Monday, March 25, 2013

WA - Bill would teach kids age-of-consent laws

Original Article

It's about time! Education is what is needed, not hysteria based on myths!

03/24/2013

By Stevie Mathieu

Sexually active teens who don't understand Washington's age-of-consent laws could be committing crimes they aren't even aware of, says state Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama.

He's championing a bill this session to educate young people about sexual offenses in the hopes of preventing inappropriate relationships from starting in the first place. According to the bill, public schools that already teach sexual health education would be required to also teach students about sexual criminal law in Washington and the legal consequences for committing a sex crime with a minor.

"I was sitting at home one night watching '20/20,' and there was a story on there about a 19-year-old young man who has been convicted of a sex offense and he mentioned on the show that the reason why he had a sex offense is because at age 19, having sex with a 15-year-old is a sexual offense," Orcutt said while advocating for his bill on the House floor earlier this month. "It was his girlfriend. He said: 'If I'd have known this was a sexual offense, I wouldn't have done it.'"

Because of his apparent ignorance of the law, the young man is now branded for life as a sex offender, Orcutt said.

Support in Olympia

So far, Orcutt's proposal, House Bill 1397 (PDF, Video), is passing through the Legislature with bipartisan support. It sailed through the state House on a vote of 94-4, and it received a favorable public hearing before the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Committee on Friday.

Parents and students from Hawkins Middle School in Belfair testified in support of the bill Friday.

Student Adin Welander said teens start relationships with other teens without knowing the age rules.

"They do have sex, and it affects them their whole life," Welander said. "Nobody wants to hire a sex offender or marry a sex offender. It's kind of creepy. … It's a really bad label. They could have avoided that really easily."

Parent Michael Young said there is plenty of misinformation circulating on the Internet about age-of-consent laws, and Orcutt's bill will help set the record straight.

"As parents, we want to protect our children," Young said. "Maybe they don't know that they are committing an offense. Maybe they don't know that they are becoming a victim."

The bill will help those victims, Orcutt said, because it will let them know when a relationship is inappropriate in the eyes of the law.

"They will know that it's not appropriate for somebody that much older than them to be having sex with them," he said.

If the law is successful in preventing sexual crime, Orcutt said, it also will save the state money because it takes resources to register sex offenders.

The chairwoman of the House's K-12 education committee, Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle, also has thrown her support behind the legislation, calling it long overdue, preventative and informative.

Speaking from the House floor this month, Santos highlighted her favorite line from the bill.

"What this bill specifically addresses is the need to have our students 'take responsibility for and understand the consequences of their own behavior and the objective of avoiding exploitative or manipulative relationships,'" she said.

State educators have already developed a curriculum to teach students about sexual criminal law, as was mandated by the 2006 Legislature.

"But like so many good pieces of legislation, it ended up with a curriculum being developed and then being put up on the shelf," Santos said. "The legislation before you requires that the curriculum be brought down, reviewed on a biennial basis in cooperation with a variety of community-based organizations, including the Coalition (of) Sexual Assault (Programs), the Washington State Sheriffs and Police Officers, as well as the educators in our state."

Public schools in Washington are not required to offer sexual health education. The districts that do must make sure their curriculum is age-appropriate and medically accurate, doesn't discriminate based on sexual orientation, and teaches various methods (including abstinence) for avoiding pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Washington law:
  • It is a crime for anyone at least two years older to have sex with a child who is younger than 12.
  • It is illegal for anyone at least three years older to have sex with someone younger than 14.
  • It is a crime for anyone at least four years older to have sex with someone younger than 16.
  • It is illegal for anyone at least five years older to have sexual intercourse with someone younger than 18 if the older person supervises the younger in some way, such as serving as a teacher or coach.


FL – ATTENTION REGISTRANTS IN FLORIDA

This was shared on their Facebook page only.

The Florida Action Committee is seeking potential plaintiffs for an action challenging the harsh residency restrictions in the State of Florida. We are currently compiling case consideration submissions from registrants who have been banished from cities, unable to find suitable housing, unable to live with immediate family members, forced to move from a residence, forced into homelessness, unable to live near family or employment or who have suffered other adverse consequences directly attributable to the residency restrictions.

To request a case consideration form, please contact the Florida Action Committee at info@floridaactioncommittee.org.


CO - Civil rights lawsuits attack excesses of Colorado's sex offender laws

Original Article

03/25/2013

By Alan Prendergast

Colorado's tough sex offender laws are supposed to keep predators under tight supervision.

But a series of lawsuits claim that the system is violating even minor offenders' rights to free speech and association, prohibiting contact with family members -- and, in one particularly bizarre case, telling a 62-year-old man that a discussion with a stepdaughter about her pregnancy constitutes unlawful "third party contact with a child."

Boulder civil rights attorney Alison Ruttenberg has filed at least three federal lawsuits in recent months challenging actions taken by probation officers and others responsible for enforcing the restrictions imposed by the state's Sex Offender Management Board. She's sued treatment providers and board members as well for what she considers over-the-top intrusions into her clients' family lives, choice of reading material and thought processes.

Colorado's controversial "containment" model for monitoring the behavior of sex offenders is based on the premise that there's no known cure for such offenders. But critics of the system have long maintained that it lumps individuals convicted of a minor offense, such as indecent exposure, with violent predators and goes to absurd lengths to "contain" them. A recent report by independent evaluators (PDF) of the state's in-prison treatment program found many inconsistencies and possibly coercive tactics in the program that may be keeping offenders in prison longer than necessary.

One of the lawsuits filed by Ruttenberg contends that the SOMB guidelines for managing sex offenders "are poorly researched, not based on peer-reviewed scientific research, and are largely based on [SOMB member] Peggy Heil's personal publications, which are not peer reviewed, and/or based on publications by victim's advocacy groups."

That case concerns a 62-year-old delivery truck driver who was convicted of misdemeanor unlawful sexual contact based on the complaint of an adult female grocery store employee in Canon City. The woman claimed the man groped her buttocks and breast while they were unloading his truck; the man insisted it was an "unwanted hug" offered to someone he'd hugged before.

The man was sentenced to three years on probation, but he soon learned that his status as a convicted sex offender involved several additional requirements. According to the lawsuit, his probation officer and treatment provider informed him that he could no longer visit his male best friend, have any contact with his grandchildren, or even discuss his grandchildren with his wife's adult children -- even though his crime didn't involve children. And his wife was told to remove all pictures of the grandchildren from the residence: "She has to choose between living with her husband and having pictures of her grandchildren displayed in her house."

The final straw, Ruttenberg's complaint alleges, came after one of the man's stepdaughters called to inform him of her pregnancy and seek advice. The conversation about the fetus was supposedly deemed "third party contact with a child."

In a separate legal action, another Ruttenberg client -- also convicted of unlawful sexual conduct with an adult female and with no history of sexual contact with children -- claims that his probation officer seized from his home vintage stuffed animals given to his wife by her grandmother on the theory that they could be used to "lure children." He also confiscated birding magazines, newspapers and a National Geographic merchandise catalog. The suit claims he was subsequently ordered not to have any contact with his wife and ordered to live in homeless shelters: "This served no legitimate penological goal and instead was done with the intent to harass and humiliate and to retaliate against him and his wife."

Because her client had to avoid all contact with children, Ruttenberg says, he couldn't risk visiting the library, parks or other haunts of the homeless when the shelters weren't open, and thus had to spend most of his days in his car. At the heart of the issue, the lawsuit contends, is that "Colorado probation and parole officers have a 'one size fits all' policy, and all sex offenders are treated the same. Therefore, anyone who has been convicted of a sex offense is treated as if he or she is a serial pedophile."

Ruttenberg says she's received many other complaints from offenders facing probation revocation and prison time and is considering filing other cases. "Apparently this happens all the time," she says.


MEXICO - Vigilante targets thieves, kidnappers, sex offenders and extortionists

Original Article

Imagine that, vigilantes committing murder and targeting others, except themselves who are committing crime as well, and then calling it "justice!"

03/25/2013

URAPAN - Vigilante justice surfaces in the streets of Mexico’s Michoacan state as the bodies of seven men, all shot in the head as if executed, were found dumped in plastic chairs placed along the side of a street.

Michoacan’s attorney general’s office said in an official statement Saturday that the victims had all been shot in the head and placed individually in the sitting position in chairs near a traffic circle in the city of Uruapan. A placard nailed to one of the bodies with an ice pick reads: “Warning! This will happen to thieves, kidnappers, sex offenders and extortionists.”
- But what about murderers, gang members and drug dealers?

It comes after seven people were killed in neighboring Guerrero state when armed men opened fire in a bar in Ciudad Altamirano on Friday evening, leaving four civilians and three off-duty federal agents among the dead, reports Aljazeera.

Mexico’s officials attribute the violence to drug-cartel activity. Perhaps the signs stabbed into the victims’ corpses lend a clue, as the murderer seems to have wanted to send a message to everyone but the drug traffickers.

Drug violence escalated after former president Felipe Calderon launched a nationwide crackdown against narco-traffickers.

An estimated 70,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico in the past seven years.

The Mexican government estimates that at least another 26,000 have “disappeared” in that same period.

President Enrique Pena Nieto, who took office in December, has vowed to quell the lawlessness and killing that have stained Mexico’s image as a tourist destination and rattled investors.

Thousands of soldiers were sent to patrol the streets, but the number of fatalities continued to rise.

Human rights groups accuse government forces of being behind hundreds of cases of missing people.