Friday, August 6, 2010
Madeleine Yong from P.S. The Children, a non-profit organization that seeks to uphold the rights of children, explains what construes as sex abuse, how sex offenders lure children and adolescents, and why parents should monitor changes in children's behaviour.
In its recent decision in U.S. v. Comstock, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal statute detaining those deemed to be sexually dangerous predators. Learn more about the injustices that may ensue.
In its recent decision in the case of U.S. v. Comstock (PDF), the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal statute allowing the indefinite detention of those the statute refers to as sexually dangerous predators. Securing civil commitment after a sexual offender has completed his prison term does have limits, and ultimately this law will apply to only a very small subset of those convicted of sex crimes. Yet, it is another example of the ever-growing range of penalties that can impact someone convicted of a sex crime long after he has served his prison term.
There is little public disagreement that such administrative penalties are appropriate when applied to the most dangerous predatory sex offenders. Unfortunately, those convicted of relatively minor sex crimes may face many of the same mandatory sex offender registration and lifetime restrictions as those convicted of more serious crimes. In some cases, a youthful mistake could mean an unfair and irreversible penalty.
Several of the more traditional penalties imposed on sex offenders, such as length of sentence or the restrictions on availability of early parole, vary considerably based on the seriousness of the conviction. For example, an offender convicted of a violent sexual assault will likely be sentenced to a longer prison term than an offender charged with indecent exposure in front of a child.
However, even for those offenders who receive relatively light sentences, conviction of a sex crime comes with mandatory sex offender registration. Most sex offenses require lifetime registration, although a few, such as attempted sexual assault, only require registration for 10 years following discharge from state supervision.
In Texas, registration is even required for defendants in sex crime cases who receive deferred adjudication, in which is a conviction can be avoided and charges will be dismissed if a probation period is successfully completed. That means someone who never sees the inside of a cell and does not have a conviction could nonetheless wind up on the Texas sex offender registry.
The consequences of being registered as a sex offender in Texas are substantial. Minimum legal requirements include periodically verifying registration information with local law enforcement authorities and making proper notification when relocating or regularly visiting an area other than the municipality where an offender is registered. A sex offender will always be monitored by the government, just as citizens are watched in a Communist state.
Furthermore, paroled sex offenders or those otherwise under community supervision are not allowed to be within 500 feet of any place where children are known to congregate (although once an offender has fully completed their sentence there are no registry regulations preventing them from being around children). While the Texas Sex Offender Registration Program itself does not prohibit sex offenders from working in certain occupations or professions, state law that regulates a particular trade may well do so.
For most registered sex offenders, the notoriety and negative public sentiment attached to placement on a sex offender registry is far more consequential than the strict legal requirements they must follow. The Texas Department of Public Safety maintains an online public database of the state's sex offender registry featuring free sex offender searches by name or location. Anyone, from prospective employers to neighborhood advocacy groups, can pinpoint the name, address, and other basic information of registered offenders. This creates lifelong difficulties in reintegrating into the community and obtaining employment.
For those offenders deemed to be at a high risk of re-offending, further written notification is provided through the mail to all homes within a given radius; however, local law enforcement authorities are permitted to publish even low and moderate-risk offenders in area newspapers. Risk-level is also included in the online database, although offenders at all levels of risk are displayed collectively.
To understand how justice can be lost in this process, imagine two defendants being sentenced in a Texas courtroom. One committed a violent rape against a young child; the other was 20 years old when he engaged in consensual intercourse with his 16 year-old girlfriend. Both of these offenses are sex crimes requiring registration. The first offender will likely receive a longer term of incarceration, but each defendant faces very similar requirements in terms of the sex offender registry.
Picture an even more shocking scenario in which, several years later, the second offender goes on to marry his 'victim' and never commits another crime. He will still be on the same database as the violent child rapist, and on the same website, his name popping up on the same searches. Not only is it a waste of law enforcement resources to focus on tracking such an obviously innocuous former offender, it is beyond unfair in a system that purports to foster proportionality in punishment.
Most agree that heightened community awareness of the most dangerous sexual predators is critically important. But, the term 'sex crime' encompasses too wide an array of offenses, and it is morally troubling that they all appear under the same banner. For those convicted of less serious offenses that still require registration, injustice is inherent in the current broad approach to treatment of sex crime offenders.
By JIM WALLS
Georgia’s sex offender registries are inaccurate, outdated and incomplete, potentially misleading the public about the threat of offenders living or working in their communities, state auditors say.
An outdated and inflexible computer system is the cause of many of the troubles, State Auditor Russell W. Hinton said in a report released Wednesday (PDF). The system “is not easily adapted,” so it doesn’t contain all the information that the state’s 11,000-plus registered offenders must report and does not easily accept data transfers from state prisons and other agencies that often have more up-to-date information, the report says.
Auditors also found:
- The state’s 159 sheriffs, required by Georgia law to maintain their own separate registries, often have information that conflicts with and is more current than the statewide registry kept by the GBI.
- The registry has inadequate controls to check the accuracy of the information once it’s entered.
- Data is not updated in a timely manner, particularly descriptions and photos
- Data entry errors abound, including incorrect street addresses and cities that many people use to search for offenders in their communities.
- The state’s online registry, used for 8 million searches a year, reports where offenders reside but not where they attend school or work, information the law also requires the offenders to report.
Auditors also observed that the state registry is missing “contextual information important to the public’s perception of risk.” What’s missing? It doesn’t inform the public “that most sex crimes are committed by acquaintances of their victims, not unknown registered sex offenders.”
GBI officials agreed with many of the auditors’ findings but cited funding and staffing as major obstacles to improving the registry.
ARC TALK RADIO
When: Wednesday, August 4, 2010 (8 p.m. EST)
Call In: (724) 444-7444, then enter 29521#
Listen to the show here
CHILD ABUSE REGISTRY DESTROYS MOTHER:
Please join us this coming Wednesday as we meet Crystal who has found herself on a child abuse registry and yet never convicted of a crime. How can this be?
Crystal’s story is one hard to grasp yet everyday in America we hear more and more how the state steps in, and with no evidence rips children from their parents arms. In Crystal’s case she married a man who is a registered sex offender because when he was 19 he had consensual sex with a young lady.
Now today, Crystal has lost her job due to the registry and her children. She wants to tell her story and warn other parents how their children can be ripped from their homes with no evidence of physical abuse in the home.
Child Protective Services has grown powerful over the years and tonight you are going to hear one of two special shows this week where a mother is falsely accused and fighting to get her children back. (On Friday’s Hot Topics **Friday, August 6** Hot Topics you will meet another mother who’s children were kidnapped by the state she says)
Also, please visit SOSEN to read more horror stories.
Please join ARC and support Crystal in her fight for her family!
Kevin and Mary
By Kelly Piercy
We have had success with the media over the past months if the measure of success is going in and coming out alive.
What has been happening is that we have been quoted in the print media and made appearances on local and national broadcast media.
Mary Duval appeared on John Stossel's program in a lengthy segment about the registry and was able to present arguments regarding the registration of 'Romeo and Juliet' cases (here).
I was quoted in a widely distributed Associated Press (AP) article. This resulted in being interviewed and appearing on a local FOX affiliate. This further resulted in an appearance on FOX and Friends and was followed by an appearance on another FOX Network program, The Mike Huckabee Show.
While Mary's appearance managed to get a lot more information out, the FOX appearances demonstrate something else.
It is not easy to go into the opposition's territory and avoid being slammed. In neither case did that happen. While I was not given the opportunity to present much information, I was not the 'target'. Even FOX has come to recognize that there is another side to this argument and is beginning to take the presentation of that side as necessary for fair and balanced reporting.
I spent days discussing these appearances with the producers and that might have been the most useful thing I was able to do. During those interviews, I was given the opportunity to present truths based in fact and provide verifiable sources for those facts. As always, I encountered disbelief when I presented the truth. It seems the myth and hyperbole runs deeper than we may think.
What never ceases to amaze me is that when the verifiable truth is presented, those who hear it are shocked. Yet, there is a reaction in that shock that lets me know it is going to be difficult to change the visceral reaction to anyone who bears the label 'sex offender'. I have also received many emails and calls after being quoted and my appearances that tell me what I should have said and how I should have handled the interview (along with veiled death threats.) I appreciate this advice and try to follow it. At the same time, once the 'engagement' begins, I can only assume the tactics that will get us out alive.
It is my belief that a single miss step will be our undoing. I know the opposition is vulnerable along almost every front. Nevertheless, the opposition has the attention and more importantly the 'I believe' of the opposition. It is my concern that any response that is perceived as an attack will be exactly what will set us back from the ground we have gained.
Let me give you a feel for what leads up to what you see on television.
Generally, it begins with an email or phone call. The contact, who may be the producer of the segment or their assistant will come on with some message saying they are interested in you presenting your perspective. That is followed by a series of phone calls to set a time, date, and location. The producer will ask you some questions and for your position in general. From there it gets a bit more difficult. There will be many calls asking specific questions about your position on the registry and even about hypothetical questions such as 'do you think a person who raped a child can be rehabilitated.'
I considered that last question and first answered that I was not qualified to answer that question. After rethinking, I called back and gave this answer, "St. Augustine, who lived a licentious life by any standard, certainly was rehabilitated, I doubt that rehabilitation would be possible for Adolf Hitler."
After this 'probing' comes the actual appearance. That is where the real battle begins. That is where you must be ready to get what you are able to the viewers.
There are many ways to consider what you will do when the inevitable takes place. In my experience, I was pitted in a debate format and a discussion format with Mark Lunsford.
The way it was handled was that Mr. Lunsford was identified as the grieving father of a child who was the victim of a sex offender and I was presented as a sex offender. Mr. Lunsford was given the easy question, 'What happened to your daughter.' I was asked why I am a sex offender. Herein lies the crux of the matter. How would anyone go after the parent of a child who suffered such a heinous crime? I chose not to do this. I waited until the discussion was about what I was told it would be about. Of course, in today's atmosphere of accurate journalism, that never obtains. The question we must begin to ask ourselves is, at this juncture do we ring the bell? Do we, when asked a direct question, decide to not answer the question and go directly to the point we want to make?
My choice is that I answer the question. I do not believe it will serve our purpose to be perceived as evasive. I believe that any direct statement of fact, after the other person is identified as a grieving parent, will be perceived as an attack on the victim and we will be perceived as the attacker. That is the identity that attaches to the label of sex offender and that perception will only set us back further.
It is my experience, that the current tactic is to lead with the sympathy segment for the registry, identify a person on the registry, and then allow the registry supporter the closing statement to spout their hyperbole and shore up the myths that drive the hysteria. At least that is what obtained on both my appearances.
What did not happen was that there was not immediate comment following the segment further attacking the sex offender.
I believe that happened because I chose to take whatever time I was given to present facts and let the viewers decide. Generally, I believe the viewers are too lazy to do the work to change the comfort they find in the myth enforced by the hyperbole that first created the myth. I also believe that the more we are able to calmly present the truth and stay on message - the registry is not the answer to making our communities safer or protecting our children - the more likely some few will begin to listen and that will snowball.
The hope, my hope, is that we are being invited and taken seriously. It is not time for the 'Charge of the Light Brigade'. It is time for serious consideration of engagement by maneuver. We must stay on message. Our message must not be about the underlying offenses, it must be about the fact that the registry is not the way to attain the goal we all want, safer communities and protecting our children.
So is this officer going to arrest every female at Mardi Gras, Spring Break, etc who bears their breasts?
By Bart Pfankuch
The photo-taker could be deemed a registered sex offender
CHARLOTTE COUNTY - A lawman's work is never done, apparently even for a sheriff in an unmarked cop car who sees girls flashing their breasts at passing motorists.
That very thing happened last night to Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Cameron, who was driving around to National Night Out community safety events when the girls exposed their breasts at him, according to a sheriff's press release.
Cameron was driving on State Road 776 near County Road 771 around 7 p.m. Tuesday when he saw the girls flash him and other drivers. He turned around to confront them when he saw a motorist drive up and snap a photo on his cell phone of the naked girls, the release said.
Cameron detained all three people, and all were later arrested.
The two girls, who turned out to be 15, were arrested on indecent exposure charges; their names were not released, though the release pointed out that one is a local girl and the other is from another state. They were booked and released to parents.
- So, will they also possibly be on the registry as sex offenders?
Meanwhile, 33-year-old [name withheld] of the 6500 block of Coliseum Boulevard was arrested and charged with felony possession of photos of sexual performance by a child and a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Authorities confiscated evidence, including [name withheld]' phone that held the photo of the girls, the release said.
If convicted, [name withheld] could face five years in prison and could be deemed a registered sex offender.
- You will notice, only the MALE who took the photo, could be a sex offender, but not the FEMALES who exposed themselves in public.
The sheriff's office press release concludes with a message to the media: “Don't even ask as the evidence photo will NOT be released since they are juveniles.”