Tuesday, July 31, 2012

treatment of pedophiles

If you use Facebook at all, you've probably seen it--the post that says, "Why do we test things on animals when we have prisons full of pedophiles?" Funny, stupid, or unbelievably cruel? You know your friends, I don't, so you have to answer for yourself.

The term "pedophile" has become so overused as to be meaningless. Police, psychologists, and the man on the street all use the term differently. I vote we stop using the word altogether. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

acceptance of responsibility

US Sentencing Guidelines use a point system to guide courts to appropriate sentences for defendants. I have learned that if the offender does not "accept responsibility," the court can add points, making the sentence longer. How do they know if the defendant has accepted responsibility? Obvious things like, "I didn't do it," or "He asked for it," I suppose. And not-so-obvious signs like...asking for a trial.

That's right. Turning down a plea agreement and going to trial can be considered not accepting responsibility. Does the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution ring a bell?
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
The court system is now designed to prevent as many trials as possible. The mandatory minimum sentence is the engine behind this trend. Mandatory minimum sentences give the prosecution the hammer needed to force defendants to plead guilty to something. Anything to avoid the longer mandatory minimum sentence. You would probably make the same choice.

Jury trials are a vital protection and lawmakers are fools to have passed the mandatory minimum sentences that practically destroy the right to a jury trial.
Why would our ancestors consider the jury to be one of the last bastions against tyranny and oppression? Because jurors might well decide not to convict their fellow citizens of unjust crimes, while prosecutors and judges would be fixated simply on enforcing and interpreting the laws that Congress enacts.
Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

sex offender? that's a pretty broad brush, don't you think?

Both society and the justice system treat child porn users the same as child molesters. I don't know how it came to be that way, but I suspect that the Sex Offender Registry has encouraged people to think this way. "Sex offender" includes so many offenses--some harmless, some violent; some ugly and some that used to be seen as silly young love. The term "sex offender" is used on all of them.

A young man who has a nudie picture of his younger girlfriend, a violent rapist, a child porn user, a serial molester: they all are sex offenders. Someone using the Sex Offender Registry could look at the details of each offender, or they could simply stare at the house across the street with horror when they find it on the registry.

When a child porn user is released after trial (haha! just kidding...child porn charges almost never go to trial), they are released with conditions of supervision. The conditions of supervision for a child porn user are indistinguishable from the conditions for a molester. The court treats them the same, even though one is a contact crime and one is not. 

Someone who looks at pictures should not be treated as if he did anything more. If you, or someone you know, is facing child porn charges, talk to your attorney about challenging the conditions. Attorneys, too, are accustomed to treating porn users as if they are molesters because the system works that way; you may need to insist that they think differently. Will your protests do any good? Maybe, maybe not. But the more the question comes up, the more we can make people in the justice system think about it in an honest way.

Monday, July 23, 2012


I have been unable to spend much time online lately and what little time I have is spent in research for my husband's case. I will explain more when I have time.

Thank you to anyone who has said a prayer for us. So far, I do not see that my prayers--"Lord, protect my family"--are working so well. Maybe I will be surprised. Maybe His idea of protection is different from mine.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

violence against police is down

Radley Balko notices that, though violence against police is down, police still prefer to act as if it isn't.

...as I’ve pointed out before, assaults against police officers have also been dropping for years.
“Even when the numbers are lower than normal, I still think it sends a chilling message,” he said.
Historic lows of violence against police officers “sends a chilling message?” No matter whatthe numbers say, law enforcement groups are going to claim they clearly indicate a need for more funding for police departments, and more power and less scrutiny for cops. Here, Mr. Floyd insists that despite the fact that the job is as safe as it has ever been, cops should still retain that “us vs. them” mindset.
“The bottom line is there is no such thing as a routine assignment.  Every assignment you go on is potentially life threatening, do not ever let your guard down.”
Police are so sure that the dangers they face are more important than the dangers faced by citizens they have sworn to protect. Bullshit.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

should we care about prison rape?

The Sandusky story has prompted many discussions about sexual abuse of children and how we handle that. Did Penn State ignore Sandusky's behavior to protect the football program or because the rape of boys wasn't seen as a big deal? Timothy Dalrymple at Patheos asks why we care less about the rape of boys and men.
But I think most of us, if we consult our own experiences and impressions, will agree that our society treats the rape of boys or men much more leniently than it does the rape of girls or women.  During the OJ Simpson trial, I hear that OJ would “go into prison as a tight end and come out as a wide receiver.”  Lots of people — myself included, I confess — laughed at the joke.  Make a joke about raping a woman and you will be rightly excoriated.  Make a joke about a man being raped and it’s all hardy-har.
Don't miss the interesting discussion in the comments. Commenters Kristin and Deoxy said flat out that prison rape isn't something to worry about because, well, it happens to prisoners and they don't count and because somewhere in the world, something worse is happening.

Deoxy says:

I have to agree with Kristen about the “prison rape is different” bit – yes, it’s bad, and I’ll get in line to put significant effort in to solving it right after we solve a whole bunch of other, more serious problems, those which have a MUCH higher probability of not victimizing the scum of the earth (to give only the most obvious example I can think of, a child starving to death is an awful thing – a convicted murderer being raped, while living in relative luxury in most ways compared to most human beings in the world today, simply doesn’t even show up on that scale). 
That kind of thinking is abhorrent. Prison sentences do not include rape. A crime is still a crime, even inside a prison. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Just when I start thinking that America's incarceration rate is so horrendously out of control that no one can disagree that we need to reduce it, I find that there are new ways to put people in jail.

When she was next pulled over, she was, of course, driving without a license. By then her fees added up to more than $1,500. Unable to pay, she was handed over to a private probation company and jailed — charged an additional fee for each day behind bars. 
For that driving offense, Ms. Ray has been locked up three times for a total of 40 days and owes $3,170, much of it to the probation company.... 
It is, rather, about the mushrooming of fines and fees levied by money-starved towns across the country and the for-profit businesses that administer the system. The result is that growing numbers of poor people, like Ms. Ray, are ending up jailed and in debt for minor infractions.
This gives me a little hope:
“These companies are bill collectors, but they are given the authority to say to someone that if he doesn’t pay, he is going to jail,” said John B. Long, a lawyer in Augusta, Ga., who is taking the issue to a federal appeals court this fall. “There are things like garbage collection where private companies are O.K. No one’s liberty is affected. The closer you get to locking someone up, the closer you get to a constitutional issue.” 
I do love hearing someone recognize constitutional issues! 

Friday, July 6, 2012

all the good laws are already taken!

As if life for those labeled as sex offenders isn't already tough enough, Lousiana just passed a law that requires sex offenders to label themselves as such on social media sites like Facebook.

Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace have been removing sex offenders from their web pages for years, but Thompson said the law is designed to cover any possible lapses by social networking sites. 
"I don't want to leave in the hands of social network or Facebook administrators, 'Gee, I hope someone is telling the truth,'" Thompson said Tuesday. "This is another tool for prosecutors."

Louisiana is the first state to pass a law like this but the legislators in other states trying to amp up their tough-on-crime rep will see this as an opportunity for them as well. Be on guard. Watch your state legislature so you can defend against it.

(Via http://www.theagitator.com/)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

you know those awesome drug dogs?

Nevada's drug dogs are trained to respond to the officers, not to the drugs. Does this surprise you? Maybe what should surprise you instead is that we ever fell for the idea that a reaction from a dog is considered a cause for reasonable suspicion.

I admire the dogs used to find bodies in the wreckage after earthquakes or tornadoes or floods, so it isn't that I think dogs are not smart enough to detect drugs. However, there is a huge difference between saving a life based on a dog's senses, and wrecking a life because a dog reacted a certain way. Kind of like polygraphs: Sure, they might be right sometimes or even many times, but the fact that they can be wrong is reason they cannot be used as evidence in court.

When dogs are used to detect drugs--high schools routinely let drug dogs find the lockers that contain drugs, for example--we are accepting the reaction of an animal as legal justification for infringing on someone's right to be free from search or seizure . The animal cannot explain its reaction, it cannot be questioned. If a cop searched a car (or a locker) with only the justification that he "had a sense" that the car/locker contained drugs, we would laugh. Why do we roll over for dogs? 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

released into the wild

I just got off the phone with the attorney who is helping us with estate planning. I told him about my husband's situation. It feels so awful to let that information out of the safe place where it's been...untold, unknown. Feels as if I just released the secret into the wild, setting it down gently and shooing it away to where I know the hawks are waiting for it. Who knows what happens to it now? The man was perfectly nice about it...in his line of work, he must hear all kinds of things. Probably not THIS very often, though.

It is hard to expose my husband to the risk of whatever nasty judgments people might make about him, especially when I have seen so clearly his courage, his determination, and his love for the kids and me. His goodness.