Friday, March 11, 2011

Story from a loving mother

My son was 18 years old, still in high school and obviously hanging around with underage kids. I don’t know the details of what happened because the attorney we hired said for us not to discuss the case at all on the rare case that I’d get called to the stand, so we respected that. I did however ask my son if I’d be ashamed of anything he did, and he replied “No”.

The police who confiscated his computer, cell phone and interrogated him told me that had he been 3 months younger, “none of this would be an issue.” Everything that happened was 100% consensual. He should have lawyered up, but he believed the police when they told him all he had to do was admit and they'd let him go 'home'. They never mentioned that 'home' was jail...... He admitted to things he didn't even do, just so he could get home....

We borrowed a *lot* of money and hired an expensive attorney. Hindsight... We should have looked for one who was specialized in SO offenses but, again, hindsight.... The attorney dragged it out for over a year hoping that the DA would get frustrated I guess and lower his charges, but gods... did she stick to her guns..

He took a plea of 3 counts of lewd and lascivious on a minor and 4 counts of possession of child pornography. The fifteen year old that he was seeing at the time had her 12 year old sister take pornographic pictures of her and sent them to him on his cell phone. We were told that since they were minors that there was no recourse and my son we could not even countersue for distribution of child porn.

The attorney made it very clear that just with the possession charges he was facing 60 years of jail time; and given his shape, size and demeanor told us adamantly that he needed to take the plea because even a year in jail as a sex offender, he’d likely be killed. He took the plea for 2 years of house arrest, and 4 years of probation to follow and it was mandatory that he’d have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. The only ‘good’ thing about this is they withheld adjudication and charged as a youthful offender so when he is done with his probation he will not have a criminal record – however he will always have to register as a sex offender.

The moment he took the plea, he was led downstairs where he was fingerprinted and his photo was taken. We had to meet with the probation officer and go to the sheriff’s office. We were told then that the house we’re living in does not fit within the 1000 foot rule for Pinellas county and he had to move immediately; there is a Sunday School 900 feet away.

The only resource they gave us was a hotel where he’d have to share a room with 'up to' 3-4 offenders and pay $75.00 every three days. He went to prison directly from high school and has no job experience so as his parents we would have to cover those costs. Due to the money we’ve borrowed and the rent and utilities we pay, we can barely afford anything anymore. I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel because I can’t imagine anyone hiring him with no work experience and being a sex offender.

Needless to say, I was devastated. When you think of your child leaving you, it’s to go to college, or move in with friends, or even to live with a girlfriend; not this. I begged and pleaded with the sheriff’s office and I was dismissed with no compassion at all. I work from home in the insurance industry so he’d have supervision 100% of the time. Also he is on house arrest, so they’d know if he left the property immediately but they’d rather him register as a ‘transient’ than to have a stable home where he had supervision 100% of the time.

We were ‘lucky’ when my son had met a guy at his probation office and is allowing him to rent half a room for $100.00 a week in a house. At least he’s not living under a bridge, right? He’s been getting advice from other offenders who have been living at the house who tell him to “Just go out and commit another crime, they’ll be forced to put you in jail and you can serve your time and be done with the house arrest.” I’m pleased that he told me about it and decided it would not be in his best interest.

If an 18 year old child who has a stable and loving family can be stripped from his home who has no job skills and can not provide for himself what message does that send?

I've been trying to look at the 'good' side of all this.... He's got a roof over his head, he applied for and got food stamps so he can eat. I wish I knew about this forum before all this happened, I really think that we may have gotten some sound advise on how to handle things... but now, I guess we just need to wait it out and pray that he doesn't get into trouble in the mean time.....

My son has been my life since he was born. He's been my confidant, my strength .. my heart... I just go crazy thinking that I can't protect him anymore because of that magical age of 18.


MN - Audit: Sex offender program costly, inconsistent

Original Article

03/11/2011

By PAUL McENROE and WARREN WOLFE

The Legislative Auditor concluded that dangerous offenders in Minnesota receive inadequate treatment, while others don't need confinement.

Hundreds of Minnesota sex offenders confined in state treatment facilities receive inadequate therapy from under-qualified staff at excessive cost, according to a report released Friday by Legislative Auditor James Nobles.

At the same time, many others present such low risk to the public that they could safely be released to secured community group homes, saving taxpayers millions of dollars, the report said.

And in what they describe as inconsistent public safety policy, auditors found that some sex offenders under indefinite commitment may be less likely to re-offend than dangerous felons in state prisons who are being released back to the streets.

The long-awaited report (PDF) sets the stage for an emotionally charged debate over the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP). The 17-year-old program confines more individuals per capita than any other state; it has never released an offender, even after years of treatment, and now faces potential court challenges to its constitutionality.

"A major problem with Minnesota's commitment process is that it generally involves a choice between a high-security facility and release from prison with no supervision, if the offender has served his entire prison sentence,'' the report stated.

Looking behind the razor wire of the secure facilities in Moose Lake and St. Peter, examiners found a system where more than 650 mostly idle offenders watch television for hours on end and receive insufficient therapy from staff with inadequate training -- at an annual cost of more than $78 million, or about $120,000 per offender. Auditors concluded that the yearly cost per sex offender is three times higher than for inmates of state prisons.

Auditors called on state officials to replace this "all or nothing'' system and develop a plan for low-cost alternatives, while spending more on treatment of the most dangerous offenders.

The Department of Human Services, which oversees the MSOP, supports most of the auditor's recommendations and is working to increasing its treatment for offenders in the program and improving the competency of its staff, Commissioner Lucinda Jesson wrote at the end of the report. She also said the department stands ready to coordinate policy discussions with legislators and others.

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MA - SJC takes up challenge to state sex offender law

Original Article

03/11/2011

By Julie Manganis

SALEM - Just how far can the government go to prevent a man prosecutors call an "incorrigible" exhibitionist from re-offending?

That's the question the state's highest court took up yesterday during a hearing in the case of a North Shore man named [name withheld].

The Supreme Judicial Court was asked to consider whether the state's sexually dangerous persons law, allowing for some offenders to be kept in custody after they complete their sentences, is constitutional because it includes nonviolent offenses.

Essex County prosecutors want to keep [name withheld] locked up even though he has completed his most recent sentence, so last summer they asked Salem Superior Court Judge Timothy Feeley to declare [name withheld], 53, a "sexually dangerous person."

Feeley agreed with prosecutors that under the law in Massachusetts, [name withheld] fit all the requirements of a sexually dangerous person who is likely to re-offend.

But the judge rejected the state's request, finding that the law, amended in 2004 to include open and gross lewdness, the offense for which [name withheld] had been repeatedly convicted, is unconstitutional, citing a United States Supreme Court ruling in a Kansas case that, he wrote, appears to limit the government to holding only violent sexual offenders past their sentences.

Essex County Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Steinfield argued that the Kansas case dealt not with the issue of violence but with the mental status of a defendant and that the Massachusetts statute passes constitutional muster.

He also argued that [name withheld] poses a risk of causing serious emotional harm to others if he is released.

"It would distort the meaning of the words to say that someone who does what this defendant does is not a menace to the health and safety of others," Steinfield argued.

Steinfield found a tough audience among the justices.

When he suggested that the standard is dangerousness, not violence, Justice Margot Botsford responded, "Oh, please."

Justice Ralph Gants questioned whether a decision allowing the law to stand opens the door to other laws to commit people after their sentences for other types of offenses.

William Korman, [name withheld]'s lawyer, said the law already protects the public by making [name withheld]'s behavior a crime, so that if he does re-offend when he gets out — as predicted by doctors who evaluated him — he will go back to jail.

When Chief Justice Roderick Ireland asked Korman if he agrees that [name withheld] is dangerous, Korman said he does not believe he is.

[name withheld], in his decades of exposing himself and masturbating in public, has never targeted a specific individual or followed anyone, Korman argued. His behavior may be "disgusting," but it's not violent.

That may be, suggested Justice Robert Cordy, but what about others charged with open and gross lewdness who do target specific people?

That led Korman to suggest that the solution would be for legislators to create a new crime of "aggravated" lewdness.

"I think what's missing here is we're not talking about a sexually unpleasant person or a sexually disgusting person," Korman said. "We're talking (in the statute) about a sexually dangerous person."

Cordy suggested that [name withheld]'s behavior is harmful.

"This involves encounters between your client and others in a sexually offensive way," Cordy said. "I think it's clear it probably causes emotional harm."

[name withheld] (who sometimes spells his name "[name withheld]") grew up in Salem and has also lived in Peabody and Beverly. He is currently still in custody at the Massachusetts Treatment Center in Bridgewater, awaiting the SJC's decision.

The case was "fast-tracked" because [name withheld] is in custody, so a decision could come from the court sooner than the typical three to four months it takes in most cases.


NH - We are losing the war on sex offenders

Original Article

Old article, but one others should read.

05/12/2010

By Chris Dornin

But not the way you think. The stereotype of the mean stranger watching the schoolyard underlies the last two decades of sex offender laws. Ironically, these feel-good, knee-jerk statutes endanger the very kids they aim to protect.

State Sen. David Boutin (R-Hooksett) is sponsoring House Bill 1628 this spring to encourage police departments to use active public notice when sex offenders are released into a neighborhood. He filed the bill to please constituents hoping to drive all the sex offenders from Hooksett. [name withheld], a man on the sex offender registry, had been charged with a new sex crime. When [name withheld] made bail, his neighbors started a website against him with these and similar comments:

"You show true restraint by not beating the tar out of this lowlife." Chris Johnson

"I hope you guys get rid of the bastard. What a piece of crap." MTgirl

"This is an incestuous family of whack-jobs and psychopaths, and it makes me feel good to know they are going down." Steve

"Hang'em high and let the sun set on em. Only in a perfect world right? Haha" Josh T

Boutin echoed those feelings in his Senate testimony. "Late September of 2009 a convicted child sex offender heinously struck again and was charged with felonious sexual assault against a 7 year old Hooksett girl," Boutin told lawmakers. "Quick adoption of this bill and dissemination of notification guidelines to local law enforcement will go a long way towards preventing another sexual assault, with regrettable consequences for the victim, family and community, who all share in the burden of the pain."
- Passing more and more restrictions doesn't prevent anything, but you can continue to live on Fantasy Island.

There was much more to the story. The prosecutor has dropped the case against [name withheld] for lack of evidence. A neighbor had accused [name withheld] of molesting his own niece, who still lives with [name withheld], his wife, and his brother in law.

States like Pennsylvania and New Jersey evaluate all their sex offenders for threats to the public and save active notice for the worst of the very worst. That lifelong punishment after incarceration can include mass emails, newspaper ads, wanted-style posters, and hostile PTA meetings. Those states also have strong safeguards against vigilantism. In the last decade dozens of registered sex offenders have been murdered.
- Same kind of tactics used by the Nazi's towards the Jews.

These laws shame the very group of ex-cons least prone to do another crime. The recidivism rate for new sex charges against registered sex offenders is averaging about 1 percent per year in state after state. Likewise, the research says more than 95 percent of sex crimes are committed by people who have never been convicted before, usually the loved ones of the victim. Between a third and half of the offenders against kids are teenagers or younger themselves.

The middle school in Hooksett had a bizarre episode of active notice this winter. Jennifer Frank, a visiting detective from Plymouth State University, displayed student Facebook pages in front of the whole school. Some belonged to the children of local sex offenders. Then she posted their fathers' Internet mug pages from the state registry. Charles Littlefield, the Hooksett superintendent, confirms that these children were "traumatized." Steve Harrises, the principal, says he was "blindsided" by the assembly.
- Now read the above carefully, and below!

Something worse happened when Frank went to Fall Mountain High School. Steve Fortier, a school parent, gave this testimony at the Senate hearing on HB 1628. Fortier is not a sex offender, by the way.

"Many of the sex offenders whose information was shown (in front of the school) are family members of teens who were sitting in the audience," Fortier said in written testimony. "Because most youth sexual abuse is committed by a family member or someone else known by the victim, there was an even more troubling consequence. Many of the victims of the sex offenders were watching the assembly. This retraumatization, including the stigma associated with being a teen sexual abuse victim, was, in my opinion, not worth whatever gains were made through the assembly."

Other Fall Mountain parents have said kids ran out crying and stayed away from school for days. One couple has asked the Civil Liberties Union to represent them in litigation.

The hysteria sweeping New Hampshire against sex offenders has already reached a critical stage. Hostile neighbors drove convicted child murderer [name withheld] from Manchester to Chichester to New Hampton last year. Along the way he stayed with the family of Pastor David Pinckney, whose parishioners gave the ex-offender meaningful handyman jobs to do. Pinckney told senators that men like [name withheld] can assimilate safely back into society.

"I would welcome him back in my home," Pinckney testified.

Mobs gathered outside the apartment of registered sex offender [name withheld] in Manchester a couple of years ago. People burned dolls on her wooden porch, according to news reports. Huot shared the apartment with another woman and her kids.

[name withheld], a former Laconia State School resident on community placement, was bludgeoned to death in 1981. Three former State School residents were awaiting trial on molestation charges. Rumors that [name withheld] was a sex offender had spread through his neighborhood before his murder.

A man at NH Prison stabbed two sex offenders in Concord and tried to burn an apartment building with seven sex offenders. The Maine vigilante who killed two sex offenders in 2007 was coming here next. After his suicide, police found a New Hampshire hit list on his computer.

Nobody can identify the very few predatory child rapists among the 2,700 mug shots on the New Hampshire registry. Judging by registry data from other states, most are incest offenders at low risk to commit a new crime. Some are husbands stung on the Internet without an actual victim. Some are drunken college guys who misunderstood a no for a yes. Some are former Romeos with 15-year-old girlfriends. Those are all criminals, I'm not minimizing their crimes, but they were well punished in prison. Few will recidivate. No one can tell if the folks branded by the registry have families to share the horrors of active notice.

None of the names comes with a clinical risk score. On line they all look bad. If HB 1628 becomes law, bullies will follow the children of sex offenders. Some will lose their jobs. Landlords will evict some of them. Some could become those mythical strangers watching the sandbox from the shadows.

Chris Dornin is a retired Statehouse reporter and religious volunteer into N.H. Prison.


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