Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Lions in Cages....

I love metaphors. They help words paint pictures; they make meanings clearer; they are usually beautiful and always descriptive.

I read one this morning that, while very descriptive, misses the mark quite a bit on beautiful. It does, however, get high points for misleading, inflammatory, and downright sickening.

It was used in an on-line article that, not surprisingly, is very well written. The editorial is not attributed, but whoever wrote it was paying attention in journalism school. It has a very effective “hook”—the lead-in. It follows standard usage and punctuation rules. The vocabulary level is above average, and it makes good use of the well-chosen words.

This writer, however, fails in one lesson that surely is still stressed in journalism school: even in editorials and opinion pieces, stick to the truth. This writer, again not surprisingly, is clever. The untruth is presented in the metaphor. It is therefore implied, not directly stated and is all the more effective—and misleading, inflammatory, and sickening--due to that fact.

The metaphor, in words and graphic, implies that all who are listed on a sex offender registry are dangerous—and not merely dangerous but wild-animal dangerous, raging wild lions that need to be caged and constantly monitored, even in the cages, to keep them from terrorizing the community.

This is a lie, and it is no less a lie for being clothed in figurative language and vicious-appearing cartoon-figure graphics.

I know it is a lie from personal experience. I know many on the registry. They are good husbands and fathers, good neighbors and employees and employers and fellow church members. They are good citizens and good people. They are as far from being dangerous as I am from qualifying for the Olympics.

A large volume of literature says it is a lie.

The Federal Probation Journal, Volume 74, Number 3, in an analysis of the Kentucky Prison System specifically, a study titled, “Evaluation of Kentucky's Early Inmate Release Initiative: Sentence Commutations, Public Safety and Recidivism,” has this to say:

THE PRISON SYSTEM is one of the most expensive and largest public systems in the nation….
41.2 percent of drug offenders returned to prison are reincarcerated for a subsequent drug offense, 31.2 percent of reincarcerated public order offenders are reincarcerated for another public order offense, 21.6 percent of violent offenders returned to prison are returned for a subsequent violent offense, and only 2.5 percent of reincarcerated rapists are returned to prison for a subsequent rape….
 Hmmm; only 2.5% of rapists are convicted for a rape re-offense.

And, from Sex offense recidivism, risk assessment, and the Adam Walsh Act, a study published by Dr. Jill Levenson at Lynn University in Florida:
According to a study by the U.S. Department of Justice, 5.3% of American sex offenders are rearrested for a new sex crime within three years (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003).
Sex offenders are among the least likely criminals to kill their victims (Sample, 2006).
Harris and Hanson (2004) concluded: “Most sexual offenders do not re-offend sexually over time … this finding is contrary to some strongly held beliefs.
Sex offense recidivism rates are much lower than commonly believed. The best estimates suggest that 5-14% of known sex offenders will commit a subsequent sex crime within three to six years, and after 15 years, three-quarters will not have recidivated. These recidivism rates are far lower than those for other types of criminals.
Media attention to child abduction and sexually motivated murder creates a sense of alarm and urgency among parents and often inspires sex crime legislation. Such cases are actually extremely rare; it is estimated that about 100 such events occur in the United States each year (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 2005). By comparison,…over 1100 children died in 2002 as a result of physical abuse or neglect at the hands of their own parents or caretakers (Child Welfare League of America, 2003).
Those are the extreme cases. Certainly more than 100 on the registry rise to the level of dangerous and in need of law-enforcement monitoring, but surely that point can be made without resorting to images and comparisons with wild animals in cages. And many, many more than 1,100 children each year suffer abuse and neglect at the hands of their parents or caregivers but stop short of being murdered. In fact, we know for a certainty that virtually all sexually abused children are victims of those parents and caregivers and others close to them in their lives, not of anyone already on a sex offender registry.

However, no one would compare all parents, as a group, to dangerous, ravenous lions that must be caged in order to protect society. It is even less appropriate to suggest that all on the public registry must be so treated.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Do we need to be afraid of dirty old men?

I read something this morning that I need to throw out for consideration.

In brief, a senior citizen--73 years senior--has been forced from his home in Michigan. His conviction--and not the first--was for indecent exposure to school children. His home was close to the school on the route a bus took to reach the school. According to reports, he stood naked on his front porch as the bus went by.

If reports are true and accurate, most would call him him a dirty old man, including myself. My question is, is it necessary to bring to bear the weight of the state of Michigan's sex offender registry and the forceful removal of an old man from his home to deal with a dirty old man?

The courts had already required that he erect a fence around his property that could not be seen through. Unsatisfied with this, an assistant prosecutor filed an appeal asking the court to force him to move. This won the day, and the bare-butted old gentleman no longer lives where innocent children will have their delicate sensibilities shocked at the view.

Most of my readers, including myself--I do read my own posts and usually enjoy them--remember our own youthful encounters with the dirty old man in the neighborhood. Those of us over the age of forty remember how we dealt with it. We shrieked, we screamed, and we ran for home or school, depending on our destination of the moment. We babbled out to mom or dad or Mrs. Smith what we saw, and we got, quite possibly, minimal reaction.

If it was a small town, we might have heard, "Oh, Mr. Turner's daughter let him get outside again," or "Someone needs to tell Sheriff Tate to have a come-to-Jesus talk with Mr. Parker again." Then we were given a brief explanation that sometimes some people do things when they are old or when they are sick or when they have mental illnesses that people not so afflicted do not do. Then we were told to always run home or to school and tell an adult about it but not to worry about it. My friend told me her mother told her that if it happened again, to point at him and laugh before running away.

In a larger city where everyone didn't know everyone, the explanation and the advice sufficed.

And we did what our parents told us, and we went our merry ways. And we were not assaulted or kidnapped or traumatized or fearful for our lives or our safety. And that is what we in turn told our children when they came running home babbling about the man on the corner who unzipped his pants and waved his willy at them.

But somewhere along the way, that wasn't good enough. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, we decided that the precious sensibilities of our children were being assaulted and that they were in imminent danger of terrible harm. We didn't have the sense to realize that it was our reaction that scared our children senseless rather than what they had seen. We decided that we needed to protect our children in every situation rather than teach them how to protect themselves. We decided that such people were perverts, and that perverts needed to be registered and shamed, and their families shamed, and the strong arm of the law and of the courts was not only the appropriate way to deal with the situation but the only way.

And we added yet another category of offender to the registry in order to "protect the children."

And we continue to teach our children that they are not safe in the world and that they don't have enough sense to know what to do when something unexpected occurs and that they can't take care of themselves.

In my humble opinion, we are doing a great disservice, not only to the dirty old men but to our children also.

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?


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.