Thursday, October 1, 2015

what does this hysteria teach our children?

A 74-year-old grandfather was denied entrance to a school where he had been invited to have lunch. His step-grandson had invited him to celebrate Grandparents' Day.

The hangup? The school uses Raptor, a system used to check identification; it alerts the school when it identifies a sex offender. The grandfather's crime was 16 years ago and he has committed no further crimes since then.

Listen to the hysterical tone of the article:
A Rutherford County elementary school was put to the test two weeks ago when a registered sex offender attempted to get inside Brown’s Chapel Elementary School during lunch. 
...attempted to get inside... 

Was he trying to break in through a window or picking a lock?

No, he was entering the school just like all the other grandparents were.
The man never made it past the front office on Sept. 11, thanks to a computer software system designed to keep sex offenders out. 
...never made it past the front office...

This old Hertz commercial comes to mind. The grandfather wasn't trying to get away with anything. He just came for lunch.
The incident occurred on Grandparents Day at the school. 
He was invited by his step-grandson. The grandson had not been told that sex offender grandparents were not welcome and there is a very real possibility that the boy did not even know about the crime that occurred years before he was born.
“An elderly person not really the standard that you would think you have to be concerned about,” said Principal Kellye Goostree.
Consider this: The person who made that unbelievably stupid statement is the principal of a school.

School personnnel should be better educated about sex offenses. 

Does the principal not know that a third of sexual assaults against children are perpetrated by children...whom her school welcomes with open arms? Does she not know that it is more likely that her students will be molested by someone on her staff--someone who has daily contact with students--than by a one-time visitor who stopped by for some chicken nuggets?

Schools accept those risks without blinking an eye and yet the risk of someone on a list--a list with an extremely low rate of reoffense--is seen as so great that it requires large investments in hardware and software.

The clueless principal blathers on:
“How amazing that we were able to prevent a convicted sex offender from having lunch with people’s children,” Goostree said.
Not "with people's children". With his grandson.
So far, Raptor has been a proven success.
How so?
“We’ve had four hits in the seven years,” Goostree said.  “It’s a huge safety feature for our students.”
If Raptor costs $6,000 per year (an estimate drawn from this), the school has paid $10,500 to catch each registered sex offender. Not to detect a sex offense, mind you; to identify someone on a list.

Was it worth $10,500 to single out this boy and make him known as the kid whose dangerous grandpa is not allowed in the school?

In all the years the school managed without the wonders of Raptor, how many times did a visitor to the school sexually assault a student or a staff member? 

What does the hysteria about registered sex offenders teach children? 

It teaches children that people on a list are the ones to fear. When over ninety percent of sex offense arrests are of people not on the list, we are directing children to be wary of the wrong people.

It teaches children that they are wrong to love and admire a grandparent who has come through a difficult time and has lived a law-abiding life since.

It teaches the community that it is acceptable to single out and embarrass children who love sex offenders.

Raptor stopped a man from having lunch with his grandson and the principal crows about the great success, without a single thought about the effect on the grandson.

Not a single thought that the boy might be hurt or confused by this turn of events. Not a single thought that exposing the grandfather as a registered sex offender may also expose the child to details of a crime he is too young to understand.

Instead of encouraging pointless hysteria, we ought to be upset about school boards deciding to throw away taxpayer funds on wrongheaded nonsense.

We ought to be upset about thoughtless principals who think it is acceptable to treat the children and grandchildren of registered citizens as if they do not matter.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

prison should be our last resort and this is one reason why

Prison offers an opportunity for some to practice their sadistic tendencies on the defenseless, as we see in this story from The Marshall Project about the New York prison system.
... the guard escorted him past a set of double doors out of view of other inmates and the prison’s electronic surveillance cameras. Fabian said the officer, Michael Bukowski, a seven-year veteran, had then ordered him to face the wall and brace himself in the “pat-frisk” position, arms outstretched and legs spread. As he did so, Fabian recalled, he looked down and saw the toe of a boot swinging up between his legs. 
He saw a flash of light, felt a piercing pain and collapsed. “He told me to get up, but all I could do was crawl back to my cube,” Fabian, who is now 21, told investigators later. He lay on the floor in his cubicle in the prison’s dormitory, groaning and crying, for almost an hour before hobbling to lunch. In the mess hall, a sergeant sent him to the prison’s medical unit. He was soon loaded into a van and driven 80 miles north to a hospital in Albany. Doctors there performed emergency surgery, removing part of his right testicle.
 If you are thinking that surely that guard was fired, you are wrong.
More than a year later, however, Bukowski is still a state employee. His disciplinary case remains unresolved, although he faces a criminal charge of assault. His case, described in court documents and interviews, offers a stark example of the intricate protections that shield New York’s 20,000 corrections officers, even when there is compelling evidence of abuse. 
Since 2010, the state has sought to fire 30 prison guards accused of abusing inmates through a convoluted arbitration process that is required under the union contract. Officials have prevailed only eight times, according to records of disciplinary cases released under state Freedom of Information Law requests. Those records show that most abuse allegations never reach the arbitration level: Another 80 cases brought against corrections officers, sergeants and lieutenants since 2010 were settled directly with their unions for penalties other than dismissal, such as suspension.
Power in the hands of the unfit should be taken away as quickly as possible but that is not what happens when prison guards misuse power over inmates. The system is set up to keep the unfit employed in the very position for which they are least suited, a position that lets them do real damage to real people.

This is why we ought to use prisons only as a last resort.

Building more prisons and incarcerating more people means we have more corrections officers in a position where they can abuse other human beings. In a system where those who abuse their authority are rarely fired, we cannot be surprised when COs go bad.

If you can stomach it, read the whole thing.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

ripping the curtain away from the polygraph: nothing there

Doug Williams taught people how to pass a polygraph test. The government wanted him to stop because the government uses polygraph tests as part of their hiring process. What he was doing--teaching--was not illegal, so they had to find another way to stop him.
According to Williams's indictment, two undercover agents asked Williams to teach them how to pass a polygraph test in order to pass a federal background check. 
During the lead up to the classes (and during the classes themselves), both undercover agents repeatedly confessed specifics of imaginary past crimes that they wished to lie about. Because Williams was told about one of the would-be employee's (imaginary) drug smuggling, he was technically assisting a person to defraud the government, according to the indictment.
In 2013, Williams was charged with two counts of mail fraud (he received the undercover agents' payments in the mail) and three counts of witness tampering. Each carried a sentence of 20 years. 
Faced with huge fines and a possible hundred years in prison, he took a plea agreement and will serve two years in federal prison.
[Williams] wants to bring attention to a flawed technology he says has been systematically used to incarcerate and disqualify people from federal jobs. 
"I have no interest in helping criminals escape prosecution or in helping people who are not qualified for a job get it. The more people who understand what the polygraph is capable of doing and is not capable of doing, the more likely it's put into the scrap heap of history," Williams said. "It's worthless technology. It cannot withstand scrutiny." 
In a landmark, 417-page report published in 2002, the National Research Council more or less agreed, suggesting that polygraph testing "rests on weak scientific underpinnings despite nearly a century of study." 
If polygraphs do identify liars based on biometrics, no one would be able to beat the test. Why would the government care if someone were teaching a method that could not work?
"The criminalization of speech advocating for unlawful behavior has been a pretext for suppressing unpopular ideas. It's not a stretch to think that's what's going on here," [Lee Rowland, a First Amendment specialist and senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union] said. "It's clear the government believes the stakes are high here—if [Williams and people like him] are successful, it exposes the fact that these things can be beat, that it's pseudoscience. It's all the more troubling they used undercover agents to create a crime that amounts to nothing more than words alone."
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. He has a polygraph to run.

I blogged about the use of polygraphs in interrogation theater here and I blogged about how therapists, parole and probation officers team up to use polygraphs here.

Friday, September 25, 2015

struck down: Wisconsin law violated free speech rights of registered sex offenders

Sex offenders, cameras, children. The combination has been harmful when the resulting photos are pornographic. When the photos are not pornographic?
A Wisconsin law prohibiting registered sex offenders from photographing children in public violates their right to free speech, the state Court of Appeals held Tuesday. 
The decision by the Wausau-based District 3 court reversed the conviction of a 44-year-old Green Bay man who had been sentenced to 12 years in prison for the non-pornographic photos. It also found the law unconstitutional on its face, not salvageable by a narrowed interpretation or severing part of the statute.
The guy took pictures of kids playing outside.
[] of children outside his residence doing things like riding skateboards, jumping rope and dropping stones in a soda bottle. None involved nudity or obscenity.
In case you missed it, the guy got twelve years in prison for that.
In an opinion written by Reserve Judge Thomas Cane, and joined by judges Lisa Stark and Thomas Hruz, the court found that even sex offenders have free speech rights to take non-obscene, non-pornographic photographs of children in public places.
...even sex offenders have free speech rights...
While protecting children is such an interest, the court said, the law doesn't accomplish that. In fact, it could actually encourage offenders to make personal contact with children, in order to ask who their parents are so the offender might ask permission to take the photos. 
"Further, children are not harmed by non-obscene, non-pornographic photographs taken in public places," the court said.
Common sense truth-telling.
The court said it does not like the idea that some people might gain sexual gratification from ordinary photos of children, but that laws can't ban protected speech just because it might lead to crime.
If gaining sexual gratification from photos were a crime, Victoria's Secret and Pink catalogs have surely led many astray.

Prohibiting registered citizens from photographing children means no photos of homeruns, dance solos, and no photos of baby's first (or hundredth) time down the playground slide.

As usual, legislators were not thinking of families or the importance of normal family activities to someone returning from prison. Family connection is one of the factors that help registered citizens avoid new offenses of any kind.

I do not know how many other states prohibit RSOs from taking photos of children. This Wisconsin victory gives hope.

Sex offenders have the right to free speech.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

employed sex offenders make the community safer

Commerce City CO has a police officer who works fulltime with sex offenders.
Tracking them is one thing -- making sure they stay employed and stay out of trouble is another. 
Because of that, Commerce City is taking a new approach to keeping tabs on sex offenders. 
“The biggest part of these guys not re-offending - is whether or not they're employed,” said Commerce City Police detective Christian Rasmussen. 
The 'felon' label already makes it hard to find employment but the 'sex offender' label makes it doubly hard to find someone willing to offer employment. In states where employers are listed on the registry, it is even harder to land a job because the employer doesn't want his or her establishment listed there. What employer wants to be boycotted or vandalized because they hired someone on a list?
Rasmussen is now the full-time sex offender cop for Commerce City.
“Offering them resources so they can become contributing members of society again,” he said. 
Rather than the routine of knocking on doors, checking to make sure sex offenders are living where they say they live, Rasmussen takes that contact a step further. 
“Helping them so they can get jobs,” he said. “They can get re-acclimated into the community." 
This is such an obviously smart thing to do: work to make sure registered citizens are employed.
The idea is the more Rasmussen gets involved in their lives, the more likely they stay clean. 
"Trying to kick them out of the community, that's not an answer,” Rasmussen said. 
“These people have served their time, they've paid their debt to society."  
The article points out that the lack of employment makes it easier to offend again.

Chances of a registered sex offender commiting another sex offense are still quite small but the need to support himself and perhaps his family can drive him to other kinds of offenses.

You know what else would help? Abolishing the sex offender registry. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

can't afford the $60 fee? guess what the response is

This is the way it works in Lake Charles LA.
Back in August [a] Sex Offender ... completed his registration due to release from incarceration for an arrest of Failure to Register, by the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office. [He] was found to be in compliance and completed the registration. [He] was unable to pay the required Louisiana Sex Offender fee of $60.00 and was given 30 days to pay his fee. After the allowed 30 days, [he] failed to pay his fee and he failed to contact the Lake Charles Police Department’s Sex Offender Registry. Failure to pay the required fee is a violation of the sex offender registration.
His bail is set at $2500. 

That's the the way "the farmer had a daughter" is the setup for an obscene joke.

Tulsa sex offender not bound by residence restriction laws passed after his crime was committed

Tulsa police are worried.

A man who committed a sex crime in 1999, sixteen years ago, was released from prison in 2012 and now wants to live with his mother, whose home is near a school or daycare center.
A 2003 Oklahoma law prevents sex offenders from living near schools and daycare centers. In January 2015, [the man] asked the courts for an injunction against the Tulsa County District Attorney's office, Tulsa Police and the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office, arguing that since the law was passed after he committed his crimes, it didn't apply to him.
The court agreed with that argument and now the man can live where he chooses.
Tulsa police fear this will lead to a similar situation for many more convicted child molesters.
After the 2013 Oklahoma Supreme Court decision in Starkey v. Department of Corrrections, one would think that the Tulsa police were already aware that ex post facto laws could be challenged successfully. Have the Tulsa police been quaking in their boots ever since Starkey?
"The whole premise of the sex offender registry is to protect our children. Safe zones were created for families to at least feel comfortable knowing there were no sex offenders living nearby. The ruling will open the door for sex offenders to file similar lawsuits and be granted the freedom to reside next to an elementary school, if they so choose," said Tulsa Police Sgt. John Adams. [My emphasis.]
No sex offenders living nearby.

Psst! The sex offenders living nearby are likely the ones who have yet to be discovered. 

Let's hear it for filing similar lawsuits!