Wednesday, January 9, 2013

ME - Augusta to consider banning sex offenders from living near schools, parks

Original Article

01/08/2013

By Keith Edwards

City Council considers 750-foot, 500-foot limits at Thursday meeting

AUGUSTA - City Councilors on Thursday will discuss a proposal to prohibit sex offenders convicted of acts against children from living within 750 feet of schools, parks and other municipal property where children are the primary users.

Councilors are also considering an alternative that would set the distance at 500 feet.

City Manager William Bridgeo said city officials seem to favor the 750-foot distance -- the most restrictive the city could be under state law.

City councilors expressed interest in restricting where sex offenders moving into the city could live when Police Chief Robert Gregoire first presented information on the possibility last September.

There were 90 sex offenders who committed offenses against children under the age of 14 living in Augusta as of Nov. 30. Of those, 48 lived within 750 feet of a school, park or other municipal property where children are the primary users. The ordinance would also apply to private schools.

Any new city law would not be retroactive, so it would only apply to registered sex offenders who move to Augusta after such rules are passed. Sex offenders who already live in the city, even if they're within 750 feet of a school, would not be required to move.

The proposed ordinance would direct the city's planning office to prepare and maintain an official map of the city, showing prohibited locations for restricted sex offenders.

Resident sex offenders who violate the ordinance, after 30 days written notice from the city, could be fined up to $500 a day until they move.

Property owners who rent a residence within the prohibited areas to a restricted sex offender could also face sanctions, according to a draft of the ordinance.

Bridgeo said Gregoire, city attorney Stephen Langsdorf, and Acting Development Director Matt Nazar have worked to tweak the sex offender residency ordinance. The proposed restrictions are up for discussion by city councilors at their meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers at Augusta City Center.


INDIA - India should think twice about its sex offender register

Original Article

01/09/2013

By ALI WINTERS

India surely needs to take action against sexual violence, but the experience around the world is that sex offender registers can do more harm than good, writes Ali Winters.

As the ashes of a young woman's traumatized body are scattered, we are left to face the horror of the sickening gang rape which led to her death.

How the Indian government responds to this hellish act and how they answer their citizens' outrage is under intense international scrutiny.

In response to the eruption of public protest, the Indian government is desperate to be proactive. The six accused men have been arrested and are facing a murder charge.

Thus far, there is only one other tangible action that's risen above the white noise of fast-track rape courts, harsher penalties, and a parliamentary commission - a public sex offender register.

The minister of state for home affairs, RPN Singh, has said of the register, "We are planning to start it in Delhi. Photographs, names and addresses of the rapists will be uploaded on the Delhi Police as well as NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) website."

The database will expand to identify and locate every convicted and released sex offender in all of India. But no one truly believes an online register is going to end a problem that manifests through deeply ingrained attitudes.

When the prime minister's own son, Abhijit Mukherjee, a politician himself, publicly stated that [the protesters] are "highly dented-painted" women who go "from discos to demonstrations", then yes, India has a problem.

But far from being the solution, could a public online register make things worse?

In the ensuing anger, fear and vengeance of the gang rape murder, indeed it will.

Shortly after the woman's death made headlines across India, a large group of villagers from the North East attacked and killed four youths and a middle aged man accused of "frequently teasing the women and girls of the village".

This same mentality is what killed Jesus!

Last week, homemade bombs were planted in Ravidas, the slum town home to the six accused gang rapists.

Progressive social norms coexist with archaic cultural beliefs in India. Giving a sex offender register to the uneducated masses without the instruction manual will cause a cycle of violence and hatred that will feed on itself.

There is undeniable horror in what is happening in India. But there is no evidence that an online sex offender register will be effective in protecting women and children.

The social experiment of sex offender registers has played out nowhere more lavishly and hysterically than in the United States. Garish crime tabloid newspapers are spewed out across the country with photos of the convicted, but also of people who have only been charged, implying guilt before innocence.

The courts and police hand over information to private publishers who make their profits, spreading names and addresses with panic and hatred.

In Louisiana, sex offenders are reserved for a particularly ruthless regime of public notification. This includes the usual website, but more impudent requirements, such as taking out newspaper ads if released offenders change address.

Released offenders must also carry a special identification card that includes the words "sex offender" in orange capital letters. It's to be on the person at all times. They can be imprisoned for six months for failing to carry the card.


WA - A new lease on life

Original Article

01/08/2013

By Lily Katz

Snohomish woman rents U-District homes to sex offenders, felons

A yellowed page of an old newspaper is taped to the wall of Carol Clarke’s aging U-District rental office. In bold letters, it reads: “Abstinence. It works every time.” Jesus looks down from several paintings atop the windowsill, and a “no smoking” sign hangs crookedly behind the desk.

Most people have retired by their mid-70s. But Clarke, 74, is still on the job, renting rooms in her five U-District homes to sex offenders, felons, and the mentally disabled. Clarke believes that everybody deserves a home and a second chance.

I just feel like if a person is interested in becoming a better human being, then someone better give him a leg up,” she said.

Often times, it’s difficult for sex offenders and felons to find housing, so Clarke is well known behind prison bars and among law enforcement officials.

How it all began

Born in Tacoma and raised in Seattle, Clarke spent the first eight years of her life on a chicken farm.

Many years later, she still hasn’t outgrown her affinity for animals. Now widowed, Clarke lives alone on her farm in Snohomish. When she’s not busy tending to her cows and chickens, she is hard at work interviewing prospective renters, filling out leases, and sorting out details with officials at the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Seattle Police Department (SPD) with regard to her tenants.

Although Clarke has been leasing her homes for many years, she only began renting to people with criminal records 15 years ago.

It began when she found out one of her tenants was a sex offender. Clarke consulted the man’s corrections officer, then gave her tenant a firm talking to. His determination to change, Clarke said, is what inspired her to continue renting to criminals.

Do you think [that] because a guy did something really, really stupid that he should be condemned for his entire life, if he changes his life?” she asked.

Clarke has been renting out rooms in her U-District properties to sex offenders and felons ever since. Many of the houses are only a few-minutes walking distance from the UW campus.

Community reactions

While unorthodox, Clarke firmly believes that her housing system does not pose a threat to neighboring residents.

If you put groups of sex offenders together, everybody thinks that’s a bad thing, when in reality, when you put them in these cells, they’re super quiet, like in Carol’s area,” said MacGregor Gordon, a detective in the SPD’s sex offender and kidnapping unit who has been working with Clarke for 10 years.

In fact, Clarke won’t rent to students because she believes they cause more trouble than her tenants do.

They’re brats,” Clarke said. “In September, when they come around looking for rooms, I say, ‘I’m sorry; I will rent to felons. I will rent to sex offenders. I will rent to the mentally challenged, and I won’t rent to you.’”

UW senior and psychology major Ross Yeilding lives next door to one of Clarke’s homes and does not think neighboring residents have anything to fear.

No more than you have to worry about [safety] in any other urban area,” Yeilding said. “It just kind of comes with the territory. We live in a large city and there are going to be felons and sex offenders living amongst us.”

David Hotz, the UW’s director of fraternity and sorority life, said he has not received any complaints about Clarke’s tenants, and he, like Yeilding, is not concerned about the situation.

Quite honestly … if the lady is operating things within the law and they have a right to exist within the law, then so be it,” Hotz said. “I trust that the authorities … wouldn’t release them to that neighborhood unless it was a safe situation.”

UW Police Department (UWPD) Cmdr. Steve Rittereiser echoed these remarks when he said he doesn’t believe there is any reason to have a “heightened awareness” around the rental homes. The UWPD has not received any recent complaints about Clarke’s tenants.

Mark Janney, a community corrections supervisor at the DOC, said that Clarke “runs a good program.”

But, Janney added, “I also think it’s concerning to have a whole house full of sex offenders in that kind of an area … I would be uncomfortable if my daughter were in a house next door.”

Controversy in 2007

Six years ago, university and state officials took action to force registered sex offenders recently released from prison, and under the supervision of the DOC, to leave Clarke’s housing. Former UW President Mark Emmert took his concerns to Gov. Chris Gregoire, who agreed that the tenants should be removed. The DOC complied under pressure, and Clarke lost 14 tenants in one month.

We didn’t think, and still don’t think, it’s a good idea to house those folks in the middle of a college-age population … It’s that simple,” said Norm Arkans, the UW’s associate vice president for media relations and communications.

To this day, Clarke is upset by the action. She claims that neither she nor the Seattle Police Department had received complaints concerning her renters. Yet, of the 14 tenants who were instructed to leave, Clarke said one committed suicide, two ended up homeless, and several were forced to leave their jobs.