Monday, August 26, 2013

URGENT - FL - Janet Adkins to host hearing on sex offender laws

Conference
Original Article

People who live in Florida should attend this, if possible, and voice your opinion on the issues.

08/26/2013

By Matt Dixon

Fernandina Beach - State Rep. Janet H. Adkins will host a legislative hearing on September 4th in Jacksonville City Hall to discuss laws related to sexual offenders. Rep. Adkins will be accepting public testimony at this hearing. This legislative hearing will allow members from the public to deliver testimony and provide an opportunity to gather input from both the public and subject matter experts about necessary changes to legislation governing sex offender crimes. Rep. Adkins has gathered an expert panel from the fields of criminal justice system, community controls, supervision of released offenders and mental health counseling to provide further testimony to the current laws and systems in place today.

"The tragic circumstances surrounding Cherish Perrywinkle and Somer Thompson underscore the need for us to have a close look at the laws related to sex offender crimes against children. As a mother of two school-age children, I understand the great importance of keeping our children safe", said Rep. Adkins. "It is my goal to listen and gather information regarding the current laws and circumstances regarding registered sex offenders in Florida. I plan to file legislation in the 2014 session to improve and strengthen laws of Florida as it relates to these crimes against children". Rep. Adkins went on further to add, "One of the greatest responsibilities we have as a community is to protect our children."
- Like we've said over and over, you can pass 1 million laws and it will not prevent another tragedy like this from occurring.

Florida Correctional Facilities currently house over 15,000 sex offenders (as of 6.30.2013) and provide probation and parole services for over 7,000 sex offenders. This information is public record and can be viewed at http://www.dc.state.fl.us/pub/spop/2013/06/tab19.html. Of the individuals that are in the registry with Florida offenses, both housed and released, Florida Department of Law Enforcement reports that 4860 of the offenders' victims were under the age of 12. 26,911 of the offenders had victims between the ages of 12 and 16 years of age.

A recent Sun-Sentinel (fear mongering) story by reporter Sally Kestin, sheds further light on the need for legislative reform. Per the article, "in the 14 years since the (Jimmy Ryce) law took effect, the Sun Sentinel found,at least 594 offenders reviewed and let go were later convicted of a new sex crime in Florida. Forty percent attacked within a year of their release - some the very same day. These offenders molested more than 460 children, raped 121 women and murdered 14."

Guest panel experts from each of the following organizations will be on hand to hear the public testimony and provide information in regards to current legislation and controls: Florida Department of Law Enforcement; Florida Department of Children and Families; Florida Department of Corrections; Florida Council Against Sexual Violence; Community Behavioral Services; Jacksonville and Clay County Sheriff's Offices. These experts represent the fields that focus on the roles, responsibilities and current laws that govern the arrest, conviction and commitment process of sexual offenders; the supervision, monitoring and registering of released convicted offenders; civil commitment and community behavioral counseling determination process in addition to victims' rights and community awareness and education.

The hearing will be held September 4th, 2:00 PM to 4:30 PM at the Jacksonville City Hall, Lynwood Roberts Room, located at 117 W. Duval Street, Jacksonville, FL 32202. The hearing is open to the public, with limited seating. Highlights of the hearing will be made available at a later date.


FL - Daytona Beach neighborhood builds park to keep out sex offenders

Daytona Beach pocket park
Original Article

08/26/2013

By Frank Fernandez

DAYTONA BEACH - Bayberry Lakes’ new playground, with its slides and monkey bars, is more than a fun place for kids to play: It is also the community’s preemptive strike against sex offenders.
- Florida continues to play the sex offender shuffle and proving again and again that the laws and pocket parks are all about punishment and exile.

The playground was strategically placed to cover an open zone where sex offenders could have moved into the community off LPGA Boulevard.

The playground appears to be the first in either Volusia or Flagler counties built to block sex offenders from moving in to a community. A spokeswoman with the state Department of Corrections said she did not know of any other community in the state that had taken such an initiative. Sheriff’s Offices in Volusia and Flagler counties said they had not heard of a community doing such a thing.
- Well she's not been reading the news.  Florida has opened several pocket parks to prevent offenders from moving in, or to force them out.

It was the idea of J. Ryan Will, a Bayberry Lakes resident who also happens to be a prosecutor for the local State Attorney’s Office.

I just started looking for ways to keep sex offenders out of the neighborhood and I knew from my job that there were residency requirements with respect to parks and playgrounds,” Will said.

The community of 328 homes is nearly built out and already had Champion Elementary School in the north end and a park in its community center at the other end, each one creating zones where sex offenders could not live.

State law bars sex offenders whose victims were younger than 16 from living within 1,000 feet of a school, child care facility, park or playground. A similar Daytona Beach city ordinance is stricter, excluding sex offenders and sex predators from living within 2,500 feet of such facilities.

But an unprotected area existed in the middle of Bayberry Lakes and a sex offender had even lived there for a time before moving out, Will said. That gap was closed this month with the opening of the playground on Cinderberry Lane.

Red and blue balloons fluttered in the breeze as Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry cut a red ribbon at the gate to the playground Aug. 15 while Zone 4 Commissioner Robert Gilliland stood nearby.

It’s a paradigm or model of what we would like to see all of our communities do, which is bond together in an effort number one to protect the children and number two to enhance the qualify of life for them,” Henry said. “I’m a big proponent of health and wellness and this is an extension of that, as well.”
- And if all communities did that, then you'd basically be exiling all offenders from the state, which is unconstitutional.

Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood said in a phone interview that he had never been told about a playground being built to keep sex offenders and sex predators away.
- Another person who hasn't been reading the news, or they are just playing dumb?

It’s the first time I’ve heard of it,” Chitwood said. “It’s pretty proactive on the community’s part.”

Will proposed the playground to the homeowners association a little more than a year ago. The homeowners approved it, voting to assess each household $100 to build the $27,000 playground. Adams Homes, which still controls 29 lots in the community, also voted in favor of the playground and paid the special assessment on each lot.

But not everyone liked the idea. Some residents thought the proposed location was a bad spot because Cinderberry Lane was too busy a street. But Will said that the homeowners association already owned that land. Also, the spot was perfect since it would protect the entire open zone from sex offenders and sex predators. Moving it would mean two or three lots would fall outside of the protected zone, allowing sex offenders and sex predators to move in.

Now, the entire neighborhood is protected, said Bill Kamer, a father who is the president of the homeowners association.

The middle of the subdivision was not covered at all,” Kamer said. “This will put our whole community under the safe zone, so no sex offenders or predators can live in our community at all.”

Another resident, Kim Wood, said she was on board when she heard Will’s idea for a playground, particularly since she has a 4-year-old granddaughter.

And right now we don’t let her out of our sight, but as she gets older and wants to go to the playground and hang out with friends that would be a concern to me,” Wood said.
- Just because an offender cannot live nearby, doesn't mean they cannot visit the park and kidnap a child, if they wished, but you folks keep living in Wonderland!

Jim Powers, Wood’s fiance and an association board member, said the area needed a park anyway.

This end of the community didn’t have any amenities. All the amenities were at the other end of the community so we definitely felt it was a good spot here and a good position and something that we needed in the community,” Powers said. “You can tell by the number of children here that it’s going to be well used.”

That was certainly the case on a recent afternoon. Kids dangled from the monkey bars, zipped down slides and clung to a small round platform with bars, which the youngsters spun in fast circles.

Adam Marcotte, 9, gave the playground a thumbs up: “It’s pretty cool.

Arianna Corbin, 11, was at the playground with her sisters, 8-year-old twins, Gianna and Haley, and Elizabeth, 12. What was Arianna’s favorite?

The spinner. You can get dizzy,” Arianna said.

The choice was simple for 7-year-old Sebastian Juracek who decided, “I like everything.”

See Also:


AR - Operation Hide and Seek Exposes Sex Offenders

Lonoke County Sheriff Department
Original Article

And not a single arrest was due to another sex crime, thus putting the recidivism rate at 0%!

08/26/2013

LONOKE COUNTY - A weekend sweep exposes dozens of sex offenders in Lonoke County.

It's called Operation Hide and Seek in which several agencies joined forces to put 30 men behind bars. The operation centered around the capture and arrest of one man and grew from there.

Investigators say 19-year-old [name withheld], from Cabot, is accused of raping a minor and intimidating a witness in that case.Deputies arrested him and 29 other men. Most of those arrests were for sex offender violations like failing to change addresses or employment information.

Local and federal agencies, including the Secret Service and U.S. Marshals Office, helped with Operation Hide and Seek.

The sheriff says it's just the beginning of a huge crackdown on sex offenders in Lonoke County.

Sheriff John Staley said, "I see how many were coming in to register. I've got kids and if I'm going to be the Lonoke County Sheriff, I'm responsible to the people and we're going to protect our children and our citizens."

Operation Hide and Seek took place across Lonoke County on Friday and Saturday. Eight teams made up of five men and women from different agencies helped to make the arrests.

And, along with those arrests for sex offender violations, the sheriff's department also made three drug arrests and five arrests for fugitive warrants over the weekend.

See Also:

Previous video about Lonoke county Facebook:


Another county in Arkansas doing the same:


CA - 'Revenge porn' may soon be a crime in California

Female shocked at revenge porn
Original Article

08/26/2013

By Patt Morrison

In that innocent age before smartphones and laptops, perhaps the nastiest public revenge that a spurned beau could take was writing “for a good time call …” with his ex’s phone number on a men’s room wall (in the interest of gender fairness, a man's number might also have been scrawled on a women’s room wall).

Pah -- child’s play. Social media now make it possible for an angry ex to pin that intimate, for-your-eyes-only photo of an ex-partner or ex-spouse on the world’s wall.

It’s called “revenge porn,” and the California Legislature is speeding along by hefty bipartisan margins a bill to make it a crime -- a misdemeanor with a potential for as much as a year behind bars -- to post intimate photos of someone else online without his or her permission, intending to humiliate or upset him or her.

Its sponsor, Ceres Republican Sen. Anthony Cannella, argues that “right now, law enforcement has no tools to combat revenge porn or cyber-revenge.” It is, he says, “destroying people’s lives.”
- So is the online sex offender registry (hit-list).

Right now, victims can sue in civil court, if they want to take the time and the trouble and pay the legal bills. And how powerful is a civil court victory in one state when your bits have been uploaded to the international online echo chamber?

The poster girl for what Cannella calls a “growing trend” is Holly Jacobs. Over the three-plus years of a relationship, she sent her boyfriend some intimate photos -- and right here is the time to point out that Jacobs has anticipated and shut down anyone who’d say that it’s her fault for taking those pictures in the first place. (Just as people may insultingly and absurdly blame a rape victim for “asking for it.”)

The vulnerability of social media is a different discussion, as is the wisdom of hitting the “send” button on anything so personal; that will be debated until the cows come home, flashing their udders. Anthony Weiner has never suggested the social media made him do it. Last year, an actress on HBO's “The Newsroomaccidentally tweeted a topless picture of herself (and ABC News misspelled the word as “accidently” -- accidentally, one hopes.)

Art imitates life: This season on “The Newsroom,” a character played by actress Olivia Munn finds herself the target of revenge porn.

Ever since humans mastered the art of drawing in the dirt with a stick, each new iteration of technology has been put to pornographic purposes. But revenge porn belongs on the spectrum of stalking and harassment, which Cannella’s bill seeks to recognize.

Holly Jacobs found that a month after she and her boyfriend broke up, her naked picture had been posted on her Facebook profile. (Her ex-boyfriend contends the picture got out because his computer was hacked.) It went viciously viral.

Less than a year later, Jacobs’ photo was on some 200 websites, as were her name, email address and place of business. She tried to get the photos removed, she changed her phone number, she changed her name, she quit her job, she thought about suicide.

And she started a website, with a petition drive, to do just what the name says.

It’s a law of political physics: For every piece of legislation, there’s an equal and opposite lawsuit. Well, not always, but there may be with this bill. It’s why the ACLU has opposed it. It wades into the murky areas of the Internet and image ownership. As with an actual paper-and-ink letter, does the recipient of the photo own the actual physical picture but not the “content,” and therefore the right to reproduce it anywhere? Is the owner of the photo the person who took it or the person who appears in the photo? What if it’s one and the same, a “selfie”?

Publishing law may provide a template for cyber-publishing, if such crude, vengeful actions can be regarded in any planetary system as “publishing.”

The potential California law criminalizing revenge porn might also give the victim the legal tools for demanding that those pictures be taken down, but some national and international conventions have to accompany legislation like Cannella’s or they will just be paper tigers, no more effective at undoing the damage than civil suits may be now.

I don’t see any reference to whether the law would also classify the lawbreakers as sex offenders, and the absence makes me believe it does not.

Certainly being classified as a sex offender for revenge porn would be one hefty deterrent, but would it be ineffective overkill? California laws, as the Wall Street Journal has pointed out, create so many registered sex offenders -- like a teenage boy who had sex with his underage teenage girlfriend -- that it’s made it harder to track the violent and dangerous criminals who may actually be likelier to commit more sex crimes.

This is just a note of caution. By not designating revenge porn posters as sex offenders, such a bill is clearly focused on its goal -- to keep these photos off the Internet -- and be likelier to be signed into law, both here and eventually across the country.


MO - Is it fair for sex offenders to stay listed on a registry for life?

Question mark
Original Article

08/26/2013

By Kevin McDermott

ST. LOUIS - On one side of the latest debate over Missouri’s sex-offender registry are people such as [name withheld]. In 1991, when [name withheld] was 15, he and three others raped and murdered sisters Julie and Robin Kerry at the Chain of Rocks Bridge near St. Louis.

[name withheld] testified against his co-defendants in exchange for a 30-year prison sentence. Though back in prison, he has been paroled twice since his conviction. At those times, he was free but still listed on the state’s sex-offender registry website. That website, Gov. Jay Nixon argues, is the only way for most neighbors and others to know of the potential danger while such offenders are among them.

You wouldn’t want to know if one of these guys moved in next door?” Nixon asked last week.

He was defending his veto of a bill that would remove from the website all offenders who, like [name withheld], were under 18 when they committed their crimes.

On the other side are people such as [name withheld]’s fiancé. He was 17 when he was arrested for having child pornography on his computer. Now 24 and still listed on the registry website, he’s had difficulty at work, has been been turned away from housing and lives with his parents.

We can’t go to a park, we can’t go to a mall. If there’s an event with our friends near a school, we can’t go,” said [name withheld], 23, of St. Peters. “He made a mistake ... (but) he is not the boy that he was. There’s no reason to ruin him for the rest of his life.”

The registry is today’s ultimate “scarlet letter.” Long after they’ve served their time, sex offenders remain barred from parks and schools and limited in their employment and housing options. Their names and faces are posted on the Internet, easily accessible to friends and neighbors.

In Missouri, they stay listed for life, even if they were juveniles when they committed their crimes. The state Legislature passed this year a bill to change that. Nixon vetoed it, potentially setting up an emotionally charged veto fight next month.

The bill would remove from the sex-offender registry website hundreds of offenders such as [name withheld]'s fiancé and [name withheld], whose crimes were very different but who were both under 18 when they committed them. By one estimate, the bill would cull about 870 names from the more than 13,000 on the site, in addition to future offenders in the same situation.

Those offenders would still be listed on the registry itself, accessible to law enforcement and anyone from the public who requests the information. But the bill would allow the offenders to petition for complete removal from the registry starting five years after the end of their sentences.

‘SERVED THEIR DEBT’
These kids have served their debt to society. They are adults now and haven’t done anything wrong since,” said Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair, a co-sponsor of the measure.

He and others note that listed offenders have high unemployment rates because many employers won’t hire them. “We’re just trying to give them another shot at being productive citizens.”

Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed the bill in July, arguing that it makes no distinction between relatively minor offenders and those who used force or violence.

In a news conference at St. Louis police headquarters last week, defending the veto amid the backdrop of uniformed officers, the governor warned that the measure could make Missouri a haven for sex offenders from other states who want to hide from their pasts.

Missourians use this important public information tool,” said Nixon, noting there were about 4.2 million visitors on the state’s main sex offender registry website last year alone. To remove one class of offenders from the site “in one fell swoop,” without regard to the details of their crimes, he argued, is “disrespectful to the victims.”

In Missouri, and nationally, the issues connected to sex-offender registries — who should be on them, how long they should stay listed — have been in flux for years, with opposing interests battling to tighten or loosen the requirements.

The concept behind the lists is that because of the high rate of repeat offenses among sex offenders, the public needs to be warned of their whereabouts even after their sentences are served. Civil libertarians have long argued that this amounts to an unconstitutional open-ended punishment, but courts have generally upheld the registries.
- And the public has been force fed lies in order to justify these draconian laws.  The facts are that ex-sex offenders have a low recidivism (re-offense) rate, but politicians continue saying it's high, like above, and below.

It’s different with sex criminals. There is a very high recidivism rate,” said Emily van Schenkhof, who lobbies for Missouri Kids First. “Because of the serial nature of sexual offending ... sex offenders have to be treated differently.”
- And ask yourself, what background in treating sex offenders does this organization have?  We are willing to bet none.  They are probably soccer moms who think they are experts in sexual crimes.

Missouri’s system is tougher than some because once a person is on the list, he or she is on it for life, regardless of the severity of the original crime or the offender’s age at the time.

Illinois, in contrast, has a lifetime tier and a 10-year tier, based on the details of the crime. People who commit crimes as juveniles have to register, but they aren’t listed on the registry’s public website.

‘ROMEO AND JULIET’
In both states, as in most other jurisdictions, the public listing is accompanied by rules prohibiting offenders from going certain places, such as playgrounds.

Critics claim that the registry nets are cast so widely they often catch people who most would agree aren't sexual threats. One commonly cited example are the so-called “Romeo and Juliet” offenders, who had consensual sex with teenage lovers, sometimes when they themselves were teenagers.

Critics say those pitfalls in the system are especially ominous in Missouri, where juvenile crimes are listed for life.

We want young people who have made foolish mistakes to have the opportunity for a second chance,” argued Sharie Keil of Missouri Citizens for Reform, a group made up of listed offenders and their relatives and supporters. “To hold a 12-year-old accountable is important … (but) I’m not sure it helps anything to punish them for life for something they did when they were 12.”

For [name withheld], who agreed to be interviewed about her fiancé on the condition that his name not be used, the issue extends beyond public embarrassment and girded movements. “I want to take his name,” she said, “but I’m afraid ... it would affect me for the rest of my life.”

House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, told The Associated Press that Nixon’s veto is “ripe for override” when the Legislature reconvenes for its veto session Sept. 11. Nixon expressed anger last week at what he alleged was the cavalier tone of that comment, “as if this was some sort of contest.”

The Speaker stands ready to help these sex offenders … hide from the public,” alleged Nixon.

Jones didn't reply to requests for comment last week.

To override a veto requires a two-thirds vote in each chamber. The original bill sailed through the Legislature with just four “no” votes, all Republicans. But that doesn't mean an override is assured, because it would require many of Nixon’s fellow Democrats to vote against him on a bill they previously supported.

If the (override) vote was held today, it would be iffy,” said Hinson, the co-sponsor. “We've had bills that have passed overwhelmingly ... but when it came to the veto, the Democrats stuck with the governor. That’s the politics of it.”

The bill is HB 301 (PDF).