Archive for December 5, 2009

1000 Signatures on the Petition

December 5, 2009 Comments off

You have now reached the 1000 signature mark on the petition against the Ohio and national Adam Walsh Act Sex Offender laws ! If you are a reader of this blog and have not yet signed the petition, please do so today. Only your name is posted on the petition listing. Share the petition with others, and post a link to appropriate websites and blogs.

Residency Rule for Sex Offenders Under Scrutiny

December 5, 2009 Comments off (FL): Residency Rule for Sex Offenders Under Scrutiny.

There are unintended consequences, counselors and offenders say, of a 2006 county ordinance that expanded residency restrictions for offenders and predators. The ordinance is under renewed scrutiny after the arrest last month of a group of homeless sex predators in Auburndale.

Supporters have said the ordinance is for the protection of the public, but critics say that it’s had the opposite effect. It’s increased the number of homeless sex predators and offenders, actually increasing the likelihood of further offenses.

“Desperate people do desperate things if they feel like there’s no hope,” Edward said in a recent interview. He is currently living on-and-off with family in Auburndale. “People can change. They have to want to. But if they’re told everyday that they can’t, why would they believe that they could?”

Polk County is among several Florida counties that have gone beyond state law to expand restrictions. Now many counties are facing similar challenges, and offenders and those who treat them say county commissioners should rethink the ordinance.

The part of the ordinance that “hurts the most” is the rule that predators must live at least 1,000 feet away from school bus stops, he said. While the ordinance keeps predators from living nearby, it does little to prevent them from treading near restricted places, he said. That means it’s ineffective in preventing wayward offenders from offending again.

The process for finding a residence is mainly trial and error. Once an offender has found a potential residence, he or she contacts their probation officer or the Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Office plugs the address into a computerized mapping system that shows whether or not it is out of a restricted zone. If it’s not, it’s back to the drawing board, and the offender must try again. Although the DOC is allowed to provide offenders and predators with some guidance, both it and the Sheriff’s Office say they do not tell offenders where they can live. They’re on their own for that.

The DOC admits the ordinance has made finding housing more challenging for offenders. Crump, the former probation officer for the DOC, said the ordinance has also placed an extra burden on law enforcement by making it more difficult to track offenders.

And treatment providers like Brimer say the ordinance ignores the reality of sex offenses – that most are not committed by strangers. In two years of child sexual abuse investigations by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, 94 percent of crimes were committed by suspects the victims knew, like Edward, including family members, friends and acquaintances.

FL Pastor Offers Sex Offenders A New Start

December 5, 2009 Comments off : Pastor Offers Sex Offenders A New Start (includes audio report)

Florida- Pastor Witherow believes people can change. At Miracle Park, those on probation attend weekly court-ordered sex therapy sessions. He also offers anger-management classes and sessions on relationships, inner healing and life skills.

Witherow has authored a book about sex offenders called The Modern Day Leper. He says he could have worn the same label as the men at Miracle Park. He was 18 years old when he met his first wife. She was just 14, and before long she was pregnant. A judge allowed them to get married but told Witherow he could have been charged with statutory rape. “If that would have happened in today’s society, I would have been charged with sexual battery on a minor, been given anywhere from 10 to 25 years in prison, plus extended probation time after that, and then been labeled a sex offender,” he says.

Witherow once had a ranch for sex offenders in Okeechobee County. But zoning law changes forced that facility to close. His search for another spot brought him here, to a small community he renamed Miracle Park. It’s a collection of duplexes about 3 miles east of the town of Pahokee, in rural Palm Beach County.

“It’s open to everybody,” Witherow says. “However, the only ones that are really looking to be out here in the boondocks and pay $100 a week to live with somebody else, basically, are those who don’t have anyplace else to go, which are the sex offenders.”

Witherow didn’t have the $5.5 million the owner wanted for the property. So instead of buying it, he became the property manager. One of his first acts was to let families with children know that a community of sex offenders was moving in, and that they might want to move out. Most of the families left. Several later sued, saying they were forced from their homes unfairly (the shoe’s on the other foot).

Henry Crawford, the vice mayor of Pahokee says that because Miracle Park is located outside of the city limits, there wasn’t much local officials could do about it. He believes the sex offenders deserve a place to live. He just wishes it wasn’t here. (That is the problem with residency laws; they push sex offenders into clustered areas because most parts of municipalities are made to be off-limits to them and idiots like this don’t have an answer to that problem).

MA Working to Meet Sex Offender Guidelines

December 5, 2009 Comments off : State Working to Meet Sex Offender Guidelines.

The state’s Sex Offender Registry Board says it is working toward a July 2010 deadline for implementing federal guidelines that would strengthen registration requirements nationwide.

However, questions remain on whether Massachusetts can or should comply with the mandate. Currently, Ohio is the only state that has complied with the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. The act creates a national registry and requires states and jurisdictions to meet a minimum set of standards in registering sex offenders and making the information publicly available.

There is a risk of losing around $1 million yearly for noncompliance, based on the 2009 grant figure, but William Leahy, chief counsel for the state’s Committee for Public Counsel Services, said compliance has its costs as well. (First year costs of implementation are over $10 million. Click on table below).

Senator Patrick Leahy said the state would have to hire more staff and improve technology, among other measures, to comply with SORNA. In letters sent to Gov. Deval Patrick and Attorney General Martha Coakley in February 2008, Leahy says the state’s existing sex offender registration statute already complies with many elements required by SORNA. Most important, the state cannot comply with SORNA’s guidelines for sex offender classification and verification and community notification because it would violate the state constitution, he said.
“The existing sex offender registration and notification act in Massachusetts is consistent with the purpose of SORNA and should constitute substantial compliance with the federal law,” Leahy writes.
Yesterday, Leahy said a large majority of states have objections to implementing the standards, while here in Massachusetts state laws are an obstacle.
“There’s a clash between the federal regulations and state law,” he said.