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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Do's and Dont's for Registered Sex Offenders in Virginia Only Apply to Those Under Probation Supervision

 
It’s Halloween. 

Do you know what you or your loved one who’s an RSO can or can not do tonight? 

In Virginia there is no law prohibiting RSO’s from participating in Halloween activities. They can do anything on Halloween including leaving their front door light on, decorate, hand out candy, wear a costume and accompany their child trick-or-treating.

BUT, if the RSO is under VA-DOC Probation Supervision then there are restrictions they must follow or face a probation violation. 

Keep in mind not only could your Probation Officer stop by your home tonight, but your VSP Sex Offender Compliance Officer might stop by and maybe even have a U.S. Marshal with them. If you are not on probation and you are not wanted, you are not required by law to let the VSP Officer or the U.S. Marshal enter your residence but you should do your best to make the uncomfortable situation as pleasant as possible for everyone including your family members, room-mates and neighbors.

You can find information about Halloween in Virginia for RSO’s in two spots on this blog. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Overestimating Sex Offender Risk: The Static-99R Has Produced an Epidemic of False Positives in Florida. How Many Other States are Using This Flawed Assessment Tool and are Indefinitely Committing Citizens Who Pose No Risk?

 
In Virginia the Static-99 is used by the State to evaluate offenders for Civil Commitment as an SVP. 

Per the below post by Dr. Karen Franklin, Florida auditors recommend re-examining the practice of mandating lengthy treatment that can lead to demoralization and, in some cases, iatrogenic (or harmful) effects.  But, it looks like Florida legislators aiming to appease a rattled public will ignore the findings and move in the opposite direction with "Cherish’s Law."  

Cherish’s death was a statistical anomaly (also known as a black swan, or something that is so rare that it is impossible to predict or prevent). 

Willful ignorance by elected officials when proposing and passing laws should be a crime! 

Perception is NOT reality but the Florida legislators will just spin a logical fallacy and the public will buy it, again! 

Mary 

Dr. Karen Franklin Blog: Black swan crash lands on Florida SVP program
Audit finds low recidivism, critiques reliance on inflated Static-99 risk estimates

Dan Montaldi’s words were prophetic.  

Speaking to Salon magazine last year, the former director of Florida's civil commitment program for sex offenders called innovative rehabilitation programs "fragile flowers." The backlash from one bad deed that makes the news can bring an otherwise successful enterprise crashing down.

Montaldi was referring to a community reintegration program in Arizona that was derailed by the escape of a single prisoner in 2010.

But he could have been talking about Florida where, just a year after his Salon interview, the highly publicized rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl is sending shock waves through the treatment community. Cherish Perrywinkle was abducted from a Walmart, raped and murdered, allegedly by a registered sex offender who had twice been evaluated and found not to meet criteria for commitment as a sexually violent predator (SVP).

Montaldi resigned amidst a witch hunt climate generated by the killing and a simultaneous investigative series in the Sun Sentinel headlined "Sex Predators Unleashed." His sin was daring to mention the moral dilemma of locking up people because they might commit a crime in the future, when recidivism rates are very low. Republican lawmakers called his statements supportive of "monsters" and said it made their "skin crawl." 
 

Montaldi's comments were contained in an email to colleagues in the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, in response to the alarmist newspaper series. He observed that, as a group, sex offenders were "statistically unlikely to reoffend." In other words, Cherish Perrywinkle’s murder was a statistical anomaly (also known as a black swan, or something that is so rare that it is impossible to predict or prevent). He went on to say that in a free society, the civil rights of even "society's most feared and despised members" are an important moral concern. A subscriber to the private listserv apparently leaked the email to the news media.

The Sun Sentinel series had also criticized the decline in the proportion of paroled offenders who were recommended for civil commitment under Montaldi's directorship. "Florida's referral rate is the lowest of 17 states with comparable sex-offender programs and at least three times lower than that of such large states as California, New York and Illinois," the newspaper reported. 
 

Audit finds very low recidivism rates   

In the wake of the Sun Sentinel investigation, the Florida agency that oversees the Sexually Violent Predator Program has released a comprehensive review of the accuracy of the civil commitment selection process. Since Florida enacted its Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) state in 1999, more than 40,000 paroling sex offenders have been reviewed for possible commitment. A private corporation, GEO Care, LLC, runs the state’s 720-bed civil detention facility in Arcadia for the state's Department of Children and Families.

Three independent auditors -- well known psychologists Chris Carr, Anita Schlank and Karen C. Parker -- reviewed data from both a 2011 state analysis and an internal recidivism study conducted by the SVP program. They also reviewed data on 31,626 referrals obtained by the Sun Sentinel newspaper for its Aug. 18 expose.

All of the data converged upon an inescapable conclusion: Current assessment procedures are systematically overestimating the risk that a paroling offender will commit another sex offense.

In other words, Montaldi’s controversial email about recidivism rates was dead-on accurate.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Personal Bias or Conflict of Interest: The Virginia State Police is Hiding Behind a Flexible Statute Denying FOIA Requestors They Don’t Like, but Complying With Those They View Will be Good P.R. for the Registry

 
I do my very best to follow the rules and the chain-of-command. But when policies are ignored, when favorites are played and when discrimination is the chosen path by those in authority who fear releasing facts /data will prove a need for reform I am left with no other choice but to make the effort to discriminate against me known.

The Virginia State Police refuses to comply with FOIA requests for the Virginia Sex Offender Registry because they are personally prejudiced against me, but they comply when others make similar requests.

In October 2013 I learned that the Virginia State Police was fulfilling Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for data from the Virginia Sex Offender Registry to out-of-state organizations and in-state researchers, some of the same data they denied to me in 2011 and 2012.

In February 2011 only one of my requests was answered the rest were denied including:
1.       the number of female offenders and the number of male offenders
2.      the number of offenders who were 25 years or younger when convicted
3.      the number of offenders convicted in another state 

In May 2012 again only one of my requests was answered but I was charged $26.36, the rest were denied including:
1.       the number of female and the number of male offenders
2.      the number of offender’s classified as Non-Violent and Violent
3.      the number of offenders aged 50-59, 60-69, 70-79, 80-89 and 90-99
4.      the number of offenders listed as unemployed
5.      the number of offenders listed as self-employed (same address as their home)
6.      the number of offenders listed homeless or mobile (an address that is not a residence)
7.       the number of offenders that petitioned to be removed from the registry in each of the years 2006 through 2011.
8.      of those that petitioned how many were successfully removed from the registry in each of the years 2006 through 2011.
9.      the number of offenders with charges before 1985, 1990, 1995 and 2000 

The VSP based the 2012 denial on the Virginia statute 2.2-3706(H), so at that time I gave up on FOIA requests. 

I have never requested a list of offenders birth dates, SSN’s, phone numbers, email addresses or vehicle registrations I believe that type of specific information should be denied in a FOIA request. 

Then in October 2013 I came across 3 separate examples of the Virginia State Police sharing data from the Virginia Sex Offender Registry with other requestors. 

1)      Longwood University Authors of Neighborhood Tipping and Sorting Dynamics in Real Estate: Evidence from the Virginia Sex Offender Registry. 

They were given 10 years of data by the Virginia State Police
Each offenders
1.       past addresses, including all move-in and move-out dates
2.      current address
3.      age
4.      sex
5.      race
6.      perpetrated crime
7.       Violent or Non-Violent Status 

2)     The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s May 29, 2013 U.S. Map of Sex Offenders listed 19,901 Registered Sex Offenders in Virginia. That total would have come from a specific request to the VSP.

3)     Klass Kids Foundation as of July 30, 2013 listed 20,174 Registered Sex Offenders in Virginia. That total also came from a specific request to the VSP. 

In contacting a few different Virginia Organizations in October about the VSP cherry-picking FOIA requests I learned the following. 

In July 2012 the statute the VSP used to deny my request  was re-codified and is now found at 2.2-3706(A)(2)(k) 

k. Records of the Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry maintained by the Department of State Police pursuant to Chapter 9 (§ 9.1-900 et seq.) of Title 9.1, including information obtained from state, local, and regional officials, except to the extent that information is required to be posted on the Internet pursuant to § 9.1-913; and

One reason for the re-codification of this section and all of the other provisions dealing with access to law enforcement records was to emphasize that there are certain records that MUST be released, MAY be released, and CANNOT be released.  

The exemption from the VSP in May 2012 fell under the MAY be released. Law enforcement thus MAY release the information if they choose to, but they do not have to.  

Usually when discretion is selectively exercised it is when information about THIS situation is released but not THAT situation. That is, they're choosing to release/withhold based on the content of the record.  

When the same information is being released/withheld based on who is doing the asking. It is not exactly prohibited under FOIA (discretion is discretion is discretion), but it is poor public policy to pick and choose among requesters 

FOIA does not require a government agency to create a record that does not exist. While we may think certain records or databases contain unique data points that we think are relevant, that may not be the actual case. Being too specific in the breakdown, grouping or sorting of data could result in a denial. On the other hand, the manipulation of a database to excise or specifically include/exclude data fields is not considered creating a new record. (See 2.2-3704(G)) Manipulation of fields, however, is different from going through those fields to organize or sort the data in a different manner. 

It appears the VSP is biased against me a long held suspicion that couldn’t be proven, until now.  

Why would the VSP be prejudice against me?  

Because I use data and statistics to support or oppose proposed legislation at the yearly General Assembly session versus the traditional method of myth, assumption and fear to push through flawed legislation that used to regularly pass through in a block vote.  

Most times when I’m opposing a proposed bill at session that is based on myth and fear instead of facts the VSP Legislative Liaison is standing a few feet away supporting the bill to the subcommittee. 

Then there are the “good” bills that I’ve found sponsors for over the years that the different VSP Liaisons have opposed to the House and Senate sub-committees claiming the Department doesn’t support the end result or they claim that they are already making the information readily available to RSO’s when in fact they were not. 
 

Message From Charlie Sullivan of CURE: Congress’s Heartless Denial of Food Stamps / SNAP Benefits Not Just Against Former Offenders Who Have Paid Their Debt to Society But Their Children

 
Blog Followers, 

Back in 2009 I met Charlie Sullivan (founder of Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants CURE) in Washington D.C. during an Adam Walsh Act Compliance hearing of the House Judiciary Committee. I met his wife Pauline at a D.C. hearing two years later. There have been a few VA CURE and National CURE meetings and 1 or 2 other D.C hearings where we've talked about my platform and the barriers that we all encounter.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this group or Charlie and Pauline Sullivan, there is National CURE , there is International CURE, there is Federal CURE, there are state chapters of CURE including Virginia CURE and there is Sex Abuse Treatment Alliance (SATA) / CURE Sex Offenders Restored through Treatment (SORT).Plus a CURE for Veterans, a CURE for Women and a Civil Commitment of SVP’s CURE quarterly newsletter. I probably missed a few other initiatives but you can sign up for more CURE information via the links I included above.

Charlie and Pauline Sullivan are amazing people; they are the best example of successful grass-roots advocacy that I know of. 

Today Charlie sent out the below email to the National CURE followers. 

I asked Charlie if it was alright for me to post his message and he was more than happy to have me share it beyond the CURE followers. 

As you all know from my numerous posts over the last 3 months there are more than a few versions of Farm /Food Stamp –SNAP Bills being amended, discussed and voted on in Washington D.C. 

Here are my past posts on the Food Stamps bills 

-          October 23, 2013:               http://goo.gl/tnEJml
-          October 12, 2013:               http://goo.gl/2quusF
-          September 29, 2013:         http://goo.gl/1aCrxr
-          September 20, 2013:         http://goo.gl/ZPXS9a
-          July 3, 2013:                         http://goo.gl/vqqDrg 

Below Charlie has shared a response from one member of Congress with a constituent who wrote them in opposition of the Food Stamp proposals and then Charlie shares some insight into what the Food Stamp exclusion really does. 

I hope those of you who don’t currently support Virginia CURE, National CURE or the Civil Commitment newsletter will consider doing so in the near future. 

Thank you for following my blog. 

Mary Devoy
 

A child is not to suffer for the actions of the parent
October 26, 2013 

Dear Friends, presently, we are fighting three major issues. The first is that the phone companies are trying to slow down the implementation of the historic ruling by the Federal Communications Commission that the costs of phone calls by people incarcerated should be substantially reduced. 

The second is that women prisoners in the federal system should not be transferred hundreds of miles (maybe thousands) from their present prison in Danbury, CT. This would also close the only female prison in the Northeast corridor. 

And the third issue is that Congress should not take away food stamps from people formerly incarcerated.  

The other day I received a copy of an email from a CURE member who had written a member of Congress about the food stamp issue. The response from the member was basically that it was too bad the children of the prisoner would lose food stamps, but he would vote to do this. And yet, this same member of Congress is supporting our efforts to keep the Danbury Prison open to women because they can now receive visits from their children. 

Then, it hit me. All three of these issues have the same primary reason--THE CHILDREN! Whether it is continuing to bond with their parents through visits or through low-cost phone calls or not going hungry when a parent is released--it is the children who benefit the most from our efforts. They are truly the forgotten victims of crime. 
 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Sex Offenders Have Become Our "Bogeymen", Allowing Anxiety not Facts to Write Our Laws


Second Huffington Post article this week on Sex Offender hype and myth with Halloween approaching.

Mary 

Fear the Bogeyman: Sex Offender Panic on Halloween
By Andrew Extein   October 25, 2013

It can be said that sex offenders are the new bogeymen, mythical monsters invented to scare children into social order. People convicted of sex offenses, and subsequently placed on the public registry, are transformed into a concept of evil, which is then personified as a group of faceless, terrifying, and predatory devils. It would appear that this strategy is used to keep sex offenders at a distance, in turn keeping our children and families safe from harm. But in reality, such fantasy does just the opposite: ignoring the realities of sex offenses puts children, families, and adults at greater risk.

Halloween is a notable time to talk about sex offenders and the issues surrounding such labeling, as they conjure both legal realities and Jungian fantasy. Many cities and counties have enacted special laws that dictate what sex offenders are allowed to do and where they are allowed to be on Halloween, publicizing their identities and putting them at risk of harassment or worse. On a deeper level, Halloween enhances cultural fear, paranoia, and panic--a bad combination for sex offenders. Why have sex offenders become our "bogeymen," and why is this counterproductive?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Republican Candidates Ken Cuccinelli and Mark Obenshain are Among the List of Virginia Lawmakers Who Bear Responsibility for Retaining the Unconstitutional Anti-Sodomy Statute in The Commonwealth for the Last 10 Years

 
I have previously posted about Ken Cuccinelli’s Predator website, the refusal of Mr. Cuccinelli and the Virginia Legislature over the last 10 years to re-write our sodomy law so that it would be directed towards adults with children not adults with adults or children with children and that the real goal was anti-homosexual, not the protection of children.
 
-          On October 11, 2013
-          On July 17, 2013 

Today I found the below article. Its title is a bit on the fear-mongering / misleading side but the article it self is a great timeline of the entire Virginia anti-sodomy mess and all the players.

Mary Devoy 
 

How Ken Cuccinelli’s Position On Sodomy Could Set Numerous Sexual Predators Free
By Josh Isreal    October 24, 2013

Shortly after the Supreme Court rejected Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s (R) effort to revive parts of his state’s anti-sodomy law, Cuccinelli’s office emailed a statement to reporters claiming that prosecutors have been “using this law to protect minors from predatory adults.” The lower court’s decision striking the law, the Attorney General’s office warned, “puts tools prosecutors need to protect children in jeopardy,” adding that nearly 90 “sexual predators” could be deregistered as sex offenders. 

The full story, however, is far more nuanced, and it significantly undermines Cuccinelli’s effort to paint himself as a crusader for children. The truth is that Cuccinelli himself, along with the Republican candidate now running to replace him as attorney general, both played a significant role in undermining Virginia’s ability to prosecute sexual predators. As state lawmakers, both men put their personal opposition to homosexuality and gay sex above Virginia’s need to combat genuine sex crimes. And both men were part of a much greater effort to keep an unconstitutional law on the books. 

In 2005, William Scott MacDonald was convicted, under Virginia’s Crimes Against Nature law, of soliciting a 17-year-old female for oral sex — a felony under the law and not his first conviction under the same statute. Because that law — first enacted in 1950 to prohibit oral and anal sex, as well as bestiality — has not been updated since a 2003 Supreme Court ruling struck down sodomy laws, it was overturned this year. The convictions of other sexual offenders and child predators may also be now at risk. 

Though both have made fighting sexual predators a key campaign issue, the Republicans nominees in next month’s Virginia Gubernatorial and Attorney General elections — Cuccinelli and Mark Obenshain (R), respectively — are among those who bear responsibility for allowing this to happen, having toed the line of the state’s most prominent Christian Right organization. 

While rarely enforced in the modern era to prosecute the private behavior of consensual adults, Virginia Crimes Against Nature law was long used as an excuse to discriminate against gay and lesbian Virginians. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, state legislators repeatedly attempted to amend the Crimes Against Nature law to exclude oral and anal between consenting adults, or to at least reduce crimes from felony to misdemeanor.  
 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Status Update: Federal Bills That Could Deny Some or Maybe All Registered Sex Offenders in the U.S. the Ability to Receive Food Stamp /SNAP Benefits


Articles: 
Farm bill watch - SNAP at the end - A game of organic chicken - Strawberry fields forever, October 23, 2013

At end of shutdown, ag sector looks for farm bill passage, October 22, 2013

GOP's Biggest SNAP-Hater Will Negotiate the Future of Food Stamps, October 21, 2013
Florida Rep. Steve Southerland's work requirement amendment led to the break up of the farm bill in the House.

Lawmakers, Advocates Raise Concerns as SNAP Benefits Shrink, October 21, 2013
Food banks prepare for influx of families looking for help

Bill Summaries: 

-         To amend the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 to repeal the denial of food stamps to ex-offenders with drug convictions.
-         Status – Pending in Committee 

-         Denies Food Stamps / SNAP to anyone convicted of Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault or Murder.
-         No start date, this is retroactive (no matter how long ago the conviction was the 2013 exclusion of benefits will apply)
-         Per eAdvocate Version 5 of this bill would NOT be retroactive and has a start date, after the bill is  enacted into law.
-         Status – Pending in Committee

-         Denies Food Stamps / SNAP to anyone convicted of Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault or Murder.
-         There is a start date, after the bill is enacted into law. This version is NOT retroactive as long as Sub-section C remains. But anyone convicted after the enacted date will be denied Food Stamps /SNAP benefits.
-         Will apply to the “family’s household benefit calculation”. This means the entire family suffers from benefits not just the RSO. This could break up families resulting in the RSO becoming homeless, foodless, maybe unregistered and a high chance they’ll commit a new crime to survive.
-         Status - Passed House on July 11, 2013, Passed Senate with changes on July 18, 2013, Pending in House for approval of changes.
-         This version is the one that has been acted on the most and at this time has the highest chance of becoming law.

-          Denies Food Stamps / SNAP to anyone convicted of Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault or Murder.
-          There is a start date, after the bill is enacted into law. This version is NOT retroactive as long as Sub-section C remains. But anyone convicted after the enacted date will be denied Food Stamps /SNAP benefits.
-          Status - Passed House on September 19, 2013

-          Extension for SNAP benefits from deadline of 2013 to 2016, no one is excluded.
-          Status – Pending in Committee

S954 :
-         Vitter amendment denies Food Stamps / SNAP to anyone convicted of Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault or Murder.
-        No start date, this is retroactive (no matter how long ago the conviction was the 2013 exclusion of benefits will apply)
-        Will apply to the “family’s household benefit calculation”. This means the entire family suffers from benefits not just the RSO. This could break up families resulting in the RSO becoming homeless, foodless, maybe unregistered and a high chance they’ll commit a new crime to survive.
-        Status - Passed Senate on June 10, 2013

What You Can Do, Let Your Voice be Heard: 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Federal Bill HR2083- Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act: Passed the U.S. House and Moves Onto the U.S. Senate. Prohibits Schools from Hiring Employees or Contractors Convicted of Crimes Against Children or Felonies Including Murder, Rape, Spousal Abuse or Kidnapping.

 
HR2083- Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act
Introduced: May 22, 2013

Similar Bills currently pending in Washington D.C.:
S111-Safety for Our Schoolchildren Act of 2013 https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/s111
Introduced: Jan 23, 2013 - Sponsor: Sen. David Vitter [R-LA]
S624- Child Care Protection Act of 2013 https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/s624
Introduced: Mar 20, 2013 - Sponsor: Sen. Richard Burr [R-NC]
 
House Votes for School Checks for Sex Offenders
October 22, 2013  By Alan Fram

Public schools would be barred from employing teachers and other workers convicted of sexual offenses against children or other violent crimes under a bill the House approved Tuesday. 

The measure would require school systems to check state and federal criminal records for employees with unsupervised access to elementary and secondary school students, and for people seeking those jobs. Workers refusing to submit to the checks would not be allowed to have school positions. 

A 2010 report by the Government Accountability Office, the auditing arm of Congress, cited one estimate that there are 620,000 convicted sex offenders in the U.S. 

It also found that state laws on the employment of sex offenders in schools vary. Some require less stringent background checks than others, and they differ on how people with past convictions are treated, such as whether they are fired or lose their teaching license. 

The bill has run into objections from major teachers' unions like the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. In letters to lawmakers, their criticisms included concerns that the measure might jeopardize workers' protections under union contracts. 

In addition, the NEA wrote that criminal background checks "often have a huge, racially disparate impact" — a reference to critics' complaints that minorities make up a disproportionately high proportion of people convicted of crimes.
 
Despite those concerns, the House approved the measure by voice vote.