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.
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. 
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. 
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.