Tuesday, March 1, 2011

MD - GPS for Sex Offenders


Despised Things

Website


Inspired by true events, Despised Things is an account of Kev Ketch, a drug abuser, sex offender, who serves jail time and shares his personal struggles with his lifestyle, his faith and his actions. The story begins with a man describing his background and how he becomes a drug abuser and sex offender. He shares details of his time in jail when his mother passes. He reminisces how he developed a friendship with a woman named Anna, and how Anna and him come to depend on each other. Anna ends up betraying him. He muses over all of his supposed friends and how each of them has betrayed him in some way. As he struggles to reform himself, depression and isolation drive him back into old habits.

..In his despair he hears the voice of God.


VA - Legislature passes sexual predator bill

Original Article

03/01/2011

FRONT ROYAL - A bill sponsored by Del. Clifford L. "Clay" Athey Jr. that makes it tougher for sexually violent predators to be released back into society passed in both the House and Senate of the General Assembly.

"It requires before a circuit judge can release someone who is civilly committed as a sexual violent predator that [they] must have a psychiatrist who will certify to the court that the individual is no longer a danger to children," said Athey, R-Front Royal.

Once sexually violent predators complete their prison terms, they are entitled to a hearing to determine if they should be civilly committed and if they are committed, they are then entitled to an annual review to determine if they can be released back into society, Athey said.

The second thing the bill allows, Athey said, is that the hearings for sexually violent predators can be conducted by video conference.

"So instead of you having to bring them all the way from the facility up to the Warren County Circuit Court, you could do it via video conference and keep them in that secure facility because obviously there's some danger in transporting these individuals and mixing them with the prison population, things of that nature," Athey said. "Originally we were going to let them be mixed with the prison population, but I think the compromise that we came up with is ... instead of even bringing them up here to be mixed with the population, we would just do the hearings by video conference, which I think improves the bill."

Athey said that the same bill sponsored by Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, passed the General Assembly as well.

"We changed my bill on the House side and we conformed Sen. Obenshain's bill to be identical to mine, and then now both of them are on the governor's desk," Athey said.

Athey said there are a couple of reasons why he sponsored the bill.

"The problem with a sexual violent predator is that their crimes are not only crimes, but they're part of a perversion or a sickness of mind, and we do know that the likelihood of them being rehabilitated is not very great," Athey said. "They are just as likely to commit these kinds of violent acts when they are 17 as they are when they're 77. And so because of that, we need heightened scrutiny because once they're civilly committed and determined to be a danger, the likelihood of them being rehabilitated is not very great, and what we don't want to have happen is that on a technicality or based on some sort of testimony that is not given by a professional psychiatrist, the circuit judge would release them back out on the street."

Athey added that, "This class of people are probably our most dangerous people, and because of that, we want to ensure that the system made sure that they were securely held whether in the penitentiary or whether they were in a hospital civilly committed and that we didn't release them for any other ... reason [than] a psychiatrist at that facility certifies that they will not be [a] danger to anybody."

"In fact, we've only released 11 since we set this up 10 years ago. The likelihood of rehabilitation for these individuals is not very great, and we definitely want to have some heightened scrutiny on releasing them back into the public because unfortunately as part of their sickness they also tend to try to locate and live near where children play."


NE - South Sioux City may change sexual predator ordinance

Original Article

02/28/2011

By Katie Gannon

SOUTH SIOUX CITY (KTIV) - Recent changes to the way the state of Nebraska classifies sex offenders means local police departments have to make changes too. South Sioux City is no exception.

The state's January first change removes "risk level" classifications in Nebraska's Sex Offender Registration Act and replaces that with just two classifications; sexual offenders and sexual predators.

Lawmakers passed these changes to bring the state up to code on the federal bill, called "The Adam Walsh Act."

Because the state changed their law, South Sioux City and other city governments are following suit.
- So, if the state changed the definition, why does the cities need to do the same?  State law affects the entire state, does it not?

The city will be looking at adopting a new ordinance to include definitions of a sexual predator and sexual offender.

If approved the ordinance would define a sex offender as a person convicted of a sexual offense under Nebraska law and who is required to register as a sex offender.

A sexual predator would be defined as a person who has committed an aggravated offense and who victimized a person under age 18 and is required by state law to register.

"Basically the difference is the type of offense, the age of the victim and perhaps the number of offenses," Scot Ford, South Sioux City Police Chief said.

Ford says the city needs to adopt the changes or the ordinance is void because of the state's statute.

He also says it makes charging an offender easier.

"It would be difficult for us as a municipality to try and do any enforcement that would be contrary to state statute," Ford said.

The South Sioux City Council will be discussing the changes to their ordinance Tuesday night.

The new state law will also post all offenders to the Nebraska State Patrol's website, regardless of what they are charged with.


MN - Finding new homes for sex offenders

Original Article

02/28/2011

By Nick Halter

Minneapolis leaders want state lawmakers to stop the trend of concentrating Minnesota’s sex offenders in the city

Minneapolis is home to nearly half of all Level III sex offenders in Minnesota, even though the city’s population is only 7 percent of the state’s total.

Some of the city’s neighborhoods have a disproportionately high concentration of sex offenders. One zip code alone in North Minneapolis has 24 chronic sex offenders, more than in all of St. Paul.

Many others are homeless, and list addresses of Downtown Minneapolis shelters. The Minnesota Department of Corrections says they are known to spend their time on Downtown streets.

Studies show that Level III sex offenders have a low likelihood of repeating their crimes, but local officials say that concentrating them into small areas stresses communities and hurts property values. City leaders, including North Minneapolis Council Member Don Samuels (5th Ward), are asking that the Minnesota Legislature adopt a plan that disperses the sex offenders in a fair manner.

If these guys are such a risk to society, they need to change the laws to incarcerate them longer. If they’re not that big of a risk to society, spread them out so it’s a level playing field and one community isn’t unduly burdened with them,” said Deb Wagner, a Jordan neighborhood resident whose 55411 zip code has the most sex offenders in the state.

Why does Minneapolis bear such an uneven burden? It’s a complex problem involving opportunistic landlords, a lack of local control, sex offender networking and the location of community resources.

Residents and leaders are worried that tight state budgets will lead to the release of more sex offenders that eventually end up in Minneapolis.

North side home to most offenders

Level III sex offenders are, by definition, the riskiest of sex offenders. Their public profiles posted on the Minnesota Department of Corrections website often show histories of using weapons so they can rape and sexually assault women and children.

There are 229 released Level III sex offenders living in Minnesota. Of those, 107 live in Hennepin County, with all but five living in Minneapolis.

North Minneapolis is home to about 50 of those offenders. About 25 live Downtown and 19 live in Southeast. Only four live in Southwest and one offender lives in Northeast.

Dennis Wagner, Deb’s husband, said North Minneapolis neighbors have become more and more aware of the problem in recent years. He and others have become active on the issue, testifying to the state Legislature and meeting with officials.

He and neighbor Troy Kester put together a spreadsheet of Minneapolis zip codes and their sex offenders in comparison to the rest of Hennepin County. They found that some Minneapolis zip codes house 400 to 3,200 percent of what they should, based on the county’s population of 1.1 million.

It’s kind of that dirty little secret that appears to have been going on for a while and all of a sudden some of the locals started looking and saying, ‘God, we seem to be getting a lot of these Level 3 [notification] flyers around here,’” Dennis Wagner said.

Sex offenders, since 1991, have been required by state law to register their addresses with local law enforcement. Local law enforcement is then required to notify the community, which usually consists of a public meeting and flyers sent to neighbors.

The DOC also identified all Level III sex offenders on its website.

The road to Minneapolis

When a Level III sex offender is to be released from lockup, it’s up to him to come up with a plan for where he will live while he serves the remainder of his sentence in the community, said Tom Merkel, director of Hennepin County Community Corrections.

Merkel said Minneapolis has a few halfway houses, which are attractive to those on parole. Once they live in a halfway house, sex offenders often become connected to the community and will often choose to stay in Minneapolis once their parole has ended.

Because it’s the offender’s decision, Minneapolis is housing sex offenders that didn’t live or commit their crimes anywhere near the city.

In 2010, 20 of the city’s 89 sex offenders at that time were from outside Hennepin County. They came from counties as close as Anoka to as far as Crow Wing and St. Louis. One even came from Wisconsin.

Merkel said the county has appealed some parolees’ placement plans to the state, but said the appeals are usually denied.

It’s important to note that about 60 percent of Minneapolis registered sex offenders are off parole and the county or state has no say in where they can live, although offenders must still notify law enforcement of their residence.

Merkel said a network exists amongst locked up sex offenders, and that extends into finding a home after their release.

Samuels is also a resident of the Jordan neighborhood, and he’s been outspoken about the high level of sex offenders is his ward.

He said landlords in Minneapolis target sex offenders as tenants because they are required to have jobs.

There are landlords who will only rent to sex offenders,” Samuels said. “It’s a source of guaranteed employed tenants who are under supervision and have a certain amount of predictability in their lives.”

Samuels said that when the county proposes putting a sex offender in a suburban community, residents will fill the high school gymnasium in protest. In North Minneapolis, he said, the community is fatigued from fighting drugs, violence and prostitution.

Perception, not crime, drives down property values

The Wagners have lived in their same home for 26 years and they’re raising their daughter, a freshman in high school, in the neighborhood.

We’re raising our daughter here and if we felt it was unsafe, we wouldn’t be here,” Deb said.

But Deb Wagner is also a real estate agent and does most of her business in North Minneapolis. When potential buyers get their hands on a real estate contract, they are notified that they should check the area for sex offenders on the DOC Web site.

It’s mentioned several times in real estate contracts” she said. “For people to disregard that, it takes somebody pretty unusual. Unless they’re not super paranoid about that, but who isn’t when you mention sex offenders? Especially if you’re planning to move into a community with your children.”

The recidivism rate for sex offenders is 12 percent, which is lower than other criminals, according to Minnesota Department of Corrections 2007 study.

It creates a perception that this is not a safe place to live,” Wagner said.

City wants laws enforced

The state is struggling with budget deficits — $6.2 billion this biennium — and incarcerating sex offenders at $300 per day is costly. To have those same offenders living under supervised release costs only $90 per day, per offender, according to the DOC.

The DOC says it may release an additional seven sex offenders within the year.

The city of Minneapolis has tried to combat the problem locally, but found that it is illegal for the city to make ordinances restricting where sex offenders can live.

For the last few years, the city has listed the issue as a priority on its legislative agenda. While new sex offender laws are adopted frequently at the state capitol, Minneapolis has not gotten its wish.

Sex offenders seem to get a lot of attention at the Legislature, maybe not always focused on things we hope they would focus on,” said City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden (8th Ward), who chairs the committee that drafts the legislative agenda.

Local officials say the solution is twofold. The state needs to come up with a better plan for placement of sex offenders and clarify and enforce language in state statutes that prohibits high concentrations of sex offenders.

According to state law, “The agency responsible for the offender’s supervision shall take into consideration the proximity of the offender’s residence to that of other level III offenders and proximity to schools and, to the greatest extent feasible, shall mitigate the concentration of level III offenders and concentration of level III offenders near schools.”

Samuels would like that law enforced in Minneapolis.

The Wagners hope so, too.

Other people don’t want to pay to have these guys locked up,” Dennis Wagner said. “Then put them in your backyard too. Share the pain, share the gain.”


CA - City Official (Mario Sierra) Charged With Sex Crime

Original Article

02/28/2011

By PAUL KRUEGER and LINDSAY HOOD

The city's new "Street Czar" pleaded not guilty Monday to molesting a child under the age of 14.

The prosecutor in the case claims Mario Sierra, 47, had the female victim put her hand on his penis and says there is independent evidence that confirms the alleged victim's story.

Prosecutors say the girl was younger than 14 when the alleged crime happened, about seven years ago.

Sierra will not be jailed while he awaiting future hearings in his case.

The judge issued a protective order, prohibiting Sierra from having any contact with the alleged victim.

Sierra's lawyer, Tom Warwick, declined to comment on the charges.

Sierra was recently appointed to Director of Transportation and Storm Water for the city of San Diego. Earlier this month, the city consolidated its street operations into one department.

The site says a memo from the city's Chief Operating Officer, Jay Goldstone, says Sierra has been placed on unpaid administrative leave.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 127 president Joan Raymond called the arrest surprising.

"But, he's innocent until proven guilty and the courts will have to do its process," Raymond said.

The union represents nearly 2,000 of the city's blue-collar workers.

Sierra's felony charge carries a maximum prison sentence of eight years.


NC - $1,800,000 In Public Money for IFC Shelter, But Nowhere For Sex Offenders To Find Shelter?

The following was sent to us via email.

Today we are releasing a video that highlights a serious consequence of the backroom deal to site the homeless shelter.

Please take a few minutes to watch, comment on, and share this video



PLEASE MARK MARCH 21ST ON YOUR CALENDAR AND LET US KNOW IF YOU CAN BE PART OF OUR PRESENTATION GROUP

Throughout our campaign for A BETTER SITE for the men's shelter in Chapel Hill, some advocates of the Interfaith Council (IFC) proposal to locate a facility at Homestead and MLK have sought to cast us as "NIMBY" (not in my backyard) neighbors, as one local media source put it. A member of the Town Council has lectured us to "not create a bogeyman." An IFC staff member has even gone so far as to say that we want "these men to leave our town as defeated men with their heads held down... to leave as sickly men, as broken men, as hungry men, as men who possess very little and having even less to lose." (Subsequently, the IFC distanced itself from these outrageous remarks).

Nothing could be further from the truth. Throughout our campaign, we have promoted an evidence-based, transparent process that would involve all Chapel Hill and Orange County stakeholders in the search for a better site -- one that could serve all of our homeless men.

As we have repeatedly pointed out, one of the most troubling aspects of the proposed Homestead site is that it will not provide services to registered sex offenders. Yes, you read that correctly: we ALL should be deeply concerned that a shelter at that site would NOT, under North Carolina law, be permitted to provide services to registered sex offenders, due to proximity of church preschools and a public park. IFC leaders have acknowledged this limitation of the site, as they must, but they have tried to spin the issue, and to play on the very fears and prejudices that neighbors of the proposed site supposedly harbor.

The IFC's message has been, in effect: "Don't worry, we won't have sex offenders in the building." Our message has been: "We know, and that's exactly the problem."

A little confusing, isn't it? How can these fearful, NIMBY neighbors possibly be arguing that a shelter must serve one of the most stigmatized groups in our society?

So, one more time, let us be clear: it is a terrible idea to locate the community's only men's shelter where it must turn away homeless sex offenders, next to preschools and a public park. In doing so, the new shelter will leave homeless sex offenders with two options: vagrancy (which, apart from its deeply troubling humanitarian implications, creates risks for all of us), or violation of their residency registration requirement (by which these men risk extended imprisonment, at taxpayer expense, as one Chapel Hill man experienced this month).

We understand that many sex offenders are dangerous predators, and that many people believe that they deserve our society's harshest sanctions. But the issue is more complicated. Not all offenders fit this profile; some are guilty of relatively minor crimes such as public urination (until not long ago, a too-frequent occurrence during Halloween parties on Franklin St.) or consensual so-called "Romeo and Juliet" relations (i.e. between older and younger teenagers). Such offenses may represent poor judgment, but do they merit the "scarlet letter" treatment that confronts individuals listed on the sex offender registry, who must carry the mark for years, decades, or even life? What's more, the strict residency restrictions that many states (like NC) have enacted to prevent offenders from living close to schools and parks have had the side effect of forcing many offenders into homelessness. And while Internet access to the registry, which shows offenders' pictures and addresses, has been an empowering tool for communities concerned about safety, it has also forced many offenders to confront intense social stigmas, leading to loss of employment and community support. These men need exactly the kinds of services that IFC is poised to provide, if its new facility is site correctly.

In short, it's time to "think again" about the issue of homelessness among sex offenders, and what it means for communities, both here in Chapel Hill and Orange County, and around the country. The issue has received national media coverage, and in the recent economic downturn, it has only gotten worse. The IFC shelter downtown has outgrown its current space, but it can and does provide services to this segment of the homeless population. Together, we have a chance to get this right, so that its new facility can continue to do so.

Please take a few minutes to watch our video about this issue. And contact the Town Council in Chapel Hill, the Trustees of the University of North Carolina, and the IFC Community House, which has served our community so faithfully all these years, to let them know that we need to find A BETTER SITE that will not be forced to leave some of our community's most troubled men out in the cold.