YouTube Video Link
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Click the link below, and leave a comment, I did!
Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek was one of over 30 Iowans who testified at a public hearing in the Iowa House on Monday night in support of new restrictions for Iowa sex offenders.
The Iowa House & Senate held a joint public hearing on Monday, April 20 at the State Capitol on Senate File 340/House File 711, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. The hearing was designed to gather input on a new proposal crafted by a group of bi-partisan legislators who have been working to make Iowa's sex offender laws both stronger and smarter. I've attached a copy of the latest proposal as well as a brief summary.
By A.J Higgins
In the four years that have passed since the Maine Legislature made sweeping changes to the Sex Offender Registration Notification Act, the state has found itself in the eye of a controversy that pits public protection against individual constitutional rights. Now members of a legislative panel are working on several bills they hope will correct problems in the law that have formed the basis of constitutional challenges to the Maine Supreme Court. The answer may lie in a tiered approach that attempts to classify various offenders.
A Portland lawmaker wants to prohibit communities from passing ordinances that impose residency restrictions for registered sex offenders. When the Maine Municipal Association found out about the bill, it wasted no time in giving lobbyist Kate Dufour her marching orders.
"As you know, LD 385 essentially restricts home rule authority," Dufour says. Dufour is working on behalf of the MMA to minimize the potential impact of LD 385, a bill sponsored by state Rep. Anne Haskell (Contact), who also happens to be a co-chair of the Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.
In addition to obstructing a community's right to impose its own legal protections, says Dufour, the bill doesn't seem to provide local officials with any assuarnces from the state on sex offender issues. "Our concern is not only do you restrict the home rule authority, you do it in a fashion where you shift responsibility to the state. And municipal officials are not convinced that there is a solution there. There isn't a safety net. There isn't an ability to address this concern, a legitimate concern at the local level."
So should municipalities be able to prevent a registered sex offender from living near a school or, for that matter, anywhere else in their communities? Is Maine's sex offender registry informative or punitive? Should sex offenders who were convicted up to 10 years before Maine passed its first registry into law be subject to a policy that didn't even exist at the time of their crimes?
- Yes, it's punitive, and no, those who were sentenced before the law came to be, should not be forced to obey a new law, that is an ex post facto law, and the constitution forbids this, period!
"One of the biggest issues is this issue of whether or not the registry is simply a civil registry, or whether it really is a punishment. And there are conflicting court determinations about that," says Rep. Anne Haskell. Haskell hopes the Legislature will pass needed changes to the state Sex Offender Registry Notification Act, a policy that dominated headlines nationally two years ago when a man drove from New Brunswick to Maine and killed two registered sex offenders that he selected at random from the Department of Public Safety's internet-based registry.
Communities became increasingly skittish on the issue and began trying to pass ordinances that attempted to bar sex offenders from living within short distances of schools or daycare centers. _____, a former offender, says those policies couldn't be more wrong-headed. "Prejudice is the only reason one has to ignore the truth and facts. That along with myth, fear and ignorance has been the driving force behind all these laws, taking advantage of the public's hysteria over registered former sex offenders, which by all information available today are the least likely to ever harm a child in the future."
During public hearings on several sex offender bills, members of Haskell's panel hope to craft some revised policy that satisfies the concerns of the public and the offenders. A possible tiered approach to the registry which would attempt reclassify the public's access to offenders based on the seriousness of their crimes is being considered. But assistant Maine Attorney General Laura Eustak Smith testified that a single strategy cannot be adopted for offenders who claim they were convicted of consensual sex as teenagers.
Smith says that's because offenders have differing opinions on what constitutes consensual sex. "If one party is under 14, by law it's not consensual. That's a gross sexual assault, if we're talking about intercourse between two people. Once the youngest party is 16, again assuming no force, threat or special relationship -- we're not talking about teachers and students, doctors and patients, anything like that -- it's not a crime."
Lawmakers on the panel are expected to take the bills up in work session next month.
News Article from the Iowa Attorney General
By LEE ROOD
A bipartisan plan aimed at better monitoring child sex offenders and scaling back the mandates of a controversial residency law won wide support Monday night from law enforcement groups.
But for others - including sex offenders, their loved ones and professionals who work with victims and abusers - a public hearing Monday at the Statehouse was likely their only opportunity to voice concern.
Legislators have said the body could act on the proposal - kept secret until last week - before the end of the week.
"We believe it's time to quit underestimating the public," said Beth Barnhill of Iowa's Coalition Against Sexual Assault, who, like many speakers at the Statehouse, urged lawmakers to simply repeal the state's controversial 2,000-foot law restricting where sex offenders can live.
Lawmakers' plan would maintain the 2,000-foot residency restriction for the most serious offenders.
Under the plan, endorsed Monday by Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller (Contact), sex offenders would be prohibited from entering or loitering near places children frequent. Those places could include schools, child care centers, playgrounds, children's play areas, swimming pools or "the premises of any place intended primarily for the use of minors."
The legislation also aims to bring Iowa more in compliance with the federal Adam Walsh Act's minimum standards for offender registration and notification.
More than 25 people asked to speak about the proposal at the public hearing.
Law enforcement groups liked the measure, because under the legislation, more serious sex offenders would have to register in person with authorities as much as four times a year. They also would have to provide more information about themselves, such as Internet identifiers and the vehicles they drive.
Under more stringent registry requirements, some sex offenders would remain on Iowa's sex offender registry for life.
Said _____, a lower-risk offender who faces life on the registry under the proposal: "You have to be careful of not painting everyone with the same brush."
Most of those who turned up to speak in favor of the legislation, dubbed the Child Protection and Safety Act, were sheriffs and deputies. They, along with probation officers, face the often onerous task of tracking convicted offenders' whereabouts.
"If we could do something this year that would make it work better, that would be great," said Clay County Sheriff Randy Krukow.
Krukow said under current law, he and other sheriffs are helpless to do anything when sex offenders loiter near country fairs and other places where young people are. Right now, the state's 2,000-foot law only prohibits them from living near child care centers or schools.
Still, some scolded lawmakers for waiting until what could be the last week of the session to seek public feedback. As of Monday night, many details about how the legislation would work with individual offenders was still unknown.
"We're disappointed," said Marty Ryan, a lobbyist who represents Iowa's Civil Liberties Union.
"This public hearing is both dishonest and disrespectful ... How is the public supposed to comment on legislation for which it has not had details?"
The proposal would remove some offenders from the 2,000-foot restriction, including those convicted of incest. State officials have not said how many offenders would no longer have to comply.
The new measure would require any child sex offender who wants to visit a school, library or child care center to first obtain written permission from administrators.
FAYETTE COUNTY - The Fayette County Sheriff's Department arrested a man Tuesday for allegedly taking prostitutes from Atlanta to north Fayette County, sexually assaulting them and abandoning them.
Investigators identify the man as Gerald Copeland -- 48-years-old -- a former 20-year veteran of the Fulton County Police Department.
Investigators said on April 20, 2009, Fayette County Sheriffs deputies responded to north Fayette County when a motorist observed a partially clothed female, with no shoes, walking in an undeveloped subdivision.
The victim provided Sheriff Deputies with a description of the suspect and the vehicle that the suspect was driving. Evidence left at the scene led investigators to the suspect in this case, said authorities.
Copeland is charged with aggravated sexual battery, battery and false imprisonment.
Police said more charges could be pending.
By VICKI SMITH - Associated Press Writer
2 FBI workers accused of spying on teenage girls trying on prom dresses at W.Va. mall
Two FBI workers are accused of using surveillance equipment to spy on teenage girls as they undressed and tried on prom gowns at a charity event at a West Virginia mall.
The FBI employees have been charged with conspiracy and committing criminal invasion of privacy. They were working in an FBI satellite control room at the mall when they positioned a camera on temporary changing rooms and zoomed in for at least 90 minutes on girls dressing for the Cinderella Project fashion show, Marion County Prosecutor Pat Wilson said Monday.
- So, will they be charged with a sex crime? If the average Joe was caught peeping on teenagers like this, they would be. So I am wondering, will they be treated special, like they usually are?
Gary Sutton Jr., 40, of New Milton and Charles Hommema of Buckhannon have been charged with the misdemeanors and face fines and up to a year in jail on each charge if convicted. Sutton has been released on bond, Wilson said, and Hommema is to be arraigned later this week. Wilson did not know Hommema's age.
The workers were described in a complaint as "police officers," but prosecutors did not say whether the men were agents or describe what kind of work they did.
The Cinderella Project at the Middletown Mall in the north-central West Virginia town of Fairmont drew hundreds of girls from 10 high schools in five counties. Organizer Cynthia Woodyard said volunteers, donors and participants are angry.
"I can't even begin to put words around what I consider an unspeakable act, the misuse of surveillance by a branch of our government in a place we felt so secure," she said. "Never in a million years would we have thought something like this would happen. We're in shock."
Hospice Care Corp. was sponsoring the event, offering prom dresses, shoes and accessories to girls who could not otherwise afford them. Dresses sold for as little as $5.
Woodyard, director of marketing for Hospice Care, said this year's event was the biggest in the decade the organization has been holding it, with more than 800 dresses on display.
The prosecutor would not say how authorities found out about the accusations.
It was not immediately clear if the accused men had attorneys. Messages left at phone listings for Gary Sutton were not immediately returned; there was no listing for Hommema.
The FBI issued a brief statement, but refused to answer questions. The statement said the Office of Inspector General was investigating.
"The FBI is committed to the timely and full resolution of this matter, but must remain sensitive to the privacy concerns of any potential victims and their families," the statement said.
FL - Ricky and Mary's trip to Florida to talk with the Julia Tuttle Homeless Offenders, and be on the Cristina Show
The lost, the forgotten, the unknown
The day came in a glory of fire over the Caribbean waters as Miami began to bustle in the humid air. The sky lit up like a ray of rainbows as the sun began to rise and dawn broke.
We, my son Ricky and I, watched the sun rise and quietly discussed the Julia Tuttle Bridge and our determination to locate it and see for ourselves what we read in the National news. Part of it may be curiosity but also a need as a human and civil rights advocate to proceed to locate those registered living under this famous causeway and to let them know there are advocates who truly care and find it horrifying how they are forced to live.
As we stood quietly on a Pier, overlooking the marina, filled with yachts and smaller vessels one couldn’t help but notice a few yards away the homeless sleeping on their blankets as the warm breeze offered a small comfort as they slept peacefully in a world which seemed to be so brutal due to the economy.
Ricky had been watching them, his young mind, questioning why we have homeless living like this and were they “sex offenders”? I knew it was impossible and stated to him, as the sun continues to rise over the water, that they were simply homeless men since nearby was a elementary school and Miami law prohibited registered sex offenders from living 2,500 feet from a public school or park.
We made our way back to our hotel room, in a area known to Miami as “Coconut Grove” and prepared for our mission, to locate the bridge and find those under it.
As the hot and humid sun continued to rise over Miami we found ourselves inside a taxi cab with a Hispanic male who seemed quite brisk and even downright rude. We told him we wanted to be delivered to the Julia Tuttle Bridge and his reaction was, ‘why’? Ricky spoke up and explained to him we were looking for the homeless living there to do a story and the driver retorted, “we have no homeless under the bridge,” and then said, “I need address to bridge to take you.”
We were by this time a couple blocks from the hotel and the hair on the back of my neck raised as a bit of alarm grasped me by the man’s attitude. I, again, explained we had no address just the name of the bridge and he seemed to get quite angry. Instantly realizing this may have been a mistake I told him to let us out of the cab and we pay him what we owe and find us a police officer who could be of assistance. Shockingly, he refused and with heavy Spanish accent told us, “You want to go to bridge, I take you to bridge,” and then proceeded to again repeat, “You want to go to bridge, I take you to bridge!”
By this time, being from a small town, and a protective mother, due to the scarlet letter my own son wore, I drew a deep breath and calmed myself. I sensed Ricky’s confusion and anger at the cab driver and told him to stay calm. I then told him loud enough for the cab driver to hear me that we would find ourselves a police officer and file a report since it seemed we were being kidnapped after we asked to be let out of the cab.
This drew the cab drivers attention as he asked me what organization I represent and I told him one which advocates for human and civil rights which he seems to dislike as he continued to speed through traffic towards the bridge, I hoped.
Moments later, we began crossing a long bridge, bustling with traffic and he spoke to us, that this was the bridge. He continued to drive for a couple more miles then swerved towards the side and at this point Ricky said, “let us out here.” The cab driver seemed perplexed as to why we wanted to be at the bridge but said nothing as his job would lead him to another tourist and we soon be forgotten. We paid the cab fare and found ourselves to the side of the Julia Tuttle Bridge which seemed to stretch on before us, like the abyss of the unknown.
We found ourselves in a bagel shop moments later and asked a African American gentlemen if he could tell us how to get under the causeway. At first he didn’t answer and looked at us with curiosity and then asked Ricky, “Why do you want to go under the bridge?”
Ricky explained to him we were looking for the homeless registered sex offenders who are reported to be living there and we were with a organization called ‘SOSEN’.
The bagel shop worker informed us “if” there were any homeless under the bridge then it is back at the other end, not here where the cab driver delivered us. He said we could walk back across the bridge and find some street but warned us it be a long walk. We thanked him and stepped back outside to figure out our next move. Ricky commented to me it was a long walk back across and worried we be hit by traffic or harassed by police for walking along the interstate.
So we began to walk in the area and ask others who were busy walking or waiting at the public bus signs how we get under the bridge from this side? Many were unsure, some were curious why ‘we’ wanted to get under the bridge and others blatantly ignored us as some pesky tourists who had a fetish for a bridge.
Finally, Ricky left me on the sidewalk and hopped onto a bus to ask a public transit driver. They told him to catch bus 120 back across the bridge. So we stood there and waited. Bus 120 came and the lady transit driver told us she indeed would go back to the other side and to come aboard. We did, thankful for the moment respite from the heavy humidity which seem to be so oppressive since our arrival on the plane the day before. The bus was full to capacity so Ricky and I held onto a bar as the bus lurch forward but then a gentleman moved and offered me his seat so I would not lose my balance easily.
We, within minutes, were back on the other side of the bridge so we left the coolness of the bus and thanked the driver for her assistance. As we began to look around we found ourselves near a public park where many were walking their dogs. We proceeded to the park, and began walking towards the bridge which you could see before us. However, Ricky quickly realized due to a fence we had no access and so we trekked back to where the bus deposited us.
Here, we ran into another gentleman and asked him how to get under the bridge to locate the homeless and he told us there were none that Floridians do not put their people under bridges. We assured him there were homeless there but he wandered off with his dog continuing on their morning walk, unconcerned at the thought of homeless people living under a bridge within site.
We found ourselves frustrated at how no one seemed to be aware of the homeless under the bridge, sensing some knew and just didn’t seem to care as it had no effect on their life in the busy bustle of Miami. We were hot, tired and thirsty at this point but we continued on, determined to find these men and see for ourselves this famous Julia Tuttle Causeway.
Again, we continued to ask around on how to get under the bridge and finally a British guy was walking his Great Dane and he told us we have to walk along the bridge and climb over the guardrail and hike down the side. He warned us it was a couple miles hike back and felt since I was a woman and a youthful son we should be careful. Finally, we had a idea of how to find the men and directions to get there. Excitement raced through me, as we turned and headed for the actual famous Julia Tuttle Bridge and the unknown.
As we began the walk across the bridge, with traffic racing by us, almost like we were invisible, a feeling of unease settled over me, not because we were going to the bridge, but because we were Hiking along the interstate fearing Miami police would stop us in violation of some law.
The Julia Tuttle Bridge seemed endless before us, as we walked along the hot pavement of the interstate, the sun beating down upon our heads, the humidity pressing in on us making us sweat. Time passed, seemingly as we continued to walk until finally we stopped at the guard rail, Ricky noting there was a path leading down below.
After helping me over the rail, We began slowly to descend the side of the bridge, Ricky noted carpets and blankets as well as trash along the path. The ground was moist and muddy and a few times I lost my footing and slipped but we continued on our mission to find the homeless offenders.
At the bottom we saw a couple men fishing from a little pond and they simply stared at us but said nothing. We said hello and continued on, unsure if they were part of the colony we sought out. As we kept on, we came to the bridge, we saw a sign painted in black on the bridge pillars which read, “We R not monsters,” and first happened upon a Hispanic male who could not speak English but his girlfriend interpreted for us. We did not want to offend anyone and made this clear to her and she told us the camp was empty as most of the men were gone. We were welcome to take pictures but obviously they asked us to respect others who were farther up the bridge and we promised to respect their privacy.
We moved farther back under the bridge we came across many tents and carpets where these men were forced to live. We found a camper and wondered if the ‘woman’ offender we read about in a previous week’s news article was there. As we continued our photo shots, we came across another young offender who was sitting in his car with a young woman. We quickly learned his name is Bryan and the woman was his wife who also lived under the bridge. I remember thinking of the concern for the lone woman offender here and yet it appeared there were other women living here.
As we talked, Bryan told us of his story and how he at age 19 was falsely accused of rape and even the police stated they thought the woman lied. I asked him if the Prosecutor had DNA evidence and he said no they literally told him if he did not take a plea bargain of five years probation then he would lose a jury trial and be sentenced to fifteen years. He had a public defender.
We took a photo with Bryan in front of the sign, “We R not monsters,” and again discussed the colony these men and their girlfriends and wives were being forced to live. I asked him about the woman offender and he was not aware of her and said if she had been there its possible she had been removed. We went to the camper where we were told a man named Marcos lived and knocked but he did not answer so we again moved back to Bryan’s car.
He told us how “Rocky” was fighting to get them help and get them from under the bridge and how his wife and him prayed soon they be free from living like this. He then showed me his GPS monitor and I asked him how much it cost and he replied, “seven dollars a day.” How does one pay for this with no job? No home? Bryan said he feared being violated since he could not afford the costs of probation such as treatment, probation fees and GPS monitoring. He went on, along with his wife, to tell us how he use to work in construction and did well but last year they lost their job. His wife had a apartment but Bryan could not live there and she, bravely and courageously, chose to be with him in the colony.
Bryan’s wife was quiet but there was a sweetness about her and I learned she was only 20. She had been dating Bryan when this happened and decided to stand by him in the name of love. I said nothing but could sense tiredness about this young woman and how living under the bridge was taking its toll on her. Ricky, seemed to sense this too, as he told her he hoped he could find a woman to love him so unconditionally, to stand beside him even when his own country and people treat him like a pariah of society, and he was honored to have met her.
Our words seemed to surprise Bryan’s wife and she thanked us in her quiet voice. She began to open up a bit to me as Ricky and Bryan again walked around looking at things and she mentioned how it seemed no one cared about them. She repeated what the sign says, “We R not monsters,” and I assured her there are thousands of people across this once great country who do care and we seek help for them. I would not give up on her and Bryan once I left the bridge and returned home. She had my word.
Bryan and Ricky came back and he asked me if I knew who slept on the carpet next to him? I obviously had no clue and he then preceded to tell us that piece of rug belonged to a 18 year old boy. I was shocked, stunned and horrified at this thought and it smacked me, like the humidity this could easily be my Ricky. The mother in me questioned to myself where in the hell are these kids parents? Where are the families who should be outraged at how their loved ones are being treated worse than animals and forced to live under a hot, damp bridge with no running water or toilets available?
I turned to Bryan and asked him what do you all do with your trash? He told us it was piled over in a burn pile even though they were not to burn trash. Another hardship on the men and women under the bridge which caused unsanitary conditions. This then led me to ask where they use the bathroom at. Bryan pointed to some Palm Trees and said they go behind there and were careful not to be charged with a second sex crime of ‘indecent exposure’.
As we spoke to Bryan the heat continued to be oppressive and I began to feel faint and ill. Bryan and his wife immediately started their car and turned on the air and placed me in the backseat. They offered to take us back to the hotel and we greatfully accepted.
Within minutes we were on our way back to the hotel and Bryan and his wife were kind and considerate towards my son and I. The cool air was refreshing and by the time we were back in our room I was feeling much better.
As we sat there preparing for the Cristina show I pondered over the events of the day and realized those registered offenders under the bridge are truly ostracized from the community and are the lost, the forgotten and the unknown to the world.
We may read articles in National News about those being forced to live under the bridge but nothing compares to being there and experiencing the conditions these men and women deal with daily.
The questions which reverberates through my mind is:
- How can this be in a country called the United States?
- Is this the catalyst for more violations of human and civil rights as more states pass legislation regarding residency laws?
- Is this colony of registered sex offenders the future of all offenders across this once great land?
Days has passed since our return home and one thing which remains is the desperation and tragedy of Bryans voice as his future is that of the Julia Tuttle Causeway. Is there anyway for me as a mother, a advocate and a human to help these men and women?
Daily I work with many who suffer because of these laws and yet should my son and I be thankful we do not live under a bridge? Will this day come?
We realize now as we are back home in our trailer with running water and food, a warm bed to sleep in that maybe, even though these laws are destroying our lives and my family is the collateral damage, that we should be thankful for the small blessings we have.
These include; a group of advocates and friends who care, a home and, most of all, we have each other.
Indeed it’s the small blessings we should be thankful for.
Ricky and Mary on the Cristina Show (Link) 04-06-2009
Sex Offenders Under the Causeway
A Mother's Love
Monsters of Miami
By JEFF GREEN
AKRON — The 9th District Court of Appeals yesterday upheld a state sex offender registration and notification law that is being challenged by four Lorain County men.
The men argued the Adam Walsh Act is unconstitutional as applied retroactively to those who were first classified under an earlier version of the law.
The new law, which took affect last year, automatically classifies offenders in one of three tiers by their crime without considering the likelihood of whether they would reoffend. The law applies retroactively to offenders, many of whom were nearly finished with their reporting requirements under the old law.
Ruling on a lawsuit from _____, _____, _____ and _____, a visiting judge deemed that the law's residency restrictions — prohibiting offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school — are unconstitutional. The Lorain County prosecutor's office appealed the ruling and the men's attorney cross-appealed, looking to deem the entire law unconstitutional.
The 9th District court sided with prosecutors, stating the men could not challenge the residency restrictions because they were not affected by them, as their homes were not located within 1,000 feet of a school. The court's ruling also stated sexual offenders only have a case if they can show they were deprived of a protected liberty or property interest as a result of the registration requirement, which they had not done.
The 9th District cited Ohio Supreme Court decisions that stated felons have no right to expect their conduct will not thereafter be made the subject of legislation.
Attorney Jack Bradley, who represents the men, said he will review the decision and decide if they have a right to appeal to the high court, which he does not believe has made a final ruling on the Adam Walsh Act. Bradley, who represents about 50 offenders who are challenging the law, said their case could possibly be consolidated with other similar cases.
California thinks it has found a way to deal with recidivist paedophiles by putting them in a comfortable mental hospital. Indefinitely. But is this the answer, asks Louis Theroux.
I'd been at Coalinga a couple of days when Mr Rigby showed me his dormitory. He'd been a high school sports coach before being convicted of molesting some of his students.
He told me he was a great appreciator of the male physical form.
Above his bed were photos of classical statues of male nudes. These gave me pause, since I knew some paedophiles like to justify their proclivities by citing the ancient Greeks' famous enthusiasm for pederasty.
There was also a reproduction of a painting of young male ballet dancers, which had a definite erotic overtone. I asked one of Mr Rigby's social workers, who was standing by, if it was okay for patients to have mildly sexual imagery on their walls, especially since it seemed to me it was in the area of the patient's offences. He said it was - "as long as they're of age".
Mr Rigby's room, which he shared with three other men, was airy and spacious. There was a large window with no bars on it. Mr Rigby had told me he was married with two sons, but that he'd also been in a physical relationship with another of the men at Coalinga, who was also a child molester.
This too, apparently, was not in violation of hospital rules. Mr Rigby's therapists told me he'd been making good progress in his rehabilitation. In theory, if he carried on with counselling and group sessions, he might be back outside in less than a year.
One of the striking things about Coalinga, given that it houses 800 or so sex offenders, is how nice everything is. There is a large open indoor area - called "the mall" for its resemblance to a shopping mall - with a barbers shop and a cafe and a small library.
You can spend time in the well-appointed gymnasium, where loud music plays over an indoor tennis court and a variety of exercise machines. You can drop in on an art therapy class or visit the music centre. All in all, you'd be forgiven for thinking it might be the newly built premises of a posh boarding school.
In fact, Coalinga is something quite different - a maximum security hospital containing some of the state of California's more serious paedophiles and rapists.
Coalinga is the flagship of a relatively new programme created in response to public anxiety about the release of sexual predators from prison. All the men at Coalinga have completed their custodial terms, but instead of being released they've been diagnosed as mentally ill, and locked up again - this time indefinitely and not in prison but in hospital.
The niceness of the surroundings at Coalinga is part of the package. The patients are not there to be punished. They have had their punishment in prison. The purpose of Coalinga is to try to make them mentally well.
In a sense, in creating Coalinga and other Civil Commitment Centres, the authorities have exploited a legal loophole. The public demanded that the state should lock up sex offenders for longer. But since they've done their time, the only way to keep them confined past their sentences is by hospitalising them.
On the one hand, the patients are legally classified as "sexually violent predators". They are behind high barbed-wire fences in a remote area of California.
On the other hand, the staff treat the patients with an occasionally over-the-top decorousness. The approved term for the confined men is "individuals", since the word "patients" is considered demeaning. In conversation, they are called "Mr".
No one can leave, but otherwise, the rules are surprisingly relaxed. Patients can vote in elections - one mentally ill rapist, who'd amputated his own toe in a protest against hospital policy, told me he'd voted for Obama. They can view pornography. There are no rules against watching TV shows with children in them or receiving DVDs on a children's theme.
One of the ways the hospital tries to foster a healthy ambience is by allowing regular social events. One night I attended the Coalinga Halloween party. I was treated to the surreal scene of 15 or so serious sex offenders singing the theme tune to the Addams Family. The following week was a talent show - billed as "Coalinga Idol".
The therapists and social workers have their work cut out for them. Using therapy to overcome phobias, anxiety, and addiction, is one thing. But the men at Coalinga are some way beyond that.
Though no consensus exists as to whether paedophilia is genetic or environmental in origin, therapists at Coalinga agree that it can't really be cured. There is evidence to suggest that a sexual attraction to children may be an "orientation" and no easier to reprogramme in a person than, say, heterosexuality.
For the patients involved in therapy, their time at Coalinga is a regimen of group meetings and counselling - something like a twelve-step recovery programme for alcoholism. Those in the early stages of recovery make a full account of their sexual offences, including those never reported to the authorities.
They learn to acquire a sense of empathy for their victims. They also monitor their ongoing thoughts and learn techniques for redirecting their thinking away from areas that are likely to lead to fantasising in unhealthy ways. The therapists challenge their "cognitive distortions" or delusions - the big one being that children actually want sex with adults.
Patients have lie detector tests and a form of sexual test called a plethysmograph. This is a device which is put around the subject's penis to measure his sexual arousal as he's shown a variety of images.
Some are pornographic images of consenting adults, while some are deviant such as violent sex or suggestive images of children eating fruit and running around in bathing costumes. Then there are non-suggestive images to establish a baseline of non-arousal (photos of the Canadian city of Toronto).
At least one of the men I met, Mr Lamb, gave the impression of being a reformed character.
In his late forties, he had been an inveterate molester of teenaged boys, some of them playmates of his two young daughters.
He admitted that even prison hadn't shaken him out of his old ways and said he'd only begun to change on the Sexually Violent Predator programme. He valued the therapy, but said the turning point for him was being castrated, which freed him from intrusive paedophilic thoughts. Castrations are not part of the therapy at Coalinga, but patients can volunteer for them.
One of the first men I spoke to at Coalinga was Mr Price, an ageing Vietnam vet with an extensive history of abusing small girls, many of whom he met through his local church where he taught Sunday school.
Mr Price was deeply committed to his therapy programme, keeping tabs on his own thoughts by "journaling" at great length in a notebook. He repeatedly deplored his own offences.
But the main problem Coalinga faces is that the vast majority of patients are refusing any kind of treatment. This is mostly because they feel they shouldn't have been sent to Coalinga in the first place.
They feel that they aren't mentally ill, that they committed crimes, for which they've done their time, and that they should no longer be locked up. They view the therapy programme as a charade, designed to keep them locked up indefinitely.
I spoke to several men not involved in therapy. They were indignant at the idea that they might have psychiatric problems. When I asked one, Mr Yahn, if he had considered treatment, he said: "Would you get treatment for a headache?".
Another patient, trying to excuse his transgressions, blamed the fact that he'd molested children on an alcohol problem - as though paedophilia was something anyone might be capable of, given a few too many drinks.
Men like these are clearly damaged. But one part of the argument is on their side. The record shows that in the more than 10 years the SVP programme has existed, of the hundreds that have come to Coalinga, only 13 have ever graduated and left the hospital through the therapy route.
And so there is a kind of stand-off at Coalinga - with mistrustful patients arrayed against a therapeutic establishment. Despite the therapeutic language and the kindly atmosphere, for the vast majority of men at Coalinga, the hospital might as well be a prison or a warehouse or indeed a pod in outer space for all the good it's doing them.
American taxpayers are funding a lavishly appointed hospital in which hundreds of child molesters and rapists can idle their days away. The annual cost to keep one person at Coalinga is about $200,000. Multiply that by the 1,500 men who would be in the hospital at full occupancy.
Whatever the hopes nurtured for the hospital as a therapeutic institution, it has become a well-upholstered holding pen for keeping America's least wanted out of sight. The men can vote, take tennis lessons, watch their porn videos, throw parties, have sex with other men at the hospital, play bass in a jazz combo. They just can't leave.
More states have signed up to the Coalinga model - including, recently, New York. If a lifelong country club-style internment is the price of keeping paedophiles off the streets, many appear to be willing to pay it.