Tuesday, December 25, 2012

counting our blessings

It is Christmas Day and we are celebrating while we wait for my husband to go to prison. Grief and anger could easily rule the day but counting our blessings helps us truly celebrate.

A great source of joy is the knowledge that of all the people who heard our story from us, every single one has been supportive. We did not expect that. We expected people to abandon us and that has not happened. Not even a single time. Family, friends, neighbors, co-workers; people from all corners of our life have offered to help us.

We have been surprised by people who contacted us after seeing the article in the newspaper, people offering prayers and support. Even people we didn't tell ourselves, people who know my husband and me know us well enough to believe that we must know what we are doing.

We are grateful for the love and support. We both have heard stories from others who have been abandoned by someone they love; that is what we expected. I suppose there are some who have not told us how angry they are with my husband for looking at child pornography or with me for staying with him but there's a blessing in the fact that they have not burdened us with their anger. We are grateful for that.

We are grateful that the discovery of my husband's offense has made it possible for him to get help. As I have said before, there is no way for someone to ask for help to break a child porn habit without being turned in to law enforcement. My husband grabbed the opportunity given him and he has worked hard to become a better person.

We are grateful that our children have level heads and good friends.

Merry Christmas to all my readers. May your holidays be marked with blessings big and small. The small ones do add up.

Monday, December 17, 2012

needed: moral courage in legislators

I saw one of our state senators the other day. Didn't talk to him but thought about him pushing for our state to do what it needs to do to become fully compliant with the Adam Walsh Act. He's one of those who votes for the sex offender registry, thinking of it as "tough on crime." I know him; he's a nice guy. Before my husband got in trouble, I don't think I gave any thought to how this state senator felt about sex offenders.

I want to ask him what it is about my husband that frightens him so much. My husband looked at some mild child pornography, that's true, but I want the senator to tell me why he is so sure that my husband is dangerous. He must be sure or he wouldn't have voted the way he did, to treat all sex offenders that way. His vote helped decide how my husband would be treated.

There is absolutely no evidence that my husband is a danger to anyone. Not to adults, not to children. He has never touched children inappropriately and there is no evidence that he ever would. None. His counselors agree. And yet, the legislature has decided--though they knew and still know nothing about my husband--to treat him as if he is dangerous. Because there is no evidence that he's dangerous, they are merely pretending that he is. How else to describe what they are doing?

They, along with Congressmen and Senators, have decided to pretend all sex offenders are equally dangerous. Sex offenders have to register so that the curious public can identify them. My husband has to let law enforcement search him--his residence, his car, his computer, his papers--whenever they want to do that, with no warrant. That also means that law enforcement can search my residence and belongings anytime they want to. I haven't even looked at child porn and I get treated as if I had been convicted too.

Knowing one thing about my husband--he looked at child porn--is not enough to know my husband; it is, however, enough to send him to prison for years. The prosecutor knows as well as I do that my husband is not dangerous or he would have charged him with something else.

Hypothetical: A man commits armed robbery; he didn't fire his weapon and no one was injured. At the trial, the prosecution brings forth witnesses that talk about how awful it was when they were caught in the middle of a different armed robbery where people were shot and killed by the robbers. This, of course, has nothing to do with the armed robbery our man did, and this kind of witness would not be allowed. It makes no sense to convict someone for something he might have done--had he been a different person, in a different place, at a different time.

Yet this is the way sex offenders are treated. They are punished because someone else victimized children, and maybe not even the children in the images pertinent to the case before the court. My husband's  pre-sentence report included a "victim impact statement," even though no victims were identified. The victim impact statement talks about how victims of child pornography feel victimized all over again when someone views the images of them.

No one knows if the teens in the videos found on my husband's computer feel victimized or not. We know nothing about the teens in the videos. We don't know if they hated making the videos or not. We know nothing about them.

We can make guesses about the circumstances of these teens but since when do we use guesses when convicting people of crimes? What we know for absolute certain, though, is that my husband never touched these kids. If there were any doubt about that, the prosecution would have been certain to use that information.

So, Congressmen and Senators, how do you justify sending my husband away for four years because he looked at child pornography? Is it because you are just so sure looking at those images is wrong? Of course it's wrong! I haven't found anyone who argues otherwise and that includes my husband. There are legal adult pornography images that are just as wrong, just as immoral to look at.

Oh, I can feel some readers, itching to shout at me, "Supply and demand!" There is an argument that eliminating the demand for child porn will eliminate the supply, decreasing the incidence of child abuse. Has that happened yet? The numbers of people incarcerated for looking at child porn has grown immensely over the last twenty years. Has that diminished the supply of child porn? The answer is clear: Cutting down on the demand has not affected the supply of child porn images, not even a little. To continue to act as if it does is foolish. And cruel.

Pretending that putting my husband in prison will help--in any way--the children who were abused for the sake of making child pornography, is a cruel delusion. It doesn't help. If it did, we'd have seen results by now. Facts should count.

The truth is that it is easy for legislators to increase the punishment for sex offenders because there are so few who will defend the offenders. That doesn't make it right and using such shallow reasons to increase the punishment is immoral, just as looking at child porn is immoral.

We need legislators with the courage to confront facts and the courage to act on those facts.

Updated December 18: Changed "victim statement" to "victim impact statement." I'm sure my posts reveal pretty clearly that I write in a hurry. This post bugs me a bit because, while I am thinking mostly about child porn offenders, my references to "sex offenders" are vague. Instead of rewriting, I'm trusting that you can sort it out. It is true that sex offenders are treated as if they are all the same. And it is true that removing the judge's ability to use his or her own discretion when sentencing leaves all the power with the prosecutor.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

all child porn images are not the same

An old article illustrates a problem with the definition of child pornography.
At Susquenita High School, 15 miles outside of Harrisburg, Pa., eight students, ranging in age from 13 to 17, have learned a tough lesson about "sexting." 
"Take a photograph of yourself or somebody else nude and send it to somebody else, you've committed the crime," said Perry County District Attorney Charles Chenot, who has prosecuted two sexting cases involving a total of 10 minors in the past year. 
Chenot said he considers sexting a form of child pornography and wants kids to understand once those images are in someone else's hands they could wind up anywhere, even the Internet, possibly forever. 
The teens at Susquenita High, who all knew each other, were accused last fall of using their cell phones to take, send, or receive nude photos of each other and in one case a short video of a oral sex. That resulted in a felony pornography charge for each minor.
Child pornography horrifies people because it is seen as victimizing children. The videos of adults abusing children are definitely horrifying but much of child porn is not that. Sexting videos of kids that are loosed on the internet are also considered child pornography. These are images created by kids, probably for kids, and uploaded by kids who are not thinking that the images could go much further than they intend. These eight kids were not victimized by the images; they were victimized by the justice system and by a prosecutor who wanted to teach them a lesson.

In this case, the school discovered the images by examining a phone and turning it over to law enforcement. The District Attorney "wants kids to understand" that the images could wind up living forever on the Internet. He's right, of course, but he charged those eight kids with felonies. That's a heck of a lesson. Sure, juvenile offenses can be expunged from their records but those eight will forever know that the rest of the town knows something incredibly personal about them, something they never intended the community at large to know. School officials and law enforcement teamed up to make sure that people heard about it...all for the good of the children, naturally.

Teens, for better or worse, make their own decisions about sex and sexual behavior and cell phones make it possible to record all of their follies. Should teens be charged with child porn felonies for being stupid and for not realizing that the videos and photos will live forever on the Internet?
"Why should we criminalize a kid for taking and possessing a photo of herself," said Marsha Levick, legal director of the non-profit Juvenile Law Center. "There is no problem that needs to be solved."
The felonies and public humiliation almost certainly do more lasting damage to the kids than the photos themselves ever could do.

Images like this cannot be seen in the same light as images of children sexually abused. They simply are not the same.

If we can agree that sexting images are different from images of child sexual abuse, what is it that makes them different? Both are images of children, both are sexual images. The sexting image is not a recording of a crime. That's the difference. One is an image of foolish kids doing something for fun and one is an image of horrifying cruelty. One is worse than the other. The law, however, treats them the same.

Either image will land a man in prison.

Child pornography includes images made in fun, like these, and those made in cruel circumstances. They include images that a child may have been forced to make and images a child may have chosen to make in order to make money.

It is wrong to treat them as if they all come from equally horrifying circumstances.

Friday, December 7, 2012

what happens when police are militarized?

In Maryland, this:

Terry Allen Porter’s home was raided using all the power of the state security apparatus not because he was terrorist, a bank robber, serial killer, or a relative of the Kennedy clan, but because of an anonymous tip that he was an avid outdoorsman...
An anonymous tip. Hmm. 
Terry Allen Porter required the attention of Maryland State Police, Washington County Sheriff’s Office deputies, a helicopter, K-9 units, a heavily armed FBI SWAT team, and two armored vehicles because he had guns and a twenty-year-old conviction for dealing cocaine that landing him in jail for six months in 1992. 
Three different law enforcement agencies to raid someone with a single non-violent crime in his history. Hmm.
How his home came to be raided should be of great concern to every American. All media accounts suggest that he was informed on by a fellow citizen who apparently had few facts correct (no “machine gun-style firearms,” handguns, or large caches of ammunition were recovered) and a police officer who felt not liking how the election turned out, having security cameras, and being a “prepper” constituted a threat that needed to be responded to with a combined-arms raid of infantry, armor, and air power.
Imagine your neighborhood during a raid such as this. When law enforcement comes in with multiple agencies, with officers armed to the teeth, with helicopter overhead, accidents are just waiting to happen

As an American, I am appalled that an informant (who rather frankly appears to have been a liar) and scant evidence brought forth by an undercover cop who saw no actual criminal activity were enough to launch a massive paramilitary raid against a citizen without a history of violence.
And, incidentally, a citizen who wasn't home at the time. Yes. All the combined investigative powers of the Maryland state police, the county sheriff and the FBI led up to a raid when the suspect wasn't even home. Lucky for him.



Tuesday, November 27, 2012

always more to the story

A man is charged with distribution and possession of child porn. All I know is what is in the article but a couple of things jumped out at me.

School administrators expressed shock earlier this month when discussing the case during a news conference, saying Merrill had never displayed troubling behavior during his time at the school.
I hope school administrators can remember this about their colleague: he had never displayed troubling behavior. 
While being questioned by investigators, Merrill said he was sexually assaulted as a minor and "wanted to know if child pornography was as repulsive as he had read about," according to the affidavit.
I have been told that child porn is the "crack cocaine of the porn world." If this man's story is true, I'd say the adage could be, as well. We all know someone who is "addicted" to Facebook or to video games. It follows that an addiction to child porn is a possible result of simple curiosity. Especially for someone who was sexually assaulted, perhaps.
O'Neil said — with the federal charge filed — he expects Isabella County prosecutors to drop the local child porn distribution charges against Merrill. 
"I still have not seen any evidence of distribution or sharing," O'Neil said. "Right now, all the evidence is reviewing this child pornography in the four corners of his home and office, which is serious enough."
So, no evidence that he distributed child porn and yet he is charged with distribution. Favorite trick of prosecutors: Charge him with everything possible, even if they have no evidence for some of the charge. This pins the defendant between the very long mandatory minimum sentence likely after a trial and the merely long sentence offered in the plea agreement.

Monday, November 26, 2012

let the debate rage on

With judges dissatisfied with the current U.S. Sentencing Commission guidelines, there is much debate about sentencing for child porn offenses.

On one side of the debate, many federal judges and public defenders say repeated moves by Congress to toughen the penalties over the past 25 years have badly skewed the guidelines, to the point where offenders who possess and distribute child pornography can go to prison for longer than those who actually rape or sexually abuse a child. In a 2010 survey of federal judges by the Sentencing Commission, about 70 percent said the proposed ranges of sentences for possession and receipt of child pornography were too high. Demonstrating their displeasure, federal judges issued child porn sentences below the guidelines 45 percent of the time in 2010, more than double the rate for all other crimes.
This sounds encouraging. If it is recognized that looking at child porn can be punished with sentences more severe than those given to people who actually sexually abuse children, then the conversation has begun. It simply is not logical that looking can draw a longer sentence than doing.
On the other hand, some prosecutors and members of Congress, as well as advocates for sexual-abuse victims, oppose any push for more leniency. At a public hearing in February, the Sentencing Commission received a victim's statement lamenting that child pornography offenders "are being entertained by my shame and pain."
"They need to be taught how much pain they inflict and a greater term of imprisonment will teach them that, (and) will comfort victims seeking justice," the victim said. "I don't believe that short periods of imprisonment will accomplish these things."
I have said it before and I will say it again: To experience sexual abuse as a child and to know that images of that abuse are still floating around the Internet must be excruciating. As in every painful circumstance we encounter, each victim deals with the abuse in his or her own way, so there must be as many reactions and coping methods as there are victims. The feelings of these people must be intense, no matter how they choose to deal with those feelings. 

Do we sentence defendants based on the intensity of the victim's reaction? One problem with that approach is that in most cases, matching defendant and victim in child porn cases is impossible. Identifying the children in the videos is rare. The children could be anywhere in the world and the abuse could have happened decades ago. Another problem is that ascertaining the intensity of the victim's feelings is subjective. There is no logic in this kind of thinking; it is all emotion.

Thinking that all victims feel the same way about their victimization and about punishment seems presumptuous. To hand down a severe sentence because we assume that the victims will feel better when that happens, is like shooting in the dark. How can we be sure we know the feelings of the children in these particular images?

In a recent article for the journal of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, former Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and former federal prosecutor Linda Dale Hoffa criticized the approach by Congress.
"The fact that child pornography offenders can be given longer sentences than child abusers or violent offenders reflects a lack of care by Congress," Specter and Hoffa wrote. "In the rush to prove itself hostile to individuals who possess or distribute child pornography, Congress has obscured the real distinctions between different offenders." 
Hoffa doubts Congress will be eager to ease the guidelines.
"If you vote against these harsher penalties, the sound bite is that you're protecting child pornographers, and that could be the end of somebody's career," she said in a telephone interview. "It's a political radioactive hot potato."
And there lies the problem. Sex offenders, no matter what their offense, are easy to ignore and easy to treat badly because almost no one wants to stand up for them. No one wants to be seen as sympathetic to the sex offender, today's pariah. Elected officials have the added difficulty of wanting to win the next election, making it "impossible" to speak out in favor of more lenient sentences.  

We need to push them to do the right thing, even when it makes re-election difficult.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

20 years or a life sentence for possession of child porn

In November 2011, a Florida judge sentenced a man to life in prison for possession of 454 child pornography images.
But the severity of the justice meted out to Mr. Vilca, who had no previous criminal record, has led some criminal justice experts to question whether increasingly harsh penalties delivered in cases involving the viewing of pornography really fit the crime. Had Mr. Vilca actually molested a child, they note, he might well have received a lighter sentence.
I need to do more research on this but I wonder if contact offenses get shorter sentences because they are less frequently prosecuted at the federal level. Tracking down people who download child porn is easy to do for the feds; tracking down individuals who sexually abuse children is probably more often investigated at the local level. 
Mr. Hollander said Mr. Vilca had consistently said he did not know the images were on his computer. He refused a plea bargain of 20 years in prison, after which the state attorney increased the charges. The sentence will be appealed, Mr. Hollander said.
Notice this: The prosecutor was willing to let this guy off "easy" with a 20-year sentence but when the defendant chose to go to trial, the prosecutor increased the charges. Why? Because he could? If 20 years was going to be enough to keep the world safe from this young man, why the extra charges that would increase his sentence? If the prosecutor really believes that the life sentence is appropriate in this case, why did he offer a 20-year plea agreement to begin with? 

I don't know how prosecutors and judges like this can sleep at night.
Troy K. Stabenow, an assistant federal public defender in Missouri’s Western District, noted that most people assume that someone who looks at child pornography is also a child molester or will become a child molester, a view often mirrored by judges. 
But a growing body of scientific research shows that this is not the case, he said. Many passive viewers of child pornography never molest children, and not all child molesters have a penchant for pornography. 
“I’m not suggesting that someone who looks at child pornography should just walk,” he said. “But we ought to punish people for what they do, not for our fear.” [My emphasis.]

Monday, November 19, 2012

some cops DO protect and serve

I don't usually have much good to say about law enforcement because I have come to expect the worst of them. Today, I am happy to report that there are some good officers out there.
Four Omaha police officers plunged into frigid Carter Lake on Sunday afternoon to save two people whose boat had capsized.
The boaters and one of the officers suffered from exposure and early stage hypothermia... 
Officer Kelly Murphy, who was on patrol in the area, happened to see the boat capsize and called for help. Four other officers — Mark Kiley, Bryant Wheatley, Jake Bettin and Nick Andrews — rushed to the lake to help. They swam 50 to 60 yards from shore to help the boaters... 
The two could have died without the officers' quick response, said Sgt. Jeff Baker. He called their actions "exceptionally brave and decisive."
Not only did the police officers rescue the two boaters from the cold water, they also rescued Buster, the dog belonging to one of the boaters.

Kudos to these four officers for risking their own safety to help others.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

child porn images are not like peas in a pod

Ah. Another site where people are freaking out over my situation. Three samples of what some of the commenters think about me: 
Vile. That woman is completely vile. Can not comprehend how she is defending him. 
I think that her children should be taken away and she should be institutionalized because this is some sick sh*t.  
This "lady" is not standing by her man, she is supporting his horrible crime. She is as sick and disgusting as the pig she married.
Oh, my goodness. So much vitriol directed toward someone they have never met. So much certainty that they know the whole story and they know what should be done about it. One commenter is sure that she knows the depths of my husband's depravity:
OMG that guy is gonna rape a kid someday, and it will probably be one of his own!
Not only do they know what I should do and what the "authorities" should do about me, they know exactly what they would do if their husband were to get into trouble because of child porn:
I love my husband with all my heart but if he had child porn I would throw him under the bus myself, possibly literally. 
"With all your heart"? I don't believe that for a moment if you would leave your husband when he faces the worst trouble he's ever seen. If you love your child "with all your heart", will you abandon him just as quickly if he were ever to face child porn charges?

I have never blogged about the kind of child porn found on my husband's computer, so readers don't know what he was looking at. Images classified as child pornography fall in a wide range. I have found descriptions of images that I am unable to finish reading because they describe such unspeakably cruel acts. Naked pictures of a girl a week before her eighteenth birthday are considered child porn. Two weeks later, and it isn't child porn. Images of naked teenagers in front of a webcam are considered child porn. The images are not all alike. It is crazy to pretend that they are. Disapprove of what my husband did (as I do), but don't pretend that you know what he was looking at.

A common belief among the hysterics is that looking at child porn means the guy is going to attack a child at some point. If that were true, then all men who subscribe to Playboy magazine should be locked up to prevent all the rapes they are likely to commit. Oh, but adult porn is legal! you protest. Yes, it is. But if looking at child porn makes a person more likely to commit a hands-on crime, that same predilection would be there for those who look at adult porn, too.

My heartfelt thanks to cdnstorelady, the commenter who said,
I didn't read the entire blog but I didn't see anywhere that referenced that she didn't see anything wrong with it.... the blog is all about how a spouse is dealing with a charge that is yet unproven - her husband is innocent until proven guilty and she's trying to deal with the fact that her family is being destroyed in the process of his prosecution. She never said she doesn't feel compassion for the victims. But her children are her priority naturally.
Her compassion is appreciated. Later, she makes it clear that she disagrees with me about how serious looking at child porn should be treated in the courts but she also makes it clear that she was able to listen to me with an open mind and an open heart.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

sex offenders are not all alike

Annie's Mailbox published a letter about sex offenders that illustrates the problem with using an all-purpose label such as "sex offender." 

Dear Annie: Dan Peek from Grandparents and Others on Watch, Inc. was right on target in advising "Older Sister" to contact authorities about her brother, the sex offender. 
We live in a tight community. One woman was having sleepovers at her home while her father, a registered child sex offender, was living with her. She was unwilling to recognize the risk, so we contacted all the parents of the children. We could not endure knowing that she was supplying him with potential victims. — Serious in the South About Protecting Kids
The daughter of a sex offender was "unwilling to recognize the risk" so someone took it upon herself to contact parents around town, alerting them to the danger of this sex offender. The worry was that the sex offender would do something to someone attending sleepovers at the house.

The letter makes no mention--as if it doesn't mattter!--what the man's offense was. Why was he on the registry? What did he do? It isn't enough to call him a "child sex offender."  All sex offenders are not alike. Some might be dangerous, the vast majority are not. 

It is also helpful to remember that 90% sex crimes are committed by a first-time offender, so while keeping an eye on this woman's father, are you also keeping an eye on everyone who has not been arrested yet?

Instead of being a busybody and spreading gossip, get the facts.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

ICE agent arrested for child porn

If you think I'm going to be sympathetic with this guy, you might be surprised.

A former top law enforcement official who helped lead the local crusade against child sexual exploitation was sentenced Friday to a little under six years in prison on a child pornography charge. 
Anthony V. Mangione, who headed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's South Florida office for four years, possessed up to 150 images of child pornography, some depicting the "extreme abuse of children," according to federal prosecutors.
So, it seems that child pornography is addictive. Even ICE agents (and FBI agents) make the mistake of thinking they can satisfy their curiosity and then find themselves unable to leave it alone. Too bad this man couldn't ask for help to break his addiction without getting turned in to law enforcement. 
The FBI and Broward Sheriff's Office seized Mangione's laptop computer in April 2011 after his Internet provider detected him sending child pornography. He quickly retired from ICE and was arrested in September 2011.
This guy earned his living going after child porn users and, because he "quickly retired" from ICE, he will probably have a nice retirement income earned on the backs of those in prison and on the sex offender registry because of his work. 
How many early-morning raids did he approve? How many families broke up under the stress of those raids and the resulting discoveries? How many families deal with the crazy requirements of the sex offender registry because of his work? How many people live under the  Miami Julia Tuttle Causeway because of his work?
Family members and friends wrote letters describing him as a devoted father of three and a dedicated law enforcement officer. 
As the Special Agent in Charge of ICE's South Florida office, Mangione supervised more than 400 employees in nine counties. He was regularly at the forefront of arrests of child pornography suspects, vowing to see them punished.
My heart goes out to his family. This discovery has to be incredibly difficult to deal with. I should know. My sympathy is for them. To be honest, I have a tiny bit of sympathy for anyone leading the double life he lead--unable to ask for help and knowing the certain horror it would be for his family when he was caught. I can guess that like most addicts he never thought he would be caught. 

I hope he has used his time between search and imprisonment as well as my husband has. I hope he has come to terms with what he has done--not only the child porn he used, but the fact that he personally put other families through the same hell his family is going through. Crowing over his downfall is difficult for me, knowing that his family falls with him. 

Perhaps he and his family will become supporters of efforts to abolish the sex offender registry. I could live with that.



Thursday, November 8, 2012

names...to publish or not?

If you believe what was reported here, this is a family with some serious problems.

An Omaha Public Schools teacher has been charged with witness tampering and child abuse after being accused of covering up her daughter’s allegations that her older brother had molested her.
The mom's a teacher, the dad's a cop.
Authorities say both [parents] knew of the possible incest. The daughter, now 16, reported that it dated back to when she was 3 and her brother, now 21, was 8.
I wish the family well. Who knows what kind of torment they suffered? Who knows how they tried to deal with the situation without calling the authorities? It is interesting that a police officer declined to call the authorities. Perhaps he knows something.

This is the piece of the article that caught my eye:
The teacher is not being named because it would violate The World-Herald’s policy against revealing the names of victims of sex crimes.
Good decision in this case--the girl is only 16. Other cases, maybe not. In a case involving adults where a false accusation is leveled, the fake victim's name should be published. In this case, the public has no need to know names. 

I have to wonder, though, why the names of men accused of possession of child pornography are published. The families of those men suffer from the publicity. The same rationale, the innocent must be protected, should apply in those cases, too. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

simple words


Simple words: When news got out about my husband's impending incarceration, we received a letter that began, "I'm so sorry to hear of your husband's troubles." The letter went on to say "I can't imagine what this has been like for your family," and "We will keep all of you in our prayers."  I cried.

Simple words: Another friend, when she saw my husband and me at church, said, "How are you two doing?" I said we were fine and I said the weather today was beautiful, wasn't it? If I could have said more I would have, but the note of concern in her voice overwhelmed me. 

Simple words: When I picked up my son from a sleepover, I told the host parents the story. They listened quietly and the husband asked, "How is your husband doing?" I could have kissed that man, I was so grateful that he thought to ask about my husband. So many ask about the kids or about me but they don't ask about my husband. It isn't that they don't care, it is that they don't know what to ask. Most people have no idea what it must feel like and when they try to imagine the prospect of four years away from family, their imagination fails.

My advice is to treat this as if it is an illness in the family. Thinking of it that way makes it a bit easier to decide what to say. When someone has cancer, we are aware that the well spouse is carrying a larger load and we are aware that cancer is a frightening illness. We recognize both when we say to the couple--one frazzled, the other bald, "How are you two doing?" 

When someone is sick, we ask about them. Sometimes we don't know what to ask--is she in the middle of chemo or radiation this week? or was that last month?--so we ask the simple question, "How is she doing?" The question provides an opportunity to talk about the sick spouse and an equal opportunity to slide away from the real answer. The two opportunities are equally appreciated.

Sometimes I feel like talking and sometimes talking is too complicated. The story changes. One day, the story is full of hope: We can do this; we can get through these bad years and come out of it whole. Another day, the story is about worry and terror and confusion. One day, I am angry with him because I don't know where he filed the document I need; another day, I am shattered because I overheard cruel gossip. On any one of those days, I like knowing that someone remembers that I love my husband, that I worry about him, and that the kids miss him.

Compassion is the simple recognition that someone is suffering and the desire to lessen the suffering. A man going to prison is as deserving of compassion as a man with heart disease or a man with a broken hip. Showing compassion is not the same as saying, "Your crime was no big deal" or "We don't care that you committed a crime." We don't hear kind words from you and think you approve of the crime, so go ahead and let us hear kind words.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

vote the cowards out of office

I wasn't able to post this earlier today but it is still important: Vote.

Remember the millions of felons who are not able to vote out the elected officials who:


Vote out the cowards who are too afraid to do the right thing because they will be seen as easy on crime.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail

A sixteen-year-old boy shot by a police sniper, for what?

According to his parents, Andrew Messina had a bad day at school and the pressure was so overwhelming, he grabbed a gun and threatened to kill himself. 
Lisa Messina called the cops in desperation, hoping an officer would come talk to him. But what arrived was an army of deputies, an armored tank and a sniper.
This is the natural outcome of a militarized police force that puts its own safety above that of the citizens they have sworn to protect and serve. When police have armored tanks and snipers to use, the tanks and snipers will be used. 

Hat tip to Radley Balko at The Agitator.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

supply and demand...or something entirely different?


The usual "proof" that those convicted of child porn possession should be punished as severely as those who produce the porn is that those who look at the images only encourage someone else to create more images and to abuse more children. Demand drives the market, they say. Here are a couple of comments from the spate of comments left on my blog:
Downloading and posessing child porn is illegal because it continues to victimize the children it exploited. It's illegal because it creates and fuels a demand for more images which lead to more children being hurt and abused.
...and...
Child porn exists because there is a market for it. The consumers of child porn and the demand for it make it possible for it to continue to exists. 
..and...
If sick slime balls like your husband weren't creating a market for child porn, then it wouldn't be readily available. 
If that argument is solid, then it could make good sense to put as many people like my husband in prison as possible. Jacob Sullum, in the July 2011 Reason, points out that incarceration rates of those charged with possession, receipt or distribution of child pornography have increased dramatically in recent years. He says the sentences for those crimes have increased in severity as well.
Between 1997 and 2007, the number of people sent to federal prison for possessing, receiving, or distributing (but not producing) child pornography quintupled, from 238 to 1,170, while the average sentence more than quadrupled, from 21 to 91 months.
So let me think about this. After incarcerating increasingly large numbers of people for child porn offenses, the demand must have decreased quite a bit. On the other hand, child porn must still be available or we wouldn't have such a steady supply of child porn defendants and convicts. The only thing that seems clear is that reducing the number of people looking at child porn does not decrease the supply of the images.

Could it be that the motivation of those who post child pornography to the Internet has nothing to do with supply and demand? Could it be that the motivation of those who abuse children and post images to the Internet has nothing to do with whether there is an audience for those images?

It is easy to think that profit is a motive for posting more and more varied images to child porn sites that sell the images. When money is involved, we think profit is the motive but maybe not. Maybe the people running the for-pay sites have other reasons to charge for the images. Perhaps they think charging for the images narrows the audience, eliminating the merely curious who could be more likely to report the egregious images. I don't know. I don't know anyone who runs a website that charges for the images so I don't know what the motivation is. Imagining the motive is not the same as knowing the motive.

Many more sites are available that offer the images for no charge at all. Freely available. What is the motivation for the people who post images to these sites? There is no profit motive here. Could it be that there are many possible motives for sharing the illegal images? 

The common belief that demand drives the child porn industry must be questioned. Criminal sentences based on that belief must be challenged.

Monday, October 29, 2012

internet anonymity = virtual courage


Not too long ago, my blog was hit with a bunch of comments from people eager to tell me how wrong I am to stand by my husband. A couple of examples:
If you are truly concerned about how your children will fare, I might suggest you take this time to choose their welfare over their father's and leave him, change your name, and remove them from the aegis of shame that his actions might cause them. 
...and... 
Shame on you. You should have removed yourself and your children away from that monster the SECOND you found out about this. You disgust me!
These are people who do not know me or my husband; they do not know the images found on his computer. They know the barest bones of our story, that my husband is charged with possession of child pornography. Internet anonymity provides the same kind of courage that liquor does, so the commenters let loose.


When I tell people who know me about the charges against my husband, they have--without fail--been supportive of our family.

To those of you reading this who are in a situation similar to mine, do not use the opinions of vitriolic strangers as a guide to making decisions about how to handle your life. You may make a decision different from mine but make the decision based on the facts, not on anonymous hysterics.




Tuesday, October 23, 2012

who are sex offenders?

Children. Children are sex offenders. This young man will pay for the rest of his life for something he did when he was thirteen.
Only 10 percent of young offenders will re-offend, according to the Center for Sex Offender Management. Yet young offenders who commit crimes against even younger peers are stuck in the most serious category.
The sex offender registry is touted as a way to keep children safe, but does it?
Those opposed to lifetime juvenile registration suggest that it does not prevent future offenses, since sexual abuse is most often committed not by strangers but by someone in, or close to, the family. “Registration gives people a false sense of security, a false sense of hope,” says Randy Smith, who reviewed adult and juvenile sex offenders for courts in Chicago and Ohio. 
But despite the efforts of advocates, the futures of young offenders like Anthony are in the hands of elected officials unlikely to oppose a law that claims to protect children from sexual abuse. Smith says, “A lot of sex offender laws come from the six o’clock news, from the random person who buries the kids in the woods.”
Legislators like to look tough on crime, even when they admit the laws are wrong.
Iowa State Senator Jerry Behn, who authored the state’s original residency restriction in 2002, admits the law overreached when it applied to all sex offenders, rather than only dangerous pedophiles. But, Behn says, “anyone who votes to fix this now is going to be viewed as light on sexual predators.”
Behn is despicable. To know the laws are wrong and to refuse to change them is wrong. This man has no place in public office.

Monday, October 22, 2012

halloween, a time for scaring people

Halloween lovers like a good scare and what could be scarier than sex offenders? Law enforcement across the country enjoy the chance to pull out all the stops to protect the children.

How effective is all the extra work of going to the home of each sex offender to make sure each one is behaving? As effective as not doing it at all. Does it accomplish anything?
Lisa Sample, Ph.D., a professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, says these stunts do have one effect: They increase fear in the public.
Nebraskans Unafraid sent a letter to news media, asking them not to fall for the elaborate trick law enforcement perpetrates each year:
“This study found no significant increase in risk for non-familial child sexual abuse on or around Halloween.” ...  The study spanned nine years of data, 1997-2005. The researchers said that “Halloween” policies (such as the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office sex-offender publicity stunt) have no impact on crime. Quoting the researchers: 
“The most common types of crime from among the incidents reported on Halloween and adjacent days were theft (32%), destruction or vandalism of property (21%), assault (19%) and burglary (9%).  Vandalism and property destruction accounted for a greater proportion of crime around Halloween compared to other days of the year (21% vs. 14% of all reports).  Sex crimes of all types accounted for slightly over 1% of all Halloween crime. Non-familial sex crimes against children age 12 and under accounted for less than two-tenths of 1 percent of all Halloween crime incidents.” 
When you see law enforcement stop at the home of the neighborhood sex offender simply to harrass him and to use him as a means to frighten parents and to burnish the image of cops as protectors, don't fall for it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

power of the prosecutor...not kosher

Watch Unjustified: The Unchecked Power of America's Justice System for an interesting story about the excessive power of the federal prosecutor. If you think that abuse of power probably affects only the druggies and the perverts, think again.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Radley Balko writes about a Montana SWAT team who threw a flash grenade through a window, into the bedroom of a 12-year-old girl, leaving her badly burned.
Sorry, but when you’re blindly shoving a flash grenade attached to a boomstick through a window, and you clearly have no idea who or what is in that room where you’re detonating, the possibility that an innocence person might get burned is not “totally unforeseen.” It’s only unforeseen when you’re so caught up in your drug war that you can’t be bothered to take the time to consider the possible collateral damage your actions may cause.
The cops were executing a search warrant because they suspected a meth lab at the home. Yes, they used a flash grenade in a suspected meth lab. Not too bright, really. Oh, and there was no meth lab at the home, after all. The list of what the cops did right is very, very short.

This is what happens when law enforcement embraces military tactics and leaves "protect and serve" behind.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

imaginations running away

Imagining that someone is a danger to children does not make it so.

Imagining that you know more about a situation than the person in the middle of it is stupid.

Discussing the effectiveness of child porn laws is not the same as saying child porn is acceptable.

Divorcing a husband who is in trouble for child porn is easy. What do you do when it is your brother, your father, or your son?

Telling a stranger how to live her life can be cruel and is always rude.




Sunday, October 7, 2012

how do YOU treat families of sex offenders?

Welcome to the GOMI mommy crowd. I see you all hyperventilating over there. Some of you have left  comments, including this particularly charming one:
You're husband is a disgusting pervert How on earth can you want anything to do with a man than thinks sexualisation and/or sexual abuse of innocent children is a turn on. He should be shot. I honestly what kind of desperate women would actually want to stand by his side when that is the kind of person he has become. (My emphasis.)
You are not the only one who thinks sex offenders should be shot, of course, and--lucky for people like you--the sex offender registry makes it so much easier to accomplish your goal. Your comment says volumes about what kind of a person you are. Stay away from my family.

If you are curious, I have written about what kind of person my husband has become. You should all be so lucky to be married to someone as strong as he is.

While you are here, look around at some of my other posts. I talk about all kinds of things on my blog, including how I feel about the victims of child porn, how I feel about child porn, and why child porn laws don't prevent child abuse,

Sex offenders and their families are people just like you, though maybe not so bloodthirsty nor so judgmental. We want to be able to deal with private demons privately. We want to live without a target on our address. We want the offender to be able to become a better person and leave the past behind. And the big one, we want our children to be able to go to school and not have to deal with comments like the one above. I don't want them to hear that their dad is a "disgusting pervert."

I do not know yet what kind of torment the kids will encounter. I read about other sex offender families who have to change schools because their children have become targets of students and teachers who think bullying the sex offender's kids is somehow okay, and I worry that our children's lives will be turned inside out. And before any of you purse your self-righteous lips and say, Well your husband brought this on you, I will say that people like you are the ones who choose to say nasty things about sex offenders and their families. People like you let that attitude filter down to your own children so they can repeat it at school.

You all like to say that you are all about protecting children. Every child but mine, that is?

Show me I'm wrong. Support my family in our efforts to remain a strong family, to come out of this horrible nightmare safely and sanely.

Friday, October 5, 2012

encouraging signs of common sense

This is a year old and it is still a breath of fresh air.
A victim of child pornography seeking restitution should not receive court-ordered payments from those who possessed the images but had no hand in creating them, a federal appeals panel ruled Thursday.
Why not?
Chief Judge Dennis G. Jacobs wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel that while the prison sentence was appropriate, the monetary award was not because “the victim’s loss was not proximately caused by a defendant’s possession of the victim’s image.” The victim impact statement and psychological evaluation, he noted, were written well before Mr. Aumais was arrested “or might as well have been.”
I want to see the lovely, sensible part again: the victim’s loss was not proximately caused by a defendant’s possession of the victim’s image. See? Logic is such a nice tool. We should use it more often.

Victim impact statements are commonly a bit of boilerplate stuck into the presentence investigation report, with no real consideration of whether it applies to the case or not. If the defendant used child porn, it is assumed--and used against the defendant--that his looking at images has damaged a child. Even a child who cannot be identified, who has no idea that this particular man looked at those photos, and perhaps has no idea that the photos are out there at all.
...Amy’s lawyers have entered pleas in hundreds of child pornography possession cases around the country seeking payment for their client’s lost wages and counseling through federal criminal restitution statutes, asking for more than $3 million in each case. They have submitted nearly 700 of these pleas, and have recovered $345,000 so far. 
Some federal district courts have granted nothing, stating that the link between Amy’s harm and the act of possession is too tenuous to support a restitution order. A Florida court ordered the full $3,680,153, with others in between.
Amy has a tough life, with a horde of lawyers eager to remind her that her photos are still circulating out there and that she could benefit from taking child porn users to the cleaners.

The fact that the lawyers will also benefit is completely coincidental. Ahem.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

seriously...1000 counts?

A Kentucky man is being charged with 1000 counts of possession of child porn. One thousand counts. One thousand counts.
Police say they found several thousand child porn images at the home and in storage units rented by Raasch.
Let's think about this. At the federal level, a video is counted as 75 images because it just wouldn't be right to count it as, say, one video, and I imagine state law enforcement has a similar scheme. That means this guy could have had a bunch of videos. Doesn't take long before videos add up to thousands of images. So "thousands of images" sounds like a pretty awful porn habit but remember that law enforcement will make it sound as bad as they can.

Also remember that the only time law enforcement has a real need to be honest about the number of images is if this man goes to trial. That's not likely, so law enforcement can say any thing it wants. You think they don't know that?

I would guess that this man will be charged in federal court. The feds do like to catch easy cases like this. It has to be so much better than actually looking for the people who abuse children, record the abuse, and then distribute the images.

He should be grateful he wasn't caught in Arizona. Read the comments at the link and you'll find this:
Good for Arizona! All of the pervs should be locked up for 200 years with no chance of parole. Maybe it would make some of them reconsider their sick lifestyles - tho probably not. I think these people are just to sick and warped to stop.
Glad to see the ACLU didn't step in and try to save the guy since he was claiming this sentence was unconstitutional. They are usually instrumental in protecting the creeps and weirdos in this country!
The commenter, Pamela Jean, thinks we should imprison those who are sick and warped, and the creeps and weirdos. As long as we can be incarcerated for being sick or weird, our freedom depends entirely on who gets to define those terms. Who do you trust to define those words? What happens when someone with different definitions comes to power? What happens when you are defined as a weirdo?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

brain-damaged man, tricked into a confession, wins new trial

Richard LaPointe, a man with brain damage, confessed to killing his 88-year-old grandmother. After spending two decades in prison for that murder, he won a new trial.

When police in Manchester, Conn., asked Lapointe to come to the station house — just before he planned to go to a Fourth of July picnic with his wife and their son — officers took him to a small room with charts on the walls. One chart listed types of evidence: "Fingerprints," "DNA," "Pubic Hair." After each item was a big red check mark. 
It was all phony — just a trick to coax a confession. 
 Police are allowed to do that. Maybe someone else would have spotted the deception. After all, some detectives' names on the fake task force — Friday and Gannon — were right out of the TV show Dragnet.
But Lapointe, a dishwasher at a nearby restaurant, was a simple man who had brain damage. And during a police interrogation that lasted more than nine hours, he confessed. 
"If the evidence shows I was there, and that I killed her," he said in one of three confessions, "then I killed her, but I don't remember being there." 
Police are allowed to do that. 

I imagine some--most?--would say the police should not have tricked Mr. LaPointe because they took advantage of his impairment. But what of people under investigation who have no mental impairment? Again, I'd bet that most of us would say the trickery is acceptable for those because we figure they can handle themselves. How do we know law enforcement will distinguish correctly among the mentally whole and mentally impaired? And if law enforcement cannot definitely tell the difference, should they be prevented from tricking anyone under investigation?
Two decades ago, most criminal justice experts figured no innocent person would confess to a serious crime they didn't commit. That's one reason police are allowed to trick someone and claim they have evidence, even when they don't.
Really? Twenty years ago, criminal justice experts couldn't tell when they coerced a confession? Scary. 

I find hope in this story, hope that attention will be paid to cases in which someone is browbeaten into making a confession.

Even more hope comes from the comments left after that article. 





Friday, September 28, 2012

judges should, you know, judge


In a state court case recently, a man was sentenced to 20 years in prison for murder. He will serve ten. What's the difference between that case and a child porn possession case in the federal court? In the federal court, the judge has no power to look at the case and decide what the sentence should be. In the state court, there were no mandatory minimum sentences to hamper the judge. He was able to look at the facts of the case and the defendant and come to a decision about a just sentence.

Will the judge get it wrong sometimes? Sure. Mandatory minimums make it absolutely certain, though, that sentences will be unjust. For example, in a child porn receipt case brought against a nineteen year old man who had naked pictures of his seventeen year old girlfriend, the mandatory minimum sentence requires an insane sentence for him. A judge would probably (who wouldn't?) look at the case and decide that the young man doesn't need prison for that offense.

Another example: a first-time offender. A state court judge may decide that probation would be sufficient. A federal judge has no way to do distinguish between a first-time offender and a career criminal.

Mandatory minimum sentencing has thrown the whole federal court out of balance. The prosecutor has the incentive to bring charges in every case he can. He has the power to convict without having to convince a jury that his evidence proves anything.

We need to change this.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

how can felons change laws when they can't vote?

Who benefits from drug laws that incarcerate an obscene number of American citizens? The top five interests identified in this article include police unions, private prison corporations, and prison guard unions. Not surprisingly, these same interests benefit by incarcerating sex offenders.
1.) Police Unions: Police departments across the country have become dependent on federal drug war grants to finance their budget. In March, wepublished a story revealing that a police union lobbyist in California coordinated the effort to defeat Prop 19, a ballot measure in 2010 to legalize marijuana, while helping his police department clients collect tens of millions in federal marijuana-eradication grants. And it’s not just in California. Federal lobbying disclosures show that other police union lobbyists have pushed for stiffer penalties for marijuana-related crimes nationwide. 
2.) Private Prisons Corporations: Private prison corporations make millions by incarcerating people who have been imprisoned for drug crimes, including marijuana. As Republic Report’s Matt Stoller noted last year, Corrections Corporation of America, one of the largest for-profit prison companies, revealed in a regulatory filing that continuing the drug war is part in parcel to their business strategy. Prison companies have spent millions bankrolling pro-drug war politicians and have used secretive front groups, like the American Legislative Exchange Council, to pass harsh sentencing requirements for drug crimes. 
3.) Alcohol and Beer Companies: Fearing competition for the dollars Americans spend on leisure, alcohol and tobacco interests have lobbied to keep marijuana out of reach. For instance, the California Beer & Beverage Distributors contributed campaign contributions to a committee set up to prevent marijuana from being legalized and taxed. 
4.) Pharmaceutical Corporations: Like the sin industries listed above, pharmaceutical interests would like to keep marijuana illegal so American don’t have the option of cheap medical alternatives to their products. Howard Wooldridge, a retired police officer who now lobbies the government to relax marijuana prohibition laws, told Republic Report that next to police unions, the “second biggest opponent on Capitol Hill is big PhRMA” because marijuana can replace “everything from Advil to Vicodin and other expensive pills.” 
5.) Prison Guard Unions: Prison guard unions have a vested interest in keeping people behind bars just like for-profit prison companies. In 2008, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association spent a whopping $1 millionto defeat a measure that would have “reduced sentences and parole times for nonviolent drug offenders while emphasizing drug treatment over prison.”
Millions of Americans are disenfranchised when they are convicted of felonies but police, prison guards, and prison corporations continue to gain power. Those who have a direct interest in changing the laws--the felons--are cut out of the political process.
More than 5.85 million adults who've been convicted of a felony aren't welcome at polling places, according to data through 2010 compiled by The Sentencing Project. That's 600,000 more than in 2004, the last time the nonprofit group crunched the numbers. 
The vast majority of these disenfranchised adults have been released from prison. Sentencing Project researchers found more than 4 million Americans who cannot cast a ballot because they're on probation or parole, or live in a state that withholds the right to vote from all ex-felons.
A felony on one's record makes it difficult to find a job, to find a home, to buy a home, to make oneself a productive citizen again. Those circumstances would fire up anyone to change the laws that made such hell of their lives but--luckily for law enforcement and the prison industry--this group has no vote.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

how do I feel about the victims of child porn?


I promised I would respond to Liza's comments on how I feel about the victims of child pornography. She said:
I think you are very lucky that you or your kids have never been sexually abused. You have no idea the effect it has on a person. They carry the shame and horror until they die. Every relationship they have is affected. What happens to the family of the perpetrator is not the victim's concern. It's horrible for the family but the victim is what matters. Even if the victim is only in pictures. I assure you that the child in the pictures is the victim in child porn - not the person that looks at it. 
I've read every word you have written. There seems to be no concern for the victims but only for your family. I think if you thought about sexual abused victims, you'd have a easier time with what has happened to your family. You'd understand why all hell as broke loose in your family.
There must be blogs out there that discuss the viewpoint you accuse me of ignoring; this is not one of them. I started this blog to talk about my experience as the wife of a man under investigation for possession of child pornography.

Sexual abuse of a child is wrong, no matter how the child deals with it as a child or as an adult. If a victim grows up to be a lovely, well-adjusted person with no lingering effects of the abuse, the abuse was and is wrong.

I have said before that I cannot imagine what it is like to be a victim of sexual abuse and to find that there are photos of that abuse available on the Internet. While victims can share some responses to their abuse, surely they cannot all react the same way. Every victim has his or her own feelings about the abuse and makes his or her own decisions about how to deal with those feelings. To say they all "carry the shame and horror until they die" is a gross generalization and discounts the individual perspectives of each person involved.

I cannot do anything about how victims deal with the after effects of abuse when I do not know the victim. As much as I would like to wave my magic wand and make things better for all child sexual abuse victims, I am tragically unable to do that. We all are. Putting sex offenders on a registry is not the magic wand, either. Identifying all the sex offenders in the neighborhood does nothing to protect children from the first-time offender.

You say "What happens to the family of the perpetrator is not the victim's concern." If you don't care personally about what happens to the families of sex offenders, that is your choice but when your government is responsible for the bad treatment of sex offenders and their families, it is your concern.

You say, "I assure you that the child in the pictures is the victim in child porn - not the person that looks at it." The child in the pictures is a victim of the person who sexually abuses him or her and of the person who photographs the abuse and distributes it. The person who looks at child porn is victimized by a court system and a society that treats him as if he has committed the abuse in the photos even when he did not.

It is frequently said that the child in the photos is victimized again every time someone looks at the image. If that is true, why are you not angry with the investigators, the prosecutors, the attorneys, the juries and all the other people who look at those images? If simple looking victimizes the child all over again, those people are also victimizers, are they not? Perhaps you mean that any pervert who looks at the images and masturbates while looking...those are the ones victimizing the child again? Here's a surprise: the law does not care if the viewer is masturbating or knitting socks while looking. Masturbation is not the crime. The crime is more specific: Clicking a link to download the image is the crime; possessing the image is the crime. The law does not even care if you look at the images in your possession.

My concern is not only for my family. They are, of course, my first priority (isn't that true for you, as well?) but our concerns should reach far beyond our families.

My concern is for the victims of the war on drugs unemployed because their status as a felon makes them ineligible for hire. My concern is for the sex offenders harrassed, hurt, and killed because they are on the sex offender registry. My concern is for the government budgets straining under the rising cost of incarceration. My concern is for the families who are victimized by law enforcement using SWAT tactics or home invasion tactics to execute search warrants. My concern is for the children who watch cops shoot the family dog during those searches. My concern is for the millions of American citizens who are not allowed to vote. My concern is for the defendants--innocent, even--who are forced to accept a plea agreement because the mandatory minimum sentence waits for them if they don't take the plea.

You said a mouthful when you said I should be glad that my family has not been subject to child sexual abuse. I am glad. My heart goes out to anyone who has to deal with that particular horror. However, child sexual abuse is not the only horror in the world...nor is it even the worst horror.

I will not apologize for focusing on the injustice my family faces.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

20 years in prison...what does that get this innocent woman?

This is how messed up the justice system is: Two people spend years in prison for a crime they absolutely didn't commit and the state doesn't want to compensate them for their lost years because they perjured themselves. The perjury? Confessing to the crime they didn't commit.

It isn't a minor consideration. One person served 20 years, the other served 5 1/2 years.
“The path to Mr. Dean's and Ms. Taylor's hell was led by a narrowly focused, almost obsessed, rush to judgment to solve a murder,” Bryan wrote in his orders.

Both are members of the “Beatrice Six,” who were exonerated in 2008 by DNA testing of nearly 25-year-old evidence. The tests proved the six could not have participated in the murder of Helen Wilson, 68, who was killed by a lone assailant never charged in the murder before his own death in 1992.

I know the state has a duty not to spend taxpayer money unless it has to but who in could argue in good conscience against compensation for these people? Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning can.
 “Mr. Dean and Ms. Taylor provided false testimony that led to the conviction of an innocent man,” Bruning said in a statement. “We continue to believe the Nebraska Legislature did not intend to provide recovery to those who commit perjury under the Wrongful Conviction and Imprisonment Act.”

The judge agreed that their testimony was inaccurate. But he found overwhelming evidence to support the contention that Dean and Taylor grew to believe what they were saying during months of pretrial confinement and repeated law enforcement interrogations.
 I have to wonder how the investigators got two people to confess to the crime. Seems to me that it would be hard to convince someone they did murder when they didn't and yet, here it is. So what happened during the interrogations to force the confessions?

This is our justice system.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

those scary middle-aged men

At a meeting about an upcoming school trip, the teachers who lead the trip told about a previous trip when one of the dads surprised his son by joining him at a restaurant. The trip is chaperoned by teachers, so no parents traveled with the group. One night at a restaurant, the dad, in town for business, came to say hello to his son. The teachers didn't recognize the man approaching the table.

"Boy," she said, "We were right on him. I mean, here comes this middle-aged man..."

This middle-aged man was approaching a group of 50 middle schoolers and several teachers. I wonder what the teachers thought the man could possibly do in that situation? How many kids could he have molested if they hadn't noticed him in time? Could he have abducted a handful of them before the teachers realized what was going on? Or could he have quickly groomed a few of them as part of his devious plan to...to do what?

The idea that the man was dangerous just because he was a man...that is ridiculous and insulting. People accept without question the idea that the world is a dangerous place with perverts and kidnappers around every corner.

I wondered what the dad's reaction was at the time. Was he insulted at the suggestion that he could be a danger to this group of kids? Or did he simply nod his head and agree that he could see how they could think that about him?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Nebraska study of the sex offender registry

Tell Your Story for Research Study at UNO.

I don't know much about this study but if you have a story to tell about being on the registry, this is your chance.

FACTS (Families Affirming Community Safety) is an organization working to reform the sex offender registry. I just found the FACTS blog and don't have time to do much more than this right now.

Monday, September 17, 2012

abolish the sex offender registry--embrace the possibility!

Paul Heroux makes good points about the low recidivism rate of sex offenders in the Huff Post (2011 article).
Contrary to popular belief, as a group, sex offenders have the lowest rate of recidivism of all the crime categories. These statistics completely fly in the face of conventional wisdom about sex offenders being the most likely group of criminals to re-offend for their initial crime, but these are the facts.
He discusses the difficulties that face registered sex offenders:
On the issue of housing, this is perhaps the biggest challenge facing ex-sex offenders. No one wants them and they have many legal obstacles when finding housing. And they have burnt all their bridges with society and even their family. To help reduce the chances of them re-offending, housing is important for every ex-offender. 
...but makes no connection between those burnt bridges and the registry which is the gasoline poured before lighting the match. He goes on:
There are nearly 740,000 registered sex offenders in the United States. Recent research finds that "the data presented here do not support the claim that the public is safer from sex offenders due to community notification laws."  
This is not to suggest that we should not have sex offender registries. (My emphasis.)
But why not? He admits that the registries do not increase public safety and then insists that registries are necessary nonetheless. 

Then I read Heroux's bio at the end of his article: "Paul Heroux previously worked in a prison and in jail. He holds a master's in criminology ..." Ah. I see. He makes a living because of incarceration.