Saturday, August 27, 2011

UK - Concern over sex offender prison plans

Lynn Hammond
Original Article

08/27/2011

By Ross Findon

A child safety watchdog has raised concerns about plans to turn over Island prisons to sex offenders.

Prison sources this week confirmed they were looking to house only sex offenders in the three jails of HM Prison Isle of Wight.
- This is good, IMO. Then their won't be as many assaults on someone simply due to a label.

Currently, Albany is the main sex-offender prison with some others housed in Parkhurst.

Lynn Hammond, of Isle of Wight Parents Action Group, raised fears about large numbers of sex offenders, particularly paedophiles, being grouped together and about offenders staying on the Island after release.
- Come on! Damned if you do, damned if you don't. If it wasn't for these prisons, they'd be in other prisons just as well. So her "fear" is unjustified, IMO.

"They won’t want to go back to their old community. They will be looking for a fresh start."
- Wow, imagine that, a fresh start!

"Saving money should never come into a decision like this, when children’s lives could be at risk," she said.

Nigel Hawley, chairman of the Isle of Wight Independent Monitoring Board, said he believed it was unlikely prisoners would be released from here as most finished their sentences from Category D jails, of which there were none on the Island.

Island MP Andrew Turner said he would be writing to Secretary of State for Justice Kenneth Clarke for further details of what was proposed and the reasons behind it.

"Only those with genuine connections to the Island before their imprisonment should be released here," said Mr Turner, who said he wanted to meet with HMP Isle of Wight governor James Shanley.


Department of Ed rewrites the Constitution, at the expense of men

Original Article

08/27/2011

By Carey Roberts

If college administrators were turning a cold shoulder to rape victims and female students were dropping out like flies, the recent Department of Education sex mandate might begin to make a little more sense.

But here we are. The once-unthinkable has become a Brave New World reality, in which a bewildered Alice quakes before an arrogant Queen proclaiming, "Sentence first — verdict afterwards."

Let's say you're a student at Cal State-Monterey Bay. There, any sexual "innuendoes made at inappropriate times, perhaps in the guise of humor" can get you into trouble with university administrators. At Alabama State University, any "behavior that causes discomfort, embarrassment or emotional distress" is deemed to be harassing.

You may wonder if such vague definitions are constitutional, and indeed they are not.

In Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled that only behavior that is "so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive, and...so undermines and detracts from the victims' education experience" can be considered to represent sexual harassment."

Nonetheless, such far-reaching concantations of student misconduct have become the norm. According to a recent survey by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, 67% of top American colleges have enacted speech codes that are unconstitutional under First Amendment standards.

Which means if your son utters a gratuitous "son of a bitch" remark, that could land him in a load of trouble. And a professor teaching a course on 19th century erotic art could be accused of inflicting embarrassment on overly sensitive students — a concern that recently compelled the American Association of University Professors to demand the DED Office for Civil Rights withdraw the regulation.

Or let's say a student and his new-found paramour share a celebratory glass of Pinot Noir and indulge in a frolic of consensual sex. Surprise! The Office for Civil Rights directive astonishingly dictates the woman (or man) is unable to give consent "due to the victim's use of drugs or alcohol."

We're not talking about a drunken lovefest or even getting a little tipsy — the mere "use" of alcohol now renders the person a "victim."

It gets crazier, because university disciplinary committees originally were set up to hear cases of cheating or plagiarism, not adjudicate cases involving potential criminal misconduct that arise from murky 'he-said, she-said' disputes.

So now it's your day in court, so to speak. Knowing that the accusation is utterly baseless, you didn't bother to engage an attorney to argue your case. You plan to cross-examine your former girlfriend on your own behalf.

Sorry, the Department of Education will have none of that. The delicate-as-a-wallflower victim is now deemed too distraught to answer your questions.

In the past, such cases were decided under the "clear and convincing" standard of proof, which means the lay jury needed to be about 75% sure that wrong-doing had occurred. But now, the college must comply with the "predominance of the evidence" standard, which only requires a 51% level of proof.

Fortunately, the disciplinary committee found you innocent of the charges. Now you can go back to your normal routine, hoping your classmates will stop giving you those dirty looks.

Hold on, Joe, because your ex- can still appeal the decision. Double jeopardy is prohibited under criminal law, but in the DED's Alice in Wonderland universe, she gets a second bite at the apple.

Such Kangaroo Court proceedings do not take place in a vacuum.

Student orientation programs alert doe-eyed coeds to the looming specter of date rape. Women's studies programs hold frenzied "Take the Night" marches. Faculty members indulge in diatribes about "rape culture." And at Arizona State University, students are ominously warned to "avoid parties where males greatly outnumber females."

The effects on the falsely accused can be far-reaching. A recent Wall Street Journal editorial lamented, "Not only is he likely to be expelled, but he may well be barred from graduate or professional school and certain government agencies, suffer irreparable damage to his reputation, and still be exposed to criminal prosecution."

In short, the Department of Education DED Office for Civil Rights is working to remove the constitutionally rooted due process rights of the accused.

Fortunately, the solution is simple. We take away their money.

The Office for Civil Rights enjoys a $103 million budget, including a cushy $730,000 for employee awards and overtime. Right now Congress is searching high and low for ways to trim the federal deficit. I say we cut their budget to $50 million.

And for good measure, we'll mandate the remaining OCR employees to take a course in Constitutional Law 101.


ND - Sex offender who spent time living along Red River says Fargo lacks available housing

Original Article

08/27/2011

By Dave Roepke

FARGO – In the roughly two weeks he was living on city-owned land along the Red River, [name withheld] couldn’t help but think he might be better off if he’d just land back behind bars.

When you’re living on the river, it’s hard to look at freedom the way you do in prison,” said [name withheld], 24, a high-risk sex offender who was released July 31 but wasn’t able to find a place to live until Monday.

He was constantly caked in mud while looking for a job – a friend in town called him “dirt boy.” He also was worried about retribution. As state law requires, the police notified the public of his location – about 10 feet off the bike path between Second and Third avenues north, east of the Howard Johnson hotel.

Everyone knows I can’t lock my door. I don’t have one,” [name withheld] recalled in an interview Friday.

[name withheld] said his trouble finding a place to live is an indication of a larger issue – a lack of housing options for sex offenders, to whom few landlords want to lease and even most homeless shelters will not take in.
- That is because the media, politicians and others have demonized ex-sex offenders, and passed unconstitutional laws forcing people into homelessness.

If people are really worried about sex offenders, you have to allow them a roof over their head,” he said. “There’s no greater risk than a homeless sex offender.”

Eventually, police helped him find a rented room in a north Fargo house that’s often home to sex offenders – [address withheld], a block east of Madison Elementary – but before he ended up on the river on the advice of officers, he was hoping he could stay at a shelter long enough to earn cash for an apartment deposit.
- You see, by this reporter posting the actual address of where this person is staying, they are basically inviting vigilantism, IMO.

A prison official had told him the Gladys Ray Shelter in Fargo allowed sex offenders, but he was only allowed to stay there one night, [name withheld] said. Of the metro’s shelters, only Dorothy Day House in Moorhead lets sex offenders remain long term, and it only has 10 beds, he said.

Jan Eliassen, director of Gladys Ray, said that while she recognizes “everybody does better when they have a home,” the shelter allows sex offenders just two stays every six months to avoid potential outrage if a police notification came out with Gladys Ray listed as a sex offender’s residence.

Since the shelter already engenders controversy as the only area shelter that houses homeless who have been drinking alcohol, it’s a matter of priority-setting.

It certainly isn’t the answer. It’s what we can do right now,” Eliassen said.

That concern speaks to the main complaint [name withheld] has about his difficulty finding a residence – a lack of discernment about what an offender actually did.

A former Bismarck resident, [name withheld] in 2008 was convicted of a felony and a misdemeanor count of possessing child pornography in Burleigh County District Court – the felony stemming from thumbnail photos located during the sentencing investigation of his misdemeanor. He said the images were not of any pre-pubescent children.

While acknowledging he was committing a crime, he maintains he’s little risk to reoffend and no danger to children. He claims to be a Level III in large part due to having had a probation revocation in early 2009 for using the Internet.

Don’t just bundle us into one pile,” he said.

An email message for the president of the Madison Elementary PTA was not returned Friday afternoon.

[name withheld] said that even having a few extra beds set aside for sex offenders at a homeless shelter would be a big improvement.

Eliassen said Gladys Ray could potentially revisit its policy on sex offenders, but what she would prefer is a broader community push for more transitional types of housing for offenders.

Craig Richie, a lawyer in Fargo who was denied the required city zoning permit for such a facility last year after it brought widespread complaints from residents in the area, said he doesn’t see that happening before another high-profile sexual crime is perpetrated by an off-the-grid offender.

Richie said he believes it is a case of politics trumping reason, as the officials who work with sex offenders – probation agents and police – tell him it’s a badly unaddressed need.

The drum needs to keep banging. What are you going to do?” he said.


ME - Limit sex offender registry to dangerous predators

Original Article

My question would be: "Why do we need an online registry in the first place?" Most ex-sex offenders are not repeat offenders (recidivist), and studies have shown that ex-sex offenders have one of the lowest recidivism rates of all other criminals, yet we don't monitor those other criminals who actually do pose more of a threat to the public. Those who have been deemed dangerous, should be sentenced to longer times in prison, then the registry would not be needed at all, and the wasted money could be used elsewhere, like in educating our children, fixing the roads, helping police, etc.

08/27/2011

Maine's sex offender registry as it currently operates is not a very effective tool for keeping dangerous people at a distance.

We all want to know the whereabouts of someone who has preyed on young children or committed violent sexual assaults. We don't want to know if someone in the neighborhood was accused of having sex with his girlfriend 30 years ago or fought a legal battle 25 years ago against sexual abuse charges during a bitter custody fight. Especially if, in the ensuing years, that person has proven to be a caring friend and family member, a productive citizen, and free from any brushes with the law.

Some of those on the registry had denied the charges vehemently but agreed to plea bargains to put an emotional, expensive fight behind them; others had accepted their punishment and changed their lives for the better.

Nonetheless, many years later those who had resolved these types of charges and led exemplary lives were ordered to register as sex offenders alongside offenders with clear indicators of risk.

We generally assume that a registered sex offender is a disgusting pedophile who should be controlled by the police and ostracized by society.

The truth is that the term "registered sex offender" is meaningless in Maine.

The registry is unwieldy for the average person to use and needlessly expensive for police to implement because it is clogged with people who pose no danger to society. Unfortunately, because of recent court cases, the public's attention has been focused almost solely on the issue of the rights of people who may be unjustly required to register. The other equally critical issue is that unless those people are removed, the registry's bloated numbers make it nearly impossible to be vigilant when it comes to dangerous predators.


CO - Homeless sex offenders under the radar in El Paso County

Original Article

08/26/2011

Instead of an address, 49 sex offenders in El Paso County list only an approximate location as their residence on the state’s sex offender registry: “8th Street Behind Walmart” or the “Creek by Rescue Mission.”

Others say they’re living under bridges, in parking lots and parks.
- And has anyone asked, why are they living in these places?  It's probably because of the draconian laws that exile people, and turn them into modern day lepers and scapegoats.

Authorities admit that makes it tougher to keep track of sex offenders and circumvents the state law giving residents the right to know if sex offenders are living in their neighborhood.

But, they say, there’s not much that can try do about it — there’s no law requiring sex offenders to have a home.

Unfortunately some people in our society are homeless,” said Christopher Labanov-Rostovsky, program manager for Colorado’s Sex Offender Management Board. “We ask them to note if they are transient, and, frankly, that’s the best that can be done in the situation.”

The 49 homeless offenders are a small percentage of the more than 1,500 registered sex offenders living in El Paso County. Nevertheless, El Paso County has the most homeless sex offenders in Colorado and nearly a quarter of the state’s estimated 190 homeless offenders, according to a Gazette analysis of the state’s sex offender registry list.

Denver County has the second largest population with an estimated 35 homeless registered sex offenders.

By law, local law enforcement has to visit registered sex offenders wherever they are living at least once a year to ensure they haven’t changed addresses without notifying law enforcement.

It’s not easy when there’s no home to visit, said Sgt. Bill Dehart, who heads the Colorado Springs Police sex offender registration unit.

Tracking them is a difficult task,” he said. “I would be remiss if I said it wasn’t.”

Under the radar

Colorado’s sex offender registration laws have a loophole of sorts when it comes to homeless offenders. By law, the public is supposed to have access to the addresses of all sex offenders in the state. But that information isn’t useful when it comes to homeless offenders who could be anywhere in the community.

The purpose of public access to registries is designed around knowledge,” Dehart said. “If you know you have a registered sex offender living in the neighborhood, that knowledge provides a level of safety.”

Still, he said that local law enforcement does its best to keep track of the offenders, even if the public doesn’t know exactly where they are. If the offender lists himself as living under a bridge, officers check there, he said.

Brett Iverson, an officer on the Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team, said police are able to keep surprisingly good tabs on many of the homeless sex offenders.

We know who our homeless individuals are and where they hang out at,” he said. “Often times, if they leave they will say ‘I’m moving and this is where I’m going.’

There are no definitive studies showing homeless sex offenders are more likely to re-offend than other sex offenders. But Labanov-Rostovsky said the sex offender management board is worried about them.

I think that offenders who don’t have stability in their lives, such as permanent housing and employment, those are risk factors,” he said. “We obviously want to know if an offender is a transient because they might be at an increased risk.”

The other problem is that homeless offenders aren’t watched by residents like those whose addresses are listed on registries, Dehart said.

Increased public scrutiny hopefully lessens the chance of re-offense,” he said. “There’s another set of eyes on him.”

However, Iverson said most of the homeless sex offenders he’s been in contact with aren’t trying to cause trouble — they’re trying to stay out of it.

That’s borne out by studies showing most sex offenses aren’t committed by a stranger grabbing someone off of the street, Labanov-Rostovsky said. Most are committed by people who know the victim and they happen in a private place.

No easy fix

Bob Holmes heads Homeward Pikes Peak, a nonprofit that helped clear out homeless camps last year by finding temporary shelter, medical care and jobs for hundreds of people. Still, his organization avoids working with homeless sex offenders.

We are very leery of bringing anyone into the program who has a violent background,” he said. “The first priority is the safety of the people already in the program.”

The stigma of being a sex offender and the fear they’ll re-offend, makes it hard for them to build a life after prison. Few places are willing to house people convicted of a sex offense, Holmes said.

It’s virtually impossible,” he said. “That’s why so many are discharged to underneath bridges.”

Colorado Springs attorney Allen C. Gasper has represented several sex offenders and knows how hard it is for them to build stable lives after being placed on public registries.

They are examined more because of the ‘yuck factor,’” he said. “People can put up with a theft or a drug problem, but when you start talking sex offenses it seems like everyone is looked at like a pedophile.”

Unfortunately, some sort of public acceptance is exactly what these men and women need to rebuild their lives and get off the street, Labanov-Rostovsky said.

My message to the community is to support them to find employment and housing,” he said. “If that reduces their risk, then we all benefit from that.”


PUERTO RICO - Senator Roberto Arango Explains Why There Are Naked Pictures Of Him On A Gay Hook Up Site

Roberto Arango
Original Article

Update: Puerto Rico Senator Resigns in Nude Photos Controversy

08/26/2011

By Jon Bershad

Well, it looks like we have a new Anthony Weiner in town. A Puerto Rican TV show called Dando Candela presented Republican Senator Roberto Arango with naked pictures found on the Internet that they claimed were of him. He wouldn’t deny the allegations, saying he had taken photos like that but only to document his weight loss. Of course, that doesn’t explain the fact that the pictures were found on Grindr, a hook up site for gay and bisexual men.

Yes, even though the name “Arango” isn’t a euphemism for a male organ (I mean, it could be. My Spanish is rusty), it looks like this story might end up being just as interesting as Weiner’s.

Here’s Arango’s explanation for why he can’t deny the pictures are of him (translation from Guanabee.com):

“You know I’ve been losing weight. As I shed that weight, I’ve been taking pictures. I don’t remember taking this particular picture but I’m not gonna say I didn’t take it. I’d tell you if I remembered taking the picture but I don’t.”

Unfortunately, Arango is married. Doubly unfortunately, the media has found video of him wearing a very similar necklace to the one in the picture. Triply unfortunately, the account that the first picture was on also had another one that is slightly more graphic.

Yikes! Here’s a video report from WAPA. It’s in Spanish but, fortunately, naked Congressmen are a universal language.