Saturday, August 21, 2010

CANADA - Women sex offenders often go unrecognized and unreported, new book says

Original Article

08/20/2010

MONTREAL - Women sex offenders often go unrecognized and unreported, although society is starting to pay closer attention to them, says a university criminologist.

What we’ve estimated is that females constitute approximately four to five per cent of all sex offenders,” says Franca Cortoni, whose new book pulls together the latest research on the phenomenon.

Female offenders are behind about one to two per cent of all sexual crimes reported to police in Canada in the last 10 years, added Cortoni, who works at Université de Montréal.

The research is contained in the new book Female Sexual Offenders: Theory, Assessment, and Treatment.

The book, which was co-edited by Cortoni and University of Kent forensic lecuturer Theresa Gannon, looks at female sex crimes as well as treatment options.

They drew on international research in western democracies.

Cortoni told The Canadian Press that society has had a hard time believing women could be capable of sex crimes and often attributed it to mental illness. Many were institutionalized.

Traditionally, women are viewed as nurturing, the caretakers, the ones who take care of the children,” she said.

Whenever a woman does something that is outside those norms, it’s kind of like, ‘How can she be rational?’

But the psychologist said things have started to change as society becomes more open to discussing sexual abuse, child victims are given more credibility, and the abuse is seen as “not an act committed by a mentally ill person but a criminal act.”

A Correctional Service Canada spokeswoman was unable to immediately provide specific data on female sex criminals in the country’s prisons.

Canada’s most notorious female sex criminal was likely [name withheld], who was involved in the sex slayings of two Ontario schoolgirls in the 1990s with her then-husband [name withheld].

Citing previous employment with Correctional Service Canada, Cortoni didn’t want to comment on the [name withheld] case but said, “what people don’t realize is that the [name withheld] duet is not unique in the world.”

Cortoni said there are no typical female sex offenders, in the same way there are no typical male sex offenders.

What we’ve learned over the years with the males is that they come from all walks of life, from all kinds of education and professional backgrounds,” she said.

Right now we tend to see women who come from lower social economic status, less educated.”

However, a common trait among many female sex criminals is severe abuse in their childhood.

In some cases, female sex criminals have been found to be passive and dependent, while in others they see men as threats, thus fuelling the need to seek emotional comfort in children.

A New York study found the average age of their female sex offenders to be 28, although Cortoni noted juveniles also commit sex crimes and all of them had been sexually abused themselves.

Studies indicate that while 13 per cent of men who committed a sex crime are likely to reoffend, only about one per cent of women will reoffend, Cortoni said.


NM - Tribes Work Toward Sex Offender Registration

Original Article

08/20/2010

By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN

SAN ILDEFONSO PUEBLO - How the nation's American Indian tribes can best implement sex offender registration and notification systems was the subject of a meeting among federal, state and tribal judicial officials Friday.

Dozens of judges, prosecutors, tribal leaders and police officers huddled together inside San Ildefonso Pueblo's gymnasium, working on a problem facing tribes across the nation.

"It's a really big deal throughout Indian Country. There are sovereignty issues and social impacts," said Roman Duran, a tribal judge and lieutenant governor at Tesuque Pueblo and co-chair of the group that organized the forum, the New Mexico Tribal-State Judicial Consortium.

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, named after the slain son of "America's Most Wanted" television host John Walsh, requires convicted violent sex offenders to register with local authorities, increases punishments for some federal crimes against children and strengthens child pornography protections.
- But I thought the laws were not punishment?

While it's unclear how many sex offenders there are in Indian county, Assistant U.S. Attorney Chuck Barth of New Mexico said there are about 600,000 sex offenders nationwide who are required to register under federal law. About 100,000 of them are not registered, he said.
- I am sick and tired of hearing the 100,000 not registered.  Show me the facts?

"That's why this is a big concern," he told the crowd.

The deadline to implement registration programs that comply with the act was at the end of July, but officials with the U.S. Department of Justice have granted one-year extensions to 184 tribes, including many in New Mexico.
- Why keep extending grants?  Why not just say, implement it whenever you want?

Only two tribes — the confederated tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon and the Yakama Nation in Washington — have complied with the law, and a handful of others have opted out, meaning they will allow states to register sex offenders living or working in their jurisdictions.

One of the top hurdles faced by tribes in implementing the registration requirements is the cost of equipment needed to create a registry — which must contain everything from offender descriptions to fingerprints and DNA — and developing the technical expertise to maintain such a database.

At Zuni Pueblo in western New Mexico, Police Chief Tim Trimble has ordered a $51,000 palm scanner and fingerprint reader that will help the tribe comply with the federal registration law.

Many tribes also have to buy new computers, software for managing the registry and tracking offenders and modems for sharing the information.

Since many tribes in northern New Mexico are small, officials said they have started to talk about the possibility of sharing equipment.

Aside from the costs, tribal leaders also said they are carefully moving ahead to ensure their sovereignty is protected and that the systems they establish for dealing with sex offenders who live or work within their communities are culturally sensitive.

Duran said because most Indian communities are small and family and cultural connections are strong, it would be difficult for a sex offender to pick up and leave.

"Tribes are very cognizant of the safety issues, especially regarding children. So how do they create a system that doesn't alienate an individual from their community and traditions? It's a fine line we are walking and we try to balance that as best as we can," he said.

Duran and others said their communities don't have many sex offenders, but they see this as an opportunity for tribes to better analyze the different types of behavior occurring in their communities and develop social service programs that can help.

State District Judge Michael Vigil told the group that developing registries alone will not make their communities safer. He said supervision and treatment are essential for keeping offenders from getting in trouble.

Gene Fenton with the Isleta Pueblo Police Department said a successful registration program must also involve input from community members, not just judges, attorneys and police officers.

"We've got to work together. We've got to put this thing together all in one tiny, little circle and all help out," Fenton said.


Blast from the past: "Sex offender myths"

Blast from the past: "Sex offender myths"

08/20/2010

Amidst all the hysteria over sex offending these days, stumbling across this list from 1955 gave me an eerie sense of deja vu. The author, a prominent sociologist, wrote his list of 11 "popular myths about the sex offender" during the zenith of the last sex panic, the Sexual Psychopath Era of the 1930s-1950s. Here are his myths:
  1. That tens of thousands of homosexual sex offenders stalk the land.
  2. That the victims of sex attack are 'ruined for life.'
  3. That sex offenders are usually recidivists.
  4. That the minor sex offenders, if unchecked, progress to more serious types of crime.
  5. That it is possible to predict the danger of serious crimes by sexual deviance.
  6. That 'sex psychopathy' or sex deviation is a clinical entity.
  7. That these individuals are lustful and oversexed.
  8. That reasonably effective treatment methods to cure deviant sex offenders are known and employed.
  9. That the sex control laws passed recently are getting at the brutal and vicious sex criminal and should be adopted generally to wipe out sex crime.
  10. That civil adjudication of the sexual deviant in indeterminate commitment to a mental hospital is similar to our handling of the insane and therefore human liberties and due process are not involved.
  11. That the sex problem can be solved merely by passing a new law on it.


CA - Chelsea's Law could launch national movement

Original Article

08/19/2010

By Michael Gardner

SACRAMENTO — Now just two steps away from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk, Chelsea’s Law could transform California’s approach to sex offenders through a balance of longer sentences, tougher parole conditions and targeted treatment.

We’ve stayed focused on the worst of the worst,” said Brent King, father of the slain Poway teenager whose name on the bill serves as a lasting memorial.

Beyond the immediate policy change, the law could spawn a national movement driven by Chelsea’s parents to implement similar reforms in other states.

And its apparent success already has encouraged lawmakers to begin laying the groundwork for introducing legislation next year to attack an issue involving sex offenders: residency restrictions that have driven many into homelessness or underground.

But some experts express caution, noting that some past efforts to crack down on sex offenders — such as lifetime GPS tracking for those on parole — have fallen short.

Overall, the intent of this legislation is laudable,” said professor Sheldon Zhang, the chairman of the sociology department at San Diego State University who specializes in criminology.

Like so many other crime-fighting (measures),” he added, “politicians as well as the public may feel some vindication of their moral outrage, but rarely think through the consequences of passing a legal mandate without the necessary resources. Unenforced or unenforceable laws cause cynicism and public distrust of our legal and political system.”

The state Senate is expected to pass Chelsea’s Law in the coming days, moving it to the Assembly for a final vote next week. Schwarzenegger has vowed to sign it, likely at a ceremony in San Diego just after Labor Day.

When that day arrives, the Kings said they will appear with Schwarzenegger, feeling a measure of satisfaction knowing they have accomplished a goal to help prevent future tragedies. But it will not heal their broken hearts.

One will be a feeling of immense pride and gratitude,” said Kelly King, Chelsea’s mother. “The other will be profound sadness and grief that we even got to this place.”

Added Brent King, “This is what she would have wanted.”

Chelsea, 17, was raped and murdered in February by convicted sex offender John Albert Gardner III who had violated parole numerous times. Gardner pleaded guilty to murdering Chelsea and Amber Dubois, 14, of Escondido. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

But even before the confession, Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego, began pursuing reforms. Fletcher methodically crafted the bill and the Kings were consulted on each word. And, in an unusual but ultimately bill-saving move, Fletcher immediately approached the chairman of the Senate Public Safety Committee. The personal meetings and weekend phone calls with Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, ultimately paid dividends.

Together, growing from adversaries to teammates, they negotiated the final deal that took Assembly Bill 1844 beyond penalties to include significant reforms and cost-cutting so the state could afford locking up more offenders for life.

It’s a better bill than it was when it was introduced,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher said he was able to protect his priorities, mostly an automatic life-sentence without the possibility of parole for those convicted of serious violent sexual crimes against children. He also kept most penalty enhancements intact, including lifetime GPS monitoring for many parolees, while abandoning other smaller penalty increases to reduce costs.

Leno was able to secure parole changes, particularly a “containment model” approach that experts say will reduce recidivism by targeting the most dangerous with more scrutiny, polygraph tests and specialized treatment.

But there have been worries about adding to the state’s budget deficit. Precise numbers could not be determined, but one analysis suggested the bill would be “significant,” probably in the millions. The prison agency suggested that parole costs alone would increase $3 million per year.

In response, the legislation shifts to county jails hundreds of lower-level criminals not convicted of sex-related crimes. The savings could amount to $32 million a year starting in 2012. Fletcher also believes that the state will save money as fewer offenders strike again,

Leno explained the goal: “We wanted a bill to lock up the worst of the worst — to find a way to make room for them in our overcrowded prison system and implement (reforms) so we could effectively prevent these horrific crimes in the future. We did that.”

Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, endorsed the bill early and helped clear a path.

They have put together a thoughtful, aggressive bill to correct systemic failures that led to a horrible tragedy,” Perez said.

The Kings say this is just the beginning. They are in the early stages of launching state-by-state campaigns to take Chelsea’s Law national, and are working with California’s two Democratic U.S. senators on a potential federal measure.

I can hear Chelsea saying, ‘That was a great first step. Come on, let’s go,’ ” said Brent King, reflecting on the road ahead after her law is signed.