Wednesday, June 1, 2011

VA - Could privatize costly sex-offender program

Original Article

05/26/2011

By DENA POTTER

RICHMOND (AP) - An unsolicited proposal has Virginia officials considering if privatization is the best way to control the state's costly and rapidly expanding program to indefinitely detain sex offenders for treatment after they have completed prison sentences.

Companies have until June 2 to submit proposals to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, spokeswoman Megan McGuire said.

Meanwhile, a group of sex offenders being held at the Burkeville psychiatric facility say they may sue if the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation goes ahead with a plan to double-bunk residents to ease overcrowding.

The center is designed to hold 300 residents and is expected to reach capacity this summer. The General Assembly authorized the double-bunking plan earlier this year when it rejected Gov. Bob McDonnell's proposal for a new $43 million facility.

"The conditions here at V.C.B.R. are now deplorable, and to double bunk them would make conditions uninhabitable and miserable" and thus unconstitutional, six residents wrote in a letter sent to Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and The Associated Press.

Officials have scrambled to determine how best to deal with the increasing number of sex offenders who are being civilly committed for treatment because they are deemed more likely to commit future crimes, instead of being released after serving their criminal sentences. Law changes and aggressive prosecution have drastically increased the number of those committed under the classification of "sexually violent predator." The program's budget has increased tenfold since it started in 2004.

The department decided to seek requests for proposals after Boca Raton, Fla.-based GEO Care submitted an unsolicited proposal to run Virginia's program.

It costs the state about $97,000 per year to treat each civilly committed offender. While specifics are confidential during the bidding process, GEO Care said it could provide the treatment and increase capacity for "significantly less."

GEO Care's proposal said it would double the number of beds at the center without using any extra state funds and to get the program accredited within 18 months. It also would increase the amount and quality of treatment the residents receive. The company currently contracts with Florida to operate its civil commitment program.

"We believe that a public-private partnership can bring value to the Commonwealth by providing quality services while achieving meaningful savings for Virginia's taxpayers," company spokesman Pablo Paez said in an e-mailed statement. He refused to comment further, including on whether it would go ahead with the double-bunking plan, because the bidding process was ongoing.

GEO Care is a subsidiary of The GEO Group, which operates prisons, detention centers and sex- offender and mental-health facilities in 15 states. Last year it had revenues of more than $1 billion from government contracts.

It currently operates Virginia's only private prison, the 1,500-bed, medium-security Lawrenceville Correctional Center.

There is no timetable for the department to evaluate the proposals and make a decision, McGuire said.

While some of the 20 states with civil commitment programs contract out some services, Florida's 720-bed program run by GEO is the nation's only fully privatized program. An official with that state's Department of Children and Family Services, which oversees the program, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

GEO has received favorable reviews and many of its prisons and treatment facilities are accredited. The company was sued in 2006 by the family of an inmate who was beaten to death at one of its Texas prisons. The court awarded the inmate's family $51 million, and the company eventually settled out of court.

Some residents at the Burkeville facility said they are worried about privatization. Others said they were concerned about having a roommate, as they did in prison.

Each of the more than 200 men who are housed in the Burkeville center have committed sex offenses and have been diagnosed with a mental abnormality, such as being antisocial or having more severe mental problems, which make them more likely to commit future crimes.

"There's already people saying they're not going to put nobody in my cell, and if they do they're going to carry them out," Mark Hodges, 44, told the AP. Hodges served nearly two decades in prison for abduction and attempted rape before being committed three years ago.

The state's McGuire said residents will be "carefully assessed" prior to placement in a double-occupancy room. They will not have a choice as to whether they get a roommate, she said.

According to a draft policy obtained by the AP, double bunking would start with new residents entering the program.

While more than 200 offenders have been committed since the program started, only 10 have been released. About 50 others were allowed to leave prison under strict monitoring. It costs about $20,000 per year to monitor an offender in the community.

"They wouldn't have to double bunk if there was a revolving door to this place," Mike Holzmiller, who has been committed since 2008, told the AP in a telephone interview.

A legislative panel is reviewing the program and is expected to report back in November.


UK - Met officer (Robert Nicholson) who pursued 14-year-old is sacked

Robert Nicholson
Original Article

06/01/2011

A police officer charged for sexually abusing a minor last year has been sacked after facing a disciplinary panel yesterday (May 31).

The panel, formed by the Independent Police Complaint Commission, ruled to sack shamed PC Robert Nicholson, 29, who was accused of persistently pestering a vulnerable 14-year-old for sex via texts and Facebook messages.

The former officer was 27 when he first the met girl, who was in care, while she was being held at Bethnal Green Police Station, in October, 2009.

Nicholson admitted kissing the girl on the lips, but insisted he thought she was 16 and that he had done nothing wrong.

Records showed the shamed PC had formed an inappropriate relationship with the girl by bombarding her with messages of a sexual nature. Messages included “Wanna see you” and “I wanna be close to you” to her. The campaign culminated in a late night drive to a secluded area of Epping Forest on December 16, 2009, where he was accused of making ‘sexual advances’ in the back of his car.

He was cleared at a Southwark Crown Court of any wrongdoing, but was sacked last night for forming an inappropriate relationship with a minor.

Deborah Glass, of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said: “We expect the police to protect our families, and us yet Nicholson¹s actions were, from the outset, a disgraceful abuse of his position. He exploited his position as a police officer to pursue her sexually.”


NY - Long Island Sex Assault Survivor Leads Project Against Rapists

Natasha Alexenko
Original Article

06/01/2011

WEST SAYVILLE - Natasha Alexenko wants more rapists in prison.

A sexual assault survivor who waited 15 years to see her assailant brought to justice, Alexenko — who is featured in an upcoming HBO documentary on sex crime prosecutions — insists authorities often have the evidence to convict predators, but it goes untested for years. It happened to her.

The Long Island woman is the founder of and spokeswoman for the new Natasha’s Justice Project, which seeks to advocate for rape victims and erase a nationwide backlog of untested sexual assault kits, also known as rape kits. The backlog could be in the tens of thousands, according to some estimates.

You’d be surprised how many people are not aware of the fact that an individual is sexually assaulted, we have the DNA evidence, and yet the kit sits on a shelf going absolutely nowhere,” said Alexenko, 38, who recently resigned as head of the Long Island Maritime Museum to support the foundation.

The documentary, “Sex Crimes Unit,” premieres June 20 on HBO. It focuses on the sex crimes prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney’s office, often credited with pioneering aggressive techniques in convicting sexual predators, including clearing its backlog of 17,000 untested rape kits in New York City.

Although The Associated Press normally does not identify sexual assault victims, Alexenko is willingly coming forward to lift the stigma associated with sex crimes.

Alexenko was a 19-year-old college student from Ontario when she was raped and sodomized at gunpoint in the hallway of her Manhattan apartment building in 1993. She immediately reported the assault to police and went to a hospital, where authorities collected physical evidence, including DNA samples.

But Alexenko’s rape kit sat on a shelf in an evidence room for nearly a decade. Only months before the 10-year statute of limitations was to expire, New York City prosecutors seeking to clear its backlog of rape kits had the evidence analyzed.

A spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office said its backlog grew because evidence amassed at a faster rate than the time-consuming lab analysis could be completed. New York City no longer has a backlog, officials said

With no suspect in custody in Alexenko’s case, prosecutors employed an innovative legal strategy and indicted the DNA sample belonging to the unknown perpetrator, a so-called “John Doe indictment,” which essentially stopped the clock on the statute of limitations.

In 2007, authorities arrested a suspect who was eventually convicted in Alexenko’s sexual assault; he becomes eligible for parole in 2057. Alexenko, who testified at the trial, said afterward that she felt an obligation to help other victims.

I think with all the years I had to heal, it no longer becomes a matter of an eye for an eye, or revenge, it becomes something that’s more than that. And that is keeping this person from hurting anyone ever again,” she said.

Alexenko said that when a rape kit is tested, the forensic evidence is placed in a national database, where it can often be matched to suspects, leading to arrests and convictions.

A May report by the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the U.S. Justice Department, said the exact number of unanalyzed sex assault kits nationally is not known, in part because of an “antiquated process” of reporting in many jurisdictions.

An NIJ survey found that 43 percent of law enforcement agencies lack a computerized system for tracking forensic evidence. It also found that in 18 percent of unsolved sexual assault cases between 2002 and 2007, forensic evidence was collected but never submitted for analysis.

The NIJ said its survey did not reveal how many untested kits would have benefited from analysis.

Sarah Tofte, director of advocacy and policy for the Joyful Heart Foundation, a rape victims advocacy group founded by actress Mariska Hargitay (Video) of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” cited a 2006 Justice Department report estimating a nationwide backlog of 180,000 untested rape kits. Tofte said she suspects that is low because it relies largely on voluntary reports from law-enforcement agencies.

Tofte and others said rape kits can go untested for several reasons, including the cost of DNA analysis, which ranges from $800 to $1,500 per kit. She also noted that when the victim quickly identifies the alleged assailant as someone she knows, police sometimes do not send the kits for testing.

Dr. Lawrence Kobilinsky, chairman of the Department of Sciences at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said other factors include a lack of trained personnel and lab space, but added there is no excuse for not testing.

A crime is being committed while that kit sits there,” he said.

In the documentary’s closing sequence, Alexenko returns to the apartment building where she was brutalized in 1993, triumphant and confident.

I feel genuinely fortunate that my case came full circle against all odds,” Alexenko said. “So I feel like it’s my duty to go out there and make certain I can help other individuals who are going through a similar situation.”


UK - School orders pupils to wear baggy clothes 'to deter paedophiles who like boys in tight trousers'

Original Article

You can't make this stuff up. So what about the "pedophiles" who like kids in baggy pants? Guess they don't count!

05/31/2011

Furious parents yesterday criticised a school after they were asked to buy their children baggy clothes to deter paedophiles.

King's Park Secondary School, in Glasgow, asked parents to ensure modesty in their children's uniform in a bizarre letter which claims sex offenders may be taking pictures of schoolboys in tight trousers.

The letter, dubbed 'paranoid in the extreme' by one parent, was sent home even though police say there have been no incidents of schoolchildren in the area being targeted.

  • Girls can wear only knee-length pleated skirts or trousers and boys loose-fitting trousers
  • Warning linked to recent conviction of local paedophile who posed as young girl to target schoolchildren

And children whose parents fail to conform to the approved dress code could be forced to miss out on fun school trips.

The letter says: 'We believe an appropriate school uniform protects children from being targeted by sexual predators."

For the men!

For the ladies!
'There is recent evidence in south Glasgow of adults photographing schoolgirls in short skirts and schoolgirls/boys in tight trousers, then grooming them through the internet."
- So where is the "proof" of this?

'We must do all we can to keep our children safe. A modest school uniform is more appropriate than fashion skirts, trousers or tops.'

The crackdown on pupil attire has been slammed by shocked parents whose children don't want to obey the strict rules.

One blasted: 'There is no way an ugly uniform is going to deter a predator and determined sex offender."
- Exactly, and neither will draconian laws or an online shaming hit-list!

'This is just paranoid in the extreme. There are better ways to safeguard children than spreading needless panic.'
- I agree, but the media has been doing it for years, pushing the sex offender moral panic and mass hysteria.

Another added: 'It is laughable to think the uniform can act as some sort of paedophile-repellent.'

The tough new policy forces cash-strapped parents to shop from an approved list of items available only at high street store Marks and Spencer.

Girls can wear only knee-length pleated skirts or trousers and boys loose-fitting trousers.

A school source claimed the rules were sparked by the case of pervert [name withheld], 39, who pretended to be a schoolgirl to target schoolchildren online.
- He contacted them online and they agreed to meet him, so what does tight clothes have to do with it?

He managed to make contact with 49 girls from his King's Park home between 2007 and 2010.

The source said staff were not willing to take any chances and felt clothing could act as a safeguard for the children in their care.

But Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesman Liam McArthur said school bosses should have spoken to police if they had such real fears of predatory paedophiles.

He said: 'The school needs to bring this to the attention of police as a matter of urgency.'

Tory MSP Ruth Davidson added: 'This situation sounds very worrying.'

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said there had been 'extensive consultation' over the draconian new uniform rules.

He said: 'The welfare and protection of pupils are the highest priority.'

However, the Scottish Parent Teacher Council said 'shock tactics are not required'.

Chief executive Eileen Prior said: 'Creating a link between school uniform and paedophilia seems to be a dangerous and unhelpful one for everyone involved."

'It implies that young people are in some way responsible for the activities of paedophiles, which is an extremely dangerous argument and one which has echoes of the comments sometimes made around rapists and women's dress."

'If there is evidence of activity by a paedophile in the area, then police and parents should be informed and involved.'

She added: 'Many parents - and indeed young people themselves - are keen to have a dress code in school which requires everyone in the school community to dress in a way which is appropriate for a working environment.'

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesman Liam McArthur said: 'This situation raises some very serious issues."
- Like what?  I am not getting it!

'The school needs to bring this situation to the attention of the police as a matter of urgency.

'Likewise, if parents have any concerns whatsoever they should be raising these with the police.'


OH - Woman (Annette Osborn) charged after damaging security cams at sex offender's house

Annette Osborn
Original Article

05/31/2011

HENRIETTA TOWNSHIP (WOIO) - A Lorain County woman arrested after damaging security cameras at the home of a former registered sex offender.

Annette Osborn is charged with criminal damaging.

Lorain County Sheriff's Deputies tell 19 Action News she ripped the cords off the cameras at Henry Bennett's home on State Route 113.

Bennett is a convicted sex offender out of California who no longer has to register with the Sheriff's office.

Osborn was convinced his cameras pointed towards her house, which is behind Bennett's.

However, when deputies looked at Bennett's laptop, they determined that was not true and the cameras were only pointed towards his backyard.


NH - Homeless camps dot deep woods of Portsmouth

Original Article

05/29/2011

By Elizabeth Dinan

It's a warm May afternoon when [name withheld] is seated under a stand of pine trees drinking Steel Reserve beer with ice in front of two lit candles.

He's deep in the woods of Portsmouth in an elaborate campsite surrounded on three sides by a barrier of piled tree branches fortified with wood pallets. On the fourth side of his Heritage Avenue campsite is a shallow body of water. Birds sing and mosquitoes swarm. A couple of pots with food residue wait to be washed. The American flag is hung inside a two-room shelter [name withheld] made by stretching tarps over tree limbs. Over the tarps is military camouflage material he says can't be seen from airplanes. He wears a matching camouflage T-shirt.

Standing in the midst it all, [name withheld] says he's "basically homeless" and stays there off-and-on. But according to the N.H. State Police sex offender registry, he's officially "homeless," with an address of "Banfield/Ocean Portsmouth."

And he's got quite a rap sheet.

[name withheld] is one of dozens of people living in the woods of Portsmouth, said police Capt. Corey MacDonald. Sometimes they live alone, he said, other times in a "mini community" of eight or more people. "Some can be a little concerning," said MacDonald, who recalled taking his 4-year-old daughter for a walk through the woods when they came upon a "tarp system" campsite with a bow and arrow in view.

As a police officer he's aware of campsites in the city that are surrounded by trip wires and booby traps designed to take intruders to the ground, he said. Spears, spikes, machetes, knives, guns and "elaborate look-out systems" have been found at other sites, he said.

"We certainly have safety concerns about kids going through the woods and coming across booby traps," he said. "It's not like we have roving bands of criminals in the woods, but it is hard to police these mini-communities."

Camp concerns

Known areas for homeless camps include behind the Bowl-O-Rama plaza, in the woods off the railroad tracks that run through the city, off Arthur Brady Drive, around Pease International Tradeport and off Route 33. MacDonald said people are also known to reside in a tomb at the North Cemetery and one man with a local criminal record is known to live in "a cave" off Little Harbor Road.

Police Capt. Mike Schwartz said "any place there is some seclusion," a homeless site might crop up. "We deal with it in construction sites, abandoned buildings, abandoned vehicles and we've had people in crawl spaces," he said.

Schwartz lives "in classic suburbia" Portsmouth, he said, where neighbors recently came to him to report a person living behind their shed. He said it took "two or three times" for the person to "get the message" and relocate. The property owners didn't want to press charges.

MacDonald said some of the forest dwellers stay at the Cross Roads House homeless shelter during the winter, then move to the woods for the remainder of the year. Others sleep at the shelter at night and set up camp for drinking during the day, he said. And some, according to police, live in the woods because they were barred from the shelter.

Many have a combination of mental health and substance abuse issues, MacDonald said. A segment is looking for shelter, he said, while for most it's "sort of the lifestyle."

With that lifestyle comes thefts from parked cars and beer stolen from stores, Schwartz said. Local teens have also been known to make deals with vagrants for the purchase of alcohol, he added.

Trash left at the sites is another "disturbing" concern, MacDonald said. "I've been to areas where there were literally 500 beer cans," he said. "Some of them look like dump sites and unfortunately when they leave these campsites they don't clean up."

Fires are also a problem. Even with a wet spring there have been several this year. On April 1, workers in a control tower at Portsmouth International Airport reported seeing black smoke and an hour later, a pantless man walking barefoot along Banfield Road led officers to a brush fire at his wooded campsite.

A couple of weeks later, Police Chief Lou Ferland saw smoke coming from the woods off Route 33 and hiked in to where he found two fires burning at campsites.

Ferland extinguished the second one by grabbing a 12-pack of beer at the site and pouring it onto the fire.

By May of last year a half-dozen fires had sparked at homeless camps. "The homeless population is trying to do the best they can to survive, but unfortunately they're doing it in a manner that can be hazardous with campfires that are getting out of control," Assistant Fire Chief Steve Achilles said at the time.

Last August four fire crews worked for three hours dousing several fires started at campsites in the woods off Banfield Road. A forestry truck had to be refilled twice. A week later firefighters were called when a couch was found burning in the woods behind the Button Factory on Islington Street.

Camp sights

There are more campsites in the city than any other area community, said MacDonald, because the city offers more services for the disadvantaged. Free meals are available at the shelter as well as daily dinners at the Salvation Army. The shelter now has a dental clinic and a truck visits regularly to offer free health care.

Accessing [name withheld]'s campsite requires a hike through the woods over a worn path covered with pine needles and cones. Off to the left and a smaller hike is his site, which looks like a brush pile even up close. Then there's a climb over the four-foot-tall brush-and-pallet barrier.

It's a tidy campsite with a Mongoose bicycle, a mirror on a tree, pots and pans, a radio and a solar light that [name withheld] said doesn't work. There are sundries like vitamins, bar and dish soap, shovels and a tube of muscle rub cream. He's got a tin of rolling tobacco, tennis racket and a pair of intimidating Halloween masks displayed on the roof of the shelter that he "figured would scare away the kids."

Seating includes an old office chair and a plastic chair one might set up for a yard party. He buys water by the gallons, he said, and everything is lugged in.

[name withheld] said he's lived in Portsmouth all his life, has lots of family in the area and at some point lost his job and his apartment. "Even when I had an apartment," he said, "I used to come down here and hang out."

[name withheld] said he hoped a visit by Seacoast Sunday with a police officer wasn't a prerequisite to the demolition of his site. He spent a great deal of time making it, he said.

Meanwhile he's listed on the sex offender registry as having two convictions for felonious sexual assault in 2003. His criminal history is also cited as including convictions for thefts, failing to report to police as a sex offender, simple assault, resisting arrest, reckless conduct and trespassing.

Schwartz said police bar people from camping on property primarily in response to complaints from property owners. On the other hand, he said, it can be helpful to know exactly where they all are.

MacDonald concurred. "If you do move them along", he said, "where are you moving them along to?"