Sunday, January 18, 2009

GA - Women allege sexual harassment in Fulton Sheriff’s Office

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By STEVE VISSER - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Four women have sued the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office for a total of $8 million, saying the office has a culture of sexual harassment in which even ranking officers engage in verbal and physical harassment.

Sheriff Ted Jackson took office earlier this month, but the harassment detailed in the lawsuits would have taken place under former Fulton Sheriff Myron Freeman, who took office in 2004. The suits name the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, Freeman and various other officers.

Neither Freeman nor Jackson could be immediately reached Tuesday night for comment.

New Chief Jailer Riley Taylor said Jackson, the current sheriff, takes sexual harassment seriously. “… One of the things the sheriff is insistent on is that employees are going to be held accountable and responsible for their actions.”

Jackson, a retired FBI agent, defeated Freeman in the November election. Freeman had won in 2004 after long-term Sheriff Jackie Barrett elected not to run again.

Marvin Devlin, attorney for the four women who have sued, said he is investigating complaints from other women inside the Sheriff’s Office.

This many ladies can’t be lying about the same perpetrator,” Devlin said. “It is not the run-of-the-mill off-color joke. It is actual touching, lewdness and forced contact.”

Most of the harassment took place inside Fulton County’s jail, Devlin said.

One of the women who filed suit, a former executive secretary, said she tolerated off-color jokes during the three years she worked for the sheriff until a lieutenant made an obscene reference about her performing a sexual act.

Miriam Taylor, who is no relation to the chief jailer, said she had worked for the county for 17 years before quitting.

She said while she had personnel-board protection as a classified employee, a lot of the women who were harassed were employees who could be fired at will.

Working at the Sheriff’s Office is like Sodom and Gomorrah,” she said. “The worst sexual harassment I’ve seen in county government is working for the department that is supposed to protect you. They abuse their authority. They do just the opposite of what they took an oath to do.”

WA - New bill would force elected to register

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The Washington State Legislature is considering a bill that would require any elected official who moves into a new home to register, and hold at least one public meeting explaining how they would not damage the neighborhood or lower property values.

Like the popular sex offender notification process on which the new statute is modeled, the public has no say whether a subject can move to a particular location. Rather, it will give them a chance to air their concerns about introducing an unpredictable element to an already existing social structure.

The bill is stirring up some controversy. For example, some advocates feel that it would be too difficult to set up a registration system for existing politicians, and favor making registration and announcements when an elected official moves or someone new announces for office.

Gov. Christine Gregoire's situation could become a test case, as she lives in the Governor's Mansion, When she leaves office and moves back to her old neighborhood there will be a required placement meeting.

One bill opponent wants to exempt officials below a certain level, determined by the amount of votes cast in a particular election. But bill's sponsor Rep. Hans Wascher (R-Kitsap) is standing firm. "Small town officials have more direct contact with people than those in the big offices," he said. "So they are also the most dangerous."

CA - Housing crisis for sex offenders

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This just goes to prove, public officials create more problems than they solve, and just because the voters voted on something, doesn't mean it will work, or is right!



State corrections officials spent nearly $22 million last year on apartments and motel rooms for hundreds of paroled sex offenders, according to a MediaNews analysis.

A study of bank drafts issued by parole agents and addresses taken from the Megan's Law sex offender database showed the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation paid more than $2,000 a month for some parolees and housed others in locations apparently prohibited under Jessica's Law.

The housing assistance, which has been paid for more than two years for some parolees, highlights a dilemma state officials face trying to enforce a voter-approved ban on sex offenders living within 2,000 feet of a school or a park where kids "regularly gather." They must find scarce housing and pay to put them up, or deal with a steeper rise in sex offenders who become homeless and lose the stability that experts call crucial to preventing recidivism.

State and county officials have struggled for more than 18 months to find a suitable home in Monterey County for convicted sex offender _____. They have reviewed more than 1,500 potential residences for _____, 51, to no avail. Judge Richard Curtis denied a request in October to release _____ as a transient, and he will receive a report on a new housing option Wednesday..

A top state corrections official acknowledged that parole agents have sometimes spent state funds to house sex offenders in areas that officials later learned were illegal. In El Cerrito, a parole office has spent as much as $300 a week for sex offenders to live at the Budget Inn on San Pablo Avenue. The motel is within 700 feet of Mendocino Park, a neighborhood playground where small children swing, scramble through play structures and ride tricycles. A corrections spokesman said parole officials realized a few months ago that the motel violated Jessica's Law and now only pay for sex offenders to live there who are not subject to the 2,000-foot rule.

The state has paid rent for sex offenders at an apartment complex in Martinez that stands about 1,000 feet from the gates of John Muir National Historic Site, which sees a steady stream of school field trip groups. The corrections spokesman said they don't consider the historic site, run by the National Park Service, to be a park. Jessica's Law, or Proposition 83, did not define a park or how to measure the 2,000 feet — about four-tenths of a mile. Parole agents use GPS devices for the measurement.

Limited assist

Now, in the face of a worsening state budget crisis, the department plans to sharply scale back the housing payments, returning to a practice of giving limited, short-term assistance, said Scott Kernan, undersecretary for adult operations in the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

"I think it's reasonable we provide that housing on a temporary basis, but we're not going to pay for housing indefinitely," Kernan said. "Those that have been on housing subsidy for a couple of years at $500 a week, we need to ween them off of that. I'm not saying we're going to put them homeless. But if you continue to pay for housing, the offender has no incentive to go out and find other housing."

Kernan acknowledged that the number of homeless sex offenders will likely grow even faster as the state pulls back. Since Jessica's Law passed in November 2006, the number of paroled sex offenders who register as "transient" has surged, from 88 to 1,257 as of Dec. 28. A report last month by the California Sex Offender Management Board, which includes state and local law enforcement, prosecutors and treatment experts, cited research linking homelessness and a higher risk of sexual re-offending. The announcement last week that the state has strapped GPS anklets on all 6,622 parolee sex offenders statewide makes the cutback more sensible, Kernan said.

"It's good public safety to make sure we know where those offenders are," he said. "At the time we started a lot of this housing, we didn't have all the sex offenders strapped."

Rising costs

Critics note that GPS only tracks where a sex offender goes — usually after the fact, because most parolee sex offenders are on "passive" GPS — not what they do there. Parole authorities paid to house sex offenders before Jessica's Law, but the cost has since risen sharply, despite repeated claims by corrections officials that "We are not in the housing business." In mid-2006, the department spent less than $200,000 a month on sex offender housing. By last summer it reached $1.7 million a month.

One result: Growing pockets of paroled sex offenders across the state.

And parole offices vary widely in their spending. A Stockton office spent the most overall, paying $112,600 in October alone to house 133 sex offenders.

Kernan said the state has shied from paying rents that might be cheaper but would place sex offenders in neighborhoods where residents may balk.

Loans rarely repaid

The spending contradicts a state policy directive last year that said the bank drafts are "not intended to be a long-term resolution to the parolee's financial problems," and "shall not exceed 60 days" except in limited cases. Under the policy, the money is a loan that parolees must repay. But that seldom happens, according to the state data.

"When I first got out, they were having me pay it. When I found out only a few of us were paying it, I didn't see that was fair, so I stopped paying," said, _____, 47, a parolee sex offender who has received free rent for more than two years at a Budget Inn in Santa Fe Springs in Los Angeles County.

"They put it down like it's a loan, but I don't know where they get that."

Under Jessica's Law, anyone required to register as a sex offender must heed the 2,000-foot restriction for life. Federal and state courts have ruled that it cannot be enforced retroactively, and a state appeals court recently ruled that it affects only those who committed a sex crime after the law passed. But the state Supreme Court has yet to weigh in. In the meantime, the state insists it also applies to all registered sex offenders who return to prison for whatever reason.

More than 90 percent of the parolees who fall under the 2,000-foot rule committed their sex crimes before the law passed, officials estimate.

Heeding the lower court rulings "would slow things down," Neely said. "Parole has had a complete disaster trying to place these people in appropriate housing situations."

Shift in responsibility

But the author of Jessica's Law, which passed with 70 percent of the vote, said he favored "shifting the responsibility" for parolee housing back to the offender.

"One of my concerns has always been that sometimes Corrections follows the easiest path, and sometimes the easiest path is, we'll write the check out and find the easiest place," said Sen. George Runner, R-Antelope Valley. "That being said, I think, quite frankly, the people of California are prepared to pay for some of this. I think they set a priority when they said we don't want these individuals living next to schools or parks."
- Yep, the tax payers wanted the laws, so let them pay for it!

Several experts say there is little evidence of a link between where a convicted sex offender lives and the likelihood he will reoffend.

Runner said he recognizes problems with Jessica's Law and hopes the Legislature will fix them. Last year he wrote a bill to narrow the definition of a park and measure the 2,000 feet by travel distance, not GPS. But it also would have directed local agencies to track sex offenders by GPS once off parole, with no money to pay for it. The bill failed.

The state board this year is expected to recommend legislative changes to Prop. 83, which would require a two-thirds vote. The state Supreme Court is also expected to rule on a challenge by four parolees who committed sex crimes before it passed.

Board vice chairman Tom Tobin, a psychiatrist who works with sex offenders, applauded corrections officials for attempting to keep paroled sex offenders under a roof.

"I think the department was trying to do its best for community safety, claiming all the while that we are not really in the housing business," Tobin said. "They didn't want to sign on the dotted line and say,'We take responsibility for where these guys live.' I think they were kind of caught between doing that and saying, 'Oh well, so they don't have any place to live.'"

CA - San Pedro woman goes to prison for sex crimes

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A former employee of the county Probation Department was sentenced to four years for sex-related charges involving three male detainees at a juvenile facility.

A former employee of the county Probation Department was sentenced Thursday to four years in state prison for sex-related charges involving three male detainees at a juvenile facility.

Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Henry Hall also ordered Kimberly Hald, 36, of San Pedro to register as a sex offender.

Hald pleaded no contest Nov. 6 to one felony count each of oral copulation with a minor under 18, sexual intercourse with a minor under 18, sexual activity with a confined consenting adult, and two felony counts of contact with a minor for a sexual offense, according to Deputy District Attorney Natalie Adomian.

Los Angeles police detectives worked with the Probation Department and the District Attorney's Office in an investigation into allegations of inappropriate sexual relationships between Hald and male detainees at the Eastlake Juvenile Detention Facility.

Hald was arrested June 25 at her home by Los Angeles police.

She has remained jailed since then.