Saturday, August 24, 2013

NY - County Outsources The Job Of Monitoring Sex Offenders

Lawsuit scalesOriginal Article



A suburban county on Long Island, N.Y., is taking a novel approach to monitoring sex offenders: It's giving the job to a victims' advocacy group.

The measure was approved unanimously (Video) earlier this year; lawmakers call it a cost-effective way to keep citizens safe. But a local lawyer calls it a "vigilante exercise," and convicted sex offenders are organizing to challenge the legislation.

'The Trackers'
[name withheld], 42, a convicted sex offender, is among those who object to the methods of Parents for Megan's Law, the advocacy group hired by Suffolk County.
- Like mentioned below, and linked below, these people are known to be hostile towards those they are now in charge of monitoring.  It's a conflict of interest and should be stopped!

[name withheld], who was convicted of sexual abuse two decades ago and is now married with two children, says one day last spring he met the people he calls "the trackers."

"I went and got coffee, and they pull up. It was a grey sedan, probably a Crown Victoria. They weren't law enforcement. But they had like a computer in the car," he says.

Two men in the car began questioning him. "I refused to give my name," [name withheld] says. "I just continued to walk because I know the law, that I don't have to give my name."

He crossed the street and waited — and so did the two men.

"And then they left. So then I made a couple calls and said, 'Yeah, I believe I was encountered by the trackers' ... just putting other people on alert," he says. The other people, like [name withheld], are registered sex offenders.

Legalizing Enforcement
The "trackers" are civilian employees of Parents for Megan's Law, a nonprofit organization getting close to $1 million a year to implement the law. Their role is to enforce what Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone calls the "toughest sex offender monitoring" law in the country.

"You can expect you will have an enhanced level of scrutiny unlike anything that exists anywhere else in our country," he says.

In February, the Suffolk County Legislature approved the bill (PDF) unanimously. Some, like, Democrat Kate Browning, even joked about the law's desired outcome for sex offenders: "And if they don't like it, then they know where they can go." Someone else answered, "Another county."

Lawmakers aimed the bill at what they called "predators," people who do bad things to vulnerable people. But [name withheld] says he, and many others, aren't bad people. In 1992, when he was 21, he was convicted of the sexual abuse of a 15-year-old girl. [name withheld] agreed to a plea deal in the case. But he claims the sex was consensual and that he thought the girl was 18.

Since then, residency laws have become more and more restrictive. After Suffolk County's latest law, he and other convicted offenders filed a lawsuit. [name withheld] says police essentially deputized Parents for Megan's Law to "harass" sex offenders in public.

"It might be a negative impact if you just walk away from these people, which you legally have the right to do," [name withheld] says. "But the fact that they attempt to ask you questions, just like your name, for whatever purpose, is an unlawful detention."

What makes Suffolk's monitoring unique is it's being outsourced to civilians. And not just any civilians, but to a victims' advocacy group. Larry Spirn, a local attorney who often defends sex offenders, says Parents for Megan's Law has a national reputation for being hostile to post-conviction sex offenders.

"There isn't the kind of venomous attitudes that exist between police officers and the people that they arrest. For them, it's a job," says Spirn. "That's why policing is a profession. ...It's not a vigilante exercise, and I think what we have here is an absolute vigilante exercise."

What's Left Unsaid
How Parents for Megan's Law actually goes about monitoring sex offenders is unknown. The group's executive director, Laura Ahearn, refuses to explain how they work for fear of revealing "tactical" information about monitoring.
- If they were doing it legally, then why wouldn't they say how they go about it?  Sounds fishy to us.

"Representatives will and have gone to registered sex offender addresses and simply ask the registered sex offender if they can provide proof that they reside in that particular home," she says.

The contract between Suffolk County and Parents for Megan's Law does provide some safeguards. The contractors cannot carry firearms and must be former law enforcement employees.

But the contract doesn't outline procedures for address verification or what constitutes "proof of residence." In other words, according to Spirn, the line between monitoring and harassing isn't drawn, neither for the sex offender nor the contractor. Ahearn declined further requests for an explanation of her group's procedures.

"These broad policies make it more difficult for offenders to live in the community," says Alissa Ackerman, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Washington, Tacoma, who specializes in sex offender management.

"When we are destabilizing offenders, when we're making it very difficult for them to find housing or very difficult to find work, we're causing more stress," she says, "and that may in the future lead to recidivism."

Ackerman says that while there are many jurisdictions like Suffolk County still creating broad, harsh restrictions against sex offenders, the national trend is the other way. More and more communities are creating nuanced laws that attempt to match restrictions with the likelihood an offender will commit another offense.

[name withheld]'s lawsuit is ongoing. He is currently recruiting more convicted sex offenders to join him.
- It would be nice if we knew how to contact him!  But if you live in Suffolk, you may want to look this man up to join the lawsuit, if you can.

See Also:


dlc said...

What is going on here? The judicial system is letting the vigilantes watch the sex offenders. This cannot be good.

Sex Offender Issues said...


Loneranger said...

what would look like them hiring a contract group to go around and verify addresses has turned into citizens on patrol. Bringing to mind a movie from long past. However there is nothing funny about people like this that although they say they are ex police they have an agenda that is evil as they want to drive sex offenders out of the county. this is more of a covert move to do this then any real suto police work being done here. One would think this is a loophole in the system that allows for this and when it goes wrong they can simply say well they were contractors so we won't renew the contract next year. Sorry but we had no idea what they were really doing.
the fact is they do know what their agenda is as they are very public with this as they are a organised group of vigilantes that make no bones about it.
this loophole does not change the laws that cover stalking and or harassment and this tends to be their main tactical strategy as they feel they are now exempt and somehow now free to violate a person's rights at will. This will not end well.