Friday, December 5, 2008
By Barbara Polichetti - Journal Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE — Patty Wetterling has spent 19 years trying to find out what happened to her son, Jacob, abducted at age 11 while riding his bike near the family’s Minnesota home.
But although she is well aware that statistics show sexual assault is the prime motivation in child kidnappings, Wetterling doesn’t back tough residency restrictions for convicted sex offenders.
“It’s such a complicated issue,” she said yesterday, after her keynote address to a statewide conference on managing convicted sex offenders left her listeners in tears. “People want simple answers, and there aren’t any.”
Instead, Wetterling said, people have to be willing to realize that the ways to make sure convicted sex offenders who are released from prison will not repeat their crimes have to be as varied as the offenders and their methodology. And, she said, communities will have to deal with the ugly truth that most child molesters know their victims very well.
“Everybody wanted to help us find Jacob,” Wetterling said in addressing more than 225 law enforcement officials, victims’ advocates, counselors and probation officers gathered at the Marriott for the day-long conference. “But nobody really wants to have to look too closely at people in their church community or members of their family.”
Yesterday’s conference was organized by the Rhode Island Sex Offender Management Task Force and financed by a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, with much of the planning done by Day One, a statewide support and advocacy agency for victims of sexual assault and other violent crimes.
The conference, and Wetterling’s visit, come just a few months after Rhode Island passed its first residency restriction for sex offenders, making it a felony for them to live within 300 feet of a school. The law has drawn sharp criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union, and some Rhode Island police chiefs have also raised questions about it.
Peg Langhammer, Day One’s executive director, said yesterday that she does not support such laws, because not only do they fail to address the complexity of dealing with sex offenders, they could also have unintended effects, such as causing some to try to dodge the registration process and hide from authorities.
Langhammer said that it’s difficult to find a balance between making the public feel safe and helping convicted sex offenders get their lives back on track. She said it’s particularly complicated since the phrase “sex offender” covers criminals from rapists to child molesters.
One thing that is clear, A.T. Wall, director of the state Department of Corrections, said yesterday, is that with a state as small as Rhode Island, there is “no such thing as not in my backyard” when it comes with having to deal with sex offenders. Noting that a registered sex offender lives nine houses from his Providence home, he said there are about 400 sex offenders in prison in Rhode Island and more than 1,500 who are free on probation or parole.
For Wetterling, her husband and their three other children, life changed irrevocably on Oct. 22, 1989. Jacob was riding his bike home from a nearby convenience store in St. Joseph, Minn., when he and his friends were accosted by a masked man with a gun. The others were let go, but the man took Jacob, a kind-hearted youngster who his mother says loved peanut butter, playing sports with his brother and fishing with his dad.
As one of the conference’s keynote speakers, Wetterling, a former math teacher who now serves as director of sexual violence prevention for the Minnesota Department of Health, said she came to Rhode Island to “talk about hope.”
“The topic of sex offenders is one that promotes fear, and I know that fear because I lived it,” she said. “I lived it and I didn’t like it so I have moved [toward] hope. I have hope that I will find out what happened to my son.
“And we must have hope that sex offenders will succeed in their rehabilitation, because that is the ultimate safety for our children.”
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — A southwest Missouri lawmaker wants to make it easier for people to know whether they live near a methamphetamine maker or dealer.
- Yeah, got to get those votes and brownie points from the sheeple, while he flushes their money down the drain!
would create an online registry for certain meth-related drug convictions that would be modeled after the state's existing sex offender list. The measure, filed by Rep. David Sater (Email), R-Cassville, is similar to a bill he filed in 2008.
The 2009 session doesn't begin until Jan. 7, but lawmakers could begin filing legislation Monday. Submitting a bill early means it will begin moving through the legislative process on the first day but does not necessarily mean it has a greater chance passing. Through Friday, senators had prefiled more than 100 bills and four proposed constitutional amendments; House members had prefiled 70 bills.
The meth registration requirements would apply to any Missourian found guilty after Aug. 28 of a variety of drug crimes, including trafficking, distributing, delivering or producing meth, selling it within 2,000 feet of a school or 1,000 feet of public housing, and knowingly allowing a minor to buy or transport meth.
- So why isn't the meth registry going to be retroactive like the sex offender registry? Funny how when it involves sex offenders, they pass ex post facto laws, but other laws are not. Why is that? So if they are accused of selling meth within 2000 feet of a school, are they going to be exiled, like sex offenders, and cannot live within XXXX feet of places children gather? If not, why not? If it's fair for one group, it's fair for all.
Those on the meth offender list would be removed seven years after the conviction or guilty plea.
- Why are they not on it for life? Meth kills! More unjust and unfair laws.
Several states have considered legislation that would create online registries of meth offenders and Tennessee, Illinois, Minnesota and Montana already keep lists.
Missouri's meth offender list would be posted on the Internet and maintained by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, which also maintains the list of more than 7,200 registered sex offenders. But unlike the sex offender registry, individual profiles on the meth offender list would not be updated regularly and wouldn't necessarily include a picture of the offender.
- And why not? Yes, this is discrimination!
Highway Patrol spokesman Capt. Tim Hull said Friday that would make the meth list less labor intensive than running the sex offender registry.
For Sater's 2008 bill, the Highway Patrol estimated that it would cost about $53,000 to create and $1,400 per year to maintain. Last year's legislation was never considered by a House committee.
- So why does the cost of this so cheap, when the sex offender registry is in the millions? I think someone is pulling some chains somewhere.
Read the full bill text here:
THIS NATION, THIS STATE and this community are losing the ability to detect when they have zoomed out of the bounds of simple common sense. It shows by their enforcement of policies and laws.
Locally, for example, elderly men and women who purchase tobacco products in certain convenience stores are told to produce an identification that shows their birth date before the sale can be completed. Even though it is profusely obvious that they are at least 18, the legal age to buy cigarettes and the like, they must dig in their wallets or pocketbooks to prove it.
Armed and uniformed police officers are instructed to do the same. When is the last time someone at a convenience store saw a 17-year-old sworn police officer?
Yes, anyone of questionable age, like someone who looks borderline 18 or younger than the legal age, should be carded. That makes perfect sense. But taking a blanket approach to age determination, treating people who are obviously in the autumn of their years as if they were a younger or older teen, is wholly absurd. It’s a policy that lacks common sense, even if the flawed motivation or defective objective is “to be fair” to everyone.
It’s not being fair. It’s being ridiculous.
There are Georgia’s sex-offender laws, too — again, like the ID policy, a blanket approach to treating those who have committed a sexual offense. The law requires sex offenders to register with the community in which they reside and to comply with certain rules, like living a certain distance away from places where youth normally gather.
By now, everyone is familiar with the case where an adult woman has been told to relocate because she committed an indecent sexual act at the age of 17 with a 16-year-old boy. She is suing the state for being lumped in the same category as rapists and adults who molest children.
Anyone with the least bit of common sense would know performing a sexual act at ages 16 and 17 is nowhere near the same as a 40-year-old man molesting a 7-year-old girl. They should not be treated the same, yet they are in this state, and that’s wrong.
Then there’s the revelation that the federal government has been mailing blanket payments, millions of dollars in farm subsidies, to millionaires, including ones who do not live in this country. All totaled, some 2,702 recipients of the federal assistance have incomes in the high millions of dollars. For bureaucrats who don’t know this already, they don’t need the financial help.
No company that depended on a profit for survival would dare have done anything like that. Only government employees who can tap into unlimited resources — like our earnings and incomes — would act without common sense and send checks for thousands of dollars to just anyone.
We need to get back to some basic rules of common sense in this country, and we need to do it before the rest of us are no longer able to tell the difference.
By Stephen Gurr - email@example.com
A 20-year-old Florida man who faced a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years and lifetime registry as a sex offender if convicted of child molestation was acquitted by a Hall County jury Friday.
_____, who was 17 when he was accused of molesting a 4-year-girl he was babysitting in an Athens Highway mobile home, wept after the jury found him not guilty on two counts of aggravated child molestation, his lawyer said.
"He was very happy," said _____'s court-appointed attorney, public defender Anne Watson. "He's a very soft-spoken man of few words, but he had tears in his eyes."
The jury of five men and seven women spent less than an hour deliberating the case. Jurors were not available for comment after the verdict.
Watson, who spoke with some jurors afterward, said they were skeptical when presented with evidence that the accuser first spoke of the supposed molestation some seven months after it allegedly occurred.
"They said there was way too much reasonable doubt, and as parents, they felt like if their child had been abused, they would have seen something," Watson said.
The four-day trial featured dueling medical experts who differed in their interpretation of a physical exam of the child. The defense expert said a mark on the child's body that was presented by the state as evidence of an injury was a natural occurrence.
The prosecution also sought to show that _____ had molested another child. An 8-year-old girl testified she was fondled by _____ while the two were alone together in Florida.
Neither of the young girls could point out the accused in the courtroom, and the alleged victim's testimony in court this week differed significantly from a forensic interview that was videotaped soon after the allegations surfaced, Watson said.
_____, a Hurricane Katrina refugee from Mississippi, lived in Gainesville for seven months in 2005 and 2006.
_____ has spent the last year and seven months in the Hall County jail awaiting trial. Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin twice denied bond on the basis that _____ had no connections to the community and could be considered a flight risk, Watson said.
A jury was originally picked for the case in August, but the trial was postponed when Tropical Storm Fay prevented key witnesses from traveling to Gainesville.
A college student posing as a pregnant 13-year-old was told at a Planned Parenthood clinic to lie about the age of her baby's father to skirt Indiana laws on parental consent for abortion and on reporting child sex abuse.
According to a report in the Washington Times, Lila Rose, 20, went undercover as a 13-year old named "Brianna," who said she was pregnant by a 31-year old man. Rose, president of a pro-life organization at UCLA, recorded the interaction with a hidden camera; the video has been posted on YouTube.
The video shows "Diana," a nurse at Planned Parenthood in Bloomington, Ind., telling Brianna that she is required to report the pregnancy to Child Protective Services, because it "could be reported as rape." But she goes on to tell Brianna that if she lies about the age and identity of her baby's father, she can avoid turning him in.
"I didn't hear the age. I don't want to know the age," Diana says in the video.
She tells Brianna, "You've seen him around, you know he's 14, he's in your grade and whatever. You know what I mean?"
Indiana law requires that sexual acts between an adult and children under 14 be reported to law enforcement and Child Protective Services.
The nurse also is seen giving Brianna information on where to get an abortion in Illinois, where parental notification laws are not enforced.
The Washington Times reported that Rose said her organization had taped several examples of similar conduct.
Planned Parenthood of Indiana suspended the nurse on Wednesday, the Times said, and issued a statement.
"We are deeply concerned about the content of the video. ... The apparent actions of the employee would be in violation of our strict policies and procedures," Betty Cockrum, the state chapter's president, said in the statement.
The organization said it would investigate the incident.
By Karen Williams
I'm glad to hear the various thoughts that sex offender laws, particularly those in North Carolina, have provoked.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as we continue to ponder this issue:
First, the fact that some sex offender laws are too extreme does not mean we should eliminate all of them. Rather than throw out the entire system, we should seek a discerning response -- one that truly considers an offender's risk level and compares the return on public safety with the damage done to offenders' lives.
Second, we can't blame people for wanting to be safe. While their methods may be absurd, their goals are certainly not. Those who lobby for and support tough sex offender laws really believe they are serving the public interest. Many sex offender laws are responses to tragic stories. We must extend compassion to the hurting, scared families of little boys like Adam Walsh and little girls like Megan Kanka.
At the same time, we can explain to these people that their ideas are not the best way to keep us safe. Below are some articles that present great information to inform our dialogue about current policies:
"When Evidence is Ignored: Residency Restrictions for Sex Offenders" (Corrections Today)
"No Easy Answers: U.S. Sex Offender Policies" (Human Rights Watch)
"The Pursuit of Safety: Sex Offender Policy in the United States" (The Vera Institute of Justice)
"How Should We Treat Sex Offenders?" (by Prison Fellowship vice president and Justice Fellowship director Pat Nolan)
For more information and additional articles by Prison Fellowship on this issue, go to Justice Fellowship's Sex Offenders in Society issue page.
Finally, as society's rules make life more and more difficult for sex offenders, the church has an even greater opportunity to minister to them. We don't have to wait inside our brick walls for them to come to us. Even if they are not allowed near our buildings, we can proactively reach out to them through hiring them to work at our businesses, helping them in the search for housing, bringing Bible study and counseling materials to them, and offering an encouraging word.
Does anyone have more suggestions about how to care for this struggling group of offenders?
Whatever we do, let's not let frustration keep us from speaking and acting with the love of Christ.
The use of evidence-based practices in corrections and public policy is now considered the gold standard for policy and program development. Numerous examples (as discussed throughout this edition of Corrections Today) are available to show the importance and benefits of such an approach. In the practice of both institutional and community corrections, scientific evidence is important in formulating foundations for the operation of policies and programs. It identifies which are most likely to yield the desired results and where decisions can be guided to facilitate the achievement of safe, secure and humane institutions as well as enhanced community safety. Some observers criticize correctional policies and programs for contributing to high rates of recidivism, institutional violence, and the general failure of offenders to transform into productive and law-abiding citizens. It is therefore critical for correctional policies and practices to adhere to an evidence-based approach.
However, many of the ways that correctional facilities and programs operate are determined not by informed correctional administrators but instead by decision-makers outside the correctional enterprise. There are several obvious downfalls to this procedure. First, when decisions are made outside the correctional realm, these policies either may impose restrictions on corrections officials in being able to do what they know is in the best interests of offenders and society, or the policies may compel them to implement practices that differ from recognized best practices. Second, sizeable costs may not always achieve the most efficient distribution of resources. If increased resources do not accompany new public policies, corrections officials may be forced to reallocate funding away from well-informed and beneficial programs and practices. Third, when those outside the correctional industry develop policies, corrections officials can end up (inappropriately) bearing the brunt of public disparagement for ill-advised decisions.
The value of an evidence-based approach to policy development and program implementation is best realized when decisions are made by individuals who are educated in the extensive research literature and experienced in translating scientific data into correctional practices and programs. The focus of this article is on the effect of the misguided and detrimental development of a community corrections practice that ignores existing research evidence. Residential restrictions for registered sex offenders is a clear example of how criminal re-integration, and potentially public safety, are negatively impacted by the failure of policymakers to draw on research evidence in establishing crime prevention policy.
By PAUL WALSH, Star Tribune
Two former employees said their complaints about what they saw cost them their jobs. Hilton denies the allegations.
Two former Hilton Minneapolis employees say they saw executives of the hotel having a drunken sex party in a banquet room and their complaints about what they encountered cost them their jobs.
The allegations, which the Hilton denied Thursday, are made in lawsuits filed last week in federal court by Deborah Smith, 43, of Coon Rapids, and April Bezdichek, 25, who now lives in southern California.
Smith, who was night manager of the hotel's Skywater Restaurant from April 2006 to December 2007, contends in her suit that she was subjected to "unwelcome sexual conduct" and retaliation for going to management, then eventually fired.
She alleges that she opened the door to a hotel banquet room and saw "an orgy involving Hilton upper management."
"She saw various Hilton executives inebriated and engaging in sexual acts," the suit continues. "In fact, she observed Hilton executives on top of a table engaging in sexual activity."
After walking away, the suit contends, a hotel manager threatened her with firing.
Following a "campaign of harassment and retaliation" against Smith, the suit says, she was fired.
Bezdichek, who was a server, alleges that she didn't know the orgy was going on until the same hotel manager brought her to the banquet room. Her suit says the manager "pulled her onto his lap and pumped her up and down" on his penis.
Bezdichek also alleges that the manager had previously grabbed her breasts.
After she complained, her suit says, she was forced to resign in October 2007 because she was "shunned" and no longer being called in to work.
The suits seek, among other things, monetary compensation and reimbursement for lost pay and benefits.
In responses filed Thursday, Hilton denies Smith's and Bezdichek's allegations of any misconduct. The Hilton also says that Smith was not fired but her "employment ended" when she failed to return from a leave of absence.
A third former employee, bartender Harley Gayle, 41, of Columbia Heights, also has sued the Hilton alleging sexual harassment. The Hilton has filed a denial in this case as well.
By KELLY HINES World Staff Writer
A former Creek County district judge released from prison in April was arrested early Friday in Tulsa County on a complaint of driving under the influence.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol arrested 62-year-old _____, who served a 20-month prison term after being convicted of four counts of indecent exposure.
About 2:30 a.m., a trooper saw a vehicle stopped on the outside shoulder of the Creek Turnpike east of Elwood Avenue, according to _____'s arrest report.
When the trooper made contact with the driver, identified as _____, he had slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and a strong odor of alcohol on his breath, the report states.
_____ said he could not remember how his car got a flat tire and damage to its driver's side. The trooper later discovered _____ had hit a bridge wall.
According to the arrest report, _____'s breath test revealed a blood-alcohol content of 0.11, over the legal limit of 0.08.
_____ was booked into the Tulsa Jail about 5:30 a.m. and released on a $1,000 bond shortly before 11 a.m., jail records show.
The case against _____, a judge for 22 years, claimed that he exposed himself by using a penis pump to masturbate during four trials between 2001 and 2003.
Ultimately he was sentenced to serve four consecutive one-year terms, along with being fined $40,000. He began serving his prison term on Aug. 18, 2006, the same day he was formally sentenced.
_____ was released early, on April 29, as the result of good-behavior credits normally given by the Department of Corrections.
He was forced to register as a sex offender after the convictions and was disbarred by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in September.
_____'s lawyer, Clark Brewster, said Friday morning that he was not familiar with the circumstances surrounding _____'s arrest but planned to meet with the former judge later in the day.
"If that's correct (that _____ was driving under the influence), it's wholly unacceptable conduct," Brewster said. "We would certainly find no grounds to condone that.
"On the other hand, I would say that this gentleman has been through the greatest stress and anxiety and depression I've ever seen inflicted on any human being and I know it's been difficult to cope with that."
Last month, Brewster argued before hearing officer Lee Slater that _____ did not violate his oath of office and is entitled to his retirement benefits.
Slater will decide whether the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System was correct in revoking _____'s retirement benefits after his conviction.
Brewster said if Slater found that _____ violated his oath of office, it should be only for the term of office when the incidents allegedly occurred and not his entire tenure on the bench, which began in 1982 and ended with his retirement in 2004.
Under that scenario, _____ would receive $6,649 a month rather than the $7,789 a month, the entire amount. Slater's decision is expected by Jan. 23.
By ED PALATTELLA - firstname.lastname@example.org
Terry and Crystal Sherlock, co-defendants in a homicide case, had a complicated relationship. Crystal Sherlock said her husband drank heavily and was abusive, though she continued to see him.
The complex dynamic of the Corry couple's 15-year marriage is reflected in the plea deal she got for helping convict him of third-degree murder.
Crystal L. Sherlock, 36, was initially charged with homicide as an accomplice in her husband's slaying of an accused child molester outside Union City on Nov. 20, 2007.
She pleaded guilty Thursday to a far lesser charge -- the second-degree felony of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault.
Had she gone to trial, Crystal Sherlock planned to present a battered-woman defense, her lawyer said.
In testifying in November against her husband, Terry A. Sherlock, 34, Crystal Sherlock said he threatened her with a rifle and forced her to drive him to the trailer home of the murder victim, _____, 28, on Route 8 outside Union City. _____ had been accused of molesting the 10-year-old son Terry Sherlock had with another woman.
Crystal Sherlock also testified, however, that she went back to pick up her husband after he had shot _____ 10 times. She said she helped her husband hide the rifle.
With the plea, Crystal Sherlock is no longer accused of homicide. But she admitted a role in her husband's assault of _____.
The plea accounts for Crystal Sherlock's cooperation. And it takes into consideration that the jury convicted Terry Sherlock of third-degree murder and four other counts but acquitted him of one count -- conspiring with his wife to kill _____.
Judge Michael E. Dunlavey, who signed off on the plea, told Crystal Sherlock the outcome of her husband's trial made the deal acceptable.
Dunlavey presided at the trial of Terry Sherlock, whom the judge will sentence Jan. 15. The District Attorney's Office wanted a conviction for a first-degree murder, or premeditated killing. The defense argued an intoxicated Terry Sherlock killed _____ in a rage and was guilty of voluntary manslaughter. The jury's verdict of third-degree murder -- an unpremeditated killing with malice -- was a compromise.
Crystal Sherlock's testimony assisted the prosecution. But it did not clear her.
The plea deal "was the most reasonable resolution," said Assistant District Attorney Erin Connelly. The prosecution dismissed five charges, including homicide as an accomplice and conspiracy to commit homicide.
Crystal Sherlock once faced the possibility of a murder conviction and a lengthy sentence. She now is looking at a standard-range sentence of nine to 18 months at her sentencing Feb. 4, said her lawyer, Gene Placidi. The maximum possible sentence is 10 years.
Crystal Sherlock wants to put the criminal case behind her, Placidi said. She testified at trial that her unemployed husband drank as many as two cases of beer a day and had a hot temper.
"It's been a nightmare," Placidi said.
Another related story
By Mike Cahill
This post falls into the "trumpeting my own work" category (though it might also bear some tangential relation to Ken Simons's interesting series of recent posts on consequentialism). I'm getting it out of the way early so I can move on to asking some questions about legal education, which I'm hoping to spend most of my time here doing.
Anyway, here's the point. Most criminal theorists discuss retributive justice as a deontological duty: a categorical obligation to impose punishment on those who deserve it, and avoid punishing those who don't. (Dan Markel would object to my equation of retribution and desert, but never mind that right now. In fact, I will tend to use the terms "retribution" and "desert" interchangeably, partly for the sake of mixing things up but mainly to annoy Dan.) I think a better way, and perhaps the only realistic way, to view retribution is as a consequentialist good: a positive value we should seek to maximize, but which can (and must) be traded off against other consequentialist goods. (Note: I mean that retribution should be viewed as an intrinsic good, not just as having instrumental value toward achieving some other good such as welfare or utility. Consequentialism can admit of a plurality of goods, and I think retributive justice is one.)
More harm than good - Attempts to strengthen laws against sexual offenders have unintended consequences. Prevention would be better
View the article here
North Carolina's intentions to further protect communities by strengthening the state's laws against sexual offenders will do very little to keep people safer, ineffectively target people who are least likely to reoffend and ultimately may increase the chances that the most troubled offenders will recommit sexual crimes.
- But, they don't care about that, they care about looking good to the sheeple of the state, to get votes and ratings, and making people "feel" like they are actually doing something!
Although only one state lawmaker voted against these tighter restrictions, other legislative members should examine the research more closely and revisit such laws in the next session.
The state's legal clampdown -- aimed at bringing North Carolina into compliance with the federal Adam Walsh Act -- went into effect Dec. 1. Among the new requirements: that people who commit certain sex offenses remain on the state's offender registry for 30 years, triple the previous length of time. Offenders must also now report a change of address to their local sheriff's department within three business days and stay at least 300 feet away from any place where minors might gather, including malls, childcare centers and churches.
NO INDIVIDUAL SHOULD HAVE TO BE THE VICTIM OF A SEXUAL CRIME, and communities have a responsibility to prevent such terrible acts from occurring. Registration and notification laws were intended to encourage citizens to be proactive in protecting themselves as well as provide law enforcement with a ready pool of suspects when a sex crime is reported.
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
"The strictest law sometimes becomes the severest injustice."
"Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do."
In an additional study out of Marquette University, researchers found that family members who were unconnected to the original crime are also harassed, including receiving death threats.
Even supporters of Jacob's Law, the first federal act requiring sex offender registration, have raised concerns about the legal restrictions. Among them is Patty Wetterling, the mother of Jacob Wetterling, an 11-year-old Minnesota boy who was kidnapped years ago and still missing and for whom the offender registration law was named. Wetterling and her husband co-founded the Jacob Wetterling Foundation -- now the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center -- which works to prevent sexual violence.
In a 2007 article for Human Rights Watch, Wetterling spoke out about the repercussions of the current attitudes toward sex offenders and the laws created as a result of those feelings. She cited research that showed that many of the laws may not prevent sexual attacks but instead invite the public to harass, ostracize and even commit violence against sex offenders, all of which affects their efforts to turn their lives around. Such experiences may also encourage offenders to further isolate themselves and may actually increase the chances that they will repeat their crimes. These findings are consistent with other previously cited research.
- And what she says above, is exactly what is occurring, see here and here.
Additionally, current laws do not address the individuals who are at the greatest risk of committing a sexual offense, namely family members. According to a study from the U.S. Department of Justice, only 3 percent of children under the age of 6 who have been sexually assaulted were assaulted by strangers; most were assaulted by family members or someone known to the child.
IT IS TIME THAT THE STATE AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENTS LOOKED MORE CLOSELY at what it takes to prevent sexual offenders from repeating crimes as well as how to prevent sexual crimes from being committed by family members.
- But if they did that, then we'd not have all the businesses out there making millions of dollars off the backs of sex offenders, and the politicians could not get the votes they need, nor the media the stories they need. So they pass half-a$$ed laws, to the cycle continues over and over so they can continue to use sex offenders as their scapegoat!
Among other ideas, lawmakers should consider increasing:
- The number of community and prison treatment programs, such as the N.C. Department of Corrections' Sexual Offender Accountability and Responsibility (SOAR) program, which has shown strong success in reducing crimes.
- Funding for transitional services such as safe housing, job training, therapy and other community support programs for sex offenders released from prison.
- Funding for research to better understand the causes of sex offending behaviors.
Once more is understood about what programs and treatments work, policies can be designed to support those that have proven to be successful.
There is no doubt that sexual violence is a horrific crime that affects victims and their families physically, mentally and financially. The public also feels the economic toll as hundreds of billions of dollars are spent annually on medical and crisis services, incarceration and rehabilitation.
As a community, we must take the necessary and effective steps to prevent these heinous acts of violence. Although broadly tightening the laws on sexual offenders would seem to make the most sense, research has shown such restrictions may actually do more harm than good.
They have to live somewhere. Everyone keeps saying they do not want to be a haven for sex offenders, but someone has to be. Otherwise, it will just be a never ending shuffle game.
By TOM MORTON - Star-Tribune staff writer
A proposed bill for the 2009 Legislature will streamline and close loopholes in the law for registered sex offenders, according to the draft passed by the Joint Judiciary Interim Committee on Thursday.
"We're satisfied," said Byron Oedekoven, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police.
"They took our suggestions to heart," Oedekoven said. "They added even clearer language."
While the proposed changes will not directly affect residents in neighborhoods where sex offenders live, they will clarify the process for registering and better conform to the federal Jacob Wetterling and Adam Walsh acts, he told the committee.
The federal laws were passed to manage sex offenders. Jacob Wetterling, 11, was kidnapped in Minnesota in 1989 and never seen again. In 1981, Adam Walsh was abducted from a store in Hollywood, Fla., and murdered. The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act makes it a federal offense to fail to register as a convicted sex offender.
- So you are punishing over 630,000 sex offenders, due to the heinous crimes of two men.
Wyoming also has drawn criticism for being a haven for offenders because of its lax registration laws, Oedekoven told the committee in September.
- Yeah, they all say that. But like I said above, someone has to be. So I guess the shuffle game will just continue forever?
About 1,300 sex offenders are required to register in Wyoming and many of those do not have substantial ties to the state, he said then.
After strengthening the requirements in 2007, sex offenders lost interest in moving to Wyoming, Oedekoven said then.
- So I guess you achieved your goal, but making the laws so insane, they you have basically exiled them all. Hell, why not just make the buffer zones 500 miles, or the whole state?
But the law still had some problems, Oedekoven said Thursday.
-- The existing law stated convicted sex offenders either had three days or 10 days to register.
-- It could allow offenders to notify either the sheriff or the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation.
-- Laramie and Natrona counties notified by mail residents living within 750 feet of a sex offender, but sheriff's deputies in other counties notified residents by going door-to-door.
The proposed bill requires offenders to register with the sheriff's office within three working days from the time of their sentence or the time when they moved to the county of their residence. It also requires them to register in the counties outside the county of their residence where they work or attend school.
The three-day vs. 10-day requirement caused a problem in Goshen County, where an offender read the part of the law mentioning 10 days and registered after the three-day requirement, Oedekoven said later. The offender was not prosecuted for this violation, he added.
The requirement to register with the sheriff and not the DCI further streamlines the process, Kevin Smith of the DCI told the committee. "This will go after people who skirt registration by moving frequently."
- WTF? These laws make it where they are forced to move constantly. You people are a bunch of idiots, really!!!!
It also saves the confusion of an offender being questioned by the sheriff when the offender thought he did the right thing by notifying the DCI.
The notification must be in person and not written, and the offender must be photographed, fingerprinted and palmprinted. The offender also must describe his vehicle and give the sheriff the license plate number, and give a DNA sample, according to the proposed bill.
After an offender registers with the sheriff, the sheriff notifies the DCI, which notifies the victim or the minor victim's family.
Offenders convicted of lesser sex crimes must report to the sheriff in person annually, and those convicted of more serious crimes with minors must report in person more frequently, according to the proposed bill.
The proposed bill also would allow counties options to notify residents.
The mail notification in Laramie and Natrona counties is working well, and other counties would like to do that, Oedekoven said.
The door-to-door notification, especially in rural areas, costs sheriff's offices money in overtime and in manpower, he said.
- And by forcing them out into the country, more gas money, as well as making it harder for an offender to get a job, and treatment. Wow, a bunch of idiots run this country!
Rep. Keith Gingery (Email), R-Jackson, said he personally had done door-to-door notification about sex offenders and believed people liked that because he could answer their questions.
Smith of the DCI responded that the state's Web site has much of the information people want.
Reach Tom Morton at (307) 266-0592, or at Tom.Morton@trib.com.
Last we knew: The Legislature was tightening registration requirements for convicted sex offenders after criticisms that the laws were lax.
The latest: The Joint Judiciary Committee approved a proposed bill Thursday to streamline the law.
What's next: The 2009 Legislature will consider the proposed bill.