Thursday, December 24, 2009

MI - Plainfield Twp. officials under fire

Original Article

12/23/2009

By Jessica Leffler

Some residents question how _____ was handled

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP - Plainfield residents angry about former township assistant clerk and firefighter _____ have launched their own investigation, 24 Hour News 8 learned Wednesday.

The controversy revolves around the township allowing _____, a convicted sex offender, to serve as a firefighter and work in the township office.

"Those are things that are very disconcerting to citizens in Plainfield Township," said Traci Kornak, a Plainfield Township resident and mother.

Although he is out on bond on new criminal charges after his arrest for soliciting two teenage boys online, it is his past that has residents upset.

Kornak and others are upset about _____' first conviction, in 1995, for a sex crime against a boy younger than age 13. Many have wondered: Why didn't that stop _____ from working for the township?

"As to discipline and those types of things, those are things that I would defer to elected leadership to take care of, but apparently, we don't have any elected leadership here in Plainfield Township," Kornak said.

She came to the Plainfield Township Board of Trustees meeting Monday night.

Fire chief David Peterson and Township Manager Robert Homan say they knew about _____' previous conviction. He was not released from his position until a new investigation was launched regarding the solicitation of the minors on Facebook.

But Plainfield Township clerk Scott Harvey said although _____ worked in his office, he had no idea about his past.

"My conscience was shocked the first time we came in and the chief told me what he knew from 1995," Harvey said.

The board of trustees decided unanimously Monday not to discipline Homan or Peterson.

"The chief made the decision, the chief said he made the decision," Harvey said. "The chief was trying to keep everything else in line to make sure nothing else happened. Unfortunately, something else did happen."

Kornak filed multiple Freedom of Information Act requests with the township to obtain several documents, including the police report from the 1995 criminal sexual conduct complaint, _____' registry on the sex offender list and a character reference letter from Peterson for _____ in April and May 1997.

There also are speeding tickets for _____ and a memorandum that states he drove an ambulance after attending a fire banquet in February 1998 after drinking alcohol -- enough alcohol to get a ride home from the banquet. _____ later admitted responsibility and said he used "bad judgment" by responding to the call and driving a township ambulance.

Residents and parents are outraged, and say this violates hiring policies for the Plainfield Fire Department. They argue those who knew about _____' past should be held responsible.

"This issue is not going away until they take responsibility for their actions and they hold the others accountable for their failure to take action that (is) appropriate under the circumstances and within their own guidelines," Kornak said.

24 Hour News 8 attempted to contact Peterson for comment, but were told by firefighters at the station he is on vacation.

Homan says he knew about _____' past and his status on the sex offender registry, but at the time of his hire, there was no policy or requirement to take action.

Plainfield Township does not have a policy that requires criminal background checks for all new hires, but that is something Homan says the township is investigating and will likely enact soon.

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IA - 9 treating state's sex offenders lose jobs

Original Article

Why is it, that most lay offs are done around Christmas? That is just mean and cruel IMO.

12/24/2009

By JENNIFER JACOBS

The Iowa prison system's only sex offender treatment program will lose eight of its 13 counselors and its only social worker to layoffs next month.

Inmates who have molested children, raped women and committed other sex crimes will not get treatment as quickly or as intensively, and some might be released without any rehabilitation, according to staff at the prison in Mount Pleasant.

The program will shrink considerably in mid-January, Warden Ron Mullen said. Already, there is a long waiting list for the 300-bed program.

"We're going to do as much as we can with the resources we have left," Mullen said.

All of the program's counselors fall under the Iowa United Professionals labor union, the only public employee union that declined to accept unpaid days off to address the state's budget crisis.

Bradley Hoenig, one of the five counselors who will keep his job, believes some inmates will be released before getting adequate therapy.

"Not only that," Hoenig said, "I think there will be some medium- and high-risk individuals walking out without any treatment."

The Iowa Board of Parole is usually reluctant to give early parole to sex offenders who have had no treatment, but those who reach the end of their sentences must be released even if they have not received treatment.

Gail Huckins, director of the sex offender treatment program, said Tuesday the staff will have to redesign the program, possibly by shortening treatment.

"We certainly don't have all the answers today," she said.

Sex offenders from throughout Iowa's prison system are sent to Mount Pleasant for treatment. Counselors work to teach offenders responsible social behavior, how to manage sexually deviant thoughts, and how to prevent a relapse.

Offenders are divided into one of three treatment tracks. Low-risk offenders get about six months of treatment. Medium-risk inmates get about nine months of treatment, and high-risk get 14 to 16 months.

Typically, 20 to 50 inmates are on a waiting list for each of the three tracks, Huckins said.

After the layoffs, the low-risk offenders may get a brief education program, and the programs for medium- and high-risk offenders could be combined into one shorter program, Hoenig said.

"The high-risk group could see their treatment cut in half," he said.

Mullen said details are still being worked out, but he agreed that "it's going to take longer for an offender to get into the program, and it's going to affect our ability to move people through as quickly as we are now."

He added that when offenders are released, they can continue to get supervision and treatment in the community-based corrections system.

Mount Pleasant's sex offender treatment program saves the state money because it helps make sex offenders eligible for parole, staff said.

Huckins said treatment works.

"The change process we see in an individual from beginning of the treatment process to end is phenomenal in what they are able to learn and digest," she said. "It's gratifying to see such a change process in individuals."

Generally speaking, sex offenders have the lowest rate of committing new crimes among prisoners in the Iowa criminal justice system, Mullen said.

Research by the Iowa Division of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning shows offenders who successfully complete sex offender treatment have lower rates of rearrest for sex offenses than other offenders.

Among those successfully treated, 0.7 percent were arrested for a new sex crime within two years, while among those who got no treatment, 3.2 percent had a new arrest, according to a 2006 Department of Corrections report.

When Gov. Chet Culver (Contact) asked Iowa's three public employee unions last fall to accept concessions in pay to spare layoffs, two unions agreed: the State Police Officers Council and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The concessions averted 606 layoffs for workers who fall under those two labor contracts.

But Iowa United Professionals leaders refused the offer without giving dues-paying members the chance to vote, according to workers and the governor's staff.

"IUP has not served us - or the people of Iowa - and we have voiced our displeasure with that union loud and clear," said Terry Moore, one of the eight Mount Pleasant prison counselors who will lose his job.

"What upsets us most, though, is not the loss of our jobs, but the pending decimation of a viable program that keeps sex offenders from committing new crimes against new victims," Moore said.

Union officials did not return phone calls this week.

Sean Crawford will lose his $45,000-a-year job counseling sex offenders with special needs, such as an IQ score below 85, a reading level below sixth grade or other mental or social inadequacies.

"Ultimately, my biggest concern with this type of reduction in the program is that it's going to affect the number of offenders getting treatment, and it will affect the number offenders released without completing treatment," he said. "As a citizen of the state, that concerns me that there's a likelihood of untreated sex offenders returning to their communities."

Pink slips handed out last week give workers 20 working days before they must leave their jobs.

The Mount Pleasant prison houses 913 men and 83 women. Its budget is about $24.5 million after the 10 percent across-the-board cut Culver ordered for this budget year.