Saturday, September 21, 2013

IA - Sex Offender Parole Sentencing

Headphones
Original Article

04/15/2013

By CLAY MASTERS

The Iowa sex offender registry includes people within a wide range of offenses, and some lobbyists here at the capitol are asking the question: Should all sex offenders be put under lifetime parole sentences?

A bill that has sailed through the Senate would allow sex offenders to have lifetime parole sentences lifted under specific circumstances, including so-called "Romeo and Juliet" cases. We talk with Michael Byars, a sex offender and a former lobbyist for the bill and hear his story. We also hear from Randall Wilson, of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa who works with sex offenders on their constitutional rights, Karin Hamilton, a Public Service Executive at the Iowa Department of Public Safety, and Nicole Merrill a staff attorney at the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault.


AZ - Yuma officer (Ron Ciancimino) accused of sexual exploitation of a minor

Ron Ciancimino
Ron Ciancimino
Original Article

09/20/2013

YUMA - A Yuma Police officer has been arrested and booked into jail on charges of luring a minor for sexual exploitation and sexual exploitation of a minor.

Yuma Police Officer Ron Ciancimino, a patrol officer since May 2011, was booked on Friday.

Police didn't release any further details on the case. The Yuma County Sheriff's Office is investigating.

Authorities did ask that anyone with information contact the Yuma Police Department Professional Standards Unit at (928) 373-4691.


CANADA - Op-Ed: The danger of the sex-offender database

Danger of the sex offender registry
Original Article

09/20/2013

By TYLER DAWSON

Stephen Harper has announced (Video) that his government will create a database of sex offenders who target children in Canada that the public can search through, once Parliament returns on Oct. 16.

The National Sex Offender Registry that the RCMP currently operates is not available to the public. While Harper did not give extensive details for implementing his scheme for a searchable database, it is cause for grave concern that it’s even under contemplation.

We do not understand why child predators do the heinous things they do, and in all frankness, we don’t particularly care to,” Harper said in his remarks.
- And that is one of the problems!  You don't want to understand it so that you can potentially fix it, or put a major dent in sexual abuse.

This latest move in the Conservatives’ “tough on crime” (Website, PDF) agenda ignores the experiences of countries that do have publicly searchable databases and displays a breathtaking disregard for the rights that Canadians have, even those convicted of abhorrent crimes.

Human Rights Watch, which has authored a report on sex offender registries in the United States, says that the majority of registry laws are “ill-considered, poorly crafted, and may cause more harm than good.”
- See Also: No Easy Answers

There is a distinct brand of contempt and hatred reserved for sex offenders, and particularly those who target children. Some advocacy groups, such as Family Watchdog, believe that sex offenders pose such a danger to the public that we are entitled to information about these people, specifically, where they live, so that children can be kept safe.

This fear, and this contempt for sex offenders, tends not to manifest itself just in families taking extra precautions to keep their children safe, but also fuels an ugly brand of vigilantism. In the U.S, where sex offender registries are open to the public, there have been a number of vigilante murders that targeted convicted sex offenders.

To give the Canadian public unnecessary information about these criminals elevates the potential for self-appointed avengers, and exposes a demographic of criminal that is particularly vulnerable to public hatred.

Indeed, American sex offender registries need to state explicitly that they exist for “community safety purposes only and should not be used to threaten, intimidate, or harass.”

Sex Offender Registry Warning!

That this even needs to be said is reason enough to know that it’s a bad idea: we do not want, or need, Wild West-style vigilantism in Canada, and we shouldn’t be considering a system that enables that outcome.

The impetus for such a registry is the erroneous assumption that convicted sex offenders are overwhelmingly likely to commit crimes again if they are released into the general public.

Journalist Jacob Sullum, covering this issue in the U.S., writes that the attitude toward sex offenders is “driven by fear and outrage, is fundamentally irrational, and so are its results, which make little sense in terms of justice or public safety.”

Harper made his announcement in Vancouver, home of serial sex tourist _____, which makes for excellent political optics for an administration trying to push its crime agenda. However, such a proposal, and the deliberate attempt to instill fear, runs contrary to the research that the government itself has published and is just plain bad policy.

A 2004 report from Public Safety Canada states bluntly that “most sexual offenders do not re-offend sexually over time,” and finds that a full 73 per cent of sex offenders do not reoffend within 15 years of their release. Outside that time period, the authors say, most offenders are too old, since there is an inversely proportional relationship between age and likelihood to offend (or they've died) and therefore, aren't really much threat.

It is the fear that sex offenders are out to strike again, and that they must be stopped, which has fueled murderous outbursts in other parts of the world. Canadians tend to believe, especially when considering events in the United States, that similar things can’t or won’t happen here.

That’s an irresponsible assumption, especially when it comes to questions of criminal law.

In 2006 Stephen Marshall committed suicide after police caught up with him for allegedly murdering two sex offenders in Maine, who he had tracked down through that state’s sex offender registry.

One of his victims, 24-year-old William Elliot, had ended up in the registry when he was 20 because he had sex with his girlfriend when she was just short of her 16th birthday — the age of consent in Maine.

The twist: Marshall was Canadian.

In Britain — perhaps closer to Canada culturally on the question of vigilantism than the United States — Christopher Hunnisett (Video) was convicted in 2012 for the murder of a gay man he thought was a pedophile. This was part of an elaborate scheme Hunnisett had devised to lure predators over the Internet and murder them.

To think that this isn’t a potential outcome in Canada is absolute foolishness. It is indeed possible that the Conservative government will conceive a narrowly tailored database that somehow balances public safety concerns with the necessity to protect released criminals from vigilantes.

However, until the government is able to explicitly identify a demonstrable need for increased information on sex offenders, it seems as though the Conservatives are simply pandering to a specific fear that could enable and justify vigilante action against sex offenders.

Tyler Dawson is a master of journalism student at Carleton University. He has covered federal politics for Postmedia News and has a particular interest in justice issues. He can be reached online at tyler_dawson@carleton.ca, or Twitter.com/tylerrdawson.


UT - Bench and Allen: Toward a strategic sex offender policy

Sex Offender Research
Original Article

Remember, recidivism (in most studies) means the conviction for another crime, or technicality, not necessarily another sex crime. If they only considered new sex crimes, then the rates would be even lower.

09/21/2013

We read with interest the recent article in The Salt Lake Tribune on Utah’s sex offender policy ("Utah sex offender policy in spotlight as numbers soar," Tribune, Sept. 2). Having just completed one of the most extensive longitudinal studies that has ever been done on sex-offender recidivism (how often released offenders return to prison), we believe it is time for Utah policy makers to reconsider their sentencing strategy for sex offenders.

What our research shows is that it is crucial to match the offender’s risk of reoffending with the amount of treatment the offender is to receive. This cardinal rule of criminology applies to all categories of offenders. A one-size-fits-all incarceration policy does not meet this objective.

Prison space is expensive and should not be wasted on those who could be better supervised at a lower cost in the community. We believe it’s time for Utah’s sex offender policy to be based on sound empirical evidence rather than paranoia and hysteria.

Our study followed 389 Utah sex offenders who were incarcerated at the Utah State Prison and then released following their incarceration for an average of 15.76 years. Some offenders were followed for as long as 24 years.

Our ultimate objective was to determine if sex offender behavior was "incurable" or "reappeared" after a short hiatus. Unlike most studies on sex offender recidivism, we measured recidivism using 11 different definitions so as not to miss any form of unlawful behavior.

While our findings are too numerous to discuss in this short commentary, two of the most important are that the overall recidivism rate for Utah sex offenders is about 10 percent, and that using the statistical model we created we could predict with 70 percent accuracy which sex offenders would return to prison.

Our findings on recidivism are consistent with a number of other studies. For example, a United Kingdom study based on 900 randomly selected sex offenders found a reconviction rate of 7 percent. A 2003 study looked at the recidivistic patterns of 9,691 sex offenders released from 15 state prisons and found an overall recidivism rate of 5.3 percent.

An Illinois study tracked 146,918 sex and non-sex offenders arrested between 1990 and 1997. The overall recidivism rate for sex offenders was 6.5 percent.

We have presented our results to numerous professional organizations around the country, including the American Society of Criminology. However, we have found that sex offender research can be "politically problematic."

When we requested permission to publish our findings in a peer-reviewed journal from the Utah Department of Corrections, our request was denied by Mike Haddon, chief deputy of the department.

It was only after the Governor’s Office intervened that Haddon did an about face. Our article is scheduled to appear in the December issue of "Prison Journal."

We find it ironic that the department routinely pays allegiance to the notion of "evidence-based corrections," yet refuses to allow access of information to the scientific and correctional communities that are working to find solutions to the overpopulation problems in prisons and jails throughout the country.

State politics aside, what new graduate students in criminology are being taught today is the importance of concepts such as risk/needs. In short, what mounting evidence suggests is that treatment resources should only be expended on offenders who need them.

More important, studies done by researchers in 1979, 1980 and 2000 demonstrate that when offenders who are low risk for recidivism are forced to participate in intense treatment activities, their recidivism rate increases. In comparison, low-risk offenders who received minimal levels of treatment showed reduced levels of recidivism. Conversely, high-risk offenders who are exposed to low levels of treatment showed substantially higher rates of recidivism.

Lawrence L. Bench, Ph.D., is an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Utah Department of Sociology where he teaches classes in criminology and criminal justice. He is also a consultant for the National Institute of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Terry Allen, Ph.D. is an adjunct assistant professor at Weber State University Department of Sociology where he teaches classes in social statistics, research methods, deviant behavior and social control and criminology.


CT - Officials: Sex offenders to be moved out of Norwich

Sex Offender Housing & Treatment
Original Article

09/20/2013

By Claire Bessette

Norwich - At least two of the three sex offenders placed in apartments in Occum and Greeneville will be moved out of the city because of public scrutiny, state officials confirmed Friday.

Norwich officials still plan to fight to prevent any more offenders from being placed in the city from the January Center, a sex offender treatment center on the grounds of the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center in Montville.

Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom will ask Montville officials and the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments to co-sign a letter with Norwich officials asking for a state review of the January Center program and operations.

About two dozen Norwich and Montville officials, along with local legislators representing the two municipalities, met for 90 minutes Friday to raise numerous complaints about the operation of the January Center. Montville officials claimed the state lied about how the center would operate and violated provisions in a signed agreement between the host town and the state.

State Rep. Kevin Ryan, D-Montville, and state Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, told officials that the state Department of Correction commissioner has informed them that the two offenders on parole from the DOC would be moved from the apartments in Occum and Greeneville.

Ryan said the offenders were placed in Norwich rather than their towns of origin to protect the victims. Osten reported that the two parolees were from Hartford and Enfield.

A third offender from the January Center was placed in Norwich on probation. Osten said after the meeting she did not know if that person, who is originally from Norwich, also would be moved from the apartments rented by The Connection Inc., which runs the January Center.

Both Norwich apartments are close to public parks with playgrounds.

A DOC representative did not attend Friday's meeting, but DOC spokeswoman Karen Martucci said she has reached out to the mayor to schedule a meeting with DOC staff in hopes of having a "productive conversation."

Both Martucci and Mike Lawlor, the state's undersecretary for criminal justice policy, said offenders leaving the January Center are placed in appropriate locations across the state and that Norwich was never singled out.

The decision to move two of the offenders comes after their names, locations and details of their crimes were the focus of news reports throughout the week.

"The Department of Correction has a responsibility to ensure safety," Martucci said.

Montville Mayor Ronald McDaniel said the town's written agreement with the state explicitly called for offenders to be released to their towns of origin. But Montville officials recalled that The Connection Inc. refused to sign the agreement when the state approved it.

The agreement signed in 2011 specifies that the state or service provider "shall transport each program resident to his home community or other appropriate location."

Earlier this week, a DOC spokeswoman said Norwich fit the definition of "other appropriate location" to protect the victims.

But Montville officials said Friday they understood the provision to mean the offenders would be returned to their towns of origin, not to towns in southeastern Connecticut.

Montville officials also were told "the worst of the worst" offenders — a quote from DOC officials at a public meeting, they said — would not qualify for the January Center. Yet one of the offenders released to Norwich had a record of 14 counts of first-degree sexual assault and two counts of kidnapping.

The January Center

Lawlor said the January Center was built to provide a tightly supervised transitional program for sexual offenders, many of them high-risk, who have served their sentences and are preparing to re-enter society.

The genesis of the center was to avoid former inmates from showing up at homeless shelters or sleeping in parks where there is no supervision and they are hard to track.

"That is absolutely what we don't want," Lawlor said. "The goal is to keep track of these guys so they don't reoffend."

Options for former inmates convicted of sexual offenses are limited, he said, because of the restrictive nature of the offenders' parole or probation.

But studies show there's almost zero recidivism, Lawlor said, among the sexual offenders who are properly supervised and housed in a location where there is access to jobs, a support network and mental health assistance where needed.

"The management of sex offenders on parole is one of the success stories," Lawlor said.

Lawlor also said the state is transparent about the placement of offenders, maintaining a public sexual offender registry and notifying law enforcement when an offender enters town.

Donna Jacobson, former Montville Town Council chairwoman and current council candidate, said she publicly called one DOC official "a bold-faced liar" at a public meeting when the town was fighting the treatment center. "And finding out that they're dumping these people in Norwich proves that I was right," she said Friday.

Nystrom also complained that neither the state DOC nor The Connection Inc. has notified the city officially that offenders were placed in Norwich.

Norwich officials are pursuing whether local zoning regulations can limit the placement of sex offenders in the city. Several years ago, the city worked to reduce the number of unregulated substance abuse "sober houses" by getting state officials funding their rental subsidies to agree to contact the city before approving rents to ensure the apartments met city regulations.

The two apartments used by the January Center are not approved as rooming houses and would need a special permit, with a public hearing, to be approved. Rooming houses are allowed only in multifamily zones in Norwich, and the Taftville-Occum Road house is located in a neighborhood commercial zone. It would need a zoning variance.

Norwich Alderwoman Sofee Noblick, also a local landlord, said The Connection Inc. had approached local landlords asking to rent apartments "for families in trouble and individuals on parole," with no mention that the tenants would be sex offenders released from the January Center.

Norwich Director of Planning Peter Davis said the city has requested specific information from the state on the funding source for the rent, the length of stay and the number of tenants in the apartments. He said the city cannot take enforcement action until receiving specific information.

A representative from The Connection Inc. could not be reached to comment Friday.

Re-entering the community

The offenders were being placed as part of The Connection Inc.'s Re-Entry Assisted Community Housing (REACH) program, which is a scattered-site supportive housing for individuals re-entering the community from the correctional system.

The apartments are subsidized based on the tenant's income, according to The Connection Inc.'s website. Participants have an estimated length of stay of four to six months and receive referrals to mental health and other treatment providers, vocational support, educational opportunities and transportation assistance, according to the website.

The program also had a Community Advisory Board that was to meet quarterly and advise The Connection Inc. Norwich Alderman Mark Bettencourt was a member of the board. Bettencourt said Friday that he has not been notified of any meetings since 2009, when he attended one meeting.

Friday, Osten presented statistics showing that January Center residents have been released to several cities and towns in Connecticut, and some were placed back into DOC custody.

In total, 24 offenders were released on parole and 24 others on probation from the January Center. Of the parolees, nine are living in Hartford, seven in New Haven, four were returned to custody, four are living at private homes and two were discharged and released.

Of the 24 offenders on probation, five were discharged to their towns of origin, according to the statistics Osten obtained.