Sunday, February 23, 2014

IN - Taking a Stand: Women Against Registry responds to our 14 News investigation

Taking a stand
Original Article

02/21/2014

By Nick Ulmer

EVANSVILLE (WFIE) - In this week's Taking a Stand, Vicki Henry with Women Against Registry has a response to our 14 News investigation of sex offenders and school bus stops.

The Women Against Registry is based out of Washington, D.C., but she e-mailed her response to us; Vicki wrote the following:

If we think about registered sex offenders at all, most of us fear them as monsters who have committed terrible sexual crimes against innocent children and are people who need to be carefully watched when released to make sure our children aren't hurt again.

Nobody wants to protect children more than the members of Women Against Registry. Women Against Registry, or WAR, is the voice of millions of innocent women and children who are wrongly and unfairly punished because we have a family member who has completed their debt to society but now must face a life of unemployment, homelessness, and despair. As registered sex offenders they are targeted for harassment and abuse, can't get a job, and many cases, can't even rejoin their own homes. Too many of our husbands, fathers and sons are getting caught up in this registration hysteria even if the offense they committed was minor and years ago.

As the president of WAR, Vicki Henry, says, "In the vast majority of registration cases we're talking about dumb childish mistakes-offenses like public urination, teen age consensual sex, sexting, lewd behavior, taking pictures of your own children in the bath tub, and clicking on the wrong link on a website. Less than two percent of violent sexual offenses are committed by perfect strangers. It is time to stop acting hysterically in the name of protecting children; it's time stop public registration of sex offenders and to start treating this serious problem rationally."


Experts: Sex offenders likely to be re-arrested but not for sex crimes

Sex offender statistics
Original Article

02/23/2014

By Jo Ciavaglia

Most registered sex offenders in the U.S. follow Megan’s Law requirements. After all, they want to avoid felony charges and additional prison time associated with noncompliance, according to legal and criminal experts.

But a high compliance rate does not automatically mean they are following the rules, said one sex offender behavior expert. Research suggests sex offenders, who often face difficulty re-entering the community, are at a high risk for re-arrest, though rarely for another sex offense.

Administrative backlogs with the state Megan’s Law registries, which track most sex offenders, are “very common,” experts said. Mostly the backlog is related to policies lawmakers put in place without providing adequate resources or input from law enforcement, they said.

Adding to the challenge of monitoring sex offenders is often the offenders are part of a mobile population.

The transient nature of sex offenders has been linked to increased absconding and recidivism, and thus decreased community safety, according to Andrew Harris, an associate professor in the School of Criminology and Justice Studies at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and a leading authority on sex offender policy.

Transience also can compromise the ability of law enforcement agents to closely supervise sex offenders without a permanent address.

Pennsylvania is among the states with a high compliance rate among registered sex offenders who appear on its Megan’s Law registry. Compliance rates in the state are typically 96 to 97 percent meaning about only 3 to 4 percent of the more than 15,000 offenders aren’t following monitoring rules. In New Jersey 2.5 percent of the 3,970 registered sex offenders are fugitives, according to police and state statistics.

But among the more than 500 non-compliant sex offenders on Pennsylvania’s registry, fewer than one quarter have active arrest warrants for Megan’s Law violations.

How states determine Megan’s Law compliance varies, but the only accurate measurement is through spot checks and audits, Harris said. A high compliance rate for a state’s sex offender registry doesn’t mean the information is accurate since it’s not unheard of for offenders to provide false addresses, Harris said.

It’s not uncommon for people to flip out of compliance,” he said. “Just because you show up at a police station and verify your address, doesn't mean you aren't up to something.”

Most non-compliant sex offenders are not willfully avoiding registration, said Harris and Cynthia Calkins, an associate professor of psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. More often it is problems within the system that oversees offenders and a lack of knowledge about the rules.

(Offenders) simply don’t know. Their lives are unstable. They have to find jobs, housing, they may or may not be able to live with family,” Calkins said. “They don’t always have a stable address and frequent moves may be part and parcel of living in the community.”

Local municipalities had tried to restrict where convicted sex offenders could live, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2011 struck down as unconstitutional such local laws.

Available research on sex offenders who fail to follow registration requirements suggests they are no greater risk for committing another sex crime than the offenders who are compliant, Calkins said. Harris added that studies show only a “very small” number of noncompliant offenders are attempting to evade detection to commit sex crimes.

But among a “relatively large group” of noncompliant sex offenders are the so-called chronic rule breakers whom Harris said research shows have a relatively high risk of recidivism involving other crimes.

Available research on sex offender recidivism rates is mixed but does show it’s typically low for additional sex crimes.

National data suggests that between 12 and 24 percent — or between one and three of every 10 sex offenders — are known to have repeated crimes, according to The Center for Sex Offender Management, a national project supporting state and local jurisdictions in the effective management of sex offenders. But the center points out the rates are commonly underestimated because the crimes often go unreported.

A report released last year by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections shows a little more than half of paroled sex offenders end up re-arrested or back in prison, but rarely for a sex crime.

According to the report, nearly half of state inmates released in 2008 who were convicted of forcible rape were either re-arrested or sent back to prison within three years, compared to nearly 60 percent of all inmates. Among state inmates convicted of statutory rape and “other” sexual offenses, the recidivism rate was 50 percent and 60 percent, respectively, for the same three years.

Those recidivism rates are lower than most other inmates convicted originally of robbery (63 percent), murder or manslaughter (52 percent), drug offenses (57 percent) and burglary (72 percent), according to the 2013 report.


NY - New York State Exposed Follow Up: Sex offenders in group homes

Mob mentality
Original Article

Just another example of the media stirring the pot just to get a news story? We call it Media Vigilantism!

02/22/2014

By Amanda Ciavarri

It's a story that's gotten so much attention since News10NBC first brought it to you last week. Convicted sex offenders are quietly being moved into group homes and residential areas.

Now, one area community is fighting back.

Hundreds of people were out in force Saturday, trying to get their message across.

That message is to keep those sex offenders out of the group homes and away from neighborhoods where they could pose a threat to families that live nearby.

News10NBC was at that rally in West Seneca Saturday.

Dozens of people in West Seneca came out to protest. They brought signs to the front of a group home where the state recently re-located seven convicted sex offenders. Now the community wants to know, why they weren't told and why the state is putting them in danger.

"Everyone was blindsided by this. I think that is what everyone is the most upset about. No one knew anything and now it is a matter of, okay, we have calmed down from the lack of notification, now we want action. We want these guys out of here, we want them moved out. We aren't going to be held prisoners in our own home,” said Tony Fischione, protest organizer.
- The only person that is holding you prisoner in your own home is yourself!

About 300 people met at Sunshine Park Saturday afternoon. It is a popular playground for neighborhood children, but now it is just a few yards away from where seven sex offenders are living.

I don't feel safe, and my kids can't come here and play in this park anymore, because the houses back right up to this park. There are running trails in those woods, and I can't run those. I don't feel safe letting my kids around town anymore,” said Teri Bebak, resident and mother.

This group then started their peaceful march down the street and to the two homes where the sex offenders are living.

The seven sex offenders, all men, previously lived in the Monroe Developmental Center in Brighton. The state closed the facility in December, and that's when those men were moved in here.

Their convictions range from attempted rape to child sex abuse.

I think Governor Cuomo made this decision as a political move, to save money. He did it very secretly, he did it very quietly, and he did it at the expense of our children, and that's not okay,” said Bebak.

Earlier this week News10NBC asked Governor Cuomo about the relocation and told him about the concerns of this community.

How was it that one day they were in need of that type of security, and the next day they are able to live in these types of group homes?” asked News10NBC’s Brett Davidsen.

If a person requires a secure facility, they require a secure facility. But the problem we’re having by in large is not a person who is in a secure facility. The problem we’re having are former sex offenders while released and return to the community, and people are saying ‘I don’t want to live next to a former sex offender.’ That’s the predominance of the problem,” said Gov. Cuomo.
- The problem is the online registry, community notification and residency laws!

But this group isn't so convinced that's true, and they hope Governor Cuomo, and Albany hear their message loud and clear.

I intend to let them know, we aren't done here. We are watching them. We aren't leaving, they are leaving,” said Fischione.

Many people plan on protesting every weekend until the state moves the sex offenders out of this community. If that doesn't happen soon, they will also take the protest to Albany in April.


CO - Inside the life of a registered sex offender

Morning paper and coffee
Original Article

02/23/2014

By Kevin Torres

DENVER - According to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, there are currently more than 10,000 registered sex offenders living in Colorado. Chances are some of them live in your community.

9NEWS was given a rare look at what life is like for a registered sex offender years after they committed their crime.

"August 16th of 2006... I was arrested for chatting online with an undercover officer... I thought this person was a 13-year-old girl," said Brent (we are not using Brent's last name due to privacy), a registered sex offender.

On that warm August day, Brent found himself surrounded by officers inside his high paying job at Lockheed Martin. From that moment forward he would be labeled a sex offender and lose every ounce of freedom.

"I was charged with criminal intent of sexual assault on a child," said Brent.

"I was just shocked. I don't know what else to say. I cried," Brent's wife Amanda replied.

In the months that followed, Amanda would learn more about her husband's problem. It turns out Brent had been battling his demons for years. In 2003, Brent says, he tried chatting with an underage girl online but got cold feet and backed away. Stressed by this information, Amanda nearly walked away from Brent... But ultimately, she stayed.

"I let him back in the home but that didn't mean I wasn't watching every move he made or made sure this is something I wanted in my life. And it took me a lot of prayer and a lot of support," said Amanda.

The years that followed would prove to be more difficult. Employers wouldn't consider Brent, neighbors turned on him and bills piled up. .

No work, no money, few friends. Yet, Brent pushed forward as he was determined to convince people he had changed.

"It doesn't matter if you can please yourself. Because the public thinks you're a scum bag. And that's what really matters," said Dr. Max Wachtell, 9NEWS Psychologist.

Wachtell has studied sex offenders and says public perception is hard to change. Even though Wachtell says repeat occurrences are considered low among people in Brent's position, the average person will still have a negative outlook on him.

"Sex offenders who feel like they've gone through a ton of treatment, feel like they're a completely different person - their families think they've changed - society isn't going to see that. Society is going to see that person as a sex offender. And that's the box that person is going to be in the rest of their life," said Dr. Wachtell.

The legal sentence Brent received pales in comparison to the personal sentence he deals with every day; which is why Brent is placing a lot of his efforts in a sex offender therapy group geared at helping people coping with situations similar to his.

"God just gave us peace," said Brent.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation studies the state's sex offender population closely. Here is a list of facts they've gathered:
  • There are currently 10,096-registered sex offenders in Colorado, as of June 2, 2008.
  • Approximately 60% of convicted sex offenders in Colorado are sentenced to community placement (probation, parole, or community corrections) with the remainder being sentenced to incarceration at the Department of Corrections or the county jail (Colorado State Court Administrator's Office, 2003).
  • As of June 2008, there are currently 457 Sexually Violent Predators in Colorado. Of these, 364 are currently incarcerated in the Department of Corrections and 93 are listed on the Colorado Sex Offender Registration web site. (Not all SVP's who are incarcerated are posted on the web site. As an SVP is released from prison to live in the community, they will be posted to the Web site).
  • A 1998 study by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment found:
    • 1 in 150 women and 1 in 830 men in Colorado had experienced a completed or attempted sexual assault in the past 12 months;
    • Approximately 16% of these assaults were reported to police;
    • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 17 men in Colorado had experienced a completed or attempted sexual assault in their lifetime (Colorado Department of Health, 1998).