Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Where Do The Registered Go For Answers?

When you’re on the sex offender registry, getting straight answers from law enforcement—or any government official—can be incredibly difficult. But ever since my re-classification more than six years ago—from having no risk-level at all in Colorado, to having the highest risk-level possible in Washington State—it’s been virtually impossible to get any answers whatsoever.

The fact is that I like the deputy sheriff responsible for managing sex offender-related issues in my area. From the start he recognized how minor my transgressions were on the scale of "sex" crimes. And he told me so—off-the-record. He assured me it wasn’t personal when his department hung my photo on the streets of the community, had it published in the local newspaper and posted on the Internet, knowing full well how much trouble it could cause me. He listened when I told him about being threatened, rejected for work, forced into homelessness and even jailed for failing to secure a job and housing under the monster-level label. When my new female friend asked him if what I had told her about my crimes was truthful, he patiently confirmed my account: No, I had not raped anyone, never molested a child, and had no violence in my history. I was not considered dangerous, he admitted, by him or the sheriff’s department.

Why then had I been classified at the most-dangerous level? The supervisor’s answer was really no answer at all. “I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do. I’m just following the laws.”

In 2004 I sent a letter to the sheriff’s department, formally requesting a copy of my re-classification documents so I could determine exactly what factors were used to justify the “upgrade.” It was the department’s attorney who responded, saying that my risk-level assessment was classified. I have never understood why. What point is there in blocking my access to my own documents?

One of my concerns was about my failure to register. I had discovered some evidence suggesting that (in Washington State) if you are put on the sex offender registry for a misdemeanor crime (which I had been), then a failure to register is supposed to be likewise a misdemeanor offense. But after missing the registration deadline in Washington, I was convicted of a Class C felony.

The Washington State Attorney General only passed the buck: contact your local prosecutor. So I sent a polite letter to the prosecutor’s office asking if my felony conviction had been correct after all in light of what I found. I received no response.

Meanwhile, a letter to a legal aid organization did bring a timely reply: Sorry—we don’t advocate for sex offenders.

In 2005 a vigilante murdered two Level 3 sex offenders in Bellingham, just a two-hour drive from where I live. Police there believed he had a “hit list” of Level 3 offenders collected from the Internet. As the only Level 3 in my county at that time, knowing this psychopath was at large worried me enough to call the supervisor. I wanted to know what his department was doing to protect me from becoming the next victim. The supervisor knew nothing about the situation. No action was (or seemingly would be) taken.

In 2007, a Seattle newspaper reporter discovered that authorities had made false statements on my Denver probation reports from 2001. These erroneous reports had been forwarded to Washington when I was charged with failing to register, and likely contributed to my reclassification – but of course I was still prohibited from seeing the records. Then I learned that Level 3s in Washington State were now subject to GPS monitoring under newly passed laws. So I wrote another letter to the supervisor, asking for clarification on both these issues. Again I got no response. And another year went by.

In 2008, I began building a small house on the property I had purchased. The county building department gave me a new address—different from what had been posted on the sheriff’s website. I had read about a registered man being convicted of failure to register for moving into a guest house with a slightly different address, in spite of it being on the same property. So I decided not to take any chances. This time I left a voice mail for the supervisor, giving him my new address. No acknowledgement came. The incorrect information is still on the website.

In 2008, the K.I.D.S. ACT was signed into law. This requires local law enforcement to create databases with computer identifiers for all registered sex offenders. My new questions were: Do I need to provide this information myself? If so, how long do I have before penalties are imposed? And to whom do I submit it? These are still my questions, for when I saw the supervisor in public recently I asked him why he hadn’t responded to my inquiries. “I’ve been busy.”

It seems to me that when you possess the authority to brand people it comes with certain responsibilities toward those you brand. Carrying a monster’s label is a very serious and dangerous business. It keeps those close to me vulnerable to all kinds of insidious trouble. It bars me from countless aspects of society and restricts my efforts to be a productive member of that society. It keeps me living in cruel and unusual fear.

When the state requires us to follow the ever-increasing body of sex offender laws, getting accurate and timely information becomes critical. So when authorities seem opposed to providing us with any, but we are still held to the edict that “ignorance is no excuse,” it seems we are being set up to fail and fall. Are any authorities willing to provide some honest information about this?

Friday, November 28, 2008

This Sex Offender Expert Looks Deeper Than Most

Too many court-ordered sex-offender treatment programs across the nation are not only failing to help the offenders they treat, but also potential future victims. This is why I was so encouraged to discover the work of Dr. Jay Adams, a former California Department of Corrections staff psychologist, who has worked with sex offenders for more than 25 years. Dr. Adams believes much of the problem lies in the failure to recognize and treat the sex offender's own childhood abuse and trauma.

Being both a survivor of childhood incest and convicted sex offender (my transgressions involved adult women), I found Dr. Adams’ findings particularly relevant to my own experience in sex offender treatment. For two years (1999 – 2001) I participated in a relapse-prevention based treatment program in Colorado where my childhood victimization was dismissed as irrelevant to my treatment. This was incomprehensible to me. But only later did I fully understand that my therapists decided (privately) that my incest disclosure was a fabricated excuse to offend! No effort was made to determine if it was true or not.

Sharing this disturbing information with Dr. Adams, she kindly sent me two more articles describing her findings, and permission to quote them on MonsterMart. One of these MUST-READ articles, Victim Issues Key to Effective Sex Offender Treatment, is in the Trowbridge Foundation link on the sidebar.

Here are a few excerpts from Expanding Our Sex offender Treatment, Dr. Jay Adams Ph.D.

"...It is gratifying to see a rising current in the literature which is finally questioning the long-standing and widespread assumption that our sex offender clients are totally different from every other client population. This assumption has allowed us [the treatment community] to violate a number of our own ethical standards (Glasser, 2003) and to disregard many of the established principles of psychotherapy. One of the unfortunate consequences of the widespread acceptance of Relapse Prevention is that it has fostered a “cook book” approach to sex offender treatment, which may have attracted individuals to the field who lack the qualities necessary for effective clinical practice.”

“…Clinicians who treat sex offenders often experience strong counter-transference reactions when their clients present themselves as victims. This usually takes the form of blaming “the system” for treating them unfairly and/or blaming their victims for causing them to have sex. However inappropriate such blame may be, the feeling of being a victim is real and stems from early childhood experiences. Virtually all the sex offenders I have worked with in the past 25 years have had some history of sexual and/or physical abuse."

"...Validating a client’s feelings about his own abuse does not mean not requiring him to take responsibility for his victimization of others. Such validation does not constitute an “excuse.” It is in fact one of the most important things we can do to encourage him to take responsibility. It doesn’t make much sense to be continually telling our clients how much their behavior harmed their victims while at the same time implying that whatever happened to them in childhood is of no consequence."

GREAT NEWS for survivor/offenders who may have given up hope on this common treatment. Bad News for people who assume sex offenders CHOSE their afflictions, of which there still seem to be many. Many thanks to Dr. Adams! Look for more from her findings in upcoming MonsterMart posts.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Will these two bozos become registered sex offenders?

I know it's ridiculous to suggest that one or both of these drunkos should become registered sex offenders. But police and prosecutors these days are going way beyond reason and rationality in pursuit of "sex criminals." (See my Naked Pumpkin Runners post.)

Here's the report from THE ASSOCIATED PRESS:

MINNEAPOLIS -- While the Hawkeyes were stomping the Gophers on the Metrodome field last weekend, police said two Iowa fans were having a romp of a different kind in a restroom. Both events, police say, had their share of cheering fans.

A 38-year-old woman and a 26-year-old man turned to a handicapped stall for their tryst Saturday evening.

On the field, the Hawkeyes were on their way to 55-0 trouncing of the Gophers. In the restroom, a crowd of intoxicated fans gathered to cheer the off-the-field event.

Eventually, a security guard tipped off University of Minnesota police. Officers had to interrupt the couple to cite them for indecent conduct, a misdemeanor.

Police Chief Greg Hestness said the woman initially gave a false name to officers. She was released to her husband and the man was released to his girlfriend.

Both people in the stall were intoxicated.

Nowadays inappropriate sex in inappropriate places can be regarded as a clear indication of sexual "deviancy." Will this fact serve as a justification for sex offender registration in this case? No matter how absurd that may seem, the fact is they've been charged with misdemeanor crimes involving sex, a very scary situation to be in today. I sure hope they both retain capable, private lawyers.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

On Washington’s Most-Wanted for What?

What did John Michael Isley do to become one of Washington's Most Wanted Fugitives? Kidnap a child? Rape someone? Kill someone? Apparently just failing to announce his departure from Washington and arrival in Texas, a horrendous place to be on the sex offender registry. Can we really blame him?

Many years ago, when Isley was a minor, he was convicted of indecent liberties over an incident with his cousin. Here's a report KOMO TV did on his Island County ostracism back in 2003.

And here's the report of the recent "manhunt" for him in Texas from News9

I see no evidence that Isley committed any SEX crimes in the interval. You tell me: Is failure to register a compelling reason to be on a Most-Wanted List? Is this victimless crime a compelling reason for police and the media to incite more public fear over former sex offenders being "on the loose"? It appears that Isley wanted to be near his family, as he was caught visiting relatives. Now I'll bet he is facing ten years in a Texas prison for what seems to be just a desire to be left alone.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Down from the White House: Bush Signs K.I.D.S. Act into Law

From Press Secretary Dana Perino:

On Monday, October 13, 2008, the President signed the following bills into law:

S. 431, the "Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators Act of 2008" or the "KIDS Act of 2008," which requires sex offenders to provide Internet identifiers, including e-mail addresses, to State sex offender registries; and tasks the Justice Department to establish and maintain a system that allows social networking websites to compare Internet identifiers of its users with those provided to the National Sex Offender Registry;

Here we go again! Another broadly applied federal law that recognizes no distinction between active pedophiles and all the other kinds of sex offenders there are, former or otherwise. I read a number of articles and editorials from respected sources on why the K.I.D.S. Act was a really bad idea. I just don't understand where Bush gets his information.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Naked Pumpkin Runners May Have To Register As Sex Offenders

From News Talk 610 WTV:
An annual "naked run" event in Boulder, Colorado could result in a dozen people being labeled sex offenders. Halloween Night marked the 10th year of the Naked Pumpkin Run. More than 100 people streaked through Boulder wearing nothing but a pumpkin on their heads. The Boulder Police have deemed the annual trot illegal, and were waiting with tickets for runners. A dozen were cited for indecent exposure, a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Proving sexual misconduct by the nude runners, however, could be a challenge for prosecutors. They'll have to prove that the exposure caused "affront or alarm" to someone, a charge that typically deals with hard core acts. Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner defends the citations, claiming the run is illegal, and the event was getting out of hand.

So much for anonymity. If these pumpkin-heads are registered, overhaul of the system is just one step closer!

Friday, November 14, 2008

When will People stand up and Stop this Madness?

I can't believe this is happening under the U.S. Constitution. But it really is happening! From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

A provision of Georgia’s sex-offender law that prohibits offenders from volunteering at places of worship should be struck down because it criminalizes religious conduct, a lawyer argued Thursday. Because of the provision, offenders cannot sing in adult choirs, play the piano during services, attend adult Bible study classes, serve as a pallbearer at a friend’s funeral or give their testimonies to congregations, Atlanta lawyer Gerry Weber told a federal judge. During the last session, the General Assembly amended the sex-offender law, which already made it a crime for an offender to be employed at a church. The new provision makes it a crime to “volunteer.”
If convicted, an offender faces at least 10 years and no more than 30 years in prison.

What's illegal next for Georgia ex-offenders? Public transportation? Public Restrooms? Appearing in public, period? Does this remind anybody else of the prelude to the Holocaust? Full Story Here

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

6 Years Later, Sex Offender Voting Rights Restored!

My crime was being a week past the deadline--Failure to Register as a Sex Offender. The punishment was:
1) 30+ days in jail
2) One year community supervision, including fees and restrictions
3) $1800+ in court fines
4) A Class-C Felony added to my record
5) Increased Sex Offender "Risk" Level.
The good news? Here is my official Notice of Discharge. This allowed me to legally register in Washington (as a voter) just in time for the incredible election! The surprising part? It was delivered without my request. I have the feeling the ACLU had something to do with this. Thank you!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Student Protection or Discrimination Education?

I worried for the freedom of all U.S. citizens as I watched this news video about new screening devices installed in a Texas High School; not to ban firearms (which would make a whole lot more protection-sense) but to outright ban and/or assign security-escorts to ex-sex offenders that come to the school, the vast majority of whom are parents of attending students! I wonder if the guard holds their arms while they walk down the hallways. One school policy is definite: RSO's won't ever be allowed to eat in the cafeteria with first-class citizens. KAMR TV sums up their so-called "investigative" report with some light humor.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

No Police Action (for me) This Halloween

Last Halloween, South Carolina sex offenders were rounded up and forced to sit out the night with police. This year, Maryland sex offenders were forced to hang signs on their doors (absurdly designed as bright-orange pumpkins, no less) reading, "No Candy At This Residence." Who comes up with these ideas?

It's been five years since I moved to this small town in Washington and experienced the nightmare that followed—aggressive public notification, banning from businesses, whispers, stares, and threats on the street. Things have calmed down enormously since then, and local authorities have backed way off. But the reality is I’m still on the registry. I still live with the fear of retroactive laws changes, sex crimes that may be committed in my area, and the real probability of attack from vigilantes. (Sometimes I hear shouts as people drive by my place at night.)
This year I'm happy to report that my Halloween passed without incident. No police orders in my mailbox, no scarlet pumpkins on my doorstep. But what about next year? And the one after that? I have never offended a child in my life. But that doesn't keep people from assuming I'm a molester. Never has a case been documented of a child being molested while trick-or-treating. But this didn't keep people from going crazy with the idea elsewhere. By next Halloween the Adam Walsh Act may already be law here in Washington. What will happen to me then?