Tuesday, May 28, 2013

UK - Even sex offenders need friends

Original Article

05/29/2013

Most of us have a network of family and friends that we can depend on – they’re the ones we call on in times of need.

We turn to them for advice, but they’re also there to point us in the right direction when we’re heading down the wrong path.

So what happens if you commit a repulsive crime such as child abuse and your friends and family turn their backs on you?

It might not seem to matter so much when you’re serving time behind bars – but what about when you’re released back into the real world?

Statistics show that a sex offender is much more likely to re-offend if he or she feels isolated, lonely and not part of the community.

That’s where Circles of Support and Accountability comes in.

It’s a project run by Herts Probation, first set up in 2009, which sees volunteers give their time to become a ‘friend’ to a paedophile.
- Just because someone is accused or convicted of a child sexual crime doesn't mean they are a pedophile!

But this isn’t a tea and sympathy kind of scheme, the focus is helping the offender – or ‘core member’ as they’re referred to in the programme – to become a useful member of society.

Project manager Annabel Francis said: “It is comparable to a friendship group in that they are there to support.”

That could be emotional support, practical support like form filling and practising for interviews, and logistical support.”

It’s not tea and sympathy but it is supportive.”

But that’s in the context of if anything changes with your risk, or you have broken any of your terms, then we will be reporting it to probation and there will be consequences.”

People are all too quick to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to these types of offences, but unless those released from prison are managed in some way, they are almost certain to re-offend. That means another child’s life could be ripped apart.
- Almost certain to re-offend?  Where is the facts to back that up?  From the many studies we've read, this is simply not true.  Some may fit this stereotype, but many do not.

And that’s why Annabel is so passionate about the scheme. “I think child sex abuse is one of the most horrific crimes to commit. The fallout from it for the victim is so extensive.”

I don’t want to see it happen any more and the only way I can think of doing that is to work with people who are likely to perpetrate that behaviour.”

She manages a team of more than 100 volunteers across the Eastern region – covering six counties including Herts – who, in groups of up to six, meet once a week for a few hours with an offender.

These are mostly people who have been released from prison but sometimes it involves those who have been given community orders as their punishment rather than jail time.

Meetings take various forms, ranging from a formal sit down talk to meeting up for coffee or having a kickabout.

And like our ‘normal’ friends, the volunteers are there to find out how the person’s week is going, how they’re feeling, but also to flag up to Annabel any potential worries of risks.

Volunteers never meet a core member on a one-to-one basis.

Predominantly this is because of how manipulative this particular group of clients can be,” said Annabel.

Sometimes they don’t even mean to do it, it becomes part of their character that needs to be chipped away at.”

Every meeting is minuted and Annabel holds regular get-togethers with the volunteers, including a compulsory one-to-one at least every three months.

In some cases where volunteers have had concerns it has led to the offender being re-arrested or recalled to prison.

Of the 100 helpers, there are just eight men and Annabel says more are desperately needed.

She said: “Across the board volunteering is a very female activity – that is just a trend for all volunteering. When volunteering is seen as a caring role it becomes more female.”

There is a temptation for everybody to ignore sex offenders, to think ‘If I have something to do with a sex offender, then somehow I’m doing something wrong’.”

I think people see it as the worst of the worst and I don’t think people want to be associated with that, which I can understand.”

But I think people need to look at it in reverse. To think ‘If sex abuse is so bad. then what can I do about it to reduce the likelihood that someone is going to get hurt?’”

They’re not locked up for life, they don’t get castrated, they don’t get hanged.”

You can either campaign the government to bring back the death penalty or you can be volunteering for circles.”

In the Eastern region 16 circle groups – which each run for 12 months – have opened and closed and another eight are under way. To date none of the core members has re-offended.

The scheme is based on a project that was started in Canada back in 1995 when a group of Quakers befriended a sex offender.

Today, there are projects running across the UK.

The stages of applying to become a volunteer:
  • Fill out an application form.
  • Get two character references.
  • Attend a two-day training course and assessment.
  • Undergo one-to-one interviews.
  • An advanced CRB check will be carried out.
  • To find out more visit www.circles-uk.org.uk or call Annabel on 07775 010443.


OH - Inappropriate funding - Expanding Ohio’s sexual-assault services deserves funding — but not from an ineffective tax on offenders

Original Article

05/28/2013

Two Republican state lawmakers want to set up a rape crisis trust fund, administered by Ohio’s attorney general and funded by $100 sex-offender registration extortion fees. Their bill would raise money — an estimated $200,000 a year from first-time registrants — for a worthy program that would expand sexual-assault services.

Opposition to added sanctions on sex offenders is never popular. They make up one of society’s most despised groups. Even inside the walls of prisons, sexual offenders are at the bottom of the heap.

But the bill would impose an excessive fee — in addition to registration fees already assessed by local sheriffs — that is inappropriate, unfair, and ineffective. To say so is not to coddle sex offenders.

Ohio reports about 2,000 new registrations a year, but imposing new fees would never provide a reliable revenue stream. As the Ohio Legislative Service Commission notes, collection rates for court costs, fees, and fines for those convicted of felonies are already extremely low. Sentencing courts have determined, properly, that many felony offenders, including sex offenders, are indigent.

The bill directs the attorney general to recover unpaid fees in civil actions; good luck with that. It also leaves it to local sheriffs to charge the $100 fee when someone first registers as a sex offender. The measure also could require offenders to pay the fee every time they change their address.

Expanding rape crisis services in Ohio is a worthy goal. What services, if any, a sexual assault victim receives should not depend on where she or he lives.

A new survey, commissioned by Attorney General Mike DeWine, concludes that nearly 60 percent of Ohio’s 88 counties lack comprehensive, direct sexual assault services. Such services include a 24-hour crisis hot line, criminal justice advocacy, community outreach, crisis intervention, and referrals.

The survey shows that 44 counties offer only some of these sexual-assault services. Eight, including Fulton County, provide none, or practically none.

Mr. DeWine has a solid plan to close these service gaps in five years. His proposed sexual-assault services expansion program would fund regional coordinators who would, among other things, recruit and train local volunteers and work with local hospitals, as well as criminal justice and mental-health professionals. Ohio lawmakers ought to pay for these efforts as they would any such program.

Sex offender registries — even tiered systems such as Ohio’s — are problematic anyway. They can include errors and inflict decades of harassment, humiliation, discrimination, and even violence, in addition to whatever punishment a court imposes on an offender. In many cases, the consequences can be more severe than any appropriate fine, probationary sentence, jail time, or even prison term.

Expanding sexual-assault services in Ohio is a needed initiative that deserves to be funded — but not by an excessive and ineffective tax on offenders.


FBI shared child porn to nab pedophiles; Washington home raided

Original Article

So if all this is true, the FBI ran a child porn business in order to capture suspects. This is like them raiding a crack house, then taking over and selling the crack to capture crack users, which is a crime, but, apparently they are above the law!

05/27/2013

By LEVI PULKKINEN

The FBI seized and ran a child pornography service late last year as investigators worked to identify its customers, one Western Washington man allegedly among them.

Following a lengthy investigation, Nebraska-based agents raided the large child pornography service in November hoping to catch users who shared thousands of images showing children being raped, displayed and abused.

The Bureau ran the service for two weeks while attempting to identify more than 5,000 customers, according to a Seattle FBI agent's statements to the court. Court records indicate the site continued to distribute child pornography online while under FBI control; the Seattle-based special agent, a specialist in online crimes against children, detailed the investigation earlier this month in a statement to the court.

The investigation appears to mark a departure for the Bureau and other federal law enforcement agencies aiming to root out child porn purveyors.

Historically, child pornography investigations stem from tips made to law enforcement, interactions with undercover officers posing as customers or reviews of documentation seized during searches of child porn clearinghouses like the one recently raided in Nebraska. While investigators are known to have posed as child porn dealers – a 2011 effort involved targeted emails to suspected pedophiles – it is not apparent that the FBI previously dealt child porn as part of a sting.

The Nebraska investigation is still in its early stages, and, while charges appear to be forthcoming, no one being prosecuted has been publicly tied to the site thus far. Information obtained during the investigation resulted in a search of one Western Washington home, and investigators are presently reviewing computers seized during that April search.

The FBI declined requests to discuss the investigation or investigators’ motivations to continue operating the site. Court records indicate investigators hoped to trace customers and were unable to do so through traditional means.

This remains an ongoing investigation, and local court rules and Department of Justice policy prohibit me from providing more information at this time,” said Sandy Breault, spokeswoman for the FBI Omaha Division. “As in any given matter, if charges are filed, they will eventually become a matter of public record.”

1,000s of images shared during investigation

Named only as “Website A” in an April 10 search warrant affidavit filed by the Seattle-based agent, the child pornography service was described as an online bulletin board with the primary business of advertising and sharing child pornography.

The affidavit was obtained by seattlepi.com earlier in May through a publicly accessible court records system. It has since been sealed.

Agents in the Omaha area seized “Website A” on Nov. 16 and continued to operate it until Dec. 2, monitoring messages from users of the website, the Seattle special agent told the court. The site was shut down Dec. 2.

At the time the service was shuttered it had more than 5,600 users and 24,000 posts, nearly all of which related to child pornography. At least 10,000 photos of children being posed nude, raped or otherwise abused were broadcast through the site.

Writing the court, the special agent recounted the site users’ discussions on how to avoid detection by police. One went so far as to publish a lengthy guide on encryption, and protections placed on the service impeded investigators’ work.

Most often, though, “Website A” users chatted about their shared interests – the rape and molestation of children. Message threads on the site included “How to lure a child in my car,” “Meeting other pedos in real life,” and “Do kids LIKE anal sex?

On Nov. 9, a U.S. District Court judge in Nebraska approved a request by law enforcement agents to track down the website’s users.

According to the agent’s statement, investigators were unable to identify “Website A” users through the service’s records. Allowing the site to continue to operate – allowing pedophiles to continue swapping photos and accessing images stored on the site – was necessary to identify the customers.

Court records do not note how many images of raped and abused children were shared or accessed while the FBI was operating “Website A.” Investigators also do not indicate whether known victims of child pornography – abused children pictured in widely distributed pornographic series – have been notified photos of their abuse were again shared as part of the investigation.

Images endure despite prosecutions

In what has become a disturbing legal cliché, federal prosecutors often assert that each time an image of rape or molestation is shared, the child is abused again.

That was among the arguments offered by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Marci Ellsworth last year when she sent a Seattle child molester to federal prison for child pornography crimes unrelated to the Nebraska investigation.

Ellsworth opined that the crimes were not, as the child pornography consumers sometimes argue, “victimless.”

Distributing of child pornography – images and videos of real children experiencing the worst moments of their young lives – is not a ‘victimless’ crime, and the heinous nature of this offense should never be diminished by referring to it as ‘just pictures,’” Ellsworth told the court. “The children portrayed … suffer real and permanent damage, for the rest of their lives, each and every time their exploitation is shared over the Internet.”

One of those children – a girl whose father shared images of her being abused that has since become widely shared online – put it more bluntly in a statement to the court filed last year.

I wish I could feel completely safe, but as long as these images are out there, I never will,” she said in a victim impact statement.

Every time they are downloaded, I am exploited again, my privacy is breached, and my life feels less and less safe,” she continued. “I will never be able to have control over who sees me raped as a child. It’s all out there for the world to see and it can never be removed from the internet.”

Efforts to interview a Seattle attorney representing her were unsuccessful prior to the holiday weekend. Staff at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children was also unavailable to discuss the issues surrounding the investigation.

Search on for ‘Website A’ users

The Seattle-area man targeted in the investigation is alleged to have accessed a “jailbait” girls section of “Website A” 10 days after investigators took control of it. Specifically, he’s alleged to have accessed photos showing two men raping a 10 to 12 year old girl.

Seattlepi.com does not generally identify suspects prior to charges being filed. Charges have not yet been filed in the case.

According to the Seattle agent’s statement, the Washington man expounded on his interest in watching children be sexually assaulted by several men at the same time, and bragged about a collection of photos he created on the topic.

There have been over 7,850 views of this thread in less than a week, which is a great compliment to the girls!” the man said in a post, according to a search warrant affidavit. “However, I find it hard to believe than(sic) in the last century and a half since photography was invented, it hasn’t occurred to more people that to photograph a cute little girl being hard (expletive) by two men is a fine and arousing thing to do.”

The man went on to discuss in graphic detail the practicalities of a small girl being gang raped, according to the agent’s statement.

In a separate thread, the man and others discussed their desire to rape children pictured in a series of pornographic photos. The man remarked that he would gag and chain one girl and leave another “swollen from all the abuse,” and then days later expressed similar sentiments toward yet another nude pre-teen girl.

Jesus I would enjoy hurting that child,” the man said in the chat thread, according to the search warrant affidavit.

Agents began watching the home thought to be associated with that man in late-March and seized computers from it on April 10. Charges had not yet been filed in the case, and court records do not indicate whether child pornography was recovered in the search.

See Also: