Monday, December 28, 2009
By John Bailey
In this economy finding a job is tough, and as a registered sex offender — it’s almost impossible.
The Rome News-Tribune featured _____’s predicament as a registered sex offender in October. _____ wants to work with-in the system but is finding that increasingly difficult.
The Christmas season has been a keen reminder of his situation: no job equals no money, which in turn means no home and no ability to provide for his children.
Through the charity of others, he has a place to stay and some food, but for a 27 year-old able-bodied man who wants to work that situation can chafe.
“I’m still looking, but everything I’ve had I couldn’t do because the restrictions don’t let me work there,” _____ said.
Right now he’s living with Roger Covington — president of a local prison ministry — and helping him work on cars to pay his way.
_____’s current entanglement with the legal system began at age 18, when he pleaded guilty to a statutory rape charge filed against him when he was 17. Although the sex was consensual, the girl was underage.
_____ said he’s been clean and arrest-free for four years. He’s been trying to comply with his probation requirements and was working for some time before being laid off.
The article garnered some international attention, and two French journalists from Zone Interdite, a news show, flew in to interview _____. The show concerns the sex offender registry in the U.S., said journalist Pierre Toury.
“We’re trying to understand how it works and who is on it,” Toury said.
“It is about the law and how it has been applied — and the consequences of people who are not really meant to be on it.”
Toury said they also traveled to Florida to interview those who, because of that state’s laws, are forced to live under a bridge.
“Lawmakers need to decide the difference between the rapers and the others,” Toury said. “It’s not the best thing for 50 percent on the registry.”
He said the documentary will air sometime in March on the station M6 in France.
These people made headlines because the media forced it down people's throats, by broadcasting it over and over and over again. And they try to blame the public by saying "The public has an compulsive disorder!" Really? I believe the media has an obsessive disorder, not the public. Just look at the Tiger Woods stuff, it's still being talked about. People are human, leave them alone! But, people love their idols and worship them, so when their idols mess up, they want to know all about it. It's pathetic, IMO.
By John Bailey
Georgia’s policies concerning sex offenders aren’t only a strain on those who are monitored — they’re also causing difficulties for those with the responsibility of monitoring.
The Georgia Sexually Violent Offender Registry was enacted by the 1996 Georgia General Assembly, and legislators passed tough laws in 2006 that restricted where these offenders can live, work and even congregate.
- It's called the "Georgia Sex Offender Registry," so why does Mr. Bailey feel the need to insert "sexually violent" into the text? By him doing so, he apparently thinks all on the registry are "sexually violent," which is not the case.
Shortly thereafter civil rights groups began challenging the most restrictive portions of the law.
They claimed certain provisions, such as one that bans offenders from living, working or loitering within 1,000 feet of just about anywhere children gather, rendered vast portions of Georgia off-limits to offenders.
They also have targeted other portions of the law, with several challenges that have been resolved or are pending in state and federal court.
Some provisions have been found unconstitutional while others have been upheld, and this back-and-forth between the legislative and judicial branches has left those who enforce the law in the lurch at times.
“It’s a political football, nobody wants to be seen as being weak on sex offenders,” said Tom Caldwell, chief deputy with the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office. “Then the sheriffs get caught up in the mix.”
- This is what you get when you have politicians who think they know better than anybody else, who do not listen to experts in treating sex offenders, nor do they ask others opinions. The sheriff's and others, IMO, need to put the "football" back into the politicians hands, and let them deal with it, since they made and passed the unconstitutional laws, and are not upholding their oaths of office to defend the constitution.
Sheriff’s departments across the state are the ground troops in monitoring the whereabouts of sex offenders on parole.
While many feel monitoring is necessary for the sexually violent or dangerous, they still would like legislators to take a viable approach to the offender registry.
The Georgia Sheriff’s Association (Contact) is set to meet with legislators for a three-day session on Jan. 25 and one of the likely topics is the registry.
Caldwell said it’s a possibility they’ll talk to legislators about taking measures to fine-tune the registry to provide a more focused monitoring of predatory sex offenders.
“(The registry) started out as sex offenders in general, and I think they’re generally trying to craft it down to the people we really need to be looking at,” Caldwell said.
Locally the Sheriff’s Office collaborates with the probation and parole offices to keep track of area sex offenders. In this way the three agencies spread the burden, and the cost, to keep track of Floyd County’s 100-plus registered offenders.
“We all three kind of work it together,” Caldwell said. “As long as we know what they’re doing, where they’re living, where they’re working and what kind of potential threat they might be — that’s what we’re working to do.”
Another issue with the law is that many sheriffs found themselves with additional responsibilities but no additional people or funding to handle the additional work, said J. Terry Norris, executive director of the Georgia Sheriff’s Association.
“When the Legislature passed the laws, the sheriff’s offices across the state didn’t get additional funding for the additional task of keeping up with the sex offender registry,” Norris said.
However he said the majority of the GSA’s issues deal with creating a workable registry that takes local concerns into consideration.
A regular topic of conversation between the sheriffs and legislators has to do with the classification of sex offenders.
Right now both sex offenders and “sexually violent predators” are monitored in much the same way, Norris said.
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation registry Web site, Floyd County has 172 registered sex offenders and two with the predator designation.
There are 17,514 registered sex offenders statewide.
“I don’t know if we have the answers on how to classify them,” Norris said. “There’s so many, so they can’t make any headway — we really don’t have any easy answers.”
But that being said, local authorities have been going above and beyond to make determinations as to who is dangerous and needs more monitoring within their own communities, Norris said.
Other things the GSA would like to see enacted are having homeless sex offenders report to sheriffs weekly and creating multi-county registration for those who work or go to school in counties other than the one they live and are registered in.
One big one for the GSA is to eliminate the annual $250 dollar registration fee for sex offenders, Norris said.
“They don’t have the money. They can’t pay it,” Norris said. “Most of these guys don’t have it anyway, they really don’t.”
- That is basically an extortion fee. Either you pay it, or go to jail or prison. In general, someone pays a fee like this for something they want, like cable TV, DirecTV, etc!
By Robert Franklin, Esq.
They learn early in the U.K.
In this case, a 15-year-old girl and her teenaged companion seem to have gone off on a drinking bender, so much so that she passed out in the middle of the street (BBC, 12/17/09). Unfortunately for him, Desmond Uttley was walking nearby and decided to help the girl. That was his mistake, but apparently one he won't make again.
To cover their drinking escapade, the two teenagers decided to accuse Uttley of rape, so they concocted a story of his tossing her over his shoulder, taking her to his flat and raping her. It's a bizarre story given that they apparently claimed he did all this with the girl's 14-year-old male companion present. But however odd the story and however unsupported by facts, it was enough to convict Uttley and sentence him to prison for six years for rape. He served two and a half years before "new" DNA evidence showed that, "if the girl had had sex, it was not with Uttley."
Meanwhile, the false accuser is entitled to anonymity. She's also apparently entitled to be free of any punishment whatsoever for her false accusations and the pointless expenditure of time by police, prosecutors and at least two courts. I'm still unclear on British civil law relating to whether Uttley can sue her for her malicious accusation. Whether he can or can't, it's a certainty that he'll never get a farthing from her.
He also lost his marriage due to the non-incident.
But at least Uttley is now a free man, albeit a more careful one.
Mr Uttley is looking forward to the future but admitted he would be reluctant to go to the aid of anyone in need.
He said: "If I saw someone in the middle of the street who had been beaten up, I know first aid but I don't think I would go over and help that man or woman because I'd be scared if I went to help them I'd be classed as party to that.
"I would have to walk past, whereas before I would help if I could."
In connection with seemingly every case of false rape accusations, we hear the claim made that an unintended consequence of punishing false rape accusers will be to deter real victims from reporting the crime. If there's any actual evidence for the proposition, I haven't seen it, and, as Uttley's case and countless others suggest, police seem to err on the side of believing rape claimants rather than not.
But what Uttley said tells us that the failure to punish false allegations has unintended consequences as well. Men like Uttley will be far less likely to play the Good Samaritan role out of concern that they'll be somehow tagged as a perpetrator of some crime. Indeed, several years ago exactly that happened in the U.K. A two-year-old girl wandered away from her mother's supervision, fell into and drowned in a small pond. A man said he saw her toddling around with no adult nearby, but refused to intervene because he feared charges of child molestation or kidnapping.
Tragic as that case was, who could blame him?
Letters to the editor
It is heartening to know that Matthew Freeman ("Pittsfield Twp. man struggles with sex offender label" - Ann Arbor.com, Dec. 15) and others with similar stories are coming forward, and that members of the media are telling of their plight.
Sex offender registries in Michigan and nationwide are growing by leaps and bounds. Sex offender laws implemented in recent years cast a wide net and catch many fish that are awarded equal status with the shark. It’s a system that offers no measurable gain, but creates substantial loss.
Taxpayer dollars are lost to pay for implementation of sex registry laws and oversee compliance. Taxpayer money is lost to fund prosecution, incarceration, or to manage the probation of “offenders.” We’ve lost a controlled and focused sex offender list to a watered-down version that makes it harder to target and prosecute true offenders. We’ve lost rationale and logic to what often amounts to a whipped-up frenzy of fear.
Most sad is the human potential and emotional health lost or diminished when individuals are unfairly demonized and penalized by inclusion on a sex registry. The stigma and restrictions put on anyone who appears on a sex offender list are creating a growing under-society of people who face serious employment, residential and social limitations, and who can do little, if anything, to rise above their circumstances.
Think of the craze to catch “witches” during the Salem Witch Trials. Think of all the “communists” of the McCarthy Era. Sex offenders - regardless of whether they truly are or not - are the latest demons to fear and persecute. One can only hope that more and more “offenders” follow Matthew Freeman’s example . . . that they step out of the shadows and work to bring understanding and change to the emotional force driving unjust and costly victimization.
By Shoshana Walter
Critics of 2006 ordinance imposing harsher restrictions say it has driven many offenders into homelessness.
BARTOW - Polk County commissioners have tabled a discussion on an ordinance restricting sex offenders and predators in the county, but a newly formed group wants to bring it back.
The ordinance, passed in 2006, imposed harsher residency restrictions on sex offenders and predators than those contained in state law.
Supporters have said the ordinance is for the public's protection, but critics say it has had the opposite effect. They contend it has increased the number of homeless sex predators and offenders, actually increasing the likelihood of further offenses.
After a group of homeless predators was arrested last month, county commissioners began to receive phone calls and e-mailed complaints. As a result, commissioners briefly discussed the issue at a meeting this month, but did not arrive at any conclusions.
Now Lori Crump, a former Department of Corrections officer who allowed the homeless offenders to temporarily reside at her mobile home park in Auburndale, said she's helping form the Homeless Offender Task Force, a group that will research and discuss the effects of the ordinance.
Crump said the group wants to educate commissioners, much like similar groups have in nearby counties, allowing them to make informed decisions.
Although the task force's members have not developed specific changes yet, they plan to eventually do that and then ask commissioners to revise the ordinance in ways that will improve public safety.
Several commissioners have said they are open to a discussion about the ordinance, but have not taken steps to research it.
"People don't have enough knowledge about the facts, including our public officials," Crump said.
State law requires offenders to live at least 1,000 feet away from schools, day-care centers, parks, playgrounds and public libraries.
It also allows local governments, such as Polk, to impose stricter requirements.
Polk's ordinance forbids predators from living within 1,000 feet of school bus stops and designated churches, and forbids offenders and predators from living within 2,500 feet of schools, day-care centers, parks, playgrounds and public libraries.
Sheriff Grady Judd (Contact) said the ordinance would combat recidivism.
But critics say the ordinance has actually increased the likelihood of repeat offenses. The instability of homelessness only breeds risky behavior among offenders, critics say, and places an extra burden on law enforcement to track them.
Three years after its passing, commissioners have not taken an in-depth look at the ordinance's effects.
Three citizens spoke of their concerns during a commission meeting early this month.
Commissioner Randy Wilkinson suggested asking the Public Safety Coordinating Council to discuss the issue, but Clerk of Court Richard Weiss objected to the idea.
The council, comprised of judges and representatives from the Polk County Sheriff's Office, the State Attorney's Office and the Public Defender's Office, is focused on overcrowding in jails, not general issues of public safety, such as this ordinance.
"I have not looked at it. I haven't read it," Commissioner Sam Johnson said of the ordinance after the December meeting. "It's going to be hard for me to have a tremendous amount of sympathy for (changing it)."
Crump says the criticisms of the ordinance have nothing to do with sympathy for offenders.
Other counties have seen homelessness as a consequence of the ordinance, including Miami-Dade, where homeless predators live under a bridge on the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida (Contact) filed an unsuccessful lawsuit in July, claiming Miami-Dade County's ordinance interferes with the state's monitoring of released offenders.
Crump said she plans on inviting different agencies, including law enforcement, to join the group. The first meeting is likely to be in January.
"I am absolutely not an advocate for sex offenders. I am an advocate for fairness," she said. "We are interested in people who know the issues. Anyone who's making an intelligent decision really needs to look at the facts."