Saturday, May 12, 2012

NEW ZEALAND - Sex offender orders 'might breach rights'

Original Article

These same documents, which the US is a part of, affect us as well. They are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

05/13/2012

By ADAM DUDDING

Corrections has warned the Government that new "public protection orders" for keeping dangerous sex offenders locked up beyond their original sentences could be challenged by the United Nations on human rights grounds, and that they risk breaching the Bill of Rights.

Last week Justice Minister Judith Collins announced Cabinet had signed off on the public protection orders first proposed in November, and that she expected to introduce legislation this year.

Collins has rejected suggestions drafting legislation was being held up because of human rights hurdles, and said any legislation would be "assessed for consistency" with rights affirmed in the Bill of Rights.

But a March cabinet paper prepared by Corrections, released to the Sunday Star-Times under the Official Information Act, shows officials have flagged human rights pitfalls.

Under the orders, some prisoners, mainly sex offenders, face being kept in purpose-built secure accommodation within prison grounds despite having served their full sentences, on the grounds they still present an unacceptably high risk to the public.

The cabinet paper, supplied with two-thirds of its pages deleted, says measures imposed at the end of a sentence are problematic from a rights perspective, and have the potential to be found to breach the Bill of Rights and international obligations.

Four Australian states have enacted similar orders, and the UN Human Rights Committee has found that to breach the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Australia's federal government has yet to respond.

Human Rights Commission head Dr Judy McGregor said legislation would be monitored "for implications it might have for international human rights standards and the Bill of Rights". She said the commission would be making a submission to the relevant select committee based on that analysis.

Corrections Minister Anne Tolley said work was being done to ensure the regime stood up to scrutiny.

She said advice from officials, along with information on what hadn't worked overseas, would ensure the orders did their job, which was "to keep these dangerous offenders out of our communities".


CA - Officials speak of nuanced approach to monitoring sex offenders

Original Article

Ms. Dumanis, I don't think joking about people's constitutional rights are funny! You took an oath to defend those rights, which you are not doing, so IMO, you are just showing how corrupt the government is and should be voted out of office and/or not re-elected!

05/11/2012

By TERI FIGUEROA

Crafting Chelsea's Law (PDF) ---- named for slain Poway teen Chelsea King ---- was a "bipartisan success," but other California laws to monitor sex offenders are problematic, state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said Friday.

At a panel discussion with San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis in Mission Valley, Leno addressed a gathering of professionals from social workers to law enforcement officers, who were in town for an annual conference held by the California Coalition on Sexual Offending.

Both Dumanis and Leno, elected officials who come from opposing political parties, spoke of nuanced approaches to addressing sex offenders, and the benefits of treatment as well as strict case management.

Leno, who once served as the chairman of the Assembly's Public Safety Committee, said some crime bills are "bad bills," and are "often written in response to a headline ... and have very little good public policy."

He also said he had the luxury of speaking out against bad crime bills because he had the luxury of representing a district where his re-election was safe and "I could really vote my conscience."

And it was in that vein that he spoke out against Jessica's Law (PDF), which bans registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 square feet of a school or park.

"This idea that some ugly, frightful stranger will jump out of the bushes or lives in an apartment three doors down is really a small piece of all the sex offenders that happen," he said.

Leno said there was no data that such restrictions keep children safer or prevent recidivism. He also pointed out well-established findings that, in 9 of every 10 cases, a child molester was not a stranger to the victim.

Dumanis, whose office authored portions of the law related to punishment, stumped for the passage of Jessica's Law.
- Once again, we see that the laws are about punishment and not regulations, and therefore it's unconstitutional if applied to people convicted before the law was passed.

On Friday, after the talk, she declined to say if she supported the residency restrictions, and pointed to pending court cases challenging them. She did say she had some concerns with the law, but did not elaborate.

During his time at the microphone, Leno spoke briefly about Megan's Law, which calls for California to post the names, and in some cases, the photos and addresses of convicted sex offenders online.

He suggested ---- as have some who work with sex offenders ---- that the state's Megan's Law website be altered and perhaps thinned out. About 93,000 people are listed on the website in California ---- "an unmanageable number," he said.

"You don't need to be needlessly frightened of your neighbor," Leno said.

He said the website didn't provide information about when a crime may have occurred.

Leno pointed to one case in which the sex crime was committed 55 years earlier by a man who was 17 at the time. He said the man had remained crime-free since then, and had been married for 50 years.

The state senator spoke of Chelsea's Law, passed in 2010, as "a bipartisan success," although he said that had concerns about it early on, with prison overcrowding and a looming federal order to trim the inmate population.

Leno said his concerns were allayed when a provision was written into the bill to allow for petty thieves to be kept in county jails, to "make room for really dangerous sex offenders."

He credited Dumanis' work on the bill for "working quietly" with law enforcement behind the scenes.

"Convincing my brothers and sisters in law enforcement was not an easy sell," Dumanis said.
- Of course not!  When you are asking people who deal with criminals on a daily basis, and who think everyone is a criminal, then they are biased, and law enforcement should only provide ideas, not be a deciding force.  You should be talking with real experts who deal with treating sex offenders on a daily basis, and have been for years, and those who do not have some financial gain.

The bill included provisions that sex offenders get treatment.

"I don't think anybody would have thought it (Chelsea's Law) could balance tough sentences with treatment," Dumanis said. Chelsea was 17 when she was raped and murdered by registered sex offender John Gardner near Lake Hodges in Escondido. Gardner also admitted raping and murdering Escondido teen Amber Dubois.

Dumanis, a Republican who is a candidate to be mayor of San Diego, started the session off with a big laugh when she briefly donned a flak jacket before sitting down to speak in a room filled with people who work with sex offenders, including therapists.
- And since she is up for election, you can bet she is not going to come out looking "soft" on crime, that could harm her chance at re-election and a nice fat paycheck.


FL - Mothers of sex offenders share responsibility, burden of label

Original Article

05/12/2012

By Emanuella Grinberg

(CNN) -- Christine [last name withheld] will never forget the moment she watched her 21-year-old son being led out of a Florida courtroom in handcuffs.

"This is not happening, this is not happening, this is not happening," she recalls thinking at the time. "Take me instead."

She sobbed because there was nothing she could do. [name withheld], the second of her three children, was going to prison after pleading guilty to 10 counts of possession of child pornography. A judge in Duval County sentenced him in April 2010 to 18 months in state prison and one year of probation, with the requirement that he register as a sex offender.

She told herself that they were lucky, that he could have received a longer prison sentence. But her worries extended far beyond prison. Under Florida law, he would likely remain on the registry for life, with the opportunity to appeal for good conduct. Where would he live after being released? How would he find a job? What about harassment? Would he ever date again? Who would want to marry a sex offender?

[last name withheld] is one of many mothers preoccupied with these questions on a daily basis. These women embody the notion that a mother's love is unconditional as they're often forced to look beyond horrific crimes that have left their children branded for life as sex offenders.

What's a mom to do?

"Mothers want to deal with everything, no matter what happens," [last name withheld] said. "It doesn't matter how old they are or if they do something stupid. You're there to pick them up and help them get through."

Like [last name withheld], many fear that their sons will forever be lumped in the same category as child molesters and rapists, and channel their grief through activism. That devotion comes at a high price, though, as parents often assume some of the responsibility and burden of the sex offender designation. Some mortgage their homes so they can buy a new place for their child beyond residency restrictions. It has ended marriages and friendships and divided families.

Dozens of parents of sex offenders declined to discuss their experience for this article, fearing that doing so would bring harm to their families.

"My son and I have just started to experience some level of peace and stability. ... It's not worth digging up the harassment again," one woman said in an e-mail calling off an interview with CNN. "No one understands the threats, harassment, loss of income and dignity. I hope you find someone that can better take the risk. [We] have suffered enough humiliation."
- This is why laws stay the same, people are afraid to speak out.  Just think, you are already being humiliated every single day, so why not speak out and help get the laws changed?  Remember, you can remain anonymous.  If we want change then we must speak out.


Fighting depression with support

There's no way to tell how many of the country's 747,408 registered sex offenders have the support of families, friends or otherwise. But research shows that a strong support system greatly improves their chances of rehabilitation and decreases the likelihood of re-offending, sex offender treatment professional Nancy Irwin said.

"Isolation can be a breeding ground for depression and deviancy," said Irwin, a psychotherapist who works with court-mandated parolees and probationers in California.

"If we're alone and feel isolated or alienated by those we are closest to, then we start feeling like we're unlovable and worthless and life doesn't matter," she said. "It's healthy to have a strong support system and it also helps to have meaningful work, healthy spiritual pursuit, or a hobby or two to enjoy. These are the cornerstones of a healthy lifestyle for anyone, really. But they're especially important for sex offenders."

Lora [last name withheld] of Arkansas took that notion to heart when her 20-year-old son went to prison in April 2011 on 10 counts of possession of child pornography. She visited [name withheld] whenever she could during his prison stint. At least in prison, she could sit with him at a table for a few hours instead of having to settle for a few minutes of conversation behind a thick glass partition at the county jail, she said.

"There is no way to describe seeing your son behind a window so thick that it has barbed wire in it and you can't give him a hug," [last name withheld], a stay-at-home mom with a strong Southern accent, said in a phone interview.

"I don't care how old he is. It just breaks your heart."

[last name withheld] asked to change her name out of fear of reprisals against her family. Within the online support groups that help her get through each day, members share stories of offenders on the public registry being targets of community efforts to force them to move. Because of his crime, [last name withheld]'s son has to register with law enforcement but his name does not appear on the public register, a blessing for which she is thankful.

He also was "darn lucky" to parole out of prison after 10 months in January, she said, but then the real struggle to integrate into society as a sex offender began. The conditions of his 15-year probation prevent him from living in a home with Internet access; for the sake of her family, including her 19-year-old daughter, [last name withheld] refused to get rid of their computer. Instead, the family spent $12,000 on an RV for him to live in on his grandparents' property.

She worries about him, but tries to maintain an encouraging outlook, she said. He is fortunate that he doesn't have to appear on a public registry, but his sex offender status limits his options, as does being unable to use a computer, she said.

She makes no excuses for the fact that he downloaded images of child pornography in his college dorm. But she doesn't believe that the shy, introverted young man should carry the sex offender label for the next 15 years.

"Yes, what my son did was bad. Yes, he should be punished," she said. "But he doesn't need to be punished for the rest of his life."

The horrific crimes that make national headlines often create activists out of parents of like Mark Lunsford and Mark Klaas, leading to laws named for their children. But the cycle of outrage works both ways.

[last name withheld]'s desire to help create the best possible quality of life for her son has sparked an activist streak in this 46-year-old housewife, who struggled with dyslexia in high school and never aspired to be anything other than a PTA and band booster mom.

Now, she says she is not afraid to write letters to congressmen or call them to give voice to the other side of this issue. Her husband teases her for always managing to work the topic into conversations with strangers.

"This whole experience has given me lots of courage and strength. It has opened my eyes to so many things that I never thought of as far as our laws," she said.

"People can't understand why I keep fighting for my son. But what kind if parent would I be if I didn't stand up for my child's rights? I run into that quite a bit. Am I supposed to leave my son at the doorstep?"


Linda Walker is the mother of Dru Sjodin, who was killed in 2003 by a sex offender and for whom the Department of Justice's National Sex Offender Public Website is named. Too often, sex offenders are portrayed sympathetically while the victims are forgotten, she said.
- Really?  What rock have you been living under?

"What are we telling the victims that are still out there and alive when we keep giving [sex offenders] second and third chances?" Walker wondered.

She said she sympathized with some mothers, but not when they refuse to acknowledge what their child has done.

"As long as a parent feels horrible about the actions of their child, yes, I'm sympathetic toward them," Walker said. "But not toward the ones that continuously keep their heads in the sand."

Not all sex offenders are subject to the same requirements. The federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act was passed in 2006 with the goal of creating a national set of standards for dealing with sex offenders and predators. Among its provisions was the creation of a three-tiered system that designates varying levels of requirements for registration and public notification. To date, 15 states, two territories, and 27 tribes have implemented those provisions of the Adam Walsh Act, known as the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, according to the Justice Department.

"We are very sensitive to the burdens that these kinds of restrictions place on offenders and their families. However, sex offender registry requirements are not imposed because of who somebody is, but because of what they've done," said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which pushed for the Adam Walsh Act.

It's a balancing act between the rights of convicted felons and the responsibility of the government to ensure public safety, he said, emphasizing that the restrictions are determined by risk assessment.

"Congress and virtually every state have taken very careful steps to ensure that all sex offenders are not treated alike," he said. "There is a determination of level of risk and only the most serious offenders -- based upon what they have been convicted of and the nature of their crimes and number of offenses and likelihood to re-offend -- are subject to the most rigorous requirements."
- This man is also living under a rock.  Many state registries, even with the tier levels, do not tell you what the crime was, and people are placed into tier levels not based on the likelihood they will commit a crime, or the severity of the crime, but based on the crime label.  You cannot tell, in most cases, who is or isn't dangerous.  And this man also claimed at one time that they man who kidnapped his daughter was a sex offender, which is not true.  The man was not a known sex offender, not until he was convicted, so even if the laws were in place at the time, it would not have prevented what occurred to his daughter.

The blame game

With parents often the targets of blame for the sins of their children, parents of sex offenders can experience just as much fear, shame and paranoia as their children, social worker David Prescott said.

"Moms often feel terrible that they didn't recognize the signs sooner or weren't able to provide a better environment for their kids to prevent whatever offense occurred," said Prescott, former president of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers and current clinical director of the Becket Programs of Maine, which provide treatment for troubled youth in Maine and New Hampshire.

"The whole rest of society only sees the flashbulb moment of the sex crime and mug shot and very few people understand the person who does the crime as a person," he said. "Even after someone is arrested and convicted, everyone else distances themselves from the sex offender, there's often the mom trying to figure out what's going to be right for their boy."
- Women also commit sexual crimes!  We need to get a way from using the man, male, boy labels and use gender neutral labels.

When it comes to violent sexual offenses, or offenses that involve physical contact, there is often a history of abuse or neglect in the offender's background. Often, the mother was a victim of abuse that was witnessed by her children, he said.

"The vast majority of people who are sexually abused do not go on to become sex offenders or repeat sex offenders," he said, "but those who do get arrested for sex crimes very often have been abused in some form."

Mothers, if they're around and up to the task, tend to be more involved in the process of reintegrating their sex offender offspring back into society than fathers, Illinois-based family therapist Becky Palmer said.

Especially when prisoners are released after years or even decades of incarceration, there's often a desire to heal the relationship, she said. The trick is not to minimize what happened or brush aside the offense, especially when other relatives are uncomfortable having a sex offender around their children.

"Everyone has to be willing to be honest about what happened and talk about it and not minimize it and be in denial," she said. "Sometimes, that means recognizing that some of the past family dynamics might have been contributing factors to the offense and those have to change."

Letting go

[last name withheld], the mother in Arkansas, and [last name withheld], the mother in Florida, said their children did not experience sexual or physical abuse. Like many mothers, they both said they stepped up because they felt they had no choice.

[last name withheld] left her husband and daughter in Delaware and moved back to Florida to help her son before his release in May 2011, three months early for good behavior. They lived near the expressway, where he could live beyond residency restrictions preventing him from being near a school, playground or daycare center.

The more details she learned about her son's release, the more outraged she became. She took up the activist banner, writing letters to politicians and visiting the state capitol to speak out against bills that would tighten restrictions for sex offenders or create harsher penalties.

Meanwhile, at home, she began to clash with her son as he struggled to adjust to some of the conditions of his probation. He hasn't used a computer in three years and still can't use one. He can't leave the county without permission and has to keep a driving log wherever he goes. Every six months, he pays $25 to register as a sex offender with the county.

His electronic monitoring is a constant source of anxiety, she said. He wears an ankle bracelet 24 hours a day and keeps a GPS tracker close by at all times. He wears pants every day, regardless of the weather, to cover up the bracelet and worries constantly about being somewhere where children are known to "regularly congregate," in violation of his probation.

After his release, he holed up in his room for hours at a time and emerged in a depressed state. If he went out, she'd call or text him constantly to keep track of his whereabouts and remind him to come home in time for his 10 p.m. curfew.

"I'd smother him because I did not want him to go back to prison for something stupid like being 5 minutes late for curfew or leaving his (ankle) monitor at home -- stupid things that could violate him," she said. "It was a constant battle of me mothering him too much and I started to realize it."

After a little soul-searching and some advice from her son's probation officer, she decided it was time to leave him to live on his own in Florida. In January, less than a year after his release, she returned to Delaware, where her husband had taken a job two years before.

She still worries about him, of course, just as she worries about her other children. But there's an inner peace that comes with learning to let him be his own person, she said.

"I was always a mom that dotes and protects. It's not that I'm not there for them now, but I'm going to let them make their own mistake," she said. "I trust them and they know I still love them."


GA - Former police officer (Marcus McReynolds) sentenced to prison, counseling and a fine

Marcus McReynolds
Original Article

05/12/2012

By Kim Sloan

A former Rome police officer will spend two years in prison after pleading guilty Friday in Floyd County Superior Court to felony charges of false statements and violating his oath of office and a misdemeanor charge of sexual battery.

Marcus McReynolds, 27, of Calhoun, was accused of inappropriately touching a 17-year-old high school student who was an intern at the Rome Police Department last fall. He was fired by the department on Sept. 20.

The plea arrangement was an eight-year sentence with two years to serve in prison. He must also undergo counseling and pay a $3,000 fine.

The incident “destroyed” their daughter, the girl’s parents told Judge Tami Colston in court Friday morning. Their name is not being released to protect the identity of the victim.

She looked up to him,” her father said. “What he done destroyed her.”

McReynolds was assigned to the records division where the girl was working after he was placed on administrative duties during an investigation into an incident where a Summerville man was tased and fell on his head, paralyzing him.

The charges McReynolds pleaded guilty to in front of Colston had nothing to do with the tasing incident.

McReynolds lied to investigators twice when confronted about the teenager’s allegations. But police had video that showed inappropriate contact between McReynolds and the girl, according to testimony in court.

In this case, the cover-up made the situation worse,” said McReynolds’ attorney, Chris Twyman.

McReynolds was sentenced as a first offender on the felony charges, meaning if he successfully completes his sentence the felonies will be erased.

That was opposed by District Attorney Leigh Patterson, who brought up a prior incident where McReynolds was also accused of making unwanted sexual advances to a woman.

Colston, who questioned whether or not McReynolds could go eight years without getting in trouble based on his history, said when sentencing him that giving him first offender status will allow her to sentence him to the maximum — 16 years — should he re-offend.

Because his only conviction on a sexual crime is a misdemeanor he will not have to register as a sex offender.

We are happy he can serve it as a first offender, and hopefully he can get this behind him,” Twyman said.