Friday, August 12, 2011

Prison Reality TV: When You Can't Avert Your Eyes (Not reality, entertainment)

Original Article

Most of these shows, do not show what actually goes on behind prison walls. If they did, most people would be shocked. This is nothing more than entertainment to make a quick buck. There is really no way to show the truth of what goes on behind prison walls, unless you do something to get yourself put into the system, but even then, you would have to remember everything, because you would not be allowed to take notes on their abuse, corruption, etc, it would be confiscated. They don't show the brutality, corruption, inhumane ways people are treated, cops drooling over violence, causing violence, etc. You have to be there to see the real truth!

03/03/2010

By Matt Kelley

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I've long felt conflicted about the spate of popular reality TV shows featuring prisons -- they're exploitative, they celebrate violence and they often thrive on chaos without offering solutions. But do some shows actually dig deeper and get us thinking about the waste and abuse of our sprawling prison state?

For starters, it's important to recognize that these shows offer much of the American public the only glimpse they'll ever get inside these buildings. And, after all, viewers have the ability to make their own decisions. For an inquisitive audience, prison-themed TV shows can spark debate and even bring change. Some viewers will look at MSNBC's Lockup and wonder: "Why do we lock someone up for 10 years for stealing a car?" or "Is a violent jail really the best place for non-violent people to wait for their trials?" Those questions help advance the conservation about criminal justice reform in America.

In "Prison Porn," a new article at the Atlantic, James Parker captures this tension of prison television beautifully. He writes: "Sensational? Sort of exploitative? Intermittently debasing? Check, check, and check again. But Lockup keeps going, into unexpected zones of sympathy and catharsis." I have to agree.

While I feel that CSI and Law & Order hurt criminal justice reform more than they can help -- by senationalizing crime and showing a completely unrealistic picture of law enforcement and prosecution -- shows like Lockup at least have the potential to open a window on an important reality. Of course, there are reality shows that cause harm as well, like the purely exploitative granddaddy COPS and its progeny (I was recently aghast at the celebration of unnecessary police force in SWAT, which of course didn't question why it might be necessary for 30 guys to raid a house with one crack addict inside.)

Of course, not all reality shows are created equal -- and I've come to believe that some prison reality may have a place on TV. I wrote a while back about San Quentin Film School, a six-part documentary series on a filmmaking class behind the walls of California's notorious maximum security facility (Watch the whole series on YouTube). Shows like Film School, and sometimes a poignant episode of Lockup, can actually help take us through the walls, rather than building them up.

Take a peek at Lockup below, and let us know what you think.


OH - Neighborhood watch steps up patrols near sex offenders' home

Original Article

08/12/2011

By Jami Kinton

MANSFIELD -- Neighbors discussed picketing registered sex offenders living in the Walker Street area at the Roseland neighborhood watch meeting Thursday night.

"I want to know what do you want to do about this? Are we going to picket?" watch president Robert Beatty asked a crowd of about 25. "We could sit here for hours tonight and talk about this, but we need to decide what we're going to do."

About two weeks ago, sex offenders moved into the area, and neighbors complain they've stirred trouble since their arrival.
- Did "they" stir up trouble, or did the mob?

On Thursday, Mansfield Police Deputy Chief Toby Smith and Connie Walls, records supervisor for the Richland County sheriff's office were invited to the meeting to answer questions and address issues with the offenders.

Walls, who has been in charge of the local registry since 1997, explained to attendees how the registry works and why they did not receive a notice about one of the offenders.

One of the offenders, [name withheld], was convicted of rape. However, his crime took place before the state mandated notification for offenders. Another Walker Street resident, Rita Smith, took it upon herself to notify neighbors.

"I get sex offender notifications from the sheriff's department, and when I saw that email come in that he was moving in, I about lost it," she said. "We've got a lot of little kids that live in this neighborhood, and I am afraid he's going to offend again."
- Well your personal feelings don't jive with reality, which is, most sex offenders do not re-offend.

Neighbors claim multiple disputes have arisen, including thrown beer cans.
- And who were the beer cans thrown by?  The offender(s) or the mob?

"Everyone wants them out of their neighborhood, but it's like, OK, how do you do that?" Smith said. "We have to uphold the law."

The group concluded the meeting by deciding to put a picket on hold, but up their neighborhood patrol.

"Where's he going to go? The best thing you can do is to watch out for each other. Warn your children. Knowledge is the best defense," Wells said. "That's why the registry exists, so that people know who is living next door."
- Sound knowledge, yes, but fear-mongering knowledge, not so much!


OH - Offender housing good news to 1 group

Original Article

08/12/2011

By Jami Kinton

MANSFIELD -- A new transitional housing unit is causing controversy in the city, but members of Ohio Reform Sex Offender Laws were pleased to open the local center.

The Residential Community Center, a 21-bed facility offering support to homeless sex and other offenders who have served all their prison time, opened at 303 W. Fifth St. on July 1.

"Someone sent me the story with all of these people complaining and I thought, 'Oh my God. Here we go again,' " said Mary Kendall, a member of the ORSOL, noting her disgust with Interim Service Safety Director Phil Messer's previous comments against the facility. "He is perpetuating the stranger-danger sex offender myth."

According to the ORSOL website, its goals include educating the public about sex offenders, reforming existing sex offender laws and abolishing registries.

"The registries don't help anything and they just create more panic," Kendall said.

Kendall said only 8 percent of sex offenders return to prison for new sex offenses. She said 14 percent return to prison for a non-sexual crime.

"But that's based on ones who have gotten caught," said Connie Walls, records supervisor for the sheriff's office. "If you don't get caught, it's not going to be counted."

Walls said residents have the right to be concerned about a facility like the Residential Community Center.

"Let's face it: A lot of people count on their neighbors to watch their children, too -- but in this day and age, it doesn't seem like you'd want to do that anymore," Walls said.
- And it's all due to the sex offender mass hysteria and moral panic spread by the media, politicians and other groups.

Walls said there are 366 sex offenders, including juveniles, residing and registering in Richland County.

There are 532, counting those incarcerated.

The Community Residential Center is operated by Nothing Into Something Real Estate Inc. The facility is licensed and funded by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Michele Johnson, CEO of NISRE, did not return calls Wednesday or Thursday.


Remedy an Injustice: Too many names on sex offender registry

Original Article

08/12/2011

By John Aspinwall

There should be little public doubt about the fallibility of the legal system.

Not only are laws enforced with wide disparity from place to place, they endure dramatic changes over time. With each fragmented, arbitrary addition, their purpose, strength and effectiveness disintegrates, just as a scattered army loses its force.

As the truth of the law is lost, we become increasingly susceptible to injustice. One injustice especially is in dire need of remedy. Its intentions were admirable, but the law has been an utter failure: the sex offender registry program.

An extreme minority of registrants are truly dangerous people who continue offending, showing no signs they've received adequate treatment. And some evidence indicates that registry programs exacerbate conditions that lead to reoffending.

But there are many nonviolent registrants who do not reoffend. In fact, the overall recidivism rate for sex offenders is the second-lowest for any crime.

Still, our protective system is overloaded with nonviolent offenders, and that drains funds that should go toward keeping tabs on the dangerous minority. These programs offer a negligible and dangerously false sense of security in our communities.

Those who make up the enormous chunk of the registry were primarily in their teens or 20s at the time of conviction and their "crimes" were an expression of natural behaviors. Their "crimes" involved no threat, no force, no coercion, manipulation or violence.

They had consensual sexual contact with someone who'd developed past puberty, but was still a minor.

Yet they are placed next to child molesters and rapists on the registry, branded alike for life.

They present no real danger. They might have incredible gifts that will never be shared, beautiful families that will never be formed. They might teach and inspire a future president or Army general.

But often they can't find jobs, let alone ones that suit their unique talents. They have great difficulty developing normal relationships for fear someone may think they are child molesters or serial rapists. Because the public is led to believe such things, these individuals are unjustly scarred and scandalized. They transgressed the law, but a scarlet letter does not belong on their chests.

I want to offer a different way of responding to sexual indiscretions and those who commit such offenses. I hope the benefits will be self-evident.

If those nonviolent people were removed from the registry, it would in no way endanger society. They pose no more a threat than would any random person plucked from a crowd. It may even relieve communities to see that there aren't, as they'd believed, pages and pages of dangerous, prowling sexual predators.

The tax money used to track these nonviolent people might be put toward more treatment facilities that focus on individuals who do threaten our communities -- programs for people suffering from compulsions they are ashamed of, for which they want help without fearing social damnation.

If these plans were developed with genuine care, we could study these cases and derive the sort of qualitative results by which to make significant strides toward eliminating these serious crimes. Consider the potential victims who might be spared irreparable suffering by any small advance in the ability to prevent actual sexual abuse.

This doesn't take into account funds currently put toward welfare programs for those who have work skills but are denied jobs because they are on the registry. They often can't find housing, as few landlords will rent to them. This creates a drag on local government that can't be underestimated.

These are members of our communities who made a young mistake. They shouldn't continue to be isolated and cut off from society, their contributions unfairly shunned. They can't keep being heaped, so inhumanely, with burdens that aren't theirs.

Would we rather let them move on, trying to improve with a job and home, or have them living under bridges, forever disgraced, with the truly dangerous few whispering sickness in their ear?