Thursday, July 10, 2014

Nothing left for this one but WTF

My last post to this blog is dated May 31. On Jun 1 my husband suffered a serious injury, one that has required inpatient therapy, which still continues, and requires my being with him almost all of my waking hours. I am just now trying to carve out a few early morning and late night hours to get back into my work. This is my first effort here, and I absolutely cannot let this situation go by without exploding over it.

That last post concluded with this sentence:

And most disturbing of all is the fact that the sex offender registry, something sold to the public on the grounds that it would protect children, is now a weapon used against children and putting them in unfathomable danger.

Keep that sentence in mind.

This is the situation that pushes me back here right now instead of on the freeway heading to the rehab hospital.

In short, according to the Washington Post article, a 15 year old girl texted naughty pics of herself to her 17 year old boyfriend. He responded by sending her a video of like images of himself. Her mother saw the video, and it went downhill from there.

The Manassas City, Virginia, police, in their attempts to make a felony case against him for possession of and for production of child pornography, seek to serve him with a warrant forcing him to submit to photographs being taken of his erect penis for "comparison purposes." The erection will be induced by means of drugs in a hospital setting.

Most people are finding that point the central horrifying element.

I do not, as vile and disgusting as it is, nor do I find the fact that he could spend the years between a conviction and his 21st birthday in prison the most egregious, although depending on what might happen to him in prison, I could change my mind on that point.

According to the Post, he would also face inclusion on Virginia's public sex offender registry, possibly for life.

Let's go back to the last sentence of my last post.

We are talking about a kid here. This young man is in high school.  He plays football. He goes to classes every day. He's a KID.

There is no suggestion that he sent pictures of his girlfriend or of himself to third persons. Why, in the name of all that is holy, are the police, and one assumes the Manassas County District Attorney's office, determined to ruin the life of this KID? Why are they using something that was sold to the public on the grounds that it would protect children as a weapon against this 17 year old kid and putting him in unfathomable danger?

WHY???

Update--7/11  The Manassas Police Department has withdrawn its attempt to seek the warrant forcing this young man to submit to a medically forced erection in order to photograph it. I fully believe they have taken this action because there was a great hue and cry against what they proposed, a hue and cry from many quarters. We must learn from this. We must keep up the pressure, keep up the expressions of outrage at any and every opportunity. We must watch this case carefully. Will they continue their case against him? Will the district attorney file charges? We watch and wait.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

I want to title this WTF but I'll settle for What the Hell?

This has gone too far. In "If It Saves One Child," I referenced a case where three-year-olds were "investigated" for "sexual fondling" in their pre-school bathroom for looking at and touching each others' wee-wees. The article reports that, in the wake of the publicity about the incident, the mother of another student at the school "...called the state's child abuse hotline to report she witnessed her child, who was not involved in the first incident, touching himself." 

Then there was the case where the mother of a three-year-old was given a ticket when her son, playing outside, couldn't get into his house in time and urinated in his yard in view of horrified--my emphasis and my sarcasm--neighbors and, unfortunately, the policeman who gave the ticket.

What was fortunate is that, in both of these cases, nothing resembling actual charges were filed, and subsequent reports indicate that they were dismissed as being without merit.

However, a six-year-old in Wisconsin was not as lucky. When he and playmates engaged in a "playing doctor" episode and the mother of one of the children pressed charges, she found a district attorney not only willing to prosecute the case but eager to do so. This case is fraught with accusations and a host of issues, but the bottom line is this: this child, charged with and adjudicated for first degree felony sexual assault, will be required to be on the public sex offender registry when he turns 18 for something he did at age 6. In the words of the article, "...District Attorney Lisa Riniker has guaranteed that one local 6-year-old boy will have a series of awkward therapy sessions as an adolescent, and again as a middle-aged man—if he lives that long. In a less-rosy outcome, Riniker’s targeted kid just might succumb to the stress of life as a publicly listed sex offender, and retreat from society, or even kill himself."

This is appalling; this is unacceptable; this is criminal in itself.

And now, today this is printed. A nine-year-old boy in Ohio has been charged with gross sexual imposition for pulling down another child's pants and touching him inappropriately. This is a breaking story, and nothing has yet been finalized as to how it will be handled. Even though the news report stresses how prosecutors use discretion in handling juvenile cases, it is filled with words such as, "sex crime," "criminal," and "criminal charge," and it is titled, "9-year-old boy charged with sex crime."

Nine is older than six. Nevertheless, this, from all appearances, is a case of childish play and curiosity. If it must go beyond the purview of the parents of the children and the possibility of some counseling, why is
family court not adequate? Why are prosecutors and even the possibility of criminal charges and sex crimes part of the equation? If the juvenile prosecutors and the Juvenile Court referenced in the article preclude the possibility of this child having a criminal record and being required to register as a sex offender, then they are doing it right, and I hope that is so. However, my confidence level is not high.

The trend is to criminalize, more and more, behavior that is not criminal, behavior that is merely stupid, and, most disturbingly, behavior that is part of normal childish curiosity and play, behavior that is part of normal child development.

And most disturbing of all is the fact that the sex offender registry, something sold to the public on the grounds that it would protect children, is now a weapon used against children and putting them in unfathomable danger.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth

On May 20, an editorial was printed in the Keene, New Hampshire's Sentinel. Titled "State's sex-offender registry overreaches,” it says much that is good and grounded in facts.

Its primary thesis is that inclusion on a public sex offender registry is punishment and not merely regulatory. When this scheme was first conceived, it was pronounced to be a regulatory mechanism, and the Supreme Court agreed. Since then, being placed on a public registry has indeed become, increasingly each year, a
death knell for many.

Employers have fired productive workers due to threats of boycotts and, in some cases, vandalism to their property because they employed a sex offender. Many registrants can’t even get hired.

Registrants with children suffer many varied punishments: inability to keep suitable housing in which to raise their children, forced separation from their families due to the housing and a myriad of other issues, having their children terrified by vigilantes vandalizing the home or the family vehicle, and seeing them come home in tears and even bruises from the treatment received at the hands of their peers due to daddy being on the sex offender registry.

Registrants and their family members are indeed targets for all sorts of acts of vigilantism, up to and including murder, as witnessed not only in Maine, as the article points out, but also in Washington State--twice--in California, in South Carolina, and, ironically, in a very suspicious case right there in Keene itself--and these are only the tip of the iceberg.

So--well done, Sentinel.

Until you said, "Given the recidivism rates involved in sexual assault cases, especially those victimizing children, there’s a lot to be said for keeping the public informed of legitimate threats."

Which recidivism rates, Sentinel? Those of the latest study by the Department of Justice showing the re-arrest rate for a second sexual offense by a registrant to be 5.7% and the re-conviction rate to be 3.5%? Or possibly New Hampshire's own  2010 state report of sex offenders returned to prison within five years for a sexual re-offense, as reported by the Citizens for Criminal Justice Reform. "... the 5-year new victim re-offense rate for sex offenders was just 1.2%….

"These low numbers suggests sex offenders respond well to supervision and treatment, and don't commit new sex crimes at the rate the public thinks they do, said Michael Lawlor, Connecticut’s chief of criminal-justice policy."

And as far as those who victimize children, two facts come into play. Children who are sexually abused are
overwhelmingly victims of those in close and trusted positions in their lives, many of them conditions of incest. Studies show that, once these types of offenders are arrested and dealt with in the court system, they have extremely low levels of re-offense, lower than the average lows, and it has nothing to do with "keeping the public informed." These are not the "legitimate threats"; they almost always are correlated with those whose chosen victims are random strangers, and those situations are rare.

Those who advocate for fact-based legislation governing the treatment of those who have sexually offended appreciate the Sentinel's tearing away some of the myths and exposing the facts. We will appreciate it more when all of the facts are revealed.