This is kind of off topic, but shows how people just go with the flow and follow orders, even if they know it's bad.
The Milgram experiment on obedience to authority figures was a series of social psychology experiments conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram, which measured the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts that conflicted with their personal conscience. Milgram first described his research in 1963 in an article published in the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, and later discussed his findings in greater depth in his 1974 book, Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View.
The experiments began in July 1961, three months after the start of the trial of German Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. Milgram devised his psychological study to answer the question: "Was it that Eichmann and his accomplices in the Holocaust had mutual intent, in at least with regard to the goals of the Holocaust?" In other words, "Was there a mutual sense of morality among those involved?" Milgram's testing suggested that it could have been that the millions of accomplices were merely following orders, despite violating their deepest moral beliefs. The experiments have been repeated many times, with consistent results within societies, but different percentages across the globe. The experiments were also controversial, and considered by some scientists to be unethical or psychologically abusive, motivating more thorough review boards for the use of human subjects.
Friday, July 22, 2011
This is kind of off topic, but shows how people just go with the flow and follow orders, even if they know it's bad.
An Ohio jury on Friday found Anthony Sowell (video) guilty in connection with the aggravated murder, kidnapping, sexual assault and abuse of corpses of 11 women around Cleveland between 2007 and 2009.
The jury took less than three days to convict Sowell, who pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to 85 counts, among them, aggravated murder, abuse of a corpse, kidnapping and tampering with evidence.
Sowell turned and offered his hands to a sheriff's deputy to be handcuffed as Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Dick Ambrose read the first guilty verdict for the aggravated murder of Tonia Carmichael with a sexual motivation. In the gallery, Carmichael's mother and daughter hugged each other as the verdict was read.
Ambrose is still reading the verdict.
Investigators discovered the remains of the 11 women – ages 25 to 52 – in Sowell's home beginning in October 2009. Since then, other women have come forward alleging that Sowell attacked them.
Police believe the women were easy prey for Sowell, a convicted sex offender who served 15 years for the attempted rape of a woman in 1989. Most of the women had struggled with drug addiction at some point and court records showing that many resorted to stealing and prostitution to support their habits.
With the conviction, Sowell faces the death penalty. Prosecutors received a report from an expert working with the defense, claiming Sowell suffers from several mental illnesses, including obsessive compulsiveness and post traumatic stress disorder, according to CNN affiliate WOIO.
Pedophilia is wrong, period, but so is vigilantism, and these folks should be arrested.
By John Tyler
"Cockroach!" "Pervert!" "Paedophile!" More than 50 people have gathered outside a house in the middle of a quiet residential street. Some are yelling insults, some are peering through the living room window. A man with a megaphone whips up the crowd. "If the government can’t - or doesn’t want to - protect our children, then we have to do it ourselves."
That night, a window was smashed, red paint, tomatoes and ammonia were thrown into the house, and the word 'Paedophile' was spray-painted in red letters outside.
This feels familiar. In my native United States, public sentiment against paedophiles and sex offenders can take extreme forms. A federal law requiring sex offenders to be publically registered almost encourages people to take the law into their own hands. Rehabilitation is widely believed to be impossible, and fear drives a fierce desire to protect children from perceived ‘monsters’.
In Texas and Missouri, judges have sentenced sex offenders to post signs outside their houses saying: ‘Danger: registered sex offender lives here’. A new law in Florida requires sex offenders to wear a GPS tracking device for the rest of their lives, even after serving time in prison. And in all 50 states, the public has the right to know where sex offenders live.
Now this mindset is gaining ground here in the Netherlands. The scene described above took place last weekend in Hengelo, a city not far from the German border. But unlike similar scenes in the US, the crowd was not pursuing a convicted sex offender. The resident of the house says he has never had a sexual relationship with a minor. So why is he being harassed?
Thirty-nine-year-old Marthijn Uittenbogaard is the treasurer and public face of the paedophile association Martijn. For the last 29 years, the group has been trying to gain acceptance for paedophilia in Dutch society.
The crowd outside his house is after him because of his ideas, which can be shocking. In a recent interview in the newspaper nrc.next, he said:
"Parents treat their children like they own them. But they really belong to everyone… These days, children are way too overprotected. They go to school, play a sport or some other activity - everything is very organised and distant. It makes a paedophile relationship totally impossible."
Mr Uittenbogaard thinks all laws limiting sexuality should be abolished, and that children should be able to be sexual with anyone at any age. Needless to say, his ideas and those of his association have not been accepted by mainstream society.
In its early years, paedophile organisation Martijn had some success in winning social acceptance. Prominent writers, politicians and other public figures openly supported paedophilia. A few prominent figures even admitted to being paedophiles. Justice Minister Korthals Altes submitted a law proposing to lower the age of sexual consent from 16 down to 12 years old. It didn’t pass.
Times have changed, and the organisation is now under fire. The Justice Department may be forced to bring charges against Martijn after it was revealed that eight current or former administrative officers had criminal records involving sex offences. The current chairman is in jail on charges of possession of child pornography.
Other developments have hardened the attitudes of an already sceptical Dutch public against the arguments for paedophilia. Revelations of widespread sexual abuse in the Catholic Church have angered many. So too has the case in Amsterdam in which at least 87 very young children were sexually abused by a day care employee and his life partner.
So now private citizens are increasingly taking matters into their own hands. In addition to the constant barrage of insults and threats directed at Mr Uitenbogaard in Hengelo, another member of Martijn was driven from his home in the northern province of Friesland. And a writer who merely supported Martijn’s right to free speech has also had the windows of his house smashed and ‘Paedophile’ painted on his front door in red letters.
That this country has not embraced Martijn’s view of the world is understandable. But the question is whether the Netherlands really wants to embrace the American example when it comes to vigilante justice.
By Mark Fischenich
NICOLLET — The nearly 170 people attending a Level 3 sex offender notification meeting in Nicollet Thursday night displayed plenty of concern that [name withheld], convicted of sex crimes against a 4-year-old and a 13-year-old, has moved into the town of 1,000.
Many of them also made it clear that [name withheld] ought to feel some anxiety as well.
“He needs to be notified about us,” Jim Pietan said near the end of the two-hour meeting. “We are like the grizzly bear with a cub. If he comes after our children, we’re about a Level 5.”
[name withheld], released from prison in March of 2010, was planning to move to North Mankato, which prompted a community notification meeting there last month. Instead, he rented an apartment starting July 1 above a business on Nicollet’s main drag.
[name withheld], 28, was first convicted as a juvenile of second-degree criminal sexual conduct in Le Sueur County in 1996. That case involved sexual contact, including fondling and penetration, with a 4-year-old girl.
His second offense occurred six years later with a 13-year-old girl, also including fondling and penetration. In both cases, the victims knew [name withheld]. He has also admitted to engaging in sexual contact with a 15-year-old girl and exposing himself via the Internet, according to the Minnesota Department of Corrections.
Michele Murphy of the Department of Corrections conducted the meeting at the Nicollet Community Center, spending much of the meeting talking about the state’s sex offender notification law and providing advice on protecting children from the broader threat posed by sex offenders — including the vast majority who have never been caught.
But when the microphones were turned over to the audience, many Nicollet residents offered strategies for making [name withheld] regret his decision to locate in the town on Highway 14 just west of North Mankato.
The second man to take a microphone suggested boycotting the shop on the 700 block of Third Avenue that rented to [name withheld].
“Nobody needs to do business with this lady,” he said, adding later that [name withheld] “needs to get the message” from residents. “‘Get the hell out of Nicollet. We don’t need this (expletive).’”
Another resident wondered if Nicollet’s bars and other stores could legally refuse to do business with [name withheld].
“A private business would have the right to refuse anybody service,” answered Chief Deputy Karl Jensen of the Nicollet County Sheriff’s Office.
The man said he would walk out of any business that doesn’t refuse [name withheld] service.
“I think everybody in the town should do the same thing,” he said to a smattering of applause.
Another man asked what other communities had done to drive out [name withheld] since his release from prison, and a woman suggested polite calls of consternation to those who would rent to him.
“Call ’em up, let ’em know. We just don’t want this in our community.”
And a different woman wondered whether citizens could directly confront [name withheld], if it would be legal to tell him: “The whole town is watching. We know where you live. We have our eyes on you.”
“Can we do that?,” she asked.
“You can address Mr. [name withheld],” Jensen answered. “Just do it in a ... ”
“Civil way?” the woman finished.
“Thank you,” Jensen said.
Sheriff’s Department investigator Marc Chadderdon, who’s lived in Nicollet since 1994, asked residents not to get carried away and to instead rely on law enforcement.
“I don’t want to see any of you get arrested because of bad behavior ... threatening him,” Chadderdon said. “Call us.”
Investigator Kip Olson echoed the advice.
“Our deputies are well-versed on this guy,” Olson said. “... Don’t take action on yourself, make it worse. Call us.”
Murphy, who also conducted last month’s lower-key notification meeting in North Mankato, repeatedly emphasized that [name withheld] shouldn’t be viewed as a unique threat. As a Level 3 offender, he’s been deemed by a Correction Department review panel as most-likely to re-offend.
But Murphy cited statistics showing that Minnesota’s aggressive handling of released sex offenders has driven down the rate of re-offense to the point that only about 3 percent are convicted of another sex crime in the first three years after they leave prison.
- Recidivism is already low for ALL sex offenders, but adding to the stress, like this town is apparently going to do, will increase that risk.
That’s down from nearly 17 percent in 1990, before the sex offender registry and the notification law were enacted. Even with Level 3 offenders, just 5.2 percent are arrested for a sex crime in that same time period.
Murphy also noted that in 90 percent of cases sex offenders are known by their victims, and 90 percent of those who are convicted of a sexual offense each year had never been convicted before.
“If you just focus too much on him, then you’re ignoring 90 percent of the threat to your community,” she said.
Making [name withheld] uncomfortable in Nicollet might prompt him to spend his free time in some other community where he is less known, Murphy conceded.
“That being said, somebody else could come to your community and hang out there.”
And there are thousands of registered sex offenders in the state, although most people learn only of the Level 3 offenders. Three live in Nicollet (with [name withheld] the only Level 3 offender), Murphy said. Fifty live in Nicollet County. Nearly 150 more are in Blue Earth County.
“We know that sex offenders will always be among us,” she said. “That’s just reality. It’s a hard reality.”
Several people at the meeting expressed frustration that the judicial system doesn’t put people like [name withheld] away longer.
Kim Brown, Pietan’s wife and the mother of three, was shocked that [name withheld] was sentenced to just 18 months of probation after his second conviction and that he went to prison only because of a non-sexual violation of the terms of the probation.
“That’s not right,” Brown said. “That has to change.”
Pietan said he expects the meeting will prompt the school district to implement an awareness program about sexual predators and that parents will be more likely to talk to their kids about the threat.
He also suggested that Thursday’s gathering won’t be the last Nicollet residents will hold about [name withheld].
“We may have to have another meeting after you’re gone to discuss this,” Pietan told Murphy, prompting some of the only laughter of the night.
The trio of representatives of the sheriff’s department promised to be watching Nicollet closely and said the department wants to hear from any resident who sees suspicious behavior. Chadderdon said he knows his neighbors will be keeping one-another well-informed, too.
One woman asked Chadderdon if he could announce to the audience what vehicle [name withheld] drives (something that’s not public information).
“I can’t,” he said. “But I’m sure you’ll know before you leave the meeting.”
She didn’t need to wait nearly that long, as a couple of dozen people simultaneously began reciting a vehicle description.
MI - Another officer (Carl Gabrielse) rapes a women, and gets a way without having to registry like average citizens would be!
By John Agar
HOLLAND – A woman sexually assaulted by a Holland deputy attorney during plea negotiations in her drunken-driving case has settled her federal lawsuit against the attorney, Carl Gabrielse, and the city, court records showed.
Settlement details have not been filed.
Mediator Thomas Koernke said in court documents that the case was settled in full, with final paperwork to be filed by July 8. The parties were to have mediation on Wednesday.
Gabrielse was sentenced to six months in jail in April 2010 for third-degree criminal sexual conduct and misconduct in office. After he successfully completed probation, including sex-offender counseling, he was allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge of gross indecency between a male and female, a five-year felony.
The gross-indecency charge does not require Gabrielse to be on the state sex-offender registry.
The woman said Gabrielse raped her in the bathroom of the jury room at Holland District Court. He and the victim were discussing a plea deal after she had been arrested for drunken driving. “Sadly, it resulted in the rape of the plaintiff by a public official in the confines of a jury room bathroom,” her attorney wrote.
The city said it had no legal responsibility because “Mr. Gabrielse's alleged actions were secret, unlawful and deviated from the guidelines he was given.”
Gabrielse was associate of Cunningham Dalman law firm, and periodically worked for the city under his employer's contract.
His attorneys said in court filings that the woman, during a pretrial conference on her drunken-driving charge, “proceeded to inform Mr. Gabrielse that she was willing to exchange sexual favors for a reduction in her charge.”
- So what? He is a person in a position of trust, and he abused it, even if she wanted it or not!
He argued that sex was consensual, and denied “any and all allegations that he sexually assaulted” the woman, records showed.
Her attorney said she wasn't willing to have sex with Gabrielse, and said that “his statement of the case is contradicted by his own guilty plea.”
She was sentenced to probation and fines for impaired driving.
Gabrielse's law license has been suspended three years for "professional misconduct," records showed.
- It should be suspended for life!
CO - Denver councilman Charlie Brown "We are becoming a Mecca, not only for homeless people in general, but also for homeless sex offenders"
By Dayle Cedars
Denver One Of Three Cities That Takes Homeless Sex Offenders
DENVER - A sex offender living in a van in a neighborhood next to a park is raising questions.
"This is brand new for me," said the sex offender, who does not want to be identified. "I haven't had to live in a van situation."
7NEWS reporter Dayle Cedars wanted to know why he chose the location next to the park.
"I know some people in that neighborhood," said the man. "I grew up in that neighborhood."
He also said he felt safe in the neighborhood and that he thought living with a park on one side is better than living directly in front of someone's house.
What the man is doing is completely legal. He is not on parole and can live wherever he chooses; however, he said he recently moved to Denver after authorities in Lakewood said he was not welcome.
Denver is one of three cities in the state that allows sex offenders to register as transients; Jefferson County does not.
Denver councilman Charlie Brown said that is a concern for him.
"We are becoming a Mecca, not only for homeless people in general, but also for homeless sex offenders," said Brown.
- You are becoming a "mecca" for sex offenders because you have bypassed your oath of office to defend the Constitution and people's rights so you can "look tough" on crime, and passing residency restrictions which do nothing but force people into clusters and homelessness, and the registry forces people into joblessness. Stop passing unconstitutional laws, based on emotions, and you would not have this problem.
Denver police said there are 70 to 100 homeless sex offenders at any given time.
The state law says a sex offender must register where a residence is established. Police said each county's district attorney's office interprets that law differently. In Denver, the law is interpreted to mean a city block or intersection is a legal residence for sex offenders.
But residents of Denver who live near this sex offender's van said that law needs to be changed. They've called the police numerous times on the van, but police said the man is doing nothing wrong.
''That is where I am lawfully supposed to be," said the man.
He said there have been so many complaints he is being pressured and urged by police to move. But he doesn't want to move until police tell him where he should go so he won't be harassed and forced to move again, even though he is doing nothing against the law. He said police won't tell him.
Revekka Balancier, of Denver Human Services' Denver's Road Home, said homeless sex offenders have very few if no options for help in the city.
"We are aware there is a service gap and we do need to do something about it," said Balancier.
- Then do something about it! Stop talking about it, and repeal the residency restrictions, then the problem would go away.
Balancier said there are discussions taking place within Denver's Road Home about the lack of services for sex offenders; however, she said all it is right now is talk.
Denver's shelters only allow a certain number of sex offenders, and Balancier said there are no affordable housing units for sex offenders.
The Crossroads shelter closed down two years ago. It was known as the shelter that accepted sex offenders. The sex offender 7NEWS spoke with said he lived there until it closed its doors.
"I am scared," said the man. "I am frightened."
He said when sex offenders become fearful, there is a high probability of reoffending.
"I am fearful," he said. "I don't want to reoffend."
- Then don't. Don't let your situation pressure you into re-offending, or use it as an excuse.
He said it has been a long time since he has had any bad thoughts and wanted to hurt someone, but he understands why people who live around him are concerned.
"I made a choice 15 years ago," said the man. "I abused two people, and you can't come back across that line."
But he said he feels as if residents around him are abusing him. He said he just wants to live his life, and he said he has been taught through his sex offense treatment that he should not hide or try to be secretive.
By Tiffany Gabbay
One would think that a police officer might know better than to appear in a web-based porn film at all, let alone in full uniform while on duty, and not expect to be found out.
Well, that’s what reportedly happened when one Los Angeles traffic cop appeared in a popular online porn series, fondling a porn actress’ breasts and spanking her.
Officer John Dancler has reportedly been discharged from the L.A.P.D. while another officer who also appeared in the adult film has been allowed to return to his job in parking enforcement.
An NBC4 investigative report back in April exposed the officers’ participation in the lewd movie, allegedly prompting an investigation into the misconduct by the L.A. Department of Transportation. NBC4 reports:
Bruce Gillman, spokesman for LADOT called the agency’s investigation “thorough” and said it is now complete. The department has disciplined the officers for “inappropriate behavior while on duty,” Gillman said.
Dancler is appealing his termination before the city’s Civil Service Commission.
“We believe the city’s action is totally unwarranted and…we believe it’s a wrongful termination,” Dancler’s attorney, Bobby Samini, told NBC4.
The other officer in the movie, Vaughn Dorsey, has been allowed to return to his job as a parking enforcement officer in the Valley Division after being disciplined, according to multiple sources in the department.
The movie featured Dorsey standing by while a porn actress performed indecent acts on herself in his Parking Enforcement car.
Sources reportedly told NBC4 that then-Chief Jimmy Price was “aware” of the officers’ participation in the porn film, but chose to look the other way. Price alleged the reason he was slow to respond was because a “positive identification” could not be made on the officers in the film. But anonymous sources say that’s “hogwash.”
Perhaps not coincidentally, just weeks after the investigation, Price retired a reported two years ealier than he originally planned, and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa replaced the management at LADOT, promising to enact swift discipline of any and all officers engaged in future misconduct.
Meanwhile L.A.P.D. Commander Michael Williams is now temporarily in charge of Parking Enforcement and told NBC4 he intends to clean up the department:
“I assure you that we’re going to put systems in place that will hold everybody accountable up and down the line,” Williams told NBC4 in May. ”Up and down the chain of command.”
The video report below features clips of the adult film that the officers appeared in and explains the subsequent investigation:
|Julia Tuttle Causeway|
The registry does nothing to prevent crime or protect anybody, it's just an online phone book that turns people into homeless and jobless lepers, and it's also becoming a vigilante hit-list, see here and here. It should be offline and used by police only, or, put all criminals on it, so it's "fair" to all.
Rather than focusing on predators, broad state registries include sexting teens and high school sweethearts
On the Texas registry for sex offenders, [name withheld]'s crime is listed as "sexual assault of a child." If I lived in his neighborhood and had young children, I'd be frightened upon seeing that. Safe to assume that some of his neighbors discovered his status and became alarmed. Needlessly so, as it turns out. Delving into his story, journalist Abigail Pesta has discovered that [name withheld] was arrested for having sex with his high school girlfriend. He was 19. She was 15. They've now been happily married for years, and he has fathered four girls.
The anecdote is part of a larger story about America's sex offender registries and the people on them who don't belong there. It's a timely subject. This month, some state governments are racing to bring themselves into compliance with the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act in order to avoid losing federal funds. As a result, the sex offender dragnet may pull in even more people. Says Pesta, "Each of the 50 states now has at least one grassroots group dedicated to getting young people -- many high school age, but some under the age of 10 -- off the registry."
So perhaps the backlash will grow too.
It ought to.
This isn't an argument against the idea of sex offender registries, or even against laws criminalizing sex among teens (though I think it ought to be legal). The posture the public should adopt, the insight that legislators need to internalize, is that putting people on registries who don't belong there is detrimental to their purpose. It makes them less effective at alerting us to actual threats and reduces their stigma, insofar as many of us, when we hear someone is a registered sex offender, aren't quite sure what to think about that person anymore.
Legislators striving to enhance public safety and parental awareness ought to be including more information on registries about the circumstances of the crimes committed. And more than that, the registries ought to be purged of high school Romeos like [name withheld]. It also ought to be purged of people condemned to lifelong registration because they streaked at a high school football game, or forwarded a text message of a naked classmate, or got caught drunk and urinating against a wall in public.
Legislators who think otherwise are harming public safety by making it impossible for the public to distinguish actual threats from harmless victims of the law's long arm. They're also wasting a lot of money keeping track of people who pose no risk to society.
By Brian Dickerson
When his name went on Michigan's Sex Offender Registry for having consensual sex at 17 with a fellow student at Bloomfield Hills' Andover High School, [name withheld] despaired that his life was over.
Who would ever hire him? Who would want to date him?
[father name withheld] and [mother name withheld] had spoken to other parents with children on the registry and knew [name withheld]'s fears were not exaggerated. But [father name withheld] implored his son not to give up hope.
"I told him people had begun to recognize that it made no sense to put people like him on a registry that was meant for sexual predators," [father name withheld] recalled. "I told him that he needed to be patient. ... The law would be changed."
[father name withheld] was right: The law was changed, and late last month, the Michigan State Police mailed [name withheld] a letter informing him that, as of June 30, his name would be removed from the public registry.
The letter said he might even be eligible to get completely off the list.
There's just one problem: [name withheld] has been dead for more than seven years.
[name withheld] never shared his father's confidence that Michigan would change its sex offender registration law before the stigma of being publicly branded a sex criminal had ruined his prospects for a normal life. His parents found him dead of an overdose in his bedroom when he was 20.
Now, you'd think a state police department that prides itself on knowing every little thing about the movements of Michigan's 40,000 sex offenders -- where they live and work, what kind of car they drive, when and where they go on vacation, whether they've recently joined Facebook -- would notice when one of those people ceases to exist.
And you might think that the police agency would be especially attentive when the thing that triggers a registered sex offender's death is the shame and stigma associated with that status, particularly when the dead teenager's father testifies before the state Legislature and his son's well-publicized death becomes a rallying point for citizens, lawyers, judges and lawmakers seeking to change the registry law.
But if you thought either of those things, you've overestimated Michigan's capacity to keep track of its sex offenders -- an ever-expanding polyglot that includes everything from promiscuous teens like the late [name withheld] to public urinators to violent rapists.
Karen Johnson, the manager of the Sex Offender and Registry Enforcement Unit who signed the letter addressed to [name withheld], did not respond to my repeated requests for an explanation. But State Police spokeswoman Shanon Banner said a deceased offender isn't removed from the department's master registry unless the offender's family mails a death certificate to the registry enforcement unit -- a step she speculated had not taken place in [name withheld]'s case.
"There's no process by which a name is automatically removed from the registry when the offender dies," she said.
Nor are [name withheld]'s parents the only victims of the state's sloppy record-keeping. The letter dispatched to their deceased son is just one particularly embarrassing miscue in an administrative meltdown that has left most of the state's registered sex offenders in a dangerous bureaucratic limbo for the last month -- publicly flagged as "non-compliant" while an overwhelmed State Police department sorts out their obligations under Michigan's newly amended registration law.
Nearly everyone convicted of a sexual offense in Michigan is required to register their address, employment and other personal data with their local police department and verify it in person at least once a year. Much of that information is listed, along with the offender's photograph and details of his or her crimes, on a public Web site maintained by the State Police.
All those offenders are affected by statutory changes that state legislators adopted earlier this year to assure that Michigan remains eligible for millions of dollars in federal funding.
The changes in Michigan's law provide some offenders, including teenagers who landed on the registry for nonviolent offenses like [name withheld]'s, an opportunity to petition the court for an early exit.
But they also require all registered offenders to provide police with additional information, including phone numbers and immigration documentation. In addition to offenders' addresses, the registry will soon list the addresses of their employers and the make and model of their cars.
Registered offenders who fail to report any change in their living arrangements, employment, vehicle ownership, or educational status within three business days are subject to arrest.
The letter [name withheld] received was one of tens of thousands mailed by the state to alert registered offenders that they needed to update their files in person no later than July 15.
But lawyers and offenders I talked with this week say that local police departments were unprepared for the resulting deluge, and that many offenders who complied with the new requirements in a timely way are still identified on the public sex offender registry as "non-compliant."
In a random search of more than 100 offenders in four metro Detroit ZIP codes Thursday, every single offender whose file I reviewed was identified as "NON-COMPLIANT" or "ABSCONDER."
"What's an employer supposed to think when he finds that the State Police have publicly identified one of his workers as a non-compliant sex offender?" asks Cheryl Carpenter, an Oakland County attorney who said she has taken calls from more than a dozen offenders concerned about inaccurate Web site listings.
"We did underestimate the volume of information we had to process," State Police spokeswoman Banner conceded. "We underestimated how well (offenders) were going to carry out their new duties."
Banner said the enforcement unit had designated every sex offender in the state "non-compliant" when the new law took effect July 1 and had intended to change their status as their information was updated. Late Thursday, after I noted that every offender whose file I examined was still listed as non-compliant, Banner told me that the enforcement unit had changed all their statuses to compliant -- a change my own inspection confirmed.
- What the hell? Just because a new law is passed, doesn't mean everyone is all of a sudden non-compliant!
Carpenter said the State Police have been courteous and helpful in correcting errors she has brought to their attention. Barb Lambourne, co-founder of a support group called Citizens for Second Chances, echoed her assessment.
"The State Police have been very cooperative," she said. "I think this has just been an administrative nightmare for them."
Banner said the overhaul required by the new law has enabled the State Police to identify many errors in the registry, including the inclusion of deceased offenders.
"Obviously, the registry is only useful if the information listed there is accurate," she said. "If anything positive comes of this, it is that this process is cleaning up a number of problems."
|Dr. Jill Levenson|
Dr. Levenson was a Guest Blogger over at "Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment," and had the following to say about SORNA's approaching deadlines.
"Here is a guest blog from Florida's Jill Levenson, a public policy researcher and expert. In this piece, Jill discusses a variety of issues associated with evidence-based risk management of sexual offenders--focusing specifically on the SORNA. Please note that the majority of Jill's references are in Sage Journals, which means that ATSA members can access them for free from the Members Only side of http://www.atsa.com/." RJW
With the SORNA deadline approaching next week, only eight states are in substantial compliance with the law. The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), which is Title 1 of the Adam Walsh Act (AWA), requires states to meet minimum standards in their sexual offender tracking and disclosure procedures.
Why is it that over 80% of states are not complying, especially when facing a 10% loss of federal crime funding each year? Since its inception, certain pieces of SORNA have been quite controversial and, in many cases, "deal-breakers" for states. Aside from the fiscal reality that SORNA will cost more for most states to implement than they would lose through penalties, parts of the law contradict evidence and best practices that some states have spent years refining.
Take, for example, the rigid offense-based tier system that classifies offenders by their statutes of conviction. There is a seemingly intuitive logic to the belief that statute titles, crime degrees, and descriptions accurately portray the offense in question. We all know, however, that in many cases statutory language does a poor job of characterizing the crime—and an even worse job of characterizing the criminal. In other words, SORNA tiers confuse the seriousness of the crime with the risk to reoffend. Although the SORNA guidelines cleverly avoid using the word risk, there is a clear implication, based on the associated longer registration durations and more frequent updates, that the Tier 3 offenders are more dangerous and therefore necessitate closer monitoring for longer periods. As well, "tier enhancements based on recidivism" can be made, allowing an offender with more than one conviction to be upgraded to a Tier 3 based on the repetitive nature of the criminal behavior—again suggesting to the public that higher tier assignments are associated with an increased likelihood of recidivism.
Unfortunately, in most instances, offense definitions are an inadequate means for evaluating risk or determining supervision needs. They overestimate risk for most offenders, and underestimate risk for those who plea-bargained to lesser offenses. Andrew Harris and colleagues (2010) found that applying SORNA criteria in Ohio and Oklahoma greatly skewed the distribution of risk into the highest tier compared to the states' prior classification schemes using risk assessment tools. Naomi Freeman and Jeffrey Sandler (2010) found that SORNA tiers were less effective in identifying sexual recidivists in New York than assessment tools utilizing risk factors statistically associated with recidivism. Many states have spent the past two decades developing and refining evidence-based risk management systems, and although SORNA does not technically require states to abandon the use of those tools, it does require registration and notification decisions to be based on the federal guidelines rather than the state's risk assessment.
And, speaking of longer registration durations (25 years to life), they contradict research indicating that sexual offenders become less likely to reoffend with increased time spent offense-free in the community. According to Static-99 guidelines, an offender's risk declines by half after 5 years, and by half again after 10 years. As well, reoffending declines with age. Right now, 20% of America's sexual offenders are over 56 years of age. Over time, with longer registration durations, we should anticipate an aging sexual offender population of which a greater proportion will pose a lower risk to public safety.
SMART Office staff have claimed that the purpose of SORNA was never to prevent recidivism, but to provide a monitoring tool for law enforcement and to increase public awareness. Indeed, the AWA legislative intent does not mention reduced reoffending as a goal. But, isn't that a little disingenuous? Why the need for enhanced law enforcement monitoring and increased public awareness if not for the hope of preventing future sex crimes and protecting potential victims from the trauma of sexual assault? Do Americans really want to spend tens of millions of dollars on sexual offender notification if it doesn't pay off in terms of protecting communities? Surveys of the American public have found that most citizens support SORN laws because, in fact, they believe them to be effective in reducing sexual recidivism. About a dozen empirical investigations (see summary in Levenson, 2009) have been conducted to date on the effectiveness of SORN laws to reduce recidivism. Most have not shown declines in sex crime rates generally or sexual recidivism specifically that can be attributed to SORN. Interestingly, the two studies that have noted significant effects on recidivism were conducted in Washington and Minnesota—both states with empirically derived risk assessment systems and concordant monitoring and management plans.
Or, consider the requirement that minors adjudicated delinquent in juvenile courts must be registered as sexual offenders. Though the SORNA guidelines conceded to states that public notification was discretionary, even registering juveniles with law enforcement contradicts a century of juvenile justice philosophy in the United States. The labeling of minors, and the subsequent potential obstacles to educational, occupational, and social opportunities, seems counter-intuitive to both juvenile advocates and victim advocates. This component of SORNA has been a noted barrier to implementation for many states.
We've seen the harrowing story of Jaycee Dugard in recent weeks, and all of us wondered how a registered sexual offender could get away with holding someone captive for 18 years. We've heard the scathing reports of parole agent incompetence, and we've used our 20/20 hindsight to shrewdly point out the missed clues. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that Garrido was high risk; he'd had two previous arrests, one resulting in a conviction for the abduction and rape of a woman whom he held hostage until she escaped.
But, perhaps, the real answer to the unfathomable question—How could this happen?? —is simply that Philip Garrido was a needle in a haystack. Philip Garrido is an example of how overzealous SORN laws might actually be counterproductive. As the registered sexual offender population nears three quarters of a million, fiscal and personnel resources are spread thin, law enforcement agents' capacity to target their monitoring toward more dangerous individuals is compromised, and the public's ability to distinguish truly high-risk predators is diluted. As Robin Wilson astutely pointed out in his recent San Francisco public radio interview, cases like Jaycee (and Adam Walsh, Jessica Lunsford, and Megan Kanka) are exceedingly rare, which is why they command so much attention—they shock us. They are statistically improbable events not representative of the vast majority of sexual assault cases and, thus, not the best cases on which to base public policy designed to address a rampant social problem.
Oh, and what about those 100,000 missing sexual offenders discussed repeatedly in AWA legislative hearings and in news reports? The ones who supposedly take advantage of discrepancies in laws to shop around for lax states where they can more easily neglect to register and avoid detection while seeking new child victims? My colleagues and I (Levenson & Harris, 2011) analyzed data downloaded directly from the online registries, along with surveys of registry managers, and we discovered that approximately 4% of the nation's RSOs have addresses that cannot be verified. We estimate the number of noncompliant sexual offenders to be between 25,000 and 30,000—but less than half of them are officially designated by states to have truly absconded. And, incidentally, research conducted in Minnesota, South Carolina, New York, and New Jersey all conclude that failure to register does not typically contribute to the likelihood for sexual recidivism.
Perhaps the apparent lack of state enthusiasm for SORNA will provide an impetus to re-open the dialogue about sexual offender management. SORNA in its current form sacrifices precision for over-inclusion, quality for quantity, efficiency for symbolism. By going back to the drawing board, with input from victim advocates, law enforcement, psychologists, criminal justice practitioners, and academic researchers, Congress has an opportunity to create model legislation that is evidence-based and more likely to achieve the goal of preventing repeat sexual violence.