Monday, September 9, 2013

NY - Raped behind bars - New York prisons have a problem: "A fox guarding the hen house"

Woman standing by a door
Original Article


By Alysia Santo

Anna cowered in a prison hallway, her inmate jumpsuit ripped, her neck bruised. Afraid to speak the unspeakable truth, she told the sergeant who found her that she was upset about issues with her kids.

When questioned later, she said Donald Lasker, a guard at Albion State Prison in Orleans County, had just raped her and threatened to harm her if she told.

Lasker was eventually convicted of statutory rape. His sentence: 10 weekends in jail, 10 years' probation, and being listed as a Level 1 sex offender. He claimed in court that he'd been seduced.

Anna, who now lives in Albany, was put in solitary confinement for a week "for her own safety," she was told, before finishing her two-year sentence for cashing a fake check. She requested that her last name not be used.

Her story is one of many across New York in recent years, and the cases encompass a wide range of scenarios. Sexual abuse in women's prisons is nuanced, law enforcement experts say, ranging from forcible rape to more complicated types of coercion in which women may be, at least initially, willing participants.
- What about the sexual abuse in men's prisons?

Since 2006, the state's prison agency has substantiated 33 incidents involving the sexual abuse of female inmates by prison staff and 27 incidents involving sexual harassment by staff. It's a situation well-known to state officials for decades, yet New York state has continuously failed to implement policies used in other states to protect female prisoners from being sexually victimized by prison employees, usually correction officers. One New York women's prison ranked among the worst in the nation for prison rape, with a rate five times the national average.

In at least three rulings in the past year, judges compensated women raped by New York state correction officers, including a woman who gave birth to a guard's child while incarcerated. Prison officials say there have been seven pregnancies since 2000 in which the father of the inmate's child was a staff member from the facility.

"The sexual abuse of women in custody is a long-standing and endemic problem," said Brenda Smith, a professor at American University Washington College of Law. She has more than 30 years' experience working in the area of sexual victimization behind bars, and served from 2004 to 2009 on the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission.

She called abuse by prison staff "the most basic betrayal of the public's trust," particularly since the United States has the highest population of incarcerated people in the world. "The people being victimized in custody are not just them. They are us. It could be anyone you know," Smith said.

New York's prison agency, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), said in a statement their position can be summarized in two words: "Zero Tolerance," wrote spokesperson Tom Mailey. "Regardless of the enormity of our responsibility, for over 90,000 inmates and parolees zero tolerance means even one instance of sexual abuse is one too many ... Through prevention, education, and ongoing victim support programs, DOCCS works to eliminate all forms of sexual violence within the department, to provide access to appropriate and meaningful emotional support services for victims of sexual abuse, and to prosecute anyone who sexually abuses an offender to the fullest extent of the law."

Still, justice often eludes women imprisoned here. Success in criminal court is frequently stymied by the difficult nature of proving sex crimes in prison, where an inmate's word can hold little or no credibility, and where the sympathies of a judge and jury can often lie with guards. That, coupled with an aggressive union that fights to keep its male members employed in female prisons despite allegations of abuse, has resulted in an atmosphere largely insulated from systemic change.

So it continues, shrouded in secrecy.

CO - Should Child Offenders Be Punished for Life?

Juvenile Sex Offenders
Original Article



DENVER (CN) - A girl who committed incest when she was 11 and a boy who tried to hug a girl on a playground when he was 13 sued the governor of Colorado, claiming that children who commit offenses should not have to register as sex offenders for life.

Plaintiffs A.A., D.M. and V.A. sued Hickenlooper in his official capacity, in Federal Court. They challenge enforcement of the Colorado Sex Offender Registration Act, which they say invades their privacy and does not benefit the community.

A.A., now 23, "was eleven years old when she allegedly committed aggravated incest," according to the lawsuit. She was arrested 3 years later, in 2003, adjudicated delinquent, and released from supervision in December 2007, a few days before her 18th birthday.

A.V., now 28, was 13 when a classmate at his elementary school "accused him of 'always trying to hug her.' He was adjudged delinquent for criminal attempt to commit third degree sex assault," according to the complaint. He was sentenced to juvenile hall, served his time, was paroled and discharged from parole.

D.M., 51, was convicted of second-degree sexual assault in 1999. He was sentenced to 8 years probation and completed it, with sex offense-specific treatment, and his supervision was terminated in 2007.

All three plaintiffs are minorities. A.A. and D.M. are African-American; A.V. is Latino.

None of them have committed or have been accused of committing a sex crime since they were discharged from supervision, but all have struggled to keep jobs and housing because they are listed on the Colorado Bureau of Investigation's public database of registered sex offenders.

They say that requiring youth sex offenders to register for the rest of their lives is cruel and unusual punishment.

"Registering youth sex offenders, such as A.A. and A.V. is bad public policy, including the fact it overburdens law enforcement with large numbers of people to monitor, undifferentiated by their dangerousness," the complaint states. "With hundreds of new registrants added each year in Colorado, law enforcement is stymied in their attempt to focus on the most dangerous offenders. Sex offender registries treat very different types of offenses and offenders in the same way. Instead of using available tools to assess the dangerousness of particular people who commit sex offenses as children, the Colorado sex offender registration laws paint them all with the same brush, irrespective of the variety of offenses they may have committed and in total denial of their profound differences from adults."

"Adolescence is a developmental period characterized by identity formation. Labels stick and can last a lifetime. The label of 'sex offender' and 'child molester' has caused profound damage to A.V.'s and A.A.'s development and self esteem. The stigmatization of them has led to their fear or mistrust of others, rejection, and isolation from family and friends. These harms are compounded by the shame that comes with registration and notification, which lacks an endpoint. Subjecting alienated and confused youth sex offenders to long term public humiliation, stigmatization and barriers to education, employment and housing exacerbates the psychological difficulties they already experienced as adolescents."

"A.V. has children of his own, and A.A. lives with her spouse and stepchild. The effects of registration can touch later generations of children as well as the child sex offenders themselves. The Colorado sex offender registration laws have especially harmful impacts on the children of registrants. A 2009 study found that 75 percent of the children of registrants had lost friendships as a result of a parent's status as a registered sex offender. Additionally, 59 percent reported that other children at school treated them differently when it was discovered that they had a parent on the registry. ... A.V. and A.A.'s children wake up every morning wondering if sex offender signs may be on their front lawns; how many people are going to ride by their house, point and shout obscenities; how many people are going to watch every move their parents make; how many times people are going to call the police to report their parents have done something for an average person would be normal but because the parent is a known 'sex offender,' it is suspicious behavior; how many more birthdays will be with just family because other parents will not let their kids come to the party; how many parties they will not be invited to; and how many field trips they will not attend because it is too hard to listen to the whispers of the other parents."

Such are the costs of a registry law that doesn't even work, the plaintiffs say.

"The public policy or safety excuse for maintaining the sex offender registries is that the registries provide a starting point for law enforcement investigating a crime," the complaint states. "However, D.M. has not been contacted one single time in fifteen years pursuant to an investigation of a crime in his neighborhood. No paroled sex offender has committed a sex offense while on parole in the last fifteen years, and upon information and belief, no paroled sex offender has committed a violent crime while on parole in the last fifteen years. Less than 1 percent of felony offenses (excluding failure to register) are committed by registered sex offenders in Colorado."

"There is zero peer-reviewed empirical, statistical or anecdotal evidence or research that the sex offender registries 'keep children safe' or that the sex offender registries have any demonstrable positive impact upon community safety. Instead, all the sex offender registries accomplish is to provide information to harass, isolate, discriminate and demonize sex offenders who have completed their treatment and pose no demonstrable risk to community safety whatsoever. The sex offender registries encourage vigilante justice and violence toward the people who appear on the registries. In the last fifteen years, there have been more violent crimes committed upon the people who appear on the sex offender registries rather than are committed by the people who appear on the sex offender registries. The sex offender registries negatively impact community safety by creating a class of citizens who have enormous difficulty finding employment and housing as a result of appearing on the registries. Chronically unemployed and homeless persons are more likely to become victims of mental illness or suicide, resort to petty crimes and trespass in order to survive or become victims of violent crime themselves."

The plaintiffs say the Sex Offender Registration Act violates the Eighth and 14th Amendments.

"The Colorado Sex Offender Registration Act ... violates the Eighth Amendment proscriptions against cruel and unusual punishment for convicted sex offenders, such as the plaintiffs, who have successfully completed their sentences, were never discharged unsuccessfully from sex offender treatment, and are not on parole, probation or any other type of supervision."

"The Colorado Sex Offender Registration Act does not protect the public from sexual predators, and therefore, the only result is the arbitrary and capricious punishment of offenders like the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs have a Fourteenth Amendment right to privacy. Disclosure of the registry names in general - and the publishing of the registry on the Internet in particular - are invasions of their Fourteenth Amendment right to personal privacy."

They ask the court to enjoin enforcement of the law as unconstitutional.

They are represented by Alison Ruttenberg, of Boulder.

OH - Keeping tabs on registered sex offenders

Keeping tabs on registered sex offenders #1
Original Article


For the most part, Erie County Sheriff’s Capt. Steve Westcott is responsible for making sure the sheriff’s department keeps track of them all.

I joined Westcott one morning last week for an On the Job segment, hitting the road as we verified the addresses of just a few of the many sex offenders. “Most, I do not lose sleep over,” Westcott said. “But a handful, I do.”

He worries mainly about the repeat offenders, and those who are registered as sexual predators. He also worries about the ones who don’t have strong support systems at home.

After 27 years in law enforcement — 13 of them overseeing the sex offender registrations — Westcott has developed something of a gut instinct to help identify the people who are apt to offend again.

When a registered sex offender provides a false address or fails to register, it’s a felony, and it can result in jail or prison time. The sentence often depends on the seriousness of the original crime that landed him or her on the list. During his rounds one day last week, Westcott was checking up on _____, _____ and _____  All three are registered and in compliance with the laws that regulate their movement and actions, but Westcott routinely spends part of his afternoons verifying the addresses of sex offenders.

If there’s an empty lot at an address a registered offender provides, for instance, that’s a problem. Westcott said he wants to see the person, in person, as often as possible.

Keeping tabs on registered sex offenders #2
Megan’s Law and the Adam Walsh Act are key in governing the way society handles sex offenders, such as their requirements for reporting to authorities once they’re released from prison or jail. Some offenders have to report more often, visiting the sheriff’s office in person and providing their current address. The Adam Walsh Act also prohibits offenders from living too close to a school or state-registered day care.

Westcott has to know the details of both laws.

_____ was last known to stay on Tiffin Avenue, and he had previously stayed at a home on McEwen Street. We didn’t see him when we drove by the Tiffin Avenue home, so Westcott though he might be hanging around his former home.

When we stopped by McEwen Street, a woman there said _____ was no longer a resident, and she hadn't seen him. We continued our search.

_____ has an address on East Adams Street, where he sleeps, but he often spends his days about the city, Westcott said.

Quite often, _____ is found downtown on Columbus Avenue, although on the weekends he typically stays with a relative in Huron, Westcott said. Still, he knows he has to be back in Sandusky before 72 hours elapses.

Keeping tabs on registered sex offenders #3
Westcott said he always sees _____ back in the city before Monday. We drove by the East Adams Street apartment looking for him, but didn’t see him. We eventually spotted him walking down Washington Street.

He’s harmless,” Westcott said.

_____ is homeless, which could normally present a problem in locating someone, but Westcott knows his habits, and he can usually find him quickly.

Westcott said he’ll often drive by Shoreline Park and Jackson Street Pier looking for those on the list. We never found _____ on Wednesday, but the following day Erie County Sheriff Paul Sigsworth saw him. _____ then went to sheriff’s office to meet with Westcott, to verify he was still in compliance with law.

There are variety of sex offenders on Westcott’s list — all different professions, socioeconomic backgrounds, race, ages and various characteristics.

I don’t judge these people,” Westcott said. “I've been doing this long enough that I am understanding.”

MO - 72 people removed from Missouri sex offender registry

Juvenile Sex Offenders
Original Article


JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri State Highway Patrol says 72 people have successfully petitioned to be removed from the state's sex offender registry under the provisions of a 2009 law.

The law lets people who were 19 or younger at the time of their offenses ask to be taken off the registry if their victims were at least 13 years old and the sexual offense did not involve force. Decisions on whether to remove people from the list are made by judges.

On Wednesday, lawmakers will consider whether to override Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of a bill that would remove hundreds of additional people from the state's online sex offender list. That bill (HB-301) would automatically remove juvenile offenders from the website and allow them to eventually seek removal from law enforcement lists.

See Also:

NM - Father (Emilio Chavez III) who police say beat peeping Tom to face charges

Peeping Tom
Original Article (Video available)


By Anna Velasquez

ALBUQUERQUE - The father who police said beat a man who was allegedly peering into his daughter's bedroom window will be charged.

They said the accused peeping Tom suspect was so badly beaten, he's in the hospital.

On Friday, outraged neighbors came to that father's defense.

"We've got a father, a young father, who could lose everything because of this one person," said Michael Salter.

That one person has been identified by police as 29-year old [name withheld], who police said was found naked around 2:30 a.m. Thursday morning outside a young girl's window, looking in, and making noises.

"It was moaning and groaning, that's what she thought she heard at first," said the girl's aunt Thursday. "She thought it was a cat."

"You can see that I'm starting to shake, and I'm not wanting to speak about it much more," Salter said.

The girl's father, Emilio Chavez III, his son, and his son's friend all ran after [name withheld].

The family said [name withheld] threw the first punch.

In the eyes of the law, Chavez committed a crime. Police said he'll be charged with aggravated battery, a felony.

Some neighbors can't believe it.

"There's a naked man outside his daughter's window," said neighbor Bill Morang. "I think he was well within his rights chasing him down and beating him."

APD said the aggravated battery charge against Chavez was made based on recommendations from the District Attorney's Office, and that the office had been working closely with the police since the beginning of the investigation.

At the time of the incident, Chavez was questioned and released.

[name withheld] will also be charged with felony voyeurism when he is released from the hospital.

Police said he has been upgraded to stable condition.

CA - RSOL 2013: Catherine Carpenter: "Sexual Offense Laws and Constitutionality"

Video Description:
Professor of Law, Catherine Carpenter of Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles talks about just how punitive and extreme sex offender laws have become over the years and the ways in which they violate US citizen's constitutional rights.

It was recorded on Saturday August 31st in Los Angeles at the 2013 RSOL National Conference.