Tuesday, June 17, 2008

CA - Neighbors protest group home for SOs


MO - Registered sex offender files suit against sheriff

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06/17/2008

A registered sex offender from Willow Springs has filed a civil lawsuit against Howell County Sheriff Robbie Crites.

Scott Kramer is the petitioner in the suit, filed Friday in Howell County Circuit Court. He is represented by Jacob Y. Garrett of Garrett & Silvey attorneys at law in West Plains.

The suit states that on Aug. 28, 2001, Kramer entered a guilty plea in Pennsylvania for a misdemeanor offense of indecent assault, according to the laws of Pennsylvania.

After the guilty plea, Kramer was sentenced to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and started his sentence Sept. 11, 2001. He was released on parole Feb. 27, 2002.

Kramer later moved to Missouri, the suit says, and transferred his parole to Missouri. At that time, he was required by his parole officer to register as a sex offender. Kramer now has completed his parole, but is still being required by the sheriff to register as a sex offender.

The suit states Kramer believes that under statutes on the date of his conviction – Aug. 28, 2001 – he would not have been made to register as a sex offender.

“The crime for which the petitioner pled guilty to in Pennsylvania constituted a misdemeanor offense and thus was not a registerable offense under the applicable statute that was then in effect in Missouri on the 28th day of August, 2001,” the suit says.

The suit further states that Kramer wouldn’t have been required to register as a sex offender in Pennsylvania if he still lived there since he pled guilty to a misdemeanor.

The petition filed in the suit also states that laws of this nature “could not be applied retroactively to an individual requiring them to register as a sex offender for a crime committed prior to statutory requirements.”

Kramer is asking that the court find he “is not required to register under Missouri law as a sex offender,” as well as “for an order directing the sheriff to remove the name of the petitioner from the sex offender list for the state of Missouri; for an order providing that the sheriff no longer be required to direct the petitioner to register as a sex offender; and for such other relief as the court deems just and proper in the premises.”

Attached to the petition filed by Kramer is the definition of indecent assault in Pennsylvania.

The documents state, “A person is guilty of indecent assault if the person has indecent contact with the complainant, causes the complainant to have indecent contact with the person or intentionally causes the complainant to come into contact with seminal fluid, urine or feces for the purpose of arousing sexual desire in the person or the complainant and:

1.) the person does so without the complainant’s consent;

2.) the person does so by forcible compulsion;

3.) the person does so by threat of forcible compulsion …;

4.) the complainant is unconscious …;

5.) the person has substantially impaired the complainant’s power to appraise or control his or her conduct …;

6.) the complainant suffers from mental disability …;

7.) the complainant is less than 13 years of age; or

8.) the complainant is less than 16 years of age and the person is four or more years older than the complainant.”

According to the documents, the crime is considered a misdemeanor in Pennsylvania unless it is the second or subsequent offense, there has been a course of conduct of indecent assault by the person, the indecent assault was committed by touching the complainant’s sexual or intimate parts with sexual or intimate parts of the person, or if the indecent assault is committed by touching the person’s sexual or intimate parts with the complainant’s sexual or intimate parts.

Kramer, age 45, currently is registered on the Howell County list of registered sex offenders, as well as the database maintained by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

The petition filed in the civil lawsuit only states one side of the case.


NC - Lockout: Sex offenders struggle with housing

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06/17/2008

When Demarcus Blakely was 18, he made a mistake.

He messed around with a girl - a young girl - who did what young girls do. She talked. And her mom went to the police.

Blakely said the girl claimed she was 15 - "Hell, she looked like she was fifteen" - but she wasn't. She wasn't even in high school yet, an age that made Blakely, a recent graduate, vulnerable to prosecution as a sex offender.

He took a plea and served 22 months in prison for taking indecent liberties with a child, a Class F felony under North Carolina law. After his sentence was up, his lawyer got Blakely's probation thrown out, and he returned to society with a handful of college credits to his name.

If he were any other kind of criminal, he could have made a fresh start in his hometown, Winston-Salem. But it's not easy to make a fresh start when you're a sex offender.

The crime follows you around. It defines you, tells you where you can live and who you can see. Then it turns you into a monster.

"When people see you're a sex offender," Blakely said, "the first thing that comes to mind is he done messed with a child or he done raped somebody."

When states started imposing registration and residency restrictions on sex offenders in the 1990s, it was the monsters they went after. Widespread support for registration laws emerged in the wake of the 1994 rape and murder of 7-year-old Megan Kanka in New Jersey by a neighbor with two prior convictions for sex offenses against children. Legislators across the country reasoned that if parents knew the whereabouts of dangerous offenders, then they could keep their children safe.

North Carolina launched its public sex offender registry in 1998, the year Blakely was convicted. That's when the state Department of Justice began listing each offender's name, address, offense and age in a database available to the public.

When Blakely was released in 2000, state law dictated that he not live in a home with juveniles or come within 100 feet of the perimeter of a school or childcare center. In 2006, he got a letter from the NC Department of Justice.

The state had increased the buffer to 1,000 feet, a distance that effectively exiles convicted sex offenders from urban communities - regardless of whether the offenses they committed occurred against children. Sex offenders have had so much difficulty following the new rule that the NC Department of Corrections recently went to the General Assembly to ask for more discretion in using their own funds to find places for them to live when they get out of prison.

Rep. Alice Bordsen (Email) (D-Alamance) was one of the legislators who introduced a bill that would have allowed corrections officers to house released sex offenders in halfway houses, homeless shelters and hotels.

"In general, the proposal was well-supported," Bordsen said.

But backlash against a proposal that would have set up sex offenders in hotels at public expense jeopardized the plan. So Rep. Carolyn Justus (Email) (R-Henderson) introduced an amendment that would have struck group homes, assisted living centers, hotels and motels off the list of housing options.

"You can't have sex offenders living with the elderly or the disabled," Justus said. "Those are some of our most vulnerable populations, and you can't have that."

What the state wants is to allow corrections officials to contract with halfway houses to provide housing for offenders freed from prison, but unable to return to their homes.

"Most people when they come out of prison go back to families and homes," Justus said. "But we've prevented sex offenders from being able to do that because in many cases there is a juvenile in the home."
- Forced into exile forever!!!

Blakely lives with several other adults in a two-story house near the intersection of 25th Street and University Parkway. There's a Food Lion a few blocks north that he can walk to without much trouble. Blakely, who isn't subject to the more stringent residency rules passed in 2006, never wades into the neighborhoods south of 23rd Street for fear of violating the buffer zone around Kimberley Park Elementary - where his 7-year-old son goes to school.

"I can't go to none of his school functions," Blakely said. "His mother has to do everything and that pisses me off. I'm missing out on a very important time in my son's life because of a f---ed up justice system."

In 2007, Human Rights Watch published a study of registered sex offenders in North Carolina and found that the vast majority did not offend again. More than 98 percent of the 500 offenders in their sample had not committed a second sex offense several years after their release. Including Blakely, who hasn't committed any other crimes since his release in 2000.

Some opponents of sex offender residency and registration laws say they are counterproductive. A proposal in the NC General Assembly to require GPS monitoring of sex offenders who target children would make it harder for them to get jobs and find housing - contributing to the stress that makes them more likely to reoffend.

"Part of the problem is that people say we want to know where they are," said Sarah Preston, legislative coordinator of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina. "But if we don't allow them to move anywhere, they become homeless and we don't know where they are."

Two-thirds of the sample in the Human Rights Watch study had been convicted of taking indecent liberties with a minor, a broad category of crimes against children 13 years old and younger. Most of those offenders are not high risk offenders, and their presence on the registry dilutes its value for parents concerned about protecting their children, according to the report.

"It doesn't actually help anyone if it's this huge database that no one can really read or understand," Preston said.

Blakely was required to register for 10 years, and because he's followed all the rules and hasn't reoffended, he's scheduled for removal from the database in November. After that, he said he hopes to continue his education. He said he wants to work with troubled teens.

"When I was twelve I was molested by a counselor at peer camp," Blakely said. "I know that's a burden you have to carry. That's a scar. I had to go through a lot of counseling and treatment to help me deal with it."

The laws need changing, he said, particularly for teenagers convicted of minor sex offenses who might benefit more from treatment than incarceration.

"Why do you think they break the law?" Blakely asked. "They're going out here looking for love, but they're going the wrong way about it."

To comment on this story, e-mail Amy Kingsley at amy@yesweekly.com


FL - Crist signs child molester, pot grow house bills

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06/17/2008

TALLAHASSEE (AP) - Tougher penalties for repeat child molesters and indoor pot growers and property tax relief for some small businesses are among bills signed into law today by Governor Charlie Crist (Email).

New laws also would permit lawsuits against people who download or distribute child pornography, increase tuition for university students who take too long to graduate and put a 3-year moratorium on the creation of new specialty license plates.

Child molesters 18 years or older will go to prison for life if convicted more than once of molesting a child under 12 as a result of a new law (HB 85) that goes into effect July 1.

It will modify the 2005 Jessica Lunsford Act that now has a minimum sentence of 25 years. It permits a maximum of life for a first or subsequent offense of intentionally touching the breasts, genital area or buttocks of a child in a lewd or lascivious manner.

Value increases would be permitted only if a property can legally be put to a higher and better use. That means it has the right kind of zoning and permits, adequate roads and utilities.

The Marijuana Grow House Eradication Act (HB 173) includes a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison for cultivating 25 or more plants. The previous threshold for that penalty was 300 plants.

The new law also allows up to 30 years for growing 25 or more plants in a home with children present. Owning a home used for cultivating, packaging and distributing marijuana will be punishable by up to five years.


CA - Former police chief pleads guilty to sex crime

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06/17/2008

The former police chief at Sierra Army Depot in Herlong has pleaded guilty to a felony child molestation charge.

William Lowell Harris, 53, pleaded guilty on Monday, June 9 to a felony charge of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child under the age of 14.

Robert Burns, Lassen County’s District Attorney, said, according to a stipulated sentence, Harris will serve no more than the mid-term sentence for the crime — six years in state prison.

Burns said the law requires Harris be evaluated by a psychologist or psychiatrist prior to sentencing to determine if he has pedophilic tendencies.

Harris was arrested by Lassen County Sheriff’s deputies on April 9, and he resigned from his position at SIAD in May.

Burns said he expects Harris will be sentenced in August.


NY - Former police officer pleads guilty to child sex charge

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06/17/2008

Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - A former Cicero police officer and Syracuse firefighter is heading to State Prison.
- How do you know? He's not be sentenced yet, from your words below.

Jack Himes, 68, of Cicero pleaded guilty to a charge of forcible sexual conduct against a child in Onondaga County Court Tuesday morning.

Himes was arrested in December and was accused of molesting a girl between 2000 and 2005 and a second girl between 2005 and 2007.

Himes is scheduled to be sentenced on July 15th.


SC - Gov signs limit where sex offenders live

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06/16/2008

COLUMBIA — Sex offenders won't be able to live within 1,000 feet of schools, day care centers or playgrounds under legislation Gov. Mark Sanford (Contact) signed into law Monday night.

Sanford applauded the bill, but knocked a provision that lightens penalties for sex offenders who don't tell sheriffs where they live. It was one of 29 bills the Legislature left behind when it adjourned two weeks ago. Sanford had to act on that stack before midnight.

"We believe this is a commonsense measure for safeguarding our state's children," Sanford wrote, noting that local governments had passed a patchwork of laws on their own and the state needed to be consistent. "We also believe this legislation will deter sex offenders from relocating from neighboring states to South Carolina.

The bill says convicts can't live within 1,000 feet of schools, day care centers or playgrounds. It doesn't apply to people who already lived within that limit before the measure became law. And it doesn't force newly convicted people to move.

The bill also changes a three-year-old law that imposed a 90-day jail sentence when sex offenders fail to register with a sheriff or report an address change. It allows a $500 fine and no more than 30 days in jail. And, unlike the current law, the change would allow judges to suspend those penalties. State Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, said he offered the change at the request of prosecutors who believe the lesser punishments will be assessed more quickly and without jamming up their calendars.

The Legislature left intact repeat-offender penalties on the registration law. A second offense brings a mandatory one-year prison term that judges can't suspend. A third offense brings five years with a minimum of three years to be served in prison.

Sanford said he understood what prosecutors wanted, but he said "the good of the bill is offset" by that change. He said he relied on promises from the bill's sponsors and others that the Legislature would increase the penalty next year.

Others shared Sanford's distaste for the first offense break.

"I'm hoping he will sign that and hold his nose," said Laura Hudson, executive director of the South Carolina Crime Victims Council.

Sanford also vetoed a handful of bills, including one that would have added special penalties for assaults on sport officials and coaches.

"It is a sorry commentary on society at large when a bill like this even needs to be debated, but it does, given the fact that attacks have taken place," Sanford wrote in his veto.

While he thinks such attacks are "wrong and deserving of our greatest condemnation and prosecution under the law," Sanford said the bill "sets a dangerous precedent of carving out a special status for coaches and officials that other citizens don't enjoy."

Among the other bills Sanford signed:

- Limits on how long administrative law judges have to review and decide challenges for environmental permits; and

- A $500 fine for parents who let unlicensed children drive.

Sanford also vetoed:

- Expanded tax credits for people who redevelop old textile mills; and

- An overhaul of state prison laws, mostly because it contained a provision urging the Corrections Department to place inmates closer to their family's homes.

The Legislature returns to Columbia next week to take up Sanford's vetoes and act on compromise legislation worked out in conference committees.


VA - Tragic Traps: Make a Mistake in America and You May Pay a Heavy Price for Decades

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Like I've said before, prison is a business and business is good!

06/17/2008

Unlucky citizens who fall victim to the U.S. justice system are treated like profit centers to be squeezed without mercy.

Late at night through my window by the computer I can see my neighbor Stokes bicycling at 10 p.m. to the local convenience store to buy groceries. Not only is that an expensive way to feed one's self, but it is the only way for old Stokes to cop some grubs without getting thrown in jail. Seriously. As a convicted sex offender, he is not allowed to be near young women in a supermarket checkout line. Nor is he allowed to visit a park, or even his own grandchild, even though he is not a child molester by the court's own admission. He is not allowed to drink a beer. In fact, he is not even allowed to read Playboy Magazine.

A dozen or so years ago Stokes, now 66 with a gray ponytail, an altogether gentle soul who labors under the illusion he looks like Willie Nelson, (and even has a framed photo of Willie on his wall to invite comparison). Got caught by police in a, shall we say, "a vehicular sexual incident" with a married woman. They were both drunk, big deal. That happens in beer joints. To make a long story short, by the time they got to court, the lady's testimony was that it was all against her will, which being a married woman, solved a lot of problems for her. That resulted in Stokes being convicted as a sex offender, while his public defender all but slept through the trial.

To make matters worse, Stokes had an unregistered handgun stashed in his car. Stupid, I know, but rednecks are often like that, and I'd be willing to bet there are more unregistered handguns than registered ones around here. This may horrify urban liberals, but legal or not, it is the common practice of tens of thousands of people down here in the southern climes of our great nation. It's also common practice nationwide to many thousands of cab drivers, night clerks, hotel parking valets, bill collectors, repo men, single women and god only knows how many others. At any rate, thanks to the gun that he never touched, Stokes was prosecuted for armed abduction for sexual purposes and did ten years.

He's been out for years now. But he was released into an entirely different world than he left -- one that seems scripted by Adam Smith and Hanging Judge Roy Bean. As a convicted felon, he has been released from prison to serve a new sentence to serve time as a profit center for our economy. In truth, he has been one from the day he was charged.

First off, he was a profit center for the prison where he served his time. Now it is fairly common knowledge that America's burgeoning system of privatized prisons, "super jails," and related services has been a boon for corporations such as Corrections Corporation of America, Geo Group (formerly Wackenhut Corrections Corp.) and their investors. Prisoner leasing programs such as Florida's, which rents out prison labor for less than 50 cents an hour to private industry in the name of "job training," make building more prisons an attractive option for state governments and investors. It also makes recidivism desirable, since it assures the prison labor pool. Somewhere between 1 percent and 2 percent of Americans are behind bars, locked up at any given time, and as many more are on probation or under state monitoring. Obviously, capitalist style punishment is a solid financial investment.

Now I am not about to screech here that our prison system is anywhere near that created by Uncle Joe Stalin. We do not have 9 million people in it, and we do not get sent there for being late for work at the factory, our factories having been outsourced. However, after 1929 Stalin's prison camps were transformed to an economic machine. And in order to fulfill the camps' economic goals, more and more prisoners were required, just as more prisoners are required to fulfill the investor goals of Corrections Corporation of America, Geo Group. In any case, convictions are profitable and the more of them there are, the more money both private interests and the state take in.

That in itself is way the hell past just being strange. But throw in the term sex offender and get on the registered sex offender list (which seems to be mostly filled with Johns who solicited prostitutes, though you'd never know it by the way they name the offense) and it all gets really weird. Chilling even. This is partly because of the taboo and stigma associated, but mostly for the bizarre monitoring rules, and the money involved in enforcement. For example, Stokes must pay a couple hundred a month for counseling, group therapy and so on, until they tell him he can stop doing so. This therapy mainly amounts to listening to the stories of more serious offenders, such as child molesters, even though he is not one but is being treated by law as if he were. Such is the fate of being legally shackled to any of dozens of types of "certified sex offender treatment providers," an ever expanding industry they tell me.

He also must pay for registration as an offender, blood, saliva, fingerprints, palm prints, police registration of his internet address (within 30 minutes of obtaining it), and so on with the Department of State Police and the Sex Offenders Registry, providing a new photo, address, etc., for 10 years, effectively the rest of Stokes' life, not to mention registering with the local cops wherever he lives. After five years he may petition the court for relief from having to reregister monthly. He cannot leave the state. He is supposed to inform employers of his status as a sex offender. So he cannot get a normal job and subsists on handyman work. In the end he generates about $400 a month for one post-incarceration entity or another, whether he has a job or not.

Stokes' designated handlers tell him that the system would smile upon him if he would get more formal 8-5 employment, something that could be more easily tracked and taxed. Would that it were so easy for a 66-year-old man in this country. So he replies, "I'm retired dammit. I got the same right to live on my social security, if I can manage to, as anyone else."

Yes, but it's not much of a life for someone who once worked a skilled job setting up lights and stage gear in large arenas and performance venues. Now he lives in a basement workshop of an overcrowded apartment building/rooming house, in a space that is supposed to pass for an apartment but doesn't even come close. For that privilege he pays $600 a month and is allowed to work off part of it off by the landlord as a handyman.

Stokes tells me he could get out from under much of this by, and here's the legal wording, "satisfying the court's criteria for clear and convincing evidence that due to his physical condition the person no longer poses a menace to the health and safety of others."

"You could cut your d--k off," I suggested.

"Sometimes I wish I had," he sighs.

In any case, I am pretty dammed convinced parole is a racket, just like incarceration has become a racket, just as everything in this whole g--d----d country is a racket in disguise, from home mortgages to healthcare. If it is vital to ordinary citizens, it's a racket. But fear is the biggest racket of all. Even our rightful fear of sex offenders gets harnessed to the objectives of the corporate and political elites, woven into the weft and warp of the national delusion we call "the fabric of our society." The freedom loving one that currently has 2.2 million of its own citizens locked up and another 2 million walking around under strict post-incarceration supervision and monitoring.

At this writing there are supposed to be 117 registered sex offenders in this burg of 24,000 from which I write, Winchester, Va., yet only 61 in the surrounding county, which has a population of 73,000. Let me make a wild speculation here and say there may be a difference in the way justice is administered in the two localities.

As if Stokes' needed to catch any more bad breaks, Stokes' situation got worse. It seems he had the outrageous gall to get himself a dog. Stokes came upon a rather large black female mutt recently that looked like she had a little retriever in her, according to Stokes, though I could never see it. She was bone skinny, partially blind, and being neglected and abused by an old alcoholic woman down the street.

That dog, named Beulah, just loved Stokes. He lovingly fed her, and she stayed by his side constantly and obediently. But she kept getting skinnier and skinnier no matter how much he fed her. For a while we speculated it was worms, but I've seen enough dogs to know something worse was at work. Stokes spent money he didn't have on expensive worm medicine. But he surely did not have $150 for a vet and tests, and in a nation where uninsured folks are let to die slowly because they cannot pay cash, there was damned sure no more mercy for dogs.

Mercy too has been privatized and costs money. Meanwhile old Beulah is hanging out in the back yard in a friendly fashion, weak and sick as she is, sniffing and getting petted by all who come her way. Dogs are like that. Uncomplaining and decent unto death. I've had several who passed that way. She was old and getting ready top die, sure as god made little green apples. Broke as Stokes is, this was certainly was not going to be a veterinarian administered death, with a canine Kevorkian attending. And being a paroled felon, for damned sure Stokes was not going to produce a gun and shoot her, which is the way old dogs and other animals were put out of misery back in our day.

A situation like that is bound to draw the animal control officer's attention and rightfully so given the outward appearance of the situation. So Stokes was busted. An examination showed that Beulah had diabetes. Seems they'll get a vet to examine a dog to get a conviction but not to save a dog's life. Whereupon Stokes was charged with animal abuse by the animal control office of our city police department. "You should never have let that dog get in this condition; you should have taken her to a veterinarian!" Now Stokes has a court appearance on the docket for animal cruelty. And of course no money for a lawyer. That's where the compassion of a lonely old man for another sentient being will get you. Smack dab in the jaws of our justice system.

I hold middle-class America responsible for this deformed thing we now call justice. And I've wanted to write an article about the sex abuse crime industry scam in this country and proposed it to several magazines. Every one of them said that sex abusers are too unsympathetic as characters for them to publish. I pointed out that these are real people, not characters in a fictional work. The editors added that they were afraid the public might mistake such a story as being supportive of real sex offenders.

Governments and states exist to control people and for no other reason. If justice is achieved somewhere in the process, it's an added bonus. But control above all else is necessary for modern civilization to exist. Population grows by the minute, increasing social pressure on humanity.

More rules and more control are required to keep order. Order is defined as the way we think others should behave -- or imagine them to misbehave. We support the state's police machinery and massive incarceration of our fellow citizens, so long as they are being imprisoned for the right reasons. They should pay. Every action in a capitalist world must produce money. So they should pay in cash.

I was recently in Minneapolis and spent a couple of nights getting drunk with a friend, an apartment building owner who in his younger years did hard time for burglary. Things were somewhat different then, he avowed. In the '50s and '60s, a prisoner may or may not have worked off his "debt to society." But in these times, he says, "the system demands that you just deliver payment in cash. It's more efficient. But not fundamentally different. Back then, the rich still profited for our crimes more than we did. We stole $10,000 worth of stuff. Next day in the paper we found that the guy we burglarized claimed $30,000 worth for insurance purposes. Getting robbed was a winning situation for him. He made 20K on us."

It's also is a wining situation for the 20 percent of Americans in what we call the middle class -- those actually living the middle-class life as advertised by the commercial and financial state's marketing department. It works well for Stokes' psychologist, his piss tester, his lie detector service contractor, the people with the sex offender website contract, and all good citizens with investments on Wall Street. The psychologist needs money to send his kid on the private school trip to Italy this summer. The contractor providing the sex abuser services just built a summer down on the eastern shore of Virginia. The state police officer running the sex abuser monitoring program will retire in six years -- his investments need to earn another $50,000 in that time. But hold on!

Honest to God, as I conclude writing this -- and I swear on a stack of friggin' Bibles -- a police prowl car and two of the department's animal control officers in a police truck just parked in front of Stokes' place, across my driveway. They get out after rifling through some papers on a clipboard and talking on cell phones.

Now they have walked over to Stokes' back door. He comes out and they sit him down in a lawn chair while they stand over him, hands on hips, lips moving under dark sunglasses. And the neighbors are all peeking out their blinds, watching the cops accost the registered sex offender (once he was on the internet registry, word got around here fast). They are probably looking at the animal control officers' truck and thinking, "Oh my gawd! Bestiality too?"

Anyway you look at it, this cannot be good. Not for Stokes, not for you or me or anyone else less than enamored with the idea of a police state.

And Stokes? As he told me only yesterday, "I'm a g--d----d magnet for bad luck."

No he's not. He's just one more anonymous human profit center to be squeezed, one more grape to be crushed in a grotesque blood and money press that has no mercy.


FL - Deltona takes steps to relax residency rule for sex offenders

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06/17/2008

DELTONA -- Sex offenders and predators may find more legal places to live in Volusia County's largest city of more than 86,000 residents.

Elected leaders here Monday tentatively amended a city code by removing school bus stops as a measuring point from where certain convicted sexual offenders and designated predators cannot live.

"(Bus stops) change all the time, and enforcement is difficult," City Attorney George Trovato said Monday. "You have to research when an offender moved in and when a bus stop was created. (Offenders and predators) could be illegal one year and legal the next. It's just not enforceable."

State law prohibits convicted and registered sexual offenders and predators, whose victims were younger than 16 years old, from living within 1,000 feet of a school, day care center, park or playground. Deltona officials in May 2006, copying many other Florida cities and counties, extended the distance to 2,500 feet and added school bus stops to the list.

The commission unanimously approved eliminating the bus stops and scheduled a second hearing July 7.

About 99 registered sexual offenders and predators live in Deltona, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Web site.

The move was not enough for George Griffin, head of the Volusia/Flagler American Civil Liberties Union.

"The ordinance, when it was passed, created a wall around the city to the point that it might be unconstitutional," he told officials. "While the opening of more places to live is a step in the right direction, there is no proof that the residency restrictions make a city safer. It's time to relook at the entire ordinance."

Griffin suggested looking at anti-loitering laws to better control where offenders and predators hang out during the day.

"I am all for making the city livable for everyone, but we need to be very very careful," Commissioner Mike Carmolingo said. "There are too many young families out there."

Resident and registered sex offender Richardo Maldonado pleaded with the commission to eliminate its law.

"Even taking out bus stops, who is Deltona to decide to add on what the state says?" he said. "When is the harassment going to stop? I made a mistake and paid for it. Enough! Enough!"

Other changes to the city's sex offender ordinance take into account the ages of some victims and defendants -- known as Romeo and Juliet cases -- and the intent not to jail violators.

Under the changes, which must pass the second public hearing, residency restrictions would not apply to offenders and predators if the case involved consensual sexual conduct when the defendant was not more than four years older than the "victim" and the "victim" was older than 14 and younger than 17.

Registered sex offenders and predators with a clean record for at least 10 years since the initial conviction also are exempt from the city code. All state distance laws still apply.

The possibility of jail time for those found in violation of the city law was also removed. Penalties shall be a fine not to exceed $500 a day.

"It was never the intent to send them to jail, only to get them to move," Trovato said. "So, why have it if you are not going to enforce it?"

The changes to provide more places to live could make the city's law less likely to be challenged and overturned as unconstitutional, supporters said.

What they will not do is impact the city's current Circuit Court case involving three defendants charged with violating the city's distance law and refusing to move. A Circuit Court judge ordered the city to pay for the defendants' legal costs and a three-judge panel is reviewing a city appeal.

There are more than 10 additional known cases, Trovato said.


AZ - Sex offenders to get boot from shelter for homeless

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06/17/2008

Phoenix's largest homeless shelter is about to present Phoenix with a new problem in dealing with sex offenders who live within its borders.

The shelter, Central Arizona Shelter Services, today will announce that it plans to stop providing services to convicted sexual predators. Currently, CASS is the only shelter in the city that doesn't turn sex offenders away.

And although turning away sex offenders will allow the shelter to use its resources to help other needy residents, city officials say the change will create new problems. The shelter provides those offenders a bed and an address, which officials can use to track them in the state's sex-offender database.

If those offenders are turned away, many could go underground, where officials can no longer track them. Residents who check the state's sex-predator database will no longer know where these offenders live.

Shelter officials wouldn't comment Monday on the decision, which was to be announced to city officials today.

But City Councilman Greg Stanton said the community can't ignore the problem.

"I think their decision is going to spur a huge community discussion among the state, city, residents and non-profits," Stanton said.

Many restrictions

A combination of factors limits where sex offenders can live once they have completed their sentences.

  • A 2005 state law, promoted by Phoenix officials, law enforcement and residents, was designed to prevent clusters of sex offenders. The law prohibits apartment owners from renting more than 10 percent of their units to sex offenders on probation. Of that 10 percent, only one of those renters can be a Level 3 sex offender, the classification for those most likely to reoffend.
  • The Phoenix Police Department's Crime Free Multi-Housing Program discourages landlords from renting to felons. The program has 1,400 registered properties, amounting to 149,800 rental units.
  • Many offenders can't go home after they're released, sometimes because their probation bars them from being near children, sometimes because their ashamed families won't take them back.

The many restrictions leave few places for offenders to turn, said Therese Wagner, who oversees the sex-offender program for adult probation for Maricopa County. "You can imagine what that does to people's choices," Wagner said.

CASS was the only shelter in Phoenix that accepted registered sex offenders, she said, adding that the shelter has been a good partner.

"What we work for always is a permanent residence," Wagner said. "When they are stable, their risk goes down."

Wagner said her department monitors 20 to 25 individuals at CASS out of 1,800 sex offenders in Maricopa County.

In April and May, the Arizona Department of Corrections released 111 convicted sex offenders. Twelve were homeless and went to a shelter somewhere in the state, according to a DOC spokesman.

Offenders in Phoenix

Founded in 1984, Central Arizona Shelter Services runs a 400-bed shelter and several outdoor overnight housing areas at 230 S. 12th Ave.

It provides job counseling and other services to as many as 800 people each day. It is open to all homeless individuals but does not provide services for children or families except in emergencies.

An estimated 100 registered sex offenders are clients at CASS; 56 occupy beds there. The state law prohibiting clusters of sex offenders at one address applies only to apartment complexes and other residences, not shelters.

Some city officials fear that sex offenders are sapping the limited services at the shelter.

The shelter's plan will have it stop serving registered sex offenders in December 2009. The group will notify the city of its plans officially at a Phoenix City Council public-safety subcommittee meeting at 10 this morning. The CASS board is expected to make the decision final this afternoon.

Councilman Claude Mattox, who chairs the public safety subcommittee, said he is going to direct city staff to look at the possibility of identifying a location for housing convicted sex offenders.

Mattox said it's in the community's best interest to know where registered sex offenders are living. Their only obligation is to give local authorities a location, he said. He believes a permanent address is better than "under the Seventh Avenue Bridge."

Housing isn't the only factor in returning an offender to the community, said Maia Christopher, executive director of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers.

She said shelters don't offer the types of services sex offenders need to succeed: specialized counseling, job support and positive social environments.

"A lot of time people argue, 'Why do offenders get these types of services?' " she said. "If the offender is successful, the community is successful. People aren't victimized."

Accurate or not, the sex-offender registry alone won't keep people safe, said Grier Weeks, director of PROTECT, a national pro-child, anti-crime association. The group pushes for stronger safety measures, such as electronic tracking and hiring more probation officers.

"We've got to stop this charade that because someone is registered, that they're being monitored," Weeks said. "The fact that someone's name and address is on the Internet does not make children ... safer."

The shelter's decision gives Phoenix about 18 months to work out another solution for the 100 offenders in question, plus others likely to be released from prison later. They hope by then a new plan will be in place.

"There's no specific entity that's tasked with dealing with the homeless," Stanton said. "It's not a direct city responsibility. It's something we do because it's the right thing to do."