Sex Offenders a Danger Forever?
Neighbors fear unseen danger
Recent furor following the discovery that several convicted child molesters
had been quietly paroled and moved into a local group home in rural Vacaville
is not unique to Solano County.
There is no clear-cut, win-win situation, law enforcement officials said. With a corrections system many believe has collapsed, communities are crying for a palatable solution.
"The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ... is working hard to overcome years of dysfunctionality. This systemic problem has had a significantly negative effect on state parole," said Solano County Sheriff Gary Stanton.
There are 24 parole agents assigned to monitor the activity of about 1,600 convicted felons who reside in Solano County, the sheriff said.
Recent changes in how convicted child molesters are placed and housed makes it harder to find places for them to live, Stanton explained. "As a result, state parole has been establishing transitional housing, or group homes, in unincorporated areas throughout the state as a means of temporarily housing groups of these individuals until more permanent housing can be established.
"Within Solano County, and in addition to the location on North Meridian Road, now vacant, state parole has established three additional locations in the unincorporated area of Vallejo," he said.
Earlier this month, six convicted child molesters housed in a state-sponsored "transitional facility" on North Meridian Road since Oct. 10 were rearrested following an inspection that determined they were violating their parole. Agents found contraband, including pornography and weapons.
Neighbors, concerned about the safety of their families, were outraged because they were unaware who was living there.
It wasn't the first time Solano law enforcement and state parole officials locked horns. A similar incident occurred in May, when a dozen paroled child molesters were kicked around between Vallejo, San Quentin and the Fairfield parole office due to a deafening public uproar over their residency. Parolees eventually found permanent placement, though exactly where was not made public, and not before various communities had their say.
The recent incident in rural Vacaville spurred heated talks with Stanton and his staff at a community meeting ignored by parole officials, who were responsible for the placement and monitoring of the sex offenders. Residents had hoped to question the state officials.
Lack of notification is the community's top concern.
Under current law, it is only required in very specific circumstances. An example is the conditional parole of Patrick Ghilotti to Vacaville in 2004. The convicted serial rapist, dubbed by the state Department of Mental Health as a sexually violent predator - the harshest classification of sex offenders - was considered highly dangerous to the community and law enforcement officials pulled out all the stops in ensuring residents knew of his impending arrival.
Stanton emphasized, however, that residents have, literally at their fingertips, access to a database detailing information on registered sex offenders within the state.
Megan's Law, expanded in 2004, allows the public to view the information online - at http://meganslaw.ca.gov/ - on either a personal computer, or at no cost through the Sheriff's Office.
Still, residents expressed severe discontent at what they described as a trend in "dumping" paroled sex offenders into rural neighborhoods.
Neal Weaver, an area resident, said he was stunned that convicted child molesters had been moved into his neighborhood and no one told him.
"It's scary. The state has the power to do whatever they want when we can't even put up a little lean-to to keep a horse out of the rain. That's not right," he said on Monday.
A fellow neighbor, Sean Bonifacio, added that he had been informed of the offenders' residency just the day before sheriff's officials raided the property.
"That's when we started going door to door with fliers," he said. "We were very unhappy."
A group of residents had distributed the fliers, all bearing information including the names of the sex offenders and their offenses, within a 2-mile radius.
At Wednesday's community meeting with the sheriff, rural resident Maruca Lopez said placing sex offenders in her neighborhood, an isolated area in the county, poses a danger to everyone, not just children.
"It really floored me when I found out they were so close to my home," she said.
Bill Sessa, spokesman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said locations that meet standards set by law are carefully chosen. For instance, parolees may not live near schools and parks.
"We use transitional housing a lot because it's a legitimate place where we can house them. That's what allows sex offenders in one place," Sessa said. "If they're all in one place, we know where they are and we can (better) supervise them. It also ensures that they're in a stable environment, which is a key step in their rehabilitation."
Sessa said he understands people's fear, but noted sex offenders are the most closely supervised class of parolees. They have a myriad of special conditions.
"We prohibit any unsupervised time with minors, even with their own children. We prohibit social relations, such as dating, with other adults if that adult has minor children. We prohibit loitering where children congregate," he said.
Proposition 83, passed overwhelmingly by voters Nov. 7, extends residential distance requirements to 2,000 feet and allows communities to tailor exclusionary locations.
The measure appeared to overcome its first legal hurdle Wednesday when Attorney General Bill Lockyer assured that the ban would not affect thousands of sex offenders who had already served their time and were off parole.
Anticipating the initiative's freedom from red tape, Stanton is talking with Solano County Supervisor John Vasquez to create new exclusionary boundaries here.
"We're doing the absolute best we can," he said.
Kimberly K. Fu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Sex Offender Wins Battle Over Prop. 83
Nov. 17 - KGO - Sex offenders currently on parole won another victory today in the battle over Proposition 83. A federal judge ruled in favor of a registered sex offender who was told he would have to move after voters passed Jessica's Law last week.
For the second time in as many weeks, a federal judge said the residency requirement in Jessica's law is not retroactive. Meaning if sex offenders committed their crimes before the law passed last week, they don't have to move 2000 feet away from a school or park.
Scott Wippert, attorney: "Our goal is met - at least at this point - our client will not be banished from his home or community until we can argue further."
This ruling is significant because the John Doe in this case is a sex offender on
parole. Although supporters of Jessica's Law have always said it would not be retroactive, the state sent him a letter before Election Day telling him to get ready.
Scott Wippert: "It told him to get ready if Proposition 83 passes and he lives within 2,000 feet of a school or park where children congregate, he will be required to move."
The confusion over whether Jessica's law is retroactive has spurred a number of lawsuits. Another judge in San Francisco last week found in favor of a sex offender who was off parole. But no matter how many legal challenges there are, the state is ready to defend the law that voters passed overwhelmingly.
Margita Thompson, governor's press secretary: "We believe in its validity and we'll continue to fight it through the court process. But we believe it shouldn't be held up just because of these different court challenges. But the people spoke and the people need to be heard."
The Sacramento sex offender also tried to get the judge to rule that lifetime GPS should not apply to him either. He's wearing one now because of a parole violation, but the judge didn't address it.
Scott Wippert: "We are disappointed in that but this is the beginning."
The San Francisco and Sacramento judges will later hear more arguments on whether the temporary restraining orders should become permanent. Meanwhile, there's no stopping Jessica's law from being applied to those who commit sex crimes from now on.
Law on sex offenders narrowed
November 16, 2006
SACRAMENTO — A ballot measure restricting where sex offenders may live in California does not apply to thousands of ex-convicts who have served their prison time and are off parole, government lawyers defending the initiative in court said Wednesday.
The declaration, made in a legal filing, means a key provision of the measure that passed overwhelmingly in the Nov. 7 election will not affect many of the 75,000 former sex offenders living throughout the state.
It also means the first legal battle over Proposition 83 is essentially over before it began. Lawyers for a sex offender challenging the initiative's residency restrictions near schools and parks said they probably would dismiss their lawsuit soon.
"It appears to us that our client and thousands of other people who thought they faced banishment can now breathe easier," said attorney Dennis Riordan, who represents the Bay Area man who filed the suit.
But Riordan cautioned that he would drop the legal challenge — which has blocked enforcement of the residency ban — only after obtaining a binding agreement signed by Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer and approved by a judge.
Passed by 70% of voters, Proposition 83 authorized a sweeping crackdown on sex offenders, giving California what experts called the toughest such law in the nation. As well as lengthening prison and parole times for repeat and violent offenders, the measure requires registered sex offenders to wear an electronic tracking device for life.
The most controversial provision bans offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park. Shortly after the election, the residency rule sparked a lawsuit from the Bay Area offender, identified as "John Doe" to protect his safety.
The suit said the initiative was unconstitutional because it slapped a new penalty on ex-convicts years after they had already been punished.
Convicted of a felony 15 years ago, the man had served his sentence, completed treatment and has led "a productive and law-abiding life" ever since, his lawsuit said. With the passage of Proposition 83, he "has effectively been banished from his community" as well as from residential areas in virtually every city in California, the suit said.
U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, finding a "substantial likelihood" the plaintiff would prove his case, blocked enforcement of the residency limit. That prompted Wednesday's response from the attorney general.
In the court papers, Lockyer says "John Doe" does not have legal standing to sue because Proposition 83 is meant to apply prospectively, not to former offenders. To ensure the law applied retroactively, its authors would have had to expressly state — or make unambiguously clear — such an intent, which they did not, he said.
In addition, Lockyer noted, the initiative's sponsor, state Sen. George Runner (R-Lancaster) has repeatedly said that he never intended to uproot registered sex offenders already settled in society.
"We never planned for this to be retroactive," Dave Gilliard, campaign strategist for Proposition 83, said Wednesday.
Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), one of the few lawmakers who took a public stand against the initiative, said that statement contradicted the impression left by some of the measure's ballot materials.
Leno said some arguments presented in favor of Proposition 83 clearly "talk about the tens of thousands of sex offenders living among us, saying they need to be banished and that they are so dangerous our children should not have to pass their homes on the way to school."
"So now they're saying it's only the sex offenders released in the future we have to worry about, not those among us?" Leno said. "If I were a voter who supported this, I'd be angry and confused."
Although Lockyer's declaration that the initiative does not apply retroactively will probably make the lawsuit moot, the attorney general did address the constitutional challenge it presented.
The residency ban does not constitute a new punishment, Lockyer said, but is instead a housing regulation that "strengthens community safeguards against potential future acts of child molestation."
Some sex offenders Wednesday expressed relief that they apparently would not be covered by the initiative.
Richard Adamson, 50, of Visalia said the stigma of his offense left him unemployed and unable to find housing for eight months after his release from prison. He now lives in a small apartment within 2,000 feet of a neighborhood park. Six other sex offenders live in the same complex.
"I looked at the map, and all but about 5% of Visalia would be off limits
to me," said Adamson, who now works as a bartender. He is a former teacher
convicted of lewd and lascivious behavior with a minor. "I have felt a
lot of anxiety, waiting for that knock on the door telling me to pack up
Officials Look into More Restrictions for Sex Offenders
The passage of California's version of Jessica's Law on Tuesday has led some city officials to seek an ordinance that would turn some of Santa Clarita's open space and wildlands into parks, further restricting where convicted sex offenders can reside.
Proposition 83, a law that would prevent newly convicted sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools or parks, passed Tuesday by more than 70 percent voter approval.
The law would also require offenders to be monitored by a global positioning system, and those who have been convicted of especially heinous sex crimes could face commitment into a mental institution upon release from prison, said state Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, who authored the bill.
The proposition is named for Jessica Lunsford, a 9-year-old Florida girl who was kidnapped, raped and suffocated by a convicted sex offender last year.
Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste has pushed the City Manager's office to determine whether open space areas and trails in the city can be declared parklands.
"Trails are a linear park feature and we want to make sure open spaces will be declared parkland," Weste said in an October interview. "It's our job to use whatever legal means we can to protect our children."
Lt. Mike Dunkle, acting captain of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station, said he is pleased with the results of the proposal.
"Any tool to keep our children safe is a good thing," Dunkle said.
Under the current law, convicted sex offenders are required to register their current address at their local law enforcement agency, allowing officers to keep track of their whereabouts, Dunkle said.
Dunkle did say that there is not a high number of high risk sex offenders in the Santa Clarita Valley, those who have committed serious crimes including child rape.
As to whether the new legislation would present a strain on SCV Sheriff's Station resources, Dunkle said it would be hard to predict at this point.
"That's something we're going to have to wait and see what challenges it presents us with," Dunkle said. "At the same time, you have to look at your priorities. Obviously, the priority is the safety of our children."
Now that voters have approved Jessica's Law, some aspects of the proposition will likely face challenges, Runner said.
On Wednesday, a federal judge blocked enforcement of the proposition. U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, ruling on a lawsuit filed in San Francisco early Wednesday on behalf of an unidentified sex offender, said the measure "is punitive by design and effect" and likely unconstitutional.
Federal judge blocks proposition on sex offenders
(11-08) 15:08 PST SAN FRANCISCO -- One day after California voters overwhelmingly passed an initiative tightening legal restrictions on registered sex offenders, a federal judge has blocked local enforcement of a provision forbidding past offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park.
U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco issued the temporary restraining order today against the provision of Proposition 83 at the request of a Bay Area man who pleaded no contest to a sex crime more than 15 years ago, according to his lawsuit.
The suit claims that Prop. 83, approved Tuesday by a vote of 70 percent to 30 percent, would impose retroactive punishment by forcing the man to move immediately from the community where he has lived for more than 20 years.
Illston found that the plaintiff, identified only as John Doe, had shown a "substantial likelihood of success'' in demonstrating that Prop. 83 is a punitive measure that should not be imposed retroactively on people who committed sex crimes before it passed. She barred enforcement of the residency restrictions until Nov. 27, when a hearing is scheduled before another judge on a preliminary injunction that would extend the ban.
The order applies only in San Francisco, Alameda, Marin and Sonoma counties, whose district attorneys were named as defendants, along with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Attorney General Bill Lockyer.
But Dennis Riordan, a lawyer for the plaintiff, said the restraining order serves notice on law enforcement officers anywhere in California that they should not enforce the residency restrictions at least until Nov. 27.
The suit said John Doe, now "a successful and contributing member of his community,'' lives in one of the four counties and would move to a new home in one of those counties if forced to comply with Prop. 83.
In addition to the residency restrictions, Prop. 83 requires registered sex offenders to carry global positioning system devices with them so that law enforcement officers can monitor there whereabouts. Both requirements are lifelong.
California has more than 100,000 registered sex offenders. Prop. 83 did not say whether its restrictions would apply to them or would only affect future registrants.
State Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster (Los Angeles County), an author of the measure, said today that it was not intended to apply to anyone who has already served a sentence and registered as a sex offender, but only to those who are now in prison or who will be sentenced in the future.
E-mail Bob Egelko at email@example.com .
Sex crime residency laws exile offenders
October 30, 2006
Des Moines — Shortly after 8 each evening, David DenAdel kisses his wife and three kids goodbye and leaves his home in the peaceful suburb of Clive. A half-hour later, he pulls up at an unfurnished rental in a scruffy pocket of Des Moines, one of the few spots in the region where he can legally spend the night.
His children, ages 3 to 6, "think maybe I'm camping, but they really aren't sure," said DenAdel, 37, who pays $650 a month for the rental and $1,500 a month for the mortgage on his home. "It's not easy leaving them every night, but it's the law."
A little more than a year ago, Iowa began barring sex offenders such as DenAdel, convicted of sexual abuse on a 15-year-old girl, from living within 2,000 feet of a school or child-care center. Soon after, cities and counties passed even stricter rules, adding libraries, swimming pools, parks and bike trails to the protected list.
Now, much of urban Iowa is off limits to those whose past includes a sex crime against a minor.
As Californians prepare to vote next week on Proposition 83, which would impose a similar residency ban, Iowa is becoming an example of the unintended consequences of such measures.
Prosecutors, police officials and even victims rights groups say the crackdown has backfired, driving some offenders into rural towns and leaving others grouped at motels, campgrounds, freeway rest stops or on the streets.
Many have simply gone underground, authorities say, with more than twice as many registered sex offenders now considered missing than before the law took effect.
'Off the radar scope'
"These guys are off the radar scope, and we've got no idea where they are," said Bill Vaughn, chief deputy of the Polk County Sheriff's Department in Des Moines.
All around the Hawkeye State, police and sheriff's deputies say they are overwhelmed by the task of chasing down child molesters who violate the residency law. And although they don't often pity sex felons, authorities say the house-hunting challenge faced by the ex-cons is almost insurmountable.
"When they call and ask where they can legally live, my response is, 'Do you know anybody in Nebraska?' " said Des Moines Police Sgt. Barry Arnold. "It's a nightmare."
Iowa prosecutors agree. Their statewide association earlier this year declared the law a failure and asked the Legislature to pursue a different strategy to protect children from sex crimes.
The Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, representing victims, echoed that request. Executive Director Elizabeth Barnhill said Iowans are less safe now because sex offenders, facing banishment, are absconding in large numbers.
"Probation and parole supervisors cannot effectively monitor … offenders who are living under bridges, in parking lots, in tents at parks or at interstate truck stops," she said.
Despite such concerns, Iowa's Legislature has declined to overhaul the law. One member, Republican Sen. Larry McKibben, acknowledged that "things may not be working the way we'd hoped." But in an election year, he said, legislators would not support anything "making life easier for these pariahs."
"We live in a nasty political environment, and I certainly wouldn't have wanted to take a vote that somebody could turn into a direct mail piece saying I was going soft on sex offenders," said McKibben, who led a legislative task force that studied the law's effect.
Iowa is among about 20 states and hundreds of communities that have adopted rules governing where released sex felons may live.
In California, Proposition 83 would ban registered sex offenders — including those whose victims were adults — from homes within 2,000 feet of a school or park and would allow local governments to adopt more restrictive rules. The initiative also would increase prison and parole terms for some crimes and require electronic monitoring of registered sex offenders for life, an added step that backers say would prevent some of the problems that have surfaced in Iowa.
According to maps prepared by the California Senate, Proposition 83 would bar sex offenders from living in much of Greater Los Angeles and virtually all of San Francisco, leaving only the less densely populated suburbs and rural areas open to them. Already, some local governments are adopting Iowa-like ordinances.
Although sexual assaults on children have declined nationwide in recent years, several disturbing crimes have stirred politicians into action. Among them was the February 2005 murder of a 9-year-old Florida girl, Jessica Lunsford. Police believe she was killed by a convicted sex offender working at her school.
Advocates believe forbidding offenders to live near schools decreases their access to children and thus reduces assaults. Critics say the residency laws are anchored in faulty logic because strangers are responsible for only about 10% of sexual attacks on minors. The vast majority of assaults on young victims are committed by people they know and trust, often family members.
"There is no evidence that residence restrictions prevent sex crimes or increase public safety," wrote Jill S. Levenson, a professor of human services at Florida's Lynn University, in a 2005 report to the Florida Legislature.
In Iowa, the residency law breezed through the Legislature in 2002 but was held up in the courts. The Iowa Supreme Court upheld it in 2005.
As a result, housing in 70% of Greater Des Moines, with a population of 522,450, became off limits to overnight stays by child molesters. After city and county officials added restrictions, more than 98% of Greater Des Moines' neighborhoods were covered.
Fearing they would become dumping grounds for sex offenders, officials in rural and suburban communities soon enacted their own laws. In some towns, the ordinances are so restrictive that remote cornfields are the only places a sex offender can legally live.
Des Moines police assembled a team of 30 officers to deliver eviction notices to 300 offenders living in illegal locations. Often, distances were in dispute, so officers used radar guns — the ones designed to catch speeders — to measure from front doors to the property lines of schools or day-care centers.
Among those on eviction lists were two offenders at a nursing home and another at a veterans hospital. Des Moines' downtown homeless shelter also fell within a protected zone, meaning about 30 offenders living there had to leave last winter, said the shelter's executive director, Jean Brown.
"So now they're living under bridges," Brown said. "Thank goodness my kids are grown. Because it's far more dangerous to have these guys out on the streets and desperate."
Uprooted, some of the 6,150 sex offenders required to register annually with Iowa's Department of Public Safety began listing unusual addresses. Bryan Etherington reports living at the "I-80 rest area, mile marker 119," in Waukee. A trucker who can no longer live at the home he shared with his elderly mother sleeps in his rig at the Flying J truck stop in Clive.
Perhaps the largest enclaves are in mobile home parks. One recent night on the outskirts of Des Moines, two state officers who supervise sex offenders on probation pulled into such a park to visit James Brake, 37, convicted of indecent contact with a child.
'There's nowhere else'
Approaching Brake's door, Officer Kurt Kness pointed to several preschoolers playing, unsupervised, in a mud puddle outside another rickety mobile home, parked about 20 feet away.
"The crazy thing is, you've got this guy in this trailer because there's nowhere else for him to live, but there are 8 million kids here, running all over the place," Kness said.
A few miles away, another colony of sex offenders has taken hold at the Palace Inn, a low-slung motel bordering a state highway. Yellow with purple doors, the motel is a place of troubled pasts and shaky futures, housing about half a dozen ex-cons.
Among them is Adam Lozano, 22, convicted at age 15 of lewd and lascivious conduct with two younger girls.
"I can't really seem to get ahead," said Lozano. "I know they're trying to protect people … but I think this law is causing a lot of mental strain."
Roger Wheeler, 43, is feeling that strain. A forklift operator, Wheeler lives with his girlfriend, Ruth Lilly, and their three children in a rented mobile home in rural Maxwell. Last week, his phone was disconnected because of a delinquent payment, and he was rushed to the hospital with chest pains, which doctors attributed to stress.
Wheeler served three years for a 1992 sexual assault on a 12-year-old girl he knew. Off probation now, he said he still attends group therapy once a month to talk about his problem "and how to keep living a healthy life."
The residency law is a big topic at the group sessions, Wheeler said, and, in his view, is the kind of thing "that can make people snap."
"These laws keep coming down, making it harder and harder to get by, and you just wonder all the time what's next," Wheeler said.
"Does telling a sex offender where he can or can't live make a difference? No. All somebody's got to do is get in their car and drive someplace."
New sex predator law facing legal tests
Attorneys for two Bay Area sex offenders are poised to test the constitutionality of a new state law that allows convicts designated as sexually violent predators to be held indefinitely in mental hospitals after they have completed their prison terms.
The new law does away with a previous law's provision guaranteeing predators a new civil trial every two years to determine whether they should still be held at a state mental hospital.
Rocky Pulizzi, 57, convicted of molesting his 7-year-old son and sodomizing a jail inmate, became the first person in the state committed at trial under the new law Sept. 27. The legislation went into effect immediately after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed it Sept. 20 -- two days after Pulizzi's commitment trial had begun before a jury in San Jose.
On Oct. 11, a San Mateo County judge ordered Leon Seymour, a serial rapist, committed indefinitely after a jury found that he still posed a danger to society.
The 60-year-old former Marine was convicted of raping or trying to rape five women, including his cousin, in San Mateo and Mendocino counties from 1972 to 1982. He was sent to Atascadero State Hospital in 1999 when he became eligible for parole after serving 17 years of a 33-year prison sentence. He was committed to the hospital at a civil trial in 2002 and again in 2005.
The men's appeals -- which probably won't be ruled on for about a year and are the first among many expected -- will probably challenge the constitutionality of the new law, attorneys involved in the cases said.
Under the old guarantee of a new civil trial every two years, prosecutors had the burden of showing that the predator's commitment in a state hospital should be renewed. Under the new law, once someone is committed after a civil trial, the burden is on the offender to demonstrate that his condition has changed before he can be granted a new trial for potential release.
"Is this a measure for treating people who are mentally ill, or is it designed to add further punishment for people who have already been through the criminal justice system and served their time?" said Nona Klippen, head of the sexually violent predator unit at the Santa Clara County public defender's office, which represented Pulizzi. "It's starting to look like you're not trying to treat these people, you're trying to punish them."
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that civil commitments did not illegally extend a prisoner's sentence if the person is mentally ill and dangerous and the new commitment is for something other than punishment, such as treatment.
Prosecutors say California's revised law has adequate safeguards to allow sexual predators to be freed when they are no longer a threat. Prosecutors point to 16 other states whose indefinite commitment laws for sexual predators have withstood legal challenges, including two states, Washington and Kansas, whose laws were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"It's not like we're pushing the envelope here," said San Mateo County prosecutor Rick Good, who handled Seymour's commitment trial. "We're just trying to get in step with other states that have similar legislation."
The new law, SB1128 by state Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara, covers a range of issues, including tougher penalties for child pornography, Internet predators and child rapists. It also adopted broad sections of California's original sexually violent predator law, in effect since 1996, but added a few key changes.
The basic framework for classifying someone as a sexually violent predator remains the same. The state Department of Mental Health identifies inmates who meet certain criteria, including having at least two violent sex offenses involving two or more victims.
To extend inmates' incarceration, two psychiatrists or psychologists must determine they have a dangerous mental disorder, and a judge or jury must decide after a civil trial that they are so dangerous they should be kept in a state hospital.
Under the new law, once committed in a civil trial, a patient can petition a judge annually for a hearing "on whether the person's condition has so changed that he or she would not be a danger," and the judge determines whether a trial should be held.
The law was signed against the backdrop of the November ballot initiative Proposition 83, which would, among other things, expand on Alquist's bill and allow for people to qualify as sex predators after a single conviction. It's unclear how Prop. 83 would affect the men's appeals if it passes, appellate attorneys said.
The Department of Mental Health estimates that Alquist's bill alone will double the number of offenders housed in state hospitals, a population that now totals about 730 people, including 180 being held pending their commitment trials.
The state Senate analysis of Alquist's bill indicated that the new law would increase annual costs of the state's predator-treatment program by "tens of millions of dollars" to cover increased referrals, hearings and longer commitments.
Defense attorneys complain in particular about the elimination of guaranteed civil trials.
"You can make an argument that shifting that burden to the patient of showing a change of circumstances is a violation of their constitutional due-process rights," said Pamela King, a specialist in laws governing sexually violent predators with the San Bernardino County public defender's office.
"I think you have a situation now where the system has dramatically changed," Mitri Hanania, who represents Seymour, argued in court.
Defense attorneys said the new law may also violate equal protection rights because it provides a different commitment term and review process for sexually violent predators than for other defendants whom the state locks in mental hospitals, such as those found not guilty by reason of insanity.
There are also questions about whether the new law installs an effective system to assess whether predators are still mentally ill, said Jonathan Grossman, an attorney with the Sixth District Appellate Program, the nonprofit San Jose law firm that will handle Pulizzi's appeal.
"The two-year term that used to exist was important because it forced people to review the case periodically," Grossman said. "You need a system in place; otherwise, you're just a gulag."
James Cahan, the Santa Clara County prosecutor on Pulizzi's case, countered that the new law, under which doctors conduct an annual patient assessment that a judge must review if a patient requests it, provides due process.
Convicted predators "have means, and they will always have means, of getting out of custody when there is a reasonable thought that they are no longer a threat," Cahan said.
He said that only about 20 percent of predators now agree to undergo treatment -- which is tailored to each individual and includes behavior modification and also sometimes family counseling -- while committed in state hospitals. The two-year trial system gave little incentive for more to do so, Cahan added.
Under Alquist's bill, predators face indefinite confinement unless they demonstrate real change, and a jury will be instructed that predators' failure to undergo treatment is evidence their condition has not changed.
"Now," Cahan said, "they have real incentive to control their drive for nonconsensual sex."
E-mail John Coté at firstname.lastname@example.org
FBI Drops Net on Local Sex Offenders
RED BLUFF, Calif. (AP) - Twenty-three people have been arrested after an FBI-sponsored sweep of more than 200 sex offenders in Tehama and Shasta counties.
The individuals are suspected of failing to register as sex offenders or violating parole, agency spokeswoman Karen Ernst said Thursday.
The check was part of a nationwide U.S. Department of Justice initiative called Project Safe Childhood.
Officers searched offenders’ homes for drugs and checked computers for child pornography. Sixteen men and women from Tehama County and seven people from Shasta County were found to be out of compliance with registration and parole requirements, according to the county sheriff’s departments.
Most of the people arrested were sex offenders, but some were parolees visiting friends who were sex offenders.
One of the arrests in Shasta County initiated a federal investigation into possession of child pornography, sheriff’s Sgt. Jeff Foster said. He declined to be more specific.
The checks extended to Siskiyou County as well, but all 34 sex offenders who were visited were found to be in compliance and no arrests were made, said county sheriff’s spokeswoman Susan Gravenkamp.
Vote NO: End witch hunting
We are in the middle of a witch hunt. Salem style. We are riding on a crest of fear brought about by collective ignorance. Salem style. We are over-reacting to a perceived threat, not a real one. Salem style.
The subject is Proposition 83. We have been led to believe that children are in jeopardy in our schools and parks from strangers who prey upon the young. We are led to believe that anyone who was convicted of or pled to a charge of "child molestation" was then and is now a violent, depraved monster. Salem style.
The truth, if anyone is really interested, is that most acts that constitute molestation are of a non-violent nature. Let's look at some examples:
* We have laws that make it a crime to have sex with someone under 18. It makes no difference if both parties were willing participants. Under California law, two 17-year-old kids in the back of the Buick could be labeled sex offenders.
* California Penal Code section 647.6 is a misdemeanor. It covers acts that "annoy or molest" a child. It does not require any sexual touching or intent. Conviction requires registration.
* A lewd or lascivious act, under California law, includes a touching of a person with intent to sexually arouse the "toucher" or the "touchee." Many such "crimes" involve only minor touching of an arm, leg, ear, nose, forehead, etc. In many cases this involve family members.
The truth, if anyone is really interested, is that this proposition makes no distinctions between the violent predator and the indiscretions of youth or the single aberrant behavior of an otherwise "normal" person.
We have been led to believe that all people convicted of some sexual offense must be corralled and watched and hounded for the rest of their lives along with the truly violent, mental ill, sexual offenders that do, unfortunately, exist.
The truth, if anyone is really interested, is that the effect on those who are nonviolent and rehabilitated who have lived for 10, 20, 30 and more years as competent, caring, law-abiding citizens will be to force them to move out of their homes, to endure 24/7 supervision, and probably cause them to lose their source of income. All because we have been taught to be afraid. Very afraid. Salem style.
We are being asked to spend more than $500 million to protect who? The children in our schools and parks are the least likely to be subjected to this acts in those places. Is GPS a good idea for sexually violent people? Maybe. But this proposition takes away the right of the people who can best determine that to do so.
Be afraid, very afraid, of the sound bite that makes this proposition sound logical. The truth, if anyone is really interested, is that this proposition is a witch hunt at the high cost of $500 million. Salem style.
Gael Mueller is a Bakersfield defense attorney.
Sexual abuse case could upend state's sentencing rules
A former Richmond police officer's appeal of his 16-year prison term for sexually abusing his son goes before the U.S. Supreme Court today in a case that could rewrite the criminal sentencing rules that California has used since 1977.
John Cunningham, who was given the maximum sentence by a Contra Costa County judge in 2003, is challenging a system that allows a judge to add years to a prison term based on facts that never came before a jury.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that sentencing laws in the state of Washington violated a defendant's right to a jury trial because they allowed judges to increase sentences beyond the term prescribed by the jury's verdict. A similar ruling in Cunningham's case would require California courts to reconsider thousands of cases and force the state to change its law, a step that several other states have taken since the 2004 ruling.
The case "will affect most felony prosecutions in the state" if the court rules in Cunningham's favor, said Jeffrey Fisher, an associate professor at Stanford Law School who filed arguments supporting Cunningham on behalf of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Only about 15 percent of defendants sentenced in California are in Cunningham's category -- those whose judges chose the longest of three possible sentences prescribed by a verdict. But Fisher said the judge's power to select that term, based on information that never goes before a jury, gives prosecutors in many other cases leverage in charging decisions and plea-bargain negotiations.
David LaBahn, executive director of the California District Attorneys Association, said prosecutors have made contingency plans for an unfavorable ruling and believe they can avoid major disruptions.
"It would be difficult, and it's likely that some sentences would be shortened," he said. "But we can very quickly respond to it, either legally or legislatively."
Cunningham, of San Pablo, was convicted of sexually abusing his son from December 1999 to October 2000. The boy, who turned 10 during that period, said his father had molested him two or three times a week, sometimes accompanied by threats or beatings.
Cunningham has maintained his innocence, saying his son had a history of lying and was upset about not getting a Christmas present. His convictions are final, however, and the Supreme Court is reviewing only his sentence.
The 1977 California law replaced a system in which most defendants were sentenced to a range of possible terms -- such as one year to 15 years, or 10 years to life -- and the parole board decided when each prisoner was suitable for release.
That so-called indeterminate system eventually came under attack from both the right, which said the board was being duped into freeing dangerous inmates too early, and the left, which said sentences were being prolonged at the whim of parole officials.
Under the 1977 determinate sentencing law, all felonies except murder and a few others punishable by up to life in prison are subject to three possible sentences. For Cunningham's crime, continuous sexual abuse of a child, the options are 6, 12 or 16 years.
The defendant must be sentenced to the middle term unless the judge justifies the higher or lower term by finding specific factors.
The judge who sentenced Cunningham to 16 years based his decision on findings that the victimized boy had been particularly vulnerable, that the crime had been committed with great violence, and that Cunningham posed a danger to society. None of those issues had been submitted to the jury.
Similar sentences were challenged in numerous California cases after the U.S. Supreme Court's 2004 decision in the Washington state case. But the California Supreme Court upheld the state's sentencing law in a Tulare County case in June 2005.
In a 6-1 ruling, the court said the California law differed from Washington's because California jurors determine guilt with a range of sentences for the judge to consider, instead of a system where a judge can impose a stiffer sentence than the maximum prescribed by a jury verdict.
State lawyers are making a similar point in Cunningham's case. The law "maintains the traditional role of the jury," Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Laurence said in written arguments.
But Cunningham's lawyer, Peter Gold, said the verdict actually prescribed a sentence of 12 years, the middle term, rather than the 16 years his client received. The additional four years resulted from a judge's fact-finding, he said, the same procedure that the high court declared unconstitutional in Washington.
The court's ruling, due by June, could require reconsideration of most or all of the upper-term sentences imposed in California since June 2004, when the Washington ruling was issued.
Stanford's Fisher said most states that have changed their sentencing laws now require a jury to issue findings whenever a defendant disputes facts that would increase a sentence.
An alternative, which LaBahn said was preferred by prosecutors, would eliminate the law's preference for the middle term and allow judges to choose freely among all three terms.
The case is Cunningham vs. California, 05-6551.
-- An appeal from a gay Orange County couple who were denied a license to wed. Smelt vs. Orange County, No. 06-5742.
-- The case of a former guard at a Nazi slave camp suffering from Alzheimer's disease whose U.S. citizenship the Justice Department succeeded in revoking. Mandycz vs. U.S., No. 06-301.
-- Efforts by 30 state governments to stop a lawsuit by three small tobacco companies seeking to avoid paying into an escrow fund to satisfy future damages awards in cigarette-related lawsuits. Troy King vs. Grand River Enterprises Six Nations Ltd., No. 05-1343.
E-mail Bob Egelko at email@example.com .
Offending the law
October 2, 2006
CALIFORNIA ALREADY HAS some of the toughest sex-offender laws in the country. Late last month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a batch of new ones, including measures increasing prison terms for most convicted offenders and barring them from loitering near schools and parks once they're released. Now comes Proposition 83, known as Jessica's Law, which would duplicate many of those measures while adding several costly and questionable features that would do little to reduce crime. Californians should resist letting fear and emotion trump reason and vote no.
The new state laws strengthen all sentences for child rape to 25-years-to-life, elevate possession of child pornography from a misdemeanor to a felony and extend parole for violent sex felons to 10 years.
Proposition 83 includes nearly identical provisions but goes a few disturbing steps further. It would require registered sex offenders to wear electronic monitoring devices for life, regardless of the offense or the likelihood of recidivism. The proposition would also prohibit ex-offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools, parks and other locations chosen by local governments.
These may sound like effective crime prevention tools, but they wouldn't be. Most evidence shows satellite tracking devices don't reduce sex crimes. The program could cost tens of millions of dollars a year when fully implemented, possibly more. The housing restrictions would make it effectively impossible for parolees to find homes in most California cities, pushing them into rural areas or underground.
The proposition also fails to define just who it would cover. Backers say it would apply only to newly released offenders, but the writing is vague enough that it could retroactively apply to all of California's 90,000 registered sex offenders, increasing the costs of administering the program. Proponents say: Don't worry, the Legislature can clarify the law with a two-thirds vote. But that's an excellent argument for having lawmakers deal with the issue in the first place.
Sex offenders prey on the most innocent and vulnerable among us, and they have rightly been the target of much tough-on-crime legislation. They pose some of the most difficult challenges to an open society. But Proposition 83 isn't the answer.
Ex-Convict Seeks Creation of Refuge for Sex Offenders
September 30, 2006
SACRAMENTO — A registered sex offender who says he would be forced to move from his San Francisco home under a November ballot initiative wants to form a colony for himself and others who may be displaced if the measure passes.
Jake Goldenflame, an author who also leads support groups for sex felons, says Proposition 83 threatens to create chaos and wandering bands of rootless men by barring ex-offenders from living near schools and parks.
In a letter mailed this week to Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer and state lawmakers, he suggested creating a refuge for sex offenders, perhaps at a former military base. He also asked that the Legislature delay enforcement of the initiative — which enjoys a strong lead in the polls — until such a colony could be established.
"It's very likely that this measure will pass, and when it does, sex offenders will face desperation," said Goldenflame, 69, who served a five-year prison term in the 1980s for molesting his daughter. "Most of those facing banishment will either go underground or go homeless. I'm trying to offer a humane alternative."
The initiative's chief sponsor, state Sen. George Runner (R-Lancaster), called the proposal unnecessary. Runner said it was never his intent for Proposition 83 to uproot released sex offenders living in the community, though the measure's language does not specify that.
"If someone on their own wants to build a place for sex offenders to go live … then have at it," Runner said. "But this idea is based on a faulty assumption that everybody will have to move. We don't think government can go in and kick someone out of his house."
Proposition 83 would give California some of the nation's strictest laws governing sex offenders, by increasing prison and parole terms for many crimes. Its most controversial provision would bar released offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park and permit local governments to make other locations, such as libraries or public swimming pools, off limits.
The initiative would also require released sex offenders to wear electronic tracking devices for life, regardless of their crime or level of dangerousness.
The measure, called Jessica's Law by proponents, resembles laws adopted or under consideration in many other states. The flurry of legislation was fueled in part by the kidnapping and murder of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford by a sex offender in Florida in 2005.
Proponents, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, say the initiative is a necessary crackdown on a group of felons often connected with some of society's most gut-wrenching crimes. Runner says parents deserve the right to know that their children will not walk by the home of a released sex offender on the way to school.
Critics say no studies show that regulating where sex offenders live leads to a reduction in crime. They point to other states, such as Iowa, where similar restrictions have driven many sex offenders underground, making them more difficult to monitor.
Other initiative foes say a package of bills recently signed into law by Schwarzenegger makes Proposition 83 unnecessary.
Those laws lengthen prison and parole terms for many crimes, and require the electronic monitoring of sex offenders as long as they are on parole. One measure also forbids released sex offenders from loitering near schools and parks, but does not prohibit them from living in such locations.
A spokesman for Lockyer said the attorney general had not received Goldenflame's colony proposal. Spokesman Nathan Barankin said that any decision on whether to delay the enforcement of a ballot initiative would require legislative action.
Otherwise, he said, police would be required to enforce the law immediately after the election.
Barankin also said Goldenflame may be "jumping the gun" by assuming he and thousands of other released sex offenders would have to move, when in fact the initiative could be interpreted to apply only to future parolees.
Stanford University law professor Robert Weisberg said the issue of which offenders would be covered by the initiative "appears to be a humongous legal ambiguity."
Weisberg also said that by raising the idea of a colony, Goldenflame has highlighted possible constitutional problems a court might have with the initiative.
"If you accept the argument that this law would uproot and banish a certain group of people, then that has an unconstitutional flavor to it," Weisberg said. "It's hard to say exactly what it is — is it an 8th Amendment, cruel and unusual punishment claim? — but it certainly raises questions."
Goldenflame, who holds a law degree, said he is convinced a court would interpret the initiative's language as affecting him and others who currently are required to register with local law enforcement as sex offenders.
He said he has checked San Francisco for neighborhoods in which he could legally live under the measure and found none, "except maybe at the top of the Transamerica Pyramid."
While Goldenflame said he has the means to move elsewhere, he predicted that many ex-convicts would not, leaving them a choice of defying the measure, violating laws requiring them to register, or becoming homeless.
A colony, he said, would ensure that such exiles are "treated with humanity." The refuge, he said, would have an intake staff to assess treatment needs and help the offenders find jobs. Child care would be needed, he said, because many offenders have families, and religious and medical services would be required as well.
"Since the measure goes into force in winter, extra clothing should be on hand," Goldenflame wrote in his letter, and "public safety personnel will be needed outside [the colony], to protect it from vigilantism as well as fires."
California has more than 85,000 registered sex offenders. About 4,200
are released from prison each year, corrections officials said.
Psychiatr News January 20, 2006
From the President
Hospital or Prison? Psychiatric Care For the Sexual Offender
Recently a convicted sexual offender was committed to a state psychiatric hospital in Rhode Island after his prison term ended (see story on page 1). This commitment was ordered by the governor of Rhode Island over the objections of the chief of the hospital psychiatric services, Dr. Brandon Krupp, and a forensic specialist at the hospital. As a result, Dr. Krupp resigned from his position after 12 years in protest to what he saw as the need for doctors to oversee the medical facility without political interference. Citing what he described as "cynical abuse of the state's mental health law and practice," Dr. Krupp noted further, "Doctors aren't jailers, and hospitals aren't prisons" shortly after leaving his post in November.
The transinstitutionalization of sexual offenders by state officials from criminal to psychiatric facilities is not limited to Rhode Island. This past fall, New York Gov. Pataki ordered two dozen sexual offenders who were about to be released from prison committed to state psychiatric hospitals using existing state laws. A heated argument ensued in the New York state legislature, and the issue has yet to be resolved.
The question of how best to continue to treat sexual offenders once their prison sentence has expired is not an easy one. These are individuals who may pose a danger to society and for whom there is no clearly effective treatment but who have served their time in the criminal justice system. Many of these individuals have a mental illness in addition to the pedophilia or antisocial behavior that is related to their sexual offense. The sexual offender in the Rhode Island case has schizophrenia; however, his schizophrenia is under control and was not a valid reason for continued hospitalization.
To date 16 states and the District of Columbia have passed civil confinement laws for sexual offenders once their prison terms have ended. Of these states, 13 have passed amendments about how and when the civil confinement can be used, and many of these states have been sued by civil libertarians in relation to these efforts. During the 1990s, most states focused on increasing sentences in the criminal justice system and in imposing close supervision of offenders at the end of their prison terms.
Civil commitment is based on the premise of forced confinement to a hospital that must offer treatment, not just containment or punishment. For that reason, APA has opposed civil commitment programs for sexual offenders. Our guidelines indicate that an involuntary hospital stay must include that the person be mentally ill, that the person is dangerous because of his or her illness, and the person is capable of being treated. Many sexual offenders do not have clear-cut illnesses that can be improved with psychiatric treatment, and to use the hospital for an extension of a prison term is not only a violation of civil liberties, it seems to me, but also a distortion of the purpose of the psychiatric hospital. Hospitals are there to provide care for patients, not to incarcerate or punish.
As a medical specialty, we are part of an ethical tradition to put our patients first and to do no harm. Although psychiatric care often deals with issues of public safety and social control, the use of psychiatric hospitals as jails has no place within our professional purview. The sexual offender whose prison term is up is a problem for our legal system, not the mental health system.
Psychiatry Chief Quits After Order To Commit Offender
The state of Vermont is considering a law that would allow the commitment of violent offenders—not just sexual offenders—who have completed prison sentences.
For Rhode Island psychiatrist Brandon Krupp, M.D., it's as simple as this—psychiatric hospitals aren't jails, and psychiatrists aren't jailers.
That's what he told state authorities when he resigned from his position as chief of psychiatry at Eleanor Slater Hospital in Cranston, R.I., after Gov. Donald I. Carcieri sought continued hospitalization of a convicted sexual predator who had completed a 17-year prison sentence.
Krupp's resignation and his declaration—psychiatrists aren't jailers, hospitals aren't jails—have received widespread support. Even Carcieri, in a public statement about the case, seemed to acknowledge that hospitalization was not the ideal solution for what to do with people no one wants in their community.
"Unfortunately, this situation demonstrates that we must strengthen Rhode Island's criminal laws so we can better protect our children from this type of vicious predator," Carcieri said. "As a beginning, I have already promised to introduce a version of Jessica's Law, which requires a minimum mandatory 25-year prison sentence, followed by lifetime electronic monitoring, for convicted child molesters."
(Jessica's Law is named after a 9-year-old Florida girl who was raped and murdered last year.)
As Psychiatric News went to press, 40-year-old Todd McElroy was still in Eleanor Slater Hospital awaiting a hearing to determine whether he belongs there. McElroy, who had been convicted of raping a minor, has schizophrenia and had been moved from prison in 2004 to the forensic unit of the hospital for specialized inpatient treatment not available in the prison. He was treated successfully, according to Krupp.
"There was a point when he needed hospital-level care," Krupp told Psychiatric News. "We provided that care, and he got better. Some 15 months later he was stable enough that we petitioned Superior Court to have him returned to corrections."
At that point, according to Krupp, corrections officials did not object. But the proceedings took so long that in the ensuing period McElroy completed his prison sentence and was due to be released.
It was only then, Krupp said, that two physicians from the corrections department petitioned to have McElroy hospitalized.
Petition Called Politically Motivated
Krupp believes it was politically motivated. "The governor wanted him off the streets," he told Psychiatric News. "I am as concerned as anyone about sex offenders being in the community unsupervised, because I have treated their victims. But it makes no sense to misuse the medical system for political ends."
A spokesperson for the governor's office told Psychiatric News that Krupp's allegation that the state is using the hospital as a prison is "completely false" and pointed to the fact that two physicians from the department of corrections have indicated in their petition that McElroy needs hospitalization.
But Paul Lieberman, M.D., president of the Rhode Island Psychiatric Society, observed that a formal hearing to determine whether that's indeed the case has yet to happen, and that the forensic specialist at Eleanor Slater Hospital, as well as Krupp, had determined that McElroy did not need hospitalization.
"Our concern is that there was no clear assessment that this patient needed to be in the hospital," Lieberman said. "We support Dr. Krupp without speaking to the merits of whether this man needed to be in the hospital. The appropriate procedures should have been followed instead of turning to the hospital as a de facto solution."
The special circumstances complicating the case in Rhode Island—McElroy's schizophrenia and the question of whether his pedophilia was secondary to untreated psychosis—appear to be nuances in a larger national drama about the role of psychiatric hospitalization of criminals who have finished prison sentences, but who are still regarded by the public as potentially violent threats to the community.
Sixteen other states and the District of Columbia have laws that allow the state to detain sexual offenders in psychiatric hospitals after they have completed their prison terms. Those laws were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1997 in Kansas v. Hendricks.
Last year New York Gov. George Pataki (R) issued an executive order to state corrections and mental health officials to begin assessing and detaining some convicted sexual offenders after Pataki failed to get legislation approved allowing the commitment of violent sexual offenders to state mental hospitals at the end of their prison terms (Psychiatric News, November 18, 2005).
Nonetheless, state efforts to keep potentially violent sexual predators out of the community have conflicted with traditional conceptions of the appropriate role of psychiatric hospitalization—and of physicians in making determinations about who belongs in a hospital.
"The current generation of sexual predator acts, in trying to solve a difficult and intractable problem, goes about it in the wrong ways," said Michael Perlin, J.D., a professor of law at New York University Law School and director of the International Mental Disability Law Reform Project in New York. "We are taking people who do not appear to have serious mental disorders and treating them as psychiatric patients. It's bad for them, and it's bad for the providers of treatment."
Though APA does not have an official statement on the Rhode Island case, in 1999 the APA Task Force on Sexually Dangerous Offenders opposed state laws allowing commitment of sexual offenders, stating in its report that the diagnosis of sexual predator in such laws is based on "a vague and circular determination that an offender has a `mental abnormality' that has led to repeat criminal behavior."
The statement continues, "Thus, these statutes have the effect of defining mental illness in terms of criminal behavior. This is a misuse of psychiatry, because legislators have used psychiatric commitment to effect nonmedical societal ends."
Inteferes With Physician Judgment
Howard Zonana, M.D., chair of the task force, noted that psychiatry has never defined what disorders qualify for regular civil commitment, a breadth of latitude that most psychiatrists have been comfortable with until now.
"There may be certain severely mentally ill offenders who qualify for civil commitment at the end of their sentences," he said. "It's when other people start trying to decide who should be in a psychiatric hospital that physicians get upset, especially when they use personality diagnoses or traits that are indistinguishable from typical convicted felons."
In Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas (D) has urged passage of the Omnibus Public Safety Bill to establish a civil commitment process for the treatment of all violent offenders—not only sexually violent offenders—who have completed prison terms.
The bill is opposed by a coalition of groups that include the Vermont Psychiatric Association (VPA), American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont, Vermont Human Rights Commission, Vermont Association of Mental Health, and Vermont Protection and Advocacy, among others.
"The VPA has expressed its strong opposition to the development of a `civil commitment' program in Vermont," said child psychiatrist David Fassler, M.D., who is the legislative and public affairs representative for the VPA and a trustee-at-large of APA.
"We believe it's a misuse of the mental health statutes and a diversion of limited treatment resources," Fassler told Psychiatric News. "We've expressed this view through the local media and in testimony before legislative committees. We've also joined a statewide coalition of advocacy groups organized to oppose the proposal. We intend to monitor this issue closely and to play an active role in the ongoing public dialogue on this topic."
Jonathan Weker, M.D., who is the VPA representative to the coalition opposing the bill, said that the discussion in Vermont, like those in Rhode Island and New York, has been driven by publicity about heinous crimes committed by offenders released from prison.
"The whole debate is discussed in terms of public safety," he said. "It's almost a sham, any notion of truly providing treatment. Even if one were to say that some of these people [in prison] do have mental illnesses with some clinical validity, that's given very short shrift. One review of the legislation revealed that people committed under the law would get six hours of treatment a week.
"It's disingenuous to say that only the day after someone has finished a criminal sentence is that person able and ready for treatment," Weker said. "If anyone on the law enforcement side really thought mental health treatment for sexual offenders was meaningful, why not start treatment early on during an inmate's incarceration?"
Weker echoed others in saying that if society wants people detained longer for violent crimes, the solution is longer sentences, not hospitalization.
"We don't mean to overlook the public safety issue," he added. "That's real, and it worries us as citizens as much as anyone else. The problem is with sentencing. I don't think you can cure bad sentencing with civil commitment."
Meanwhile, Krupp appears to have no regrets about leaving his post at Eleanor Slater Hospital. He sees patients in his private practice specializing in geriatric neuropsychiatry and the assessment and treatment of impaired physicians and other professionals.
"I felt like I could no longer do my job if medicine could so easily be trumped by politics," he said. "It's important to understand that [violent offenders] pose a danger to society, but pretending a hospital is a prison doesn't keep anyone safe."
Sex Offender Colony Proposed if Proposition Passes
7:45 PM PDT, September 29, 2006
Sacramento, Calif. — A registered sex offender who says he would be forced to move from his San Francisco home under a California November ballot initiative wants to form a colony for himself and others who may be displaced if the measure passes.
Jake Goldenflame, an author who also leads support groups for sex felons, said Proposition 83 threatens to create chaos and wandering bands of rootless men by banning ex-offenders from living near schools and parks.
In a letter mailed this week to Attorney General Bill Lockyer and lawmakers, he suggested creating a place of refuge for sex offenders, perhaps at a former military base. He also asked that the Legislature delay enforcement of the initiative -- which enjoys a strong lead in the polls -- until such a colony could be established.
"It's very likely that this measure will pass, and when it does, sex offenders will face desperation," said Goldenflame, 69, who served a prison term of five years in the 1980s for molesting his daughter. "Most of those facing banishment will either go underground or go homeless. I'm trying to offer a humane alternative."
The law's chief sponsor, Republican state Sen. George Runner, called the proposal unnecessary. Runner said it was never his intent for the initiative to uproot released sex offenders living in the community, though the measure's language does not specify that.
"If someone on their own wants to build a place for sex offenders to go live ... then have at it," Runner said. "But this idea is based on a faulty assumption that everybody will have to move. We don't think government can go in and kick someone out of his house."
Proposition 83 would give California some of the nation's strictest laws governing sex offenders, increasing prison and parole terms for many crimes. Its most controversial provision would bar released offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park and permit local governments to make other locations, such as libraries or public swimming pools, off limits.
The initiative also would require released sex offenders to wear an electronic tracking device for life, regardless of their crime or level of dangerousness.
The measure, dubbed Jessica's Law by proponents, resembles laws that have been adopted or are under consideration in numerous other states. The trend was fueled in part by the death of the law's namesake, Jessica Lunsford, who was kidnapped and murdered by a sex offender in Florida in 2005.
Proponents, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, say the law is a necessary crackdown on a group of felons often connected with some of society's most gut-wrenching crimes. Runner says parents deserve the right to know that their children will not walk by the home of a released sex offender on the way to school.
Critics say there are no studies showing that banning where sex offenders live leads to a reduction in crime. They point to other states, such as Iowa, where similar restrictions have driven many offenders underground, making them harder to monitor.
Other initiative foes say a package of bills recently signed into law by Schwarzenegger makes Proposition 83 unnecessary. The bills lengthen prison and parole terms for many crimes, and require electronic monitoring for sex offenders as long as they are on parole. One measure also forbids released sex offenders from loitering near schools and parks, rather than prohibiting them from living in such locations.
A spokesman for Lockyer said the attorney general had not yet received the colony proposal. Spokesman Nathan Barankin said that any decision on whether to delay enforcement of a ballot initiative would require legislative action. Otherwise, police would be required to enforce the law immediately after the election.
Barankin also said Goldenflame may be "jumping the gun" by assuming he and thousands of other sex offenders already out of prison will have to move, when in fact it may be interpreted to apply only to future parolees.
Stanford University Professor Robert Weisberg said that issue -- which category of offenders would be covered by the initiative -- "appears to be a humongous legal ambiguity."
Weisberg also said that by raising the idea of a colony, Goldenflame has highlighted possible constitutional defects a court might find in the initiative.
"If you accept the argument that this law would uproot and banish a certain group of people, then that has an unconstitutional flavor to it," Weisberg said. "It's hard to say exactly what is it -- an Eighth Amendment, cruel and unusual punishment claim? -- but it certainly raises questions."
Goldenflame, who holds a law degree, said he is convinced a court would interpret the initiative's language as affecting him and others currently required to register with local law enforcement as a sex offender. He said he has checked permissible neighborhoods in San Francisco and found none where he could live, "except maybe at the top of the Transamerica Pyramid."
While Goldenflame said he has the means to move elsewhere, he predicted many ex-convicts would not, leaving them a choice of defying the measure, violating laws requiring them to register, or becoming homeless.
In all, there are more than 85,000 registered sex offenders in California today. About 4,200 are released from prison each year, corrections officials said.
Sex offenders would face tough restrictions under Jessica's Law
(09-29) 04:00 PDT Sacramento -- California would restrict where sex offenders live and place them under electronic surveillance for life under a ballot initiative described by proponents as a long-needed crackdown on sexual predators but criticized by opponents as misguided political posturing that will have unintended consequences.
Prop. 83, dubbed Jessica's Law for a Florida girl who was murdered by a convicted sex offender, would increase sentences and parole terms for many sex crimes. The initiative also would prohibit registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park and require most offenders to wear Global Positioning System anklets for the rest of their lives.
The initiative was created by a husband-and-wife team of Republican lawmakers who say Prop. 83 would keep sex offenders behind bars for longer periods and better control their lives after release. But critics of the initiative argue that the residence requirement would prohibit sex offenders from living in most urban areas and therefore create an influx of ex-cons in rural California. And experts who deal with sex offenders and their victims say the measure focuses its attention on stranger attacks on kids, a relatively rare occurrence.
The initiative reflects a national trend toward increasing requirements for convicted sex offenders, which has proven politically popular in states around the country, including California.
Polls have shown overwhelming public support, and Prop. 83 is backed by a wide-ranging group of office-seekers, including both Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his opponent, Phil Angelides, and Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Charles Poochigian, who are candidates for state attorney general. There is no organized campaign against the measure.
The initiative is a lengthy compilation of changes to criminal law, including increasing penalties for possession of child pornography and Internet luring, and lengthening parole terms to 10 years for those convicted of serious sex crimes. A study of the initiative by the nonpartisan legislative analyst concluded that the measure would significantly increase costs -- by potentially hundreds of millions of dollars -- to the state prison and parole systems.
Both the residency requirement and the GPS monitoring requirement would signify a major expansion of the state's control over registered sex offenders after their prison terms, and both proposals have attracted criticism.
For Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster (Los Angeles County), prohibiting sex offenders from living near schools or parks is basic public safety.
"Kids shouldn't have to walk by sexual predators on their way to school,'' said Runner, who with his wife, Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster, created the initiative.
But the residency restriction on registered sex offenders -- which can include those convicted of everything from rape to indecent exposure -- concerns some who argue that it will force more sex offenders into less-dense areas, where there aren't as many schools and parks.
"Urban California will be off limits, while rural areas become the dumping ground for sexual predators,'' complained Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter (Kern County). Florez noted that maps produced by the state Senate show that a big city like San Francisco, for example, has only a few spots where sex offenders could live.
George Runner countered that sex offenders are paroled to the counties they came from, which won't change under the law. But concerns about how the residency prohibition would affect suburbs and rural areas caused one high-profile backer of the initiative, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, to withdraw his endorsement.
Experts who work with victims and offenders say prohibiting where someone can live has not proven to prevent crime. And they note that about 90 percent of sex crimes against children are perpetrated by someone the child knows, not a stranger lurking around a school.
"It ignores the facts of who really abuses children,'' said Robert Coombs, with the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, a coalition of rape crisis centers and sexual assault prevention programs. Both Coombs' group and the California Coalition on Sexual Offending, which is a group of professionals who work with sex offenders, oppose the initiative.
While Runner and law enforcement officials also say the GPS monitoring will help prevent crime, others suggest the initiative goes too far by requiring monitoring of any registered sex offenders who went to prison, not just the ones deemed to be a high risk for offending again. The program will cost more than $100 million annually, according to the legislative analyst.
Putting GPS anklets on every sex offender is akin to responding to a traffic accident at one rural intersection by putting stoplights at every intersection in the state, said Tom Tobin, a psychiatrist who works with sex offenders and who is the public policy chairman of the California Coalition on Sexual Offending.
Initiative supporters insist the GPS provision will reduce crime.
"It is a preventative tool,'' said Bonnie Dumanis, district attorney for San Diego County. "They know they're being monitored, and they will be caught if they do anything.''
Left unanswered in the initiative is who would monitor sex offenders after their parole term is up. Runner, who said he favors a state-run program instead of leaving it to local governments, said future legislation could determine that issue.
Critics of the initiative like Tobin argue that California, which is one of only 10 states in the country that doesn't offer in-prison treatment to sex offenders, should focus on preventative programs and treatment programs that have been shown to help reduce sex crimes.
"We have to think a little bit more carefully about how to prevent sexual abuse and violence,'' he said.
Despite the concerns, the initiative seems likely to succeed. A Field Poll in August showed that 76 percent of voters favored Prop. 83 and only 11 percent opposed it.
The campaign for Jessica's Law has raised more than $1.8 million to get the measure on the ballot and promote it. The biggest contributors include the Viejas Indian tribe and an Inland Empire developer. Two companies that sell GPS systems also have given money.
-- Allows for a felony charge to be filed against someone for possessing one piece of child pornography.
-- Broadens the state's Sexually Violent Predator law that allows for civil commitment of offenders once their criminal sentence is complete.
-- Prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park.
-- Requires most registered sex offenders to wear GPS monitoring devices for the rest of their lives.
For more information
-- For: www.JessicasLaw2006.com
-- Against: www.cacj.org
-- Independent: www.lao.ca.gov
-- The Chronicle: sfgate.com/campaign2006/
E-mail Mark Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Posted on Wed, Sep. 27, 2006
Restrictions will drive offenders underground, measure's foes say
By Sean Webby
The concept is simple, popular and spreading across the country: keep registered sex offenders from settling down near the places where children gather -- schools and parks.
If Proposition 83 is enacted by voters in November, all registered sex offenders, including those who have not molested children, would be barred from living within 2,000 feet -- more than six football fields -- from any school or park in California.
But because of the numbers of schools and parks in urban areas, the measure could turn entire California cities -- San Jose and San Francisco among them -- into virtual ``Predator Free Zones.''
While that may be popular among voters, some law enforcement officials responsible for monitoring sex offenders say Proposition 83 will squeeze sex offenders into homelessness or remote areas that lack the police to monitor them or the support network to keep them out of trouble.
Like Megan's Law, which created a publicly viewable database of the state's 66,000 registered offenders on the streets, Jessica's Law is named after a young homicide victim and based on the disputed concept that many sex offenders are incorrigible time bombs liable to reoffend at any time.
``The bottom line is that parents don't want to have their children going to school next to a child molester,'' said Becky Warren, a spokeswoman for Yes on 83.
``To deal with that you need a full package of stronger laws. And like with Megan's Law, we think it's an important protection.''
Jessica's Law is named after Jessica Lunsford, the 9-year-old Florida girl who was killed, allegedly by a convicted sex offender working as a laborer at her school.
The lead sponsors -- state Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, and his wife, Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster -- picked 2,000 feet because that is about as far as kids walk to school on their own, Warren said.
There are similar laws in place elsewhere. Miami Beach, for example has a 2,500-foot zone around schools, school bus stops, day-care centers, parks and playgrounds.
The ballot measure -- which also requires global positioning systems for all felony-convicted offenders and increases penalties for some sex crimes -- is looking like it has broad support. From the governor to the attorney general and a large array of public safety organizations, they tout it as an effective new set of law enforcement tools to deal with recidivist sex criminals, particularly those who would prey on children.
There are obvious critics of the proposition: Many defense lawyers say it would be unfair and unconstitutional.
But a surprising crowd is also aligning against Proposition 83, including vehement critics in law enforcement whose job is to monitor offenders. They say the law -- forms of which have been adopted in about two dozen other states -- is an expensive and ill-thought out legislative NIMBYism that ignores facts about sex offenses and recidivism. They worry that the law will force many sex offenders into homelessness or into suburban or rural areas poorly prepared to handle them.
``There are a lot of flaws in this,'' said police Sgt. Ron Helder, who heads San Jose's much emulated sex offender monitoring team. ``This is less about protecting children than politics.''
In San Jose, there would be only a handful of small pockets where a registered sex offender could live, including an industrial stretch of Monterey Highway and a tony neighborhood abutting the Almaden Country Club.
If passed, the measure would cost the state more than $100 million annually within a decade, according to the legislative analyst.
Proponents say it's worth the cost.
``There are likely to be new challenges that arise if Jessica's Law is passed,'' said Nathan Barankin, a spokesman for Attorney General Bill Lockyer. ``But these challenges will be well worth overcoming if it succeeds in reducing the amount of sex crimes against children.''
Critics say except for those with large police departments, cities don't have resources to implement and enforce all the measure's provisions.
Sgt. Blayn Persiani, who heads the Santa Clara County task force in charge of monitoring sex offenders, would be one of those trying to track offenders living in the hinterland of the South Bay.
Persiani said his three-officer team could not keep up if sex offenders were pushed into the smaller cities and unincorporated areas monitored by his task force.
``The intent of this law is good,'' Persiani said. ``But the resources needed to enforce it? They aren't there.''
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said she shared Persiani's concerns. But she felt that the GPS component could solve many of the resource problems by allowing law enforcement to use the increasingly sophisticated technology to monitor the offenders.
Leslye Krutko, director of housing in San Jose, warned that the law would create homelessness among sex offenders, pointing to Iowa, which implemented a 2,000-foot restriction in 2005.
It is largely considered an expensive and resource-draining failure in that far less populous state, with law enforcement officials and prosecutors there saying many offenders had simply stopped registering and dropped out of sight.
William Keyser -- a 53-year-old registered sex offender who has been surgically castrated -- would have to leave his home in a Hayward senior trailer park community if the law was passed. There is a park is across the street. He says Jessica's Law could make him and his wife homeless.
``Is that safer, for the community not to be able to be aware of my
whereabouts?'' Keyser asked.
Contact Sean Webby at email@example.com or (408) 920-5003.
Sunday SEPTEMBER 24, 2006 Last modified: Saturday, September 23, 2006 12:32 AM PDT
The Hi-Desert Star's view: Law could put rural kids at risk
On ballots this Nov. 7, Proposition 83, called Jessica's Law, is a well-intentioned campaign to toughen punishments for and protect children from sex offenders.
But one provision, by protecting children who live in big cities, could endanger youth who live in less populated areas like the Hi-Desert.
If passed by voters, Prop 83 would ban all convicted sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools or parks anywhere in California.
The bill also allows local governments to declare more locations off limits to sex offenders.
Jessica's Law will make it difficult for registered sex offenders to find homes in densely populated urban areas. A review of a map provided by state lawmakers reveals that offenders won't legally be able to live almost anywhere in San Francisco; most of urban Los Angeles will be off limits, too.
So where are they going to go?
It's likely more sex offenders will move to less populated rural areas, like the Morongo Basin. Here, it will be less easy to keep track of offenders. There are fewer law officers here and an area like the Basin does not have as many support resources such as job services and mental-health clinics to treat or monitor sex offenders.
State Sen. Dean Florez, whose district is in a mostly rural region of Central California, calls Prop 83 “predator dumping.”
He could be right.
Prop 83 contains some excellent provisions. It lengthens prison sentences and parole for violent sex offenders.
It would make possession of child pornography a felony, although Governor Schwarzenegger already has signed a law that does the same thing.
But it could also mean that rural children are endangered by an influx of sex offenders.
It looks likely that Jessica's Law is going to pass. Polls have found it to be popular among voters.
If it does become law, the state cannot be allowed to strand the Hi-Desert with scores of new residents with dark pasts.
The Hi-Desert already has too many sex offenders who are out of compliance with their registration - in other words, whose whereabouts are unknown by law enforcement.
The Megan's Law Web site indicates that of the sex offenders listed under that law, four in Yucca Valley, one in the Landers and Johnson Valley area, one in Morongo Valley and two in Twentynine Palms are missing. Officers don't know where they are. Eight may seem like a small number, but eight missing sex offenders are eight too many. What will happen if law officers must keep tabs on many new sex offenders forced into the area?
As it stands now, the Morongo Basin does not have the resources to cope with Prop 83. If - or when - it passes, the state and especially the bill's sponsors in the legislature must make sure our children are as safe as those in the big city.
Sep 22, 2006 3:25 pm US/Pacific
Jessica's Law Sparks Heated Political Debate
(AP) SACRAMENTO A ballot initiative that would give California some of the nation's toughest restrictions on sexual predators is backed by both major candidates for governor and by three-quarters of likely voters in an August Field Poll.
Yet even supporters say Proposition 83, the so-called "Jessica's Law," is a work in progress that could create a number of complications. The initiative could make it nearly impossible for paroled sex offenders to find homes in cities and could push more of them to rural areas.
Meanwhile, the state budget could be stretched by hundreds of millions of dollars in extra annual spending, primarily for increased monitoring of parolees and for building and staffing more state mental hospitals.
Proposition 83 is named for Jessica Lunsford, a 9-year-old Florida girl who was kidnapped, raped and suffocated by a convicted sex offender last year.
It would lengthen sentences and parole terms for violent and habitual sex offenders, make more sexually violent predators eligible for indefinite commitments to state mental hospitals and require lifetime satellite monitoring of offenders convicted of felonies.
The provision that has sparked the most heated debate is a requirement prohibiting registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park. That effectively bars parolees from living in many of California's cities.
"There's virtually nowhere within certain cities where these sex offenders could reside," said Liisa Lawson Stark, a lobbyist for the California League of Cities and its 478 members. "You will have an over-concentration of sex offenders in rural areas" that lack rehabilitation services and law enforcement supervision.
Nevertheless, "some of the public safety benefits override the flaws," Stark said, saying the league had endorsed the ballot measure.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said he has similar concerns but is supporting the measure after concluding that the initiative improves existing laws.
"You've got to take some good with the bad," he said.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently signed six bills into law that contain many of the same components of Jessica's Law. Opponents say the new laws make Proposition 83 unnecessary, while supporters say combining the new laws with the ballot initiative would give California the nation's toughest protections against sex offenders.
The new laws boost penalties for child rapists, child pornographers and Internet predators, while requiring satellite tracking of high-risk sex offenders during their parole or probation period. They also prohibit child molesters from employing minors or working near them, and create a board to help track dangerous parolees.
Jessica's law would expand several of those restrictions. It would require a far greater number of sex offenders to wear satellite-tracked monitoring devices for the rest of their lives and impose significant new limits on where they can live.
The scope of the initiative's impact largely hinges on whether it would apply retroactively to the state's roughly 90,000 registered sex offenders.
State Sen. George Runner, a Republican from Lancaster who wrote the initiative with his wife, Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, said they intended the measure's satellite-monitoring and residency restrictions to affect only those released from prison in the future.
California records about 8,000 felony sex convictions annually, about 40 percent of which result in prison time. George Runner said the effects and costs would take years to be felt.
He said legislators can use a two-thirds vote to amend the law to make it clear it would apply only to future releases.
Moreover, he said legislators could clarify that the authors meant to prohibit offenders from living near playgrounds, not other parks and open spaces that could make it difficult for offenders to live anywhere within city boundaries.
"We're perfectly fine dealing with follow-up language," George Runner said. "The core issue is we just believe these people need to be sent away to prison longer."
The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office estimates that satellite tracking would cost about $100 million a year within 10 years, with some of the money collected from offenders based on their ability to pay.
Sending more sexually violent predators to state mental hospitals could cost another $100 million or more each year, while keeping more sex offenders in prison longer likely would cost "tens of millions of dollars annually," not including construction costs for new prisons and hospitals, the analyst's office said.
Steps to restrict where paroled molesters can live already have been taken in some cities.
When officials in the Sacramento suburb of Folsom learned last spring that a paroled sex offender could be housed on prison grounds, they adopted an ordinance barring sex offenders from lingering within 100 yards of schools, day care centers, playgrounds, parks, swimming pools or video arcades.
"I've got a daughter," Folsom Police Capt. Larry Saunders said. "If you can't lock them up, then the closer you can monitor them with GPS or other modern technology, the better."
Proposition 83 would let communities set their own residency requirements, but the state Legislature might have to rein in that power if the initiative passes, said law enforcement lobbyist Nick Warner.
Lawmakers may need to amend the initiative to give judges or law enforcement agencies discretion to allow a sex offender to live within restricted zones in some cases.
"An aggressive local government could easily draw a boundary around their entire city," said Warner, who represents associations for sheriffs deputies, probation officers and rape investigators supporting the initiative.
Finding homes for sex offenders is a problem with or without Proposition 83, Warner said.
Existing law prohibits parolees from living within a quarter-mile of a school, with a half-mile restriction for high-risk sex offenders. Proposition 83 would enlarge that restriction to include parks and add a larger population of offenders.
The Runners sought the initiative after a similar legislative package backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger failed last year. It includes portions of 24 bills making 399 statutory changes, by the count of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assaults.
The coalition, which represents 66 rape crisis centers that aided about 30,000 victims last year, is a primary opponent of Jessica's Law.
"The magnitude of this is just huge," coalition spokesman Robert Coombs said. "The number of unintended consequences that are not only potential but expected, we just can't bear this."
He said satellite tracking gives a false sense of security, while residency restrictions would drive more sex offenders underground. Moreover, he said roughly 90 percent of children are victimized at home by somebody they know rather than by a stranger at a park, school or other public location.
Runner responded that a quarter of sex offenders already violate the state's residency reporting law, so shackling ex-convicts with GPS bracelets should help.
California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, representing defense attorneys,
argues that the effort is wasted on lower-level offenders. The group says
Jessica's Law would impose the residency restrictions and lifetime monitoring
on first-time and nonviolent offenders.
(© 2006 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
Sex Offender Crackdown Measure Ties Into a National Trend
September 18, 2006
SACRAMENTO — A national movement to restrict where released sex offenders may live has swept into California this election season, with voters set to approve or reject a far-reaching crackdown on society's most loathed ex-convicts.
Proposition 83 on the Nov. 7 ballot — dubbed Jessica's Law by proponents — would lengthen prison and parole terms for the most violent sex offenders and make possession of child pornography a felony.
In addition, its most controversial provision would ban all released sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park. Local governments could declare additional locations off-limits, and sex offenders would be monitored for life with an electronic tracking device.
If passed, the measure would cost the state at least $200 million annually within a decade, according to the nonpartisan legislative analyst, largely because of the satellite tracking and police needed to enforce it.
The initiative's sponsors, a husband-and-wife team of Republican legislators, say the measure is worth the expense. Although there are no studies showing that residency limits reduce the number of sex crimes, they say common sense and public anxiety make it a smart idea to ban former offenders from areas where children gather.
"When a child walks to school, he or she shouldn't have to walk by a molester's home to get there," said state Sen. George Runner of Lancaster, lead proponent of the proposition with his wife, Sharon, an assemblywoman.
Foes say the measure is based on hysteria, not facts, and ignores a central truth: that nine out of 10 sex offenders are not monsters lurking in the bushes but instead prey on people they know. Opponents, including a coalition representing victims, also note that the law would not forbid loitering near schools and say it could put children in greater danger by giving parents a false sense of security.
Citing the experience of other states, some scholars say the residency rule would banish the former convicts from urban settings that offer the services, jobs and family connections that help them remain law-abiding — and dump them on rural communities ill-equipped to supervise them. In Iowa, prosecutors who once backed such a law said the residency limit had backfired, and they now want it repealed.
According to maps prepared by the state Senate, the initiative would bar sex offenders from living in nearly all of San Francisco and much of urban Los Angeles, while they would be allowed to live in many less densely populated suburbs around the state.
State Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter), whose farm-belt district in the Central Valley is one area where sex offenders could legally live, said the measure would legalize "predator dumping." The Bakersfield Californian newspaper agreed, and editorialized against it under the headline "Our children deserve same rights as city kids."
Such worries have prompted one supporter, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, to lose much of his zeal for the measure. Although he supports the tougher sentencing it offers, Cooley says, "the potential unintended consequences — like burdening our rural areas — have not been well thought out."
"It makes you wonder if it's a false promise based upon a false premise," Cooley said.
Many other officeholders have expressed no such qualms. The initiative has been endorsed by GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who signed the ballot argument in favor of it, and his Democratic opponent, Phil Angelides. It is also endorsed by Crime Victims United and statewide associations of police chiefs, sheriffs and prosecutors.
An August Field Poll showed the proposition with a lead of nearly 7 to 1, a reflection, analysts say, of the public's deep unease about a category of offenders often linked to heinous, headline-grabbing crimes.
It was just such a crime that gave birth to the initiative. In February 2005, a 9-year-old Florida girl, Jessica Lunsford, was kidnapped and killed, allegedly by a convicted sex offender who worked as a laborer at her school.
Within three months of the killing, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush had signed legislation imposing 25-years-to-life sentences on those convicted of lewd and lascivious molestation of children under 12. The Jessica Lunsford Law also required lifetime electronic tracking of released sex offenders, and made schools off-limits.
The nationwide push to exile sex offenders encompasses at least 18 states and hundreds of municipalities. In South Dakota, a law bars sex offenders from living within 500 feet of schools and imposes a prison term of up to two years for violations. In Georgia, offenders are also barred from living near bus stops and churches.
Private companies, meanwhile, are beginning to capitalize on public revulsion, with one Houston developer building "sex-offender-free subdivisions." Fox News talk show host Bill O'Reilly has nurtured the movement, advocating passage of measures like Proposition 83 by every state.
The constitutionality of zoning out sex offenders is somewhat murky. Iowa's 2,000-foot restriction was overturned in 2003. But the state's Supreme Court later ruled that any infringement on sex offenders' freedom of residency was superseded by the state's interest in protecting its citizens. The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear it.
The California initiative comes at a time when public concern over crime is low, surveys show. And sex crimes against children have declined in recent years, said Franklin Zimring, a professor of criminal law at UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law.
Zimring added that despite the persistent myth about strangers presenting the greatest threat, only 7% of juvenile victims are assaulted by strangers, according to a 2000 report by the U.S. Department of Justice. Fifty-nine percent of victims are attacked by an acquaintance and 34% are preyed on by a family member, the report showed.
"It may just be that kids know a lot of pedophiles," Zimring said. "Or it could be that sometimes Uncle Willy gets drunk, and God knows what Uncle Willy is going to do, and to whom and where."
Although Runner has said sex offenders have the highest recidivism rates among felons, government statistics show the opposite. Over a three-year period after their release from prison, 5.3% of sex offenders were rearrested for a new sex crime, according to another Justice Department report. Sex offenders also were less likely than other felons to be rearrested for any different type of crime.
"This is solid data," Zimring said, "but it is strong feelings — not facts — that dominate in this arena."
Runner acknowledged that he has strong feelings about the topic. He said he decided to launch the initiative drive after Democrats in the Legislature balked at proposals to increase prison time for molesters, lengthen parole for the worst offenders and ensure that those who rape children spend at least 25 years behind bars.
"It was time to take it to the people," Runner said. "We believe this is something they want."
Although Runner said it was his intent that the measure apply only to sex offenders released from prison in the future, there is no language to that effect in the initiative. Opponents say it would also sweep up the more than 85,000 registered sex offenders who have already served their time. Both sides agree that such disputes will probably be resolved as part of a court challenge if the measure passes.
Also contentious is the question of using satellite monitoring to watch every sex offender until his or her death. Under Proposition 83, offenders would wear a wireless, waterproof bracelet the size of a deck of cards on an ankle. They would wear the bands at all times, and their movements would be tracked from a distant location.
Supporters say tracking would keep predators from committing new crimes by acting as a deterrent. Foes say requiring offenders to be monitored, regardless of the severity of their crimes or the current threat they pose to the public, would overwhelm police and divert attention from the truly dangerous.
In California, about 440 high-risk sex offenders are monitored electronically now; 1,500 more parolees will be added next year.
The technology can alert authorities when paroled offenders stray into banned areas, but officials said agents around the state more typically rely on it after the fact, to verify that parolees were truthful in reporting their whereabouts. Whether more real-time monitoring would occur under Proposition 83, given the manpower needed to watch so many blinking lights on a map, is unclear.
Among those watching the campaign most anxiously are sex offenders themselves, thousands of whom would be required to move if the initiative passes. Mel Hellman, 62, of Whittier is one. He lives near two elementary schools and a high school. He has owned his home since 1971 and also owns a local electronics store.
In 1969, he pleaded no contest to false imprisonment of two teenage girls he knew and attempted insertion of a foreign object. He served no prison time but was on probation for five years and now must register as a sex offender every year.
"I made a terrible mistake, and every day I live with the guilt of that and feel horrible inside," said Hellman, who is married and has three children and three grandchildren. "But it was 27 years ago, and I've never had another incident…. Everyone hates people like me, and that's OK. But we're not all the same."
In California, about 8,000 people are convicted of a felony sex offense every year. About 39% are sent to state prison; most of the rest get county jail time and probation. Proposition 83 on the Nov. 7 ballot would:
• Prohibit registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school, park or other location selected by local government.
• Require lifetime satellite monitoring of felony sex offenders.
• Impose a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years to life for rapists of children.
• Extend parole from three to 10 years for those convicted of serious sex crimes.
• Boost penalties for possession of child pornography and Internet luring.
• Allow an offender to be classified as a sexually violent predator after assault on one victim, instead of two.
• Permit confinement of released sexually violent predators in state mental hospitals for an indeterminate term, rather than two years.
Editorial: No on Proposition 83
Sex offenders who prey on children are every parent's nightmare, and understandably so. Unfortunately, the fear they evoke makes them the bogeyman of choice for pandering politicians. What better targets for candidates in search of an easy issue to demagogue?
Proposition 83 is a case in point. Despite Proposition 83's title -- the Sex Offenders, Sexually Violent Predators, Punishment, Residence Restrictions and Monitoring Initiative Statute -- it would do nothing to protect children.
Among other things, the proposition would increase sentences, require lifelong monitoring for some offenders and further restrict where registered sex offenders could live.
If approved, it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars -- money that would be better spent on child care programs, expanding health care for poor families or improving educational opportunities.
Extremely dangerous sexual predators, including repeat rapists and criminals who sexually assault children 14 years and younger, already face sentences of 15 or 25 years to life in prison. Longer sentences for less dangerous offenders -- possessors of child pornography, for example -- will only further crowd already overcrowded prisons and drive up out-of-control prison costs.
The initiative imposes lifelong monitoring for registered felony sex offenders by requiring the use of global positioning systems, or GPS. In the Proposition 83 campaign, supporters invoke the name of Jessica Lunsford, the 9-year-old Florida girl who was kidnapped, assaulted and buried alive by a registered sex offender. But nothing in this initiative would prevent those intent upon harming children from removing their GPS devices and committing crimes.
Moreover, the proposition requires not just the monitoring of child molesters, but of all felony sex offenders released from prison. Opponents note correctly that this would mean monitoring at a high cost tens of thousands of ex-prisoners who don't pose any serious risk, leaving fewer resources available for high risk offenders who need to be watched. The Legislative Analyst's Office pegs the cost of such monitoring at "about $100 million annually after 10 years" and growing substantially after that. The initiative is not clear about who would pay the extra hundreds of millions of dollars -- the state, which has a deficit, or the financially strapped local governments.
Finally, the measure mandates tougher restrictions on where all registered sex offenders may live. Currently, a small percentage, mostly those who have committed crimes against children, cannot reside within 1,320 feet of a school. This initiative would expand it to all registered sex offenders, add parks to the restriction and expand the radius to 2,000 feet.
In other states, such laws have backfired, pushing sex offenders into sparsely populated rural and suburban neighborhoods where law enforcement is thin and where counseling, psychiatric and other social services that many mentally disordered offenders need are in short supply or nonexistent. The same is likely to happen in California.
Proposition 83 is, in short, costly and counterproductive. Sadly, politicians who know better are afraid to tell voters the truth. Voters should see through this deception and vote No on Proposition 83.
Governor Signs Package of Sex Predator Laws
California has six new laws on the books Wednesday intended to strengthen protections against sexual predators.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the legislation Wednesday morning.
In brief, the measures will: make the use of electronic monitoring a permanent
program; increase penalties for child rapists, child pornographers and
Internet predators; require registered sex offenders to disclose their
registration status to prospective employers when applying for certain
jobs; prohibit child molesters from employing minors and creates a sex
offender management board to better track parolees.
Bill 1128, the Sex Offender Control and Containment Act, will increase
the penalty for a conviction of continuous child abuse to an automatic
25-years-to-life sentence for conviction of ongoing child sexual abuse;
stiffen the violation of possession of child pornography to a felony in
some cases; add youth recreational facilities to schools as places where
there is restricted access for child predators and discourage plea bargains
for violent sex offenders. Also, every person required to register as a
sex offender becomes subject to assessment using the state's Risk Assessment
Tool for Sex Offenders.
Bill 1178, mandates that high-risk sex offenders be fitted with
Global Position Satellite devices and monitored by local law enforcement.
Bill 2263, requires registered sex offenders to disclose that fact
to prospective employers when applying for jobs that involve physical contact
Bill 1900, says that registered sex offenders who committed crimes
against children under the age of 16 cannot employ minors or work near
Bill 1683, requires the Department of Mental Health, when contracting
with a company or agency to monitor and supervise a conditionally-released
sexually violent predator, to provide the court with a copy of the contract
and proposed treatment plan.
Bill 1015, creates the Sex Offender Management Board within the
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The Board is tasked
with bringing together the various stakeholders involved in the management
of sex offenders to assess the how current practices are working, identify
the best policies and recommend how to make those changes.
Created: 9/20/2006 12:38:33 PM
August 15, 2006
High Risk Sex Offender Task Force Makes Recommendations to Governor on Placing, Overseeing Sex Offenders in Communities
Legislators, law enforcement, community groups collaborate
Sacramento – Members of the California High Risk Sex Offender (HRSO) Task Force today presented Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger with 10 recommendations for a statewide system to improve policies related to the placement, supervision and monitoring of high risk sex offenders in local communities to enhance public safety.
The task force was created in May 2006 by Executive Order S-08-06, and was charged with reviewing the current statutory requirements and California Department of Corrections (CDCR) policies on notifying, placing, monitoring, and enforcing parole policies with regard to high risk sex offenders. The task force, co-chaired by Assembly Members Todd Spitzer (R-Orange) and Rudy Bermudez (D-Norwalk) and CDCR Secretary (A) Jim Tilton, is composed of state and local law enforcement officials, parole representatives, victims and community groups. The task force held public hearings last week in Sacramento, Fresno and Orange County to solicit input on the issues.
“I applaud Governor Schwarzenegger for calling for the creation of this Task Force,” said Secretary Tilton. “If we can adopt policies to make the management of this dangerous population better for public safety, then we must work together to do so. This department is committed to working with local law enforcement, community leaders and victims’ advocacy groups to improve the policies and practices related to the placement and monitoring of sex offenders in the community.”
The Task Force’s recommendations include:
The application of a risk assessment tool to determine if an inmate
is a high risk offender no later than 120 days prior to being released
“Almost all convicted sex offenders will eventually return to our communities, with a short period of time under direct supervision, either on parole, probation or conditional release,” said Task Force Co-Chair Assembly Member Todd Spitzer. “It is imperative that during this period of time when sex offenders are under direct supervision, there is a comprehensive and cohesive network of interventions available to control the behavior of sex offenders and prevent recidivism and future victimization.”
In June 2006, one recommendation made by the Task Force was deemed critical to public safety and, at the request of the Task Force members, was sent to the Governor immediately. The Governor subsequently issued Executive Order S-09-06 which directs the CDCR to develop a pre-release program that thoroughly evaluates all sex offenders and identifies appropriate housing prior to their release from prison. This pre-release screening should ensure compliance with state residency laws and thereby eliminate the need for “temporary housing” such as in motels or too close to a school. This recommendation is already being implemented by the CDCR’s parole division.
“The placement of convicted sex offenders in our community will always be a concern for all Californians,” said Task Force Co-Chair Assemblyman Rudy Bermudez. “We must be diligent in our obligation to protect communities and our children.
Click here to see the complete list of recommendations and the task force’s report
California High Risk Sex Offender Task Force
Assembly Member Rudy Bermúdez (D-Norwalk), Co-chair
Assembly Member Todd Spitzer (R-Orange), Co-chair
James Tilton, Secretary California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Jan Scully, District Attorney Sacramento County California District Attorneys Association
Ed Bonner, Sheriff Placer County California State Sheriffs Association
Steve Krull, Chief Livermore Police Department California Police Chiefs Association
Jerry Powers, President Chief Probation Officers of California
David Runnels Chief Deputy Secretary, Adult Operations California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Jeff Fagot, Director (A) Division of Adult Parole Operations California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Suzanne Brown-McBride Executive Director California Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Brenda Crowding-Johnson Parole Agent I Parole Agents Association of California Alex Padilla, President League of California Cities
Don Horsley, Sheriff San Mateo County California State Association of Counties
# # #
© Copyright 2004 by Community Dispatch.com
Does sex offender registry ruin lives?
By Victoria Wallack
AUGUSTA (Sep 16): From a teenager who had sex with another teen when he was living in Florida, to parents whose now-jailed son says he was fooled by an underage girl, the Criminal Justice Committee heard testimony Tuesday that the way Maine handles its sex offender registry is ruining people’s lives.
The most heartrending account came at the beginning of the hearing when the mother of William Elliott, who was killed on Easter Sunday, apparently by a man out to get those listed on the sex offender list, said the registry killed her son.
“In my opinion, he was not a pedophile. He was my son,” she said, showing the committee a picture of Elliott, 24, who was convicted for having sex with his girlfriend before her 16th birthday.
“Their addresses should not be listed there for vigilantes to come to their home and murder them,” she said weeping. “If you change this law, it might save lives.”
It was Elliott’s murder, and that of Joseph Gray of Milo, which prompted the review of the registry. Both were shot by a man who got their addresses off the sex offender registry on the Internet. Police have not determined just what made Stephen Marshall of Canada go after the two Maine men on Easter Sunday of this year, because he killed himself when police closed in on him.
The murders have promoted legislators to look at how the state handles listings compared to other states, and whether there should be different reporting on offenders depending on their crime. In Massachusetts, for example, the lowest-level offenders are on a list that is not publicized, but can be accessed by police and the court system.
Sen. William Diamond, D-Cumberland County, told those packed into the hearing room that Maine has to keep an offender registry. “We do not have the option of not having a sex offender registry. It’s a federal law,” he said.
What the committee is trying to determine is whether there’s a better way of doing it. It will make a recommendation within a month for the next Legislature to consider.
William Thurber, 31, of Waldo, said he was an example of what can happen to a teenager who has sex with another teen, and is then haunted through adulthood by his conviction.
He said he pleaded guilty to having sex with an underage girl in Florida and then got put on the registry when he moved to Maine. “I’m a skilled welder and a commercial trucker. I can’t find work. I’m on welfare,” he said. “This is a lifelong sentence that leaves you little hope and no future.”
Michael Bean of York, who pleaded guilty to gross sexual assault when he was a school teacher in 1987 and got involved with a 16- and 17-year-old girl, said he served time in prison, lost his teaching certificate and then went back to school to get certified as a counselor.
Married now with two young children, he said when Maine changed its law to go back another 10 years to require offenders to report, he was required to be on the list and report to local police for life. “I don’t know how long it takes or what people have to do to show they are rehabilitated,” Bean said, but “going back the extra 10 years has turned my life upside down.”
Bean said his picture is now on the “wall of shame” at the York Police Department, that he is losing contracts for his counseling work and that his wife and he are considering a separation.
Not all on the committee were sympathetic to his story, however,
“You could have received a 40-year sentence,” said Sen. Dean Clukey, R-Aroostook, a retired state policeman. “It seems like you should be very glad. It’s possible you could still be in jail.”
Stephen and Mary Perry of Raymond called for a change in the registry that would not put all offenders and their names and addresses on the Internet. They said their son had been a victim of a girl who lied about her age.
“I’m strongly opposed to the sex offender registry as it exists,” said Mary Perry, because it gives out names, addresses and places of work of offenders to “terrorists, vigilante zealots and the criminally and otherwise insane.”
She suggested a registry that would be kept by local police and would only be shown to people who contact police and identify themselves.
Rep. Larry Jacobsen, R-Waterboro, said his town was in the forefront on the issue because a man “who raped and beat a 10-year-old girl and left her for dead in the woods” had moved in.
“We need to keep that kind of person in jail,” he said, “He should not be out.”
But for other people, whose crimes are less serious, there should be
a different system. “People makes mistakes,” he said. “They’re not all
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Along with all the confusing and contentious initiative choices that voters will face Nov. 7, there is one initiative that should not take too much energy, thought or time. That's Proposition 83, which would put into effect in California what is known as Jessica's Law. Named after a 9-year-old girl from Florida who was kidnapped from her bedroom, assaulted by a predator and then buried alive, the law would tighten up our state's laws for dealing with sexual predators.
The main reason voters shouldn't spend too much time thinking about this one is that it has overwhelming bipartisan support. Put it this way: If a recent Field Poll is correct, the measure is leading by an unheard-of 65 percentage points. If every single "undecided" voter moves into the "no" column, the initiative still passes by 52 points.
After examining the details of the law, I'd agree that it pretty much is a no-brainer.
A Sacramento Bee news analysis found that California's laws for sexual predators are among the most lenient in the nation. For instance, the Bee reports a stunning example, whereby those convicted as violent sexual predators are allowed to opt out of a treatment plan in prison. Scores of them have been released from prison without even going through the motions of treatment, and many are back in prison again after – you guessed it – they preyed on other victims.
"Although California is among 17 states with sexually violent predator statutes, it is the only one that requires a court review every two years for those committed," according to the Associated Press. "Most other states commit their sexually violent predators for at least five years and allow them out of the mental hospital only after therapists say the predators pose a low-enough risk."
State Sen. Chuck Poochigian, who is running for attorney general against Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, said during a Register Editorial Board meeting last week that victims of sexual predators, and the loved ones of victims, face the same problem in this state as do the relatives of murder victims who must relive the emotional trauma every two years as they trot before the parole board to argue why so-and-so rapist shouldn't not be allowed out on the streets, where he will harm others.
According to the attorney general's official analysis, Prop. 83 would increase penalties for violent and habitual sex offenders and child molesters; prohibit sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school; require lifetime Global Positioning System monitoring of felony registered sex offenders; expand the definition of sexually violent predator; and change the above-mentioned two-year commitment for sexually violent predators to an indeterminate commitment, subject to review by state officials. The bottom line will be more convictions, better monitoring and longer sentences.
The main opponents of Prop. 83 are criminal defense attorneys and some of the state's loony-left legislators who argue primarily that the 2,000-foot rule will send predators out of urban areas, where there are many schools, to rural communities with less law enforcement. That's a possibility. Opponents have pointed to problems in Iowa, where a similar law has resulted in sex offenders congregating in decrepit motels out in the hinterlands. Yet this problem seems like it would be remedied by parole guidelines requiring sex offenders to stay in their current communities.
Another argument against 83 with some merit is that longer sentences put additional pressure on the overburdened jail system, and this will cost taxpayers a lot of money. Nevertheless, the opportunity to better monitor this class of sex offenders seems to be worth whatever small problems might arise. These crimes can be so horrific, and sexual predators are notoriously habitual, that it's not unreasonable to tighten up loopholes in the current law. Financial issues are never insignificant, yet, in my view, protecting the public from violent predators is one of those limited legitimate government tasks. The California Legislature seems to find money to fund every wacky idea, so it would be odd to suddenly get overly worried about costs when it comes to locking up child molesters.
And, yes, the prison population will increase. But the problem with overburdened prisons is that the state locks up too many people for petty offenses, especially drug crimes. It would seem foolish to be willing to set sex predators loose on the public in order to make a point about unfair sentencing in other areas of the prison system.
Here are two other big questions: Does this proposal undermine individual rights? Does it cast too broad of a net so that small-scale sex offenders are treated the same as habitual sexual predators?
Whenever one mentions GPS monitoring of individuals, it raises the specter of those futuristic dystopian movies, where citizens are monitored by the authorities. Yet people who are convicted and imprisoned for raping and molesting children have forfeited their civil liberties. Frankly, most of these people – the ones who commit these crimes over and over – should just stay in prison. If they have to be released, then they should be monitored at all times and forever. I don't trust the ability of any government agency to monitor people through normal, paperwork means, so GPS seems to be a technological solution to this problem.
Regarding the second question, the law requires that a sex predator be seven years older than the child victim before facing tougher penalties, so this will not entrap the 18-year-old who has consenting sexual relations with his year-younger girl-friend.
Here's one of the rare recent instances where the outnumbered Republicans in the Legislature outmaneuvered the Democrats. The GOP had been terribly frustrated by the refusal of Democrats, especially by the Assembly's far-left Public Safety Committee Chairman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, to pass any toughening of these sexual predator laws. As Democrats pushed ahead a weak version of Jessica's Law, designed to blunt the GOP proposal, the Republicans pushed forward this ballot initiative. Democrats eventually caved in after fearing Republican election-year commercials depicting them as soft on child rapists.
Even Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides came out in favor of Prop. 83. AG candidate Jerry Brown, who earned a soft-on-crime image when, as governor, he appointed Rose Bird to the Supreme Court and supported an inmate's bill of rights while opposing the crime victim's bill of rights, was quick to embrace it as a way to promote his newfound tough-on-crime credentials.
Certainly, this is testament to the way California's initiative process has become crucial for Republicans in the Legislatureto get any reform accomplished. Without the initiative, placed on the ballot by signature-gathering means rather than legislative action, reform would have died in committee.
Beyond the politics, the big question always should center on whether a particular proposal is good for Californians, good for freedom, good for the notion of limited, fiscally responsible government. While I'm always leery of efforts to expand crime definitions, to increase penalties and spend more taxpayers' dollars, such things are justified when government is doing its basic tasks, such as locking up habitual and violent sexual predators.
I'd suggest voting "yes" on Prop. 83, except that it won't make any difference. You, and virtually every other Californian, have already decided that you're going to do so.
Overhaul urged in care, release of sex offenders
The state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation should treat high-risk sex offenders and give advance warning to communities before paroling them, and help cities find appropriate places to house them, according to a task force report released Tuesday.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed the High Risk Sex Offender Task Force, a bipartisan committee made up of lawmakers, law enforcement officials, victims' advocates and corrections system representatives trying to figure out the best system for bringing convicted sex offenders back into society while minimizing their potential threat.
In submitting its report to Schwarzenegger on Tuesday, the task force warned that California is in desperate need of a comprehensive plan to register, treat and house roughly 3,000 high-risk sex offenders, especially when just 500 of them are being electronically monitored by the state.
"We're finally getting our arms around how to deal with one of the most serious (issues) from a community's perspective: dealing with sex offenders," said Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, R-Orange, who co-chaired the task force.
Schwarzenegger had ordered the task force to come up with recommendations for the Corrections Department in 90 days after reports that sex offenders were living in family-occupied motels in Southern California near Disneyland and in parole agents' offices in the Bay Area.
"The issue of housing came up again and again. And we struggled long and hard," said Suzanne Brown-McBride, executive director of California Coalition Against Sexual Assault and a member of the task force.
"I think we are very, very concerned, not just that offenders have housing, but that they be appropriately monitored."
The Republican governor responded Tuesday by expanding the size and scope of the task force to include finding solutions for placing sexually violent predators, a group of the highest-risk sex offenders who fall under the watch of the Department of Mental Health.
Kimberley Belshé, secretary of the Health and Human Services Agency, and Steven Mayberg, director of the Department of Mental Health, will join the task force.
Current task force members recommended establishing a permanent Sex Offender Management Board to oversee the state's policies on sex offenders.
The task force suggested the state needed an oversight board for all sex offenders because while most serve time in prisons, others receive treatment in mental hospitals. Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully pointed to convicted child molesters like Timothy Lee Boggs, who spent time in both.
The task force said the department must treat, not just house, sex offenders.
"Today in California, sex offenders don't get any treatment until they're released by the Department of Corrections," Spitzer said.
The task force also recommended notifying victims 90 days before the anticipated release of a high-risk sex offender. And it suggested giving local law enforcement a 60-day notice.
Members said state prison officials should aggressively put all high-risk sex offenders on electronic monitoring. At $23 a day for equipment and parole agents, the tab for 3,000 high-risk sex offenders would top $25 million, according to Spitzer.
Proposition 83 on the Nov. 7 ballot goes even further. It would require all registered sex offenders to wear electronic monitoring devices for life.
Task force members said the report directs state agencies to report
on costs and on what changes would be needed to meet the goals.
About the writer:
Sex offender evicted by hotel
Convicted child molester Timothy Lee Boggs was ordered out of the Hotel Berry on Monday by its owner, but found temporary refuge in a suite at a downtown office building managed by Sacramento bounty hunter Leonard Padilla.
Boggs, who has been the focus of intense community protest and scrutiny, was released Friday from Atascadero State Hospital and settled into Room 610 of the Berry after paying $640 in state funds for a month's stay.
But media coverage of his presence led managers to tell him that he could not stay there, and efforts by the state Department of Mental Health to win him a reprieve failed.
"They just asked him to leave," said DMH Deputy Director Cindy Radavsky, who noted that Boggs had spent a quiet weekend in the downtown residence hotel without incident.
By early afternoon Monday, Boggs had moved into a suite at 816 H St., which houses offices for attorneys, bail bondsmen and others.
Boggs, who had a security guard hired by the state positioned outside the door to his suite, interrupted his lunch Monday to come to the door and politely decline to be interviewed.
Padilla had said he planned to allow Boggs to live there at the rate of about $750 a month until he could find a permanent home for him. One of the building's owners initially objected, but Padilla said the matter was smoothed over after he offered to rent the space himself and sublet it for Boggs to live there.
Padilla said he planned to help Boggs obtain a driver's license, a set of tools and a license to work as a handyman for area businesses. He also said he planned to take Boggs to register with police today as a sex offender.
Padilla, who previously had offered to allow Boggs to live on vacant land he co-owns in the Natomas area, said he thought the office building was ideal because it is open 24 hours a day with bail bonds companies and is not near areas where children might congregate.
"What better place than this building?" he said, after Boggs moved into the two-room suite with a large number of plastic grocery store bags he had dropped on a sofa inside. Now, Padilla said, he is offering to help Boggs "because nobody else will."
The difficulty over placing Boggs has been widely expected for some time.
He is the sixth sex offender in the past 10 years to complete the multiyear therapy program at Atascadero State Hospital and be released under strict guidelines that call for him to spend at least another year in therapy. He must adhere to a series of restrictions (the complete list is available at www.sacbee.com) and wear an electronic monitoring device at all times. Boggs also is under the watch of a private security firm 24 hours a day.
The other five men who have completed the program have faced similar or worse protests about their presence in the community, and the state delayed Boggs' release for a year while trying to find a place to house him.
Eventually, a judge ordered his release.
Boggs was convicted twice of molesting 9-year-old boys in the 1980s and was sent to Atascadero as a "sexually violent predator," a classification considered the highest-risk.
Dozens of other "sexually violent predators," offenders with at least two victims who have been sent to Atascadero for treatment, have been released in the past 10 years without undergoing any therapy. Most won their freedom through court hearings, and after release faced none of the restrictions Boggs is under.
Currently, three live in the Sacramento area, and their releases over the years generated no outcry or media attention. They are:
• Eddie Caperton, 81, who was convicted of molesting young girls and lives in a south Sacramento-area nursing home.
• Harold Royster, 46, a twice-convicted rapist who lives in south Sacramento. California's Megan's List Web site Monday indicated Royster has been in violation of his registration requirements since last week. Such notations are not unusual, although Royster was arrested in the past for failure to register properly.
• Delmar Lee Burrows, 43, who was convicted of molesting two boys and
lives in downtown Sacramento.
About the writer:
Posted on Fri, Jul. 28, 2006
Sex offender released from Atascadero
SACRAMENTO (AP) – A man considered to be one of California’s most dangerous sex offenders was released from an in-patient therapy program at Atascadero State Hospital and returned to Sacramento County Friday to set up residence after the state failed to find housing for him.
Timothy Lee Boggs, 51, will now be able to determine his own living situation, provided he does not move within a quarter-mile of any school.
He must register his new address within five days with local police, who will then post it on California’s registry of sex offenders. Boggs also will be monitored by a satellite tracking device as well as a private security firm hired by the state, officials said.
Boggs’ situation is unusual. Numerous other violent sexual offenders who completed the same therapy program at Atascadero State Hospital were later released to predetermined homes or set up with housing on state prison grounds.
But despite a year’s delay in his release, the state Department of Mental Health was unable to find a suitable location for Boggs or a landlord willing to take him.
He is being freed on a "conditional release" program, and state officials can check in on him at any time to ensure that he is following various requirements, including not using alcohol and staying away from children.
Judge: Release predator within 2 weeks
State is told it should have done more to find housing for him.
A sexually violent predator whose release has been delayed for more than a year was ordered set free within two weeks by a judge who blasted state officials Friday for making little effort to find suitable housing for the convicted child molester.
Timothy Lee Boggs, a 51-year-old Sacramento man who has two convictions for molesting 9-year-old boys in the 1980s, must be released by July 28. He will be allowed to live wherever he wants in Sacramento County as long as he adheres to a series of restrictions and takes part in at least a year of group therapy, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Ronald W. Tochterman ruled.
"I recognize that there is a significant danger that Mr. Boggs may reoffend, that there's cause for legitimate concern," Tochterman said as the mother of one of Boggs' victims sat staring in disbelief. "On the other hand, he has paid his debt to society, and then some."
The ruling comes after delays that Boggs' attorney said were "political" efforts to keep his client behind bars even after it was clear that he had the legal right to be freed.
"Nothing's happened in 400 days," attorney Ken Rosenfeld said. "Your honor, the law needs to prevail. Please release Mr. Boggs."
Tochterman noted that Boggs had been ordered released May 20, 2005, from his commitment at Atascadero State Hospital, but that no action to find Boggs housing had been successful and that he had no choice but to order his release.
"Regardless of what I think of whether Mr. Boggs should be released, I am required to follow the law," the judge said. "It is 100 percent clear under the law that Mr. Boggs is entitled to be released."
Boggs was ordered returned to Atascadero until July 28, and after that he will be allowed to choose a home anywhere in Sacramento County, as long as it is not within a quarter-mile of any K-12 school
During the court proceedings, Boggs sat calmly, conferring occasionally with his attorney.
Viktoria Fenech, the mother of Boggs' victim from the 1989 case, watched the judge's ruling in silence and stared at Boggs, who had once been a family friend.
"I just feel kind of numb," Fenech said. "It's just kind of disgusting."
Tochterman's ruling came after a lawyer for the state Department of Mental Health asked the judge to delay Boggs' release until the department could find suitable housing. Mental Health officials have said notoriety over the case has made it difficult to find anyone willing to rent space to Boggs.
He was sentenced to 13 years in prison after a 1988 arrest for molesting a 9-year-old boy. Boggs served seven years and was paroled, but a parole violation of possessing alcohol sent him back to prison. A court then declared him to be a sexually violent predator, a classification that landed him at Atascadero State Hospital, where he spent the past six years.
Under the law, the state is required to find housing and then provide intensive services for those who graduate from the sexually violent predator program. More than 6,200 sex offenders have been evaluated for the program, but only about 500 met the criteria for admission.
Tony Seferian, a deputy attorney general, said that the state has made 269 separate contacts within Sacramento County in an effort to place Boggs, but that most landlords simply were not willing to rent to him. He must be released to Sacramento County because his most-recent crime occurred here.
"I think it's clear that there has not been a willful attempt to evade the (court) order," he said.
But Tochterman said that the department had made little substantial effort to find a place for Boggs, and that state officials had not even met with Sacramento County on the matter until January.
"There seems to be no sincere effort to arrange for Mr. Boggs," the judge said. "I can think of a number of options that should have been explored had the department been acting in good faith."
Boggs will be the sixth sexually violent predator in the past 10 years to win release from Atascadero after completing the hospital's four-stage inpatient treatment program. One was returned a short time after release because officials said he was not complying with treatment requirements, but he did not reoffend.
The previous five faced heated community protests and, in several cases, had to be moved to new homes. None has been ordered released -- until now -- without having housing set up for them.
Under the program, Boggs is to complete the fifth stage in therapy while living in the community under strict supervision that includes constant satellite tracking and covert monitoring by law enforcement.
Boggs' attorney would not discuss where his client might plan to live, but Sacramento bounty hunter Leonard Padilla said after the hourlong hearing that he believed his offer to house Boggs in a vacant trailer on land he owns near Natomas is dead.
The state has said it has five potential sites where Boggs might be placed, including the Padilla land, on property at Folsom State Prison or on the grounds of the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center south of Elk Grove.
But Mental Health never presented a recommendation for any housing location for Boggs, prompting Rosenfeld to try to find a place on his own.
Seferian made a last-ditch effort Friday to persuade the judge to give Mental Health more time, seeking a longer grace period than the seven days Tochterman said he might order. Instead, Tochterman said Boggs will go free in 14 days.
Tochterman said the state's efforts to find a place for Boggs were "an exercise in futility."
Deputy District Attorney William McCamy noted that his office had no authority to determine where Boggs lives, but he asked the judge unsuccessfully to delay release for at least 30 days.
"What I'm asking for is one last chance," McCamy said. "It has been a long and drawn-out process. But in other counties where this has occurred it's also been a long and drawn-out process.
"This is a difficult, difficult task."
About the writer:
An easy out for sexual predators?
11:35 PM CDT on Saturday, July 8, 2006
When one of Texas' most dangerous sexual predators vanished from a Dallas halfway house two months ago, he didn't need an elaborate escape plan.
Mark Petersimes simply sliced the electronic monitor from his ankle and strolled to a nearby convenience store before disappearing.
He was one of 66 violent sexual predators who were judged to be so dangerous, so likely to offend again after they serve their prison time, that they were committed to an intensive supervisory program similar to house arrest.
The ease of his getaway highlights a major difference between Texas' civil commitment program and that of the 16 other states with such programs. Only Texas has an outpatient program that releases offenders into the community rather than keeping them under lock and key.
Critics say the program is small and poorly funded and offers little public protection.
Nor has the program successfully rehabilitated any offenders – no one has been released from civil commitment since the program began in 2001, and more than 40 percent of the offenders have been sent back to prison for rules infractions. None has committed a new sexual offense.
Even some officials who work with the program have doubts about its effectiveness.
"What it sells the public on is a false sense of safety that Texas really is doing more than they are," said Dr. Judy Johnson, a Texas Department of Criminal Justice manager who identifies convicted sex offenders who may be eligible for civil commitment upon their release from prison.
"It is a Band-Aid for a much bigger problem."
But supporters say the Texas program is a cost-effective way to manage such offenders because other states confine them but do not require counseling.
Texas spends about half a million dollars a year on its outpatient program; other large states spend much more to keep such offenders locked up. Florida spends $22.6 million; California, $45.5 million.
"The Texas program is very safe," said Allison Taylor, executive director
of the Texas Council on Sex Offender Treatment, which administers the civil
commitment program. "Other states now think we have taken a rational approach
in dealing with sexually violent predators."
Fed up and fleeing
Walking away from the program was easy for Mr. Petersimes – and he wasn't the first.
Jose Morales remains at large more than three years after he disappeared. A third offender fled but was quickly apprehended, authorities say.
Mr. Morales, one of the state's first offenders to be civilly committed, made no secret that he chafed under the program's restrictions.
Mr. Morales wanted to work, ride a bus and watch cable television – all forbidden under the terms of his commitment.
"I can't go anywhere without getting permission first," the twice-convicted rapist told the San Antonio Express-News three months after his release from prison. Later that year he left the San Antonio home he shared with his mother and disappeared.
Typically, caseworkers must approve all visitors. One Dallas offender complained to a judge that his gravely ill mother was not allowed to visit.
Offenders can't go anywhere without approval, which is rarely granted. Activities such as going to a movie or the mall are mostly forbidden.
Mr. Petersimes, 46, didn't complain about the restrictions, but housemates said they figure the pressure got to him.
"He was having a good time, I thought," said one Dallas sex offender who knew Mr. Petersimes.
Like the other men in the program, Mr. Petersimes is a repeat sex offender who was flagged by authorities for commitment before his release from prison.
In 1981 he was convicted of attempted sexual assault in North Carolina and received a two-year sentence. After his release, he worked in construction and was homeless at times before he was arrested in Texas in 1991 and charged with molesting two young girls. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
In 2003, after Mr. Petersimes served the last day of that prison sentence, his case was reviewed by several experts before prosecutors had him committed in a civil jury trial.
He was released to an Austin halfway house and walked away shortly afterwards. He was caught the same day and sent back to prison for 28 months.
In January, he was sent to the Dallas halfway house and was last seen hitching a ride in the predawn darkness May 2.
The problem of absconders such as Mr. Petersimes is an issue for the Legislature to deal with when it convenes in January, said Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano. Ms. Shapiro originally pushed for a secure facility for civilly committed sex offenders. When the funding didn't materialize in 1999, she supported the outpatient program.
But she said no program can provide blanket security to the public.
"No one that knows and understands sexual predators will ever believe
that the public is safe," she said. "I don't want anybody ever to believe
that because some of these people are in civil commitment or behind bars
or stay in the penitentiary for years, there's ever going to be a complete
Too few or too many?
Roxanne Lieb, director of the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, a nonpartisan think tank, said, "The notion of outpatient treatment when you're usually talking about predatory sex offenders just seems like an oxymoron."
If someone is dangerous enough to be considered a sexual predator, most states think that person should be behind locked doors.
Ms. Lieb said the low number of people committed under the Texas program is also puzzling. Texas has more than 44,000 registered sex offenders, yet only 66 have been civilly committed.
Nationwide, about 3,500 people have been civilly committed. Florida, which began its program the same time Texas did, has committed more than 450 people.
Those who object to civil commitment of any kind, such as Huntsville defense attorney David O'Neil, laud the state for prosecuting so few people, saying it shows they're committing only the "worst group of offenders."
But prosecutors say they would have more offenders committed if they had more funding. More than 400 sex offenders were flagged for civil commitment before they were let out of Texas prisons, said Joey Robertson, who oversees prosecution of commitment cases for the state.
Most of them should have been committed, Mr. Robertson said. He said that he's confident the program protects the public but that he would sleep better if more were prosecuted.
"The hardest part of our job is deciding who to file on," he said. "Our goal is to civilly commit as many as qualify as possible – with the funding available."
Sen. John Whitmire, the Houston Democrat who helped create the program, said he wonders whether other states such as Florida are committing too many people. "Sounds like they're kind of [painting] with a broad brush," he said, "placing a lot of people in the program."
Ms. Shapiro said the program works, "and it's at a low cost."
"Should we do more? Yes," she said of the low number of commitments.
"Will we do more in the [next] legislative session? Yes."
No new programs
Most civil commitment programs were created in the 1990s, after several highly publicized cases focused attention on predatory sex offenders.
The public continues to be horrified by such cases, but the number of states using civil commitment as a management tool has stabilized.
Washington state was the first to institute civil commitment, and it's still "a very difficult problem," Ms. Lieb said. "Social policy approaches to serious sex offenders is a very difficult thing to get right."
Experts attribute the lack of new programs to judicial scrutiny and rising costs.
"I think all states have debated it in every legislature," said Scott Matson, research associate for the Center for Sex Offender Management near Washington, D.C. "And one of the main reasons they don't pass them is it does cost an exorbitant amount of money."
The programs have been deemed constitutional, but judges have ordered modifications, which have increased costs in recent years, Ms. Lieb said.
She said she thinks the efforts "to contend with this combination of mental health issues and criminal conduct" through civil commitment have peaked.
So far, no state with a civil commitment program has dropped it. But
worries are mounting as the number of civilly committed offenders and the
costs of housing and treating them soar. That's why some states have begun
looking at the Texas outpatient approach.
On the day Mr. Petersimes vanished, he tended a small plot of tomato and pepper plants on the facility grounds and went to sex-offender counseling. A housemate said Mr. Petersimes gave no hint that he was planning to flee: "He came in from counseling that afternoon, and he was gone that night."
Patients in other states may refuse treatment, but in Texas, that can send them back to prison. Taking a walk or going to the store also are violations – third-degree felonies, with penalties of two to 10 years in prison.
"The idea that when someone violates conditions that they're subject to a third-degree felony is beyond the pale," said Mr. O'Neil, the Huntsville attorney.
"The conditions are so onerous ... I don't believe most of us would be able to comply."
In fact, the program has lost nearly half its participants because the restrictions have proven difficult to live with. Of the 66 in the program so far, about 30 have been returned to prison at some time.
Of the five men civilly committed in Dallas, all but one has been accused of violating the restrictions.
Gerome Alexander faced a sentence of up to life in prison after caseworkers charged that an angry phone message he left on his girlfriend's mobile phone was a violation. He was acquitted at trial.
David Wayne Jones, one of the most notorious child molesters in Dallas history, also faces a return to prison. Among the violations he's accused of: making contact with a Dallas Morning News reporter. Investigators say he also hoarded medication, lied to caseworkers, wrote unauthorized letters to prison inmates, was disruptive and attempted suicide.
One of Mr. Petersimes' housemates said he believes the strict rules became too much for Mr. Petersimes. "We're basically locked down over here," the housemate said. "Being here 24/7 every day got to him. It'll get to anybody."
The man said he's not bitter about being committed and hopes to be released one day. "I had victims out there. They're having to pay for it the rest of their lives and everything. I don't think I should have to pay the rest of my life, but I think I should have to pay for it."
Authorities won't disclose what they're doing to find Mr. Petersimes, saying it would hinder their efforts. But they've asked for help from the public. The manhunt was the main feature of a May 27 episode of America's Most Wanted.
"We're obviously hopeful that that will stir up some leads," said Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Tom Vinger.
Besides state and local law enforcement, the U.S. Marshal's fugitive task force is looking for Mr. Petersimes.
"Obviously he's a public safety risk," Mr. Vinger said. "There's no doubt about it. Based on his crimes before – sexually assaulting two young girls – you'd certainly have to consider him a risk to re-offend."
BY THE NUMBERS
Number of states with civil commitment programs*
Number of states that don't lock up offenders (Texas)
Number of sex offenders who had been civilly committed nationwide as
of December 2004
Number of sex offenders civilly committed in Texas as of this month
Number of sex offenders released from civil commitment nationwide
Number of sex offenders released from civil commitment in Texas
Number of absconders in Texas; one has been recaptured, two are at large.
*Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin
SOURCES: Texas Department of State Health Services; Dallas Morning News
research; Washington State Institute for Public Policy
1981 – Leaving a North Carolina nightclub, Mr. Petersimes attacks a young woman as she uses a pay phone. He hits her in the head and tries to sexually assault her before being chased away. He is convicted and sentenced to two years in prison.
1991 – Mr. Petersimes is convicted of molesting his girlfriend's 5- and 7-year-old daughters at a Dallas apartment. He denies molesting the younger girl but admits molesting the 7-year-old and is sentenced to 12 years in prison.
2003 – Upon his release from prison, authorities target him for civil commitment. In a civil trial, prosecutors successfully argue that he is a violent sexual predator. He is committed to an Austin halfway house. He walks away from the halfway house but is caught within hours. He is sentenced to 28 months in prison for the escape.
January 2006 – Mr. Petersimes is released from prison and again lives under civil commitment restrictions, this time at the Wayback House, a halfway house just west of downtown Dallas.
May 2 – He removes his electronic ankle monitor before dawn and walks
away. He remains at large.
HOW THE PROGRAM WORKS
Civil commitment programs for sexual predators who have been deemed likely to re-offend have been implemented around the country since 1990. The first civil commitment trial in Texas was in 2001.
Once sexual predators are committed, they remain under supervision; their status is reviewed every two years. None has been released from the Texas program.
Some men have agreed to live under the civil commitment guidelines without a trial, but in most cases a jury decided they suffered from a mental defect that made them a continuing threat to society. The state has lost only one trial since the program began.
Under the civil commitment program, each sex offender is assigned to a halfway house unless other arrangements are approved. As of May, only two of Texas' committed offenders were living in private homes.
At the Dallas halfway house known as the Wayback House, housemates sleep seven to a room in a converted old hotel building in an industrial part of West Dallas. Residents are parolees who may or may not be sex offenders.
Civil commitment offenders are provided food, clothing, housing and transportation. They are fitted with an electronic monitor and must attend sex offender treatment and submit to substance abuse testing, polygraphs and sexual arousal tests. The handful of offenders living under civil commitment in Dallas are not required to work because they are not allowed to leave the building unsupervised.
Typical restrictions for the civilly committed: They can't drink alcohol,
use drugs or use public transportation. A caseworker restricts where they
can go and whom they can see.
SOURCE: Dallas Morning News research
From the Baltimore Sun
What's behind drastic decline in sex crimes?
By Steve Chapman
July 3, 2006
CHICAGO -- Predators on the Internet, priests molesting children, Duke lacrosse players accused of rape - judging from the news or TV crime dramas, sexual assault appears to be an endless national epidemic.
So powerful is this impression that when evidence emerges to suggest otherwise, Americans may have trouble believing their eyes. But the truth about the incidence of rape and other sex crimes is no mirage: It has declined drastically and is still dropping.
The Washington Post recently reported that since the 1970s, rape has diminished in frequency by about 85 percent.
We tend to discount statistics about rape because many victims don't go to the police. But the best evidence comes from the Justice Department's annual crime victimization survey, which compiles numbers based on interviews with about 75,000 Americans, rather than from police reports. The survey found that in 1979, the rate of rape was 2.8 per 1,000 people over age 11. In 2004, it was 0.4.
Some experts say that because the survey was redesigned in the early 1990s, the most reliable data come from 1993 and after. Even here, though, the trend is the same, with a drop of 75 percent. That translates into hundreds of thousands of rapes that didn't happen.
The change is part of an overall drop in violent crime, which peaked in 1994. But the progress against sexual assaults has been much larger - and while the FBI says murder, robbery and aggravated assault jumped last year, rape kept falling. Sexual abuse of children, a plague in the 1980s, has also gotten much less common, with a decline of 47 percent since 1990.
What's going on? In the last 15 years, the nation's prison population has doubled, taking many sex offenders out of circulation. The number of people imprisoned for sexually abusing children tripled from 1986 to 1997.
According to David Finkelhor and Lisa Jones of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, "High-frequency offenders are more likely to get incarcerated, so potentially small increases in incarceration of high-volume offenders can have large effects on the overall offense rate."
But imprisonment alone can't explain what's happened. As criminologist Franklin Zimring of the University of California, Berkeley notes, Canada also has seen crime recede, even though its prison population has shrunk. DNA databases have made it easier to catch rapists, but the trend emerged long before they assumed a major role in solving sex crimes.
The Freakonomics explanation - that legal abortion reduced crime by lowering the number of unwanted children, who are more prone to trouble - also falls short. The decline in rape began only seven years after Roe vs. Wade, and 7-year-olds rarely commit sexual assault. Mr. Finkelhor and Ms. Jones also note that under the hypothesis proposed by University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt, child abuse should have declined long before the 1990s, since parents should be less likely to harm children they wanted.
One theory about the causes of rape, however, has been thoroughly demolished. Among religious conservatives and left-wing feminists, it's an article of faith that pornography leads inexorably to sexual abuse of women and children. But while hard-core raunch has proliferated, sexual assaults have not. Could it be that pornography prevents rape?
In fact, our changing attitudes about erotica are part of a generally more open and honest approach to matters involving sex. And one vital product of that openness has been a willingness to confront questions that were often avoided in the past. Today, kids grow up being taught that "no means no," rapists can't be excused because their victims were dressed provocatively and adults are never allowed to touch children in certain ways.
Those themes have hardly eradicated this scourge, but they have worked to discourage predators and embolden potential victims. Maybe the main lesson from the decline of sexual assault is an old one: Knowledge is power.
Steve Chapman is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. His column appears Mondays and Wednesdays in The Sun. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org .
Monday, July 3, 2006
Castrated child molester seeks his freedom
By LARRY WELBORN
Kevin Reilly, a twice-convicted child molester who has been in and out of prisons and mental hospitals for much of his adult life, didn't want to be a pedophile anymore, according to his attorney.
"He understood he was a danger to children and he wanted to control his urges," said Orange County Deputy Public Defender Dinah Granafei.
So Reilly took drastic action in 2003.
He won a court order and paid to be surgically castrated.
"He felt that this was the only way to stop his cravings and immoral conduct," Granafei added.
Now Reilly, who has been locked up at Atascadero Mental Hospital since 2000 when the District Attorney's Office filed a petition labeling him a Sexually Violent Predator (SVP), wants his freedom.
Reilly says he has completed a sex-offender treatment program, undergone castration and is no longer a threat to kids.
But Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas disagrees.
Castration is no cure for pedophilia, he said.
"The greatest problem with sex offenders is mental," Rackauckas said.
"Just because they have been castrated doesn't change what's going on in their minds," he said.
Reilly is still a sexual predator who should stay locked up, Rackauckas says.
An SVP hearing is underway before Orange County Superior Court Judge John Conley, who will decide if there is sufficient evidence to require a jury trial later this year. The hearing will continue Thursday.
At stake for Reilly is a return to Atascadero for more treatment if the jury finds that he has a mental illness that would make it likely he will molest again.
Or he could be released back to society.
Barrie Hafler, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Mental Health at Atascadero, said she is aware of fewer than 20 patients in the last decade who have undergone castration.
Reilly is also the first Orange County convicted child molester to argue in court that castration has rendered him safe around children and therefore he should no longer be considered a sexually violent predator.
Surgical castration calls for a man's testicles to be cut away, removing the glands that produce most of a man's testosterone.
"I can tell you why they do it," said Dr. Jesus Padilla, a clinical psychologist at the central California hospital. "They think it is their ticket out of the mental hospital."
But Padilla, chairman of psychology department at Atascadero, said men can still perform sexually after their testicles have been removed and can still be dangerous.
"Most of the time this is done in the belief that this will cure them of their urges," Padilla said. "In fact, it does not cure them and it leaves the community with a false sense of security."
He said the California Department of Mental Health, which runs the Sexually Violent Predator treatment program at Atascadero, does not condone castration.
If a patient wants one, he must first get a court order, and then pay someone outside of the state agency to perform the procedure, Padilla said.
That's what Reilly did in 2003.
On the other side, Dr. Mary Flavan, a psychiatrist at Atascadero, said she believes that castration is the only known effective treatment of sexual predators.
"You can change your urges by taking away the chemical that make those urges occur strongly," Flavan said. "There is no question it works … it's permanent. It's real. It is serious. It is effective."
He was arrested a month later in Arizona after a nationwide manhunt. His daughter was found unharmed.
Reilly pleaded guilty in August 1983 to molesting the two Tustin girls and the kidnapping of his own daughter. He was sentenced to three years in prison.
He was also charged with and convicted of molesting a girl and showing pornography to a boy in Arizona when he was a fugitive. He pleaded guilty to those charges and was sentenced to eight years in Arizona prison.
After he was paroled on both cases, he returned to Orange County and married twice more.
In 1998, Reilly was again charged with molestation. He was convicted a year later and sent back to prison for three years.
Before he could be paroled on that case, the Orange County District Attorney's Office filed a Sexually Violent Predator petition against him, alleging he remains a danger to children.
Reilly has been in mental hospitals or jails ever since.
But Reilly now feels he has done everything he can to convince others that he is no longer a danger to children – including surgical castration.
And now he wants be released from the mental hospital.
But the primary reason Reilly went through with the castration was not freedom, Granafei insisted, but to be free of his improper sexual urges.
"I mean, who wants to be a pedophile?" she said.
Posted on Fri, Jun. 30, 2006
News in brief from Northern California
SACRAMENTO - A sexually violent predator whose court-ordered release has been delayed for 13 months wants to live in a trailer on 60 vacant acres of land in the fast-growing Natomas area of Sacramento.
County and state officials have to approve the location of Timothy Lee Boggs' new home before he can be released, and state officials say four other possible sites are also being considered for Boggs, 52.
"Do you really want to put a sex offender in a residential area full of children?" asked Hiren Patel, who lives with his 6-month-old twin girls a half-mile from the Natomas site.
Boggs was convicted of molesting 9-year-old boys in 1984 and 1988. The first offense brought 180 days' jail time, the second seven years in prison.
Two empty beer cans in Boggs' trash were enough to send him back to prison with just two months left on his parole. He then was classified as a sexually violent predator and sent to Atascadero State Hospital. He has been there for eight years, where he completed an intensive, four-phase inpatient therapy program.
Previous plans to house him on the grounds of Folsom State Prison or the Sacramento County satellite jail south of Elk Grove fell through because of opposition.
SACRAMENTO (AP) - Sacramento officials have suspended talks with the Sacramento Kings about how to pay for a new arena for the professional basketball team.
City and county officials say they were unable to agree with the team on issues including the cost of the arena and how much the Kings' owners would pay. That ends a rush to ask voters in November to approve a quarter-cent increase in the Sacramento County sales tax to pay for community projects including a replacement for 18-year-old Arco Arena.
The only agreement among negotiators was that the arena should go in Sacramento's old Union Pacific downtown rail yard rather than near the current arena in North Natomas.
John Thomas, president of Maloof Sports and Entertainment, was disappointed but said "no one is giving up."
"Experience shows that where this has been done, it's not unusual to have things happen like this," Thomas said. "Start and stop, start and stop; that's the norm."
Former state Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg, who represented the Maloofs in negotiations, said the soaring cost of building a new arena was the biggest hurdle.
Sacramento has been working toward a new arena for six years. The next time a financing plan could be placed before voters is June 2008, and officials worry the Kings could move to another city before then.
Last updated: Tuesday, Jun 27, 2006 - 06:41:37 am PDT
Galt leaders hoping to restrict where sex offenders may reside
By Ross Farrow
Boggs faces communities that don't want him in their town. The Board of Supervisors, along with the Elk Grove and Folsom city councils, have adopted ordinances that keep sex offenders away from schools, parks and other areas where children are present.
"We've got to send the message," Malson said Monday. "The other cities have sent a message to the state that we don't like what you're doing. By not saying anything, you're saying it's OK."
The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on June 20 to prohibit sex offenders from being within 300 feet of schools, day-care centers, video arcades, playgrounds, youth sports fields and gymnasiums, skate parks, public swimming pools, libraries and bus stops near parks and schools.
Boggs, 52, was arrested three times for molesting young boys in the 1970s and '80s. He served seven years of a 13-year sentence in state prison after he was sentenced in 1998 for molesting a 9-year-old boy. Previously, he pleaded no contest to molesting a 9-year-old boy in 1984.
California Mental Health officials are searching for a location within Sacramento County to place him. He will be transferred next week to Sacramento County Jail from Atascadero State Hospital, where he completed a rehabilitation program for sexual offenders.
Boggs will appear in court in court July 14 in Sacramento. If the state Health Department hasn't placed him in a particular community, Boggs' attorney, Kenneth Rosenfeld, will petition the court for his unconditional release.
That means he can go to any community he wants, the only restriction being that he would have to register as a sex offender with the local law enforcement agency once a year, Rosenfeld said.
Boggs must be released somewhere in Sacramento County because state
law requires that convicted sexual molesters be returned to the county
in which they committed their crime, according to Kirsten MacIntyre, assistant
director for external affairs at California Mental Health Department.
Registered sex offenders
No sex offenders were reported in Thornton and Victor.
Herald was another location once considered for Boggs, but River City Recovery Center, an alcohol and drug rehabilitation center on Alta Mesa Road northeast of Galt, turned down a request to house Boggs.
For a list of registered sex offenders, see http://www.meganslaw.ca.gov .
Because of the Fourth of July holiday, next week's Galt City Council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 380 Civic Drive.
Scripps-McClatchy News Service contributed to this report.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow
Posted on Thu, Jun. 22, 2006
Orange County jury deadlocks
on releasing notorious molester
SANTA ANA, Calif. - A jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of releasing child molester Sid Landau, who became the public face of Megan's Law in the 1990s.
The deadlock announced Wednesday prompted Superior Court Judge Robert R. Fitzgerald to declare a mistrial.
Landau, who has been held in mental hospitals for the last six years, was seeking to be released to relatives in Queens, N.Y. Prosecutors want him to remain locked up, saying the 67-year-old remains a threat despite poor health.
The Orange County district attorney's office will retry the case, said spokeswoman Susan Kang Schroeder.
"Our position is steadfast, that he's a danger to the community," she said.
Landau was convicted of molesting two boys in the 1980s but has admitted to abusing 10. He served a total of 10 years in prison on those convictions.
He became one of Southern California's most recognizable pedophiles in the 1990s when police, who were enforcing Megan's Law for the first time, distributed fliers in his Placentia neighborhood identifying him as a convicted sex offender.
He was chased from a series of homes and motels by death threats and protesters until he was arrested on parole violations in 1997.
He was scheduled to be released in 2000, but Orange County prosecutors used the state's Sexually Violent Predator Statute to keep him locked up. The law allows sexually violent offenders who are deemed a continual threat to remain in state custody after their sentences are completed.
Landau's attorney, Leonard B. Levine, said his client is now harmless.
"We think it's a waste to
spend $140,000 a year to care for an old man who's no longer a danger,"
Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com
Jun 16, 2006 6:45 pm US/Pacific
Public Now Notified If Sex Offenders Near Release
(CBS 5) SACRAMENTO Convicted sex offenders will soon have to go through an extra step before they can get out of prison, thanks to a new program to alert the public when an offender is nearing release.
High-risk sex offenders have been allowed slip into communities almost unnoticed for years.
It was often only after their release that local police were alerted. But an executive order from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger now requires the public be given a 45-day notice before a high-risk sex offender is set free.
Had this been in place back in early May, the residents around San Quentin prison in Marin County would have known that 12 newly paroled sex offenders were being housed in a trailer on the prison grounds. Some got only a hour's notice.
State officials describe that system as seriously flawed. In fact, there may be no better example than Santa Clara County. There, 163 registered sex offenders live within the county lines -- most in San Jose. But 110 -- 68 percent of them -- live less than a half mile from a school, a direct violation of state law.
The California Department of Corrections plans to examine and re-classify all registered sex offenders released over the past year.
That's almost 5,000 parolees, at least 20 percent of which are considered high-risk sex offenders.
"I have an audit going on right now for 100-percent review of all placements of high-risk sex offenders using GPS," said Jim Tilton of the California Department of Corrections. "So it's basically line-of-sight, and that audit is expected to be complete by June 30.
There are 100,000 sex offenders living in California. Another 1,400 are scheduled for release in the next 90 days.
‘Predator' law keeps Harmon at state hospital
A jury Friday found that a convicted sex offender from Lompoc is a sexually violent predator who should remain institutionalized for at least two more years.
Phillip Harmon, 52, will remain at Atascadero State Hospital until at least June 16, 2008. He is entitled to a recommitment hearing every two years.
Harmon qualified as a sexually violent predator for raping two women in 1977.
The jury in Superior Court in Santa Maria, by ordering Harmon's recommitment, found that he still poses a threat to society.
A panel of six men and six women, who deliberated for about two hours before reaching the verdict, declined comment after the hearing.
Both attorneys in the case did speak with jurors.
Several members of the panel said they pitied Harmon, who testified during the hearing about a tragic childhood filled with physical and sexual abuse that included incest.
“They essentially said they felt sorry for him,” Deputy District Attorney John MacKinnon said. “But felt he wasn't ready to be released. In the end they agreed he remained a risk.”
Deputy Public Defender James Voysey said jurors were reluctant to release a man who appeared to have no family or friends.
“They felt that he did not have a support system in place,”
Voysey said. “That was a major part of their decision.”
During a trial that began last week, prosecutor MacKinnon argued there's a significant risk that Harmon, who has also been convicted of child molestation, will commit more crimes if released.
Voysey, Harmon's attorney, said the diagnosis of his client as likely to reoffend is based on “junk science.”
During Harmon's hearing, psychologists who testified for the prosecution said the man posed a significant risk to reoffend.
However, a psychiatrist testifying for the defense said Harmon's aberrant sexual urges appear to have gone into remission.
Judge James Rigali presided over the case, which began last week.
In a span of several months in 1977, Harmon raped two employees at separate dry cleaning businesses in Sacramento.
He was convicted of both crimes in 1978, and sent to Atascadero State Hospital for treatment until 1983. Upon his release, he married and moved to Lompoc, where he lived without another arrest until 1993.
In 1993, Harmon's 8-year-old nephew accused the man of molesting him during a two-year period. Harmon was convicted of sexually abusing the minor, and went to prison until 2004.
California lawmakers by then had created the Sexually Violent Predator program, which allows the state Department of Mental Health to institutionalize certain sex offenders after they've finished their prison terms and until a hospital official or a jury at a commitment hearing finds that they no longer pose a threat.
“We're very satisfied with the jury verdict and we feel they came to the right conclusion,” MacKinnon said. “If he continues to work on his problems, perhaps he will be released in the future.”
Voysey said he planned to appeal the verdict on several evidentiary issues.
“Of course I'm disappointed that I did not win the case,” he said. “But I respect the jury's decision and the process they used.”
Quintin Cushner can be reached at 739-2217 or email@example.com .
June 18, 2006
Sex offender assessments boosted
Bad publicity about sex offenders living in family-occupied motels in Southern California and in parole agents' offices in the Bay Area has prompted corrections officials to try to improve their risk assessment methods before they release child molesters and others from prison.
In an executive order signed Friday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered that the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation gauge the danger posed by all sex offenders within 90 days of their scheduled parole dates.
Some 1,400 will be identified and assessed by the Department of Mental Health over the next three months, according to corrections chief Jim Tilton.
Tilton said the assessments will then be forwarded to parole agents in the field as well as local law enforcement agencies to make sure that at the very least, the offenders are complying with recently enacted legislation that bars them from living within a half-mile of K-12 schools.
"We want to ensure that high-risk sex offenders will comply with state law prohibiting convicted child molesters out on parole (from) living near schools," Tilton said at a press conference.
Tilton said parole agents currently don't know the risk levels of the just-released sex offenders until they first walk into their offices. He characterized as "haphazard" the process by which parole agents then notify local police about who just got out of prison and where the offenders should be living.
"We don't do a good job of making sure that local law enforcement is working with us in terms of these placements," Tilton said.
In February, it was disclosed that some sex offenders had been relocated by their agents into motels near Disneyland and close to schoolyards in communities such as Norwalk and South Gate.
More recently, corrections officials confirmed, sex offenders who couldn't find housing on their own wound up sleeping at night in their parole agents' offices.
Corrections spokeswoman Elaine Jennings said in an e-mail that as of Friday, seven of the offenders were still sleeping in parole offices in Fairfield while another 13 were spending their nights in parole offices in Hayward.
Assemblymen Todd Spitzer, R-Orange, and Rudy Bermudez, D-Norwalk, blasted the corrections department earlier this year over the placements, with the political heat eventually resulting in the dismissal of Jim L'Etoile, the head of the department's parole division.
"There has been, obviously, as the secretary has acknowledged, serious flaws in the way that sex offenders have been first identified," Spitzer said.
Tilton was at a loss Friday to explain why the risk assessments were not being conducted already, saying only that the new approach is "obvious to us right now."
"This is a no-brainer," he said.
A new law that went on the books this year already bars child molesters from living within a half-mile of school grounds. Tilton said the assessment will help parole officials and local law enforcement agencies to make sure that sex offenders are in compliance.
The recommendation for the risk assessments came from Schwarzenegger's High Risk Sex Offender Task Force that was established last year.
"I believe in a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to sexual predators,"
Schwarzenegger said in a prepared statement Friday.
About the writer:
Posted on Sat, Jun. 17, 2006
Reins tightened on sex offenders
SACRAMENTO - San Jose police and community leaders were appalled two years ago when prison officials didn't bother to tell them a paroled repeat sex offender was coming to their city, much less, already living there.
On Friday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is paying special attention to sexual predator issues this election year, issued an executive order to try to prevent another Cary Verse situation -- and the public outrage it inspired.
On the advice of a task force he appointed a month ago, Schwarzenegger has ordered the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to notify law enforcement agencies 45 days before a paroled high-risk sex offender arrives in their community.
Parole officials often inform local authorities when a sex offender is moving into their town, but local police complain that it's not a consistent practice and that too often they're caught unprepared.
``We'd much prefer to be able to have that information . . . to be able to juggle all the things we have to do,'' said Woodland Police Chief Carey Sullivan, who attended the Capitol news conference announcing the executive order.
San Jose Police Chief Rob Davis, who was among those furious over the Verse case in March 2004, said he could not comment on the governor's order Friday because he had not had time to study it.
The governor's order follows an embarrassing incident earlier this year in which state parole officials were found to have housed sex offenders near Disneyland. That prompted the governor to create the task force, which has yet to issue its report but recommended the actions taken Friday by the governor.
The order also requires prison officials to start screening the estimated 1,400 sex offenders in state prisons well before they are released to determine their risk to the community.
The 45-day notification order seemed to be a targeted attempt to avoid exactly what happened in San Jose.
In March 2004, the state Department of Mental Health quietly relocated Verse, a repeat sex offender who had already been bounced by protest out of Mill Valley and Oakland, into a Monterey Road motel. There was no notice to local police.
San Jose police found out Verse was living in the city only when someone called 911 to say one of the state's most notorious sex felons was sitting on the side of the road reading a newspaper.
``We're finding out this way that this guy lands in our city?'' Chief Davis said at the time. ``To me that's irresponsible. . . . I'm not happy.''
After almost a year of court hearings and almost being prosecuted for missing a registration date, Verse moved to Contra Costa County with the approval of a judge. In that instance, the community of Bay Point was not caught by surprise.
In the wake of incidents in which communities were caught off-guard, protecting the public from sexual predators has emerged as a focus of election year law-and-order politics, fueled by administrative lapses, concerns over Internet trolling on such sites as MySpace.com, and news media coverage, especially the high-profile ``To Catch a Predator'' series on television's ``Dateline NBC.''
As part of the review announced Friday, offenders who are found to be at high risk of committing other sex crimes will be labeled within 45 days of their release date. The review process includes factors such as age and criminal history, as well as a subjective scale based on a personal assessment, acting Corrections Secretary James Tilton said.
The department previously rated offenders for their risk so parole agents knew what level of monitoring was required, but that information often was not available early enough for agents to know whether their housing plans complied with state law.
Tilton said the responsibility for finding appropriate housing lies with parolees, but the advance notice will give agents and local officials time to scrutinize their proposed residences.
``I can't explain why we didn't do it sooner. It's so obvious to us now on the task force,'' Tilton said. ``We felt we couldn't wait until the task force report to make it happen.''
Porn Plea Means Ex-O.C.
Judge Won't Get State Work
June 16, 2006
A former Orange County Superior Court judge who pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography was barred Thursday from receiving work from state courts.
The action against Ronald C. Kline, 65, of Irvine is the most serious punishment the state Commission on Judicial Performance can give a former judge.
If the commission had not taken action, Kline would have been eligible to sit in for judges on vacation or act as a referee handling complex litigation issues.
Eight other judges in the last five years have received similar punishment.
Kline was arrested in November 2001 after a Canadian hacked into his home computer and discovered hundreds of images of boys engaged in sex.
The hacker, Bradley Willman, relayed the information to a Colorado-based Internet watchdog group, Pedowatch, which informed Irvine police. The police searched Kline's home and seized his computer.
Kline has been under court-ordered home confinement since his arrest. Under a plea deal with federal prosecutors, he will face up to 33 months in prison when sentenced July 31.
Kline will also be required to register as a sex offender.
Orange County Register
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Repeat molester seeks freedom
By LARRY WELBORN
Nobody wanted Sid Landau as a neighbor in the late 1990s.
He was chased from one home to the next after Orange County police - for the first time using the newly enacted "Megan's Law" - passed out fliers revealing that he was a twice-convicted child molester.
Protesters picketed, waved signs and wore T-shirts that read, "Get rid of Sid."
Hate mail and death threats landed in Landau's mailbox and on his phone. He moved from place to place, eventually ending up back in prison after failing to meet with his parole officer.
Then, in 2000, the Orange County District Attorney's Office filed a petition declaring Landau a chronic repeat offender, who would molest again if released back to the streets. He's been in state mental hospitals ever since, under the state Sexually Violent Predator Statute.
Now, Landau wants out again, claiming his sexual urges are under control. He is 67, in poor health and recently underwent surgery for prostate cancer.
He's hoping to live out his days with his older brother in New York, working in the construction industry.
"I just stopped thinking about having sex completely," Landau testified before a nine-man, three-woman Superior Court jury on Monday. "The desires I had before are pretty much nonexistent."
The testimony came during a hearing to determine if he is a sexually violent predator or a reformed molester who is no longer a danger.
California law allows for prosecutors to seek to keep potential repeat sexual offenders locked up in a mental facility after they have served their prison sentences – if a jury is convinced they remain dangerous.
His hearing is scheduled to resume today before Superior Court Judge Robert Fitzgerald.
Deputy District Attorney Andrea Burke contends that Landau belongs in custody. She said he is a lifelong pedophile with an extensive history of molesting children that began when he was 20.
If released, Burke contends, there is a likelihood that Landau will find other children to molest.
But Landau and his attorneys claim he should be released to live with his older brother because he has served a maximum sentence on his latest conviction in 1988, and is no longer a danger to others.
Michael J. Aye, a Sacramento attorney who specializes in defending offenders targeted under the Sexually Violent Predator Statute, said that research shows men older than 60 are far less likely to re-offend than younger men.
He said Landau also would experience severe pain if he were to re-offend because of his prostate problem, further reducing the likelihood that he would molest again.
"It's common sense," Aye said.
He has other issues with the statute.
"Constitutionally and intellectually, this is possibly the most dishonest thing I have ever seen in my life," Aye said.
He says sexual offenders are imprisoned without treatment programs, serve their time, and then are told they will not be released.
"What's fair about that?" Aye asked.
Landau was convicted of lewd acts with a 9-year-old boy in 1982, and child perversion of an 11-year-old boy in 1988.
This week, he told the jury he feels terrible about all the children he molested.
"I took away their innocence, their trust and undoubtedly gave some of them psychological problems for life," he testified. "I led a horrible, horrible life.
"And I am sorry about it," Landau said.
1982: Sid Landau is convicted of lewd acts upon a 9-year-old boy and
is sentenced to six years in prison.
1988: He is convicted on three counts of child molestation involving
an 11-year-old boy and is sentenced to 17 years in prison.
1995: California enacts the Sexually Violent Predator Statute, allowing
offenders to remain incarcerated after they have served their terms.
1996: After serving eight years before being paroled, Landau moves into
a Placentia house.
1996: California enacts Megan's Law, giving the public access to previously
confidential sexoffender information.
1997:Under Megan's Law, police notify neighbors of Landau's past. Plagued
by picketing and death threats, Landau moves to a new residence in Placentia
and gets the same community response. He moves several more times under
continuing pressure and threats before being imprisoned on a parole violation
after he shoves a TV photographer.
1998: After his next release, Landau is chased out of residences in
Anaheim after neighborhood protests when police disclose his whereabouts.
1999: Landau is sent back to prison for violating his parole after state
officials determine that he violated curfew and failed to meet with a parole
2000: Landau is transferred to Atascadero State Mental Hospital, after
serving maximum time in prison, when Orange County District Attorney's
Office files a sexually violent predator petition against him.
2006: A hearing begins and will determine whether Landau should be kept locked up in a mental hospital as dangerous, or be set free.
Jury this week could decide fate of sex offender
By Quintin Cushner/Senior Staff Writer
During two days of testimony last week, a jury of six men and six women heard opinions on whether Phillip Harmon, 52, should continue his commitment at Atascadero State Hospital, or go free.
To qualify as a sexually violent predator (SVP), a patient must have a diagnosable mental disorder and pose a serious risk to reoffend, according to California law.
Dana Putnam, a psychologist from Morro Bay who testified Friday at the behest of Deputy District Attorney John MacKinnon, said Harmon fits the criteria of an SVP.
During his testimony, Putnam diagnosed Harmon with both paraphelia - abnormal sexual arousal - and pedophilia - sexual arousal caused by children.
Harmon sat quietly Friday during his recommitment hearing, dressed in khakis, a blue shirt and a navy blue blazer.
During a hearing presided over by Judge James Rigali, jurors have listened to testimony about Harmon's past acts.
In a span of several months in 1977, Harmon raped two employees at separate dry cleaning businesses in Sacramento.
He was convicted of both crimes in 1978, and sent to Atascadero State Hospital for treatment until 1983. Upon his release, he married and moved to Lompoc, where he lived without another arrest until 1993.
In 1993, Harmon's 8-year-old nephew accused the man of molesting him during a two-year period. Harmon was convicted of sexually abusing the minor, and went to prison until 2004.
California lawmakers by then had created the Sexually Violent Predator program, which allows the state Department of Mental Health to institutionalize certain sex offenders after they've finished their prison terms and until a jury finds at a commitment hearing that they no longer pose a threat.
Harmon's attorney, Assistant Public Defender James Voysey, last week called Dr. S. Miles Estner, a forensic psychiatrist in San Luis Obispo County, as a witness in the case.
Estner testified that Harmon had displayed paraphelia in the past, but appears to no longer have aberrant sexual interests.
Estner will continue on the stand today.
Voysey on Friday also called as a character witness the Rev. Michael Bell, a Roman Catholic priest at the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo.
Bell testified that though he was not familiar with the details of Harmon's offenses, the man had posed no problems while imprisoned there for about 10 years.
Testimony in the recommitment hearing is expected to conclude today, with prosecutor MacKinnon calling Jeremy Coles, a psychologist from Oakland.
Coles is expected to testify that Harmon fits the description of an SVP and could reoffend if released.
Jurors may begin deliberating as early as today.
MacKinnon argues Harmon continues to pose a risk to society.
“An individual's past conduct is the best indicator on how they will behave in the community in the future,” MacKinnon said. “And this individual has been unable to control himself sexually.”
Voysey said the SVP law is not an effective indicator of future behavior, and that his client has not committed a sexually violent act in almost 30 years. The molestation is not a qualifying offense under California's SVP law, he said.
“The psychological instruments are insufficient to base a prediction of future behavior on,” Voysey said.
Quintin Cushner can be reached at 739-2217 or qcushner@ lompocrecord.com.
June 13, 2006
More States Move to Use GPS Tracking of Sex Offenders
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
By Hannah Sentenac
NEW YORK — The crimes of convicted sex offenders are starting to haunt them … literally.
Many states are initiating programs that track registered sex offenders using Global Positioning Satellites, or GPS, sometimes for life. GPS can track the exact location of the offenders at all times, making it easier for law enforcement to ensure that they're abiding with the terms of their release.
It sounds like an efficient system: Authorities can keep track of dangerous sex offenders without having to keep them in prison at taxpayers' expense.
But opponents argue that process, particularly if it's for life, is excessively punitive and invades the privacy of offenders after they've served their time. And with 50 states, 50 different sets of laws are likely to emerge, making for complicated enforcement.
"Bottom line is that decisions on the use of this kind of technology, which can be characterized as very invasive of the individual's privacy, need to be made on a case-by-case basis ... If it is used it should be the exception and only applied in the most egregious cases," said David Sobel, general counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
Sobel noted that many offenders are simply trying to resume some semblance of a normal life once out of prison.
"Lifetime monitoring would erase the concept we have of people paying their debts to society and moving on in an equal footing," he said.
But others say it's better to be safe than sorry.
Republican state Sen. Matt Bartle of Missouri has sponsored a bill that would cast a wider net over those who would be tracked, including repeat offenders who have committed crimes such as exposing oneself to a child. The bill would also impose much stronger penalties for sexual offenses, such as requiring the individual to wear a tracking device even after the sentence and parole time have been completed.
"I think the general public is really not terribly confident that we're getting it right when it comes to pedophiles -- that this individual, case-by-case approach is leading to some very horrific situations," Bartle said.
'Jessica's Law' Calls for Offender Tracking
As of March, at least 17 states saw one or more bills introduced employing the GPS tracking of sex offenders, according to the National Council of State Legislatures. States such as Ohio, Oklahoma and Florida allow lifetime tracking of habitual offenders.
Florida began requiring mandatory lifetime GOP tracking for those convicted of sex crimes against children 11 and younger after the March 2005 murder of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford by a convicted sex offender living nearby. The law also mandates a 25-year prison sentence for many offenders who commit crimes against kids.
Wisconsin last month extended lifetime GPS monitoring to serious and repeat child predators, while California is pushing a version of "Jessica's Law" on the November ballot that would mandate lifetime GPS tracking for every sex offender leaving prison.
On May 15, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger created a task force to focus on policies for electronic surveillance of sex offenders. His recent budget has requested $8 million for Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement Task Forces (SAFE teams) designed to "reduce violent sexual offenses through proactive surveillance and arrest of habitual sex offenders."
In South Carolina, GPS tracking applies to offenses including "criminal sexual contact with a minor, lewd act upon a minor, solicitation of a minor," according to the NCSL. Monitoring would continue for the length of time the individual is required to be registered as a sex offender.
The Missouri Department of Corrections implemented a GPS program designed to track offenders who are at high risk for recidivism. Agency spokesman Brian Hauswirth said those chosen for the pilot will be required to complete 90 to 120 days of monitoring, and release will be based on "measurable positive adjustment by the officer." The program will target only higher-risk elements of the population, such as violent felons and sex criminals.
"Overall, we're very pleased with the pilot project. We've had some equipment issues. There are some ‘bugs' in the system that we're working to fix. The pilot project is the time to do that," Hauswirth said.
Recidivism is an argument often used by those advocating the use of GPS tracking. Many GPS experts say offenders are less likely to commit a similar crime if they know they are being tracked.
According to the Office of Justice Programs at the Justice Department, of the 9,691 male sex offenders released from prisons in 15 states in 1994, 5.3 percent were rearrested for a new sex crime within three years of release. Of those released who allegedly committed another sex crime, 40 percent perpetrated the new offense within a year or less from getting out of prison.
The Center for Recidivism Management at the Justice Department says underestimating, or underreporting, is higher in crimes of sexual violence than general criminal violence.
How the Technology Works
ISECUREtrac, a Nebraska-based company specializing in GPS offender tracking, says its systems can pinpoint offenders' locations within a 15-foot radius. ISECUREtrac (OTC) provides numerous states with GPS systems, and according to its Web site, "experience indicates that agencies that utilize GPS monitoring systems have increased offender compliance, enhanced their ability to monitor more offenders simultaneously, and have had the greatest impact on reducing re-offense."
GPS technology was developed in the 1960s by the military in order to provide accurate positioning of their equipment and troops. There are 24 satellites surrounding the earth that transmit signals to ground stations. GPS receivers use the signals to calculate locations. The Department of Defense calls the technology the Navigation System with Timing and Ranging, or NAVSTAR.
Offenders being tracked wear a wireless electronic device on their ankles the size of a deck of cards. Offenders must wear the waterproof ankle bands at all times and stay within a certain distance from the separate GPS transmitters, which can be carried with them or set on surfaces when at home or work.
Detractors, however, argue that the system can easily become cost-prohibitive if the criteria for monitoring are too broad. Various estimates of the cost of GPS programs run from about $7 to $9 a day per offender — significantly cheaper than incarceration, which ranges from approximately $40 to $100 per day, depending on the state and prison.
But the broader the scale of offenders being tracked, the higher the costs become for the state.
"With over a quarter of a million sex offenders, the government is going to need 100,000 employees to track them all, which is going to get very expensive," said Jack King, a spokesman for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, which recently announced the formation of a task force designed to study this issue.
King questioned whether the tracking systems could reduce the recidivism rate, which he said was approximately 7 percent.
"I would say it is way too soon to even speculate whether GPS monitoring of ex-offenders would help prevent recidivism. Preventing recidivism is a worthy goal, but who is to say whether a new technology works or not? One size never really 'fits all,' no matter what they say," King argued.
Critics fear that certain sex offenders, such as those with non-violent statutory rape convictions and those convicted of lesser sex crimes, might also become subject to intrusive surveillance.
Peggy Conway, the editor of the Journal of Offender Monitoring at the Civic Research Institute, thinks GPS works best as a deterrent for crime, but not as a punitive measure. Monitoring is useful as an aid for rehabilitation, she said, allowing the offender to become more compliant and able to cooperate with other treatment, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.
"For low-level offenders, GPS tracking is overly supervisory. It becomes too much of a scarlet letter for them," Conway added.
Opponents also argue that society needs to be cautious when it comes to governments monitoring people with the latest technology.
"I think its use needs to be very carefully debated and limited to only those situations in which there is an extremely strong law enforcement argument," said Sobel of EPIC. "Just because the technology exists to allow for this kind of tracking, doesn't mean that it should be done in a routine way."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Overhaul of sexual predator law slows
Despite legislators' vows earlier this year to quickly revamp howCalifornia handles its worst sexual offenders, the effort is moving slowly and, critics say, could even end up weakening the state's control over sexually violent predators. Lawmakers and prosecutors say there is still a good chance that reform legislation will be passed in the coming months, but there are sharp disagreements over how tough the new legislation will be.
"When the pronouncement was made months ago that they would get serious about this, it was unequivocal," said Sen. Charles Poochigian, R-Fresno. "And now, we're awaiting action. I hope it's not a case of 'that was then, this is now.' "
Much of the momentum prosecutors and some lawmakers had hoped for stemmed from a call by Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez in mid- February for strict new legislation to fix loopholes in the state law governing more than 500 of the most dangerous sex offenders in California.
Núñez was responding to an investigation by The Bee that found the vast majority of sex offenders released from a special treatment program at Atascadero State Hospital had won their freedom without ever participating in therapy.
The Bee series tracked down the 54 men released without completing treatment through the end of 2005 and discovered that they had returned to their communities with little oversight, treatment or public notice.
Núñez vowed at the time to immediately introduce legislation to fix problems in the program, saying legislators needed to "work together and solve the problem" rather than allow victims to be caught up in partisan politics.
But Núñez never introduced such legislation.
Last week the Los Angeles Democrat said that instead he is throwing his support behind Senate Bill 1128, which seeks to modify the state law in various ways, including replacing the two-year hospital commitment with an indefinite term. "We believe this is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with," Núñez said, referring to loopholes in the law that allow sex offenders to be released from the state mental hospital's program without participating in treatment. "The message we want to send this year to sexual predators is, we're going to hunt them down in this state. They're not welcome."
Yet Republican leaders, prosecutors and victims' advocates said Núñez's commitment has been lacking.
"Absolutely, they (legislators) are not doing enough," said Harriet Salarno, president of Crime Victims United of California. "Releasing these people out of the hospital without treatment is ludicrous. What are we accomplishing?" State Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, who is sponsoring the get-tough Jessica's Law initiative on November's ballot, said it is unclear what Núñez and his colleagues are seeking to do with the sexually violent predator act.
"I know folks are talking, but we haven't quite seen what people will be trying to put forward," Runner said. The sexually violent predator statute, enacted 10 years ago, has been used to commit more than 500 men, considered the worst of California's rapists and pedophiles, for psychiatric treatment after their prison terms expired.
The program was designed to force offenders to recognize the harm they have done, teach them how to avoid inappropriate sexual triggers and provide them with intensive monitoring and support as they are placed back in their communities.
But since its inception, the program has struggled with the vast majority of its patients who simply refuse to participate in treatment, and then petition the courts for release in hearings required every two years.
Only 26 percent of the 459 patients in the program have done any therapy, according to Department of Mental Health data. Yet that does not diminish their chances of release, The Bee's investigation found. The program is in the process of being moved from Atascadero State Hospital to a newly opened mental hospital in Coalinga.
Including four more released this year, so far 58 men have been quietly released through the court hearing process, including three this month, according to Department of Mental Health figures.
Unlike those sex offenders who are released directly from prison and subjected to parole monitoring and searches, those sent to a state psychiatric hospital after prison and then released by the courts are not required to undergo any oversight beyond registration with law enforcement agencies in the counties where they live.
In contrast, the three men released after completing the hospital's sexual predator program had to agree to wear a global- positioning satellite device and undergo rigorous screening of all of their acquaintances. The required public notice of their release was greeted by public outcry.
In February, Núñez said he would sponsor a law to decrease the frequency of the court hearings from every two years to every five. He also talked about possibly proposing that just one sex crime be enough to qualify for being sent to the psychiatric hospital instead of the two crimes required currently.
Núñez said he supports Senate Bill 1128, sponsored by Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara. It would commit offenders to the hospital for indeterminate terms, rather than the two-year current program. But Alquist's bill also provides for an annual re-evaluation that critics say could actually make it easier for offenders to seek release. It also would maintain the two-crime minimum to be screened for participation in the program.
Riverside prosecutor Linda Dunn, chairwoman of the California District Attorneys Association's sexually violent predator committee, said prosecutors are pleased that the Alquist bill would impose indeterminate sentences on sexually violent predators, but Dunn said they are deeply concerned with the notion of annual reviews.
"Arguably, if you were a creative defense attorney you could argue for a yearly jury trial, and a yearly jury trial is a bad idea," Dunn said, adding that she is still hopeful that language may be excised from any final bill. "It's bad enough that we have a jury trial every two years on the commitment. (The annual review is) going to be a disaster where the inmates can pester the judge for a hearing every year."
Núñez said it is premature to worry about the Alquist bill because it is not yet in its final form.
"We still have a ways to go before the end of the legislative session,"
the speaker said. "We're very committed to dealing with this."
About the writer:
Mayor: Community Is a Dumping Ground
PALMDALE, May 12, 2006 - Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford crashed a news conference Friday promoting the use of global positioning system technology to track high-risk sex offenders to criticize Antelope Valley legislators.
As Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster, was touting the program, Ledford took the microphone, angrily declaring that the Antelope Valley had become a dumping ground for sex offenders and blamed Runner for only trying to capitalize politically on the problem.
"We are being dumped on and nobody is advocating for us," Ledford said.
"We're going to give these people a free ride. I'm fed up."
Ledford is challenging Runner in the June 6 Republican primary.
The program will put global positioning system bracelets on the legs of 40 convicted sex offenders on parole, Runner said. Sex offenders being released from prison will also be required to wear the bracelets, she said.
"This actual GPS bracelet will save lives," Runner said. "We still don't know where one in four sex offenders are in California."
The Antelope Valley is the first area in Los Angeles County where the program will be operated.
Ledford said the program was inadequate because there are more than 150 sex offenders on Megan's List living in Palmdale and more than 400 in Lancaster, the Antelope Valley's other major city.
The Antelope Valley had more parolees and ex-sex offenders than any other area in California, Ledford told ABC7.
"The fact of the matter is we are a dumping ground," Ledford said. "Most of our state representatives have been sitting on their hands on this issue. It's election time and now our state representatives are coming around to the community. It's not enough. We're fed up."
Ledford said Runner and other state officials were playing politics with the issue.
"They show up before an election," Ledford said. "They want to show us they are concerned."
Jim Tilton, acting secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, expressed optimism about the program.
"By the end of this month, more than 40 high-risk sex offenders in the Antelope Valley region will be issued the GPS electronic bracelets that will make it easier for law enforcement officers and parole agents to track their whereabouts and determine their location at the time of a crime," Tilton said.
The department is conducting the program in conjunction with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
The GPS system will use satellite technology to track parolees' positions and movements 24 hours a day until their parole ends.
Using an automated link from local law enforcement agencies, the monitoring system can determine whether a parolee was at the scene of a crime -- or eliminate a parolee as a suspect in a crime, a department official said.
More than 400 paroled sex offenders statewide have been outfitted with GPS monitors, along with 17 paroled gang members.
Of those, about 45 sex offenders and nine gang members have been arrested for violating the terms of their parole through evidence gathered via GPS tracking.
Statewide, 95 sex offenders have been arrested for parole violations, 45 for violations "specifically having to do with a special condition of parole related to their sexual offense," a department official said.
"The most important mission of CDCR is to promote and enhance public safety," Tilton said. "We are proud that by means of this GPS program, our Adult Parole Division is in the forefront of public safety enhancement."
Release of sex convict
As residents of Folsom and Elk Grove protested proposals to release one of the state's highest risk sex offenders into their communities, a judge on Friday delayed the decision two months while state and local officials continue to wrangle over where he should live and who is responsible for finding him housing.
Timothy Lee Boggs, a child molester who has spent the last eight years as a patient in the sexually violent predator program at the state mental hospital in Atascadero, was arrested three times in the 1970s and '80s for molesting young boys -- including the son of a Sacramento hairdresser.
Friday's outcry underscored the difficulty the state faces in placing sex offenders it once designated as predators, even though they have since completed their treatment.
Two sites where a trailer home could be placed for Boggs on the sprawling grounds of Folsom Prison are among at least a half-dozen that have been considered for Boggs by the state Department of Mental Health. Other proposals have included a halfway house in Galt and a trailer on the grounds of the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center 3Ã‚Â½ miles south of Elk Grove, which officials said is the most likely site.
That news did not sit well with Gary Adam Pruitt, 50, owner of Pruitt's Once and Again consignment furniture store in Franklin, just over six miles from the county's branch jail, who called the idea "a scary thought."
"We are a close-knit community," said Pruitt, who said he would talk to the principal of nearby Franklin Elementary School and anticipated a neighborhood petition drive against Boggs' placement. "There are a number of families who have little boys ... I can't believe they're going to put him out here."
Undersheriff John McGinness said his department also opposes putting Boggs in a trailer at the jail because Boggs is a state prisoner, and not the responsibility of county law enforcement officials.
"We have no obligation that I can see," McGinness said. "Admittedly it's rural, but we think it's a highly inappropriate place for him to be housed. There are residences nearby."
In Folsom Friday afternoon, city leaders held a news conference amid the shouts of children playing at Folsom City Park to protest the prison's inclusion on a list of possible sites -- just as attorneys representing Boggs, the state Department of Mental Health and several county agencies met in Judge Ronald Tochterman's downtown courtroom.
"It's not that we're against the release," said Sue Halfman, principal of St. John's Notre Dame School, which has 324 pupils from kindergarten through eighth grade and sits a block from the prison grounds. "It's the location."
But the location doesn't matter to Viktoria Fenech, the Sacramento-area hairdresser whose son Rickie Morton has spoken openly about being one of Boggs' victims at age 9.
"There's no place for these guys," Fenech said. "They should be kept on the grounds of whatever prison they're in and have to stay there. These guys can't be helped."
Boggs' attorney, Kenneth Rosenfeld, said his client is no longer a threat.
"He's ready to show the community he would never offend again," said Rosenfeld. "Through therapy, he's ready to deal with the issues in his life."
Boggs, 52, is only the fifth man to successfully complete the sexually violent predator program at Atascadero State Hospital since it was started 10 years ago. None of the other four men who completed treatment has re-offended, although one was returned to the mental hospital because he wasn't participating in required outpatient therapy.
Boggs was ordered into the community placement phase of the treatment a year ago, but officials with the state Department of Mental Health have not been able to find a suitable location for him. While he waits, Boggs remains in the mental hospital.
As part of his community placement, Boggs would have to wear a global positioning satellite monitor whenever he left his home, participate in therapy and submit to daily reviews of his activities by a caseworker.
At Friday's hearing, attorney Rosenfeld accused Mental Health Director Stephen Mayberg of delaying placement and suggested to the judge that Mayberg should be confined at the Atascadero mental hospital as punishment.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Ronald Tochterman instead ordered the state and its placement and oversight contractor, Liberty Healthcare, to report back on steps they have taken to find Boggs housing. He also asked attorneys to submit in writing their positions on whether it would violate state law to release Boggs unconditionally -- without specialized placement or restrictions on his movement.
And he ordered the state to explain why it waited until April 4 to seek help from Sacramento County officials in finding a placement for Boggs.
Boggs has a criminal history involving children that dates back decades. Court records show he was arrested and charged in 1973 in connection with the molestation of a boy he was baby-sitting on New Year's Eve. Those charges later were dropped for lack of evidence.
His next arrest came in July 1984, when he was accused of molesting a 9-year-old boy who was sleeping on a boat while Boggs took the boy's family on a fishing trip, court records show.
He pleaded no contest to charges in that case and was sentenced to 180 days in jail and five years of probation. He was still on probation when he was arrested May 25, 1988, and charged with molesting 9-year-old Rickie Morton.
Boggs was sentenced in that case to 13 years in prison, but served only seven years before he was paroled, court records show. He had just two months left on his parole when an officer making a routine visit found two empty beer cans in his garbage, a violation of parole restrictions against possessing alcohol.
That violation led to him being returned to prison and declared by a court to be a "sexually violent predator," a classification that landed him at Atascadero State Hospital.
At Atascadero, sexually violent predators are offered an intensive, four-phase therapy program. About three-quarters of the 550 sexually violent predators sent there in the past decade have refused the treatment, a Bee investigation earlier this year found. The program is in the process of moving to a new state hospital in Coalinga.
Instead, most patients take advantage of a loophole in the law that allows them to demand court hearings every two years on whether they should be released. Through the end of 2005, 54 rapists and child molesters won release from Atascadero through such hearings.
But Boggs agreed to take part in the treatment program and last year became the fifth man to complete all four phases at the hospital. The fifth phase calls for monitoring and therapy in the community, and Boggs must do that in Sacramento County, where he was convicted.
The other four men released under the program -- Patrick Ghilotti, Brian DeVries, Cary Verse and Matthew Hedge -- all had difficulty finding housing and often were hounded by protests and media attention that drove them from home to home. The solution in some cases has been to place the offenders in trailers on prison property until they could find more permanent housing.
Last November, for example, Hedge was moved to a trailer on the grounds of the state prison at Otay Mesa, south of San Diego. He lasted only six weeks before officials won a court order returning him to Atascadero for not following the rules of his outpatient treatment.
In addition to Boggs, three other men have been ordered released by judges back to their home counties:
• Douglas Badger, 63, a San Diego rapist who targeted male hitchhikers, will face a hearing next week to determine if he is to be placed on a trailer on the grounds of the RJ Donovan Correctional Center in Otay Mesa.
• Paul Edward George, 55, is seeking release in San Francisco.
• Ross Wollschlager, 42, a prowler and rapist who targeted young women and girls as young as 10 in Ventura County in the 1980s, by breaking into their bedrooms at night.
Asked about the other three,
Kirsten Macintyre, spokeswoman for the state Department of Mental Health,
said, "I don't know the time frame ... I can tell you we're somewhere in
the process of looking for housing."
A loophole makes California's one of the most lenient sexually violent predator laws in the nation. Go to www.sacbee.com/content/news/projects/predators/.
About the writer:
Thursday, May 4, 2006 · Last updated 8:05 p.m. PT
Paroled sex offenders moved to San Quentin
By LOUISE CHU
SAN FRANCISCO -- A dozen paroled sex offenders moved into old officers barracks at San Quentin State Prison Thursday because officials were unable to find them housing elsewhere.
The men were forced to leave a Solano County hotel where they had been staying until permanent housing could be secured, said Elaine Jennings, spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Jennings said the hotel recently decided to end its contract with the state.
Moving the parolees into the barracks is the "safest short-term solution" to the housing problem, Jennings said.
Housing for sex offenders is an ongoing challenge because of laws that prohibit them from living within a certain distance of schools and because communities and watchdog groups often try to block their placement.
This is the first time parolees have been moved onto prison grounds for that reason, Jennings said.
Harriet Salarno, president of Crime Victims United of California, said moving sex offenders onto prison grounds was a better alternative than putting them back on the streets near potential victims.
"We need to protect the children first," she said. "Safety is our priority."
Charles Carbone, an attorney for California Prison Focus, a prisoner rights advocacy group, said officials need to better define the term "sex offender" so those who don't pose a threat to communities are allowed to return home. But, he added, "everyone recognizes that you have to err on the side of caution."
False Rape Accusations May Be More Common Than Thought
Tuesday , May 02, 2006
By Wendy McElroy
Is it the new 1-in-4 statistic?
I don't mean the widely-circulated '1-in-4 women will be raped in their lifetime' but a statistic that suggests '1-in-4 accusations of rape are false.'
For a long time, I have been bothered by the elusiveness of figures on the prevalence of false accusations of sexual assault. The crime of 'bearing false witness' is rarely tracked or punished, and the context in which it is usually raised is highly politicized.
Politically correct feminists claim false rape accusations are rare and account for only 2 percent of all reports. Men's rights sites point to research that places the rate as high as 41 percent. These are wildly disparate figures that cannot be reconciled.
This week I stumbled over a passage in a 1996 study published by the U.S. Department of Justice: Convicted by Juries, Exonerated by Science: Case Studies in the Use of DNA Evidence to Establish Innocence After Trial.
The study documents 28 cases which, "with the exception of one young man of limited mental capacity who pleaded guilty," consist of individuals who were convicted by juries and, then, later exonerated by DNA tests.
At the time of release, they had each served an average of 7 years in prison.
The passage that riveted my attention was a quote from Peter Neufeld and Barry C. Scheck, prominent criminal attorneys and co-founders of the Innocence Project that seeks to release those falsely imprisoned.
They stated, "Every year since 1989, in about 25 percent of the sexual assault cases referred to the FBI where results could be obtained, the primary suspect has been excluded by forensic DNA testing. Specifically, FBI officials report that out of roughly 10,000 sexual assault cases since 1989, about 2,000 tests have been inconclusive, about 2,000 tests have excluded the primary suspect, and about 6,000 have "matched" or included the primary suspect."
The authors continued, "these percentages have remained constant for 7 years, and the National Institute of Justice's informal survey of private laboratories reveals a strikingly similar 26 percent exclusion rate."
If the foregoing results can be extrapolated, then the rate of false reports is roughly between 20 (if DNA excludes an accused) to 40 percent (if inconclusive DNA is added). The relatively low estimate of 25 to 26 percent is probably accurate, especially since it is supported by other sources.
Before analyzing the competing figures, however, caveats about the one just mentioned are necessary.
First, the category of 'false accusations' does not distinguish between accusers who lie and those who are honestly mistaken. Nor does it indicate that a rape did not occur, merely that the specific accused is innocent.
Thus, there is a drive by voices for reform, like the Innocence Institute, to improve eyewitness identification techniques within police departments.
For example, the Innocence Institute suggests "Police should use a 'double-blind' photo identification procedure where someone other than the investigator -- who does not know who the suspect is -- constructs photo arrays with non-suspects as fillers to reduce suggestiveness."
Second, even if false accusations are as common as 1-in-4, that means 75 percent of reports are probably accurate and, so, all accusations deserve a thorough and professional investigation.
Third, the 1-in-4 figure has 'fuzzy' aspects that could influence the results. For example, Neufeld and Scheck mention only sexual assault cases that were "referred to the FBI where results could be obtained."
It is not clear what percentage of all reported assaults are represented by those cases. As well, the terms 'rape' and 'sexual assault' are often used interchangeably, especially when comparing studies, and it is not clear that they are always synonyms for each other.
Nevertheless, the FBI data on excluded DNA is as close to hard statistics that I've found on the rate of false accusations of sexual assault.
Where do the other figures come from and why is there reason to doubt them? Let me consider the two statistics that I have encountered most often.
"Two percent of all reports are false."
Several years ago, I tried to track down the origin of this much-cited stat. The first instance I found of the figure was in Susan Brownmiller's book on sexual assault entitled "Against Our Will" (1975). Brownmiller claimed that false accusations in New York City had dropped to 2 percent after police departments began using policewomen to interview alleged victims.
Elsewhere, the two percent figure appears without citation or with only a vague attribution to "FBI" sources. Although the figure shows up in legislation such as the Violence Against Women Act, legal scholar Michelle Anderson of Villanova University Law School reported in 2004, "no study has ever been published which sets forth an evidentiary basis for the two percent false rape complaint thesis."
In short, there is no reason to credit that figure.
"Forty-one percent of all reports are false."
This claim comes from a study conducted by Eugene J. Kanin of Purdue University. Kanin examined 109 rape complaints registered in a Midwestern city from 1978 to 1987.
Of these, 45 were ultimately classified by the police as "false." Also based on police records, Kanin determined that 50 percent of the rapes reported at two major universities were "false."
Although Kanin offers solid research, I would need to see more studies with different populations before accepting the figure of 50 percent as prevalent; to me, the figure seems high.
But even a skeptic like me must credit a DNA exclusion rate of 20 percent that remained constant over several years when conducted by FBI labs. This is especially true when 20 percent more were found to be questionable.
False accusations are not rare. They are common.
Wendy McElroy is the editor of ifeminists.com and a research fellow for The Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. She is the author and editor of many books and articles, including the new book, "Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century" (Ivan R. Dee/Independent Institute, 2002). She lives with her husband in Canada.
32 offenders arrested in crime sweep
By Christina Lucarotti-Stubler, Record Searchlight
More than 30 Shasta County residents were arrested as part of a federal sweep aimed at sex offenders, parolees and those wanted on warrants, the U.S. Marshals Office announced Thursday.
The weeklong effort known as "Operation FALCON II," or Federal and Local Cops Organized Nationally, ran from April 17 through Sunday across the western half of the United States.
Federal, state and local agents targeted Shasta County offenders April 21.
Locally, 48 officers conducted 46 sex registrantcompliance inspections, 69 parolee searches and 23 probation searches, said Gary Yandell, supervising deputy with the U.S. Marshals Office.
Thirty-two people were arrested locally.
"A lot of guys went to jail because they were out of compliance" with their parole or sex registration, said Redding police Sgt. Koby Heston.
Yandell called the local effort "probably the most organized I've seen anywhere."
Totals for the Eastern District of California included 256 arrests and 100 sex registrant compliance inspections.
Of those arrested, 30 were sex offenders, 108 were suspected narcotics violators, 49 were violent offenders, 29 were gang members and four were homicide suspects, deputies with the U.S. Marshals Office said.
Reporter Christina Lucarotti-Stubler can be reached at 225-8215 or at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Bill to let landlords reject sex offenders
Thousands of California apartment owners would gain the right to ask prospective tenants if they are registered sex offenders - and then deny them apartments - under a bill receiving its first hearing in the Legislature today.
The proposal also allows landlords to evict tenants for misrepresentation if they aren't truthful. The bill follows a failed attempt by landlords in January to win similar rights in a state with an estimated 66,000 registered sex offenders.
Apartment owners call AB2603 their newest strategy to maneuver between state laws that bar apartment owners from discriminating when renting and tenants who discover registered sex offenders living next door. The California Apartment Association, which sponsored the bill, says landlords are increasingly fearful of legal scenarios that stop them from screening or evicting sex offenders who appear in an online Megan's Law database, but make them liable for tenants who commit crimes.
"It's a legitimate business decision to keep sexual predators out of apartment communities," said Thomas Bannon, CAA chief executive officer. "To protect children is a good business decision."
The bill, authored by Assemblywoman Nicole Parra, D-Hanford, is scheduled for a 9 a.m. hearing in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
Opponents say the measure is unnecessary and amounts to lifelong denial of housing for sex offenders. Under Megan's Law, offenders must register their addresses, which are posted online for the public.
So far, there are no reports of registered sex offenders molesting nearby tenants, says the CAA, whose members own or manage 759,000 apartments statewide. But Bannon said fears have led some apartment owners to pay registered offenders to leave their complexes.
"We're in a situation where if we find out somebody is a Megan's Law violator we can't refuse to rent to them or it's a $25,000 fine," said Mike Force, owner of Sacramento-based Westcal Management and a CAA board member.
In January, landlords pushed a bill allowing them to simply reject applicants and evict tenants who show up in the online Megan's Law database. But it died after arguments that it was discriminatory for life.
The new bill says registered sex offenders will no longer be considered part of any protected class such as race, religion or sexual orientation when applying for an apartment or fighting an eviction. That frees landlords to deny apartments or evict sex offenders without running afoul of fair-housing discrimination claims.
But opponents, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Western Center on Law and Poverty and California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, argue the law could worsen the situation. In letters to lawmakers, they argued the bill could drive more offenders toward homelessness and low-income rentals, prod them not to register and make it even harder to track them.
The California Association of Realtors says the bill could expose landlords to more, not less, liability. Requiring landlords to determine whether every applicant is a registered sex offender invites lawsuits when the qualification process fails, it argues.
The CAR also called the bill unnecessary, even premature, until Attorney
General Bill Lockyer issues an opinion on whether landlords are actually
liable for denying apartments to sex offenders.
About the writer:
Posted on Fri, Mar. 24, 2006
THOMAS SOWELL: SYNDICATED COLUMNIST
Sentencing of sex predators
HORRIFYING stories about the rapes and murders of children, and about judges who go easy on sex offenders who prey on the young, have prompted some legislatures to tighten laws by restricting the judges' sentencing discretion.
Few in the media or among the intelligentsia have been as outraged about these sadistic crimes against children as they have about whether terrorists' phone calls have been intercepted.
Part of this is current politics but part is the continuation of a tradition that goes back more than two centuries, de-emphasizing the punishment of criminals.
People who today point to the flaws of "society" as the "root causes" of crime are echoing what was said in the 18th century by Condorcet in France and William Godwin in England, among others. So are those who speak loftily of "alternatives to incarceration" or who rely on hopes of "rehabilitation." Those with this mindset engage in much hand-wringing about what to do with sexual predators. While many ordinary people would say that they should be locked up -- and, if they are too dangerous to be at large, we should lock them up and throw away the key.
But those whose sense of themselves is based on their presumed superiority to ordinary people can never go along with that. They balk at notifying the public when a convicted sex predator is released to a neighborhood. Their thinking -- if it can be called that -- is that sex predators released from prison have "paid their debt to society" and so the slate should be wiped clean. It is amazing how many innocent lives have been sacrificed for a half- baked phrase.
Going to jail doesn't repay anything. People are put behind bars as punishment and to keep them out of circulation. Child victims of rape and murder cannot be made whole. The debt can never be repaid. The most we can hope for is to spare other children and their parents from the anguish inflicted by evil people -- not "sick" people, but evil people. Sex predators know exactly what they are doing, know that it is wrong, and either don't care or enjoy it all the more for that reason.
Saying they are "sick" implies there is treatment that others can apply to them. How many more lives are we prepared to sacrifice on the altar to that notion? The illusion of being able to control sex predators who are set loose in secrecy among families with children has taken many forms and has been couched in much soothing rhetoric. "Supervised" parole is such a soothing phrase. The reality is an occasional reporting to a parole officer who has huge numbers of parolees -- who cannot be controlled the other 99 percent of the time when they are not reporting.
The latest control pretense is the global positioning satellite that can be attached to sex predators. Think about it. What would a global positioning satellite have told us when a sex predator had two girls imprisoned in his basement? That he was home. What reassurance!
While rising public pressures to get serious about protecting children have forced some legislatures to make efforts in that direction, resistance and evasion are still the order of the day.
The California Legislature is considering bills to use GPS to track released sex offenders -- but only those deemed "dangerous."
One bill sponsor describes GPS as "incredibly valuable technology." Not doubt it is -- if you are lost and want to find your way. On the other hand, if you don't want to be found, you can take it off.
The bills in the Legislature are presented as alternatives to a ballot
initiative by which the voters could impose "Jessica's Law" with some real
teeth in it as far as sentencing is concerned, instead of these political
alternatives to reality.
Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His Web site is www.tsowell.com .
Article Last Updated: 3/23/2006 07:43 AM
Megan's Law necessary evil
OF all the fascinating ways to blow time on the Web, nothing beats the
state Justice Department Megan's Law site, the database of California's
convicted sex offenders.
Represented on the site by blue dots on a map, they're all over the place. Hundreds, thousands of them. Right next to schools, churches, you name it.
Of course, all kinds of paroled criminals live near our homes and schools: drunken drivers, muggers, murderers, etc.
But if those people have been convicted and served their time, the general public cannot see their whole personal history at the click of a mouse. They've paid their debt to society, and they start over with a clean slate. The law says it's not our business to know if a paroled killer is buying the house next door. If he's served his time, it's a done deal.
This doesn't apply to sex offenders. Criminals of this kind never can pay their debt to society, and their offenses always will remain a matter of public record.
This is not fair, or constitutional. But nobody cares about that. Personally, I don't care about that. I use a double standard when judging these people, and I'm the first to admit it.
If and when I have children, a sex offender paroled or otherwise is a living, breathing menace, whereas the constitution is a nice piece of parchment tastefully framed in a museum.
I believe sex offenders deserve basic human rights, including the right to privacy and the right to start over. But I don't want this person to live on my street. Hypocritical? Of course. But who cares?
Sexual offenses — especially those involving children — are so beyond the pale that most people simply can't fathom it.
We can all understand getting angry enough to kill someone, even if we'd never actually do it. We can all understand having one too many at a party and unwisely deciding to drive home. We can understand being hungry and stealing something.
But messing with a child like that — there is no understanding it. Is it crime or mental illness? Who cares? It's evil, and it's dealt with in California with Old Testament-style revenge.
We may not kill them, but half the time we let others do the job for us. We send them to live among those who have no ethical scruples about sticking them in the pancreas with a homemade knife: prison inmates.
If they live to get out of jail, they spend the rest of their lives looking over their shoulders, because any schlub with a computer can read their criminal history.
When the Megan's Law site went up a couple of years ago, a co-worker and I did an investigative piece about it for the newspaper. Digging into the particulars of it, we found some major problems with the site.
We met a woman who said she'd never had so much as a speeding ticket in her life. Yet the database had her address listed as the home of a serial rapist. Her neighbors asked her if she was perhaps harboring the guy. But no, it was just a mistake, one of many such.
We got to the point of knocking on sex offenders' doors, trying to interview them. If you think being a reporter is glamorous, think again.
We met a guy who had done some prison time for "a terrible mistake," according to him. He was married now, and his baby son was playing on the carpet in front of us. His wife was there.
The man had been a drug addict, but was now sober. He was a born-again Christian. He'd done his time years ago and never had harmed another child. Since the site had gone up, he had lived in fear.
Others are on the site because they had a 17-year-old girlfriend when they were 18. Is that right?
A lot of mistakes were made for the sake of public safety. A lot of civil rights were violated. The site is a feather in the cap for the attorney general, but a few people got steamrolled along the way.
So, who will go to bat for these people? What politician will ensure their voice is heard?
What newspaper writer will demand justice for them? Not this one, that's for sure.
I have sympathy, but I don't. I care, but I don't. I could make this into my great cause in life, or I could blow it off and go order a hamburger.
I'm just like everybody else, I guess.
Tim Hay is the Review's assistant city editor. He can be reached at (510) 293-2467 or email@example.com .
The Most Dangerous States for American Kids
For those of you who still believe the justice system in America is working, consider the following. For three years, 46-year old Andrew Selva sexually brutalized two boys, ages 5 and 12, in a small town outside of Columbus, Ohio. In a plea bargain, Selva admitted to the court that he raped the boys in a variety of ways. By all accounts, it was savage criminal activity.
But when Selva appeared for sentencing before Ohio Judge John Connor, he received no prison time at all. Instead, Connor placed him on probation, saying, "He's got a disease like I've got a disease. I don't know that prison would have helped, except for revenge, and revenge is not in the sentencing guidelines."
What the sentencing guidelines did call for was a ten-year stretch in a state prison. But Connor believes he knows better, so it is probation for a child rapist. By the way, the "disease" Connor referenced in his own case is apparently alcohol-related; the judge has at least two DUI convictions on his sheet.
This kind of sentencing insanity is increasing across the country because many states, like Ohio, have no mandatory minimum prison terms for child predators and, as we all know, there is no shortage of loony judges like Connor.
While some states have passed Jessica's Law, which harshly punishes child molesters, other states simply will not do anything. The following are the most dangerous to a child's welfare.
Vermont: Even after the national scandal of Judge Edward Cashman sentencing the rapist of an 8-year old girl to just 60 days in prison (under pressure, Cashman later revised the sentence to a paltry three years), the Vermont legislature failed to pass mandatory minimums for child sexual predators. The effort was blocked by Democrats, and Republican Governor Jim Douglas refused to get involved.
New York: Despite overwhelming bipartisan support for Jessica's Law, Democratic Assemblyman Sheldon Silver continues to single-handedly block any vote. Governor Pataki vows to go around Silver.
Maryland: No mandatory minimums for sexual crimes against children. The Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Democrat Joseph Vallario, has consistently blocked efforts to pass Jessica's Law.
Massachusetts: Absolutely no mandated protection for kids who are brutalized sexually. The judge is free to bestow any sentence. Speaker of the House Sal Dimasi, a Democrat, has killed every piece of tough sex offender legislation that has been introduced.
Wyoming: No minimum prison sentences and no GPS tracking for convicted sex offenders. Governor Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat, doesn't seem to care.
Arkansas: No minimum prison sentences. Governor Mike Huckabee, a Republican, doesn't seem to care.
Tennessee: No minimum prison terms for child sex crimes. Democratic Governor Phil Bredensen doesn't seem to care.
Idaho: No minimum prison terms for child sex crimes. Republican Governor Dirk Kempthorne doesn't seem to care.
North Dakota: No minimum prison sentences for any sexual acts with minors. Governor John Hoeven, a Republican, says he is "studying" ways to change that.
Also, the states of Colorado, Wisconsin, Maine, Kansas, and Montana have weak laws protecting kids, but at least there are politicians in those states trying to change things.
In the Ohio case where the child rapist received parole, and in the Vermont case where the man who raped the little girl initially got 60 days, the three victims were poor kids. Their parents had no money, no influence, and no hope of challenging the wicked judges. I submit those awful sentences would not have been handed down if the rapists had abused wealthy children.
But be that as it may, any state that will not severely punish an adult who rapes a child is a disgraceful state. And everybody living there should know it.
Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2006
Jury: L.A. Ex-Priest Guilty of Molestation
(AP) - LOS ANGELES-A retired priest who admitted molesting 13 boys in the 1970s and '80s but claimed he never did so again was convicted Wednesday of abusing a youngster in the 1990s.
The jury was unable to reach verdicts on four other counts against the Rev. Michael Wempe, so a mistrial was declared on those allegations.
Wempe, 66, could get up to three years in prison on the single count. The sentencing was put off until prosecutors can decide whether to seek a retrial on the undecided counts.
The brother of two of Wempe's earlier victims claimed the Roman Catholic priest abused him from 1990 to 1995, when Wempe was a hospital chaplain.
Wempe denied molesting the boy, who was identified as Jayson B. and is now an adult. Wempe's lawyers claimed the boy fabricated the allegations to punish Wempe for the molestation of his brothers.
The defense further argued that while the priest molested 13 boys in the past, he went into treatment ordered by the church and returned a changed man, never molesting anyone after that.
"I hope this brings some closure to the people involved," one of Wempe's attorneys, Donald Steier, said after the verdict.
Jayson B. and his older brother were in the front row of the courtroom. Beyond clenched jaws, they showed no reaction when the verdict was read.
The judge had allowed eight grown men, including Jayson's two brothers, to testify how Wempe molested them when they were children in the 1970s and 1980s. Some of them cried as they said the abuse had damaged them for life, leading to drug addiction, alcoholism and dropping out of school.
Wempe was spared trial on the original charges when the U.S. Supreme
Court upheld the statute of limitations on the crimes, but he spent a year
in jail before the high court ruling.
Rapist's release too big a risk
Convicted "Southside Rapist" Larry Buffington has served his prison time for a series of terrorizing attacks in the late 1970s, yet a Sacramento Superior Court jury is sending him back behind bars.
In the third trial to extend Buffington's prison sentence, prosecutors convinced jurors that the 46-year-old inmate is a sexually violent predator who is a danger to the community.
"This system can keep him away forever, yet he hasn't committed a crime in 26 years," Michael Aye said of his client.
During the three-week trial, Buffington told jurors he refused treatment in a strict four-stage program to treat sexually violent predators because he no longer considered himself an offender.
"He is a changed man," Aye told jurors during closing arguments.
But after two weeks of deliberation, the jury on Wednesday agreed that Buffington suffers from a mental disorder that makes him likely to attack again.
He is one of about 500 men who have been committed to the state sexually violent predator program created 10 years ago that allows prosecutors to keep offenders locked up. Every two years a trial is held and inmates attempt to persuade juries that they are no longer a threat to society.
Buffington has twice had his sentence extended as a violent sex offender. And because of court delays in getting him to trial this year, the extended commitment from this trial expires next February. Prosecutors say they expect to seek a fourth trial on the same issue.
A six-month investigation by The Bee published this week found that most inmates refuse to participate in the four-stage treatment program and hope to win their freedom through court hearings, such as the one for Buffington. Only four of the 538 men have completed the first four stages of the program, the investigation found.
Buffington participated in a 12-week substance abuse program and continues to participate in group meetings though he hasn't touched drugs or alcohol in 26 years, he said. He has learned to read in the past two years.
Testimony showed that Buffington was married for nine years, then divorced, while imprisoned as a sexually violent predator. Another woman testified she was waiting to marry Buffington should he be released. He initially served 16 years in prison, a maximum term at the time for his crimes.
But Deputy District Attorney Rich Curry maintains that Buffington is a danger.
"A serial rapist is focused and has an entrenched sexual disorder," Curry told jurors in his closing remarks.
Buffington, who is 6 feet tall and weighs 280 pounds, was convicted April 1, 1980, of 37 felony counts including nine rapes, two attempted rapes, several burglaries and an armed robbery. The crimes occurred between September 1978 and May 1979. His palm print was found on the floor of the home of one of his victims.
The 11 women ranged in age from 14 to 69 and were attacked between midnight and 6 a.m. Buffington entered homes through unlocked windows and doors in the Oak Park and Meadowview areas. Once inside, he threatened his victims with a knife or grabbed their necks as he screamed obscenities at them, courts records show.
In his criminal trial in 1980, a jury found him guilty of 11 attacks.
In a May 13, 1980, probation report prepared for Buffington's sentencing, a 69-year-old woman who was raped, cut with a knife and bruised in a 1978 assault, said she continues to see the figure of her attacker in her doorway.
Another 39-year-old victim sought psychiatric help after her rape. A 54-year-old woman who was raped twice told the probation officer that working with children, particularly boys, was difficult.
Buffington was 19 at the time of the attacks.
A 23-year-old woman said she feared for the safety of her 2-year-old son, who was asleep on her bed during the attack.
Three mental health experts testified for the prosecution that Buffington has been diagnosed with paraphilia, which is considered deviant or abnormal sexual behavior.
"Paraphilia is cyclical in nature," Curry said.
But Aye said the diagnosis was bogus, and that among many mental health experts it is controversial.
Though he hasn't attacked anyone while in custody, there was one incident at Atascadero State Hospital, a maximum-security psychiatric facility where Buffington was housed for the past 10 years, prosecution witnesses testified.
Buffington was accused of exposing himself to a female guard as she checked on him at night with her flashlight.
Buffington's lawyer downplayed the incident as a matter of Buffington not being properly covered in bed at the time.
About a half dozen defense witnesses who worked at Atascadero said the Buffington they knew was not the same person described as the "Southside Rapist." Among those testifying was a kitchen supervisor who married Buffington in 1992, and a priest.
Aye described Buffington as a "little boy named Larry," who grew up in adverse conditions in Oak Park.
At the time of his arrest, Buff-ington was living with his mother and
disabled sister. Five brothers had been sent to prison on charges including,
murder, rape, sodomy and robbery.
About the writer: