Thursday, May 23, 2013

WA - Reporter gets 1st place award for sex offender hysteria article?

Original Article

Is this all it takes to get an award in journalism these days?


By Robin Wojtanik

SEATTLE - A story about a sex offender moving into a neighborhood near an elementary school has earned KEPR Action News Reporter Frances Watson a 1st place award. The honor is for the General News category for the awards given the the Society of Professional Journalists, Region 10.

At a gala in Seattle, the story by Ms. Watson was part of the Television Categories, for small market news. The original story can be found here. It was part of KEPR's coverage of a Level III sex offender moving into a Richland neighborhood right across from an elementary school. Ms. Watson spoke to the sex offender in her report.

Stories presented on KEPR and KIMA received four awards in all at the gala. A full list of winners may be found here (PDF).

Story that received the 1st prize?

RICHLAND - It took less than two weeks for a convicted sex offender to pack his bags and leave the home across the street from Sacajawea Elementary School.

[name withheld] said, "I'm moving out today and uh I'm going to leave."

Richland Police sent out notices about [name withheld] on September 7th. He's a rapist, a kidnapper and a level three sex offender. He's considered highly likely to re-offend.

The 61-year old is not allowed at any city parks, schools or the library.

In fact, he's a career criminal, with dozens of convictions and known for failing to register his address with police. Despite the rap sheet, he's served his time and he's a free man.

When people realized he was living on Catskill Street, right across from hundreds of Richland school kids, neighbors took action.

The state has modest limits on where [name withheld] can live. He was well within his right to move into the home on Catskill.

One man told KEPR, "There's an 880 foot rule in the state of Washington and this doesn't fall into that so there's something's gotta be done."

That man known as "Torch" decided that "something" would be to stand on the sidewalk with his biker buddies and make sure kids got to and from school safely knowing [name withheld] was nearby.
- These BACA bikers have their own issues, as you can see here and here.

Parents appreciated the effort. When KEPR went to check out the grassroots patrols, [name withheld] surprised us, coming out of his house to give his side of the story.

We asked, "You are, by law, technically able to live anywhere you choose so why leave."

[name withheld] replied, "Yeah, oh yeah, the law's in my favor but it's just, uh, the thing is that isn't acceptable."
- Even if you move, you will be facing the same mob mentality elsewhere.  You shouldn't move, in our opinion!  You are legally allowed to live there, so live there.

That's why he says he's leaving Catskill with plans to live in his car.

The news spread like wildfire on our Facebook page. Parents feel they've scored a victory getting [name withheld] to leave when cops couldn't.

One parent said, "Well, it's up to the community to gather around, takes a village to raise children."
- We are so sick and tired of hearing this!  No it doesn't take a village to raise a child, it takes one responsible and loving parent.

Some comments included defenders of [name withheld], saying he's paid his debt to society and shouldn't be singled out.

Even so, keeping track of this highly dangerous sex offender will now be even more difficult if he's sleeping somewhere different every night.
- Exactly!

KEPR notified the Richland Police of [name withheld]'s plans. He is required by law to register with the Benton County Sheriff's Department every time he moves or every 90 days.

Failing to do so could result in his arrest. [name withheld] has failed to register his address many times before.

KS - Task force member proposes changes in sex treatment program at state hospital

Original Article


By Dave Ranney

TOPEKA - A task force charged with coming up with a plan for reforming the Sexual Predator Treatment Program at Larned State Hospital has agreed to spend another month developing its recommendations.

We’ll push it to the end of June,” said the group’s chair, Wes Cole. “We’ll try to meet with (Kansas Department for Aging and Developmental Services) Secretary (Shawn) Sullivan in July.”

Initially, the task force, which met here Monday, was expected to submit its report to KDADS by the first week in June.

We have a lot of work yet to do,” Cole said.

In the past 18 years, almost 250 men have entered the treatment program as the result of a judge’s order after being convicted for sex crimes and completing their prison sentences. But only four have been released and at least 17 have died while being held in the program.

The program’s residents are civilly committed using a legal process similar to the one used to send people to one of the state’s mental hospitals after being declared a danger to themselves or others.

This is not a program that inspires hope,” said Rick Cagan, a task force member and executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Kansas.

The task force members spent much of the four-hour meeting discussing the Larned program’s design and the approaches other states use to manage sex offenders.

Jerry Rea, superintendent at Parsons State Hospital and a task force member, described a recent Wichita State University report that noted how some states’ treatment programs were prison-based and relied on parole officers to keep track of those who exited the program.

The vast majority of these programs, he said, required persons considered sexual predators to wear an electronic, geo-monitoring anklet after release into the community, enabling authorities to track their whereabouts. The released sex predators also were required to meet regularly, in person with parole officers.

The success of the programs was difficult to measure, Rea said, because sex offenses often go unreported. He also cited a 1987 study that found that, on average, child molesters and rapists had committed 30 offenses prior to being arrested. Those arrested for so-called “hands-off crimes,” including window peeping, flashing, or obscene phone calls, had committed 150 offenses before being caught.

Rea said some of the findings from the 26-year-old study may not be as valid today.

Still, he said, “recidivism is difficult to detect.”
- You will NEVER be able to determine if someone will or won't commit another crime.  You are not psychic.  The fact is that recidivism, or re-offense rates are already lower than 5%, in most cases.  So recidivism, IMO, is not the issue, it's your irrational fear that they MAY commit another crime.

To accurately measure a treatment program’s success, he said, might take 25 or 30 years. Kansas launched its program 18 years ago.
- And in the meantime, you are playing with peoples lives, and we are sure that in 25 / 30 years you will say it takes 40 / 50 years to determine if it works.

Cagan said he shared Rea’s concern but wondered how sex offenders’ recidivism rates compared to those for “murderers or bank robbers.”
- Well, if you look, murderers have the lowest recidivism rate, and sex offenders is next.  But that's only if you look at the studies that are out there instead of relying on your own gut feelings.

His question went unanswered.

What this all comes down to, I think, is what’s the public’s tolerance for recidivism?” Cagan said. “Are we looking for zero percent? Because If we are, there’s no way to guarantee that.”

Cagan said he thought the Larned program’s design might be “decent,” but the “…spirit and manner in which it’s executed are suspect.”

He said he’d interviewed a Larned worker last fall who told him that during her orientation period she was told that the program’s residents were “bad guys” and would never be released.
- So there you go!  If that is true, then they have it in their minds already to not release anybody, and in our opinion, all of them should be fired and get someone else, like real experts that believe in rehabilitation.

It’s not a recovery program when you’re telling your staff that it’s a dead end,” he said.

Cagan said he would propose moving part or all of the treatment program to either Kansas City, Topeka, or Wichita.

We have a real HR (human resources) problem with the program being in Larned,” he said. “On one hand, we have limited access to qualified staff, and on the other hand it’s hard to come up with a good exit strategy when you’re not close enough to any real job markets.”

Task force members agreed to each submit a one-page list of proposed reforms and to use the next two meetings, on June 10 and June 24, to finalize their report.
- They also need to change their attitudes!

MN - Newly-arrived Level III Sex Offenders Cause Stir in Savage

Original Article


By Clare Kennedy

Some residents insist that notification letters never went out, while others say that the two men are infringing on their rights as citizens.

Every time [name withheld] steps outside his motel door in Savage, he must report back.

First a mandatory phone call stating the exact address of his destination, his purpose in going there, and when he will be back. Then, no matter how trivial the errand, he must make another call, reporting that he has returned to the confines of his room.
- Sounds a little extreme to us.

The calls are just one of his obligations, however, a mere supplement to the court-ordered GPS bracelet and random visits by the Savage Police Department. What most people would consider minutiae—missing work, growing a beard or shaving it off—could become a probation violation if not reported to the proper authorities in a "timely fashion."

Such is a day in the closely-scrutinized life of a level III sex offender, as described by representatives of the Savage PD on Monday night, but their words seemed to be a cold comfort to many of the residents who gathered at the council meeting on Monday night.

"I don't think they should be allowed around here. Their rights infringe on mine," said Savage resident Sally Neisius. "Put them on a farm. Give them a cow and a couple of chickens and say make your way."

Neisius words were met with applause from her neighbors, about 20 to 30 people drawn to the meeting by an anonymous flyer. The flyer stated that many residents within a half-mile of [name withheld]'s motel had not gotten any notice of his arrival, nor that of another Level III offender, [name withheld]. The flyer also stated—falsely—that the city of Savage planned to turn the hotel on the 7300 block of Highway 13 into a halfway house.

The city website states that notification letters were sent out shortly before both moved in, on April 16 and April 26 respectively. City officials added that word of the level IIIs' arrival had been printed in the local newspaper, the Savage Pacer, and had been posted on the city website.

Residents at the meeting insisted, however, that in many cases no such letters had been sent out.

"We're supposed to get a letter and a phone call. A lot of people who live on my block didn't get anything," said resident Heather Jensen. "We all feel you guys did this very sneakily, behind our backs and didn't notify us."

Jensen added that she thought the notification area—a half mile radius around the offender's address—was too small and should be extended to the entire city.

"First off, for some reason or another notification might not have gone out. I can't explain it, but I will check into it," said City Administrator Barry Stock. "Secondly, to notify everyone in the city by mail, every single time, would be very costly."

Perhaps more importantly, many of the residents who spoke felt that the men's existence was an affront to their rights as citizens and thought that the city should be able to prevent them from living in Savage. City Attorney Ric Rosow and Stock assured the public in the council chambers that by state law the city government could not ban certain people from town, nor could they interfere with the transactions of a private business.
- Well despite what you think, these men have rights as well.

As for law enforcement, Police Chief Rodney Seurer said that once the men had completed their sentence—as both have—the courts could not tell them where to live, though they are still monitored for compliance with the sex offender registry and the terms of their probation.

"They choose where they want to live. It's not up to law enforcement," Seurer said. "It's wherever housing or a job is available."

In any case, Detective Laura Kvasnicka warned that while parents should take these notices seriously, they should be much more vigilant about people in their own social circle or family group. Both men—[name withheld] and [name withheld] were convicted of sexually assaulting children who were known to them. It's a common tale in the annals of police work, she said.

"Residential proximity has very little or nothing to do with recidivism of predatory offenders. It has more to do with relationship and social proximity," Kvasnicka said. "We need to be aware of our surroundings and aware of who we bring into our homes, rather than focusing on the level III offenders we all know about."

The most dangerous sex offenders, she said, are the ones that have never been caught.

NJ - Bill Closes Loophole for Sex Offenders

Original Article


By Kelly Waldron

Working with children would be prohibited for sex offenders, who are considered a risk to repeat their crimes, under a bill that’s been introduced by Assemblywomen Caroline Casagrande and Pamela Lampitt.
- Once again, all sex offenders are not at risk to repeat their crimes, that is a myth, as you can see in the many studies here.

Those convicted of these most heinous crimes should never be permitted to work with children again,” said Casagrande. “Although there are safeguards preventing sex offenders from being teachers or sports coaches, there is very little stopping an offender from working in less-structured settings such as tutoring or private sports or music instruction. This is a dangerous loophole we must close.”
- Or exploit so we can look tough on crime while doing nothing, except trampling on rights.

Restricting Positions with Direct Access to Children
It is outrageous that convicted child abusers can take advantage of loopholes in the law to work in roles giving them direct access to children,” said Lampitt. “Make no mistake, convicted child abusers at high risk of repeating their crimes have no place in work environments that give them direct contact with children. I am pleased to work in a bipartisan fashion to close this dangerous loophole in our laws. The safety of our children and our communities demands no less.”

The measure would make it illegal for sex offenders with moderate or high risks of re-offense to hold jobs, positions, situations or employment of any type that primarily consists of contact with children.

Violators would be subject to a third-degree crime with penalties of three to five years behind bars, a fine of up to $15,000 or both.

SC - High court: Some sex offenders can challenge lifetime monitoring

Original Article



COLUMBIA - People convicted of child-sex crimes in South Carolina should have the right to challenge rulings ordering them to be electronically monitored for life, the state's highest court ruled Wednesday.

The ruling comes in the case of [name withheld], who was deemed a sex offender for her conviction on a charge of a lewd act on a child involving a 14-year-old girl in Greenville County. Although she was found to be at low risk to re-offend, her probation was revoked for various violations, including drinking alcohol and having a relationship with a convicted felon.

The probation violation meant that authorities could seek lifetime monitoring for [name withheld] without a chance of appeal. That kind of monitoring can be done for just two crimes — lewd act and first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor — with most other sex offender registry crimes giving an offender a chance to appeal after 10 years.

A year ago, the justices ruled that the lifetime monitoring was too harsh a punishment for a low-risk sex offender like [name withheld] and ordered a lower court to reconsider her case. The court also said [name withheld]' constitutional rights had been violated because she hadn't been allowed to appeal the monitoring decision. But the justices stressed that they didn't think all satellite monitoring of sex offenders was unconstitutional, or that the rights of high-risk offenders who are monitored for life were being violated.

Justices also said the split between offenders who could and couldn't appeal made the punishment too arbitrary.

State probation officials asked the court to rehear the case, which it did last fall. In its ruling Wednesday, the court said that offenders who commit the same crimes as [name withheld] also have the right to appeal.

Rejecting [name withheld]' argument that she shouldn't be subjected to monitoring at all, the court said that "lifetime imposition of satellite monitoring implicates a protected liberty interest to be free from permanent, unwarranted governmental interference."

"The complete absence of any opportunity for judicial review to assess a risk of re-offending ... is arbitrary and cannot be deemed rationally related to the legislature's stated purpose of protecting the public from those with a high risk of re-offending," Justice John Kittredge wrote.

In a dissent, two justices said they would eliminate lifetime electronic monitoring altogether. A spokesman for the state probation department didn't immediately comment on the ruling.

Of the 463 South Carolina offenders currently on electronic monitoring, 140 are under lifetime observation and will be affected by the ruling, according to Pete O'Boyle, spokesman for the Department of Probation, Pardon and Parole Services. That means they will be allowed to petition for relief a decade after their sentence and every five years thereafter if they're turned down, O'Boyle said.