Monday, March 17, 2008
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BY MALINDA OSBORNE
DIXON - Lee County courts, law enforcement and Sinnissippi Centers have collaborated to form a "mental health" court, which, if approved, will provide social and medical services for people with a serious mental illness who are charged with nonviolent crimes.
Similar to the county's drug court and bad check program, such defendants will trade standard judicial punishment for an intensive outpatient program designed to help them take any necessary medications and get counseling and job training.
The hope is that those who pass the program will emerge with more stable lives and be less likely to reoffend. That could save money for the county, which foots the bill for inmates' medication and other health care while they're in jail.
State's Attorney Paul Whitcombe will go before the Lee County Board Tuesday to ask members to approve the court, with funding to be decided later. It is expected to pass.
There are more than 120 mental health courts throughout the nation. Regionally, DuPage, Cook, Winnebago, Kane, Rock Island and Lake counties have them in place.
The idea has been in the works in Lee County for nearly two years, since Whitcombe and Judge Ron Jacobson first discussed the possibility.
"We've seen a number of people come through the system because they've committed crimes, but the primary motivation was not drugs or alcohol, but mental illness," Whitcombe said. "It seemed to me the criminal justice system is not set up to deal with the problems."
About 10 percent of the cases he handles spring from an offender's mental illness, he estimated. "We need to treat that, rather than warehousing them in jail."
Until now, the focus has been on punishing the behavior, rather than treating the individual, said Helen Lang, of Rochelle. "What are they going to do in jail? It's just going to worsen the mental illness."
Lang is past president of the Sauk Valley chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a support and advocacy group for families in Whiteside, Carroll, Lee and Ogle counties who are dealing with mental illness.
Crimes often occur because a person has gone off his or her medication. Intervening sooner, and giving the mentally ill the help they need, often allows them to lead productive lives, she said.
Jails not equipped
Jails and staff often are not equipped to handle people with mental disorders.
In Lee County, the biggest issue is safety - of the correctional officers, other inmates and themselves, Sheriff John Varga said.
There are 54 inmates in the Lee County jail; its capacity is 66. "The way the jail is designed, it's hard to keep them separated," Varga said.
Some mentally ill people see jail as a means of getting treatment.
"Where do they go for public safety or health safety? They go to jail. The problem is, if they're in jail, and not a mental health facility, we're only taking care of one part of problem," Varga said.
Money also is an issue. It costs about $55 a day to house an inmate, but that figure can rise to $65 or $70 when medication and health care is factored in. The jail contracts with health care professionals who are "constantly coming in and trying to get them back on medication or find out where their medication is," Varga said.
And costs can go much higher. For example, Sterling sex offender Robert Bearss, who molested a child in Lee County, was found unfit for trial and sent to Chester Mental Health Center, the state's maximum security forensic hospital. After treatment rendered him fit, he was sent back to the Lee County jail, where he required medication that cost $700 for a two-week supply.
Because of the expense, jail doctors had to change his medications to more generic versions, Varga said.
Mental health court may help cut those costs.
"We hope it will be extremely successful in decreasing recidivism. We simply can't afford medications, psychiatric treatment and so forth," Whitcombe said.
In fact, funding will be the new court's biggest obstacle. Housing fewer inmates will save money, but the court must find a way to pay for things such as medications and beds for crisis situations, Whitcombe said.
"It's still a roadblock - that's why we're starting nice and slow," he said, noting the court will have a two-year trial phase.
Other courts have found ways to help fund their programs: Cook County charges a $10 fee to anyone found guilty of felonies or misdemeanors, and Winnebago County passed a "public safety" tax six years ago that partially funds its program.
The Lee County program already has three candidates, and Sinnissippi recently came on board as a full partner, to help with the clinical portion of the endeavor.
How it works
To be eligible for mental health court, a participant would be evaluated at a fitness hearing. People with a violent background, or who require hospitalization for their condition, would not be accepted.
People with a dual diagnosis - mentally ill and addicted to drugs and/or alcohol - would be put in a special program run by Sinnissippi.
Participants enter the program in one of two ways: If they are being prosecuted, their cases can be dismissed upon successful completion of the program, or they can plead guilty and complete the program during probation.
The average time to complete the program is 18 months, during which time participants meet with probation officers and mental health workers who monitor their progress.
As part of their preparation, Lee County court officials visited the Therapeutic Intervention Program in Winnebago County, which was established in 2005 and now has 51 participants.
"The first client they had was lady who was in and out of the court system for years in Lee County. She knew us," Whitcombe said. "The court was finally reaching her because it was addressing the underlying cause of her behavior."
"Many people fell through the cracks before - in-and-out of jail - which is how this came to be," said Marci Raiber, Winnebago's program coordinator.
One positive outcome has been a reduction in the number of days the mentally ill were hospitalized. Before the program, some were hospitalized hundreds of days, off and on; after coming through mental health court, there were barely any hospitalizations, Raiber said.
That kind of outcome is exactly what Lee County is hoping for.
"If we keep them out of jail, and get the support of families, it's a win-win situation," Varga said.
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Police have reprimanded dozens of students at an Australian high school after a girl was filmed performing a sex act on a classmate and the footage was distributed to more than 100 other students.
Horrified relatives of the 15-year-old girl called New South Wales police after becoming aware she had been filmed and the footage had been sent to dozens of classmates at Woonona High School.
Police visited the school last week and questioned a number of students, The Daily Telegraph reported.
But detectives were thwarted from proceeding because students had deleted the footage from their phones after being addressed by the principal.
The girl told police the act had been consensual and she did not wish to file a complaint.
A Department of Education spokesman said yesterday that the principal was cooperating with police.
He said the incident had been filmed outside the school grounds.
The principal was in the Blue Mountains yesterday and unavailable for comment.
"The police are investigating the matter," the department spokesman said. "The department will not be making further comment while the police investigation is ongoing."
A student who received the footage told The Daily Telegraph Sunday that police had threatened to confiscate students' phones.
"Just about everyone has seen it," the girl said.
A police spokesman said yesterday officers had visited the school after a complaint from the girl's family.
The family had been distressed by the incident, which occurred on March 3, he said.
Although detectives had intended to charge the students, all under 16, who filmed and distributed the footage, there was no evidence to pursue.
Parents said yesterday the incident underlined the dangers of mobile phones in schools.
"It's disgusting, really," one mother who did not want to be named said.
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TRENTON — He says yes. She says no. He says yes.
Former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey said Monday he and his wife and a male aide engaged in sexual threesomes, contradicting a denial issued hours earlier by his estranged wife.
In an e-mail to The Associated Press, the nation's first openly gay governor said published reports by former campaign aide Teddy Pedersen were true.
In interviews posted online Sunday night by The Star-Ledger of Newark and the New York Post, Pedersen said he had consensual sex with the couple for about two years before McGreevey became governor. He said he had contact only with Dina Matos McGreevey during the trysts, and wasn't sure whether McGreevey was gay.
In his statement, McGreevey said he and his estranged wife need to move forward for the sake of their 6-year-old daughter.
"This happened, this happened in the past, and now we need to move on with our lives," McGreevey, 50, said without being specific.
His e-mail to The Associated Press came shortly after one from Matos McGreevey. She said Pedersen's claims of consensual three-way sex "are completely false and were prompted by Jim McGreevey."
"Jim has had a close relationship with Pedersen since his days as mayor of Woodbridge, and arranged jobs for Pedersen from that time through his years as governor and beyond," said Matos McGreevey, 41. "They have continued their close relationship since Jim left office. This was obviously payback time for Pedersen."
The McGreeveys are in the midst of an acrimonious divorce. She accuses him of hiding his homosexuality before and during their marriage and has sued for damages. He has said she should have known he was gay.
Pedersen, 29, told the newspapers the threesomes went on for about two years during the McGreeveys' courtship and into their marriage. He said the trysts ended when McGreevey was elected governor in 2001.
Pedersen said he came forward because he was angry that Matos McGreevey was offering television commentary on the resignation of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who stepped down last week amid a call-girl scandal. During her commentary, Matos McGreevey said she was blindsided when her husband announced his homosexuality.
McGreevey resigned in 2004 after acknowledging an affair with a male staffer who he said was trying to blackmail him. The ex-staffer said he was sexually harassed by the Democratic governor.
The McGreeveys separated shortly after McGreevey's nationally televised speech in which he declared himself "a gay American."
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Valerie Olander / The Detroit News
An 11-year-old boy accused of forcing a 7-year-old to perform oral sex on a Howell Public Schools' bus last May was sentenced today in Livingston Juvenile Court to two years probation with orders for the boy and his parents to undergo counseling. Random drug and alcohol testing was also ordered for the parents.
The boy pleaded no contest last month to a single charge of gross indecency between males in exchange for dropping first and second degree criminal sexual conduct charges. The first-degree charge would have required the juvenile to register as a sex offender until age 30.
The mother of the 7-year-old victim and her boyfriend were in court. The boyfriend read a prepared statement to the court claiming the lasting effects on the young victim and calling for the family to be investigated to determine if the 11-year-old had been previously abused. The statement was limited.
"This experience was the most degrading and disgusting thing that could have happened," the boyfriend of the victim's mother told the court.
Names are being withheld by The Detroit News because the victim and suspect are juveniles.
A 10-year-old allegedly involved in the bus incident who has maintained his innocence is scheduled to appear in court April 7 for a settlement conference. If a plea agreement is not reached the case is slated for trial April 16.
You can reach Valerie Olander at (517) 552 5503 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The city of Highland Village is now the latest in the area to set rules on where registered sex offenders may live.
The council Monday night unanimously approved an ordinance restricting registered sex offenders from living within 1,500 feet of areas where children and youth commonly gather. Those areas include city parks and trails, schools, day care centers, arcades, playgrounds, public and semi-public swimming pools and public and non-profit recreational facilities.
Lewisville and Flower Mound councils have passed similar ordinances in the past few months, as have numerous other cities in the Metroplex.
Also at Monday night’s meeting, the council approved the site plan for Majestic Fine Wine and Spirits, to be located at 2140 FM 407. The site is part of the Valley Ridge Planned Development approved in 1997 and amended in 2004, according to a press release submitted by Laurie Mullens, public affairs manager.
She stated that the site plan was approved with the verification that Majestic be the only business in the planned development offering alcohol for off-premise consumption.
The council also received bids from four vendors for solid waste services, as the city’s current contract with Waste Management expires in June. Also at the meeting, the council unanimously approved two resolutions associated with the voter-approved 4b half-cent sales tax designated for the Inland Trail system and a soccer complex. A resolution was approved awarding the bid for construction of Victoria Trail, Market Trail and Village Park Trail to Pipeworks Construction in the amount of $1,818,743.
The council also approved a resolution awarding the bid for constriction of a practice soccer field to Hydromulch Services, in the amount of $97,000.
City Manager Michael Leavitt announced that all residents of Highland Village are invited to attend the annual Easter egg hut at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 15.
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This quote is from the above article. Interesting. With the way everybody these days is into seeing people suffer, humiliated and everything else on live TV, I wonder when this will be the next reality show?
Going back to the idea of cultural artifacts, it seems like a lot of television programming that's available today, like To Catch a Predator, There's Something About Miriam, and The Moment of Truth, suggests that we're going to have The Running Man literally on TV.
Oh yeah, eventually. You keep thinking that we're going to get to that point; you keep thinking that a live execution is coming. I think that eventually the Internet hooks up with television and we'll reach the point where the two finally get married. Basically, and I said this really early on, almost 20 years ago, every American home will have cameras in every room and everybody will be their own channel. That's where we'll reach, that's the ultimate as I see it.
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Oh the irony!!!!! See the video at the end. Every one of these people should be a sex offender.
Jewel Hosler, left, talks with Lt. Clinton Kendricks at the Lorain County sheriff's office in Elyria. She is fighting having to re-register as a sexual predator for life under a new state law. "I know that how I went about it was totally wrong, but I was fighting off a child molester," she said.
3-tiered system flawed, critics say
LORAIN -- Her crime was an act of vigilante justice.
Jewel "Julie" Hosler suspected that her husband, who had been convicted of sexually assaulting his 5-year-old stepdaughter in 1994, was molesting the girl again.
So she, her mother and her aunt ambushed Rodney L. Hosler at the house the couple shared in Delaware. They bound him with a telephone cord and duct tape, cut off his sweat pants and assaulted him with an 8-inch-long cucumber. With a black marker, they scrawled "I am a child molester" across his body. Then, they drove him to his hometown in Hancock County and left him in an alley.
"We were like, 'No, he's not going to tell the police. He'll be too embarrassed,' " Hosler recalled. "That's what we were kind of hoping, that he'd be too humiliated. But he wasn't."
Rodney Hosler did call authorities. Julie Hosler lost everything, and has been struggling to fix her life for a decade.
Now, more than 10 years after she attacked her husband because she thought he was a sexual predator, Hosler has learned that she might have to register as a serious sex offender for the rest of her life.
The federal Adam Walsh Act and Ohio's version, which took effect in January, classify offenders in three tiers based on the crime, without considering the likelihood of re-offending. Under the new law, Hosler would be a Tier III offender -- the most severe label -- and would be forced to register every 90 days for life.
Hosler said she has been trying to turn her life around. She was required to register as a sexually oriented offender for 10 years after her conviction, and would have been done next year.
She doesn't think her name belongs on a list that includes pedophiles.
"I know that how I went about it was totally wrong, but I was fighting off a child molester," Hosler said. "That's what my crime is all about."
The prosecutor who charged Hosler and the other women agrees.
"There's no question Julie's not going to re-offend," said W. Duncan Whitney, now a Delaware County Common Pleas Court judge. "She was the least culpable. She didn't come up with the idea, to my knowledge.
"These three women, in my opinion, would not re-offend as sex offenders."
After the 1997 crime, Hosler, along with her mother, Mary Franks, and aunt, Vickie Coulter, were arrested and charged with one count of rape and two counts of kidnapping in Delaware County. The three pleaded guilty to lesser charges.
Franks, who organized the assault, was sentenced to six months in jail and 500 hours of community service. Coulter served six months of a two-year prison sentence before being sent to a community-based correctional facility in Columbus. Hosler also served six months of a two-year prison sentence but violated her probation terms, landing in and out of jail and halfway houses. Hosler filed for divorce against Rodney in September 1997. Her two daughters, now 12 and 18, were placed in foster care after the attack and adopted into new families. Hosler distanced herself from her mother and aunt by moving to Lorain, in northern Ohio, where she lives alone.
For years, Hosler, now 38, numbed herself from memories of her crime with alcohol and crack. When she wasn't using drugs, she had vivid nightmares, she said.
She wants to straighten herself out now, in case her oldest daughter comes looking for her. She is undergoing treatment for bipolar disorder and her addictions.
"I'm at a do-or-die stage right now," Hosler said. "I could really get over this and get on with life, or I could die smoking crack. Right now, I'm pretty positive."
Hosler said she regrets the violence and rage that drove her to carry out the attack.
"Once I heard that he was doing it again, my honest reaction was, if I was ever going to look my daughter in the eye again, I had to do something drastic," Hosler said.
It was never proved that Rodney Hosler was abusing his stepdaughter again, and he was not charged. Franks had said that the girl told her that her stepfather had French-kissed her, but no documented complaints were made to law enforcement.
Franks and Coulter also were labeled sexually oriented offenders and required to register with authorities for 10 years.
When Coulter received a reclassification letter from the attorney general's office in November under the new law, she said she thought it was a mistake. She called it an injustice. "Because we're so unlike (sex offenders) is why we did what we did."
The women each have filed petitions in county courts to challenge the law.
Thousands of sex offenders across Ohio are filing similar challenges, said Amy Borror, a spokeswoman for the Ohio public defender's office.
Critics of the new law say the three-tiered system is flawed and dilutes the purpose of the state's registry, which contains the names of roughly 23,000 sex offenders.
"If you call everybody a threat, nobody's a threat," said Margie Slagle, a lawyer with the Ohio Justice and Policy Center in Cincinnati.
Hosler is finally ready to turn her life around, but she said her past is holding her back.
She recently re-registered with the Lorain County sheriff's office under the new law to ensure that she was in compliance until the courts address her legal challenge.
"I did the crime, for whatever reasons that I had, but I've also done my time, and I don't feel like I'm such a big threat," she said.
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'We must target potential offenders', Teachers' fury over 'dangerous' plan
Primary school children should be eligible for the DNA database if they exhibit behaviour indicating they may become criminals in later life, according to Britain's most senior police forensics expert.
Gary Pugh, director of forensic sciences at Scotland Yard and the new DNA spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said a debate was needed on how far Britain should go in identifying potential offenders, given that some experts believe it is possible to identify future offending traits in children as young as five.
'If we have a primary means of identifying people before they offend, then in the long-term the benefits of targeting younger people are extremely large,' said Pugh. 'You could argue the younger the better. Criminologists say some people will grow out of crime; others won't. We have to find who are possibly going to be the biggest threat to society.'
Pugh admitted that the deeply controversial suggestion raised issues of parental consent, potential stigmatisation and the role of teachers in identifying future offenders, but said society needed an open, mature discussion on how best to tackle crime before it took place. There are currently 4.5 million genetic samples on the UK database - the largest in Europe - but police believe more are required to reduce crime further. 'The number of unsolved crimes says we are not sampling enough of the right people,' Pugh told The Observer. However, he said the notion of universal sampling - everyone being forced to give their genetic samples to the database - is currently prohibited by cost and logistics.
Civil liberty groups condemned his comments last night by likening them to an excerpt from a 'science fiction novel'. One teaching union warned that it was a step towards a 'police state'.
Pugh's call for the government to consider options such as placing primary school children who have not been arrested on the database is supported by elements of criminological theory. A well-established pattern of offending involves relatively trivial offences escalating to more serious crimes. Senior Scotland Yard criminologists are understood to be confident that techniques are able to identify future offenders.
A recent report from the think-tank Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) called for children to be targeted between the ages of five and 12 with cognitive behavioural therapy, parenting programmes and intensive support. Prevention should start young, it said, because prolific offenders typically began offending between the ages of 10 and 13. Julia Margo, author of the report, entitled 'Make me a Criminal', said: 'You can carry out a risk factor analysis where you look at the characteristics of an individual child aged five to seven and identify risk factors that make it more likely that they would become an offender.' However, she said that placing young children on a database risked stigmatising them by identifying them in a 'negative' way.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of the civil rights group Liberty, denounced any plan to target youngsters. 'Whichever bright spark at Acpo thought this one up should go back to the business of policing or the pastime of science fiction novels,' she said. 'The British public is highly respectful of the police and open even to eccentric debate, but playing politics with our innocent kids is a step too far.'
Chris Davis, of the National Primary Headteachers' Association, said most teachers and parents would find the suggestion an 'anathema' and potentially very dangerous. 'It could be seen as a step towards a police state,' he said. 'It is condemning them at a very young age to something they have not yet done. They may have the potential to do something, but we all have the potential to do things. To label children at that stage and put them on a register is going too far.'
Davis admitted that most teachers could identify children who 'had the potential to have a more challenging adult life', but said it was the job of teachers to support them.
Pugh, though, believes that measures to identify criminals early would save the economy huge sums - violent crime alone costs the UK £13bn a year - and significantly reduce the number of offences committed. However, he said the British public needed to move away from regarding anyone on the DNA database as a criminal and accepted it was an emotional issue.
'Fingerprints, somehow, are far less contentious,' he said. 'We have children giving their fingerprints when they are borrowing books from a library.'
Last week it emerged that the number of 10 to 18-year-olds placed on the DNA database after being arrested will have reached around 1.5 million this time next year. Since 2004 police have had the power to take DNA samples from anyone over the age of 10 who is arrested, regardless of whether they are later charged, convicted, or found to be innocent.
Concern over the issue of civil liberties will be further amplified by news yesterday that commuters using Oyster smart cards could have their movements around cities secretly monitored under new counter-terrorism powers being sought by the security services.
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I wish people would learn how to be more clear. The first paragraph says "sex offenders" meaning ALL sex offenders, but then the third paragraph they say "predatory sex offenders!" So which is it? They are not both the same. I would assume the latter.
Sexual offenders will not be allowed to log on to MySpace or other social networking Internet sites under legislation advanced in House on March 12.
Rep. Karla Bigham (Email), DFL-Cottage Grove, is carrying the bill backed by the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office.
In addition to prohibiting registered predatory sex offenders from assessing or using social networking sites, the bill permits law enforcement officials to conduct unannounced searches of computers used by sex offenders placed on intensive supervised release.
The Attorney General’s Office points to recent studies in detailing the problem of sex offenders online — half of teens ages 13-18 frequently communicate online with people who’ve they’ve never met, cites one study.
- Again, is this from other children or adults? Nobody ever looks into that, they just leave it up to everyone to assume, and I don't like assuming, I like to know the facts. From many of the latest studies, they all say this is all blown way out of proportion...
“The Times-Picayune” newspaper in New Orleans states that between 1996 and 2004 the FBI opened almost 12,000 cases nationwide involving sex predators trying to lure minors through the Internet chat rooms and other links.
Among concerns expressed by House Public Safety and Civil Justice committee members over the legislation was whether it was broad enough.
Rep. Chris DeLaForest (Email), R-Andover, expressed a desire to the language expanded.
For instance, DeLaForest questioned whether it would be legal for a registered sex offender to post their own Web page under the bill.
- A web page and social network is two different things. You people clearly do not know what you are talking about, and yet you are the ones passing these insane laws. Why don't you learn about the technology before coming up with a law you know nothing about?
An Attorney General’s Office official opined that they probably could.
“I’d encourage expanding it (the prohibition) to broader Internet use,” said DeLaForest.
Other lawmakers expressed a desire to see the bill fine tuned.
The legislation was passed to the public safety finance committee for further consideration.