Tuesday, July 20, 2010

GA - Georgia eases laws on sex offenders

Original Article

I am not sure why the media outfits are just now reporting on this. This is old news (HB-571). The new law was passed several months ago. I guess they are just trying to stir up the fire, to get people outraged, so they have something to report on? Les than 1% of all the sex offenders in this state, are predators. See this spreadsheet.


By Allen Carter

LEESBURG - Georgia has quietly peeled back its restrictions on sex offenders, due in part to a series of legal challenges.

Governor Sonny Perdue signed legislation this year easing laws on about 13,000 registered sex offenders.

The law changes have been a result of several lawsuits and challenges of the initial sex offender laws that were put into place,” said lt. Colonel Dennis Parker who manages the sex offenders list for the Lee County Sheriff’s Department.

The legal problem was the old laws signed in 2003 targeted all offenders even ones who committed crimes before 2003.

Gone are the restrictions banning those offenders from being 1,000 yards from schools, churches, and play grounds.

Advocates seeking reform of sex offender laws say this is a good thing.

They have to prove to society that they can again be trusted. But once they can prove that then society needs to allow them to move forward with their life,” said Kelly Piercy who heads Georgians for reform a group advocating reform to Georgia’s sex offender laws.

Piercy, a registered sex offender, says the changes also allow people with misdemeanor sex offenses to apply for removal from the sex crimes registry.

We tend to think sex offender and make the leap to child rapist murderer,” said Piercy. “The majority of people that we refer to as sex offenders actually had non-contact offenses. They didn't talk to anybody, they didn't touch anybody. They defiantly didn't have any sex with anybody.”


OH - Sex Offender Among First Freed After Ohio Supreme Court Decision

Original Article

See the video at the link above.


A convicted sex offender from Hamilton County is free tonight after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled two provisions of the state's Adam Walsh Act unconstitutional. [name withheld] of Colerain Township was one of the first prisoners released following the ruling.

Local 12's Paula Toti shares his story.

[name withheld] is not only happy to be home, but eager to share his side of the story. He went to prison for a year for failing to tell police his new address.

"Said failure to register, but I had already registered."

[name withheld] spent seven months at the London Correctional Institution for violating a beefed up Adam Walsh law, which the Ohio Supreme Court found unconstitutional.

[name withheld], Recently Released: "Yes, it does way overboard."

Justices decided last month, sex offenders convicted before 2008 no longer have to register with police, if they completed verification requirements before the law changed. A judge sent [name withheld] to prison in 1997 for gross sexual imposition, involving a 7-year-old girl. He spent two years behind bars. He denied doing anything wrong. His fiance, [name withheld], believes him. During his latest stint in prison, she fought to help set him free.

"Nobody could tell me why no-one has to follow ruling of supreme court, highest court in state."

Colerain Township neighbors knew of [name withheld], after one of them passed around a flier showing he's a convicted sex offender. Gail Brown is worried about kids in the area.

"Not crazy about child molester in 2008 or 1998, that doesn't go away, don't recover from."

[name withheld] and his fiance say they just want to move on with their new life, and plan to get married soon. He'll spend three years on probation.

The Ohio Attorney General's Office released a statement saying it's reviewing the court's decision. Ohio has about 26-thousand registered sex offenders. Hundreds are no longer required to report their address under the state supreme court ruling.

CA - Tracking Sex Offenders Is No Easy Fix

Original Article


By Jude Joffe-Block

Parole agents have lots of data on parolees, but little time to evaluate it

Less than two years ago, California completed the ambitious step of outfitting each of the state’s roughly 6,500 paroled sex offenders with Global Positioning System ankle bracelets, making them the largest population tracked by GPS in the country. But shortcomings with the program suggest the state may not be equipped to manage data from such a large cohort.

California will spend $60 million this year to track parolees convicted of sex crimes, such as rape, sexual assault, child molestation and indecent exposure. With GPS, parole agents can instantly locate parolees, receive alerts in real time when they miss curfew or go somewhere forbidden, and review parolees’ movements—known as “running tracks.”

However, recent assessments portray a system that ignores much of the data captured by GPS monitors and parole agents overwhelmed with responsibilities.

We are just drowning in dots,” said Robert Coombs, chair of the state Sex Offender Management Board, referring to the way parolees’ tracks appear on agents’ mapping software. “What happens is the more broadly we use it, the more difficult it becomes in identifying the meaningful data.”

Every time a bracelet’s battery charge is low or a parolee enters into an off-limits zone, agents receive cell phone and e-mail alerts—regardless of whether the action requires an immediate response. The state’s 274 parole agents on GPS caseloads received almost a million of these alerts last year, according to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

What that means for North Bay parole agent Donovan Lewis is that his workday never ends. “With GPS, it makes it 24-7 because we get alerts,” he said.

State policies for supervising paroled sex offenders became a topic of public scrutiny after two convicted sex offenders were charged with high-profile crimes in the last year.

Earlier this month, the state awarded a $20 million settlement to Jaycee Lee Dugard, 30, and her two daughters, for failing to supervise sex offender Phillip Garrido. He was on parole for a 1977 rape and kidnapping conviction while he allegedly held Dugard in a secret compound behind his Antioch home.

And last spring, there was outrage when the public learned that convicted sex offender John Gardner raped and murdered two San Diego teenagers. Although Gardner was not on parole at the time, he had previously worn a GPS bracelet that recorded numerous parole violations. So had Garrido. Such transgressions could have prompted parole agents to send the men back to prison or scrutinize their routines, but because both men were classified as low-risk offenders, the protocol at the time did not require agents to review the GPS data.

Parole authorities updated the GPS monitoring protocol in March so agents now review daily the tracks of the one third of parolees classified as “high risk” and the remaining parolees’ movements four days a month.

But in a June report, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Office of Inspector General criticized the updated protocol as “deficient.” “We found that in a number of situations, there were some missed opportunities to discover what parolee sex offenders were up to,” said Inspector General David Shaw. “There is an expectation from the public that this is something we are going to use as a state to keep them safer. We should be getting our money's worth out of it.

Parole officer’s union president Melinda Silva said agents with GPS duties are already stretched thin and have little time for fieldwork. “There is too much rote, busy work with the track runs,” she wrote in an e-mail.

In response, the state’s corrections department has convened a taskforce that will meet this summer to determine how to monitor sex offenders more efficiently. “The GPS as a supervision tool is an ever-evolving new technology,” said Scott Kernan, undersecretary for the department.

Among suggestions the taskforce will consider are ranking GPS alerts by urgency, reviewing data in batches and prioritizing resources on the highest risk parolees.

California’s use of GPS took off in 2006 when voters passed Jessica’s Law (PDF), which requires all sex offenders released from prison to be monitored for life. Since 2009, corrections has tracked all sex offender parolees with GPS. But Jessica’s Law failed to assign responsibility or resources for lifetime monitoring, so once discharged from parole, sex offenders are no longer tracked. Three quarters of California’s more than 65,000 registered sex offenders live in the community unsupervised.

Despite its demands, parole agent Donovan Lewis was quick to praise GPS technology, which he said has helped him prevent crimes. “With that tool, you know where they are,” he said. “You can pop up and do a surprise visit.

Lewis and his partner, Ricardo Bautista, are among the approximately 30 parole agents monitoring some 980 paroled sex offenders in the Bay Area.

During a June parole sweep, Lewis, Bautista and three colleagues paid a surprise visit to [name withheld], 29, a homeless parolee convicted in 2002 of a sex offense against a woman he says was his girlfriend. After a second stint in prison for a drug crime, [name withheld] was given an ankle bracelet in 2008 because of his earlier offense. He has cycled between prison and parole ever since for drug use.

From a laptop in his car, Bautista determined [name withheld] was walking in Vallejo near the highway underpass where he camps out. A gray oblong-shaped GPS device was visible on his ankle. He said his GPS tracks show he isn’t bothering anyone. “I just really honestly keep to myself,” he said.
- This is not true.  GPS and dots on a computer screen, cannot tell you if the person is committing a crime or not.  So he could be bothering someone, and you'd not see it, you'd just see that he was stopped.

However, during the visit, the agents determined [name withheld] was on methamphetamines and brought him to a substance abuse program. Parole agents are quick to point out that GPS can determine parolees’ whereabouts, but it won’t reveal what they are doing.

“You have to really get out there and do the footwork,” said Lewis.

While GPS data can arm law enforcement with the necessary evidence to send parolees back to prison if they violate parole or reoffend, there are no reliable studies to date concluding that the technology is effective at preventing crime.

I think that people see technology as the silver bullet,” said Jack Wallace, coordinator of the state Sex Offender Management Board. “While being helpful, we still have a long ways to go.”

TX - Questions you can't ask a probationer in Fort Worth

"Grits for Breakfast" Article


Liberty and Justice for Y'all alerts us to a potentially momentous decision out of Fort Worth's Second Court of Appeals which found that probationers retain their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, a decision which likely contradicts the day-to-day practices of probation departments statewide. According to LJ4Y:

In Ex Parte Dangelo, the applicant, who was on probation for pleading guilty to one count of "injury to a child," filed an application for writ of habeas corpus when the trial court incarcerated him after he refused to answer the following questions during a polygraph exam given to him as part of his probation:
  1. "Since you have been on probation, have you violated any of its conditions?";
  2. "Since you have been on probation, have you had sexual contact with any persons younger than 17?";
  3. "Since you have been on probation, have you tried to isolate and child for sexual purposes?"; and
  4. "Since you have been on probation, have you intentionally committed any sexual crimes?"

The court agreed that violating the probationer's bond for refusing to answer those questions violated his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Extraordinary! Key to the court's reasoning (from pp. 7-8 of the opinion):

The Texas legislature has explained that the purpose of the community supervision statute is to remove “from existing statutes the limitations, other than questions of constitutionality, that have acted as barriers to effective systems of community supervision in the public interest.” Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 42.12, §1 (Vernon Supp. 2009) (emphasis added). Thus, the trial court’s broad authority to create community supervision terms does not extend to imposing terms that violate a defendant’s constitutional rights as balanced with the goals of the defendant’s probation.

Questions related to probation violations or the offense for which the probationer was convicted are still fair game, but "if a condition of a defendant’s probation requires the defendant to admit to an offense that could lead to criminal charges independent of those that the defendant is serving probation for, the defendant has a Fifth Amendment right to not answer such questions." Who knows whether the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals might ultimately hear this case or how that divided court might rule? But for now, at least in Fort Worth, the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution still applies to probationers. Who'da thunk it? If the Texas high criminal court did reverse the 2nd Court of Appeals, it might set the CCA up for yet another showdown with SCOTUS. The Cowtown appellate court relied primarily in its ruling on a US Supreme Court case from 1984, Minnesota v. Murphy, in which SCOTUS held that:

A defendant does not lose [Fifth Amendment protection] by reason of his conviction of a crime; notwithstanding that a defendant is imprisoned or on probation at the time he makes incriminating statements, if those statements are compelled they are inadmissible in a subsequent trial for a crime other than that for which he has been convicted. . . . .' If [a defendant asserts Fifth Amendment rights], he “may not be required to answer a question if there is some rational basis for believing that it will incriminate him, at least without at that time being assured that neither it nor its fruits may be used against him” in a subsequent criminal proceeding.

I don't know what the precedents are in other Texas appellate jurisdictions, but this ruling seemingly would alter quite a few common practices at Texas probation departments if it were applied statewide. Indeed, it will be interesting to track what will be the impact within the jurisdiction of Texas Second Court of Appeals.

Parable of the prodigal son from the film Jesus of Nazareth

Jesus teaching the parable of the prodigal son, who wasted his inheritance on loose living and then repented and returned to the Father. Beautifully dove tailed cinematic piece combining the sometimes reckless zeal of Simon Peter with the son resentful of the prodigal child's welcome home in the story.

This scene is set in Matthew the tax collectors house. He invites Jesus to his home where there are prostitutes and they are having a banquet and party. Jesus goes against the will of his followers who think it would disgrace him to meet with such sinners. Jesus uses this event to teach about God's kingdom, He is willing to come where he is welcome.

Two teachings in this parable

Firstly of Gods patience, love and acceptance of his children. God is waiting for his children to repent of their sin and return to Him and follow his ways and attain fellowship with him. If we choose to ignore God and pursue sin then we cut ourself off from the Father. The Father loves us and wants our love and attention and it is best for us when we are with the Father who is the source of all life, comfort and goodness. The things of this world are temporal and fleeting, they are vain and are idols. The source of all life is Gods Spirit.

Secondly is the warning of those who are in Gods kingdom and who believe and follow Him not to be resentful of sinners and of iniquity when they repent and are also accepted into the kingdom. We have all been sinners and we should all rejoice when anyone repents and comes to God.

Video Link