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Monday, August 5, 2013

The Catch 22 of Virginia Mandating Polygraphs and Therapy Sessions for Registered Sex Offenders and the Ability to Advance Through “Treatment” of SVP’s in Civil Commitment

 
Most Virginians have no idea today’s Justice System is specifically set-up to force plea bargains from more than 94% of those charged with a crime because our state, our government doesn’t care about innocence or guilt, just conviction rates and saving the state from the high cost of trials. Innocent citizens facing mandatory minimum sentences, tens of thousands of dollars for legal representation and bail plus the fear of losing their job, home and family fall for the ploy of stacking charges and delaying hearings. Until you personally experience it, you don't give it a second thought, you think it's not even a possibility.

Less than 4% of Virginians make it to trial due to fear, lack of money or ignorance of the system. They take an Alford or Guilty plea deal if offered (and it usually is), because it’s the lesser of the two evils (to be allowed to go home, keep your job and your family OR be sent to prison for 5, 10, 15, 20 years or maybe life and lose everything).

In the eyes of the public and our lawmakers they took the deal so they must be guilty. 

Unless it makes it onto a Dateline or a 20/20 show we seem to forget that there are people who are mis-identified by incorrect or tainted witnesses, those who falsely confess to a crime they did not commit, investigations that are contaminated or run improperly and evidence that was incorrectly tested or ruled-on by labs or expert-witnesses.

We’ll never know how many of our citizens who have been convicted in Virginia are actually innocent, wrongly convicted.

Just like we’ll never know how many innocent Registered Sex Offenders are forced to weave tales about a crime that they never committed. Forced to admit events and details by the Commonwealth otherwise they’ll go [back] to prison for not being forthcoming.

Nonsense you say.............

On July 7th Wrongful Conviction Blog posted an article The ‘Catch 22′ of Parole for the Wrongfully Convicted . It reminded me of two similar points that I have previously made to State lawmakers and the media here in Virginia over the last 5 years, I contacted the author to share these points.

In Virginia we’ve had a few recently publicized cases of innocent citizen’s being convicted of sexual crimes including false accusations, witness misidentification and bad forensic work. Like Thomas Haynesworth, Marvin Anderson, Bennett Barbour, the Norfolk 4, Edgar Coker Jr. and Jonathan Montgomery (just to name a few).

They committed no crime, but they were convicted by our justice system. They were/are all listed as Registered Sex Offenders and mandated to abide by all the restrictions and regulations imposed upon sex offenders. 

#1- In Virginia Registered Sex Offenders who are incarcerated in some state facilities or who are under probation supervision are mandated by a Department of Corrections policy to submit to regular polygraph testing. They are also mandated to participate in Sex Offender group or individual therapy sessions. The therapy sessions are an additional out-of-pocket expense for the offender as is a failed polygraph.

Even though the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled “There is simply no consensus that polygraph evidence is reliable” and “Unlike other expert witnesses who testify about factual matters outside the jurors’ knowledge, such as the analysis of fingerprints, ballistics, or DNA found at a crime scene, a polygraph expert can supply the jury only with another opinion.”

Polygraph results are inadmissible in Virginia courts because they are so thoroughly unreliable as to be of no proper evidentiary use whether they favor the accused, implicate the accused or are agreed to by both parties.

It is a pseudo-science purposely shrouded in mystery. We might as well convict, incarcerate and civilly commit based on a coin flip it's just a reliable. Or unreliable however you choose to look at it.

The polygraph is a catch 22, you are damned if you do and you are damned if you don’t because the results are as reliable as a Magic 8 Ball and if you refuse the state is going to take control of you. Innocent people will fall victim to the test and guilty people will not be discovered.

But if an RSO (Registered Sex Offender) refuses to submit to the polygraph, refuses to admit to the acts that led to their wrongful conviction or refuse to talk about the offense that never happened in therapy they can face revocation of their Probation and be sent back to prison.

Civil Rights Groups Launch “Mobile Justice Tour” to Bring Advocacy, Awareness and Assistance on Voting Rights, Successful Prisoner Re-Entry Across Virginia

 
This news release came from Virginia C.U.R.E.  Announcing a 15-City Tour to Highlight Virginia Policies that Create Barriers for Returning Citizens. 

(Washington) – A coalition of civil rights groups are partnering for a 15-city tour of Virginia to raise awareness on and provide direct services for  justice issues that affect people with criminal records. Kicking off on August 6, the Mobile Justice Tour will focus on three key issues: civil rights restoration for citizens with felony convictions, removing questions about an applicant’s criminal background from initial employment forms, and programs for successful prisoner re-entry. 

Host organizations for the Mobile Justice Tour include Resource Information Help for the Disadvantaged (RIHD); Bridging the Gap in Virginia; Good Seed, Good Ground; Virginia Organizing and Advancement Project. 

“While Virginia has made progress in recent years and months on civil rights restoration and fair hiring practices, many barriers remain across the state for people with criminal backgrounds,” said RIHD  Executive Director and tour moderator Lillie Branch-Kennedy. “Our tour will highlight the roadblocks that persist for people who have paid their debts to society, as well as illuminate solutions that have been proven to help reintegrate individuals back into our communities. Participating experts will also connect impacted individuals with direct services and resources to help assist in their re-entry, helping to create more productive citizens and fewer people returning to prison.”  

At each stop of the tour, re-entry policy experts will discuss: 

  1. Restoration of Rights: While Gov. McDonnell’s plan to simplify the rights restoration process for those with non-violent convictions is a historic change, many impacted citizens may be shut out of the process. Central to this concern is the Governor’s broad definition of “violent” felonies – including almost all drug convictions, such as drug possession with intent to distribute. The MJT will elaborate on the plan’s details, and assist those who wish to restore their rights. 
  2. “Ban the Box” Employment Application Reform: Fair hiring policies have been passed by the city governments of Newport News, Richmond, Norfolk, and Portsmouth, which remove the question about an individual’s criminal history from the initial employment application. The MJT will advocate for other Virginia governments and private businesses to “Ban the Box” and reduce barriers that prevent our community members from finding work. 
  3. Successful Prisoner Re-Entry: During the 2014 Virginia General Assembly session, policy advocates will introduce common-sense legislation that has been shown to reduce recidivism. Proposed solutions include prison-based programs such as 
a)      Prisoner literacy and educational, therapeutic, and vocational rehabilitation

b)      Volunteer Tax Credits for professional and/or licensed persons providing educational and other services to incarcerated people in Virginia jails and prisons

c)       Temporary Public Assistance for up to nine months to newly released individuals. The MJT will detail, and invite others to join, these citizen lobbying efforts.

 
Designed to reach every corner of Virginia, tour stops include: 

  • August 6: Newport News, Hampton
  • August 10: Roanoke, Lynchburg
  • August 13: Harrisonburg, Charlottesville
  • August 17: Danville
  • August 20: Norfolk
  • August 24: Suffolk
  • August 27: Alexandria, Fredericksburg
  • September 7: Lawrenceville
  • September 10: Petersburg
  • September 17: Richmond
  • October: Southwest Virginia Dates To Be Announced
For more information contact: Cynthia Gordy, 202-341-0555, cgordy@advancementproject.org 

For an updated tour schedule and latest news

Visit - www.restorationcampaign.org        Follow on Twitter - @va_mjt