Tuesday, January 11, 2011

FL - City won't relax residency restriction for sex offenders

Original Article
See Also



PANAMA CITY — City officials declined to change an ordinance that critics say essentially bans sex offenders from moving to the city.

The city’s law regulating where registered sexual offenders can live prohibits them from residing within 2,500 feet of schools, churches, bus stops and places where children congregate.

A proposed change to the ordinance would have reduced the residency restrictions for sexual offenders, but not predators, to 1,000 feet. It would put the city’s regulations in line with regulations enacted by the state.

Though commissioners voted in a split 3-2 vote in favor of changing the ordinance twice, the issue died during Tuesday’s City Commission meeting when a motion by Commission John Kady was not seconded by another commissioner.

The issue evoked passionate appeals from both sides. Mayor Scott Clemmons allowed three people to speak in favor of changing the ordinance and three against. When he asked those on both sides to stand, it appeared more people in attendance were in favor of the reduced residency restrictions.

Lizabeth Berry, coordinator of Kid’s Court, said she didn’t understand why the commission would even consider reducing the residency restrictions.

If you ever had to look in the eyes of a 5-year-old as she talks about what happened to her, this wouldn’t even be up for discussion,” she said. After the decision was made, she said she’s thrilled the ordinance remained the same.

Others, though, said the ordinance does little in practice to actually protect children.

Bart Pettibone said “we need to take a look at the effectiveness of the law.” It’s important to protect children, he said, but the residency restrictions aren’t an effective means of doing so.

There is more of a chance of your child being hurt if a drunk driver lives on your street than a sex offender,” he said.

Perhaps the opinion that carried the most weight, though, was Police Chief John Van Etten’s (See Also). Van Etten, who was out of town, previously said he is not in support of reducing the requirements.

Commissioners Billy Rader and Nancy Wengel both said his opinion influenced their decision to not support the change.

Kady said he wasn’t surprised the ordinance wasn’t approved and he considers it a closed issue.

It could come back before the city, though. Kady said he was told a lawsuit could be filed because the ordinance results in “de facto banishment” because there aren’t places where sexual offenders can legally live.

Other municipalities in Bay County have the same distance restrictions as Panama City but do not include places children gather, which includes bus stops, as prohibited places, Kady said. Bay County does not have an ordinance, so the state’s 1,000 foot requirement is in effect.

FL - Alachua County Sex Offender Sweep

Most offenders are re-arrested for a technical violation or probation/parole violation, not a new sex crime, but, don't expect the police to tell you that.

UK - Male Leader of Female Sex Offender Ring Sentenced in Britain

Original Article


By Amelia Thomson-DeVeau

This disturbing story both highlights the prevalence of female sex offenders and illustrates, once again, the extent to which the internet can facilitate sex crimes. This particular case involves one man and four women, all of whom have been jailed. The ringleader was the man, [name withheld], and it was on his hard drive that police found 16,014 images of infant and child sex abuse, perpetrated by the four women. [name withheld] was sentenced to indefinite life in prison, and the women were jailed for between four and nine years.
- This is insane.  The women, who committed the sexual abuse, get a lesser sentence than the man?  Come on!  Yes, they all should be punished, but this is just insane, IMO!

The officials investigating the case seem a little shocked by the setup: essentially, four middle-aged women, whom the Guardian describes as "divorcees or women who were alienated from their partners, and were suffering from low self-esteem," would abuse young children and babies, and then sent [name withheld] the photos. Only one of the women ever met [name withheld] (she was in a year-long relationship with him), and even more horrifyingly, one of the women worked in a nursery.

The case is highlighting the role of women as sex abusers, which is far more common than most people assume. "Every year hundreds of children call ChildLine to say they have been sexually abused by a female. Research also shows that many reported victims are extremely young," a spokesperson for the British National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said.

The Guardian claims that [name withheld] was the real mastermind behind the ring, describing him as a "serial abuser who transfixed vulnerable women with access to children." And this seems to fit the pattern for female sex offenders, who are sometimes driven by deviant sexual urges, according to the BBC, but also "offended where they were alongside a man, either because he had egged them on or because they were coerced into taking part."

The profile of [name withheld] in the Guardian blames the internet for enabling [name withheld]'s behavior, calling this an essentially "modern crime." [name withheld] could "win control of others and direct them to commit heinous acts on his behalf in order to double his pleasure while halving the risk. Real friends and relationships were hard work. They were unpredictable and required constant attention. But Facebook pals could be quashed when he grew bored, and revived when he was in the mood."

This is certainly part of the story. But the internet can't be blamed for creating these coercive relationships, and if anything, this case most compellingly shows the ways that people can be convinced to commit horrible crimes. The women's relationship to [name withheld] is incredibly complex, and while the Guardian's in-depth piece on [name withheld] was both sordid and illuminating, we need to hear more about them.

MN - All-Seeing Eye of the IRS Might Help Spot Missing Children

Original Article


By Tom Henderson

The great and powerful IRS knows and sees all. And, if not, it certainly has eyes ... everywhere.

Surprisingly, few people take comfort in that.

However, the oh-so-creepy omnipresence of the IRS might help find missing children.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., has introduced a bill to allow IRS officials to release information (including the addresses) of people who have filed tax returns claiming missing children as dependents.

Many children are abducted by noncustodial parents. These parents may change their children's names, but they still use the children's Social Security numbers when submitting tax forms.

Up until now, IRS officials have not been able to release the names and addresses of these potential abductors to police because of privacy rules.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that in 2007, Treasury Department officials discovered the Social Security numbers of 1,700 missing children were found on tax forms filed after the kids were reported missing.

Those records could not be released unless a child abduction was being investigated as a federal crime.

The newspaper reports Klobuchar's bill changes that, giving state and local police potential access to the records.

"This is a great tool for law enforcement," Patty Wetterling, the vice chairwoman of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, tells the newspaper.

The Star-Tribune reports Wetterling's son Jacob disappeared near St. Joseph, Minn., in 1989 and remains missing. Wetterling, who ran for Congress in 2006, stood by Klobuchar at a news conference Jan. 9 to announce the bill.

Klobuchar tells the Star-Tribune the bill is getting widespread bipartisan support as "a simple change" that would cost nothing.

MA - Expert or ‘hired gun’?

Original Article


By Gary Craig

In our recent series on the state’s program to civilly confine sex predators, we focused one story on the cost for experts who testify at trials. Featured in the story was Joseph Plaud (Website), a Massachusetts-based psychologist who has been paid almost $260,000 to testify on behalf of sex offenders the state wanted to lock away for treatment in psychiatric facilities.

Plaud took exception with the portrayal and, in his defense, some of the points he made did get lost in editing that was done for space reasons. I wanted to talk to him further – hence, this admittedly lengthy blog entry – and a conversation we had this week was also a good opportunity to let him expand on his thoughts on civil commitment.

First, Plaud counters claims that he “defends” sex offenders at civil commitment hearings. What he does, he says, is provide expert testimony steeped in scientific research about the likelihood that a sex offender suffers from a mental defect making him likely to commit new crimes.

I’m not defending anybody,” Plaud said. “ … I have no vested interest in people being defended or not defended.”

Plaud’s role – however defined – is at the very core of questions about civil commitment proceedings: Are the proceedings truly an attempt to protect the public and treat sex offenders with “mental abnormalities,” or are they instead a way to extend the criminal sentences for individuals who have served their time?

If the proceedings are what the law requires – a legal process to determine the likelihood a sex criminal will reoffend – then Plaud’s role is crucial, and the scientific foundation a necessary component. As Plaud points out, most sex offenders don’t commit new sex crimes once freed – contrary to conventional wisdom. “To say that they will in the future with a degree of precision is difficult at best,” he said.

First, a quick outline of New York’s somewhat labyrinthine civil commitment process: The state determines which sex offenders among those nearing the end of prison or parole terms likely suffer from a dangerous and possibly congenital “mental abnormality.” Fewer than 5 percent fall into that pool, and then state officials file court papers to have those “civilly managed.”
- My question is, why wasn't this "evaluation" done before sentencing?  Then, if deemed dangerous, locked up for a longer period of time?  And also, when they are in prison, why do they not get treatment?  Locking someone up, again, after they have served their time, IMO, is wrong!

A jury decides whether the offender does suffer the mental defect. If that threshold is met, a judge determines the resolution – either placement in a state psychiatric facility solely for sex offenders or a community-based program monitored by parole officials.

Experts like Plaud are central to the court hearings. Beforehand, they interview the offenders and cull through their life histories. They use controversial actuarial tests to help determine whether the offender will commit new sex crimes. The state has its experts, including some in-house psychologists, and the accused has his. The state pays for both.

In New York, there have been cases when Plaud determined men he interviewed were likely to commit new sex crimes. But state officials did not call him as a witness, he said, because they’d prefer to paint him as “a hired gun.” The same has happened in Massachusetts, he said.

If civil commitment will continue, and the Supreme Court has constantly upheld its constitutionality, then decisions based in science and not emotion are key, Plaud said. After all, many offenders who are civilly confined may find themselves institutionalized forever.

What about all of the guys who have been committed who otherwise would not have reoffended,” he said.

It’s easy to reach conclusions that the offender will be dangerous if free, Plaud said. Those conclusions don’t generate public outrage. “It’s like saying apple pie is good,” he said. “You’re swimming with the tide.”

Plaud said he’s been accurate in his assessments “95 percent of the time.”

The vast majority of them have not reoffended,” he said. “A few have. … and I feel awful each time.”

Child Safety Tips for Parents -- Predators

Our Confusion About Justice

Original Article


By Sylvia Clute

Insight into the realms of Oneness and duality is not what I expected to emerge from my career as a trial attorney. Nonetheless, it was my years of legal training and experience in the courtroom that opened this door. When I realized that clients came to me with broken relationships and what I did made it worse, I began to search for a better way. This, in turn, eventually led me to recognize that there are two distinct ways to respond to conflict, but we use the term “justice” to describe both. One is the punitive model, and the other is what I call “unitive” justice.

When I became aware of the fact that there are two models of justice, I realized the punitive model was the one to which I had devoted my career. This explained many things, including the high rate of job dissatisfaction, suicide, alcoholism and drug addiction that attorneys experience. I now wonder if attorneys who engage in the most adversarial aspects of this punitive system, as trial attorneys do, experience varying degrees of moral injury when they are confronted with the deepest injustices found in the system. (See The Meaning of Moral Injury.)

The unitive model of justice, in contrast, promotes reconciliation, restoration, healing and transformation. As my journey to understand justice more fully continued, I saw how these two models of justice are reflections of a much deeper order, namely, the blindness of duality gently held within the omnipresence of Oneness. Coming to this awareness changed everything.

I recognized that our imprecise language about justice had been causing many, including me, to be confused about what that word means. In law school I was told I would be learning the best legal system that could be designed. Perhaps my professors were confused, as well. Had both models of justice been taught, this claim would not have been so easily made.

In some respects we do have an excellent legal system. We have designed an orderly system for issues of ownership, property transfer and how we manage traffic, for example. But when it comes to how we respond to conflict, whether it is within a corporate structure or a family unit, it is an adversarial system that pays little attention to the broken relationships that lie at the heart of the breakdown. When it comes to responding to crime, we have had essentially the same retributive system for the past several centuries, and paid little attention to how crime arises out of broken connections.