|Jessica's law Home Page||U.N.I.O.N. Home Page||Personal
about Jessica's law
|Reverend B. Cayenne
SEX OFFENDER HYSTERIA
KEEPING THE PRISONS STOCKED
PAROLED SEX OFFENDERS
|Robert L. Bastian Jr., Esq,
Los Angeles Daily Journal
PRISONS' GROSS FAILURE TO CORRECT ANYTHING
|News 10 Sacramento
CALIFORNIA'S FUTURE?"JESSICA'S LAW" FALLOUT IN IOWA
|i) Shane Goldmacher
PERATA TO OPPOSE JESSICA'S LAW
|ii) Shane Goldmacher
JESSICA'S LAW'S NO-LIVE ZONE IS BONE OF POLITICAL CONTENTION
|KTEN News:Oklahoma City
DEATH PENALTY PROPOSAL
SEX OFFENDER TREATMENT WORKS
LIFE IN THE SHADOWS
COMMENTS ON NOVEMBER 2003 DEPT. OF JUSTICE BJS REPORT
Chronicle Sacramento Bureau
ASSEMBLY OKs STRONGER SEX-OFFENSE PENALTIES/REPUBLICANS OBJECT
San Diego Union Tribune
RESIDENCY LIMITS RAISE CONCERNS
California Progress Report
"JESSICA'S LAW" PROTECTS CHILDREN, REPUBLICAN POLITICIANS
16-YEAR-OLD WARREN BOY CHARGED WITH SEX CRIMES
|Jill Young Miller
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SEX CRIME BILL MAY SNARE TEENS...
Sex Offenders No Place to Go
Reverend B. Cayenne Bird--American Chronicle
Sex Offender Hysteria Good for Getting Votes and Keeping the Prisons Stocked but not much else.
February 11, 2006
Picture caption: Mothers of every race and religion come together to issue this warning to California's parents. "Sex Offender Laws Endanger Your Teens and Young People much more than they protect them. Even more children will be left at the mercy of a broken foster care system where child molestation happens daily. Often when the politicians try and fix things, other things break - like lives."
Fear for your teens if either Jessica's Law gets voted in at the polls this November by the Repug voting machine made of law enforcement labor unions. All it takes to get a conviction for a sex offense in California is an accusation. If you saw the special series done by the San Jose Mercury News "Tainted Trials" www.mercurynews.com, you can see that the criminal justice system is corrupt arrest through parole.
The Repugs have floated an initiative campaign (Jessica's Law) paid for mostly by law enforcement including CCPOA prison guard's union (whose members mostly vote in the Repug party) that is so harsh that it forced the Dems to come up with a bill almost as ridiculous. Neither solve the problem of preventing mental illness that causes child molestation to occur.
The argument is not that some people are not guilty but this crime is often the result of child custody disputes and nasty divorces. Proper investigations would be a good investment because these certainly do not take place now. There are some people who do need to be removed from society but it would be better to protect the public safety to do it in a much more healing manner than is in place right now. Treatment works and the offenses that put mostly young people in these databases for life are not all the heinous types of crimes that the politicians would lead you to believe
It is very clear that Republicans are the source of the oppression on this nationwide sex hysteria and it's all profit and vote motivated. What I would like to share for my column today is some of the hundreds of letters from citizens with common sense who are now fearing for their teen-aged boys and young men. People were in denial for many years that the Repugs are in fact the source of Fascist laws that disregard the Constitution.
There is chaos in the states where these laws have been put into effect and not one can report effective results.
I am also including some links of important stories and studies at the end of the letters I received from citizens so that you can do your own research and see how fear mongering to get votes is what this horrible initiative is all about. I should specify that these letters are from everyday people and not politicians hell bent on filling the prisons to keep the human bondage industry going.
If anyone really wanted to help children, they'd be insisting on prevention of mental illness and cleaning up the foster care system which is rife with sexual child abuse. Recidivism according to many sources is 3% to 5% and very few of these are the "snatch and run" types.
The internet is full of studies about treatment and prevention and as a real solution to the problem which isn't nearly as large as the political fearmongers would have you think.
The son you save by not voting in favor of Jessica's law might be your own as teens are being ensnared in similar laws across the country
Bring 20 people to the polls to vote against any candidate of either party backed by law enforcement labor unions. While these are mainly Repugs, there are those who pose as Democrats too. The punishers are from the dark ages and all this is about building budgets for more punishing. What we need is healing and we need to elect healers who are going to be smart on crime and come up with real solutions.
email B. Cayenne Bird
Francisco Chronicle--California's most unwanted
Restrictions on residency
make nomads of paroled sex offenders
(06-02) 04:00 PDT Sacramento
-- They were kicked out of a motel in Vallejo. An angry assemblyman and a sheriff forced them out of a trailer they were living in on the grounds of San Quentin State Prison. And on Thursday, police in Hayward warned that paroled sex offenders were living in a hotel close to a busy shopping area.
Public outcry and a new state law limiting where some sex offenders can live has corrections officials struggling to find homes for some of the most despised ex-cons in the state. In the most extreme example, six parolees have spent nearly three weeks sleeping on cots in the Fairfield parole office as agents desperately search for a more permanent place for them to live.
Meanwhile, lawmakers and voters are preparing to debate even stricter rules for sex offenders, including a November ballot initiative that would impose more residency restrictions. But academic research, experts and some officials in states with similar restrictions say the limits do little to reduce crime and may cause more problems than they solve.
"I defy anyone to try and convince me, scientifically or logically, that these requirements have any effect at all,'' said Corwin Ritchie, executive director of the Iowa County Attorneys Association, which represents prosecutors throughout Iowa. "It makes great sense politically, but it has no effect whatsoever on public safety.''
Iowa enacted a law in 2002 that prohibits most sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or day care center. Ritchie and some other Iowa officials say the law has overburdened law enforcement, has concentrated sex offenders in areas where they're allowed to live, and has led to an increase in the number of sex offenders who have stopped registering with local authorities and gone missing.
In California, a law went into effect in January prohibiting parolees convicted of some sex crimes against children from living within half a mile of any public or private school.
That gives parole agents a difficult task.
"It's become quite a challenge,'' said Carolyn Graham, assistant regional administrator for the parole region that includes the Bay Area. "Particularly in dense, urban areas, where there are a lot of schools, there are fewer options now.''
Six parolees are living in a parole office in Fairfield, about half a mile from the Jelly Belly factory. Graham said they report to the office every day at 8 p.m. and shower in a local gym.
Three of the parolees originally lived in a motel in Vallejo, but the police chief there asked that they be moved. They next spent a few days on the grounds of San Quentin State Prison, but that too met with resistance -- Assemblyman Joe Nation, D-San Rafael, and Sheriff Robert Doyle publicly demanded that they be moved because they were not from Marin County.
On Thursday, police in Hayward passed out 300 flyers to residents and business owners around Mission Boulevard because seven paroled child molesters have moved into the Islander Motel on the boulevard. A spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections said the department was struggling to find permanent housing for the seven as well.
Residency prohibitions on sex offenders have become increasingly popular across the country, despite any statistical evidence that they limit sexual assaults on children. At least 18 states have some restrictions on where parolees live.
"There is research on this, and where someone lives has no relation to the commission of a crime,'' said Niki Delson, a licensed clinical social worker who has worked for 30 years with sex offenders and their victims and is chairwoman of the education committee of the California Coalition on Sexual Offending, which includes law enforcement groups, social workers and mental health professionals. A review of sex crimes by the U.S. Department of Justice found that 93 percent of child sexual abuse victims knew their abuser and that most crimes occurred in the child's home or in the home of a friend, neighbor or relative.
Delson calls residency requirements a "smoke screen that does little to help children'' and said lawmakers should instead work to fund programs that provide information about sexual abuse to parents and children and to focus restrictive requirements on parolees with the highest risk of reoffending. Jill Levenson, a professor and researcher at Lynn University in Florida who studies social policies dealing with sex offenders, said restricting where parolees live can actually do more harm than good.
"These requirements tend to push them out of metropolitan areas where they are farther away from job opportunities, families, treatment options and all the things we know that help reduce recidivism,'' Levenson said.
A review of residence restrictions Levenson published in the journal Sex Offender Law Report in April noted that both Minnesota and Colorado prison officials studied the patterns of sex offenders on parole and found no correlation to new offenses the parolees committed and where they lived. Neither state adopted residency requirements.
Supporters of the restrictions say, however, that they are a common-sense protection for kids.
"You can have all the experts weigh in on the practicality of this,
but we need to take care of children. That trumps everything,'' said Assemblywoman
Rebecca Cohn, D-Saratoga, who carried the law that went into effect in
"People do not believe that sex offenders should live across the street from a school -- it's no more complicated than that,'' said state Sen. George Runner, R-Antelope Valley.
Runner and his wife, Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, R-Antelope Valley, are the co-sponsors of Jessica's Law, which will be on the November ballot. The initiative would enhance sentences for many sex crimes, require registered sex offenders to wear a Global Positioning System device for life and prohibit most sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools or parks.
George Runner acknowledges that the initiative would concentrate people convicted of sex crimes in certain areas, "but at least they wouldn't be in areas where kids congregate.''
Still, Jessica's Law has met with some opposition from politicians concerned with the residency requirement portion of the initiative. Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley changed his mind and opposed it, and state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, has argued that the initiative will dump the state's paroled sex offenders on the more rural Central Valley.
Democrats in both the Assembly and the state Senate have pushed alternatives to Jessica's Law this year that do not include limits on where parolees can live.
On Thursday, the Senate unanimously approved a bill, SB1128 by Sen. Elaine Alquist of Santa Clara, aimed mostly at tightening penalties for sex offenders and possessing or selling child pornography.
Democrats, who sponsored the measure, say it is a better crafted plan than Jessica's Law, noting that it makes it illegal for registered sex offenders to loiter on or enter school grounds without permission.
On the ballot :
An initiative on the November ballot dubbed Jessica's Law would:
-- Prohibit any registered
sex offender from living within 2,000 feet of any school or park.
-- Require all registered sex offenders to wear Global Positioning System devices for life.
-- Lengthen parole terms for some sex offenders.
-- Toughen penalties for child porn, other sex crimes.
Chronicle staff writers Greg Lucas and Peter Fimrite contributed to this report. E-mail Mark Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org
News 10 Sacramento--California's Future?
Iowa Facing Tough "Jessica's Law" Fallout
As Californians prepare to vote on tough new state sex offender laws, another state is finding out that enforcing tighter restrictions on where released sex offenders can go come with disturbing problems of their own.
California's Jessica's Law, named after 9-year-old Florida murder victim Jessica Lunsford, was certified to appear on November's general election ballot back in April. The measure increases penalties for violent sex offenders and child molesters, prohibiting registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools or parks while requiring GPS monitoring for life.
According to advocates, the measure would eventually force many released sex offenders out of urban centers into more rural areas away from most children.
However, angry lawmakers and country residents of Iowa argue a similar law is having a disturbing effect there, transforming rural areas into a dumping ground for convicted criminals.
"For us personally, it's pretty much been a nightmare," said Don Zeller, sheriff over the nearly 200,000 residents of eastern Iowa's Linn County.
Last year, Iowa enacted some of the toughest sexual predator laws in the nation, including barring sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools or day care centers. Since then, Zeller said many released prisoners can't find housing that meets the criteria. With few legal places to stay, Zeller said many sex offenders end up living outside city limits and stop registering.
"We went from knowing about where 90 percent of the people were, to now, we're lucky if we know were 50, 55 percent of the people were," Zeller said. "I think it's created a situation that does make it worse."
On the outskirts of Cedar Rapids, Linn County's largest city, the unassuming Ced-Rel Hotel is home to 21 registered sex offenders, making nearby residents extremely concerned.
"I don't have a sense of peace. I don't leave my kids home alone anymore," said Michele Costigan, who lives just yards away from the hotel. "I don't feel that's fair to those of us who live in the country. (The law) should protect all of us in the state of Iowa, not just the people who are living in towns or cities."
In May, Zeller and other Iowa law enforcement officials and prosecutors went before Iowa legislators, asking them to repeal residency requirements. However, Iowa Association of County Attorneys spokesman Corwin Ritchie said asking lawmakers to appear soft on crime, especially in an election year, is an uphill battle.
"We've been hammering on legislators to say, think about it, do what's right, please don't think of politics," Ritchie said. Some legislators, including the law's author, state senator Jerry Behn, said they understand the concerns of rural residents. Behn said he thinks the fallout of the residency ban shows it may not have been the best answer to the problem.
"I don't blame them. I'd be scared to death too," Behn said. "I was never married to the 2000 foot distance. It was an arbitrary figure. I welcome comments from law enforcement on how to make it better."
With a law meant to fix the problem of sexually violent predators facing increasing debate, Behn said California needs to consider Iowa's example carefully before voting Jessica's Law into place.
"Perhaps that (2000 foot) distance is too far, perhaps it's not as manageable as we'd hope it would be," Behn said.
California Progress Report--By Bill Cavala a veteran of over 30 years in Sacramento
"JESSICA'S LAW" PROTECTS CHILDREN, REPUBLICAN POLITICIANS.
Democrats tend to define themselves through primary group affiliations. The party itself has long been an alliance of such affiliations. The first question for Democrats has been `with whom' shall we ally ourselves. The `for what' of politics, the "issues" have always been secondary and derivative. Republicans, on the other hand, define themselves ideologically. They are the "anti-tax" party. And, as Republicans take positions which cause them to shed primary groups which are ethnicity and gender based, they are in need of new ideological rallying points to replenish their ranks.
That's the function played by "Jessica's law" on this year's ballot. It would require certain classes of sex criminals to wear GPS bracelets. 76% of the state is embracing this idea in the Field Poll out today. Republicans hope to use it to expand their party's base of support.
But, of course, everyone supports it except for institutional defense and civil liberties organizations and a few lawmakers actually concerned about the measure's practicality. Collectively, this is the dragon that "Jessica's law" seeks to slay.
Changes in the definitions associated with sex crimes has meant, in fact, that these sociopaths have been receiving sentences of three lifetimes in prison. The problem of sex criminals on parole or given release involves individuals convicted and sentenced under the more lenient statutes of the early 1980's. Once they have served their entire sentence, further punishment (like GPS locators) can't be forced upon them.
Only sex criminals of the 80's given parole can be forced to accept locators as a condition of their early release. And, typically, "locating" these parolees isn't difficult. Their release is page one news. They usually can't find a place to reside for more than a day or two before pickets force them to move on. Ultimately they wind up in a trailer parked behind prison walls â€“ fairly easy to "locate".
But hey, who am I to complain about another redundant law? I'm voting for Proposition 83 too ,“ let's send imprisoned sex offenders a message! " As we support this measure however, let's not forget that its primary purpose isn't to protect children from child molestors. It's to protect Republicans from defeat at the polls.
Bill Cavala was, until recently, Deputy Director of the Assembly Speaker's Office of Member Services where he worked for over 30 years. He attended undergraduate and graduate school in the 1960's and received adoctorate in political science at UC Berkeley. He taught political science at UC Berkeley during the 1970's while he worked part-time for the State Assembly.
Cavala left teaching at UC Berkeley and went to work for Assembly Speaker Willie Brown in 1981 until his tenure as Speaker ended in 1995, and he has worked for his five successors as Speaker up to and including Speaker Fabian Nunez. Mr. Cavala manages election campaigns for Democratic candidates.
KTEN News--OKLAHOMA CITY
Anyone convicted more than once or raping a child younger than 14 could get the death penalty under a bill passed by the House today. The proposal passed on an 88-to-eight vote and has already cleared the state Senate so it now goes to Governor Henry.
The governor hasn't said whether he'll sign or veto the bill. The bill authorizes the death penalty or life in prison for anyone convicted of raping a child under the age of 14 after a prior conviction.
The bill also establishes a child abuse response team in the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. The team will include criminal investigators and forensic interviewers trained and experienced in child abuse investigations.
Talk Left--the politics of crime
Sunday :: February 20, 2005
Sex Offender Treatment Works
Not surprisingly, the capture of recently released sex offender and accused Denver rapist Brent J. Brents is sparking protests over the release of sex offenders. But those who are claiming sex offenders can't be treated are wrong. Treatment while in prison dramatically reduces the risk of recidivism. A 2003 Corrections Department report evaluating the treatment of sex offenders.... found three of every four sex offenders who received no therapy reoffended, compared with one in every six for those who completed the first phase of treatment.
The rate improved to one in 10 for those who finished the second phase in a minimum-security facility for sex offenders. The study examined the records of 3,338 sex offenders.
The report also states that "current Parole Board members are extremely reluctant to release sex offenders who refuse to participate in treatment." So hold the cries for longer sentences and instead demand that sex offenders be given treatment while in prison. For those that refuse treatment, parole boards likely will keep them in jail. Many states allow for civil commitment of sex offenders after their prison terms are up.
Treatment works. States should make it mandatory. With more and more states, including Colorado, setting life in prison as the top end of the sentencing range for sex offenders, parole boards have the option of keeping the most dangerous offenders in prison while allowing those who have become rehabilitated to re-enter society.
Barry Maletzky, MD and Kevin McGovern, Ph.D. of The Sexual Abuse Clinic
of Portland Oregon followed about 5000 offenders treated in their clinic
and similar clinics between 1973 and 1990 using behavior oriented methods.
About 3700 of these were pedophiles -770 were exhibitionists. The remainder
were referred for a variety of other paraphilias. Criteria for "success"
* No re-arrest
* Self report of no maladaptive sexual behaviors
* Reduced deviant arousal maintained post - treatment as verified on penile plethysmograph
* "Significant other" ratings of patient behavior
Using these stringent measures to follow some men for as long as 17 years post treatment, success was achieved with 94.7% of heterosexual and 86.4% of homosexual pedophiles. Rapists showed 73.5% success, exhibitionists and public masturbators about 92% , with men referred for various other paraphilias ranging from 100% for zoophiliacs to 80% for frotteurs. These data do not represent a controlled study, but the sample is large and with success criteria as stringent as they were, the data gives strong indication that treatment is effective for a great many offenders.
In Vermont, a study showed only a 7% recidivism rate among treated offenders
after a ten-year period.
Hunt County, Texas strongly advocates treatment, including placing some sex offenders on probation so they can obtain treatment that is not always available in jail:
The bottom line is that many offenders are just not appropriate for community supervision. For offenders that have a long history of sexual abuse or violence, indicate high risk, or show no interest in changing their behavior or thinking, prison may be the only way to adequately protect the public. But for those deemed appropriate by the courts, community supervision can benefit the public. Hunt County CSCD believes that the history witnessed with the SOAP and other programs like it across the nation demonstrates that it is possible to properly supervise offenders in the community without sacrificing public safety.
Hunt County concludes:
After spending five or more years in the Texas prison system without treatment, would anyone expect that they would emerge more responsible, more empathetic, and less sexually deviant?
....a reduction of just 1% in recidivism pays for the treatment of all treated sex offenders by reducing costs related to investigations, prosecutions, and incarceration (and research shows that sex offender treatment is more effective than that).
Brent Brents refused sex offender treatment in prison. At the time he was sentenced, there was no indeterminate sentencing range providing for up to a life sentence, as there is now in Colorado. If he is guilty of this week's crimes, he needs to be locked up. And, he will be. But there are thousands of other sex offenders around the country who should not be lumped in the same boat as Brent Brents. One-size-fits-all justice is no justice at all.
in the shadows by Scott Henry
Now facing a legal challenge, Georgia's war on sex offenders could punish minor violators while failing to focus on the worst ones.
This January, Wendy Whitaker and her husband bought their first home, a turn-of-the-last-century bungalow on a quiet street in Harlem, Ga., just outside Augusta.
A month later, police showed up on their doorstep. Wendy would have to move, they explained, or face arrest.
A 26-year-old college student on federal disability, Whitaker doesn't fit most people's image of a sex offender. But, because of an ill-considered 10th-grade blowjob -- resulting in her conviction for an act that's no longer crime in Georgia -- she has spent nearly a decade on Georgia's sex-offender registry. Harlem police told Whitaker she was in violation of a state law that prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, playground or other place where children congregate.
Before she and her husband of six years bought the house, she says, they made sure the property was far enough away from a public park down the street. What the Whitakers didn't realize was that a nearby church was operating a small day-care center.
As a result, they've had to move into a trailer park across the county line. They're sharing a two-bedroom single-wide with Whitaker's brother-in-law and his teenage daughter.
"We're paying a mortgage for my cat to live here," she says of the house she and her husband have had to leave behind. When she stops by to check on the property or do laundry, she says, her neighbors routinely call the cops, who drop by to make sure she isn't trying to move back in.
Now, Georgia's strict new sex-offender law -- signed by Gov. Sonny Perdue in April but delayed in federal court before it could take effect July 1 -- could force Whitaker out of the trailer park as well, leaving her with few options for living anywhere in the state. Under a nebulous loitering provision in the new law, she might not even be allowed to go to church.
"This is causing a lot of problems in my marriage," she says. "My husband can't quit his job. What are we supposed to do, separate? If this new law goes into effect, I really don't know what I'll do. I'm absolutely at wit's end." The easy response to Whitaker's dilemma, and the one implied by Georgia legislators, who overwhelmingly approved the new law, can be summed up in two words: Tough luck.
Sponsored by House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, R-St. Simons Island, the sex-offender law increases minimum sentences for most violent sexual offenses to 25 years; requires the most dangerous offenders to wear a GPS tracking device for the rest of their lives; and requires those convicted of felony sex offenses to remain on the state registry for life.
But the law's thorniest provision expands the existing 1,000-foot residency restriction to include school bus stops, which renders virtually all of Georgia off-limits to the state's 10,000 or so registered sex offenders. In March, when Keen, a former state head of the Christian Coalition, described to a Senate committee the intended impact his law would have on sex offenders, he didn't mince words: "Candidly, senators, they will in many cases have to move to another state."
Only one senator, Democrat Regina Thomas of Savannah, voted against
the bill. In the House, it sailed through with token opposition from a
handful of Democrats.
"Sex offenders are the most reviled people in society," explains a legislator who, despite misgivings, voted in favor of the bill and asked not to be named. "They're one step above terrorists; there's no political downside to cracking down on these folks."
But critics say the new law -- which is awaiting a judge's ruling this week to determine whether it can go into effect -- is likely to do more harm than good.
Law enforcement officials warn that the law is practically unenforceable and that, instead of driving offenders out of Georgia, it will cause many to go into hiding.
Lawyers predict the harsh residency restrictions and increased mandatory minimum sentences will remove incentives for accused offenders to plead guilty, which inevitably means more child molesters will escape conviction. And experts in sex-offender treatment claim the law will do little to protect children and could actually result in more repeat crimes by offenders cut off from their families, jobs and treatment programs.
In other words, Keen may have produced a near-perfect example of a poison law -- not simply unfair or unsavory, but likely to do just the opposite of what was intended.
As DeKalb County Sheriff, Thomas Brown relentlessly attacks the new law at public gatherings and in the press, he doesn't seem a bit worried about being labeled soft on sex offenders.
"I have a responsibility to tell people in DeKalb when I can't protect them, and this law would have that effect," Brown says. "This law is nothing but election-year politicking by the Republicans."
Brown says his office has carefully mapped thousands of DeKalb school bus stops and determined that there's nowhere within the county for its 490 registered sex offenders to live. But he notes that it's unrealistic to imagine that all offenders will simply pack up and leave -- or that the county could keep tabs on the ones who don't.
"This bill will force people to go underground, and not because they're dangerous sexual predators," but because they have no place else to go, Brown says. "I have one man who's 88 years old, living in an apartment building near a bus stop."
The county already has warrants out for 90 sex offenders who neglected to show up for registration, and is home to an estimated 44 "absconders," those who have violated parole and gone into hiding.
"We're not whining about our responsibility," Brown says. "We're saying,
don't pass laws that are unenforceable."
Brown may be more outspoken than most law enforcement officials, but he isn't alone in his frustration. Many of the state's 159 county sheriffs have been scrambling to figure out how to enforce the new law, says Terry Norris of the Georgia Sheriffs' Association.
Although the association has taken no official position on the law, the sheriffs forcefully lobbied Keen and other legislators to remove the bus stop provision, arguing that it represented an arbitrary standard. In many rural school systems, a bus stop is, well, wherever the bus stops. And because even officially sanctioned bus stops often change from one semester to the next, offenders could be constantly on the move.
"It wasn't as if they didn't listen to us," Norris says of the lawmakers. "It didn't matter what we said, they just didn't agree."
While some individual sheriffs have voiced support for the law, he says, others have described encounters that have left them questioning its fairness. A man convicted of statutory rape several years ago in Indiana was told to move from his Muscogee County home, where he lives with his wife and their children. Like many offenders, he was found guilty of consensual sex with an underage teen. The former teenage victim is now his wife.
When deputies told another sex offender in his 60s that he'd need to leave the house he'd grown up in because it's too close to a bus stop, the man said he planned to buy a gun after they left and would kill himself when they returned to evict him.
"I'm not trying to imply sympathy with sex offenders," Norris says. "But if certain provisions of this law inconvenience all offenders in order to make Georgia safer, then these are some of the collateral effects."
Most sex offenders would like to keep their past misdeeds hidden. As breathtakingly embarrassing as her behavior was, Wendy Whitaker wants people to know what she did. It's the only way she can convince people that the one-size-fits-all crackdown on Georgia sex offenders doesn't make sense. In 1997, Whitaker, who had recently turned 17, was sitting in the back corner of a high-school classroom, when the teacher dimmed the lights to show a video. The boy sitting next to her suggested that no one would notice if she gave him a blowjob in the dark. So she did.
They were caught, of course. Whitaker was expelled from school and found herself facing sodomy charges. The boy, a 10th-grade classmate, was 15, although Whitaker says it didn't occur to her at the time that he was a few months shy of the age of consent. He also was black, a fact that she feels provoked a harsher reaction from local officials.
"I think the principal was trying to make an example of me when he called the cops," Whitaker says, looking back at the incident. "I'm not saying what I did wasn't wrong -- it was -- but when you're a teenager, you do stupid things." Whitaker met her court-appointed attorney for the first time only minutes before her hearing.
"He said, 'Plead guilty,' and I just did what he said," she recalls. "I didn't understand any of it."
The judge sentenced her to five years of probation for sodomy but didn't order her to attend sex-offender treatment. Whitaker says she wasn't charged with sex with a minor, nor was was it explained to her that pleading guilty would place her on the sex-offender registry.
It wasn't long before she began screwing up, missing required check-ins and racking up technical probation violations. Whitaker's first-offender status was revoked and she spent more than a year behind bars: in county lockup, Pulaski State Prison for women, and a boot camp near Davisboro, Ga. In 2002, her five years of probation were over.
"I had a sigh of relief, and I thought I could just put it all behind me and be somebody," says Whitaker, who earned her GED while on probation. But it didn't work out that way. As a registered sex offender, Whitaker has had to report to the local sheriff's office every year to be photographed and fingerprinted, and she was required to register in person with the county school board. Acquaintances have come across her name and photo on the Georgia Bureau of Investigation website. She says her neighbors in Harlem have shunned her since being alerted by sheriff's deputies of her conviction.
And not long ago, her mug shot and a map to her home were shown on the local TV news as part of a weekly segment devoted to keeping tabs on area sex offenders.
"I had to explain to people why I'm on TV for something I did nine years ago," she says. "It makes me afraid that a vigilante might try to hurt me, not knowing what it is I actually did."
Two years ago, she quit her job at a local pizza parlor and filed for federal disability, citing sleep apnea and a severe weight problem.
Whitaker doesn't believe the choices she's made in her life qualify her to be much of a role model. But she also argues that a law that applies the same harsh restrictions to teenage statutory offenders like her as it does to serial rapists is hurting people who pose little threat to society.
Of the more than 10,600 registered sex offenders living in Georgia, many were convicted of child molestation and rape. But thousands of others are on the registry for having consensual sex when they were teenagers, or for lesser crimes such as flashing, peeping through windows and sexual battery, which often translates into inappropriate touching. One of Whitaker's co-plaintiffs, a 23-year-old Georgia State student, got on the list for drunkenly groping a co-ed at a keg party.
John Bankhead, spokesman for the GBI, says his department had hoped lawmakers would do more to draw distinctions between non-violent sex offenders and those deemed potentially dangerous.
"We felt it would benefit the public to know who on the list were, say, child molesters," he says.
Although Keen's law mandates a review process that is expected to place more offenders in that category, only 14 men -- six of whom are still in prison -- are currently designated sexual predators by the state.
Adding insult to injury in Whitaker's case is the fact that Georgia's sodomy law was overturned in late 1998, just three months after her conviction. The mere two-year age difference between Whitaker and her classmate would have spared her from the registry under one of the few amendments that Keen allowed on his bill: a much-publicized clause that exempts such "Romeo-and-Juliet" convictions. The new law, however, does not apply retroactively to those already on the registry.
"It's not fair that they're applying the new restrictions on me, but I don't get any of the benefits," Whitaker says.
That's why she has devoted her time in recent weeks to serving as lead plaintiff in the federal lawsuit by the Southern Center for Human Rights and the ACLU of Georgia that seeks to block the new offender law from taking effect.
"Just because you're on the sex-offender registry doesn't mean you're a sexual predator," she says. "There's a lot of people like me, and there's no reason they shouldn't be allowed to live around children. Some have children of their own."
Whitaker wasn't the kind of sex offender Georgia lawmakers had in mind when they passed Keen's bill back in April. Many of them announced at the time that they were thinking about the fate of Jessica Lunsford, the 9-year-old Florida girl who in early 2005 was snatched from her bedroom, sexually assaulted, murdered and buried.
Last week, jury selection began in the trial of Jessica's accused killer, John Couey, who was captured outside Augusta after fleeing into Georgia from Florida. A convicted sex offender with a long criminal history and a face that would make any parent shudder, Couey makes a perfect boogeyman for law-and-order advocates like CNN's Nancy Grace and Fox News' Bill O'Reilly. Both TV show hosts have devoted hours of highly charged coverage to the upcoming trial.
O'Reilly, in particular, has been on a yearlong crusade to push get-tough legislation modeled on Florida's "Jessica's law" in all states, as well as through Congress. Keen's bill followed that state's example of requiring the very worst offenders to wear monitoring devices for life. But the Georgia lawmaker went even further by expanding the state's already tough residency restrictions to include school bus stops -- of which there are tens of thousands.
In last winter's legislative session, members of both parties allowed recent bills dealing with such issues as illegal immigration and eminent domain to evolve as the product of a normal give-and-take debate between lawmakers, interest groups and qualified experts. Not so for the sex-offender bill. Aside from the Romeo-and-Juliet provision, Keen would accept no compromises. "Before the session began, we were told that the bill would be passed basically as-is, without many changes," explains the Sheriffs' Association's Norris.
Keen, through a spokesperson, declined to be interviewed for this story. "It was one of those bills that was difficult to vote against because we all want our children to be safe," says Rep. Pat Gardner, an Atlanta Democrat who nonetheless cast a no vote. "But we also want the law to apply fairly and evenly and sometimes these nuances get lost in the political soundbites." It wasn't as if lawmakers weren't warned that the bill could result in unintended consequences. Dr. Gene Abel, director of the Behavioral Medicine Institute of Atlanta, was one of several experts who went to the Capitol to testify in committee against aspects of the bill.
Abel believes that by placing so much emphasis on curbing rogue sexual predators like Jessica Lunsford's killer, the law ignores a larger public safety threat, lulling people into a false sense of security. "Only 10 percent of child molesters are strangers," he says. "About 30 percent of these crimes are committed by immediate family, another 30 percent by extended family and the final 30 percent by family friends and neighbors." The law does little to address those dangers, he says.
A professor of clinical psychiatry at both Emory University and Morehouse School of Medicine and a national expert on the treatment of sex offenders, Abel says Georgia's new law also fuels harmful misconceptions.
"When we're talking about child sexual abusers, the public perception is of a 50-year-old man hanging around a schoolyard," he says. "In reality, the average age for a child sexual abuser is 14."
By downplaying treatment and focusing on punishing sex offenders through strict residency restrictions that cost jobs and divide families, he says, the new law could backfire, resulting in an upsurge of sex crimes.
"It's rather common knowledge that you want to reduce the stress on sex offenders because the greater the stress, the greater the risk," he says. Treatment is key, agrees Charles Olney, research associate for the Center for Sex Offender Management, an offshoot of the U.S. Department of Justice, based in Silver Spring, Md. While the center takes no official stand on Georgia's law, Olney says it's a bad idea to disrupt the smooth integration of sex offenders back into society.
"It's not just a liberal stance to suggest these people need supervision and support to help them not re-offend," he says. "Many victims advocates realize now that communities are less safe unless sex offenders are effectively managed once they're released from prison."
Residency restrictions, Olney says, can have the effect of forcing offenders to move to remote rural areas and away from treatment facilities. Abel points out that Georgia is home to only 40 licensed treatment centers, nearly all of which are located in urban areas.
"What really bothers me," Abel says, "is that we already had a probation
system that was working and recidivism was low" -- about 4 percent among
child molesters involved in treatment. "This law has already caused havoc
among sex offenders and their families, but it should be good for real-estate
agents." Irresistible as the issue may be for politicians, not every get-tough
effort against sex offenders is born of cynicism.
In 1997, a year before the GBI's sex-offender registry went online, state Sen. David Adelman, then a Druid Hills neighborhood leader, was shocked to discover that parole officials had quietly placed several sex offenders -- including a child molester -- in an apartment building near the front gates of Emory University without alerting neighbors.
When he arrived in the state Senate as a Democrat in 2003, the first bill Adelman pushed into law placed substantial restrictions on where sex offenders could live.
"There was a real problem and I worked with experts in the field to create buffer zones around places where children congregate," he says. Modeled on similar laws in other states, Adelman's bill prohibited sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, park, playground, day-care facility or rec center. It included no restriction for bus stops. Adelman's legislation survived three legal challenges, all of which attacked narrow technical aspects of the law.
Adelman, a father of three who voted for Keen's bill and acknowledges that it has widespread public support, argues that the law he authored didn't impose an excessive burden on convicts.
"It's certainly reasonable for the state to enact laws to protect children," he says. "I felt my solution was moderate and enforceable." Sheriff Brown agrees. But he says Keen and company were bent on fixing a problem that didn't appear to exist.
"I personally think the current law has worked fine," he says. "Before the new law was passed, I wasn't hearing any outcry that we need to do more to deal with sexual predators."
Once enacted, however, get-tough laws are difficult for lawmakers to undo without opening themselves up to that most sticky of campaign-trail charges: "soft on crime."
Just look at Iowa, where a similar law passed in 2002 and finally went into effect last year. It has, by many accounts, proven a disaster. The law has effectively rendered the state's cities and sizable towns off-limits, explains Corwin Ritchie, executive director of the Iowa County Attorneys Association, which represents local prosecutors in the Hawkeye State's 99 counties. As a result, Ritchie says, many offenders still in Iowa have clustered in rural motels, live in their cars, are now homeless -- or have simply vanished from sight. The number of offenders whose whereabouts are unknown has more than tripled in recent months.
"Anything that pushes people off the registry is a bad idea," he says. "If they can't find anywhere to live, they'll just drop off the list."
Ritchie says prosecutors also have blasted the law because they believe it will make it more difficult to win convictions against child molesters. "The residency restrictions will deter defendants from accepting a plea deal," he says, which, in turn, will require more criminal trials, where testimony by young victims can be unreliable. What's more, many parents are unwilling to press charges if it means their children would have to testify in court. This spring, forceful lobbying by sheriffs and other groups nearly succeeded in getting the law repealed by state legislators. Ritchie is hopeful that public opinion will help turn the tables next year.
But politics being what they are, he realizes there are no guarantees. For all the tough talk by Keen, Gov. Perdue and others who endorsed the bill, lawyers with the state attorney general's office mounted a startlingly feeble defense of the law during a two-day hearing last week in federal court. Attorneys with the Southern Center for Human Rights called upon a series of sheriffs' deputies to testify that virtually all sex offenders would need to relocate to comply with the law. In Gwinnett, 277 of 278 offenders would have to move, testified Cpl. Karen Pirkle, who manages that county's sex offender registry. Investigator Charlene Giles of Houston County explained that all but one of her county's 136 registered offenders live too close to a school bus stop. Giles also expressed concern that displaced offenders might simply go AWOL.
"I'd much rather know where they are rather than have them abscond," she said. Later, one of the state's chief witnesses, Mario Dennis, a Virginia psychologist, reinforced one of the main arguments against the law by conceding that residency restrictions "have the potential to raise the risk for recidivism because they could be destabilizing for offenders." Surprisingly, state attorneys based the bulk of their defense on the dubious argument that the law would not require many offenders to move, an assertion that flew in the face of Keen's stated intent.
As evidence, they called upon the school superintendent of Pelham, a hamlet halfway between Bainbridge and Albany, to testify that his tiny system doesn't offer bus service. The implication seemed to be that Pelham, population 4,000, would make a fine haven for sex offenders.
State attorneys also argued that the law applied only to bus stops "designated" by local school boards. Since there arguably is no formal designation process -- most systems delegate the work of positioning bus stops to transportation directors -- then the issue is moot, said Assistant Attorney General Devon Orland.
"I don't know where the sky-is-falling mentality started, but it spread like wildfire," Orland said, referring to the thousands of man-hours that county sheriffs had devoted to determining the proximity of sex offenders to bus stops to prepare for the implementation of the new law.
Even if taken at face value, the argument that only certain school bus stops are considered off-limits suggests that the law is arbitrary, leading to the illogical conclusion that some children deserve to be protected while others do not.
Sarah Geraghty, the Southern Center's lead attorney in the case, expressed amazement at the attorney general's defense strategy.
"The state has spent the last two days [in court] backing away from this law," which she labeled "dangerous, irresponsible and ineffective." At the least, she added, "the governor and Legislature owe the sheriffs of Georgia a very big apology."
In the end, Judge Clarence Cooper demanded that lawyers for the state submit briefs defining exactly what is meant by "designated school bus stop" and explaining why that provision of the law should not be regarded as unconstitutionally vague. In a ruling expected any day, Cooper could decide to extend his June 29 injunction delaying the law's enforcement. It's likely to take at least another two years for the planned challenges to be completed. Wendy Whitaker didn't testify last week. Instead, she watched much of the hearing from the back of the courtroom, hoping the outcome will eventually force the state to draw meaningful distinctions between sex offenders who pose a threat to the community and people like herself.
"I consider my offense to be minor," she says. "I've been locked up with people who've done much worse than I did -- murderers, armed robbers, drug dealers -- who haven't had to go through what I have."
Earlier this year, she enrolled in Augusta Technical College to study criminal justice but is sitting out this quarter while she meets with Southern Center lawyers and attends court hearings. After she earns her two-year degree, she'd like to go on to law school, a plan she says is motivated by her tangles with the law.
"In another year, I can petition to be taken off the [sex-offender] registry, but I don't want what's happened to me to happen to others," she says. Whitaker is referring to a provision in the law that allows certain first-time sex offenders to have their names taken off the registry after 10 years. If she and her husband, who works for Columbia County animal control, can manage mortgage payments for another year, she explains, then she'll be free to move back into her home.
Under the new law, however, the 10-year clock starts ticking not on an offender's conviction date, but on the completion of probation or parole, which means Whitaker could be barred from her house for several more years. And last week, she learned of one more place that would be off limits if the new law were allowed to take effect: Because some of the students at Augusta Tech are under 18, Whitaker wouldn't be allowed to return to school.
By Robert L. Bastian Jr., Esp
The following appeared in the Los Angeles Daily Journal, Monday, July 10, 2006.
MOUNTING DATA POINT TO PRISONS' GROSS FAILURE TO CORRECT ANYTHING
Governor Schwarzenegger, fearing further federal court takeover of the state’s prison system, recently called for a special legislative session to address the institution’s "crisis point." Among other things, he has proposed adding two new prisons to the current archipelago of 46 (32 adult and 9 youth facilities, 3 youth reception centers and 2 camps) scattered around the state. The $7.4 billion system currently incarcerates 171,527 inmates. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has projected this number to rise 3.6% in the next year. As Diana Ross might ask, "Do you know were you’re going to?"
Of the approximately 9 million people currently held in penal institutions throughout the world, 2.09 million are, according to a survey by Kings College London, in the United States. As of June 2006, the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics reset that number at 2,186,230, a 2.6% increase over the previous year. Two thirds were in state or federal prisons (1,438,701) and the other third (747,529) were in local jails. Of those incarcerated, more than one in five (21%) were serving time for drug related offenses.
By a wide margin, the Kings College study finds, the U.S. has the highest prison population rate in the world, some 714 per 100,000 of the national population. The Bureau of Justice has recently revised that number to 738. Closest in the Kings College study to the U.S. are Russia, Belarus and Bermuda, each with a rate of 532. By contrast, almost three fifths of countries (58%) have rates below 150. The rate in England and Wales, the ancestor to our legal system, is 142. The median rate for central and eastern European countries it is 184, for southern European countries it is 80.
According to a 2005 Bureau of Justice Statistics study, California has the third highest number of prisoners (116,532) in the country after the Federal system and Texas. Additionally, California has the union’s largest jail population (82,138). California’s incarceration rate is 456, significantly behind the highest, Louisiana (1,138), Georgia (1,021) and Texas (976). Stated alternatively, Louisiana and Georgia now incarcerate more than 1% of their population. California, by contrast, is approaching 0.5%.
Nationwide, approximately 12% of black males in their late 20's, according to the 2005 Bureau of Justice Statistics study, are incarcerated. This compares with 3.7% of Hispanic males, and 1.7% of white males of the same age. Rates of incarceration for men are ten times higher than women; 5 1/2 times higher for blacks than whites; and 2 times higher for Hispanics than whites.
According to the latest count, the California Department of Corrections institutions and camps are currently designed to hold 87,250. In fact, they were holding 164,288 at that time of that benchmark. That is, the CDCR is operating at over 189.8% of capacity. That percentage is only projected to get worse. For those concerned about illegal immigration’s impact on this matter, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics, as of 2005, 16,613 of the persons incarcerated in California were non-citizens, around 1 in 10.
Likewise, there is severe overcrowding in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s custody division, which holds approximately 16,000 inmates a day. Recently district court Judge Dean D. Pregerson ordered formation of a panel which has been granted 60 days to develop a plan for reform. Among the suggested proposals are to move1,800 high-security inmates to the adjacent Twin Towers jail, which is partly empty due to understaffing.
Los Angeles County’s jail problems are not unique. Since 1995, the number of jailed inmates nationwide has increased 31%, from 193 to 252 per 100,000. At year end 2002, according to another BJS supported study, 25 states and the federal prison system reported that they were operating above capacity.
Regarding violence in the California Department of Corrections, in the last full year reported (2003), there were 8 incidents per 100 inmates (12,051 total), broken down as follows: assaults with weapons (1843); assault without weapons (5,327); possession of weapons (1,149); controlled substances (1,154); suicides (33); attempted suicides (450); and "other" (2,095). Based upon our law office’s experience in litigating Eighth Amendment cases, including the review of CDC reports and CDC-115 inmate "chronos," we have a strong suspicion that the number of reported inmate on inmate assaults is vastly understated, particularly with respect to inmate rapes.
Regarding rape, the most infamous offender is Wayne Robertson, the so-called "Booty Bandit," who, notwithstanding a pattern of sexual predation on cell mates at six separate California institutions and over 30 such incidents reported by correctional staff, continued to receive new cellmate assignments and, pari passu, new victims. In one of the most significant studies of prison rape, which was conducted in the Nebraska prison system and reported in 1996, it was determined that 22% of the male prison population had been raped or forced into sex while incarcerated. Of those, only 29% had reported the incident to prison authorities. Nonreporting victims typically feared both stigmatization and retaliation.
Yet there is little relief for victims of such violence. According to a 2004 Bureau of Justice Statistics study, while prisoner petitions filed in U.S. district court nearly tripled between 1980 and 1996 -- increasing from 23,230 to 63,634 -- they increased at a slower rate than the prison population. Specifically, petitions in relation to the population decreased 17% between 1980 and 1996. In 1995, 62% of prisoner petitions filed and 52% of those appealed were dismissed. Less than 2% were decided in favor of the inmate. By contrast, a Bureau of Justice study of filings in 2000, typically 34% of civil rights plaintiffs generally prevail in bench or jury trials.
In 1994, Congress responded by passing the Prison Reform Litigation Act, setting even greater procedural barriers for prisons, cutting attorney fees for prevailing parties (presumably those 2% who prevail), and giving federal courts more potent tools for dismissing prisoner lawsuits. The number of prisoners who testified at the single judiciary counsel hearing on the legislation was zero.
Nonetheless, as of January 1995, according the National Prison Project Journal, only three states had never been involved in major litigation dealing with crowding or conditions in their prisons (Minnesota, New Jersey, and North Dakota). Among the most notable is the litigation currently before the Honorable Thornton Henderson in a U.S. District Court in California. It is his threatened further intervention which has stimulated Gov. Schwarzenegger’s call for a special legislative session.
Earlier this year, Judge Henderson appointed a receiver to take over the approximately $1.2 billion in the Department of Corrections budget devoted to health care. In evidentiary hearings leading to the federal takeover, it was determined, among other things, that nearly one inmate was unnecessarily dying within the system each week due to medical neglect.
In a Center for Disease Control study released in 2003, it was reported that at least 1.3 million inmates released from jail or prison in 1996 were infected with hepatitis C, 29% of the 4.5 million cases nationwide. In 2002, Los Angeles County Health officials began its investigation of a particularly virulent form of staph infection, resistant to common antibiotic treatment, in the Los Angeles County Jail. In 2002, 928 instances were reported. Cases reported in the jail rose to over 1,800 in 2003 and over 2,500 in 2004. In a 1999 Bureau of Justice Statistics--sponsored study, it was determined that, at mid-year 1998, approximately 283,800 mentally ill offenders were incarcerated in the Nation’s prisons and jails. About 16%, or an estimated 547,800 probationers, said they had had a mental condition or stayed overnight in a mental hospital at some point in their lifetime.
At least nine major gangs wield inordinate influence in the CDC, the Aryan Brotherhood (AB), the Black Guerilla Family (BGF), the Mexican Mafia (EME), the Mexikanemi, the New Mexico Syndicate, Nuestra Familia (NF), the Northern Structure, the Texas Syndicate, and the Vanguards. In February 2006, Los Angeles County officials openly expressed their fears that race riots which erupted the same week at the Pitchess facility in Castaic would spill over into the community. Ironically, the same week, American Generals testified before Congress to complain that the way prisons were organized in Iraq was aiding in the organization of forces opposed to the ruling coalition.
The California Institution for Men at Chino (CIM) is another recent example of a California facility which has experienced a recent rash of racially motivated violence. Designed to hold 2,778 inmates, it currently houses 6,298. In the last year fully reported (2004), there were 321 inmate assaults reported, 99 with weapons. In the same week in June 2006 in which CIM announced its gym would be converted into a dorm holding 155 more bunk beds, rioting broke out between Hispanics and whites.
In the past week, a former correctional officer at CIM was sentenced to 17 ½ years for participating in a racketeering conspiracy to help the Nazi Low Riders [NLR], including conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and heroin for the gang and allowing a gang member to assault an inmate by stabbing him underneath his eye. The NLR emerged in the 1970s in the California Youth Authority (CYA) before spreading throughout the adult system and beyond the prison walls. The NLR has increased in influence to fill the vacuum left during the high-profile prosecution of AB leaders a district court sitting in Orange County.
Regarding recidivism, the Department of Corrections reports that 57.24% of the 52,185 inmates paroled in 2002 have, within three years returned to custody. There are no uniform definitions of recidivism across states, making state to state comparison difficult. Nonetheless, most researches who have analyzed the data have concluded that California has generally higher than average rates of rearrest and reconviction.
According to a 2003 Bureau of Justice Statistics study of the 1997 population, nearly 75% of state prison inmates and almost 69% of those in local jails did not complete high school, compared with 18.4% of the general population. Commensurately, such prisoners are predominately poor. Of those without a high school diploma, nearly two-thirds had earned less than $1,000 in the month before their arrest.
In 2002, for example, over 600,000 inmates were released from state and federal prisons, representing over 1,600 individuals a day. They are mostly unskilled men of color, more likely to be involved in gang activity and drug dealing, nearly one-half of whom were previously incarcerated at least once. Nearly two-thirds are expected to be rearrested for another felony or serious misdemeanor within 3 years of their release date.
As Dr. Phil might ask, "Is it working for you?"
Robert L. Bastian Jr. is a partner at the Law Offices of Bastian & Dini, Los Angeles.
Comments on November 2003 Department of Justice, BJS, Report:
"Recidivism of Sex Offeners Released from Prison in 1994"
In November of 2003, the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, released a report, "Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison in 1994," NCJ 198281 (hereinafter "DOJ Report"), a 40 page document filled with statistics, graphs, demographics, etc., and explanations. It was prepared by statisticians from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Patrick A. Langan, Ph.D., Erica L. Schmitt, and Matthew R. Durose.
The DOJ Report utilized data from 15 states (See FN. 1), with a combined total of 271,111 prisoners who were released in 1994, and subsequently tracked for three full years. It is explained that the actual total number of prisoners released was 302,309, but due to criteria such as using males only, eliminating those sent to other jurisdictions, deaths, etc., only 272,111 were used for the study. Among the 272,111 were 9,691 men whose crime was a sex offence, 3.6% of the total release.
Of the 9,691 sex offenders selected for the study, 3,395 of them were from California, by far the largest number of participants of any state (34%), making the study highly significant in California. This becomes a data base largely derived from the very same population group to which the California Department of Mental Health ("DMH") now applies data bases obtained from the Canadian Government via Dr. R. Karl Hanson, developer of 'RAASOR" and "Static 99" actuarial instruments presently relied upon by DMH. It has been long argued that foreign data bases do not accurately reflect behavior of U.S. populations, and actuarial predictions derived therefrom, cannot be applied to U.S. Citizens with any reasonable accuracy when used for predictions of recidivism. This new DOJ Report study proves that argument.
The DOJ Report also shows that released sex offenders are the least dangerous of all released prisoners--by far! The data shows that released non-sex offenders committed most of the new sex offenses (See DOJ Report pg. 24), this is due to their large overall number (262,420) compared to sex offenders (9,691). While individually sex offenders are four times more likely to commit a sex offense than are non-sex offenders, the sheer magnitude of the number of non-sex offenders makes them the most dangerous group for new sex offenses and all other crimes.
A great deal of money and effort is being spent on attempting to keep sex offenders incarcerated for long prison sentences, and even beyond their release dates through civil commitment laws. With the non-sex offenders actually committing most of the new sex crimes, the laws of diminishing returns will quickly come into the equation through runaway costs for little return. Thus, the data derived from the last group of sex offenders released in California (1994) prior to the implementation of the "get tough" laws, does not support the costs, or the political and emotional rhetoric that fuels the public outcry.
Non-sex offenders released in 1994 (See DOJ Report pg. 24.) were rearrested for 3,328 new sex crimes, while released sex offenders were rearrested for 517 new sex crimes. "The combined total number of sex crimes is 3, 845 (517 + 3328 = 3, 845). Released sex offenders accounted for 13% and released non-sex offenders accounted for 87% of the 3, 845 sex crimes committed by all the prisoners released in 1994." (Ibid.)
The data shows that 87% of all new sex crimes committed by released prisoners of all types were committed by those who were not in prison for a sex offense. Yet all the rhetoric, anger, and expense, is being directed toward those who have served a prison term for a sex offense, but are only responsible for 13% of the sex crimes committed by released prisoners. History has shown us that, psychologically, people or societies always need some group to consider inferior to themselves. A target for their scorn, e.g., the Nazis hated Jews, homosexuals, and handicapped. This makes one question the true motives behind registration and other laws that only target sub-classes of citizens, and their effectiveness in light of this data. Also the costs emotionally and financially for registration and other costs, such as the SVPA programs which cost the tax payers at least $145,000 per year per inmate for incarcerating people based on DMH psychological "Experts" making predictions of recidivism risk that simply are not supported by the hard facts contained in this new DOJ Report.
This study dispels the previous DMH "Expert" opinion predictions of
high sex offender recidivism rates with hard facts; data which shows just
the opposite from the foreign data bases presently being used to derive
base rates and predictions. Now, a comprehensive American study and data
base shows sex offenders have very low recidivism rates, particularly older
sex offenders who statistically commit very few new sex offenses. The study
data did have some other surprises in addition to the low sex offender
recidivism rates, e.g., in overall crime recidivism (non-sex offenses)
age made little difference:
"Recidivism studies typically find that, the older the prisoner when released, the lower the rate of recidivism. Results reported here on released sex offenders did not follow the familiar pattern. While the lowest rate of rearrest for a sex crime (3.3%) did belong to the oldest sex offenders (those 45 or older), other comparisons between older and younger prisoners did not consistently show older prisoners having the lower arrest rate." (DOJ Report p.p. 1, 25)
This non-sex offense discrepancy from previous norms is likely caused by punitive prison attitudes; those which result in poor to no rehabilitation programs. This coupled with poor parole or release system support programs that often result in prisoners being released who are ill equipped to successfully reintegrate into society, an age neutral problem. These new crimes are often technical parole violations, traffic infractions, property offenses, etc. (See DOJ Report, pg. 34)
The age versus sex crime reoffense data in the DOJ Report appears to be consistent with the report from the Department of the Solicitor General of Canada prepared by Dr. R. Karl Hanson, entitled, "Age and Sexual Recidivism: A Comparison of Rapist and Child Molesters," 2001-01. Where on page 9 of 18 pages it states, "There were very few recidivist among the sexual offenders released after age 60 (5/131 or 3.8%)." This is very comparable to the 3.3% found by the DOJ Report. It must be noted, the 3.3% recidivism rate for older offenders is for rearrest only. The reconviction rate for older offenders was not found in the DOJ Report, but would be significantly lower than the rearrest percentage if the same pattern is followed in this category as was followed in all categories where this data is provided.
Sex offenders had the lowest recidivism rates in all categories according to the DOJ Report data. The total recidivism from the 9,691 sex offenders was 517 (5.3%) for new sex crimes (DOJ Report, pg. 1). To put this in perspective, one must compare sex offense recidivism to non-sex offense recidivism, and to all other offenders and offenses. This data is found throughout the DOJ Report. The following rearrest data is found at page 2 of the DOJ Report:
Compared to non-sex offenders released from State prison, sex offenders had a lower overall rearrest rate. When rearrests for any type of crime (not just sex crimes) were counted, the study found that 43% (4,163 of 9,691) of the 9,691 released sex offenders were rearrested. The overall rearrest rate for the 262,420 released non-sex offenders was higher 68% (171,391 of 262,420)." (Ibid.)
It should be noted that the above data is for rearrest only. One must be careful not to mix apples and oranges, so to speak, as the DOJ Report jumps between rearrest data and reconviction data. The reconviction rate percentage data is given in several places in the DOJ Report, e.g., pages 2, 14, 24, 30, 34, 37, and is always much lower than the rearrest rate percentage. The reconviction rate for any new crime for the 9,691 released sex offenders is 24% or 2, 362, compared to 47.8% or 125,437 of the non-sex offenders. (DOJ Report, p.p. 2, 14). Non-sex offenders have double the recidivism rate for all crimes compared to sex offenders.
Some of the rearrest data is considered skewed because of parole violations (See DOJ Report pg. 2), where 38.6% (3,741 of the 9,691) released sex offenders were returned to prison because: Of a new sentence; being arrested for another crime, but not necessarily convicted; or a technical parole violation, e.g., missing an appointment or failing a drug test, etc. See page 34 of the DOJ Report, "Just over 1 in 5 sex offenders (2,045 out of 9,691) were rearrested for a public-order offense, such as a parole violation or traffic offense." Of the 9,691 released men, only 396 (4.1%) were rearrested for sexual assault, the category which includes child molesters." (Ibid.)
The 38.6% recidivism rate (DOJ Report pg. 2) is very close to the national average of 35% reported by California's Little Hoover Commission Report released on November 13, 2003, which also complained that California's rate of 67% was double the national average. "This means that California's parole system is a billion dollar failure," stated Nancy Lyons, the Deputy Director of the Commission. Similarly, when California is excluded, the DOJ Report at page 13 states, the 38.6% recidivism rate falls to a 27.9% average for the other states. California excluded data is given in a few places in the DOJ Report to show the States negative influence.
Of the 6,567 sexual assaulters, "(4.7% or 308 of the 6,567) were charged with committing the same type of crime for which they had just served time in prison." (DOJ Report pg. 34)
The DMH psychologists, "Experts," will continue to argue that these rates are much higher for child molesters than for other sex offenders. Their position is untenable in light of this new study (See DOJ Report pg 24), as nearly half the sex offenders in the study data base were child molesters (4,295), and 3,115 were rapists. The child molesters, leaving a difference of 2,281 (6,576 - 4,295 = 2, 281) who have committed some other type of sexual assault such as statutory rape. Rapists themselves are in a category of their own and not a part of the "sexual assaulters" group.
The recidivism rate of the 4,295 child molesters rearrested for any type of crime (not necessarily a sex crime) was 39.4%. However, when California is excluded this becomes 23.4% for the other states. Of the 39.4% arrested, only approximately half, or 20.4%, were reconvicted. An even smaller number, 9.1%, were returned to prison with a new sentence for a new crime (DOJ Report pg. 15), indicating most of these arrests or convictions were for minor public offenses. This conclusion is further reinforced by the only 3.5% reconviction rate for a new sex offense by child molesters. (DOJ Report pg. 24). All other groups of sex offenders being reconvicted for a new sex offense is similarly low.--
•The recidivism differences between the different categories of sex offenders is insignificant. •Sex offenders all have significantly lower recidivism rates than all other classes of criminals. •Percent rearrested for any new crime within three years: non-sex offenders--68%' sex offenders--43%. •Percent reconvicted for any new crime within three years: non-sex offenders --47.8%; sex offenders --24%. •Percent of sex offenders rearrested within three years for any new sex crime, by type of offender: All --5.3%; Rapist --5.0%; sexual assaulters (all)--5.5%; child molesters --5.1%; statutory rapists --5.0%. •Percent of sex offenders reconvicted within three years for any new sex crime, by type of offender: All --3.5%; Rapists --3.2%; Sexual assaulters (all)--3.75; child molesters --3.5%; statutory rapists --3.6%. •Released prisoners who did not serve time for sex offenses (non-sex offenders) committed 87% of the new sex offenses.
FN. 1 Arizona (122), California (3,395), Delaware (45), Florida (965), Illinois (710), Maryland (243), Michigan (444), Minnesota (239), New Jersey (429), New York (692), North Carolina (441), Ohio (606), Oregon (408), Texas (692), Virginia (260), Total (9,691) sex offenders.
Mark Martin, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau
Wednesday, February 1, 2006
SACRAMENTO/Assembly OKs stronger sex-offense penalties/Republicans object, say measure is not tough enough
Sacramento -- The state Assembly approved a bill Tuesday toughening penalties for sex offenders, amid a partisan fight that appears likely to continue into the November general election.
Over Republican objections, Democrats passed a measure crafted as an alternative to a "Jessica's Law" initiative backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The legislation, by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, was approved by the Assembly without a single vote from Republicans, who said the bill wasn't tough enough on sexual predators. The vote followed a vigorous, three-hour debate that featured emotional pleas for and against the bill as Democrats and Republicans accused each other of political pettiness on an important criminal justice matter. One Assemblyman, Juan Arambula, D-Fresno, appeared to challenge others to a fight, noting that if Republicans considered him soft on crime for voting for the bill, "I'll meet you outside."
Leno is pushing his bill, AB50, as another option to Jessica's Law, which would stiffen penalties against several sex crimes against children. Supporters of the initiative say they will have enough signatures gathered by mid-February to qualify the issue for the November ballot.
Leno and many other Democrats argue the initiative is flawed. It calls for electronic monitoring of all registered sex offenders for the rest of their life, for example, something nonpartisan analysts say will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Leno has pushed for monitoring of only offenders who are deemed to be likely to offend again.
Another part of the initiative prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park, which some believe would require all sex offenders to live in rural or suburban areas instead of densely populated cities.
Assemblywoman Nicole Parra, D-Hanford, said the ballot initiative could push more offenders into her district and argued that Republicans have offered no proposal to pay for Jessica's Law, which is named after Jessica Lundsford, a 9-year-old Florida girl who was abducted, sexually assaulted and killed by a convicted sex offender early last year.
"We can continue to toughen penalties, and we can continue to say 'lock them up,' " she said. "... How are we going to pay?"
Republicans accused Democrats of offering a watered-down measure. "What's a low-risk sex offender?" asked Assemblyman Jay LaSeur, R-La Mesa, as he and others argued Leno's bill compromises child safety. Leno's bill would, among other things, prohibit convicted child molesters from being on school campuses, increase the period of parole from five to 10 years for some sex offenders and create in-prison treatment for sex offenders deemed to be at high risk of re-offending.
The bill and the debate over Jessica's Law have been hot topics on conservative blogs and radio and television talks shows during the past few weeks, and on Tuesday Leno added one amendment to appease critics by making possession of one piece of child pornography a potential felony.
But Republicans complained that other elements of Leno's bill don't go far enough. Although the bill increases sentences for several kinds of sex crimes, Republicans pushed for harsher punishment for luring a child with intent to commit a sex crime, for example, and they wanted an expansion of the state's ability to keep some violent sex offenders imprisoned.
Leno's bill is an example of why "we have absolutely no choice but to take the protection of children outside of this building (and to the ballot)," charged Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, R-Orange, who wrote a column for the FlashReport blog this week accusing Leno and Democrats of being a "pro-criminal majority" in the Legislature.
Leno and other Democrats accused Republicans of opposing the bill because they preferred to campaign for the initiative in November. "This is much more about posturing than it is about getting to a solution," said Assemblyman John Laird, D-Santa Cruz.
AB50 now moves to the state Senate, and its fate is unclear there. State Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-San Jose, is pushing her own alternative to Jessica's Law that is somewhat similar to Leno's bill. Legislative sources said Senate Democrats will probably coalesce behind her bill instead of Leno's.
And whether Schwarzenegger, who announced his support for Jessica's Law last fall, would sign a Democratic bill and withdraw support for the initiative seems doubtful.
"Incremental change could be a positive thing but that doesn't mean he's not going to push for the initiative," said Margita Thompson, Schwarzenegger's press secretary.
E-mail Mark Martin at email@example.com
i) Shane Goldmacher
Perata to oppose Jessica's Law
On Wednesday, Senate leader Don Perata, D-Oakland, announced that he will oppose Jessica's Law, the sex-offender initiative, if the Legislature passes alternative legislation authored by Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-San Jose.
With the announcement, Perata becomes the first major Democratic politician in the state to oppose the measure.
"We have legislation that is much more sensible and effective at protecting California's children from sexual predators than the sloppily written Jessica's Law initiative," said Perata.
Alquist, whose SB 1128 contains many of the same provisions as Jessica's Law, introduced her measure in January. Perata's staff said the Senate leader also hopes to see SB 1178, a companion bill authored by Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, passed by the end of session. Both were widely expected to pass, after unanimous votes in the Senate, though Perata's new stance against Jessica's Law may complicate matters.
Republicans view the Alquist bill as complementary, not a replacement for Jessica's Law.
"I will oppose the initiative … because it was thrown together without sufficient care, would have the unintended consequences of dumping sexual predators in rural areas and making it tougher for law enforcement to conduct Internet stings on child molesters," said Perata.
Sen. George Runner, R-Antelope Valley, who authored Jessica's Law, was quick to criticize Perata's statement.
"Under the pro tem's leadership, none of the provisions contained in Jessica's Law passed in the Legislature until this year as a response to the initiative," said Runner. "We believe law enforcement needs as many tools as possible and so if they are serious about protecting our kids--they should support both."
The biggest policy differences are that Jessica's Law mandates that convicted sex offenders wear GPS-tracking devices for life and imposes a no-stay zone within 2000 feet of schools and parks for past predators. Alquist requires neither.
Alquist requires two sexual offenses before an offender is labeled a sexually violent predator, versus one in Jessica's Law.
Shane Goldmacher is a Capitol Weekly staff reporter and author of The California Observer.
ii) Shane Goldmacher
Jessica's Law's no-live zone is bone of political contention
A November initiative to toughen penalties and place new restrictions on where past sex offenders can live essentially would make the city of San Francisco a sexual-predator-free zone, according to maps produced by the Senate Office of Research.
If passed, the measure would prohibit convicted sex offenders from living within 2000 feet of any school or park where children play.
In San Francisco, one of the nation's most densely populated cities, that leaves only a few square blocks as inhabitable for registered sex offenders. The largest areas that would remain open to past predators would be the airport region, downtown's industrial zones and cemetery-dense Colma--none of which contain much, if any, residential housing.
"We're really clear: It is going to be harder to find a place to live, particularly in the most dense areas, of which San Francisco would be the most," said Sen. George Runner, R-Antelope Valley, who along with his wife, Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster, spearheaded the campaign to put the measure on the ballot.
Runner, while challenging the specifics of the Senate map, says that there will be difficulties in predator placement, but they are worth the potential benefit.
"We firmly believe that a child molester should not be allowed to live across the street from the school," he says.
The so-called residency restriction is one of the most tussled-over provisions of Jessica's Law, which has sparked a fierce and partisan battle in the Capitol since last summer.
Named for Jessica Lunsford, a nine-year-old Florida girl who, authorities say, was abducted and killed in 2005 by a convicted sex offender, the initiative, Proposition 83, mandates longer sentences for sexual predators and also requires them to wear high-tech GPS tracking devices for life. Privately, Democrats, and even many Republican supporters, admit that the vaguely worded section on the 2000-foot no-go zone is likely to end up tangled in court disputes as local authorities argue over how to best implement the new lines.
Proposition 83 specifies that any school, "public or private," qualifies for the barrier. But it is unclear whether that includes non-children schools such as culinary academies and colleges. There is also no specific definition of parks "where children regularly congregate," or whether the 2000 feet should be measured from the center or perimeter of the park or school.
"We left it vague like that because we felt that there needed to be some flexibility in placement," says Runner.
A similar Georgia law imposing a 1000-foot barrier from bus stops is tied up in court. And in Iowa, the county-attorney association that once backed a similar barrier has done an about-face, writing "there is no correlation between residency restrictions and reducing sex offense" in a scathing statement earlier this year.
But, despite their reservations, few California Democrats have voiced public objections to the tough-on-crime initiative--though several have tried to tinker with legislation behind-the-scenes.
History suggests the measure will be a political juggernaut.
Since Californians reauthorized the death penalty in 1978, the state's voters have approved all but one of the nearly 20 tough-on-crime measures put before them.
"It will pass overwhelmingly on the November ballot," says GOP consultant Dave Gilliard, who is a strategist for the Jessica's Law campaign. "It is a very powerful issue across party lines. I suspect, unless they are in the safest of safe districts, Democrats will not come out against it."
No statewide Democratic candidate has opposed the initiative. Jerry Brown, the Democratic nominee for attorney general, is openly backing the measure. "He's for it," said Brown spokesman Ace Smith.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a sponsor, along with the Runners, of Jessica's Law and his campaign staff have dogged Democratic challenger Phil Angelides to take a stand on the measure.
One of the few, and according to Runner the first, legislative Democrats to openly oppose the measure is Assemblyman Mark Leno, who represents San Francisco.
Leno, who chairs the Assembly Public Safety Committee, says the initiative is all about politics, not policy.
"It is a sad irony that the very people who claim to be protecting our children are using our children as a political weapon," he said.
Leno criticizes several provisions of the proposed law, though he holds most of his fire for the 2000-foot barrier--even if it would remove the majority of sex criminals from his district. He calls the line arbitrary, ineffective and unenforceable.
"What makes more sense are trespassing restrictions, because what we've learned is it doesn't matter where you live, it matters where you are, where you hang out," says Leno, who is backing alternate measures moving through the Legislature without the 2000-foot line.
There are also concerns--raised by Democrats--about whether the law would force sex offenders already living within the 2000-foot lines to move. The provision reads, "Notwithstanding any other provision of law, it is unlawful for any person for whom registration is required … to reside within 2000-feet" of a park or school. Runner says the law is "prospective"--meaning it only applies to future offenders, though in legislative hearing Leno criticized Runner for not making the ballot language more explicit.
Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, has raised the specter of hordes of sexual predators forced from urban areas to more rural ones by the 2000-foot lines. Once a co-chair of the campaign, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, a Republican, now opposes the initiative over urban-to-rural sex offender fears.
Runner says legislative Democrats criticizing the lines are "disingenuous," after they supported a 2005 measure by Assemblywoman Rebecca Cohn, D-Saratoga, that imposed a 2600-foot barrier, albeit on a smaller parolee population. Leno says he now regrets supporting the Cohn bill and is "not supporting any more residency restrictions."
Whatever the flaws of Jessica's Law, Republicans blame legislative Democrats for forcing their hand to use the initiative process after killing numerous bills that cracked down on sexual predators. When Sen. Runner introduced Jessica's Law in legislative form last August, he asked for a hearing, which did not occur until the Legislature reconvened in January.
"After we didn't get a hearing in September last year, we knew we needed to move forward with the collection of signatures," says Runner. The bill died after its first hearing.
After signatures for Jessica's law were submitted in February, Senate Democrats amended new, stricter provisions into a sex-offender bill authored by Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara. Runner says those amendments were a sign of Democrats succumbing to political pressure.
A spokeswoman for Senate leader Don Perata, D-Oakland, denies that accusation.
"Sen. Alquist has been working on her bill for two years," said Perata spokeswoman Alicia Trost. "It is the Legislature's job to enact legislation and not pay attention to initiatives on the ballot. It was the bill moving through the natural process."
This week, Perata announced that he will oppose Jessica's law if Alquist's bill passes.
At the end of May, Alquist's bill was amended again--this time to become null and void if Jessica's Law passed--a slick political move that would have allowed Democrats to campaign that the November measure would weaken the state's sex-offender laws.
Senate Republicans balked; the amendment was removed days later. More legislative maneuvering is expected when the Legislature reconvenes in August, as Democrats attempt to find a way to oppose Jessica's Law without slapping a soft-on-crime label on the party.
"It is a challenging issue for them," says Runner.
San Diego Union Tribune
Residency limits raise concerns
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and others plan to gather here today to promote Jessica's law, a get-tough November ballot initiative aimed at child molesters. But in addition to tougher sentences and a high-tech tracking system, the initiative contains a little-known residency restriction for registered sex offenders that has turned some supporters of the measure against it. Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, a Republican who once served as a co-chair of the initiative committee, now believes the initiative will force thousands of registered sex offenders into rural areas. Ironically, one of the areas that could receive a lot of them is Los Angeles County's Antelope Valley, which is represented by the author of the Jessica's law initiative, state Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster. Maybe all the child molesters will have to live in the desert in the Antelope Valley to satisfy Jessica's law. Cooley said. "I spent eight years up there. I like the people up there. That is an unfortunate, probably unintended consequence of what seems like a good idea. Cooley is backing an alternative bill, now moving through the Legislature, that contains longer sentences, but no living restrictions.
Jessica's law would prohibit registered felon sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park and encourages local governments to make more areas off-limits, including child care centers and water parks. Cooley and others say that will preclude sex offenders from living in many urban areas.
The initiative is named after Jessica Lunsford, a 9-year-old who was taken from her home in Florida and murdered last year by a convicted sex offender. Her father, Mark Lunsford, plans to appear today with Schwarzenegger, Dumanis, Runner and others at a news conference.
For the Republican governor, the event is part of a week of highlighting his crime-fighting credentials for his re-election bid. Yesterday, he held a ceremony to add the position of crime victims advocate to the governor's office.
Jessica's law, besides the new residency restrictions, requires registered felon sex offenders to wear a Global Positioning System device for life, increases penalties for child pornography and expands the sexually violent predator program. The Legislative Analyst's office said the measure, in part because of the GPS component, could cost the state up to $200 million a year within 10 years.
Runner, the sponsor of the Jessica's law ballot measure, said it provides a comprehensive way to protect children and disputes the notion that the residency provision will cluster offenders in rural areas. Runner said he included the residency restrictions because a similar law in Iowa was upheld by federal courts.
Yet Iowa prosecutors are seeking to change the law because they believe the residency requirement is counterproductive. They say the law compels them to waste time trying to determine whether thousands of sex offenders are living within 2,000 feet of a school or park. Meanwhile, some offenders in Iowa have failed to register. Others have slept at rest stops or moved to areas without jobs or public transportation. It went nowhere in enhancing public safety. It went everywhere in eating up law enforcement time, said Corwin Ritchie, executive director of the Iowa County Attorneys Association. Ritchie said there's no research to link where a person resides and where they re-offend. If you have any rationality, you aren't going to offend next door, he said.
Runner said that California won't have the same problems as Iowa because the GPS will track down anyone who fails to register.
Supporters and opponents of Jessica's law sharply disagree about how many people are covered by GPS and residency restrictions. Both sides agree that the numbers will increase each time a felony sex offender comes out of prison on parole. Supporters say both requirements initially will apply to 30,000 people. Opponents say the residency requirements initially apply to all 87,000 registered sex offenders and the lifetime GPS initially applies to up to 60,000 people.
Dumanis said she doesn't believe that implementing the measure will be overwhelming. She compares the new law to buying a new computer. It takes lots of time to learn how to use at first, but eventually saves time. Voters will conclude the costs are worth it, she said. This is something that's going to be supported by the people, she said.
Supporters of the measure tout the residency restrictions as one of its best features, saying it creates predator-free zones around schools and parks.
State Sen. Dean Florez, a conservative Democrat from Shafter, was one of the first to raise alarm bells. Florez said he expected to endorse Jessica's law until he analyzed maps last year and found it creates areas where registered sex offenders cannot live. If it passes, he said, many offenders will end up in his San Joaquin Valley district and other rural areas, many of which are represented by Republicans. It should be called the 2006 Sexual Predator Dumping Bill for the Central Valley. There's no other way to look at it, Florez said. I want rural kids to be as safe as urban kids, he added. We shouldn't be making value judgments about which kid is more important.
Runner said that Florez and District Attorney Cooley are just dead wrong. He noted California passed a law last year prohibiting certain paroled sex offenders “ those deemed to at a high-risk of repeating their crime “ from living near schools. But that measure applies to just 3,000 people. Dumanis said that after reviewing maps of San Diego County, there are still plenty of places for them to live.,
Critics of Jessica's law also question the provision that requires lifetime GPS on all registered sex offenders who are felons, saying it is far too broad and expensive. With limited resources, if you focus GPS on all offenders you're really not going to be focusing on any because you aren't going to be able to track all offenders, said Jim Provenza, Cooley's spokesman in Sacramento.
Cooley and others are supporting a legislative package that puts lifetime GPS on selected high-risk offenders.
The key bill, by state Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-San Jose, increases penalties for crimes against children. But rather than imposing residency restrictions, it seeks to protect children by making it illegal for registered sex offenders to loiter or enter school grounds without permission. Both Jessica's law and the competing legislation have their roots in partisan politics. Runner said he decided to launch an initiative only after Democrats in the Legislature blocked a variety of proposals to increase prison time for child molesters. It was a series of frustrations, he said.
His campaign has been fueled by tough rhetoric from conservative talk show hosts, especially Bill O'Reilly of Fox News. Some Republicans, such as Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully, are using the issue to portray Democrats as soft on crime. At a news conference earlier this year, Scully accused Democrats in the Legislature of spending more time protecting the criminal offenders than they do protecting victims and children. Democrats, who control the Legislature, drafted their legislation only after it was clear Jessica's law was going before voters. Supporters of the Democratic proposal argue that it would protect children more effectively than Jessica's law.
For one thing, they say, the ballot measure's residency restrictions make it vulnerable to legal challenge. A lawsuit in Iowa delayed that state's law by three years.
Additionally, they argue the Legislature can change or modify any law that encounters problems, but it cannot touch initiatives. Cooley said he believes the flawed residency requirements were put into the measure inadvertently because authors were too secretive when writing it. Last year, he said, he felt uneasy about backing Jessica's law because he said he wasn't allowed to read it. Here's a problem with initiatives. They can be 90 percent good, but the 10 percent bad part can really create problems for others, he said.
Cooley's opposition is so recent he was still listed as a co-chair of the initiative yesterday on the Jessica's law Web site. He said he hopes Runner and his wife, Sharon Runner, a Republican assemblywoman, will get credit for using the initiative to pressure the Legislature to come up with an effective bill, but then convince people to vote against the initiative. I would hope they would think it through, he said.
Some of these counties might end up with a whole lot more child molesters than they've ever had.
16-year-old Warren boy charged with sex crimes
WARREN - A Warren teenager is in custody after police became privy to a series of alleged sexual encounters he had with two younger girls. Last month police charged the 16-year-old boy with four counts of first-degree child molestation and two counts of second-degree child molestation after he allegedly had sexual intercourse with two 13-year-old girls —both Warren residents. The second-degree molestation charges stem from other incidents in which inappropriate touching was involved. "The allegations are that the offenses took place at diverse dates over the last two years," said Warren Police Lt. Joseph Loiselle.
The victims told their parents about the encounters and that information
was brought forth to the police department. Officers worked on the case
and eventually charged the 16-year-old boy. In Rhode Island, the felony
sexual assault charge becomes child molestation if the victim is 14 or
younger. If convicted, the suspect would face a stricter sentence because
of the victims' ages. "A minute after they're 14, they wouldn't qualify
[for a child molestation charge]," Lt. Loiselle said.
For those tried as an adult, a first-degree sexual assault charge carries a penalty of not less than 10 years in jail, with a maximum life sentence. However, since both victims are 13-years-old, the first-degree child molestation charge means, for adults, the potential for no less than 20 years in jail, with a maximum life sentence. But according to Lt. Loiselle, the 16-year-old will be tried as a juvenile, which means he could be remanded to the state's training school or face placement in a residential treatment facility. "The goal of the family court is rehabilitation," Lt. Loiselle said.
On Wednesday, Jan. 18, police were dispatched back to the boy's home for reported disorderly conduct. The boy was taken to police headquarters for violating his probation. He was arraigned in family court on Jan. 24 and held for a probable cause hearing.
JILL YOUNG MILLER
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Sex crime bill may snare teens
A broad new law to toughen sentences for sex offenders who assault children is one of the main goals of Georgia's Republican leaders. But critics say some children themselves might be caught in the proposed law's net for at least 25 years. The House bill also might send some teens who engage in consensual sex to prison, critics say. Teenagers 13 through 16 who are prosecuted in adult court for rape or aggravated crimes of sodomy, child molestation and sexual battery would face a mandatory sentence of at least 25 years under House Bill 1059, according to an analysis by the Barton Child Law & Policy Clinic at Emory's School of Law. The current penalty under Georgia law is at least 10 years. "I'm very scared for kids with this legislation," said Beth Reimels, the clinic's managing attorney.
The bill also might punish some teens who engage in sexual activity with each other, critics say. They hasten to say they don't condone teen sex but know it happens. If the bill passes, a youth of 13, 14, 15 or 16 who engages in mutual sexual activity with a child under 14 could be prosecuted for aggravated sexual crimes, tried as an adult and face a minimum 25-year sentence. The age of the younger child makes the crime an "aggravated" one.
House Majority Leader Jerry Keen (R-St. Simons Island) proposed the sex offender legislation, which the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee is expected to consider this afternoon. More than 70 other lawmakers have signed on to the bill.
Keen declined to comment for this article because lawmakers are working on new draft of the bill to present to the committee today, a spokeswoman for House Republicans said Tuesday afternoon. "They are still working on the changes," Michelle Hitt said. She said she did not know the specific changes or how they might affect juveniles. "Our top priority is to protect our children from dangerous sexual predators," Hitt said. "As we've gone through this process, we've made a lot of changes to the bill. More changes are coming."
Franklin E. Zimring, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of "An American Travesty: Legal Responses to Adolescent Sexual Offending," called Keen's bill as it could affect teens "a penal policy nervous breakdown." "It takes my breath away," he said. Teens "do some very stupid things sexually that do not predict any patterns of adult sexual danger," he said. The bill perpetuates the idea that teen sex offenders "are just junior editions of adult offenders, and that is just demonstrably not true," Zimring said.
Other critics say the bill would take away discretion from judges and
not address treatment and rehabilitation for offenders, not even for young
ones. Yet "researchers say children can respond to treatment and be rehabilitated
and never re-offend," the Barton Clinic's Reimels said.
Sara Totonchi, public policy director for the Southern Center for Human Rights, said she hoped lawmakers would change how the bill could affect teens. "Because the language is overly broad, it's going to trap children who are not sex offenders ... who could really benefit from treatment," she said.
Editorial: Prop. 83 places more children in harm's way
Proposition 83 was irresistible to voters last November - a chance to guarantee no convicted sexual predators lived near parks or schools. They passed it overwhelmingly, ignoring the inevitable flood of unintended consequences from California's version of Jessica's Law.
By summer's end, they'll see what they have wrought. Paroled sex offenders will be either living under bridges or banished to rural areas, cut off from families and jobs. They could number in the hundreds or even thousands. Deprived of any ability to rebuild their lives - or driven underground, out of the view of parole agents - they will present a far greater danger to society.
The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reported last week that as many as 2,100 sex offenders, more than half of the approximately 4,100 paroled since November, are violating Proposition 83's ban on living within 2,000 feet of a school or public park. Under new department regulations, parole officers plan to give them 45 days to move out and comply with the law.
But there will be few places to go. The locations of parks and schools have put huge portions of cities off limits. Sex offenders will have to either ignore the law and fail to register their addresses, become homeless, or flock to unincorporated rural areas where jobs, services and public transportation are scarce - but where children still reside.
None of these options is good. They will complicate the job of parole officers and rattle individuals who need stability in their lives to keep out of trouble.
Jessica's Law was named for a 9-year-old Florida girl who was kidnapped and murdered by a convicted sex offender in 2005. Quickly afterward, states started passing the 2,000-foot ban.
Proposition 83 also includes the requirement that all sex offenders be fitted with an electronic monitor for life. Once in place, that will cost several hundred million dollars annually - money that could be spent far more effectively to help and protect children.
Research has not justified any of this. Jessica's Law assumes most sex offenders are high-risk predators who prey on strangers. But they comprise a small percentage of those convicted of sex crimes. Far more are family members, acquaintances or others who encounter their victims through positions of trust.
The impact of Proposition 83 would have been far more damaging, but a judge ruled in February that it applied only to parolees released since the initiative was passed - between 300 and 400 a month - and not to all 80,000 registered sex offenders. Imagine the instant chaos that would have caused.
Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, the chief proponent of Proposition 83, has said that he would consider amending it if housing became a problem. But it was clear from the start that this would happen. It already has in places like Iowa, which is why the county attorneys association in that state urged Californians not to repeat the mistake.
Jessica's Law was written to create an illusion of safety for children and a platform for politicians to grandstand. In driving sex offenders underground, it will only create serious new problems, place more children in harm's way and cost hundreds of millions of dollars while doing no good. As predicted.
September 10, 2007
How to Deal With Sex Offenders
Sexual abuse of children has doubtless been a constant through history. But it wasn’t outed until the 1970s –- and its magnitude was startling. Many studies found that 1 of 3 females and 1 of 5 males–a full one-quarter of the world--have been molested, often with serious consequences haunting them throughout their adult lives.
Soon the dam broke, and we were flooded by a geyser of sex-offender laws; however, most were counterproductive. Some were well-intentioned, but we all know where that paved road leads.
Now, by 2007, the legal pendulum has swung so loudly to the far right that it has almost nowhere to travel except to a more balanced position. Toddlers are considered sex offenders for hugging their teachers; first-graders are pilloried on the registry; and, in one absurd case, a 13-year-old girl was deemed simultaneously a victim and offender for consensual sex with her 12-year-old boyfriend. "The only thing that comes close to this is dueling," said Associate Chief Justice Michael Wilkins of Utah, noting that two people who take 20 paces and then shoot could each be considered both victim and offender.
This is insanity. But the general public reflexively supports every law touted by our politicians as "protecting children’s safety."
To give due credit, the first sex-offender registry, lobbied by Patty Wetterling on behalf of her abducted son Jacob, was not an unreasonable law. Enacted in 1994, it was intended for law enforcement alone, not accessible to the populace, and included only the most serious cases. But by now, the subsequent registries have ensured that even the photos of men caught "watering the foliage" are plastered on the Internet–complete with names, addresses, and other forms of I.D.
Mrs. Wetterling is presently calling sex-offender laws "far out of control." She’d never visualized the extent to which her initial efforts would reach, and states that "everybody wants to out-tough the next legislator." It’s all about "ego and boastfulness," she says, and wants to see public policy become more effective and less punitive -- a bereaved mother who yet retains a sense of logic, justice, and fairness.
Other laws such as the Adam Walsh Act require mandatory minimum sentences even for minor transgressions. It’s also retroactive, ignoring our Constitutional prohibition against two punishments for the same crime. And Jessica’s Law has now been passed by 32 states--its unrealistic distance restrictions driving offenders from urban to rural areas. This can throw kids into harm’s way rather than save them, since stress and instability are known to increase recidivism. Ohio is now seeking to repeal this legal nightmare, while Californians who ignored Ohio’s lesson are presently struggling with the same mess. Also, the death penalty for two-time repeaters–even without a child fatality--has been approved by five states. The pendulum can hardly swing further.
Since so many terrible laws now exist in the names of children who've gained hard-won immortality, a recent article in CounterPunch has advocated reform. But where to start?
We might consider CAPTA (Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act). Passed in 1974 when molestation became a hot topic, CAPTA blindly called for mandatory reporting of clients who related sexual violations to their therapists. Few other helping professions allow such a breach of confidentiality. And unreported offenders who want to turn their lives around now have no way to seek help.
Hard-liners may insist that reporting of sexual offenders is warranted. Aren’t they the "worst of the worst?" This might be attributed to the residual puritanism of our founding fathers (who weren’t all that irreproachable themselves) -- an erotic dichotomy, both obsessed and repulsed by sex. Or, as Niki Delson, clinical social worker and a member of CCOSO (California Coalition on Sexual Offending), describes such mindset: "Whoopee!....and Whoa!" Sex permeates our culture while being simultaneously feared.
Certainly, when kids are sexually victimized, they can suffer psychic trauma, as they can from other types of abuse. But their offenders, contrary to popular misconception, are hardly ever high-risk predators. Less than 10 percent of registrants fall into this category, while the rest are low- to no-risk. In an interview with Chris Hansen of "To Catch a Predator," Dr. Fred Berlin, founder of the Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic said, ".... if the choice was between a sexual offender fondling my 12-year-old or a drunk driver killing my 12-year-old, given that horrible dilemma, it still wouldn’t take me much time to figure out which I think is more serious."For a perspective on child fatality, the U.S. Dept. Of Health and Human Services has estimated that 1,500 children died from maltreatment in 2003, primarily at the hands of their parents. In that same year, according to the National Center for Statistics and Analyses, 396 children under 14 were killed in alcohol-related crashes. But as for murder by sex offenders, the general estimate is about 50 per year, or one per state. Yet, many parents are so frenzied by political rhetoric about "thousands of snatch-and-runs" that they won’t allow their children to play in their own front yards. And many kids back off from any adult’s display of friendliness. Small wonder that activists like Patty Wetterling are upset by this national neurosis.
Returning to CAPTA, its senseless code confuses therapy with law enforcement and needs to be amended. Before its enactment, Dr. Berlin had treated many voluntary patients who loathed themselves and their deeds--and who progressed to productive, offense-free lives after being treated. Other sex-offender therapists have had similar outcomes. Dr. Raymond Anderson has run a sex-offender clinic since 1978, where men have come for help even in the fantasy stage, intensely troubled by their thoughts. Dr. Jay Adams, who has treated molesters for 30 years in prisons and hospitals cites waiting lists of hundreds hoping for treatment to learn self-restraint.But despite the findings of the U.S. Dept. of Justice, plus academic research, that molesters have by far the lowest recidivism rates of any criminals except murderers, the general public asks: Aren't they uncontrollable? Hopeless? Lurking behind every door and around every corner, waiting to pounce on the nearest kid? And they parrot wild numbers--such as 95 per cent recidivism--pulled out of the air that floats between some lawmakers’ ears. Shouldn’t we lock all of them up and throw away the key? But the general public doesn’t read government reports or scholarly studies. They only hear sound-bites and see headline-hype.
What they don’t see is a key that cannot be thrown away. It’s called therapy.
Does this type of treatment really work for sexual offenders? According to Dr. Berlin, it does for many, and for many it doesn’t. Why, then, don’t we focus on the many for whom it does? Therapist Earl C. Jones of Alabama cites an old Southern myth: If a dog kills a chicken, that dog must be killed; it has tasted blood and will want more. "Now they’re saying the same of molesters," he says, "and neither belief is true. Treatment is effective much of the time."
How is the therapeutic process designed for offenders? First, they need to reconnect with their early traumas. According to Dr. Adams, almost all molesters have been abused as children, sexually, physically, emotionally, or in combination. This can desensitize them, not only to their own feelings but to others as well. However, if they resurrect their original histories, they can also acquire "victim empathy." Many who haven’t worked through this process delude themselves that the victims share their pleasure. After they acquire empathy, they become aware of the pain they can inflict upon the children.
This is the most important and initial step of sex-offender therapy.
It’s also the most difficult. Once the patients complete this phase, relapse-prevention
plans can be made. They are also taught "victim respect" as well as "thought-stoppage,"
and ways to identify situations that can act as triggers. It’s made clear
in therapy that their offenses are extremely wrong, but if they are treated
as humans– not monsters, their self-esteem can improve, and better control
can be achieved.A full 88 percent of molesters are never reported, according
to Stop It Now! Which is a national child-abuse helpline.
Given the tenor of the times, if confidential treatment for the unreported is approved, many stringent conditions will be required. These must include zero tolerance for re-offense as well as complete personal information, all to be turned into the authorities if recidivism is revealed. This is the only way to convince our lawmakers that they won’t be committing political suicide by relieving therapists of their roles as mandatory reporters. No politician wants to be seen as "coddling" molesters or "soft on crime."
And what if offenders hesitate to sign up for such conditions? It’s possible that some may be reluctant; it’s also possible that many would be willing. Therapists who treat both victims and offenders can attest that quite a few of the latter are in more pain than the former and would be ready to comply with the requirements.
Also, what if some offenders prematurely terminate therapy and fall between the cracks? The answer is that they’re all in the cracks right now. CAPTA has shoved them there, and it’s up to us, the voters -- plus enough logical lawmakers -- to pull them out.
As for the number of children who might be saved by this enactment, let’s take a leaf from the opposition’s pamphlet. Those who push for harsh, punitive, and destructive laws routinely say that they’re worth it if only one child is spared. We can also say the same for our proposal; however, we envision many more than one child saved from sexual abuse by the approach we advocate. It’s a concept that can do no harm at all–and can only be beneficial. To help the offenders is to help the victims.
Mark Lunsford, the driving force behind the laws bearing his daughter Jessica's name, insists that her murderer John Couey would never have gotten to her if such a law had been in place. What he doesn't say, and what is not common knowledge, is that Couey had pled for psychiatric help since 1978, writing that he had "a disease of the mind." He continued begging for help to no avail for about 20 years--the letters to his attorneys are in his court files. And if he'd received the treatment he so urgently wanted and needed, Jessica might be with us yet. The preventative approach we advocate can be far more effective than the retribution a mentally disordered Couey now faces.We already have over 4,000 petitions merely by sitting on the Internet (and in front of the supermarket) without any publicity. But we need a much larger number of backers to request "Conditional Exemption From Reporting for Molesters Who Voluntarily Seek Professional Treatment" if our legislators are to be persuaded. Please go to www.therapy-key.com, look over our stats and facts--plus the credentials of our Advisory Board and Consultant Dr. Fred Berlin. Then, please send in your petition(s) if you like. Every signature counts!In closing, we'll quote a renowned philosopher:
"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root." Henry David Thoreau.
Betty Schneider can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Where will sex offenders live?
Ross Wollschlager — does the name sound familiar? Sept. 2, The Star reported that the recently released sexually violent predator lives in a state-provided tent in a riverbed in Ventura County.
We have a big problem in California with sex offenders and, more particularly, where to house them. Most people would suggest that prison is the best place. Despite efforts by the Legislature, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Department of Mental Health, local law enforcement and, most recently, the voters' resounding approval of "Jessica's Law" (Proposition 83), we simply won't be able to just lock them up and throw away the key, no matter how badly some might want this.
The real problem, the one everyone has been tiptoeing around, is that we don't know where to put these guys once they've done their time, and adding to the angst is the fact that most communities simply don't want them and won't tolerate them.
With the introduction of Megan's Law — an Internet-accessible database of registered sex offenders — it's pretty easy to find out if your neighbor is on the list. What you can do about it varies, depending on whether you are a homeowner, tenant, live near a park, school or daycare center, but it usually takes the form of loud and rankled protest along the lines of, "Hell No! Not In My Back Yard!" Interestingly, apartment owners (where most sex offenders end up living) can't do a thing about it, even though a high-risk sex offender shares a common wall with an innocent, unsuspecting child next door.
What Megan's Law, and all the media attention on the issue and especially Proposition 83 have wrought is a growing awareness of the extent of this problem — well over 65,000 registered sex offenders, concentrated in the state's 10 largest counties, mostly in the big cities. And this interest, at least on the part of John and Jane Q. Public, isn't impartial or clinical; it's worried, angry and determined to keep places where kids live, play and go to school safe.
While Jessica's Law will now keep offenders at least 2,000 feet away from schools, parks and daycare centers, which expands kids' safety zones, it will also push sex offenders into the hinterlands, shrinking their options for where they can live. Local governments throughout the state are starting to pass ordinances restricting where paroled or freed sex offenders can live and it isn't there. This is just the beginning of the new NIMBY movement, and like earlier debates over affordable housing and development in general, all the NIMBY folks accomplish is to push the problem somewhere else, anywhere but their back yard.
In fairness, there is a huge difference between NIMBY protests over plans to construct a new development in an established community and releasing paroled sex offenders — many of whom have a high risk of reoffending — into the neighborhood. It's about safety, about the odds not being in kids' favor, about adults doing their best to protect their families, not their property.
The California Apartment Association sees this problem and where it's headed. Rather than ignore it, parse it or tap-dance around it, we are committed to taking the challenge head on, not just because rental housing bears the greatest brunt of sex-offender placements, but also because it's the right and smart thing to do.
The governor has created a High Risk Sex Offender Task Force, and we're appreciative to have had an opportunity to get our 2 cents in during its proceedings earlier this year. But, as far as we're concerned, we've barely just begun on the matter of finding "appropriate and equitable housing solutions for placement of high-risk sexual offenders," and we heartily agree that the task force should continue to convene to address these critical issues.
The first step in the process of truly understanding how large the problem might be is to redefine who should be placed on the Megan's Law Web Site.
The California Apartment Association position would be to list only the high-risk sex offenders, and not those individuals who might have been convicted of less-harmful offensives such as nude sunbathing or urinating in public. By reducing the list to only high-risk sexual offenders, we can better understand the magnitude of the problem and begin to create long-term solutions.
We recognize that there are complex layers to this problem and don't take the challenge lightly. This is a time as never before to truly think outside the box, to not let the burden of the state's bureaucracy nor the Legislature's always-humming political calculator frame the solutions.
This is a call to both the public and private sector, to the state's apartment owners, builders, local government officials, mental-health experts and corrections officials to untangle and simplify the maze of laws governing this issue, overcome our differences, find common ground and build the solution.
— Scott Monroe, of Irvine, is a certified property manager and president of the California Apartment Association.
Sexual predator lives in a tent
Ross Wollschlager is perhaps Ventura County's most unwanted person.
Chased out of seven hotels by a flurry of law enforcement fliers, the 43-year-old rapist is now homeless, living in a state-provided tent in a riverbed.
And that worries everyone from the prosecutor to the state doctors who tried to treat him.
"Being homeless makes him harder to keep track of, it's more stressful for him, and all these circumstances combined together make it more likely for him to re-offend," said Margaret Coyle, the deputy district attorney who argued against Wollschlager's release from civil commitment at Atascadero State Hospital last year.
Wollschlager's case is far from unique as counties up and down the state grapple with the return of their most reviled criminals: sexually violent predators. From Sacramento to San Diego, communities are shunning these sex offenders whose crimes evoke a special kind of fear and loathing.
As a result, they are winding up homeless or constantly on the move.
And while Wollschlager is Ventura County's first designated sexually violent predator back in the community, he likely will not be the last. Release hearings will be conducted in the next few months for at least 11 of the county's 15 court-designated sex offenders, Coyle said. All completed their prison sentences but have been kept under lock and key since then under a process known as civil commitment, which means at least two state doctors have diagnosed them as mentally disordered.
"This is a problem that is only going to get larger," Coyle said.
No one was interested
Liberty Healthcare Corp., which contracts with the state Mental Health Department to supervise sexually violent predators in the Conditional Release Program, spent 17 months searching for housing in Ventura County for Wollschlager. He remained in Atascadero during that time, even though a judge had ordered his release on the condition that he get treatment and supervision.
The company, which received $1.68 million from the state this year, took out want ads in local newspapers, personally contacted more than 1,000 potential landlords and sent letters to an additional 14,000, said Ken Carabello, Liberty's director of regional operations for California and the western United States. No one was interested, he said, even though Liberty offered to pay well over market rent values.
In Sacramento, it took 465 days to find child molester Timothy Boggs a permanent residence. Temporary ones included motels, an attorney's office for bunking down at night, and a trailer on a bail bondsman's rural property.
Recently, a landlord in the capital city agreed to rent to Boggs a standard three-bedroom apartment for $1,700, the going rate. Boggs, 52, completed the Sexually Violent Predator program at Atascadero State Hospital after serving 13 years in prison for molesting a Sacramento boy.
"There is significant resistance in county after county," Carabello said. "We look under every stone to try and find placement, and sometimes there are landlords willing, but once the community finds out they mount a great resistance. Not many stand up to that pressure."
'Aren't a lot of options'
While the state continues its search for more stable housing, Wollschlager is equipped with a Global Positioning System tracking device, and a security team hired by Liberty keeps an eye on his movements around the clock. He must take polygraph tests to monitor his risk of re-offending and wears an alcohol monitoring device.
He attends several therapy sessions each week and spends much of the day at a friend's house in Oxnard.
He cannot live there, however, because the house is within 2,000 feet of a school or park, said his public defender, Todd Howeth, whose office filed a petition Friday challenging the restriction in Wollschlager's case. The 2,000-foot limit was set by Proposition 83, passed by state voters in November, a restriction that is effectively pushing sex offenders out of many cities altogether and into rural communities or homelessness.
That concerns Sheriff Bob Brooks, who has the task of keeping the public safe in the vast stretches of unincorporated land in the county.
"In Ventura County, when looking at where to place these offenders, there just aren't a lot of options," Brooks said. "Most cities have virtually nowhere you can place them, forcing them into unincorporated areas."
Putting sex offenders out in remote areas is not the safest alternative, either, Carabello said. The area must have cell phone reception for contact and for GPS tracking.
Brooks also believes hotels are a bad idea because "women stay there, children stay there," he said.
Death threats made
Sgt. Jack Richards with the Ventura Police Department said his agency would rather see Wollschlager in a hotel than transient.
"In all my years as a police officer, I've seen worse criminals than this guy, but I still would feel better knowing where he is at all times," Richards said. "In a hotel, we know where he's coming back to, where we can contact him if we suspect anything at all. The public is safer, and he's safer."
Death threats have been made against Wollschlager.
Carabello said placing Wollschlager in hotels was the only alternative after the state was forced to let him go in August. Wollschlager was found fit for release in 2006 but languished in Atascadero State Hospital while Liberty searched for suitable placement. A court of appeal found last month that the state's inability to find housing was not legal grounds to keep him committed.
Wollschlager, who grew up in Ventura, was 19 when he sneaked through unlocked doors into the homes of two women and raped them in 1983. At the time, he was addicted to a stew of drugs, including cocaine and heroin. His alcohol addiction was so severe he was injecting it, said Howeth, his public defender.
After serving half of an eight-year prison sentence, he was released and two years later burglarized a home. He fondled a 10-year-old girl as she slept before he was discovered and ran away. He was imprisoned for 13 years and then civilly committed in 1996 to the state's mentally disordered offender program.
Wollschlager completed two phases of the five-phase treatment plan in Atascadero, served on several patient boards and worked hard on a substance abuse treatment program, Howeth said.
He was diagnosed with a sexual disorder that led him to rape adult women, but psychiatrists say he's not a pedophile.
In 2006, at a hearing to determine his fitness for release, a jury voted 8-4 to release him unconditionally. Three experts and several staff members testified he was ready. Unconditional release means he would have gotten out with no supervision or terms that he seek further treatment, Howeth said.
Howeth and Coyle polled the jurors afterward and found the four who opposed Wollschlager's release only did so because they wanted him to continue treatment.
17 months of searching
Instead of a retrial warranted by the jury's inability to reach a unanimous decision, Wollschlager offered to enter the Conditional Release Program for at least two years, Howeth said. Judge Rebecca Riley agreed and ordered his release pending provision of suitable housing.
But 17 months of searching produced nothing.
The state has sometimes resorted to putting state-bought trailers next to county jails or state prisons to house difficult-to-place offenders after release.
Douglas Badger, who sexually assaulted male hitchhikers at gunpoint over a 20-year period, is living in a trailer on the grounds of a state prison in San Diego County. After 15 years in prison, Badger completed eight years of treatment in Atascadero State Hospital before his release in 2006.
On Thursday, a San Luis Obispo County Superior Court judge ruled that Frederick Hoffman, a sex offender who served an 11-year term in state prison, may live near the county jail upon his release. Hoffman was convicted of two sexual assaults against children in the 1980s. Like Wollschlager, he was ordered released into the state's Conditional Release Program in 2006 but was kept at Atascadero while Liberty searched for housing.
'A state responsibility'
Liberty and the state Mental Health Director Stephen Mayberg approached Brooks about putting a trailer for Wollschlager on Todd Road Jail property, between Ventura and Santa Paula. Brooks refused, citing conditional-use-permit requirements that prohibit any residential use of the property dating back to when the jail was built amid protest from nearby residents.
"And even if we could, there would be liability and other concerns," Brooks said. "From the broader perspective this is a state responsibility. They also have state property that is buffered from residential areas they could use. It is not a county responsibility to protect and register and follow up on violations of these offenders, it's the state's. Nor is it the county's responsibility to assume the burden of residential care."
State property in the county that could be used includes equipment yards for the Department of Transportation and industrial building complexes, Brooks said.
Mayberg said placement must be suitable under the law. It must meet codes and be safe for both the community and the sex offender.
"It has to be a safe place and pass building codes; we are not going to put someone in a storage shed," Mayberg said. "We understand why any elected officials including the sheriff wouldn't say, We endorse this place for a sex offender to live.' We can't expect them to find a place, but we can expect them to give us their expertise. We will only succeed with the engagement of the community."
California about to pay for extreme Jessica's Law
LAST November, Iowa was dealing with a tangled legal mess due to Jessica's Law. And that very month, a whopping 70.5 percent of Californians stamped their ballots for that same statute. Iowa had warned us, but only 29.5 percent of our voters took the time to listen and study the facts from academics, therapists and researchers. The rest only read the headlines and heard the sound-bites, all blaring the magical vote-grabbing words: "Protect our children."
Now, nine months later, our state is encumbered by 2,100 sex offenders who'll soon have no place to live due to their 2,000-foot distance restrictions from schools and parks. It's predicted that many will slip through the cracks, fall off the registry, and go underground, where stress and instability will render them more of a danger.
That is, those who are really high-risk - and that's only 10 percent of all registrants. The rest are one-timers, Romeos and Juliets, outdoor urinators, flashers, mooners and the like - all low- or no-risk. Yet, they're all shoved into the same pool by our national neurosis. With our Puritanical origins, we labor under an erotic dichotomy that's simultaneously obsessed and repulsed by anything with a sexual element. Other types of child abuse can hurt as much, but don't get nearly the notoriety.
In 1994, Patty Wetterling successfully lobbied for the first registry on behalf of her abducted son Jacob. It was not an unreasonable law, aimed only at offenders who might pose a danger and meant for the eyes of law enforcement alone. Now, she's appalled by the extreme outcome of her original effort and is trying to amend it.
"Everyone is trying to out-tough the next legislator," she says. "It's all about ego and boastfulness." Here we have a bereaved parent who yet retains logic, sense, and humanity.
Her statement may well apply to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who should have known better than to back Jessica's Law. He was aware of Iowa's situation, and had already approved a slew of workable sex-offender enactments shortly before the November election. But could our body-building leader seem the wimp by acting "soft on crime?" Said the French politician, Julian Dray, back in the 80s, "Schwarzenegger has a lot of muscles, but apparently not much heart."
Ironically, Arnold was indeed playing the wimp by caving in to political pressure and the need to retain his tough-guy status at whatever cost. Thus, we have a suggestion for our governor to redeem himself by solving the dilemma of those 2,100 displaced persons.
He, Maria, and their four children currently live in an 11,000-square-foot Brentwood home. They also own a house in the Pacific Palisades that's not too shabby.
Since 11,000 square feet is more than ample for a family of six, why not move to the Palisades and turn over that Brentwood home to the offenders? Surely, 2,100 people could comfortably fit into that space. And, to accommodate our media-driven public paranoia, the National Guard might act as sentries so that no offender - not even a 4-year-old girl caught hugging her teacher (yes, it's come to that) - could escape and terrorize Brentwood.
This could also fulfill Maria's Kennedyesque urge toward philanthropy. She's a supporter of the Special Olympics for challenged contestants, so here's her big chance. According to popular perception, there are none more challenged than "sex offenders." This category includes not only the hotsy-totsy toddler, but also a 13-year-old girl who's been deemed both a victim and offender for having sex with her 12-year-old boyfriend.
"The only thing that comes close to that is dueling," said Associate Chief Justice Michael Wilkins of Utah, noting that two people who take 20 paces and then shoot could each be considered both victim and offender.
So, if our suggestion seems far out, it's an answer to molester laws that have galloped far out of control. The pendulum has swung too far to an extreme end and must regain a more balanced position if the U.S. is not to be seen as excessively punitive. We are the most incarcerated country in the world, yet continue to build more costly prisons for the most minor offenses and parole violations.
In fact, what we need is more therapy for troubled and troubling people. But then, that wouldn't hurt the true offenders - only help them. And our national stampede is towards vendetta, not prevention. This must change if we're to survive as the civilized culture in which many of us would like to think we exist.
Betty Schneider is a member of the California Coalition on Sexual Offending,
as well as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Contact her through her
Web site, www.therapy-key.com
Sunday, March 25, 2007
By Jerome R. Corsi
© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, both already under siege for other matters, are now being accused of failing to prosecute officers of the Texas Youth Commission after a Texas Ranger investigation documented that guards and administrators were sexually abusing the institution's teenage boy inmates.
Among the charges in the Texas Ranger report were that administrators would rouse boys from their sleep for the purpose of conducting all-night sex parties.
Ray Brookins, one of the officials named in the report, was a Texas prison guard before being hired at the youth commission school. As a prison guard, Brookins had a history of disciplinary and petty criminal records dating back 21 years. He retained his job despite charges of using pornography on the job, including viewing nude photos of men and women on state computers.
The Texas Youth Comission controversy traces back to a criminal investigation conducted in 2005 by Texas Ranger Brian Burzynski. The investigation revealed key employees at the West Texas State School in Pyote, Texas, were systematically abusing youth inmates in their custody.
Burzynski presented his findings to the attorney general in Texas, to the U.S. Attorney Sutton, and to the Department of Justice civil rights division. From all three, Burzynski received no interest in prosecuting the alleged sexual offenses.
"This case demonstrates that a partisan political agenda, with Karl Rove in an orchestrating role, has penetrated the Justice Department and subverted fair-minded administration of the law," Matt Angle, director of the Lone Star Project, told WND.
It's just the latest controversy for Sutton, Gonzales and the Bush administration's direction of the Justice Department. Earlier, Sutton's decisions to prosecute two Border Patrol agents and Deputy Sheriff Gil Hernandez were criticized as having been influenced by the intervention of the Mexican government.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
In the Texas Youth Commission scandal, Texas Ranger official Burzynski received a July 28, 2005, letter from Bill Baumann, assistant U.S. attorney in Sutton's office, declining prosecution on the argument that under 18 U.S.C. Section 242, the government would have to demonstrate that the boys subjected to sexual abuse sustained "bodily injury." Baumann wrote that, "As you know, our interviews of the victims revealed that none sustained 'bodily injury.'"
Baumann's letter continued, adding a definition of the phrase "bodily injury," as follows: "Federal courts have interpreted this phrase to include physical pain. None of the victims have claimed to have felt physical pain during the course of the sexual assaults which they described."
Baumann's letter further suggested that insufficient evidence existed to prove the offenders in the Texas Youth Commission case had used force in their alleged acts of pedophilia: "A felony charge under 18 U.S.C. Section 242 can also be predicated on the commission of 'aggravated sexual abuse' or the attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse. The offense of aggravated sexual abuse is proven with evidence that the perpetrator knowingly caused his victim to engage in a sexual act (which can include contact between the mouth and penis) by using force against the victim or by threatening or placing the victim in fear that the victim (or any other person) will be subjected to death, serious bodily injury or kidnapping. I do not believe that sufficient evidence exists to support a charge that either Brookins or Hernandez used force to cause victims to engage in a sexual act."
Baumann's letter went so far as to suggest that the victims may have willingly participated in, or even enjoyed, the acts of pedophilia involved: "As you know, consent is frequently an issue in sexual assault cases. Although none of the victims admit that they consented to the sexual contact, none resisted or voiced any objection to the conduct. Several of the victims suggested that they were simply 'getting off' on the school administrator."
Baumann's letter also rejected Burzynski's charges that the administrators at the Texas Youth Commission facility in West Texas had used their position of authority to force the inmates to participate in the sexual acts or that the administrators had lengthened the sentences of the boys to retain willing participants or punish those reluctant to participate.
Baumann wrote: "In order for the government to be successful in a criminal prosecution, it would be essential for us to show that the victim was in fact victimized. Most of the victims were aware of the power that the school principal and assistant superintendent held over them, but none were able to describe retaliative acts committed by either the principal or assistant superintendent. Although it is apparent that many students were retained at West Texas State School long after their initial release date, it would be difficult to prove that either Mr. Brookins or Mr. Hernandez prevented their release."
On Sept. 27, 2005, the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division declined prosecution in a letter written to Lemuel Harrison, the Texas Youth Commission superintendent at the West Texas State School.
In that letter, Justice Department section chief Albert Moskowitz wrote that "evidence does not establish a prosecutable violation of the federal criminal civil rights statutes."
Angle maintains the decision not to prosecute was purely political.
"The U.S. attorney's office in Texas actually prepared indictments in this case," Angle told WND. "But when the word came from Washington, that's when Baumann wrote his letter declining prosecution. Sutton's office dropped the matter on the desk of the local district attorney, but nobody from Sutton's office said 'if you can’t go on this case, we'll help you out.'"
WND asked Angle to explain how politics drove the decisions not to prosecute.
"If you read the letters from Sutton's office or from DOJ, it's really amazing what abuse they describe and then downplay as not being serious," Angle explained. "They describe systematic and widespread abuse of juveniles who were held in these facilities by the people who were administering these facilities, and they acknowledge this fully, yet they determine that the evidence is not sufficient to warrant federal prosecution."
Angle explained to WND that he found both letters shocking.
"The letters justify not pursuing these cases because, number one, there is no evidence that any of these juveniles felt physical pain while they were being assaulted, and the letters use the word 'assaulted,'" he said. "And then also, they rejected prosecution because none of these juveniles stated in the investigations that they resisted and objected, which of course the facts of the report show to be the case. This case developed right in the middle of Governor Perry's 2006 re-election campaign. While Texas is a Republican state, and the Republicans expected to win, still at that time, Governor Perry was facing an election challenge from Carole Strayhorn, a third party candidate who was also a former Republican comptroller in Texas."
He continued: "I would speculate that the political powers in Texas and Washington in the Republican Party were not interested in this sex scandal coming to light. Sutton and Gonzales let their political responsibilities outstrip their legal responsibilities, and as a result you had children who were in danger of sexual abuse and were left in that danger."
Angle says that while the U.S. Justice Department and Texas attorney general's office were not prosecuting in this case, they were actively pursuing minor voter fraud issues with only a handful of allegations to go on.
On March 2, 2007, Governor Rick Perry appointed Jay Kimbrough, his former staff chief and homeland security director, to serve as "special master" to lead an investigation into the Texas Youth Commission sex abuse scandal. Shortly thereafter, the commission stopped a hiring practice that had allowed convicted felons to work as administrators in the system. The practice had involved a requirement that prior criminal records be destroyed for employees hired by the commission.
On March 17, 2007, the entire Texas Youth Commission governing board resigned.
The Texas Youth Commission is the state's juvenile corrections agency, charged "with the care, custody, rehabilitation, and reestablishment in society of Texas' most chronically delinquent or serious juvenile offenders." Inmates are felony-level offenders between the age of 10 and 17 when they are committed. The commission can maintain jurisdiction over offenders until their 21st birthdays.
The Lone Star Project is organized as a political research and policy analysis project of the Lone Star Fund, a federal political action committee organized in Texas. The Lone Star Project has aggressively investigated alleged political abuses within the Texas Republican Party, including playing a leading role in investigating the activities of former Rep. Tom DeLay in the redistricting controversy in Texas.
Bill Baumann was the lead prosecutor in another controversial case. In a case eerily reminiscent of the controversial jailing of Border Patrol agents Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos while the illegal-alien drug-smuggler they wounded went free, Texas Deputy Sheriff Gilmer Hernandez is imprisoned for a year for an altercation with illegal aliens. Baumann urged he get the maximum seven-year sentence.
Jerome R. Corsi is a staff reporter for WND. He received
a Ph.D. from Harvard University in political science in 1972 and has written
many books and articles, including his latest best-seller, "The Late Great
USA." Corsi co-authored with John O'Neill the No. 1 New York Times best-seller,
"Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry."
Other books include "Showdown with Nuclear Iran," "Black Gold Stranglehold:
The Myth of Scarcity and the Politics of Oil," which he co-authored with
WND columnist Craig. R. Smith, and "Atomic Iran."