Monday, January 21, 2008

ID - House committee considers sex offender laws

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01/21/2008

BOISE (AP) - State lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it a felony for anyone to harbor a violent sexual predator trying to elude authorities.

But several lawmakers on the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee say they fear the measure, as written, could make felons out of anybody, including a family member who doesn't volunteer information to police - even if police never ask for the information.

The committee also considered two other measures regarding sex offenders today.

One would touch up language in Idaho's 2-year-old law barring sex offenders from being within 500 feet of school property. The lawmakers plan to add exemptions for offenders who have to visit schools to vote or to pick up their mail.

The other would formalize a 2007 Department of Corrections policy for monitoring violent sex offenders with electronic bracelets.


FL - Former Felons Forced To Move From Under Bridge

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These people need to turn around and sue the Police department. It was apparently legal for them to live there, now it looks like the police think they know better. Sick bastards! Video is available at the site.

01/21/2008

Group Packs Up, Creates Camp At Edge Of Everglades

WESTERN BROWARD COUNTY -- A group of registered sex offenders and convicted felons who were told by the Department of Corrections to live under a bridge in Fort Lauderdale have been chased away by neighbors, police and the Department of Transportation.

On Friday night, police officers posted "No Trespassing" signs underneath the Oakland Park Boulevard Bridge over the intracoastal and told the former felons that if they didn't leave they'd be arrested. The group packed up their things and headed west.

They set up a camp on the edge of the Everglades, far away from schools, parks and civilization.
- And near alligators and who knows what else.

They have a tent, battery-operated television and DVD player, a portable cooking stove and a beat-up rusty grill.

"Hopefully nobody's going to complain about it and we can be left alone for a while," said Mark DaCosta, an ex-convict who is not a sex offender but was ordered to live by the same rules as a condition of his parole.

The Department of Corrections had the men reporting to the bridge every night because they couldn’t find a place for them to live that wasn't too close to school or park. State law prohibits sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of anyplace children congregate. The problem is that nearly every city in South Florida has its own laws that push the sex offenders and ex-convicts back even farther , Local 10's Roger reported. In most cases, the local ordinance is 2,500 feet.

"We’re just getting pushed farther and farther away from society," said Dana Oakes, a convicted sex offender whose state issued identification card lists the Oakland Park Boulevard Bridge as his permanent address.

What residents don't realize is that during the day, when children are at school or away from their homes, the offenders can go wherever they want. Florida's registered sex offender laws only require them to be in a certain location at night. It not only leaves children unprotected, but it's made it nearly impossible for these former felons to get on with their lives, they told Local 10's Roger Lohse.

"We’re 12 to 15 miles from the nearest bus stop. I need to work, I want to work, but how am I supposed to function on a daily basis when I can't promise them I can even be there on time? There's nothing out here," said Oakes.

A state lawmaker has filed a bill that would prohibit cities and counties from passing their own residency restrictions and make the state's 1,000-foot rule the only rule registered offenders would have to follow. It would also allow probation officers to track the sex offenders and ex convicts more closely by creating a "floating restriction" that would prohibit offenders from being within 300 feet from anywhere children are 24 hours a day.


TN - Lawmakers ponder new regulations for animal attacks

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You see, they consider this dog registry punishment as well. Same as the sex offender registry, it's punishment, thus unconstitutional. This is more grandstanding, and is not going to protect people from a vicious dog. I hope they also make it where people who own these dogs cannot live XXXX feet from a person or child. It's only fair... And no, I really do not want that, just pointing out the insanity or both.

01/21/2008

State lawmakers could decide this year just how far they want to go in punishing dog owners with pets that cause serious injury to others.

One legislator, who initially started out wanting an outright ban on pit bulls in Tennessee, said he’ll settle for strengthening penalties against owners of vicious dogs that harm others.

Another lawmaker wants victims to be able to sue in court, even if the dog attack occurs on the dog owner’s property. “That’s where most bites occur,” said Sen. Doug Jackson, a Dickson Democrat.

Lawmakers also will consider whether to create an online registry for animal abusers, much like the sex offender registry maintained by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and whether the state should be able to confiscate property where animal fights are held.

Last November, 21-year-old Jennifer Lowe was attacked by a friend’s two pit bulls in Knox County. The dogs tore away her face, neck, shoulder and arm.

She died shortly thereafter, but because she was at the home where the dogs lived, the owner faced no criminal penalties.

That was enough for state Sen. Tommy Kilby, a Wartburg Democrat, to file a bill making it a crime to own a pit bull in Tennessee.

He’d already had one bad experience with pit bulls — a friend of his nearly lost an arm trying to separate his dog from a pit bull in a fight a few years ago.

“Owners should be responsible for the action of their dog, and that’s what I’m trying to do,” said Kilby, whose constituents include the Lowe family.

He doesn’t think he can get very far with a bill that targets one particular breed. In fact, such a law may not be constitutional. So he plans to revamp it.

“If someone has a vicious dog attack you and mangles your arm, you should be compensated,” he said, saying he’s unsure of the details he’ll include in the new bill.

At the same time, he wants to raise awareness about certain breeds, like pit bulls, which are often behind many high-profile attacks. The city of Rockwood, Tenn., he noted, is moving to ban pit bulls from its city limits.

“I do not want to take someone’s pet away from them, but this thing has gotten out of hand,” Kilby said.

In 2006, library clerk Dianna Acklen was bitten some 200 to 300 times by a pack of dogs while she was taking her customary walk in her Decherd, Tenn., neighborhood.

So last year, lawmakers finally toughened Tennessee’s weak animal control law, which before then was essentially nothing more than a $50 fine on owners who allowed their dogs to run at large.

The new law, named the Dianna Acklen Act of 2007, abolished Tennessee’s long-observed “first bite” rule, which allowed owners to escape civil liability if that was the first time their dog harmed someone.

Now, victims no longer have to prove that they were the first person bitten by a dog before they can sue an owner in civil court.

“It was a good first step,” said Acklen’s daughter, Darbie Sizemore. “I’m encouraged they put more responsibility on the dog owner. My right to walk down a county road should not be infringed upon by your ability to own a dog.”

She added, “Owning a dog is not a right; it is a responsibility. You have a responsibility to keep your dog contained on your property.”

But that’s where things gets thorny. The new law only applies if the dog is not on its own property.

Jackson said he’s already filed a bill to correct what he says is a “crazy” loophole.

He noted that the families of four dog-attack victims killed in the past year would not benefit from the newly passed law, including an 11-month-old who was attacked and killed by two Siberian Huskies that tore through his playpen.

Two of Jackson’s bills target people who abuse animals.

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to review a bill to create the Tennessee Animal Abuser Registration, Tracking and Verification Act.

Studies show a link between children and teens who seriously and repeatedly hurt or kill animals later becoming violent criminal offenders and even serial killers, the bill says.

Among information available to the public would be the abuser’s name, age, convictions, addresses and photo.

“There is a compelling and necessary public interest that the public have information concerning persons convicted of severe animal abuse offenses … to adequately protect themselves and their animals,” the legislation says.

Another Jackson bill would require people who hold animal fights on their property to forfeit their land, which would then be sold by the state. Funds would to go to local humane shelters, Jackson said.

“Maybe people will be much more reluctant to hold these fights,” Jackson said.


AL - Officials turn to technology to monitor offenders

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01/21/2008

There may be a day in the near future when ankle monitors will immediately alert authorities when a sex offender gets too close to a school or day-care facility. The technology, and the system itself, are already being used in some areas.
- So what about alerting the offenders as well, so they know when they are getting to close?

Ankle devices with global positioning systems are being used to monitor inmates who have been released from jail on bond or probation. It is also an alternative to incarceration in light of heavily populated prisons and jails.

Eugene Pierce, director of the Franklin County Community Corrections program, said he began using GPS devices last spring that enable him to monitor where certain individuals are at all times.

"It is as close to real time as possible," Pierce said.

The program has 12 systems in use. Pierce said ankle monitors are often used as part of a plea agreement or because of bond conditions.

Colbert County Community Corrections Director Gary Wallace said ankle monitors have been used at times in the past, but he hopes to implement them into his program full-time soon.

"The biggest advantage in having the GPS systems is that you can tell where they are at all times," Wallace said.
- That is if they do not cut it off. And where is all the money going to come from to fund this expensive ordeal?

Colbert County officials hope to use 10 to 12 devices based on recommendations from the sheriff's department, district attorney's office or as a court ruling.

Lauderdale County Community Corrections has contracted with two companies in the past to provide devices based on radio frequencies. Liz Hawk, director of the program, said she would like to have GPS systems available at some point.

"The GPS systems would make the communities safer for everyone," she said.

Pierce said the devices would be ideal for monitoring sex offenders because the monitors can be programmed with certain exclusion areas.

For example, the coordinates of a certain day-care or school could be entered into the system. If the person wearing the monitor got too close to that facility, the device would begin beeping and officials would be notified.

Wallace said the same is true for people charged with domestic violence. The devices can be set to alert officials if those individuals get too close to an area that they are not supposed to be.

Local officials expect the use of ankle monitors to become more common in the next couple of years as prison overcrowding becomes more of an issue.

"If you are a judge charged with protecting the community, this just gives you another tool to work with," Wallace said.

Some devices have become so advanced that they can actually detect if someone wearing the monitor has consumed alcohol that day and transmits that information back to authorities.

"I think ankle monitors will be very common in the next couple of years," Hawk said. "Eventually all sex offenders will have to wear them. That's already the trend in some parts of the country."

Jonathan Willis can be reached at 332-0140 or jonathan.willis@timesdaily.com.


"Growing Up Online" details perils of Web

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01/21/2008

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men on the Internet? "Frontline" knows and, in an overblown sociology lesson, lets parents in on the potential predators, bullies and voyeurs keeping company with young Web surfers.

The dangers of inappropriate Internet content parading before underage eyes are recounted, but this documentary ultimately helps parents see that some of their anxiety is overblown.

The topic itself seems a bit out of "Frontline's" usual range. The acclaimed journalistic outfit that has explored Darfur, Blackwater, the Taliban and torture this time sticks close to home for "Growing Up Online," Tuesday on PBS (KCTS).

It's true that the Internet has changed the experience of childhood in profound ways. Ninety percent of teens are online these days. They represent the first generation to come of age in the virtual world.

Some kids live online as much as they live in the nonvirtual world. Some assuredly get into trouble. But the alarm expressed by some of those interviewed here seems excessive.

NBC's "To Catch a Predator" has made a living off the modern fear of Internet connections. Parents who are paying attention know that spending more time online than off isn't healthy.

But most parents recognize that cyberlife is as much a part of teen socializing these days as passing notes in class was a few decades ago.

C.J. Pascoe, a Ph.D. with the University of California, Berkeley's Digital Youth Project, sums up nonjudgmentally: The Internet offers teenagers "a private space, even while they're still at home," she says. "They're able to communicate with their friends and have an entire social life outside the purview of their parents without actually having to leave the house."

Is that a recipe for disaster? Some are certain of it. When an eighth-grader committed suicide after becoming the target of an Internet bullying campaign, his father traced a series of messages on his son's computer, with instructions on how to make a noose.

The documentary makes much of the phenomenon of "cyberbullying" but never delves into the range of other possible reasons for the teen's hanging. (Certain taunts are exposed, but the subjects of hate crimes and homophobia aren't addressed.)

Danah Boyd, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, has a realistic view of this generation's social interactions. "It's not going away. So instead of saying, 'Stop MySpace,' 'Stop Facebook,' 'Stop the Internet,' it's a question of how we teach ourselves and our children to live in a society where these properties are fundamentally a way of life."


OH - Ohio's tougher sex offender law being met with lawsuits, confusion

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01/21/2008

The three weeks since Ohio rushed to implement tougher sex offender registration laws have been filled with confusion, lawsuits and concern that the provisions may do more harm than good.

Ohio is one of the first states to pass legislation to comply with the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, a set of federal laws that stiffens registration requirements for convicted sex offenders.

The act mandates that all states uniformly register sex offenders and place them into a national registry by 2009. It was billed as a way to prevent people who commit sex crimes from slipping through the cracks and committing other offenses.
- And if they do not, they lose grant money, so money is what is driving all this.

Being on the forefront of the movement has landed Ohio courts in the middle of constitutional arguments over retroactively classifying some offenders - often with harsher penalties - without a court hearing.

It also has put a strain on sheriff's offices, who could see a 60 percent increase in their workload as they scramble - with no extra money for personnel - to register thousands of new sex offenders who now have to check in every 90 days.

And child advocates across the state are concerned about parts of the law requiring juveniles who committed sex crimes to register for life and, in some cases, have their pictures placed on the Internet.

They say those measures negate the purpose of Juvenile Court and ignore evidence that juvenile offenders have low recidivism rates -- between 4 and 13 percent.
- This is not just juvenile offenders, the same rates apply to adults as well.

Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann campaigned on the promise that he would implement the act. And its implementation put the state in line to receive an increase of up to 10 percent in federal grants used to fight crime, said Erin Rosen, a senior assistant in the office.
- This is what is called bribery, which is a crime!

But opponents say the act will cost taxpayers far more to put into practice and defend in court. It is an assertion Dann's office did not dispute.

Court battles under way

Last week, the Cuyahoga County public defender's office filed 225 motions asking judges to prevent sex offenders who were convicted before the beginning of the year from being saddled with the harsher penalties. They plan to file more this week.

"We believe the Adam Walsh Act constitutes punishment," said Cullen Sweeney, an assistant Cuyahoga County public defender. "You can't apply punishment retroactively."
- It is punishment, if you read SB-10, it has the word punish all throughout the text. So yes, it's punishment.

Supporters of the bill argue that the registration requirement is a civil penalty, not a criminal action.
- But increasing this time on the registry violates ex post facto laws of the Constitution, so it's unconstitutional.

Common Pleas Judge Joan Synenberg granted an injunction last week preventing the new law from taking effect against a 26-year-old Bay Village man.
- Why not all offenders in the state? The law applies to them as well.

Dillon Chupa was convicted seven years ago of sexual battery and corruption of a minor. A judge labeled him a sexually oriented offender and ordered him to report his address to the Sheriff's Office once a year for 10 years. He has not been arrested again.

Recently, Chupa got a letter telling him he has been reclassified as a more serious sexual offender and will have to register four times a year for the rest of his life; the sheriff would notify his neighbors and co-workers; and he would be prevented from living near a bus stop, school or daycare center, according to his lawyer, Larry Zukerman.

Chupa sued Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann to block the harsher penalties.

"He's being punished more than once for the same act," Zukerman said. "It should be over and done with."

Cuyahoga County Juvenile Judge Kristin Sweeney granted a temporary injunction preventing at least one juvenile from being placed on the registry.

The Ohio Public Defender's Office has filed for temporary restraining orders to keep any kids in the Ohio Department of Youth Services from being placed on Internet registries, and they will help incarcerated youth to file motions preventing reclassifications.

Amy Borror, spokeswoman for the state public defender's office, said about 2,500 juveniles could be reclassified. Some counties, she said, are refusing to appoint lawyers to people fighting the reclassification under the argument that it is a civil penalty.

"It's a mess," Borror said. "Not only are different counties doing different things but different judges in the same county are doing different things."

More work, no money

As the court battles ensue, sheriff's offices across Ohio are bracing for the flood of new registrants. Buckeye State Sheriffs' Association President Robert Cornwell said enforcing the unfunded mandate will be a monumental task.

In Cuyahoga County, the sheriff's Sex Offender Registration Unit registers about 400 sexual predators every 90 days. Now, they face the prospect of having to register nearly 1,400 people at least four times a year.

"That's some astronomical number," Sheriff's Sgt. David Synkowski said. "It's a disaster for us. . . . I think many people didn't think this all the way through."

Cuyahoga has to find money to remodel space for the increased registrants and their files, to mail between 500 and 1,500 post cards for each registrant who falls under the community notification requirement and to pay deputies to track down and charge offenders who don't follow the new rules.

"I'm sitting here most the day trying to bail out the sinking ship," Synkowski said.

Kids, families at risk?

Child advocates across the state have bombarded government offices with letters expressing their concerns about the law. And countrywide, groups have sent letters to the newly created federal Department of Justice Sex Offender, Sentencing, Monitoring Apprehending, Registering and Tracking -- SMART.

The 876 pages of letters, most opposing parts of the guidelines, can be found at:

http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/smart/guidelines.htm

Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services Director Jim McCafferty worries that the law -- meant to protect children -- could harm some.

Ken Boris, who oversees the department's sex abuse unit, said some facilities and prospective foster or adoptive parents might turn down a child because they don't want their addresses listed online, which could occur if the youth placed was a certain level of sex offender.

Answers from the Ohio attorney general's office on how to handle these problems have been vague, Boris said.

"This is a little bit of a political football that nobody wants to appear soft on crime, but it's going to be hard to include juveniles," he said.

Boris said that other things about more-stringent registration requirements for juveniles bother him.

First, he said, lifetime penalties take away any incentive for juveniles to get treatment and to stay out of trouble. Numerous studies show low rates of recidivism for juveniles who get treatment. The public embarrassment of having to register could actually work against public safety.

Boris said the law also might unintentionally harm young victims of sex crimes. Perpetrators may be less likely to plead guilty because of lifelong penalties, he said. That could force more cases to trial and more victims to testify. Some may decide not to testify, meaning fewer convictions of sex offenders.

Laws like the Adam Walsh Act are directed toward the "monsters," Boris said. Those people are a only a small percent of offenders.

Plain Dealer Reporter James F. McCarty contributed to this story.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

rdissell@plaind.com, 216-999-4121


IL - Child Predator Walks into Elementary School Kidnaps Student

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You see folks, this man (predator) was on house arrest, had GPS, and in Illinois they have the same buffer zones. And you see, it did not help protect this child, so like I've said before, these laws are pointless. If a predator is really intent on committing another crime, they will.

In a brazen attempt at child abduction and child sexual assault, a man walked into the Lalumier Elementary School in the Cahokia Illinois School District this week, and upon seeing an eight-year-old female student drinking at a water fountain, and told her a teacher wished to speak to her outside. He then took her hand, walked her out of the building, and took her behind the school dumpsters, where he tried sexually assaulting the little girl. Luckily, a neighbor who lived across from the school saw the man on top of the little girl as he left his home. The neighbor realized immediately something was not right, and began to yell at the man. The attacker ran, the neighbor gave chase, and the little girl ran home.

Eventually police caught up with the attacker and identified him as a twenty-year-old registered sex offender. The sex offender, who was on house arrest, should have been wearing an ankle monitor to monitor if he was at his home location and at what times.When police located the ankle monitor, it showed obvious signs of forceful removed. The ankle monitor which is designed to alert officials if he leaves his place of residence is not equipped with GPS or global positioning system to track the sex offenders position of the offender due to financial constraints.

How secure is your child's school? This registered sex offender entered the school through a locked gymnasium door. The door although locked was not secure because the doorframe was bent. The next obvious question is how long has the doorframe been bent? How secure are the doors at your child's school? How many points of entry are there for strangers, sex offenders, or other people to enter your child's school? Many schools require a background check on any parent or adult who works, volunteers or helps in a school. What is your schools policy?

The Lalumier Elementary School is adding a dozen surveillance cameras to the school grounds to monitor the inside and outside activities. The schools new policy is to keep all the doors locked during the school day. The school now requires its employees to personally identify and escort in any visitors. Kudos to the Cahokia School district for taking quick action to beef up security measures as soon as it was evident there was a problem.

Finally, this is a child abduction lure I had not thought of and had not discussed with my children. Discuss with children that following the request of an authority figure like a teacher is not always a requirement if the action does not make sense to them or if they feel uncomfortable. Tell children it is ok to question an adult's action if they feel uncomfortable. They should ask another adult they trust if this is what they should be doing. In this case the girl's homeroom teacher, school nurse, or principal, would have been a good resource for her to run to and ask if this man was a teacher.

This student did nothing wrong, yet we can learn from her sad unfortunate experience. Thankfully a neighbor intervened, an angel among us, he probably saved her life. Thank-you our special friend, from one mother of two children in Missouri, god bless you!

Content copyright © 2007 by Erika Lyn Smith. All rights reserved.