Thursday, August 27, 2015

I'm embarrassed; I should have Googled first

Commenter Valigator chided me for not doing enough research before I posted a library can't be too safe...or can it?

She posted a list of ten news stories about sex offenders and libraries. Ten!

She says:
Want more? There are pages and pages of what you describe as a rare occurrence. Don't you people "google" before you write these long drawn out BS opinion pieces??
As much as it pains me to admit this, she is right. A little more research before clicking the Publish button would have been a good idea.

The list as she posted it contains broken links so I found working links and am reposting them here with a brief explanation of each news story:
  1. 2014: The man who molested two little girls in a Cincinnati library was not a registered sex offender.
  2. 2014: A Scottsdale library aide molested children and possessed child porn, though not in the library. He was not a registered sex offender.
  3. 2015: A sex offender was arrested in an Indiana library for failure to register. (Valigator included a link to a YouTube video.)
  4. 2014: A man committed a terrible sexual assault against a three-year-old girl in an Australian library. The article is not clear about whether he was a registered sex offender or not. It refers vaguely to his "20-year history of crimes against children," but it details only one conviction for a non-sexual assault on an adult.
  5. 2013: A  man was accused of watching child porn in a New York library and then arrested on molestation charges, though that crime happened elsewhere. He was not a registered sex offender.
  6. 2014: A man, awaiting trial for child molestation, was seen in an Indiana library. He was not a registered sex offender.
  7. 2013: A man molested a boy in the restroom of a California library. The man was not a registered sex offender.
  8. 2013: A registered sex offender groped a girl in a Washington library restroom.
  9. 2013: A teacher molested six children in a Shanghai school library. As far as I can tell, the teacher was not a registered sex offender.
  10. 2008: A man raped a little boy in a Massachusetts library. The man was not a registered sex offender.
Some of these stories are of terrible , terrible crimes. The families of the children involved must have gone (or be going) through hell, trying to make sense of what happened and trying to help their little ones to get through something so difficult to explain. My heart goes out to those families.

Attacks on children in airports or sports stadiums or department stores can be just as horrifying but it is sickening to think that crimes like this could happen in a library, a place that we want to be a peaceful refuge. A library should be a place for Dr. Seuss and the Berenstain Bears, Nancy Drew and Junie B. Jones, Little House on the Prairie and the Little Engine that Could. Not for terrifying assaults.

The ultimate refuge for children ought to be their homes and, sadly (sometimes tragically), that is where most sexual assaults against children happen. Not in libraries. At home or in the home of someone trusted by the family.

The assaults are most often committed by someone not on the sex offender registry.

The list of articles above include only two examples (3, 8) that are about a registered sex offender, and only one of those two (8) was about a sexual assault in a library.

Six of the articles (1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 10) are about someone not on the registry.

The remaining two stories (4, 9) are not clear about whether the perpetrator was on a sex offender registry.

Sexual assaults can happen anywhere, registry or not. The sex offender registry did not protect the girl in the Washington library.

The sex offender registry certainly did not protect anyone from the assaults perpetrated by people not on the registry.

It is abundantly clear that if you want to protect your children against violent assaults or even against inappropriate touching, you cannot look to the registry. You must pay attention and learn how to identify signs of abuse.

This article might be all about needlessly frightening the reader (I blogged about the story here) but the graphics that accompany the article offer excellent tips for how to spot signs of abuse and how to prevent it.

Thanks again to Valigator for providing such valuable help. Those ten articles helped to make my case even stronger:

The registry protects no one.

who needs facts when you have sex offenders living near schools?

An industrious tv news reporter counted sex offenders who live near schools in Austin TX.
A KVUE Defenders investigation uncovered at least a dozen Austin Independent School District elementary schools with 50 or more registered sex offenders listed within one mile of school grounds. One of the campuses has 89 surrounding the school. 
According to the Center for Child Protection, about one in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. In July, Austin police arrested a man they believe sexually assaulted a young girl multiple times near the 3100 block of Parker Lane. According to the arrest warrant, then 22-year-old Jonathan Guzman met the girl at a school bus stop in December 2014.
Registered sex offenders as far as the eye can see. How dangerous are they? The example of a sexual assault provided in the story was by a man who was not on the registry, so why so much attention on the number of registered citizens near schools?

The guy accused of sexual assault...where did he live? Did he live within a mile of the school or did he travel farther than a mile to meet the girl at the bus stop?

Registry restrictions are ridiculous. Preventing a registered offender from living near a school does nothing to prevent the next sex crime because the next sex crime will most likely be committed by someone not on the registry.

The article tells us...
Blackshear Elementary has the most, with 89 offenders within one mile of the school.
...but does not follow up with a litany of crimes committed against school children by any of  those 89 offenders. If there were a long list of those crimes, the reporter would have led the story with that shocking news. But there isn't a long list. Why?
In his 17 years with the district, Austin ISD Police Chief Eric Mendez can't recall one incident involving a sexual offender living near a school. According to the Center for Child Protection, 90 percent of children who visit the center know the person who harmed them.
Ah. Finally, a fact parents can use when they want to protect their children from sexual abuse. Children are far, far more likely to be abused by someone they already know.

The reporter pays no attention, however, and tells us how the schools make it difficult for a registered citizen to participate in school events with his or her child as if that offers any kind of protection.
Each school visitor goes through a screening using electronic identification license readers, which check against the state's sex offender registry. The most frequent registered sexual offenders visiting schools are parents.
That must mean that random sex offenders are not invading schools, looking for opportunities to molest children. The reporter pays no attention to that, either.
"If they need to meet with a teacher, the teacher meets with in a conference room. If they need to see their student, the student is sent to the front office," Mendez said. "Those parents who may be sex offenders aren't given free access to the campus, but they are allowed to conduct the business they need for their children."
Since we are all about protecting the children here, how do these restrictions affect the children of the registered citizens? If the parents are singled out for special treatment, the children are singled out for special treatment.

Something else the reporter missed...the effect the restrictions have on the kids.

 The reporter shows no interest in facts for this story about sex offenders. Facts abound and yet he Texas two-steps around every opportunity to use them.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

arrested for attending church

A North Carolina man was arrested for going to church. Why, yes, he is a sex offender. How did you know?
Deputuies said they began investigating registered sex offender Kenneth Lee Cagle, 53, two months ago when they received complaints that he was starting a church. 
Two months of Sundays! One would hope the deputies would have heard something in that time about mercy.
Cagle was convicted of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor almost a decade ago, officials said.
Third-degree sounds bad, doesn't it? Like a burn. Third-degree burns are the worst. And sexual exploitation...gosh. What in God's name did he do to that child?

Third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor in North Carolina means he looked at child pornography. He molested no one.

He was wrong to look at illegal images and he certainly ought to avoid doing that again. Turning to God seems like a good idea for someone trying to be a better man.
Deputies found that Cagle had successfully opened a church where he served as a church elder and led part of church services.
Perhaps not just a good idea but an inspired idea. The families at the church knew of the man's crime. Gathering once or twice a week to worship with him in their midst can be a gentle way to remind him--and each other--that there is a better way.
His involvement in the church is a violation of state law, according to deputies.  
Doesn't North Carolina want someone who once looked at illegal images to be a better man? No, North Carolina legislators made it a crime for registered sex offenders to be involved at church.
During a traffic stop after a church service on Sunday, deputies charged Cagle with sex offender employment violation and being a sex offender with a child on the premises. 
It is certainly understandable that North Carolina would not want children to be molested in church but what are they doing to protect children from people not on the registry? The truth is that it is more likely that a child will be molested by someone not on the registry. 

Two month investigation, though. That's still a mystery.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

a library can't be too safe...or can it?

A Maryland librarian wonders if libraries are safe enough for children.
Your local library is in the child-care business. Public laws in Maryland, Virginia and the District allow children as young as 8 years old — 9 in Washington D.C. — to be dropped off at a public library without parents or a guardian. It's a curious arrangement: The children are not signed in at the library, librarians don't take attendance, and the library is not liable if children hurt themselves or walk out the front door and wander off.
Notice that he does not follow up with a string of anecdotes about children who hurt themselves or wander off or of crimes committed against kids in public libraries.

He tells a single story.
Several years ago, I worked in a library that had a regular customer I will refer to as Mr. Frank. Mr. Frank visited the library every day and knew most of the staff by name. Sometimes he would stand next to the security guard, as if he were part of our security team. When the branch manager made his rounds, Mr. Frank would join him. If teenagers in the library became noisy, Mr. Frank would accompany the librarians who spoke to them: "You kids better be quiet!" he would say.

Eventually, Mr. Frank and I had a falling out. He started asking me to refer library customers to his business, and when I refused, he became nasty. I decided to check him out online and found him on Maryland's sex offender registry where he is listed as a violent sex offender. Mr. Frank had insinuated himself into our daily activities to such a degree that library users often thought he was staff. 
If the library had been a school or day care center, Mr. Frank would have had to identify himself to staff as a registered sex offender. There is no such law for public libraries, even though libraries function as informal day care centers and children dropped off at the library receive much less supervision then they would at a school or a day care. 
From that story about an annoying though harmless library regular, the librarian goes on to suggest some changes to make libraries "safer".
First, convicted sex offenders should have to identify themselves when they enter a public library, just as they are required to do at schools and day care centers. Medium and large public libraries are simply too hard to police; long rows of shelves, bulky furniture, hallways, stairwells and restrooms offer too many nooks and crannies to monitor effectively, even with security guards and cameras.
Mr. Frank had a falling out with the writer. The librarian doesn't accuse him of any illegal behavior, only of being an odd character who eventually got on his nerves enough for the librarian to check him out online.

Knowing that Mr. Frank is on the sex offender registry is enough to make this librarian want to change everything about the library for kids.
Second, libraries should offer structured after-school programs similar to those run at schools and community centers, where responsible, trained adults offer meaningful activities for children. Too many children dropped off at the library spend hours playing mindless shoot-em up computer games where they learn nothing and don't interact with kids around them. Structured programs would allow children to benefit from all the resources available at the library and keep them safe at the same time. 
He wants responsible, trained adults and meaningful activities to keep kids safe.

How many kids have been molested or worse by coaches or teachers during structured after-school programs? Far more than have been molested by strangers in libraries and yet the librarian wants to put kids in the charge of those trusted adults.

A library full of children must be providing something meaningful for the kids--books, a place to study while waiting for a ride, or Internet access and video games the kid's family cannot afford at home, perhaps? One wonders if this librarian disapproves of the kids' book choices the way he disapproves of their taste in video games.

Could a stranger molest a kid in a library? Absolutely, and when it does, the story makes the news because it is so unusual. Could a stranger molest a kid at the grocery store or at a ball game or the laundromat? Sure. That, too, would be very rare. It is far, FAR more likely that a child would be molested by a family member or someone trusted by the family. Far more likely for kids to be molested by responsible, trained adults at a day care center or school, the very places the librarian wants the library to resemble.

This is what happens when we keep a list of people and tell the world that everyone on that list is dangerous: people act on unreasonable fears.

Mr. Frank--and the other registered citizens who visited this library--had committed no sex offenses in the library but when the librarian found Mr. Frank on the list (along with 850,000 other Americans), he begins suggesting safeguards to protect kids against sex offenses. The kids seem to be doing fine without those safeguards.

When the community reads the suggestions and sees how unnecessary and expensive it would be to protect against an extremely rare event, I hope they tell the librarian, "Shhh."

Check out books and video games. Not the registry.

Friday, August 21, 2015

for those who are afraid of sex offenders

A picture worth a thousand shares.



For those who look at the chart and still think sex offenders are more frightening because they put children in danger:

Not every sex offense involves children. Adults can be sexually assaulted as well.

Not every sex offense involves sex. A charge for failure to register is considered a sex offense. Some jurisdictions include non-sexual acts like streaking, mooning or urinating in public on the list of sex offenses.

Other crimes--car theft, burglary, non-sexual assault, fraud and the rest of the list--can affect children and adults as much as or more than sex offenses do. Sometimes sex offenses are horrific; sometimes a car-jacking is.

Comparing injuries is a foolish exercise because we all react differently. Treating sex offenders as if their crimes are always beyond the pale is to say that other crimes are always more acceptable.

When we focus on sex offenses as if that is the worst thing that could ever happen, we diminish the experience of those who were violated in other ways.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

apologies and podiums

The data dump from the Ashley Madison hackers is stirring up muck from the bottom.

AshleyMadison.com--tagline: "Life is Short. Have an Affair."--is a site for those seeking a partner for an affair. Want to cheat? This may have been the site for you but now that hackers have posted 9.7 gigabites of data stolen from the site, those who decided not to go that route can heave a sigh of relief. Not so with those who had accounts there.

Whether the data is accurate or not is up in the air. We are talking about data entered by people who want to cheat, after all. Right or wrong, names will be dragged through the mud and those who need to salvage their reputation will be hitting the talk shows to tell us they have reformed.

Already, the public apologies have begun. Josh Duggar, skin-of-his-teeth survivor of one scandal has been thrown into another because his name showed up in the data dump.

He says,
“I am so ashamed of the double life that I have been living and am grieved for the hurt, pain and disgrace my sin has caused my wife and family, and most of all Jesus and all those who profess faith in Him,” he continued.
Have some dignity, man, and stop groveling. The rest of us are no better than you.

What, exactly, does Josh Duggar owe any of us in the way of an apology for cheating on his wife? Nothing.

If an apology isn't personal, it means nothing. Apologizing to "all those who profess faith" in Jesus is bizarre. Duggar's offense was not against strangers who happen to share a religious faith with him.

Christian or not, we all sin. Christians profess to know that.

Matthew 6:5 says,
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray stanidng in the synagoges and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
And yet, Duggar will not be alone in confessing his sin and apologizing publicly in the most pious and prayerful ways. He probably received advice from well-meaning experts who told him to "get out in front" of the scandal. That worked for Tylenol but Tylenol's ugency was about public safety and the survival of a company. Duggar's problem, as revealed by the hackers, is marital.

If you commit a sin against someone, apologize to that person. If you sin against God, apologize to Him. Leave the rest of us out of it and knock off trying to impress us with your heartfelt apologies.

It is not our concern. Our concern is our own sinfulness.

You think that your double life offended your congregation or your fan club? It probably did. Was it a sin against them? Maybe, maybe not. Even if you are sure that it was, consult the rule book before you start composing an emotional apology to be delivered in a press conference because somewhere there is--or ought to be--a rule that apologies delivered in a press conference automatically do not count.

Again, our concern is our own sinfulness. 

If we know that, those tearful public apologies will mean nothing to us. Why? Our concern is our own sinfulness. We are not surprised to learn that others--truly I tell you, even reality TV stars--are also sinful.

Those of us whose sins are made public, through sensational hacking events as in the lurid Ashley Madison story or through a public registry for sex offenders, must consider carefully before apologizing for our misdeeds.

Who did you sin against? Will your apology help or hurt that person? If it will not cause more pain, apologize to that person privately. This is between the two of you.

Talk to God privately. This is between you and Him.

Only egregious sins are committed against the world, so there is no need to apologize to the world. Your sin may indeed cause you a heavy burden of guilt; that heavy burden does not mean you owe the world an apology.

If someone tells you that you must apologize to your community, remind them that you are not the example of sinlessness that your community needs to heed.

"kids for cash" judge sentenced to 28 years

Four thousand convictions in Pennsylvania have been overturned because of a couple of corrupt judges.
An American judge known for his harsh and autocratic courtroom manner was jailed for 28 years for conspiring with private prisons to hand young offenders maximum sentences in return for kickbacks amounting to millions of dollars.
Kickbacks in the millions but his restitution is only $1.2 million.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has overturned some 4,000 convictions issued by the former Luzerne County judge between 2003 and 2008, claiming he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles – including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea.
He would have been just as wrong if he had been violating the rights of adults.
Federal prosecutors accused Ciavarella Jnr and a second judge, Michael Conahan, of taking more than $2m in bribes from the builder of the PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care detention centres and extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the facilities’ co-owner. Ciavarella Jnr filled the beds of the private prisons with children as young as 10, many of them first-time offenders convicted minor crimes. 
...as young as 10. 

When society ignores what happens in the courts, guys like this take advantage.

When society ignores what happens in the prisons, the prisons take advantage.

Ignoring what goes on gives them power. Power corrupts.