April 11, 2007
Teenage Inmate Sexual Abuse Case Ignored for 2 Years
From NPR.com: A grand jury indicts two former employees of the Texas Youth Commission. They're accused of sexually abusing teenage inmates. A Texas Ranger's report on the case two years ago was ignored at the time. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
April 08, 2007
Florida Places Sex offenders Under the Bridge
From CNN.com: The Florida Department of Corrections says there are fewer and fewer places in Miami-Dade County where sex offenders can live because the county has some of the strongest restrictions against this kind of criminal in the country.
Florida's solution: house the convicted felons under a bridge that forms one part of the causeway.
The Julia Tuttle Causeway, which links Miami to Miami Beach, offers no running water, no electricity and little protection from nasty weather. It's not an ideal solution, Department of Corrections Officials told CNN, but at least the state knows where the sex offenders are.
Nearly every day a state probation officer makes a predawn visit to the causeway. Those visits are part of the terms of the offenders' probation which mandates that they occupy a residence from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
But what if a sex offender can't find a place to live?
That is increasingly the case, say state officials, after several Florida cities enacted laws that prohibit convicted sexual offenders from living within 2,500 feet of schools, parks and other places where children might gather. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
February 22, 2007
South Korean Men Shop for Spouses Outside of the Country
From NYTimes.com: More and more South Korean men are finding wives outside of South Korea, where a surplus of bachelors, a lack of marriageable Korean partners and the rising social status of women have combined to shrink the domestic market for the marriage-minded male. Bachelors in China, India and other Asian nations, where the traditional preference for sons has created a disproportionate number of men now fighting over a smaller pool of women, are facing the same problem.
The rising status of women in the United States sent American men who were searching for more traditional wives to Russia in the 1990s. But the United States’ more balanced population has not led to the shortage of potential brides and the thriving international marriage industry found in South Korea.
Now, that industry is seizing on an increasingly globalized marriage market and sending comparatively affluent Korean bachelors searching for brides in the poorer corners of China and Southeast and Central Asia. The marriage tours are fueling an explosive growth in marriages to foreigners in South Korea, a country whose ethnic homogeneity lies at the core of its self-identity.
In 2005, marriages to foreigners accounted for 14 percent of all marriages in South Korea, up from 4 percent in 2000.
South Korean news organizations have reported that many of the foreign brides were initially lied to by their husbands, and suffered isolation and sometimes abuse in South Korea. Partly in response, the Ministry of Health and Welfare is now moving to regulate the international marriage industry, which emerged so suddenly that the Consumer Protection Board can only estimate that there are 2,000 to 3,000 such agencies nationwide. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
February 19, 2007
Study Shows that many Sexually Abused Children Later Deny the Abuse
More than 20 percent of sexually abused children who disclose abuse, later deny the allegations, according to a study by researchers at USC Gould School of Law and the University of California-Irvine; such as USC Psych and CrimProf Thomas Lyon.
The study, published in the February issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, found that denials were especially likely among younger children, children abused by someone living in the home, and children whose mothers were unsupportive.
“The results suggest that sexually abused children are highly vulnerable to various pressures to deny their abuse, particularly when those pressures come from people close to them” said Thomas Lyon, a professor of law and psychology at USC who co-authored the study.
The study, which looked at a large group of Los Angeles juvenile court cases, is among the first to look at recantations among children who are sexually abused.
“Some researchers have begun to question the assumption made by clinicians and others who work with sexually abused children that children are reluctant to disclose abuse,” said Lyon. “This study supports the classical view - even when children overcome barriers to disclosure, they are still susceptible to pressures.”
The researchers did not find any evidence to support the belief that retraction is a sign that the original allegations were false. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
January 22, 2007
Anti-Cruising Laws Aim to Drive away Wandering Cars
Cruisin' town is about to get a little tougher in Binghamton, NY if City Councilman Pat Russo's anti-cruising legislation passes. Three years ago, Russo counted 22 times as the same vehicle passed his Pine Street porch. Prompted by wandering vehicles that he said frequent his downtown neighborhood, Russo has asked the city attorney to draft "anti-cruising" legislation that would prohibit cars from cruising in designated areas at certain times. Under Russo's envisioned law, vehicles that pass by a specific sign more than three times in a three-hour period could be stopped, questioned and fined. "This gives a police officer an opportunity to stop people looking for drugs, looking for prostitutes," Russo said. "I guarantee you'll get 10 guys in one night."
Similar laws have passed legal challenges in other municipalities. In York, Pennsylvania a community of about 40,000 people in southern Pennsylvania, a no-cruising law withstood a legal challenge in the late 1980s, when the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the city. Longmont, Colorado, a city of about 80,000 people north of Denver, passed an anti-cruising law in the summer of 2006 after persistent problems with gang-related cruising. The Longmont law provides exceptions for emergency, government and livery vehicles, as well as drivers who have "legitimate business activities" or are headed to and from a religious service. Milwaukee, Wisconsin has one too; you can read about it in the "Frequently Forgotten Ordinances" link of the city's webpage.
Binghamton Police Chief Steven Tronovitch mentioned that police officers in his department have the authority to stop vehicles for questioning and ask them what they're doing in the area without an anti-cruising law. "Sometimes that could escalate into something that is probable cause," he said. But he welcomes any legislation that makes his officers' jobs easier. Full Story from PressConnects.com. . .
That last part sounds a little questionable if you ask me; what does he do when he pulls over a car just to question its passengers and they blow him off because they think they're free to leave? Does he arrest them for "fleeing"? [Michele Berry]
January 17, 2007
Texas Legislators Consider Death Penalty for Repeat Sex Offenders of Children
Does Texas need to be any tougher on crime? Well, some Texas lawmakers are considering it by proposing new laws allowing capital punishment for repeat sex offenders. Other proposals include mandatory long sentences for first-time offenders or eliminating probation. But the laws face fierce opposition from all sides, including prosecutors and victims advocates. They fear some of the proposals would make it harder to get convictions and, perhaps, put children in even more danger by giving molesters incentive to kill the only potential witness to their crimes..."If the punishment for raping a child and raping and killing are exactly the same the rapist may kill so that witness is no longer there,'' says one crime victim advocate.
And there's the BIG question of whether the death penalty in sex offenses is even constitutional. In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court in Coker v. Georgia, 433 U.S. 584, reversed a death sentence for a Georgia man convicted of raping a woman, calling it an "excessive penalty for the rapist, who as such, does not take human life.'' Even so, according to the Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center, a handful of states--Florida, Montana, Louisiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina--have already passed new death penalty laws for sex offenses against children. No one has been executed under the laws, but one Louisiana inmate is on death row for the 2003 rape of an 8-year-old girl. That case is still being reviewed by state and federal appeals courts. Because Coker involved an adult victim, proponents of the death penalty expansion hope that SCOTUS will interpret Coker as a victim-specific ban on capital punishment for sex offenses, prohibiting death sentences adult victims but leaving room for sex offenders of child victims. Story here from Dallas/Fort Worth's KLRD.com. . . [Michele Berry]
Sex Offender Registry Laws Beg for a Lesson in Proportionality 101
An increasing number of states, including Kansas and Illinois, are requiring people who committed sex crimes as juveniles to be added to public sex offender lists. Under Illinois' law, effective in 2006 but yet to be enforced due to legal challenges, some juveniles could be placed on the public lists for the rest of their lives and others for many years, depending on their crime. So consider the circumstances of a real case in Illinois, involving a high school senior making plans to go to college. You'd never guess about his past because he seems to be a good kid with a promising future. But a few years ago, he pleaded guilty to home invasion and sexual abuse, because, as a 13 year-old boy, he made the mistake of grabbing the 13-year-old neighbor-girl's breasts. He was sentenced to register as a sex offender for 10 years, but the record was accessible only to law enforcement, schools, and daycares. Furthermore, as a juvenile, his record was shielded from the public, but under new laws, at age 17, his name, photograph, address, and crime will be added to public sex offender lists accessible on the internet, along side rapists and child pornographers.
For victim advocates, publicizing juvenile sex offender records is necessary to protect the community. But juvenile-justice leaders say laws like Illinois' new law, lump those guilty of "youthful indiscretions" with serious sexual offenders. Some say only the most serious offenders should be on public registries. Others say public exposure for any youth crime goes against the foundation of juvenile justice--that youths can be rehabilitated. The controversy is likely to intensify. Under a federal law passed in July, states will have to place certain teen sex offenders on public lists by 2009. Story from ChicagoTribune here. . . Related post here. . . [Michele Berry]
December 13, 2006
Sex Offender Restrictions
Virginia and New York push for tighter restrictions for sex offenders. Meanwhile, the trend may be slowing down in other states as successful challenges by sex offenders make tracking sex offenders more difficult.
November 30, 2006
Rhode Island Frowns On Providing Inmates With Condoms
From projo.com: As the rate of black Americans contracting HIV rises along with the rate of black males incarcerated in the nation’s prisons, an AIDS advocacy group is recommending curbing the virus through voluntary tests of prisoners for HIV and by distributing condoms in jails.
The recommendations of the National Minority AIDS Council are intended to help inmates who test positive for the virus and protect others from becoming infected by risky sex in jail – or from infecting others when they are released from prison. These recommendations could affect the spread of the virus through the black community, where more than half of the new HIV cases have been diagnosed, according to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention.
But in Rhode Island, where inmates are routinely tested for HIV and given free medical care and counseling, corrections officials balk at handing out condoms.
Sex is forbidden at the Adult Correctional Institutions, said Ellen Alexander, assistant director of administration at the Department of Corrections. “It’s our position, if we provide condoms we’d be condoning coercive sex,” Alexander said. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
November 29, 2006
So Much for a Happy Ending: California's Anti-Massage Parlor Law Called "Insufficient"
From SFGate.com: A new law intended to crack down on massage parlors that double as brothels takes effect next month in San Francisco, but experts say much more will be needed to stop sex trafficking in San Francisco. Under the law, passed by the Board of Supervisors on Nov. 14, anyone who wants to open a massage parlor in the city first will have to endure a public hearing and then obtain a special permit from the Planning Commission. The tougher regulations were sponsored by Supervisor Fiona Ma after a series of stories in The Chronicle this year that detailed the proliferation in the city of Asian massage parlors that offer sex with women, some of whom are working off debts to traffickers as sex slaves. At least 90 massage parlors in San Francisco offer sex, according to erotic Web sites where customers review the parlors and the women inside. Thirty-seven of those establishments hold city permits to operate as massage parlors. Ten of the 37 permitted parlors were implicated in a 2005 federal raid that exposed a sex-trafficking scheme involving South Korea, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The new law will mark the first time city officials have extended the requirement for a "conditional use" permit for such businesses to cover the entire city. Previously, massage parlor operators did not need to obtain the permits to open downtown, in Chinatown and in the Castro district. Still the law is being called "insufficient." Full Story from SFGate.com. . . [Michele Berry]
Anti-Crime Zones Quilt the Nation, Prompt Debate
Here is a column from Townhall.com about the sex offender-free, drug-free, and gun-free zones that seem to be popping up everywhere and instigating debate along the way (post about sex offender residency restrictions ripe for challenge in the Supreme Court). Mainly, critics wonder (1) if these laws are effective or counterproductive and (2) if they even pass constitutional muster.
An excerpt of the column: Across the country, politicians are eager to draw magical circles of protection they claim will banish evil and keep children safe. It's an easy, cheap way of opposing what everyone opposes and supporting what everyone supports. But the resulting crazy quilt of drug-free, gun-free and molester-free zones is ineffective, sometimes counterproductive and frequently unjust.
Sex offender-free zones. Consider the Georgia woman who was labeled a sex offender because she performed fellatio on a 15-year-old when she was 17. Last year she had to move because she was too close to a day-care center. Now she and her husband may have to move again because they're too close to a school bus stop, a location added to the state's list of restrictions in April. Georgia's law, which has been challenged in federal court, also would exile all 490 registered sex offenders in DeKalb County, mostly men who as teenagers had consensual sex with younger girls. It even applies to sex offenders dying in nursing homes. Other states have narrower laws, but police and prosecutors still worry that onerous restrictions on where sex offenders may live will push them onto the streets or discourage them from complying with registration requirements, making them harder to track...
The same can be said of the gun-free school zones designated by state and federal laws. They are not likely to deter anyone bent on violence. Worse, they advertise that all the law-abiding people at a school are unarmed and therefore easy prey...
Drug-free zones, which trigger enhanced penalties for drug dealing or possession within a certain distance (usually between 500 and 1,500 feet) of locations such as schools, parks and day-care centers, likewise mainly affect people other than their official targets. Ostensibly aimed at protecting children, they typically boost prison sentences for drug offenses that involve only adults. A December 2005 report from New Jersey's sentencing review commission found that students were involved in only 2 percent of cases where drug-free zones were invoked. Because they cover so much territory, the zones have become an excuse for harsher punishment rather than a deterrent to selling drugs near minors. Full story from Townhall.com. . . [Michele Berry]
November 16, 2006
Prison Rape Panel held at Folsom Prison
From signonsandiego.com: Spurred by a 2003 federal law, the U.S. Department of Justice's new Review Panel on Prison Rape began two days of hearings Tuesday at California's Folsom Prison to learn what the country's largest state prison system is doing about the problem.
It is the start of a month long national effort to find how many prison inmates are victims of sexual assault and how to deter the attacks.
Reports of assaults “may be just the tip of the iceberg. We haven't a clue,” said McFarland, who also directs the Justice Department's Task Force for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
Congress, in passing the federal rape law, cited estimates that 13 percent of inmates are assaulted nationwide. The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, in a 1997 survey, put the incidence at less than 1 percent.
California legislative researchers found 4.4 percent of California inmates reported assaults in 2000, compared to 4 percent in Florida, 2.5 percent in Texas, 2.3 percent in New York and 1.7 percent in federal penitentiaries. But reporting methods vary so widely that the figures are useless, McFarland said. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
November 02, 2006
Maryland Court: A Woman Cannot Withdraw Consent During Intercourse
From msmagazine.com: A three-judge panel of the Maryland Special Court of Appeals reinforced the provision of Maryland's rape law that says a woman who gives consent prior to intercourse cannot withdraw her legal consent during the act. The decision came recently when the Court overturned a rape conviction. During deliberation in the original trial, the jury had asked, "If a female consents to sex initially and, during the course of the sex act to which she consented, for whatever reason, she changes her mind and the... man continues until climax, does the result constitute rape?" The trial judge said that Maryland’s law was unclear and would not provide a definite answer.
October 26, 2006
Seattle Prosecuter Gets Caught Having Sex in Bathroom
From seattletimes.com: A Thurston County senior deputy prosecutor who was ejected from Qwest Field Sunday after employees said he was having sex in a bathroom told his boss he was just using the facilities.
King County Sheriff's Sgt. John Urquhart said two female employees told off-duty sheriff's deputies and Seattle police officers who were working security at the stadium during the Seahawks game that a man and woman were having sex in a bathroom stall.
"We didn't see them having sex but they were clearly in the same stall," Urquhart said of the couple, who told deputies they work together in the Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.
The man, a 39-year-old attorney, "had been drinking and was argumentative" with deputies, he said. Arrested for obstructing and trespassing, the man was interviewed and released, Urquhart said, explaining that it is "against the law for him to be in a women's restroom."
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
October 18, 2006
Sex Offender Residency Restriction Laws, Ripe for Attack...in Supreme Court?
California's Proposition 83, or "Jessica's Law," is like other sex offender restriction laws. It includes stiffer punishment, longer parole terms and tighter monitoring for future sex criminals, and a controversial residency restriction, prohibiting anyone required to register as a sex offender from "living within 2,000 feet of any public or private school or park where children regularly gather." If California voters pass Jessica's Law this November, California will be the 18th state to pass residency restrictions on sex offenders. Lessons learned from the previous 17 states have shed light on the legislation's key causes for concern among legal scholars and critics, including:
• Whether Prop. 83 would apply to already convicted sex offenders -- the thousands now behind bars, on probation or parole, or even the tens of thousands who have been free of the criminal justice system for years, living in the community, some of them homeowners.
• That it would too broadly restrict where all registered offenders can live, including those whose convictions were for sex crimes against adults.
• That it would cross a constitutional line into public banishment if registered offenders could find nowhere to live in most of the state's population centers -- as maps produced by the state Senate suggest.
Sex offenders could argue that Jessica's Law would strip them of protected liberties. But a challenge of that nature to overturn the Iowa law restricting sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools and day care centers, failed. The Eighth Circuit ruled that there is no right to live where you want to live if the state has compelling reasons otherwise.
Several scholars have said the strongest legal attack is the "ex post facto" angle. If a city tried to apply Jessica's Law to sex offendes who were convicted before the law took effect, the sex offender could challenge the eviction on the basis of the constitutional ban on ex post facto laws. That's what has happened in Ohio. The Ohio Justice & Policiy Center, under David Singleton, has about a dozen cases pending, but they're yet to stop an eviction.
That probably has something to do with the fact that the constitutional ban on "ex post facto" laws only applies to punitive laws, not civil regulations with a clear public policy rationale. As UCLA CrimProf Eugene Volokh points out, a government takings claim probably won't work either. "If the person is a tenant, there's no property being taken...Even if he owns the property, it's not that the person is being barred from or denied the right to own the property. He can resell it, rent it out. He could make money off it."
As more and more states pass these laws, the key question is whether the courts view the 2,000 foot rule (or in the case of Ohio, 1,000) as punishment for past crimes, rather than a civil law intended to protect the public. That's the only way the ex post facto attack could work, but the Supreme Court has set a high bar for proving that a civil law has crossed the line to punishment, insisting on "only the clearest proof."
While some legal scholars say the residency restrictions will invariably pass constitutional muster, other say the 2003 SCOTUS case challenging Meghan's law left the door open for a successful challenge to Jessica's law and others like it. But through all the debate, the concensus is, as more of these laws pass, the stronger the likelihood that the Supreme Court will have to step in and give an opinion on the constitutionality of these state laws.
Read the full story from ContraCostaTimes.com with opinions from several legal scholars including William & Mary CrimProf Wayne Logan; UC Hastings LawProf and director of the Center for State and Local Government David Jung, Stanford LawProf and executive director of the Stanford Constitutional Law Center Derek Shaffer, David Singleton of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, and UCLA CrimProf Eugene Volokh. [Michele Berry]
October 12, 2006
SF Mayor Plans to Stop Trafficking of Women
From SFGate.com: San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is developing a plan to fine and possibly jail landlords who let massage parlors operate as brothels in their buildings. His proposal is modeled after a similar effort in New York state that stemmed the illegal trafficking of women from other countries to work as sex slaves.
"It's time to let these traffickers know San Francisco is not the city to be operating in," Newsom said.
His idea is one of several options city leaders are considering to curb the illegal sex trade in San Francisco, part of the growing $8 billion international trafficking industry. City Hall also is preparing a public-awareness campaign for bus shelters and billboards, and Supervisor Fiona Ma wants a one-year moratorium on any new massage parlors in the city. Newsom said he's even open to the idea of putting pictures of johns on billboards -- something that has been tried in Oakland.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
September 18, 2006
WA Law Makes Schools Aware of Convicted Juvenile Sex Offenders
From seattlepi.com: A new Washington State law that went into effect Sept. 1 makes school officials aware if children in their classrooms have been convicted of sex crimes. The new law requires sheriff's offices to notify principals when a juvenile sex offender or convicted kidnapper wants to enroll, but schools may not give parents information about other people's children. So only school employees will be notified.
Some juvenile justice advocates worry that this law is unnecessary because state prison statistics show that juvenile sex offenders are much less likely to commit new crimes than anyone convicted of other felonies. Advocates also fear that juvenile criminal histories could turn teachers against those students or be used to pressure them to move if school districts don't develop clear policies on how to handle the information.
"Not doing it well can cause huge problems for keeping young offenders in school. And staying in school is key to rehabilitation," said Kim Ambrose, a former juvenile criminal defense lawyer and supervising attorney at the University of Washington's Children and Youth Advocacy Clinic.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
September 13, 2006
"Porn Up, Rape Down" v. "Reducing Rape with an Eraser"
Northwestern LawProf Anthony D'Amato's essay Porn Up, Rape Down is taking a beating by scholars who call the essay "jingoist zealotry" based on statistics that "don't reflect what is truly happening in sex related crimes." According to Dr. Judith Reisman, president of the Institute for Media Education and author of Kinsey, Crimes, & Consequences, rape stats may be lower, but the reduction is a consequence of unreported incidents and law enforcement agencies either under-reporting their crime stats to the FBI or reclassifying sex crimes with "non-crime codes." More from WorldNetDaily. . . [Michele Berry]
August 21, 2006
Brothel Raid Illustrates Sex Slavery is a US Problem
From washingtonpost.com: Raids that uncovered more than 70 suspected sex slaves focused on 20 brothels in the East, but they illustrated a long-ignored national problem found in towns large and small, experts say.
"It's a very overwhelming subject for a lot of people to recognize that there is slavery at this time in our country," said Carole Angel, staff attorney with the Immigrant Women Program of the women's rights advocacy group Legal Momentum in Washington. "It's hard for us as humans to contemplate what this means."
On Tuesday, federal and local law enforcement raided brothels disguised as massage parlors, health spas and acupuncture clinics in New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Maryland, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia, arresting 31 people on trafficking charges. Authorities said they also freed more than 70 sex workers, taking them to undisclosed locations for questioning and to provide basic services such as health care and food. Authorities said it might take weeks to get the Korean immigrants to trust them enough to discuss their ordeal.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
August 06, 2006
Iowa Supreme Court Upholds AIDS Spreading Conviction
From CNN.com: A man convicted of having unprotected sex with four people while knowing he carried the virus that causes AIDS was denied appeals Friday by the Iowa Supreme Court.
The court said Adam Donald Musser, who is serving 50 years in prison for criminal transmission of HIV, deserved a long sentence because intentionally exposing someone to the virus "is just like the first-degree robber who attempts to inflict serious injury on his victim."
The high court rejected several constitutional arguments in Musser's appeal, including that the state law requiring a carrier of HIV to notify a partner violates the First Amendment protection against forcing speech against one's will. The court ruled that the state law promotes a compelling state interest and is narrow enough in scope to be constitutional. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]