Saturday, February 7, 2009

Internet not full of pedos, the statistical edition

View the article here

02/06/2009

By Cory Doctorow

Last month, a research project into risks to kids from social media, commissioned by several State Attorneys General, concluded that there wasn't really much risk of pedophiles stalking kids online. Rather, kids are at risk from each other. And some kids are at risk of soliciting sex and relationships with young adults, due to their own insecurities.

This conclusion angered many who sincerely believe that the Internet is full of pedophiles, and they're attacking the study. danah boyd, one of the researchers, responds:

Now, let's do some math. The National Alert Registry has over 491,000 registered sex offenders on its list. In data collected in December, Pew found that 35% of American adults are on social network sites. If sex offenders were a representative population, we'd expect that 172,000 of them would be on social network sites. Now, I know nothing of who is on that list, but if they were to skew younger or more urban, we'd expect even more of them to be on those sites. Regardless, the number announced by MySpace should not be unexpected or shocking.

One of the worst parts of dealing with quantitative numbers of any kind is our tendency to read into them what we want to read into them. We see a number like 90,000 and expect that it's high and outrageous. But it is not more than would be expected by statistical patterns. And it's not an automatic indicator of a problem. We need to know WHO those registered sex offenders are and WHAT they are doing to get a critical assessment of the risk. By focusing solely on the number, we introduce a red herring and, in doing so, miss the whole point of our report: there are children online engaging in risky behavior who desperately need our help. Blocking adults who have raped other adults, while likely desirable in general, does NOTHING to help at-risk kids.

Why are we so obsessed with the registered sex offender side of the puzzle when the troubled kids are right in front of us? Why are we so obsessed with the Internet side of the puzzle when so many more kids are abused in their own homes? I feel like this whole conversation has turned into a distraction. Money and time is being spent focusing on the things that people fear rather than the very real and known risks that kids face. This breaks my heart.

doing the math on MySpace and registered sex offenders

Previously:


Nancy Willard Puts Social Networking Risks in Context

View the article here

02/02/2009

Online child safety — especially the fear of predators lurking on social networking sites (SNS) — continues to spur calls by state and federal lawmakers for regulation. At first, some federal lawmakers advocated outright bans on SNS in schools and libraries via the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA). Meanwhile, state and local lawmakers — specifically state Attorneys General (AGs) — have been even more vociferous in their calls for regulation in the form of mandatory age verification for social networking sites, which would cover a broad swath of online sites and activities according to their definitions of SNS. But the question that ultimately gets lost in this debate is: Just how much risk do social networking sites really pose for teens? Which risks are real and which are overblown? And what’s the best way to deal with the risks that we find to be legitimate?

Nancy Willard devotes her life to answering those questions. Willard is one of America’s leading experts on online safety and risk prevention. She runs the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use and she is the author of two outstanding books, Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats and Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens. In my opinion, Willard’s general approach to online child safety is the most enlightened, level-headed, and likely to be effective. That’s because Willard focuses on putting fears in perspective, identifying the actual risks that kids face online, and devising sensible strategies to deal with risks and problems as they are discovered. Her approach is holistic and built upon sound data, targeted risk-identification strategies, and time-tested education and mentoring methods. For my money, it’s the most sensible approach to online safety issues. In fact, when other parents ask me for “just one thing” to read on the topic, I usually recommend Willard’s work — especially her amazing book Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens. And her background in early childhood education, special education for “at risk” children with emotional and behavior difficulties, as well as experience in computer law, means she is uniquely suited to be analyzing these issues. In sum, this is woman we should all be closely listening to on these issues.

Recently, Willard has been responding to criticisms that state AGs have leveled against the Internet Safety Technical Task Force (ISTTF) and its final report. [Disclaimer: I was a member of the ISTTF.] I’ve already outlined the ISTTF’s work at length here, but the three key takeaways from the report were that:

  1. the risk of predation on social network sites has been over-stated; the data suggest that cyber-bullying is the bigger problem on SNS;
  2. there is no silver-bullet technical solution to online child safety concerns, and mandatory age verification, in particular, would not make kids safer online but could even create bigger problems in the long-run;
  3. education and empowerment are the real keys to keeping kids safer online.

The response from some state AGs to these findings was quite hostile, with some arguing that the ISTTF did not take online risks seriously enough, or that we relied on “outdated and inadequate” data in reaching our conclusions. Willard addresses those arguments in a new white paper: “Research that is ‘Outdated and Inadequate?’ An Analysis of the Pennsylvania Child Predator Unit Arrests in Response to Attorney General Criticism of the Berkman Task Force Report.” In this study, she analyzes data from arrest records from Pennsylvania’s Child Predator Unit to determine exactly how these individuals were operating online. Although it’s just one state’s worth of data — that’s all that seems to have been made publicly available in a single database at this time — it can give us a clue to what might be going on out there. The results are illuminating.

Here’s what Willard found:

The search yielded 143 responses. As noted by the Attorney General, 183 predators had been arrested. All of these arrests were described in the press releases dated from March 21, 2005 to January 13, 2009 - thus allowing for a full analysis of the arrests of sexual predators in the state Pennsylvania for the last 4 years by the Attorney General’s Child Predator Unit. The analysis of the arrests that involved predatory actions, excluding the arrests for child pornography, revealed the following:


  • Only 8 incidents involved actual teen victims with whom the Internet was used to form a relationship.
    • In 4 of these incidents, teens or parents reported the contact. The other 4 cases were discovered in an analysis of the computer files of a predator who had been arrested in a sting operation. Five of the cases had led to inappropriate sexual contact. The other situations were discovered prior to any actual contact.
  • There were 166 arrests as a result of sting activities where the predator contacted an undercover agent who was posing as a 12 - 14 year old, generally a girl.
    • The vast majority of the stings, 144, occurred in chat rooms. Eleven stings occurred through instant messaging. Nine of the arrests failed to specify the location, but the description bore significant similarity to the chat room incidents. One involved an advertisement that had been placed on Craig’s List.
    • There were only 12 reports of predators being deceptive about their age.
    • The descriptions of these chats incidents bear out what the research reviewed by the [ISTTF's] Research Advisory Board found - that online predators are rarely deceptive about their interests.

Specifically,”Because the attorneys general have been focusing their attention on the social networking sites, MySpace and Facebook,” Willard made sure to give “special attention to any case that mentioned any activity occurring on either of these two sites.” Here’s what she found in that regard:

  • One of the incidents involving an actual teen victim, communications took place on MySpace. This was a rearrest of a person who had already been arrested through a sting.
  • A police officer who was arrested for sexual abuse of many teens with whom he had interacted with in the line of duty also had a MySpace account with friendship links to teen girl, but there was no assertion that these communications had led to sexual activity.
  • One predator in a sting provided the agent with a link to his Facebook page.
  • In 5 of the stings that took place in a chat room, reference was made to the fact that the predator had either looked at the teen’s MySpace account or suggested the teen look at his profile.

Importantly, Willard points out, “Despite the establishment of one or more public profiles on MySpace [by the PA Child Predator Unit], there has apparently not been one successful sting operation initiated on MySpace in the more than two years during which these sting profiles have been in existence.”

From these findings, Willard concludes that:

The insight gained through an analysis of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s press releases on arrests for online sexual predation provide strong support for the validity of the conclusions of the Berkman Research Advisory Board and demonstrate the need for greater collaboration between law enforcement and researchers to address the actual risks to young people from sexual predators online.

In other words, the Pennsylvania data seem to confirm that predation is not as serious of a risk on SNS as some AGs had claimed. “It appears that chat rooms are far less safe than social networking sites and that there is limited inclination and ability of predators to use social networking sites to contact potential teen victims,” Willard notes. Consequently, she argues:

Attention must be paid to the obvious risks related to chat room communications, as well as the risk factors that are being manifested by the young people who may still be frequenting these chat rooms, especially the chat rooms where sexual relations are being discussed. It appears that rather than seek ways to discourage teens from participating in social networking sites, these sites are destinations that should be encouraged as much safe than the alternatives. A focus must be placed on improving the protective features of chat rooms that are frequented by minors.

We need to know more about which chat rooms are in question and why some youth visit those chat rooms. More importantly, how can we develop sensible messages for youth about the dangers of chat rooms that are targeted to adults and adult sexual activity?

But it is vitally important not to lose sight of the big picture here. As Willard summarizes it:

The incidents of online sexual predation are rare. Far more children and teens are being sexually abused by family members and acquaintances. It is imperative that we remain focused on the issue of child sexual abuse - regardless of how the abusive relationship is initiated.

Indeed, volumes of research on child abuse, child predation, and child abduction all point to this same conclusion: Your kids are actually more at risk from known acquaintances — especially family members — than they are from random strangers (including random strangers they might meet online).

Of course, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to develop sensible educational messages for youth about proper online behavior and how to report legitimate problems or troubling interactions that they experience online. Again, Willard has done this elsewhere and many of us (including those of us involved in the Berkman Center task force) have long been pushing for increased resources for online safety education and media literacy efforts as the first, best step towards improving online youth safety. We need to get AGs and other policymakers to work together with us to get this important task started — now!

Finally, Willard correctly notes that the AGs and other law enforcement agencies need to be willing to release more data like the Pennsylvania AG did such that further analysis of this problem is possible. If the AGs’ primary complaint with the ISTTF report was that the data we used was somewhat dated, then the best solution to that problem is for the AGs and other law enforcement agencies to open up their records to the child safety community so that risk researchers like Willard can get a better feel for what’s going on out there and devise strategies to deal with it. Unfortunately, there’s still too much horn-locking going on between these communities and, sadly, I think some AGs are using this issue to create an atmosphere of fear for political gain. We need to find ways to communicate actual risks — such as those that kids would face in some specific, adult-oriented chat rooms — without going overboard and making parents and the general public think that there’s a bogeyman on every cyber-corner of the Internet.

[Further reading: As usual, my friend Anne Collier over at Net Family News.org has done a much better job summarizing an issue than I have. Read her discussion of Nancy Willard's paper and its implications here.]


Nancy Willard Puts Social Networking Risks in Context

View the article here

02/02/2009

Online child safety — especially the fear of predators lurking on social networking sites (SNS) — continues to spur calls by state and federal lawmakers for regulation. At first, some federal lawmakers advocated outright bans on SNS in schools and libraries via the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA). Meanwhile, state and local lawmakers — specifically state Attorneys General (AGs) — have been even more vociferous in their calls for regulation in the form of mandatory age verification for social networking sites, which would cover a broad swath of online sites and activities according to their definitions of SNS. But the question that ultimately gets lost in this debate is: Just how much risk do social networking sites really pose for teens? Which risks are real and which are overblown? And what’s the best way to deal with the risks that we find to be legitimate?

Nancy Willard devotes her life to answering those questions. Willard is one of America’s leading experts on online safety and risk prevention. She runs the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use and she is the author of two outstanding books, Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats and Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens. In my opinion, Willard’s general approach to online child safety is the most enlightened, level-headed, and likely to be effective. That’s because Willard focuses on putting fears in perspective, identifying the actual risks that kids face online, and devising sensible strategies to deal with risks and problems as they are discovered. Her approach is holistic and built upon sound data, targeted risk-identification strategies, and time-tested education and mentoring methods. For my money, it’s the most sensible approach to online safety issues. In fact, when other parents ask me for “just one thing” to read on the topic, I usually recommend Willard’s work — especially her amazing book Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens. And her background in early childhood education, special education for “at risk” children with emotional and behavior difficulties, as well as experience in computer law, means she is uniquely suited to be analyzing these issues. In sum, this is woman we should all be closely listening to on these issues.

Recently, Willard has been responding to criticisms that state AGs have leveled against the Internet Safety Technical Task Force (ISTTF) and its final report. [Disclaimer: I was a member of the ISTTF.] I’ve already outlined the ISTTF’s work at length here, but the three key takeaways from the report were that:

  1. the risk of predation on social network sites has been over-stated; the data suggest that cyber-bullying is the bigger problem on SNS;
  2. there is no silver-bullet technical solution to online child safety concerns, and mandatory age verification, in particular, would not make kids safer online but could even create bigger problems in the long-run;
  3. education and empowerment are the real keys to keeping kids safer online.

The response from some state AGs to these findings was quite hostile, with some arguing that the ISTTF did not take online risks seriously enough, or that we relied on “outdated and inadequate” data in reaching our conclusions. Willard addresses those arguments in a new white paper: “Research that is ‘Outdated and Inadequate?’ An Analysis of the Pennsylvania Child Predator Unit Arrests in Response to Attorney General Criticism of the Berkman Task Force Report.” In this study, she analyzes data from arrest records from Pennsylvania’s Child Predator Unit to determine exactly how these individuals were operating online. Although it’s just one state’s worth of data — that’s all that seems to have been made publicly available in a single database at this time — it can give us a clue to what might be going on out there. The results are illuminating.

Here’s what Willard found:

The search yielded 143 responses. As noted by the Attorney General, 183 predators had been arrested. All of these arrests were described in the press releases dated from March 21, 2005 to January 13, 2009 - thus allowing for a full analysis of the arrests of sexual predators in the state Pennsylvania for the last 4 years by the Attorney General’s Child Predator Unit. The analysis of the arrests that involved predatory actions, excluding the arrests for child pornography, revealed the following:


  • Only 8 incidents involved actual teen victims with whom the Internet was used to form a relationship.
    • In 4 of these incidents, teens or parents reported the contact. The other 4 cases were discovered in an analysis of the computer files of a predator who had been arrested in a sting operation. Five of the cases had led to inappropriate sexual contact. The other situations were discovered prior to any actual contact.
  • There were 166 arrests as a result of sting activities where the predator contacted an undercover agent who was posing as a 12 - 14 year old, generally a girl.
    • The vast majority of the stings, 144, occurred in chat rooms. Eleven stings occurred through instant messaging. Nine of the arrests failed to specify the location, but the description bore significant similarity to the chat room incidents. One involved an advertisement that had been placed on Craig’s List.
    • There were only 12 reports of predators being deceptive about their age.
    • The descriptions of these chats incidents bear out what the research reviewed by the [ISTTF's] Research Advisory Board found - that online predators are rarely deceptive about their interests.

Specifically,”Because the attorneys general have been focusing their attention on the social networking sites, MySpace and Facebook,” Willard made sure to give “special attention to any case that mentioned any activity occurring on either of these two sites.” Here’s what she found in that regard:

  • One of the incidents involving an actual teen victim, communications took place on MySpace. This was a rearrest of a person who had already been arrested through a sting.
  • A police officer who was arrested for sexual abuse of many teens with whom he had interacted with in the line of duty also had a MySpace account with friendship links to teen girl, but there was no assertion that these communications had led to sexual activity.
  • One predator in a sting provided the agent with a link to his Facebook page.
  • In 5 of the stings that took place in a chat room, reference was made to the fact that the predator had either looked at the teen’s MySpace account or suggested the teen look at his profile.

Importantly, Willard points out, “Despite the establishment of one or more public profiles on MySpace [by the PA Child Predator Unit], there has apparently not been one successful sting operation initiated on MySpace in the more than two years during which these sting profiles have been in existence.”

From these findings, Willard concludes that:

The insight gained through an analysis of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s press releases on arrests for online sexual predation provide strong support for the validity of the conclusions of the Berkman Research Advisory Board and demonstrate the need for greater collaboration between law enforcement and researchers to address the actual risks to young people from sexual predators online.

In other words, the Pennsylvania data seem to confirm that predation is not as serious of a risk on SNS as some AGs had claimed. “It appears that chat rooms are far less safe than social networking sites and that there is limited inclination and ability of predators to use social networking sites to contact potential teen victims,” Willard notes. Consequently, she argues:

Attention must be paid to the obvious risks related to chat room communications, as well as the risk factors that are being manifested by the young people who may still be frequenting these chat rooms, especially the chat rooms where sexual relations are being discussed. It appears that rather than seek ways to discourage teens from participating in social networking sites, these sites are destinations that should be encouraged as much safe than the alternatives. A focus must be placed on improving the protective features of chat rooms that are frequented by minors.

We need to know more about which chat rooms are in question and why some youth visit those chat rooms. More importantly, how can we develop sensible messages for youth about the dangers of chat rooms that are targeted to adults and adult sexual activity?

But it is vitally important not to lose sight of the big picture here. As Willard summarizes it:

The incidents of online sexual predation are rare. Far more children and teens are being sexually abused by family members and acquaintances. It is imperative that we remain focused on the issue of child sexual abuse - regardless of how the abusive relationship is initiated.

Indeed, volumes of research on child abuse, child predation, and child abduction all point to this same conclusion: Your kids are actually more at risk from known acquaintances — especially family members — than they are from random strangers (including random strangers they might meet online).

Of course, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to develop sensible educational messages for youth about proper online behavior and how to report legitimate problems or troubling interactions that they experience online. Again, Willard has done this elsewhere and many of us (including those of us involved in the Berkman Center task force) have long been pushing for increased resources for online safety education and media literacy efforts as the first, best step towards improving online youth safety. We need to get AGs and other policymakers to work together with us to get this important task started — now!

Finally, Willard correctly notes that the AGs and other law enforcement agencies need to be willing to release more data like the Pennsylvania AG did such that further analysis of this problem is possible. If the AGs’ primary complaint with the ISTTF report was that the data we used was somewhat dated, then the best solution to that problem is for the AGs and other law enforcement agencies to open up their records to the child safety community so that risk researchers like Willard can get a better feel for what’s going on out there and devise strategies to deal with it. Unfortunately, there’s still too much horn-locking going on between these communities and, sadly, I think some AGs are using this issue to create an atmosphere of fear for political gain. We need to find ways to communicate actual risks — such as those that kids would face in some specific, adult-oriented chat rooms — without going overboard and making parents and the general public think that there’s a bogeyman on every cyber-corner of the Internet.

[Further reading: As usual, my friend Anne Collier over at Net Family News.org has done a much better job summarizing an issue than I have. Read her discussion of Nancy Willard's paper and its implications here.]


State Attorneys General Trash Internet Safety Study, But Still Can't Provide Data To Counter It

View the article here

Of course, they don't want to know the truth, because then they could not use the fear-mongering of sex offenders to get votes and distract the public from the dying United States!

02/03/2009

from the maybe-it's-not-such-a-big-threat-after-all dept

Last month, a wide-ranging panel of experts did a big study and found out that the risks of online predators stalking kids on social networks was totally overhyped -- something that we'd seen in previous studies, though none as wide-ranging and comprehensive. These results shocked and upset the group of 49 state attorneys general who have been pushing hard to force social networks to implement a variety of mechanisms to "protect" against this threat that really isn't that big. It's not surprising that these AGs want to push this. It makes it look like they're doing something to "protect the children," at little cost to themselves. The public imagination, helped along by politicians and the press, have been falsely led to believe that these sites are crawling with child predators tricking children, but the truth is that such cases are extremely rare. That's not to play down the seriousness of the few cases where it happens, but it's hardly a major epidemic.

Still, the state AGs were none too pleased with the report's results, and some of the more vocal social network haters have been trashing it for using out-dated data. Of course, these AGs haven't actually provided the up-to-date data that contradicts the report's findings. So, one well-respected online safety researcher, Nancy Willard, went out and found some recent data to look at. Adam Thierer summarizes her findings -- but the quick version is that the recent data does, in fact, support the study's original conclusion: there just isn't that much predatorial behavior happening on social networks. In fact, the report found that general chat rooms were much more risky than social networks. The key point:

The incidents of online sexual predation are rare. Far more children and teens are being sexually abused by family members and acquaintances. It is imperative that we remain focused on the issue of child sexual abuse -- regardless of how the abusive relationship is initiated.

Focusing on social networks as being a problem is taking away resources from where the real threats are... all in an effort for some AGs to get some easy headlines.


Google offers free software to track people

View the article here

Slowly attempting to eradicate people's privacy, by using children as their ploy. And what is sad, is many people, due to the fear spread by the media and politicians, will suck this up and be willing to accept this. Question to ponder, using fear of course. What if you turned it on, to allow people to track you. Now, those so called "predators" can also track you. Scary thought huh! Or what about that abusive husband or stalker? You see, technology, always has it's bad side, always will. IMO, the only thing GPS is good for, is to tell me how to get somewhere.

02/04/2009

By John Byrne

A new piece of free Google software released today allows people to keep track of each other using their cell phones -- and while it's opt-in, it's sure to create a privacy firestorm.

CNET, owned by CBS News, debuted the product on the Early Show Wednesday. It's designed to work on any phone with Internet capabilities -- except the iPhone, one of Google's competitors (Google launched their own phone, Android, for T-Mobile last year).

Latitude "uses GPS systems and what's called cell tower triangulation to do the job," CBS reports. "The software seeks the closest three cell towers and, with GPS, combines the data to show where someone is."

It's being marketed to help parents keep track of their children -- but commenters at the liberal forum Democratic Underground note that surreptitious installation could allow girlfriends or boyfriends, or husbands and wives, to track each others' movements unwittingly.

"What Google Latitude does is allow you to share that location with friends and family members, and likewise be able to see friends and family members' locations," Steve Lee, product manager for Google Latitude, told CNET. "For example, a girlfriend could use it to see if her boyfriend has arrived at a restaurant and, if not, how far away he is."

Adds Lee, "To protect privacy, Google specifically requires people to sign up for the service. People can share their precise location, the city they're in, or nothing at all."


Founding Fathers: The Importance of Knowledge


KS - Inmate's appeal of sex offender label is too late

View the article here

More proof you do not have to commit a sex crime to be labeled as a sex offender. This is just pure insanity! Hell, just label everyone in the US a sex offender and be done with it.

02/07/2009

By Jon Ruhlen - The Hutchinson News

An inmate's claim he shouldn't be classified as a sex offender while in prison because he was never convicted of any sex offenses has been denied for failing to file the complaint in a timely manner.

The Kansas Court of Appeals, in a ruling published Friday but actually issued in August, said that _____, 45, did not file an appeal of his classification within the 15-day window specified by the Kansas Department of Corrections grievance process and does not have grounds for an appeal.

_____ was convicted in Cloud County in 2004 of sale of drugs, possession of paraphernalia, and possession of anhydrous ammonia with intent to manufacture.

He'd also originally been charged with four counts of rape of a child younger than 14 years old, but those charges were dismissed.

On Dec. 6, 2004, KDOC officials classified _____ as a sex offender and began managing him as such, despite the fact he had never been convicted of a sex offense. It wasn't immediately clear what extra measures prison officials enact for inmates classified as sex offenders.

_____ filed a grievance with KDOC on July 20, 2006. In his suit, _____'s attorney argued he has been subject to "oblique threats and ridicule by other prisoners. Former friends and associates, thinking petitioner is a sex predator, have ostracized the petitioner."

Kansas law requires a prisoner to "exhaust all administrative remedies" established by prison officials before they are able to file a civil action, and one of the administrative regulations established by KDOC requires prisoners to file grievances within 15 days of the incident in question.

_____ argued that because his treatment due to his classification as a sex offender has been ongoing, the time limits did not apply.

District Judge Joe McCarville dismissed the case because it was outside the 15-day window specified. In the Appeals Court ruling, the justices sided with McCarville.

"Here, _____ challenges his initial classification as a sex offender, not the resulting conditions of his confinement," Justice Patrick McAnany wrote in the opinion.

According to the KDOC Web site, _____ is under post-incarceration supervision in Shawnee County.


TX - Texan who died in prison cleared of rape conviction

View the article here

Another miscarriage of justice! Why did they ignore the confession?

02/06/2009

A Texas district court judge Friday reversed the conviction of a man who died in prison nearly a decade ago, almost two decades into a prison sentence for a rape he swore he did not commit, CNN affiliate KXAN reported.

Timothy Cole was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for the 1985 rape of 20-year-old Michele Mallin. He maintained his innocence, but it was not confirmed by DNA until years after his 1999 death, when another inmate confessed to the rape.

In the courtroom of Judge Charlie Baird Friday afternoon, Mallin, now 44, faced Jerry Johnson, the man who confessed to the rape.

"What you did to me, you had no right to do," she told him angrily, according to Austin's KXAN. "You've got no right to do that to any woman. I am the one with the power now, buddy."

Cole's family also addressed Johnson.

"He'll never have the chance to have children," Cole's mother, Ruby Session, said. "I want you to know he was a fine young man."

Johnson has been in prison since 1985 on two convictions for aggravated sexual assault, according to the Texas Department of Corrections. He was given a life sentence for the rape of a 15-year-old girl, and a jury later tacked on a 99-year sentence for another rape, according to the Lubbock, Texas, Avalanche-Journal. He cannot be charged with the Mallin case, as the statute of limitations has expired.

Johnson also spoke Friday.

"I am responsible," he said. "I say I am truly sorry."

Then a student at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Mallin was walking to her car, intending to move it to another parking lot, when a man approached her asking about jumper cables, she said. In a matter of seconds, he put her in a choke hold and held a knife to her neck. He forced himself into her car and drove her to the outskirts of town, where he raped her.

The next day, police investigators showed Mallin pictures of possible suspects. She chose a picture of Cole and said he was her attacker. She later identified him in a physical lineup, according to the Innocence Project of Texas.

"I was positive," she said. "I really thought it was him."
- This just goes to show you, photo line ups, and peoples memories, are not as good as they claim to be, and many innocent people, sit rotting in prison, for something they did not do!

But there was one detail: Mallin told police her attacker was a smoker. "He was smoking the entire time."
- And this is one detail they overlooked?  Seems to me, like usual, they just wanted to quickly convict someone, and move on.

Cole, who suffered from severe asthma, "was never a smoker," said his brother, Cory Session. "He took daily medications [for asthma] when he was younger."

"He was the sacrificial lamb. To them, my brother was the Tech rapist, there was no backtracking. It was the trial of the decade for Lubbock."
- So why are they not showing the photo of the newly accused person of this crime?  Why show the dead man and not the accused?

The "Tech rapist" attacked four women other than Mallin -- abducting them in parking lots near campus and driving them to a vacant location, where he would rape them and flee on foot, according to the Innocence Project of Texas. The rapist "terrorized" the Texas Tech campus in the mid-1980s, the organization said.

Cole, like Mallin, was a student at Texas Tech. He had finished two years of college previously and was returning to school after spending two years in the Army, his brother said.

But his dreams of getting married and having children never materialized. He was arrested and charged with Mallin's rape, declining a plea bargain offer that would have put him on probation. A jury convicted him and imposed a 25-year sentence.
- I would rather be in prison for something I did not do, then plead guilty and still be in prison, or out even!

That night, "he hugged my mother and he said, 'Mother, why these people lie on me, why they do this to me?'" Cole's brother Reggie Session recounted for the Avalanche-Journal, which published a three-part series on the case in June.

"He said, 'They know I ain't done nothing to that girl. I don't even know that girl. Why they do this to me, mother?' ... He cried in my mother's arms on the floor."
- So much for guilty until proven innocent.  Under what "evidence" did they convict him?  And photo line up!

Later, while in prison, Cole rejected an offer of parole that would have required him to admit guilt. "His greatest wish was to be exonerated and completely vindicated," his mother, Ruby Session, told KXAN.

But the asthma that plagued Cole throughout his life brought about his death on December 2, 1999. The cause was determined to be heart complications due to his asthmatic condition. He was 39.

It was 2007 when a letter addressed to Cole arrived at his family's home, written by Johnson.
- Letter is at the end of this article

"You may recall my name from your 1986 rape trial in Lubbock," says the letter, dated May 11, 2007. "Your Lubbock attorney, Mike Brown, tried to show I committed the rape.

"I have been trying to locate you since 1995 to tell you I wish to confess I did in fact commit the rape Lubbock wrongly convicted you of. It is very possible that through a written confession from me and DNA testing, you can finally have your name cleared of the rape ... if this letter reaches you, please contact me by writing so that we can arrange to take the steps to get the process started. Whatever it takes, I will do it."

Johnson did not know Cole had died. In fact, according to the Avalanche-Journal, he had been writing to court officials for years to confess to the rape, but got nowhere.
- So, supposedly, they check all incoming and outgoing mail.  So why did someone not spot this, and notify someone?  Or did they?

Upon finding out that Cole was dead, Johnson wrote he "cried and felt double guilty, even though I know the system's at fault," according to the Avalanche-Journal.

"A day later, I am still bothered, terribly, by the death revelation. Because, not knowing Mr. Cole at all, I wonder if the wrongful incarceration contributed to his death."

The Innocence Project became involved after Cole's family received Johnson's letter. DNA tests confirmed that Johnson was Mallin's attacker. Now, Cole's family hopes the court hearing will be the final step in clearing his name.

Mallin is helping them. "I was very traumatized," she said. "I was scared for my life. I tried my hardest to remember what he looked like."
- And it's cases like this, why a photo line up, should NOT be the only evidence to convict someone, and ruin the wrong persons life.  Fix the darn system!!!

"I'm trying to get his name cleared. It's the right thing to do."

Cory Session said, "We don't blame Michele. She's very gracious."

Click to enlarge


Battling sexual addiction - Millions of Americans suffer from disorder, experts say

View the article here
Dr. Patrick Carnes Web Site

02/24/2004

By Keith Morrison

Chances are you've known someone, maybe even someone in your own family, who's struggled with an addiction to cigarettes, alcohol or drugs. But what about an addiction to sex? A growing number of medical experts are saying compulsive sexual behavior is a very real disorder that an estimated 16 million Americans, both men and women, are fighting.

“Daily, I sit down with people who look back at the wreckage in their life and say, knowing all along, ‘Why would I do this stuff?’" says Dr. Patrick Carnes, director of sexual disorders services at Arizona's Meadows Treatment Center, which first coined the term "sexual addiction."

Carnes says the same way that people can become addicted to drugs, alcohol or gambling, they can become addicted to sex, anything from Internet sex to obsessive masturbation to affairs.

What makes a sex addict?
How do experts tell what makes a person a sex addict as opposed to someone who just likes sex?

“You look for the obvious things, like bad things happening, knowing that you are doing something that is going to hurt you so you make efforts to stop that don't work,” says Carnes. “Obviously, you’ve got a problem.”

“There was that selfish needy, lonely, angry part of myself that didn't want to stop and saw that sex was my solution to other things,” says Mark Laaser, who had an insatiable need for secret sex. To anyone who knew him, it would have seemed incomprehensible. Laaser, a minister and counselor, was married with children and an icon of respect. But that wasn't enough.

Mark says that early on he felt an emptiness, a loneliness that sex seemed to fill. “It was just an excitement, a raw excitement -- kind of like what a drug addict would describe,” he says. “It was just a high.”

It was a high Laaser started experiencing at a young age. When he was 11, he says he discovered pictures -- what he'd call soft porn now.

“And some of that is not abnormal for a person seeing that for the first time,” he says. “Of course when it becomes abnormal is how preoccupied you get with it.”

Laaser was so fixated by what he saw, he started stealing Playboy magazines from the local drugstore.

“And then also for me, I started crossing moral boundaries almost right away … Stealing magazines -- and I’m a preacher's kid, a minister's son,” says Laaser. “So I knew that stealing was bad. But I was willing to go ahead with it because the high was so fantastic of what I was experiencing.”

'I wanted to act it out'
In high school, Laaser hoped his behavior might stop when he met Debbie, the girl he thought could change him.

“There was a part of myself that she just didn't know because I wasn't revealing it to her or anybody for that matter,” says Laaser. He wasn't revealing that he was now doing more than looking at magazines. He was watching porn videos and masturbating daily. Debbie, unaware of Mark's double life, trusted him and they got married. Mark hoped that married life would bring an end to a life preoccupied by sex.

“All this crazy stuff in the past, that will be over now. I’m getting married. I'll have a regular sexual partner and so forth,” says Laaser. “But I was amazed early on, even in the first year of marriage, that my temptation to masturbate and look at pornography returned rather quickly.”

A lot of people think human beings are preoccupied by sex a lot of time, so what could be so unusual about his feelings?

“The part that was unusual was where my mind tended to go with it,” says Laaser. “I wanted to experience it. I wanted to act it out. Eventually I had a lot of preoccupation with planning or doing or thinking what it would be like.”

Laaser soon was no longer planning, but doing, paying monthly visits to massage parlors, having sex with so-called "masseuses,” all the while hiding it from his wife Debbie, whom Laaser says he still loved deeply.

“I was always completely attracted to her,” says Laaser. “There was just something so much deeper in me that cannot be satisfied by sex.”

He says something deeply emotional was missing, and he wondered why he couldn't just stop.

'Wracked with shame'
“I was wracked with shame and tried time and time again to stop,” says Marnie Ferree, who like Laaser, knows what it's like to be out of control of her sexual feelings. For Ferree, it wasn't so much about sex itself, but about the relationships she thought she could have by engaging in sex with acquaintances and friends.

“The sexual part was pleasurable and it was a nice byproduct for me, but that wasn't the most important thing,” says Ferree. “I was trying to get non-sexual needs met sexually and that was the only way I knew how to meet those needs.”

Ferree says that as a child, she was sexually abused by a family friend, a common precursor to later addiction. Ferree’s promiscuity lasted from her teen years through two marriages, with numerous affairs in between. She felt an emotional void that she says sex filled -- at least initially.

“At the time there is an incredible adrenaline rush,” says Ferree. “It’s a connection that I found I couldn't replicate anywhere else. But immediately after that experience is over, I mean driving back home, there is this incredible let down and you're just in a wash of shame.”

That shame that worsened after Ferree was diagnosed with cervical cancer. The cause, she was told, was HPV, a sexually transmitted disease.

“That was the lowest point,” says Ferree. “I experienced three surgeries in a year as treatment of that cervical cancer. Had a major hemorrhaging after one of those surgeries. I mean my life was literally in danger and I found still that I could not stop.”

Thoughts of suicide
Ferree was sick, married and a mother, yet none of those things could make her change, even though she was horrified by what she was doing.

“It's about feeling rotten,” says Ferree. “I want to feel better. What way am I going through a ritual to feel better? I’m connecting with someone, I’m going to act out sexually. I feel horrible after that and the whole cycle starts over again.”

Ferree was desperate. Sex with her husband was not enough, and she believed the only way to stop having sex outside her marriage was to end her life.

“I had really strong suicidal thoughts,” says Ferree. “But I knew I couldn't keep on living but I was too afraid to die.”

Another woman, who calls herself “Karen,” was also overtaken by sexual addiction and by her own shame, so raw that she asked Dateline NBC to hide her face and use a different name.

“It’s just this 24-hour distraction,” she says. “Like the shame that it causes, I feel like it just stole my soul.”

Karen is in her '30s, single, and for almost as long as she can remember she's been preoccupied with finding love. For years, she says, this meant having sex several times a week with strangers she would pick up in bars, frequently putting herself in dangerous situations.

“I ended up going home with a group of guys like 10 years younger than me,” says Karen, “and I figured I would have sex with one of them and maybe have a relationship. But I ended up having sex or doing sexual things with several of them. And that was a new low … Absolutely humiliated. What horrified me the most about it is that these guys were graffiti writers and they wrote on my body and that's what made me feel like, oh my God, I was just completely used as an object.”

Karen even found herself contemplating prostitution. “That actually seemed like a logical thing to do since I found myself having sex with people I didn't know anyway,” she says. “And I kind of became obsessed with some ads in the back of a free newspaper for escort services and I went on a couple of interviews.”

'I was frightened, incredibly frightened'
Laaser was also building toward behavior he would never have thought was possible for him.

He had degrees in religion and divinity, had attended seminary school, was a deeply committed Christian and had been ordained as a minister. “There was that good side. There was that moral side. There was that caring side,” says Laaser.

And yet, he'd escape, feeling furtive and guilty, to feed his sexual addiction. At the same time, he was working on getting his Ph.D. in, of all things, psychology.

“Now I’m the Rev. Dr. Laaser,” he says, “and there are people that are going to be attracted to that and I actually wound up becoming sexual with some of my clients at that time. … It happened multiple times over a 10-year period. … [I was] frightened, incredibly frightened … I think for years I felt totally worthless. I can’t describe to you the times I would sit in church, even preaching on a Sunday morning, thinking God's grace was for everybody else but certainly not for me.”

Laaser was preaching redemption, but for him, redemption might be more difficult. He betrayed parishioners, colleagues and clients. It was a trust that was about to be shattered.

“One of the people I was involved in with had reported (our affair). Yes, the very thing I was afraid of actually happened. Eight very angry people called me in, canceled my appointments for that day,” says Laaser.

He says he didn’t even realize what they knew “until the first one opened his mouth and started talking. Then it all came crashing in on me.”

Laaser’s colleagues at the center where he was a counselor angrily confronted and fired him. They would help him get treatment for his sexual misbehavior, but first, they said, he had to tell his wife Debbie everything.

“I was totally blindsided,” says Debbie. “I had no idea that this man I had been living with for 15 years -- married to for 15 years -- could possible have been doing all these things. And I'll never forget the look on Mark's face. Actually he was sitting in a chair across from me and I guess today what I know is brokenness in a person … I think there were times truthfully when I questioned whether I would stay. There were times I know when I felt so extremely sad, that I wasn't sure we would ever be able to have happiness in our life again.”

And then, in the midst of all that pain, her husband felt something else.

“This pent up secret that is now over 30 years old is now all of a sudden out of the bag,” says Laaser. “I don’t have to protect the secret anymore. So I think mixed up with fear, sadness and confusion there was a sense of relief.”

Is sex addiction really about the sex?
So is sex addiction really about the sex?

“No,” says Carnes, “but that's the mistake people often make. It's really about pain … or escaping or anxiety reduction. It's a solution.”

Ferree thought sex was her solution to painful feelings, but it was a solution that was not working. After years of failing to will herself to stop having sex with acquaintances, she was ready to take her own life. And then, at last, she confided in someone.

“I picked up the phone and called a dear friend and poured out this awful saga of my life and said I need help,” says Ferree.

She did get help help. A therapist helped her learn to deal with the childhood sexual abuse that contributed to her many affairs. Her second marriage survived and is, she says, better.

Ferree was surprised to find she wasn't alone. About a third of sex addicts are female, which is why, Ferree says, she decided she wanted to do something to help other women. She went back to school to get a degree in counseling.

“I didn't choose sex addiction,” says Ferree. “Sex addiction chose me and this field chose me.”

She now runs a counseling program for sexually addicted women, called Bethesda Workshops.

“Women are afraid to talk about it,” says Ferree. “We're afraid of being labeled as whores. It's kind of guys will be guys, men will be men. But for a woman to be out of control in her sexual behavior, there is just a whole other level of shame.”

Recovery programs
Karen, awash in that same shame, one day found herself surfing the Internet to see if she was the only woman in the world who suffered in this way, when she ran across Web sites for sexual addiction. She entered a 12-step program and has been dealing with sex appropriately for a year.

“The real problem for most sex addicts, they would say to you, I wouldn't know healthy sexuality if it hit me over the head. So how do I know when I am in my craziness and when what I'm doing is a normal healthy reaction to have. And that's part of what recovery teaches,” says Carnes.

Laaser has been in recovery for over a decade. He say's it's a continuing process. After his sexual misbehavior was exposed, Laser entered a sex addiction treatment center for a month where he received psychotherapy. He now runs a program called Faithful and True Ministries. He still occasionally goes for counseling and relies on the support of those around him, such as his wife Debbie who stayed by his side through it all.

“I never had these real feelings of just running and leaving,” says Debbie. “I wasn't aware that running would solve anything necessarily.”

Their relationship eventually strengthened. They dealt with some of the loneliness Laaser felt and both found comfort in their religious faith.

“Now that Debbie and I are more spiritually intimate, sex in our relationship is totally satisfying,” says Laaser.

His work has also helped him. He is again counseling others -- including men with problems like his.

Why can't people just stop?
So why can’t people just stop these behaviors? If there's no drug or chemical involved, how is sex addiction like drug addiction or smoking?

“When you have a compulsive gambler,” says Carnes, “you’re not taking a chemical. ... In other words, we produce chemicals in our brain whether we use an outside chemical or not.”

New studies, like one at Vanderbilt University, are being conducted to determine if brains of sex addicts are somehow different, and if sex addiction is a true, measurable disorder. Yet despite growing interest in such research, there are still some who do not believe it is a true addiction. The American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic manual, for example, does not list sex addiction as a disorder.

“That book is always changing,” says Carnes, “and a consensus is starting to build. People who work in the addiction realm are starting to get a common agreement about how to start describing this.”

But, however the scientific debate works itself out, people like Ferree, Karen and Laaser want to help other people suffering from the same compulsions. They want people to know how to recognize the problem and discover that there is hope.


NJ - AP NewsBreak: Report: Megan's Law not a deterrent


02/06/2009

By BETH DeFALCO - Associated Press Writer

A new federally funded study examining sex offenses in the state where Megan's Law was created concluded that the law hasn't deterred repeat offenses.

The report released Thursday found that registering sex offenders in New Jersey makes it easier to find them when they are accused of crimes, but does little to alter the types of sex crimes committed or the number of victims. The study also suggests the costs associated with the laws may not be justified.

The study estimated the cost of implementing Megan's Law in New Jersey at around $555,000 in 1995. By 2007, the annual costs of maintaining the programs totaled around $4 million.

New Jersey was among the first states to enact laws requiring community notification and sex offender registration. The laws, now in all 50 states, are named for Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old New Jersey girl who was raped and killed in 1994 by a twice-convicted sex offender who lived near her home.

Megan's Law requires law enforcement agencies to notify the public about convicted sex offenders living in their communities.

When the most dangerous sex offenders move to a neighborhood, police go door to door to personally notify citizens and past victims. Those considered to have a lower risk of re-offending are listed on an Internet registry available to the public. The lowest risk offenders must register but aren't subject to notification laws.

Kanka's mother, Maureen Kanka, says the laws were never intended to alter the behavior of sex offenders.

"It was to provide an awareness to the public, which it has done," Kanka said Friday. "We never said it would stop them from going somewhere else and sexually abusing."

She added: "Would having that knowledge have made a difference for my daughter? Absolutely. She'd have been alive and well."

But Kristen Zgoba, one of the lead authors of the report and a research supervisor for the state Corrections Department, said that increased awareness alone doesn't result in safer communities.

"There's no other way to increase safety other than to decrease the likelihood of these crimes taking place," Zgoba said.

A public defender, Michael Buncher, said the money spent on Megan's Law would be better used for improved supervision of sex offenders and sex offender therapy in prisons.

The report is among only a few to use hard data to evaluate the effect of the laws on the crime rate. Recent studies in New York and Arkansas have come to similar conclusions. Other previous studies, however, have used mostly anecdotal evidence to support use of Megan's Laws.

The New Jersey study was conducted by the state Department of Corrections with help from Rutgers University. It was funded by the National Institute of Justice.

The authors found that New Jersey has seen an overall reduction in the number of sexual offenses since the early 1990s, but that reduction can't be directly associated with the passage of the notification laws in 1995.

Other factors may be at play. In 1998, New Jersey started civil commitments of sex offenders deemed the most likely to re-offend.

Those who treat sex abusers say registration and notification programs are helpful, but aren't comprehensive enough and don't help rehabilitate the offenders.

"There's a whole containment approach that means that people from a bunch of disciplines - probation and parole, sex offender treatment, victim advocacy and local law enforcement - are working to make sure they don't re-offend," said Alisa Klein of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers.

"Those types of programs seem to be the most effective way to ensure they don't re-offend, opposed to programs that monitor where they are or residence restrictions that a lot of states are investing money into now."

Some studies suggest that notification laws are counterproductive. A 1999 study noted that the fear of exposure may cause offenders to avoid treatment, and may encourage pedophiles to seek out children as a result of adult isolation.


NY - Does a watched pot boil? A time-series analysis of New York State's sex offender registration and notification law.

View the article here

11/2008

By Sandler, Jeffrey C.; Freeman, Naomi J.; Socia, Kelly M.

Despite the fact that the federal and many state governments have enacted registration and community notification laws as a means to better protect communities from sexual offending, limited empirical research has been conducted to examine the impact of such legislation on public safety. Therefore, utilizing time-series analyses, this study examined differences in sexual offense arrest rates before and after the enactment of New York State's Sex Offender Registration Act. Results provide no support for the effectiveness of registration and community notification laws in reducing sexual offending by: (a) rapists, (b) child molesters, (c) sexual recidivists, or (d) first-time sex offenders. Analyses also showed that over 95% of all sexual offense arrests were committed by first-time sex offenders, casting doubt on the ability of laws that target repeat offenders to meaningfully reduce sexual offending.

(PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2008 APA, all rights reserved)


NY - Does a watched pot boil? A time-series analysis of New York State's sex offender registration and notification law.

View the article here | New Jersey Study

11/2008

By Sandler, Jeffrey C.; Freeman, Naomi J.; Socia, Kelly M.

Despite the fact that the federal and many state governments have enacted registration and community notification laws as a means to better protect communities from sexual offending, limited empirical research has been conducted to examine the impact of such legislation on public safety. Therefore, utilizing time-series analyses, this study examined differences in sexual offense arrest rates before and after the enactment of New York State's Sex Offender Registration Act. Results provide no support for the effectiveness of registration and community notification laws in reducing sexual offending by: (a) rapists, (b) child molesters, (c) sexual recidivists, or (d) first-time sex offenders. Analyses also showed that over 95% of all sexual offense arrests were committed by first-time sex offenders, casting doubt on the ability of laws that target repeat offenders to meaningfully reduce sexual offending.

(PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2008 APA, all rights reserved)


Sex Offender Laws in New Jersey & New York Both Ineffective

There is a great article over at the Sex Crimes blog, check it out.

Click the image below to visit the article