Thursday, November 19, 2009

TX - Man found in parking lot ID'd

View the article here


A man found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in the Victoria Wal-Mart parking lot Wednesday has been identified.

_____, 46, was a Belgrade, Maine resident.

According to Maine's online sex-offender registry, _____ was convicted of gross sexual assault of a child younger than 14 and of unlawful sexual contact.

Maine state police had contacted the Victoria Police Department Wednesday because _____ was missing and his cell phone had been traced to Victoria, Lt. Jason Cross said. A suicide note was found in a journal inside _____'s car, where he died.

Justice of the Peace Robert Whitaker pronounced _____ dead Wednesday and did not order an autopsy because, he said, the death was obviously a suicide.

"That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing." - Martin Luther King - United States Constitution | Bill of Rights

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved

MN - Job market even tougher for ex-offenders

View the article here


By Rupa Shenoy

St. Paul - Finding a job in this economy is difficult, and with a criminal background it's even more so. At the same time, foundations are cutting funds for ex-offender work programs.

Terrence Blanton's interview for a sales job with a company in Brooklyn Park was at 3 p.m. He got there at 2 p.m. just in case.

At 5:30 p.m., the clean cut 49-year-old emerged from the building. He stood in the business strip's darkened parking lot, shaking his head.

"It's really rough right now," Blanton said. "When I was in there I didn't think it would be this hard."

Blanton is an ex-offender. It's always been difficult for people with records to find jobs, but in this economy, it's even more so. At the same time, foundations are cutting funds for ex-offender work programs. Experts say the situation threatens public safety and may lead to increased crime rates.

Blanton had checked the box that asked if he had a felony when he filled out the job application online. When a woman from the company called, he told her about his record. She said it was OK, that the company accepted ex-offenders.

But now Blanton has doubts. He hasn't found a full-time job in the nine months since he was released from prison, and some consider his crime the worst of the worst.

"It was criminal sexual conduct," Blanton said. "That's something I can never live down. It was so terrible. Even though it was like a drug transaction gone bad she said no ... that night she said no. It was that simple. And I didn't take no."

Blanton was raised in public housing and has done three stretches in prison. His first was five years in California, for burglary.

In 1994 he moved to Minnesota to live with aunts and cousins. Within a year he was arrested on the criminal sex offense. He said he was high on crack. The state sex offender registry said he used a weapon. Blanton spent ten years in prison for the rape.

He was released in 2004, but soon went back for doing drugs. He got out in early 2008, but returned to jail for a parole violation on September 7.

"I was drinking. On my birthday, and I wasn't supposed to be drinking," Blanton said. "And there were consequences -- five months. It was inexcusable. On the day of my birthday I went to jail. Last year."

Now, Blanton's been out since March. At first, he had a full-time job at a supermarket but was fired when he was caught smoking pot.

Blanton said he's been sober since then. He had one temporary full-time at a potato chip factory.

"I did everything -- bag chips, stack chips, pick chips; everything with chips. Gross," he said. "But when you work, it just raises my self esteem. Give me confidence. I'm doing [it] for me. No one else is doing for me, paying my bills. Make me feel good."

He's no longer on parole and the state doesn't require drug tests. He's only been able to find a few temporary or part-time jobs. He's applied for hundreds of full-time positions and has gotten a handful of interviews. Each time he has to explain his past.

"I don't know; it's real hard to try to explain away sexual assault. That's the worst part I hate is having to do an interview with a lady, knowing I committed a sexual assault against a lady," he said. "The reactions vary. You can tell the reaction. It's a difference I don't know how to explain it but you can tell."

"I just try to sell myself to the employer, let them know I am different. I won't, God willing, commit no crime, let alone a sex offense. I don't think that I'll ever do anything like that again. But on the flip side of that, I thought that before, and it happened," he said.

Minnesota has an unusually high number of recently released ex-offenders looking for jobs, because the state keeps people out of jail when possible. It ranks second to last among all states for its population of people in prison, according to a report published earlier this year by the Pew Center.

The report relied on numbers collected through the end of 2007. It found about 19,000 adults were incarcerated in Minnesota. That's 1 in 211.

At the same time, about 134,000 people in Minnesota were on supervised release. That's 1 in 30 adults. The Pew report said only three states have more people on probation or parole.

Keeping people out of jail makes economic sense: it costs much more to incarcerate, as opposed to putting someone on probation. But that means there's a greater public safety risk if the population's needs aren't met.

The vast majority of people on probation or parole in Minnesota live in the Twin Cities metro area.

"Well what does that really mean?" said Dennis Avery, director of adult reentry services for Hennepin County. "Well, it means in community corrections we are supervising offenders who in other states would be prison bound."

Avery said employment is one of the biggest factors in keeping people from committing crimes again and returning to jail, so a job can be a condition of probation or parole.

"A person with a job, a person with a place to stay and a person who's in a good relationship with their family, that's a person I want living next door to me," he said. "I don't want a person that's come out of prison that doesn't have any of those things living next door to me because that's a time bomb that's just ticking and waiting to go off. When you have nothing to lose, then why couldn't you revert to a life of crime?"

More criminals mean more victims. Without jobs, ex-offenders are more likely to commit crimes.

But everyone's having trouble finding a job right now. It's a bad time to need a second chance. Nation-wide unemployment is at a 26-year high.

Avery said unemployment for Minnesota ex-offenders usually hovers between 45 to 55 percent. A study of about 200 people on parole showed that rate may now be at 56 percent.

Sarah Walker is seeing those numbers play out. Walker is CEO of 180 Degrees, a Minneapolis residential program that works with ex-offenders. She also represents the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition, a group of nonprofit leaders and justice system advocates.

"Anecdotally, what I'm hearing from ex-offenders is it is harder to find jobs," she said. "For me it's an issue of public safety. If the message they continue to be sent is you're never going to be employed, there are no opportunities out there for you, the incentive for them to participate in civil society is decreased. And that makes us all less safe."

When someone commits crime after crime, cycling in and out of prison, it's called recidivism. The state's data on recidivism ends in 2007. The recession began late that year. Before the recession, about a third of people with felonies returned to jail within three years.

University of Minnesota sociology professor Chris Uggen said it's probably going to get worse. That means crime rates go up.

"The statistics on recidivism are fairly stable and fairly grim," Uggen said. "We know that a good portion of those who are released are going to reoffend. My prediction would be that you'll be seeing more recidivism in all likelihood, although it all depends on how much support is there for folks."

Unfortunately that support is eroding. Most ex-offender service organizations depend on funding from foundation grants or state contracts. Those usually last for one or two years. So far, that timing has protected many groups during the recession.

But several of those grants and contracts are running out. Foundations are renewing them at lower funding levels or not at all, and state contracts are diminishing.

The impact is being felt hard.

The Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, based in St. Paul, just cut its jobs program for 3,000 people re-entering society from prison.

Sarah Walker of 180 Degrees said nearly every organization that works with ex-offenders is struggling for funding. That includes juvenile shelters, churches, halfway houses and workforce training programs.

"I think really the largest effect of the recession is going to be in the decline in services," she said. "And we're going to see that trend across the board. Even programs that aren't entirely going away are going to be reducing services and reducing capacity."

There aren't many other places for ex-offenders to look for help.

Their families can't provide the support some used to; they're struggling because of the economy too. Many ex-offenders can't go to school, either because they don't have money for tuition or can't afford to stop earning money.

Halfway houses allow ex-offenders to stay for only 60 days. And it's tough for them to find an apartment, partly because many counties stopped providing ex-offenders with money for their first and last month's rent in a new apartment. Landlords felt more comfortable renting to ex-offenders when they knew those two months would be paid.

These barriers leave many ex-offenders with some pretty grim choices: a homeless shelter or prison.

And Terrence Blanton understands why someone would end up back in jail.

"I been through so many companies and filled out applications, and it's a let down to a degree because they say we're gonna call you, we're going to call -- and they never call," he said. "You call and check up and they haven't made up their minds yet."

"You have to really be strong because you can easily say I want to go back to street life and do that stuff. For the most part I just keep pushing. They say no, the next person says no, I just keep going. Somebody is going to say yeah."

Blanton heard back from the company and got the job he interviewed for. He would've been selling knives, but when he started orientation this week, they told him he'd have to buy the knives first, and he walked out.

So, he's still looking for a job.

"That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing." - Martin Luther King - United States Constitution | Bill of Rights

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved

FL - Attorney says Lee County sex offender law is unconstitutional

View the article here
Read the full ordinance here (PDF)


By Jeremiah Jacobsen

FORT MYERS  - A Fort Myers lawyer is fighting to throw out a new law meant to protect your kids from sex offenders.

On Thursday, a Lee County judge will hear arguments about whether Lee County's "Child Safety Zone" ordinance is unconstitutional. Attorney Peter Aiken (Contact) says the law is far too broad to be fair.

"I'm a grandfather in this community. I have two little grandkids," Aiken said. "I don't have a problem in the world with real laws, with real penalties."

But Aiken says the "Child Safety Zone" law makes it too difficult to understand where offenders can and can't be.

"The problem with a law like this, which I call a feel-good law, is it makes the public feel good and feel safe, but it doesn't do anything," Aiken said.

Aiken represents 57-year-old _____, the first person arrested under the ordinance, after visiting a Lehigh Acres swimming pool in July.

The law orders offenders to stay 300 feet from areas "where children congregate" like schools, parks, and beaches; but Aiken says the language is so vague, offenders don't know where they can be legally.

"If you read this ordinance technically, you can't go to McDonald's, because McDonald's has the playground out front."

Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott (Contact) was one of the law's leading supporters before it passed in March.

"The sympathy in terms of restrictions would not lie with the person who did the violating, it should lie with the victim, in the light of protecting future victims," Scott said, during an interview on the subject with WINK News last January.

But Aiken says Florida law lumps all sex offenders together in one category, whether the past crime involved a child or not.

"This law deals with anybody that's been convicted of a sex offense and has been labeled a sex offender, regardless of how long ago, regardless of the conduct," Aiken said.

Aiken says _____'s crime nearly 20 years ago didn't involve a child; yet the attorney says this ordinance is like punishing his client for life.

"A lot of these people are living clean, productive lives, with children, with families. It's not fair," Aiken said. "It is absolutely, 100-percent, not fair."

Aiken says sex offenders are already subject to tough laws and regular visits by deputies.

The sheriff's office says it will let the legal process go forward without speculating on an outcome.

Video Link

"That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing." - Martin Luther King - United States Constitution | Bill of Rights

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved

CA - Threats against parole agent in Jaycee Dugard case prompt move

View the article here


By Roman Gokhman

ANTIOCH — The parole agent who supervised kidnapping and rape suspect Phillip Garrido has been moved to a different location because of threats against him and his family, the state corrections department said today.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Spokesman Gordon Hinkle said the agent and his family were moved shortly after Jaycee Dugard was discovered and Garrido and his wife, Nancy, were arrested Aug. 26.

The move was "due to security concerns that the department had," Hinkle said.

Hinkle said the agent's name leaked to the public, prompting the transfer. Hinkle would not say where the agent was transferred.

His children had to be taken out of school because of threats.

"He had received serious threats to his personal safety," Hinkle said. "There were threats of several kinds, but I can't divulge ... the details."

The Garridos have pleaded not guilty to abducting then 11-year-old Dugard outside her South Lake Tahoe home in 1991 and holding her captive in the backyard of their Antioch home for nearly two decades.

Phillip Garrido was a registered sex offender on federal parole for kidnapping and rape. The agent who was moved was the latest in a series of parole officers who supervised him.

"That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing." - Martin Luther King - United States Constitution | Bill of Rights

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved

Sex Offenders In Homeless Shelter? It's A Scare Tactic

View the article here

Yep, another one of those goldilock numbers!


By Helen Ubiñas

Anybody want to own the hair-on-fire statistic that 50 percent of the homeless men who will use the no-freeze emergency shelter proposed for downtown Hartford are sex offenders?


I tried to track down who floated that idea. But so far, no takers.

Not our number, said Mike Zaleski, head of the downtown business improvement district.

His recollection: It came from city staffers during a conversation about the impact a shelter at Center Church might have on downtown residents and businesses.

Really not sure, the city's chief operating officer, David Panagore, said when I asked him the source of the number. Later, he said his staffers merely told residents and business owners that based on a one month survey of one city shelter there was a possibility that a portion of the homeless men at the emergency shelter would be sex offenders.

If that's really the case, something clearly was lost in the translation because that alarming stat even made it's way into hysterical e-mails from residents who couldn't believe anyone would consider "a facility which the City estimates will be 50% percent utilized by registered sex offenders."

Truth is, I dismissed the figure at first. I was more interested in dealing with the claims that putting a shelter in the heart of downtown would somehow kill economic development. Plus, I thought, who would believe such an outrageous number?

But then I'm watching the nightly news and there's a local anchor repeating it as though it's fact. And I come in Wednesday morning to e-mails from people in an understandable lather about a shelter that's going to be "overrun with sex offenders."

Being the diplomatic lad that he is, Zaleski said city staffers were merely trying to be realistic about the homeless population who would likely use the shelter.

Actually Mike, reality has very little to do with the picture they painted.

The truth is they'd have to be clairvoyant to know who's going to use the emergency shelter on any given night. The men seeking a warm bed on a cold winter night will likely show up a few hours before the doors open. It could be a roomful of sex offenders, I suppose. But it could also be a roomful of veterans with no criminal records.

What we have here people is a scare tactic — and it's working.

If freaking people out over the potential hit to economic development isn't enough, then float a rumor about a bunch of criminals moving into a shelter near you.

Speaking of, another rumor was that the majority of Center Church members voted against the shelter and were still being saddled with it. But the Rev. Paul Goodman told me more than 80 percent of the members voted for it.

It was by no means an easy decision, he added. Even he struggled with the idea. But in the end, voting against the temporary shelter didn't keep with the spirit of the church's mission.

Here's the reality. Will some of the homeless men who use the shelter also be sex offenders? Probably. According to 2008 figures from the Hartford Police Department, there are 56 registered sex offenders living in the city's 10 shelters that service hundreds on any given night.

Should resident and church member concerns about safety be taken seriously and addressed? Absolutely.

Brian Baker, assistant director at South Park Inn, said he understands the apprehension. Housing sex offenders in homeless shelters isn't just an issue in Hartford, but nationally.

In Georgia, homeless sex offenders with nowhere else to go were living in the woods until they were recently ordered out. And in Connecticut, there's been talk about building housing specifically for sex offenders. Except no one's stepping up to build it in their town. Totally understandable.
- Don't forget about Florida, and the Julia Tuttle Causeway, where at one time, over 100 ex-offenders were forced by the probation and parole departments to live there.

But until we find a solution, letting people freeze to death because of misinformation isn't a good one.

"That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing." - Martin Luther King - United States Constitution | Bill of Rights

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved

Postal Service to block 'Dear Santa' letters to North Pole, Alaska

View the article here

UPDATE: This has been started back up. (See here)


The U.S. Postal Service (Contact), citing security and privacy concerns of children, will no longer forward "Dear Santa" letters to the Alaska town of North Pole, putting in jeopardy the town's 55-year-old volunteer letter-answering effort by the town.

The concern is that names, addresses and other private information about small children could get into the wrong hands.

Postal Service officials note that a postal worker last year in Maryland recognized a volunteer in the agency's Operation Santa program as a registered sex offender, the Associated Press reports.

The Postal Service now prohibits volunteers in such programs to have access to children's last names and addresses.

Mayor Doug Isaacson says the Postal Service is "running roughshod" over the city of North Pole, whose identity is tied to Christmas, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports.

"What grinch would conceive of something so sinister?" Isaacson tells the paper. He says businesses and civic organizations in the town of 2,200 gear up for the program every year "when we're able to really demonstrate the spirit of Christmas."

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Contact) has called on the postmaster general to scrap the new policy.

Agency spokesperson Pam Moody says the Postal Service still runs the giant Operation Santa Program in which children can have their letters to Santa answered, and the restrictions do not affect private organizations running their own letter efforts, the AP reports.

What has changed, she says, are the generically addressed letters to "Santa Claus, North Pole" that for years have been forwarded to volunteers in the Alaska town. That program will stop, unless changes are made before Christmas.

That program began in 1954 when air traffic controllers at a nearby base began responding to letters to Santa from children of military servicemen overseas, the newspaper says.

Another postal service spokesman, Ernie Swanson, tells the Daily News-Miner that the letters — as many as 150,000 annually — will still be delivered to the North Pole post office, but he's not sure what postal workers will do with them.

"If it becomes what we consider waste, we'll have it recycled," Swanson, in Seattle, tells the paper.

Video Link

"That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing." - Martin Luther King - United States Constitution | Bill of Rights

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved

UK - Three people beat Birmingham sex offender to death, jury told

View the article here


Two men and a woman beat a Birmingham man to death after he was recognised as a sex offender, a court was told.

Victim _____, aged 49, was targeted because someone at the Birmingham hostel where he was living had seen him on a sex offenders’ wing in prison, it heard.

Dominic Maynard-Francis, 23, Darren Stevens 30, and Rebecca Gordon 20, all deny murdering Mr _____.

James Goss QC, prosecuting at Birmingham Crown Court, said the victim suffered from Huntington’s disease, a hereditary illness affecting the central nervous system which impairs person’s ability to walk and talk, although it was only at its early stages.

He had moved in to the hostel for single homeless people in Mansel Road, Small Heath, in December last year and had been there for about six weeks before the attack.

He said another resident believed he had seen Mr _____ in prison and it was the case that he was on the Sex Offenders’ Register.

Mr Goss said that on January 25 this year the three defendants had been drinking and had been told Mr _____ was a “nonce”, a slang word for someone who interfered with children.

As a result they went to his room on a number of times and repeatedly assaulted him. Another resident living opposite heard his screams and later saw the defendants laughing, said Mr Goss.He said the resident also saw Gordon hitting the victim with a chair.

Mr _____ was found lying unconscious with severe head injuries and eventually died three weeks later after also contracting pneumonia.

"That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing." - Martin Luther King - United States Constitution | Bill of Rights

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved