Thursday, August 28, 2008

DE - Sex offender’s body found in Delaware River

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The body of a convicted sex offender was found floating in the Delaware River yesterday, a day after he was to have been sentenced in Montgomery County Court, police said.

James Pierce, 62, apparently jumped from the Tacony Palmyra Bridge on his birthday, Monday, leaving behind a note inside his parked car. Pierce, who had addresses in Telford and Philadelphia, faced 10 to 20 years in prison on the sex offender charge, police said.

His body was spotted shortly after 3 p.m. yesterday near a boat ramp on the 5800 block of Tacony Street.

WA - Everett landlord won't rent to more sex offenders

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A man who houses sex offenders in rental properties in Everett says he is "getting out of the business" after receiving threats.

Mike Westford, who owns 11 houses in the Bayside neighborhood and whose business partner recently purchased a neglected mansion in the Riverside neighborhood, said in a letter this week to Everett officials and the state Department of Corrections (DOC) that he and his family had received repeated threats.

He said he would take no new referrals of convicted sex offenders from the DOC and blamed officials with the city and the DOC for not educating the community about the need for sex-offender housing and not coming to his defense.

Westford declined to comment Wednesday but said he would issue a statement Friday.

Westford's business partner, Alex Thole, said he and Westford would continue to rent to their current tenants but would not accept any new placements from the DOC.

"We've been vilified, threatened and had our characters attacked. We're not going to take it anymore," Thole said.

Thole called on the DOC to speak out on the need for sex-offender housing and to defend Westford in the face of attacks.

He said the alternative is for offenders to be released to live in city parks or under bridges.

An e-mailed threat was sent to The Herald of Everett on Friday. It did not name Westford but referred to the housing of sex offenders. It said, "Now would be a good time for someone two [sic] sneak in at night and burn the house down with all the sex offenders in it."

The DOC provided a copy of the letter to The Seattle Times but removed the e-mail identification of the writer.

Thole said the Everett police declined to take a report on the latest threat.

Everett police said Wednesday night they couldn't confirm that they'd been contacted about the threat.

Westford, together with family members and Thole, own 11 houses or apartments in one block of the Bayside neighborhood near downtown where they rent rooms to 48 registered sex offenders.

In all, Westford rents to about 200 sex offenders in 24 houses between Everett and Bellingham, according to property records.

Katrina Lindell, the DOC's field administrator for Northwest Washington, said she is continuing to talk to Westford about his plans.

"Housing sex offenders is important. He's been doing this for us for nine years," she said.

Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or

SmartWatch: News From the Smart Office

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SC - ACLU Calls For Independent Audit Of South Carolina Department Of Corrections

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Allegations Of Abuse And Mismanagement Mandate Oversight


CHARLESTON – The American Civil Liberties Union's South Carolina Office today called on state officials to ask the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) to perform an independent audit of the South Carolina Department of Corrections in the face of charges of lax security, inmate abuse and a politicized, hostile work environment. The Legislative Audit Council last week scrapped a plan to survey the department's employees after the department's director charged that the effort was politically motivated.

In a letter sent today to Gov. Mark Sanford, members of the general assembly and members of the Budget and Control Board, Graham Boyd, Interim Executive Director of the ACLU's South Carolina Office, said independent oversight is essential, particularly given the charges of abuse and mismanagement that have been unveiled in the last several years.

"With the population exploding and the corrections budget ever smaller, prison conditions within the state's Department of Corrections have deteriorated dramatically in recent years. There has been no accountability to the taxpayers who fund the system, the employees who work in the prisons or the individuals who are incarcerated in them," said Boyd. "Given the current political environment surrounding this issue, it is clear that an independent agency is needed to properly assess and identify the problems that exist and to begin to create a plan to ensure that those problems are attended to without delay."

The ACLU has received numerous complaints during the past several years from prisoners in South Carolina who complain about grossly inadequate medical and mental health care, involuntary drugging and physical restraint of inmates with mental illness, sexual assault, overcrowding and harsh disciplinary measures without due process. Recent media reports about facilities across the state have also suggested that employee misconduct is rampant and that prisoners are routinely subjected to degrading treatment.

The state's Department of Corrections has been under fire since last summer, when a state senate panel began looking into specific charges that included the covering up of the sexual assault of an employee and the use of inmate labor and prison equipment for fishing and hunting trips. The department has also been levied with a number of legal judgments, including the awarding of $600,000 in damages to an inmate who was beaten by prison guards.

The NIC, an agency within the U.S. Department of Justice which has expertise in corrections policies and practices, provides free technical assistance to state departments of corrections. In order for a state to obtain assistance from the NIC, the director of a state's correctional department must request it. John Ozmint, director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections, is a member of Gov. Sanford's cabinet.

"Utilizing the National Institute of Corrections will be an essential first step toward ensuring that the prison system in our state functions in a way that is healthy and humane both for the system's employees and its prisoners," said Boyd.

A copy of the ACLU South Carolina Office's letter can be found online at:

Additional information about the ACLU can be found online at:

The Mistrusted Male Teacher

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You can think John Walsh, politicians and the media for this.  Now, every male is looked at as being a sexual predator, if they are working with or around young children. Also see this article.


Male Elementary School Teachers Face Low Ranks and Sometimes Parent Bias

Of all the historical gender disparities in the American classroom, one has quietly stagnated for the last 20 years. Men still account for 16 percent of all elementary school teachers, according to a 2003 National Schools and Staffing Survey.

Advocates like the National Education Association have called for efforts to support young men interested in teaching, but sometimes it's the parents who carry on mistrust and sexual stereotypes.

On the popular Colorado parent blog hosted by the Denver Post, Milehighmamas, contributor Annie Payne recently wrote:

"…I was okay with our teacher assignment until I realized that not only is my son's new teacher a man, (wait for it Mitch McDad, don't get your boxers in a bunch just yet), he is also young and single! What's a young single dude doing teaching fourth grade anyway?!""

A similar discussion erupted on a Detroit's parent blog called Momslikeme earlier this month. A slew of self-conscious but clearly prejudiced posts responded to the question: "Do you think it is appropriate or inappropriate for young men to be teaching the little ones?"

Opinions ranged from "personally I think it's a little weird," to men are too rough and "if I had a male teacher in my K-3rd grades I would have freaked," to support for male teachers as strong mentors for fatherless children.

But Bryan G. Nelson, a teacher with 30 years of experience, has heard these inaccurate assumptions, and worse.

"Most people really want men teaching their children, but it does happen occasionally," said Nelson, who is the founding director of MenTeach, a support and recruitment organization for male teachers.

"I had a parent who was complaining and concerned about me working with her daughter," Nelson said. "The kid really liked me a lot, and because the child was liking me so much the mother got worried and suspicious."

A Career Path With High Stakes

Nelson said the mother's suspicion of a perverted relationship was quickly resolved within the school's staff and the mother eventually opened up about being strained and flustered by a divorce.

But Nelson, who took a graduate fellowship at Harvard to study men in secondary school teaching, found that overzealous suspicions of sexual abuse are one of the top three reasons why the teaching profession doesn't draw more men. From his research, the other two reasons are perceptions about men's nurturing abilities and low social status combined with low pay.

"People don't think of men as caretaking or nurturing, which many of the young grades require," Nelson said. "And if you're a single man and you're going out to date somebody, when they ask you 'what do you do?' it just doesn't have the same cache as saying I'm an engineer or a scientist."

Anecdotes of such stereotypes and biases pepper the positive personal stories sent into the MenTeach organization. Across the country men get weird looks, to assumptions that the teachers can't handle potty issues, to reactions form fellow teachers.

"I was about to graduate and was applying to schools hoping to find a teaching job. The teacher asked what grade I would like to teach and I was surprised that she kind of laughed when I told her I wanted to teach in the primary grades," wrote Mark D. Hedger, now a principal in Holden, Mo.

"Even though I had volunteered in her classroom, she acted as though it would be very strange for me to actually be a teacher at this level," he said.

Nelson said his research and experience as a male teacher led him to start working as a consultant to school districts that are trying to restructure the curriculums for male teachers. He believes the identity of children's teachers should reflect the child's larger community, including a 50-50 ratio of men to women.

But for all the enthusiasm over recruiting male teachers, media representatives from the National Education Association and the National Parent Teachers Association say there aren't notable studies or research about the real influence of a teacher's identity and gender.

The Real Importance of Gender

"I really think it has a lot to do with the personality of the teacher," said Dr. Caryl Oris, a consulting psychiatrist for the Sewanhaka Central High School District on Long Island, N.Y. "What matters more than anything is that it's a good teacher and the teacher loves to teach."

"Could you say it would be great if they had this caring male teacher? Yes, but it could be other adults in their lives," Oris said. "Children have many adults in their lives."

Oris said what worries her more than whether there are enough male teachers in elementary schools are parents who actually express their unease with male teachers.

"Children have their own anxieties about going to school. They shouldn't have the burden of the parents' anxieties as well," Oris said. "If the parent is concerned, I think that it is something the parent is reacting to from their own life or their own experiences and projecting that onto the child."

That's precisely what Payne, the author of the milehighmamas blog post, admits to doing.

"A couple of the commenters were put off about my opinion of young male teachers," Payne said. "I won't apologize for it. That was my experience, although I admit it was narrow, from working in the Los Angeles County Unified School District."

However Payne did exactly what Oris would recommend: She met with the teacher.

"I was a little nervous about what to expect with this teacher," Payne said. "But I knew immediately that he did mean business."

NY - Putnam Child Safety Zone Law slated for implemention

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CARMEL - Putnam County will be implementing its new Child Safety Zone Law this fall now that kinks have been removed from the legislation.

Members of the Putnam Legislature's Protective Services Committee consisting of Terry Intrary, Mary Ellen Odell and Mary Conklin discussed the tough bill for nearly two hours last week with District Attorney Adam Levy and his staff along with representatives of the Putnam Sheriff's Department, Putnam Probation Department and the county's Department of Law.

Although the law was enacted on April 28 it has never been enforced since county officials were concerned that court decisions issued on similar laws in communities throughout New York and New Jersey challenging the law's constitutionality would cost Putnam taxpayers unnecessary expense.

Levy told the lawmakers that he wanted to avoid "wasting taxpayer dollars defending a civil suit if it could be helped."

Levy commended the legislators, especially Tony Hay for "starting us rolling on the right path. We can look at our sister jurisdictions and determine what was done right and what went wrong. Let's not repeat others mistakes. A law must be created that adds teeth to the New York State Law to better protect our children and families across Putnam County."

Intrary, a retired Carmel Police officer and resident of Kent who chairs the Protective Services Committee, told his colleagues and an audience of some two dozen attending last week's meeting that the original Putnam law would not stand the challenge of a lawsuit. "Personally, Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders should never be freed from prison. That's my feeling but there are constitutional rights for living in the USA. We live by laws and when our counsel tells us the Putnam law had too many holes in it like water running through a screen, we decided to re-think the legislation by making it tougher to stand the test of a high court after being challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union," he said.

The legislation bars only Class 2 and Class 3 registered sex offenders from residing, working or entering within 1,000 feet of areas designated as child safety zones. Sheriff Donald Smith identified such areas or facilities as schools, parks, playgrounds, child care facilities and other places frequented by children.
- So what doesn't the highlighted cover?  These places include everything almost, like grocery stores, fast food restaurants, malls, beaches, etc.  Guess that covers just about the whole world.  They should be forced to name the exact places, not leave everyone guessing if some place if OK or off limits.

Smith said "Putnam County was committed to protect its children from dangerous offenders through a process that is efficient, practical, and constitutional."

The new Putnam law also includes a grandfather clause allowing a sex offender to return to his parents' home once he or she is released from state prison.

Levy charged that sex offenders "put the fear of God in all parents and grandparents in our communities. Now that Putnam has enacted a law that is practical, effective and constitutional, we will protect our families while avoiding the expense of defending a civil suit or constitutional suit if it can be helped."

© Putnam County Courier 2008