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When a child is abducted and killed, or a young woman is brutally raped, lawmakers scramble to crack down on sex offenders. Sometimes, the new laws actually make things worse.
Sex offender laws have unintended consequences
Lawmakers react when sex crimes make the news. But do those laws aimed at cracking down on sex offenders improve public safety, or create a false sense of security? (06/18/2007)
Laws based more on myth than fact
Across the country, state lawmakers are getting tough on sex offenders. Researchers say too often, lawmakers depend on myth, not fact, when they pass new restrictions on sex offenders. (06/19/2007)
A better approach to sex offender policy
Across the country state lawmakers are getting tough on sex offenders. Is it the best way to improve public safety? (06/18/2007)
Mothers talk about their sons
Two mothers of teenage boys who were convicted for having consensual sex with an underage girlfriend share their thoughts about the treatment of their sons. (06/12/2007)
The state's report card on sex offender treatment
At the direction of the Minnesota Legislature, a working group of experts was convened in 2005 to develop statewide sex offender management standards. The group issued its final report early in 2007. Here are some excerpts. (06/12/2007)
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
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By CHARLOTTE EBY, Globe Gazette Des Moines Bureau
DES MOINES — Key lawmakers say they are close to an agreement on a plan to revise state laws dealing with sex offenders and scaling back a controversial law that prohibits offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or day care.
Law enforcement officials have criticized the 2,000-foot law for years, saying it’s difficult to enforce. Large areas of cities were off limits as places to live for convicted offenders whose crimes were against children.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers has been meeting behind closed doors in recent weeks to hash out a plan to revise the law and still provide protection to the public.
Sen. Keith Kreiman (Email), D-Bloomfield, said the latest version of working group’s plan would apply the 2,000-foot rule only to the most serious offenders.
“I think the agreement will have the support of law enforcement and victims’ groups,” Kreiman said.
But the plan would clamp down on all people on the state’s sex offender registry and prohibit them from going into or working in exclusionary zones that would include schools, libraries and places where groups of children gather.
Offenders also would be prohibited from loitering within 300 feet of areas covered by those zones.
Under the plan, corrections officials would have discretion to decide which sex offenders would wear bracelets with real-time, GPS tracking abilities.
Sex offenders on the state’s registry would have additional reporting requirements to local sheriff’s offices.
Kreiman, who is chairman of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, said he’s not sure whether a deal has been reached on the package. Majority Democrats are looking for support from Republicans as well as Gov. Chet Culver (Contact) before bringing the package to a vote.
“I think we’re very, very close” on reaching a deal, Kreiman said.
A public hearing on the plan could be scheduled as early as Thursday night in the Iowa House, Kreiman said.
To comply with the federal Adam Walsh law, legislators had to review Iowa’s sex offender statutes to make sure the state was in compliance.
Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley, R-Chariton, confirmed lawmakers were close to reaching an agreement on the legislation. He said if Senate Republicans felt the plan wouldn’t do more to protect children, they wouldn’t consider it.
“We need more in the way of protecting our children, instead of less,” McKinley said.
Oxford mathematician Peter Donnelly reveals the common mistakes humans make in interpreting statistics -- and the devastating impact these errors can have on the outcome of criminal trials.
By Alison Gendar - DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
A convicted child molester was found naked and bleeding behind a Brooklyn building - a victim of sexual self-mutilation, police sources said.
"How he did it? Limber, I guess. Not the work of a sane mind," a police source said.
Sources said that _____, 26, was found in Fort Greene with the tip of his penis bitten off. He was taken to Brooklyn Hospital Center.
_____ was arrested in Suffolk County in 2003 and charged with raping a 13-year-old girl, according to court records.
He pleaded guilty in 2004 to two misdemeanors and was sentenced to 60 days in jail and probation, records show.
_____, who lived in Manhattan and Suffolk County, was also arrested in 2002 in Manhattan for violating an order of protection against his girlfriend, sources said.
Another female, another short article.
By Gerry Tuoti
Taunton - A 43-year-old city woman has been accused of sexually assaulting a child.
Wendy Mello was arraigned Monday in Taunton District Court on Taunton police charges of statutory rape of a child and indecent assault and battery on a child under 14 years of age.
Mello was arrested on a warrant, acting police chief John Reardon said. The charges date back to April 4.
District Judge Kevan J. Cunningham ordered Mello held behind bars on $2,500 cash bail.
Additional details pertaining to the case were not immediately made public. Patrolman Peter Corr was the arresting officer.
Mello is due back in court April 29.
By SUSAN DONALDSON JAMES
Melissa Huckaby Charged With Rape, But Case Confounds Experts
Police accusations this week that the woman charged with the murder of Sandra Cantu penetrated the Tracy, Calif., 8-year-old with a "foreign object" sent psychological chills up the spine of Americans.
- Why? Females are just as capable of sexual abuse as men! Stop demonizing men and making women look like "sugar and spice!"
The arrest of Melissa Huckaby, a 28-year-old mother and Sunday school teacher, on charges of kidnapping, rape and murder also sent up red flags for criminologists.
Women are rarely sexual predators -- only about 5 percent to 15 percent, according to experts -- and when they do molest children, they are more often accomplices.
- Well, I can show you a lot of female sex offenders. It's just the news doesn't pick up on them like they do when a male commits a sex crime. Just look at the link above, there is a ton of female sex offenders.
Monday, San Joaquin County police accused Huckaby of murdering her daughter's playmate and stuffing her body in a suitcase that was found April 6 floating in a pond.
Huckaby, who is the granddaughter of the minister at Tracy's Clover Road Baptist Church and lived five doors down from Cantu in a mobile home park, could face the death penalty.
While rare, women do commit sexual acts against children. Research reported in a 2000 article in the Journal of Sex Research cites well-accepted studies by David Finkhor and Diana Russell that show women may account for up to 5 percent of the abuse of females and 20 percent of males.
These statistics include women either acting alone or with a partner. Only 6 percent of sexual abuse against females and 14 percent against males are carried out by females alone.
They 'Go Along For Love of the Man'
"There are so few female pedophiles," according to Jack Levin, a criminologist who teachers the sociology of violence at Northeastern University in Boston. "There are some, but the ones I've seen who are sexually motivated have a partner."
"They go along with it for the love of the man," Levin told ABCNews.com. "So even when the crime is sexual, they may not be motivated by sex."
The author of "Serial Killers and Sadistic Murderers -- Up Close and Personal" said only one startling case comes to mind -- the Canadian couple Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka.
The attractive, seemingly normal couple was convicted of the brutal 1995 kidnapping, rape and murder of two 15-year-old girls.
'Enjoyed' Sexual Assaults
Homolka portrayed herself as the innocent victim and struck a deal and got off with a 12-year sentence for manslaughter. She was released in 2005, but soon after, videotapes of the crimes showed she was an active participant in the sexual assaults.
"She killed her own sister and one or two more," Levin said. "She was married to Bernardo, but it was very clear after the videotapes that she was enjoying it as much as Homolka.
"But because of the stigma, when people realized she was as guilty as her husband, she was a pariah."
In another case, in the 1980s, Sunset Strip Killers Doug Clark and Carol M. Bundy were convicted of a series of sexual murders in Los Angeles. Their victims were young prostitutes and runaways.
In a particularly gruesome murder, Clark took the severed head of one of his victims and had oral sex with it in the shower and stored it in an icebox. Bundy, who died in 2003, later admitted she had been present at some of the murders.
Today, Clark is on death row and has kept up a correspondence with Levin.
"He blames Bundy," Levin said. "Because of her name, Clark was a hero in her eyes. She timed the murders to coincide with the days Ted Bundy killed his victims."
Female Abusers Often Abused
Women are stereotypically nurturing and less threatening, and therefore images of women who are accused of molestation, like the defendant in the Sandra Cantu case, are jarring, say crime experts.
When women are the perpetrators, they are often psychotic, according to Judie Alpert, a professor of applied psychology at New York University, who works with adults who were abused as children.
Often unreported, cases of female abusers show they are often victims of sexual molestation or emotional abuse themselves.
"Males are motivated by a lot of things, but they are usually not as unstable," she told ABCNews.com. "Men are more likely to abuse alone."
"Sometimes women participate with their husbands and abuse when the partner abuses," Alpert said. "Sometimes a married couple does it as part of ritual abuse."
Most often women have "some kind of grave mental disturbance" and derive little sexual gratification.
"They are either repeating something that was done to them, or trying to understand it, or they are completely out of touch with reality," she said.
Cantu Case Confounding
What makes the Sandra Cantu case more confounding to criminologists are the dual molestation and murder charges, according to Kenneth V. Lanning, a retired 30-year veteran of the FBI and police consultant on crimes against children.
Sexual molestation and murder rarely go hand-in-hand, he told ABCNews.com.
"The vast majority of child molesters do not abduct and kill their victims," said Lanning, who has no involvement in the case.
Strangers typically trick a child into sexual molestation -- by asking for help finding a dog, "but they don't typically force or injure and kill the child," Lanning said.
"When it's an acquaintance, like a neighbor or baby sitter, the kid is groomed, seduced and manipulated," he said. "For a 6-year-old it might be a game, fooling around playing doctor. As a result, it decreases the likelihood that the child will tell anyone about it."
Lanning says police do best when they see molestation and murder as separate crimes, but sometimes the two overlap.
"What happens in some cases and what causes violence against the child is when the [predator] is grooming or seducing or manipulating and it didn't work out right," he told ABCNews.com. "They play games and the child goes along, then it gets carried away and they do something, and the child says, 'It hurts, I don't like it tell, I'll tell mommy.' That may cause the killing of the child."
Females can often disguise their sexual crimes because of the trust that is placed in them as caregivers, he said.
"Women are viewed as a lot less threatening and they can get away with what men can never get away with," Lanning said.
Still he says with the overwhelming evidence about the relative scarcity of female molesters, he often gives controversial advice.
"When women come up to me and ask what is the one thing I can do to protect my child from a babysitter -- and this is a terrible thing to say and people are offended -- I say the simplest thing an average person can do is never hire a male to watch your children," he said.
Naugatuck (AP) - A Connecticut man is facing sexual assault charges, accused of licking a girl's face after she hit him with a ball.
Naugatuck police say 49-nine-year-old _____ chased down the 12-year-old girl, grabbed her and licked her face.
Police say _____ told them he was in his yard when a group of children were playing with the ball last week. He was hit with the ball and he chased after the girl.
According to police, _____ says he has back problems and got upset after he was hit with the ball.
_____ is being arraigned Wednesday on charges of four-degree sexual assault and breach of peace.
And another person who is not on the registry. Yep, looks like the registry did nothing to prevent this.
By Peter Hirschfeld - VERMONT PRESS BUREAU
MONTPELIER – Proposed legislation would quintuple the number of people on Vermont's Internet sex-offender registry and add the home addresses of residents convicted of certain crimes.
The provisions, included in a package that also decriminalizes the practice of so-called "sexting" among consenting teenagers, have drawn fire from the Vermont ACLU, which has constitutional concerns about a registry expansion that it says will do little to improve the safety of Vermont children.
However, Sen. Richard Sears, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said his committee has heard from a spectrum of Vermonters seeking broader access to the state's criminal database.
"The idea is that knowledge is power," said Sears, a Bennington County Democrat.
The bill, which passed through the Senate last week and is set for debate in a House committee today, expands the list of crimes that make sex offenders eligible for the Internet registry. Vermont currently has about 2,400 sex offenders on its statewide registry, but only about 400 meet the threshold required to land on the more public Internet registry. The Senate bill would add another 1,600 names to the Web.
"The idea is that the community would be aware of these individuals and that this, by and large, is not a punishment, but rather a warning system," Sears said.
- Not punishment? So let's see. Those currently not on the more public registry can keep or get a home and job, and once they are on the public registry, they will then be denied jobs and homes. So I call that punishment, just under another name. If you want people more "aware" of all the criminals, then put ALL criminals on the registry. Stop discrimination!
The bill also would revise the registry to include the home addresses of registered sex offenders. The existing registry lists only the offenders' hometowns.
"So many people said they wanted that information," Sears said. "If their daughter is going to a friend's house for a sleepover, they want to be able to check and make sure there's nothing amiss at that house."
Sears said the registry expansion stems from a series of summer hearings held after the rape and slaying of 12-year-old Brooke Bennett. A federal act, passed by Congress in 2006 and set to take effect later this summer, also has given rise to the issue. The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act seeks to unify Internet registry standards across all 50 states, and imposes financial penalties for states that fail to meet certain minimum requirements.
- So you see, more knee-jerk reactions to one heinous crime, committed by a criminal. It's not going to work, it's just there to scare the hell out of everyone, lumping all offenders into one basket, and making the general public think all on the list are dangerous pedophile, which is totally wrong, and is just pure disinformation.
Sears said the state has held off on many provisions in the Adam Walsh Act – notably the retroactive addition of old juvenile convictions to the Internet registry. The committee did add certain crimes – such as lewd and lascivious conduct, second-offense voyeurism, and all sexual assaults – to the list of crimes that would land offenders on the publicly accessible Internet database.
Allen Gilbert, head of the Vermont ACLU, said there's no data to support a link between bigger registries and better public protection. He points to a 2005 legislative study, conducted months after Vermont first implemented its Internet registry, that found "no studies or statistics regarding a correlation between the establishment of sex offender Internet registries and rates of recidivism."
"We've always contended that Internet registries are a bad idea, mainly because there's no evidence that they work," Gilbert said. "They provide an illusion of public security, and we also think they stigmatize offenders, thereby making it difficult for them to be assimilated into society again."
- And I personally think this is their whole intention. To make lepers out of people, so they can continue to make money for the prison system, and so they can exploit the issues for their own political agenda.
Gilbert also opposes the inclusion of home addresses on the online registry. In 2006, two men were gunned down in their Maine homes by a 20-year-old Canada man who reportedly targeted them after finding their names and locations on the state's Internet sex-offender registry.
Gilbert said the practice of including offenders' home addresses risks similar vigilantism in Vermont.
"We think it's a really bad idea," Gilbert said.
Retroactively applying new Internet registry protocols to previously adjudicated cases, according to Gilbert, could be constitutionally questionable.
- If the Constitution still meant something, then these laws would be knocked down, because they are unconstitutional.
"We think it is indeed a punishment and should not be applied to people who were convicted prior to the time when the provision goes into effect," Gilbert said.
Sears said Vermont has received a one-year extension for compliance with the Adam Walsh Act. The state risks losing as much as $500,000 in federal aid if it does not comply, though Congress is reconsidering aspects of the law after objections were raised by a number of states, including Vermont.
- So now, we have the government bribing people to eradicate people's rights. So what is next? Whose rights will be eradicated next?
Sears noted that, if passed, the registry expansion would not take effect until 2010. Technological and staffing shortcomings at the state's registry program have resulted in out-of-date and incorrect information being posted online, he said. The year-long implementation delay, Sears said, is intended to give the Department of Public Safety time to solve the problems and streamline their processes.
The House is set to deliberate on the registry component of the bill this week.
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) - The state Supreme Court has upheld a 2005 law prohibiting child sex offenders from having unsupervised visits with their children.
The unanimous ruling Tuesday reverses the decision of a Cole County judge who had struck down the law as it applied to a divorced sex offender seeking time alone with his two children.
The Supreme Court said the law did not violate a constitutional prohibition on retrospective laws by changing the child-custody provisions in place at the time of the man's divorce. The court said there is no right to be shielded from changes in child visitation laws.
Supreme Court judges also said the law did not infringe on the man's fundamental right to associate with his children. The court noted he still can have supervised visits.