February 29, 2008

FL- A pedophile's paradise? Parents protest a mobile home park.

2-28-2008 Florida:

Palm River, Florida – Parents call it a pedophile’s paradise.

And, it makes them sick.

A mobile home park in the Palm River area is becoming a haven for sex offenders. They use the park as a rehab of sorts. Currently, 8 offenders live there and more could be on the way. Families across the street have had enough.

“They walk the street all the time. Every day I see them, and there isn’t anything I can do about it. I’ve just got to leave it alone,” said Carla Bowling.

Carla’s opinion is suddenly changing.

She felt empowered after a meeting at First Baptist Church Thursday night where fellow parents spoke up, wanting sex offenders out.

“If they want to go out in the country and do something like this, where it’s not around children, I wouldn’t have much of a problem. If they want to go into a community, an all-adult community, I don’t like that either, but they have to go somewhere. But, don’t put them in the middle of a candy jar,” pleaded Judy Cornett, a mother who knows firsthand the pain a sex offender can cause.

Her son was molested when he was just a boy. And, he wasn’t the only one. Other children were also hurt. Since then, Judy has been on such shows as Oprah and Leeza Gibbons. She was at the meeting to educate parents on how to shut down this mobile home park.

The park is called the “Florida Justice Transition” program located at 5015 24th Avenue South. The manager, Patty Morais, works with offenders every day on their probation and watches them constantly.

She says, “We’re watching these guys. The probation officers are watching these guys. They’re going through their counseling. They’re doing everything they’re supposed to be doing.”

But, is what they’re doing legal? Should sex offenders have their own mobile home park?

Hillsborough County code enforcement says it may not be legal. They are investigating the case right now. They have not issued any citations, but they have started an active case. Case officers are going after the park for improper use of zoning.

So, who owns this park? Tampa Bay’s 10 News did some digging and found out that the park’s owner is traced back to Rooring Lake Gilbert, LLC. The owners did not return our phone calls.

Meanwhile, this predator colony, as some parents call it, is making money with rental charges. And, there’s 3 to 4 tenants per mobile home in some cases.

Carla Bowling worries every day about her 11-year-old daughter, Makayla, daughter who plays across the street. She calls the mere presence of these men near children, disgusting.

“I’m petrified. I’m scared, I’m really scared. It makes me mad. I don’t know how they can do it.”

Even her daughter says, “Sometimes they look at me. I’m worried about what to do if they come after me.”

A facility like this one already exists in St. Petersburg called the Palace Mobile Home Park. If parents in Palm River can help it, this new park in Tampa, only a month old, will be shut down as soon as possible. ..more.. by Melanie Brooks, Tampa Bay's 10 News

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Spanking Raises Chances of Risky, Deviant Sexual Behavior

Review found physical punishment of kids linked to unprotected, masochistic sex as adults

2-28-2008 National:

THURSDAY, Feb. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have uncovered another damaging consequence of spanking: risky sexual behaviors, or even sexual deviancy, when the child grows up.

"This adds one more harmful side effect to spanking," said Murray Straus, a spanking expert who was expected to present the findings of four studies at the American Psychological Association's Summit on Violence and Abuse in Relationships in Bethesda, Md., on Thursday.

"I think that it's pretty powerful," said Elizabeth Gershoff, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan's School of Social Work. "It's across several studies and across different forms of either risky or deviant sexual behavior."

Straus, who was the author of all four studies, hopes the findings will raise awareness among child development experts.

"My hope is to convince my colleagues that they ought to put this in their textbooks," said Straus, co-director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire, in Durham. "It's amazing. Something experienced by all American kids gets an average of half a page in child development textbooks, and not a single one comes to the conclusion that parents should never spank."

Even the revered Dr. Spock, who was anti-spanking, never came right out and advised parents outright not to do it, he added. Instead, Spock advised "avoiding it if you can."

A meta-analysis of spanking studies conducted by Gershoff found 93 percent agreement among studies that spanking can lead to such problems as delinquent and anti-social behavior in childhood along with aggression, criminal and anti-social behavior and spousal or child abuse as an adult.

"There's probably nothing else in child development that has 93 percent agreement in results," Straus said.

Five percent of people who have never been spanked hit their partners, versus 25 percent of those who were spanked frequently.

However, some 90 percent of U.S. parents spank toddlers, according to Straus.

The review being presented at the meeting are the first to look at the relationship of spanking to sexual behavior.

They found that spanking and other corporal punishment is associated with an increased probability of verbally and physically coercing a dating partner to have sex; risky sex such as premarital sex without using a condom; and masochistic sex such as spanking during sex.

There is a "dose response" at work here. "The more parents spank, the higher the probability of harmful side effects," Straus noted.

Of course, there's a similar dose response for smokers. But if someone reaches the age of 65 without developing lung cancer, it doesn't mean that smoking isn't harmful. It means the person was one of the lucky ones.

It's the same with spanking, Straus said. "If a person says, 'I was spanked, and I don't have any interest in bondage and discipline sex, that's correct, but it's not because spanking is OK, it's because they're one of the lucky ones."

And spanking a child once may be like picking up that first cigarette. "The trouble is, if you have a 2-year-old, you pretty soon decide you can't avoid it. The recidivism rate for whatever 'crime' you correct a 2-year-old for is about 50 percent in two hours."

"I've been researching corporal punishment for 30 years and, in the course of that time, the evidence has accumulated that it doesn't work any better than non-corporal punishment but has harmful side effects. I have come to the conclusion that parents should never, ever spank because, although it does work, it's no better than non-hitting methods that don't have harmful side effects. If there was an FDA for spanking, they'd say use an alternative that doesn't have harmful side effects." ..more.. by Amanda Gardner

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February 28, 2008

How Dangerous Is the Internet for Children?

2-28-2008 National:

A few years ago, a parenting magazine asked me to write an article about the dangers that children face when they go online. As it turns out, I was the wrong author for the article they had in mind.

The editor was deeply disappointed by my initial draft. Its chief message was this: “Sure, there are dangers. But they’re hugely overhyped by the media. The tales of pedophiles luring children out of their homes are like plane crashes: they happen extremely rarely, but when they do, they make headlines everywhere. The Internet is just another facet of socialization for the new generation; as always, common sense and a level head are the best safeguards.”

My editor, however, was looking for something more sensational. He asked, for example, if I could dig up an opening anecdote about, say, an eight-year-old getting killed by a chat-room stalker. But after days of research—and yes, I actually looked at the Google results past the first page—I could not find a single example of a preteen getting abducted and murdered by an Internet predator.

So the editor sent me the contact information for several parents of young children with Internet horror stories, and suggested that I interview them. One woman, for example, told me that she became hysterical when her eight-year-old stumbled onto a pornographic photo. She told me that she literally dove for the computer, crashing over a chair, yanking out the power cord and then rushing her daughter outside.

You know what? I think that far more damage was done to that child by her mother’s reaction than by the dirty picture.

See, almost the same thing happened at our house. When my son was 7 years old, he was Googling “The Incredibles” on the computer that we keep in the kitchen. At some point, he pulled up a doctored picture of the Incredibles family, showing them naked.

“What…on… earth?” he said in surprise.

I walked over, saw what was going on, and closed the window. “Yeah, I know,” I told him. “Some people like pictures of naked people. The Internet is full of all kinds of things.” And life went on.

My thinking was this: a seven-year-old is so far from puberty, naked pictures don’t yet have any of the baggage that we adults associate with them. Sex has no meaning yet; the concept produces no emotional charge one way or another.

Today, not only is my son utterly unscarred by the event, I’m quite sure he has no memory of it whatsoever.

Now, I realize that not everybody shares my nonchalance. And again, it’s not hard to find scattered anecdotes about terrible things that happen online.

But if you live in terror of what the Internet will do to your children, I encourage you to watch this excellent hour long PBS “Frontline” documentary. (I learned about it in a recent column by Times media critic Virginia Heffernan).

It’s free, and it’s online in its entirety. The show surveys the current kids-online situation—thoroughly, open-mindedly and frankly.

Turns out I had it relatively easy writing about the dangers to children under age 12; this documentary focuses on teenagers, 90 percent of whom are online every single day. They are absolutely immersed in chat, Facebook, MySpace and the rest of the Web; it’s part of their ordinary social fabric to an extent that previous generations can’t even imagine.

The show carefully examines each danger of the Net. And as presented by the show, the sexual-predator thing is way, way overblown, just as I had suspected. Several interesting interview transcripts accompany the show online; the one with producer Rachel Dretzin goes like this:

“One of the biggest surprises in making this film was the discovery that the threat of online predators is misunderstood and overblown. The data shows that giving out personal information over the Internet makes absolutely no difference when it comes to a child's vulnerability to predation.” (That one blew my mind, because every single Internet-safety Web site and pamphlet hammers repeatedly on this point: never, ever give out your personal information online.)

“Also, the vast majority of kids who do end up having contact with a stranger they meet over the Internet are seeking out that contact,” Ms. Dretzin goes on. “Most importantly, all the kids we met, without exception, told us the same thing: They would never dream of meeting someone in person they'd met online.”

Several teenagers interviewed in the story make it clear that only an idiot would be lured unwittingly into a relationship with an online sicko: “If someone asks me where I live, I’ll delete the ‘friend.’ I mean, why do you want to know where I live at?” says one girl.

Fearmongers often cite the statistic, from a 2005 study by the Crimes Against Children Research Center, that 1 in 7 children have received sexual propositions while online. But David Finkelhor, author of that report, notes that many of these propositions don’t come from Internet predators at all. “Considerable numbers of them are undoubtedly coming from other kids, or just people who are acting weird online,” he says.

“Most of the sexual solicitations, they’re not that big a deal,” says another interview subject, Danah Boyd of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. “Most of it is the 19-year-old saying to the 17-year old, ‘Hey, baby.’ Is that really the image that we come to when we think about sexual solicitations? No. We have found kids who engage in risky behavior online. The fact is, they’ve engaged in a lot more risky behavior offline.”

As my own children approach middle school, my own fears align with the documentary’s findings in another way: that cyber-bullying is a far more realistic threat. Kids online experiment with different personas, and can be a lot nastier in the anonymous atmosphere of the Internet than they would ever be in person (just like grown-ups). And their mockery can be far more painful when it’s public, permanent and written than if they were just muttered in passing in the hallway.

In any case, watch the show. You’ll learn that some fears are overplayed, others are underplayed, and above all, that the Internet plays a huge part in adolescence now. Pining for simpler times is a waste of time; like it or not, this particular genie is out of the bottle. ..more.. by DAVID POGUE

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How the media can misrepresent the Web


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Pew Report Finds More than One in 100 Adults are Behind Bars

2-28-2008 National:

Washington, DC - 02/28/2008 - For the first time in history more than one in every 100 adults in America are in jail or prison—a fact that significantly impacts state budgets without delivering a clear return on public safety. According to a new report released today by the Pew Center on the States’ Public Safety Performance Project, at the start of 2008, 2,319,258 adults were held in American prisons or jails, or one in every 99.1 men and women, according to the study. During 2007, the prison population rose by more than 25,000 inmates. In addition to detailing state and regional prison growth rates, Pew’s report, One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008, identifies how corrections spending compares to other state investments, why it has increased, and what some states are doing to limit growth in both prison populations and costs while maintaining public safety.

As prison populations expand, costs to states are on the rise. Last year alone, states spent more than $49 billion on corrections, up from $11 billion 20 years before. However, the national recidivism rate remains virtually unchanged, with about half of released inmates returning to jail or prison within three years. And while violent criminals and other serious offenders account for some of the growth, many inmates are low-level offenders or people who have violated the terms of their probation or parole.

“For all the money spent on corrections today, there hasn’t been a clear and convincing return for public safety,” said Adam Gelb, director of the Public Safety Performance Project. “More and more states are beginning to rethink their reliance on prisons for lower-level offenders and finding strategies that are tough on crime without being so tough on taxpayers.”

According to the report, 36 states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons saw their prison populations increase in 2007. Among the seven states with the largest number of prisoners—those with more than 50,000 inmates—three grew (Ohio, Florida and Georgia), while four (New York, Michigan, Texas and California) saw their populations dip. Texas surpassed California as the nation’s prison leader following a decline in both states’ inmate populations—Texas decreased by 326 inmates and California by 4,068. Ten states, meanwhile, experienced a jump in inmate population growth of 5 percent or greater, a list topped by Kentucky with a surge of 12 percent.

A close examination of the most recent U.S. Department of Justice data (2006) found that while one in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, the figure is one in nine for black males in that age group. Men are still roughly 13 times more likely to be incarcerated, but the female population is expanding at a far brisker pace. For black women in their mid- to late-30s, the incarceration rate also has hit the one-in-100 mark. In addition, one in every 53 adults in their 20s is behind bars; the rate for those over 55 is one in 837.

The report points out the necessity of locking up violent and repeat offenders, but notes that prison growth and higher incarceration rates do not reflect a parallel increase in crime, or a corresponding surge in the nation’s population at large. Instead, more people are behind bars principally because of a wave of policy choices that are sending more lawbreakers to prison and, through popular “three-strikes” measures and other sentencing laws, imposing longer prison stays on inmates.

As a result, states’ corrections costs have risen substantially. Twenty years ago, the states collectively spent $10.6 billion of their general funds—their primary discretionary dollars—on corrections. Last year, they spent more than $44 billion in general funds, a 315 percent jump, and more than $49 billion in total funds from all sources. Coupled with tightening state budgets, the greater prison expenditures may force states to make tough choices about where to spend their money. For example, Pew found that over the same 20-year period, inflation-adjusted general fund spending on corrections rose 127 percent while higher education expenditures rose just 21 percent.

“States are paying a high cost for corrections—one that may not be buying them as much in public safety as it should. And spending on prisons may be crowding out investments in other valuable programs that could enhance a state’s economic competitiveness,” said Susan K. Urahn, managing director of the Pew Center on the States. “There are other choices. Some state policy makers are experimenting with a range of community punishments that are as effective as incarceration in protecting public safety and allow states to put the brakes on prison growth.”

According to Pew, some states are attempting to protect public safety and reap corrections savings primarily by holding lower-risk offenders accountable in less-costly settings and using intermediate sanctions for parolees and probationers who violate conditions of their release. These include a mix of community-based programs such as day reporting centers, treatment facilities, electronic monitoring systems and community service—tactics recently adopted in Kansas and Texas. Another common intervention, used in Kansas and Nevada, is making small reductions in prison terms for inmates who complete substance abuse treatment and other programs designed to cut their risk of recidivism.

Pew was assisted in collecting state prison counts by the Association of State Correctional Administrators and the JFA Institute. The report also relies on data published by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Association of State Budget Officers, and the U.S. Census Bureau. ..more.. by Pew

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OH- Violence hard to snuff at youth prisons

2-27-2008 Ohio:

COLUMBUS (AP) — The violence is provoked by the simplest things: A lunch tray mix-up, a snatched notebook, a sassy comeback or, in one case, a threatened rubber band attack.

But this is no middle school cafeteria. It's Ohio's youth prison system, where juvenile missteps can have painful consequences.

Since 2004, there have been at least 22 cases among the roughly 1,800 inmates housed by the Ohio Department of Youth Services being improperly slapped, kicked, choked, beaten, pushed through gates, rushed into walls or sexually molested by their caretakers.

In two cases — in 2004 and last May — a guard broke the arm of a teenager, according to department records reviewed by The Associated Press. A 180-pound youth housed in Marion lost consciousness when he was pressed to the floor by a 421-pound corrections officer. Another's eardrum was shattered when he was kicked in the head by a guard.

State officials are aware they have a problem. A consultant's report in December described a system saturated with violence and mistreatment, where youth are scared of each other and the staff, and guards fear the youth they oversee. Consultant Fred Cohen described the fear at one institution as "an all-consuming fire."

Last April, the Children's Law Center and other groups broadened a 2004 civil rights lawsuit against the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility into a class action case against the entire agency, unhappy with the progress the department had made on its promises. The state agreed to abide by Cohen's recommendations based on that litigation and concerns raised by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Cohen wrote, "As this lawsuit moves forward, a dramatic reduction in staff violence should be the first order of business."

Youth prisons director Tom Stickrath said efforts are under way to reverse a culture within the state's eight youth institutions that for many years resembled that of an adult prison. That model has been increasingly viewed as inappropriate for young offenders serving short-term sentences.

The juveniles are held for offenses ranging from murder or rape to receiving stolen property. The average sentence is 11 months.

Stickrath said every guard in 2007 took an advanced course in conflict resolution that focuses on using verbal rather than physical means to resolve conflicts. Youth inmates, nearly all of whom grew up in violent settings, are scheduled to take the course this year.

Instead of law enforcement-style uniforms, staff have changed to khaki cargo pants and light blue button-down shirts. A cold institutional atmosphere has been diminished with comfy couches and other aesthetic changes.

Yet violence occurred last year, records show, even as Cohen's review was under way.

On Aug. 7, a Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility guard forcibly escorted a youth to solitary confinement whom investigators later determined had done nothing wrong. When the boy resisted being locked up, the guard forced him to the floor out of sight of other officers and put his knee into the back of his neck.

The guard initially told investigators the youth had slipped on the newly waxed floor, a fact he later recanted among others.

A dietary consultant at Indian River detention center was fired in October after inmates reported that she was having inappropriate sexual contact with an inmate. She denied further allegations that she had given the youth cigarettes, lighters, tobacco and money.

Other investigations last year confirmed a guard threw hot coffee on a juvenile during a dispute and a different guard went to a youth's room out of sight of his colleagues and assaulted the boy.

Peter Wray, a spokesman for the union that represents juvenile corrections officers, or JCOs, said the officers are often asked to work double or triple shifts, to supervise large groups of youth without help, and to follow procedures that are "sometimes silly, sometimes dangerous."

"It's a system that has poor training, it's a system that has forced the JCOs into being totally security-only and has prevented them from playing any kind of positive treatment role, it's a system that's understaffed in six of the eight institutions, and it's a situation where mandated overtime is unbelievably out of control," said Wray, of the Ohio Civil and Service Employees Union.

He said such working conditions, many of them outlined in Cohen's report, contribute to the violence because guards are often overtired, overworked and stressed.

"When that (violent incident) happens, it's a symptom not the disease," he said.

Stickrath said he preaches non-violence when possible, but said running youth prisons isn't always going to be a peaceful pursuit.

"We understand that there's going to be that (physical force), but it's got to be within our policy and it can't be done for punishment," he said. "It can't go beyond what our policies and procedures and training permit."

He said he personally watches videotapes of incidents that prompt complaints, which have totaled more than 200 since the lawsuit was filed in 2004.

The department also has started a reporting system that allows managers to swiftly identify anomalies at an institution, such as a sudden spike in gang activity, suicide attempts or incident reports.

"My caveat is we're not going to manage this agency with use of force and use of luck," Stickrath said. "We're going to manage it through communications and keeping the kids busy, and using training and other techniques.

"But it's a clear kind of culture shift for the agency as a whole, and that's not easy." ..more.. by JULIE CARR SMYTH, AP Statehouse Correspondent

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2 Child-Rape Victims, Now 19: Here’s How We Moved On With Our Lives

2-27-2008 United Kingdom:

Two 10-year-old girls who made national news in the U.K. in 1999, when a convicted pedophile abducted and held them for four days, are now young women of 19. And, contrary to what many might have guessed, Lisa Hoodless and Charlene Lunnon have moved on with their lives with remarkably few difficulties despite their ordeal.

It included repeated rapes by a smelly, then-45-year-old man, at least one abortive murder attempt and a cruel claim that their captor had sought a ransom which their parents refused to pay, reports the London Times in a lengthy article detailing their experience and how they survived it.

Watching her father on television, while they were being held, Lunnon says, she could see from her father's face that he thought she was already dead.

Today, the two young women are close friends, although they were estranged for years in the aftermath of their terrible experience. One is in a long-term relationship and has a child; the other recently ended a relationship and plans to work with children. Both say their parents were more adversely affected by the crime than they were, although one has had nightmares and the other is still fearful of being alone at home.

However, they don't worry about living in the same area where they were abducted, because their attacker, Alan Hopkinson, will never be released from prison. He and the two girls were discovered in 1999 when police came to his home to question him after other parents complained about the way he treated their children.

Both Hoodless and Lunnon remember as one of the worst aspects of their entire experience the therapy they were required to undergo for months after their release. They wanted to put their ordeal behind them, but instead were forced to relive it in the therapy sessions. What helped them move on successfully, they say, was simply going ahead with their lives.

“You can either go one way and [think] everything's ruined or you can go the other and put it behind you," says Hoodless. "That's what we did.”

In fact, there was even a positive aspect to their experience, which, as far as the actual crime was concerned, lasted only a very small fraction of their lives, says Lunnon. "If someone said you can take it back, I wouldn't take it back. It has made me so much stronger," she tells the newspaper. "It hasn't brought bad out, it has brought out good. It has made me appreciate things.” ..more.. by Martha Neil

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February 27, 2008

TN- Runaway Train

Alleged rapes, beatings and now a suicide attempt at a youth treatment facility

2-27-2008 Tennessee:

In late January, surveillance footage at Hermitage Hall, a treatment facility for nearly 100 male youth sex offenders ages 9 to 17, revealed that a staffer neglected his supervisory duties and spent nearly half an hour in a bathroom as several boys under his care appeared to be anally and orally raped by another resident (“Bitter Pill,” Feb. 14). With the brutal, sordid incident now under investigation by Metro police and the state’s Department of Children’s Services, it stands to reason that staffers at Hermitage Hall would be on high alert.

But little more than a week after reports of multiple counts of rape filtered in to state offices comes the horrifying report of a Hermitage resident who, distraught after a scuffle in the facility’s outdoor play area, threatened to plummet from an interstate overpass into the rush-hour traffic below.

According to a Feb. 7 incident report, the boy was involved in a physical altercation in the “back field” of the facility’s outdoor recreation area, located off of Eighth Avenue South. A Hermitage staffer, identified only as Ms. Foster, took the boy to a swing set to talk after the fight and encouraged him to line up with his peers, who were walking into the building.

Apparently unable to soothe the boy, the woman allowed two of the boy’s peers to take a shot at helping him. According to the report, the two boys tried “to encourage him to process his feelings” and join them inside. The peer-to-peer therapy didn’t work.

Instead, the boy ran away—all the way to Interstate 65, where, at approximately 5 p.m., he stood at the Hamilton Avenue overpass before climbing over the edge. With the interstate sign to his back, the boy sat with his legs dangling above traffic and threatened to jump.

Though police and the boy’s psychiatrist were reportedly at the scene trying to talk the boy down, it took a stranger in a semi-truck to rescue him. According to the incident report, the driver of an 18-wheeler positioned the truck’s trailer beneath the sign, allowing the boy to climb down. Police then transferred the resident to the Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute.

The incident report does not give the boy’s age or where he is from, though the state stopped placing Tennessee children at Hermitage in 2006. And it’s also not clear in the report where Hermitage staffers were when the boy bolted from facility grounds. Officials from Hermitage Hall refused to discuss the incident, instead writing a letter to the Scene pointing out that the facility is “licensed in good standing” by the state’s Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities (DMHDD).

DMHDD officials refused to comment by phone about the incident. In an email to the Scene, department spokeswoman Jill Hudson wrote that DMHDD director of licensure Amber Gallina would only respond in writing to the Scene’s written questions.

In an email, Gallina admitted that the January rape allegations “caused concern” for her department, but she was quick to defend how Hermitage Hall handled the suicide attempt, saying staffers “followed all procedures for an incident of this type.”

Since the Scene first reported allegations made by Hermitage employees that residents were roughed up and placed in isolation rooms for weeks on end, forced to sleep on mattresses in the building’s hallways and given drug injections that experts liken to a chemical straitjacket (“Bad Medicine,” Dec. 13), countless reports that indicate clear security, operational and staffing issues at Hermitage have continued to filter into state offices. Even in the face of those allegations, Gallina says her office considers Hermitage a “viable vendor” with “quality staff and employees who are dedicated to their jobs and the mission of Hermitage Hall to help this category of youth.” ..more.. by Elizabeth Ulrich

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ME- Sex offenders should be judged individually

2-27-2008 Maine:

Laws made in the heat of emotions usually need revising, and so does the sex offender law requiring offenders to register every 90 days for the rest of their lives. The public wants to protect its children, but one must weigh the effectiveness of the law versus the harm done by it.

This was well discussed in Sunday's paper (Feb. 17) by retired Colby professor Bob McArthur.

To lump all offenders as dangerous and likely to repeat offenders is unfair. That in itself is punishment reminiscent of the scarlet letter.

To be effective, cases should be judged individually and subject to review.

If prisons are to not only punish, but to rehabilitate, those judged not likely to repeat should be given a second chance to live a normal life.

In California, the "Three Strikes, You're Out" law was made in haste and out of anger. The sentencing was flawed and wreaked much havoc. Judges should be able to use their own best judgment in sentencing, probation and registration requirements for sex offenders. Not all offenders should be doomed to unproductivity the rest of their lives. ..more.. Opinion: Carol Rasmussen

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ME- Sex Offender Registry Changes Proposed

2-27-2008 Maine:

Legislators this session likely will be asked to amend the state's sex offender registry law to give some kind of break to people who were convicted and sentenced as far back as 1982 and no longer appear to be a threat.

Those people, who were sentenced between January of 1982 and June of 1992, are required to register based on an amendment to Maine's sex offender registry law passed in 2005 meaning their name, address, photo and place of work are now being posted for everyone to see on the web.

A series of court challenges and testimony by those who say they have been hounded out of their work and homes because of their appearance on the list, is causing the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee to have second thoughts about what it and the Legislature did three years ago.

Committee Chairman Sen. William Diamond, D-Cumberland, is looking for suggestions on how to modify the register to limit public exposure for those who appear to be one-time offenders. He wants a bill to be considered by the Legislature this session.

"Any reasonable person could look at the people on that list now and say, 'They shouldn't be there.' And there are those that should be there," Diamond said. "Other than going through one at a time," he asked fellow committee members for suggestions on how to differentiate between what he calls the "bad guys" and those unlikely to re-offend.

The 2005 change that expanded the sex offender registry was crafted, in large part, as a reaction to the release in 2004 of Joseph Tellier of Saco, who raped and left for dead a then 10-year-old girl in 1989. When he was released from prison, he did not have to register as a sex offender because Maine's law then only went back to those sentenced as of July of 1992.

Tellier died last August and a month later the state Supreme Court ruled a case brought by a man identified only as John Doe, who claims his rights are being violated because the law didn't exist when he committed his crime in the mid-1980s, has merit. That case is still pending and its outcome could determine whether Maine's current sex offender registry is constitutional.

Doe's claim that he was afraid of violence against him because his name appears on the statewide registry was bolstered by the Easter Sunday 2006 murders of two men on the state's registry. The killer, who later committed suicide, apparently tracked them down using information on the state's website.

An idea that is gaining acceptance on the committee is to create what House committee chairman, Rep. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, has dubbed a "silent registry" where some people caught up in the so-called 1982 to 1992 look-back would be on a registry only easily available to law enforcement officials.

Rep. Anne Haskell, D-Portland, said she not only supports the silent registry, but wonders if the committee shouldn't go further.

"I might even be open to simple repeal of the 10-year look-back," she said.

Rep. Gary Plummer, R-Windham, said he's considered repeal himself, but worries about those, like Tellier, who clearly should be on a list.

"What would happen if we say repeal the look-back except for those people who have reoffended?" Plummer asked at a committee work session on the bill last week.

"I think it's a copout to say we're going to drop it all together," said Rep. Joseph Tibbetts, R-Columbia, a retired sheriff and member of the committee. "No way I could ever support repeal."

Diamond said complete repeal would never make it through the Legislature, and some people should remain on the public list.

"I don't think anybody on the committee wants to take off the bad guys," Diamond said. "The trick is how do you draw the line? How do you separate them and how do you do that legislatively?" Diamond asked.

There currently are 2,989 people registered on the state sex offender website. Of that group about 1,050 were added as a result of extending the look-back period to 1982. All of those captured by the look-back are supposed to register for life because of the seriousness of their crimes.

That designation, however, does not capture all details of their offenses or their likelihood to re-offend, committee members believe. Some people, for example, may have pled to an offense as part of a brokered deal, not realizing they would be tagged for life.

The "silent" registry being considered by the committee would put those deemed unlikely to reoffend on a list available only to police, unless a request for information was made by the public. Among the criteria being considered by the committee for placing people on the unpublished list are those who never had to serve jail time for their crime or those who have had no new offenses. The State Police estimate that 20 percent of those on the list as a result of the look-back period to 1982 have re-offended. ..more.. by Victoria Wallack

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February 26, 2008

Judge: Suicide Victim's Family Can Sue NBC

Should anyone think that, folks facing such charges do not commit suicide, then here is our comprehensive list of hundreds that have already, and the stories behind that list.

$105M Suit Alleges Sex Sting By NBC's "To Catch A Predator" Drove Man To Kill Himself
2-26-2008 National:

(AP) A $105 million lawsuit brought by a woman who claims a sex sting by "Dateline NBC: To Catch A Predator" drove her brother to kill himself can go to trial, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

In a scathing ruling, U.S. District Judge Denny Chin said a jury might conclude the network "crossed the line from responsible journalism to irresponsible and reckless intrusion into law enforcement."

Louis William Conradt Jr., a suburban Dallas prosecutor, fatally shot himself after he was accused of engaging in a sexually explicit online chat with an adult posing as a 13-year-old boy, according to a lawsuit filed by his sister.

In the lawsuit, Patricia Conradt said NBC "steamrolled" police to arrest her brother after telling police he failed to show up at a sting operation 35 miles away.

NBC was working with the activist group Perverted Justice on the sting, in which officers impersonating underage girls establish online chats with men and try to lure them to a house, where they are met by TV cameras and police.

Chin said the lawsuit contained sufficient facts to make it plausible that the suicide was foreseeable, that police had a duty to protect Conradt from killing himself, and that the officers and NBC acted with deliberate indifference.

Amanda Leith, a lawyer for NBC Universal, had no comment on the ruling. The company previously called the lawsuit "completely without merit." A spokeswoman for the company did not immediately return a telephone message.

Bruce Baron, a lawyer for Patricia Conradt, said: "This decision shows no one is above the law, no matter how powerful."

Chin tossed out many of Patricia Conradt's claims but said her principal claims could proceed to trial.

In his ruling, Chin said the network "placed itself squarely in the middle of a police operation, pushing the police to engage in tactics that were unnecessary and unwise, solely to generate more dramatic footage for a television show."

Chin wrote that a reasonable jury could find there was no legitimate law enforcement need for a heavily armed SWAT team to extract a 56-year-old prosecutor from his home when he was not accused of any actual violence and was not believed to have a gun.

He said a jury might conclude it was done solely to sensationalize and enhance the entertainment value of the arrest.

"A reasonable jury could find that by doing so, NBC created a substantial risk of suicide or other harm, and that it engaged in conduct so outrageous and extreme that no civilized society should tolerate it," Chin said.

Before issuing his ruling, Chin said he reviewed a copy of the Feb. 20, 2007 episode. In her lawsuit, Patricia Conradt claims a police officer at the scene of the shooting told a "Dateline" producer: "That'll make good TV." ..more.. by CBS News

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MA- System’s flawed

2-26-2008 Massachusetts:

The publicized case of Corey highlights the deficiencies in our judicial system that will release a clearly dangerous predator before even classifying him (“Measure the risk before it’s too late,” Feb. 14).

Unfortunately the same system is also guilty of victimizing former sex offenders.

In scrutinizing the listing of Level 3 offenders around Malden, I noted that many of their offenses took place over 20 years ago and yet they’re still classified as highly likely to re-offend. Also, having their address and place of work listed may expose them to job termination, eviction and harassment.

The flaws in the current system also create somewhat of a paradox. A sex offender automatically comes under review for civil commitment by the district attorney upon completion of his sentence.

If he is found not be dangerous and released, how can the Sex Offender Registry Board turn around and classify him as Level 3? If he is deserving of Level 3, why was he released? Our sex offender laws need refining, but in a way that will balance the playing field. ..more.. Opinion by Bob Marquis, Director New Beginnings, Inc., First Baptist Church of Wilmington

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GA- State Supreme Court throws out life-without-parole sentence for convicted rapist

2-26-2008 Georgia:

State prosecutors cannot obtain a sentence of life in prison without parole against someone who rapes a child unless they are seeking the death penalty, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled Monday.

In a 4-3 opinion, the court said a Grady County judge lacked the authority to sentence Rodolfo Lopez Velazquez to life without parole for the June 2005 rape of a 7-year-old girl. Velazquez, who must now be resentenced, faces a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole.

case because were barred from doing so in a case involving rape when the victim is not murdered.

But Justice Harris Hines, writing for the majority, said that the U.S. Supreme Court in 1977 ruled the death penalty unconstitutional only for the rape of an adult woman. Neither the U.S. Supreme Court nor the Georgia Supreme Court "has yet addressed whether the death penalty is unconstitutionally disproportionate for the crime of raping a child," Hines wrote.

The U.S. Supreme Court could decide the issue this year. In January, it agreed to hear an appeal of a Louisiana man who was sentenced to death in 2004 for raping an 8-year-old girl.

In Georgia, if the death penalty is sought, the defendant can be sentenced to life with parole, life without parole or death. Even though the Legislature in 1999 passed an amendment allowing life-without-parole for the crime of rape, the state Supreme Court's own precedent in a 1996 decision handed does not allow it —unless death is sought by the prosecution, Hines wrote.

Justice George Carley, joined by Justices Carol Hunstein and Harold Melton, dissented. "If the majority were correct, the Legislature accomplished nothing" by amending the law in 1999, Carley said. ..more.. by BILL RANKIN, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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FL- Jessie's Ride draws smaller pack of riders

Mark Lunsford, who may sue over his daughter's death, is cheered.
2-24-2008 Florida:

HOMOSASSA - A 9-year-old girl disappeared from her bedroom and was lost forever.

That awful fact, and the need to make sense of it, overshadowed all else Saturday, as crowds of well-wishers gathered in this Gulf Coast town to mark the third anniversary of Jessica Lunsford's kidnapping and murder.

Reconciliation seemed hard to imagine Thursday after Jessica's father, Mark Lunsford, announced he would sue Citrus County, the Sheriff's Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

He said those agencies' negligence led, directly and indirectly, to the death of his daughter. Many in Citrus County - including Sheriff Jeff Dawsy, whom Lunsford once praised for finding and arresting her killer - said the lawsuit came as a crushing surprise.

But on Saturday the two men shook hands, chatted quietly for a moment, and then asked the crowd to join them in protecting children from abuse.

"My feelings will never change," Dawsy told the St. Petersburg Times, saying he would always identify with Lunsford's loss. "I know what they went through."

True, fewer motorcyclists showed up this year for Jessie's Ride, a trek from Pasco to Citrus counties that saw more than 4,000 riders last year. On Saturday there were 487 registered participants, said Warren Hill, manager of Harley-Davidson of Crystal River.

But those who came cheered enthusiastically as Lunsford, Dawsy and others asked for support in raising funds to build Jessie's Place, a planned child advocacy center.

"It's all about pulling people together for the kids," Lunsford said. "That's the only reason we're here."

Rep. Ginnie Brown-Waite said Lunsford's efforts helped change minds in Washington and influenced passage of the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which stiffened penalties for those convicted of sexual or violent crimes against children.

John Couey, a convicted sex offender, was sentenced to death in August for the rape and murder of Jessica, who was found dead in a shallow grave three weeks after her disappearance.

There was little mention Saturday of the lawsuit, which is expected to be discussed at a Tuesday news conference. Lunsford would say only that it was necessary to fix the system and prevent future crimes.

"I have to do everything I can to get the changes we need," he told the Times.

A few in the crowd following Jessie's Ride said the lawsuit had changed their feelings toward Lunsford, and one woman was ejected from the event by police after angrily questioning him and saying "the people of Citrus County want an answer."

But others said the lawsuit shouldn't be allowed to overshadow the atrocity of Jessica's killing.

"We're here for this one reason," said Claire Miller of Port Richey as her husband, Mike, nodded in agreement. "And that's Jessie." ..more.. by Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or 352 848-1431.

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FL- Lunsford, Attorney Air Suit's Reasoning

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda, Hindsight is 20-20! Everyone did more in this case than in any other case on record. So, what is the real purpose for the lawsuit? Is there an issue of media attention for some other, yet unknown, purpose?

2-25-2008 Florida:

TAMPA - The Citrus County sheriff "doesn't know about the problems" that prevented finding 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford before it was too late, her father, Mark Lunsford, said in explaining Monday why he intends to sue the office for negligence.

Last week, Sheriff Jeff Dawsy said that Lunsford had sent him a notice of his lawsuit, which is required at least six months before a suit is filed against a government agency. Dawsy said that any claim his office was negligent is unfounded, and that he was shocked.

"I know Jeff Dawsy. I like Jeff Dawsy," Lunsford said Monday. "But he doesn't know about the problems in his office. And there are problems, problems that could have prevented a death."

Lunsford said that he and Dawsy were never friends, and what viewers saw on television about the investigation and murder trial was mostly politics.

"This is the guy who heckled me when I wanted to run for office. I've never sat and had lunch with my sheriff. He doesn't come to my house and visit with my mom and dad," Lunsford said.

A phone call seeking comment from Dawsy was not returned.

Appearing Monday on "The O'Reilly Factor" on Fox News, attorneys for Lunsford asserted that investigators went four times to John Couey's house in the days after Jessica disappeared, but did not search inside. Investigators, they say, didn't act quickly enough on suspicions about him.

Couey, a sexual offender, was ultimately convicted of the killing of Jessica "Jessie" Lunsford and sentenced to death.

Before the televised appearance Monday, attorney Mark Gelman said the sheriff's office did not execute a thorough door-to-door search in the neighborhood where the girl disappeared.

"Deputies went to Couey's house four times in the first two days after she disappeared," he said.

Gelman said sheriff's office records show witnesses reported suspicious activity at the trailer where Couey lived at 6647 Snowbird Lane, but it was ignored, he said.

One of the reports was called in by a neighbor on Feb. 25, 2005, one day after Jessica Lunsford's disappearance, Gelman said. Gelman described this report as the "smoking gun."

"Why didn't they search? I have no idea," he said. "You're reading these reports and you just have to scratch your head."

On the television show, Gelman said that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement had contacted Dawsy about the sexual offenders living in the area, which included Couey. Dawsy, Gelman said, "knew Couey was living next to the little girl."

Interesting because Couey was not registered as living anywheres near the Lundsford address, now all of a sudden attorneys are saying he was?

Detectives focused on Archie Lunsford, Jessie's grandfather, as a suspect for too long, Gelman said, and manipulated the family to implicate him.

"They lied to Mark and told him that Jessie's blood was on his father's underwear," he said. "I don't have a problem with them looking closely at the family in a case like this but the way they did it was wrong."

The underware issue is new evidence, which if true, why did they never pursue that to a charge against Mark's father?

Gelman thinks Jessica was alive for at least three days before she died. "I think she was taken on the 24th and died on the early morning of the 28th," he said.

He said that forensics, Couey's testimony, and other testimony by Couey's roommates support his belief.

Gelman and co-counsel Eric Block decided to speak publicly for the first time on "The O'Reilly Factor" because host Bill O'Reilly has dedicated coverage to Jessie's Law, which aims to better track sex offenders and keep them away from children.

Gelman said it is possible Lunsford and his ex-wife, Angela Wright, may not follow through on the notice to sue, but it's not likely.

"I don't know in the history of Florida if any intent-to-sue notice has gotten this much attention," he said. "This is not about the money; this is about truth and accountability." ..more.. by Samara Sodos of News Channel 8 and Thomas W. Krause of The Tampa Tribune

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February 25, 2008

Did Justice Stevens Pull a Fast One? The Hidden Logic of a Recent Retroactivity Case in the Supreme Court

Last week, in Danforth v. Minnesota, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a state court was free to give greater protection to defendants' rights than the Supreme Court itself requires. Stated that way, the decision is hardly news. In our system of federalism, federal constitutional law is not a ceiling, but a floor. It sets out the minimum protections to which people are entitled. If states--through their constitutions or otherwise--choose to add protection, that is their prerogative.

Yet Danforth was no ordinary application of the floor-but-not-a-ceiling principle, because the question in the case was not whether Minnesota could interpret its own state law more broadly than federal law. Everyone accepts that it (like every other state) can. The question in Danforth was whether Minnesota could over-protect federal law. Perhaps surprisingly, the Supreme Court said yes.

Although the Danforth case involved highly technical and somewhat convoluted doctrine, it nonetheless warrants unpacking, for it may reveal an unexpected and important shift in the Justices' thinking about the relationship of state law to federal law.

The Danforth Case and the Retroactivity Question

At Stephen Danforth's 1996 trial for sexual conduct with a minor, the prosecution introduced a videotaped interview of his six-year-old victim. Danforth objected to this evidence, but the state courts rejected the objection under the standard the Supreme Court had set forth in the 1980 case of Ohio v. Roberts: whether the evidence was sufficiently reliable to satisfy the Sixth Amendment right of the accused to confront his accuser. Danforth was convicted.

After Danforth had exhausted his direct appeals, in 2004, the Supreme Court overruled the Roberts decision. In Crawford v. Washington, the Justices held that the admission into evidence of videotaped testimony of a witness who is otherwise available for trial, violates the Sixth Amendment (which applies to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment). After the Crawford decision, Danforth filed a habeas corpus petition in Minnesota state court, seeking a new trial.

If Danforth had sought habeas relief in federal court, he would have lost. Under the Supreme Court's landmark 1989 decision in Teague v. Lane, federal courts do not grant habeas relief to state prisoners based on "new rules" of constitutional law, except in two narrow circumstances. The rationale for the Teague rule is straightforward: States have a strong interest in the finality of criminal convictions; if a defendant had a trial that conformed to the constitutional standards that were understood to apply at the time of that trial, then the state generally should not have to re-try the defendant simply because it failed to anticipate a novel decision by the Supreme Court.

A contrary rule would put too great a burden on the state and could also create a disincentive for the Justices to recognize constitutional rights: If recognizing a new constitutional right required new trials for defendants who had originally been tried decades earlier, then the Justices would be very reluctant ever to recognize new rights. ..more.. by MICHAEL C. DORF

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Sex-offender law ignores real harm

2-25-2008 National:

Sarah Tofte is a U.S. researcher for Human Rights Watch.

State lawmakers will need to decide whether to comply with the federal Adam Walsh Act on sex offenders or lose federal money for law enforcement. The choice for states is to dramatically increase their registration and community-notification requirements for convicted sex offenders by 2009 or lose significant federal law enforcement grant money.

President Bush in his 2008 budget has eliminated the Byrne Grant program, accordingly states will not lose anything if they do not enact the Adam Walsh Act. eAdvocate

It doesn't seem like a difficult choice. Who wouldn't want to support laws targeting convicted sex offenders and be paid for it? Yet legislatures from Arizona to Illinois to Rhode Island are leaning against implementing the law. Because once you get past the painful emotions and look hard at the problem of child sexual abuse, it turns out that sex-offender registration and community-notification laws might not actually prevent sexual violence.

Sex-offender laws are based on two popular myths about child abuse: that children have most to fear from strangers, and that sex offenders will repeat their crimes. In fact, more than 90 percent of child sexual abuse is committed by someone the child knows. And authoritative studies show that three out of four sex offenders do not re-offend within 15 years of release from prison. In fact, 87 percent of sex crimes are committed by people with no previous sex-offense convictions.

The Adam Walsh Act doesn't tackle the real dangers to children, and contains disturbing provisions. It requires states to register and identify online children 14 and older who commit sex offenses. Many states treat juvenile sex offenders differently from adults, exempting them from community notification. They understand that young sex offenders respond well to treatment and have an excellent chance of rehabilitation - and that crimes they committed as children should not haunt the rest of their lives. Thus the Illinois legislature, knowing it was acting in conflict with the Adam Walsh Act, recently overrode the governor's veto of a law exempting child offenders from online registration.

In the past, federal law required only that states register sexually violent offenders for 15 years. The new act requires states to register virtually anyone convicted of a sex offense. This would force some states to significantly expand their registries. While it may seem a good idea to place all convicted sex offenders on a registry, law enforcement officials and child-safety advocates say that expanding the registry to include all offenders reduces its usefulness in helping law enforcement to identify and monitor individuals considered a real risk to the community.

The Adam Walsh Act also extends from 15 years to 25 years or life the time someone is on a registry and subject to community notification, without the possibility of petitioning to be removed. If Congress had consulted experts on sexual violence, it would have found that the longer a convicted sex offender lives offense-free in the community, the less likely he is to re-offend, which is why experts often advocate giving convicted sex offenders an opportunity to be released from registry requirements upon a showing of rehabilitation.

Implementing the changes required by the act will cost states a lot of money. At a legislative hearing in Arizona, witnesses testified that the state would lose between $700,000 and $800,000 in federal law enforcement grants if it didn't comply with the law - but that it would cost millions of dollars to expand the state's sex-offender laws to comply with the Adam Walsh Act.

Unnecessarily expansive community-notification laws may drive more offenders underground, away from supportive services like treatment, and away from the supervision and monitoring of law enforcement. Harsh enduring consequences also provide little incentive for former offenders to live without re-offending: as one registrant told Human Rights Watch, "No one believes I can change, so why even try?" ..more.. Sarah Tofte is a U.S. researcher for Human Rights Watch and the author of "No Easy Answers: Sex Offender Laws in the U.S." E-mail her through HRW at hrwnyc@hrw.org.

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Sexual Fascism in Progressive America

2-23-2008 National:

Note: The writer ("PARIAH") 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.

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."

..quite a few paragraphs left to read..

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CT- Experts: Extended therapy best treatment for offenders

2-24-2008 Connecticut:

On the outside, many sex offenders seem to be the bedrock of society.

They're neatly groomed. They hold a steady job. They're the neighbor who is always willing to provide that extra egg or stick of butter. And the ruse couldn't be more dangerous.

"We should fear these offenders not because they are monsters, but because they easily blend into the community," said Sgt. Sam Izzarelli, executive director of Connecticut's sex offender registry. "The majority of offenders - about 97 percent - have never been caught." Notice the absence of any authority for this comment.

But the ones who are caught, how do you treat them?

How do you exorcise a monster and prevent future sex crimes?

Unlike a cast to fix a broken leg - a couple of months and you're good - there are no easy answers to treating sex offenders, according to the experts.

William Samek, Ph.D., who oversees a sex offender treatment program in Miami, has worked with sex offenders for 30 years. He's heard the nightmare narratives and watched years and years of group therapy eventually heal a man.

But Samek has also thrown people out of his group for poisoning the room with a bad attitude, poor attendance and a soul absent of remorse.

"You must understand, the label that we use to describe sex offenders applies toward a tremendous range of illnesses and different intensities of those illnesses," Samek said Friday.

"But the majority of sex offenders are in the shallow end of the pool," he added. "They're the ones who download kiddie porn. They're the 20-year-olds dating 16-year-olds.

"The deep end is a far different story," Samek said. "They're the people who kidnap strangers, rape them, murder them and mutilate them. They're way over one in a million in the general population. But that's the image you see in the media."

The shallow-end sex offenders are "very treatable," according to Samek's research.

Earlier in his career, Samek did a 13-year study of his patients and discovered a 1.86 percent rate of recidivism, barely recognizable on a statistics sheet.

"And the majority of those repeat offenders were cited for missing curfew or some other technical violation of their probation," Samek explained. "With sex offenders, the behavior isn't generally done because the people are evil or bad, although their behavior certainly is.

"It's most often done because of mental illness. It's done because they are sick and need professional help," Samek said. "And that takes time. One of my patients just finished up (last week) after 16 years."

Timothy Foley, Ph.D., a psychologist from suburban Philadelphia with 25 years of experience dealing with sex offenders, agrees with Samek's opinion.

"Sex offenders are a heterogeneous group of people with varying needs. One size doesn't fit all," Foley said Friday. "Some people are probably born with a penchant for deviant sexual preferences.

"You can almost think of it as a sexual orientation," he explained. "While some people are probably born heterosexual or homosexual, others could well be born with a sexual orientation toward (pre-pubescent) children.

"Do people choose to be that way?" he asked. "No, of course not. But at the same time, I think just because you have a certain orientation, it doesn't necessarily mean you have to act on it."

Although group therapy is probably the most common treatment for sex offenders, others in the medical community complement the regimen with drugs.

In laymen's terms, the treatment is often referred to as chemical castration. As with most drugs, Samek said, the testosterone-reducing benefits last only as long as the patient takes the medicine.

"There are people who have been medically treated, and they've re-offended," Samek said. "It's not a magic pill."

These comments suggest that chemical castration is the answer, but how would that stop someone from downloading child pornograpy which is a sex crime. i.e., so is entrapment through stings, indecent exposure, etc.

With sex offenders, both men agreed, there never is. ..more.. by Brian Koonz at bkoonz@newstimes.com or at (203) 731-3411.

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NY- Proposed Net law has plenty of holes

Measure against sex predators would be nearly unenforceable

2-24-2008 New York

The Internet is arguably the best and worst thing to happen to society in the past 15 years. It allows us to have the world at our fingertips, to communicate with folks on the other side of the world in the wink of an eye, and to tell everyone exactly what we think. On the other hand, it has brought down the level of discourse in this country and (ironically) leaves some people even less connected to the real world.

Sharpening that double-edged sword is the Internet's inherent sense of anonymity. The idea that anyone can hide behind a false mask online, if they so choose, is rabidly defended -- and sometimes rightly so. But it also brings out the darkest aspects of human nature: Many people insult each other in ways that they wouldn't face to face, some are scammers and cheats, and the worst ones approach children with offers of sex from behind the shield of a computer screen.

On Thursday, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced a proposed law to ban registered sex offenders from social networking Web sites such as MySpace and Facebook, which are popular with teens. The law would apply to sex offenders whose victim was under 18, who used the Internet to commit their crime, or who are designated a Level 3 offender. If passed, such sex offenders would need to list all of their e-mail addresses and Internet screen names with the state, or face felony charges. It would also prohibit those offenders from using the Internet to access pornography.

Sure, it's an idea that sounds marvelous -- who doesn't want to protect kids from sex predators (except, obviously, the sex predators themselves)? In practice, though, such a law would be nearly impossible to enforce. Someone determined to stay anonymous could create dozens of new e-mail addresses an hour on sites such as Yahoo, Google Mail or Hotmail. Also, some Web sites offer ways to scramble users' IP addresses -- a unique number that identifies a particular computer to others -- so that communications are nearly untraceable.

Also, let's face it: It's a big online world out there, and while MySpace and Facebook are big among teens, there are thousands of message boards and millions of Web pages where determined predators can hide. Even a site with an innocent focus -- say, stamp-collecting -- can be more sinister if one bad apple shows up.

Keep in mind, too, that the new law would apply just to known sex offenders -- and even then, only the ones who fit the above criteria. Nothing to stop a guy (or gal) who is a first-time predator, or who hasn't been caught yet. That's true for any crime.

When asked Thursday about these gaps, Cuomo admitted: "Nothing is foolproof, but it's a big step forward." While we suppose it's better to have something rather than nothing, how useful is a law that has as many holes as a screen door?

As a possible method of enforcement, the attorney general did mention that probation and parole officers have the power to check the hard drives of sex offenders' computers to monitor their Internet use. However, the Division for Criminal Justice Services estimates about 26,000 sex offenders registered with New York state, and 424 in Broome County. It seems unlikely, however, that every hard drive will be checked every day to ensure compliance with the law. Heck, a clever online predator could own two or three different computers, or log in for e-mail at the local library. (A scary thought, but possible.)

At the core, though, is one simple fact: While "stranger danger" gets the most high-profile attention, the vast majority of crimes against children are committed not by released sex offenders, but instead by the victim's own family, church clergy and family friends. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has said that "based on what we know about those who harm children, the danger to children is greater from someone they or their family knows than from a stranger."

That's not to say that parents shouldn't be on the lookout for online sex predators. As always, it's best to keep the computer where its use can be monitored -- in a family room, not a child's bedroom -- and to teach about the dangers of giving out personal information such as names, addresses and phone numbers. But that should only be part of the lessons about the unfortunate array of ways that children and teens can get into trouble in the 21st century.

Because while we worry about the shadowy sex predator who might be lurking outside, we could be missing the abuse happening right in our own homes. ..more.. Editorial: PressConnects.com

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CA- Jessica's Law A Huge Disappointment For Police

2-24-2008 California:

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) ― A new law on the books, aimed at protecting our children, has police officers in an uproar. Jessica's Law is turning out to be a big disappointment for local law enforcement, and some believe it may actually put our children at risk.

"As we're standing here, right now, Jessica's Law is not being enforced," said Sgt. Mike Jones of the Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement team (S.A.F.E.).

Sgt. Jones says Jessica's Law is a nice thought, but has absolutely no teeth.

"But I can tell you right now it will be a major drain," he said. His team, S.A.F.E., monitors thousands of registered sex offenders in the county, and hunts down those not in compliance.

Jessica's Law was inspired in Florida by the 2005 abduction of 9-year old Jessica Lunsford. John Couey, a convicted sex offender, sexually assaulted and murdered her. Since then, California voters passed it's own version of Jessica's Law through Proposition 83.

Prop 83 requires all sex offenders -- on parole or not -- to stay at least 2000 feet from schools and parks, and to wear a GPS tracking device.

"We have no plan in place to fit the GPS devices on the 3,000 sex offenders in the county," Sgt. Jones said. "There's not enough money."

That's the question: Where is the money coming from?

With the state facing a $16 billion deficit and cities forecasting impending layoffs, how do you pay for millions of dollars worth of GPS devices and the extra officers needed to enforce Jessica's Law?

Sgt. Jones says because there is no funding they don't have the time, manpower or resources to keep more than 2000 sex offenders from hanging out at parks or schools.

That doesn't sit well with residents.

"They need to keep track of them, there are a lot of them out there," said Dan Aguiar.

There are exactly 68,000 sex offenders statewide.

"It will be very expensive," said Sgt. Jones. "With the situation right now it would be a drain." ..more.. by Ron Jones

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TX- Female sex predators hard to understand

2-24-2008 Texas:

Schoolboys may have always harbored crushes on attractive teachers, but experts say more than ever before, flirtations between boys and women are developing into sexual affairs that lead to criminal charges, convictions and jail time.

This month, Friendswood police arrested a 26-year-old private school teacher on charges that she had sex with a 17-year-old student along a deserted road.

Days before, a 29-year-old Galveston City Hall worker was charged with sexually assaulting of 13-year-old boy who was a longtime friend of her stepson.

Within the same week, a Deer Park High School teacher was charged with having sex with a teenage student.

None of these woman have been convicted of any crimes.

Getting Brazen

Although experts agree there’s a noticeable spike in the number of women arrested for sexually assaulting minors, explanations for that increase differ.

One explanation offered by California law activist Bonnie Russell, is that older women used to be more discreet in their sexual pursuits and have become more open.

“Male sex offenders have always been brazen,” she said. “Females doing this, or at least getting caught, used to be very uncommon. Now they’re getting brazen, flaunting obvious law-breaking.”

Or perhaps, as licensed psychotherapist Tina Tessina suspects, the crimes are just being reported more.

“Police would laugh at you 30 years ago if you reported a teenage boy being victimized by his teacher,” Tessina said. “Police departments have gotten much more aware and now, a lot of people are mandated to report this.”

The allure of attractive teachers has always been there for students, Tessina said.

But it’s the older person who has the responsibility to stop the flirtation.

“She’s the one who’s supposed to put the breaks on it,” Tessina said. “Instead, she remains passive and keeps the whole thing going. Eventually, she might get aggressive. Obviously, she’s not thinking rationally.”

Sexual relationships between women and underage boys, whether becoming more common or not, shock many people more than news of men assaulting young girls because it’s against the stereotype, said Frederic Reamer, a sociology professor at Rhode Island College and a member of that state’s parole board.

“This pattern is so far outside the box that we ordinarily live in, we can’t help but be alarmed by this,” he said. “This scenario has the capacity to shock the conscious and we struggle to understand.”

Mixed Motives

Female sex offenders are less prevalent than their male counterparts, which is one reason why research into women sexual crimes has been largely overlooked until recently, Seattle University criminology professor Elaine Gunnison said.

“In the past, society tended to accept the fact that males were committing sexual offenses against young girls,” she said.

“More recently, the public is becoming aware of the fact that women, despite their feminine demeanors, can be sexual predators.”

Understanding the motives of well-educated women who enter into a sexual relationship with young boys isn’t easy because no cases are exactly alike, Reamer said.

“You take 100 different offenders, and they’ll have 52 different motives,” he said.

Overall, experts agreed that women who pursue underage boys for sex are often emotionally immature, lonely and can be trying to relive their youths.

“I don’t think teachers set out to find students and lure them,” said therapist Debbie Mandel. “It starts subliminally and the attraction becomes overpowering.

“When you’re looking at a certain age group of young teachers, you’re absolutely finding that the teacher is not mature in that sense. It’s like ‘let me do this again. I want to go back to the past and make it better. I wasn’t popular and I didn’t have the confidence then and now I do.’”

Mandel said the relationships can also be a power-grab for the older women.

“The younger man adores her,” she said. “She becomes very attractive to him. She molds him. She shapes him into what she needs.”

But in cases like the two recent Galveston County arrests, the women are rarely pedophiles, Reamer said.

Instead, the women are mentally close in age to their victim and rationalize their pursuit.

“In her mind, she’s relating to a guy her age,” he said. “Developmentally, they are much younger. They got stuck in older teenage years.”

Reamer said it’s important for parents to notice who their children spend time with. When it’s unusually long amounts of time with teachers or other adults, parents should intervene on their child’s behalf when teenagers aren’t able to stop themselves.

“It’s almost like a moth to a flame,” he said. “He is almost titillated by it. It’s like ‘Oh my gosh, look who is into me.’” ..more.. by Sara McDonald

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February 24, 2008

CA- Calif. Law Puts Sex Offenders on the Streets

2-24-2008 California:

A new report finds more convicted sex offenders in California homeless because of a state law restricting where they can live. Tom Tobin, a psychologist specializing in sex offender treatment, talks with Jacki Lyden about the findings.

NPR Reports: CLICK to listen to their report.

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OR- A Brush With Measure 11

2-20-2008 Oregon:

Should grazing a boy’s head with your breasts get you six years in the slammer?

An appeal last week to the state Supreme Court may be the final chance for justice for a former Boys and Girls Club staffer, found guilty of sexual assault in a case one ex-cop calls the worst travesty of justice he’s seen in 20 years as an investigator.

If the court refuses to take up the case or rules against 27-year-old Veronica Rodriguez, she’ll go to prison for five more years, after already serving one year for a crime she denies committing.

“I feel like a fountain overflowing on this. I feel as strongly about Veronica’s innocence as anything I have ever investigated in my life, and I am a very seasoned investigator,” says Michael Hintz, a former Tigard police detective who worked for Rodriguez’s defense team.
A Washington County jury found Rodriguez guilty in 2005 of first-degree sexual assault after police accused her of running her hands through a 13-year-old boy’s hair and pulling the back of his head against her covered chest in the middle of a crowded game room at the Boys and Girls Club in Hillsboro.
Under Measure 11, a 1994 voter-approved ballot initiative setting mandatory minimum sentences, Rodriguez faced six years and three months in prison. But Circuit Judge Nancy Campbell gave her 16 months instead, saying the Measure 11 sentence would violate the state constitution as cruel and unusual punishment.

Rodriguez served one year at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville, earning time off for good behavior. Meanwhile, prosecutors appealed her sentence, and in December a three-judge panel at the state Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that Rodriguez should serve out the remaining five years of her Measure 11 sentence. Rodriguez’s appeal of that ruling landed at the Supreme Court on Feb. 13.

Kevin Mannix, the original Measure 11 backer, calls Campbell’s move to override the minimum sentence “absolutely unacceptable,” saying the correct path would be to ask the governor for clemency.

Rodriguez’s conviction destroyed her career as a social worker. A registered sex offender as a result, she’s now living in Spokane with her parents and working as a barista. She tells WW returning to prison would scuttle her plans to go back to school and marry her boyfriend, Kevin Hagen, who stood by her throughout her arrest and trial.

“Trying to rebuild my life, and then going back and having it taken away from me again—it’s a hard thought to deal with,” says Rodriguez, who has no other criminal record. “All I can do is keep fighting my case and have faith that down the road, it will all get straightened out somehow.”

When she was arrested in April 2005, Rodriguez was pursuing a promising career as a youth counselor. The daughter of migrant farmworkers, she says she earned straight A’s at Gonzaga University before moving to Aloha in June 2004 to work at the Boys and Girls Club in Hillsboro, which provides outreach for at-risk youth.

Rodriguez says she developed close relationships with several of the kids, including the alleged victim, a 13-year-old boy from an unstable home who had anger problems and trouble at school. Rodriguez saw the boy and his family almost daily, and admits she broke club rules by spending time alone with him. But she denies any sexual relationship.

In March 2005, a husband and wife who worked at the club went to Hillsboro police to report suspicious activity, including Rodriguez’s relationship with the boy.

Hintz, the defense investigator, and Peter Gartlan, Rodriguez’s public defender, say a long-running dispute between local cops and the head of the club colored the police investigation. Lt. Mike Rouches, spokesman for the Hillsboro police, says cops were frustrated at the time because the club’s management had downscaled their presence at the club. But he says that had nothing to do with the investigation.

The police alleged Rodriguez had romantic relations with AJ Villa, a 17-year-old former club employee, and with the 13-year-old. Both repeatedly denied any wrongdoing by Rodriguez. “Nothing ever did happen, and it was ridiculous that she was even being charged with this,” Villa says.

Rodriguez faced two counts of first-degree sexual assault for alleged incidents with the 13-year-old that happened months before. In one, Rodriguez was alleged to have stood in a bathroom doorway while the boy fondled her breasts. That charge resulted in a hung jury.

But the jury voted 10-2 to convict Rodriguez for allegedly pulling the back of the boy’s head against her chest. Two staff members claimed to have seen it happen, though one changed his story on the stand.

Prosecutors showed the jury emails in which Rodriguez told the boy she loved him. But Hintz says it’s absurd to think they were having an affair. “I’m absolutely convinced that she is innocent.” Hintz says.

Judge Campbell said giving the full Measure 11 sentence would “shock the moral sense of all reasonable persons”—the legal standard for cruel and unusual punishment in Oregon. The Court of Appeals ruled not all reasonable people would be shocked if Rodriguez got six-plus years.

Gartlan wants the Supreme Court to reconsider, saying Rodriguez’s case doesn’t fit with other sexual assaults that merit a stiff sentence.

As Gartlan wrote in his request to the Supreme Court, citing a hypothetical case: “Causing the back of a boy’s head to be placed against the clothed chest of a 23-year-old counselor is qualitatively different from causing a 12-year-old boy to place his tongue or his penis in the family dog’s anus.... The conduct in this case must be one of the mildest, most technical forms of ‘sexual abuse’ that one could contemplate.” ..more.. by JAMES PITKIN

FACT: In the interest of disclosure, please note that WW publisher Richard Meeker’s wife, Court of Appeals Judge Ellen Rosenblum, was on the three-judge panel that overturned Rodriguez’s original sentence.

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CT- Sex offender's Southbury neighbors want assessments reduced

This article claims that RSOs in close proximity cause property values to be reduced. First, the article omits that effective 2007 there is a new standard for assessing property values that was used by Total Valuation Services when they did their assessments. Second, the study mentioned is flawed in that researchers failed to consider ALL the normal things that cause property values to decrease and attributed the decrease to RSOs who lived nearby.

2-21-2008 Connecticut:

SOUTHBURY -- Mark Lynch's new neighbor spent nearly 25 years in prison for rape. His family's safety notwithstanding, he worries about another concern: whether anyone will buy his raised ranch when the time comes to sell.

Lynch and 24 other homeowners in the Fox Run Drive area believe their property values dropped last fall when David Pollitt moved to his sister's home in their neighborhood.

They tried but can't force Pollitt out, so they've asked the town to reduce their property tax assessments by as much as 17 percent. They argue the presence of a registered sex offender has negatively impacted the sale price of their homes, especially because anyone can go online and find out that he lives there.

Their request for a property tax reduction may be the first of its kind in Connecticut, said Carolyn Nadeau, president of the Connecticut Association of Assessing Officers and tax assessor for Bethlehem and Watertown.

"I've never had an instance like this," she said. "Any number of times there are distractions that people feel negatively impact their property values, such as unsightly blight, but we haven't seen this."

Total Valuation Services, the company that put new values on all properties in Southbury last fall, rejected the residents' plea for help on a technicality this month. The new home values went into effect with the Oct. 1, 2007, grand list. Pollitt didn't move to Southbury until Oct. 12.

"This was not something they could take into consideration," said Michael Moriarty, Southbury's assessor. "We are charged under Connecticut law to value as of Oct. 1. We have to stop as of that point in time. We believe we are complying with that law."

Undeterred, the homeowners are taking their case to the Board of Assessment Appeals, which meets in March to hear arguments from taxpayers who think their real estate or motor vehicle assessments are too high. Lynch, who lives next door to Pollitt's sister, believes the residents are owed a property tax break.

"If I wanted to sell my house tomorrow morning, how many people would want to buy it?" said Lynch, whose seven-room raised ranch on nearly 1 acre is assessed at $243,080.

The residents, who live on Fox Run Drive, Wolf Pit Drive and Forest Park Road, are relying on a 2000 study by researchers at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, which studied approximately 3,200 home transactions in Montgomery County, Ohio. They found that, on average, houses located within one-tenth of a mile of a registered sex offender sold for 17.4 percent less than similar houses located farther away. ..more.. by CHRIS GARDNER REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

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Real ID -v- the States

January 2008:

Editor's note: A May deadline looms as just one flash point in a political showdown between Homeland Security and states that oppose Real ID demands. This is the last in a four-part series examining the confrontation. Today's installment is a set of frequently asked questions, or FAQ, that we hope explains how the Real ID law affects you.

The Real ID law is touted by Homeland Security officials as an anticrime and antiterror measure, but is steadfastly opposed by some state governments on privacy and sovereignty grounds. Computer scientists also have raised concerns about how its creation of a national interlinked database would work in practice. Keep reading for more on Real ID.

Q: When does the Real ID Act take effect?
On May 11, a little more than three months from now. But states like California that have agreed to comply and ones like Pennsylvania that have requested a deadline extension are not affected--driver's licenses from those states will continue to work for entering federal buildings and flying commercially.

Some states seem to have requested an extension as a tactical maneuver with little intention of ever complying. Washington and Idaho may fall into this category. A spokesman for Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter told us: "We've asked for an extension, but we still have serious concerns and reservations about it and its future here is to be determined."

Q: Who's going to have trouble flying or entering federal buildings starting May 11?
Residents of the five states--Maine, South Carolina, Montana, Oklahoma, and New Hampshire--that have firmly rejected Real ID. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have not decided yet, meaning they could fall into this category too.

Q: So if I live in Maine, South Carolina, Montana, Oklahoma, or New Hampshire, and I want to fly out of any U.S. airport starting May 11, what happens?
The Bush administration has not answered that question. The Transportation Security Administration referred our questions to the Department of Homeland Security. A Homeland Security spokesman told us: "That's an operational, ongoing issue at this point in time. We'll need to be a bit closer in."

One likely situation is that starting May 11, security checkpoints at all U.S. airports will have a Real ID and a non-Real ID line. Non-Real ID would be in the slow line, which Homeland Security predicts will involve "delays" and "enhanced security screening." (One official with the Portland International Airport even joked about a mandatory "full body cavity search.")

Q: Can I use a U.S. passport instead to get in the fast line?
Yes. If you don't have one, you'd better apply soon. The State Department estimates four to six weeks for processing.

Q: If I live in one of those noncompliant states, how do I access federal buildings, including courthouses, veteran's hospitals, Social Security offices, and so on?
At airports, at least, you can get in the slow lane and eventually get past security. There's no equivalent option for federal buildings that require ID: it appears that you'll simply be denied access unless you have a passport or military ID. (Remember, of course, that not all federal buildings require ID.)

Ironically, one option for federal agencies is to stop requiring photo ID completely. Another is to be liberal in what they accept as valid identification; you could always try your Sam's Club card or library card instead. Homeland Security already has relaxed supposedly strict rules about what ID is accepted at border crossings.

Q: Will the federal government issue more regulations about when I have to show a Real ID license?
Probably. One Homeland Security official told Congress last year that Real ID could be used for "reducing unlawful employment, voter fraud, and underage drinking." Another recently suggested that Americans buying cold medicines like Sudafed with pseudoephedrine could be required to show Real ID.

Q: Does Homeland Security have the authority to do that kind of expansion, or can only Congress expand Real ID?
Homeland Security has the authority. The text of the law says that, starting May 11, "a federal agency may not accept, for any official purpose, a driver's license or identification card issued by a state to any person unless the state is meeting the requirements of this section." Official purpose is defined to include "any other purposes" that Homeland Security thinks is wise.

The potential list of "purposes" could be long. Real ID could in theory be required for traveling on Amtrak, collecting federal welfare benefits, signing up for Social Security, applying for student loans, interacting with the U.S. Postal Service, entering national parks, and so on.

Q: What about buying firearms?
That's an open question. Homeland Security last month refused to rule out requiring Real ID for firearm purchases in the future.

When asked about requiring Real ID to buy a firearm, Homeland Security replied: "DHS will continue to consider additional ways in which a Real ID license can or should be used and will implement any changes to the definition of 'official purpose' or determinations regarding additional uses for Real ID consistent with applicable laws and regulatory requirements. DHS does not agree that it must seek the approval of Congress as a prerequisite to changing the definition in the future."

Q: Which presidential candidates voted for Real ID?
All of them who were members of Congress at the time voted for Real ID except Rep. Ron Paul, a Republican.

The vote in Congress was overwhelmingly in favor of the proposal, part of a broader government spending and tsunami relief bill that was approved unanimously by the Senate and by a vote of 368 to 58 in the House of Representatives. Sens. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain voted for it.

Q: What kind of information about me is going to be stored on the Real ID card?
This hasn't changed substantially since our earlier FAQ published nearly three years ago. At a minimum: name, birth date, sex, ID number, a digital photograph, address, and a "common machine-readable technology" that Homeland Security approves. The card must also sport "physical security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication of the document for fraudulent purposes."

Q: Does "common machine-readable technology" mean RFID?
Not at this point. Homeland Security has said it is not requiring that states use RFID chips, or radio frequency ID chips, in Real ID licenses. Instead, what's required is a two-dimensional barcode called PDF417. Many states already print this or a similar barcode on their driver's licenses.

Q: Will the information about me on the PDF417 barcode, such as my home address, be encrypted to prevent a bank or a bar or any other business from swiping it and adding me to their database?
No. Homeland Security said it would be too much work "given law enforcement's need for easy access to the information." It is, however, "open to considering technology alternatives to the PDF417 2D bar code in the future to provide greater privacy protections," which could mean RFID chips in the future. U.S. passports already have RFID chips embedded.

Q: What kind of data will states share under Real ID?
Real ID will require states to share detailed information about anyone with a state ID card or driver's license, perhaps through a network called AAMVAnet, which the Department of Transportation is paying to expand in hopes of supporting the massive amount of data that will be exchanged. Databases owned by Social Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will also be integrated. The idea is that this will allow documents such as birth certificates to be validated online.

Many of the details remain unclear because Homeland Security has not made final decisions, including about whether to build on top of AAMVAnet or expand a centralized federal database already used for commercial driver's licensing. Computer scientists and privacy advocates unsuccessfully urged Homeland Security to reject Real ID as "unworkable" because of the security and scalability concerns.

Q: If there's no encryption, is there at least a federal law saying that banks and bars and so on are prohibited from compiling databases of personal information based on Real ID licenses?
No. Some states like California and Texas have passed laws restricting the use of information from a swiped driver's license. But there is no federal law.

Q: I heard something about Homeland Security giving states more time to issue Real ID-compliant licenses. What is the absolute deadline for all of this to be finished?
To make Real ID more palatable to state governments, Homeland Security extended the final deadline beyond what the text of the statute says.

In the final rule released last month, DHS said the deadline for all states to comply would be December 1, 2017. Only states that can prove they are well on their way to implementing Real ID qualify for this deadline extension.

Q: What does this mean for me if I live in one of the states that will eventually comply with Real ID?
It's difficult to answer this question because state governments told us they haven't had enough time to digest the final rules that Homeland Security published last month.

In general, state motor vehicle agencies will be required to verify that you are who you claim to be, which could require that you provide additional paperwork and original documents. This could mean higher costs and longer wait times at the DMV.

Q: Why do we have Real ID, anyway?
It depends on who you ask. The Bush administration will tell you that it stems from the 9/11 Commission's suggestions, and it'll make the country safer. The administration will also point out that some of the September 11 hijackers had fake driver's licenses.

Critics respond by saying the September 11 hijackers could have just as easily boarded those flights using foreign passports. Another criticism is that Real ID licenses are tantamount to a national ID card, something unique in American history.

Q: What about religious objections?
Thousands of Americans do not have photographs on their driver's licenses or state ID cards, usually because of religious objections. Approximately a dozen states currently allow this, but Real ID does not. Therefore, those licenses without photos will not be valid for flying or federal buildings starting May 11.

Q: Is there any chance that the next administration or Congress will roll back these requirements before they kick in?
It's a little early to tell. Obama and Clinton have both expressed some concerns about Real ID, while McCain enthusiastically supports it.

Q: Is all this really going to happen? Or could Homeland Security change its mind?
Yes, it's possible that something could change. But neither Homeland Security nor the non-Real ID states show any signs of blinking. In addition, any legal changes would probably have to originate with Congress--where a proposal to amend Real ID has been stuck in a Senate committee since February 2007. ..more.. by Declan McCullagh

Related story The legislation behind a national ID
Read the full text of the Real ID law here.

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