Sex Offenders a Danger Forever
Proposition 83 Fact Sheet - pdf
Information Package for those facing Civil Commitment in California
SVP - Home
STATE POLICE BULLIES VICTIMIZE PATIENTS AT COALINGA STATE HOSPITAL.pdf
|The US Supreme Court issued the long awaited decision in Ashcroft
v. Iqbal on May 18, 2009. The conditions of confinement for civil
commitment case of Hydrick v. Hunter has been trailed behind this case.
Of course, it went 5 to 4 to the conservatives. It is on the Defense For
SVP website at this link:
Although those who are civilly committed have been awaiting results of this case since 2007, it now turns out this case will have far reaching effects to all persons filing 42 USC Section 1983 civil rights lawsuits. This case clarifies Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U. S. 544, for evaluating whether a complaint is sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. Because it is a clarification, it will reach back to many pending lawsuits.
Here are some quotes from the Iqbal decision:
"Because vicarious liability is inapplicable to Bivens and §1983suits, a plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official’s own individual actions,has violated the Constitution."
"In a §1983 suit or a Bivens action—where masters do not answer for the torts of their servants—the term “supervisory liability” is a misnomer. Absent vicarious liability, each Government official, his or her title notwithstanding, is only liable for his or her own misconduct."
"To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” (Twombly, 550 U. S. 544, at 570)
"The plausibility standard is not akin to a “probability requirement,” but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Ibid."
"When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief."
"Under Twombly’s construction of Rule 8, we conclude that respondent’s complaint has not “nudged [his] claims” of invidious discrimination “across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Ibid.
"We hold that respondent’s complaint fails to plead sufficient facts to state a claim for purposeful and unlawful discrimination against petitioners.
The Court of Appeals should decide in the first instance whether to remand to the District Court so that respondent can seek leave to amend his deficient complaint. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered."
What this appears to mean is that it will be very difficult to sue any supervisor unless you can directly tie that supervisor to the specific action or inaction. The case appears to overrule the previous pleading standard where one would plead a generic allegation that a supervisor was liable if he or she was aware of the unconstitutional action and yet failed to act to stop that unconstitutional action. Under this old standard, it was assumed that supervisors knew what their subordinates were doing. The Supreme Court has specifically rejected this, see the quotes above.
Under this new (clarified) standard, as I read it, one would need to plead a very specific and direct connection to that supervisor, e.g., just exactly when and where this particular supervisor gained direct knowledge of the unconstitutional practice, and have specific evidence to prove this that would have to be provided to oppose a motion to dismiss. And specific evidence that even after gaining the knowledge, the supervisor refused to stop the practice. This in my opinion will be an impossible task, as bureaucratic supervisors have many layers of insulation between themselves and the doers of the misdeeds.
This link to to an article by Karen Franklin, Ph.D.
This link to to an article by Edward Humes that is the subject of Karen
Franklin's article. You should remember Edward Humes as the author of "Mean
Justice" the story of the Kern County Justice System abuses. http://www.callawyer.com/story.cfm?eid=900572&evid=1
Psychiatr News March 6, 2009
Sex-Offender Commitment Law Ruled Unconstitutional
A federal appellate court rules that the section of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act regarding prolonged federal civil commitment of sexual offenders is unconstitutional.
A federal appeals court has struck down a 2006 federal law that allows indefinite civil commitment of "sexually dangerous" inmates beyond the length of their prison terms.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled in January in the case U.S. v. Comstock that Congress intruded on powers reserved for the states through civil-commitment provisions it included in the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 (PL 109-248). The ruling, which affirmed a lower court ruling in the case, was the first time a federal appeals court addressed the legality of the federal commitment law.
The ruling is binding only in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Maryland.
The law allows the U.S. attorney general's office to obtain a stay prolonging federal detention of people convicted of certain sex-related offenses through a certification alleging sexual dangerousness.
The three-judge appeals panel noted that "no evidence or preliminary showing is required" as part of the preliminary certification of sexual dangerousness to automatically remand the inmate for indefinite detention in a federal prison hospital. The law allows a federal court to rule on the petition but the court can use only the standard of "clear and convincing evidence" instead of the higher bar of "beyond a reasonable doubt."
"The Constitution does not empower the federal government to confine a person solely because of asserted 'sexual dangerousness' when the government need not allege (let alone prove) that this 'dangerousness' violates any federal law," Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote in the unanimous opinion.
The law defines a "sexually dangerous person" as someone who "has engaged or attempted to engage in sexually violent conduct or child molestation and who is sexually dangerous to others," and who suffers from a severe mental illness to the extent that the person would "have serious difficulty in refraining from sexually violent conduct or child molestation if released."
The ruling noted that the law does not define either "sexually violent conduct" or "child molestation."
Motz wrote that the perceived need for a federal civil-commitment statute did not create the constitutional power for the government to create one, and Congress could seek alternative and constitutional means of achieving the possibly "commendable objectives" of civil commitment.
The ruling by the appeals court upheld much of the 2008 decision by U.S. District Judge W. Earl Britt of Raleigh, N.C., which was similar to a previous ruling by a federal district judge in Minnesota. The appeals court ruling, however, is at odds with the decisions of federal district courts in Hawaii, Oklahoma, and Massachusetts, which have upheld the commitment law.
Federal prosecutors may appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court or seek a rehearing before the full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The ruling came on the appeals of five inmates convicted of receiving online child pornography, including Graydon Earl Comstock. All of the inmates have been kept in custody for at least two years beyond the end of their sentences in a North Carolina federal prison hospital.
The ruling is explicitly limited to the federal civil-commitment law and does not affect the legality of state civil-commitment measures. Motz said federal authorities were still free to contact state officials about potentially dangerous inmates about to be released, and state officials could then bring their own civil-commitment proceedings. The federal law specifically directs the U.S. attorney general to make "all reasonable efforts" to transfer responsibility for sexually dangerous offenders to an appropriate state authority at the conclusion of their federal sentences, but until a state assumes that responsibility, inmates are held in federal confinement for as long as they remain "sexually dangerous."
The ruling noted that the civil-commitment power is among the most "severe" wielded at any level of government.
"The Framers, distrustful of such authority, reposed such broad powers in the states, limiting the national government to specific and enumerated powers," Motz wrote.
Also unaffected by the ruling are provisions of federal law that fund state civil-commitment programs. The Adam Walsh law authorizes $10 million each year for state civil-commitment programs through Fiscal 2010.
By March 2007 20 states had enacted laws regarding civil commitment of sexual offenders. Such state laws have been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court as constitutional in part because their aim is to ensure that inmates receive treatment, not be punished twice for the same crime. Despite this, only a small fraction of committed offenders have ever completed treatment to the point where they could be released without additional mandated oversight.
The federal appeals court ruling will have a limited impact because many such prisoners will simply be transferred to state control, said forensic psychiatrist Paul Appelbaum, M.D., a member of APA's Council on Psychiatry and Law, in an interview with Psychiatric News. The only individuals likely to be affected are people held on federal sex crime charges in states without civil-commitment statutes, he said.
APA's Committee on Persons With Mental Illness in the Criminal Justice System provided a written statement on the court ruling to Psychiatric News that described civil commitment for sexual offenders as "incarceration under the guise of treatment."
"The court ruled against indefinite commitment because it determined this to be a states' rights issue and not a power controlled by Congressional statute," said the committee statement. "However, in our opinion the legal tests defining 'sexual dangerousness,' 'severe mental illness,' and 'difficulty from refraining from future sexual violence or child molestation' are difficult to translate into psychiatric decision making."
The committee pointed out that the burden of a societal remedy for sexual violence should not rest with psychiatry. "By obliging psychiatrists to participate in the indefinite detention of individuals, their role as treating clinicians is transformed into that of a jailer," the committee statement said.
Instead, the committee's members suggested that the complex forensic issue of predicting sexually violent dangerousness is better handled through criminal-justice proceedings and sentencing rather than through the psychiatric civil-commitment process.
The ruling is posted at http://pacer.ca4.uscourts.gov/opinion.pdf/077671.P.pdf
The Rumor Mill News Reading Room
Pedophilia - The Final Frontier - of the Sexual Revolution
Posted By: Rayelan
I am posting this part to show that there is someone else in the world, besides me, who knows that the ultimate goal of the sexual revolution is worldwide pedophilia.
This article takes you from the beginnings of the sexual revolution, with a devotee of Dr. Alfred Kinsey, to the final frontier... pedophilia!
The following is from this pdf
THE HISTORY OF THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION
Although America was still in a state of shock over the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, major events continued to unfold across the country in 1964. Jimmy Hoffa was convicted of jury tampering, while Martin Luther King won the Nobel Peace Prize. The Beatles arrived in the United States and Cassius Clay knocked out Sonny Liston.
In the meantime, a 60-year old woman was quietly beginning an organization that would arguably have more of an impact on the future of this nation than any of these people or events.
Given a sizeable donation from the Playboy Foundation, Dr. Mary Calderone, former medical director of Planned Parenthood (PP), began the Sex Information and Educational Council of the United States (SIECUS) as an educational arm of the Kinsey Institute.
She quit PP after winning a great victory for them by convincing the American Medical Association that they should overturn their longstanding opposition to contraception. Now she was ready for a new challenge.
Calderone's objectives from the outset were to open the minds of children to Kinsey's concepts about sexuality. She shared his view that America was too intolerant of homosexuality, promiscuity and even child molestation.
From Page 3
As has already been noted, the “anything goes” approach to sexuality advanced by Kinsey has permeated our school systems.
The question that begs an answer at this point is: Having accomplished these goals, where does it go from here?
Pedophilia: The Final Frontier
SIECUS has one more important objective to realize in America: the open acceptance and legalization of pedophilia. If this seems like a far- fetched or exaggerated interpretation of their agenda, consider the following statements by those directly involved with SIECUS and the Kinsey Institute:
• “Providing today's society with a very deep awareness of the vital importance of infant and childhood sexuality' is now the primary goal of SIECUS.”—Mary Calderoneix
• “What do we know about situations in which young children and older people, stronger people, have had a sexual relationship of one kind or another that has been pleasant, and the child feels good about it because it's warm and seductive and tender?” Mary Calderonex
• “...the idea of childhood sexuality... has forever affected our conception of human sexual development and thoughts about sex education.” —Wardell Pomeroyxi
• “... incest between adults and younger children can also prove to be a satisfying and enriching experience. Incestuous relationships can—and do—work out well.”—Wardell B. Pomeroyxii
• “This is a peculiarly American problem—the withdrawal of all touching contact—and children, especially girls, feel the lack very keenly... How many adolescent girls have not said, ‘It’s the only time I feel someone really loves me.’? Who knows how much psychic damage we cause our children with such well-meant yet inhuman attitudes? Surely the time has come when we can and should deal with the incest taboo by finding out the facts, all of them, and acting rationally and sensibly about them, whatever they may be.”—James Rainey, EdDxiii
• “The fact that few investigators have examined the sexuality of people early in the life span has been attributed by John Money to the taboos that surround childhood eroticism.”—Elizabeth Allgeierxiv
It should be noted that these statements were made while in the friendly confines of others who shared their views. On April 14th 1980, Time Magazine ran an article entitled, Attacking the Last Taboo. The author saw right through the SIECUS hypocrisy when he wrote:
“The SIECUS Report... published a major article attacking the incest taboo. Though the journal’s editor, Mary Calderone, and her colleagues ran an ingenuous editorial denying that the article was advocating anything, the piece in fact depicted the taboo as mindless prejudice. Wrote the author, James W. Ramey: ‘We are roughly in the same position today regarding incest as we were a hundred years ago with respect to our fears of masturbation.’...
But most of the pro-incest thought rises logically enough from the premises
of the sex-research establishment: all forms of consensual sexuality are
good, or at least neutral; problems arise not from sex, but from guilt,
fear and repression. That kind of faith is bound to lead its believers
in crusades against all sexual prohibitions, including incest.”
Sacramento judge finds sex offender law unconstitutional
In only the third such ruling in the nation, a Sacramento judge has found to be unconstitutional a statute that makes it a federal crime for someone to fail to register as a sex offender and relocate from one state to another.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton found that, in enacting the 2006 Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, "Congress overstepped its authority under the (Constitution's) commerce clause."
Karlton made rulings this week in two prosecutions and threw them out, saying SORNA does not meet the U.S. Supreme Court's standard for congressional jurisdiction over interstate commerce.
Federal prosecutors immediately filed notices they will appeal and asked the judge to keep the two defendants locked up until the appeals are resolved.
Karlton has set a Wednesday hearing on those requests.
"We believe the court's ruling to be in error, and are reviewing potential appeal" to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said acting U.S. Attorney Larry Brown. As with all federal appeals, this one must be approved by the solicitor general, but Brown said he expects no resistance.
"Circuit courts and district courts have upheld the statute as valid," he noted. "The judge is in the vast minority in making this judgment.
"Societally, it is in our collective interest to keep a watchful eye on the whereabouts of sexual predators," Brown said.
At least 18 district judges have upheld SORNA, while only two others have found it is at cross-purposes with the commerce clause. Of the 12 federal appellate circuits, only two – the 8th and 10th – have addressed the issue, and both upheld the statute.
The defendants in the Sacramento cases are Mark Anthony Valverde, 50, and Nedde Max Murphy Jr., 41.
Valverde pleaded guilty in 2002 in Solano Superior Court to 11 counts of sexual abuse of a child, a child pornography count and one count of furnishing marijuana to a child. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
He was paroled Jan. 6, 2008, but instead of reporting to his Vallejo parole officer to register as a sex offender, he fled to his grandmother's house in Liberty, Mo., where parole agents found him.
He was returned to a California prison but soon was arrested by deputy U.S. marshals and brought to Sacramento to face a federal grand jury indictment charging him with a SORNA violation. It carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Murphy was convicted in Reno in 1989 of lewdness with a child and sentenced to a five-year prison term. The sentence was suspended, and he was placed on probation. He registered as a sex offender in Nevada, but had a spotty record of keeping it up-to-date, which led to a stretch in the Elko County jail.
He later showed up in Burley, Idaho, and registered there in December 2007. He dropped off the grid in May.
Murphy was traced through Social Security Administration records to Brownsville, a dent in the road in Yuba County. He had not registered in California and was arrested and charged in December under SORNA.
Karlton dismissed the Valverde case Monday and the Murphy case Thursday. He cited a 1995 Supreme Court opinion – United States v. Lopez – that breaks into three categories the scope of congressional power to regulate commerce. SORNA does not fit any of the three, the judge ruled.
Like the statute struck down in the high court's 1995 ruling, SORNA does not "address an economic activity that could affect the supply or demand of or ability to regulate a good in the national market," Karlton wrote.
Under SORNA, he wrote, a person may be prosecuted for failing to register in his home state and then establishing residence and registering in another state. Harm would be confined to one state.
"Were this a sufficient jurisdictional element, there would be no limit to Congress' ability to penalize any crime whatsoever, so long as the defendant at some point in the course of his life traveled across state lines," the judge wrote. "This appears to be a plain usurpation of the state's police power."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Melikian wrote in a brief opposing dismissal of the Valverde case that SORNA was meant to remedy the shortcomings of a "rather loosely integrated network of state sex offender registration systems (that) failed to adequately account for the public safety risk created by non-compliant sex offenders who move from state to state."
Melikian wrote that it was estimated in 2006 that the whereabouts of 100,000 of the more than 500,000 convicted sex offenders who had registered with the states were unknown.
Travel from one state to another "is inherently national and affects commerce," the prosecutor argued.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
MySpace: 90,000 sex offenders removed from
By DOUG IRVING
The social-networking site MySpace, an online hangout popular among teenagers, acknowledged Tuesday that it had found some 90,000 registered sex offenders on its membership rolls.
Law-enforcement officers here and across the country described the revelation as disturbing but not surprising. They said it underscores the need for greater online safeguards – and for parents to pay closer attention to the virtual lives of their children.
MySpace said in a statement that it had purged the sex offenders from its site and was cooperating with law enforcement. The site, which calls itself "a place for friends," has nearly 76 million users in the United States alone, according to its most recent count.
On the Internet, "you don't know who you're really talking to," Anaheim police Sgt. Rick Martinez said. "Anybody has access to the Internet and you don't have to be truthful. It's actually very frightening when you think about it."
MySpace agreed last year to add safety features to its site, including software to screen out underage users. In its statement, the site said it was using "state-of-the-art technology" to identify and remove registered sex offenders.
MySpace and another social-networking powerhouse, Facebook, have come under scrutiny by state regulators who want them to do more to police their sites. Tuesday's announcement that 90,000 sex offenders had enrolled on MySpace – about 40,000 more than previously thought – came in response to a subpoena from the attorneys general of Connecticut and North Carolina.
The Attorney General of Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, called it a "shocking revelation" and said it offers "compelling proof that social networking sites remain rife with sexual predators." He renewed his call for better age- and identity-verification standards on MySpace and other social-networking sites.
His office was still awaiting a state-by-state breakdown of where those sex offenders were from and could not say how many were from California.
The number of sex offenders found on MySpace "certainly doesn't surprise me," said Judi Westberg Warren, the president of a Santa Ana nonprofit called Web Wise Kids. The company uses computer games to teach kids how to be safe on the Internet.
Parents should keep track of what their children are posting on the Internet and with whom they're communicating, Warren said. But they should also ask "what if?" questions to make their children think through the consequences, she said: "What if a stranger tries to befriend you? How would you respond to that?"
"The point is to draw the child into a process of understanding the consequences," she said. "It's just imperative that parents be involved in keeping kids safe."
Irvine police Lt. John Hare suggested the "piano-bench approach." Parents, he said, should just sit next to their children and ask them to show where they go and what they do online. Kids often like the chance to show off their Web-surfing skills, he said.
People who use social-networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace should also be careful about what information they post, Santa Ana police Cmdr. Tammy Franks said. She pointed out that the Santa Ana Police Department, like other employers, checks the Web postings of its potential job candidates before making an offer.
It's just as easy for people with bad intentions to do the same.
"You really want to safeguard your personal information," Franks said. "You don't want to put anything out there that can identify you. You don't want to put out anything that can lead people to you.
"It's common-sense stuff."
Contact the writer: 714-704-3777 or email@example.com
LOCAL PEDOPHILE BEING RELEASED IN IDEALIC COUNTRY SETTING AT THE END OF A PRIVATE COUNTRY ROAD... WITH OVER 50 CHILDREN
Posted By: Rayelan
They put a pedophile who raped somewhere between 50 and 80 children in a country setting where over 50 young children play in the trees and the hills!!
They put this man in pedophile heaven!!
I sincerely hope someone in government sees the absolute travesty of our pedophile relocation laws and stops this before anymore young lived are destroyed!!
GRRRRRR!!!! Pedophiles need to be put on a pedophile island where they only people are OTHER pedophiles. Let them get their kicks out of raping each other. When is society going to come to its senses about pedophiles. Castration doesn't work. The pedophile gets MENTAL pleasure from molesting the child in other ways!
Using the techniques we know today there is NOTHING that will cure a pedophile except a bullet. (See article at the end of this post.)
One pedophile can ruing thousands of lives. Many of their victims become pedophiles and ruin even more souls. Someone in power needs to be strong enough to tell the world the truth about why so many pedophiles have been created and why they are given carte blanche to rape and murder our children!!
You don't know the reason pedophiles are given carte blanche?? It's because the elite at the top of the pyramid create pedophiles and use their pedophilia to control them and make them continue doing their bidding!! Many of these pedophiles are in elected and appointed government positions all around the world.
Why do you think that this man was given carte blanche. We don't know what ELSE he does for the powers that be.
Here's the link to the article. There's a video of the children who live on the street where this monster will be living.
James Lamb To Be Released In Prunedale
Posted: Feb 2, 2009 03:51 PM
PRUNEDALE, Calif. - The case of James Lamb continues as the convicted
child molester is another step closer to his release.
Last month Curtis released infamous child sexual predator James Lamb, a pedophile who confesses to sexually assaulting over 50 children. Lamb is a graduate of California's Sexually Violent Predator Program at Atascadero State Hospital, where he underwent castration and "rehabilitation." "The easiest thing for me to have done in the world today," said Curtis, "was to deny Mr. Lamb's petition (for release). Instead, Curtis released Lamb, and parole authorities are now trying to find him housing. (All 56 landlords contacted by parole officers in Monterey County have declined to take Judge Curtis' bet, and officials say they are now looking at motels and homeless shelters.)
Little Leaguer betrayed
If releasing Lamb was Curtis' most difficult call, he doesn't seem to have been too troubled over pedophile little league coach David Martin last month. Martin, 43, stole the innocence of an eight year-old baseball player, sexually assaulting her on seven to nine occasions, reports the Californian. Prosecutors asked for eight years in prison, but Martin told Curtis, "As God is my witness, these actions will never, ever, ever happen again." Curtis sentenced the predator coach to probation.
(apologies for the ragged ends... it was a pdf and it would take me over an hour to format it to look normal)
Offender James Vincent Lamb’s likely release later this year will put the state’s program for treating sexually violent predators to its ultimate test. Lamb says he will be one of the successes, in part because he has done all that was asked of him at the maximum-security mental hospital -- and more.
“I’m not part of a statistic, I’m in a program that is rare and intensive,” said Lamb, 46, who was convicted of molesting five boys but has admitted to more than 80 victims. “The people here are teaching us what we need to look at, to change and to believe in it.”
But evidence abounds that sexual obsessions may persist for some of the hundreds of men housed at Atascadero, who fill about half of the hospital’s beds: Newspaper ads depicting children are routinely snipped out and hidden away, patients here say. In the exercise yard, patients tell of pedophiles preying on the youngest of the mentally disordered offenders, coercing them into having sex.
As Lamb’s likely release date nears, that question weighs on Ben. It has been 22 years since Ben’s encounter with Lamb, a lifetime since he was the shy 6-year-old coerced into a nightlong series of molestation games. Lamb won Ben over with a promise of the newly released “Superman 3” movie, after offering his exhausted mother a break from her youngest child for the night.
Ben, who agreed to be interviewed on the condition that only his middle name be used, remembers that “sleepover” vividly. It has colored his life, shaped his self-image and ruined relationships. When he talks about it, his body goes rigid and his eyes fix on an invisible spot on the wall.
“I just wondered if other boys who hadn’t experienced this would feel the same way as me,” he said. “How much has this changed me? I feel robbed of my innocence.”
Little is known about how to determine which sex offenders are most likely to re-offend.
Researchers have created risk assessment tools that predict re-offense rates based on general history -- number of victims, age and sex of victims, whether an offender has ever married, and other demographic information.
But therapists say they cannot predict with certainty whether a specific offender will act out again. Even offenders who are castrated do not necessarily carry lower chances of re-offending, prompting a growing controversy over the use of castration among Atascadero patients.
“We are reliably able to differentiate groups that have more than a 50 percent re-offending rate from offenders who have less than 10 percent chance of getting caught (again),” said Dr. Karl Hanson. “It’s far from perfect.”
Hanson, one of the world’s leading researchers in sex offender treatment,
is the creator of the recidivism prediction
According to him, habitual, predatory sex offenders such as Lamb will have more than a 50 percent chance of reoffending within 15 years of release. By comparison, the recidivism rate for sex offenders in general is approximately 20 percent after 10 years.
“Male-fixated pedophiles -- people who have an enduring sexual interest in children, and particularly boys -- and have had previous experiences with the law and continue to re-offend (are) a subcategory that is at particularly high risk to reoffend,” Hanson said.
Often there are no outward warning signs either. That once was the case with Lamb. Adults who knew him before his incarceration found him to be an articulate and engaging young husband and father who worked as an electronics technician in the Coast Guard and was good with children.
“He’s just so bright -- and he’s so scary,” said Monterey County prosecutor Ann Hill, who prosecuted Lamb in 1991 and subsequently had him committed to the sexually violent predator program in March 1998. Hill said Lamb spent as much time wooing parents as he did seducing their children.
“They didn’t expect a registered child molester would be living in Spreckels,” Hill said of the parents of Lamb’s next victim, a 9-year-old boy. “They didn’t expect that child molesters looked and acted so nice. They didn’t realize that that’s what (molesters) did to get their prey.”
Lamb was arrested again in 1991, after a neighbor noticed him and the child bouncing on a trampoline in the boy’s backyard.
“They were just in boxers,” said Hill. “And Jim would loosen his boxers and giggle, and he’d get the little boy to pull his off. And the neighbor looks across the fence and sees this 300-pound behemoth bouncing naked on the trampoline with this little boy and thinks, ’This can’t be good.’”
Ultimately, Lamb was convicted of molesting the boy and his 11-year-old brother, whom he had lured into his bedroom to play computer games and persuaded to undress while being videotaped.
While in prison, Lamb made money by writing child-porn stories for other inmates like “Jenny’s Second Chance,” about an 11-year-old girl’s sexual encounter with a therapist who matched Lamb’s physical description, and “Trip South,” about an excursion to Mexico to seduce street-urchin boys.
Prison officials found the stories hidden in Lamb’s Bible.
Weeks after being paroled, he was rearrested because officials discovered a letter he had written to another inmate describing the pornography he had found on the Internet.
When a parole agent searched his computer, they found Lamb also had been corresponding with the North American Man Boy Love Association, which espouses sexual relationships between adults and children.
He was transferred to Atascadero in March 1998.
Much more in this long pfd file
Finding a Home for Sex Offenders
This morning, my hometown newspaper, the L.A. Times, carried the headline “Fixes in Jessica’s Law Are Urged.” The sub-head read: “Tight residency curbs on sex offenders can leave them homeless and propel them to re-offend, a panel says.”
For those of you fortunate enough to live someplace where the Times isn’t your local daily, let me assure you that a similar news story runs nearly as regularly as Doonesbury and Dennis the Menace.
It dismayed me the first time I came across a story bemoaning the difficulty of finding homes for these perverts. By this late date, it leaves me seething with rage.
The state’s Sex Offender Management Board is urging Gov. Schwarzenegger and the state legislators to change Jessica’s Law, insisting that its restrictions on where sex offenders can live are counter-productive and calling the $25 million-a-year spent to house them, mainly in motels and halfway houses, a poor use of tax dollars.
The law, which was passed in 2006 with the approval of 70% of California’s voters, bars sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools, parks and other areas where children gather. The Board is concerned that it drives the offenders “into homelessness, an unstable situation that can propel them back to crime.”
Scott Kernan, undersecretary for adult operations at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, announced that his agency is discussing plans to scale back its housing of sex offenders, some of whom have their rent paid for several years while they’re on parole.
Okay, first off let me say that some “sex offenders” shouldn’t be branded as such. If a 15-year-old girl decides to have sex with her 18-year-old boyfriend, I’d have to be even sillier than I am to suggest the guy should go to jail or have to spend the rest of his life under a black cloud. Heck, if anyone’s going to jail, it should probably be the young Jezebel. Everyone knows that 15-year-old girls are smarter and wilier than 18-year-old boys. In fact, as a rule, males don’t even begin to narrow the gap until they’re well into their 40s and 50s, and often not even then.
When I think of a sex offender, I have rapists and pedophiles in mind, as I suspect most people do. What’s more, I’m willing to wager that the reason that 70% of us voted for Jessica’s Law was out of frustration because the state doles out such light sentences to these creeps. The very idea of a pedophile being paroled is totally absurd. What’s he being rewarded for? Not raping any five-year-olds while he was behind bars?
What could be any more ridiculous, or demented, than declaring that a child molester can live 2,001 feet from a neighborhood playground, but not 1,999 feet? What’s to prevent him from going out his front door and talking a walk? What about the kid who doesn’t go to the playground, but tragically lives next door or around the corner from the monster? For such potential victims, the bogeyman isn’t a figment of his or her imagination, it’s that degenerate up the block.
As for the contention that being homeless or restricted as to where he can live would propel a man to molest a child, one can only shake one’s head and hope the double-strength Excedrin kicks in. A normal human being might feel driven by homelessness to rob a bank or knock over a 7-11, but molest a child? Who, aside from a bottom-feeding defense attorney, would even suggest such a rationale?
The Sex Offender Management Board has 17 members whose salaries are paid by the taxpayers. Frankly, I could do the job by myself and I wouldn’t even ask for a paycheck. I would simply go before the state legislature and tell them I had the perfect solution to the problem of housing rapists and pedophiles. You either execute them, I’d say, or keep them locked up in dungeons until they die and go straight to Hell.
Then, my mission completed, I would next pull off an honest-to-goodness miracle. I would resign, thus making the Sex Offender Management Board the first government bureaucracy in human history to actually disappear.
From the Los Angeles Times
There's no evidence Jessica's Law works, California officials say
A state board says tight residency limits on sex offenders have driven
many to homelessness, which could propel them back into crime. The state
spends $25 million housing some of the offenders.
January 14, 2009
Reporting from Sacramento — A state panel is urging the governor and legislators to change "Jessica's Law," saying its restrictions on where sex offenders can live are counterproductive and calling the nearly $25 million a year spent to house them a poor use of taxpayers' money.
The residency restrictions, passed by voters more than two years ago in Proposition 83, have never been shown to prevent new crimes and may reduce public safety, the panel says.
Since 70% of voters approved the initiative, "the availability of suitable housing has plummeted," the state's Sex Offender Management Board said in a report sent to lawmakers this week.
The state previously had more modest residency limits that applied only to certain sex offenders. Jessica's Law expanded the restrictions to all sex offenders and greatly reduced the locations where they could reside.
Barring sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools, parks and other areas where children gather has driven many into homelessness, an unstable situation that can propel them back to crime, according to the board.
State corrections officials say they find housing and pay rent for about 800 who are on parole, but they cannot house them all; the number of homeless sex offenders on parole is 12 times as large as it was when the law was passed.
"It seems unwise to spend such resources as a consequence of residence restriction policies which have no track record of increasing community safety," board members wrote.
Proposition 83 expanded both the categories of sex offenders included and the limits on where they could live.
Scott Kernan, undersecretary for adult operations at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said his agency is discussing plans to scale back its housing of sex offenders, some of whom have their rent paid by the state for several years while they are on parole, to a shorter period such as 60 or 90 days.
"I don't know that we can continue to pay long-term for sex offender housing in the current fiscal situation," Kernan said.
He said the housing, often in motels or halfway-house settings where multiple sex offenders live, was always meant to be transitional. But with the passage of Jessica's Law, he said, many have been housed for longer because they have little money and their families' residences may fall in a prohibited zone.
And Kernan said some local officials have created extra barriers -- for example, creating parks on highway medians to make certain neighborhoods off-limits.
The Sex Offender Management Board was created in 2006, with 17 members to be appointed by lawmakers and the governor. It includes state and local officials from law enforcement, judicial and social services backgrounds.
It has advocated for the state to focus on the offenders who pose the highest risk and to use practices -- such as treatment -- that have been shown to work. The state does not provide treatment while offenders are in prison. Jessica's Law makes little distinction between high- and low-risk offenders, addressing all of them equally with lifetime residency restrictions and satellite tracking.
State lawmakers can alter the initiative with a two-thirds vote. Robert Coombs, a spokesman for the board's chairwoman, said the members found it infeasible to call for abolishing the residency restrictions, given the sweeping voter approval of Proposition 83. He said state and local officials have the power to interpret the law to allow more housing for sex offenders, but the board believes that the likelihood of legislators fixing the problems in more comprehensive ways -- at least in the short term -- is slim.
"I can't imagine a policymaker who would put their name on something that says we want to make it easier for sex offenders to find housing," Coombs said. "Even though it's a strong public safety concept," lawmakers would be setting themselves up for political attack.
Responding to the criticism that residency restrictions have no benefit to public safety, state Sen. George Runner (R-Lancaster), an author of the initiative, said, "I do believe the general public would say a child molester should not live across the street from a school."
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a strong supporter of Proposition 83, has said he is open to revisions but has not suggested any.
Jeanne Woodford, a former state corrections secretary under Schwarzenegger, said the residency restrictions should be abolished. She said many states are reexamining their handling of sex offenders in light of studies showing that there is little utility in registration requirements and other laws the public has supported to keep track of them.
"The bottom line is, this is really what happens when we allow our emotions to get the best of us, as opposed to dealing with the facts," she said.
Appeals court rules on sex offender restriction
SAN FRANCISCO—A state appeals court says a California ballot measure that prevents sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park amounts to an additional punishment for the original crime.
The ruling on Proposition 83—approved by voters in 2006—was issued by the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana Wednesday.
Although the ruling leaves the law in effect, it could limit its application. Laws that increase punishments for past crimes are unconstitutional.
Lisa Page, a spokeswoman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, says the administration is reviewing the ruling. She says Schwarzenegger supports the proposition.
Proposition 83, or Jessica's Law, bars paroled sex offenders from living in most densely populated areas of the state.
Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com/chronicle
The Daily Journal Corporation. All rights reserved.
Trapped in the Treatment Mall
By Tom McNichol
Pause for a moment in the sun-dappled area they call The Mall at Coalinga State Hospital, and it looks for all the world like Anytown, U.S.A. Against the south wall is the barber shop ("Back at 3:30" announces a sign in the window), and close by is the post office and the Union Square Cafe. Other destinations are known by names that make the facility sound more like a California theme park than a hospital: the Cali-stoga Dental Office, the Moss Landing Lending Library, the Candlestick Park Visitor's Center. Everything is Disneyland spotless, down to the buffed tile floors.
But things aren't all they appear to be at Coalinga State Hospital--not by a long shot. The compound's theme-park veneer masks a much harsher reality: Coalinga is a long-term treatment facility for rapists and pedophiles. And most of the 762 patients currently in residence may never leave--except in a box.
Wrapped around the hospital, gleaming white-hot in the Central Valley sun, are twin 14-foot-tall razor-wire fences. Armed security guards patrol the hospital grounds, and an observation tower looms overhead. Visitors are subjected to security searches and must walk through a metal detector. And staff members carry "personal duress alarms"--handheld "panic" buttons to push in case of trouble. (The signals go off a couple times a day on average, officials say, but usually for nothing more serious than a scuffle.)
All the patients are dressed alike, in desert-brown khaki shirts and pants, the color of the burnished hills surrounding the hospital. Three times a day a doleful announcement sounds over the hospital's loudspeakers--the same directive heard in practically every prison yard in America: Please return to your unit for the head count.
Welcome to the nation's largest and most expensive hospital for housing and treating men who have been declared to be sexually violent predators--or SVPs, as they're known in bureaucratic argot.
When Coalinga opened in August 2005 at a cost of $388 million, California hadn't built a new psychiatric hospital since Dwight Eisenhower was president. Coalinga has been called everything from a state-of-the-art treatment center to a sex gulag.
Each of the patients in Coalinga has served a full sentence in state prison for committing one or more serious sexual offenses, usually child molestation or rape. But instead of being released, they continue to be denied freedom under a twelve-year-old California law that lets the state at once declare offenders to be SVPs and commit them to a state psychiatric facility. Initially, the limit of internment was set at two years, subject to renewal. But with the 2006 passage of Proposition 83, the so-called Jessica's Law, the length of civil commitment for SVPs is now "indeterminate." That makes Coalinga State Hospital a strange kind of "Hotel California"--you can check out any time you like, but odds are you can never leave.
In addition to the controversial nature of its mission, Coalinga has been dogged during its three-year history by chronic staffing shortages and patient unrest. At this writing, the hospital is on its fifth executive director, and 8 of the hospital's 16 budgeted staff psychiatrist positions are unfilled. Well over half of the hospital's staff positions were vacant as of July (670 out of 1,069), and as one manifestation of the understaffing, patients report that some bathrooms have not been cleaned in several months. Last fall patients protested these conditions by staging a "strike" for several days in which they refused to eat meals or participate in educational and treatment programs.
"They've spent a fortune to build this place, and it's really quite fabulous," says Michael St. Martin, a Coalinga detainee since December 2006, who previously served ten years in state prison for molesting two 13-year-old boys. "The problem is that no one wants to come here to work. So nothing here functions properly. It's just one disaster after another. Everything is in total collapse."
St. Martin has become something of an unofficial spokesperson for Coalinga patients. He's a frequent contributor to a website called Voices of the Gulag (www.voicesofthegulag.org) and aggressively pursues members of the media who inquire about conditions at the hospital.
Patients at Coalinga effectively face "a lifetime commitment, because they have a vested interest to keep us in here," St. Martin says. "Seventeen years ago when I was first sentenced [to state prison], I didn't have a mental disorder because I did-n't qualify for it. Six years ago, when I ended my prison sentence, suddenly I had a mental disorder. The only mental disorder we have is a political one."
The reasons for Coalinga's staffing shortage aren't hard to fathom, of course. For one thing, a lingering social stigma attached to working with sex offenders discourages many would-be employees from applying. Then there's the location of the hospital: exactly midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles and close to absolutely nothing. If housing sex offenders is the ultimate "not in my backyard" issue, then at least California solved that part of the problem: Coalinga isn't in anyone's backyard. From the hospital gates, Fresno is a punishing 75-mile drive over a sun-baked two-lane road. Summer temperatures in the area often top 100 degrees. The region is also home to "valley fever," a nasty, flu-like malady that in California infects 35,000 people a year. Even for locals, the word around town is that you're much better off applying for a job at Pleasant Valley State Prison, located adjacent to the hospital. At least the prison, so the thinking goes, houses a more socially acceptable criminal clientele, and pays higher wages to boot.
Compared to sex offenders, perhaps the only defendants who engender less sympathy these days are accused terrorists. And terrorists may be easier to represent in court than SVPs. "I get calls all the time from attorneys all over California," says Todd Melnik, a telegenic former deputy district attorney for Los Angeles County who is one of only a handful of private defense attorneys in the state who specialize in SVP cases. "They say, 'Oh, I've heard your name around the hospital. Can you give me any pointers about how to handle a case like this?' I have to tell them that these cases are monsters. There's an enormous amount of education you have to have before you can tackle these cases competently. I think a lot of these [less experienced] attorneys are committing malpractice, quite frankly."
As with terrorists, the ever-harsher laws passed to protect us against sex offenders come despite little evidence that the threat they pose is growing. In fact, arrests for sex crimes are down across the country, falling from 70,237 in 1997 to 63,243 last year. This decline began in the early 1990s, well before many of the current get-tough measures were implemented.
At the same time, the reason often advanced for incarcerating sex offenders indefinitely turns out to be much less compelling than is often claimed. A Bureau of Justice study in 1994 found that only 3.5 percent of sex offenders let out of prison after completing their sentences were rearrested for another sex crime within the first three years. Even over a five- to six-year period, the recidivism rate among sex offenders averages only about 14 percent, according to a meta-analysis of 95 studies that Canadian researchers published in 2004. That's still well below observed recidivism rates for burglars (74 percent), larcenists (75 percent), and car thieves (79 percent), although researchers caution that sex crimes are more likely than others to go undetected.
But over the past few decades the public's awareness of violent crimes against children has been heightened--thanks, at least in part, to the rise of the Internet and cable TV news shows. In 1981 six-year-old Adam Walsh was abducted from a Sears store in Florida and later found murdered. Soon after, his father, John Walsh, became the avenging angel of TV's America's Most Wanted. The hunt was on.
In 1993 twelve-year-old Petaluma resident Polly Klass was abducted and murdered by Richard Allen Davis. Before long Americans couldn't pour milk onto their breakfast cereal without confronting the face of a missing child, while the names of the victims and the laws they helped inspire began to blur into one another: Megan's Law. Jessica's Law. The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. The Amber Alert. The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Act.
The state of Washington broke new legal ground with this issue in 1990 when it enacted the nation's first sexually violent predator law. The law allows for anyone who commits a sexually violent offense and who "suffers from a mental abnormality or personality disorder which makes the person likely to engage in predatory acts of sexual violence" to be incarcerated indefinitely. Like many similar laws that would follow,Washington’s SVP law was not part of the state’s criminal codes but rather came under its mental health statutes. The internment of a person deemed to be an SVP was thus a civil commitment, skirting standard criminal law protections, such as the right to remain silent.
California followed suit six years later with its own SVP statute, Welfare and Institutions Code section 6600. For persons judged to be sexually violent predators, it established a new category of civil commitment after incarceration. The commitment process works like this: If two state evaluators agree that a soon-to-be-released sex offender meets the SVP criteria, the case is referred to a district attorney for filing a commitment petition. The commitment proceedings are then held in the superior court of the county from which the inmate was last sent to prison. The individual has a right to trial by jury, or can choose to have his case heard before a sole judge. But unlike a criminal trial, there is no right against self-incrimination here. The defendant can be forced to take the stand and cross-examined vigorously. Hearsay evidence can be, and often is, used to prove prior sexual acts. And the accused is not entitled to a jury instruction on the presumption of innocence. All of this makes the prosecution’s job much easier than in a regular criminal proceeding.
If the court or a unanimous jury determines beyond a reasonable doubt that the person fits the criteria for being a sexually violent predator, he is committed to the care of the State Department of Mental Health. Next stop: Coalinga.
Short of escape, there are two ways of getting out alive. In one scenario, which is rare, the treatment facility finds that the committed person is no longer a threat to society and subsequently authorizes him to petition the court for release. In the second scenario, the committed person can petition for release without the consent of the facility. But in that situation, it’s the petitioner who bears the burden of proving he’s no longer a threat. Since 1996, 130 offenders have been unconditionally released from California’s sex-offender programs, while another 13 have been released with conditions attached (continued monitoring and treatment, for example).
Prosecutors insist that the SVPs who end up in Coalinga are unquestionably the worst of the worst. “Some of these folks are batshit crazy,” says Stephen Taylor, deputy district attorney and primary prosecutor of the SVP unit for San Joaquin County. “I know these guys, they need to be in the hospital. They’re just not ready for the sidewalk. You’ve got about 100,000 registered sex offenders in California, and these [Coalinga patients] are considered so radioactive that even a jury puts them in a state hospital. There’s a good reason why the [patients] in Coalinga are in there.”
Taylor has been prosecuting SVP cases for ten years and is convinced that civil internment is necessary, even if it turns out to be, in effect, a life sentence. “We’re not looking for just the average sex offender, we’re looking for the hunter types, the predators,” he continues. “We’re looking for a very particular thing, because we’re going to put someone in the nuthouse, possibly forever.”
From his office in Woodland Hills, defense attorney Todd Melnik begs to differ. “I’d say about 20 to 25 percent of the guys who are in there actually need to be there,” he says. “But the rest are in there because this legislation has gone amok. This is legislators trying to be tough on sexual offenders because they are the easiest pickings possible.”
Another lawyer with reservations about how SVPs are handled is David Lehr, a criminal defense attorney who, interestingly enough, used to prosecute SVP cases while working in the Ventura County district attorney’s office. “These laws are supposed to lock up the worst of the worst, but sometimes,” he says, “people get sucked into the system who don’t belong there. At the same time, there are guys in there who need to stay in there forever.”
Michael Feer, a psychiatric social worker, was on staff at Coalinga for about ten months. “I met some very sick guys when I was there-—serial child molesters who you wouldn’t want on the streets,” he remembers. “In fact, two of them said to me, ‘Never, ever let me out. If I’m released, I know what I would do, and I don’t want to do it.’ On the other hand, I also met guys who I didn’t feel met the criteria for being there. Of the 60 patients I personally treated, I didn’t consider 15 or 20 of them to be sexually violent predators.
“The system,” he adds, “is not perfect.”
Indeed, from the outset many lawyers questioned whether the SVP laws, as written, ran afoul of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
Enter the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1997 the high court, by a 5–4 vote, upheld the constitutionality of a three-year-old civil-commitment program in Kansas (Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U.S. 346 (1997)). The defendant in that case claimed that a certification of mental illness alone was too arbitrary to sustain a civil-commitment order. The Court, however, held that the state’s SVP law met due process standards by requiring considerable evidence of past violent sexual behavior and a present mental inclination to repeat such offenses. The Court further ruled that the Kansas law did not violate the Fifth Amendment because it authorized civil rather than criminal commitments.
Five years later, in another key decision also from Kansas, the U.S. Supreme Court asserted that to make an SVP finding the state need not demonstrate that a person is unable to control his behavior—only that “there must be proof of serious difficulty in controlling behavior.” (Kansas v. Crane, 534 U.S. 407 (2002).)
In 1999 the California Supreme Court gave similar sanction to this state’s SVP laws. (See Hubbart v. Superior Court, 19 Cal. 4th 1138.) Two years later it further ruled that a suspected SVP’s prior offenses need not have been predatory, only that likely future sexual offenses would be predatory (People v. Torres, 25 Cal. 4th 680 (2001)). And in 2002 a lower court in the state defined the “likelihood of a future sexual offense” to mean a substantial danger based on a serious and well-founded risk—greater than mere chance, but not necessarily above 50 percent (People v. Superior Court (Ghilotti), 27 Cal 4th 888 (2002)).
Emboldened by these court rulings, 18 other states have passed SVP laws as well, including Arizona, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, and Virginia. California’s SVP law has been amended several times, most recently by “Jessica’s Law” (Proposition 83), which was approved overwhelmingly by state voters in 2006. That law expands the definition of a sexual offense eligible for use as the basis for commitment (multiple victims are no longer required); lengthens prison sentences for sex offenders; and, most notably, allows for the civil commitment of SVPs for an “indeterminate” period of time.
Even if Coalinga doesn’t have the staff needed for its current population, the facility still has room for another 740 patients. But luckily for the hospital, although the state’s SVP evaluations have ballooned from 50 to 750 a month since the passage of Jessica’s Law, the number of actual commitments per year has barely increased. This, perhaps, is a reflection of the research showing that sex offenders do not re-offend nearly as often as once thought.
Defending SVPs can be a thankless job, confides Sacramento attorney Michael Aye, perhaps the most experienced SVP defense lawyer in the state. “I’ve had other attorneys wish me luck on a trial, until they found out what kind of case I was doing. Then they say, ‘Well, you know … I hope you lose, but it’s sure good to see you again.’ ”
Aye comes from a family of attorneys. His grandfather was a lawyer, and for many years his father was chief deputy in the Solano County public defender’s office. Aye himself has had a defense practice in Sacramento for 28 years, and his brick-walled office in Old Sacramento may well be the messiest in the state, at least among attorneys who still have a license. So many papers cover his work surface that it’s impossible to see the desktop. Still more documents are spread on the floor, which may or may not have a rug.
Aye started taking SVP cases a few months after California’s SVP law took effect in January 1996. Since then he’s become a nationally recognized expert on the complex legal and medical issues surrounding civil internment of people judged to be SVPs, and he has trained public defenders to handle SVP cases in several California counties. “I got into this because California’s SVP law really pissed me off, quite frankly,” Aye says in a clipped, streetwise tone less befitting a defense attorney than someone a defense attorney might represent. “The notion that someone can get locked up for a crime they hadn’t committed yet I found offensive, and I still do.”
So what does Aye tell his Coalinga clients when they ask about their chances of ever getting out? “I usually tell them ‘Not good,’ Aye says flatly. “Then I ask them, ‘How old are you?’ ”
Age, as it turns out, is one of the few factors that can work in an SVP patient’s favor. An increasing body of evidence suggests that few sex offenders re-offend after the age of 50, and even fewer after age 60. Still, Aye says he’s won only a handful of releases in SVP cases since he began working on them.
For Aye, the ideal SVP client is a 60-year-old rapist. Child molesters are always more problematic; key factors include the age of both the victim and the perpetrator at the time of the offense, the degree of force used in the attack, whether the victim was known to the attacker, and whether the attacker has ever had a stable relationship. But if the SVP determination goes to a jury, the most important element of all is the way the defendant tells his story.
“How the person presents is a big factor,” says Aye. “If he presents as very needy, as a narcissistic or borderline type, or every other word out of his mouth is ‘Yeah, but,’ or if there’s a lot of victim blaming, those are all real problems. If he can’t straighten out that kind of presentation, the first thing that’s going to happen is the DA will put him on the stand at trial. And then they’re toast.”
Like Aye, Todd Melnik in Southern California has as much SVP work as he can handle. But the two have very different practices. Aye has 20 active cases right now, many of them assigned to him by the county of Sacramento, which pays him about $80 an hour. Melnik, by contrast, says he works on about three SVP cases a year. He takes no assignments, and charges from $150,000 to $180,000 per case—-plus expenses for having top psychological experts on sex offenders testify, which may run $40,000 per expert witness. Melnik says he spends from six to eight weeks preparing for an SVP trial, putting in 40 to 60 hours each week. A trial, if it comes to that, lasts an additional four to six weeks. “The last SVP case I lost was in 1999,” Melnik says.
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the sex-offender-commitment process used at Coalinga is the five-stage treatment program, which was devised soon after California’s SVP law took effect. Treatment is often the center of legal and moral justifications for indefinitely committing someone who’s served his full prison sentence. But roughly 70 percent of Coalinga’s patients refuse to participate in the phased program, and so far only eleven SVPs have successfully completed it. One reason for the low level of participation is that under the law, what SVPs say in treatment can be held against them.
Says Melnik: “One of the things these people have to do in treatment is write down fantasies, from the past or what they think about now. And that becomes a permanent record. The DA will bring out those fantasies in trial, and they’ll have a doctor who testifies, ‘Look, he’s still having fantasies, he still meets the criteria, he’s still dangerous.’ And I’ve heard of some cases where guys have to make up fantasies, even if they don’t have them, to make it through to the next phase of treatment. So it’s a catch-22.”
As the five-phase treatment program was originally envisioned, it would take only about two years to complete. But many patients have been in treatment much longer, with no end in sight.
Take Steven Burkhart, a 44-year-old Coalinga patient. He’s now in his eighth year of treatment, which began at Atascadero State Hospital—-the institution that held most of the state’s SVPs before Coalinga opened its doors—-after he’d served ten years in state prison for two counts of having sex with a minor. He’s still in Phase 2 of the treatment, in part, he says, because there’s so little opportunity to make progress. Treatment at Coalinga is conducted twice a week for one hour and 50 minutes, and most treatment groups have ten to twelve patients in them.
“To be honest, I’ve lost my motivation to push my treatment any further,” says Burkhart. “The attitude of the staff at the hospital is that the people in here have done the most despicable act you can do-—molesting a child or raping an adult—-so they can do anything they want to do, and the public won’t care.”
There is also controversy over the quality of the science behind some of the treatment that Coalinga patients are getting. One treatment regimen, called covert sensitization/sexual arousal modification, uses a device that monitors changes in blood flow to the penis in response to visual or audio stimuli. Therapists then study the results in an effort to determine how much progress a particular patient is making. (Subjects are taught to pair deviant sexual fantasies with adverse thoughts, which in turn is supposed to diminish inappropriate urges.) However, there is no shortage of skepticism about this approach. Dr. Richard Krueger, the medical director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute’s Sexual Behavior Clinic, states flatly, “There’s no scientific evidence that any of these [state-run] treatment programs for SVPs work.”
Despite all the problems that Coalinga faces, there is talk of building another similar hospital before too long. But in a state grappling with deficits, money is a major stumbling block, and it certainly doesn’t help that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has already asked lawmakers for $7 billion in new spending just to bring health care in California’s state prisons up to snuff.
A much cheaper alternative to residential facilities such as Coalinga would be providing SVPs with outpatient treatment—perhaps an unlikely option in the current political environment. Nevertheless, Texas, of all places, allows for the reintegration of SVPs into the community. It also requires SVPs to actively participate in intensive outpatient sex-offender treatment and supervision. So far, outpatient SVPs in Texas are about twice as likely to participate in treatment as are SVPs at inpatient facilities like Coalinga.
“You look at what Texas is doing, and the reality is that these guys do better with treatment on the outside; they don’t re-offend at a high rate at all,” says Aye. “What we have here at Coalinga is basically a fraud. It’s a fraud on the people of California, that this is somehow protecting them. This is simply a way to continue to punish sex offenders. That’s all it is.”
Aye sighs. “Some days I count my reward by how often I can piss off the DA.”
Tom McNichol is a contributing writer to California Lawyer.
Feds push child-porn cases; penalty can be years in prison
Just a few mouse clicks into the forbidden world of Internet child porn can transform an apparently upstanding individual into a federal prison inmate - doing a long sentence.
That's the harsh reality former KGO radio host Bernie Ward will encounter this week. The popular and prominent liberal voice on Bay Area radio for decades is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday in San Francisco federal court for distributing sexual images of young children. The best the 57-year-old Ward can hope for is five years in prison.
Setting aside his celebrity status, Ward's case is no aberration.
Ward is ensnared in what is becoming one of the U.S. Justice Department's fastest-growing areas of prosecution. Child-porn crimes have gone from a rarity on federal court dockets to a phenomenon, with prosecutions jumping nationally from a scant 30 in 1995 to more than 2,100 last year, according to a Mercury News analysis of Justice Department data maintained by Syracuse University.
In the Bay Area, dozens of federal cases are being filed every year and the U.S. Attorney's Office is on pace to file a record number of child-porn prosecutions in 2008. There were just two child-porn cases filed in the region's federal courts in 1995 - an era when child pornography just began to proliferate on the Web.
Aggressive law enforcement teams - nationally and in the Bay Area - are policing the Internet. Typically, they are catching successful people - engineers, businessmen, professors and lawyers - who are under the false impression that their habit is personal, harmless and anonymous.
But by downloading or sharing sexual images of pre-pubescent children, those who do so find out they are not sequestered by the privacy of their own computers and are shocked when they suddenly find themselves facing the law's wrath.
"Almost without exception, I find these defendants to be honestly amazed at the seriousness of their conduct as far as the system is concerned," said Alan Baum, a Studio City defense attorney who specializes in child-porn cases.
For some of those caught by the legal system, the consequences and public humiliation have been too much to bear. In the Bay Area alone, five defendants facing child-porn charges have committed suicide over the past two years. This year, on the eve of a court appearance on child-porn charges in the spring, one of the defendants, Los Gatos businessman George Halldin was found dead in his car inside a burning warehouse. Authorities ruled it a suicide.
Court papers show that the alarming trend prompted the U.S. Attorney's Office to push for child-porn defendants awaiting trial to be put on electronic monitoring or even kept in jail to prevent more suicides.
This as prosecutors, judges, defense lawyers and others expect the number of child-porn cases to continue to swell. San Francisco U.S. Attorney Joe Russoniello has made child-porn cases a priority, saying that catching people who favor such images is one way to stop potential pedophiles from doing worse.
The Justice Department generally has emphasized the child-porn crackdown, unveiling "Project Safe Childhood" two years ago and setting up a national child-exploitation unit that prosecuted Ward's case.
For the federal courts, child-porn cases are raising a host of issues, from concerns in the defense bar that prosecutors are casting too broad a net to questions about the severity of the prison sentences, which often carry mandatory minimum terms ordinarily reserved for violent felons in gun cases and major drug dealers.
"These cases are difficult," said San Jose U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel, who just this summer sent several child-porn defendants to prison. "Many of the defendants have no previous criminal history and have been productive members of the community, and often there are complex psychological reasons why (they) are interested in child pornography.
"At the same time," Fogel added, "the images themselves are truly horrible. Even passive viewers of such material help to make its production profitable."
Prior clean records
On July 2, Christopher Burt Wiltsee's family and friends, including his wife, filed into Fogel's courtroom to show support as he faced sentencing for possessing child porn, found on his government computer at NASA/Ames Research Center in Mountain View. The case was a paradigm of child-porn prosecutions unfolding in courts across the country.
Under sentencing guidelines, Wiltsee, a 57-year-old Morgan Hill man, confronted as much as eight years in prison - and federal prosecutors were urging the judge to come down hard. "The practical effect of possessing child pornography is to stimulate the market in child pornography, which encourages things such as child torture and rape," Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Fazioli told Fogel.
But as in most of these cases, Wiltsee's defense pointed to his clean record and family support, depicting him as a depressed man who'd get drunk and download some child porn in the midst of hundreds of images that for the most part were adult pornography. An apologetic Wiltsee told the judge the child porn streamed into his computer with so many other images he did not always know what he was doing.
'I'm horrified by those images," he said, "and I didn't look at them or dwell on them very much."
Fogel, however, noted that some of the images of children being "essentially tortured" were "at the extreme end of the scale."
The judge sent Wiltsee away for five years in federal prison. In meting out the punishment, he said he was puzzled why someone like Wiltsee would want to download such images, calling it a "great mystery."
That mystery is at the heart of most child-porn possession cases. There is little agreement whether defendants like Wiltsee are predators-in-waiting, or merely troubled souls taking a peek into the dark underbelly of cyberspace. Even psychiatrists, now frequently being asked to evaluate defendants for sentencing, haven't reached a conclusive answer. In some cases, psychiatrists describe the conduct as "pathologically voyeuristic" instead of pedophilia.
'It's a big, big question," said Dr. Humberto Temporini, a psychiatry professor and expert on child-porn cases at the University of California-Davis. "What we know is very limited to a very skewed sample because these are just the guys who get caught."
Federal prosecutors insist there is a connection between downloading child porn and preying on children.
"As a prosecutor, I don't really need to know why," Russoniello said. "For every one of these people we take down, we're intervening in preventing child abuse."
Experts say there isn't much variance in the profiles of child-porn defendants. They tend to be middle-aged, educated white males with no criminal history and seldom a history of being sexually abused. They get caught in a variety of ways - child-abuse groups monitor the Web for child porn, reporting some to the FBI. Federal agents also conduct stings.
Ward was nabbed when he e-mailed child porn to an online dominatrix, who reported the image to local police in Oakdale.
Once caught, however, there isn't much of a defense. The computer hard drive is all federal prosecutors need to gain a conviction, and child-porn cases seldom reach trial. "The elements are very easy for the government to prove," said Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor.
In Ward's case, his lawyer, Doron Weinberg, argues the radio celebrity was downloading child porn and entering chat rooms as part of a journalism project to explore the issue. But Ward pleaded guilty in May to one count of distributing child porn, admitting he sent dozens of illicit images via e-mail, some of children as young as 3.
To defense lawyers, the case underscores an overarching problem: The government may be coming down too severely on those who view the material while the producers of it, many in foreign countries, elude law enforcement's grasp.
"There is nothing about prosecuting the Bernie Wards of the world that is going to stop the East European exploiters from marketing this stuff," said Weinberg, who believes his client should be facing six months of home detention. "And I'm going to be begging for five years."
But federal prosecutors are urging a San Francisco judge to lock the father of four up for nine years, calling his conduct "amoral" in court papers filed last week. And that type of punishment is warranted to those who fight child abuse.
"The bottom line is that possession of child pornography is a crime,"
said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited
Children. "These are crime scene photos. Our hope is these prosecutions
will be a deterrent and people will think twice about accessing this stuff."
Contact Howard Mintz at firstname.lastname@example.org or (408) 286-0236.
Editorial: Jessica's Law is an expensive failure
The law requires lifetime monitoring of sex offenders – not only those charged with child sexual abuse and rapists whose victims were adults, but also those convicted of consensual sex with a teenager and even misdemeanor indecent exposure. It bars offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park.
By the end of 2007, it was obvious that the law was a failure. Almost no local police agencies in California were enforcing it, partly because it was unenforceable and partly because even trying to enforce it proved prohibitively expensive.
Now the Los Angeles Times has added still more evidence of the law's failure. In addition to its monitoring requirements, Proposition 83 also established a system of mandatory psychological evaluations for sex offenders. Like most other things about this law, that sounds like a good idea in theory.
In practice, as the Times reported, it has led to the state contracting with 79 psychologists and psychiatrists to do the evaluations. Last year, 14 of them billed the state more than a half-million dollars apiece for those services. One billed the state for more than $1.5 million in 2007.
Such payments to contractors might be worthwhile if the evaluations were producing clear benefits. But they aren't.
The evaluations were supposed to be used to determine if sex offenders should be committed to a mental hospital after serving their sentences. But the Times found that the number of commitments was essentially the same for the 18-month periods before and after voters approved the law.
The mounting evidence that this law is a failure is likely to produce new efforts to amend it. Such efforts are a waste. This law is flawed beyond repair. It's time to acknowledge the failure of good intentions and repeal Jessica's Law.
From the Los Angeles Times
Jessica's Law may not be hospitalizing more post-prison sex offenders
August 11, 2008
When voters overwhelmingly approved Jessica's Law in fall 2006, many assumed it would lock away predatory child molesters and rapists who had slipped through the cracks of existing law.
But by key measures, Jessica's Law may be failing to deliver on its promise -- and in some respects producing the opposite of its intended effects.
As a Times investigation reported Sunday, the law has led far more sexual offenders to be evaluated and recommended for indefinite hospitalization after their prison terms end. But the number of commitments has barely budged.
In the 18 months after Jessica's Law took effect, only 42 of 67 defendants in civil commitment trials -- 63% -- were sent to hospitals, compared with 41 of 51 -- 80% -- before the law.
The finding is only the latest sign that the law, named for a 9-year-old rape and murder victim, is not working as intended, despite carrying costs that are expected to reach several hundred million dollars annually within a few years.
Critics have cited problems with another key provision that banned registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park, in some cases ruling out entire cities.
The limits were meant to keep children safe. But the California Sex Offender Management Board suggested in a January oversight report that strict parolee residency requirements might tend to increase rather than reduce sex crimes. The panel said the number of offenders listing themselves as transient rose by 44% to nearly 2,900 in the first year after Jessica's Law passed.
"Current research concludes that suitable and stable housing for sex offenders is critical to reducing recidivism and increasing community safety," the panel said.
John La Fond, a retired law professor and author of "Preventing Sexual Violence," put it this way: "We're locking up a small number, then releasing the rest and saying 'Good luck, and you can't live anywhere.' "
State Sen. George Runner (R-Lancaster), who introduced Jessica's Law, said the concerns were strictly theoretical, unsupported by data showing an increase in sex crimes.
"We were prepared" for increased transience among sex offenders, he said. "That's why we require GPS."
He was referring to a provision of Jessica's Law that requires lifetime monitoring of many offenders using the global positioning system. But that part of the law has proved controversial as well, because local law enforcement agencies, which would eventually handle most of the monitoring, say they lack money for it.
"I'm not aware of any sheriff in the state doing GPS," said Jim Denney, director of the California Sheriffs Assn. "There is no local funding tied to Jessica's Law."
Jerry P. Dyer, Fresno's police chief and president of the California Police Chiefs Assn., said that most GPS monitoring of sex offenders, for now, was handled by the state.
"The concern under Jessica's Law is who has the responsibility for purchasing GPS units and monitoring offenders once the individuals are no longer on parole," he said. If it is a local responsibility, "that needs to be funded by the state."
Runner has argued that Jessica's Law, which was mandated by 70% of voters, is sound, even if it could benefit from small adjustments.
"Our job is to implement what the voters have asked us to do," he said.
To that end, Runner has sponsored Proposition 6 on the November ballot, which would move money from the state general fund to crime control, including $15 million annually for GPS monitoring by local law enforcement of gang offenders, violent offenders and sex offenders.
Both the police and sheriffs associations support the measure, but Dyer expressed doubts that the funding would prove adequate and suggested that it might be necessary "to focus on the most serious sex offenders."
The latest provision in Jessica's Law to come under question pertains to "sexually violent predators" -- a small minority of sex offenders believed to be committing crimes because of mental illness. They can be committed indefinitely to hospitals for treatment if a jury affirms the diagnosis of two psychologists or psychiatrists. A single sex crime can now lead to lifelong commitment.
The evaluations cost $31 million in the last fiscal year, including payments to contract evaluators.
Defense attorneys said the decline in the rate of hospital commitments followed new research about sex crimes -- much of it, ironically, sparked by statutes such as Jessica's Law. The studies have helped persuade some juries that sexually violent predators are far less common than previously believed.
"Five years ago sex crime recidivism was thought to be 50% or higher. Now we know it is closer to 3%, particularly for older men," said Todd Melnik, an attorney who has successfully defended several clients in such cases.
"Five years ago no one criticized the key assessment tool" used to estimate recidivism risk in sex offenders, he said. "Now people know it's about as bulletproof as Swiss cheese.
"As a result, jurors are more open-minded," he said. "They are looking beyond their natural fears and paranoia associated with these cases."
Juries may be growing skeptical about evaluators who receive "flabbergasting" fees, said Michael Suzuki, Los Angeles County's supervising public defender for such cases.
According to state records, 14 experts earned more than $500,000 for the evaluations, and two earned more than $1 million.
"Where do you draw the line? Where does the amount of money you are making influence your decisions" and exert subtle pressure on evaluators to recommend commitment? Suzuki said. "Is it $100,000? Is it $500,000? Is it $1 million?"
Stephen Mayberg, director of the state Department of Mental Health, which manages the evaluation program, defended the state's implementation of the law.
It "has heightened our awareness and has probably done a better job identifying high-risk sex offenders," he said. "The fact that we are trying to protect the public, and that there is so much attention and energy going toward that, really reflects the public's desires."
Mayberg said the state does not track whether high-earning evaluators tend to recommend civil commitment more often.
Runner said that because many trials are pending, it would take at least a year to see if the declining rate of commitment holds.
"The trend will be more [sex offenders] being held," he said, adding that even a small increase would justify the law.
Others question the law's fundamental fairness. La Fond, the retired law professor and author, called the commitment provision "indefinite detention masquerading as involuntary treatment."
"It's like the roach motel," said Dr. Howard Zonana, psychiatry professor at Yale University and medical director of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. "Once you check in, it's hard to check out."
California is hardly unique in its approach, however. Nineteen states have adopted civil-commitment laws, some similar to the Golden State's, said Eric Janus, dean of William Mitchell College of Law and a national expert on the laws.
Other states have rejected civil commitment in favor of longer prison terms and more intensive monitoring of parolees -- with good results at lower cost.
But after statutes such as Jessica's Law are passed, it becomes almost impossible, politically, to rein in the programs regardless of their cost-effectiveness, Janus said.
"Once the box is opened you can't shut it," he said. "No one is going to say it's too expensive."
From the Los Angeles Times
State pays millions for contract psychologists to keep up with Jessica's
August 10, 2008
A 2006 law intended to crack down on sex offenders has proved a bonanza for a small group of private psychologists and psychiatrists, 14 of whom billed California taxpayers last year for a half a million dollars or more each, a Times investigation found.
Among the 79 contractors hired by the state to evaluate sex offenders, the top earner was Robert Owen, a Central Coast psychologist who pulled in more than $1.5 million in 2007, according to state records reviewed by The Times.
That's equivalent to working 100 hours per week for 52 weeks at nearly $300 per hour -- top-scale in the private sector.
The No. 2 earner, psychologist Dawn Starr, billed the state $1.1 million in 2007, including $17,500 for a single day in April.
"It's been a boatload of money, to put it colloquially," psychologist Shoba Sreenivasan said during court testimony in November. Working only part time, she billed the state nearly $900,000 last year and at least $290,000 this year.
A civil servant doing the same work earns $101,000 to $110,000 annually.
Passed overwhelmingly by voter initiative in 2006, Jessica's Law mandated evaluations for thousands more sex offenders than in the past, to determine whether their conditions warrant hospitalization after criminal sentences have been served. All told, evaluators hired by the state earned more than $24 million in 2007.
It's unclear, however, what benefit the investment has yielded. There's been a nearly ninefold increase in evaluations and a threefold increase in recommendations for hospital commitment. But the actual number of commitments has remained essentially the same -- 41 in the 18 months before the law was passed, 42 in the 18 months afterward.
As the state confronts a budget shortfall of $15.2 billion, legislation to fund contractors to evaluate offenders through 2010 is expected to be voted on in the Assembly as soon as this week. Costs from Jessica's Law are expected to rise to several hundred million dollars annually over the next eight years, with further increases thereafter, according to projections by California's legislative analyst.
State officials defend their approach, saying they have moved aggressively to implement the voters' mandate.
"The public needs to appreciate how seriously we took the 70% vote for Jessica's Law, and public safety," said Stephen Mayberg, director of the state's Department of Mental Health, which manages the program. "Was it like a crisis? Yes. . . . Anybody who was willing to take on evaluations at any time and in any place could literally work around the clock."
Mayberg said the backlog of imminent parolees has diminished, so the cases now can be distributed more evenly among contractors. But fees will remain high and the overall costs about the same, even if million-dollar payments disappear.
He described the work of his department and its contractors thus far as "heroic."
Jessica's Law required evaluations for convicts nearing parole for a single sex offense -- even if committed as a juvenile -- in any of 35 categories. Before that law passed, at least two offenses were required in any of nine categories.
To induce contractors to work more and to attract new ones, the Department of Mental Health roughly doubled its compensation to $3,500 for an initial evaluation and $200 per hour for legal testimony and travel.
In 2005, state evaluators -- almost all contractors -- reported on 244 individuals. In 2007, the first full year after passage of Jessica's Law, they evaluated 2,201.
"They were shoving these things down our throats," said psychologist Thomas MacSpeiden, an evaluator who earned more than $400,000 last year. "They were just saying, 'take them, take them, take them!' "
MacSpeiden said he and others maintained high standards despite the need to shoehorn prisoner assessments around their day jobs. He called the pool of evaluators -- highly experienced medical doctors or Ph.D.s who receive special training from the state -- "the creme de la creme."
Even if it prevents only a few additional sex crimes, the broader net cast by Jessica's Law is necessary, said James Cahan, a Santa Clara County deputy district attorney who co-chairs the sexually violent predator committee of the California District Attorneys Assn.
"I've seen 5-year-olds curled up on the witness stand," he said. "Anyone who does this work knows that it's worth the money."
Prosecutors use the expert evaluations to argue that offenders should be confined indefinitely, in most cases to Coalinga State Hospital, for treatment as sexually violent predators. An inmate can be so designated if a jury affirms such a diagnosis by two psychologists or psychiatrists.
But some defense attorneys have aggressively questioned state evaluators, suggesting that their judgments were swayed by high fees. New research also shows far lower rates of recidivism by sex offenders than previously thought, an issue often raised to juries.
System ill prepared
In 2005, John Couey, a sex offender who had completed parole, raped and murdered 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, the law's namesake. He buried the girl alive in a shallow grave.
Jessica's Law was intended to keep such criminals from reoffending. But the mental health system was ill-prepared for soaring workloads.
Evaluations often require review of thousands of pages of medical, legal and prison files and interviews with inmates, Mayberg said. Reports are usually 20 to 30 pages and require an average of 20 hours to finish, he said.
Dr. Michael First, editor of the American Psychiatric Assn. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the standard reference for mental disorders, said most reports require at least 30 hours.
"It's often hard to get into a person's head," he said. "I don't think there is any way to do shortcuts and do a decent report. You have people's lives and liberty at stake."
Yet on a single day, Nov. 13, 2007, No. 2-earner Starr billed for five evaluations.On April 23, 2007, she billed more than 17 hours for a range of court-related work and still found time to complete an evaluation, according to her invoices, which were reviewed by The Times.
Starr declined to comment. Owen, the top earner, did not return calls for comment.
Dr. Mohan Nair, a psychiatrist with offices in Beverly Hills and Los Alamitos, earned nearly $1 million last year under the state program. He also saw private patients, provided forensic testimony and evaluation for other government agencies, directed a diagnostic lab and supervised residents at two medical centers.
Nair completed up to 20 sex-offender evaluations a month in 2007. Including time billed for legal matters, they comprised just 20% to 30% of his professional practice, he said.
Even at 100 hours per week, he would have had no more than six hours to complete each of five evaluations.
Jessica's Law made fast work possible, Nair said, by requiring evaluations of offenders with "thin files."
"The less data you have, the less criminal history, history of offenses," he said, "it's going to take less time."
Mayberg, director of the Department of Mental Health, said some high earners increased their volume by interviewing up to three inmates in a single prison visit and hiring assistants to organize documents and fill in boilerplate portions of reports.
The vast cost of the evaluations and the system's reliance on contractors have prompted concerns by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents state psychologists.
"There is going to have to be some kind of adjustment in what the contractors are making if [the state] is going to recruit" staff psychologists, udi Herman, who chairs the union's psychologist committee, said in an interview.
The State Personnel Board recently took up the issue, ruling that the use of contractors violated state law by failing to make an adequate effort to fill evaluator jobs with regular employees. The board ordered mental health officials to replace the contractors with civil servants. Despite an increase in pay to up to $110,000 annually, Mayberg said, just four jobs out of 80 have been filled.
Since then, the department and the union helped to craft a bill to permit the use of contract evaluators until January 2011.
The legislation, sponsored by Jessica's Law co-author Sen. George Runner (R-Lancaster), would require that state officials report to the Legislature twice a year on hiring efforts and on the costs and effects of the program.
The data could help determine whether the evaluation process is operating as voters intended. One high-earning evaluator is among those voicing doubts.
Nair said that since Jessica's Law, the proportion of inmates he recommends for commitment has plummeted. That shift convinced him that the law's criteria are overly broad. Asked whether Jessica's Law is a good law, Nair paused.
"I have to wonder," he said. "There may be a better allocation of resources."
Sex Offender Research & News by a Voice of Reason
Sunday, August 10, 2008
SPRINGFIELD - He was 17; she was 15½. His lawyers say the sex between the two was consensual.
And, the defense lawyers say he should be not be prosecuted under a law they argue is unconstitutional and archaic in this day and age.
A challenge to the state's statutory rape law is unfolding in Hampden Superior Court in the case of a Chicopee teen whose lawyers argue the law is out of date and should not be applied in cases in which the teens are close in age and engage in consensual sex.
A prosecutor and a legal expert contend, however, that the statutory rape law - non-forcible rape of a child - is in place to protect children and prosecution is pursued when there are aggravating circumstances.
Attorneys Linda J. and John M. Thompson argued last week to Judge Peter A. Velis that Raphael Rivera, now 18, should not be prosecuted in a case they said alleges he had consensual sex with another teen last November at the home in which he lives with his father.
Society has changed drastically since the statutory rape law was enacted, and the law has to change drastically too, John Thompson said. Since the state Legislature has not changed the law on its own to protect an accused person's constitutional rights, the judiciary must uphold the constitutional rights of the accused, he argued.
The Thompsons contend the closeness in age of the accused and the alleged victim presents "a question whether there is a rational basis to treat one as a victim and one as a perpetrator."
They also argue that a successful prosecution of Rivera would amount to cruel and unusual punishment. Under the tests determining cruel and unusual punishment, Linda Thompson said, a punishment for sexual activity between a 17-year-old high school senior and a classmate two years his junior that exposes him to the possibility of life in prison and the certainty of registration as a sex offender is "grossly disproportionate."
The arguments were presented to Velis on July 30. The judge asked for additional written arguments from the prosecution and defense.
In the state's written response, Assistant District Attorney Thomas H. Townsend wrote that the courts have reviewed the punishment for statutory rape and upheld the finding that it is not cruel and unusual. The courts, he said, have determined that the interests protected by the statutory rape law are compelling.
The modern purpose of the statutory rape law is to prevent the victimization of minors, Linda Thompson said, and that is not applicable in this case.
She said that collectively, 44 states and the District of Columbia don't criminalize consensual peer sex among teenagers. Thirty-three states employ age differentials requiring the defendant to be a certain number of years older than the victim in order for prosecution, some using four years as the time span, she added.
Rivera is also facing a second case involving a second girl in which he is charged with both statutory rape and forcible rape of a child. A motion to dismiss those charges is also pending. The charges stem from an incident in September.
Wendy J. Murphy, a lawyer specializing in child abuse and sex crimes cases and an adjunct professor at New England Law School in Boston, is a proponent of maintaining the statutory rape law.
She said in her experience "truly consensual" sex between, for instance, a 15-year-old girl and her 17-year-old boyfriend, is not prosecuted unless there are special circumstances.
Although different teens may have different levels of maturity at the same age, Murphy believes in the philosophy behind the law - that a child under 16 is not mature enough to make a choice to have sex.
First Assistant District Attorney James C. Orenstein declined to discuss the specifics of the Rivera case, but said prosecutors consider a number of factors in deciding when to prosecute an allegation of statutory rape.
Among those are the age discrepancy between parties; the wishes of the alleged victim or his or her parents; and whether the offender has any other criminal record of pending case, particularly of a sexual nature.
Another factor is the presence - or absence - of aggravating factors such as if the sexual act resulted in an unwanted medical condition, such as pregnancy.
"I would say that the statutory rape statute is one of an array of statutes
that have been enacted to protect children," Orenstein said. "Despite any
change in social mores, we think this protection has continued viability."
..News Source.. by BUFFY SPENCER
Don't be so quick to judge when crimes happen
last updated: July 10, 2008 03:11:24 AM
Many readers, including some who posted comments on Modbee.com, were absolutely convinced that 27-year-old Sergio Casian Aguiar was on drugs when he beat his 2-year-old son to death before being shot and killed by a Modesto police officer west of Turlock last month.
Toxicology tests, however, found no drugs in his system. So much for that assumption.
Likewise, some folks have been quick to criticize the family of the 14-year-old Modesto girl taken from her home, stuffed into the trunk of a car and badly injured when her alleged kidnapper -- a registered sex offender -- crashed the vehicle during a police pursuit. This happened in a north Modesto neighborhood early Saturday morning.
Again, assumptions aren't always accurate. Only after the police used a Taser to control Jared Daniel Conway, 38, did the victim's parents learn that a man they had known for about a decade had done time in the California state prison system for rape and is listed on sex offender registries in California and Tennessee.
Conway is being held in lieu of $1.3 million bail at the Stanislaus County Jail on multiple kidnapping, assault and other charges.
John Fitzjarrell, speaking for the girl's family, said he, Conway and the girl's father had worked together as plumbers beginning in 1998 or 1999. Conway often visited their homes, and talked about the deaths of his brothers -- one murdered in 2001 and another killed in a motorcycle accident two years ago.
But, Fitzjarrell said, Conway never told them he had been convicted of rape in 1990, nor did he volunteer that he spent roughly four years in state prison or that he is a registered sex offender.
Conway kept in contact, Fitzjarrell said, when he lived briefly in Oklahoma, Tennessee and Arkansas before returning to Modesto in June.
"He told me he was staying at his mother's place (in Modesto)," Fitzjarrell said.
Instead, Conway asked the girl's father if he could stay with them for a few days or maybe a week until he found his own place, Fitzjarrell said.
It wasn't until the girl's father called in a frantic search to find his daughter about
3 a.m. July 5 that Fitzjarrell learned Conway had been staying with them for what had stretched into nearly a month.
"We were unaware of his past," Fitzjarrell said. "You know someone long enough and if they seem like a good person, they're a good person. You don't go checking Megan's law. He never gave any indication. We never knew he was capable of anything like that."
The Tennessee sex offender registry lists Conway's mother's Modesto address as his current residence. He lived there for about three years beginning in 2004. He also spent time in Arkansas before returning to California, Fitzjarrell said. When Conway re-registered in Modesto last month, he gave the police the family's address as his own. That's not what you might expect from a guy who, Fitzjarrell said, asked to stay a few days until he found another place.
The family, he said, was shocked to find their address as his on the Megan's law registry after his arrest.
"They had no idea," said Fitzjarrell, who also has a teenage daughter.
A relative who asked not to be identified said the girl's father is a hard-working truck driver who spends little, if any, time on the Internet. He's the type of person who goes out of his way to help others, and saw Conway as a friend in need of a place to stay, according to the relative. The mom, the relative said, is an excellent mother who stays home with the kids. She is computer savvy. But, like her husband, she had seen nothing in Conway's behavior to trigger any suspicions or compel her to check the Megan's law registry.
"It's just devastating to them," the relative said.
They've learned a hard lesson as parents: that anyone -- even someone you've known and liked for a decade -- can have a dark, dangerous side.
Registered sex offenders are obligated to re-register with local authorities annually, and must report their new address within five days when they move. But in most cases, they aren't obligated to tell anyone else about their pasts unless they're still on parole or probation.
Those convicted of crimes against children will have lifelong restrictions, such as never being allowed to supervise them, but those with crimes against adults may have no restrictions after their parole expires.
Sexual predators will go to great lengths to gain the trust of their next victim.
"It's always about access," said Annette Rees, a Stanislaus County prosecutor who handles such cases.
The girl is at the University of California at Davis Medical Center in Sacramento hospital, recovering from her injuries.
Friends and family members are staging a car wash Saturday and Sunday, from
10 a.m. until sundown, in the parking lot behind Ray's Carpets at the corner of McHenry and Kiernan in north Modesto. They hope to raise $3,000 that will enable them to move into another house -- one without the horrible memories and one, you hope, where a 14-year-old girl can feel safe again.
That's an assumption every child should be able to make.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2383.
Sex offenders unlikely to commit second crime
Magazine issue 2663
SEX crime statistics tend to make depressing reading, but now there is some good news from the most populous state in the US. Just 3.2 per cent of more than 4000 sex offenders released on parole in 2002 were re-imprisoned for another sex offence in the subsequent 5 years, according to new figures from California.
While experts know that sex offenders are less likely to reoffend than most other criminals (New Scientist, 24 February 2007, p 3), the very low rate of re-imprisonment in the new study will challenge public perceptions about the risks these criminals pose.
The figures are broadly consistent with a 2007 Minnesotan study, which found that 3.2 per cent of sex offenders released from 1990 to 2002 had been re-imprisoned for a further sex crime within 3 years of their release.
What's more, sex offenders in Minnesota are even less likely to reoffend ...
The complete article is 322 words long.
July 4, 2008
Offender sentenced for not registering
A Shasta County man was sentenced Thursday on a felony charge of failing to register as a sex offender and will serve a 25-years-to-life prison term under California's "three strikes" law.
James Richard Murphy Jr., 49, pleaded guilty to the charge Wednesday and was sentenced Thursday in Shasta County Superior Court, said a spokesman from the Shasta County district attorney's office.
Murphy was convicted in 1992 of molesting a 7-year-old girl. He also was convicted in 1986 and 1997 of residential burglary, the spokesman said.
Murphy was arrested in March by Anderson police on suspicion of possessing methamphetamine. He had been living in Redding at the address where he was registered until May 2007, but he failed to notify authorities about his move to Anderson.
Child molester killed in Salinas state prison
SOLEDAD - A 30-year-old child molester is dead after being killed at Salinas Valley State Prison in Soledad.
Lt. Eric Moore of the prison said Donald Jones was assaulted by a group of prisoners Friday morning in the general population maximum-security yard. He was pronounced dead about 90 minutes later. Prison officers recovered a stabbing weapon at the scene.
Jones had been in the facility since 1995, serving a 20-year sentence out of Los Angeles County for sodomy on a child under 14.
Authorities said six men are suspected in Jones' death. They already
are serving sentences for convictions that include second-degree murder,
voluntary manslaughter and kidnapping.
Selected recent California newspaper editorials
The Riverside Press-Enterprise: "Predator purge?"
California needs a more rational strategy for housing sex offenders than "anywhere but here." ...
... Pomona became the latest city to take that approach last week, when the City Council approved an ordinance that effectively bans sex offenders from moving into the city. Pomona built its ordinance on the foundation of Prop. 83, better known as Jessica's Law, which voters approved in 2006. That measure bans sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools and parks—and also allows cities to enact tougher regulations.
So Pomona increased the required distance to 2,460 feet. And the city added preschools, child care centers, transit stops, tutoring centers, playgrounds, sports fields and other sites to the list of places sex offenders cannot live near. The result, as maps show, puts almost the entire city off limits to sex offenders who wish to move there. The council held off on applying the law to the approximately 260 registered sex offenders now living in Pomona.
Pomona based its ordinance on a similar law in Long Beach. Other cities, such as San Diego, have also imposed tougher limitations on where sex offenders can live. And Hemet last year proposed creating a series of "pocket parks" that would use the Prop. 83 rules to effectively ban sex offenders from the city.
Yet city officials congratulating themselves on protecting public safety this way conveniently ignore the fact that those protections come at the cost of pushing sex offenders into other cities. Making this widely feared population someone else's worry hardly offers a responsible strategy.
And, in fact, that approach can backfire. Depriving sex offenders of places to live could just as easily make keeping track of them more difficult. Sex offenders might go underground, deciding not to register in order to avoid housing restrictions. The state's Sex Offender Management Board, which the Legislature created in the wake of Prop. 83, reported in January that 18 percent of those required to register as sex offenders did not comply.
Or offenders could end up on the streets. The board's report noted that in January 2008, 2,879 sex offenders had registered as homeless, a 44 percent increase since 2006.
And driving all sex offenders away to rural areas is hardly fair to those regions. Nor does placing offenders far away from family support or treatment services—two key components to avoiding repeat crime—make much sense.
Even sex offenders have the right to live somewhere, and California needs to develop policies that meet that need while providing the most effective public protections. ...
LA City Beat
Is Ricky Really a Sex Offender?
When Ricky was 16, he went to a teen club and met a girl named Amanda, who said she was the same age. They hit it off and were eventually having sex. At the time Ricky thought it was a pretty normal high school romance.
Two years later, Ricky is a registered sex offender, and his life is destroyed.
Amanda turned out to be 13. Ricky was arrested, tried as an adult, and pleaded guilty to the charge of lascivious acts with a child, which is a class D felony in Iowa. It is not disputed that the sex was consensual, but intercourse with a 13-year-old is illegal in Iowa.
Ricky was sentenced to two years probation and 10 years on the Iowa online sex offender registry. Ricky and his family have since moved to Oklahoma, where he will remain on the state’s public registry for life.
Being labeled a sex offender has completely changed Ricky’s life, leading him to be kicked out of high school, thrown out of parks, taunted by neighbors, harassed by strangers, and unable to live within 2,000 feet of a school, day-care center or park. He is prohibited from going to the movies or mall with friends because it would require crossing state borders, which he cannot do without permission from his probation officer. One of Ricky’s neighbors called the cops on him, yelled and cursed at him, and videotaped him every time he stepped outside, Ricky said.
“It affects you in every way,” he said. “You’re scared to go out places. You’re on the Internet, so everybody sees your picture.”
His mother, Mary, said the entire family has felt the ramifications of Ricky being labeled a sex offender. His younger brother has been ridiculed at school and cannot have friends over to the house; his stepfather has been harassed; the parents’ marriage has been under tremendous pressure; and strangers used to show up at their door to badger the family. One neighbor came to the house and told Mary he wasn’t going to leave them alone until they took their “child rapist” away, so they moved, she said.
California is currently deciding if it will comply with a federal sex offender act that would put adolescent sex offenders as young as 14 on a national public registry, like the one Ricky is on in Oklahoma. Supporters say the act would improve public safety, but critics argue it would stigmatize thousands of teenagers. The law, called the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, would require states to submit information on youth deemed delinquent in juvenile court of aggravated sexual abuse to the registry.
Juveniles affected by the act would range from those who used force or drugs to rape another person, to those who have had any sexual contact with a child under the age of 12. If a 14-year-old touches an 11-year-old’s penis, the 14-year-old would be eligible for the public registry.
Human rights advocates and even some prominent sex crime prevention groups warn this is one more act in a long list of sex-offender laws across the country that appeals to voters but is ineffective and counterproductive. They argue that almost all sex offender laws in the United States fail to solve the problem of sex crimes because they drive people underground, block paths to treatment and focus on a high-profile case, like that of 6-year-old Adam Walsh, who was abducted from a Florida department store and killed in 1981, and miss the fuller picture of sexual violence.
A few heinous, high-profile sex crimes capture the media’s attention, and the result is more Draconian sex-offender laws, such as Megan’s Law and Jessica’s Law, said Sarah Tofte of Human Rights Watch, which recently released a report on sex-offender laws called “No Easy Answers: Sex Offender Laws in the U.S.”
“We have created these laws and we apply them to anyone convicted of a sex crime regardless of their risk to the community,” Tofte said.
Megan’s Law requires public registration for adult sex offenders. If Jessica’s Law,
approved by voters in 2006, overcomes challenges in court, it would prohibit adult registered sex offenders from living 2,000 feet within a school or park and require those paroled from prison to wear lifetime GPS monitors. Unlike the Adam Walsh Act, Megan’s Law and Jessica’s Law generally do not affect registered juveniles, according to California Deputy Attorney General Janet Neeley.
While the media focuses on the stories of the child being raped and killed by a stranger, the Human Rights Watch report states that 80-90 percent of the offenses against children are committed by someone the victim knows.
If California complies with the Adam Walsh Act, the law would be retroactive, and the offenders would be listed on the registry for life. They would be classified as Tier III offenders and forced to register with law enforcement authorities every three months, or risk being charged with a felony and going to prison for at least one year.
The act, sponsored by Wisconsin Republican Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. and 37 co-sponsors – including former Florida representative Mark Foley – was signed into law by President Bush on July 27, 2006, and gives states three years to comply or risk losing 10 percent of federal Byrne money, which are law enforcement grants worth $5 million in California. The Department of Justice is formulating the final guidelines.
Congressional co-sponsors of the law and crime-victim advocates have hailed the bill as an opportunity to improve community safety by increasing penalties for sex crimes, better tracking of sex offenders, and making it harder for predators to reach children on the Internet.
“The Adam Walsh Act intends to register convicted sexual offenders, 14 and older, who have committed the most violent sexual abuses,” said California Congressman Ken Calvert, a Republican from Riverside, in an e-mail. “If a juvenile has committed such a crime, the safety of our community and children supersedes the rights of the juvenile who, at the age of 14, understands the difference between right and wrong.”
A father pleas for
Child-protection advocates argue that it is more important to hold juvenile sex offenders responsible for their actions than to worry about them being stigmatized by the registry or punished too harshly.
“We have to put the safety of our kids before the civil rights of someone who’s already proven they will hurt a kid,” said Mark Zyla, who became an activist for tougher sex offender laws after his two daughters were sexually assaulted in separate instances. “Being on the registry doesn’t keep people from rehabilitating; it doesn’t keep them from getting a job. It may be more difficult, but that’s part of the consequence of hurting a young child.”
Zyla’s daughter Amie was violently sexually assaulted by a 14-year-old, Joshua Wade, when she was eight. Wade was a family friend and attacked Amie, who is now 20, during a sleepover party at her house, Mark Zyla said. Wade was tried as a juvenile and sent to a juvenile detention center. But because his record was sealed, he was able to later get a job at a summer camp, where he went on to assault more young girls. He has since been sentenced to 25 years in prison.
The Zylas helped pass a law in their home state of Wisconsin to enable law enforcement officials to release information on juvenile sex offenders if they pose a threat to society. They then lobbied Congress to pass the federal Adam Walsh Act. If states comply with the Adam Walsh Act, Mark Zyla said, local law-enforcement agencies would know about juvenile sex offenders like Wade and be able to inform schools and places of employment.
Los Angeles Police Department detectives said registries significantly help them track down sex offenders. If they have an unsolved sex crime, they can take the description of the suspect, plug it into the database and look for a match, said Detective Diane Webb, a supervisor of LAPD’s sex-offender registration and tracking program.
The DNA and registration databases enable detectives to clear old cases and find patterns of crime, said Detective Jesse Alvarado of LAPD’s rape special section.
The registries also help inform the public, Webb said.
“Not only does registration give law enforcement a first place to look, it also provides information to the public,” she said. She added that people should be allowed to know if sex offenders live in their community so they can, at the very least, decide if they want to date them or have them baby-sit their children.
The detectives disagree on whether the registry should include juveniles, who commit 17 percent of all sex offenses and about a third of all sex offenses against children, according to the National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth. Alvarado said he thinks it would be helpful to have a database like the Adam Walsh one for juvenile offenders. “Giving us an ability to look for somebody would always be a good thing,” Alvarado said.
Webb said she agreed with juvenile justice experts that juveniles should be treated differently from adults.
One of the reasons the law came into effect was because of the more than 100,000 missing or non-compliant sex offenders. They are part of the 603,000 registered sex offenders nationwide, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
“When they’re on the run and they’re not compliant, they become more dangerous,” Mark Zyla said. “They’re not getting their treatment and they’re free to do whatever they want.”
Supporters also said juveniles would not be stigmatized for life because a section of the law stipulates that youth deemed delinquent in juvenile court can get off the registry after 25 years if they are not convicted of another sex crime and have successfully completed a sex offender treatment program.
However, juvenile justice advocates, public defenders and prominent sex crime prevention groups have
criticized the law, arguing that it would make it harder for youth to reintegrate into society, further break from the tradition of treating children differently from adults, be ineffective, and cost the state millions.
“Imagine writing down the worst thing you ever did when you were a teenager, or an adult, and being forced to put that on a placard on your forehead. This is, in effect, what registration does to these youth,” L.A. County Deputy Public Defender Maureen Pacheco wrote in an e-mail.
“They must disclose these offenses when they apply for school, when they apply for jobs, if they want to get licensed or bonded,” she wrote. “In other words, in all the ways a youth might seek to become rehabilitated, we shut the door.”
The case for leniency
Juvenile justice advocates said they fear the Adam Walsh Act would make it harder to rehabilitate young sex offenders because it would ostracize them from society. There is no direct research showing the psycho-social effects of registering on youth, say experts.
“But common sense would tell you that having your name, picture, and home address on the Internet as a sex offender at age 8, 12, or even 14 could be devastating in terms of peer relationships, community [relations], ability to stay in school, and involvement in church activities,” said Dr. Barbara Bonner, an expert on sex offenses and co-director of the Adolescent Sex Offender Treatment Program at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
The law is counterproductive because young people are more likely to be rehabilitated and successful in the future if they get involved with social activities like sports, bands, choir, or a job, she said.
Juvenile justice advocates also criticize the law for treating and punishing youth as adults rather than focusing on rehabilitation. The basic concept of the juvenile justice system is to treat young people differently from adult offenders because they are considered less responsible for their actions and more receptive to rehabilitation and treatment.
Almost every state ensures that if a child is adjudicated or deemed delinquent – juvenile court does not convict youth – he or she does not have to submit information to a public registry, according to Tara Andrews of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, a national nonprofit comprised of governor-appointed advisory groups. Andrews said she finds the Adam Walsh Act most troublesome because it “reaches out and grabs kids who were adjudicated as juveniles. The Adam Walsh Act sweeps in and says we still want these kids on the registry.”
Critics also fear it will cost millions of dollars to follow and would not be worth the money the state might lose for not complying. If the federal Attorney General’s office finds that California has not made a “good faith conduct” to comply with the Adam Walsh Act, the Attorney General can reduce the federal Byrne funds allocated to that jurisdiction for law enforcement resources.
“We think the cost of compliance might greatly outweigh the benefits of losing 10 percent of the Byrne funds,” said Pacheco.
Critics fear the massive costs will include applying this law to a state as populated as California, complying with the federal classification system and DNA collection.
It costs more to enact a federal act than individual state laws because a federal law does not take into consideration a state’s specific needs and resources, said Robert Coombs of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, a statewide coalition of rape crisis centers and prevention programs.
It would also be costly because the categories the federal government uses to distinguish between different levels of sex crimes do not match the ones California uses. The federal act assigns sex offenders to a numbered level, while California uses other distinctions, such as “sexually violent predator.” To comply, California would have to either run two concurrent leveling systems or completely revamp its present system, Coombs said.
Another cost would be gathering the DNA samples of individuals affected by the Adam Walsh Act. Adults and juveniles convicted of any felony or sex offense already have their DNA collected, but the cost for testing DNA samples has exceeded expectations. The Los Angeles Police Department needs $9.3 million to clear up a backlog of untested samples. Since the Adam Walsh Act is retroactive, it would require collection and analysis of DNA samples from adults and juveniles convicted before the DNA regulations, which did not start until 2004.
Supporters of the law argue the high cost of putting the act into effect is worth the safety of the community.
“There just is no higher purpose for government than keeping the public safe,” said Will Smith, State Senator George Runner’s spokesperson. The Antelope Valley Republican sponsored Jessica’s Law.
Recidivism rates fail to prove the law effective or counterproductive, and both advocates and critics of the law use the statistics to support their arguments. Data from the Justice Department shows that 5.3 percent of male sex offenders released from prisons in 15 states in 1994 were rearrested for a new sex crime within three years of release. Juvenile justice advocates, on the other hand, look at recidivism rates among teenagers, which show that the rates of sexual re-offense are substantially lower, at 5 to 18 percent, than the rates for other delinquent behavior, which is 8 to 58 percent, according to the National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth.
The California Sex Offender Management Board will evaluate the law and might recommend to the legislature and governor whether it should be complied with, according to board chair Suzanne Brown-McBride. The decision rests with Attorney General Jerry Brown, Gov. Schwarzenegger and the Legislature. California is home to 90,000 registered adult sex offenders and 2,528 registered juvenile sex offenders.
“The state is reviewing the act and evaluating the potential impact it will have on the state,” said Gareth Lacy, a Brown spokesman. “California has a long history of setting tough laws mandating sex-offender registration.”
Runner will be watching the outcome. If California’s current laws do not conform to the federal act, the state senator plans to introduce a bill.
Ricky is now 19 and trying to bring some normalcy back to his life. But that’s practically impossible. In between monthly meetings with his probation officer, he’s been trying to find a job.
However, employers haven’t been eager to hire a registered sex offender. He wants to get a college degree, yet that, too, is problematic. He’s worried his classmates would find him on the registry and start harassing him. “I have to watch my back all of the time,” he said. “Once people find out, they panic. They don’t know the real story.”
Sex-offender law in need of reform
WHEN 70 PERCENT of Californians voted for Proposition 83 in 2006, there was little doubt that their intention was to protect children from sex offenders. But the measure, known as Jessica's Law, has had some unintended negative consequences that cry out for correction.
Prop. 83 was unnecessary because the Legislature already had enacted stricter laws against sexual predators. Penalties were increased, loitering laws became tougher. Former prisoners were required to wear GPS units while on parole, and they had to stay a quarter mile away from schools and other places where children congregated.
Despite the tougher laws, Prop. 83 passed overwhelmingly. Fortunately, courts and prosecutors decided the initiative's lifetime restrictions did not apply to criminals who already were on parole before the law passed. But that would not prevent the foreseeable problems from sprouting and becoming more apparent since last August, when parole agents started to enforce the law.
Felony sex offenders are required to wear a satellite tracking device for life. Also, all sex offenders are prohibited from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park where children regularly congregate. The California Supreme Court is expected to rule on this restriction in the spring. We trust it will require some changes.
The residency restriction, especially the one related to parks, needs to be changed, whether the court does so or not. The limitation forces offenders to live outside most urban areas, areas with jobs and where they had homes.
It also mindlessly extends the residency restriction to offenders even after they complete parole. The law also disregarded the victims' ages.
As a result, a large and growing number of offenders are unable to find housing that complies with the law and instead are registering as transient.
About one-fifth of the state's approximately 4,000 sex offender parolees are transients, and about one-third of those are in the Bay Area.
With 700 sex offenders being paroled each month, the number of transients easily could grow by 140 a month indefinitely.
While most sex offenders have to report to parole agents weekly, transients must do so daily. That is needlessly costly and time-consuming for parole agents.
In some instances, the registered transients do have homes and families, but they are forced to wander away from their residences during the night to comply with the letter of the law. This makes no sense from a crime-prevention viewpoint.
Rehabilitation rates are far higher when former prisoners live in stable homes with continued employment.
Prop. 83 undermines stability and does not keep potential predators from walking by parks and school campuses; it only prevents them from living near those areas.
No wonder opposition to the law is growing. Even its author, Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, says he did not intend to create transients or to so strictly define restricted areas.
The Legislature needs to address the shortcomings of Jessica's Law before thousands of transient sex offenders are wandering around urban areas at night, living with unstable home and job situations and taking up parole agents' valuable time.
Prop. 83 clearly overreached and is counterproductive. Fortunately, it is a statutory measure, not a constitutional amendment, and it can be altered by the Legislature.
Stiff penalties against sex offenders should remain, as should long periods of parole with reasonable residency restrictions and GPS monitoring. But the current 2,000-foot limit regarding parks and the lifelong GPS monitoring need to be scrapped.
Sex offenders must be encouraged to live in stable homes and get decent jobs. That is the best way to prevent them from repeating their crimes.
Editorial: 'Jessica's Law' one year later: Empty promises
A little more than a year ago, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 83, popularly known as Jessica's Law. That initiative, aimed at monitoring and controlling sex offenders, now is collapsing under its own excess.
Virtually no local government is enforcing the law because its sweeping provisions are both unenforceable and prohibitively expensive.
The measure requires lifetime monitoring for sex offenders – not just those charged with child sexual abuse and rapists whose victims were adults, but also those convicted of consensual sex with a teenager and even misdemeanor indecent exposure. It also bars offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park.
The legislative analyst predicted the measure would cost tens of millions of dollars initially, jumping to hundreds of millions of dollars within 10 years. After just one year, the costs of Jessica's Law are beginning to mount rapidly.
According to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, there are 5,669 parolees subject to monitoring now. Another 400 to 700 leave prison every month. Each is supposed to be fitted with a global positioning system device, or GPS. According to the department, these devices cost $2,500 apiece if purchased. The state leases them for $8.50 a day.
Once parolees are fitted with a GPS, they must be monitored. State parole officers now monitor 2,746 parolees fitted with GPS devices. (The state doesn't have enough devices for the rest.) Labor and equipment cost $33 a day or $11,616 per offender per year.
Who will pick up the burden of monitoring sex offenders when they leave state parole? The poorly drafted initiative was silent on this point.
Corrections Director James Tilton wants offenders who finish parole to turn in their state-issued global positioning devices and report to local authorities. But sheriffs and city police departments are reluctant to take on these duties. It's easy to see why nobody wants the job. Where will the manpower and money come from?
So for now at least, the law is not being enforced, and there is a real question whether it ever will or even can be. Deputy Mike Jones, who heads the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department Sex Offender Task Force, says Jessica's Law is not being enforced in the county. He doubts it ever can be in its current form.
For example, there are no sanctions in the law for sex offenders who fail to keep their GPS anklet devices charged or who remove them after being released from state jurisdiction. If sex offenders travel to other counties or cities or outside of state, which they are free to do, no one knows how they will be tracked.
The arrest of a high-risk offender in Placer County last week shows that GPS monitoring can pay off – in the right circumstances and if the right people are being monitored. But because it overreaches so badly, Jessica's Law fails to deliver what proponents promised and what the public wants – real protection from sexual predators who target children.
State corrections officials predicted the residency restrictions in the law would drive sex offenders underground and make our communities less safe. Now it also turns out that the measure would bankrupt local governments if it is enforced as written. California will be wrestling with this mess for years to come.
Finding workable solutions for housing paroled sex offenders
Truly, the situation is alarming and complex with some 2,100 recently paroled sex offenders in California left to find homes in accordance with Jessica's Law. This law, apart from being well-intentioned, does require some amendment.
The editorial emphasized the need to solve the housing problem, but it was devoid of any concrete solutions. State Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, is reportedly willing to amend the law if the housing for sex offenders becomes a problem. This is the right time to strengthen his hands with workable alternatives.
If critically reviewed, the most important aspect of the issue is how best to monitor the activities of these paroled sex offenders and how to keep track of them. They also need to be prevented from becoming homeless.
As a start, I suggest concentrating them in camps. If this plan is found to be feasible, it should then encompass the following:
— The parolees would be placed in far-off locations for a period of time to be determined by lawmakers, and the parolees' movements periodically reviewed.
2. They would be provided with suitable jobs commensurate with their experience.
3. If they follow the rules, they would then be allowed to live like ordinary citizens.
I realize this plan would be an additional burden on the state's exchequer but, at the same time, it would prevent these parolees from being arrested again and again for living too close to schools and parks, thus, helping to ease prison overcrowding.
Hopefully, this constructive and productive reform plan, which is intended to streamline the present system, would not be stalled because of certain problems or opposition, which are bound to crop up. On the face of it, this solution might raise many eyebrows, but it merits consideration.
Additionally, it's about time to get an accurate count of the sex offenders' population because, as pointed out in an Associated Press article on Jessica's Law, our children's lives are at stake.
I appeal to all readers to rise to the occasion and come up with their own solutions for this reoccurring and pressing problem.
— Tahir Siddiqui lives in Thousand Oaks.
Baxter Bulletin - Arkansas
Don't mark sex offenders for life
From Walter Roth,
The display of 26 sex offenders in The Baxter Bulletin conflicts with my sense of what is right or wrong. It is wrong to mark all sex offenders for life because many of them are innocent. Jilted wives have accused their husbands of molesting their kids. Rape sometimes is not rape at all, and promiscuous young girls don't have a tag hanging from their necks with their birth date on it.
A little girl by the name of Megan was brutally attacked and murdered. In the heat of outrage, state legislatures then enacted what became known as "Megan's Law." It gave law enforcement the right to inform neighbors that a sex offender was nearby. Did the Arkansas Legislature mandate law enforcement to give pictures of sex offenders to newspapers who then make sensational statements on their front pages? If they did I call them a thoughtless, callous, fear-mongering hillbilly legislature.
I disagree with the editor who said sex offenders are different from other criminals. All criminals have urges to break the law. I understand the jails are bloated with repeat offenders. When I was young and working on a farm in Denmark, everybody seemed to know their beloved Queen of Denmark was a thief and a compulsive shoplifter.
I am thinking of the McMartin day-care center in California where the owners and all employees were arrested for molesting the little kids. It became a huge scandal when it was discovered that the woman accuser had a mental problem and the so-called counselors put words in the mouths of the toddlers. And what about Kobe Bryant, the basketball star, and the floozy who went to his room late at night? And what about the Duke lacrosse players? As far as I know, all the people in those high-profile cases were found not guilty of sex crimes.
If all 26 people in the pictures had been afforded the same scrutiny as the above cases, the list could be as low as 16 or even lower. Innocent people should not be marked for life.
Calif. Sex Offenders Go Homeless
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Hundreds of California sex offenders who face tough new restrictions on where they can live are declaring themselves homeless — truthfully or not — and that's making it difficult for the state to track them.
Jessica's Law, approved by 70 percent of California voters a year ago, bars registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park where children gather. That leaves few places where offenders can live legally.
Some who have had trouble finding a place to live are avoiding re-arrest by reporting — falsely, in some cases — that they are homeless.
Experts say it is hard to monitor sex offenders when they lie about their address or are living day-to-day in cheap hotels, homeless shelters or on the street. It also means they may not be getting the treatment they need.
"We could potentially be making the world more dangerous rather than less dangerous," said therapist Gerry Blasingame, past chairman of the California Coalition on Sexual Offending.
Similar laws in Iowa and Florida have driven offenders underground or onto the streets.
"They drop off the registry because they don't want to admit living in a prohibited zone," said Corwin Ritchie, executive director of the association of Iowa prosecutors.
The organization tried unsuccessfully in the past two years to persuade lawmakers to repeal the state's 2,000-foot residency restriction.
"Most legislators know in their hearts that the law is no good and a waste of time, but they're afraid of the politics of it," Ritchie said.
The problem is worsening in Florida as about 100 local ordinances add restrictions to the state's 1,000-foot rule, said Florida Corrections Department spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger. Sixteen homeless offenders are now living under a Miami bridge, while another took to sleeping on a bench outside a probation office.
"As society has imposed restrictions, it becomes almost impossible for them to find places to live," Plessinger said.
Twenty-two states have distance restrictions varying from 500 feet to 2,000 feet, according to California researchers. But most impose the offender-free zones only around schools, and several apply only to child molesters, not all sex offenders.
California's law requires parolees to live in the county of their last legal residence. But in San Francisco, for example, all homes are within 2,000 feet of a school or park.
"The state is requiring parolees to find eligible housing in San Francisco, knowing full well there isn't any," said Mike Jimenez, president of the California parole officers union. "It will be impossible for parole agents to enforce Jessica's Law in certain areas, and encouraging `transient' living arrangements just allows sex offenders to avoid it altogether."
State figures show a 27 percent increase in homelessness among California's 67,000 registered sex offenders since the law took effect in November 2006. Since August, the number of offenders with no permanent address rose by 560 to 2,622.
"This is a huge surge," said Deputy Attorney General Janet Neeley, whose office maintains the database. "Any law enforcement officer would tell you we would prefer to have offenders at addresses where we can locate them."
Offenders who declare themselves homeless must tell their parole officer each day where they spent the previous night.
Those who declare themselves homeless are still legally bound by the 2,000-foot rule; they cannot stay under a bridge near where children gather, for example. But it is more difficult for parole officers to keep tabs on them.
Parole officers said some offenders are registering as homeless, then sneaking back to homes that violate the law. That's easy to do because fewer than 30 percent of transient offenders currently wear the Global Positioning System tracking devices required by Jessica's Law.
"If they tell you that they were under the American River bridge, we're going to take that at face value," said Corrections Department spokesman Bill Sessa, referring to a homeless hangout in Sacramento.
During a recent sweep in the Oakland area, parole officers discovered that two of the five offenders they checked weren't living in the temporary shelters they had reported as their new homes. Neither had been issued a GPS device.
Department spokesman Seth Unger said parole agents are starting to make the homeless a priority in issuing the GPS ankle bracelets, which are still being phased in.
R.L., a 42-year-old sex offender who lives near Disneyland in Southern California, said he registered as homeless after his parole agent told him two potential homes were too close to schools or parks.
"I finally asked, `Where do you want me to live?' He said, `You have a car, don't you?'" said R.L., who asked that his full not be used because of the stigma surrounding sex offenders.
The law was named for 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, who was kidnapped, raped and buried alive by a convicted sex offender near her Florida home in 2005.
The author of Jessica's Law, state Sen. George Runner, said "90 percent" of it is working well. But he conceded that some portions need to be fixed.
"When the voters voted for this, they decided that they didn't want a child molester to live across the street from a school," said Runner, a Republican from Lancaster in Los Angeles County's high desert. "If that means that in some areas that needs to be 1,000 feet or 1,500 feet, then I think that we still accomplish what it is the voters wanted."
On the Net:
From law to reality
Implementing a state law aimed at protecting children from sex offenders is proving complicated, local corrections officials report.
Seventy percent of California voters approved Proposition 83, also known as Jessica's Law, last November, putting into place tough regulations for sex offenders - including prohibiting them from living within 2,000 feet of parks or schools.
"It's a complex situation. So much is going on with this law," Solano County Chief Probation Officer Isabelle Voit said.
The law applies only to offenders who have been paroled or put on probation since last November. In one of many court cases that have sprung up in the wake of Prop. 83, a federal judge ruled this spring that the 2,000-foot rule could not be applied retroactively.
Those 2,000 feet, less than half a mile, may not seem far. But with more than 25 parks in Vallejo and 23 public schools, not including private schools, preschools and day care facilities, much of the city is off limits for offenders.
Statewide, about 3,500 parolees must adhere to the new law, with hundreds more being paroled every month.
Of the approximately 200 sex offenders on probation countywide, about 20 of those are subject to regulation by Jessica's Law, and about 15 of those people will have to move, Voit said.
Officials cited concerns about displaced offenders becoming transient or unstable - and therefore more difficult to supervise.
"We hope that won't happen. We want them to have some stability," Voit said.
The county has hired an additional probation officer to meet the new law's demands, but no extra funds were provided by the state, officials said.
Among the questions raised by the new law is who will monitor offenders once they are off parole or probation. The issue has come up more quickly than anticipated, corrections officials said.
Prop. 83 requires offenders to wear GPS anklets for life, but the state is yet to purchase the needed devices.
Currently, there is no penalty for violating the 2,000-foot rule once the offender is no longer under supervision by a probation officer.
The Oakland Tribune contributed to this story.
E-mail Sara Stroud at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 553-6833.
Another perspective on sex offenders
I'm becoming disgruntled with the inaccurate and unfair media attention former sex offenders are receiving. I understand the stigma and political sensitivity, as I understand a parent's desire to protect a child, but at what point does the unjustified witch hunt end and the truthful recognition of fact begin?
During the campaign for Jessica's Law, I began doing research. On the Department of Justice Web site, I found a report entitled "Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison in 1994," November 2003.
This is what I learned.
Fact: "Compared to nonsex offenders released from state prison, sex offenders had a lower overall re-arrest rate."
Fact: "Released sex offenders with one prior arrest (the arrest for the sex crime for which they were imprisoned) had the lowest re-arrest rate for a sex crime, about 3 percent."
Fact: "Following their release in 1994, 209 of the total 9,691 released sex offenders (2.2 percent) were re-arrested for a sex offense against a child."
Fact: "Of the 9,691 released sex offenders, 3.5 percent (339 of the 9,691) were reconvicted for a sex crime within the three-year follow-up period."
Fact: "Released child molesters with more than one prior arrest were more likely than those with only one arrest in their criminal record to be re-arrested for a new sex crime (5.7 percent compared to 3.2 percent). The same was true of statutory rapists (5.3 percent compared to 3.5 percent)." A statutory rapist is an individual who had illegal consensual sex with a minor.
These statistics are documented evidence that former offenders pose very little threat to our community, although it's politically taboo for politicians or the Department of Corrections to admit it.
Research has shown that where an offender lives is unrelated to where he/she commits a crime. A predator can find a potential victim regardless of where they live. If only 3.5 percent of offenses are committed by registered sex offenders, then the sad truth is that the remaining offenses are committed by individuals the Internet can't warn you about.
Research also shows that more than 90 percent of sexual assaults against children are committed by someone they know. Sadly, a child can be at greater risk from a close acquaintance than the offender who moves in down the street. What use then are Megan's and Jessica's laws beyond creating a false sense of security and focusing our attention on the least-likely suspects?
Three times The Star has published a map depicting areas in Ventura County that, due to Jessica's Law, are off-limits to former sex offenders. This map is inaccurate and fails to represent how restrictive the law is.
The law includes not only community parks, but state and federal parks as well. If I'm not mistaken, much of our coastline and the Los Padres National Forest are state and federal parkland. Ventura County's intent to expand parkland will only further restrict housing.
A parole officer told me that former sex offenders are preferable to supervise than other parolees. They keep a low profile, are most motivated to find work and stability and are more willing to do what is necessary to rebuild their lives and prevent further incarceration.
Another problem is the legal classifications of offenders not fitting the individual or the circumstance in which the crime was committed. California law designates these individuals as "violent" or "high risk" when the crime involved was neither violent nor of a predatory nature.
According to the Department of Justice Web site: "Violent" means while not actually using force, the offender did not have the victim's "factual" or "legal" consent. "Legal" consent means that the victim willingly participated but, in the eyes of the law, the victim was not old enough to give his or her "legal" consent. Thus, many individuals are deemed violent sex offenders due to the "victim" not being of legal age to consent, even when the act was consensual. How many can relate to that?
As a former sex offender, I have an interest in how these laws affect my life and my loved ones. It will soon be 10 years since I was involved in an illegal and inappropriate relationship with a minor, younger than the age I was led to believe, though no less wrong. I was 20 at the time. I do not take lightly what I've done, but I can state that I am neither violent, nor have a high risk of reoffending.
California law would have you believe otherwise. I am not a predator and have no tendencies or inclinations that could lead me to reoffend. I made a poor decision and I have been punished. I have paid my debt. I don't ask for sympathy or understanding, but for the right every citizen has to move on and rebuild without concern of who might harass family and friends for their association with me.
If an individual truly wants to educate him/herself on the threat of the former offenders living in his neighborhood, as distasteful as it may seem, I suggest speaking with the offending party. Talk about what they did, and get a feeling of what kind of person they may be today.
I'm not suggesting friendship, but keep in mind that the crime committed may have been years or decades past. Learn the truth from the source and judge for yourself if your family could be at risk. Never assume a former offender is automatically a predator or even guilty of the convicted offense.
Maybe in doing so, you might find yourself resting a little easier at night. Former sex offenders are not people who need to be "dealt with" or "put somewhere," as many like to think.
— Tim Walden lives in Ventura County.
Sex Offender Crackdown Begins
Just hours after the California State Supreme Court announced it will consider the constitutionality of Jessica's Law residency restrictions, the state announced it will launch a new statewide crackdown on sex offenders who are violating Jessica's Law by living within 2,000 feet of a school or park.
On Wednesday, the state Supreme Court agreed to block state parole agents from revoking the parole of four sex offenders who are illegally living too close to schools or parks. In a one-paragraph order, the court said it will consider whether Jessica's Law violates the parolees' constitutional rights. The law approved by voters last November prohibits offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park where children gather. The law pertains to sex offender parolees released from prison on or after November 8, 2006.
Hours after the ruling, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) announced it will begin sweeping the state, arresting other paroled sex offenders who are violating Jessica’s Law residency restrictions.
More than 850 parolees were found in violation of the law last August and were given 45 days to comply with the law's residency requirements. CDCR says on Friday it will start arresting those who have not complied, revoke their parole and send them back to state prison.
The court case challenging Jessica's Law was filed on behalf of four California sex offenders. Attorneys for the four parolees argued that the law punishes sex offenders after they have already paid for their crime by serving prison time. They alleged the law is unconstitutionally vague and imposes unreasonable conditions on parole.
Jessica's Law could also force offenders underground because they can't find housing that fits the strict rules under the law, said Don Specter, director of the non-profit Prison Law Office.
"It will cause more problems than it will solve," Specter said. "It makes them homeless in many counties. It's irrational in that it doesn't prevent them from going near these places (schools and parks). They just can't sleep there."
The court's order narrowly applies to the four parolees who filed the suit. At this point, the state is allowed to continue pursuing other parolees found to be in violation of the law and Gov. Schwarzenegger says CDCR will proceed with enforcement.
"My administration will vigorously defend against challenges to Jessica's Law and protect the will of the people," said Schwarzenegger in a statement.
"I am disappointed with the court's order, but remain committed to the full implementation of Jessica's Law," the governor added.
September 10, 2007
How to Deal With Sex Offenders
Sexual abuse of children has doubtless been a constant through history. But it wasn’t outed until the 1970s –- and its magnitude was startling. Many studies found that 1 of 3 females and 1 of 5 males–a full one-quarter of the world--have been molested, often with serious consequences haunting them throughout their adult lives.
Soon the dam broke, and we were flooded by a geyser of sex-offender laws; however, most were counterproductive. Some were well-intentioned, but we all know where that paved road leads.
Now, by 2007, the legal pendulum has swung so loudly to the far right that it has almost nowhere to travel except to a more balanced position. Toddlers are considered sex offenders for hugging their teachers; first-graders are pilloried on the registry; and, in one absurd case, a 13-year-old girl was deemed simultaneously a victim and offender for consensual sex with her 12-year-old boyfriend. "The only thing that comes close to this is dueling," said Associate Chief Justice Michael Wilkins of Utah, noting that two people who take 20 paces and then shoot could each be considered both victim and offender.
This is insanity. But the general public reflexively supports every law touted by our politicians as "protecting children’s safety."
To give due credit, the first sex-offender registry, lobbied by Patty Wetterling on behalf of her abducted son Jacob, was not an unreasonable law. Enacted in 1994, it was intended for law enforcement alone, not accessible to the populace, and included only the most serious cases. But by now, the subsequent registries have ensured that even the photos of men caught "watering the foliage" are plastered on the Internet–complete with names, addresses, and other forms of I.D.
Mrs. Wetterling is presently calling sex-offender laws "far out of control." She’d never visualized the extent to which her initial efforts would reach, and states that "everybody wants to out-tough the next legislator." It’s all about "ego and boastfulness," she says, and wants to see public policy become more effective and less punitive -- a bereaved mother who yet retains a sense of logic, justice, and fairness.
Other laws such as the Adam Walsh Act require mandatory minimum sentences even for minor transgressions. It’s also retroactive, ignoring our Constitutional prohibition against two punishments for the same crime. And Jessica’s Law has now been passed by 32 states--its unrealistic distance restrictions driving offenders from urban to rural areas. This can throw kids into harm’s way rather than save them, since stress and instability are known to increase recidivism. Ohio is now seeking to repeal this legal nightmare, while Californians who ignored Ohio’s lesson are presently struggling with the same mess. Also, the death penalty for two-time repeaters–even without a child fatality--has been approved by five states. The pendulum can hardly swing further.
Since so many terrible laws now exist in the names of children who've gained hard-won immortality, a recent article in CounterPunch has advocated reform. But where to start?
We might consider CAPTA (Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act). Passed in 1974 when molestation became a hot topic, CAPTA blindly called for mandatory reporting of clients who related sexual violations to their therapists. Few other helping professions allow such a breach of confidentiality. And unreported offenders who want to turn their lives around now have no way to seek help.
Hard-liners may insist that reporting of sexual offenders is warranted. Aren’t they the "worst of the worst?" This might be attributed to the residual puritanism of our founding fathers (who weren’t all that irreproachable themselves) -- an erotic dichotomy, both obsessed and repulsed by sex. Or, as Niki Delson, clinical social worker and a member of CCOSO (California Coalition on Sexual Offending), describes such mindset: "Whoopee!....and Whoa!" Sex permeates our culture while being simultaneously feared.
Certainly, when kids are sexually victimized, they can suffer psychic trauma, as they can from other types of abuse. But their offenders, contrary to popular misconception, are hardly ever high-risk predators. Less than 10 percent of registrants fall into this category, while the rest are low- to no-risk. In an interview with Chris Hansen of "To Catch a Predator," Dr. Fred Berlin, founder of the Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic said, ".... if the choice was between a sexual offender fondling my 12-year-old or a drunk driver killing my 12-year-old, given that horrible dilemma, it still wouldn’t take me much time to figure out which I think is more serious."For a perspective on child fatality, the U.S. Dept. Of Health and Human Services has estimated that 1,500 children died from maltreatment in 2003, primarily at the hands of their parents. In that same year, according to the National Center for Statistics and Analyses, 396 children under 14 were killed in alcohol-related crashes. But as for murder by sex offenders, the general estimate is about 50 per year, or one per state. Yet, many parents are so frenzied by political rhetoric about "thousands of snatch-and-runs" that they won’t allow their children to play in their own front yards. And many kids back off from any adult’s display of friendliness. Small wonder that activists like Patty Wetterling are upset by this national neurosis.
Returning to CAPTA, its senseless code confuses therapy with law enforcement and needs to be amended. Before its enactment, Dr. Berlin had treated many voluntary patients who loathed themselves and their deeds--and who progressed to productive, offense-free lives after being treated. Other sex-offender therapists have had similar outcomes. Dr. Raymond Anderson has run a sex-offender clinic since 1978, where men have come for help even in the fantasy stage, intensely troubled by their thoughts. Dr. Jay Adams, who has treated molesters for 30 years in prisons and hospitals cites waiting lists of hundreds hoping for treatment to learn self-restraint.But despite the findings of the U.S. Dept. of Justice, plus academic research, that molesters have by far the lowest recidivism rates of any criminals except murderers, the general public asks: Aren't they uncontrollable? Hopeless? Lurking behind every door and around every corner, waiting to pounce on the nearest kid? And they parrot wild numbers--such as 95 per cent recidivism--pulled out of the air that floats between some lawmakers’ ears. Shouldn’t we lock all of them up and throw away the key? But the general public doesn’t read government reports or scholarly studies. They only hear sound-bites and see headline-hype.
What they don’t see is a key that cannot be thrown away. It’s called therapy.
Does this type of treatment really work for sexual offenders? According to Dr. Berlin, it does for many, and for many it doesn’t. Why, then, don’t we focus on the many for whom it does? Therapist Earl C. Jones of Alabama cites an old Southern myth: If a dog kills a chicken, that dog must be killed; it has tasted blood and will want more. "Now they’re saying the same of molesters," he says, "and neither belief is true. Treatment is effective much of the time."
How is the therapeutic process designed for offenders? First, they need to reconnect with their early traumas. According to Dr. Adams, almost all molesters have been abused as children, sexually, physically, emotionally, or in combination. This can desensitize them, not only to their own feelings but to others as well. However, if they resurrect their original histories, they can also acquire "victim empathy." Many who haven’t worked through this process delude themselves that the victims share their pleasure. After they acquire empathy, they become aware of the pain they can inflict upon the children.
This is the most important and initial step of sex-offender therapy.
It’s also the most difficult. Once the patients complete this phase, relapse-prevention
plans can be made. They are also taught "victim respect" as well as "thought-stoppage,"
and ways to identify situations that can act as triggers. It’s made clear
in therapy that their offenses are extremely wrong, but if they are treated
as humans– not monsters, their self-esteem can improve, and better control
can be achieved.A full 88 percent of molesters are never reported, according
to Stop It Now! Which is a national child-abuse helpline.
Given the tenor of the times, if confidential treatment for the unreported is approved, many stringent conditions will be required. These must include zero tolerance for re-offense as well as complete personal information, all to be turned into the authorities if recidivism is revealed. This is the only way to convince our lawmakers that they won’t be committing political suicide by relieving therapists of their roles as mandatory reporters. No politician wants to be seen as "coddling" molesters or "soft on crime."
And what if offenders hesitate to sign up for such conditions? It’s possible that some may be reluctant; it’s also possible that many would be willing. Therapists who treat both victims and offenders can attest that quite a few of the latter are in more pain than the former and would be ready to comply with the requirements.
Also, what if some offenders prematurely terminate therapy and fall between the cracks? The answer is that they’re all in the cracks right now. CAPTA has shoved them there, and it’s up to us, the voters -- plus enough logical lawmakers -- to pull them out.
As for the number of children who might be saved by this enactment, let’s take a leaf from the opposition’s pamphlet. Those who push for harsh, punitive, and destructive laws routinely say that they’re worth it if only one child is spared. We can also say the same for our proposal; however, we envision many more than one child saved from sexual abuse by the approach we advocate. It’s a concept that can do no harm at all–and can only be beneficial. To help the offenders is to help the victims.
Mark Lunsford, the driving force behind the laws bearing his daughter Jessica's name, insists that her murderer John Couey would never have gotten to her if such a law had been in place. What he doesn't say, and what is not common knowledge, is that Couey had pled for psychiatric help since 1978, writing that he had "a disease of the mind." He continued begging for help to no avail for about 20 years--the letters to his attorneys are in his court files. And if he'd received the treatment he so urgently wanted and needed, Jessica might be with us yet. The preventative approach we advocate can be far more effective than the retribution a mentally disordered Couey now faces.We already have over 4,000 petitions merely by sitting on the Internet (and in front of the supermarket) without any publicity. But we need a much larger number of backers to request "Conditional Exemption From Reporting for Molesters Who Voluntarily Seek Professional Treatment" if our legislators are to be persuaded. Please go to www.therapy-key.com, look over our stats and facts--plus the credentials of our Advisory Board and Consultant Dr. Fred Berlin. Then, please send in your petition(s) if you like. Every signature counts!In closing, we'll quote a renowned philosopher:
"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root." Henry David Thoreau.
Betty Schneider can be reached at email@example.com
Where will sex offenders live?
Ross Wollschlager — does the name sound familiar? Sept. 2, The Star reported that the recently released sexually violent predator lives in a state-provided tent in a riverbed in Ventura County.
We have a big problem in California with sex offenders and, more particularly, where to house them. Most people would suggest that prison is the best place. Despite efforts by the Legislature, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Department of Mental Health, local law enforcement and, most recently, the voters' resounding approval of "Jessica's Law" (Proposition 83), we simply won't be able to just lock them up and throw away the key, no matter how badly some might want this.
The real problem, the one everyone has been tiptoeing around, is that we don't know where to put these guys once they've done their time, and adding to the angst is the fact that most communities simply don't want them and won't tolerate them.
With the introduction of Megan's Law — an Internet-accessible database of registered sex offenders — it's pretty easy to find out if your neighbor is on the list. What you can do about it varies, depending on whether you are a homeowner, tenant, live near a park, school or daycare center, but it usually takes the form of loud and rankled protest along the lines of, "Hell No! Not In My Back Yard!" Interestingly, apartment owners (where most sex offenders end up living) can't do a thing about it, even though a high-risk sex offender shares a common wall with an innocent, unsuspecting child next door.
What Megan's Law, and all the media attention on the issue and especially Proposition 83 have wrought is a growing awareness of the extent of this problem — well over 65,000 registered sex offenders, concentrated in the state's 10 largest counties, mostly in the big cities. And this interest, at least on the part of John and Jane Q. Public, isn't impartial or clinical; it's worried, angry and determined to keep places where kids live, play and go to school safe.
While Jessica's Law will now keep offenders at least 2,000 feet away from schools, parks and daycare centers, which expands kids' safety zones, it will also push sex offenders into the hinterlands, shrinking their options for where they can live. Local governments throughout the state are starting to pass ordinances restricting where paroled or freed sex offenders can live and it isn't there. This is just the beginning of the new NIMBY movement, and like earlier debates over affordable housing and development in general, all the NIMBY folks accomplish is to push the problem somewhere else, anywhere but their back yard.
In fairness, there is a huge difference between NIMBY protests over plans to construct a new development in an established community and releasing paroled sex offenders — many of whom have a high risk of reoffending — into the neighborhood. It's about safety, about the odds not being in kids' favor, about adults doing their best to protect their families, not their property.
The California Apartment Association sees this problem and where it's headed. Rather than ignore it, parse it or tap-dance around it, we are committed to taking the challenge head on, not just because rental housing bears the greatest brunt of sex-offender placements, but also because it's the right and smart thing to do.
The governor has created a High Risk Sex Offender Task Force, and we're appreciative to have had an opportunity to get our 2 cents in during its proceedings earlier this year. But, as far as we're concerned, we've barely just begun on the matter of finding "appropriate and equitable housing solutions for placement of high-risk sexual offenders," and we heartily agree that the task force should continue to convene to address these critical issues.
The first step in the process of truly understanding how large the problem might be is to redefine who should be placed on the Megan's Law Web Site.
The California Apartment Association position would be to list only the high-risk sex offenders, and not those individuals who might have been convicted of less-harmful offensives such as nude sunbathing or urinating in public. By reducing the list to only high-risk sexual offenders, we can better understand the magnitude of the problem and begin to create long-term solutions.
We recognize that there are complex layers to this problem and don't take the challenge lightly. This is a time as never before to truly think outside the box, to not let the burden of the state's bureaucracy nor the Legislature's always-humming political calculator frame the solutions.
This is a call to both the public and private sector, to the state's apartment owners, builders, local government officials, mental-health experts and corrections officials to untangle and simplify the maze of laws governing this issue, overcome our differences, find common ground and build the solution.
— Scott Monroe, of Irvine, is a certified property manager and president of the California Apartment Association.
Sexual predator lives in a tent
Ross Wollschlager is perhaps Ventura County's most unwanted person.
Chased out of seven hotels by a flurry of law enforcement fliers, the 43-year-old rapist is now homeless, living in a state-provided tent in a riverbed.
And that worries everyone from the prosecutor to the state doctors who tried to treat him.
"Being homeless makes him harder to keep track of, it's more stressful for him, and all these circumstances combined together make it more likely for him to re-offend," said Margaret Coyle, the deputy district attorney who argued against Wollschlager's release from civil commitment at Atascadero State Hospital last year.
Wollschlager's case is far from unique as counties up and down the state grapple with the return of their most reviled criminals: sexually violent predators. From Sacramento to San Diego, communities are shunning these sex offenders whose crimes evoke a special kind of fear and loathing.
As a result, they are winding up homeless or constantly on the move.
And while Wollschlager is Ventura County's first designated sexually violent predator back in the community, he likely will not be the last. Release hearings will be conducted in the next few months for at least 11 of the county's 15 court-designated sex offenders, Coyle said. All completed their prison sentences but have been kept under lock and key since then under a process known as civil commitment, which means at least two state doctors have diagnosed them as mentally disordered.
"This is a problem that is only going to get larger," Coyle said.
No one was interested
Liberty Healthcare Corp., which contracts with the state Mental Health Department to supervise sexually violent predators in the Conditional Release Program, spent 17 months searching for housing in Ventura County for Wollschlager. He remained in Atascadero during that time, even though a judge had ordered his release on the condition that he get treatment and supervision.
The company, which received $1.68 million from the state this year, took out want ads in local newspapers, personally contacted more than 1,000 potential landlords and sent letters to an additional 14,000, said Ken Carabello, Liberty's director of regional operations for California and the western United States. No one was interested, he said, even though Liberty offered to pay well over market rent values.
In Sacramento, it took 465 days to find child molester Timothy Boggs a permanent residence. Temporary ones included motels, an attorney's office for bunking down at night, and a trailer on a bail bondsman's rural property.
Recently, a landlord in the capital city agreed to rent to Boggs a standard three-bedroom apartment for $1,700, the going rate. Boggs, 52, completed the Sexually Violent Predator program at Atascadero State Hospital after serving 13 years in prison for molesting a Sacramento boy.
"There is significant resistance in county after county," Carabello said. "We look under every stone to try and find placement, and sometimes there are landlords willing, but once the community finds out they mount a great resistance. Not many stand up to that pressure."
'Aren't a lot of options'
While the state continues its search for more stable housing, Wollschlager is equipped with a Global Positioning System tracking device, and a security team hired by Liberty keeps an eye on his movements around the clock. He must take polygraph tests to monitor his risk of re-offending and wears an alcohol monitoring device.
He attends several therapy sessions each week and spends much of the day at a friend's house in Oxnard.
He cannot live there, however, because the house is within 2,000 feet of a school or park, said his public defender, Todd Howeth, whose office filed a petition Friday challenging the restriction in Wollschlager's case. The 2,000-foot limit was set by Proposition 83, passed by state voters in November, a restriction that is effectively pushing sex offenders out of many cities altogether and into rural communities or homelessness.
That concerns Sheriff Bob Brooks, who has the task of keeping the public safe in the vast stretches of unincorporated land in the county.
"In Ventura County, when looking at where to place these offenders, there just aren't a lot of options," Brooks said. "Most cities have virtually nowhere you can place them, forcing them into unincorporated areas."
Putting sex offenders out in remote areas is not the safest alternative, either, Carabello said. The area must have cell phone reception for contact and for GPS tracking.
Brooks also believes hotels are a bad idea because "women stay there, children stay there," he said.
Death threats made
Sgt. Jack Richards with the Ventura Police Department said his agency would rather see Wollschlager in a hotel than transient.
"In all my years as a police officer, I've seen worse criminals than this guy, but I still would feel better knowing where he is at all times," Richards said. "In a hotel, we know where he's coming back to, where we can contact him if we suspect anything at all. The public is safer, and he's safer."
Death threats have been made against Wollschlager.
Carabello said placing Wollschlager in hotels was the only alternative after the state was forced to let him go in August. Wollschlager was found fit for release in 2006 but languished in Atascadero State Hospital while Liberty searched for suitable placement. A court of appeal found last month that the state's inability to find housing was not legal grounds to keep him committed.
Wollschlager, who grew up in Ventura, was 19 when he sneaked through unlocked doors into the homes of two women and raped them in 1983. At the time, he was addicted to a stew of drugs, including cocaine and heroin. His alcohol addiction was so severe he was injecting it, said Howeth, his public defender.
After serving half of an eight-year prison sentence, he was released and two years later burglarized a home. He fondled a 10-year-old girl as she slept before he was discovered and ran away. He was imprisoned for 13 years and then civilly committed in 1996 to the state's mentally disordered offender program.
Wollschlager completed two phases of the five-phase treatment plan in Atascadero, served on several patient boards and worked hard on a substance abuse treatment program, Howeth said.
He was diagnosed with a sexual disorder that led him to rape adult women, but psychiatrists say he's not a pedophile.
In 2006, at a hearing to determine his fitness for release, a jury voted 8-4 to release him unconditionally. Three experts and several staff members testified he was ready. Unconditional release means he would have gotten out with no supervision or terms that he seek further treatment, Howeth said.
Howeth and Coyle polled the jurors afterward and found the four who opposed Wollschlager's release only did so because they wanted him to continue treatment.
17 months of searching
Instead of a retrial warranted by the jury's inability to reach a unanimous decision, Wollschlager offered to enter the Conditional Release Program for at least two years, Howeth said. Judge Rebecca Riley agreed and ordered his release pending provision of suitable housing.
But 17 months of searching produced nothing.
The state has sometimes resorted to putting state-bought trailers next to county jails or state prisons to house difficult-to-place offenders after release.
Douglas Badger, who sexually assaulted male hitchhikers at gunpoint over a 20-year period, is living in a trailer on the grounds of a state prison in San Diego County. After 15 years in prison, Badger completed eight years of treatment in Atascadero State Hospital before his release in 2006.
On Thursday, a San Luis Obispo County Superior Court judge ruled that Frederick Hoffman, a sex offender who served an 11-year term in state prison, may live near the county jail upon his release. Hoffman was convicted of two sexual assaults against children in the 1980s. Like Wollschlager, he was ordered released into the state's Conditional Release Program in 2006 but was kept at Atascadero while Liberty searched for housing.
'A state responsibility'
Liberty and the state Mental Health Director Stephen Mayberg approached Brooks about putting a trailer for Wollschlager on Todd Road Jail property, between Ventura and Santa Paula. Brooks refused, citing conditional-use-permit requirements that prohibit any residential use of the property dating back to when the jail was built amid protest from nearby residents.
"And even if we could, there would be liability and other concerns," Brooks said. "From the broader perspective this is a state responsibility. They also have state property that is buffered from residential areas they could use. It is not a county responsibility to protect and register and follow up on violations of these offenders, it's the state's. Nor is it the county's responsibility to assume the burden of residential care."
State property in the county that could be used includes equipment yards for the Department of Transportation and industrial building complexes, Brooks said.
Mayberg said placement must be suitable under the law. It must meet codes and be safe for both the community and the sex offender.
"It has to be a safe place and pass building codes; we are not going to put someone in a storage shed," Mayberg said. "We understand why any elected officials including the sheriff wouldn't say, We endorse this place for a sex offender to live.' We can't expect them to find a place, but we can expect them to give us their expertise. We will only succeed with the engagement of the community."
California about to pay for extreme Jessica's Law
LAST November, Iowa was dealing with a tangled legal mess due to Jessica's Law. And that very month, a whopping 70.5 percent of Californians stamped their ballots for that same statute. Iowa had warned us, but only 29.5 percent of our voters took the time to listen and study the facts from academics, therapists and researchers. The rest only read the headlines and heard the sound-bites, all blaring the magical vote-grabbing words: "Protect our children."
Now, nine months later, our state is encumbered by 2,100 sex offenders who'll soon have no place to live due to their 2,000-foot distance restrictions from schools and parks. It's predicted that many will slip through the cracks, fall off the registry, and go underground, where stress and instability will render them more of a danger.
That is, those who are really high-risk - and that's only 10 percent of all registrants. The rest are one-timers, Romeos and Juliets, outdoor urinators, flashers, mooners and the like - all low- or no-risk. Yet, they're all shoved into the same pool by our national neurosis. With our Puritanical origins, we labor under an erotic dichotomy that's simultaneously obsessed and repulsed by anything with a sexual element. Other types of child abuse can hurt as much, but don't get nearly the notoriety.
In 1994, Patty Wetterling successfully lobbied for the first registry on behalf of her abducted son Jacob. It was not an unreasonable law, aimed only at offenders who might pose a danger and meant for the eyes of law enforcement alone. Now, she's appalled by the extreme outcome of her original effort and is trying to amend it.
"Everyone is trying to out-tough the next legislator," she says. "It's all about ego and boastfulness." Here we have a bereaved parent who yet retains logic, sense, and humanity.
Her statement may well apply to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who should have known better than to back Jessica's Law. He was aware of Iowa's situation, and had already approved a slew of workable sex-offender enactments shortly before the November election. But could our body-building leader seem the wimp by acting "soft on crime?" Said the French politician, Julian Dray, back in the 80s, "Schwarzenegger has a lot of muscles, but apparently not much heart."
Ironically, Arnold was indeed playing the wimp by caving in to political pressure and the need to retain his tough-guy status at whatever cost. Thus, we have a suggestion for our governor to redeem himself by solving the dilemma of those 2,100 displaced persons.
He, Maria, and their four children currently live in an 11,000-square-foot Brentwood home. They also own a house in the Pacific Palisades that's not too shabby.
Since 11,000 square feet is more than ample for a family of six, why not move to the Palisades and turn over that Brentwood home to the offenders? Surely, 2,100 people could comfortably fit into that space. And, to accommodate our media-driven public paranoia, the National Guard might act as sentries so that no offender - not even a 4-year-old girl caught hugging her teacher (yes, it's come to that) - could escape and terrorize Brentwood.
This could also fulfill Maria's Kennedyesque urge toward philanthropy. She's a supporter of the Special Olympics for challenged contestants, so here's her big chance. According to popular perception, there are none more challenged than "sex offenders." This category includes not only the hotsy-totsy toddler, but also a 13-year-old girl who's been deemed both a victim and offender for having sex with her 12-year-old boyfriend.
"The only thing that comes close to that is dueling," said Associate Chief Justice Michael Wilkins of Utah, noting that two people who take 20 paces and then shoot could each be considered both victim and offender.
So, if our suggestion seems far out, it's an answer to molester laws that have galloped far out of control. The pendulum has swung too far to an extreme end and must regain a more balanced position if the U.S. is not to be seen as excessively punitive. We are the most incarcerated country in the world, yet continue to build more costly prisons for the most minor offenses and parole violations.
In fact, what we need is more therapy for troubled and troubling people. But then, that wouldn't hurt the true offenders - only help them. And our national stampede is towards vendetta, not prevention. This must change if we're to survive as the civilized culture in which many of us would like to think we exist.
Betty Schneider is a member of the California Coalition on Sexual Offending, as well as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Contact her through her Web site, www.therapy-key.com.
Indulge and Punish: Sexual liberation and punitive sex offender legislation
June 13, 2007
Like two speeding trains on parallel tracks, sexual liberation and child sexual abuse made their way into public consciousness some 30 odd years ago. Fueled by cultural excess, they stopped at stations along the way, were supported by the media, glamorized by the rich and famous, and shared content and emotion. Each bolstered and incited the other to move faster, go further and not look to the dangers ahead. Their passengers were largely the Baby Boomers, some 70 million who had come of age. The landscape was social change. … Civil rights, women’s rights, legalized abortion, single parenthood, birth control pills, and soaring substance use and abuse. We wanted freedom. We wanted to indulge our ever increasing appetites for new and varied stimuli. We acknowledged the problem of child sexual abuse and supported ever increasing media attention to the issue. We expanded the definition of “vulnerable child” and crafted mandatory child abuse reporting laws to protect them (not catch predators). We continued to consume sexual material with gusto, blurring the lines of acceptability while at the same time raging against those who crossed the line.
“The media have probably broken more visual taboos in the last two decades than were overturned in the previous half century, not only raising the transgression ante but accelerating the pace of change. First underwear went public, then bodies, then simulated sex, frontal nudity, male nudity -- shifts so frequent and rapid that nakedness inexorably became clichéd. Popular culture tends to repeat whatever looks financially successful; like films themselves, sexual images keep having sequels.” (1995 New York Times article “Photography View; testing the limits in a Culture of Excess” (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C07E4DA1F39F93AA15753C1A963958260)
In our culture of excess, it was insufficient to merely inform the public that approximately one in four girls and one in seven boys had experienced unwanted sexual touch by the time they were 18. More is better. We created a new mental health diagnosis; “sexual abuse of a child” (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders http://psyweb.com/Mdisord/DSM_IV/jsp/DSM_VCodes.jsp). We discovered - but never substantiated - satanic abuse, recovered memories, and conspiracies of sexual predators infiltrating pre- schools.
Along another track however, due to cross paths with these liberalizing sexual trends, came another train fueled by perceived lack of respect for authority, Supreme Court decisions to end prayer in school and legalized abortion and the soaring crime rate, and it raced to meet its challenger.
"Doubling the conviction rate in this country," said Nixon "would do far more to cure crime in America than quadrupling the funds for Mr. Humphrey's war on poverty." (September 1968 Time Magazine) http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,838728-3,00.htm
Seemingly in conflict with liberalism, the punitive trend is in fact integral to the overall culture. In a society obsessed with personal freedom and sexual liberation but also driven by Judeo-Christian guilt, we can indulge our adolescent excesses as long as we mete out equal measures of punishment. Government, the parent will be “tough on crime.” We can challenge and defy sexual taboos, as long as we punish the worst transgressors. “Tough on Crime” will become a political Holy Grail and a legislative addiction. We will expand laws, increase prison populations and forget about prevention.
The expansion of sex offender laws along with harsher sentences for sexual offenders DO contribute to the decline in child sexual abuse.
"Among explanations for the general decline in crime during the 1990s,
the large increase in the incarceration of offenders has received the most
extensive empirical support. Although detailed data are insufficient to
conduct a careful analysis of the possible impact of incarceration on sexual
abuse, the overall pattern is certainly consistent with the idea that increased
incarceration played a part in a true decline." (Explanations for the decline
in child sexual abuse cases http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/199298.pdf)
However, there are also disastrous consequences. For instance:
• In California (and most other states), under pressure from politicians and victim advocacy groups, the mandatory child abuse reporting law, originally designed to protect children has been expanded to identifying offenders, making it virtually impossible for them to enter treatment without first suffering severe legal consequences. (How does this protect children?)
•The age of consent varies from state to state and is out of sync with normal sexual development in every state. Adolescents are being charged with felonies for many ordinary, consensual and developmentally normal behaviors.
•Disregarding scientific information about adolescent development, the Federal Government’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act will require lifetime registration as sex offenders for many of these adolescents.
•Young children are being ostracized for sexual behavior that is often normal or at worst, an annoying means of seeking attention.
• Under the guise of “protecting our communities,” without a shred of empirical support and in spite of significant empirical evidence to the contrary, sex offenders who served their sentences are being forced to leave their homes (and sometimes families) because they live too close to a school, playground or park.
• In many States authorities are often free to take alleged child victims into custody and subject them to internal forensic medical examinations without either the child’s or parent’s permission. (They need a court order to look for evidence of a crime in a person’s home but not a child’s vagina or rectum.)
• Adolescents are given conflicting and confusing messages about sexual behavior. They can generally consent to abortion and obtain birth control at age 12 but, depending on the state, cannot consent to sex until age 16 or eighteen. If they willingly engage in sex with adults before that age, adolescents are labeled (“compliant”) victims because they are considered incapable of meaningful consent. But if then engage in sex with a younger child they are considered capable of forming meaningful criminal intent by age 14 and can be (and often are) charged with felonies in adult courts.
It is time to engage in a meaningful conversation instead of succumbing to 30 second sound bites. Sexual excesses may be exciting; they certainly sell products, but we are neglecting the ensuing far reaching consequences. “Tough on crime” is appealing but has limitations. Creating laws that push sex offender registrants to the edge of society - forcing them to live under bridges is shameful. We have opted for punishment instead of prevention. We will be unable to create safety for our children until we take responsibility for the culture we have created. As long as we continue to patronize 24/7 media that sensationalizes the most heinous crimes, gives more air time to Paris Hilton than Genarlow Wilson, gives us reruns of to Catch a Predator without exploring the most obvious issue – sexual attraction to teenagers, we fail at our most fundamental obligation – protecting our children.
Do We REALLY Want There To Be "No More Victims"?
May 5, 2007
America seemingly has always had a need to hate. All throughout history there have been certain groups of people which have been singled out as targets of hate, anger, discrimination and even death.
Native Americans, Salem “Witches”, African Americans, Homosexuals, and now Sex Offenders. While people cannot change their skin color or perhaps their sexual preference ALL have suffered or are suffering from the same irrational hate. A hate born of ignorance and fear. What does this say about us as a society? What is it about us that drives this need for hatred? More importantly, how does this hatred make for a better world?
I guess I could do as others do and jump on the “I hate sex offenders” bandwagon. I could agree with totally screwing them over in a multitude of ways over and over again even though their so called “debt to society” has already been paid. I could say, go ahead and abuse their human and civil rights, that, that’s okay because they gave up their rights when they offended against a child. I could push for pink or green license plates, residency restrictions which really do nothing more than satisfy and feed our lust for revenge and of course, hatred. I could push for a plethora of registration requirements that carry heavy prison sentences if even one requirement, no matter how unconstitutional is missed. I could push to fill our prison system with the likes of them, fattening the wallets of corporate America even further, until the revolving door eventually opens again and they are inevitably released.
I could do these things. It sure would be a lot easier as well as more popular if I did. But I won’t, because hate doesn’t solve anything, neither does revenge.
I am deeply saddened and disturbed whenever a child is harmed or killed by anyone, be it a parent or a stranger. However, instead of seeking out ways to exercise revenge, I choose to seek out ways to prevent such things from happening again. I look deeper and as “What can we learn from this tragedy and what could we have done, or what can we do in the future to prevent it?”
Hate and vengeance is for the simple minded and it is a cop out. It is taking the easy way out. It is also the fast track to the inevitable next future disaster.
I’m choosing the hard way and in this case, I think it is worth it.
The sex offender “problem” isn’t as complicated as we are lead to believe. Nor do registered sex offenders pose an imminent threat to those around them. In fact, if they are registered and have already been through “the system” they are much less likely to commit a sex crime than someone who is not on the sex offender registry.
First and foremost, not all of registered sex offenders are child molesters or have child victims. That is a myth. A myth which is the single biggest obstacle in making effective changes that might actually save a child’s life. The John Couey’s of the world are a rarity. These types of crimes enrage us all so deeply and rightfully so, that we can’t see the forest through the trees. We are blinded. In our blind rage we pass knee jerk legislation that reflects that rage but in the long run does nothing to protect anyone.
I have covered in other articles and on my video blogs the litany of offenses that requires one to register as a sex offender. From prostitution, to consensual sex with someone under the age of 18, to children caught playing doctor. It literally runs the gamut. Laws make no distinction between forcible acts and consensual ones, between dangerous habitual offenders and one time, one crime offenders. To adult offenders whose victims were 6 years old or teenagers caught having consensual sex. All are treated in the same manner and all have to live out their lives under the child molester label (i.e. registered sex offender).
I am deeply disturbed by the fact that there is NO way for a child, juvenile, or young adult acting out in a dangerous way, which may show a propensity towards sexually offending to receive help. Especially when he or she has no prior criminal history. The only “help” currently given is prison. Which of course, equates to no help at all? In fact, this may further exacerbate the potential problem if the juvenile is raped himself while in prison and is surrounded only by other criminals. It is no surprise that some do go on to re-offend. Like John Couey. He asked for help, pleaded for it, long before killing Jessica Lunsford, but he never got it. Instead he was caged like an animal that had misbehaved badly and then released with the expectation that somehow simply caging him was going to solve his problem. If anything, it only made matters worse. I strongly believe Jessica’s death could have and should have been prevented. Perhaps if Mr. Couey had gotten the help he had pleaded for a psychological evaluation would have sent red flags waiving. His past is rife with trauma, abuse, and self destruction. Not to mention repeated disregard for all law in general. Yes, Mr. Couey could have been stopped. Early intervention may even have helped and completely prevented many of his crimes, including the murder of little Jessica.
I’d much rather my taxpayer dollars be spent on helping the young children growing up in the way John Couey and others like him did. With the focus on early intervention and prevention. For there to be a way for families to seek help when there is a problem without fear of legal retribution and family annihilation as their only recourse. For now, that is all there is and it’s not working. It’s not good enough.
Sex offenders aren’t born sex offenders. They are created. They are a bi-product of society and the sooner we ALL start taking responsibility the better chance we all have of protecting our kids and having, NO MORE VICTIMS.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Psychologist: Convict is still dangerous
By: CHRIS BAGLEY - Staff Writer
RIVERSIDE ---- He served 18 years in prison for raping a teenage girl, and a psychologist testified Friday that he is still dangerous enough to spend several more years in a state mental hospital.
Dave Allyn Dokich was sentenced to 35 years in state prison for the rape of a 15-year-old girl in 1986.
His release from prison to Southwest County in May 2005 sparked two months of protests outside the Mead Valley group home he moved into. He ultimately was sent back to prison after being arrested in January 2006 for violating the terms of his parole.
Dokich, now 54, isn't currently charged with a crime. Prosecutors argued in civil court Friday that rapes in 1982 and 1986 and an alleged sexual assault of his cell mate in 1996 add up to a pattern that is unlikely to change. Citing that history, diagnoses for three mental disorders and his recent behavior, psychologist Kathleen Lockwell testified that Dokich meets California's legal definition of a "sexually violent predator," a designation that would allow authorities to consign him to an institution.
"Even at his age, he continues to be quite impulsive," Lockwell said at a hearing Friday morning. "He doesn't seem to have any regard for the welfare of others. He doesn't seem to learn from punishment."
Dokich was due to be released again in January, but continues to be held at Avenal State Prison, 80 miles northwest of Bakersfield, pending the outcome of the case. He shuffled into the hearing Friday with graying hair and orange jumpsuit, feet shackled and wrists cuffed. He said little but chuckled briefly at several points during Lockwell's testimony. Dokich himself was not called to testify.
The hearing is expected to conclude April 13, when prosecutors will present a second and final witness.
Judge Carl Davis' ruling after that could effectively set Dokich free or set up a second hearing, which would be similar to a trial. A jury or judge would hear the case at Dokich's request.
Dokich's court-appointed attorney, Samra Roth, said she doesn't foresee calling witnesses at this hearing, but she pushed Lockwell on Friday to acknowledge that three other psychologists had determined in 2004 and 2006 that Dokich doesn't meet California's definition of a "sexually violent predator." A 1996 law defines the term as a convicted sex offender who has a mental disorder that makes him likely to seek out new victims.
The district attorney's office failed in an earlier attempt to classify Dokich as a predator under the law.
Lockwell said part of her evaluation of Dokich, which included a review of his records and a two-hour interview late last year, found him to be more likely to reoffend than a group of convicted sex offenders in one study, 72 percent of whom were later charged with committing another rape after release from prison.
Dokich pleaded guilty to forcible rape of a 15-year-old girl in his apartment in Dana Point in July 1982 and was sentenced to six years in prison, according to court records. He was released on parole in October 1985.
The following summer, he befriended a 15-year-old girl who had run away from home. One afternoon that August, he drove her through Sun City, Canyon Lake and Lake Elsinore, molesting, raping and sodomizing her over a period of several hours, according to court records. He was convicted of kidnapping, four counts of rape and on several related charges, then sentenced in September 1987.
The alleged assault in 1996, in Soledad State Prison, was documented in court filings but never led to a court conviction.
During his eight months of freedom in 2005, he appeared to resume his old behaviors, Lockwell testified Friday. He violated parole by returning numerous times to a pool hall in Riverside where alcohol was served, according to court records. During one visit, he twice offered to buy a drink for a 17-year-old girl and "looked her up and down," Lockwell said, citing interviews with the girl's aunt.
That approach seemed strikingly similar to the way he first befriended the young victims in 1982 and 1986, Lockwell said, citing court records.
"There's no reason to think that he's anything other than a sexually violent predator," Lockwell said.
Contact staff writer Chris Bagley at (951) 676-4315, Ext. 2615, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Schwarzenegger Keynotes Summit on Sexual Predator Housing
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today delivered the keynote address at the first-ever High Risk Sex Offender & Sexually Violent Predator Summit. As recommended by a task force created by the Governor, the event brought together more than 350 state and local officials from across California to discuss ways to protect the public from high risk sex offenders and sexually violent predators released from prison, as required by law. Participants included representatives from cities and counties, local law enforcement, corrections, mental health, social services, prevention services and victims organizations.
"My single greatest priority as governor is to protect the safety and well being of all Californians. High risk sex offenders pose a threat to public safety and we must take every necessary step to eliminate that threat," said Schwarzenegger.
"Up to 730 new sex offenders are released from state prison every month and about one-third of them are high-risk. And the law says they must be returned to the counties they came from. So for the safety of our communities we must know where these predators live and what they are doing. We cannot allow them to re-offend."
Schwarzenegger established the High Risk Sex Offender Task Force on May 15, 2006 to make improvement recommendations for the state's paroled sex offender monitoring program. The task force includes representatives from local law enforcement, local government, victims' rights organizations, and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).
The recommendations of the task force included requiring the CDCR to notify local law enforcement 60 days before offenders are released. The task force also developed statewide guidelines for offender placement and supervision.
The governor also directed the CDCR to institute a pre-release program that was recommended to keep high risk sex offenders a safe distance from schools and children upon release from prison and to complete a risk assessment of sex offenders in state prisons within six months of scheduled completion of their sentences.
To protect Californians from sex offenders and implement Jessica's Law, the governor proposed $59 million in the 2006-07 budget and $178 million in the 2007-08 budget for the CDCR, the Department of Mental Health (DMH), and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to implement Jessica's Law. Details include:
CDCR: $30.4 million in 2006-07 and $75.6 million in 2007-08, and ongoing,
for CDCR to:
High Risk Sex Offenders
Mar 13, 2007 4:13 pm US/Central
State May Get E-Mail Addresses From Sex Offenders
(AP) St. Paul Sex offenders already have to tell Minnesota authorities where they live, work, attend school and vacation. Soon, they might also have to provide their e-mail addresses.
With children playing on the Internet as much as in the neighborhood park, lawmakers here and in at least 13 other states want to protect them from predators. They're considering bills that would make sex offenders register e-mail, instant messaging and other addresses used to communicate on Web sites. A similar bill has been introduced in Congress.
A Minnesota House panel approved the proposal on Tuesday after narrowly rejecting an attempt to require "Sexual Predator" license plates. The bill's sponsor, Democratic Rep. Steve Simon, said he didn't want to mix up the two issues. Simon said state agencies are open to the e-mail requirement but want to wait until next year to make other changes to the registration form.
"The point here is to give the authorities some novel and potentially useful information," Simon said. "It's not so much where they are physically -- it's where they are in other ways as well."
Those who work with exploited children say the policies won't put an end to sex crimes against children, but they could help law enforcement make cases against offenders by connecting them with their virtual identities.
"If you know where somebody lives and where somebody works, then you should also know what name they're using on the Internet," said Michelle Collins, who heads the exploited child unit at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Some probation and parole officers already get such information from the offenders they monitor, but the legislation would make it automatic.
However, some wonder whether the move might complicate life for sex offenders already struggling under tighter scrutiny and regulations about where they can live and work.
"When this is combined with a large number of other requirements, there is a danger that we start to interfere with the reintegration and recovery of sex offenders and their ability to cope," said Eric Janus, a professor at St. Paul's William Mitchell College of Law.
One expert urged lawmakers considering e-mail registration policies to study the effect on smaller populations before passing broad laws. David Finkelhor, who heads the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, said there's already too much sex offender policy that doesn't work as it's intended.
"We should see it more as a tool to be used on a case-by-case basis than a blanket sort of thing that should be legislated by politicians," Finkelhor said. "It certainly could be useful in many cases or with some individuals -- but it may not."
E-mail registration requirements are being considered in Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee and Virginia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In Virginia, Attorney General Robert McDonnell is pushing to share sex offenders' online identities with MySpace.com to block them from using the popular social networking site.
Simon said he hopes Minnesota authorities can do something similar one day.
Minnesota's predatory offender registry contains information on more than 18,600 sex offenders and others whose crimes include murder, kidnapping, domestic assault and stalking, said database administrator AnnMarie O'Neill with the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
Law enforcement and prison officials use the information to identify suspects and locate offenders. Registered offenders get a yearly form to verify their information and must tell the state if they move or get a new vehicle.
The new American witch hunt
March 11, 2007
INCREASINGLY, legislation dealing with sex offenders is being passed that is punitive, untested, expensive and, in many cases, counterproductive — demonizing people who commit sexual offenses without offering any empirical information that the new laws will reduce sexually violent crime.
Last week, for instance, New York became the 19th state to enact so-called sexually violent predator legislation. This legislation provides for the indefinite "civil commitment" of sexual offenders who have served their time in prison and are about to be released.
The legislation was passed despite a lack of evidence that such laws actually reduce sexual violence and despite recent reports of warehousing and chaos in some programs and relentlessly rising costs in others.
It is just one example of the kind of punitive laws being passed across the country. Other measures include increasingly strict residency restrictions (such as those imposed by Proposition 83 in California, approved by the voters in November), more stringent rules for community notification regarding sexual offenders and monitoring by GPS (also mandated under Proposition 83, with cost projections of $100 million annually, according to the state's legislative analyst).
In many states, politicians are eager to pass such legislation, which is enthusiastically supported by the public. Indeed, ask citizens what they think and you're likely to hear that they support laws to "get rid of perverts" who, in the eyes of many people, "deserve what they get."
This is not new. In general, dispassionate discussion of sexuality is difficult, even more so when it comes to sexual crimes. Ebbs and flows of public attention and vilification have often occurred in this country.
In the 1930s and '40s, castration was practiced in California, where sex offenders and homosexuals received this "treatment." Also, the first generation of sexual psychopath laws was passed during this time, mandating indefinite commitment for sexually violent predators. In the 1980s, society was roiled by a series of high-profile day-care-center abuse cases (such as the McMartin case and others that proved later to be unfounded). In the 1990s, there was a media uproar over supposed "ritualistic" and "satanic" sexual abuse.
These days, the pendulum continues to swing further toward the punitive end of the spectrum, with ever more draconian sentencing and post-release conditions. Under the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection Act, signed into law by President Bush in July, all sex offenders will be listed on the Internet, making information on offenders, regardless of whether they belong to a low-, medium- or high-risk category, publicly accessible; this includes people, for example, whose only crime is the possession of child pornography.
Obviously, this makes it increasingly difficult for ex-offenders to obtain residences or jobs — the mainstays of stability — and it subjects them to ongoing vigilantism and public censure. Although notification may make sense for some, it does not make sense for all.
In California, the most recent debate has been over whether Proposition 83, the law passed last year banning registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park, can be retroactively applied to the 90,000 offenders who have already been released from prison. (Two federal judges ruled last month that it may not.)
What is being created is a class of individuals that is progressively demonized by society and treated in such a way that a meaningful reintegration into society is impossible.
Yes, sexual abuse is a serious matter. Yes, individuals who commit sexual crimes should be punished. Unquestionably, a small percentage of sex offenders are very dangerous and must be removed from society. What's more, we know that sexual crimes are devastating to victims and their families and that we must do all we can to protect ourselves from "predators."
But demonizing people rather than treating them makes little sense, and passing laws that are tough but mindless in response to political pressure won't solve the problem either.
The reality is that, despite the popular perception to the contrary, recidivism rates for sexual offenders are among the lowest of any class of criminals. What's more, 90% of sex offenders in prison will eventually be released back into the community — and 90% of sexual offenses are committed by people known to their victim, such as family members or trusted members of the community — so rehabilitation is critical. It is not possible, affordable, constitutional or reasonable to lock up all sex offenders all of the time.
Society's efforts to segregate sex offenders are backfiring, resulting in unintended consequences. Homelessness is increasing among sex offenders, for instance, making it harder to monitor them and causing some law enforcement officials to call for a repeal of residency restrictions.
One of the greatest challenges to workable civil commitment programs is that offenders are so feared that, when they are ready to be reintroduced into society, no community will accept them — so instead they remain institutionalized indefinitely, creating ever-increasing costs without an end in sight.
Why has this demonization occurred? One reason is that offenders are hot news, and the more heinous the sexual crime, the more the media focus on it. Thus, our minds create a stereotype of egregious evil with respect to all sex offenders. We no longer distinguish between the most egregious cases and the others, despite the fact that the most terrible crimes represent only a small proportion of all sexual offenses.
But there are less serious crimes, and we should acknowledge that. Possession of child pornography is categorically different from a sexual assault. So is exhibitionism. The wife of a man who committed a hands-off crime involving possession of child pornography put it this way: "Each of these horrendous crimes drives another nail into our coffin."
Another reason for the demonization is that society has failed to fund research on the treatment and management of people convicted of sexual crimes — despite the fact that states are willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on unproven programs for treatment and containment.
The current public discourse on sex offenders is, therefore, without a base of empirical studies. Psychiatry, psychology and our national research institutes have eschewed involvement with such research.
No one is suggesting that sexual crimes should go unpunished or that some of the newer approaches — such as medication, intensive community supervision or even carefully considered civil commitment — are without value. What is becoming clearer, however, is that the climate in the United States makes reasonable discussion difficult.
What can be done? Some scholars, in an effort to interpose rationality between public fear and legislation, have suggested the concept of "evidence-based legislation." This is analogous to "evidence-based medicine" and would call on legislative bodies to inform their proposed laws with the best available scientific evidence — something that is rarely done now.
What is happening now with individuals who have committed sexual crimes is the modern-day equivalent of a witch hunt. Our images of the worst determine what we mete out to all sex offenders. It is time to reexamine our approaches and develop empirically based, scientifically sound measures and treatments to bring rationality back to this discussion.
Fry 'Em? Even Sex Offenders Can Be Punished Too Severely
New York is about to become the 20th state with a civil commitment program for sex offenders, thereby embracing an increasingly fashionable contradiction: When sex offenders are caught and convicted, the government says they're responsible for their actions, so it locks them up. But after they serve their time, it says they can't control themselves, so it locks them up some more.
After nearly two decades of forcibly "treating" sex offenders deemed especially likely to commit new crimes, it seems clear that psychiatrists are not psychics, treatment is an expensive failure and "commitment" is a euphemism for imprisonment.
Since 1990, when Washington state enacted the first civil commitment law for sex offenders, nearly 3,000 have been confined in mental health facilities after completing their sentences. According to The New York Times, only a tiny fraction of them have been pronounced "cured" enough to be released.
There's little evidence the two major treatment approaches, "relapse prevention" and cognitive-behavioral therapy, reduce recidivism. Yet civil commitment coupled with ineffective therapy costs, on average, four times as much as ordinary imprisonment -- $166,000 per year in California, for example, compared to $43,000 for prison.
That's a lot to spend on incapacitation, especially since states do not seem to do a very good job of committing the most dangerous offenders. Sometimes exhibitionists are confined while rapists go free. Some sex offenders who avoid commitment soon claim new victims, while some men currently committed (including a 102-year-old in Wisconsin) are too old or sick to pose much of a threat.
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld civil commitment of sex offenders on the grounds that it is therapeutic and preventive rather than punitive. But the therapy is a sham, and the preventive rationale could be applied to a wide variety of criminals, all of whom have demonstrated a tendency toward anti-social behavior and many of whom are at least as prone to recidivism as sex offenders are.
Instead of punishing people for crimes they might commit in the future, why not punish them for crimes they've already committed? If certain offenses merit a life sentence, which is what you often get when you tack indefinite civil commitment onto a prison term, that penalty should be imposed explicitly and with due process.
But it's important to keep in mind that "sex offenders" are a highly diverse group, ranging from teenagers who have consensual sex with younger teenagers to men who rape and murder children. Arizona provides an excellent example of how not to draw the appropriate distinctions.
Under Arizona law, mere possession of pornography involving minors younger than 15 is punishable by a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence. Each picture is a separate offense, and the sentences must be served consecutively. That's how Morton Berger, a former high school teacher, received a 200-year sentence without parole: 10 years for each of 20 images on his computer.
While the production of child pornography involves sexual abuse, Berger himself did not victimize anyone. He arguably deserved criminal punishment for encouraging abuse, in his own small way, by downloading the resulting images (although it's not clear he paid for them). But 200 years ?
That's far longer than the sentence Berger would have received anywhere else in the country. It's also harsher than Arizona's penalties for violent crimes such as rape and second-degree murder. For looking at pictures of sexually abused children, Berger was punished more severely than he would have been for committing an actual sexual assault on a child.
The Arizona Supreme Court, in a decision the U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to review, nevertheless concluded that Berger's sentence was not disproportionate enough to violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishments." Constitutional issues aside, the penalty is plainly irrational.
That's par for the course on this hot-button subject. When I discussed
Berger's case on Reason magazine's blog, one reader insisted that "200
years is not sufficient. He should get life."
Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
Published Sunday, March 4, 2007
Doubts Rise as States Hold Sex Offenders After Prison Terms
MONICA DAVEY and ABBY GOODNOUGH
Confining sex offenders past their terms has almost never met a stated purpose of treating the worst criminals until they no longer pose a threat.
The decision by New York to confine sex offenders beyond their prison terms places the state at the forefront of a growing national movement that is popular with politicians and voters. But such programs have almost never met a stated purpose of treating the worst criminals until they no longer pose a threat.
About 2,700 pedophiles, rapists and other sexual offenders are already being held indefinitely, mostly in special treatment centers, under so-called civil commitment programs in 19 states, which on average cost taxpayers four times more than keeping the offenders in prison.
In announcing a deal with legislative leaders on Thursday, Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, suggested that New York’s proposed civil commitment law would “become a national model” and go well beyond confining the most violent predators to also include mental health treatment and intensive supervised release for offenders.
“No one has a bill like this, nobody,” said State Senator Dale M. Volker, a Republican from western New York and a leading proponent in the Legislature of civil confinement.
But in state after state, such expectations have fallen short. The United States Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the laws in part because their aim is to furnish treatment if possible, not punish someone twice for the same crime. Yet only a small fraction of committed offenders have ever completed treatment to the point where they could be released free and clear.
Leroy Hendricks, a convicted child molester in Kansas, finished his prison term 13 years ago, but he remains locked up at a cost to taxpayers in that state of $185,000 a year — more than eight times the cost of keeping someone in prison there.
Mr. Hendricks, who is 72 and unsuccessfully challenged his confinement in the Supreme Court, spends most days in a wheelchair or leaning on a cane, because of diabetes, circulation ailments and the effects of a stroke. He may not live long enough to “graduate” from treatment.
Few ever make such progress: Nationwide, of the 250 offenders released unconditionally since the first law was passed in 1990, about half of them were let go on legal or technical grounds unrelated to treatment.
Still, political leaders, like those in New York, are vastly expanding such programs to keep large numbers of rapists and pedophiles off the streets after their prison terms in a response to public fury over grisly sex crimes.
In Coalinga, Calif., a $388 million facility will allow the state to greatly expand the offenders it holds to 1,500. Florida, Minnesota, Nebraska, Virginia and Wisconsin are also adding beds.
At the federal level, President Bush has signed a law offering money to states that commit sex offenders beyond their prison terms, and the Justice Department is creating a civil commitment program for federal prisoners.
Even with the enthusiasm among politicians, an examination by The New York Times of the existing programs found they have failed in a number of areas:
¶Sex offenders selected for commitment are not always the most violent; some exhibitionists are chosen, for example, while rapists are passed over. And some are past the age at which some scientists consider them most dangerous. In Wisconsin, a 102-year-old who wears a sport coat to dinner cannot participate in treatment because of memory lapses and poor hearing.
¶The treatment regimens are expensive and largely unproven, and there is no way to compel patients to participate. Many simply do not show up for sessions on their lawyers’ advice — treatment often requires them to recount crimes, even those not known to law enforcement — and spend their time instead gardening, watching television or playing video games.
¶The cost of the programs is virtually unchecked and growing, with states spending nearly $450 million on them this year. The annual price of housing a committed sex offender averages more than $100,000, compared with about $26,000 a year for keeping someone in prison, because of the higher costs for programs, treatment and supervised freedoms.
¶Unlike prisons and other institutions, civil commitment centers receive little standard, independent oversight or monitoring; sex among offenders is sometimes rampant, and, in at least one facility, sex has been reported between offenders and staff members.
¶Successful treatment is often not a factor in determining the relatively few offenders who are released; in Iowa, of the nine men let go unconditionally, none had completed treatment or earned the center’s recommendation for release.
¶Few states have figured out what to do when they do have graduates ready for supervised release. In California, the state made 269 attempts to find a home for one released pedophile. In Milwaukee, the authorities started searching in 2003 for a neighborhood for a 77-year-old offender, but have yet to find one.
Supporters of the laws offer no apologies for their shortcomings, insisting that the money is well spent. Born out of the anguish that followed a handful of high-profile sex crimes in the 1980s, the laws are proven and potent vote-getters that have withstood constitutional challenges.
“There has to be a process in place that prevents someone from rejoining society if they’re still dangerous,” said Jeffrey Klein, a Democratic member of the New York State Senate who has pushed for civil confinement there.
Martin Andrews, 47, of Woodbridge, Va., who was abducted, buried in a box and repeatedly sexually assaulted for a week when he was 13, also supports the laws.
“If they can’t control themselves,” Mr. Andrews said, “we need to do it for them.”
But the myriad problems have concerned some advocates for victims of sexual abuse, who suggest the money is being wasted and that other options for dealing with dangerous sex offenders — such as giving them longer prison terms, preventing sentencing deals with prosecutors and mandating treatment during incarceration — would be more effective.
“Civil commitment is a huge, huge assignment of resources,“ said Anne Liske, the former executive director of the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault, a victims’ advocacy group. “This wholesale warehousing — without using the proper assessment tools and with throwing treatment in when they are not people who can be treated — has already proven not to be working, so why would we do it more?”
A Series of Convictions
Leroy Hendricks was a likely candidate for commitment as he prepared to leave a Kansas prison in 1994.
Mr. Hendricks’s most recent crime, for which he had been convicted a decade earlier, had been “indecent liberties” with two 13-year-old boys in an electronics shop where he worked. All told, his convictions left a painful trail reaching back to 1955: exposing himself to young girls; molesting 7- and 8-year-old boys at a carnival where he was the ride foreman; molesting a 7-year-old girl; playing strip poker with a 14-year-old girl; preying on his own family members, including a boy with cerebral palsy.
Like Mr. Hendricks was, thousands of soon-to-be-released prisoners are screened for commitment each year by state corrections departments, prosecutors and panels. The process varies widely from state to state, as do standards for the evaluators, but in most states, those recommended for commitment have trials before judges or juries.
Mr. Hendricks may have sealed his own fate when he testified in 1994 that he could not “control the urge” to molest when he got “stressed out.” He said his mother, Violet, had wanted a girl when he was born and had dressed him as one when he was growing up.
“I sure don’t want to hurt anybody again,” he told the court, but then conceded that he could not ensure the safety of children in his presence. “The only way to guarantee that is to die,” he said.
More often, these cases come down to contentious duels between psychologists over how best to analyze an offender’s history and likelihood of repeating crimes. In most states, commitment is for an indefinite period, but offenders are allowed to have their cases reviewed by a court periodically.
The results of the screening process are inconsistent. Some offenders are passed up for civil confinement, only to commit vicious crimes again; others’ physical ailments alone make them unlikely repeat predators.
Even though Minnesota prison officials had classified Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., a convicted rapist, in a category of sex offenders most at risk to commit more crimes, Mr. Rodriguez went home when his term ended in May 2003. That November, he kidnapped and killed Dru Sjodin, a North Dakota college student who was beaten and raped.
Likewise, Jerry Buck Inman was charged with raping and strangling a college student in South Carolina last June, nine months after his release from a Florida prison after serving 17 years for rape and other crimes. The authorities in Florida looked at his records but decided not to seek commitment.
Meanwhile, some prosecutors seek commitment for others convicted of noncontact crimes like public exposure. In Florida, prosecutors tried unsuccessfully to civilly commit a man who was imprisoned for driving drunk even though his last sex arrest was decades earlier.
“The population that is being detained is a very, very mixed group,” said Richard Wollert, a psychologist in Portland, Ore., who evaluates civilly committed offenders. “There are cases that are appalling in terms of being kept in custody at the taxpayers’ expense when there are probably alternative placements for them.”
Predicting who is likely to commit future sex crimes has become more of a science over the last decade, but many still find the methods questionable.
Actuarial formulas — akin to the tables used for life insurance — play a central role in deciding who is dangerous enough to be committed. They calculate someone’s risk of offending again by looking at factors such as the number of prior sex offenses and the sex of the victims. Men with male victims are graded as higher risk, for example, because statistics show they are more often repeat offenders.
“The danger is that these numbers will blind people,” said Eric Janus, a professor at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul who has challenged Minnesota’s civil commitment law in court.
Politics and emotion also factor heavily into who gets committed, with decisions made by elected judges or juries who may be more affected by the raw facts of someone’s offense history or the public spectacle over their crimes than the dry science of risk prediction.
“It’s so emotional for them,” said Stephen Watson, an assistant public defender who represented an offender in Florida. “They don’t even want to hear the research.”
New Laws Follow Publicized Cases
Earlier in the 20th century, many states had sexual psychopath laws that allowed them to hospitalize offenders deemed too sick for prison. But by the 1980s most such laws had been repealed or fallen into disuse.
But a handful of horrific and highly publicized cases in the 1980s and ’90s spurred lawmakers to act again. Washington State adopted the first civil commitment law in 1990 after men with predatory histories killed a young woman in Seattle and sexually mutilated a boy in Tacoma.
After state courts upheld Washington’s law, Kansas, Minnesota and Wisconsin passed versions in 1994, followed by California in 1996.
Then, in a 5-to-4 decision in 1997, the United States Supreme Court found civil commitment to be constitutional in Kansas v. Hendricks, the same Mr. Hendricks still confined in Kansas.
In the ruling, the justices found that a “mental abnormality” like pedophilia was enough to meet a standard to qualify someone for commitment, not the different standard of “mental illness” that had been traditionally used. The court also rejected the notion that civil commitment amounted to double jeopardy (a second criminal punishment for a single crime) or an ex post facto law (a new punishment for a past crime), noting that Kansas’s statute was not meant to punish committed men but, like other acceptable civil commitment statutes, intended “both to incapacitate and to treat” them therapeutically.
“We have never held that the Constitution prevents a state from civilly detaining those for whom no treatment is available, but who nevertheless pose a danger to others,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority, later adding, “By furnishing such treatment, the Kansas Legislature has indicated that treatment, if possible, is at least an ancillary goal of the act, which easily satisfies any test for determining that the act is not punitive.”
Since then, state officials, civil liberties advocates and lawyers have wrestled with exactly what that treatment requirement means.
“There’s no question about it,” Professor Janus of William Mitchell College said, “it’s a very murky area of the law.”
Since the Hendricks ruling, the courts have indicated that states have “wide latitude” when it comes to treatment for the civilly confined, meaning that unsuccessful treatment alone or an untreatable patient would not be enough to undo the laws.
In 2001, the Supreme Court, in Seling v. Young, decided the case of Andre Brigham Young, a committed man in Washington State who argued that the conditions he was being held under were so punitive and the treatment so inadequate as to amount to a second criminal sentence. The court ruled against Mr. Young.
A year later, in 2002, the Supreme Court made clear the limits of who may be committed by states, saying the authorities must prove not just that an offender is still dangerous and likely to commit more crimes but also that he or she has a “serious difficulty in controlling behavior.”
Some civil libertarians and prisoner advocates, who still object to the laws, have not given up on finding a challenge that the Supreme Court might view favorably. Despite the court rulings, these groups insist civil commitment amounts to a second sentence for a crime.
Even the look of commitment centers reflects the dichotomy at the core of their stated reason for being — to lock away dangerous men (only three women are civilly committed) but also to treat them.
Most of the centers tend to look and feel like prisons, with clanking double doors, guard stations, fluorescent lighting, cinder-block walls, overcrowded conditions and tall fences with razor wire around the perimeters.
Bedroom doors are often locked at night, and mail is searched by the staff for pornography or retail catalogs with pictures of women or children. Most states put their centers in isolated areas. Washington State’s is on an island three miles offshore in Puget Sound.
Yet soothing artwork hangs at some centers, and cheerful fliers announce movie nights and other activities. The residents can wander the grounds and often spend their time as they please in an effort to encourage their cooperation, including sunbathing in courtyards and sometimes even ordering pizza for delivery. The new center in California will have a 20,000-book library, badminton courts and room for music and art therapy.
Diseases like hepatitis and diabetes are common among the committed, and severe mental illness — beyond the mental “abnormalities“ described by the Supreme Court — a scourge. A survey in 2002 found that 12 percent of committed sex offenders suffered from serious psychiatric problems like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Most severely mentally ill men cannot participate in sex offender treatment and receive few services besides medication. Verwayne Alexander, a self-described paranoid schizophrenic who has been detained at the Florida Civil Commitment Center since 2003, has sliced himself so many times with razor blades that a guard often watches him around the clock, lawyers said. Mr. Alexander has sought unsuccessfully to be moved to a psychiatric hospital.
Those who choose to participate in sex offender treatment spend an average of less than 10 hours a week doing so, but the hours differ vastly from state to state. The structure of therapy, too, varies widely, a reflection, perhaps, of the central question still looming in the field: Can treatment ever really work for these offenders?
Admitting to previous crimes is a crucial piece of a broad band of treatment, known as relapse prevention, that is used in at least 15 states and has been the most widely accepted model for about 20 years.
Some of the institutions, too, devote time to other therapies and activities that seem to have little bearing on sexual offending. In Pennsylvania, young residents take classes to improve their health and social habits called “Athlete’s Foot,” “Lactose Intolerance,” “Male Pattern Baldness,” “Flatulence” and “Proper Table Manners.”
In California, they can join a Brazilian drum ensemble or classes like “Anger Management Through Art Therapy” and “Interpersonal Skills Through Mural Making.”
But many of those committed get no treatment at all for sex offending, mainly by their own choice. In California, three-quarters of civilly committed sex offenders do not attend therapy. Many say their lawyers tell them to avoid it because admission of past misdeeds during therapy could make getting out impossible, or worse, lead to new criminal charges.
For those who decline treatment — sometimes including hundreds of “detainees” awaiting commitment trials — boredom, resentment and hostility to those in treatment lead to trouble. Some sneak in drugs, alcohol and cellphones, sometimes with the help of staff members, or beat up other residents, sometimes coercing them into having sex.
“There’s rampant sexuality going on in there,” said Natalie Novick Brown, a psychologist who has evaluated 250 men at Florida’s center.
The people who run civil commitment centers say that a constant, nagging question hangs over them: How to keep order while not treating argumentative, sometimes violent offenders like prisoners? The low-level staff members are not prison guards and tend to be poorly educated, trained and paid. Their job titles — in Illinois, security therapy aide — reflect the awkward balance they must achieve between security and therapy.
Because civil commitment centers are neither prisons nor traditional mental health programs, no specialized oversight body exists. None has been created, in part because its base of financial support, the 19 civil commitment programs around the country, would be too small, several experts who study the programs said. But the need, they said, is urgent.
“They ought to be reviewed by an independent entity with the highest possible standards,” said Dr. Fred Berlin, founder of the Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic in Baltimore.
Few Signs of Progress
Around the country, relatively few committed sex offenders finish treatment and are released.
“Every year I go to his hearing, and every year there’s no progress in his case,” said Armand R. Cingolani III, a lawyer with a client in Pennsylvania who was committed in 2004 after being adjudicated as a juvenile for sexual assault on two different minors. “It doesn’t seem that anyone gets better.”
Nearly 3,000 sex offenders have been committed since the first law passed in 1990. In 18 of the 19 states, about 50 have been released completely from commitment because clinicians or state-appointed evaluators deemed them ready. Some 115 other people have been sent home because of legal technicalities, court rulings, terminal illness or old age.
In discharging offenders, Arizona, the remaining state, has been the exception. That state has fully discharged 81 people; there, the facility’s director said records were not available to indicate the reason for those discharges.
An additional 189 people have been released with supervision or conditions (excluding Texas, where there is no commitment center and those committed are treated only as outpatients). And an additional 68 (including 58 in Arizona) are in a higher, “transitional” phase of the program, but still technically committed and often living on state land.
The backlogs have led to an aging population. Inside many facilities, wheelchairs, walkers, high blood pressure and senility are increasingly expensive concerns. Florida’s center filled 229 prescriptions for arthritis medication one recent month, and 300 for blood pressure and other heart problems.
More than 400 of the men in civil commitment are 60 or older, and a number of studies indicate a significant drop in the recidivism rate for this group, many of whom have health problems after years in prison. David Thornton, treatment director of Wisconsin’s center and an expert on recidivism rates, said the decline was increasingly well-documented.
The growth of the committed population has become a political quagmire. No legislator wants to insist on the release of sex offenders, but few are able to swallow the mounting costs of civil commitment. The costs of aging and sick offenders, such as Mr. Hendricks in Kansas, are especially high in part because of their special needs and physical ailments.
From 2001 to 2005, the price of civil commitment in Kansas leapt to nearly $6.9 million from $1.2 million, a state audit there found. “Unless Kansas is willing to accept a higher level of risk and release more sexual predators from the program,” the audit said, “few options exist to curb the growth of the program.”
But as more states consider granting some offenders supervised release, the cost is turning out to be nearly as prohibitive.
For $1.7 million, Washington converted a warehouse in Seattle into a home for men on conditional release. It has 26 cameras monitoring residents, a dozen workers, a surveillance booth overseeing the living area and a 1,700-pound magnetic door.
Two men live there so far.
With the logjams and frustrations mounting, many states have lengthened prison sentences for sex offenders. Virginia last year increased the minimum sentence for certain sexual acts against children to 25 years, from 10, though it also sharply expanded the number of crimes that qualify an offender for civil commitment.
Ida Ballasiotes, whose daughter’s rape and murder in 1988 helped spur the first civil commitment law, in Washington State, said that no sexual predator should walk free and that longer prison sentences should “absolutely” be considered.
“I don’t believe they can be treated, period,” Ms. Ballasiotes said.
After Release, Objections
Even for those sex offenders considered safe enough to be released, going home is no simple process. Kansas authorities decided two years ago that Mr. Hendricks, who was the first person that state committed under its law and who after a decade had progressed to one of the highest phases of treatment, should be moved from Larned State Hospital to a group home in a community where he would be watched around the clock.
Mr. Hendricks would not be allowed onto the home’s porch or patio without an escort, according to court documents. Besides, his medical problems, including poor hearing and eyesight, meant he could not walk down the 40-yard gravel driveway outside the house without falling, the documents said.
But as with many men with his history, the community balked. In California, so many towns object to men leaving civil commitment that some of those released have to live in trailers outside prisons.
“You can’t just sneak them in,” said John Rodriguez, a recently retired deputy director in the California Department of Mental Health. “You’ve got hearings, the court announces it, it’s all over the press.”
In Mr. Hendricks’s case, residents of Lawrence, where he was initially to be moved, collected petitions. “You can tell me that he’s old, but as long as he can move his hands and his arms, he can hurt another child,” said Missi Pfeifer, 37, a mother of three who led the petition drive with her two sisters and mother.
Then officials in Leavenworth County, picked as an alternative, said the choice violated county zoning laws. Mr. Hendricks lasted two days there, in a house off a road not far from a pasture of horses, before a judge ordered him removed.
State officials said they had no choice but to move Mr. Hendricks back to a facility on the grounds of a different state hospital, where he still is.
Through a spokeswoman for the state Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, Mr. Hendricks declined to speak to The New York Times.
Two years ago, he told The Lawrence Journal-World that he would be living in a group home “if somebody hadn’t opened their damn mouth,” adding, “I’m stuck here till something happens, and I don’t know when that will be.”
Progressives in America are rightly concerned about increasing signs of fascism in this country, such as a so-called war on terrorism that allows massive invasion of privacy and wholesale imprisonment without charge; such as state manufacture of propaganda for its own people; such as the assertion that anyone who challenges government policies on these matters is a traitor; such as a "great leader" who puts himself clearly above and outside the law. They ought to be concerned also about another sign of the demise of American justice and human decency: scapegoating. One sign of fascism has always been the creation of a scapegoated class whom people are taught to fear and hate, and whose very existence demands a totalitarian state apparatus of surveillance and control. A class whom no-one would dare defend.
There is a class of people in America today, numbering two million or more, who have been utterly scapegoated, ostracized, demonized and shunned. There is no longer any defense available for these people. Almost no-one on the left or the right, civil libertarians or ordinary citizens, will defend their rights. They are regularly vilified with the most vicious and hate-filled language--language previously reserved for classes now protected: Jews, Blacks, homosexuals. They are fair game as targets of abuse and vandalism. They are subject to utter public scorn. About 600,000 of them have been rounded up and forced to register--many soon to be monitored for life with electronic bracelets and global positioning devices. Nearly 4000 have been locked up for life, not on criminal charges, but by civil commitment, and those numbers are growing by the day. The remainder are mostly in hiding, desperately afraid of sudden exposure and witch hunts by neighbors, fellow-workers and friends, whom they fear will suddenly see them as monsters beyond redemption. They are a class defined not by specific crimes (though they are accused of many offenses) but by their very being, their desires, their constitution, as allegedly broken human beings. Presidents and Governors call them "despicable," "disgusting," "incapable of rehabilitation or reform," "beyond help." They are loudly reviled as examples to be shunned by fundamentalist and bigoted preachers, but also by left-wing media, progressive community leaders and feminists.
Who are these scum? Arab terrorists? Muslim fanatics? No--those evil-doers
appear almost benign when compared to this heinous mob. These are the most
awful people in the world: SEX OFFENDERS! Worse, many are PEDOPHILES! In
fact, these two terms become mingled. Jeb Bush recently alluded to all
the sex offenders in Florida as child molesters, though fewer than 1/3
of those incarcerated in that state for "sex crimes" involved people under
18. Bush went on, "These are a group of people who are the sickest of the
sick. They are truly perverts and it's not curable. Instead of civil detention,
we ought to make sure...these pedophiles...are locked up forever."
Of course among these sex offenders are indeed some criminals who have caused extreme harm: violent rapists of adult women as well as children. A few of them have kidnapped, tortured or murdered their victims. Dr. Fred Berlin of the Johns Hopkins University Sex Disorders Clinic in Baltimore estimates that such crimes account for less than 1/10th of 1% of all sex offenses in America. His studies also show that fewer than 10% of child sex offenders re-offend--though recidivism is usually given as a reason for draconian measures against them. As child abuse experts point out, about 50 children are reported kidnapped and raped or murdered by strangers annually, compared to more than 3,000 children murdered by parents and other family members in non-sexual cases. Most sex offenders, says one therapist who works with sex offenders in a state prison system, are "Gentle grandfathers who made one mistake in judgment years ago and fondled their grandchild. Or lonely, geeky gay men--teenagers some of them--who sought mutual sexual release with adolescent boys. Or young female teachers who succumbed to the wiles of handsome adolescent boys or girls. Or young men who got drunk and pushed their girlfriends over a line that is now called date rape." Yet the media, police, prosecutors and politicians continue to insist that children are in dire need of protection from serial rapists and murderers. Two-thirds of parents surveyed said they feared their children would be kidnapped and or murdered by strangers. Facts simply do not matter when hysteria is involved.
Study after study of sex offenders--as well as the countless media exposés--insist that most sex offenders are ordinary men and women from all walks of life, indistinguishable from others in every way except their sexual desires or orientation. The New York Times recently published a sensational story about a teenage boy who went on line to entice more than 15,000 customers to watch his own pornographic images of himself. The Times reporter, acting less like a reporter and more like a crusading cop, coaxed the boy away from his life of debauchery, reminding him he would instantly switch from "victim" to "perpetrator" when he passed his 18th birthday. (Actually, those under 18 may be treated as perpetrators, too.) He helped get the boy to the FBI to close in on many of his key customers, whom the Times had further investigated on its own. These customers included police officers, lawyers, ministers, rabbis, social workers--and especially those who work with children and adolescents. Many also were parents and grandparents with ostensibly happy families of their own. Surely one sign that something is wrong with this picture is that the "heinous criminals" are otherwise law-abiding, decent human beings with successful careers and "normal" personal lives. No. With scapegoating, such apparent normalcy is just one more sign of devious perversity.
The key ingredients of this scapegoating campaign are of course sex and children. "Nowhere," wrote Linda Williams in Children and Sex (1993), "is sexuality more feared in America than in the lives of children." (Williams has spent her professional career assuring that these ingredients produce repression.) The core demon in the campaign is the recently created category of "pedophile" (which does not predate the 1960s as a so-called scientific construct). Although defined by the American Psychiatric Association as persons with a dominant sexual desire for pre-pubescent children, the pedophile tag now applies to any person who every entertained a sexual desire or had a sexual incident, however minor, with anyone under 18. In some circles, the term pedophile is now used to put down any older person who has an affair or shows interest in younger persons-- 35-year-olds, for instance, who "prey on" 20-year olds. By the early 2000s, pedophile had become morphed with the still broader "sex offender," with even mainstream media free to refer to the feared and hated class as "pervs" and "perps" and "deviants."
This scapegoating also requires public exposure and shunning, even of those who dare defend the civil liberties of pedophiles and sex offenders or challenge attacks on them. In particular, public wrath is displayed against those who would challenge "age of consent" laws, which are higher in the United States (now effectively 18 in all states due to Federal statutes) than in most other societies. (Mexico's age of cosent is 12 in most cases; Japan is 13,; Spain is now 14--raised recently; France, 15; and Germany 16 and under 16 with parental consent.) Although as of the 1880s, common law age of consent was 10 in England and its former colonies, and zero in many other societies--where child-brides were common--it has been increasingly raised until there is today, within UNESCO's campaign to protect children, a call for a universal age of 21. All sex between persons under 18 and those over 18 (or 21) thus becomes "abuse," since there is the myth that underage persons are simply not capable of consent.
Journalists and scientific researchers who challenge this construct--or who defend some relationships between adults and minors as not being abusive--face severe consequences. In the only instance of a U.S. Congressional resolution against a scientific paper, the House of Representatives, with only minimal opposition, denounced a study by Dr. Bruce Rind & others, published in the scholarly review, Psychological Bulletin, in 1998. This "meta-analysis" reviewed several research protocols about adult-child sexuality, and summarized them as showing that relationships in which force was not used did not appear to cause harm, and sometimes might be beneficial. Rind and his co-authors have been systematically ostracized and excluded from many scholarly journals. In 2005, a book by a major publisher, which contained another scholarly article by Rind, was withdrawn by that publisher (Hayworth) because of protests from fundamentalist Christians. Other gay writers like William Herdt and John DeCecco who researched sexual outlaw behavior in the U.S. (DeCecco) or intergenerational sexuality in non-western cultures (Herdt) simply moved on to other topics. This did not keep DeCecco from experiencing extreme persecution--while a Professor in San Francisco he had to hire bodyguards to protect him from right-wing attackers.
A number of women researchers and radical feminists have attempted to undermine or slow down the sex panic. Among them have been Camille Paglia, Debbie Nathan, Joan Nelson, Elizabeth Stoney, Laura Marks, Gayle Rubin, Pat Califia, Carole Vance, Marjorie Heins, Joanne Wypijewski, Janice Irvine and Judith Levine. Paglia has been castigated by other sex researchers and many feminist writers for her defense of man-boy sexual relationships in particular. Although she has published lengthy, well-researched summaries of the history of sexuality and sexual research, she is seldom included in university curriculums involving these topics.
Many of the other women writers suffered similar consequences or censorship of their views. Debbie Nathan, who exposed and virtually stopped the so-called satanic cult child sex panic with her book Satan's Silence (Basic Books, 1996), has spoken of the icy reception her work has sometimes received. She said, "... I have often had a sense of being intellectually and professionally marginalized, and I have experienced instances of editors killing pieces I've written about sexual hysteria because they got cold feet, as well as refusals to assign such stories." One woman writer, who had never had problems with previous articles on other subjects for a prestigious national magazine, attempted a balanced look at the crusade against Catholic priests, especially the sensational case of Father Paul Shanley. She was called in by the editor who said he simply could not run her piece.
Even before Judith Levine's Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex was published in 2002, a massive campaign by fundamentalist Christian groups, including Concerned Women for America, attacked the publisher, the University of Minnesota Press. While the book was published, the Press created a new process for reviewing its books before publication. Levine spoke publicly about how she was humiliated time and again in public. She said the manuscript for her book had been turned down by many publishers, treated as if it were "radioactive." Among other insights, Levine wrote that "obsession with pedophiles stems for the reluctance to confront incest and the rampant sexualization of children" in American culture. "Adults project the eroticized desire outwards, creating a monster to hate, hunt down and destroy." Of the outcry against her book she added, "What happened to me is a perfect example of the hysteria my book is about."
Nowhere is censorship and shunning greater than against those who would
describe or depict childhood or adolescent sexuality, or mere nudity. The
"victims" of the evil perpetrators must also be protected--and projected
as the spotless mirror image of their violators--at all costs--their purity
and innocence asserted (even in the face of post-Freudian revelations of
the sexual lives and interests of children). Anything portraying the physical
beauty of children or erotic aspects of their lives must be banned. (See
Bob Chatelle's excellent summaries of the impact of the child porn crusade
on freedom of expression: Kiddie Porn Panic, 1993; Limits of Free expression
& the Problem of Child Porn, 1997.)
Sally Mann, who did some of the most widely-published nude photos of children. Her frankly erotic photos of her own children were called incestuous, pedophilic and pornographic. Feminist writer Germaine Greer has said of her work, "The censoring of a mother's physical delight in her children marks the last stage in the denial of the sensuality of children." Mann now does landsape photography, and Ockenga, after a period of not working at all, turned to photographs of flowers.
Allen Ginsburg and Joseph Richy published an essay in 1990 against the radical departure from art history in which nude children and adolsecents are out of bounds. In "The Right to Depict Children in the Nude," their main point was that sex and nudity in children, and especially adolescents, had been a primary theme of the visual and literary arts throughout Western culture, as well as in many non-Western societies. He pointed out that even popular advertising used photos and drawings of nude children--especially boys--and Norman Rockwell often portrayed nude or seem-nude boys on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. Suddenly, all such photos and pictures disappeared. By the 1990s, when Calvin Kline made public a campaign to sell jeans showing scantily clad teenagers, he was forced to withdraw it within days. The nude child disappeared. In fact, almost ALL photographs of pubescent and post-pubescent boys and girls vanished from most public media. No wonder, since the Faber Supreme Court decision in 1982 labeled child pornography as wholly unprotected expression not covered under the Bill of Rights, and since the child pornography acts, beginning in 1990, increasingly criminalized almost all such depictions of any person appearing to be under 18, even when "real children" were not depicted in drawings and simulations. (This was part of the 1996 law, but the Supreme Court declared that part of the bill unConstitutional. The language has reappeared in the 2006 bill now before Congress.)
Almost the sole exception to the disappearance of erotic depictions of children has been Greer's The Beautiful Boy (Rizolli, 2003). She notes, "At the end of the 20th century, the guilty panic about pedophilia completed the criminalization of awareness of the desires and charms of boys." She took care not to provoke with openly sexual photographs, but she was clear that her purpose was to resurrect the erotic image of the boy, not as pedophilia, but as a reasonable erotic interest of homosexual or heterosexual artists. The response to Greer has been largely positive in the art world, though not without expected attacks in mainstream newspapers and conservative journals in which she is labled a "female pederast" among other things. Greer is Australian and has always been known as one to challenge taboos and court sensational publicity.
A Supreme Court decision (Knox V United States,1993) criminalized photographs of even clothed children, if they could be deemed erotic. Most anti-censorship organizations simply stopped complaining about censorship in cases involving depictions of nude children or erotic situations involving children. These were now deemed beyond the pale of civil liberty. The Parade magazine cover (Feb. 19, 2006) featured the words in large, bold type,"...Every image of a sexually displayed child--be it a photograph, a tape or a DVD--records both the rape of the child and an act against humanity." The feature article from which these words came was by Andrew Vachss, not a child sexuality expert, but a very high-priced lawyer who has successfully sued institutions and individuals in child sex abuse cases. Vachss does not define a "sexually displayed child"--neither in terms of age (a 17 year old is still a child in most jurisdictions and under most laws), nor in terms of what it includes--nudity? nearly nude erotic poses?--but he makes the absolute statement that it is rape and a crime against humanity. Nothing could be more heinous (his word). Who says? Why? Those questions are not asked and may not be asked. To ask them is to risk being accused of complicity with rape and crimes against humanity! Vachss goes on to urge stiffer penalties for mere possession or viewing of a downloaded photograph from the internet--one assumes he means at least life in prison (which is already in force for many such offenses). The utterly evil act becomes the basis for completely scapegoating the utterly evil perpetrator.
The full force of this shunning and scapegoating is aimed at those who can be labeled pedophiles. As the National Center for Reason and Justice, a group that supports those it deems wrongly accused in sex cases, says on its website: "Especially vulnerable have been those accused of sex offenses against children and adolescents. While none of us deny that these crimes occur, those accused nevertheless have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and to receive fair trials. But too often, hysteria reigns and the accused are tried and convicted by the media."
Until the 1980s, the notion that any offender would be forced to register and be tracked--and publicly shamed--for life --went against the American notions of fairness and rehabilitation. "I've done my time" was considered a reasonable statement when prison sentences and parole was completed. In Canada, the Supreme Court has denied police the right to make public the names of registered offenders, since this would thwart the goal of rehabilitation of prisoners. In the United States, the very purpose of the sex offender registry is to make it available to the public. This, and subsequent measures to monitor and restrict sex offenders, have put an end to any idea of rehabilitation for an ever-growing class of former prisoners. Longer and longer sentences and increasing length of parole or probation were not enough to satisfy the sex panic that has gone on uninterrupted from one phase to another since the 1960s.
The first registries appeared in 1990. By 1994, with Megan's law--inspired like many of the other sex offender initiatives by a specific and isolated case of a horrendous murder of a child--federal and state laws required that personal and work addresses and other personal information of sex offenders be made public in various ways--from the internet and television to newspaper ads and billboards. In some states, special auto license tags and signs required at the door posts of offenders were mandated. By 2005, every state had adopted a registry and all but two state were incorporated into the federal registry and tracking system.
As Mark Matthews wrote (Feb. 9) in Stateline.org newsletter, not known for its radical viewpoints, "Sex offenders are a different type of criminal, increasingly punished under a different set of rules. Upon release from prison or parole, they are followed by satellite, showcased on the internet and prohibited from living in certain neighborhoods." Twelve states now require many sex offenders (including those with even the mildest offense against minors) to wear electronic monitoring (GPS) bracelets for life. Bills to this effect are in the legislatures of eleven more states and likely to pass. Special laws have been passed for this special class of human beings in virtually every area of life. These include requirements in one or more states that they stay away from schools and out of parks; denial of the right to work in areas ranging from education and health care to massage therapy and even restaurants which cater to families; denial of post-secondary education; requirements for juvenile offenders that they attend special segregated schools; restrictions on travel, including denial of the right to cross state lines. Eight states now require castration of some sex offenders before they can be released. Florida has passed legislation aimed at making the death penalty more likely if a sex act is involved in a killing, or even in the case of some child rapes where murder is not involved. Louisiana is set to execute the first sex offender in a non-murder case.
Another feature of recently passed or just introduced sex offender laws is to do away with all statutes of limitation, and to force registration and other restrictions on hundreds of thousands of people not now required to register. People who accepted a plea bargain twenty years ago because of a sexual misjudgment, with the assurance their sentence or parole would mean the end of it, now face a life-time of being hounded, shamed and shunned. Their families--that is millions more ordinary, decent human beings--also face the stress and humiliation of these actions, wondering when the police will crash through the door looking for their loved-one. Several states have introduced bills to make it a felony for family members and others, with possible punishment of years in prison, to refuse to reveal the whereabouts of sex offenders.
Adding insult to injury, "children," that is persons under 18, may also be labeled sex offenders, required to register and sometimes face life-long monitoring and various forms of shunning and shaming. One teenage boy committed suicide in Oakland County, Michigan in 2004, when faced with 23-years of being on a public registry, which would include public humiliation at his school. He was convicted of sex with a 14-year-old girl, which was conceded to be non-forced, but violated the state's age of consent laws. Matthew Limon, in Kansas was given 17 years in prison for a consensual blow-job given the week after his 18th birthday to a boy who was almost 15. Limon is also mentally handicapped. Limon's case was overturned and he was let out of prison after serving more than five years because the U.S.Supreme Court ruled the Kansas law which mandated longer sentences for homosexual acts was unConstitutional. He will still have to register for life as a child sex offender. South Carolina Supreme Court justice Costa M. Pleciones opined from the bench that children as young as nine should be subject to life-time registration for sex offenses. Estimates are that more than thirty-five thousand children and adolescents have been convicted of sex offenses and are required to register.
The worst deprivation of rights comes in the form of life-time civil commitment of sex offenders after incarceration. Seventeen states have some version of this measure, and 21 more states are considering it. As of December, 2004, according to researchers at the Washington think-tank that has followed this since Washington passed the first such law in 1990, 3,493 persons were in locked mental facilities or special prisons under civil commitment. As of that date, only 427 of persons ever locked up under these laws had been released. Usually called "Sexually Violent Predator Laws," these almost always include non-violent offenses against persons under the age of consent in that state. In some states, persons accused of various crimes including child pornography, prostitution and even indecent exposure are included as "sexually violent predators." As Mark McHarry wrote in his thorough summary in Z Magazine, November, 2001, civil commitment procedures deprive citizens of virtually all their Constitutional rights: the right to remain silent, to have a lawyer at interrogations, bail, provisions against double jeopardy and ex post facto laws--and many more. The New York Bar Association, challenging Governor Pataki's administrative order in 2005 to move all sex offenders to locked mental facilities upon release, commented, "It cannot be overstated how readily sex civil commitment may be abused."
Sex offenders--especially "pedophiles," in its expanded definition to include anyone who has "offended" against any person under the age of consent-- now effectively 18 everywhere--are purely and simply outcasts, untouchables. No-one wants them in their neighborhood, and virtually no-one will house or employ them. They may be publicly humiliated and vilified, and they are deemed worthy of shunning by an outraged public. Even those suspected of sexual deviancy are likely to be included in the shunning. The Media and politicians of both parties simply have a field day with the new scapegoated categories, and virtually no-one complains.
Formerly progressive alternative media have jumped on the bandwagon. The Free Times in Ohio, for instance, put a photo of an alleged "molester" of teenage boys on its January, 2006 cover, with the drawing of a bloody pen piercing his forehead, and an equally bloody red headline, calling him "Neighborhood Monster." Mainstream media like NBC and the New York Times now run series that would have been found a decade ago only in yellow journalism outlets like the National Inquirer. Debbie Nathan (CounterPunch, February 17, 2006) has thoroughly exposed the shoddy journalism of the Times in its recent expos é of "child prostitution." Slate commentator Jack Shafer noted (Slate.com, Dec.19, 2005) that the article (described above) by Kurt Eichenwald in the Times that same day about Justin, the teenage boy who marketed his own image in sex acts, crossed the line from journalism to advocacy, to outright solicitation of FBI and police involvement. The NBC "Predator" series likewise involves police in sting activity, boasting that it has ensnared more than 50 men in cases where they will be charged with sex crimes involving no real "victims," but media and police plants on internet sites. The NBC reporter, Chris Hansen, makes no pretense of objectivity. "We are dazed, amazed and disgusted," he says, "They're back! The on-line predators." Using terms like "deviates" and "perverts," it is no wonder that the NBC site attracts thousands of blog comments that urge vigilante justice: "Put a bullet in the perp's head," says one. One can hope all this will rather quickly erode public confidence in the media as independent of law enforcement.
Such media coverage has an immediate impact even in the courts. An MSNBC afternoon news summary, which once jokingly called itself "all pedophiles all the time," reports each day on new cases of priests and sex, teachers and sex, and the like. A January, 2006 crusade by this MSNBC program as well as the Fox network, railed against Vermont judge Edward Cashman. Fox's Bill O'Reilly called him the worst judge in America. Cashman had sentenced a child sex offender to sixty days in jail and a treatment program rather than a lengthy prison sentence, where the man would not get treatment. Judge Cashman first insisted, "The Court cannot be swayed by the media or the mob." After days of abuse in the media, which the judge said had deeply distressed him, he reversed his ruling and handed down a sentence of "not less than three years" in prison. Letters to the very liberal Burlington Free Press were almost universal in their sentiment: "Lynch him" (the offender) said one writer.
At testimony on a Maryland bill to require life-time electronic monitoring for almost all sex offenders, a spokesman for the Maryland Public Defenders' Office (quoted in the Washington Post), said, "I did think of 1984. Where are we going with these types of measures? What happens next session?" Speaking about the new Federal Registry list of more than 500,000 sex offenders, which it shares on-line with the public, Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center noted, "It's not difficult to imagine that the government might publish watch lists for other things." Already, Massachusetts is considering laws which would create registries and require electronic monitoring for ALL "dangerous" offenders. Massachusetts would become the first state to expand these measures beyond sex offenders, but it surely will not be the last.
Liberal Democrats, socialists and green party candidates vie with Republicans to "save the innocent children" and "protect our children from monsters." There is clear evidence that these kinds of measures (registration, electronic monitoring, and the like) are not effective. Castration, for instance, has been shown to be wholly incapable of affecting sexual desire. Since most sex offenses take place within the family at the home of the offender, monitoring devices do no good. Public exposure and humiliation of sex offenders is likely to increase, not decrease, shame and guilt, which are likely factors in further offending. Yet politicians of all stripes rush to put forward more and more such draconian restrictions on the hated class of sex offenders and pedophiles. A Baltimore Sun article (Feb. 17, 2006) called anti-sex offender bills "apple pie" that all politicians rush to take credit for.
To paraphrase Janice Irvine in Let's Talk About Sex (U. California Press, 2002), which chronicled the hijacking of sex education in America by right-wing Christians, the "depravity narratives" about sex offenders will rule the day so long as there is a "culture of stigma" on sexual topics, and so long as the "innocent child" model of childhood prevails. "We must reinvent the construct of childhood," Irvine wrote.
In the past, a central feature of the American system of government was supposed to be that it applied to all citizens equally. At least that was the case after the Reconstruction era amendments that assured equal application to former slaves and other people of color, and after the voting rights amendment for women in the 1920s. Now, certain categories simply don't have the same rights--possibly no rights at all. The creep of repression is bound to occur--more and more groups will be demonized and seen as outside the ordinary protections of the law.
As Michael Neumann wrote in CounterPunch, February 13, 2006, in his excellent article on America's 'culture of piety' in its reaction to the Muslim protests against depictions of the Prophet Mohammed:
"The most basic notions of the rule of law -- that you should not be punished for what you cannot help, like the feelings you have, that no-one should be expected to obey laws so vague that the criteria of obedience are mysterious -- were thrown away years ago. They cannot be picked out of the trashcan and held up as shiny Western ideals just because it is now convenient to do so." Neumann urged America to "....go back to judging real crimes by real standards of evidence. It can turn its attention to real, vulgar, observable, concrete human needs -- like decent food, clothing, and shelter."
One day--perhaps fifty or a hundred years from now--it will appear ludicrous that our society was so consumed with anger at this class of scapegoats that it obliterated its fine traditions of liberty and justice in favor of retribution and vengeance. It will seem odd, that American society was obsessed with concern about sexual acts with teenagers even as it pursued a pointless war that killed thousands of teenagers and others on both sides of that war. People will hopefully someday recoil when told that a person convicted in Federal court of making a photograph of a 17 year old masturbating would receive a mandatory sentence of life in prison, yet a person convicted of the (non sexual) murder of that teen would face far less. It will seem incredible that the focus was on sexual deviance rather than on the astronomical rate of murder and other real violence, or the growing gap between rich and poor, and the indelible mark of real poverty on so many children. Until such a day of greater sanity, this scapegoating and shunning of all sex offenders and "pedophiles" will inevitably lead to less freedom and more insecurity for all who might engender the wrath of puritan preachers or stoke the greed of media outlets and pandering politicians. For now, it seems unlikely that even those who traditionally guard our civil liberties or those who traditionally challenge state repression from the left, will dare speak out, lest they, too, be marginalized and shunned.
The writer remains anonymous because he writes and is politically active in several completely unrelated social justice movements. He fears that the shunning and marginalization he describes for those who write about this topic could compromise (unfairly) his other work.
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
AG, governor, prosecutors debate Jessica's Law's reach
By: DON THOMPSON - Associated Press Writer
SACRAMENTO -- Attorneys for the governor, attorney general and local prosecutors said Monday that they cannot agree how to enforce tough new residency restrictions on sex offenders that were approved last year by California voters.
The attorney general's office says the law should apply retroactively to those previously released from prison. The governor and local prosecutors say it should apply only to those released after Proposition 83 was approved in November.
The disagreement arose from a lawsuit filed by attorneys representing sex offenders. Under the initiative commonly known as Jessica's Law, offenders are prohibited from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton of Sacramento delayed a ruling after Monday's hearing because of the disagreement between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Attorney General Jerry Brown and local prosecutors. Attorneys representing those office said they interpret the residency restriction differently for the roughly 90,000 sex offenders who are registered with the state.
County district attorneys and probation departments said the residency restriction should apply only to crimes committed after the measure passed.
Schwarzenegger and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which oversees parolees, said it applies to anyone released from prison or jail after Nov. 8, no matter when the crime occurred. State lawmakers who wrote the initiative also back that interpretation.
The attorney general's office offered yet a third interpretation. Deputy Attorney General Geoffrey Graybill told Karlton the ban should apply if sex offenders now on parole try to move to a new home within the restricted zone.
Karlton disagreed with the attorney general's interpretation. But the judge said he may not have jurisdiction and could send the case to a state judge to sort out the dispute between state officials. He said he would research the matter before issuing a ruling.
"The problem is the attorney general is the only party who takes the position that the statute has some retroactive effect," Karlton said.
Brown argued in court papers filed last month that voters clearly wanted to prohibit sex offenders from living near schools or parks, even if the law can't be applied to offenders who currently live within the restricted zone now.
Letting offenders move freely within that 2,000-foot zone "would permit tens of thousands of convicted sex offenders to avoid (Proposition 83's) residency restrictions altogether," the attorney general's office argued.
The Sacramento case is one of two lawsuits asking federal judges to interpret Proposition 83.
A day after voters approved the measure, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco temporarily blocked the 2,000-foot residency requirement from applying to currently registered sex offenders who are not on parole or probation. The Sacramento case seeks to expand that ruling to offenders who currently are parolees or on probation.
Jessica's Law also increases prison terms for sex offenders and requires lifetime satellite tracking for rapists, child molesters and other felony sex criminals after their release from prison.
Atty. Gen. Brown clarifies limits on sex offenders' housing
January 17, 2007
SACRAMENTO — Offering his first legal appraisal of California's voter-approved crackdown on sex offenders, Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown said Tuesday that the new law bars all offenders from moving near a park or school regardless of when they committed their crime.
The argument was outlined by deputies for the newly elected Brown in papers filed with U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White. The judge is considering a constitutional challenge to the law, Proposition 83, and has set a hearing for Feb. 23.
The measure, passed by voters in November, increases penalties for many sex crimes and prohibits offenders from moving within 2,000 feet of a park or school. A day after its passage, a former sex offender in the Bay Area sued, contending the law is unconstitutional because it would impose new punishment on him.
John Doe also says the initiative's 2,000-foot limit would effectively banish him from the community where he has lived for more than 20 years and make most urban areas of California off-limits to him.
In her brief Tuesday, Deputy Atty. Gen. Teri L. Block said the law does not require any former offender living within the 2,000-foot zone when the measure passed to relocate. But if they choose to move, Block argued, they would be subject to the residency limit.
Dennis Riordan, the lawyer for John Doe, called that position "completely irrational and senseless."
"This is a political document," he said of the brief. "It is legally and logically indefensible."
Jessica's Law triggers mess for state
OVER 70 percent of California voters backed Proposition 83, "Jessica's Law." And, as in Iowa before it, the legislation has engulfed the state in a legal morass. Does it apply retroactively? Was it framed honestly and precisely? Is it even constitutional?
It's unlikely that most busy citizens who punched "yes" had closely explored Proposition 83's paradoxes and knots. They only saw its bare-bones title, "Sexual Predator Punishment and Control Act" - a red flag raised in the name of kids - and immediately saluted.
But voters had little way of knowing that Proposition 83's authors, state Sen. George Runner and his wife, Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster, had fleshed it out with a patchwork design that might be termed "Frankenstein's Measure."
And so on the morning of Nov. 8 - immediately after Election Day - U.S. District Judge Susan Illston placed a restraining order on the measure, deeming it "punitive by design and effect." Illston found that Proposition 83 was likely unconstitutional, as its requirement that sex offenders live at least 2,000 feet away from parks and schools apparently covered even those who committed their crimes before the initiative was on the books.
Sen. Runner insisted the law was not retroactive - inapplicable to 90,000 ex-convicts. Yet his campaign message was "kids shouldn't have to walk by a sex offender's home on the way to school." To which Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, replied, "So now they're saying it's only the sex offenders released in the future we have to worry about, not those among us ... If I were a voter who supported this, I'd be angry and confused."
On Nov. 15, state Attorney General Bill Lockyer urged the lawsuit's dismissal because the measure contained no punishment or imprisonment for violation of its residency restrictions. But if that's the case, then just what does the initiative actually do?
Back in court on Nov. 27, Lockyer then re-reinterpreted Proposition 83: Offenders already living in prohibited zones can stay, but must comply with the law if they move. Another judge, Jeffrey White, said he was feeling "a little bit ambushed" due to this "completely new and different position," and extended the injunction until Feb. 23.
So the Runners have run a U-turn, while Lockyer has produced a gridlock. And by the Feb. 23 hearing, Jerry Brown will have taken over as attorney general. Will he reinterpret the triple-interpretation?
Further, two more legal challenges have since been filed against Proposition 83. One also disputes the measure's distance restriction, while another challenges its mandatory GPS monitoring for released sex offenders. It's been estimated that all the loose ends in Proposition 83's tangled tapestry won't be tied up for three years - if even then.
Meanwhile, let's briefly inspect the document upon which this brouhaha is based. Not surprisingly, it begins with a lie.
Or to be kinder, call it cherry-picking - statistical fudging to push a falsity. Section 2(b) of Proposition 83 states in part: "Sex offenders have very high recidivism rates. According to a 1998 report by the U.S. Department of Justice, sex offenders are the least likely to be cured and the most likely to re-offend."
In fact, that very study of 272,111 ex-convicts finds a 5.3 percent rearrest rate for child victimizers during their first three years after release - compared with 68 percent recidivism for other criminals. Only murderers come in lower at 1.2 percent.
As for recovery assessments, Dr. Karl Hanson's multistudy analysis of 31,000 sex offenders found therapy effective for 41 percent of the subjects. Three other large treatment studies ranged from 31 percent to 59 percent decreases in recidivism. This is "incurable"?
Proposition 83 also extends to all sex offenders - regardless of the victims' ages. The law can thus apply even to "Romeo and Juliet" cases of consenting teens who yielded to their roaring hormones, or to exhibitionists, peeping Toms, and other relatively harmless types.
We must move on more sensibly toward resolving the public-health issue of childhood sexual abuse. That means ensuring consistent, intensive, and well-regulated treatment programs for offenders - the only path to helping many kids avoid trauma and spurring their journey to productive futures. It's a far better route than our rocky Proposition 83.
Betty Schneider is a member of the California Coalition on Sexual Offending, as well as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Contact her through her Web site, www.therapy-key.com.
New stance on sex-offender law
The state abruptly altered its interpretation Monday of the meaning of a voter-approved law that restricts where sex criminals may live, telling a federal judge that the law would bar any of California's more than 90,000 registered sex offenders from moving to a home within 2,000 feet of a park or school.
Less than two weeks ago, Attorney General Bill Lockyer's office said in a written filing -- the state's first official interpretation of Proposition 83 -- that the initiative would not apply retroactively. Although Lockyer did not spell out his meaning, his language implied that those already registered with the state as sex offenders would not be covered by the residency restriction, Prop. 83's most far-reaching provision.
But on Monday, the Lockyer deputy who had signed the earlier brief argued in a San Francisco courtroom that the measure indeed would cover now-registered offenders -- not by forcing them out of their homes but by limiting where they could relocate if they decided to move.
"We're not changing our position,'' said Deputy Attorney General Teri Block. Under the state's interpretation, she said, Prop. 83 "is not going to apply retroactively, except to the extent that a new residency is established.''
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White expressed both surprise and irritation, telling Block he felt "a little bit ambushed'' by the attorney general's latest interpretation. He scheduled a hearing for Feb. 23 on whether the new law, as construed by the state, would violate the constitutional ban on retroactive punishment.
White ordered the state's next written submission to be filed in January after Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown is sworn in as attorney general, succeeding Lockyer, who was elected state treasurer Nov. 7. Brown should have "a chance to ratify the state's position,'' the judge said.
In the meantime, White extended an order that prohibits authorities from enforcing Prop. 83's residency requirements. The order was imposed in response to a lawsuit by a local man who said the initiative could lead to his eviction and prevent him from finding another home anywhere in the area.
The initiative, approved by 70 percent of the voters Nov. 7, barred any registered sex offender from living within 2,000 feet of a park or school and required felony sex offenders who had served time in prison to carry global positioning devices with them for the rest of their lives so authorities could locate them. A federal judge in Sacramento is hearing a separate challenge to the global positioning requirement.
Prop. 83 tightened the state's previous residency restrictions, which had applied only to convicted child molesters and not to people convicted of other sex crimes such as rape. It also expanded the zone that was off-limits to offenders, which had been either 1,320 or 2,640 feet from a school, depending on the crime, and did not apply to parks.
But the measure did not spell out whether, or how, the new limitations would apply to people who were already registered with the state as sex offenders.
State law requires anyone convicted of a sex crime to register with local police once a year and also after any change of address. State parole officials have warned that applying the residency restrictions to tens of thousands of currently registered offenders could prompt many of them to drop out of sight when they failed to find new housing.
The day after Prop. 83 passed, it was challenged in court by a Bay Area man identified only as John Doe. He said he pleaded no contest to a sex crime more than 15 years ago, had served his sentence and had completed treatment. He argued that the 2,000-foot limit effectively would banish him and his wife from the community where he has lived for more than 20 years and would exclude him from most urban areas in California.
Another federal judge found that the plaintiff was likely to succeed in his constitutional challenge and issued a temporary restraining order protecting him from being evicted. Lockyer's office then filed papers Nov. 15 saying the suit should be dismissed because the proposition did not apply to John Doe.
Lockyer's brief, which provided official guidance for state agencies and local prosecutors on the meaning of the new law, said Prop. 83 contained no language applying it retroactively and therefore must be interpreted to cover only cases that arise in the future.
The retroactivity issue is critical to the lawsuit, because the U.S. Constitution prohibits increasing punishment after the fact. If White finds that the state is trying to apply Prop. 83 retroactively, he must decide whether the residency restriction would add to the punishment imposed on John Doe and other currently registered sex offenders or whether it is primarily a public safety measure that can legally be applied to them.
Nathan Barankin, a spokesman for Lockyer, said Monday that restricting where John Doe could live if he decided to move would not amount to applying Prop. 83 retroactively. By changing his residence, John Doe would be "taking an action after the law was enacted,'' Barankin said.
But John Doe's lawyer, Dennis Riordan, said the usual definition of
a retroactive law is one that applies to a crime committed before the law
was passed. By that standard, he said, any application of Prop. 83 to someone
who committed a crime on or before Nov. 7 would be retroactive and constitutionally
What the state said Nov. 15: Proposition 83's residency restrictions,
which prohibit registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of
a park or school, were not intended to apply retroactively to evict a Bay
Area man from his home.
E-mail Bob Egelko at email@example.com .
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 firstname.lastname@example.org .
Transient status for offenders opposed
Tracking of sexual predators at issue
LAKESIDE – Convicted rapist Matt Lyon Williams raised hackles in Lakeside last month by registering as a “transient” after spending 20 years in prison or mental hospitals.
Williams, 50, was arrested Nov. 8 while driving a car near Grossmont Center mall on suspicion of having lied about his address. He had been free 19 days.
He claimed to be living under a bridge, but authorities believe he actually was living in a nearby home.
That claim may send Williams back to prison for life as well as help tighten restrictions on other convicted sex offenders after their release.
Williams is being held without bail and has a hearing tomorrow in San Diego Superior Court.
State Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Murrieta, reacted to concerns from Lakeside residents by announcing plans for legislation that would prohibit some convicted sex offenders from living as transients.
Hollingsworth's proposal would affect offenders who have ever been classified, like Williams, as “sexually violent predators.”
It also would affect “high risk” sex offenders, allowing them to register as transients with two conditions: They must re-register every five days and wear a GPS monitoring device for life.
Officials said it is not clear how many offenders would be affected by Hollingsworth's proposal, but some say it could be thousands statewide.
Williams was among 159 registered sex offenders countywide who had registered as transients as of Tuesday, among nearly 4,000 registered sex offenders in San Diego County, said Deputy District Attorney Phyllis Shess.
Shess said one other offender formerly classified as a sexually violent predator in San Diego County was registered as transient: Karl Fairman, 46, of San Diego.
Statewide in November, 2,111 registered sex offenders were living as transients, Shess said. They are among 63,000 male and female offenders whose names and photographs are featured on an Internet site accessible to the public: http://www.arjis.org/ Megan's Law section.
Hollingsworth's proposal was criticized last week by attorney Steven Rease of Carmel on behalf of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, a group of 2,500 criminal defense attorneys.
Rease said the senator's plan is flawed because it was “trying to criminalize transiency.” If approved, he predicted it would drive such offenders underground and make it harder for law enforcement to find them.
Rease also criticized the requirement to have some offenders register every five days, saying that would be tough on law enforcement and offenders, particularly on those who have found a job.
He said the cost would be enormous to require GPS monitoring of potentially thousands of offenders for life.
“There's no body of evidence showing that (GPS monitoring) reduces crime,” Rease said. “Most sex offenses occur within the home, which is where the offender is allowed to be.”
Williams sparked his latest troubles by writing that he planned to live under a bridge near the Winter Gardens Boulevard overpass on state Route 67 in Lakeside.
The Sheriff's Department relayed Williams' plan to the public Oct. 24, after Williams' release Oct. 21 from the Coalinga State Hospital. The 1,500-bed mental hospital is 60 miles southwest of Fresno.
Authorities spent a week trying to verify his whereabouts, eventually tracking him to a residence. Williams then was arrested Nov. 8, while driving near the Grossmont mall.
Shess said the District Attorney's Office would recommend Williams be sentenced to 25 years to life for two offenses: failing to provide authorities with his address, a house on Winter Gardens Boulevard near Pepper Drive; and failing to report having a car.
Describing Williams as a “four-striker,” Shess said he has earned a life sentence.
“When a serious criminal is released into the county and he immediately begins breaking the law, that raises red flags for public safety,” she said.
Williams' first conviction was in 1975 for robbing an El Cajon man. Williams, then 19, served 27 months with the California Youth Authority.
At 26, while married and working as an antennae installer in La Mesa, Williams was arrested for sexual assault. A month later, he pleaded guilty to raping a La Mesa woman in August 1982 and sexually assaulting a San Diego woman in April 1983. He was sentenced to 29 years, serving 16 before his release in May 1999.
Williams violated parole for an undisclosed act in December 2001, Shess said, and was returned to prison in May 2002 and soon afterward was designated a sexually violent predator.
Six months later, Williams was discharged from prison and sent to the Coalinga state mental hospital. He was released “unconditionally” from the hospital Oct. 21, after a judge determined he no longer posed a threat to society.
Kari Johnson, 38, a mother of two, was among several Lakeside residents who raised concerns about Williams and his status as a transient shortly before his arrest.
“As a parent, I am concerned about my daughters and myself. I have a 10-year-old and a 5-year-old,” Johnson said Nov. 3.
“If I knew his address, I could see where he lives in proximity to myself and make sure that neither I nor my children go in that area. I hope I never run into him.”
Mark Arner: (619) 542-4556; email@example.com
On September 8, 2008, the California Office of Administrative Law issued 2008 OAL Determination 24. This determination finds that the Department of Mental Health, Coalinga State Hospital, Administrative Directive 624 is an underground regulation. AD-624 is the regulation governing Patient Mail. It essentially governs what types of mail and packages patients may receive.
2008 OAL Determination 23
A pdf file of determination 2008 OAL Determination 24
Legal News - Defense for SVP
Legal Issues & Court Cases Affecting Sex Offenders
Giles v. California
U.S. vs. Comstock
Atascadero State Hospital
Coalinga State Hospital
Three Strikes Legal - Index