Saturday, August 8, 2009

Burn Your “Sex Offender” Map

Great blog post on the Free Range Kids blog, in response to the articles I posted below from the Economist. The writer of this blog is one of the few voices of reason in these days of over protective parents. She has gotten tons of flack over letting her son take the subway in New York. She's well worth reading.

Burn Your “Sex Offender” Map

Read here on the Free range Kids Blog

Okay, here is some weekend reading to sink your teeth into. It’s an article from the Economist:

“Unjust and Ineffective: America has pioneered the harsh punishment of sex offdenders. Does It Work?”

The short answer is “No.” We are putting people on sex offender registries who do not belong there at all. People who peed in public. Streakers. Johns. Teenagers who had consensual sex. The registry does not discriminate between violet pedophiles and once-horny young folk who are now 30-year-old housewives, like one of the people profiled in the piece. Wendy Whitaker was 17 when she had sex (at school — dumb!) with her underage-by-three weeks boyfriend. She was arrested for it and her lawyer told her to plead guilty to get it over with. She did. But it was never over.

One of the plea bargain conditions was that she check in regularly with her probation officer. When she didn’t, she was thrown in jail for more than a year. She finished probation in 2002 but she’s still on a public registry that does not exmpain what she did. So, as notes the article, “it looks like she did something terrible to a helpless child.”

In all, according to the Economist, about 5% of the people on the sex offender registries pose a serious risk to children. Usually, when not in jail, these people end up wearing ankle bracelets. But when you pull up one of those Sex Offender Maps — really easy to do on the Web (and now on the iPhone!)– it looks like wherever you turn, there’s another child rapist. Which, of course, leads to more fear on the part of parents. That is understable. Our pig-headed insistence on lumping everyone together on these lists and never taking them off is not. Especially because — get this: “Registering sex offenders and warning their neighbors cost millions & had no effect on the number of sex crimes.”

No effect. One more quote from The Economist, which says that the sex offender laws, “get harsher and harsher. But that does not necessarily mean they get better. If there are thousands of offenders on a registry, it is harder to keep track of the most dangerous ones. Budgets are tight. Georgia’s sheriffs complain that they have been given no extra money or manpower to help them keep the huge and swelling sex-offenders’ registry up to date or to police its confusing mass of rules. Terry Norris of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association cites a man who was convicted of statutory rape two decades ago for having consensual sex with his high-school sweetheart, to whom he is now married…. “We spend the same amount of time on that guy as on someone who’s done something heinous.’”

From a Free-Range standpoint, it is appalling that these sex offender registries make it seem as if children are unsafe on any street. From a humanitarian viewpoint, it is appalling to think of our government is not ready to revamp the whole thing. Kids — and grown ups caught peeing in public — would all be safer. — Lenore

Friday, August 7, 2009

America's unjust sex laws

Second article
America's unjust sex laws

Aug 6th 2009
From The Economist print edition
http://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=14165460

An ever harsher approach is doing more harm than good, but it is being copied around the world

iStockphoto
iStockphoto


IT IS an oft-told story, but it does not get any less horrific on repetition. Fifteen years ago, a paedophile enticed seven-year-old Megan Kanka into his home in New Jersey by offering to show her a puppy. He then raped her, killed her and dumped her body in a nearby park. The murderer, who had recently moved into the house across the street from his victim, had twice before been convicted of sexually assaulting a child. Yet Megan’s parents had no idea of this. Had they known he was a sex offender, they would have told their daughter to stay away from him.

In their grief, the parents started a petition, demanding that families should be told if a sexual predator moves nearby. Hundreds of thousands signed it. In no time at all, lawmakers in New Jersey granted their wish. And before long, “Megan’s laws” had spread to every American state.

America’s sex-offender laws are the strictest of any rich democracy. Convicted rapists and child-molesters are given long prison sentences. When released, they are put on sex-offender registries. In most states this means that their names, photographs and addresses are published online, so that fearful parents can check whether a child-molester lives nearby. Under the Adam Walsh Act of 2006, another law named after a murdered child, all states will soon be obliged to make their sex-offender registries public. Such rules are extremely popular. Most parents will support any law that promises to keep their children safe. Other countries are following America’s example, either importing Megan’s laws or increasing penalties: after two little girls were murdered by a school caretaker, Britain has imposed multiple conditions on who can visit schools.

Which makes it all the more important to ask whether America’s approach is the right one. In fact its sex-offender laws have grown self-defeatingly harsh (see article). They have been driven by a ratchet effect. Individual American politicians have great latitude to propose new laws. Stricter curbs on paedophiles win votes. And to sound severe, such curbs must be stronger than the laws in place, which in turn were proposed by politicians who wished to appear tough themselves. Few politicians dare to vote against such laws, because if they do, the attack ads practically write themselves.


In all, 674,000 Americans are on sex-offender registries—more than the population of Vermont, North Dakota or Wyoming. The number keeps growing partly because in several states registration is for life and partly because registries are not confined to the sort of murderer who ensnared Megan Kanka. According to Human Rights Watch, at least five states require registration for people who visit prostitutes, 29 require it for consensual sex between young teenagers and 32 require it for indecent exposure. Some prosecutors are now stretching the definition of “distributing child pornography” to include teens who text half-naked photos of themselves to their friends.

How dangerous are the people on the registries? A state review of one sample in Georgia found that two-thirds of them posed little risk. For example, Janet Allison was found guilty of being “party to the crime of child molestation” because she let her 15-year-old daughter have sex with a boyfriend. The young couple later married. But Ms Allison will spend the rest of her life publicly branded as a sex offender.

Several other countries have sex-offender registries, but these are typically held by the police and are hard to view. In America it takes only seconds to find out about a sex offender: some states have a “click to print” icon on their websites so that concerned citizens can put up posters with the offender’s mugshot on trees near his home. Small wonder most sex offenders report being harassed. A few have been murdered. Many are fired because someone at work has Googled them.

Registration is often just the start. Sometimes sex offenders are barred from living near places where children congregate. In Georgia no sex offender may live or work within 1,000 feet (300 metres) of a school, church, park, skating rink or swimming pool. In Miami an exclusion zone of 2,500 feet has helped create a camp of homeless offenders under a bridge.


There are three main arguments for reform. First, it is unfair to impose harsh penalties for small offences. Perhaps a third of American teenagers have sex before they are legally allowed to, and a staggering number have shared revealing photographs with each other. This is unwise, but hardly a reason for the law to ruin their lives. Second, America’s sex laws often punish not only the offender, but also his family. If a man who once slept with his 15-year-old girlfriend is barred for ever from taking his own children to a playground, those children suffer.

Third, harsh laws often do little to protect the innocent. The police complain that having so many petty sex offenders on registries makes it hard to keep track of the truly dangerous ones. Cash that might be spent on treating sex offenders—which sometimes works—is spent on huge indiscriminate registries. Public registers drive serious offenders underground, which makes them harder to track and more likely to reoffend. And registers give parents a false sense of security: most sex offenders are never even reported, let alone convicted.

It would not be hard to redesign America’s sex laws. Instead of lumping all sex offenders together on the same list for life, states should assess each person individually and include only real threats. Instead of posting everything on the internet, names could be held by the police, who would share them only with those, such as a school, who need to know. Laws that bar sex offenders from living in so many places should be repealed, because there is no evidence that they protect anyone: a predator can always travel. The money that a repeal saves could help pay for monitoring compulsive molesters more intrusively—through ankle bracelets and the like.

In America it may take years to unpick this. However practical and just the case for reform, it must overcome political cowardice, the tabloid media and parents’ understandable fears. Other countries, though, have no excuse for committing the same error. Sensible sex laws are better than vengeful ones.



Copyright © 2009 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved.

Unjust and ineffective

Unjust and ineffective
Aug 6th 2009 | HARLEM, GEORGIA
From The Economist print edition
http://www.economist.com/opinion/PrinterFriendly.cfm?story_id=14164614

America has pioneered the harsh punishment of sex offenders. Does it work?

Illustration by Noma Barr
Illustration by Noma Barr


ONE day in 1996 the lights went off in a classroom in Georgia so that the students could watch a video. Wendy Whitaker, a 17-year-old pupil at the time, was sitting near the back. The boy next to her suggested that, since it was dark, she could perform oral sex on him without anyone noticing. She obliged. And that single teenage fumble wrecked her life.

Her classmate was three weeks shy of his 16th birthday. That made Ms Whitaker a criminal. She was arrested and charged with sodomy, which in Georgia can refer to oral sex. She met her court-appointed lawyer five minutes before the hearing. He told her to plead guilty. She did not really understand what was going on, so she did as she was told.

She was sentenced to five years on probation. Not being the most organised of people, she failed to meet all the conditions, such as checking in regularly with her probation officer. For a series of technical violations, she was incarcerated for more than a year, in the county jail, the state women’s prison and a boot camp. “I was in there with people who killed people. It’s crazy,” she says.

She finished her probation in 2002. But her ordeal continues. Georgia puts sex offenders on a public registry. Ms Whitaker’s name, photograph and address are easily accessible online, along with the information that she was convicted of “sodomy”. The website does not explain what she actually did. But since it describes itself as a list of people who have “been convicted of a criminal offence against a victim who is a minor or any dangerous sexual offense”, it makes it sound as if she did something terrible to a helpless child. She sees people whispering, and parents pulling their children indoors when she walks by.


The registry is a gold mine for lazy journalists. A local television station featured Ms Whitaker in a spot on local sex offenders, broadcasting a helpful map showing where she lives but leaving the specifics of the crime to each viewer’s fearful imagination. “My husband’s family saw me on TV,” she says. “That’s embarrassing.”

What Ms Whitaker did is no longer a crime in Georgia. The state’s sodomy laws, which in 1996 barred oral sex even between willing spouses, were struck down by court rulings in 1998 and 2003. And since 2006, thanks to a “Romeo and Juliet” clause in a sex-crimes law, consensual sex between two teenagers has been a misdemeanour, not a crime, if one partner is underage but no more than four years younger than the other.

The Romeo and Juliet clause was not retroactive, however, so Ms Whitaker is stuck on the register, and subject to extraordinary restrictions. Registered sex offenders in Georgia are barred from living within 1,000 feet of anywhere children may congregate, such as a school, a park, a library, or a swimming pool. They are also banned from working within 1,000 feet of a school or a child-care centre. Since the church at the end of Ms Whitaker’s street houses a child-care centre, she was evicted from her home. Her husband, who worked for the county dog-catching department, moved with her, lost his job and with it their health insurance.

Thanks to a lawsuit filed by the Southern Centre for Human Rights, a group that campaigns against rough justice, Ms Whitaker won an injunction allowing her to return home. But her husband did not get his job back, and now works as a labourer. The two of them are struggling financially. And Ms Whitaker is still fighting to get her name removed from the registry. “When you’re a teenager, you do stuff,” she says. “You don’t think you’ll be paying for it when you’re nearly 30.”

Every American state keeps a register of sex offenders. California has had one since 1947, but most states started theirs in the 1990s. Many people assume that anyone listed on a sex-offender registry must be a rapist or a child molester. But most states spread the net much more widely. A report by Sarah Tofte of Human Rights Watch, a pressure group, found that at least five states required men to register if they were caught visiting prostitutes. At least 13 required it for urinating in public (in two of which, only if a child was present). No fewer than 29 states required registration for teenagers who had consensual sex with another teenager. And 32 states registered flashers and streakers.

Because so many offenses require registration, the number of registered sex offenders in America has exploded. As of December last year, there were 674,000 of them, according to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children. If they were all crammed into a single state, it would be more populous than Wyoming, Vermont or North Dakota. As a share of its population, America registers more than four times as many people as Britain, which is unusually harsh on sex offenders. America’s registers keep swelling, not least because in 17 states, registration is for life.

Illustration by Noma Barr
Illustration by Noma Barr

Georgia has more than 17,000 registered sex offenders. Some are highly dangerous. But many are not. And it is fiendishly hard for anyone browsing the registry to tell the one from the other. The Georgia Sex Offender Registration Review Board, an official body, assessed a sample of offenders on the registry last year and concluded that 65% of them posed little threat. Another 30% were potentially threatening, and 5% were clearly dangerous. The board recommended that the first group be allowed to live and work wherever they liked. The second group could reasonably be barred from living or working in certain places, said the board, and the third group should be subject to tight restrictions and a lifetime of monitoring. A very small number “just over 100” are classified as “predators”, which means they have a compulsion to commit sex offenses. When not in jail, predators must wear ankle bracelets that track where they are.

Despite the board’s findings, non-violent offenders remain listed and subject to a giant cobweb of controls. One rule, championed by Georgia’s House majority leader, banned them from living within 1,000 feet of a school bus stop. This proved unworkable. Thomas Brown, the sheriff of DeKalb county near Atlanta, mapped the bus stops in his patch and realized that he would have to evict all 490 of the sex offenders living there. Other than the bottom of a lake or the middle of a forest, there was hardly anywhere in Georgia for them to live legally. In the end Georgia’s courts stepped in and suspended the bus-stop rule, along with another barring sex offenders from volunteering in churches. But most other restrictions remain.

Sex-offender registries are popular. Rape and child molestation are terrible crimes that can traumatize their victims for life. All parents want to protect their children from sexual predators, so politicians can nearly always win votes by promising curbs on them. Those who object can be called soft on child-molesters, a label most politicians would rather avoid. This creates a ratchet effect. Every lawmaker who wants to sound tough on sex offenders has to propose a law tougher than the one enacted by the last politician who wanted to sound tough on sex offenders.


So laws get harsher and harsher. But that does not necessarily mean they get better. If there are thousands of offenders on a registry, it is harder to keep track of the most dangerous ones. Budgets are tight. Georgia’s sheriffs complain that they have been given no extra money or manpower to help them keep the huge and swelling sex-offenders’ registry up to date or to police its confusing mass of rules. Terry Norris of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association cites a man who was convicted of statutory rape two decades ago for having consensual sex with his high-school sweetheart, to whom he is now married. “It doesn’t make it right, but it doesn’t make him a threat to anybody,” says Mr Norris. “We spend the same amount of time on that guy as on someone who’s done something heinous.”

Money spent on evicting sex offenders cannot be spent on treating them. Does this matter? Politicians pushing the get-tough approach sometimes claim that sex offenders are mostly incorrigible: that three-quarters or even nine out of ten of them reoffend. It is not clear where they find such numbers. A study of nearly 10,000 male sex offenders in 15 American states found that 5% were rearrested for a sex crime within three years. A meta-analysis of 29,000 sex offenders in Canada, Britain and America found that 24% had reoffended after 15 years.

That is obviously still too high. Whether or not treatment can help is disputed. A Californian study of sex offenders who underwent “relapse prevention”, counselling of the sort that alcoholics get from Alcoholics Anonymous, found that it was useless. But a meta-analysis of 23 studies by Karl Hanson of Canada’s department of public safety found that psychological therapy was associated with a 43% drop in recidivism. Some offenders—particularly men who rape boys—are extremely hard to treat. Some will never change until they are too old to feel sexual urges. But some types of treatment appear to work for some people and further research could yield more breakthroughs.

Publicising sex offenders’ addresses makes them vulnerable to vigilantism. In April 2006, for example, a vigilante shot and killed two sex offenders in Maine after finding their addresses on the registry. One of the victims had been convicted of having consensual sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend when he was 19. In Washington state in 2005 a man posed as an FBI agent to enter the home of two sex offenders, warning them that they were on a “hit list” on the internet. Then he killed them.

Murders of sex offenders are rare, but harassment is common. Most of the offenders interviewed for this article said they had experienced it. “Bill”, who spent nine months in jail for having consensual sex with a 15-year-old when he was 27 and is now registered in North Carolina, says someone put up posters with his photograph on them around his district. (In at least four states, each offender’s profile on the online registry comes with a handy “click to print” function.) The local kids promptly stopped playing with Bill’s three children. And someone started leaving chopped-up sausages on his car, a possible reference to castration. Bill and his family moved house.

Jill Levenson, of Lynn University in Florida, says half of registered sex offenders have trouble finding jobs. From 20% to 40% say they have had to move house because a landlord or neighbour realised they were sex offenders. And most report feeling depressed, hopeless or afraid.

“Mike” spent a year and a half behind bars for statutory rape after having sex with a girl who said she was 17, but was two years younger. He was 22 at the time. Since his release, he has struggled to hold down a job. Once, he found work as a security guard, but his probation officer told him to quit, since the uniform lent him an air of authority, which would not do.

He is now unemployed, and lives in a flophouse in Atlanta between a jail and a strip club. The area is too desolate to have any schools or parks, so he is allowed to live there. His neighbours are mostly other sex offenders and mentally ill folk who talk to themselves. “It’s Bumville,” sighs Mike. His ambition is to get a job, keep it and move out. Any job will do, he says.

Several studies suggest that making it harder for sex offenders to find a home or a job makes them more likely to reoffend. Gwenda Willis and Randolph Grace of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, for example, found that the lack of a place to live was “significantly related to sexual recidivism”. Candace Kruttschnitt and Christopher Uggen of the University of Minnesota and Kelly Shelton of the Minnesota Department of Corrections tracked 556 sex offenders on probation and found less recidivism among those with a history of stable employment.

Some bosses do not mind hiring sex offenders, if they know the full story and the offender does not seem dangerous. But an accessible online registry makes it all but certain that a colleague or a customer will find out about a sexual conviction. Sex offenders often report being sacked for no apparent reason. Mike had a job at a cake shop. His boss knew about his record. But one day, without warning, he was fired.

Publicly accessible sex-offender registries are intended to keep people safe. But there is little evidence that they do. A study by Kristen Zgoba of the New Jersey Department of Corrections found that the state’s system for registering sex offenders and warning their neighbours cost millions of dollars and had no discernible effect on the number of sex crimes. Restricting where sex offenders can live is supposed to keep them away from potential victims, but it is doubtful that this works. A determined predator can always catch a bus.

Laws that make life hard for sex offenders also affect their families. A survey by Ms Levenson found that 86% of family members felt stressed because of registration and residence rules, and 49% feared for their own safety. “It’s very difficult,” says Bill. “Pretty much all the things that make you a good father are now illegal for me to do.” He cannot take his children to a park, a pool, or a museum. He cannot be at any of their school events. And his children are ostracised. “The parents find out I’m registered and that’s it,” he sighs.

The penalties for sex offenders who break the rules can be severe. In Georgia the first time you fail to provide an accurate address or register annually with the county sheriff to be photographed and fingerprinted, you face ten to 30 years in prison. The second time: life. Yet because living on a public sex-offender registry is so wretched, many abscond.

Some states have decided that harsher sex laws are not always better. Iowa has sharply reduced the number of sex offences for which residency restrictions apply. Previously, all Iowan sex offenders who had abused children were barred from living within 2,000 feet of a school or child-care centre. Since where offenders lived was defined as where they slept, many would spend the day at home with their families and sleep at night in their cars at a highway rest stop. “That made no sense,” says Corwin Ritchie of the Iowa County Attorneys Association. “We don’t try to monitor where possible bank robbers sleep.”

The Iowan politicians who relaxed the law gave themselves cover by adding a new rule against “loitering” near schools. Mr Ritchie thinks the new rules are better, but he would rather get rid of the residency restrictions entirely and let probation officers make recommendations for each individual offender.


Nationwide, the trend is to keep getting stricter. In 1994 Congress ordered all states that had not yet done so to set up sex-offender registries or lose some funding. Two years later it ordered them to register the most serious offenders for life. In 2006 it passed the Adam Walsh Act, named for a six-year-old boy who was kidnapped and beheaded, broadening the categories of offence for which registration is required and obliging all states to upload their registries to a national database. States had until this summer to comply with that provision. Some objected. In May they were given another year’s breathing space.

Illustration by Noma Barr
Illustration by Noma Barr


Other countries now seem to be following America’s lead. Hottest on its heels is Britain, where the sex-offenders’ registry includes children as young as 11. The British list is not open to the public, but in some areas parents may ask for a check on anyone who has unsupervised access to their child. France, too, now has a closed national directory of sex-offenders, as does Austria, which brought in some American-style movement restrictions on sex offenders earlier this year. After the disappearance in Portugal in 2007 of Madeleine McCann, a British toddler, some European politicians have called for a pan-European registry.

Human Rights Watch urges America to scale back its sex-offender registries. Those convicted of minor, non-violent offences should not be required to register, says Ms Tofte. Nor should juveniles. Sex offenders should be individually assessed, and only those judged likely to rape someone or abuse a child should be registered. Such decisions should be regularly reviewed and offenders who are rehabilitated (or who grow too old to reoffend) should be removed from the registry. The information on sex-offender registries should be held by the police, not published online, says Ms Tofte, and released “on a need-to-know basis”. Blanket bans on all sex offenders living and working in certain areas should be abolished. Instead, it makes sense for the most dangerous offenders sometimes to face tailored restrictions as a condition of parole.

That package of reforms would bring America in line with the strictest laws in other rich countries. But few politicians would have the courage to back it. “Jane”, the mother of a sex offender in Georgia, says she sent a letter to her senator, Saxby Chambliss, urging such reforms. “They didn’t even read it,” she says. “They just sent me a form letter assuring me that they were in favour of every sex offender law, and that [Senator Chambliss] has grandchildren he wants to protect.”



Copyright © 2009 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

15 Shocking Tales of How Sex Laws Are Screwing the American People

I just heard this great lady on America's Reality Check Radio show archived here. Thanks Ellen! Used with permission.

15 Shocking Tales of How Sex Laws Are Screwing the American People

By Ellen Friedrichs, AlterNet
Posted on June 12, 2009, Printed on August 5, 2009
http://www.alternet.org/story/140591/

The older I get, the luckier I feel not to have been busted for breaking a sex law. It’s not that I have been doing anything particularly scandalous. Public sex sure isn’t my thing, and I’m not in the habit of spamming my friends and colleagues with XXX emails. But in a world where a teen can get arrested for texting a boyfriend her own nudie shots, I don't want to take anything for granted.

Really though, my clean record probably has as much to do with where I've lived, as with what I've done. Growing up in Canada, meant that I didn’t worry about the legal ramifications of losing my virginity to my high school boyfriend. Had I spent those angst-ridden years in Texas, or even Maine, I could have been charged with the crime of underage sex.

Similarly, accompanying a terrified 16-year-old to a New York City clinic for an abortion a few years back could have been illegal if I had done the same thing in many of the 34 states with parental consent and notification laws for this procedure.

So I've been fortunate. But plenty of other people haven't. We often don't realize that sex regulations extend beyond archaic blue laws banning things like having sex in a toll booth, or forbidding sororities on the basis that women living together constitute a brothel. Such prohibitions may remain on the books, but people seldom, if ever, face charges for breaking them. The sex laws that do get enforced every day tend to be a lot less laughable.

Occasionally, the focus on a particular case can lead to a law’s repeal. For example, in 2004, a Texas mom was arrested for violating that state's ban on selling sex toys after she was busted hawking vibrators to her friends. The coverage of the incident drew attention to the statute and eventually lead to its 2008 nullification. And famously, following a 2002 arrest for having anal sex with his boyfriend, John Lawrence argued his case before the U. S. Supreme Court, and succeeded in getting the federal sodomy laws overturned.

Nevertheless, for many people, simply paying their fine or doing their time is preferable to embarrassing publicity that can accompany fighting charges. Still, plenty of cases do make the papers, whether those involved want them to or not.

Here are fifteen recent examples highlighting the fact the land of the free, the freedom to express your sexuality can still be pretty limited.

1) Over the past year, New York City has seen thirty-four gay men arrested for prostitution in what many people are calling an anti-gay sting operation. One case, reported by the New York Times, involved Robert Pinter, a fifty-three-year old massage therapist, who was approached by an undercover police officer in the adult section of a video store. As Pinter told the Times, “[the man who propositioned me] was very charming and cute, and we agreed to leave the store and engage in consensual sex.” Pinter explained that man then offered him $50 for doing so--an offer which he says did not respond to. Once outside, Pinter was handcuffed and arrested on charges of, “loitering for the purpose of prostitution.” The relationship between gay men and the police has often been far from harmonious (hell, arrests of gay men in the sixties are what prompted the Stonewall riots in 1969), and this situation has renewed fears that old habits die hard.

2) Despite the fact that Georgia has some real problems with youth sexual health -- among other things it boasts the eighth highest teen pregnancy rate in the country -- this state has put a lot more effort into targeting teens than it has into helping them stay safe. One particularly outlandish case involves a young man named Genarlow Wilson. Genarlow was recently freed after serving almost three years in a Georgia prison. He had been sent there at seventeen for getting a blow job from a consenting fifteen-year-old girl. Though Generlow was only two years older than the girl, in Georgia, he was above the age of consent and she was below it. As a result, the high school senior was charged with aggravated child molestation. At the time, Georgia had a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years for this crime, so that's what he got. A year into his sentence, the law was changed to make the maximum penalty a still pretty serious twelve months in jail. Even so, it took another two years for a judge to order Genarlow's release.

3) Florida is famous for it's liberal views on how little clothing can be considered publicly acceptable. It's not so liberal, however, when it comes to the kind of sex it considers acceptable for people to have privately. In February, a lawsuit was filed against a strip-mall based private swingers club. The charges came after a year-long undercover operation, and despite the sheriff's acknowledgment that, “detectives never found any evidence of drug use or sales and never saw any instances of anyone paying for sex.” Swinging is legal, so in the end, the best the cops could do was charge the club with violation of local zoning codes.

4) Starting off 2009 with a bang, seventeen Pennsylvania teens -- thirteen girls and three boys -- were busted for child pornography. The charges came after a teacher confiscated a student’s cell phone and discovered that the girls had sent “provocative” pictures of themselves to the boys. Initially, the boys were charged with possession of child pornography, and the girls with manufacturing, disseminating and possessing child pornography. These charges could have come with jail time and the requirement to register as sex offenders. The New York Times reports that given such daunting prospects, almost all of the students accepted a deal requiring them to attend a ten hour class dealing with pornography and sexual violence. But three of the girls rejected the deal and instead filed a lawsuit against the district attorney, claiming that offering them such a deal was illegal, as their actions never should have been considered criminal.

Public panic over sexting is growing and as a result the Pennsylvania case is far from an isolated incident. In fact, USA Today reports that between January and March police had already, “investigated more than two dozen teens in at least six states...for sending nude images of themselves in cell phone text messages.” And as a girl busted for sexting in Idaho this June can tell you, that number has surely grown since then.

5) No one has ever claimed that Georgia is a haven for the LGBT community. But a recent decision by a custody judge to bar a gay dad from “exposing” his kids to his “homosexual partners and friends,” is a reminder that in this state, the notion that everyone is equal under the law only applies if the “everyone” in question isn't gay. In this case, the man’s soon to be ex-wife argued that the fact that her kids have a gay dad has landed them in therapy. So she asked that the restriction be imposed to protect them from discomfort. But as the father said, “In general, that [restriction] will never allow me to have my children present in front of any friends, whether they’re gay or straight -- no one hands you a card saying are you gay, straight, heterosexual, bi, whatever.”

6) After his boxers were spotted by cops as he peddled his bike around town, a twenty-four-year-old Bainbridge, Georgia man became the first person arrested there under a new city ordinance that prohibits wearing pants low enough to expose a person’s underwear. Arrests like this have become common all over the country as more and more cities adopt such so-called baggy pants bans. But it isn't only men who are targeted by these laws. This June, the city of Yakima, Washington, voted to change the city's indecent exposure laws to include "cleavage of the buttocks." This means that women whose thong or G-string show can now be fined $1,000 or face up to 90 days in jail. If a child under the age of 14 is thought to be a victim of this form of indecent exposure, the perpetrator is looking at a $5,000 fine and up to a year in jail. Still while most cities choose to focus on legislating visible underwear, some laws take the clothing restrictions even further. For example, an ordinance passed in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana in 2007, not only outlaws “any indecent exposure of any person or undergarments,” but also bars a person from, “dressing in a manner not becoming to his or her sex.”

7) In February 2008, Wisconsin mom, Amy Smalley, was charged with the felony of “exposing a child to harmful descriptions.” The issue came to light after her eleven-year-old son told a counselor about conversations his mom had with him and his brother. These included talking about her sex life, explaining how to perform oral sex and showing the boys a sex toy. The charges, which could have landed Smalley three years in prison, were plead down to a misdemeanor. Smalley was placed on probation and had to undergo court ordered counseling. As the Court TV website put it, “Smalley called it education. Prosecutors called it a crime.” I call it terrifying. As a mom myself, I can easily see having similar conversations. (Okay, not for a while as my kids are only both under three. But still…). Sure, Smalley probably made a bad judgment call. But really, is this any worse than parents who let their kids watch Family Guy and South Park, despite the endless stream of rape jokes and blow job humor?

8) Come 2010, a law designed to protect child prostitutes will take effect in New York State. Until that time, kids as young as twelve can continue to be charged with the crime of prostitution. This is true even if they were forced into the business by pimps. Interestingly, since 2000, foreign-born teens have been protected from prosecution by anti-trafficking laws which view them as victims. For the next year, however, teens with American citizenship may still find themselves in juvie for being the victim of something most people would consider pretty horrific abuse. Hopefully, this is a sign that we are making progress not only the issue of sex work, but on the treatment of juvenile offenders in general.

9) In December, a Florida woman reacted to the penis being forced into her mouth by biting. Twenty-seven-year-old Charris Bowers told police that despite the fact that she didn't want to have oral sex, her husband, Delou pushed himself into her mouth, and that she clamped down to get him to stop. He responded by punching her in the head until she let go. In the end no charges were filed against Delou, even though it is illegal for anyone, including a spouse, to make another person perform a sex act. Charris, on the other hand was arrested and charged with battery. Apparently, the era of blaming the victims of sexual assault is not a thing of the past.

10) That sexual double standards for men and women are alive and well shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. But a Wisconsin town recently showed just how damaging such notions can be. On consecutive January days in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, seventeen-year-old Norma Guthrie and seventeen-year-old Alan Jepsen were charged with sexual assault for having consensual sex with their fourteen-year-old partners. However, that's where the similarities between the cases end. Guthrie was charged with a misdemeanor, which carries a maximum nine months in prison. Jepsen, on the other hand, was charged with a felony, which carries a maximum twenty-five years in prison. The Sheboygan Press reports, “Assistant District Attorney Jim Haasch, who filed both complaints, said the misdemeanor charge was filed in part because Guthrie has no prior criminal record. But online court records show Guthrie has a pending charge of misdemeanor battery, filed in October. Haasch would not say whether Jepsen has a prior juvenile record -- which is typically sealed -- but the boy has no adult charges listed in online court records. Haasch also said the cases are different because Guthrie's boyfriend is “almost 15,” with a birthday in February. Jepsen's girlfriend turns 15 in April.”

11) In December, something called a paramour clause was used to force a lesbian in Tennessee to move out of her house and away from her family. The clause prohibits cohabitation of unmarried partners if minor children are in the home. In this particular situation, the lesbian couple had lived together for over ten years. Much of that was with the biological mom's kids, who were the product of a previous relationship with a man. There was no indication that this living situation was harming the thirteen and fifteen-year-old teens. Nor had the father requested that his ex’s partner move out. Still, a custody judge imposed the rule, leaving few options for the women in a state where same sex couples cannot legally marry. And people wonder why Proposition 8 matters?

12) As a sex ed. teacher, I believe in answering teens’ questions honestly and in using language that they will relate to and understand. So had I overheard a conversation between a New York State high school teacher and some of her students, I probably would have applauded her candor. But I didn't get wind of this conversation. Josephine Isernia’s school board did. According to the board, when asked for advice on oral sex by one of the girls, Isernia used words that were, “vulgar, obscene and disgusting.” The words in question? Head job, hand job, and fellatio. Isernia was a teacher with over twenty years of experience who had never been in trouble before. Yet despite her clean record and the fact that the students sought her out for information, when 2009 rolled around, she was out of a job and educators everywhere were given a sad wake up call.

13) Remember a few years back when PDA policies were making the news every other day? Lately stories about sexting and mom's who pose as teens on MySpace, have been stealing the headlines. But rules regarding public displays of affection never really went away and this February, twenty-two-year-old Jessica Garica was arrested at her local mall for kissing her girlfriend. According to Garcia, mall security told the couple, "This is a family mall, y'all can't do this. Y'all kissed, and if y'all do it again I'm going to write you a citation or I'm going to kick y'all out." The mall countered that after being asked to leave following the kiss, the couple returned and became belligerent. This, a mall spokesperson claimed, and not the kiss, is what lead to the arrest. Regardless, Garcia is considering suing for discrimination.

14) Imagine this: You’re sixteen and having sex with your boyfriend. You want to be safe so you ask your mom to take you to the doctor for birth control. Most people would call this a sign of maturity and responsibility. The state of Mississippi would call it an incident to be reported to the cops. That’s because a bill that passed in January makes it a crime for parents not to report to the police that their kids are having sex. The Mississippi Child Protection Act of 2009, requires mandatory reporting of sex crimes against children and imposes new abortion restrictions on minors. Though there is much to quibble with in the bill, one section is particularly alarming. This is the clause that prohibits, “the intentional toleration of a parent or caretaker of the child's sexual involvement with any other person.” Supporters of the law claim that they are trying to protect young people from abuse. But nowhere does the bill distinguish between sexual abuse and consensual sexual encounters between teens. Mississippi already boasts the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country. Maybe they are striving for the number one spot in preventing parent/child communication, as well...

15) This past November, a convicted sex offender in Oklahoma had little reason to celebrate having his criminal record expunged. That’s because the requirement that he register as a sex offender for life remained. This is particularly problematic seeing as the individual in question is a kid. Due to age of consent laws, he was convicted at sixteen of having consensual sex with a thirteen year-old girl. His mother explains that sex offender status meant the boy was, “removed from high school [and] prohibited from being in the presence of children other than his younger brother. He can't go near schools, day care centers or parks. His brother, age 11, can't bring friends into their home. If his brother had been a girl, Ricky [the offender] would have been removed from his home.” The United States has some of the toughest sex offender laws in the world and Ricky is far from the only teen forced to live under such conditions. As Human Rights Watch reports, “Some children are on registries because they committed serious sex offenses, such as forcibly raping a much younger child. Other children are labeled sex offenders for such non-coercive or nonviolent and age-appropriate activities as “playing doctor,” youthful pranks such as exposing one's buttocks, and non-coercive teen sex.”

There has been talk recently about America’s liberalizing morality. But as long as teens and gay men are still under attack for having sex, and teachers and parents still get in trouble for taking about it, then it would seem as if there is still quite a ways to go before we can claim that this is the dawn of a progressive new era.

Ellen Friedrichs is a sex educator based in New York City, where she teaches high school and college classes.

© 2009 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/140591/

Warning for Parents! CRIMINALIZATION OF CHILDHOOD SEXUALITY

All parents need to read this and be aware of what is going on in our communities. I found this on the website Ethical Treatment For All Youths. A must read for all of with children in our lives.


CRIMINALIZATION OF CHILDHOOD SEXUALITY

Article by Dr. Marshall Burns Link

As previously shown, the language used to label children who behave in a sexual manner typically confuses indecent or socially inappropriate behavior with coercion and violence.4 It is one thing to prohibit such behavior and discipline children for it. It is quite another to describe almost any sexual activity among children, even when it is mutually desired, as “molestation,” “abuse,” “assault,” and “rape.” Such language is a slap in the face to those children who have been truly victimized by real abuse. It also misleads the public into thinking that all children who act sexually are dangerous and merit criminal charges.

Prosecution of children

A recent sexual abuse conference defined “limited exploratory behaviors committed primarily out of curiosity” by juveniles as “deviant sexual behavior.” It referred to these children as “young sex offenders,” adding that “society needs interventions to respond effectively...focusing on protecting the community...”

One article in a professional journal says:

While filing, criminal prosecution, and involvement of the criminal justice system may not be considered necessary for some of these child perpetrators, it should at least be considered. Not only does this type of intervention demonstrate to the girls the seriousness of their sexually abusive behavior, but it also makes their parents take heed of the behavior...The parents of these children also need to be mandated to treatment.3

The criminal justice system follows suit.

  • ”Even children under age 12 are prosecuted for rape first degree and sodomy first degree for sexual conduct with each other. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for a 13 year old who has sexual contact with an 11 year old to be prosecuted for a class A felony...A youthful offender convicted of rape or sodomy in the first degree is a "violent offender" who must serve at least 85% of his sentence before he can be paroled...Youthful offenders are subject to "Megan's Law" requirements.”
    --Attorney
    Gail Robinson

  • ”Their names, addresses, and pictures are all on-line, on the state's Sexual Offender's page. Seemingly, they are pre-pubescent predators, but juvenile probation officer Richard Garcia says, 'We got kids on probation for doing stuff that all of us did at one time or another'...it can end with a child labeled as a deviant, stuck with the stigma through their adult years...81% of San Antonio adults say all sex offenders, regardless of age, should be registered, and their information should be public.”
    --
    WOAI-TV

  • “A ten-year-old kid plays doctor with his kid sister. A senior in high school has consensual sex with his sophomore girlfriend. Dangerous sex offenders? Yes, say the nation's toughest sex laws. And some states' punishments include posting the juvenile offenders' pictures on websites for the rest of their lives.”
    --Journalist
    Seamus McGraw, runner-up for the 2002 Casey Medal

Some jurisdictions believe that all childhood sexual activity warrants criminal investigation.

  • “Kansas can require health care professionals to report all suspected underage sexual activity...”
    --
    Lawrence Journal-World, Lawrence, Kansas

  • “The agency is required by law to investigate all episodes of sexual contact between children...“
    --
    The Reporter, Fon du Lac, Wisconsin

According to the research on child sexual behavior, authorities may have to place 20% to 50% of all children in their jurisdictions under investigation.

Prosecution of teenagers

Teenage sexual behavior is not seen as a disorder to the extent that prepubescent behavior is. Nevertheless, it is not unusual for teens to be prosecuted for non-coerced sexual behavior and labeled as sex offenders.

In its brochure for teenagers, one state's attorney general's office issues the following warning (bold in the original):

Even if you are a minor, if you have consensual sexual contact with someone under the age of 15, you can be charged with gross sexual imposition in juvenile court. If your case then is transferred to adult court, you will be treated as an adult sex offender and will be subject to the same penalties as an adult. The law does not make an exception for you because you are in love..."Second base" can get you arrested! Although it may seem harmless to you, you can be charged with a sex offense!...Even if your boyfriend or girlfriend wants to have sex with you, your friend's parents can still have you arrested if they find out.

In addition to behavior that is abusive, the brochure lists the following as crimes: consensual sexual contact, fondling, and fornication. It describes the following possible penalties: imprisonment of up to 20 years, fines of up to $10,000, registration as a sex offender, and notification to police when moving for the rest of one's life.

In two separate incidents in Wisconsin, both young teenagers in sexual relationships were recently charged with sexually assaulting each other.

  • According to police, a 14-year-old city of Pewaukee boy and a 13-year-old village of Pewaukee girl allegedly engaged in sexual activity in a residence...Police are seeking to charge both with second-degree sexual assault.
    --
    Lake Country Reporter

  • ...authorities say their prosecution is meant to help...The boy is being held in secure detention on a charge of attempted second-degree sexual assault...The girl pleaded guilty to fourth degree sexual assault.
    --
    Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Parents have a right to teach their children their moral values regarding sex, but police knowingly labeling non-violent mutually desired behavior as assault is dishonest and purposely misleading, and makes a mockery of true assault. Lying to the public about young people's behavior and treating them like criminals on the pretense of helping them can ruin lives, and has no place in a democracy.

  • Gorcyca had overreacted by bringing criminal charges for what amounted to consensual sex between promiscuous teenagers...all four defendants were notified they'd be registered as sex offenders...Justin Fawcett of West Bloomfield, was particularly devastated...Friday night, his parents found him dead of an apparent overdose...the criminalization of teenage promiscuity is destroying young lives. And if you're a parent, wake up. Because if you think this couldn't happen to your teenager, you've missed the whole point of Justin Fawcett's story.
    --Detroit Free Press

See also: “In Memory of Justin M. Fawcett,” Citizens for Second Chances

Inflated statistics

The U.S. Department of Justice relies on states to identify juvenile sex offenders, defining as “sexual assault” any sexual activity done “not forcibly or against that person's will where the victim is incapable of giving consent because of his/her youth.” Such definitions were originally intended to protect children and teenagers from exploitation by adults. However, they are now applied even when the supposed offender is too young to give consent. The Department notes that virtually all offenses by juveniles involve family members and acquaintances, confirming that many may be incidents of sex play among siblings or friends, or sexual activity within romantic relationships.6 So it is not surprising that statistics would seem to show that our society is being overwhelmed by violent, sex-crazed children and adolescents.

  • One expert writes that at least a half-million juveniles commit a hands-on sex crime every year.7

  • Another claims that 1 out of every 20 boys is or will be a child molester.1

  • Both the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Center for Sex Offender Management state that one-third to one-half of all child molestation is committed by children themselves.2,5

  • The U.S. Department of Justice finds that of all ages 7 - 60, the single age with the greatest number of offenders from the perspective of law enforcement was age 14. 6

No one doubts that coercive behavior should be prohibited, but one cannot know what fraction of these statistics involve non-coerced behavior. This may explain the confused attempts to understand juvenile offenders shown below, and why criminal sexual behavior seems most often to begin between ages 6 and 9:

O'Brien and Bera defined seven categories of juvenile sex offenders: naive experimenters, undersocialized child exploiters, sexual aggressives, sexual compulsives, disturbed impulsives, group influenced, and pseudosocialized. Graves suggested three typologies: pedophilic, sexual assault, and undifferentiated. Prentky et al. used six categories: child molesters, rapists, sexually reactive children, fondlers, paraphilic offenders, and unclassifiable. Weinrott suggested four general types: juvenile delinquents in general, those who have deviant arousal, those who are psychopathic offenders, and those who fit none of these categories...In a study of 127 children ages 6-12 who had evidenced sexual behavior problems, Pithers et al. identified five subtypes: sexually aggressive, nonsymptomatic, highly traumatized, abusive reactive, and rule breaker. Recent surveys suggest an increase in the rate of preadolescent children who evidence sexually abusive behaviors. Available studies have reported sexual aggression in children as young as 3 and 4; the most common age of onset appears to be between 6 and 9...Victims of preadolescents...typically were siblings, friends, or acquaintances.
--
U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice

A rational approach

All of this is not to imply that sexual aggression, indecency, or behavior among children of different ages is acceptable. However, labeling children as sexually deviant—essentially criminally ill—is not the best way to teach them proper behavior.

A better approach would seem to be for parents to teach their children proper sexual behavior in the same way they teach them proper non-sexual behavior—by conveying to them their values, explaining why socially inappropriate behavior offends others, and using appropriate discipline when necessary. Treatment should be sought only when behavior is truly violent or a sign of a scientifically established disorder.

Unfortunately, not only is this not the case, but an array of extreme, scientifically unsupported, and potentially damaging diagnostic and treatment methods are used that are disturbingly reminiscent of the approaches used with homosexuals 50 years ago.

Sexual Predator Insanity-Ricky's story

This is a thoughtful well written article about my friend Mary's son. Unfortunately Ricky's story is not an rare thing these days. Read more about Ricky here. Link

Sexual Predator Insanity

By Paul Elam | Aug 3, 2009

At sixteen, Ricky Blackman was fairly typical of teen-age boys. He loved sports, especially basketball and football, and played them well enough to have realistic hopes for a scholarship. He liked socializing and hanging out with his friends. And girls—of course there were always the girls.

His Middle American upbringing produced unsurprising ambitions. He dreamed of serving his country in the Navy after school, and ultimately of a career in law enforcement. He was, by all accounts, a healthy and well adjusted young man.

Skip ahead three years, and you’ll find Ricky and his life have changed radically. He takes private instruction in web design because he isn’t welcome on a campus. He no longer trusts the law he once wanted to serve, and, when in the presence of young women, he panics and withdraws. In fact, his life, once so full of promise and hope, is now little more than a daily struggle to survive, and a challenge to even find reasons for doing so.

While Ricky’s view of the world has changed since his younger days, it is nothing compared to the way the world’s view of Ricky has changed. He has become the ultimate pariah and outcast. He is, at least in the eyes of most, pernicious persona non grata; human refuse hardly worthy of life itself.

It all started before his seventeenth birthday. Ricky was at a local hang out for teens and met a girl there. Amanda was from his area, said she was fifteen years old and they seemed to have much in common. They began seeing each other, and eventually had sex on two occasions.

The encounters would undo the rest of his life.

Like many young people trying to impress someone they like, Amanda lied to Ricky about her age. She later told Ricky’s mother, Mary Duval, that she was only fourteen, and pled with her not to let Ricky know. Mary promptly told her son of the confession, and he cut off the romance immediately. They found out later that she still wasn’t being entirely honest.

Later Amanda, a runaway, became involved with the police, who discovered her prior ties with Ricky. She admitted the sexual relationship to the police during questioning. She also admitted that she had lied to Ricky about her age. After evaluating the situation, Amanda’s parents weren’t interested in pressing charges and the police weren’t interested in making an arrest. Until, that is, the Dallas County (Iowa) District Attorney’s office got wind of the case.

Shortly after Ricky turned seventeen, he was questioned by the police. His mother was present, and it was her instinct to remove Ricky from the interview. But she had just undergone surgery on her eyes and was disoriented due to the post-operative medications she was taking, so she allowed Ricky’s then-stepfather to handle things. Unfortunately, the stepfather wanted the matter quickly resolved, and signed a waiver for the police to question him without legal counsel.

The police had something they wanted Ricky to sign as well.

It was a simple statement that he had, in fact, had sexual relations with Amanda. Ricky was apprehensive, but he signed. It was, after all, the truth. And in Ricky’s world, the truth served an honest person well.

“Sorry to tell you,” the police officer told Ricky after he had signed the statement. “Amanda admitted she lied to you about her real age, but she was only thirteen.”

It probably wasn’t the tactics Ricky envisioned, when he thought of becoming a police officer: Get a kid to sign a confession, and then tell him what he just confessed to. Ricky’s naiveté took a hard blow. But it was only the first of many times that the real world would land on him like a Mack Truck.

The officer told him that the case would be sent back to the D.A., and that it might come to nothing since Amanda had confessed to lying about her age. He also advised him, in a rare moment of clarity and honesty from the system, that it could go either way.

The Arrest Made the Papers

Ten days later, Ricky was handcuffed in front of his friends and taken to jail. He was charged as an adult with two counts of third degree sexual abuse, a felony. In an almost artistic manipulation of timing and the system, police and prosecutors used laws applying only to juveniles to garner evidence and a confession, and then used it all to charge him criminally as an adult.

He was threatened with twenty years in prison (more time than he’d yet been alive), but that was only the beginning of a two-pronged assault on his life. When the arrest made the papers, complete with Ricky’s full name, address, and the nature of the charges against him, the community in which he had lived and thrived turned on him in an instant.

When Ricky and Mary went food shopping, cashiers in one line at a local grocery store refused to check them out, forcing them to go to another line while other customers glared. His younger brother, who was nine at the time, was badgered and humiliated at school.

Duval read the writing on the wall, and immediately made plans to take Ricky and his brother to Oklahoma in hopes that they could put the matter behind them. Unfortunately, the move would have to wait until the Dallas County Prosecutor’s Office was done with him.

That process began with a rare, upbeat moment that seemed to promise a partial reprieve. The prosecution offered a deal with Ricky that almost seemed reasonable, given the circumstances. He would plead guilty to one count of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child, a class D felony, which would be expunged from the records if he satisfied the terms of his two-year probation. He would not have to state a felony on job applications, and, because of the adjudication, he would not be placed on a sex offenders’ registry.

It seemed like the best offer possible, all things considered, and Ricky agreed to the plea.

Ricky and his mother took their seats in the courtroom. Then, just minutes before the hearing was scheduled to begin, the state appointed attorney advised them that there had been a recent change in Iowa law.

Any plea arrangement Ricky made would be contingent on being placed on a sex abuser registry for ten years. Both Ricky and his mother erupted in tears at the news, causing a commotion in the courtroom. It took some time for them to compose themselves.

The “recent” change in the statute had happened, they would discover, nearly a year earlier, but right now, Ricky had just moments to decide whether or not to take the deal.

He didn’t want to be placed on the registry. He didn’t think it was right. But to fight it was risking two decades behind bars; a place where young men, especially those not hardened by criminal life, were sure to find out what real sexual deviance and assault are all about.

It was a double blow for Duval, who had lost her eyesight entirely, just five weeks before the hearing. Now she could lose her son.

Ricky took the deal, but almost ran into another snag with the court. The prosecution wanted Ricky to state on the record that he had lured the girl to his home for the purpose of having sex. The request was clear. In essence they wanted Ricky to commit perjury, a real crime, so they could have on the record a phony allocution to something he never did. Blackman, with courage almost unimaginable for his age and the circumstances, refused. He told the court that the sex was what they both wanted, and he wouldn‘t make a statement to the contrary.

They entered his statement into the record and closed the case. Ricky had received the adjudication, and they were now free to move away from Iowa.

It was something Ricky couldn’t wait to do. The promise of getting away and making a fresh start almost made the situation bearable.

A Fresh Start

The state of Oklahoma, and some of its citizens, had other plans.

They’d had no idea when they moved, but Oklahoma law required Ricky to register as a sexual offender for life. And because of the age difference between him and Amanda, he would be listed as a Level Three Offender, which labels him as violent and dangerous, and his crime as “aggravated.” He was placed on the sexual offender registry, and, as a result, Ricky’s life has been affected in ways that most of us cannot imagine.

Since moving to Oklahoma he has been kicked out of school, ousted from public parks, and verbally abused by neighbors and strangers. One neighbor shouted obscenities and videotaped him whenever he stepped outside his door. The same man came to their home and told Mary Duval he would not quit bothering them till she took her “child rapist” away. He was not interested in the facts surrounding Ricky’s case. He had seen everything he needed to know about Ricky Blackman on the “Offender Registry.”

Ricky cannot live or go within 2,000 feet of schools, parks or any other establishments where children are known to be present, and this forces him to live as far from town as possible. It also means he cannot attend his younger brother’s football games, or go almost anywhere where he could make and maintain friendships. He cannot even attend church unless he informs the clergy there that he is a sex offender and gets their permission.

Now that Ricky is off probation, his younger brother can have his friends in the home while Ricky is there. But most parents don’t want their children in a home with a registered sex offender. And the reality is that children around Ricky do present a dangerous vulnerability… for Ricky. Any allegation against him, even the most patently false, could have disastrous results.

His probation officer had him dismissed from the school system, saying, according to Duval, “He is a liability to them.” He was denied G.E.D classes because they were offered on a school campus, and the State Board of Education denied him online classes because he was on the registry.

Ricky was eventually allowed to take G.E.D. classes, at a local police station.

He now lives his life in near solitude, helping to take care of his mother and trying to sort out how he is going to make something of the rest of his life. He had a job in a fabrication plant, but was “laid off” when his employers discovered his history. Effectively in prison, Ricky will remain that way for the rest of his life unless something changes.

Ricky and his mother are both involved in trying to effect those changes. They have both taken the story public, and Duval has an on-line radio program to raise awareness of what the registry actually does. She has managed to get the story covered by some television stations and newspapers. She also has an internet petition demanding changes in the laws. Primary among those demands is that the states recognize the difference between sexual predation and consensual sex between teens.

In many places, including Oklahoma, the law sees no such difference, and consequently makes no legal distinction between someone who lures a child into a car and rapes them and someone like Ricky Blackman.

The Court Knew Better

It was a difference, however, that the prosecution in his case was apparently able to see, even as they held twenty years in prison over the young man’s head in order to coerce a guilty plea. It was the prosecution that recommended to the court that Blackman receive two years probation with deferred adjudication. In that recommendation, they advised the court that this course of action would be sufficient to rehabilitate the defendant.

One only need consult a mental health professional with experience dealing with sexual offenders to learn that the nearly universal perception is that recidivism for sexual offenders is high. In my considerable time in the field, it was the general consensus of clinicians that predators were untreatable, and that incarceration was the best option. (There is research that disputes all this, but in Blackman’s case, it was always perceptions that guided events, not reality.)

That being said, prosecutors are generally less generous than psychotherapists. With their recommendation to the court, the prosecution openly acceded to what everyone else in that courtroom already knew.

Ricky Blackman was not a sexual predator.

Ricky Blackman was just a kid that had sex with a girlfriend he thought was a year younger than him.

Ricky Blackman had no business being there in the first place.

At this point, though, it was too late. Blackman was caught up in a system largely devised by politicians clamoring to quell public fears about the safety of children. Fanning the flames of public outrage, and sometimes lighting them, lawmakers run for office against each other on platforms largely consisting of “tough on crime” one-upmanship. One ever more draconian measure after another is offered up as a sales pitch to a panic-ridden, woefully ignorant public that will sign on to whatever sounds the most extreme.

The result is laws that not only fail to protect our children, but in the case of Blackman and others, have actually started destroying them. Elected politicians, like prosecutors and judges, fearful of being seen as soft on crime, force people like Ricky through the legal gauntlet without compunction. They have become robotic assassins, creating unthinkable collateral damage in a war that is supposedly being waged in the public’s best interest.

Meanwhile, children are no safer on the streets than they have ever been.

His Whole Life in Front of Him

It is perhaps fitting to point to the silver linings in this story. Duval, the loss of her sight notwithstanding, has emerged as a dogged and tireless advocate for her son, and for bringing problems with the sexual offenders registry to the public’s attention.

Ricky has found some focus for the future as well, though it took some hits and misses. He wanted to get a law degree and work to change the system for the better, but he won’t be allowed to practice law anywhere, because of the registry. Now he takes private lessons in web design, a profession suited for someone who has little reason to leave the house. He also wants to reach out to young people and caution them about the hazards and consequences of teen sex. The jury remains out on whether that can ever happen.

These are thin consolations, lending neither redemption nor solace. Even if Mary Duval had not lost her eyesight, she would never again see the Ricky she knew before all this happened. Her life is, and will be, consumed with trying to find justice for her son. She openly admits this may never happen.

Ricky, at nineteen, is supposed to have his whole life in front of him. When he should be looking forward to the time he will marry and have children of his own, his path looks to be marked by a single set of footprints. His ideas on women are not what they used to be.

“I don’t trust them,” he says. “When I see one looking at me I just walk away.”

Still, he is a young man with a message, albeit forged in the fires of adversity. It is a message that assaults the complacency in which we all too often and too easily find comfort.

“Anybody who looks at the registry should not judge people just for being there,” he says, “There are lots of people that don’t belong. People like me. There are even people that had to pee so bad they went outside and the next thing you know someone takes a picture with a cell phone and they end up on the registry too.”

Right alongside the child rapists.

Little at this point would ameliorate the damage done to this family. The Kafkaesque tempest that overtook them three years ago still darkens every horizon and pummels the simplicity out of life that they used to take for granted. It rattles their doors and windows, as though trying to shake loose the last of their dignity. And it has swept away hope for the future, leaving behind only the solemn, desperate need for peace.

We love to think that justice is blind. But we also pray that those who administer that justice are people of vision. When systems become so twisted that the letter of the law strangles its spirit, then justice cannot exist. It will die as surely as the dreams of a teen-age boy when the world caves in around him.

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Mary Duval has an online petition in Ricky’s behalf. Petition

Paul Elam is the editor of A Voice for Men

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Army National Guard Advertises for “Internment Specialists”

I came across this on SOSEN (http://sosen.us to join the forum), makes you wonder who and why they are planning on detaining American citizen's? I have been fearing this step for awhile, it makes sense that unless we find a way to fight back that our own Government will decide the only way to truly protect the children will be to place all RFSOs in camps away from the rest of society, since we all know how dangerous RFSOs are (please note that is me being extremely sarcastic!).


Army National Guard Advertises for “Internment Specialists”

Kurt Nimmo
Infowars
July 31, 2009

Doubt the government plans to impose martial law and round up dissidents and other malcontents? Well, the Army National Guard is advertising for qualified personnel to work as Corrections Officers and Internment/Resettlement Specialists.

“Avenge me, boys!” Fiction becomes fact. In the film Red Dawn, Harry Dean Stanton is put in a communist re-education camp.

featured stories   Army National Guard Advertises for Internment Specialists
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“As an Internment/Resettlement Specialist for the Army National Guard, you will ensure the smooth running of military confinement/correctional facility or detention/internment facility, similar to those duties conducted by civilian Corrections Officers,” a classified ad posted on the web states. “This will require you to know proper procedures and military law; and have the ability to think quickly in high-stress situations. Specific duties may include assisting with supervision and management operations; providing facility security; providing custody, control, supervision, and escort; and counseling individual prisoners in rehabilitative programs.”

The term “rehabilitative programs” is key. Glenn Beck and the corporate media may attempt to discredit the fact there are FEMA camps, but military documents demonstrate the government plans to herd people into internment camps. Army Regulation 210-35, entitled “Civilian Inmate Labor Program,” provides “guidance for establishing and managing civilian inmate labor programs on Army installations. It provides guidance on establishing prison camps on Army installations.”

In Mao’s China, the government established a sprawling system of administrative detention centers — known as Laogai — designed to reeducate dissidents and other social misfits through forced slave labor. In the Soviet Union under Stalin, a network of gulags — a Russian acronym for The Chief Administration of Corrective Labor Camps and Colonies — were established, primarily for political prisoners and as a mechanism for repressing political opposition to the Soviet state.

Rex 84 was created in the United States for basically the same reason. “The Rex-84 Alpha Explan (Readiness Exercise 1984, Exercise Plan; otherwise known as a continuity of government plan), indicates that FEMA in association with 34 other federal civil departments and agencies, along with other NATO nations, conducted a civil readiness exercise during April 5-13, 1984. It was conducted in coordination and simultaneously with a Joint Chiefs exercise, Night Train 84, a worldwide military command post exercise (including Continental U.S. Forces or CONUS) based on multi-emergency scenarios operating both abroad and at home. In the combined exercise, Rex-84 Bravo, FEMA and DOD led the other federal agencies and departments, including the Central Intelligence Agency, the Secret Service, the Treasury, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Veterans Administration through a gaming exercise to test military assistance in civil defense,” writes Diana Reynolds. “The exercise anticipated civil disturbances, major demonstrations and strikes that would affect continuity of government and/or resource mobilization. To fight subversive activities, there was authorization for the military to implement government ordered movements of civilian populations at state and regional levels, the arrest of certain unidentified segments of the population, and the imposition of martial law.”

Rex 84 falls under master military contingency plan, Operation Garden Plot, allegedly developed in response to the civil disorders of the 1960s and now under the control of the U.S. Northern Command. Garden Plot was last activated as Noble Eagle following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Under National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive (National Security Presidential Directive NSPD 51/Homeland Security Presidential Directive HSPD-20, or called simply “Executive Directive 51″ for short), signed by George W. Bush on May 4, 2007, the government has the authority to declare a national emergency and impose martial law. NSPD 51 grants extraordinary police state powers to the White House and Homeland Security, presumably including detention of a large number of people as established under Rex 84 and other military programs.

On July 30, CNN reported that the U.S. military is gearing up to get involved in the H1N1 swine flu outbreak promised to strike later this year. “The U.S. military wants to establish regional teams of military personnel to assist civilian authorities in the event of a significant outbreak of the H1N1 virus this fall, according to Defense Department officials,” a proposal that is currently on the desk of Sec. Def. Robert Gates, according to CNN. “As a first step, Gates is being asked to sign a so-called ‘execution order’ that would authorize the military to begin to conduct the detailed planning to execute the proposed plan.”

It looks like the Army National Guard is gearing up to staff camps and “execute the proposed plan” of forcibly vaccinating the public and rounding up and hauling off those who refuse to be injected with a soft kill eugenics weapon as dangerous enemies of the state who need to be interned in forced labor and re-education camps.