Sunday, May 27, 2012

"do the next right thing"

During the past year, friends have blessed me with wise advice. On a day when worry and fear were getting the best of my husband and me, a friend told me to "do the next right thing." In a late afternoon conversation, she gently suggested that perhaps the next right thing to do was to fix supper for the family. Her mundane suggestion made me smile but the advice did get me through the evening. I fixed supper and the ordinariness of it seemed to calm things down. Sitting around the supper table, my husband and I were able to bring our focus back to daily cares...the kids' school days, the books we were reading, how to tackle the next day's schedule.

Do the next right thing is a way to do what must be done, to move forward. Worry and fear don't have to rule your life.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Omaha police Taser dangerous old man

How dangerous was he? He had a fistful of safety pins. That's how dangerous.
The officer asked a nurse whether Cole had a pacemaker. The nurse looked at his chart, as Cole continued threatening the officers
“It's too late,” the officer said, according to the nurse's report, and he shocked Cole with a Taser.
Cole fell onto the bed but continued to flail his arms, so the officer shocked him again in the chest, he said.
About those safety pins, Interim Omaha Police Chief David "Baker said safety pins can pose risks, especially if they aren't sterile."

Two good things I noticed in the story: 1) The elderly gentleman, Mr. Cole, is fine, and 2) Baker is only the interim police chief.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

does the sex offender registry help?

The sex offender registry is in place to protect people from sex offenders; the assumption is that offenders are likely to offend again. If we know who they are, we can protect ourselves and our families from them. Not so fast.
REOFFENDING rates by child pornography users are far below rates for assaults, drink-driving or property damage, with fewer than one in 10 people who download sexual images of minors later convicted of the crime again.... also found that intensive treatment and supervision orders for people found guilty of child pornography possession, including group counselling and mandatory listing on the sex offenders register, might actually increase the risk of reoffending....
[The] sex offenders [registry]...are potentially counterproductive in trying to reduce reoffending, he said. "All the evidence I am aware of shows it has minimal impact on the incidence and nature of sexual offending … The implication is we are making public policy decisions on the basis of emotion and impression rather than on the basis of scientific evidence."
Making public policy decisions on the basis of emotion and impression? This article is out of Australia, so maybe that happens only in Australia. Surely not here in the US! Oh, wait...

Monday, May 21, 2012

I am still shaking my head over this.
Here’s the gist: When the friends and family of people arrested for drug crimes bring in cash to bail someone out, police in Brown County, Wisconsin are turning the cash over to a drug task force, which then brings out a drug dog inspect the bills. When the dog alerts, the cops are then seizing the money for the police department, citing state and federal civil asset forfeiture laws.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

policing for profit

Civil forfeiture threatens the property rights of all Americans.  These laws allow the police to seize your home, car, cash or other property upon the mere suspicion that it has been used or involved in criminal activity.
Do you think someone is exaggerating? Think again.

Law enforcement can confiscate your property and/or money...and keep it. You don't have to be proven guilty; you don't even have to be charged with a crime for them to be able to keep it. Law enforcement can simply say that it looks as if the property or cash was used criminally or as if it was gotten illegally. They don't have to prove it; they need only suspect it.

From a 2008 NPR article:
As a tactic in the war on drugs, law enforcement pursues that drug money and is then allowed to keep a portion as an incentive to fight crime.
As a result, the amount of drug dollars flowing into local police budgets is staggering. Justice Department figures show that in the past four years alone, the amount of assets seized by local law enforcement agencies across the nation enrolled in the federal program—the vast majority of it cash—has tripled, from $567 million to $1.6 billion. And that doesn't include tens of millions more the agencies got from state asset forfeiture programs.
Property forfeiture is a very profitable business for law enforcement agencies so they have every reason to continue the practice.
In the 22 years from 1989 to 2010, an estimated $12.6 billion in assets were seized by U.S. Attorneys in asset forfeiture cases. The growth rate during that time frame averaged an annual +19.4%. For just 2010 alone, the value of assets seized grew by +52.8% over 2009 and equaled 6 times greater than that for 1989.
It is past time to pull law enforcement back under control.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

oh, those funny, funny criminals

You would think reporting crime stories would be interesting work but reporters seem to need to spice up their stories.

In a story about a drug conviction, the reporter entertains himself by making fun of the man sentenced to prison. The story he wrote is oh-so-funny with jokes about the man being a bad rapper, including examples of his bad lyrics. It's a knee-slapper.

When did it become acceptable for news reporters to ridicule the people in the stories they cover? This man's life has just been sent down the crapper and the reporter uses it as entertainment.

I find myself wondering which profession is more honorable--drug dealer or news reporter?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

santa suit! in the closet!

news story about a man charged with receiving child pornography includes a titilating detail: he had been a department store Santa. The short article concludes with, "Officials said a Santa suit from a retail store where Davis worked was in a closet."

A Santa suit in the closet!

The reporter makes no effort to show the readers the connection between the porn and the Santa suit. This is a perfect demonstration of the hysteria about sex offenders today: someone who looks at child porn is simply assumed to be a molester waiting for children to crawl on his lap where he what, exactly, with the parents standing there with a camera?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

killing of kelly thomas

In Fullerton CA, the police beat a mentally ill homeless man into a coma. He died five days later. Why did they beat him? There is no answer except that the police had the freedom to do what they did. I couldn't watch the video; the description of it was quite enough. 

For those of you who think the brutal beating of Kelly Thomas an isolated incident, here is an Omaha man who is charged for assaulting a police officer. The police are caught on the hospital surveillance video kicking, punching, and using a Taser on him. Watch the video and you'll be shocked at the intensity of the police violence. (This video, I could watch; the Thomas video, I could not.) After watching that, you may wonder why the Omaha man is being charged with assaulting a police officer. Because the charges against him help justify what the cops did to him.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

good people

On the list of my current fears, good people come right after the legal system. I fear the legal system for reasons you probably understand but why would I fear good people? They mean well but oh, those good intentions!

Will parents of my children's friends try to "fill in" for my husband and me because--obviously--our home life must be terribly messed up? Will they try to "guide" them to the right conclusions about our situation? I object to that because our children already have two (im)perfectly good parents; they do not need better parents. My husband is a good father and he worries about the problems he has caused for our children. He might be a bit shaky at times because of the questions about his own future but he knows that a parent's responsibility is to protect his children and I encourage him in that.

Last summer, my daughter asked to see a therapist. My husband and I took her to her first appointment and the therapist seemed genuinely shocked to see my husband with me. She could barely look him in the eye and asked to speak to me alone before she talked to our daughter.

When school began, I explained to the school counselor why we don't have internet in our home and asked if she would run interference for our daughter with teachers who thought she might be pulling their leg about the lack of internet access. Later, when my husband and I were at the school, I introduced both of us to the counselor. Again, she seemed flustered to meet my husband.

These are counselors, people supposedly trained to deal with troubled souls, and these two women were trying to avoid my troubled husband.

The urge to watch nasty porn isn't catching.

Monday, May 7, 2012

incidence of suicide among sex crime defendants

According to the September 2009 Federal Probation journal, people who are charged with sex crimes are almost routinely released during the pre-trial phase of the case.
As a group, defendants charged with sexual exploitation charges are typically released at the pretrial stage at a higher rate than defendants with other types of pending charges. In 2006, for example, 53 percent of sex crime defendants were released prior to trial, primarily because they are assessed and classified—correctly, it turns out—to be at low risk for absconding or committing a new offense while on pretrial release.
The 2009 article says that studies of suicide risk deal mostly with people in jail; not much research has been done to learn how many people not in jail commit suicide when they are under investigation or charged with sex crimes but not in jail.
Although no nationwide estimates of suicide attempts or completions among federal pretrial sex crime defendants have been generated, the problem gained attention after several well-publicized suicides occurred in two California federal districts. From 2003 to 2005, the Central District of California experienced four separate suicides of defendants charged with possession of child pornography. In an eight-month span in 2008, the Northern District of California experienced seven suicides of defendants being investigated or charged with sexual exploitation (mostly possession of child pornography).
Seven suicides in eight months! This is shocking but even more shocking is knowing that there have been no nationwide studies to determine the frequency of suicide among people "investigated or charged with...possession of child pornography."

The Federal Probation article talks about what could be done to prevent those suicides--

...the U.S. Pretrial Services Office in the Central District of California created a program to protect defendants against self incrimination while managing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and suicidality. The program was developed in collaboration with a mental health provider, the federal defender’s office, and the court. The program model/curriculum consists of five modules:
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Support (group sessions)
  • Healthy Coping Skills
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Keys to Successful Incarceration (prison preparation)
I suppose we should be grateful that California is doing something to prevent suicides among this group. I would be even more grateful if legislators would confront the question of whether a death sentence--seven suicides in eight months?--is altogether too much for possession of images of someone else's crime.   

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

shooting dogs...but why?

When the ICE agents burst into my home, the first one through the door aimed his gun at our dog. I threw myself at the dog, shouting not to shoot her. I did not think he was only bluffing because I had read about cops shooting dogs during a search. If I had read this article, though, perhaps I wouldn't have thrown myself between the gun and the dog.

When my daughter came downstairs, I asked the agents if she could please put the dog outside. If I had it to over again, I would not do that because it put her in more danger. Too many people shot, too many dogs shot, too many trigger-happy cops.

Radley Balko has again pulled together information demonstrating that law enforcement is out of control in this country. The first concern of law enforcement officers is their own safety. They carry guns, they wear Kevlar, and they think they are the ones in danger.