Wednesday, August 21, 2013

NC - Sex offender social media change worries parents

Denying access to social media is unconstitutional in North Carolina
Original Article (Video available)


By Ed Crump

UPDATE: Social networking ban for NC sex offenders remains in effect

RALEIGH (WTVD) - It's a scary day for parents across the state as sex offenders realize there is now no law to prevent them from going on websites frequented by children.
- Yeah because parents (sheeple) want the government (Big Brother) to run their lives for them.  If they were being parents then they'd monitor their children's social media accounts, but hey, it's easier to put the responsibility on someone else so you can blame them if things go wrong.

The law was struck down Tuesday by the state appeals court. Now, sex offenders and parents alike are taking note of the change.

The Wake County District Attorney's office tells us that sex offenders are calling their probation officers to make sure it is now legal for them to go on websites frequented by children. The answer to that question is yes.

There is no law to prevent registered sex offenders from getting on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or any other social media site.

The old law, which was found to be so vague it violated the right to free speech, banned those offenders from any site that allowed children as members.

Wednesday, at least one parent who spoke to ABC11 expressed serious concerns about the possibility of opening the floodgates to a pent up desire to stalk children.

Eating cheesy poofs
"I just picture some guy sitting in his recliner with a bowl of cheese puffs and a tank top just going after my kids," said Renee Duke. "Just sitting there trying his best to get to manipulate and get my kids."
- Well educate your kids instead of being all paranoid and buying into the fear mongering.  Even if it was a law in the state that wouldn't stop predators elsewhere to target your child if they wanted to!

Many parents say it has always been important for parents to closely monitor their children's internet activity, but now it's more important than ever.
- Not really, it's no more important than it was when it was a law.  Parents need to be parents!

A prosecutor here who handles these types of crimes is also urging parents to be diligent and he hopes that a new law can be written that will withstand a legal challenge.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper wanted the law but admits it may have to be rewritten, but he will try to appeal the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Cooper notes that there are still laws on the books that investigators can use to charge suspects with soliciting children online. However, he believes we need a law to try to prevent child sex crimes before they happen.
- You can pass 1 million laws and it will never prevent someone from committing a crime.  Just because you pass a law doesn't make everything magically go away!

If Cooper's attempt at an appeal fails, he says he will go back to the legislature to see if they can craft a new sex offender social media law that will withstand a legal challenge.

They Shoot Sex Offenders, Don't They?

The only thing we have to fear is fear-mongering itself!
Original Article

The title is misleading and we are not sure why the person reporting on sensationalism had to use that title which seems like more of the same to us?


By Kyle Swenson

In this week's print edition of New Times, you'll find a feature story on the warring opinions over Florida's sex offender registry. It's also not the only piece of journalism around town this week diving into the issue.

Over the last three days the Sun-Sentinel (fear mongering at it's best) has dropped a large-scale investigation into the state's Jimmy Ryce law, a safeguard designed to keep the state's worst sex offenders locked up after their prison time. Even though the investigation's data-mining turned up some troubling trends, the series was a textbook knee-jerk sex offender story: the data took a backseat to a parade of horror stories, painting a slightly intellectually dishonest picture of the situation.

"I think the story wasn't inaccurate, it was not inaccurate, but it was somewhat misleading," Dr. Jill Levenson, an associate professor of psychology, told New Times this week. "These are exceedingly rare events."

First off, we can all agree that the crimes uncovered by the series were terrible, horrible failures of the system. The story is a good piece by that standard. But by juggling data points with up-close camera shots of victims, the Sun-Sentinel has written the kind of series that's always at odds with itself.

There's an inherent conflict between data and anecdote here, number-crunching and tabloid sensationalization. And as we all know, the latter - these emotional horror stories that tap directly into our deepest fears for ourselves and our children - stick more easily to the reader than any number set. But it's also that emotional jolt that keeps a reader from contextualizing the data.

By the paper's own methodology, 31,000 people have been screened since the program was founded in 1999.

The paper flagged 594 offenders who Jimmy Ryce program failed to grab. That number represent 1.9 percent of the 31,000 screened by the program. The paper's own methodology notes that the actual sample size is smaller, that "more than half" of the screened individuals had "limited ability" to commit more crimes, although "limited ability" seems a little vague. The paper notes "10,000 returned to prison," "1,800 were never released, and more than 4,800 died, were deported or moved to another state" (but did they re-offend before dying, deportation, or kicking out for another state? That's not mentioned). So here the paper seems to be saying that16,600 of the 31,000 screened didn't have a chance to re-offend. That leaves 14,400 individuals, and the 594 would represent 4.1 percent of that total.

The series also does not give us the big picture context of what slice of the sex offender population we're dealing with. As of April 2011, there were 55,847 people on Florida's sex offender registry. 84 percent of that number fell into the sex offender category (46,911 offenders), and 16 percent were designated in the more serious sexual predator category (around 8,935). Although the Jimmy Ryce act patrols the worst of the worst, the Sun-Sentinel series is clearly going to have an impact on that entire number.

Some people feel that the empirical jolt of the headlines is the best way to assess the threat predators present, that studies are inherently faulty or guided by their own agendas. If that's where you stand, you could say the same for big time daily newspaper investigations.

The paper showed how the state has failed to keep the worst offenders off the street -- an important point. But these are the bad guys we can all agree need to be closely watched. The state's current system also calls for a debate about grey-area cases and the less sensational, tabloid-ready moments when our institutions break down. This kind of high-volume outrage drowns out those conversations.

See Also:

Sex Offenders Aren’t All Monsters

Juvenile sex offenders should not be on the online hit-list
Original Article


By Nicole Pittman

Sex offender laws are meant to protect children, but research increasingly shows the severe damage they cause, reports Nicole Pittman.

Jacob C. was 11 years old and living in Michigan when he was convicted of criminal sexual conduct for touching his younger sister’s genitals. After serving a three-year sentence, he was placed on the state’s sex offender registry and forced to live separately from his mother and sister, in a foster home.

At 18, he began attending a local college, but his "sex offender" status drew the attention of campus police, who tailed him everywhere. He soon dropped out. Jacob tried to make a new life in Florida, but with his name, address, photograph, and details of his past offense available on an online registry for all to see, he had difficulty finding a job or a place to live, and for a time he was homeless. He married and had a daughter, but when he and his wife divorced he was denied custody, again because of his history.

In other words, Jacob, now 29, continues to be defined in the eyes of the world by an offense he committed at age 11.

Stories like Jacob’s (Video) are all too common in the United States. Under laws intended to protect the public, people under 18 convicted of sex offenses, some as young as 8, face decades or even a lifetime of stigma, discrimination, and suffocating restriction—on top of whatever sentence they have already served as punishment for their crimes.

Over 16 months of research for a Human Rights Watch investigation, I found very little evidence to support the premise that sex offender registration laws, as applied to children, effectively protect the public. But I found overwhelming evidence that they cause severe harm to the people whose lives they govern.

I interviewed hundreds of youth sex offenders, some of them now well into adulthood, across 20 states. Many have endured—and continue to endure—harassment and beatings; or struggle to find, or keep, a job or a home. Some are back in prison having missed a deadline to inform the police of changes to their personal information (say, a change of address).

"I live in a general sense of hopelessness, and combat suicidal thoughts almost daily," one registrant, placed on a registry at 14, told me. "The shame will never fully go away. People will always remember." Not surprisingly, some registered youth sex offenders take their own lives.

The harm suffered by victims of sexual assault, as well as their family members and their communities, can be harrowing, and anyone responsible for a sexual assault should be held accountable. But punishment should fit both the offense and the offender, and placing children who commit sex offenses on a registry and public website, possibly for life­­ on top of time in prison or juvenile detention, ­­is going too far.

Sex-offender laws are designed to protect communities by helping police keep tabs on past offenders. But research overwhelmingly shows that registration is an ineffective public-safety tool. Numerous studies estimate the recidivism rate among children who commit sexual offenses to be between 4 and 10 percent. Compare that with a 13 percent rate for adult sex offenders and a national rate of 45 percent for all crimes. The numbers track with research suggesting that most young people who commit sex offenses naturally "age out" of this kind of behavior. This is consistent with what every parent knows—and scientific research confirms—about children: they're not just miniature adults; they're still developing.

Another problem is that registries cast far too wide a net. Most states include people who've committed any of a range of offenses that can include heinous crimes like rape but also less extreme ones—say, consensual sex between teenagers—and even, in some cases, relatively innocuous behavior like streaking on a college campus or urinating in public.

This has to change. States and the federal government should exempt youth sex offenders from registration and community notification laws. Short of a full exemption, states should remove all youth sex offenders from registration schemes that are not specifically tailored to take account of the nature of their offense, the risk they pose (if any) to public safety, their particular developmental and cognitive characteristics, their needs for treatment, and potential for rehabilitation.

A conviction for a sex offense, even a serious one, doesn't extinguish a child’s claim to just treatment at the hands of government, nor does it free a government to ignore fundamental rights when imposing punishment or collateral consequences that flow from punishment. We are diluting law enforcement’s ability to focus on the most dangerous offenders by subjecting youth to public registration and related laws. Exempting youth from harsh registration laws would both respect their rights and their potential to change and improve public safety.

KS - Augusta officer (Jerry Ballinger) makes preliminary court appearance

Officer Jerry Ballinger
Jerry Ballinger
Original Article


AUGUSTA - A police officer in Augusta charged with sex crimes against a child was in court Monday.

Jerry Ballinger is accused of two counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child.

The Butler County Attorney says the crimes happened in April and June of this year.

A judge found there is enough evidence for Ballinger to be bound over for trial.

It is set for Novermber 5th at 9 a.m.

See Also:

TX - Houston area teachers learn to recognize signs of sexual abuse

Teachers Sex Abuse Conference
Teachers Sex Abuse Conference
Original Article (Video available)

HOUSTON - Home – the place where kids are supposed to feel safe. But for child victims of sexual abuse, their own home is the closest place to hell.
- True, and not some stranger down the road, it's usually family!

One of the things we always tell people to look for when they suspect that a child is being abused is a change in behavior,” said Tammy Hetmaniak, Community Outreach Coordinator of The Children’s Assessment Center.

And something may be about to change in Houston. More than 4,100 Houston area public school teachers will receive training on how to recognize signs of sexual abuse in children and what to do to help them. Mayor Annise Parker, the Children’s Assessment Center and the YMCA of Greater Houston announced the implementation of the nationally recognized “Darkness to Light” child sexual abuse prevention training program.

Child abuse is a crime,’ said Mayor Parker. ‘We’re doing this because it allows us to create a safer environment for our kids.”

Sexual abusers tend to take advantage of those who are defenseless. It’s our duty as a community to be alert and to make sure every child has the chance to live a life full of hope.

GA - Lawmakers Learn Offender Websites Are Maps for Murderers

Women Against the Registry (W.A.R.)
Original Article


ATLANTA (W.A.R. Release) - State lawmakers were enlightened about the damage done by public sex offender registries during the recent National Conference of State Legislatures here.

There was a light-bulb moment for legislators as the discussion progressed about children of registrants being beaten up or suffering depression because their mother or father are on a public registry,” said Vicki Henry of Women Against the Registry (W.A.R.). (Henry is seen at left in the photo, along with Larry Neely of RSOL).

Neely, of the Reform Sex Offender Laws (RSOL) group, told lawmakers about the recent vigilante murders of a registrant and his wife in South Carolina.

Lawmakers who paid attention said: “I didn’t know that happens” or “Oh my gosh, they looked up the sex offender’s name and address on the public registry, murdered him and his wife.”

Not only are public websites tools for murderers, they make no sense from a public safety standpoint. Recent research in Nebraska shows that reoffense rates of former sex offenders are extremely low. But reoffending increased when Nebraska adopted the Adam Walsh Act, which put every former offender regardless of risk on the public shaming website.
Sex Offender Registry - Online hit-list!
Sharing the recent tragedy out of Texas, where a 10-year old girl was charged with the rape of a four-year old boy left many speechless. The portrayal of this story to summit attendees was a signal that the pendulum needs to swing back in the other direction. It was made apparent to conference attendees that counseling would be a better alternative rather than incarcerating and destroying our youth.

Fellow advocates USA Fair and Florida Action Committee were also in attendance and advocating for reform.

Does Sex Offender Registration Deter Crime?

Sex Offender Registry & Laptop
Original Article

By Charles Montaldo

Studies Find They May Not Increase Public Safety

Laws requiring sex offenders to register with law enforcement and notifying the public of their location may make us feel safer, but two scientific studies of these laws found they really do not do much to protect the public.

In fact, one study found that making sex registry information available to the public may actually backfire, producing higher overall rates of sex crimes.

Registration Works, Notification Doesn't

One study did find that requiring sex offenders to register with police can significantly reduce the chance that they will re-offend. But the same study, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan and Columbia University, found that making that same information available to the public can backfire.

Reviewing data from 15 states over a 10-year period, the researchers examined separately how registration laws and notification laws worked in those states.

Registration Reduces Sex Crime Rates

In looking at registration laws, the researchers found:
  • Even in smaller communities, registration of sex offenders reduced sex crimes by 13 percent.
  • The larger the registry, the greater the reduction in sex crime rates.
  • Registration reduces crime by discouraging re-offending rather than deterring first-time offenders.

Notification Encourages Recidivism

However, when a state has both registration laws and public notification laws, it can actually hamper the sex offender registry's crime-reducing ability. The researchers found:
  • Public notification may deter first offenders, but it appears to make released offenders more likely to re-offend.
  • States which added public notification of their registries saw slightly higher levels of sex crime rates.
  • Registration discourages sex offender recidivism, but public notification encourages it.

Nothing Left to Lose?

The researchers speculate that the reason public notification encourages recidivism is because the offenders may feel they have nothing else to lose.

"Convicted sex offenders become more likely to commit crimes when their information is made public because the associated psychological, social, or financial costs make a crime-free life relatively less desirable," the researchers wrote.

Larger Study Finds No Effectiveness

A broader study, conducted by a researcher at the University of Chicago, found no evidence that sex offender registries increase public safety. The study found that registries do not reduce crime trends, recidivism or local sex crime rates.

First, the researcher compared sex crime arrest rates in states before and after they passed registration laws and found no significant difference.

Then the study looked at 9,000 sex offenders released from prison in 1994, half of whom had to register and half who did not. There was little difference in recidivism between the two groups, in fact, those who did not have to register had slightly less recidivism rates.

Registries Do Not Increase Public Safety

Finally, the researchers looked at population blocks in Washington D.C. and compared blocks with more registered sex offenders with blocks with fewer offenders. The study found no difference in sex crime rates.

"The results show that knowing where a sex offender lives does not reveal much about where sex crimes, or other crimes, will take place," the researcher wrote. "That result calls into question the rationale for creating registries in the first place. Sex offender registries do little to increase public safety, either in practice or in potential."

Almost all states now have searchable online databases of their registered sex offenders available to the public. Some states do not have every county's offenders listed and some states only list those who were convicted after the state's public notification law was passed.