Wednesday, March 29, 2017

advice about how a church should treat registered citizens

This piece is from 2014 but still worth reading and thinking about whether you want to belong to a church like the one Boz Tchividjian wants you to have. He tells the story about a church who hired a senior pastor knowing the man's status as a registered sex offender, and the pastor's eventual arrest for sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy. He says, "This church just doesn't get it."

He gives us four pieces of advice.
1. “The allegations were false”: At the time he was hired, the pastor informed the church of his past conviction and claimed the allegations were false. Despite the fact that a court of law found sufficient evidence to convict this man of a sexual offense against a child, the church preferred to believe his words. I have seldom encountered child sexual abusers who did not claim that the allegations made against them were false. I even prosecuted cases where the defendant gave a full confession to law enforcement as he maintained his innocence to friends and family.
It is true that some people lie about their charges. This is true of drug offenders, wire fraud offenders, bank robbers, murderers as well as sex offenders. It can be true of people who are deeply ashamed of what they did, as well.

It is also true that innocent people sometimes give full confessions and true that some innocent people have been convicted in a court of law. A court of law is not a holy temple to infallibility so reminding us that someone was convicted there carries less moral heft than it ought.

It is worth noting that Boz Tchividjian is a former child abuse chief prosecutor, someone who certainly understands how easy it is to convict someone--anyone--charged with a sex offense. Since the majority of defendants accept a plea agreement instead of going to trial, a former prosecutor certainly knows that there is no need even to prove a case in order to convict.

He offers suggestions for ferreting out the truth about the offense:
  • Review the court file....
  • Speak with the investigator....
  • Meet with the probation officer....
Does he offer the same advice for people who encounter other former criminals?
2. “Everybody has a past”: All too often scripture is distorted in order to justify the blind embracing of those who have sexually victimized children. Though the interim pastor proudly states, “We are firm believers in the Bible”, he provides no scriptural basis for his “belief” that past offenses of a sex offender should be forgotten.... 
Don’t be fooled, offenders love a distorted theology that gives them immediate access to the little ones in the church. Whether or not the offender is a “changed” person before God, he/she is the same person who was convicted of sexually abusing a child. That is a past that should never be forgotten by those around him.
All too often churches embrace sex offenders? This will be news to registrants who have a difficult time getting comfortable in churches that will not let them use the restroom.

Tchividjian refuses to believe that someone who is changed before God will improve his behavior to match his changed beliefs. This is interesting because for a guy who quotes the Bible frequently, Tchividjian doesn't seem to believe that Jesus--who set what is generally acknowledged to be a fine example of behavior--wants us to spend time with the scorned.
3. “Don’t judge the worshippers”: In one of the few public statements made about the pastor’s arrest, the interim pastor stated that he hopes people don’t “judge” the worshippers. A church hires a known sex offender who then sexually abuses a child in the church, and its primary concern is the reputation of the church? Perhaps its primary concern should how best to serve a 14-year-old boy who trusted his pastor and was repeatedly violated. Perhaps its primary concern should be cooperating with the police to identify other children who may also have been victimized by this offender. Perhaps its primary concern should be ways the church could serve other abuse survivors in their congregation who are likely being re-traumatized by this scandal. Perhaps its primary concern should be for the church to publically acknowledge that it was complicit in the abuse of this child due to its inexcusable decision to hire a known convicted sex offender. Perhaps its primary concern should be to reach out to experts for help in becoming educated on this issue so that this horror is never repeated. There is no lack of primary concerns for this church – its reputation certainly isn’t one of them. This church doesn’t get it.
At first, I thought the writer was on to something good here, but he never quite gets around to talking about how to create an environment where proper boundaries are encouraged. Instead, he is all about action after the abuse has happened. Laying blame is a popular pasttime, and easier than figuring out how to prevent sexual abuse.

I do agree with him that the church reputation should not be a primary concern...unless the church thinks there is value in a reputation as a church that practices what it preaches about redemption.
4. “We did no wrong”: Tragically, instead of acknowledging the grievous consequence of hiring a convicted sex offender, this church has spent the last week defending and excusing its inexcusable actions. All too often, I encounter church leaders whose immediate response to disclosures of abuse within the church is to be defensive instead of wanting to learn where they (or the church) may have failed and what can be learned.
Some day, Tchividjian's church will be rocked with a sex abuse scandal caused by someone other than a registered sex offender and he will be baffled as to how that could have happened in a church that doesn't hire sex offenders--a church that keeps a watchful eye on registrants who attend services.

Let's look at the people he seems to trust: prosecutors, investigators, parole and probation officers--people not on the registry.

Where does he think sex offenders come from? They come from people not on the registry.

Tchividjian misses the irony when he says,
It is time that more faith communities recognize the dark reality that there are predators in our midst and become more vigilant in making sure that they are never in positions to access and hurt little ones.
The dark reality is that there are predators in our midst and they almost certainly are not listed on the registry. Another dark reality is that not all sex offenses are against children. While he worries about protecting little ones (I'd like to know if a 14-year-old likes being described as a "little one") from predators, he pays no attention to sexual assaults on adults.

The registry has provided a focus for fools who refuse to recognize facts. That is all the reason we need to abolish the registry.

Tchividjian doesn't get it.

child porn investigation damages the whole family

...Paul Nader was arrested, charged with seven counts of child pornography and held in the Sarpy County Jail for almost a month. His arrest was reported on TV and online, along with his booking photo. Reporters talked to his neighbors about how he interacted with his kids. 
Then, seven months after the arrest, the charges were dismissed. 
Now the Naders have filed a federal lawsuit against Papillion, Sarpy County, Sarpy County Attorney Lee Polikov and several Papillion police detectives, citing the anguish and embarrassment of the episode.
 An arrest on child pornography charges would cause anguish and embarrassment to anyone, guilty or innocent.
On March 17, 2015, Papillion police searched the Nader home and questioned Paul Nader. During the search they found chemicals and books on terrorism. Nader said the chemicals were used to polish jewelry. According to the lawsuit, he spent more than 15 years in the Air Force, where he worked in counterintelligence. At the time of the search he was getting his doctorate in strategic security, the suit says, which he said accounted for the books. But police called in a bomb squad before confirming that the chemicals were legal.
Papillion police found none of the images identified by the tips during their search, according to the lawsuit. Nader was arrested based “solely” on the tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the couple’s suit says. He was charged with six counts of possession of child pornography. The charges later were amended to seven counts, then later changed to three counts.
Eventually, the charges were dropped. No harm done?

No.
The Naders’ children were placed with a relative. And after Nader posted bail and left jail, he was denied contact with his children for 79 days.
Nader's wife, a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, suspects that she was passed over for promotions because of her husband's child porn charges.
Police seized computers, tablets, cellphones, thumb drives and hard drives, among other items, from the Naders. The seized items included equipment on which Nader had stored his thesis and research, which he spent four years working on. That work was “irreplaceable,” according to a motion he filed in Sarpy County District Court to have his items returned. Much of this property was destroyed, the documents indicate. It is not clear if Paul Nader got his thesis work back.
Think about the data stored on the digital devices in your home: contact information, tax and other financial records, photos, videos, music, business records. How much damage would it do if a tornado or a flood snatched all of that away from you?

For the Naders, it wasn't a tornado or flood that did the damage and it could have been reversed if the investigators or prosecutors had completed the examination of the confiscated equipment quickly and returned the "clean" equipment back to the family. The damage could have been lessened if copies of important files had been returned to the family.

For the sake of argument, let's pretend that Nader was guilty. We could argue about whether he deserves to have the equipment returned to him but does his family? 

His wife and children were not charged with any crime and yet they suffered enormous losses. Removing children from the home without evidence that they have been terribly mistreated--and without evidence that the wife will also mistreat them--is inexcusable. Keeping children away from their father even though none of his charges were for contact offenses, let alone contact offenses involving his kids, is also inexcusable.

Criminal investigations ought to be done while treating innocent family members as if they are innocent.

The government caused great unnecessary damage to the Nader family. I hope they win their lawsuit.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Utah declares pornography a public health crisis

Utah officially passed a resolution declaring pornography to be a public health crisis. Sounds good, right? People need to recognize that using pornography can have lasting negative effects.

S.C.R. 9 Concurrent Resolution on the Public Health Crisis says, in part:
WHEREAS, pornography is contributing to the hypersexualization of teens, and even prepubescent children, in our society;
WHEREAS, due to advances in technology and the universal availability of the Internet, young children are exposed to what used to be referred to as hard core, but is now considered mainstream, pornography at an alarming rate;
WHEREAS, the average age of exposure to pornography is now 11 to 12 years of age;
WHEREAS, this early exposure is leading to low self-esteem and body image disorders, an increase in problematic sexual activity at younger ages, and an increased desire among adolescents to engage in risky sexual behavior;
WHEREAS, exposure to pornography often serves as childrens' and youths' sex education and shapes their sexual templates;
Yes, porn can do serious damage.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Legislature of the state of Utah, the Governor concurring therein, recognizes that pornography is a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Legislature and the Governor recognize the need for education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level in order to address the pornography epidemic that is harming the people of our state and nation. 
Utah isn't all resolution and no action, though. They also passed HB0155, creating a law that:
  • requires that a computer technician who finds child pornography in the course of the technician's work shall report the finding to law enforcement or the federal Cyber Tip Line for child pornography; ...
  • provides that the willful failure to report the child pornography is a class B misdemeanor;
  • provides immunity for a computer technician who reports in good faith or acting in good faith does not make a report
As if we don't have enough people in our criminal justice system already, now we are going to add computer technicians who don't report images that are or could be considered child pornography.

The law provides immunity for a tech who...acting in good faith does not make a report. How do they decide if the tech is acting in good faith? 

The law says:
good faith may be presumed from an employee's or employer's previous course of conduct when the employee or employer has made appropriate reports
...which means, the more people a tech reports, the safer the tech will be if he or she decides not to report someone.

What child pornography will computer technicians most likely encounter? In a world where nearly every teen carries a phone with a camera and in a world where, as the Utah resolution says, there is an increased desire among adolescents to engage in risky sexual behavior, it is probable that computer techs will discover nude selfies of teens.

Yes, that is considered child pornography and someone in possession of those images can be charged with receiving, distributing, or creating child porn. Serious crimes that carry serious mandatory minimum sentences if charged in federal court. If computer techs report the images to the federal Cyber Tip Line, it is likely that the "crime" will be a federal crime.

How badly do we want to punish teens for what is, for better or worse, normal teen behavior? Do we want a world in which teens take nude selfies ... or a world in which teens take nude selfies and have criminal records?

Is criminalization the only way to discourage unwanted behavior? We saw what happened during Prohibition, when criminalization drove the booze industry underground where violence was the only enforcer. We have seen what forty years of the War on Drugs has gotten us: the recreational drug industry is driven underground where violence is the only enforcer and where illicit drugs are still widely available, less expensive than ever, and often more powerful. 

We know what the outcome will be and yet legislators still try the same failed trick of making unwise and unwanted behavior illegal.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

did Milo Yiannopoulos really defend pedophilia?

As we have all heard by now, that awful, awful man defended pedophilia. Milo Yiannopoulos lost a plum speaking engagement at CPAC, a book deal with Simon & Schuster, and the tolerance of all decent people when he spoke his mind about you know what. Today, he resigned from his job at Breitbart.

Yiannopoulos, in fact, did not defend pedophilia, though the media didn't let that stand in the way of breathless reporting. Below is an example from the New York Times.
After the video was leaked on Twitter by a conservative group called the Reagan Battalion, Mr. Yiannopoulos denied that he had ever condoned child sexual abuse, noting that he was a victim himself. He blamed his “British sarcasm” and “deceptive editing” for leading to a misunderstanding. 
But in the tape, the fast-talking polemicist is clear that he has no problem with older men abusing children as young as 13, which he then conflates with relationships between older and younger gay men who are of consenting age.
“No, no, no. You’re misunderstanding what pedophilia means,” Mr. Yiannopoulos says on the tape, in which he is talking to radio hosts in a video chat. “Pedophilia is not a sexual attraction to somebody 13 years old who is sexually mature. Pedophilia is attraction to children who have not reached puberty,” he adds, dismissing the fact that 13-year-olds are children. [My emphasis.]
...dismissing the fact that 13-year-olds are children. There. That is dishonest and manipulative.

Some 13-year-olds have gone through puberty and some have not and that difference is an important division when it comes to pedophilia. Whether we consider 13-year-olds to be children has nothing to do with pedophilia.

Yiannopoulos is correct. Pedophilia is an attraction to children who have not reached puberty, a fact dismissed by the reporters in their eagerness to impress upon their readers that Yiannopoulos must want to have sex with 13-year-olds.

It is clear that he did not defend pedophilia and yet headline after headline tells us he did.

Knowing that Yiannopoulus got this one unpopular fact right makes him more trustworthy than all the reporters and editors who dismiss truth that would get in the way of a salacious story.

Why is this important? The misunderstanding about pedophilia is used to label people who are not pedophiles. It is also used to drum up fear about those who actually are pedophiles but are not dangerous.

Speak up when pedophiles are demonized and when sex offenders are mislabeled by those who are too lazy or dishonest to get it right.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

scared and in danger of bad legislation

A state representative in Missouri wants a new law, one that will bar registered sex offenders from zoos and museums.
Registered sex offenders would be prohibited from being within 500 feet of any museum, zoo or “other location with the primary purpose of entertaining or educating children” younger than 18 years of age under legislation introduced by [state representative] Swan. 
The Cape Girardeau Republican’s bill would expand restrictions in existing state law that bars any convicted sex offender from entering or being within 500 feet of any public park that has playground equipment or a swimming pool, or within 1,000 feet of a school or child-care facility. 
Violators could face prison sentences.
Note that the prison sentence could be imposed on people who did nothing wrong except to be present in an area restricted by arbitrary laws, laws devoid of evidence that they make any one safer.
Swan said she also wants to bar sex offenders from hanging out near children’s sections of public libraries and children’s play areas in shopping malls.
What prompted this hysteria?
...a “known, registered sexual offender came to the Discovery Playhouse unattended. Museum employees called the Cape Girardeau Police Department as the offender “roamed the facility,” [Isaac Venable, president of the museum’s board of directors] wrote.
Roamed the facility.
But police could not remove the person because “children’s museums are not protected” under state law, Venable said. 
“We felt confused and vulnerable,” he wrote. 
Oh, that poor, poor man. Imagine his confusion and vulnerability at the grocery store, a place that welcomes everyone.
“The safety of children visiting our facility is our greatest priority. A child can’t learn and explore the exhibits we provide if they are scared and/or in danger,” Venable said in backing the legislation.
Scared and in danger.

This man leads a museum meant to educate children and he has no idea what children can do when they are scared and/or in real danger. In some areas of the world, communities fight to keep schools open in the midst of war. In those areas, the education of their children is their greatest priority, not their safety.

This man seems to think much less of Missouri children and their abilities to deal with fear.

What fear is he talking about, though? The fear he himself generates by not knowing facts about the sex offender registry. That fear.

The registrant roaming the museum did nothing frightening. There are no reports of frightened children, only the report from a man frightened by his own ignorance.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

living on Mars: the 'pro' column

Scientists prepare for the rigors of space travel. (Warning: turn off your speakers; the website uses annoying autoplay ads. Really annoying.)
Six carefully selected scientists have entered a man-made dome on a remote Hawaii volcano as part of a human-behavior study that could help NASA as it draws up plans for sending astronauts on long missions to Mars. ...
They will have no physical contact with people in the outside world and will work with a 20-minute delay in communications with their support crew, or the time it would take for an email to reach Earth from Mars.
An email can travel from Mars to Earth in 20 minutes.

It took at least a couple of hours for an email sent to or from a federal inmate to reach its destination here on Earth, no matter how innocuous the contents.

Monday, January 16, 2017

why do so many Customs and Border Protection applicants fail polygraphs?

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection is having a little trouble hiring enough agents.
Two out of three applicants to CBP fail its polygraph test, according to the agency. That’s more than double the average rate of eight law enforcement agencies that provided data to the Associated Press under open-records requests. 
It's a big reason approximately 2,000 jobs at the nation's largest law enforcement agency are empty, with the Border Patrol, a part of CBP, recently slipping below 20,000 agents for the first time since 2009. And it has raised questions of whether the lie detector tests are being properly administered.
Here's a good question: What is the proper way to administer a famously inaccurate test?
CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske said the failure rate is too high, but that is largely because the agency hasn't attracted the applicants it wants.
Not the fault of the test, then. Perhaps the Craig's List item wasn't clear that the Border Patrol wants honest applicants and so they have been flooded with dishonest, even criminal applicants. An honesty mistake, one might say.
But others, including lawmakers, union leaders and polygraph experts, contend that the use of lie detectors has gone awry and that many applicants are being subjected to unusually long and hostile interrogations, which some say can make people look deceptive even when they are telling the truth. 
Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona said he suspects CBP examiners fail applicants to justify their own jobs. He said he worries applicants are being wrongly branded with a "scarlet letter" in the eyes of other potential government employers.
While the idea that polygraph examiners are failing two-thirds of CBP applicants in order to keep their own jobs is intriguing, I am more interested in Senator Flake's recognition that a polygraph falsely labeling the applicant as a liar will make it nearly impossible for that person to be hired by other government agencies.
Kerlikowske explained that CBP isn't getting the applicants it wants because the relatively new agency, created in 2003, "doesn't have a brand" and is unfamiliar to some. 
Sure, that must be it. The fault lies with the applicants who are unaware that a nearly 14-year-old federal agency charged with enforcing federal laws is looking for honest applicants.
Among other possible reasons offered by some experts for the agency's failure rate: CBP may have higher standards than local departments, and it gets less-experienced applicants who have never taken a lie detector before.
Does that mean that taking a previous lie detector test makes a person more likely to pass? How is that possible if the test does what we are told it does?

Relying on an unreliable test to determine the accuracy of one's answers seems a little nuts.

Defending the polygraph by blaming the applicants seems even nuttier.






Sunday, January 1, 2017

look at these strange women who stay with sex offenders!

Inside Edition ran a story by Maya Chung about women who stay in relationships with sex offenders.

My first thought is that I cannot remember seeing the same kind of curiosity about those mysterious people who stay in relationships with someone who stole cars or committed fraud or beat the convenience store clerk. The assumption in those cases seems to be that spouses will stay or go based on individual choices. Some people stay with car thief spouses and some leave.

Chung details a couple of relationships between sex offenders and their wives.

Josh and Susan:
"My husband came home early one day after having a big fight over the weekend and he caught Josh and me in the shower,” Susan said. “I did try to end our relationship a few times but the chemistry was just so strong that it was hard to let each other go. I didn’t mean for it to happen."
Jerry and Melissa:
She met Jerry at a charity event in 2006 – 17 years after his second offense. She said they became friends before becoming romantically involved. When he told her his status on the registry soon after they began dating, and she made a conscious decision to stay with him.
As with love stories told by other couples, some stories are boring, some are mildly interesting, some are sweet and some are a little shocking. 
While it may seem surprising to many, some women are willing to go through being outwardly shunned by family and their communities in the defense of the men because to them, love trumps all. 
Women--and men--have always been willing to go through hell for people they love. How is this surprising?
Their experiences being in a relationship with a sex offender may be different, but these women have another thing in common: An undeniable faith in their men.
Yes, being in a relationship with a registered citizen offers a different experience. A parent can lose custody of his or her children; neighbors will make terrible assumptions and gossip about them; family members cut ties.

All because a name is on a list.

Because a name is on a list, there is a real risk of prison time for missing a paperwork deadline. Most families of former lawbreakers do not have to live with that hanging over their heads.

Sex offenders are not fearsome monsters. They are people who committed crimes, made terrible choices, or got caught up in surprising circumstances. Spouses and partners can continue to love or dislike them, trust or mistrust as they choose, based on whether they are good parents, good cooks, good lovers, or based on any criteria that mean something to a specific couple.

There is no default 'Abandon Ship' setting on relationships with registered sex offenders, just as there is no default setting on relationships with adulterers or with people who cheat on taxes or with people who are boring or snore too much or are overweight.

We all see relationships that don't make sense to us. Why does he stay with her? Has he not seen what a tyrant she can be at the PTA meetings? Why does she stay with him? Does she not know that he has never in his life had a generous moment?

The reason we look at spouses and partners of sex offenders as something exotic is because the registry encourages the false idea that registered citizens are dangerous.

Abolish the registry.