Sunday, May 17, 2015

polygraphs serve law enforcement, not therapy

Registered sex offenders on parole, probation, or supervised release are regularly subjected to polygraph testing.
Under Pennsylvania law, polygraph results are not admissible at trial because of their unreliability. 
Despite that, the tests are now being used by probation officers across the state to supervise sex offenders.
“It’s really the gold standard,” said Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jill E. Rangos, who presides over sex offender court. “It is the most accurate way to gauge if treatment is working.”
"Accurate" is an odd word to use when talking about polygraphs. "Treatment" is an odd word to use when talking about probation officers supervising sex offenders.
The tests, advocates say, are designed to help guide an offender’s treatment, to ensure that the offender is following the rules of probation and to reduce recidivism.
Well, no. If there is one thing polygraphs are not meant to do, it is to guide treatment plans. That is what the therapist does. Why therapists don't rise up in protest at having their skills second-guessed by electrodes in the hands of law enforcement, I do not know, unless it is that having a steady stream of paying clients fed to them is more attractive than ethical treatment.

Using polygraphs to reduce recidivism is particularly bizarre. The recidivism rate of sex offenders is already extremely low. 
David Gentile, a psychologist and approved treatment provider in sex offender court, said the polygraph examinations hold defendants accountable for their behavior while on probation. 
As an approved treatment provider, Gentile benefits from the stream of clients mandated to engage in therapy.
Jane Campbell Moriarty, a law professor at Duquesne University, said allowing the use of polygraph evidence in some court proceedings but not in others is illogical.  
“I would disagree with any court letting it in for any reason.”  ...
She is critical of polygraph exams, primarily because they are so subjective, and there are not yet any scientifically accepted methods and standards for administration. 
Among her concerns, Ms. Moriarty has asked examiners if others who administer polygraph tests could interpret their results, and the answer she’s received is no.   
They have come into accepted use in probation cases, she said, because, “I think we’re just terrified of sexual offenders. 
Fear of sex offenders is driven by the sex offender registry. If there were no registry and its label, we would be talking about specific offenders and their specific offenses. Rape, not sex offenders. Public urination, not sex offenders. Sexting teenagers, not sex offenders. Without the registry, we would not be terrified of sex offenders.
“It seems inappropriate to me that their liberties should be taken away because of a test that we find neither sufficiently valid nor reliable to be used at trial,” Ms. Moriarty said. 
Polygraphs are clearly unreliable. Polygraphs are clearly not about therapy. Polygraphs used to monitor sex offenders are clearly about taking away their liberties.

It is appalling that treatment providers allow law enforcement to use them as snitches and enforcers instead of providing effective therapy--uncoupled from law enforcement--for those who need it.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

happy mother's day

It is not easy to handle all the day-to-day business when so much energy goes toward dealing with grief and fear.

It is not easy to wonder who knows our story and how they feel about it.

It is not easy to look and feel like a normal family.

Happy Mother's Day to those doing double duty on the outside while they wait for their partner to come home.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

sex on the beach

A man convicted of having sex on a Florida beach is facing 15 years in prison and his girlfriend, convicted of the same, will do some jail time. Both will be on the sex offender registry for life. 
...Assistant State Attorney Anthony Dafonseca said they will pursue a harsher sentence for [the man] than [the woman], since [she] has no prior record and [the man] has been to prison for almost eight years for a cocaine trafficking conviction. 
The state will ask for jail time for [the woman] and prison time for [the man]. Dafonseca said due to [the man] being out of prison less than three years before committing another felony, he's looking at serving the maximum time of 15 years. 
"We gave them a reasonable offer, what we felt was reasonable, and they decided it wasn't something they wanted to accept responsibility for," Dafonseca said. "Despite the video, despite all the witnesses."
The prosecutor's reasonable offer was rescinded when the couple decided to see whether a jury would interpret the video and hear the witnesses differently. If it was reasonable to offer them a lesser sentence, how does a decision to go to trial make the lesser sentence less reasonable? 

If the prosecutor thought the initial offer was reasonable, the actual sentence is, by his own judgment, unreasonable. After all, the crime has not become any worse between the offer and the decision to go to trial.

To accept responsibility for a crime is to plead guilty. It is not a crime to go to trial. The prosecutor is punishing the couple for choosing to make the justice system work the way it is supposed to work.

It is clear that the initial sentence was for sex on the beach and the eventual sentence is for making the prosecutor prove his case.

The judge has little to no discretion, in this world of mandatory sentences.
Ed Brodsky, elected state attorney for the 16th judicial district, joined Defonseca in prosecuting the case. When asked why the case was an important one to the state attorney, Dafonseca said it was important that the community knew what wouldn't be tolerated on public beaches.
Because no one knew that openly having sex on the beach was a bad idea until this case. 
"We're dealing with basically tourists, that came from Brandon and Riverview and West Virginia, and they're here on the beaches of Manatee County, our public beaches," Dafonseca said, referring to the witnesses. "So you want to make sure that this isn't something that just goes by the wayside. And that it is well known to the community, what will be tolerated and what won't be."
Kicking people off the beach when they misbehave is so old fashioned. Today, everything deserves prison.

Publicity like this--15 years in prison for canoodling--could scare away more Florida tourists than seeing suggestive behavior on the beach ever could, especially in the state with a reputation for wild spring breaks for college kids.

Friday, May 1, 2015

an introduction to lifetime supervision

In the federal system, a term of supervised release is usually tacked on to one's sentence. My husband will have five years of supervised release when he comes home.

Listen to the frustration of a man who was recently released from prison and has to endure lifetime supervision:
You say I can’t own a PlayStation 4, or enter an arcade.
I also can’t go to a movie theater, or rent an R-rated movie.
Or write to all of the friends I’ve made over the past five years because they’re convicted felons. ...
I can’t enter a public park.
Or go to a library and read (since so many other things are off-limits).
And then you say that I can’t even have a Kindle because it has Internet access. 
And can I afford to buy books? No! This is because you say that I can’t return to my career. I’d need a computer to do my job, and we can’t have that, now can we? 
So I’ll get a job at McDonald’s, I tell you. And then you say I can’t do that because minors work there. ... 
You say here’s what I need to do:
Surrender all my financial records — my assets, my bank accounts, and my credit card information for your continuous review. 
You tell me to enter SO treatment weekly for at least five years. Plethysmograph testing twice a year. And polygraph testing quarterly since I’m obviously a liar.
Oh, and you say I need to pay for it all with the job I don’t have.
There's more and it is no easier to read than what I have quoted here.

In a comment following his post, he says:
I’m in society, but I can’t do anything. In some ways I actually have MORE freedom in prison. In prison I have access to email. In prison I have access to both the institutional library, and a local library that loans books to prisoners. I have to BUY all my reading material on the street. In prison I’m never polygraphed. I’m never harassed by a probation officer that looks at me like a problem to be solved rather than a human being. In prison I am free to associate with persons similar to my criminal background. Mind you, it’s not because I looking for a partner to hatch some nefarious scheme; I just want to talk with someone who can empathize with my pain.
Being outside is better than in? That’s a notion I continue to struggle with. I thought I’d be happy to finally emerge from prison after five years. Instead what I’ve found is that I’m now in the fire rather than the frying pan.
This is no way to encourage sex offenders to live a law-abiding life!

And yet...and yet:
Even with all the barriers to society they must cross,
even with the severe criticism they face,
even though family members and friends have abandoned them,
even with difficulties finding employment and housing,
even suffering public humiliation...

Registered sex offenders still have an extremely low rate of re-offense, just as they did before there were public registries.

Saturday, April 18, 2015


Wives who stay with husbands who have done wrong, no matter if it is a crime or not, are an object of mystery. How can they possibly forgive him?

A husband who hired prostitutes? A wife who gambled away the college savings? A husband who regularly shows up drunk at the high school ball games? I would never forgive my husband if he did that...or that...or that.

While many stand in judgment, others watch in admiration, wishing they could be so forgiving as if we have done something heroic. Forgiveness of someone dear to us is not heroic; it is ordinary. Marriage is a constant state of forgiveness. His snoring, her cooking, his bad jokes, her constant tardiness. Not a day goes by without one of us forgiving something.

I was asked how I came to forgive my husband because he did something so bad. Forgiving someone we love is what love does.

It was the day I said, "At least my husband didn't invade someone's house with his weapon drawn while knowing children were in the house" that I realized I am not forgiving where forgiveness is difficult. If my husband treated someone the way ICE treated us...could I forgive him that? If my husband's job depended on him throwing homes and families into chaos...could I forgive him that?

I have not forgiven the ICE agents or the prosecutor. Forgiving a stranger, now...that is something different. I am not accustomed to small daily forgivenesses of their small faults. I cannot look at them and remember the good things they have done that balance out what they did to us. All I know of them is their bad actions.

Ephesians 4:32 says, Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

The reminder that God has forgiven me makes me ashamed of holding tight to my own anger with the ICE agents and the prosecutor. If God forgives me even when I have done little to deserve forgiveness, who am I to withhold forgiveness of someone who has wronged me?

I have some work ahead of me.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

how to avoid the registry: be a deputy sheriff?

I don't know what to say about this story.

Assuming the reporter has the facts, a sheriff's deputy coerced a young woman into performing oral sex on him, he tampered with the evidence in the case, he plead no contest, and was sentenced to six months in jail. No felony.

And get this: he avoids the sex offender registry.

This guy took advantage of a young woman; he was a predator in the most definite sense of the word and yet he will not be labeled a predator on the registry. He won't be on the registry at all.

I am happy for his family that they will not have to deal with the registry. Truly. Remember, I want the registry abolished because no one deserves that kind of public humiliation.
Cooper had been a deputy for about five years and was a corrections officer before that.
A corrections officer? That makes me think about how vulnerable the prison population is if there were a predator on staff.
The last police officer accused of forcing a woman to perform oral sex did not receive jail time. Former Omaha Police Officer Scott Antoniak — convicted of first-degree sexual assault on an Omaha prostitute — served five years of probation under a sentence handed down in April 2007 by Judge Joseph Troia. 
The last? Is this behavior so common that there is a list of officers who have exhibited this predatory behavior?
Kleine said Cooper is expected to be stripped of his law enforcement certification.
One would hope.

We see it again and again: Power corrupts.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Michigan registry law takes a hit

In a case brought by the Ameican Civil Liberties Union on behalf of sex offenders, Michigan federal court struck down four parts of Michigan's sex offender registration laws.

The 1,000 foot exclusion zone around schools was found to be so vague as to be unenforceable. That is good news for kids who want their registered parents to attend school events with them, instead of standing out as the kids whose dad is not allowed.
Other portions of the law ruled unconstitutional were: a requirement to report in person to the "registering authority" when an offender begins to drive a vehicle regularly or begins to use a new e-mail or instant messaging address; a requirement for an offender to report all telephone numbers routinely used by an offender; a requirement to report all e-mail and instant messaging addresses; a requirement to report the license plate number, registration number and description of any motor vehicle, aircraft or vessel used by an offender. 
Think of your own daily life and how easily you create new online profiles. Imagine having to trudge down to the local law enforcement office to report that you set up a new email account. Imagine having to add your son's car to your registry information just because he lives at home and his car could possibly be used by you.
Cleland also called the language defining loitering in the law "sufficiently vague" that it does not allow for common sense to be used to determine if an action is loitering.
Ah, common sense. That feels like fresh air, doesn't it?
The ruling drew an immediate reaction from State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge. 
Senator Jones, striking while the iron is hot, not waiting for attention to drift away from what could be a hot-button issue if only he can make enough fuss, had an immediate reaction. There's at least one in every crowd of senators.
In a statement released Tuesday morning, Jones, a former sheriff, said he plans to help rewrite the law to make up for the judge's ruling. 
A former sheriff understands that enforcing sex offender laws can plump up numbers of law enforcement officers while not increasing danger to law enforcement officers.
"I warn sex offenders to stay away from schools. This is one judge's ruling, and the law will soon be changed to clarify it," said Jones, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "I'm working to make sure there is no vagueness in Michigan's Sex Offender Registry law. Child molesters must stay away from our schools. Law enforcement will be watching." 
No vagueness. Well, yes. That darned vagueness is what got the 1,000 foot exclusionary zone thrown out. So let's not be vague.

Senator Jones is probably hard at work writing a law preventing sex offenders from hanging around schools...but to avoid vagueness, his law will apply only to sex offenders most likely to commit another crime on school property, right?

Former teachers who committed crimes against students, for example, would not be allowed to be in the schools.

Wait. Teachers who are caught committing sex crimes in schools were in the schools when they were committing crimes. They weren't loitering outside the school. They weren't living up to 1,000 feet away from the school. They were trusted by school administration and parents alike to be with students.

And that's how most child molestation happens: Someone trusted to be with children takes advantage of the relationship, crosses the line and commits a crime.

Strangers aren't the problem. People who are trusted to be with kids have the most immediate opportunity to cross that line.

Because it protects against the most unlikely situation, that of a stranger molesting a child, the sex offender registry is ineffective if the intent is to prevent child molestation.

On the other hand, if the sex offender registry is intended only to torment those who have served their sentences after a certain kind of conviction...

Well, then. That sounds like another opportunity for the ACLU, doesn't it?