Friday, April 2, 2010

MD - Senate OKs Increasing Prison Time For Sex Offenders

Original Article

04/02/2010

ANNAPOLIS - Legislation increasing the minimum prison sentence imposed on a convicted child sex offender has been given preliminary approval by the Senate.

A final vote is expected next week.

Under the Senate version, child predators would face 20 years in prison without the possibility of parole or good-time credits. It applies to second-degree rape or molestation convictions. First-degree rape carries a 25-year sentence.

The December murder of 11-year-old Sara Foxwell on the Eastern Shore by a registered sex offender prompted lawmakers to scrutinize all of Maryland's child sex offender laws.
- People who murder anybody, child or adult, should be in prison until the day they die.

Mark Lunsford, whose 9-year-old daughter, Jessica, was raped and murdered by a child sex offender, traveled from Florida to Maryland a few weeks ago to lend his support.
- And did he mention his own son, who molested a child as well? I'm sure he forgot that part!

Conservative radio talk shows in Baltimore targeted committee Chairman Sen. Brian Frosh (Email), who took his time in vetting the bill before sending it to the Senate floor.

"The existing law has never been used -- the mandatory minimum. This is more of a bumper sticker than a bill," he said.

Democratic Sen. Richard Madaleno (Email) said he felt pressure, too, after asking for a one-day delay in the vote. He said he had questions he didn't want to bring up in front of children in the Senate gallery.

The measure was sponsored by Harford County Republican Sen. Nancy Jacobs (Email) and has generated discussion on the bill's language and who makes the call to seek the new mandatory minimum.

Several sex offender bills have already passed both chambers. Frosh said he considers them substantial.

"We have lifetime supervision. We've got civil commitment in the Senate bill. That stuff's effective," he said.
- Effective how?

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"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin


FL - Ron Book putting out fires and moving them somewhere else! Now he has more fires to put out!

Original Article

04/01/2010

It's always a concern when a convicted criminal moves into the neighborhood, but when it's a sex offender and there are dozens of them within a block of your home, it can be too close for comfort. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero with one neighborhood's story.

There was nothing good about the makeshift camp a hundred or so convicted sex offenders set up under the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami. It was no way for people to live and it fouled the environment.

So officials moved them out. Thirteen ended up in Julio Betancourt's neighborhood. So now he keeps his gates locked and his young children inside.

Julio Betancourt: "You can't lose. Lose any track of your children at any moment. It's very concerning."

Carmel Cafiero: "So it's almost like a constant threat?"

Julio Betancourt: "Yes it is."

Donna Milo who lives next door to the family, discovered dozens of other sex offenders were already living near their homes.

Donna Milo: "So within one mile there was 47, but there was a large concentration within 500 feet. 500 feet is less than one block."

According to state records, there are eight sexual predators living in the neighborhood. Most of their victims were under 12-years-old. The other 39 sexual offenders are listed as having committed everything from lewd and lascivious behavior to sexual battery with a weapon or force, and they are all living in a small area of Miami just off 79th Street and the bay.

Donna Milo: "I'm convinced that it's bad news because my neighbor when he found out about this, he won't even let his daughter come outside."

Dr. Lori Butts is a forensic psychologist, she thinks there are too many offenders here.

Dr. Lori Butts: "It creates an environment of fear for the families and their children."

Dr. Butts says having this many offenders in one neighborhood makes it almost impossible for neighbors to keep an eye on them.

Dr. Lori Butts: "OK, there's 50. How do you know 50 names 50 faces? Who is a sex offender? Who isn't a sex offender? And who to be scared of?"

Sex offenders have ended up under bridges and clustering in neighborhoods because of residency restrictions that limit where they can live. Those restrictions are designed to keep offenders away from schools and playgrounds, but Dr. Butts says that law is now doing more harm than good.

Dr. Lori Butts: "It's exactly doing the opposite of what the good intended lawmakers were trying to do, and it's a shame."

The homeless trust in Miami helped moved the sex offenders from under the bridge to Donna's neighborhood. She doesn't think that's right.
- Ronnie had to put out the fire, and that is what he did, and like many of the offenders have said, another Julia Tuttle leper colony will pop up, it's only a matter of time.

Donna Milo: "It's certainly a bad policy to take money that, that is dedicated for people that are victims of economic strife, of hardship that are homeless by no choice of their own and we're spending this money to house offenders."

The homeless trust couldn't tell us how much money was spent to relocate the sex offenders. Chairman Ron Book says federal stimulus money along with homeless trust funds financed the effort and it was an appropriate use.

Ron Book: "But no priority is given to offenders and predators. Wherever they fit into the order of preference is when they got on our list, and we find a place and they're willing to go there that's when they get placed."

And book insists not one offender or predators was moved at the expense of a more deserving person.

Ron Book: "Won't happen on my clock. I've been chairman of the Homeless Trust for 16 and a half years and it won't happen."

Carmel Cafiero: "Book says as long as sex offenders are released and limited in where they can live clustering issues will continue to cause problems in some neighborhoods. In this case, residents have upgraded security systems and now they live Locked Up."

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"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin


CT - Representatives Rosa Rebimbas and Arthur O'Neill on "Sexting" Legislation

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"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin


CT - Rep. Rebimbas supports "sexting" legislation

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"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin


GA - Was Nancy Schaefer murdered for exposing CPS?

Murder/Suicide article

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"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin


For the children (politics)

Original Article

The phrase "for the children", or "think of the children," is an often-used rhetorical phrase and appeal to emotion . Because people generally value the welfare of the next generation of a society, it has been perceived as an argument to cast a position in a starkly positive or negative light, depending on whether the policy is perceived as beneficial or harmful to children. Traditionally the argument was seen in debates over matters such as education, culture, and crime, as children are impressionable and youth crime is thought to be particularly harmful, but more recently the rhetoric has been applied to many varied political agendas, sometimes with little or no relevance. The use of such arguments has been criticized as an appeal to emotion that can be used to support an irrelevant conclusion, however, and in some cases it may be classified as a "Thought-terminating clich√© ."

The prevalence of "for the children" rhetoric has increased in recent years. Author Elvin T. Lim noted in 2008 “Well over half of all references to children in State of the Union addresses since 1790 were uttered by our last five presidents.”


"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin


FL - Sex abuse survivor Lauren Book embarks on walk to promote awareness

Original Article
Track My Tour

Bringing awareness is a good idea, but nothing about the laws she and her father have pushed for would have prevented what occurred to her. The Nanny was not on any offender list nor had any record. Most sex crimes are committed by someone NOT on the registry and by someone the victim knows. So the intent is good, but lashing out and punishing all sex offenders is wrong! Instead of working on educating people, prevention and treatment, they are just punishing offenders more and more, while sex offenders have the second LOWEST recidivism rate of all criminals, except murderers.

04/02/2010

By JULIE BROWN

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Lauren Book is the face behind some of the state's toughest sex-offender laws.

Over the past five years, she has traveled the state by plane and by car to lobby for residency restrictions for sexual predators, tougher penalties for sex crimes and more funding to raise awareness on the issue.

On Friday morning, Lauren Book began a 500-mile journey, this time on foot, from Aventura to Tallahassee, visiting local rape crisis and sexual assault centers along the route in hopes of calling attention to the plight of abuse victims.

Book, 25, is hoping that hundreds of people will join her on her walk, which began at the Aventura Mall and ends on April 20 with a rally at the state Capitol.

"I want people of all ages to understand that it is OK to tell someone about abuses that have happened to them," said Book, founder of Lauren's Kids, a foundation that supports efforts to prevent child abuse.

"I want people to see me walking, dealing with my ghosts and think, `I can face this.' "

For six years, starting when she was 11, Book was sexually abused by her live-in nanny, who was later arrested and jailed for the crime.

After years of therapy, Book embarked on a legislative crusade against sex offenders, lobbying the state Legislature with her father, Ron Book, one of Florida's most powerful lobbyists, to enact stricter laws against convicted molesters.

The legal frenzy prompted local communities to enact more restrictive laws, creating an international debate over where sex predators and offenders could live.

At the center of the debate was a group of sex predators who, restrained by local residency laws Book helped set in place, were confined to live under the Julia Tuttle Causeway and other homeless enclaves in South Florida. But Book and others soon realized that living a homeless existence in shantys and tents had unintended consequences -- it made it easier for sex criminals to fall through the cracks.
- Forced to live under the bridge by the very laws they are advocating for.  Ron helped create and then destroy the leper colony. And out of the three or so years they were living under the bridge, how many fell through the so called "cracks" Ron?

Today, nearly all those who live under the causeway have been relocated. And Lauren Book is spearheading more workable and enforceable laws, including one that would set up child-safety zones that effectively would prevent sex offenders from loitering near places where children congregate, including schools and child-care centers.
- She's just following her fathers hate campaign.  Residency zones prevent no crime, nor protect anyone, neither does the registry. The registry is just being used by some as an online hit-list.

She hopes her "Walk in My Shoes," campaign will encourage and support other survivors.

"We really want to have people join us, to have people see that you don't have to suffer in silence, that you can get help," she said.

"Every day is a step closer to survivorship. Life is a journey. . . . Five hundred miles pales in comparison to what I went through."

To follow her progress or to donate, visit her foundation website at: www.laurenskids.org/Walk-In-My-Shoes.html; or follow her progress on Twitter at @LaurensKids, on Facebook: Lauren's Kids or her YouTube channel at: Lauren's Kids.

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"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin


FL - Teen Sex Gone Viral (Florida is ruining kids lives forever!)

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"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin


TN - Sex offender registry may list teens

Original Article

04/02/2010

By Clay Carey

State lawmakers may create a new online registry that would publicize the names and addresses of teenagers who commit violent sex crimes.

Supporters say it gives parents another layer of protection from predators who target children, but opponents say putting children on a public sex offender registry could stigmatize them and discourage them from seeking treatment. Mental health experts worry that it could put the teens on a humiliating path, leading them to commit more crime.

Some teen sex offenders could remain on the registry for 25 years.

So be it, says a Tennessee mother whose 5-year-old son was raped by his teenage babysitter in 2008.

"It's dangerous. If you don't know, how can you protect your kids from it?" said the 28-year-old Crossville, Tenn., woman. Her name is withheld because The Tennessean does not identify victims of sex crimes.

"Most parents aren't going to tell their neighbors, or the church or the people at school" their son or daughter is a sex offender, she said.

Her son's 15-year-old assailant was ordered into treatment by a juvenile judge.

That's the right answer, counselors say.

"As a youth, we can still step in and help them with those behaviors," said Rachel Freeman, vice president of clinical services with the Sexual Assault Center of Nashville. She worries that a registry would make people less likely to report sex crimes committed by young friends and family members.

Tennessee and other states are required to have juvenile offenders on sex crime registries if they want to keep receiving millions of dollars in federal funding for law enforcement. For the most part, Tennessee is in compliance with the federal standards. But adding juveniles to a public registry has been a sticking point. The state stands to lose $5 million if it doesn't do it.

"This is the part (of the federal sex crime package) that bothers a lot of people. They think juveniles deserve another chance," said state Rep. Debra Maggart (Email), the Hendersonville Republican sponsoring the legislation.

"I contend that if you have raped a child, you don't deserve another chance. The public deserves to be aware of you," she said. "I think the public has the right to know if a 16-year-old is a violent rapist."

The proposed bill would require teens between the ages of 14 and 18 to be added to the registry if convicted of serious sex crimes, including rape, aggravated rape, rape of a child or sexual battery — a sexual assault that does not include penetration.

The law would allow teen sex offenders to ask a judge to remove them from the registry within a year of their 19th birthday, and once every five years after that. Teens would cycle off the registry after 25 years.

State officials could not say how many juveniles would have to register under the new law. According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, 847 juveniles in Tennessee were charged with sex crimes in 2008. Many of them were charged with less serious crimes that wouldn't land them on the registry.

Some states — including Florida, Louisiana and Missouri — have juvenile sex offender registries in place.

Sides debate the need

State Rep. Mike Stewart (Email), D-Nashville, says the juvenile registry is not necessary.

He said current law allows juveniles who are violent sex offenders to be transferred to criminal court and tried as adults. If convicted, they can be added to the state's adult sex offender registry.

"We don't need a sex offender registry for juveniles, most of whom are successfully treated and do not, after treatment, continue to be a threat to society," he said. "If the experts are telling us this is a bad idea, we should heed their advice."

Publicizing their names and addresses also can open their families up to retribution and vigilantism, opponents said.

"In the interest of public safety, adding juveniles to public registries is detrimental," said Sarah Bryer, director of the nonprofit National Juvenile Justice Network. In February, she gave testimony against the bill before the Maryland state legislature. She said studies have shown that most juveniles who commit sex offenses are "acting out." That makes them less likely to commit further sex crimes, Bryer said.

"They're acting inappropriately. I'm not making any excuses for that," Bryer said. "What you are doing (by putting them on a registry) is marring them for life. You are impeding their ability, in many ways, to lead a normal life."

Jim Reams, the president-elect of the National District Attorneys Association, finds that argument hollow.

"When you have a crime of that nature, I think the public not only wants that information but would also be surprised that someone is trying to withhold that from them," Reams said. "It's not society stigmatizing them. It's their actions that stigmatize them.''

The mother of one teen who was charged with molesting a child thinks the registry would have only served to further derail her son's life.

The 53-year-old woman said her ex-husband sexually abused her and her children — including the son, who at age 15 molested his sister.

"He was a child," the mother said. "He saw the adults in his life being the way they were … his sense of right and wrong were all screwed up."

After the molestation was discovered, her son received court-ordered therapy. Now in his mid-20s, he is serving in the United States military.

His mother worries that he might have become an adult predator had he been publicly labeled as a sex offender,

"Shame leads you down a bad road," the Williamson County mother said.


"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin


Feds say sex offender registries are unreliable, inaccurate

Original Article

02/02/2010

By J.D. Tuccille

Much has been written -- for good reason -- about the tragic cases of people whose lives have been ruined by being classified and registered as "sex offenders" for consensual youthful liaisons with partners just a few months younger than the law allows. But is this the price we pay for immunizing ourselves against the real predators: rapists and adults who stalk actual children? A recent federal report suggests that the answer is "no." As efficient as the system is at registering youthful lovers, it's just that inefficient at tracking actual criminals.

Genarlow Wilson famously served over two years of a ten-year sentence for having consensual oral sex with a girl two years his junior when he was 17. His sentence was ultimately overturned as cruel and unusual, but many people across the country still face registration and harsh restrictions for similar "transgressions." As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorialized:

But Wilson is not the only young offender caught in a maze of draconian sex laws. Many young people are trapped on the state sex offender registry for nonviolent and consensual sex acts as teens.

The registry is a prison sentence in its own right, fencing even low-risk offenders off from most of society. Georgia law bars offenders from living or loitering within 1,000 feet of schools, day care centers, parks, rec centers or skating rinks. Last year, the General Assembly added churches, swimming pools and school bus stops to the list, and, for the first time, placed limits on where offenders could work. Now, sex offenders can't hold jobs near schools, child care centers or churches.

Some states have now moved to pass "Romeo and Juliet " laws to ease the consequences for young people who fall afoul of arbitrary age cut-offs, but people still remain on sex offender registries, with all that entails, for petty reasons. The harsh, often life-long restrictions of the sex-offender registries are supposed to buy us some security, even if a few innocent people get ground up in the machinery from time to time. So, how much security are we getting from those registries?

Not so much, say the feds. According to a report (PDF) from the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Justice:

We found that the registries that make up the national sex offender registration system – the FBI’s National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR) and the state public sex offender registries accessed through OJP’s National Sex Offender Public Registry Website (NSOPR) – are inaccurate and incomplete. As a result, neither law enforcement officials nor the public can rely on the registries for identifying registered sex offenders, particularly those who are fugitives.

Specifically, the states have not entered records on approximately 22 percent of their registered sex offenders into NSOR and have not identified sex offenders who have failed to maintain a current registration. We also found that states do not consistently enter information into NSOR such as social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, and vehicle identification numbers.

The NSOR is a centralized federal database of sex offenders available for use by law-enforcement agencies, whilet he NSOPR is a publicly available portal that searches state databases. Separately maintained, they're equally unreliable.

The not-even-good-enough-for-government-work status of the sex offender registries as of the beginning of 2009 is especially relevant because the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act requires all U.S. states, territories and tribes to have functioning, accurate and accessible registries by July 27, 2009 -- just a few months away. The registries are to be used to track offenders and to prosecute people convicted of sex crimes who fail to register or to keep their registration current if they move from one state to another or even from one address to another within a state. Inaccurate registries mean a hobbled ability to track offenders.

It could also, potentially, mean legal liability for those who do comply with the law but whose records spiraled into some black hole in the system. Bureaucratic incompetence could end up resulting in prison time for people who have made every attempt to keep their noses clean and their registrations current. Some of those people will be "criminals" whose crimes consisted of sleeping, as teenagers, with their boyfriends or girlfriends. Others will be people who committed real crimes but are trying to get their lives together.

Either way, public safety isn't being enhanced in any obvious way by the sex-offender registration system.


"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin


AL - O you shunn'd persons

Original Article

03/31/2010

By Steven Thomas

Friday, while enjoying the Crimson, I flipped from the editorial section back to the front page and became appalled as I read "Sex Offenders Move to Green Springs?" Not once did the article refer to these people as anything but "offenders" and "inmates." The students interviewed, the writer and the public safety officer interviewed succeed in dehumanizing these men - and women - treating them as if they were vermin.

These men and women are not vermin; they are not rats; they are not pests to be grouped into ghettos, as this article seems to be implying? Yes, these men and women broke the law? Many of them did horrible things, unspeakable things; I do not deny this?

Many sex offenders, however, did not commit horrible crimes-they just made mistakes? Visiting a prostitute outside of the isolated places where it is legal is considered a sex offense in many states? Is prostitution wrong? Most would say yes, but is a "John" a dangerous sex offender? Hardly.

Public indecency is even considered a sex offense? Yes, that means if I am in a traffic jam and walk to the bushes and am seen and accosted by a police officer, I have to register as an offender that we do not want "to live anywhere near?" Under this definition, nearly every male citizen should be labeled as a sex offender.

These registries, and our reaction to them, create fear and animosity toward nonviolent offenders who are not dangerous? Furthermore, this treatment of sex offenders who did commit awful crimes ignores any hope for rehabilitation and redemption? Sex offenders are still people, and even these men and women deserve a second chance.

I know that we must protect ourselves and our children? But do pubic registries really protect? All they tell us is that there are sex offenders in our community, and where they live? Sex offenders live in every community, and it will always be that way! Telling us where these men and women live will not offer us protection - that sort of knowledge only leads to the fear and hatred so well illustrated by last week's article.

As a Christian, I object to the inhumane treatment of these men and women? This blanket dehumanization of sex offenders by the article and those it quoted flies in the face of the example set by the Messiah, a "friend of tax collectors and sinners." We must embrace sex offenders and treat them as human beings, loving them as Christ loved us.

Public Safety Chief Mike Coppage was quoted in the conclusion of this piece as saying, "No one wants to live in the same neighborhood as a registered sex offender."

Mr. Coppage, you are wrong? I want to live in the same neighborhood of sex offenders, and I still believe in redemption, and I know there are others who will join me in accepting these men and women despite the evil deeds they may have committed. They are still people - living, breathing, human beings whom we should treat with love and respect.

We must not react to these people with hatred; instead, let us listen to the words of the great American bard, Walt Whitman:

"I pick out some low person for my dearest friend, He shall be lawless, rude, illiterate, he shall be one condemn'd by others for deeds done, I will play a part no longer, why should I exile myself from my companions? O you shunn'd persons, I at least do not shun you."


"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin