Thursday, March 3, 2011

AUSTRALIA - They were sacrificial lambs led to the slaughter

Original Article

Once again, kids being kids, and only the males get crucified while the willing female, walks free.

03/04/2011

By Aja Styles

The families of four boys convicted over a "sexting" scandal involving an underage girl will fight to have their sons' names removed from a sex offender register.

Their cause has been bolstered by a Law Reform Commission of Western Australia report released today, which has called for the mandatory registration of sex offenders to be rolled back and not include juvenile offenders, unless under extreme circumstances.

One of the boys' mothers, who for legal reasons is known only as "Sarah", was shocked her son's name was listed alongside serial offenders since his only crime was to film, using a mobile phone, the sexual acts that took place between the other four teenagers that night in August last year.

"It's beyond me how this can happen. He just doesn't understand," she said.

"He knows what he did and now he knows it was illegal. He's pretty disillusioned with the system."

Her son, along with the three other boys, was put on the register under the state's mandatory laws after they pleaded guilty to the charges. The others pleaded guilty to the sexual penetration of a girl over 13 years and less than 16, but argued it had been consensual.

Another of the boys' mothers, "Jane", said the police and media had unfairly vilified the boys.

"It wasn't rape. There was no violence, nothing. It was all friendly and consensual," she said.

"What people are up against is that it is a crime but they didn't know that. The age gap was only two years and you can't compare this to what other people do."

"(The courts) should look at each case separately, it would have been fuelled by alcohol and (the boys) not thinking straight."

"They really didn't do much that's the worst thing. It would happen to everyone if it was made public. It happens all the time."

The teenagers were spared any jail terms since they were of similar age to the girl and were instead given intensive supervision orders to act as a deterrent to others.

But the under the current legislation they had to be placed on the register, which requires them to report to police and update any changes of address. It also prevents them from going overseas or possibly interstate if they haven't notified authorities.

The mother of the 14-year-old girl at the centre of the scandal also did not believe the boys deserved to go on the register, because they were "just kids".

She said that she wished all the parents could have dealt with it rather than involve the police but once the school heard about it, it was referred on.

She also held her daughter accountable for the incident after the vision was sent around to mobile phones and was destined to be posted on the social network site Facebook.

All the teenagers involved have since suffered some form of bullying once the scandal was made public but the repercussions were far greater for the boys.

"They were crucified," Sarah said. "The first three who were charged, they were absolutely crucified in the (news)papers and made it sound like they were rapists and it was like they were sacrificial lambs led to the slaughter. It was horrible."

"At the courthouse the reporters and the media had the cameras and were trying to approach the families and every time they went to court they were in fear and it was devastating for the boys and the families."

Jane said it went beyond just the media.

"We have no respect for the police after this, what they've done to these kids, who are all young kids and all good kids... Police don't know everything," she said.

"They didn't even bother to ask them what really happened. They've been really harsh on them."


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CA - Sex Offender Legislation

Video Description:
At a press conference held today at the County Administration Building, Supervisor Bill Horn and State Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher announced a bill to help you find out about sex offenders in your area.


Video Link


Video Description:
Chairman and 5th District Supervisor Bill Horn and Assemblymember Nathan Fletcher are interviewed by San Diego 6 News in the Morning Anchor Heather Myers.


Video Link


Underage Kids on Facebook - Is the Internet safe for 8-year-olds?

Original Article

03/03/2011

By Jolee Cano

It hit me like a ton of bricks the other day when I noticed a friend of mine had been “friended” by an 8-year-old from my children’s school — yes, an 8-year-old. So, out of curiosity I started checking out how many kids were on any of my friends’ “friend” lists, and there were quite a few. Just a quick glance and I had tallied a couple of 8-year-olds, a dozen 10-year-olds and at least 20 seventh- and eighth-graders. These numbers were just people that I could personally identify from my children’s small private school, and there were quite a few more on the periphery of my “actual” friendship circle as well.

As responsible parents, we have heard the areas of concern with children and social media and the horror stories of predators and scam artists targeting our young kids. Why a parent would purposefully open that up to younger and younger kids is beyond me.

Facebook’s stated age mimimum is 13, and younger kids should not be there, period. But in each case that I looked at of an underage kid with a Facebook page, the parents were “friends” with their own child, which means they were complicit in getting them the account. So to see the level of security, I investigated every account. All but one of these kids’ accounts clearly allowed “friends of friends” access. I was able to view all these kids’ pictures and information.

But, parents, really, how well do you know all of your 300 Facebook friends? Remember, if you're not careful with the privacy settings (see below), you have just given them access to YOUR child. Perhaps that guy that you knew in kindergarten turned out to be a sex offender, or the woman you worked with two jobs ago now does identity theft. Either of these predators could pretty easily determine the age, school and location of your kids. Not only can they view and extract information off your child’s page, they can leave private messages for your child and have a direct line. Your child might not even recognize that he or she is being manipulated. After all, as far as a child is concerned, these people are friends with his or her parent. Even with a thorough conversation on the subject, you don't want to leave it to an 8-year-old to discern the level of risk.

So here is a news flash for parents that are getting these kids accounts: The safety, content and exposure do not counterbalance whatever social benefits the kids are receiving. Just because you are your child’s “friend,” it doesn’t mean you will see everything they do. If they are “friends” with their 20-something aunt that is still in college, does your 8-year-old kid really need all the information that she may be providing? Do you want him or her hitting a link because a family friend "likes" True Blood?

While you could possibly make it more safe for a child to participate by being vigilant about certain things such as privacy settings and whom they friend, it still is not a complete solution. How many times does Facebook change its platform that resets the privacy? And even if you help your child manage friendships, just how many Facebook profiles are truly appropriate for 8-year-olds? The ONLY way this type of access could be considered “safe” is if you are sitting on top of them and micro-managing every click. If you need to do that, then clearly they are not ready, so why would you even open the door?

The kids really do not belong there, and it is up to all of us parents to speak out, pay attention and perhaps exert a little parenting peer pressure to keep them off of Facebook. As a parenting community, we need to be aware and follow a few simple rules when dealing with this issue:
  • Do not let your child get an account. Facebook has given you an easy out: It is not allowed for children under 13 years of age, so stick with that rule.
  • Secondly, if a young child “friends” you, do not accept. Risks for young children are high, and if that doesn’t motivate you, then think about how saying yes opens you up to all sorts of trouble. What if you post something a parent of a young child finds offensive? I don’t need kids viewing my self-mockery of my parenting skills, telling tales of my own kids or to see photos of me with my friends drinking beers back in the day.
  • If you have “friended” someone under 13, send a nice note that says you didn’t realize there were age restrictions and you are uncomfortable breaking those rules. Or, if you’re especially concerned, consider reporting underage children’s pages to Facebook.
  • Post on the issue and talk about it. Make it clear to your friends why you don’t want to have young ones as your Facebook friends.
  • Double check your own privacy settings to see if they reflect what you think they are. Don’t allow your material to be seen by non-friends if you’re concerned about what kids might find.

Using Facebook within these parameters can help put it back to what it's best for: finding and keeping in touch with friends, networking and having fun — as adults.


RI - Palumbo says there are 500,000 registered sex offenders in U.S. and 100,000 are unaccounted for

Original Article

So, when is someone going to do an actual study, and show the outcome and how they came to those conclusions, for everyone to see?

01/25/2011

For several years, state Rep. Peter G. Palumbo has worked to revise the way Rhode Island registers and monitors convicted sex offenders. This year he introduced legislation to consolidate the state’s sex offender registry under the supervision of the state police and revamp it to comply with federal guidelines.

A General Assembly news release announcing the new bill cites the reason such legislation is needed, attributing the statement to Palumbo: "Across the nation, there are nearly 500,000 registered sex offenders and at any one time about 100,000 of them are unaccounted for. As long as there is one sex offender out there that we cannot account for, there is the potential for great harm, the potential for another victim."

We wondered if that many sex offenders were really missing, so we asked Palumbo where he got those figures. He cited one source: The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, a nonprofit based in Alexandria, Va. According to its annual report, the center was created by Congress in 1984, following the highly publicized disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz in New York City.

The center created a national missing children’s hot line and serves as a clearinghouse for information on missing and exploited children. It also collects data twice a year from every state on registered sex offenders.

Carolyn Atwell-Davis, the center’s director of legislative affairs, says the group arrives at its figures by calling law enforcement officials in each state and requesting the totals. It uses the information to periodically publish a national map showing the number of registered sex offenders in each state. Using similar data, and what it calls conservative estimates, the center tallies offenders who are unaccounted for.

Atwell-Davis said the number of registered sex offenders, based on the most recent survey, in December, is actually 728,435 -- 46 percent more than the number Palumbo cited.

Atwell-Davis said the last time the total number of sex offenders nationally was close to 500,000 was about 2002.

The group’s estimate of the number of unaccounted for is 100,000 -- a number that hasn’t changed in years.

NCMEC receives nearly $50 million annually in government grants and charitable contributions to fight child pornography, track sex offenders, maintain a missing children’s hot line and train police and prosecutors. Its data on sex offenders are cited routinely by politicians and the Justice Department.

Because Palumbo’s underlying point is that a substantial number of registered sex offenders is missing, we decided to examine that premise.

First, we checked Rhode Island, where the sex offender registry lists 569 offenders. Of that total, 119 are so-called Level 3 offenders, who have been convicted of sexual assaults, child molestation or kidnapping a minor. Ten of those were identified as being deported, moved out of state, incarcerated out of state or whereabouts unknown.

Another 225 are so-called Level 2 offenders, those who had committed less serious felony sex offenses. A total of 12 were identified as whereabouts unknown.

So, 22 of the 569 registered offenders in Rhode Island are unaccounted for -- about 4 percent.

We checked with some neighbors. One problem is that many use different criteria in entering offenders on their registries.

Connecticut, for instance, does not have tiers of offenders. All are lumped together, for a total of 5,279. Rather than having various categories of missing, public information officer Lt. Paul Vance says the state uses a category of "not in compliance." That includes everyone from those who haven’t supplied their addresses to those who have fled. The total is 372 or about 7 percent.

New York State identifies 31,972 offenders in three tiers. But only 490 are identified as location unknown. That is 1.5 percent of the total.

Massachusetts has a total of 8,166 registered sex offenders. Those who haven’t properly registered or who are otherwise unaccounted for are termed violators. As of Wednesday, there were 227 violators - or less than 3 percent.

We aren’t the only ones wondering about NCMEC’s numbers.

Jill Levenson, chairwoman of the Department of Human Services at Lynn University, in Boca Raton, Fla., has been studying sexual offender registries, with other researchers from the University of Massachusetts, the University of California and the New Jersey Department of Corrections. She disagrees with the number of 100,000 "missing" offenders reported by NCMEC. Levenson said the highest number her group could determine was 17,688.

"When they (NCMEC) say missing, part of the question is what does that mean?" said Levenson. She said her group found many of the "missing" were homeless, in transit or simply the result of data entry errors. A study of the Florida registry found nearly a third of the people listed had died, moved or been deported.

Levenson said she feels it’s important to make the proper data available so that resources may be allocated most efficiently to deal with social problems such as sexual offenses. She argues the current emphasis on "publicly identifying and tracking known offenders may do a disservice to the public, since over 90 percent of sexually abused children are victimized by someone well known to them with no previous sex crime record, not a stranger found on a registry."

We asked Atwell-Davis about Levenson’s conclusions.

As for the missing offenders, Atwell-Davis said, "We’ve always said that was an estimate and that it was conservative." She said several studies suggest the true number is higher.

For example, she said she believes California is missing 20 percent of its offenders. The official figures from California, as of March 1, are 71,803 registered offenders, with 17,544 in violation of the registration law. That is 24 percent.

Atwell-Davis said she believes the discrepancy is due to the fact that Levenson gets her figures from public registries while NCMEC gets data directly from law enforcement agencies in each state and territory.

"We don’t want to create fear where it is unnecessary," said Atwell-Davis. "We believe it is important for communities to have good information."
- So tell me, when is creating fear necessary? Never, IMO!

So where are we?
  • The 500,000 figure Palumbo cites for the total number of sex offenders in the United States was, by NCMEC’s count, off by more than 228,000. The last time it was 500,000 was nine years ago.
  • If NCMEC’s numbers are accurate, the ratio of unaccounted for sex offenders nationwide is 1 of 7, not the 1 of 5 Palumbo’s statement suggests.
  • NCMEC’s numbers are in dispute. A team of academics says they’re substantially overstated. Data from Rhode Island and nearby states supports that view.

Clearly, when even one registered sex offender is missing, that’s a serious problem -- a problem Palumbo is trying to fix. But public officials owe it to their constituents to get the facts right when they’re trying to address such issues.

Palumbo’s statement contains some element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression -- the PolitiFact definition for Barely True.