Friday, November 21, 2008

TX - The impact of sex offender registration on the offender's family

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11/21/2008

By Diane Jennings - djennings@dallasnews.com

Much is written about the effect of public registration on the individual sex offender, but I haven't read much about the impact on the offender's family.

One registered sex offender and his wife recently sent me compelling accounts of how public registration has affected their family, which makes me ask, where do we draw the line between exercising wisdom in protecting children and giving in to unreasonable fear? What's more important, punishment or rehabilitation? Is lifetime registration fair or when is enough enough?

I don't know the answer, but their experience, some of which follows, should make all of us consider the question.

His offense, which occurred 14 years ago, involved a 17-year-old victim. He has completed his deferred adjudication, and therapy and has not re-offended or had any other trouble with the law. He married his high school sweetheart, who knew about his past. But both of them say they had no idea how registration would affect their lives.

His wife writes that she quit her job as an educator because their marriage "put me in an unfavorable light...Marrying (him) made his offense mine, because while he may be the one with his picture on the internet, I am the one the public sees regularly...Accepting the job I was offered at the local high school would have put us all on the front page and probably ostracized me from my colleagues as I had gone from "child advocate" to perceived "child abuser" simply through marriage."

While her husband was still on probation and subject to restrictions, her children, "have had a dad that has not been able to attend any of the girls' ballgames, plays, open houses, meet the teacher nights, or graduation."

One young daughter came home sobbing after a classmate said, "My daddy says your daddy is bad." Another time four out of five parents refused to let their children attend a birthday party at the circus with one of the offender's children because they had seen his picture on the internet. Finally, the family tends to keep to themselves because when they're seen outside in the yard, neighbors walk the other way or cross the street to avoid them.


KY - Kentucky Supreme Court Looks At Sex Offender Law

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Court Case PDF File

11/21/2008

Reported by: Doug Lillibridge - doug.lillibridge@wcpo.com

Kentucky's law that bans sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools, day care facilities, parks, or playgrounds is being challenged in the state's Supreme Court.

The case is being brought on behalf of an Elsmere man and 11 other defendants who were cited by police in Kenton County.

Their residences were legal until the restrictions changed. The new law has no grandfather clause, and a Kenton County judge pointed out it also does not adequately define what a playground is.

There is no timetable for the justice's decision. The ruling is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Similar cases are being heard in Ohio and Iowa.


MD - Ex-Lawmaker McKee Sentenced for Child Porn

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11/21/2008

Reported by: Erin Wolfe

BALTIMORE - Former Maryland delegate Robert McKee was sentenced to three years in prison for possessing child pornography.

McKee served in the Maryland House of Delegates since 1994. He resigned in February after the investigation became public. He was also the executive director of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Washington County from 1978 until he stepped down in February.

"Federal and state law enforcement officials are working together in Maryland to combat sexual exploitation of children,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein in a press release.

Prosecutors say McKee's home was searched on January 31st of this year. A resident in the home told the Washington County Sheriff's Department she had found child pornography on McKee's computer. She also provided a deputy with computer printed pages with the images.

Investigators seized between 10 and 150 images of kiddie porn, including photos of prepubescent children.

McKee was able to reach a plea agreement with prosecutors.
- So what was the so-called plea agreement?

Attorneys say McKee admitted to getting child porn beginning in 2004; he got the images through Internet sites and mail order services. The U.S. State's Attorney also says McKee had journals that described simultaneously printing images of child pornography and printing stories that described sexual acts between young boys and other young boys or adult men. The journals also described him reading the stories as he looked at the pictures.

The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse.

For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov. Details about Maryland’s program are available at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/md/Safe-Childhood/index.html.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington County Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore and Washington County State’s Attorney Charles P. Strong, Jr., and their offices, for their work in this investigation and prosecution. Mr. Rosenstein commended Assistant United States Attorney Bonnie S. Greenberg, who prosecuted the case.


MI - It has ruined our whole lives

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11/21/2008

BY PETER DAINING - pdaining@grandhaventribune.com

All felonies come with a stigma, but few are worse than criminal sexual conduct charges.

"Benjamin," who asked to use an alias, became a sex offender at age 17 when a 12-year-old girl stripped in a park in front of him.

At the time, Benjamin didn't realize what a nightmare it would become.

Kids in his neighborhood chanted "sex offender" when he walked by, and he soon learned to avoid contact with unfamiliar people for fear of another charge.

"The stress builds up pretty fast," he said. "Basically, I just isolate myself from the rest of the world."

But when his family's home went into foreclosure and he moved in with friends, Benjamin wasn't sure how to re-register as a sex offender. In October 2007, he was arrested and eventually sent to prison for three months for not registering. He missed both Christmas and his birthday.

Benjamin's mother and younger brother now live in subsidized housing in Grand Haven, but Benjamin isn't allowed to stay with them because of his two felonies.

Most employers don't give him the time of day, Benjamin said, and temporary agencies tell him to come back in 10 years. Without the ability to find work, his mother and grandmother are forced to cover his rent to live with friends in Ferrysburg.

Benjamin's mother, who also asked not to be identified, said she just wants the family back under one roof.

"It has ruined our whole lives," she said. "His life was ruined by the age of 17."

Benjamin has missed out on college and work, and he said he can't even afford a driver's license. At one point, he considered suicide, but a friend convinced him to hold on.

"Basically, the only way I'm getting through are my friends and family holding me up," he said.

Like Benjamin, many parolees rely on family when they first get out of prison, while others are released to the Holland Rescue Mission — according to Mark Kornelis, program supervisor for the Ottawa County Community Action Agency.

Kornelis oversees the housing portion of the Michigan Prisoner Re-entry Initiative, a state program for parolees who live in Ottawa County.

He said parolees must first obtain some form of employment before the agency will find them a place to live — "a sort of Catch 22," he said.

Those who have no place to live — perhaps they're no longer allowed at the mission — are unfortunately on the street, he said.

However, the Community Action Agency has occasionally offered those with no place to go a room at an "affordable" hotel or motel for a couple of weeks, Kornelis said.

James Lewis, 38, has double-digit felonies, but almost all were from his teenage years. He was in prison from age 19 to 32 for driving a stolen truck into a Holland gas station.

He currently lives with a friend in Grand Haven, but can't find a job — partially because of his record. He's also been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a social disorder, anxiety and ADHD. Plus, he still has pain in his shoulder from an accident that happened when he was 7 years old.

Every few weeks, Lewis said the pain becomes so extreme that he goes to the emergency room for relief. The visits cost around $700 per month, he said — much more than he can afford.

"I go to the emergency room and they shoot me in my sides and send me on my way with a prescription I can't even pay for," he said.

Along with overdue hospital bills, Lewis owes around $2,000 in child support for his 3-year-old daughter.

Lewis has applied for around 200 jobs in the past few years, and has gotten several of them. But they've all involved activity, which wears on his shoulder.

Now Lewis is banking on qualifying for disability.

"I heard it was a long process, but I figure that's my last hope," he said.


Press, Parents And 'Experts' Blew Online Safety Threat To Children Way Out Of Proportion

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11/09/2007

from the kids-are-pretty-safe dept

If you pay attention to most of the mainstream press these days, you could be forgiven for thinking that the internet is a den of sin, where children are constantly preyed upon by predators from every angle... especially on social networks. After all, we've been told about all the sex offenders on MySpace and Facebook. There are even a few so-called "experts" who you see quoted repeatedly on just how dangerous it is for kids online -- even though study after study has actually shown that fewer kids are being solicited -- and most kids seem smart enough to be able to deal with unwanted contacts just fine. However, you don't see those stories very often, because it's not as headline grabbing to say: Hey, Everyone's Overreacting! But sometimes it does happen... and USA Today has a nice article explaining that many parents and politicians are significantly overreacting to the "threats" online facing children. As the article notes, it's extremely rare for someone to "stalk" a person via their profile and abduct them. In fact, sexual abuse cases against children are way down (by 50%) from 1990 to 2005, as the internet became so much more popular. So, the idea that the internet and social networks have somehow put more children into harms way seems totally incorrect, and it's nice to see a news source like USA Today making that clear. This isn't to say children shouldn't be taught how to deal with strangers online -- but it's like learning how to deal with strangers you run into on the street. You don't keep your children from meeting strangers completely, you teach them how to be safe.


As Internet Usage Grows, Sexual Offenses Against Kids Have Decreased

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11/17/2008

from the damn-those-facts dept

We've been pointing out for a while that the supposed "threat" of online sexual predators has been blown way out of proportion, thanks to the press and politicians' desire to create moral panics that allow politicians to make themselves look good while passing useless laws. The Berkman Center, at Harvard, is about to come out with a new study that shows just how big a myth this has been. As the internet and things like social networks became more popular, the number of incidents of sexual offenses against children has dropped. Of course, if you only listen to politicians or read the sensationalistic press on these things, you'd think that was impossible. This isn't to say that there aren't sexual predators out there, or that kids shouldn't be taught to be careful, but just to make it clear that the actual risk is pretty remote.


CA - Jessica's Law blamed for homelessness

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Where is all the money for GPS coming from?  The TAX PAYERS!  And those GPS companies are getting rich, so are the people invested in the GPS market, which it would not surprise me if it was legislature.  Meanwhile, the country is burning and going into a RECESSION!  This money COULD be used on PREVENTION instead of PUNISHMENT!

11/20/2008

By Nannette Miranda

SACRAMENTO (KGO) -- Thursday, a state appeals court ruled that Jessica's Law amounts to additional punishment. The law prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park.

This ruling leaves the current law in effect, but could limit its application in the future. Meantime, the law passed to crack down on sex offenders, could actually be increasing the danger they pose.

Jessica's Law was passed to crack down on sex offenders. Now it could actually be increasing the danger such offenders pose by driving them into homelessness at a significant rate.

To by-pass Jessica's Law, which requires sex offenders to live at least 2,000 feet away from a park or school, a stunning new state report found sex offenders in California are registering without any home address.

Before voters passed the law in November 2006, only 88 registered sex offenders statewide were homeless. A year and a half later, it jumped to more than 1,000. That's 800 percent higher and the Sex Offender Management Board blames it on Jessica's Law.

"It has created less and less places to house these folks. So you're seeing higher concentrations of offenders, and you're also seeing higher concentrations of offenders in places you may not necessarily want to have them, like hotels," said Suzanne Brown-McBride, from the California Sex Offender Management Board.

Studies show homelessness increases the risk re-offending, sexual or otherwise, because it leads to unstable employment and lower levels of support.

"An 800 percent increase is a very scary thing. You do want to be able to check your neighborhood and know where these folks are living and take precautions to protect your children," said Nancy Reagan, a concerned mother.

But enforcers of Jessica's Law say homeless sex offenders who have been paroled since the law passed are being monitored by a GPS anklet.

"By the end of the this year, early part of January '09, all of our sex offenders that are under supervision of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will be on GPS," said Robert Ambroselli, from the California Department of Corrections.

Therapists, though, say GPS monitoring doesn't stop someone from committing a crime.

"I think we need to pay attention to the magnitude of what we're asking for out of GPS. It won't prevent. It will simply track," said Gerry Blasingame, a family therapist.
- And it's a ton of wasted money, when the country is already on fire due to finances, and the tax payers are paying for the bailout's, and GPS.  All this money could go into PREVENTION!!!

The California Sex Offender Management Board will work with local communities in identifying places parolees can actually live.

The biggest challenge for the state is how to find residences that not only comply with the 2,000 foot rule but are also close enough to services they need to help keep them from re-offending.

(Copyright ©2008 KGO-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)


ID - Investigating Idaho's Top Secret Predator Panel

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11/21/2008

This is a story about protecting your children, about your right to know who are the truly dangerous sex offenders who live in your neighborhood. But some say the system for identifying them is broken, giving you a false sense of security and leaving your family at risk. There are 46 Idahoans classified as so dangerous, at such high risk to strike again, they're given a special label, violent sexual predator or VSP.

A four person board called the Sexual Offender Classification Board appointed by the governor has the final say in who is or is not a VSP. Kathy Baird who is the SOCB Management Assistant says "they're given a packet of info such as criminal history information, behavioral information and other risk assessments. It's quite a comprehensive packet they review." But what exactly this group studies and how they do it, no one knows. Because it's all done in secret. Even the sex offender or their attorney are never allowed to speak to the board.

And that's all perfectly legal. It was set up by the legislature ten years ago. Since its inception the board has reviewed 91 Idaho sex offenders for VSP status. The only chance for appeal is through the legal system. One sex offender, Jason C. Smith, who is classified as a violent sexual predator, has appealed the board's decision all the way to Idaho's Supreme Court. At the age of 22, Smith had consensual sex with a 15 year old girl. He pleaded guilty to rape and spent seven years in prison. When he was about to be released, Smith was reviewed by the Sexual Offender Classification Board. According to court records, the board got an envelope on Smith about an inch and half thick. Part of the packet included a psychosexual evaluation done on all possible VSP's.

But Smith was never allowed to see the findings or challenge them. In June, his attorney went before the Idaho Supreme Court to make the case. His attorney argues the "secret one sided determination" by the board of Smith's VSP status is unconstitutional. The court is set to issue an opinion on the case any day now.