are they committing a crime?
________ is the sex offender who lives in that house. He says he knows about the bus stop on the corner.
NEWS 25 asked ________ if parents should be worried that he lives nearby a bus stop.
"Not with me-with most sex offenders I would say yeah they should be worried," said ________.
- This is the words of one sex offender, and MOST sex offenders are not a threat. If they were, there would be a lot more sex crimes being committed right this second!
NEWS 25: "Really? Why would you say that?"
________: "Because a lot of sex offenders don't have any remorse or consideration for what they've done to children."
- This idiot doesn't speak for all sex offenders, only himself!
________ isn't the only offender on the block. ________ lives about ten houses down. We knock on ________'s door and ask if he knows there's a bus stop at the end of his street.
- We knock on his door, so we can harass him, so we can get a big story to scare the hell out of people, and harass this person!
"No m'aam," ________ says. ________ says he's let everyone in his neighborhood know that he's on the registry.
"It's been over twelve years since anything happened-you can turn the camera off me," said ________.
NEWS 25: "So you don't think anyone here has any reason to be worried about it?"
"Not with me they don't," said ________.
James Smith lives a few streets over-on Florida Street. He's a parent to three kids who ride the school bus.
"It makes me real nervous," Smith says.
He's talking about the sex offenders living a few houses down. Smith says he and his wife thought twice before moving over here.
- Yet they did anyway.....
"We were really surprised how many we have in this neighborhood," said Smith.
Smith's kids catch the bus in front of their house.
NEWS 25 asked him if it would be a different story if they had to walk down the street to their school bus.
"These days, I wouldn't-I would make plans to maybe have to be at the bus stop with them-even a block down," said Smith.
We go back to the school board to ask Mentzel: is there any way to make these stops safer?
- So what does the media think? Do you think they should kick out the offenders, violating their rights, or just move the bus stop? Or maybe, stop feeding the hysteria, which is uncalled for.
"I'm going to go with what currently is in practice and what's happening, so I'm saying it's in good practice and it's safe and fair," Mentzel says.
"What are sex offenders supposed to do? They've got to live somewhere, and these busses are everywhere," ________ says. "I don't know what else can be done about it, except for parents keeping an eye on their kids on these bus stops. What else can we do?"
- But that would inconvenience the parents, who want the government to protect them. They do not want to protect themselves, but want Big Brother to do it for them.
That's advice coming straight from a convicted sex offender.
- What the hell is that comment suppose to mean? So what is your opinion Ms. Fischer?
The EVSC's director of bus transportation says many bus stops have been moved based on where certain predators live. He says if parents are worried about their kid's safety at a bus stop, call the EVSC.
So that's what we discovered in Evansville.
NEWS 25 wants to hear what you think about this story. Please send us an email by clicking here. We will post highlights from your comments.
- Yeah, send them your comments about their harassment of sex offenders!