Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Another year of changes

What is it that keeps my away from making my comments here? Part of it is just that my life has been so busy the last year that commenting about the sad state of sex offender laws in this country has been the farthest thing from my mind.

Well, it came back to the forefront recently with the AG creating his guidelines for AWA. Guidelines that basically do nothing except to say to the states "If you're thinking of being reasonable about your sex offender laws, here's the minimum you have to follow". Well, those 'minimums' are pretty unreasonable in themselves, and it certainly does nothing to help tone down those states and counties that have decided that the best bet is to set up laws that effectively banish sex offenders.

Because, let's face it, that's the ultimate goal of these laws, to do away with the sex offenders so there's never a chance they can offend again. The problem is that the states and counties just can't come out and say that, since that would certainly be ruled unconstitutional, but perhaps we can creep up on it and slide under the radar. Pass one law, then adjust it and amend it, then adjust it again. Pass another that adds to it. And so on, and so on. Before long, you've got what you want, sex offenders can't find housing anywhere and the disappear. Or live the only place they can, say under a bridge.

Can't happen you say? Then you obviously haven't been reading the papers and paying attention to the situation in Florida, where several sex offenders are now living under a bridge, with the full knowledge and cooperation of the parole office, because they can't find any where to live.

Astute readers will have noticed something that many of you might have missed. Notice that i used the word 'disappear' several paragraphs ago. That was a very specifically chosen word. In light of the situation most people would think that the sex offenders would simply leave. Go somewhere else. Move. Those aren't the terms that I used, becuase the more appropriate term is disappear. Those sex offenders who are so downtrodden, so beaten on, and so despondent about their situation won't bother leaving. They won't go away. They'll simply quit registering. After all, they can't live anywhere, so why tell anyone where they actually are.

If you don't think it happens, examine the situation in Iowa, where residency laws have been in effect the longest. Police departments across the states are asking for the repeal of those laws now. Why? Becuase registration compliance has dropped from something like 95% to a dismal 50% or so as the offenders take the only option left to them, to disappear.

Which would you prefer, to know where the sex offenders are living, or to have no idea where they are because they've quit registering. They might be living right next door and you wouldn't know. Those new people that moved in down the street, he might be a sex offender and you wouldn't even know it.

Of course, there is one thing in all this to keep in mind. Of the sex convictions being prosecuted today, less than 5% of them involve someone with a previous conviction. So those people that moved in down the street could still be sex offenders, but you still wouldn't know it if you checked the registry anyway.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The witch hunt begins

So, with Phil Angelides throwing in his support for Jessica's Law it looks like the witch hunt is really starting to pick up steam here in California. First we whip up some real hysteria about sex offenders, convincing everyone that "it's only a matter of time before they strike again" and "we have to do something to protect our children".

Sure, you as parents have to do something to protect your children. Be parents. Know where you children are and what they are doing. Make sure they know right from wrong. Make sure they know what to do if something do happen. Most of all, make sure that they aren't afraid to talk to you, tell you something is wrong, and make sure to listen to them.

People say that children don't lie. In most cases that's probably true, but there is one known reason that children will, and that's to get attention. Regardless of whether it's good or bad attention, if they aren't getting what they need, like anyone they will do whatever it takes, including lying. If you as parents are listening to your children, understanding what they are saying, and paying attention to them then you have gone a long way towards protecting them.

Needless to say I wandered off the subject and that's certainly not meant to be read as blame for any parent or excusing any sex offender. Like anyone else, I firmly believe that anyone who commits a sex crime against a child or anyone needs to be dealt with. It certainly applied to me.

But the problem that I see is that people are not looking at sane and reasonable measures to deal with the problem. Restricting sex offenders from living within any range of anything just doesn't make sense. All you're doing is driving them elsewhere or underground, and speaking of driving, do you think they don't have a car? How far away are you going to send them so they can't get in a car and drive there? To the moon, perhaps?

There are some aspects of Jessica's Law that make some sense, and could be effectively applied, but the problem is that it paints everyone with too broad a brush. Reading through the law it's apparent the authors have a fixation that basically reads "sex offender = predator". The law directly reads that it applies to sex offenders, but consistently refers to them as predators. Has the definition of predator changed lately and I didn't hear about it?

Oh, but there's one of the problems here in California. The term "sex offender" is applied to anyone who commits a fairly broad group of crimes. The pedophile who snatches a kid off the street is a sex offender. The father who molests his daughter is a sex offender. The man peeping in the window of the woman down the street is a sex offender. The teacher who has sex with her student is a sex offender too. The man who visits a porno website and then discovers it's got child porn is also a sex offender. The 18 year old who has sex with his 16 year old girlfriend is a sex offender. The man who's had too much to drink and winds up peeing behind a tree? Yep, he's a sex offender too. How abut the proud mommy who shows off pictures of her baby naked on the floor. Sounds strange, but that could be classified as chiild porn and she'd be a sex offender too.

So, as you can see, the brush is too broad. These laws would apply to everyone, regardless of just what their crime was, or how long ago it happened, or whether there was actually even a victim involved. Do take note of the fact I'm not arguing against many of the provisions that have been included in Jessica's Law, only a few of them. The people of California certainly have a right to enact laws that they feel will make them safer, and the stiffer penalties for sex crimes in general and the significant changes for repeat offenses should do that.

For those that have been caught.

Because let's face it, not every sex offender has been caught. Around 90% of the new sex offenses committed in the country are by first time offenders (well, actually people who haven't been caught yet, they may have committed multiple offenses, but that's just semantics). Just because of fear and hysteria don't punish people who are trying to put their life back together. Don't ban the person who made a mistake from living where he's been for 10 or 20 years. Becuse that's really the worst part of this law, the part that doesn't make sense, the part that simply isn't sane because it only punishes those who are trying to stay honest now.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Hard to believe it's been over a year

Well, hard to believe that it's been over a year since I started this. Lack of news? No, there's been plenty of that. Lack of interest? Can't hardly say that either, since there's always something new going on that has the potential to affect my life. How about lack of time? That's very possibly a real good reason for part of that time, since work seems to keep me really busy.

Some people who have come across this lately have probably wondered what's happened with my life lately. Strangely enough, very little. After the initial flurry of excitement and worry with the internet publication of the Megan's Law database, there's been nothing else. I haven't had neighbors storming my front yard, I haven't had signs posted anywhere, I haven't even heard a peep from anyone about it.

So you'd think my anxiety would have settled down and I would be living a more normal life now. Well, you'd be wrong. It seems that California politicians have decided to jump on the bandwagon with so many other states in the country and establish exclusion zones for sex offender. I guess the thought is "since we can't keep them under lock and key, let's tell them there are places they can't be".

Let's face it, all this does is hurt those RSO's who are trying to put their life back together and live a quiet, peaceful life. Do you really think that this law is going to have an impact on anyone who might already have criminal intent in mind? "Ohh, I want to molest that child, but since I can't go in the park maybe I'd better not." Somehow I don't think that comment is ever going to cross the mind of any sex offender who's willing to commit another crime.

Of course, you can look at the other side. "Gee, I'd like to go to the park and play with my kids, but since they passed that law I can't even get near there."

Or how about this one "I've owned my home and lived here for 15 years, but now they're going to tell me that I have to move because now I'm too close to a school."

Both thoughts from honest, currently law-abiding EX-offenders that are now going to be dinged because of the hysteria of the masses that has been so effectively drummed up from the media and politicians. Let's face it, most people just simply react to what they hear and accept what they are told by the media, and what the media is saying right now is that RSO's are the scum of the earth, they have the highest recidivism rate of any criminal, and they are simply a time-bomb waiting to go off. The people never stop to think for themselves and realize the truth. Never stop to think that if what the media are currently saying is true there wouldn't be a boy or girl under 14 who hasn't been molested at least once. They never stop to think that if the recidivism rate was really as high as they say there would be hundreds arrested every day, and the press would be screaming that fact to prove there's an even bigger problem.

Most RSO's are simply people who have made a mistake in the past, done something they sincerely regret now, and are simply trying to get through life. Certainly there's some that should be locked up and the key thrown away, but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. The real truth, what the general media doesn't want you to find out, is that the recidivism rate for RSO's is the second lowest for all criminal categories, at around 5 to 7 percent over the first five years.

But you shouldn't take my word for it, any more than you should listen to the media. Read the reports from the Department of Justice. Look at the studies that have been done. Find out the truth about just how evil these RSO's really are before you make a rush to judgment.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

What has this country become?

With the arrest and confession of John Couey the people of Florida have been having fits trying to figure out what to do about the RSOs in the state. Years ago this would be a sad case of a career criminal kidnapping a child and murdering her. There might have been mention of his previous sex crime, but there would have been a huge outcry about his other criminal acts and how he probably should have been kept in prison becuase of them.

Now all you hear is that he's a sex offender. Because he's committed a sex offense in the past, and now he's committed another, that just proves that all of them will eventually. There's no mention of his extensive criminal past, how he's already proved he's some sort of psychopath, just that he's a sex offender and now we have to make sure this never happens again.

The real question is: How are you going to do that? Obviously registration laws aren't working, since Couey was registered, although not actually at the address he was registered with.

So what's the next step?

Floridians are all up in arms now saying that we have to keep better track or registered sex offenders, and their best idea is to make all of them wear GPS bracelets so they will know where they are all the time.

Great idea. One problem with it. How do we know where the kids are all the time? Florida, you need to consider what are you going to do next time this happens. When some registered sex offender wearing a GPS bracelet kidnaps and kills a kid. When the real proof hits you smack up the side of the head and shows you that regardless of any steps you take, it will happen again.

So, what's the next step? Round up all the sex offenders and ship them off to a camp? Keep them all in chains twenty-four hours a day? Or maybe we should just go ahead and kill them, since everyone knows they're going to offend again.

Registration laws obviously aren't working, GPS bracelets aren't going to work either, and any further measures taken to find a solution are going to run into other problems. Because there is one thing you have to remember, even though they have committed a crime and paid their dues, they are still citizens of the United States. They are still supposed to be afforded the protections of the constitution, and if anyone decides that there's a problem with that then there's only one final solution.

Throw the Constitution of the United States into the trash heap of history and burn it, becuase we're in the process of becoming the People's Republic of Amerika.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

What a SuperBowl party

I had to hurt a child Sunday night.

Pretty scary statement, isn’t it? Especially coming from a sex offender, when you can picture all sorts of things that could be possible about that statement.

So, what did I do that was so wrong? What could have possibly been so bad that I had a 10-year-old girl crying and my wife having to comfort her? How could my life have gotten so screwed up?

What did I do? I had to ignore her. I had to pretend that she wasn’t there. I had to sit on the other side of the room and do nothing. Yeah, how could my life have gotten so screwed up.

Some background to explain. Denise’s mother Debbie is part of the family, she's the stepsister of my wife’s sister-in-law Tamara, so we tend to cross paths at times. She went through some hard times several years ago and two of her kids wound up actually living with Tamara and Randy for a while. Was quite a bit to be dumped on them all of a sudden, so my wife and I would take the girls for a few hours sometimes so they could have a break.

Well, in the process Denise became very attached to her "Uncle". It should have been expected, every time she saw us we were taking them out to do something fun and having a good time. She was at that very impressionable age and just enjoyed it so much because we made her feel special. Once she was living back with her mother we would still see her at times and it was clear that I was still her favorite uncle.

So, here’s the problem. Debbie is the one who told the rest of the family about the fact that I was included in the Megan’s Law database. Don’t know just how it came about, don’t really care at the moment, it just happened. In the long run it’s probably a good thing it came out, but the jury is still out in some ways.

We were at a SuperBowl party at Randy and Tamara’s and Debbie and the kids showed up. What the hell was I supposed to do. It’s been less than a week since everything came out in the open, and I don’t have a clue how Debbie is going to react to anything I do. I was frozen, afraid to do anything for fear that it would now be taken the wrong way. I couldn’t be myself, but I couldn’t be anybody else either and it was an extremely uncomfortable situation. Fortunately the game was pretty much over by the time they got there, and once it was done the party was breaking up, so my wife and I took the opportunity to pack our things up and leave.

I took some stuff out to the car and as I walked back in I saw my wife standing there holding Denise, and she was crying. I had a few suspicions as to what the problem was, but there was no way that I was going to go into it there. I went back into the house, got the rest of our things, said goodbye to everyone (including Denise, who was now back in the house) and left. Once we were in the car I asked my wife what was going on and why Denise, was crying. She told me that she was upset because her uncle was ignoring her.

That hurt. I never want to hurt a child, but I didn’t have a choice. How is her mother going to react? How might something I do be taken? And what would the reaction of others be based on the stories that are told?

I have no choice anymore. The publication of the Megan’s Law database has left me in a position where I have to build walls that are going to hurt some people. This was a law that is supposed to protect, but all it’s done around me so far is hurt people. Sounds like a great idea so far.

(Obviously names have been changed to protect those I don't want to hurt)

Saturday, February 05, 2005

How should I start this

When California's Megan's Law database made it's debut on the internet just before Christmas of last year, I'm sure that a lot of people were thinking "It's about time this information was made easily available."

Not me. My concern was twofold, how was this going to affect me and what was it going to do to my family.

Obviously from those statement I'm sex offender located in California. One of those "child molesters" that most people seem to think should be kept locked up and away from society. They're dangerous, and as long as they're out on the streets our children won't be safe, and the more we know about who they are and where they are the better off we are.

Needless to say, with the general public holding that image I could only see bad things coming, not only for myself but for thousands of others who are caught in this nightmare called Megan's Law.

I'm not that sex offender that most people think of. I have a job that I go to five days a week. I come home after work, kiss my wife, help fix dinner, wash the dishes, and sit and watch television. Of course, there are also times I'm on the computer. Never a thought of sex. Never a thought of going out and grabbing some kid off the street just to have some fun. Never a thought about hiding in some dark alley waiting for a pretty young girl to walk by.

But then again, most of California's registered sex offenders aren't like that either. I probably had it better than most, since I had a career that I could come back to after I served my time. But like 97 percent of the registered sx offenders in California, all I was really looking for was to put my life back together, move on, and make sure that I never made another stupid mistake like the one that cost me two years of freedom, my first marriage, and any chance of being part of my children's life.

In the 15 years since that mistake I've done a good job of putting it behind me and building a new life. I'm remarried, and while my wife knows my past, nobody else in her family does (or did.. but more on that later). I've built a business and depend on the good will of my customers to keep it going, I pay my taxes, go to church, and try to be a normal person.

Why do I do these things? Because I'm not the person that committed those crimes so many years before. Years of therapy and analysis showed me where my problems were, why they expressed themselves the way they did, and what to do to prevent it from happening again, and I'm comfortable knowing that it's a part of my life that's well behind me.

Now California comes up with a brilliant idea. Let's make all those perverted sex offenders out there have to think all over again about what they did, since we'll make the information available to everyone they know. Gee, thanks.

So, how's my life been since this came on-line? Not great, I can tell you that. I live each day in fear of who's going to find out next. What's going to come crashing down around my ears because of something long ago in my past. How much of my life am I going to lose even though it's totally unrelated to what I did in the past.

Let's face it, people don't react well when they find out that you're a sex offender. Even when the events happened many years in the past and you've shown by what you've done recently that you're just a normal guy trying to get by. The current meme in society today is that sex offenders are perverts and their only interest is in having sex, either with kids or by force if necessary. People fail to realize that most of them are normal, everyday people who have made a mistake, paid the price, and are simply trying to return to society. And are now finding that society is turning on them.

So, what has this cost me so far? Keep in mind that it's only been just over a month now, and so far my wife and I have lost the friendship of some very dear friends after they found out. They simply couldn't handle it and decided they could no longer be friends with us even though we've had many evenings of good fun with them.

My wife's family has found out, and there was a long, heart-wrenching evening where thier biggest concern was whether my wife knew and whether there was anything they needed to be concerned about. They are fortunately very supportive, although I think it's tempered because they've known me for almost all of those 15 years. And yes, my wife knew about it from the beginning. I had made a decision that if I was going into a relationship with someone that I needed to be honest and they needed to know.

I'm still waiting for the rest of the hammers to fall. There's no telling from which corner it will come, no telling just who will be the next bearer of bad news. I can't decide if it's good or bad as the days go by. More time for people to find out, or more time for people to not think about it and ignore it.

And it's something that should be ignored. Why? Not becuase you don't want your children to be safe, but you need to be aware of the facts. Close to 90% of the known sex offenses are committed by someone known to the victim. Convicted sex offenders have one of the lowest repeat offense rates of any category of crime. And, on top of all this, you have to remember that not all sex offenders have already been caught.

So, who should you be looking out for? Your neighbor, that cousin that comes to visit, the uncle who seems so normal, even the person you might be dating. Anybody that you come into contact with has the potential to be a sex offender. There's no outward signs and no way to know the real truth.

That doesn't mean you have to live you life in fear, just live you life aware. Know what's going on around you. Be especially aware of your children and any changes that may be taking place. It's important for you to be a parent, not just a protector. Make sure your children grow up confident and sure of themselves, willing to tell you anything that might be troubling them. Make sure they know how to say no, and make sure they know what to do if someone ignores then when they say no. And most important, make sure they know that it's not their fault and they are not going to be blamed for telling you something that happens.

As for the people included on the Megan's Law list, they're the least of your worries. They've been caught, done their time, and most just want to move on.