Friday, July 27, 2012

Sex Offender Laws - Making money for everyone, even personal urinals?

Original Article


While selling GoPilots to tailgaters at an Eagles game a few months ago, I came across a few “40-somethings” sitting around having some fun. I approached them and told them about the GoPilot. One guy said “If only I had that last year I would’ve saved myself $14,000 in legal fees.” I looked at him confused and asked him to explain.

He said “One night after a few hours of drinking in Manayunk, we were driving home around 2 am. I had my friend who was driving pull over so I could pee. Well I got caught! A cop saw me and got me for indecent exposure. Months later, I received notification that it’s a sex crime. I spent $14,000 getting it knocked down to disorderly conduct which is just a misdemeanor, but man did that suck! I WISH I woulda had one of these last year!

I was so surprised by this! I think it’s a bit far-fetched to relate “acting on Mother Nature” to a “sex offense” but unfortunately it is what it is! Unless you get a really cool cop and/or judge, you could really get screwed!

SSRN - Preventing Sex-Offender Recidivism Through Therapeutic Jurisprudence Approaches and Specialized Community Integration

Original Article


The public’s panic about the fear of recidivism if adjudicated sex offenders are ever to be released to the community has not subsided, despite the growing amount of information and statistically-reliable data signifying a generally low risk of re-offense. The established case law upholding sex offender civil commitment and containment statutes has rejected challenges of unconstitutionality, and continues to be dominated by punitive undertones. We have come to learn that the tools used to assess offenders for risk and civil commitment still have indeterminate accuracy, and that the availability of meaningful treatment for this population remains uncertain in its availability and debatable as to its effectiveness. Yet, society continues to clamor for legislation confining this cohort of offenders for “treatment,” and, ostensibly, protection of the community, and legislatures respond quickly to these calls. This “reform legislation” often includes strict and demeaning post-release restrictions that track offenders and curb their integration into society. These “reforms” continue to show no benefit either to the public or to the individual offender. The absence of meaningful and effective treatment during confinement, combined with inhumane conditions upon release, make it far less likely that this cohort of individuals will ever become productive members of society. Only through therapeutic jurisprudence, a focus on rehabilitation, and a dedication to authentically treating individuals who have committed sexual offenses with humanity, will it be possible to reduce recidivism and foster successful community reintegration.

This article takes a new approach to these issues. It examines sex offender laws, past and present, looks at this area of sex offender commitment and containment through a therapeutic jurisprudence lens, and suggests basic policy changes that would optimally and constitutionally minimize re-offense rates, while upholding and protecting human rights of all citizens. It highlights the failure of community containment laws and ordinances by focusing on:
  1. the myths/perceptions that have arisen about sex offenders, and how society incorporates those myths into legislation,
  2. the lack of rehabilitation offered to incarcerated or civilly-committed offenders, resulting in inadequate re-entry preparation,
  3. the anti-therapeutic and inhumane effect of the laws and ordinances created to restrict sex offenders in the community, and
  4. the reluctance and resistance of courts to incorporate therapeutic jurisprudence in seeking to remediate this set of circumstances.

It concludes by offering some modest suggestions, based on the adoption of a therapeutic jurisprudence model of analysis.

VT - Busting myths about sex offenders

Original Article



Mary Murdock's article "Pity isn't in the plan" suggests making amends and/or establishing a fund to help victims of sexual crimes, which is noteworthy. However, she goes on to say that "sex offenders do not need a support group, feeling sorry for themselves, while relating and enjoying memories of their crimes."

Mary, Mary, quite contrary! You have inspired me to research this subject and I would like to share some little known facts about sex offense recidivism rates. Most of this comes directly from here (PDF).

Sex crime policies are often justified by assumptions that all sex offenders re-offend, that treatment does not work and that strangers who lurk in playgrounds pose an unparalleled threat to children. These erroneous beliefs are widely propagated by the media, creating strongly held but largely inaccurate public perceptions. These beliefs, in turn, prompt the expansion of sex crime policies which often lack empirical support and can impede community re-entry and adjustment with adverse consequences such as unemployment, relationship loss, threats, harassment, physical assault and property damage as well as psychological symptoms such as shame, embarrassment, depression or hopelessness as a result of public disclosure. Stable employment and supportive relationships lead to lower recidivism rates for sex offenders (Colorado Department of Public Safety).

According to a study by the U.S. Department of Justice, 87 percent of new sex crimes were committed by other types of criminals compared to 13 percent of previously identified sex offenders. Contrary to some strongly held beliefs, most sexual offenders do not re-offend sexually over time. After 15 years, 76 percent of sexual offenders had not been charged with, or convicted of, another sexual offense. Most child sexual abuse victims are molested by family members (34 percent) and close acquaintances (59 percent) (DOJ Bureau of Statistics). Forty percent take place in a victim's own home and 20 percent take place in the home of a friend or relative.

The myth of "stranger danger" persists, however a Wisconsin study revealed that of 200 cases recidivistic sex offenses, none involved predatory sex crimes against strangers. Such cases are actually extremely rare; it is estimated that about 100 such cases occur in the United States each year (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children). By comparison, more than 500 children under age 15 were killed by drunk drivers (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and more than 1,100 children died as a result of physical abuse or neglect at the hands of their own parents or caretakers (Child Welfare League of America).

Sex offenders recidivism rates are much lower than commonly believed. Public safety can be enhanced when states adopt empirically derived risk assessment schemes to validly and reliably identify high risk individuals. By reserving public disclosure for those who pose the greatest threat, resources can be more efficiently allocated, citizens can be appropriately warned and reintegration obstacles can be minimized. The stigma of sex offender is known to impede successful community re-entry, ironically exacerbating the factors (e.g. housing stability, unemployment) known to correlate with increased criminal recidivism.
- But they want ex-offenders to recidivate, so they can continue to exploit the issues to help themselves, and to keep the prison business raking in the money!

There is ample evidence to suggest that many sex offenders benefit from therapeutic interventions which focus on helping them to change their thinking patterns and manage their impulses. Studies have found that rates of sexual re-offending drop by about 40 percent after participation in contemporary cognitive-behavioral therapies.

Agreed, there is no cure for pedophilias, and about 40 percent of registered sex offenders can be diagnosed with this illness. These types fall in the high risk category and should be dealt with accordingly. But I also believe that low risk, non re-offending individuals should be taken off the registry after a certain time has lapsed.

As for second chances, I quote Bible Verse 1 John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

PA - New law revokes second chance for teens with sex offenses

Original Article


By Samantha Melamed

In Pennsylvania, juvenile offenders have the right to a second chance. Perpetrators of homicide, assault, you name it — they’re all eligible for expungement. The one exception, beginning this December: Those who were 14 and older when adjudicated guilty of rape, aggravated indecent assault or involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.

Juvenile advocates say the policy, signed into law this month as Act 91, could be devastating. They say the bulk of cases are kids who acted out sexually within their families; some are themselves victims of abuse, and many pled guilty with the promise of a chance for expungement. “Parents may have encouraged kids to plead guilty because it was intra-family; they were entitled to expungement. Now, they can never get their records expunged,” says Jennifer Lutz, juvenile-justice policy analyst at the Defender Association of Philadelphia.

Typically, juveniles are eligible for expungement five years after discharge from supervision, or at age 18. Without expungement, juvenile records may prove a barrier to employment, education and, for sex offenders, access to public housing.

Robert Listenbee, chief of the Defender Association’s Juvenile Unit, says his office’s expungement project (for offenses of all types) has handled 600 to 800 cases a year since 2007. The DA is often cooperative. “They believe children should receive a second chance, the same way we do,” he says.

Now, for those seeking expungements of sex offenses, the clock is winding down.

Act 91 is designed to comply with the state’s new Sexual Offenders Registration and Notification Act, which will require juvenile sex offenders to register for the first time ever in Pennsylvania. But even juveniles who wouldn’t have to register will be blocked from expungement, notes Riya Shah, staff attorney at the Juvenile Law Center.

Nicole Pittman of Human Rights Watch says “a lot of these laws made in Harrisburg are meant to catch Philadelphia children.” Expungement efforts like the Defender Association’s, she says, caused “alarm for a lot of people, thinking that children that committed sex offenses were going to be hidden.”

Yet she says there’s no benefit to exposing them, because juvenile sex offenders are unlikely to re-offend as adults. The recidivism rate is estimated at between 3 percent and 7 percent. “Juvenile sex offending is very different from adult sex offending, and this movement toward public notification … is trying to fit the solution that has been created for adults to juveniles,” says Shah. “It’s not a good fit.