January 31, 2008

Senators Seeking Emergency Funding

1-31-2008 National

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday vowed to seek a major funding boost for a local law enforcement grant program that President Bush has long targeted for elimination.

Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Christopher S. Bond, R-Mo., both senior members of the Appropriations Committee, said they would seek to provide $660 million in Byrne grants for local law enforcement, prosecution and court programs in an emergency war spending bill for fiscal 2008 expected to be considered in the next few months.

The grants, established in a 1988 anti-drug law, are named for Edward Byrne, a New York City police officer who was killed in the line of duty in 1988.

In his fiscal 2009 budget request, Bush is expected to propose significant cuts to Byrne grants and other local law enforcement programs, including the Clinton-era Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS. Some conservatives have criticized COPS, saying it takes away federal dollars from homeland security operations.

Lawmakers in both parties have routinely resisted Bush’s attempts to slash funding for the politically popular programs. In recent years, the result has been more funding for them than Bush wanted, but less than Congress sought. ..more..

Read More of Article...

Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI)

The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is one of the most frequently used personality tests in the mental health fields.[1] This assessment, or test, was designed to help identify personal, social, and behavioral problems in psychiatric patients. The test helps provide relevant information to aid in problem identification, diagnosis, and treatment planning for the patient. ..more..

Read More of Article...

January 30, 2008

I still think it was a banana: Memorable ‘lies’ and forgettable ‘truths’

June 2007

Interpersonal influences on cognition can distort memory judgements. Two experiments examined the nature of these ‘social’ influences, and whether their persistence is independent of their accuracy. Experiment 1 found that a confederate’s social proximity, as well as the content and the confidence of their utterances, interactively modulates participants’ immediate conformity. Notably, errant confederate statements that ‘lied’ about encoded material had a particularly strong immediate distorting influence on memory judgements. Experiment 2 revealed that these ‘lies’ were also memorable, continuing a day later to impair memory accuracy, while accurate confederate statements failed to produce a corresponding and lasting beneficial effect on memory. These findings suggest that an individual’s ‘informational’ social influence can be selectively heightened when they express misinformation to someone who suspects no deceptive intent. The methods newly introduced here thus allow multiple social and cognitive factors impinging on memory accuracy to be manipulated and examined during realistic, precisely controlled dyadic social interactions. ..more.. by Kevin Allana -and- Fiona Gabbert

Read More of Article...

Keeping Predators Away From ‘Spacebook’

QUOTE: O.K., well, Mr. Lentol, a Brooklyn Democrat, did admit he was out of his depth. “When we were young, things were different. And we need to pass legislation that reflects today’s world, not yesterday’s world,” he continued. “Old geezers like me have no clue about the Internet and all of its intricacies.” Why allow these people to make laws when they do not know what they are doing?

1-30-2008 New York:

In a bipartisan effort to keep sexual predators from trolling social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, lawmakers have drafted a bill that would track the e-mail addresses of serious sex offenders and restrict their use of the Internet.

The bill was announced this afternoon and promised a bridging of the technological gap between young and old. “We have to admit that life is different than when we were growing up,” said Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol. “We have to have educational programs so that parents know about MySpace and Spacebook and…”

Uh, did he just say “Spacebook?”

O.K., well, Mr. Lentol, a Brooklyn Democrat, did admit he was out of his depth. “When we were young, things were different. And we need to pass legislation that reflects today’s world, not yesterday’s world,” he continued. “Old geezers like me have no clue about the Internet and all of its intricacies.”

The bill was introduced at a news conference hosted by Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo; the State Senate majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno; and the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver. State Senator Dale M. Volker, a Republican from western New York, is the sponsor of the bill, which has the strong support of Mr. Silver and Mr. Bruno.

The initiative behind the bill is called the Electronic Security and Targeting of Online Predators Act or E-Stop. The legislation restricts certain sex offenders’ (high risk Level 3 offenders defined as those offenders with a “high risk to commit another sex crime) use of the Internet, updating Megan’s Law “for the Internet age.”

E-Stop would require sex offenders to register any and all email accounts and Internet identifiers used in instant messaging, chatting and other forms of Internet communication and social networking with the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services just as they would register their home addresses. If the said offender creates an email address and doesn’t tell the authorities with 10 days of its creation, he or she is violating the law, Mr. Cuomo said, and could be hit with a violation of their parole or probation.

The bill also gives the division of criminal justice services to pass along the email addresses and identifiers of some sex offenders to the networking sites (so far MySpace and Facebook have committed to working with New York) so that they can remove any sex offenders that have registered their emails with the sites. MySpace and Facebook officials support the bill and said that they would notify law enforcement of any sex offenders they catch using their site’s services.

“We avoid letting our children go to the playground, now. We avoid the opportunity for them to walk to school alone and not have some protection, or go to the mall alone. Yet our children are as much at risk in our own homes as they are anywhere, on our computers,” Mr. Lentol said. “We have to get up to snuff.”

Call it Law 2.0? ..more.. by Trymaine Lee

Read More of Article...

Bill Would Bar Sex Offenders From Facebook and MySpace

This bill shows how ignorant lawmakers are about the Internet. Already MySpace checks RSOs names and addresses to the National SO registry, so if a New York RSO is registered he will be removed without this law. Lawmakers are in areas they know nothing about and they have no vision to see how ignorant they are, unless their real goal is, it sounds good so lets do it!

1-30-2008 New York:

ALBANY — Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo and state lawmakers, with the backing of the social networking sites MySpace and Facebook, are pushing a bill that would crack down on sex offenders’ use of the sites.

The law would require all registered sex offenders to submit any e-mail addresses and other Internet identifiers, such as screen names used for instant messaging, to the State Division of Criminal Justice Services within 10 days of their creation, just as with their home addresses.

Offenders who fail to do so would be violating their parole or probation, Mr. Cuomo said.

Under the bill, Level 3 sex offenders, whom the state considers the most dangerous and most likely to commit another sex crime, and sex offenders who used the Internet to commit sex crimes or who committed crimes against minors would be barred from social networking sites. Such offenders would also be barred from communicating online with children.

Lower-level sex offenders and sex offenders who did not use the Internet in their crimes would not be barred from the sites under the bill. MySpace and Facebook said, however, they would bar them anyway.

The bill also would allow the state to share the e-mail addresses with sites like Facebook and MySpace. Officials with both companies have agreed to check their databases against the lists provided by the state. If the addresses match, the companies said that they would terminate the users’ accounts and alert the authorities. When setting up accounts with the sites, users must submit valid e-mail addresses.

Mr. Cuomo, along with the Senate majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and other lawmakers, unveiled the bill on Tuesday. “This will take us to the next level,” said Mr. Cuomo, who applauded the bipartisan support for the bill. “It’s not just a conceptual agreement we have. There is a specific bill that is written.”

“We have to admit that life is different than when we were growing up,” said Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol, a Democrat from Brooklyn and a supporter of the bill. “We avoid letting our children go to the playground now. We avoid the opportunity for them to walk to school alone and not have some protection, or go to the mall alone. Yet our children are as much at risk in our own homes as they are anywhere — on our computers.”

Mr. Cuomo said that he did not believe that the bill, in tracking sex offenders and possibly restricting their Internet access, would violate their rights.

In May, MySpace implemented a program to find the profiles of any registered sex offenders on the site and remove them, said Hemanshu Nigam, the chief security officer for the company. ..more.. by TRYMAINE LEE

Read More of Article...

January 29, 2008

New Bill: Take the 'P' out of pervert

Urinating in public would cop a fine, not sex offender rap
1-29-2008 New Hampshire:

CONCORD — The New Hampshire Legislature is set to review a bill (HB 1294) that aims to fix a loophole that allows individuals who urinate in public to be placed on the state's sex offender registry.

According to the measure's primary sponsor, Rep. Stephen Shurtleff of Merrimack, the bill would separate public urination and defecation from the indecent exposure provision, elements that heretofore have been prosecuted together under state law. Under the proposed law, relieving oneself in public would move into the realm of a violation punishable by a fine.

Shurtleff said the bill became necessary in his eyes because New Hampshire is changing its sexual predator laws to move into compliance with federal law. If the bill does not pass, he said public-urination offenders could end up on the non-public sex offender registry if convicted twice in a three-year period.

"It's about keeping people off the registry that really shouldn't be on it. For example, you have some homeless people with varying degrees of mental problems who might (urinate or defecate in public) and it's not a sexual offense," Shurtleff said. "There's a stigma attached with the indecent exposure connection."

Portsmouth Police Chief Michael Magnant said Portsmouth doesn't use the state law on lewdness or indecent exposure when someone who urinates in public is apprehended, instead citing them for a violation of a city ordinance. He noted that the state law requires that those making use of the street as a bathroom have to have caused public alarm to be convicted under the heading of indecent exposure.

"That adds an extra element that we have to prove in court," Magnant said.

The chief said the Portsmouth Police Department monitors sex offenders closely and keeps track of where they are living. Partly because of the work involved in that, he echoed Shurtleff's view that the registry needs to be kept free of offenders who do not deserve the label.

"If you start to clutter that list, you're putting strain on a department," Magnant said.

Shurtleff said that, thus far, the bill has seen no opposition in the Legislature. He said he expects it to go up for debate on the floor in less than a month. ..more.. by Dave Choate

Read More of Article...

New sex predator law faces another round of challenges

Lawyer for convicts says it's oppressive
1-28-2008 New Hampshire:

Defense lawyers renewed their constitutional challenges to the state's new sexual predator law yesterday, this time in an effort to free two convicted child molesters who state officials say are dangerous enough to remain confined - even though they've each served their maximum prison sentence.

"New Hampshire has produced one of the most oppressive laws of this type in the United States," public defender Mark Larsen told a judge in Hillsborough County Superior Court.

The new law, which allows the state to confine dangerous sex offenders beyond their prison sentences for five years of treatment, went into effect more than a year ago. But it remains largely untested in court because the first cases brought were dropped or dismissed before they had gotten very far.

One of those cases involved convicted rapist William DeCato of Pembroke. Larsen raised a series of constitutional challenges in that case in May, but prosecutors dropped their case against DeCato before the judge could rule. DeCato was freed this spring.

Now Larsen and his office are defending the only other men charged so far under the new law.

Thomas Hurley, 48, recently finished two 7½- to 15-year prison sentences for raping a 10-year-old boy in Hillsborough County in 1986. While serving his sentence, Hurley repeatedly requested sex offender treatment and once even asked about castration, according to court records. Prison officials told Hurley they didn't believe he was sincere about completing the sex offender treatment program, the records said.

The other man is William Ploof, 48, who recently finished a 10-year-sentence for sexually assaulting an 11-year-old boy in 1993 and again in 1996 when the boy was 13. According to the state's recent petition to keep Ploof for treatment, Ploof has claimed between 20 and 50 other victims and scored high on a test that estimates a person's potential to reoffend.

Both men remain at the state prison, in the Secure Psychiatric Unit, pending the outcome of their current cases. If Hillsborough County prosecutors convince a judge or jury, which ever the men choose, that they suffer from a mental abnormality and are likely to reoffend, they will be held for up to five years for treatment. If they are considered still dangerous after the first five years, they can be reconfined for another five years.

Yesterday, Larsen said the new law is unconstitutional on several grounds:

• Hurley and Ploof participated in sexual offender or mental health treatment in prison believing their conversations with counselors would always be confidential. The new law, however, allows prosecutors to use those treatment records against Hurley and Ploof even though they could not have never have anticipated that possibility.

"This is a striking and disturbing change under the law in New Hampshire," Larsen said.

• The new law is described as a treatment program but it's really another punishment for past offenses Hurley and Ploof have already answered for, Larsen said. As evidence, Larsen said the five-year commitment period is as long as a felony sentence. There's no promise an offender can get back into court before that five-year period if he is no longer dangerous. Treatment is not explicitly required in the law. And anyone held will be held with inmates at the prison, even though they are no longer an inmate.

"All of these things, individually may not be so much a problem," Larsen said. "But together, they are oppressive and penal."

• The law, Larsen said, is really another way to commit the mentally ill. Offenders must suffer from a mental abnormality and remain dangerous, but the term "mentally ill" is not sufficiently defined, he said. There are already laws to commit the mentally ill that are more humane, Larsen said.

Michael Valentine, a Hillsborough County prosecutor who is handling Hurley's case, disputed each of Larsen's points yesterday.

• He said New Hampshire's civil commitment law is not excessively worse than those in other states. It falls in the middle, he said.

• The five-year commitment is not unreasonably long, he said. The state's other civil commitment law for those not convicted of sexually violent offenses also carries a five-year term. Although there is a different process for reviewing the person's mental health.

• The Legislature did not create this law simply as another way to confine the mentally ill. People are eligible to be held under the sexual predator law only if they suffer a mental abnormality and remain dangerous and likely to reoffend. That distinguishes violent sexual predators from the other mentally ill who are committed after being found insane or for other reasons.

• Valentine said the law is not unfairly retroactive. Hurley and Ploof have served their prison sentences for their past crimes. But because the state believes they remain dangerous today, that is a current and new condition, Valentine said.

Valentine quoted a past United States Supreme Court decision issued following an appeal of another state's sexual offender law.

"The liberty secured by the Constitution of the United States to every person within its jurisdiction does not import an absolute right in each person to be at all times and in all circumstances, wholly free from restraint.

"On any other basis, organized society could not exist with safety to its members. Accordingly, states have in certain narrow circumstances provided for the forcible civil detainment of people who are unable to control their behavior and who thereby pose a danger to the public health and safety."

Judge Gillian Abramson did not immediately rule on Larsen's arguments yesterday. Hurley is tentatively scheduled to stand trial first, in April. ..more.. by ANNMARIE TIMMINS

Read More of Article...

Underreporting Clouds Attempt to Count Repeat Sex Offenders

1-28-2008 National:

Conventional wisdom says people released after serving time for sex crimes are likely to strike again. The numbers aren't as certain.

Among convicted criminals released from prison, sex offenders released from prison are less likely to be arrested for any new crime than most other offenders, with the notable exception of murderers, researchers say. Child molesters' rate of recidivism is at least as low as the group of sex offenders taken as a whole. Abusers of children within their own family have a lower rate still.

The observed rate of sexual offenders' recidivism is much lower than commonly believed," says R. Karl Hanson, senior research officer at Public Safety Canada, who has studied the issue for decades. When he speaks to groups, including police officers or therapists, and asks them to estimate the observed rate of sex-crime re-offense, he typically hears numbers such as 70% to 90%. But his review of available research in Canada and the U.S. finds the typical rate is 25% to 30% over 20 years.

One reason for the numerical confusion may be that supporters of sex-offender registries who say sex offenders are more likely than not to re-offend are considering the rate of repeat sex offenses of sex criminals compared with the rate of sex offenses of prisoners released for other crimes. Sex criminals are less likely to be arrested for another crime of any type, but they commit more sex crimes than other groups of criminals. See note below for reason why this is not true. (In general, criminals are more likely to commit crimes in their category than are criminals from other categories.)

Note: The Dep't of Justice found that, the group -previously convicted sex offenders- upon release from prison committed more sex offenses, than any other single GROUP of offenders (robbers or car thieves or murders etc). However, -previously convicted sex offenders- committed fewer sex crimes than the sum of ALL OTHER GROUPS of offenders. A significant difference.

All these numbers need to be approached with some skepticism. There also are time limitations to many of the studies, which typically stop tracking the rate of repeat offenses after just three to five years. Pooling all sex crimes together also muddles the picture, as different types of criminals -- say, rapists, child molesters, exhibitionists -- show very different behavior after release from prison. And looming over all of this is the unknown of what proportion of sex crimes go unreported -- particularly within families, a major source of child sexual abuse.

Tracking outcomes for years after release is expensive and slow to show results. The Bureau of Justice Statistics has the most thorough recent U.S. study, covering more than 9,000 male sex offenders released in 15 states in 1994. The study found that sex criminals were less likely to be reconvicted over the following three years than the group of all released prisoners -- 24% compared with 47%. Child molesters had a lower rate, of 20.4%.

The study hasn't been updated, says co-author Matthew Durose, a statistician with the bureau, because "given the time required to collect criminal history information from offenders, it's not something that can be done on a more regular basis." As a result, there are little data measuring the effect of the past decade's spate of state measures, such as sex-offender registries and laws keeping convicted sex offenders a certain distance from schools.

Also, a short period of follow-up -- such as the three years of the U.S. government study -- is especially susceptible to unreported crimes, Dr. Hanson says.

Counting crimes that go unreported is, of course, paradoxical. One approach is to extrapolate a true crime rate from victimization surveys and compare that with reported crime, typically finding that roughly 90% of sex crimes go unreported. Some put the estimate even higher.

Allison Taylor, executive director of the Texas Council on Sex Offender Treatment, says underreporting is especially prevalent with sexual assault within a family.

At the core of this numbers controversy, as with many others, lies a debate over definitions. "One of the main problems with recidivism studies is that all studies measure it differently and define it differently," says Karen J. Terry, a criminologist at John Jay College in New York.

One long-term study of sex offenders from Canada measured recidivism seven ways. The highest rate, 88.3%, included prior, undetected sexual offenses confessed by first-time convicts. "But you don't know what the effect is going to be of getting caught," Prof. Terry notes.

Most researchers agree crimes committed after a first brush with law enforcement count as recidivism, detected or not. But Ohio Northern University criminologist Keith Durkin points to anonymous surveys in which sex offenders admit to as many undetected offenses as the number for which they have been caught. He views 50% as a conservative estimate for recidivism.

The debate over an all-encompassing number obscures the wide variance in different people's risk of repeating sex crimes, depending on the nature of their first crime and other factors. Young, violent offenders who suffer from mental illness, use alcohol or drugs and target very young victims outside their family pose the biggest risk.

Several states, including Texas, analyze their released sex offenders using actuarial tools to determine who is in greatest need of follow-up. "What we really want to identify is the 10% of the sexual-offense population that is truly predatory," says Ms. Taylor of the Texas sex-offender treatment agency. ..more.. by CARL BIALIK

Read More of Article...

Offense History and Recidivism in Three Victim-age-based Groups of Juvenile Sex Offenders

December 2007:

This study compared subgroups of juvenile sex offenders (JSOs) who victimized children (child offenders), peers (peer offenders), or both children and peers (mixed offenders) on sexual and nonsexual offense history, treatment outcomes, and recidivism to determine if these are distinct and valid subgroups. Though the group of mixed offenders was small, results showed that they exhibited a more diverse and more physically intrusive sexual offense history than the other JSOs and were less likely to successfully complete treatment. Sexual and nonsexual recidivism rates of mixed offenders did not differ from the other subgroups despite subgroup differences in juvenile sexual and nonsexual criminal records. However, differences in sexual recidivism rates of child versus peer offenders were found when the mixed offenders were either excluded from the sample or combined with child offenders. The results highlight the need to include mixed offenders in future research examining the etiology of sexual offending, treatment, and recidivism of JSOs. ..more.. by Therese Skubic Kemper and Janet A. Kistner

Read More of Article...

Generation XXX: Pornography Acceptance and Use Among Emerging Adults.

January 2008:

This study examined correlates of pornography acceptance and use within a normative (nonclinical) population of emerging adults (individuals aged 18—26). Participants included 813 university students (500 women; M age = 20 years) recruited from six college sites across the United States. Participants completed online questionnaires regarding their acceptance and use of pornography, as well as their sexual values and activity, substance use, and family formation values. Results revealed that roughly two thirds (67% ) of young men and one half (49%) of young women agree that viewing pornography is acceptable, whereas nearly 9 out of 10 (87%) young men and nearly one third (31%) of young women reported using pornography. Results also revealed associations between pornography acceptance and use and emerging adults' risky sexual attitudes and behaviors, substance use patterns, and nonmarital cohabitation values. The discussion considers the implications of pornography use during the transition to adulthood. ..more.. by Jason S. Carroll, Laura M. Padilla-Walker, Larry J. Nelson, Chad D. Olson, Carolyn McNamara Barry, Stephanie D. Madsen

Read More of Article...

Evaluation for Civil Commitment of Sex Offenders: A Survey of Experts

December 2007:

At this study’s commencement, 17 states had enacted sex offender civil commitment legislation. Although each statute outlines broad criteria that must be met, civil commitment evaluators are given considerable latitude in how to conduct their assessment. Forty-one experts who conduct sex offender civil commitment evaluations were surveyed to identify the usual practice of these evaluators. A great deal of agreement exists across experts regarding the conduct of sex offender civil commitment evaluations. However, these patterns appear quite different from the usual practice outlined in other types of forensic evaluations. Experts in sex offender civil commitment endorsed documentation as the core method for evaluation. The majority of evaluators reported the assessment of paraphilias, substance abuse, other Axis I disorders, Axis II disorders, and psychopathy as essential to the evaluation. Virtually all survey respondents utilized actuarial risk assessment measures, primarily the Static-99, in assessing for risk of future sexual violence. Although several approaches to assessing volitional impairment were described, the majority of respondents reported that a history of sex offending combined with a personality disorder or a paraphilia established the necessary link between mental abnormality and risk of future sexual violence. An overwhelming majority of experts indicated that it was essential for evaluators to report their ultimate opinion as to whether criteria had been met for civil commitment. Future research regarding the use and incorporation of documentation should be conducted to determine whether the heavy reliance on documentation is unique to sex offender civil commitment evaluations, or whether it is commonly used in other forensic evaluations. ..more.. by Rebecca L. Jackson -and- Derek T. Hess

Note: The Static-99 has been recently questioned.

Read More of Article...

January 28, 2008

Lawsuit challenges sex registry

1-28-2008 Ohio:

A local legal watchdog group has filed a class action lawsuit saying Ohio’s new requirements forcing thousands of sex offenders to register their names and addresses on a public registry for longer than originally told is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit, filed in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court by the Ohio Justice and Policy Center on behalf of convicted sex offender Jerome Sewell and another unnamed female sex offender, seeks to stop the reclassification.

Last year state lawmakers passed the Adam Walsh Child Protection Act, a law all states are being asked to implement in a national effort to standardize sex offender registries. The idea behind it is to make communities safer, a premise critics have attacked as false.

The law means as of Jan.1 nearly one third of the state’s 25,000 sex offenders now have to register longer than they had previously thought and in many cases more often.

At least 250 sex offenders in Hamilton County have filed individual complaints. The lawsuit seeks to make a single claim on behalf of all Hamilton County sex offenders.

The case will be heard next month by Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Ethna Cooper.

“The law makes no sense,” said Margie Slagle, Ohio Justice and Policy Center staff attorney. “Labeling thousands as ‘worst of the worst’ offenders dilutes the registry and renders it meaningless to inform the public of the most dangerous sex offenders.”

She called the law “fiscally irresponsible” and “potentially harmful” to the community. ..more.. by SHARON COOLIDGE

Read More of Article...

MySpace regulation a must: Students agree federal government not right for task

1-28-2008 National:

SOMERSWORTH — At least one expert and several young MySpace users are somewhat skeptical of a recent agreement between MySpace and the National Association of Attorneys General to tighten security.

David Finkelhor, director of the UNH Crimes Against Children Research Center, said there are elements of the agreement that could be "difficult to maintain."

Security measures MySpace intends to employ include: strengthening software identifying underage users; retaining a contractor to better identify and eliminate inappropriate images; obtaining and updating a list of pornographic websites, and regularly severing links between them and MySpace; implementing changes to make it harder for adults to contact children; using resources to educate children and parents about online safety; making the default setting private for 16- and 17-year-old users; allowing parents to submit children's email addresses to prevent anyone from misusing the address to set up profiles; responding within 72 hours to complaints about inappropriate content and creating a closed "high school" section for users under 18.

The agreement also creates an Internet Safety Technical Task Force to explore age and identity verification tools for social networking websites.

"The part I like is the focus on education," Finkelhor said of the agreement. "An age restriction is going to be very difficult to maintain, but there needs to be education for people and their parents about good ways to behave and realistic strategies to stay safe."

Sophomores at Somersworth High School agreed education is a large part of Internet safety, and the responsibility for children's actions online falls on parents.

Chad Letourneau said instances where young children or teens get into trouble because of their activity on MySpace is "the kid's fault and the parents' ignorance."

In a classroom of about 20 students at the high school, nearly everyone said they had a MySpace account. About the same number said their pages were set to "Private," meaning they approve who views their page. Several said they had at some point been contacted by a stranger but had denied the friend request.

"A lot of people base their friending on just your picture and a statement next to your picture," said Shane Lefebvre. "I don't friend anyone I don't know."

But simply having a MySpace site or even providing personal information doesn't put kids at risk, according to Finkelhor.

"It's having sexually inappropriate conversations," he said. "The issue of not talking to strangers is hard. The whole point of social networking sites is to meet new people, but the point is to be smart in having these conversations."

Finkelhor said he has looked at several hundred cases of Internet crimes against children, and based on the UNH research center's knowledge, the agreement with MySpace has some realistic goals.

"I like that they would respond quickly to problems and it's a good thing a task force has been created," he said, but added he would like to see "some other entities" take on this issue besides the attorneys general, such as "some private watchdog entity or something specially designed to look at child safety on the Internet."

Several students said it was disconcerting to have the government involved in the effort to tighten MySpace security. Letourneau said, "A special group would be better because they'd be more focused."

While some students agreed finding ways to tighten security is a good idea, many said it seemed like a long shot.

"It's a great idea to tighten security but it goes both ways," said Lefebvre. "It's a matter of personal security."

Mike Driscoll said, "If they have to tighten security, there should be a way for (MySpace) to process your request. It should be like a job application."

Many agreed this policy would be one way to ensure children under a certain age don't create MySpace pages. There was a consensus in the classroom that children under 13 shouldn't be allowed to have MySpace accounts, and Brian Kapinos suggested that all registered sex offenders should be banned from creating MySpace accounts.

Creating boundaries and security on the Internet is something both the students and Finkelhor agreed would be a difficult task.

"It's hard to have anything secure online," said Katherine Stewert. "It may get better but it will never change."

The problem with controlling the Internet, Finkelhor said, is the Internet itself.

"The limitation is technology," Finkelhor said. "The Internet environment changes so fast. We need an ongoing dialogue with some regulatory entity, and I think we can make some headway. Our sense is that there is some awareness of safety that has caught on."

As for the students, Meg O'Brien said while it may be difficult to control what happens on the Internet, exercising personal safety on a networking site "is a common sense thing." ..more.. by JENNIFER KEEFE jkeefe@fosters.com

Read More of Article...

Lawmakers Crack Down on Abusive Teachers

1-27-2008 National:

Heeding a steady drumbeat of sexual misconduct cases involving teachers, at least 15 states are now considering stronger oversight and tougher punishment for educators who take advantage of their students.

Lawmakers say they are concerned about an increasingly well-documented phenomenon: While the vast majority of America's teachers are committed professionals, there also is a persistent problem with sexual misconduct in U.S. schools. When abuse happens, administrators too often fail to let others know about it, and too many legal loopholes let offenders stay in the classroom.

Advocates include governors, education superintendents and legislative leaders.

"We've got to be on a bully pulpit with our school districts," said Missouri state Rep. Jane Cunningham. The Republican's legislation would eliminate statutes of limitation for sexual misconduct, allowing victims to come forward and bring charges against abusers no matter how many years had passed since the crime.

The ideas emerging in state capitals come at a time when U.S. media have been reporting steadily on individual cases, along with more in-depth examinations of the problem.

A nationwide Associated Press investigation published in October found 2,570 educators whose teaching credentials were revoked, denied, surrendered or sanctioned from 2001 through 2005 following allegations of sexual misconduct. Experts who track sexual abuse say those cases are representative of a much deeper problem because of underreporting.

There are roughly 3 million public school teachers nationwide.

In eight states, leaders pushing changes said the AP investigation had inspired their proposals. Others said they had grown concerned from individual cases of abuse in their states, or other news reports that looked at the problem locally or in their state.

In New York, Gov. Eliot Spitzer supports automatic suspension of teachers convicted of sex crimes, which now requires lengthy hearings. In Maine, Gov. John Baldacci hopes to share the names of abusive teachers with other states, which a 1913 confidentiality law there prohibits. In Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist endorsed federal legislation proposed by U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, a Florida Republican, to create a national databank of abusive teachers, a hot line for complaints and federal funds for state investigators.

Some states are looking to increase penalties, expand background checks or broaden their ability to police charter schools for abuse, like Indiana, Massachusetts and Utah. Kentucky and South Carolina are considering making it illegal for teachers to have sex with older students.

Several states are tackling a major problem _ the loopholes that allow problem teachers to move from one school district to another, or from one state to another. The AP investigation found that what education officials commonly call "passing the trash" happens when districts allow a teacher to quietly leave a school, or fail to report problems to state authorities, or fail to check with state authorities before hiring a teacher, among other glitches.

In eight states, legislators are pursuing changes to close those gaps, including California, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia, Washington state and West Virginia.

"Despite acts of misconduct that were threatening and dangerous in schools, there is a track record of people going on to another school district and finding employment," said Missouri state Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons. "The new school district may get the truth, but they don't get the whole truth about this person's background. They may find out the dates of service, they may find out this person was dismissed, but there really is no other information forthcoming."

His legislation aims to get school employees and districts to share all information about job-hunting teachers, including whether those educators sexually abused their students, by granting administrators civil immunity from lawsuits.

Other states approach the same problem differently. A Colorado measure being drafted would penalize school districts and state officials that fail to report problem teachers, while a West Virginia proposal would open school officials themselves to punishment. Florida would bar any confidentiality agreement between districts and teachers, and require districts to report every firing to the state.

In California, one proposal would close a loophole that bars the teacher credentialing commission from revealing the reason teachers lose their licenses if they plead no contest to an offense.

Under no contest pleas, defendants are punished as if they pleaded guilty, but retain the right to challenge the charges against them in lawsuits and other proceedings. Such deals have meant public records were unclear about why educator licenses were sanctioned in dozens of cases, the AP found.

"You should not be able to plead no contest to a sex offense just so you can continue teaching," said state Sen. Bob Margett. The measure means teachers who plead no contest would immediately lose their license, and the reason for the revocation would be public record.

Some say the latest legislation is just the beginning.

South Carolina has created a new committee of parents, teachers, social workers and prosecutors to study the problem and come back with new ideas.

Though small statistically, the number of abusive teachers is too high, South Carolina Education Superintendent Jim Rex wrote after reading the AP report.

"I am nonetheless outraged by any incident in which an adult entrusted with the care of one of South Carolina's students violates that student. The ramifications for that student, his or her family, and the community as a whole are painful and long lasting," he wrote.

In Utah, the numbers of abuses flat-out shocked state Rep. Carl Wimmer. "These things happen a lot more often than parents would think," he said. "It seems we do have an unacceptable high amount of children who get violated in the classroom. One is too many." ..more.. by ROBERT TANNER, AP National Writer

Cases of teacher sexual abuse from Sex Offender Issues blog.

Read More of Article...

January 27, 2008

The Americans with Disabilities Act -and- Emergency Shelters

Separate registered sex offenders from the public during an emergency, is the latest cry! Lawmakers seem to be ready to do that in some places:

Sex Offenders Not Welcome

In a move that prompted one legislator to warn that it could give the public a false sense of security, the county Legislature recently passed a bill stating that sex offenders are not welcome in general emergency shelters. The legislation passed by a vote of 17-0, with one abstention.

"I don't want anyone to misconstrue my intent," said Alden, who abstained from the vote. "If we can't confine sexual predators for life, let's track them for life."

The resolution, introduced by Legislator Kate Browning (WF-Shirley), would require registered sex offenders, when entering an emergency shelter, to notify a shelter manager, a shelter employee, or a shelter volunteer of their sex offender status. To make sure they still have a place to go, there would be a separate facility established for sexual predators.

"You're going to ask someone in the middle of a hurricane? I don't think it's going to happen," Alden said. "I'm 1,000 percent sure he ain't going to volunteer the information."

"I'm wondering how well this can be implemented," Romaine agreed, "in that it requires them to say, 'I'm a sex offender.'"

Upon a sex offender's self-identification, the county Department of Fire, Rescue, and Emergency Services would be notified, and either the individual would be moved to a designated shelter, or assigned a law enforcement officer if they cannot be moved.

"There will be something posted that notifies them," Browning explained. "If they can't leave, we're not saying they can't have shelter, but law enforcement will keep an eye on them."

It is expected that County Executive Steve Levy will sign the legislation. "Although we feel it is redundant to provisions we already have in place to screen out sex offenders at shelter locations, the measure is like chicken soup - it couldn't hurt, and the county executive will sign it after a public hearing," said Mark Smith, a spokesperson for Levy.

Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan's Law, noted that during hurricanes Katrina and Rita, 30% of acts of alleged sexual predation took place in shelters, and 63% of the victims were targeted by acquaintances at a shelter. However, she said that she supported the bill only after Browning removed a plan calling on emergency staff to do a background check on everyone coming into a shelter. "Keeping track of over 800 offenders is the responsibility of law enforcement," Ahearn said. No Source for these statistics! Further, we could not find a single news story of a sex offense committed by a former sex offender in a shelter during these storms. Is this another factoid?

The measure also passed despite concerns raised over the constitutionality of limiting access to general emergency shelters, and assertions by Barraga that piecemeal legislation restricting registered sex offenders risks having all such laws thrown out in court. "And how do you implement this?" Barraga asked. "People are in a state of panic, do you think they're going to identify themselves? I don't think it is well thought out at all."

I wonder if lawmakers have considered what the requirements are for Emergency Shelters under the Americans with Disability Act?

It would be impossible to construct such a shelter -immediately- during an emergency, so the taxpayers will have to shell out mucho money for such shelters.

Oh yes, the alternate suggested is a police officer for each registered sex offender to monitor them during the emergency. WOW, do you think police should be worrying about RSOs rather than protecting the general public during an emergency? Again, the public will have to shell out a ton of money for such officers.

Well, its the law folks!


Read More of Article...


Cato Journal, Vol. 15, Nos. 2-3 (Fall/Winter 1995/96). Copyright © Cato Institute. All rights reserved.

According to Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution, "no State shall pass any ex post facto Law.'' A similar provision that applies to Congress is found in Section 9 of the same article. At first glance these constitutional prohibitions seem simple enough--retroactive laws violate the Constitution. Unfortunately, the issue is not so simple. With one ruling in 1798, the Supreme Court succeeded in muddling the issue of ex post facto laws by holding that the prohibition of retroactive laws applies only to criminal, not civil, laws.

In The Constitution of Liberty, F. A. Hayek (1960: 205-20) notes that some coercion, while unavoidable in a civil society, can be minimized by requiring that coercive actions comply with general rules that are known in advance by individuals. If individuals know the law, they can base their actions upon established rules and minimize the ill effects of coercion. Hayek states that not all legislative enactments will satisfy the three criteria of what he calls "true law''--generality, certainty, and equality. He argues that true law provides the general rules which minimize coercion and that legislative enactments which do not satisfy these criteria are objectionable. He writes that the law must be general, that it must be known and certain, and that it should apply equally to all. A necessary condition for the law to be known and certain is a prohibition on ex post facto laws. After all, the law can hardly be known and certain if new laws can be made to apply retroactively to actions already performed.

From a policy standpoint, as Hayek's analysis indicates, ex post facto laws are riddled with problems. Unfair and unpredictable, ex post facto or retroactive laws mar the American legal system and create an abundance of problems.[1]

This article examines the origins of the constitutional interpretation of ex post facto laws, reviews sources favoring the prohibition of ex post facto civil laws, considers the damaging impact of retroactive laws on property rights, and proposes a solution to the debate over retroactive laws in which ex post facto civil as well as criminal laws would be constitutionally prohibited unless just compensation is provided for unfair retroactivity. Given that the clear constitutional ban on ex post facto laws does not distinguish between criminal and civil laws and given our own intuitions about fairness in the legal system, the prohibition on ex post facto laws should be extended to civil laws in order to prevent unfair and capricious changes in the law.

Calder v. Bull: Origins of the Distinction between
Civil and Criminal Ex Post Facto Laws

The Supreme Court first held that the constitutional prohibition against ex post facto laws applied only to criminal laws in the landmark opinion of Calder v. Bull (1798). The issue in the case, which arose from the Supreme Court of Connecticut, was whether the act of the Connecticut legislature to set aside a decree of a probate court (which had the effect of divesting the appellants of certain property) was an ex post facto law. ..more.. by Steve Selinger is a land developer who has been the "beneficiary'' of certain ex post facto laws. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from Princeton University and a doctorate in economics and econometrics from the California Institute of Technology. He thanks Lawrence E. Smith, Bill Talbott, Suzanne Tracy, and Beth Vella for their helpful comments on earlier drafts.

Read More of Article...

Sex Offender Registry Mapping (SORM) Websites

Are sex offender registry mapping (SORM) websites really another form of a vigilante act masked as a legal activity? After all, vigilante actions are the result of a group or a individuals perception of what the law should be, not the result of the law as enacted! In fact, there are no laws directly addressing SORM type websites, SORMs are kinda like a loose cannon doing whatever they want, ignoring laws protecting registrants, and that they are harming folks and families too. Public "warning messages" although not much, may thwart some from vigilantism which is occurring today more than folks realize.

Our recent review of sex offender registry mapping (SORM) websites (ex: Family WatchDog and similar others) has revealed disturbing facts, each of the items below was found to be true of one or more of the mapping websites:

1) State legislatures or local police have not approved them for use, yet we have seen state registry websites show links to them. Accordingly, there is an implied certification created by the linking, either by the state -or- by the mapping site;

2) None of the SORMs carry forward and display the respective state "Public Warning Message" prohibiting harassment, or other acts against registrants -or- the "Correction Method" if the offender's information is incorrect. Further, SORMs do not prohibit printing of registrant information without a public warning and correction message (which is possible);

As states enact their individual versions of the Adam Walsh Act, it contains special requirements with respect to PUBLIC WARNING messages and CORRECTION methods:

Sec 118(f) Warning- The site shall include a warning that information on the site should not be used to unlawfully injure, harass, or commit a crime against any individual named in the registry or residing or working at any reported address. The warning shall note that any such action could result in civil or criminal penalties.

Sec 118(e) Correction of Errors- The site shall include instructions on how to seek correction of information that an individual contends is erroneous.

Is there a way to correct erroneous information displayed on an address mapping website? There should be because SORMs do not update their information with the same frequency as does the state registries. In fact, SORMs never tell folks how up to date their information is. Do you see a date of last update for each individual registrant's record?

3) Many of the state registries have Security Entry Agreements (SEA) or technically known as CAPTCHAs (See Wikipedia good explanation) to prevent AUTOMATED COMPUTERIZED ACCESS to their data, do you recognize this:
SORMs have ignored the CAPTCHAs and bypassed them to gain access to the registrant's information. In most states, bypassing computer security measures, is a crime, SORMs are not prosecuted for that crime;
Example: Arkansas Registry: You must agree before they allow you into the registry.
Example: Utah Law 77-27-21.5(24) The department shall construct the website so that users, before accessing registry information, must indicate that they have read the disclaimer, understand it, and agree to comply with its terms.

4) Several of the states have limits on the use of their registry information and the state registry explains those limits, but SORMs simply ignore limiting information, and they do not print such information on the screen for registrants searched for;
Example: California 290.46(l) (1) A person is authorized to use information disclosed pursuant to this section only to protect a person at risk. (2) Except as authorized under paragraph (1) or any other provision of law, use of any information that is disclosed pursuant to this section for purposes relating to any of the following is prohibited: (A) Health insurance. (B) Insurance. (C) Loans. (D) Credit. (E) Employment. (F) Education, scholarships, or fellowships. (G) Housing or accommodations. (H) Benefits, privileges, or services provided by any business establishment.

Question, with respect to California, given that registry information is only permitted to be used "only to protect a person at risk," do SORMs restrict entry for other purposes?

5) SORMs that use Google Maps are likely violating the Google Maps' "Terms of Service/Use" agreement, in that, Google limits maps to -personal use- and are not for commercial purposes except under API Terms. Google also prohibits advertising other than its own which some of these sites do;
Terms of Service for Google Maps
By using Google Maps and any data or information accessed from Google Maps, you agree to be bound by our Google Terms of Service as well as these additional terms and conditions. For individual users, Google Maps, including local search results, maps, and photographic imagery, is made available for your personal, non-commercial use only. For business users, Google Maps is made available for your internal use only and may not be commercially redistributed, except that map data may be accessed and displayed by using the Google Maps API pursuant to the API terms and conditions.

6) Excepting very special circumstances states are not liable for damages caused by the registry, however, such immunity does not flow to third parties who disseminate registry information. A few states allude to this warning in their disclaimers.

7) So far, with the exception of one, SORMs fail to have, or have very limited, "terms of use" -or- "Privacy" statements pertaining to the SORM site. Such fails to disclose relevant information about the person/s that have created the SORM sites and how they were created, and fail to indicate their accuracy or how to report corrections when information is found to be incorrect. Further, most SORMs fail to inform users whether they collect information from users and how that information may be used (Privacy Question);

8) As to SORM sites with distance measurements: i) They fail to explain where the measurement begins (residence door [front side back], curb, middle of street, or assessor's property line) and likewise where the measurement ends; ii) They fail to indicate when distances cannot be measured (irregular property shapes) -or- indicate incorrect distances for these irregular properties; iii) They fail to explain what system was used to take the measurements and it's tolerances, -or- if any distances were mathematically projected because current information was unavailable;

9) When a registrant is displayed, there is no indication when that information was retrieved from the state registry. How current is SORM information, given there are no laws governing SORMs and they are unregulated?

Austin couple victim of sex offender registration mishap
10-3-2007 Texas

An Austin couple want their neighbors to know they're not sex offenders -- even though a notice from the state might have suggested otherwise.

The couple bought a home where a sex offender used to live, but because of a clerical mistake, it appeared the offender still lived there.

Registered sex offender Zamaripa is behind bars in the Travis County Jail as of Tuesday night. But a notice recently showed up in his old northeast Austin neighborhood warning that a sex offender has moved in.

Instead, it's a young couple, and they're desperate to set the record straight.

Clint and Alexis Jurek just bought their first house and got ready to move in with baby, Max. Then a post card came in the mail.

"All of our neighbors think that a sex offender lives at our address," says Alexis. "And not only that, but our house has been vandalized."

Someone broke a door shortly after the notice showed up -- months past when the offender apparently left.

"Definitely worrisome," says Clint. "I have a five-month-old child that I have to move into the house in two or three weeks, and I can't move him into a place where there could be flying glass."

Notices are required by law -- as are verifications before mailing.

"In the process of doing those verifications, the record for this particular sex offender got lost in the shuffle," says the Texas Department of Public Safety's Tela Mange. "Reappeared about four months later."

DPS says it checked with Austin police -- and was told the offender still lived there.

APD is looking into the miscommunication. And DPS is streamlining processes in the wake of the mishap.

"We're very sorry to the family," Mange says. "And we're doing what we can to fix the situation and make sure it doesn't happen again."

Neighbors are set to receive letters informing them of the mistake.

"It was an inconvenience to me," Clint says. "But who I really feel sorry for are the people in this neighborhood who lived here for six months with a dangerous person."

Now they're getting back to living their dream and putting this nightmare behind them. ..more.. by Alexis Patterson

10) Some SORMs when they display a registrant indicate the person with a colored flag (or balloon), different colors meaning different things. One uses -red- to indicate the registrant's victim was a child, but how do they make that determination? Frequently these are incorrect, unless the state statute specifically makes mention of a victim's age range/s.

In addition, how does one know if the registrant's age WAS NOT within a few years of the victim? i.e., Romeo & Juliet type cases, OR simply the girls parents got mad and filed charges, when it was a boyfriend - girlfriend situation, OR, juvenile with a juvenile… playing doctor…. Misinformation abounds on SORMs.

11) The real purpose of SORMs is? One has to question if they really wish to protect the public, or is that a ruse to get other products and services before the public? Notice when you use them how loaded with advertising they are, which is more likely their primary purpose. Look also to see if they are giving away services or charging for them.

If anyone finds anything further please advise us so it may be included. eAdvocate.

Read More of Article...

January 26, 2008

Justice Blocks MySpace Sex Offender Code

10-23-2006 National:

The Department of Justice has just rolled out a CAPTCHA in front of its National Sex Offender Public Website, forcing you to prove you're human before you start running searches.

That kills the screen-scraping code we released Friday -- which, no doubt, was the intent. The only explanation on the site reads, "This form is necessary to prevent abuse by automated user agents."

The site seemed pretty abuse-resistant before. Running too many searches too fast got you banned; consequently, the sex-offender-scraping portion of my code performed one transaction every 30-seconds -- slow enough to be replaced by an extremely-patient human.

It could be that the DoJ just has a broad interpretation of "abuse." Policing virtual communities probably wasn't in Justice's institutional mind when it created the site.

I don't know if this completely closes the door to a repetition of my MySpace offender search. After satisfying the CAPTCHA once, you're currently allowed to search over-and-over again. That means you might be able to slip in a search of all the ZIP codes in, for example, one city, but I doubt you could perform the 8,500 queries needed to cover the entire U.S.

Is this enough to let MySpace off the hook? Now the company can legitimately claim it has no easy access to the sex offender registries, even if that wasn't the case when it said so last June. ..more.. by Kevin Poulsen

Official CAPTCHA site:

Read More of Article...

Sex offenders lose more rights under new Ohio law

1-25-2008 Ohio:

The answer to the first ques tion that will come to your mind is this: No. No, I wouldn't want a registered sex offender living near my family or me.

Would you?

Of course not.

No one does.

But they have to live somewhere unless we change the sentences for rape, sexual imposition, sexual battery and the like to life without parole. So far, we as a society have decided not to do that.

Instead, we have decided to label these men for life and limit where they can live.

Then we went a step further.

Ohio has a new law that should never have been passed. It was designed by politicians and sold based on the price tag: The state wouldn't lose any federal grant money for criminal justice programs if it complied with the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.

No one factored in the cost to apply the new law, enforce it and defend it in court challenges.

County sheriffs fear it will double their workloads. Sex offenders will have to check in every three months instead of once a year.

Already, hundreds of sex offenders are challenging their reclassification by filing civil suits. The state public defender will help with legal costs for those who can't pay for attorneys. Guess who will foot the bill?

The law adds a punishment after the fact. Certain offenders are getting reclassified into more-restrictive categories.

It applies retroactively to people who already have been labeled and who served their time. It will give them harsher penalties without any court hearing.

Do lawmakers even read the U.S. Constitution?

The new law also requires hundreds of juvenile sex offenders to register for life and possibly have their photos on Internet registries.

Judges across the state are refusing to enforce the law. Good for them.

Convicted sex offenders have served their time.

Those men - yes, they are mostly males - are considered the scum of the earth, unless that scum is your son. One dad told me he nearly passed out in the courtroom when the judge labeled his son for life.

"It can't ever be taken off," the father said, choking on the words.

His son sexually abused a teenage stepdaughter. His son deserved prison time and served it. Then his dad took him in.

"He doesn't have any place to go. I can see why these guys end up homeless. It's a system designed to fail."

It's a system that doesn't label murderers for life and limit where they can live and work. But across the country, we've legislated that sex offenders can't live near schools, parks, libraries, day cares or bus stops. Some cops fear we're driving them underground where no one can keep tabs on them.

What we have created is an illusion of safety, as if keeping bank robbers from living near banks will prevent them from robbing.

Offenders who want to offend will find prey through their families, friends or the Internet.

Sex offenders no longer have the right to live anywhere, but don't they have the right to live somewhere?

Yes. ..more.. by Regina Brett

Read More of Article...

January 25, 2008

Blog Overview

I must begin by thanking folks who have taken the time to forward all the links to the Papers, Research and Studies that are now within this blog and other of my blogs. Please continue to do so, as it helps many folks. If you have a question, or want to proivde input, simply click on eAdvocate below and send your comments. They will be reviewed and are appreciated.


Note: When you see Highlighting or Underlining of portions of articles posted, that is not meant to take any position on the article, it is merely pointing out facts of the article, no more. Should the blog owner want to express an opinion there will be notes to that effect.


Subject Index:
The Key to this blog is the Subject Index. All entries have been tagged, some with multiple tags, to create the Subject Index. This allows accessing records based on the topic/s a record addresses.

The more important, or hot button, topics are at the front of the Subject Index with "( " around them. Following that section comes the states or countries the topics pertain to. Next is the year of the topic or study, and finally comes the actual topics.

Note: When a topic is preceded by "cc-" that means it is case law and when available a link to the actual case.

Bad/Dead News Links:
Unfortunately as time goes on some of the Internet links will no longer work. This is due to various reasons such as the site is rearranged, older articles are removed, etc.

There is nothing we can do about this which is why we try to capture the essence of a story initially, the relevant facts, so folks can still see what happened.

Have a great day and a better tomorrow.

Read More of Article...

Grants to help inmates clear their names unspent

1-24-2008 National

WASHINGTON -- Marvin Anderson and other men exonerated by DNA evidence said Wednesday that they want Attorney General Michael Mukasey to start doling out federal money to help states analyze evidence that led to convictions.

"It's fear," Anderson of Hanover, Va., said of the bureaucratic resistance to clearing the way for such analyses. DNA evidence exonerated Anderson in 2001 of a rape conviction, after he was sentenced to 210 years in prison and served 15. "No one wants to admit a mistake has been made."

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said at a hearing that he'll grill the new attorney general next week on why $14 million Congress has set aside for those analyses hasn't been spent.

Congress made the money available nearly four years ago as part of legislation named for Kirk Bloodsworth, the first person in the United States exonerated from a death-row crime through DNA analysis as evidence. He was released in 1993 after DNA evidence cleared his conviction in the murder of a 9-year-old girl.

"The bottom line: DOJ is denying people with claims of innocence the chance to prove it," Bloodsworth said of the Department of Justice in a statement given to the committee.

More than 120 people have been freed from death row, Leahy said -- a number that points to the need to tighten forensics practices and give innocent people the resources to prove their innocence.

Other witnesses told of being turned down by the Justice Department for the grants, sometimes without explanation.

"I expect to hear that the department now intends to implement the law and to solicit and award the millions of dollars of Bloodsworth grants that have been delayed these past years," Leahy said.

John Morgan, deputy director of the Justice Department's National Institute of Justice, said the agency wants the grant money to reach the states, but the law had constrained states from applying properly for the grants. Leahy and the others scoffed at that explanation, saying the department chose not to help the applicants. ..more.. by LAURIE KELLMAN, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Read More of Article...

Offender Registry, Remade

1-25-2008 Maine:

As the Legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee begins the difficult and emotionally charged task of remaking the state’s sex offender registry in the wake of a Maine supreme court ruling and changes to federal law, lawmakers must ensure that the public is protected without excessive punishment or shaming. Creating a tiered registry and not making public information about low-level offenders is a good way to achieve this.

Last year, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court raised significant questions about the state’s sex offender registry. The court was especially concerned about changes made in recent years to require Internet posting of personal information about offenders, to restrict where offenders can live and to require fingerprinting every 90 days for offenders convicted since 1982. The case was brought by a man who said the registry violated his rights by imposing punishment that did not exist when he pleaded guilty in the 1980s to a crime against a family member.

The changes have made the law significantly more punitive and intrusive, changing the nature of the sanctions from civil penalties to a retroactive increase in criminal penalties. The justices suggested this retroactive increase violates the Maine Constitution. The court said it needed more information before ruling on the merits of the case and sent it back to Kennebec County Superior Court, where it is pending.

The most stinging rebuke came from Justices Donald Alexander and Warren Silver, who wrote a concurring opinion in stronger language. "We now recognize the extent to which the state’s use of the Internet to display registration information correlates to the shaming and branding punishments used in colonial times, and we have seen the registries’ potential for causing retributive and vigilante justice against registrants," they wrote. In 2006, two men on the registry were killed by a man from Canada who reviewed their information on the state’s sex offender Web site, the most popular in state government. The justices rightly wonder how making the identity and whereabouts of the state’s registered offenders accessible to anyone anywhere in the world is not unduly punitive.

Worse, this "shaming and branding" often leads to social isolation and depression, which could impede rehabilitation and cause some to reoffend. The registry requirements may thus be harming, rather than protecting, public safety, taking away a major justification for the law, Justices Alexander and Silver wrote.

A bill that the Criminal Justice Committee is scheduled to begin considering today, LD 446, aims to address the concerns raised by the court and to comply with changes in the federal registry law, which will require a tiered system. Under a tiered system, offenders would be included in the registry for differing lengths of time depending on the severity of their crimes. The amount of information made public would also increase with the seriousness of the crime.

Such a system, with only limited Internet postings, could return the registry to its original purpose of tracking and public notification, without the unnecessary negative — and likely unconstitutional — consequences. ..more.. Editorial: Bangor Daily News

Read More of Article...

Ohio's new sex-offender law draws rebuke from judges

Summit judges to refuse to enforce provisions
1-24-2008 Ohio:

Akron - Summit County judges will join their counterparts in at least four other Ohio counties in refusing to enforce provisions of the state's new, tougher sex-offender registration law.

The eight judges of Summit's general trial division will act this week to either issue a stay to block all of the affected cases from moving forward or issue a preliminary injunction in each case they hear.

At issue are a host of potential contradictions and constitutional questions arising from the state legislature's attempt to comply with the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.

Ohio is one of the first to raise its standards to comply with the federal law, which mandates that states act by 2009. But the federal government has yet to issue its final guidelines for adhering to the law. Other states have contemplated not following the federal edict, which could put them in line to lose grant money.

Ohio's law, which went into effect at the beginning of the year, changes the registration requirements for some sex offenders. The state mailed notices about the law to 19,000 offenders, one local judge said.

The law applies retroactively to people whose cases have been through the courts. Critics argue that the new law amounts to added punishment, which defense attorneys say is double jeopardy.

Summit County Common Pleas Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer, the court's administrative judge, said that in some cases, the courts, prosecutors and defendants had reached agreement on the levels of classification and reporting responsibilities, only to see the terms wiped away by the legislature.

The law has also been attacked because it requires juvenile sex offenders to register for life, and in some cases, have their pictures posted in Internet registries. The legislation would also put a financial strain on the law enforcement agencies that have to enforce it.

Summit County Common Pleas Judge Patricia Cosgrove said that offenders already required to register under the old law will still have to follow the terms of the old law until the matter is resolved by higher courts.

Stark, Licking, Van Wert and Warren counties already have taken measures similar to Summit's to halt enforcement of at least parts of the law, said Amy Borror, spokeswoman for the Ohio public defender's office in Columbus.

Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge said the judges of his court are staying the reclassifications one case at a time, and shipping the cases to retired Cuyahoga County Judge William Coyne, who will hear them.

Borror said other counties have also taken a one-case-at-a-time approach. In Cuyahoga County, at least one Common Pleas judge and one Juvenile Court judge, have granted injunctions in cases. Lake County Prosecutor Charles Coulson said Tuesday said the justice system there will let higher courts sort out the questions about the law before it is enforced.

There have been 80 challenges to the law filed in the past week in Summit County, Cosgrove said. In Cuyahoga County, about 300 sex offenders have filed civil suits challenging their re-reclassification, Presiding Judge Nancy McDonnell said.

The state public defender's office has a form on its Web site that offenders can use to challenge the law. Borror said her office will help with the legal cost for those who can't afford lawyers.

Authorities in Stark County are hoping that the 5th Ohio District Court of Appeals, seated in Canton, will resolve the issue for the 14 counties in that district. Other judges across the state said they hope the Ohio Supreme Court takes up the questions, providing resolution for everyone.

Stormer said the problem is compounded because the legislature moved quickly, without consulting the sheriffs, prosecutors, judges and other state and county officials who would have to implement the new law.

"While the intent was to retain federal grant money underwriting many criminal justice programs, we have no idea how much it's going to cost to administer the new program, and to address the legal challenges," Stormer said. ..more.. by James EwingerPlain Dealer Reporter

Read More of Article...

January 24, 2008

How safe are your kids online?

Cox Communications and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children join with John Walsh: Take Charge

========== 2005 Parents Internet Monitoring Study ==========
Click here to download the full research findings

========== 2006 Teens Internet Use Study: ==========
Click here to download the full research findings

========== 2007 Teens Internet Use Study: Findings ==========

Children’s Advocate John Walsh, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and Cox Communications Announce Results of Teen Internet Survey

Click here to download the full research findings

MAY 10, 2007 - New research by Cox Communications Inc., in partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children ® (NCMEC) and TV host and children’s advocate John Walsh reveals that more parents and guardians are talking to their children about the potential dangers of the Internet. Still, many teens remain unconcerned about the risks of sharing personal info online and nearly two-thirds post photos or videos of themselves.

The findings are from the third annual survey Cox and NCMEC have fielded to help parents and guardians understand the potential dangers of the Internet. The 2007 survey was nearly identical to the questions asked in 2006, revealing compelling year-over-year trends about teen Internet use. Key findings:

Teens are increasingly active online and at potential risk of falling prey to online predators.

A large majority of teens (71%) have established online profiles (including those on social networking sites such as MySpace, Friendster and Xanga), up from 61% in 2006.
69% of teens regularly receive personal messages online from people they don’t know and most of them don’t tell a trusted adult about it.

Teens readily post personal info online. 64% post photos or videos of themselves, while more than half (58%) post info about where they live. Females are far more likely than male teens to post personal photos or videos of themselves (70% vs. 58%).

Nearly one in 10 teens (8%) has posted his or her cell phone number online.

Overall, 19% of teens report they have been harassed or bullied online, and the incidence of online harassment is higher (23%) among 16 and 17 year-olds. Girls are more likely to be harassed or bullied than boys (21% vs. 17%).

Parents and guardians are becoming more involved in monitoring their teens’ Internet use and talking to them about online safety.

Parental awareness of their teens’ online activities has risen significantly. This year, 25% of teens say their parents know “little” or “nothing” about what they do online, down from 33% last year.

41% of teens report their parents talk to them “a lot” about Internet safety (up five points over 2006), and three out of four say their parents have talked to them in the past year about the potential dangers of posting personal info. The level of parental involvement is higher for younger teens and girls, although it has increased across all age groups and both genders.

Teens whose parents have talked to them “a lot” about Internet safety are more concerned about the risks of sharing personal info online than teens whose parents are less involved. For instance, 65% of those whose parents have not talked to them about online safety post info about where they live, compared to 48% of teens with more involved parents.

Teens whose parents have talked to them “a lot” about online safety are less likely to consider meeting face to face with someone they met on the Internet (12% vs. 20%).

Many teens are unconcerned about the dangers of sharing personal info online.

A majority of teens (58%) don’t think posting photos or other personal info on social networking sites is unsafe.

Nearly half of teens (47%) aren’t worried about others using their personal info in ways they don’t want (although that represents a 10-percentage-point improvement over 2006).

About half (49%) are unconcerned posting personal info online might negatively affect their future.

Teens are showing some signs of making safer, smarter choices online.

While 16% of teens say they’ve considered meeting face to face with someone they’ve talked to only online, that marks a significant drop compared to the 30% of teens who were considering such a meeting in 2006. In 2007, 8% of teens say they actually have met in person with someone from the Internet, down from 14% in 2006.

When they receive online messages from someone they don’t know, 60% of teens say they usually respond only to ask who the person is. Compared to the 2006 survey, there was a 10-percentage-point increase in teens ignoring such messages (57% vs. 47%). Still, nearly a third of teens (31%) say they usually reply and chat with people they don’t know, and only 21% tell a trusted adult when they receive such messages.

The national teen Internet survey was funded by Cox Communications in partnership with NCMEC and John Walsh and was conducted in March 2007 among 1,070 teens age 13 to 17. The research was conducted online by TRU.

As a continuation of the research findings, Cox will partner with NCMEC, Walsh and Miss America 2007 Lauren Nelson on the second annual Cox Communications National Teen Summit on Internet Safety June 27 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Teen participants will discuss Internet safety and ways parents, guardians and teen mentors can help children and young adults be safer online, and will deliver the messages directly to Capitol Hill in meetings with members of Congress. The Summit will air on Cox Cable channels nationwide in late summer.

Cox’s Take Charge program was launched in conjunction with Walsh in 2004 to educate parents and guardians about the importance of Internet safety and to help families get the most out of mass media in the home. It provides scores of resources to help parents and guardians manage what their children see, and don’t see, on TV and the Internet—from instructions on setting parental controls, to a guide to the lingo teens use online, to tips for more constructive conversations between parents and kids. Teaching young children and teens how to stay safer online is a major element of the Take Charge program, thanks in part to Cox’s partnership with NetSmartz.com, a collaboration between NCMEC and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Cox has donated nearly $30 million worth of advertising time to NetSmartz and NCMEC to encourage safer online behavior among children.

The above came from their Research page

Read More of Article...

Social Networking Websites and Teens: An Overview

January 2007

55% of online teens use social networks and 55% have created online profiles;
older girls predominate

More than half (55%) of all of online American youths ages 12-17 use an online social networking sites, according to a new national survey of teenagers conducted by Pew Internet & American Life Project.

The survey also finds that that older teens, particularly girls, are more likely to use these sites. For girls, social networking sites are places to reinforce pre-existing friendships, while for the boys who use the sites, the networks provide opportunities for flirting and making new friends.

A social networking site is an online location where a user can create a profile and build a personal network that connects him or her to other users. In the past five years, such sites1 have rocketed from a niche activity into a phenomenon that engages tens of millions of internet users. The explosive growth in the popularity of these sites has generated concerns among some parents, school officials, and government leaders about the potential risks posed when personal information is made available in such a public setting.

The survey, conducted by telephone from October 23 through November 19, 2006 among a random national sample of 935 youths ages 12 to 17, asked about the ways that teenagers use these sites and their reasons for doing so.

See report to explain these charts:

Read More of Article...

Jail programs had little effect on whether freed inmates re-offended, new study shows

3-31-2004 Canada:

VANCOUVER -- Treating sex offenders in custody for their deviant urges has little impact on whether they go on to commit sex crimes -- or other offences -- after they're freed, according to a new study.

The study, which is sure to reignite the debate about whether sex offenders can ever be safely rehabilitated, traced a group of 724 sex offenders serving federal prison terms in British Columbia beginning in the early 1980s. Of these, 403 received treatment, while 321 did not.

After 12 years, the criminals who underwent a treatment program in jail had slightly lower repeat records, but the differences were so negligible that researchers said they had no significance.

For example, 21.1 per cent of sex offenders who received treatment went on to commit another sex crime, compared with 21.8 per cent of those who were not treated.

Another 42.9 per cent of treated criminals committed violent crimes after release, compared with 44.5 per cent for offenders with no treatment. For other crimes, the repeat rate was 56.6 per cent for treated offenders versus 60.4 per cent for those who weren't counselled.

"It is reasonable to conclude that the overall [treatment] program did not have any meaningful effect on recidivism rates," said the study, co-authored by psychologist Karl Hanson and published in the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Studies. "We still have much to learn about how best to intervene with sexual offenders."

The study could be viewed as a blow to the professionals who provide treatment to sex offenders in Canadian prisons, where the conventional wisdom has been that treatment works. The new study paints a bleaker picture of whether treatment has a positive impact.

As early as this year, federal statistics said treatment for sex offenders reduced that sexual recidivism rate from 17 per cent to 10 per cent.

Right now, there are just over 3,000 inmates in federal institutions whose primary crime is a sex offence. And while treatment isn't mandatory, it's often part of an inmate's "correction plan" written for an offender as he starts his sentence. Since the late 1980s, however, sex offenders in B.C. have been required to undergo treatment before they're released.

According to Correctional Service Canada statistics, 40 per cent of sex offenders are in treatment and 20 per cent are on a waiting list.

However, there's never been scientific proof that treatment works. For years there have been debates among law enforcers, social workers, treatment providers and academics about the effectiveness of treating sex offenders.

For academics, the main problem has always been finding random subjects to study. They provide the most statistically sound outcomes, but they're hard to find in the criminal justice system, and sex offenders, because they're a small group, are harder to come by. Many offenders who don't receive treatment have refused it.

If that person goes on to reoffend, it's not clear if it's because he didn't receive treatment or because he was not motivated to change in the first place.

Mr. Hanson said the new survey provides a more accurate picture because the inmates who did not receive treatment were randomly selected from an era when treatment wasn't required as part of a B.C.'s sex offenders correction plan.

However, he added, the news isn't all bad. Treatment programs today in Canadian prisons are more sophisticated than the programs available when his subjects were incarcerated.

Now, prisons tailor programs for sex offenders to address deviant behaviour. They also identify an offender's level of risk to the community.

"The moral of this particular article is that even though we think these [new programs] are likely to be better, we need to do the evaluations to make sure we're not fooling ourselves again."

The study followed a group of male prisoners released between 1980 and 1992. All the men were serving federal prison terms for a sex offence, meaning their sentences were longer than two years. ..more.. by Column courtesy The Globe & Mail © worldwide 2004

Read More of Article...

Porn triggers acting out on victims? Really?

7-25-2007 National:

Why did the Federal Bureau of Prisons, or BOP, spike its own shocking study, that during therapy, fully 85 percent of incarcerated child pornography users have reluctantly admitted to sexually assaulting children?

The BOP study by psychologists Andres E. Hernandez and Michael L. Bourke has been momentarily suppressed and tossed onto the political hot seat as "debated" and "contested."

The New York Times recently leaked the BOP report on 155 child pornography users who were in a treatment program at the low security Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, N.C.

At the time of their arrests, 26 percent (40 men) admitted to being child molesters. However, during therapy, 85 percent (132 men) confessed to sexually abusing children. Also at arrest, the men admitted to victimizing 75 children. During therapy, however, the 155 felons finally confessed to 1,777 young victims – and, this is what they admitted.

Why should BOP yank the Butner prisoners' study from the peer-reviewed academic journal poised to publish it? Anyone can check the Bureau of Justice Statistics Prison Statistics website for thousands of prisoner studies. Just from the top:

Drug Use and Dependence, State and Federal Prisoners
Mental Health Problems of Prison and Jail Inmates

Sexual Violence Reported by Correctional Authorities

Suicide and Homicide in State Prisons and Local Jails

American Indians and Crime: A BJS Statistical Profile Profile of Nonviolent Offenders Exiting State Prisons

Age Patterns of Victims of Serious Violent Crime

Although many readers would – rightly or wrongly – interpret the above study findings as vilifying convicts, the studies have not been publicly disputed and suppressed. Yet, scientific findings that prove pornography's harmful effects are immediately disputed and suppressed by closeted persons and entities.

In her Culture and Media Institute essay on this scandal, legal maven Jan LaRue wonders why the BOP is hiding the study: "Are officials more concerned about misinterpretations than protecting kids?"

La Rue reports, "Judith Simon Garrett, assistant general counsel at the BOP, is heavily involved in squelching the study." Garrett has railed against legislators, says LaRue, who want longer sentences and "restrictions on early release mechanisms."

On point, Garrett also feels commercial "nudity or sexually explicit pictures" should be available to convicts.

La Rue observes that Garrett's own advocacy writings are published with a BOP disclaimer.

"Why isn't she urging the BOP to do the same here? Is it because she thinks 'programs' that permit prisoners access to pornography are acceptable, and the study could prove her wrong?"

These are prudent questions.

Garrett's sexual activism exemplifies why our "adult" pornography laws are ignored by those whose special interests misdirect our justice system.

For years, I have received mail from homosexual and heterosexual convicts who claim theirs was a "soft pornography" downward spiral into abuse and prison. Did the psychologists gather embarrassing data on these hot-button political issues?

And Butner is not dé jà vu – because I have been here before.

Some brief background. In 1986, my federally funded analysis of "Images of Children, Crime & Violence in Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler," was suppressed by Verne Speirs who was then director of the U.S. Department of Justice, Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

In 1994, after my study was endorsed by OJJDP Director Robert Sweet, in-depth investigations proved that Big Porno and the Kinsey Institute had significantly invested in discrediting our study findings. For, like Butner, our research identified a strong link between pornography and child sexual abuse.

The claim that the Butner study did not "meet agency approval" and that "the results might be misinterpreted" is suspect and does not justify BOP censorship. The pornography industry and its closet cohorts never want the public to learn that "just looking at pictures" has too often triggered serious copycat crimes against women and children.

Before leaving this subject, I must note that Dr. Fred Berlin, of the Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic worried that the Butner findings might actually be dangerous.

The New York Times reporters quote Berlin: "If people we thought were not dangerous are more so, then we need to know that, and we should treat them that way. But if we're wrong, then their liberties aren't going to be fairly addressed."

However, Berlin has historically protected the "liberties" of convicted pedophiles who he knew were abusing children during their mandated sex therapy program at Hopkins' Berlin/Money clinic.

Based on decades of "liberties" wrongly given to dangerous child predators, the Butner prison findings may cause such sexperts legitimate worry about future litigation.

Now, as LaRue says, after We The People study the whole, unedited report, let a real "debate" begin! ..more.. by Judith Reisman

Read More of Article...