Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Women's Funding Network Sex Trafficking Study Is Junk Science

Original Article

It's all about money, fear and hysteria, for their own benefit, and it makes me wonder about all the so-called sex offender "studies" done by people like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

03/23/2011

By Nick Pinto

Schapiro Group data wasn't questioned by mainstream media.

ATTORNEYS REPRESENTING CRAIGSLIST told Congress on Sept. 15 that the ubiquitous web classifieds site was closing its adult section. Under intense scrutiny from the government and crusading advocacy groups, as well as state attorneys general, owner Craig Newmark famously applied the label "Censored" in his classifieds where adult advertising once appeared.

During the same September hearing of a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, members of Congress listened to vivid and chilling accounts regarding underage prostitution. They heard testimony from half a dozen nonprofit executives and law enforcement officials. But the most alarming words of the day came from Deborah Richardson, the chief program officer of the Women's Funding Network (WFN), who told legislators that juvenile prostitution is exploding at an astronomical rate.

"An independent tracking study released today by the Women's Funding Network shows that over the past six months, the number of underage girls trafficked online has risen exponentially in three diverse states," Richardson claimed. "Michigan: a 39.2 percent increase; New York: a 20.7 percent increase; and Minnesota: a staggering 64.7 percent increase."

In the wake of this bombshell revelation, her disturbing figures found their way into some of the biggest newspapers in the country. USA Today, the Houston Chronicle, The Miami Herald, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and the Detroit Free Press all repeated the dire statistics as gospel. The successful assault on Craigslist was followed by a cross-country tour by Richardson and the WFN.

None of the media that published Richardson's astonishing numbers bothered to examine the study at the heart of her claim. If they had, they would have found what we did after asking independent experts to examine the research: It's junk science.

After all, the numbers are guesses. The data are based merely on looking at photos on the Internet. There is no science.

Eric Grodsky, a sociologist at the University of Minnesota who teaches about proper research construction, says that the study is fundamentally flawed. "The method's not clean," he says. "You couldn't get this kind of thing into a peer-reviewed journal. There are just too many unanswered questions about [the WFN's] methodology."

Ric Curtis, the chairman of the anthropology department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, led a Justice Department–funded study on juvenile prostitution in New York City in 2008. He's highly skeptical of the WFN study's claims. "I wouldn't trust those numbers," he says. "This new study seems pretty bogus."

In fact, the group behind the study admits as much. It's now clear it used fake data to deceive the media and lie to Congress. And it was all done to score free publicity and a wealth of public funding.

"We pitch it the way we think you're going to read it and pick up on it," says Kaffie McCullough, the director of Atlanta-based antiprostitution group A Future Not a Past. "If we give it to you with all the words and the stuff that is actually accurate — I mean, I've tried to do that with our PR firm, and they say, 'They won't read that much.'"



A Future Not a Past is a product of the Atlanta Women's Foundation, the Juvenile Justice Fund, and Harold and Kayrita Anderson's foundation. To measure the amount of juvenile prostitution in the state, the consortium hired the Schapiro Group, an Atlanta business-consulting operation.

The Schapiro Group members weren't academic researchers, and had no prior experience studying prostitution. In fact, the group was best known for research paid for by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives. The study found — surprise — that membership in the Chamber of Commerce improves businesses' image.

The consultants came up with a novel, if not very scientific, method for tabulating juvenile prostitutes: They counted pictures of young-looking women on online classified sites.

"That's one of the first problems right there," Grodsky says. "These advertisers are in the business of making sales, and there's a market for young-looking women. Why would you trust that the photographs are accurate?"

In other words, the ads, like the covers of women's magazines, are relentlessly promoting fantasy. Anyone who has tried online dating understands the inherent trouble in trusting photographs.

Even if the person placing the advertisement is the one in the picture, there's no telling how old the photo is, says David Finkelhor, the director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. "How do you know when the pictures were taken?" he asks. "It's not illegal for an 18-year-old who's selling sex to put up a picture of herself from when she was 16."

And if, for the sake of argument, the photos were an accurate portrayal, how do you train those viewing the photographs to guess the correct age? In fact, you don't.

Before conducting its full study, the Schapiro Group tested the accuracy of its method in a sample of 100 observers. At one point, observers are described as a "random sample." Elsewhere, they are described as "balanced by race and gender." These 100 adults were shown pictures of teenagers and young adults whose ages were known, and were asked to guess whether they were younger than 18.

"The study showed that any given 'young'-looking girl who is selling sex has a 38 percent likelihood of being under age 18," reads a crucial passage in the study's explanation of methodology. "Put another way, for every 100 'young'-looking girls selling sex, 38 are under 18 years of age. We would compute this by assigning a value of .38 to each of the 100 'young' girls we encounter, then summing the values together to achieve a reliable count."

This is dense gibberish posing as statistical analysis.

When the team went on to conduct its full statewide study, it simply treated this 38 percent success rate as a constant. Six new observers were then turned loose to count "young-looking" sex ads on online classifieds sites like Craigslist and Backpage. That total count was then multiplied by .38 to come up with a guesstimate of how many children were being trafficked.

"This is a logical fallacy," says Steve Doig, the Knight Chair in Journalism at Arizona State University, who reviewed the study at our request. "Consider this analogy: Imagine that 100 people were shown pictures of various automobiles and asked to identify the make, and that 38 percent of the time people misidentified Fords as Chevrolets. Using the Schapiro logic, this would mean that 38 percent of Fords on the street actually are Chevys."

But the Georgia sponsors were happy with the results — after all, the scary-sounding study agreed with what they were saying all along. So the Women's Funding Network paid Schapiro to expand the study to Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Texas. (Georgia's Kayrita Anderson sits on the board of the Women's Funding Network.) The WFN says it would like to run the study in all 50 states.

The count of online classifieds featuring "young women" is repeated every three months to track how the numbers change over time. That's the source of Richardson's claim of a 64 percent increase in child prostitution in Minnesota in a matter of months.

Finkelhor says that's not how a scientific study is supposed to work. "They don't tell you what the confidence intervals are, so these changes could just be noise," he says. "When the Minnesota count goes from 102 to 112, that's probably just random fluctuations." There's a more fundamental issue, of course: "The trend analysis is simply a function of the number of images on these site. ... It's not necessarily an indication that there's an increase in the number of juveniles involved."

Despite these flaws, the Women's Funding Network, which has held rallies across the nation, has been flogging the results relentlessly through national press releases and local member organizations. In press releases, the group goes so far as to compare its conjured-up data to actual hard numbers for other social ills.

"Monthly domestic sex trafficking in Minnesota is more pervasive than the state's annually reported incidents of teen girls who died by suicide, homicide, and car accidents (29 instances combined); infants who died from SIDS (6 instances); or women of all ages murdered in one year (37 instances)," the study reads. Of course, those other figures are rigorously compiled medical and law enforcement records of documented incidents, so it's not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison.

The police who tally many of those actual statistics — as well as records of face-to-face encounters with juvenile prostitutes — don't seem to be very impressed by the statistics put forward by the Women's Funding Network. "The methodology that they used doesn't really show the numbers that back it up," says Sgt. John Bandemer, who heads the Gerald D. Vick Human Trafficking Task Force in St. Paul, Minn. "We take it with a grain of salt."



The experts we consulted all agreed the Schapiro Group's published methodology raises more questions than it answers. So we went to the Schapiro Group to ask those questions.

Beth Schapiro founded the Schapiro Group in 1984, starting out mostly with political consulting. The bulk of her group's work, she says, consists of public opinion research. In 2007, the group installed its own phone-banking center. The group's website advertises services including customer satisfaction surveys and "voter persuasion calls."

Counting hard-to-find exploitation victims wasn't exactly in the company's repertoire when it was asked by A Future Not a Past to devise a study on juvenile prostitution in 2007, but Schapiro jumped at the opportunity.

The Georgia studies included efforts to count juvenile prostitutes on the street, at hotels, and in escort services, but they also marked the debut of the problematic online classifieds study that would later be reproduced in other states.

In a phone call this month, Schapiro insisted that her study was the first effort to scientifically determine the number of juvenile prostitutes — a claim that would likely surprise the authors of dozens of previous studies, several of which are footnoted in her report.

When we asked Schapiro and Rusty Parker, the leader of the classifieds study, to fill in some of the missing pieces in their methodology, they had a hard time coming up with straight answers. In fact, Parker couldn't remember key information about how he constructed the study. When asked where he got the sample pictures used to calibrate the all-important 38 percent error rate, he wasn't sure. "It was a while back," he says. "I forget exactly where we got them from."

Parker was equally fuzzy on how the researchers knew the ages of the people pictured in the control group. "Um ... I'm afraid I do not remember," he says.

You might say that this is important information. The Schapiro Group has been telling the world that it cracked the alchemical code that transforms dumb guesses into hard statistics, and that the magic number is .38. But the leader of the study can't remember the procedure he followed to get that number.

Neither Schapiro nor Parker had any answers when asked whether there was any empirical reason to believe their two critical assumptions: that online photos always represent what the prostitutes actually look like, and that the six handpicked observers conducting the state studies have exactly the same error rate as the initial test batch of 100 random citizens.

Instead, Schapiro beat a hasty retreat, saying the study results shouldn't be read as actual incidents of prostitution. "We're the first to tell you, this is not a precise count of the number of girls being prostituted," she says. "We make no bones about that."

Of course, a precise count of the number of girls being prostituted is exactly what the statistics are being presented as in the media, in press releases, and in Schapiro's own study. When this is pointed out, she reverses herself: "Well, yes, these are specific numbers. ... And yes, they are hard numbers, and they are numbers that we stand completely behind."

This is the kind of cognitive whiplash you have to endure if you try to follow Schapiro's reasoning. She insists that the numbers have the weight of fact, and can properly be cited as actual incidents of juvenile prostitution. But when pressed to justify her study's broad and unsupported assumptions, she says it is a work in progress and the numbers are only approximations.

Schapiro's grasp on empirical rigor is such that when asked point-blank to choose between her two contradictory interpretations — estimates or facts — she opts for both. "I would square the circle by saying that you can look at them both ways," she says.

Any reporters who had read the methodology of the Schapiro report would have been left with doubts, and any reporters who followed up would probably have been treated to the same baffling circuit of nonanswers. The fact that the study's findings continue to be rebroadcast by national news outlets suggests that not one of these reporters has bothered to read the study about which they are writing.

"You see this kind of thing a lot, unfortunately," says Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst for the Poynter Institute who writes frequently about statistics. "The kind of skepticism that reporters apply to a statement by a politician just doesn't get applied to studies."

Finkelhor says he understands the pressure on reporters to cite figures when they're writing about juvenile prostitution, but it's something they need to resist, because despite what groups like the Women's Funding Network would have you believe, there simply are no good statistics. "You have to say, 'We don't know. Estimates have been made, but none of them have a real scientific basis to them,'" he says. "All you can say is, 'This is the number the police know about, and we think there are more than that, but we don't know how many more.'"



In her own online photos, the woman who commissioned the Schapiro Group study looks to be in her 50s, with blue eyes, graying hair, and a taste for dangly earrings. Kaffie McCullough first approached the group about conducting a study of juvenile prostitution in Georgia in 2007 when, as director of A Future Not a Past, she realized that having scientific-sounding numbers makes all the difference.

In early 2007, McCullough approached the Georgia Legislature to ask for money for a regional assessment center to track juvenile prostitution. "We had no research, no nothing. The legislators didn't even know about it," she recalls. "We got a little bit. We got about 20 percent of what we asked for."

Later that year, the Schapiro Group made its first counts, and when McCullough returned to the Legislature the following session, she had the study's statistics in hand. "It gave us traction — night and day," she says. "That year, we got all the rest of that money, plus we got a study commission."

McCullough touts the fundraising benefits of the study whenever she can. Since the Schapiro study was picked up for replication nationwide by the Women's Funding Network, she has acted as a sort of technical consultant for state groups as they debate whether to invest in the project. Whenever she's asked, she tells the local groups that the money they spend will come back to them with hefty dividends. "I would say, 'The research costs money, but we've been able to broker — I don't know what it is now, I think it's over $1.3, $1.6 million in funding that we never would have gotten,'" she says.

McCullough initially maintained that she stands by the Schapiro Group study, in part because she says she was told that "it is the same scientific methodology that science has been using for a long time to measure endangered species." But when pressed on whether she really believes that counting Internet photos is reliable, she grants that the sex-work industry isn't exactly the gold standard of truth in advertising. "That's absolutely correct," she says. "That's part of how that business operates: It's a bait-and-switch."

And given the tricky nature of the photographs, she admits that counting pictures isn't a precise way to measure juvenile prostitutes. "I can't guarantee that any picture that four of those six people said looked young — that may not be the girl that you'd get if you called up," she concedes.

Asked whether she has any reason to believe that the six observers in the study have the identical 38 percent error rate as the 100 random citizens who were the initial test subjects, she allows that it might be worth revisiting that question.

The basic truth is that the study exists in service of the advocacy, and if news outlets present the Schapiro Group's numbers as gospel, it certainly doesn't hurt the advocates' cause.

Admitting that there is no authoritative scientific count of juvenile prostitution, as Finkelhor recommends, isn't an option for McCullough. She recalls an early presentation she made in Nebraska, when a politician gave her a piece of advice that stuck.

"He said, 'If you all as a movement don't start having numbers, you are going to lose the money,'" McCullough recalls. "'How can you justify millions of dollars when there are only hundreds of victims that you're actually serving?'"



Editor's conclusion: On March 16, the drumbeat continued in the U.S. Senate with a briefing on domestic sex trafficking of minors that featured actress Mira Sorvino and the startling statistic that 100,000 children are trafficked for sex annually in America. Trafficking — in labor and sex — became a defining issue in the administration of President George W. Bush. But as an investigation by the Washington Post in 2007 revealed, victims in the sex trade were difficult to come by. Today, advocates have shifted media attention to allegations of trafficking in children. But facts to suggest a plague of underage perversion simply do not exist, despite claims to the contrary.

In a deficit-obsessed Congress, there is a long line of those seeking tax dollars to raise awareness of trafficking: government agencies, nonprofits, religious groups, the well-intentioned, as well as abolitionists opposed to pornography and adult services.

It is no surprise that some seek to use children as a wedge.

Responsible parties prosecute predators and rescue victims. Not everyone with a microphone is responsible. The challenge of keeping children out of the hands of exploiters is real, but solutions are not clear in an atmosphere of hyped hysteria.


IN - Court documents reveal why former Goshen College student (Jessica De La Vega) filed false rape report

Original Article

03/23/2011

By John Paul

GOSHENJessica De La Vega said she was abducted from Goshen College at knife-point and then raped at a nearby park. Investigators say it was all a lie — that she made the story up as an excuse to her parents for being gone from home too long.

For months, students at Goshen College took extra steps to stay safe. They used security escorts and watched out for one another.

"We were always walking in pairs, especially that night," said Erica Yost, a senior at the university.
- You should do this all the time, not just when a scare is about.

"I was definitely worried when I heard footsteps," said Cassie Greives. "You are always checking."

Now, students at Goshen College are letting their guard down. Former student De La Vega was formally charged Friday for filing a false report.


 


GA - Living Life Under A Microscope

Original Article

03/23/2011

By John Madewell

Imagine most of your actions under scrutiny. That is reality for people on parole. NewsChannel 9 rode along with two parole officers from the post in LaFayette, Georgia.

Officers Ben Colkmire made two surprise stops and two announced stops. A man convicted of murder knew about the visit, a sex offender didn't. Both men are putting their lives back together.

[name withheld], a convicted sex offender, shared some perspective about his offense, "I made my mistakes and I'm living my mistakes everyday, probably for the rest of my life," [name withheld] said.

He wears an electronic monitor around his ankle everywhere he goes. He has to wear it for four more months because 11 years ago he had sex with a 15 year old girl.

At the time, [name withheld] was 24. He spent the next eight years in prison and now deals with the stigma of being a registered sex offender.

"Some understand, some don't but that's their opinion, they're entitled to it. If they don't understand, that's okay."

[name withheld] is only one of the five to 30 people parole officers Ben Colkmire and Kimberly Williams check in on each day. They and four to five other officers monitor parolees in Walker, Dade, Catoosa and Chattooga counties. During parole, parolees are required to be at home, work, or looking for a job. They're also required to stay sober.

In another unannounced visit, questions came up. Colkmire and Williams were checking on [name withheld], who is supposed to be living with his father. The officers walked up the steps and met [name withheld]'s father on the porch.

Colkmire asked, "Is [name withheld] here?" [name withheld]'s father answered, "No he's not."

Colkmire continued, "Where's he at?"

[name withheld]'s father responded, "I have no idea."

Officer Colkmire says that's not necessarily a red flag, but it will bring additional investigation. [name withheld] went to prison for a burglary conviction. His court-ordered probation has also been revoked, because he was caught in a car with a fugitive. Officer Colkmire says he will have to verify where [name withheld] was.

"He ([name withheld]'s father) said he is looking for a job, he said he's been working with somebody helping clean houses right now, which I may have a problem with, since he's serving for burglary."

Colkmire and Williams check in on [name withheld], who they say has "done really well" on following parole conditions.

[name withheld]'s life took a huge turn after he killed his wife.

He had never been in trouble before, but in a heated fight, she stabbed him. He shot her in the head, according to Colkmire.

When they met him in his driveway, officer Williams asked, "How many years did you do, 20?"

[name withheld] answered, " 21 years, three months, 17 days."

This former professional wrestler has been out of prison for six years. He now charts a new course in life.

"I need 45 more credit hours to go for my degree, I'm going to go something, probably in computers."

Meanwhile, back at [name withheld]'s home, the registered sex offender passes each parole rule in this surprise visit.

Officer Colkmire checked his cell phone. He didn't find any banned pornographic images.After losing his freedom for ten years, [name withheld] offered valuable insight about criminal temptation,

"When you encounter anything like that, avoid it as much as possible, walk away."

Officers Colkmire and Williams say in some cases parolees run. They add they average one to two arrests a week. But the office has seen more than 80 percent compliance. One common thread existed for each man visited; completing parole.


Facebook booting '20,000' underage users per day

Original Article

03/23/2011

By Austin Carr

According to a study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, nearly half of all 12-year-olds in the U.S. are using social network sites, despite not meeting the minimum age requirements for sites like Facebook.

And such popularity only balloons once the teens grow older: roughly 64% of 13-year-olds are social networking; between the ages of 14 to 17, that figure jumps to 82%, says Pew.

But that doesn't mean Facebook isn't trying to stop kids from becoming addicted to the network at such a young age (though indoctrination does have its benefits!).

According to a report by the Daily Telegraph, Facebook is kicking out roughly 20,000 underage users per day.

In a meeting with Australia's cyber-safety committee, Facebook's chief privacy adviser Mozelle Thompson agreed that underage users were taking advantage of the site. After all, any user no matter his or her age can register for the site by simply lying when signing up -- Facebook has no mechanisms to detect whether a teen is telling the truth or not.

"It's not perfect," said Thompson.

However, Facebook's privacy czar did argue that Facebook is trying to stop these young'ins from continuing to use the site.

"There are people who lie. There are people who are under 13 [accessing Facebook]," Thompson said. "Facebook removes 20,000 people a day, people who are underage."

Of course, that's a fraction of the nearly 600 million users on Facebook, but underage users have become a growing concern for the network, especially as it faces increased pressure from regulators -- whether in Australia or the U.S.


DE - Bills bar licenses to sexual felons

Original Article

03/22/2011

By CRIS BARRISH

Tighter rules proposed on reporting, discosure

Three bills were introduced Monday in the General Assembly that would prohibit sexual felons from working as registered nurses, dentists, psychologists and in other related fields.

The reform package, crafted in the wake of former pediatrician [name withheld]'s alleged sexual abuse of more than 100 girls, would prevent anyone with a felony sexual conviction from getting a license from one of the professions, and would permanently revoke the license of anybody convicted of a felony sexual crime.

Besides registered nurses, dentists and psychologists, the bills target physician assistants, clinical social workers and mental health or chemical dependency professionals. Those who fail to report suspected misconduct also could face discipline under the initiatives.

Last June, in the wake of revelations by The News Journal and two separate investigations about the failure to stop [name withheld] despite allegations of inappropriate behavior dating to 1994, when he came to Delaware, lawmakers approved nine bills to reform the system.

One new law called for the Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline to "permanently revoke'' the license of any medical doctor who is convicted of a felony sexual crime.

The new laws also provided that physicians seeking a license or renewal must disclose all previous investigations into their behavior -- not just those resulting in punishment; that medical board disciplinary hearings be held in public; and doctors who don't report suspected misconduct by a physician colleague can be fined up to $10,000 for a first offense and have their licenses suspended or revoked.

[name withheld]'s license was suspended within days of his being charged in December 2009 and was later revoked. He is scheduled for trial in June. In court papers, police and prosecutors have alleged that [name withheld] videotaped many of his attacks, and that many of his victims were toddlers.

Between 1994 and 2008, [name withheld] was investigated by Pennsylvania authorities, Beebe Medical Center, Milford police and state police for improper behavior with girls he treated, but he was never disciplined or charged criminally until the parents of a 2-year-old girl came forward in December 2009 and authorities believed they could substantiate the allegation that [name withheld] had molested their daughter.


LA - Gov. Jindal announces bills to crack down on crime

Original Article

Take note at how many times they mention children in this article, then read the quote at the top of this blog.

03/23/2011

Gov. Bobby Jindal announced last week that he is supporting five bills in the upcoming regular session of the Legislature to crack down on crime in Louisiana.

The five bills are aimed at targeting sex offenders using social networking sites, increasing penalties on the monsters who abuse physically and mentally challenged victims and people over the age of 65, ensuring sex offenders are complying with current law, transferring the Missing and Exploited Children Information Clearinghouse to the State Police, and closing the loopholes in the law that allowed substances including fake bath salts and synthetic marijuana to be sold legally.
- He does this every single year. Nothing new here. He's got to make himself look "tough" on crime instead of obeying his oath of office to defend the Constitution, which is for everyone! And also, does he really need to pass a law to make sure offenders are obeying the law?

Gov. Jindal said, “The goal of all five of these bills is to keep our communities a safe place for families to raise their children. We want every kind of criminal to know that Louisiana is the last place they want to break the law or harm a child. Here, our penalties are severe, our justice is swift, and we will never tire of keeping our streets and neighborhoods secure.”

Colonel Mike Edmonson, State Police Superintendent, said, “As a law enforcement officer, our greatest responsibility is to ensure the safety of the citizens which we serve. I applaud the Governor and the legislature for their efforts to strengthen the laws and penalties for those individuals who prey on our children and seniors who are truly the foundation of our communities. State Police will continue to work with our local, parish, state and Federal partners through proactive enforcement efforts and by raising awareness to the challenges which we face.”

LaSalle Parish Sheriff Scott Franklin said he supports all the bills being proposed by the Governor. “All of the proposed bills give law enforcement more tools to monitor sexual predators and will better define illegal drugs, all in the interest of keeping our young people safe, which is the most important thing we do.”
- Yep, got to do it "for the children!"

Executive Director of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association Pete Adams said, “The district attorneys continue to work closely with the governor and his staff in legislative matters affecting criminal law and procedure. These proposals are an example of this cooperative effort.”

Targeting Sex Offender Use of Social Networking Sites

The Governor announced he will pursue legislation authored by Rep. Ledricka Thierry, to criminalize the accessing or using of social networking websites, like Facebook and MySpace, or chat rooms or peer-to-peer networks by certain convicted sex offenders.

Governor Jindal said, “The virtual world has become a place that gives new tools for sexual predators to use in their efforts to prey on children."
- For predators, maybe, but a vast majority of those wearing the sex offender "scarlet letter", are not predators.

This legislation will first criminalize the accessing or using of social networking websites, chat rooms or peer-to-peer networks by sex offenders who had a previous felony sex offense conviction that involved or was facilitated by the use of a computer or a device with Internet capability. Second, it criminalizes the contacting of a minor through the use a of a social networking website, chat room, electronic mail, instant messenger or any device with Internet capability by sex offenders who had a previous sex offense against a minor that involved or was facilitated by the use of a computer or device with Internet capability."

We do not allow sex offenders to enter our playgrounds, daycares, or schools, so we should not allow them to enter our homes through computers. We know that as technology advances, law enforcement is challenged to stay ahead of criminals that will use whatever means available to them to violate our children. This law will give police, investigators and judges another tool to bring these criminals to justice and keep them far away from our kids.”

Representative Ledricka Johnson Thierry said, “Sexual predators use social networking sites on a regular basis to cultivate leads for offline conversion of their illegal sexual activities. I am committed to making sure that the state of Louisiana places the necessary provisions on sexual predators to prevent them from making more victims of our children.”
- Even if you made this a law, if a person is a true predator, this will not stop them. An alias can be created in a matter of seconds, then they can be off on whatever they desire.

Increasing Penalties for Sexually Abusing Physically & Mentally Infirm Victims & Those Over 65

The Governor announced another bill, to be authored by Rep. Bodi White, which will equalize the penalties for sexually abusing physically and mentally infirm victims and people over the age of 65 with the penalties for those who sexually abuse children under the age of 13.
- Why all the laws? Oh yeah, to make yourself look "tough" on crime. Why not just enforce the laws you have already? If someone sexually abuses ANYONE, then punish them accordingly?

Currently, when a person is convicted of sexual battery or sexual battery of the infirm they can only receive a sentence of up to ten years. However, when a person is convicted of sexual battery and the victim is a child under the age of 13, the minimum sentence in law is 25 years and then the convict must be electronically monitored for the rest of their life. This legislation will amend the sexual battery, second-degree sexual battery, oral sexual battery and molestation of a juvenile statutes to include physically and mentally infirm victims and victims over the age of 65.
- So what about other adults not in these categories?

Pulling from provisions in current law, the legislation will define physically infirm victims to be paraplegic, quadriplegic or otherwise incapable of preventing the act due to a physical disability. Mentally infirm victims will be defined to have an IQ of 70 or lower, or what is essentially the cognitive ability of an eleven year old.
- Sounds like contradictions to me. So, if a person is in a wheelchair, but has a genius IQ, like Steven Hawking, then what?

The Governor said, “It is one of the key duties of a safe society to protect our most vulnerable from the monsters who want to harm them. This bill is another important tool for ensuring justice is done in these cases. This legislation will elevate the crime of abusing some of the most vulnerable people among us to have the same penalty for those who abuse our vulnerable children.”
- So what about Governors, Senators, etc who abuse their power to abuse those who cannot help themselves (mostly), by passing laws forcing them into homelessness, joblessness, etc?

Representative Mack A. “Bodi” White said, “These bills truly stand up for the weak and innocent. When we eventually pass this legislation into law, it will send a clear message to criminals that if you hurt an infirmed citizen, distribute drugs or you prey on our children, we have the legal tools needed to put you away for a long, long time.”
- But if you harm anybody else who is not in one of these situations, it's okay?

Ensuring Compliance with Current Sex Offender Laws

Currently, a sex offender has to get a driver’s license or ID card, which states “sex offender” on it. They must renew this license and card every year.
- This is just another way to mark someone. Police, when pulling someone over, can already look up the persons criminal record. The Nazi's made Jewish people have JEW stamped on their clothes, and such.

Unfortunately, the failure of a sex offender to carry a valid Louisiana license or card with “sex offender” labeled on it is punishable only as a misdemeanor. Also, if they carry counterfeit identification or they alter their license or card in some fashion, this is not currently a violation of their registration requirements.

The Governor said, “We will propose legislation to make it a violation of a sex offender’s registration requirements if they fail to get a driver’s license or ID card with ‘sex offender’ libeled on it, or if they are in possession of identification that is altered with the intent to defraud, or they are in possession of counterfeit identification. We must let these predators know that they cannot circumvent the law to hide their criminal histories.”
- So basically, they are passing a law to make sure they obey the laws?

Missing and Exploited Children Information

The Governor said he would also pursue legislation, authored by Rep. Kay Katz, which will transfer the Missing and Exploited Children Information Clearinghouse from the Department of Children and Family Services to the Louisiana State Police.

Governor Jindal said, “This move will facilitate the location of our missing children and the apprehension of the awful criminals that exploit the youngest among us. We recently announced a bill to expand the Human Trafficking statutes and this initiative we are announcing today will build on our efforts to create a better, safer Louisiana for our families that keeps these monsters behind bars, where they belong. We must pursue all avenues to protect our kids, and this transfer makes practical sense because the State Police has a greater capacity to locate missing children and use the Fusion Center in bringing them back to safety.”
- You just have to throw in that "awful" and "monster" in there, don't you? I thought you could exorcise demons? Why not use your mojo to rid the world of evil?

Transferring the Clearinghouse operations to State Police’s Fusion Center will also help find children that have simply run away or have gone missing.

Making Dangerous Substances in Synthetic Marijuana and Bath Salts Illegal

The Governor announced he will propose legislation, authored by Rep. Ricky Templet, in the upcoming session to make the dangerous substances in synthetic marijuana and bath salts illegal.

Governor Jindal said, “We all know too well the dangerous effects that so-called ‘bath salt’ drugs are having on our young people - causing severe mental and physical reactions and even resulting in death. DHH issued an emergency rule to make these drugs illegal and on January 6th added six chemicals marketed as ‘plant food’ or ‘bath salts’ to the list of controlled dangerous substances. That move made these drugs illegal to possess, manufacture or distribute in Louisiana."

While criminalizing those chemical compounds was important to get them away from our young people, we need to pass this legislation in the upcoming session to ensure that we stay ahead of the drug pushers and criminals who are always looking for the next rendition of a chemical to sell people."
- This is just like the war on drugs, you won't get rid of it.

This law is intended to put criminal chemists and drug dealers out of business. They think they can find loopholes that allow them to just sell their drugs in the light of day, in our convenience stores and on our streets. But we want the word to go out loud and clear with this law that we will shut them down every time. What they are making and selling is illegal, plain and simple. We will not allow these drugs or anything like them in our stores or anywhere near our children."
- It's all "for the children!"

As law enforcement officials know, as soon as we move to criminalize one specific chemical drug, drug peddlers work to make a small change to the chemical makeup of the drug in order for it to be legal and to stay on the street - and in some cases, even the store shelf, posing as a ‘legal’ drug item, ‘incense’ or ‘bath salts.
- I agree, and when you outlaw this, kids will just come up with something else.

This law will criminalize base chemical groups of synthetic Cannabinoids and Cathinones, and any manipulation or addition to these base compounds will be criminalized as well. Specifically, it will criminalize synthetic narcotics that are not currently scheduled as a “controlled dangerous substance,” and will help to ensure that these drugs stay out of stores, streets and the hands of children.

Representative Ricky Templet said, “The war against crime is an ever-changing battle that requires lawmakers to work on a continuous basis to close the loop holes that have allowed criminals to prey on our communities. These set of bills will update our laws so criminals can’t use new drugs to peddle in our streets - nor allow sex predators to interact with our kids online. I applaud the Governor on his work to make Louisiana a safer place.”

Rep. Kay Katz said, “When DHH passed rules banning fake bath salts, we saw a tremendous decrease in instances of fake bath salt related injuries. It’s real proof that the laws we pass to clean the streets of criminal activity works - and that’s something I can support. Whatever we can do to better find missing children, stop sex predators from having access to our children and keeping harmful drugs off the streets, I’ll work hard to make sure each one of these bills are passed.”


CA - Supervisors Approve Sex Offender Law

Original Article

03/22/2011

By TRACY WOOD

The Orange County Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted to move ahead with a new law that makes it a misdemeanor for registered sex offenders to enter county parks, beaches and harbors without permission from authorities.

Penalties for violators could be a maximum of six months in jail and a $500 fine.

Supervisors asked District Attorney Tony Rackauckas to fix a draft of the proposed law to give the Sheriff's Department the authority to decide which offenders are allowed in the county recreation areas.

The DA's office initially suggested the county parks and harbors directors be designated to handle the requests from registered sex offenders, but supervisors said the Sheriff was better qualified for the job.

California law prohibits convicted sex offenders who are on parole or probation from parks and other areas, like school grounds, where children gather.

The proposed county ordinance, sponsored by Supervisor Shawn Nelson, comes back to the board for final approval next month.


Video Link


NE - Sex-offender list too inclusive?

Original Article

03/23/2011

By Paul Hammel

LINCOLN — Saying Nebraska's current sex-offender registry law unfairly punishes some minor offenders, a group of state senators wants to remove those offenders' pictures and addresses from a public list.

Supporters of the change include Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh, typically a hard-liner on crime who has said sexual predators should be banished to a remote island because they can't be rehabilitated, yet Lautenbaugh said it's unfair to hang a “scarlet letter” on minor offenders whom the Nebraska State Patrol had deemed at low risk of reoffending and who haven't committed repeat crimes.

I don't think we should ruin their lives,” Lautenbaugh said.
- So once again, someone admits the sex offender label RUINS lives.

Sen. Brad Ashford, also of Omaha, said, “We have to balance punishment with fairness.”
- Yes, yes we do!

Lautenbaugh, Ashford and Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln on Tuesday spoke in favor of changing state law after testimony last week during a public hearing before the Legislature's Judiciary Committee.

Some of those testifying, including people whose criminal offenses occurred as long as 16 years ago, said their families were harassed and shunned because of past mistakes. Their occupations and reputations face ruin, they said, because their faces and addresses are listed on the state's sex-offender website.

Prior to passage of Legislative Bill 285 in 2009, only the names of sex offenders deemed by the State Patrol as most likely to reoffend were publicized.

Those who had committed minor offenses and were considered at low risk of reoffending — a Level 1 offender — were required to register with law enforcement agencies, but their information wasn't made public.

LB 285 included Level 1 offenders in new reporting requirements. The state posted their photos and addresses on a website. The photos are to stay for as long as 25 years, and in some cases, for life.

Ashford is having an amendment drafted that would remove from the website Level 1 offenders who committed offenses prior to the enactment of LB 285 and have not reoffended.
- Good, because not doing so would be an ex post facto (unconstitutional) law.

Anyone who committed an offense after that date would still have to comply with the more rigorous reporting requirements, and would be subject to having his or her name and photo publicly posted, Ashford said.
- Thus destroying their lives?

Coash said he didn't realize LB 285 was to be retroactive.
- Because you folks NEVER read the bills! You've been following Nancy Pelosi too much!


TX - Former officer (Byron Shane Burkhart) sentenced to 7 years in prison

Original Article

03/22/2011

By Bob Thaxton

SEGUIN - A former police officer was sent to prison Tuesday after pleading guilty in a case that involved allegations of sexual contact with an underage girl.

Byron Shane Burkhart, 42, who spent eight years serving with the Seguin Police Department, pleaded guilty to a charge of injury to a child, and District Judge Dwight Peschel ordered Burkhart to serve a seven-year sentence in the Institutional Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Guadalupe County grand jurors indicted Burkhart in August 2009 on two charges, injury to a child and indecency with a child/sexual contact. Both offenses are second-degree felonies punishable by prison terms of two to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.

Burkhart accepted a plea agreement that capped his punishment at no more than 10 years in prison, and his attorney, James E. Millan of San Antonio, argued for his sentence to be probated.

"He can no longer be a police officer," Millan said. "The punishment that he has received to this point is so great that probation is warranted."

During the sentencing hearing Tuesday morning, Millan called five witnesses: Burkhart's father, his brother, brother-in-law, wife and the defendant himself.

"This is a man of character," said Edward Warner, the defendant's brother-in-law. "He has immersed himself in his work and his family."
- Notice how they always say this when it's a cop or politicians, but when it's the average citizen, it's never mentioned.

Most of the testimony presented during the hearing could not be heard in the spectators' section of the courtroom because the sound system had not been turned on.

Witnesses were cross-examined by District Attorney Heather Miller.

"Law enforcement officers are charged with protecting our community. If they betray that trust, they must be held accountable," Miller said Tuesday afternoon. "We believe the sentence handed down by Judge Peschel was fair and held Mr. Burkhart accountable."

Millan said pleading guilty to the offense of injury to a child helped Burkhart in two ways. Unlike the other offense for which he was indicted, injury to a child does not require registration as a sex offender.

Also, Burkhart will become eligible for parole after serving one-fourth of his sentence which amounts to 21 months of the seven-year term. If he had been convicted for indecency with a child, he would be required to serve one-half of the sentence.

"This was a tough case. It was a really tough case," Millan said. "He made a tragic mistake."
- Like I said, if it was not a cop, this would not even be said.

Burkhart, whose duties had included security work at a local school, resigned from the Police Department in May 2009 after an investigation began into allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a female younger than 17.
- The age of consent in Texas is 17, but, was it consensual?

"Any time an allegation is made against any police officer it will be investigated, and action will be taken that is appropriate to the outcome of that investigation," Police Chief Kevin Kelso said in August 2009 after Burkhart was indicted by the grand jury.


MA - Expert: Door-to-door sex offender notification not more effective than other forms

Original Article

It is my opinion that all of us who are fighting these laws, need to start fighting fire with fire. We need to start DEMANDING that ALL CRIMINALS are put on an online registry, residency restrictions set, and public notifications done. Then, you can bet the laws will be repealed and found unconstitutional, IMO.

03/20/2011

ABINGTON - Public door-to-door notification of Level 3 sexual offenders, as conducted in towns such as Abington, doesn’t necessarily make the community safer, an expert says.
- It also means the registry is not worth anything either, or else they would not need to do this.  See the last post I did, where a notification was sent out and an innocent person was beaten by a mob and hospitalized.

Carlos Cuevas, a psychologist and professor in Northeastern University’s college of criminology and criminal justice, said police may have anecdotal evidence of active notification impacting crime.

But no research has shown it works any better in reducing recidivism among offenders or impacting public safety than other forms of disseminating information, he said.

Level 3 offenders are those designated as most dangerous and likely to re-offend by the state Sex Offender Registry Board.

What it tends to do is give a swell of information to the folks who get contacted around that time,” Cuevas said. “But it’s a temporarily swell of awareness, and it sort of dissipates after a while.”

Cuevas has been doing sex offender treatment for the last 10 years, and worked for a year at the Massachusetts Treatment Center for Sexually Dangerous Persons in Bridgewater.

He said the three-level system Massachusetts uses is better than most, but he feels notification isn’t effective without education, which he called “the missing piece of the puzzle.”

I think a lot of people will go online, look at a guy, see what offense they’ve been convicted, and they’ll say, ‘OK, what do I do with that information?’ ” Cuevas said.

Additionally, Cuevas said 70 to 90 percent of victims of sexual violence know their offender, meaning the idea of a stranger in the neighborhood committing an offense against someone he or she doesn’t know is “more likely the exception, not the rule.”

Police are allowed to actively disseminate information about Level 3 offenders, but not other types of sexual offenders.
- Why don't they go door-to-door about murderers, gang members, drug dealers/users, DUI offenders, and all other criminals, who are more than likely more dangerous to children and everyone else?

Residents can also request information at police stations about Level 2 offenders by filling out a form and showing ID, but not Level 1 offenders.
- This is the way it originally was, if someone wanted to know something, they would have to go down to the courts and look up the information.  Nobody did that, they were not interested, now the state and federal government is shoving it down our throats, like they do most other things as well.


PA - Victim of vigilante mob sues Philly police

Original Article

03/22/2011

PHILADELPHIA (UPI) -- A man attacked by a mob who wrongly believed he had raped an 11-year-old girl has sued Philadelphia police, saying they encouraged street justice.

[name withheld], 28, who filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Tuesday, names both the city and the police department as defendants, the Philadelphia Daily News reported.

[name withheld] said he was beaten after police released a tip from an anonymous caller about a man nicknamed "Romeo," a name applied to him because of his voice. He ended up in the hospital after being hit with a baseball bat, a plank and fists.

"Not only was he beaten up by a bunch of civilians who jumped him out of the clear blue sky, he was also identified as a rapist and not just a rapist, but a child rapist," [name withheld]' lawyer, Jonathan Feinberg, said. "He was labeled as this monster criminal with no basis whatsoever."


NY - Sex offender says eviction from home was wrong

Original Article

03/22/2011

ALBANY - A man convicted of patronizing an underage prostitute told the state's top court Tuesday that he posed no danger to his five children and that county officials were wrong to conclude that his return home from jail constituted child neglect by him and his wife.

The man, identified in court as James C., said two 2007 convictions should not have allowed Dutchess County social workers and a family court judge to force him out of his Poughkeepsie home for the next three years. They were required by law to prove neglect, he said, and "they couldn't."

After more than a year in jail, he pleaded guilty in Manhattan to second-degree rape involving a 14-year-old and patronizing a 17-year-old prostitute. He was sentenced to time served.

"I'm sure family courts across the state have done the same thing," he said after Tuesday's oral arguments. As an attorney, he represented himself in the appeal, something he said most others in similar circumstances couldn't do.

A midlevel court reversed the family court ruling in 2010. His wife and four youngest children have moved to Canada, attorneys said.

But it wasn't just his status as a sex offender, argued Laura Gail Skojec, an assistant county attorney. The man's crimes were against children, and he showed no remorse and declined to participate in counseling, she said.