Thursday, May 14, 2009
This is Doug Stanhope, a comedian. In this clip he talks about the issue of on-line predators and makes fun of how over-blown the issue is in the media. At one point during the clip, someone in the audience starts calling him a "f---ing pedo". (Could there have been a PJ member in the club that night?) Stanhope better be careful. With a stand-up bit like this, he could wind up being called a pedo-enabler by the PJ vigilantes!
By Jonathan Tamari - Inquirer Trenton Bureau
Some New Jersey lawmakers want convicted criminals to pay for their confinement or electronic monitoring.
Two bills would pass the costs of state jails onto inmates and the expense of electronic monitoring devices onto sex offenders required to wear them.
A plan from State Sen. James Beach (Contact) (D., Camden) would charge state prisoners for the cost of their incarceration, an average of $38,700 per year. Beach said he had gotten the idea from within his district, where the Camden County Correctional Facility assesses a user fee of $5 per day for room and board and $10 per day for use of the infirmary.
- So what if they refuse to pay this extortion fee?
The fees generate about $300,000 a year.
"There's a misperception that everyone in jail is poor, and that's just not true," Beach said. "Why should we as taxpayers foot the bill for someone that did something wrong and end up in jail?"
With the cost of incarceration approaching $40,000 per year, Beach said, "I think we should be able to do pretty good."
A bill sponsored by State Sen. Joseph Pennacchio (Contact) (R., Morris) and Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney (Contact) (D., Gloucester) would require those convicted sex offenders who must wear electronic monitoring devices to pay the costs of that equipment, or about $2,900 per year.
"It can be quite an expense for the state, an expense that, in my view, the state shouldn't have to deal with," Pennacchio said at a hearing on the measure.
About 209 sex offenders in New Jersey must be monitored. They are generally those considered the highest threat to safety who can still be released from confinement.
Pennsylvania charges all people who require electronic monitoring, including sex offenders, for the cost, said Leo Dunn, a spokesman for the state's parole board.
At least eight other states make sex offenders pay for monitoring devices, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
There is also long-running movement among some county jails to charge inmates. Pennsylvania does not do it statewide, but several counties do.
"It is popping up across the country," said Rick Neimiller, director of administration and communications for the American Jail Association. "Especially now they're looking at it, with the economy."
- It should be the other way around, if the state wants to put someone in prison, for some small crime, then the state should pay for it. Now, if they can charge people for their incarceration, you can bet more people will be thrown into prison, so the prison business continues to grow!
Critics, however, said charging inmates would put a burden on both the prisoners and their families, who are often poor.
"It discourages people trying to put their lives back together," said Elizabeth Alexander, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Prison Project.
- Just more modern day slavery, IMO. Many will not be able to pay for this, so therefore, they will be left in prison, or faced with paying fines for life. I thought slavery was over with? Apparently not!
People heading to prison often owe fines, restitution, and child support, and have little income while incarcerated, said Ed Martone, director of public education and policy for the New Jersey Association on Correction.
An "infinitesimal" number of prisoners have book deals, TV movies, or other perks that make them rich, Martone said.
"The cost idea has come up before, and it's usually dropped just as quickly" in New Jersey, Martone said. His group contracts with the state to run halfway houses and works on AIDS and domestic-violence issues.
In New Jersey state prisons, the average prisoner account has $102.37, said Deirdre Fedkenheuer, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections.
For most inmates, that is most of the money they have after paying fines, court fees, victims' funds, and other charges, she said. In prison they earn, at most, 80 cents an hour, Fedkenheuer said.
"Generally what we're talking about is people who are pretty indigent," she said. "What they earn is next to nothing."
Lawmakers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania have proposed plans before to charge fees in state prisons, but none became law.
Georgia's legislature considered a similar bill this year.
In both New Jersey bills, exceptions would be allowed for people who couldn't afford the charges, but neither measure spells out where the line would be drawn. The sex-offender bill leaves the decision up to the chair of the parole board; the state prison plan lets the commissioner of corrections decide.
Martone said he was concerned about leaving the decisions up to one person.
The Berks County prison, in Pennsylvania, has been charging inmates for room, board, and more since 1991.
After an initial physical, for example, it costs inmates $5 to see a doctor and $3 to see a nurse, except for chronic illnesses and accidents. Prisoners who want more than one haircut every two months must also pay.
The jail charges first-time inmates $10 per day, and asks them to work out a payment plan when they leave, warden George A. Wagner said. If the payment isn't made, the fees go up for later stints in the facility. But the jail is planning to move toward charging a flat $45 fee when inmates enter. Those who don't pay will have fewer privileges and get only basic supplies, Wagner said.
"The whole concept was to instill financial responsibility in inmates," Wagner said. "It wasn't simply to make money nor to put a financial burden on inmates."
- Yeah right. Put some sugar coating on it, and pass the blame onto someone else. It's all about making money and punishing people, period. I do not care what you call it.
He said those who left but paid back their debts proved less likely to return to jail.
By JOE POTENTE
The Kenosha County Board is poised to stake out a position against municipal ordinances governing the residential placement of sex offenders.
A resolution, slated to go before the board on Tuesday, would put supervisors on record in support of state legislation prohibiting these local ordinances, which the resolution deems “generally unenforceable and ineffective.”
Representatives of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections and a statewide sexual assault awareness group said the county’s position is in line with their advocacy against the patchwork of local ordinances that have proliferated in recent years.
Communities have passed these ordinances in response to concerns about where registered sex offenders can live.
Silver Lake and Paris are among the most recent Kenosha County municipalities to adopt them. A Kenosha ordinance enacted in April 2008 put most of the city off limits to sex offender placement.
But critics say a hodgepodge of municipal ordinances have made it overly difficult for the state to locate offenders who must be placed somewhere, and they have opened up the possibility for so-called dumping grounds of offenders in places not touched by local restrictions.
“This is an issue that is facing many communities, and a standard guideline from the state, I think, is appropriate,” said County Board Chairman Joe Clark.
The board’s Legislative Committee spent months crafting the resolution, after it was charged with determining the suitability of enacting a county ordinance restricting sex offender residency.
After conducting hearings and soliciting comments from the Department of Corrections, the district attorney’s office, social workers and others, the committee decided sending a message to the state was the best option.
Among the resolution’s many statements is a concern that the state does not adequately classify sex offenders, putting non-violent individuals on an Internet registry alongside dangerous offenders.
Legislative Committee Chairman Jim Huff has frequently cited the example of a complaint being filed against an 18-year old who is having consensual sex with his 16-year-old girlfriend, opening up the offender to later become needlessly confused with dangerous predators.
Supervisor William P. Michel II, an attorney, agreed work needs to be done in the area of classifications.
“They’ve got to categorize so you really know,” Michel said. “When you get online, you see there’s a sex offender, but you don’t know what they really did.”
Michel said the committee’s research also revealed that severely limiting where offenders may be placed could bring unintended consequences — a point echoed by the state and an assault awareness advocate.
Jeanie Kurka Reimer, executive director of the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said no evidence supports that residency restriction laws protect children. Rather, she said they may reduce public safety, as they reduce stability in sex offenders’ lives, increasing their likelihood of re-offending.
Department of Corrections spokesman John Dipko said residency limitations can lead to homelessness, transience in housing, inability to maintain employment and increased cases of offenders going underground and becoming non-compliant with the state.
The proposed resolution also puts the board on record in favor of more funding for GPS tracking of offenders, increased mandatory incarceration, civil commitments and the creating of child safety zones. It also calls for state legislation mandating protective behavior lessons in public and private schools.
Kurka Reimer said she was impressed by the Legislative Committee’s work.
“What your community is talking about doing, and supporting statewide legislation around this is really, I think, kind of groundbreaking,” she said. “Other places have done more of the residency restriction, and that has caused a lot of problems.”