Monday, March 3, 2014

AL - Troubles at Women’s Prison Test Alabama

Julia Tutwiler Prison
Julia Tutwiler Prison
Original Article

03/01/2014

By KIM SEVERSON

WETUMPKA - For a female inmate, there are few places worse than the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women.

Corrections officers have raped, beaten and harassed women inside the aging prison here for at least 18 years, according to an unfolding Justice Department investigation. More than a third of the employees have had sex with prisoners, which is sometimes the only currency for basics like toilet paper and tampons.

But Tutwiler, whose conditions are so bad that the federal government says they are most likely unconstitutional, is only one in a series of troubled prisons in a state system that has the second-highest number of inmates per capita in the nation.

Now, as Alabama faces federal intervention and as the Legislature is weighing its spending choices for the coming year, it remains an open question whether the recent reports on Tutwiler are enough to prompt reform.

Yes, we need to rectify the crimes that happened at Tutwiler, but going forward it’s a bigger problem than just Tutwiler,” said State Senator Cam Ward, a Republican from Alabaster who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “We’re dealing with a box of dynamite.”

The solution, Mr. Ward and others say, is not to build more prisons but to change the sentencing guidelines that have filled the prisons well beyond capacity.

Just over half the state’s prisoners are locked up for drug and property crimes, a rate for nonviolent offenses that is among the highest in the nation.

No one wants to be soft on crime, but the way we’re doing this is just stupid,” Mr. Ward said.

Still, in many corners of Alabama, a state where political prominence is often tied to how much a candidate disparages criminals, the appetite for change remains minimal.

The Legislature is in the middle of its budget session, working over a document from Gov. Robert Bentley that includes $389 million for the state’s prisons. That is about $7 million less than last year’s budget.

The Department of Corrections argues that it needs $42 million more than it had last year. Alabama prisons are running at almost double capacity, and staffing is dangerously low, said Kim T. Thomas, the department’s commissioner. He said he would use about $21 million of his request to give corrections officers a 10 percent raise and hire about 100 officers.

The odds of approval for that much new money are not great, but they are better this year than they have been in a long while, said Stephen Stetson, a policy analyst with Arise Citizens’ Policy Project, a liberal policy group.

Even so, “for the average legislator, it’s still, ‘These bodies don’t matter,' ” he said.

There is no ignoring the prison crisis. Even Stacy George, a former corrections officer who is challenging Mr. Bentley in the June Republican primary by promising to be “the gun-toting governor,” this past week issued a plan for prison reform. It calls for changing sentencing rules, rescinding the “three-strikes” law for repeat offenders, releasing the sick and elderly, and sending low-level drug offenders into treatment programs instead.

The federal government has stepped in to fix Alabama’s prison problems before, but it has been years since the state has faced a situation as serious as that uncovered by a series of damning investigations into Tutwiler.

We think that there is a very strong case of constitutional violations here,” said Jocelyn Samuels, the acting assistant attorney general for civil rights for the Justice Department, who sent a 36-page report to the governor in January.

The toxic, highly sexualized environment, she said in an interview, has been met by “a deliberate indifference on the part of prison officials and prison management, who have been aware of the conditions for many years and have failed to curb it.”

The prison was built in 1942 and named after Julia Tutwiler, a woman called the Angel of the Stockades for her work trying to improve conditions for inmates in Alabama. More than 900 women live there, including some on death row, although the original building was designed for about 400.

The prison’s abysmal staffing levels, abundant blind spots and only three cameras created a situation where sex among prisoners and with guards was rampant, the report said. Male guards have routinely watched women showering and once helped prisoners organize a strip show. Sex is sometimes exchanged both for banned items like drugs and for basic needs like clean uniforms.

At least six corrections employees have been convicted of sexual crimes since 2009.

The Justice Department is still investigating Tutwiler, scrutinizing medical and mental health care there.

It is just a culture of deprivation and abuse, not just at Tutwiler but in institutions across Alabama,” said Charlotte Morrison, a senior lawyer with the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal organization that represents indigent defendants and prisoners.

In 2012, the organization asked the federal government to step in after its own investigation into Tutwiler showed rampant sexual abuse.

The Department of Corrections says conditions at Tutwiler were beginning to improve well before the Justice Department began its investigation in April 2013. Six months after the Equal Justice Initiative report came out in May 2012, the longtime warden and other top prison officers were replaced, said Mr. Thomas, the corrections commissioner.

He also asked the National Institute of Corrections to review practices and policies at Tutwiler. Using those findings, he issued a wide-ranging plan in January 2013 that included recruiting more female corrections officers, pressing the Legislature for more money and changing several policies and procedures. Among them was a system to better investigate and track reports of assaults and abuse.

That report came about because I wanted an abundance of caution and to be transparent,” Mr. Thomas said.

But women recently released and still inside say life at Tutwiler has improved only marginally.

_____, who is serving 20 years for armed robbery, said she had been raped by a prison guard and gave birth to a daughter who is now 3 and living with relatives near Montgomery.

The guard, Rodney Arbuthnot, served six months in jail for custodial sexual misconduct. He has since moved to Texas. The courts only recently tracked him down, and the family is finally getting about $230 a month in child support.

In a telephone interview, Ms. _____ said that prisoners were still fearful and that conditions remained bad.

Right now, for me personally, it’s still the same as far as the officers,” she said. “It’s like an act of Congress to get the things you need just to live. It’s inhumane for inmates to be here, period.”

_____, a mother of six, served almost 10 years of a life sentence without parole for a murder conviction. Her premature son had been stillborn, and she buried him in a marked grave near her home. A medical examiner said the child had been drowned in a bathtub, but the conviction was overturned after a court agreed that the autopsy had been botched. She was released in December 2012.

She remains in contact with some Tutwiler prisoners, who she said were split on whether attention from the federal government was a good thing.

Sex is an important commodity there, Ms. _____ said. The inmates use it to get better treatment and secure contraband items that they can then sell to get food and other basics.

The women do it for favors,” she said. “They get makeup, cologne, anything that’s stuff that is resellable. That’s how they make their money.”

She and others believe it will take a larger overhaul at the top of the Department of Corrections to fix the prison’s problems.

It’s a primitive, very backward prison system,” said Larry F. Wood, a clinical psychologist who was hired at Tutwiler in 2012. He quit after two months, appalled at the conditions and what he said was the administration’s lack of support for mental health services.

I’ve worked in prisons for most of 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “We need to back up and look at it with fresh eyes. The people who are running it don’t have the perspective to see what can change.”

See Also:


TX - Comments (User submitted)

User submitted story
The following was sent to us via the "Tell us your story" form and posted with the users permission.

By Anonymous:
Dear SOI,

I have been following your blog for several years now as I am a RSO. There have been many times I wanted to leave a comment on the stories you post, but have been very reluctant due to the fact that you have to have an email account, Facebook account or some other registered account in order to leave a message. Here in Texas (and I am sure in many other states), a RSO has to report EVERY online account that they have. So, while I do trust you and your site, I am still very reluctant to leave a post that contains my email address. There is a political blog here in Texas called Grits For Breakfast that allows readers to anonymously leave comments to their articles and it does not require any kind of an email address. Can you also put something like that in place?

Thanks and keep up the good work!!!!!!!!!!!!

Our Comments:
You do not have to have a valid email address. Just enter some name and fake email address, as in the following example. Just remember, ALL COMMENTS ARE MODERATED so they will not appear until they are approved.

Make sure you check the box at the bottom as well!


VA - Life forever changed by sex-offender list

Edgar Coker
Edgar Coker
Original Article

03/01/2014

By PAMELA GOULD

At the age of 22, Edgar Coker thinks it’s normal to go straight to work and then straight home every day to spend all of his free time hidden behind closed doors.

It’s a frame of reference the former North Stafford resident forged from living nearly one-third of his life with the undeserved label of rapist and having that information available to all via Virginia’s online Sex Offender Registry.

Coker’s perspective is one Nicole Pittman has seen repeatedly in studying how children and teens are impacted by being listed on sex offender registries across the country. Pittman, a national expert on the topic, authored the 2013 Human Rights Watch report “Raised on the Registry: The irreparable harm of placing children on sex offender registries in the U.S.

Juveniles on sex offender registries must continually re-register, are limited in where they can go and are publicly ostracized, all of which create a sense of imprisonment, Pittman said.
- It's the same for adults as well.

It’s almost an institutionalized feeling,” she said.

Like a prison without walls.

It took a team of attorneys five years of legal battles to correct the injustice that began in June 2007 when a 14-year-old girl told her mother that Coker raped her inside their Aquia Harbour home.

After he was sentenced, the girl admitted she lied to avoid getting in trouble for having sex with her friend.

The legal team’s efforts resulted in a Feb. 10 ruling by Judge Designate Jane Marum Roush, who vacated Coker’s convictions and ordered his name removed from the state’s Sex Offender Registry.

But nothing can erase the 19 months he was confined in juvenile detention, or the nearly seven years he and his family have endured harassment and the fear of making some misstep that leads to additional charges.

And while they celebrate the legal victory, neither Pittman nor Coker’s team expect he will ever recover from being labeled a rapist.

That damage has been done,” Pittman said. “It’s sort of a lifelong sentence that will be with him.”

A ‘HAPPY-GO-LUCKY’ CHILD

Growing up in a household with five siblings, Edgar Coker was outgoing and “a little jokester,” his mother, Cherri Dulaney, said during an interview shortly after his exoneration.


See Also:


IL - Crowded Chicago Police office forces sex offenders to violate parole

Waiting outside in the cold
Waiting outside in the cold
Original Article

03/03/2014

By Rob Wildeboer

The Chicago Police Department forces sex offenders to violate their parole. I know that sounds crazy. I thought it was crazy when I first heard about it, but I’ve spent a lot of time in the last two weeks with sex offenders waiting -- for hours and hours -- outside police headquarters and watching a Kafkaesque process play out.


Every morning sex offenders start lining up at 6, while it’s still dark out, sometimes even earlier than that, and I probably don’t have to remind you how cold it’s been this winter. _____ was one of a couple dozen men on a recent morning.
- We're sure they don't care.  Ex-offenders in other states have froze to death due to not being allowed into shelters during cold weather.

It’s freezing out here,” said _____. “Man, I had frost bites today. Somebody gave me some gloves to put on my hands.”

It’s often like this, with the men stomping their feet on the cold concrete, trying to stay warm. For some reason, there’s no waiting room. A small vestibule acts as a makeshift waiting room but there are 20 guys stuck outside. By 10:30 a.m. all of the men are cold and frustrated. “I been here since 7 o’clock waiting in line trying to see these people to keep me from being locked up,” said _____.

Ambulance needed

On this morning an ambulance was called for one of the men because he had numbness in his feet. After that, the men were allowed to wait in the main lobby of police headquarters but that’s the exception to the rule.

People convicted as sex offenders have to register once a year. It basically means they have to go to the police department registration office and update their personal info and show proof of their current address. And if they move, they have to go back to re-register within three days. If they enroll in school they have to re-register within three days. If they change jobs they have to re-register within three days.

There are a lot of requirements and in Chicago, and they can be nearly impossible to meet, not because the offenders don’t want to meet them but because of the way the Chicago Police Department runs the registration office.

When I met _____ in line it was his third time trying to get in the office to register. “Every time we come here they have us standing in this line out here in this cold,” he said.

_____ was turned away the other two days because the office doesn't have the capacity to process all the sex offenders who show up to register, and _____’s worried the same thing is going to happen again. “At 12 o’clock they’ll cut the line, they’ll stop the line and tell us to come back tomorrow but I been standing out here already four to five hours,” said _____.

Go home, but you can still be arrested

Sure enough, an hour later, at 11:45 a.m., a man comes out of the registry office and tells _____ and the two dozen other men who have been waiting in the cold all morning, that they won’t be able to register today. But then it gets weirder. The police department employee tells the men they can sign a list that will prove they showed up today to register but then he tells them that even if they’re on the list, they can still be arrested for failing to register.

In a written statement, Adam Collins, a spokesman for the Chicago Police, said the list is collected and the department “proactively sends their names to Illinois State Police … to minimize any potential criminal registration problems for the individuals.”

Of course letting the men actually register would be an even more effective way to minimize registration problems. For clarity, I asked Collins several times, aren’t the men at risk of being arrested? He simply resent a portion of his written statement.

For the offenders being turned away every day -- sometimes 10, 20, or even more of them -- the message they’re getting is that the department prefers to risk their arrest rather than process this paperwork more quickly.

Violating registration rules can mean prison

The men are nervous and they have good reason. According to the Illinois Department of Corrections there are currently 841 people in prison for violating registration requirements.


GA - Moore asks House for second chance (Just following the crowd?)

Rep. Sam Moore caves to mob rule?
Rep. Sam Moore
Original Article

All these people took an oath to defend the Constitution and the rights of others, but this is exactly why nobody wants to speak out on the unconstitutional issues surrounding the sex offender laws, everybody attacks them for being "soft" on sex offenders instead of defending their rights. This is basically Mob Rule!

02/26/2014

By Joshua Sharpe

State Rep. Sam Moore (R-Macedonia) has withdrawn his bill lessening restrictions on sex offenders and is asking for a second chance after the proposal caused a public backlash Friday on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Moore, who is entering his third week in office, stood before the House on Monday morning and apologized to his fellow lawmakers, the voters in his District 22 and the entire state of Georgia — though he also criticized those who publicly bashed him.

It is unfortunate that the language in this bill has been used by my political opponents to cause fear in Georgia’s families. What happened last Friday did not move us forward as a state, and certainly did not move us forward as a party,” Moore told the House. “Although my intent was pure, and my mistakes were honest, I am ultimately responsible for all my actions.”

The 37-year-old freshman Republican’s House Bill 1033 would have decriminalized the crime of loitering and made it so some sex offenders could linger at schools and other places with children.

The proposal caused a widespread public outcry of both officials and residents who called for Moore to step down from office, only weeks after he won a runoff Feb. 4 to finish out the term of the late Rep. Calvin Hill (R-Canton). On Friday, more than a dozen state lawmakers, some of them high-ranking leaders, stood before the House and, with words like “callous” and “egregious,” firmly condemned the bill.

In his speech Monday, Moore said he had received hundreds of angry emails, text messages and phone calls since then.

Some quite threatening,” he said. “So to my political opponents: touch√©. You must see me as an actual threat.”

Moore called the bill a “rookie mistake” that could have been avoided if his fellow legislators would have come to him to offer guidance instead of chastising him in front of the House and in the media. He also said he never knew the media was going to be able to see the bill before a vote was approaching.
- We call it "Bowing to the mob," or "going with the flow," or "don't make waves!"

Those who spoke publicly aired what should have been a quiet, private, constructive conversation the night before,” Moore told the House. “This controversy could have been avoided with proactive communication.”

Moore has said the purpose of the bill was initially to preserve Fifth Amendment rights to silence, because Georgia’s loitering laws made it illegal to not give police your name. Speaking to the House on Monday, Moore conceded that the controversy could have been avoided if he sought guidance from his colleagues before turning in the bill.

In hindsight, this rookie mistake was silly,” he said. “I am mature enough to admit that … I am a passionate, driven person. But if you believe that I need to slow down, just mention a number to me: 1033.”
- You're also the type of person who bows down and follows the crowd!

Bowing to the mob?
Bowing to the mob?
Since news of Moore’s bill broke Friday and his statements that he didn’t think it was dangerous went public, outrage has spread even among his supporters. Others defended Moore, with some opinionated articles online alleging the statements made by House members were part of a smear campaign directed at Moore not because of the bill, but his politics in general.

Reportedly, by the time House Bill 1033 became public, Moore had already begun to raise eyebrows at the Capitol by a number of “no” votes he made. One of those votes was on the state budget, making Moore one of only four House members to vote against it. Moore explained on his website he voted against the budget because it helped implement the Affordable Care Act.

Those pushing the idea of a conspiracy pointed with suspicion to the announcement Friday that Meagan Biello, a Cherokee teacher who lost to Moore in the runoff, was running against him again in the May primary.

Several of the lawmakers who spoke against Moore’s bill Friday gave to Biello’s campaign during the runoff, according to filings with the state ethics commission. Detractors accused House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge), who gave $1,300 to Biello’s campaign, of orchestrating the attacks on Moore.

Ralston, though, told reporters the condemnation of Moore’s bill had nothing to do with Biello.

When I sent her that contribution, I had no idea he was going to introduce a bill that would repeal restrictions on pedophiles and sex offenders in Georgia, and if I would have known that I wish I could have sent her more,” Ralston said Monday. “This had nothing to do with that.

Follow us down the rabbit hole
Ralston added Moore had been guided by leaders and given literature on how to be successful in the House days before he turned in the bill. The speaker said it was troubling that Moore didn’t outright condemn the bill during his apology.
- We'd love to see this literature.  I bet it goes along the lines of "follow the crowd and don't rock the boat!"

For Rep. Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs), who spoke out against the bill Friday but had not contributed to Biello, the bill was a problem for him — no matter who presented it.

I have a track record of being intellectually consistent and calling out wrong when it is wrong,” Turner said Tuesday. “It doesn’t matter if it is the speaker or Rep. Moore, if I believe the source is wrong, I have shown I will speak out.”
- Really?  Well if you want to call out the wrongs, then you'd reform the unconstitutional sex offender laws!

Biello said Friday she had already made her decision to run, but Moore’s bill spurred her on.

A Facebook page was created saying Ball Ground Mayor Rick Roberts was running against Moore, because “I love cops and kids,” but Roberts said it was a hoax he had nothing to do with.

In Moore’s speech before the House on Monday, he made no specific mention of the theories of an orchestrated attack by Ralston and other leaders such as House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal (R-Bonaire), who spoke against the bill Friday and had also donated to Biello.

I have politely declined all advice to use this speech to rouse my political opponents,” Moore told the House. “Instead, I would rather this be the first step of a second chance. Please allow me to take it, and please take it with me.”

See Also:


TN - Ex-Rutherford officer (Edward Farmer) indicted in alleged sex crimes against children as well a his ex-girlfriend (Catrina McQuiston)

Edward Farmer & Catrina McQuiston
Edward Farmer (top)
Catrina McQuiston
Original Article

02/24/2014

By Kevin Young

NASHVILLE (WSMV) - A former colonel with the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office is accused of sex crimes against children.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation arrested Edward Farmer, 55, of Springfield, and his ex-girlfriend, 28-year-old Catrina McQuiston, on charges of aggravated exploitation of a minor.

Investigators say the pair coerced a boy and girl into having sex for several months in 2010.

Farmer was fired from the sheriff's office under a cloud of suspicion in 2005 when photos of child pornography were allegedly found on his work computer.

Farmer was terminated for misuse of county property, but criminal charges were never filed.


NY - New York State Exposed Follow-Up: Cuomo questioned about offenders

Mob mentality
Media stirring up the mob?
Original Article

02/24/2014

By Brett Davidsen

News10NBC has an update on our New York State Exposed report about sex offenders being placed in group homes. It’s a story that has touched a nerve in communities throughout western New York. While in Buffalo Monday, the governor was again asked about the controversial issue.

News10NBC asked the governor last week during his visit to Rochester about sex offenders being moved from the closed Monroe Developmental Center in Brighton to group home settings. On Monday, after an announcement in Buffalo, Governor Cuomo was questioned again about the topic and seemed to take a more sympathetic tone.

It comes on the heels of a protest in West Seneca on Saturday in which an estimated 300 people showed up. Residents and their town supervisor learned from our initial report that seven convicted sex offenders with developmental disabilities had recently been relocated from MDC to two adjoining group homes in a residential neighborhood there.

But it isn't just West Seneca. News10NBC’s investigation found that a dozen medium and high risk sex offenders who were in a secure unit of the institution just prior to its closing were quietly relocated to group homes throughout the area. Two of them are living in a home on North Road in Scottsville.

Critics of the closure plan forewarned that many of the residents could be a danger to the community and themselves if removed from a secure setting where they also receive intense treatment. The governor acknowledged that placement of the offenders needs to be carefully considered.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, "I understand why they would be nervous and why they would be upset. It's a real problem that we have. Sex offenders are released at one point when they are quote-unquote treated and deemed not at risk to society. But I totally understand the anxiety and the location should be appropriate."

The governor's office says any sex offender that poses a danger has been moved to another secure facility. Also, despite security concerns, state officials say the group homes have locks, alarms and trained supervision. The governor's office says it's important to point out these folks are in their care, not because they're criminals, but because they are developmentally disabled.


Changing Sex Offender Laws

Blog Talk Radio
Original Article

03/02/2014

This show will feature Dr. Jean Kennedy and Frank Juarez. Our mission is to educate the public about sex offender issues affecting our nation and damaging our communities. We stand behind this statement, “Education heals hatred and fear.”

NATIONAL REFORM SEX OFFENDER LAWS – The Big Picture affecting our nation.

A national organization sees the issue and the affect demoralizing a sex offender has on communities, and why it is imperative to change this thinking to heal society, the victim and the offender. We will detail the National RSOL and what it is doing to protect the nation and reform sex offender issues.

Part 1: March 2, 2014
  • The vision and mission of this organization. www.nationalrsol.org
  • The effect sex offender laws have on the community.

Part 1:

Part 2: March 9, 2014
  • The reason he is involved; he is an author, he provides housing, educating and mentoring through his organization, www.newnameministries.org
  • What can you do in your community to help protect your family.