Friday, January 1, 2010

FL - Sex Offender Services (SOS) providing help and resources for the offender

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UK - Volunteers wanted to help protect children from abuse

Original Article

12/31/2009

By Emma Foster

Londoners considering volunteering in 2010 are being invited to give up their time to help protect children from sexual abuse.

Child protection charity, The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, is currently looking for volunteers to help run four Circles of support and accountability projects within the London area.

The Circles are run by the foundation's staff and are aimed at reducing the risk posed by known sex offenders, such as those returning to a community following completion of a prison sentence.

Organised around a known sex offender, referred to as the 'core member', each Circle is made up of four to six volunteers from the community, who work alongside the offender to help him or her reintegrate into the community.

Volunteers are supported by the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, police officers, probation staff and treatment experts.

The core member must be committed to leading an offence-free lifestyle and is accountable to the Circle for their behaviour and actions.

Blair Parrott, Circles development officer, said: "The safety of the community lies at the heart of each Circle and there is good communication with and support from agencies such as the Police and Probation Services."

"Research has shown that isolation and emotional loneliness are linked to an increased risk of re-offending in sex offenders. That's why the Circles, which offer practical and emotional support to the core member, are so very important."

Originating from Canada, Circles projects have been running in the UK since 2002 and the Lucy Faithfull Foundation has operated 35 successful ones across the country to date.

Mr Parrott said: "There is a lot to be gained from volunteering as a Circle member, not least knowing that you are sharing responsibility for addressing concerns within your own community."

"Volunteers routinely tell us they experience enormous satisfaction through helping a past offender to lead a better life and through knowing they are contributing to the protection of children."

"Volunteers are told about the core member's past pattern of offending and alongside helping to settle them into the community, they look to help them recognise and manage risky thoughts and behaviours."

"Each Circle is unique because it is built around the needs of the core member. Circles last for between 12 months and two years, as long as there is a need to support the individual and monitor risk. Obviously, volunteer involvement will diminish over time."

One London-based core member, who has been part of the project since November 2007, said his Circle had been invaluable.

He said: "When I came out of prison, I had lost contact with my friends and family due to the nature of my offences."

"If it wasn't for the Circle, I would have ended up totally isolated."

"Now, if I have worrying thoughts or am at risk of re-offending, I can ask for help. There is help available."

"Circles can be life changing and at the end of the day children are being protected, that's what's important."

Anyone over the age of 21 can volunteer for the scheme, as long as they are prepared to give up some free time each week for up to a year. They will be required to undergo a thorough selection process, including a Criminal Records Bureau check, after which they will attend a training programme to give them the information and skills they will need to support the core member.

Volunteers will have access to support from the Lucy Faithfull Foundation for the life of the Circle.

Anyone wishing to volunteer for the Circle of Support and Accountability project or wanting to know more about the Circles projects can call Blair Parrott on 01372 847160 or email bparrott@lucyfaithfull.org.uk.

Named after its founder, Baroness Lucy Faithfull of Wolvercote, the Lucy Faithfull Foundation is a child protection charity operating UK-wide and specialising in safeguarding children from sexual abuse. Staff assess and treat people perpetrating and affected by child sexual abuse and contribute to research into developing effective interventions.


MD - Petitions call for 'Sarah's Law'

Original Article

More of the typical knee-jerk reactions. This man was a known sex offender and the victims family knew it as well. No amount of laws will prevent this type of crime from ever occurring, never, but, it's good to get politicians brownie points to look good to the people, and someone can get their child's name attached to a bill so they can become another John Walsh and make millions by exploiting their child's death!

01/01/2010

By Laura D'Alessandro

As residents rally cause online, lawmakers prepare for Assembly discussion on sex offender laws

SALISBURY -- Lower Shore legislators are ready to discuss tightening sex offender laws in the upcoming session.

After a registered sex offender was charged with the kidnapping of an 11-year-old Salisbury girl, legislators said they've been flooded with correspondence from constituents.

The search for Sarah Haley Foxwell, whose body was found near Delmar on Christmas Day, garnered support from thousands of community members who continue to rally behind her memory through groups on the Internet networking Web site Facebook. Two online petitions have been created asking for a "Sarah's Law," a Maryland sex offender law like the 2006 Jessica's Law that the state adopted two years ago, imposing mandatory minimum sentencing without parole for certain sexual offenders.

Maryland's sex offender laws don't apply a blanket penalty; punishment varies depending on the child's age and the offense.
- And this is how it should be.  We do not make cookie cutter laws for any other crime, so why start now?  Treating all sex offenders as if they are child killers is just plain wrong!

Lower Shore legislators aren't sure yet what changes to make, but they're sure the discussion will happen. Three bills have already been filed by Upper Shore Delegate Mike Smigiel, R-Cecil. Meanwhile, Lower Shore residents are forwarding concerns directly to their state representatives.

"I have been inundated with requests, both e-mails and some phone calls," said state Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus (Email), R-38-Somerset. "I feel certain we will be looking at that during the next legislative session."

Wicomico, Somerset and Worcester County delegates said the law needs to be tightened and they're currently researching how. Jim Mathias, D-38B-Worcester, said he's recently requested information comparing Maryland's law with that of other states.

"There is a strong interest on the part of the public to make our laws as strong as they can be to prohibit this type of crime," Mathias said. "I am going to work with the delegates on the Shore and within the House and, hopefully, find support within the Senate to move this forward. Whatever 'this' is remains to be seen."

Mathias said sentencing and registration need to be combed through. Delegate Norman Conway, D-38B-Wicomico, said he's more concerned with punishment and is even considering bringing the death penalty into the conversation, though he's sure it will bring some heat to the debate.

"Of course, I have a different opinion on the death penalty than a lot of people do -- I support it," he said. "I think (sex offense) is the kind of action that is just totally unacceptable. I feel very strong that it is an applicable sentence."

Conway also said legislators will likely take another look at Jessica's Law. Delegate Page Elmore, R-38A-Wicomico, said he hopes the state can take Jessica's Law and tighten the bill, which he recalled as hard to pass through. Elmore also wants to take another look at the registry.

"I think we've got to come up with a better way of making certain who the sex offenders are and where they are living," he said. "If they're living in Delaware, then Maryland needs to know. We've got to look at how we can maximize the knowledge."
- The person who committed this crime, you KNEW where they lived and everyone KNEW he was a sex offender, so what would more laws do that isn't done now?

While legislators seem focused on what happens after a sex offender is convicted, Lisae Jordan, legal counsel for the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the Maryland Children Alliance (Contact), said the conviction process is really what needs to be under scrutiny.

"The sex offender registry and punishment for sex offenders won't do us any good unless we can get convictions," she said. "To create strong cases against sex offenders, we need to devote more resources to child advocacy centers and trained law enforcement and prosecutors and we need to give juries the ability to consider whether a defendant has a pattern and practice of molesting children."