Category: Hysteria

Vigilantes Aren’t Heroes; They’re Criminals

restaurant-small1By Michael M.

I was recently lectured by someone on social media who felt compelled to defend vigilantes who target sex offenders. He claimed that “vigilante” was some sort of badge of honor, and that no vigilante would ever harm innocent people. He then qualified that statement by adding, “And if they did, they wouldn’t be vigilantes any more. So, you’re using the term incorrectly.”

I beg to differ.

First, he’s obviously confusing what he thinks they’re supposed to be doing with what they actually do. That’s a little like saying, “Cops aren’t supposed to kill innocent people. And if they do, they aren’t cops anymore. So, you can’t say cops kill innocent people!” Au contraire, my friend!

They do, and I can. You don’t get to change the meanings of words in the middle of a murder, just so you can absolve yourself of any moral responsibility or legal complicity. Sure, the English language is wonderfully flexible and evolving, but that’s abusing your parlance privileges.

Let’s start with the history and meaning of the word vigilante. That way, at the very least, we can proceed with a common definition of the word. Consider this, from the Merriam Webster Dictionary:

Vigilante entered English in the 19th century, borrowed from the Spanish word of the same spelling which meant “watchman, guard” in that language. The Spanish word can be traced back to the Latin vigilare, meaning “to keep awake.” The earliest use of the word in English was to refer to a member of a vigilance committee, a committee organized to suppress and punish crime summarily, as when the processes of law appear inadequate. The word may often be found in an attributive role, as in the phrases “vigilante justice,” or “vigilante group.” In this slightly broadened sense it carries the suggestion of the enforcement of laws without regard to due process or the general rule of law.

In short, a vigilante is someone who operates outside of the law. That, alone, should be enough for most discerning individuals to identify them as what they are: criminals. Unfortunately, for others, it’s all a matter of semantics.  One man’s “freedom fighter” is another man’s “terrorist.”

Perhaps the real answer lies in examining their actions, rather than in how they wish to redefine certain words to fit their self-serving and conspicuously inflated self-regard as “avenging angels,” supposedly acting on the behalf of innocent children who have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of “perverts and pedophiles.” Let’s start with a few of the murders committed by these “angels.”

In 2005, two men were murdered by a vigilante impersonating an FBI agent in Bellingham, WA. The registrants, Hank Eisses, 49, and Victor Vasquez, 68, were shot and killed by Michael Anthony Mullen, who was later convicted and sentenced to 44 years in prison.

In 2006, 20-year old Stephan Marshall, a self-styled vigilante using the sex offender registry as a hit list, shot and killed 57-year old Joseph Gray in his living room in front of his wife while they watched TV in their home in Milo, Maine. Several hours later in Corinth, Maine, Marshall knocked on William Elliott’s front door and shot him dead in front of his girlfriend. Later, he took a bus to Boston, where he committed suicide when approached by the police.

In September 2012, self-styled Washington state vigilante Patrick Drum was sentenced to life in prison for the murders of two registrants, Gary Lee Blanton, 28, and Jerry Wayne Ray, 57, who were fatally shot in June of that year. Drum told police investigators that that he was targeting sex offenders specifically and planned to continue doing so until he was caught.

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Jermy & Christine Moody in court

In May 2014, Jeremy Moody, 30, and his wife, Christine Moody, 36, told a sentencing judge in Union, SC they murdered Charles “Butch” Parker, 59, and his wife, Gretchen Parker, 51, because he was a “pervert” and because his wife supported him. The murderers, who were described as neo-Nazis who were part of a white-supremacist group called Crew 41, recalled telling Charles Parker “I’m here to kill you because you’re a child molester.” Charles was shot in the neck and chest and then stabbed multiple times. Gretchen was shot in the chest and also stabbed multiple times. As Christine Moody left court she said, “My lawyer made me say that I repented. It was a lie.” She added, “I have no regrets. Killing that pedophile was the best day of my life.” As they were being led out of the courthouse, Christine was asked if she had anything to say to the family of the murdered couple. “May they die also,” she said before officers placed her in the back of a squad car.

In December 2017, Nathaniel Henry, a 37-year old London resident, went to the home of Noel Brown, a 69-year old U.K. registrant and killed him. He dismembered the body and carried the limbs out the front door in a backpack, making multiple trips to do so. The limbs were never found. The police believe Henry was interrupted at some point by Brown’s daughter Marie, who was 41-years old and a mother of two children, so he killed her too.

In January 2018, registrant John Haig Marshall was attacked in his own home in Redondo Beach, CA as he stepped out of the shower. He was tortured with pliers and bolt cutters, and then killed by blunt force trauma to the head by four attackers. The men – Taylor J. Cervantes, Tyler L. Stark, Myles J. Sawyer, and his brother, Brandon S. Takeo Sawyer – were charged with felony counts of murder, conspiracy to commit burglary, first-degree burglary with a person present, and home-invasion robbery.

Also, in January 2018, a Sabine Parish, LA man named Blake Joseph Kendall, 39, was arrested for the vigilante killings of two registrants, Jerry W. Scott, 72, of Many, LA and Adam L. Jeter, 34, of Zwolle, LA.  Scott was killed by a single shot through the storm door of his mobile home, hitting Scott in the upper chest and killing him instantly. Jeter was shot four times while inside his vehicle as he checked his mailbox in front of his home.

One more for January 2018: Michael Thompson, a Las Vegas, NV resident admitted to police that he killed a homeless man named Alfred Wilhelm, 53, because he was a sex offender, and a bystander named Rhonda Ballow, 27, because “she refused to leave.”  He explained that “he had been sexually assaulted as a child and took offense to sex offenders.”

In February 2018, registrant Demetrius Graves, 39, was found stabbed to death in Pasco, WA just days after sheriff’s deputies put out a press release announcing his release into the community. His alleged killer Hector Orozco Jr., 42, was captured hours later at a nearby Rodeway Inn.

In March of 2018 in Osceola County, Florida, a man named Jorge Porto-Sierra was arrested for trying to kill four people, two of which were sex offenders, by setting them on fire. Witnesses told deputies that Porto-Sierra made several threats, screaming “I’m going to kill you, child molester,” and began throwing gasoline on their front door.

And let’s not forget all of the people who are assaulted or killed because they were mistaken for registrants, or just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time while vigilantes were “protecting the community.”

In Bithlo, FL, 78-year old Hugh Edwards was beaten to death with a black Louisville Slugger baseball bat because the killer – Robert Pascale, 20 – mistakenly thought the man was a sex offender.

In Bakersfield, CA, the murder of Roderick White may be connected to comments and Facebook rumors alleging that the 32-year-old was a child molester. Investigators have found no indication that he was, in fact, a registrant.

In 2014, Walter Field, 48, of Depot Road, NH answered a knock at the door at 8:30 p.m. He said the attacker asked for the next-door neighbor – who is a registrant – and then assaulted Field with an unknown object when he was told he had the wrong house. He was taken to the hospital, where he required extensive facial reconstructive surgery. The same assailant, still working off of a sex offender hit list, is believed to have shot and killed David Wheelock in his wheelchair after he answered a knock at the front door of his Keene, NH home.

acid-attackIn 2014, a vigilante in the U.K. attacked Andreas Christopheros, 32, by throwing highly concentrated sulfuric acid into his face in the mistaken belief that he was a registered sex offender because he was at the wrong address. Over 90% of Christopheros’ face has had to be reconstructed surgically as a result.

For every vigilante attack on a registrant and his or her family that makes the headlines, there are many that don’t, and for obvious reasons. Registrants are already on a virtual “hit list.” The last thing they need is more publicity and a bigger target on their backs. As a result, a great many vigilante assaults or acts of vandalism go unreported. Additionally, even when they are reported to law enforcement, the report is often met with apathy and inaction from the police. To add insult to injury, the news media typically spends more column inches on the registrant’s prior crimes than the vigilante assault. It’s no wonder most registrants who become the victims of so-called “vigilante justice” prefer to stay mum about it.

Here’s the bottom line. Vigilantes who target registrants (or anyone else) are criminals. More often than not, they’re just morally bankrupt, mentally deranged, self-obsessed, pathetically incompetent criminals who aren’t making our communities any safer. In fact, just the opposite is true. They are a threat, not only to the rule of law, but to everyone around them.

It’s time to stop glorifying and enabling these criminals.

Signs of the Times for Sex Offenders

restaurant-small1by Michael M.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  For those who say that being on the sex offender registry is simply a minor administrative inconvenience for registrants which allows law enforcement to better track their whereabouts and activities, here are a few pictures to refute that notion.

Imagine becoming the target of these “good neighbors,” after your incarceration has been completed, after your fines and victim compensation have been paid, after you’ve served your probation, been through your SO treatment program, and made peace with your family, friends, associates, and your God.

Like anyone who has paid an awful price for you crime, you just want to move forward and build a good life for you and for your family.  Supposedly, that’s what society wants, too.  Re-integrating former offenders back into society to live a productive, crime-free lives is the stated goal of our criminal justice system.

But then this sort of thing happens…

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The next door neighbor of a Robinwood, Alabama sex offender resorted to erecting this sign in an effort to force the registrant to move out of the neighborhood in November, 2016.

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In Nassau County, Florida, the local Sheriff’s Department erects these red signs in the yards of known sex offenders during Halloween season.

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A woman in Marion County, Florida put signs in her front lawn and on telephone poles on her street to warn everyone that a sex offender lived six houses down the street from her.

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One Arkansas father discovered his 16-year-old daughter was having a sexual relationship with a 21-year-old man. But when the concerned dad brought his findings to the police, there was nothing they could do because she was over the age of consent.  So he did this:

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This registrant was sentenced by a local judge to walk up and down the main thoroughfare of his town in Petersburg, Indiana wearing a sign that said, “Registered Sex Offender Who Bought Alcohol for Kids.”

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What, exactly, do these “good neighbors” expect will happen as a result of their actions?    Human beings and their families don’t just go *poof* – disappearing, never to be seen again.  They continue to exist, perhaps not on your street, but on someone else’s street, somewhere else.  And you’ve created an entire caste of people – including the spouses and children of offenders – who may become bitter, unemployed, or homeless as a result.  Hopeless people are dangerous people.

If you’re one of the people helping to create this growing body of social lepers in our society, you’ll have only yourself to blame for the unintended consequences of your insane short-sightedness.

The Sex Offender Registry: A Gorilla on the Basketball Court

restaurant-small1By Michael M.

 Why does the public ignore the obvious unconstitutionality and overt cruelty of a sex offender registry that not only fails to accomplish its stated purpose – keeping our communities safer – but also condemns hundreds of thousands of registrants and their family members to a lifetime of humiliation, harassment, and possibility of unemployment, homelessness, and vigilantism?  It would be easy to assume that this apathy and inattentiveness by the public is simply the result of hatred, bias, or ignorance but there may be something else at work here, something that scientists have dubbed “inattentional blindness.”

gorillaIn 1999, psychologists Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris conducted an experiment that became world famous and was the subject of their 2010 book entitled, “The Invisible Gorilla.”  In their experiment, test subjects were shown a video of a basketball game after being asked to count the number of times the basketball is passed by players wearing white shirts.  During the game, a person in a gorilla suit strolls to the center of the screen, pauses to beat on his chest, and then wanders off.  After viewing the video, as many as 70% of the test subjects had no recollection whatsoever of a gorilla being in the video.

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Officer Kenneth Conley

This study has become the cornerstone of various theories and further experimentation centered on the phenomenon which became known as “inattentional blindness.”  The legal community took further notice of this topic when an undercover police officer named Kenny Conley was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in 1995 for claiming that he did not see a fellow officer beating a suspect as he ran by in pursuit of another suspect.  The jury simply did not believe that it was possible to miss something that obvious and convicted Officer Conley of lying to protect his colleague.

Simons, Chabris, and others decided to conduct a test to see if it was indeed possible that Officer Conley hadn’t seen the incident.  They set up a similar scenario and asked test subjects to chase a suspect and count the number of times the suspect touched his head while running. The route took the test subjects right past an on-going fist fight yet, afterwards, as many as 72% of the test subjects had no recollection of seeing the fight, which “obviously” occurred right in front of them.  As a result, Officer Conley was exonerated in July 2000.  The results of this study were published in 2011 under the title, “You do not talk about Fight Club if you do not notice Fight Club: Inattentional blindness for a simulated real-world assault.”

The conclusion of this and other similar studies is rather straightforward and simple.  Our brains pay attention to what we think is important or, at the very least, what others tell us is important.  Everything else is subconsciously categorized as being irrelevant and is discarded before having any effect on cognition or thought. As a result, we are literally blind to it; we simply don’t see it.

misdirection-3-638The mainstream media tells us daily what we should be paying attention to.  Their laser-like focus is invariably trained on sex offender registrants, high visibility or highly-placed pedophiles, and sex-traffickers.  The constant drum-beat and warnings of “stranger danger” not only stoke our natural anxieties as parents, but it also blinds us to the potential dangers that may exist right under our noses.

97% of the sexual assaults against juveniles are perpetrated by someone the victim knows.  59% are committed by acquaintances; 34% by family members.  Less than 7% of sexual assaults against juveniles are committed by strangers and an even smaller fraction of that number is attributable to known sex offenders.  “Stranger danger” is largely a myth.  Targeting registered sex offenders as your primary focus of fear and loathing is not only irrational, it is dangerous.

As for America’s “epidemic of missing children,” over 91% of them are runaways. 5% are the victims of family abduction. Less than 1% of the missing children were abducted by strangers and most of those were not registrants.  Again, the conspicuous focus on registered sex offenders makes the public blind to the real dangers that abound in our society.

Bu what about sex trafficking?  Surely, that is an issue we can all agree needs more attention and aggressive prosecution.  Yet, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an astonishing 88% of the children who end up being sex-trafficked became victims after going missing from government social services and foster homes!  It isn’t some creepy guy at the park who is snatching children from their homes and turning them into chattel, it is the very same government that is fueling your unwarranted fears of “stranger danger” and registrants.

Inattentional blindness causes the great majority of Americans to overlook the unconstitutionality and cruelty of a sex offender registry that makes our communities less safe by focusing your attention where it is least needed and accomplishes absolutely nothing.  It is a classic case of misdirection, blinding you to the political incompetence, law enforcement impotence, and contemptible court decisions that are so pervasive in the realm of sexual offense laws and policies.

It’s time we “just said no” to the media hysterics and political grandstanding about sexual offenses and start paying attention to the (now) painfully obvious gorilla on the basketball court.

The SO Registry’s Deadly Collateral Damage

restaurant-small1by Michael M., NARSOL & The Registry Report

It is easy for some people to feel that no matter how oppressive the hardships imposed upon former sex offenders may be, they probably deserved it.  The most common refrain we see posted by unsympathetic social media commenters typically contains some variation of, “He (or she) should have thought of that before they committed their crimes!”  While such a response may be emotionally satisfying for the person who makes such a statement, the unspoken assumption is that any punishment, no matter how cruel, can be justified by the fact that you’ve committed a crime, no matter how trivial.  Oh, so you were beheaded for jaywalking?  Well, you should have thought about that before you stepped outside the crosswalk!

It also completely ignores the plight of the innocent bystanders who often bear the brunt of our country’s draconian sex offender registration laws. The families, friends, employers, landlords, and associates of former sex offenders often become the unintended casualties of the current wave of anti-sex-offender hysteria sweeping the nation.  Recent studies have begun referring to these tangential victims as “collateral damage,” as if we were talking about accidentally backing the car into the neighbor’s mailbox, rather than the complete destruction of innocent people’s lives.

By the way, it isn’t just the families and associates of sex offenders who suffer.  Most of the states will admit that their sex offender registries are difficult to maintain and contain inaccuracies.  One study discovered that as many as 25% of the addresses on the registry were incorrect, which resulted in the addresses of family homes where no one was a registered sex offender being listed on the registry.  A Detroit, Michigan couple didn’t learn that their address was incorrectly listed on the registry until they tried to sell their home.  They reported the error to the local police, who told them that nothing could be done about the problem until they tracked down the former owner who bought the house three years previously from a registered sex offender.

sign1In Cleveland, Ohio at least one large real estate brokerage’s property questionnaire includes the question, “Have you ever been notified that a registered sex offender was living in the neighborhood?”  Say yes, and your property value may plunge.  In other words, you don’t have to be a sex offender; you don’t even have to know a sex offender, to be “collaterally damaged” by social hysteria.

For the families of former sex offenders, it can be much, much worse.

evictionOne eleven-year old juvenile sex offender’s profile popped up during their landlord’s internet search for offenders, and the boy’s family was given two days to move out of their home.  In Fallon, Nevada, a registrant’s failure to update his information in the registry resulted in news stories which, in turn, led to death threats, burglary, and vandalism against his innocent wife.

The 8-year old daughter of a registered sex offender whose offense was 31 years in the past found herself at the center of a public outcry when her school sent out information about area sex offenders in 2007.  She immediately began feeling the effects of being disinvited from events and shunned by friends. The following year, in middle school, she became the constant target of sexual harassment and lewd propositions.  Eventually, her family left the country in 2013 to escape the persecution.

Research into the “collateral damage” suffered by family members of RSOs reveals that 49% often felt afraid for their own safety as a result of their family member being on the registry.  66% said that shame and embarrassment often kept them from participating in community activities, and 77% experienced feelings of isolation as a result.

aloneThe children of RSOs report alarmingly high rates of suicide ideation, with 13% exhibiting suicidal tendencies. Other reported consequences of being the child of an RSO include harassment (47%), ridicule (59%), physical assaults (22%), depression (77%), and anger (80%).

Sadly, one needn’t be related to a sex offender in any way to be “collaterally damaged.”  A widely reported recent story from Kissimmee, Florida, featured a man who poured gasoline into the motel room and vehicle of four persons he believed to be registered sex offenders with the intent of “barbecuing all the child molesters.”  Two of his intended victims were not RSOs.

In Dallas, Texas, a man who had just moved into an apartment that had recently been vacated by an RSO was mistaken for the previous tenant by a vigilante and beaten with a baseball bat.  In another Dallas case, a man who was mistaken for an RSO was beaten by four men and had his teeth knocked out as his attackers shouted “Child molester!”

In Kern County, California, a 32-year old man was stabbed at least 50 times and his body dumped in the desert after a Facebook rumor falsely alleged that he was a sex offender.

body-outline.jpegA Las Vegas man shot and killed two homeless people because one of them (Alfred Wilhelm, age 53) was an RSO stemming from a 1984 rape conviction in Hawaii.  The second victim (Rhonda Ballow, 27) was an innocent bystander who was killed simply for being a witness to the first murder.

In 2013, a husband and wife team of vigilantes in South Carolina told RSO Charles Parker, 59, “I’m here to kill you because you’re a child molester” before killing him. They then killed his wife, Gretchen Parker, 51, simply because she lived in the same house. Both were shot and stabbed multiple times.

These examples are not as isolated or anomalous as some would have you believe.  We often hear that victims of sexual abuse are afraid to come forward for fear of being disbelieved, but rarely do we consider the fact that victims of registry “collateral damage” are often reluctant to tell their stories for fear of being targeted for further vigilantism and harassment.  For every case that gets reported to law enforcement, there could potentially be dozens more that are endured in silence. Police reports are a matter of public record and are often reported in local news media. What sane person would want to invite even more scrutiny and abuse?

As long as the media continues to stoke the public’s vitriolic anti-sex-offender hysteria and as long as our government continues to furnish vigilantes with a convenient “hit list” (which may or may not even be accurate), absolutely no one is safe from becoming “collateral damage.”

How Big Money Stymies Sex Offender Law Reform

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by Michael M., NARSOL & The Registry Report

When SORNA (Sex Offender Registration Notification Act, aka Title I of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006) required the states to establish comprehensive minimum standards for their state sex offender registries, it created an unfunded mandate that left many states scrambling to comply or lose Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG)  funding from the federal government.  Many states did not have sufficient funds earmarked for the creation of a whole new bureaucracy, especially one that depends so heavily on expensive information technology, so they outsourced it.

watch-systems.jpgOne of the big beneficiaries of that outsourcing decision was a company called  Watch Systems LLC.  Watch Systems provides a turn-key solution called the Offender Watch Network to over 3500 government agencies, including sheriffs’ offices, police departments, attorney generals’ offices, US Attorneys, federal and state probation offices, the Department of Corrections, indian tribes, and  the US Marshal’s Service.  In fact, they claim that 61% of the nation’s sex offenders are in their database, which resides on their privately owned hosted servers. Their “supplemental” products include mobile sex offender mapping applications, a postal sex offender notification mailing service, and a robo-caller to verify sex offender phone numbers.  In addition to their sex offender registry products, Watch Systems also maintains and markets other registries for arsonists, deadly weapon offenders, metal thieves, gang members, and animal abusers.

Watch Systems employs about 40 people at their HQ in Louisiana and they generate $7.2 million per year in revenue, almost entirely from government contracts. Their clout in the industry reaches far beyond their Covington LA home base, however.  In 2017 alone, Watch Systems spent $120,000 on lobbying efforts in Washington D.C. and is on track to spend even more in 2018.

Other corporate players in this market include TriBridge with $130 million in annual revenues and 650 employees, DeveloApps with their COPS™ (Court Ordered Program Supervisor) platform, idSoftware with their ASOMS (Automated Sex Offender Management System, and GCOM’s SOMS (Sex Offender Management Software).

In addition to high-tech sex offender management software solutions, there are literally hundreds of government contractors peddling sex offender treatment and rehabilitation programs, analytical tools, penile plethysmography testing, and polygraph testing.

polygraph1The polygraph industry is huge.  The U.S. market for polygraph testing is estimated by one “lie-detector” manufacturer to be $3.6 billion per year.  70% of U.S. states use polygraph testing as part of their sex offender management programs.  One state, Colorado, has spent $5 million in the past seven years on polygraph testing for sex offenders.  In addition to what the state spends, offenders are expected to pay out-of-pocket costs of $250 for each inconclusive or deceptive test, which are more common than one might think. That’s a lot of money for tests that are considered by many states to be so unreliable, they can’t be used as evidence in criminal or civil courts.

In 2003, the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences reported to Congress that “practitioners have always claimed extremely high levels of accuracy, and these claims have rarely been reflected in empirical research.” They also noted serious conflicts of interest, systemic bias, and a significantly high rate of false positives in their use.

According to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry,

“Studies report an average specificity of 52 percent, meaning that out of 100 people who are not lying, only fifty-two will be identified as telling the truth while forty-eight of these honest individuals will be branded as liars. These odds are similar to a coin toss, which would have a specificity of 50 percent.”

These estimates are further corroborated by a “truth verification” company called NITV Federal Services, which markets high-tech voice stress analysis equipment as an alternative to polygraph testing:

“Studies have varied results measuring the accuracy of the polygraph, with estimates ranging from 70 to 90 percent accurate. Furthermore, only 29% of 194 “scientific studies” touted as proof by polygraph advocates met the minimum standards of scientific adequacy…  Former polygraph examiner and Oklahoma City Detective Sergeant Doug Williams was sentenced to two years in prison by the federal government in 2015 for activities associated with his teaching people how to beat the polygraph. After years of using the technology, he came to distrust the results and taught thousands of people to use countermeasures. He rates the accuracy of the polygraph at 50 percent at most. In fact, U.S. government agencies have taught individuals involved in undercover operations to beat the polygraph, thus validating Williams claim that techniques can be taught to defeat the polygraph.”

The Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) tracking of sex offenders is, likewise, big business.  The devices themselves cost between $100-$150 each, and then there’s the associated equipment, software, and technical assistance required to run a monitoring program.  gps-ankleFederal and state courts are spending approximately $36 a day per offender for GPS monitoring, which is more expensive than traditional methods of enforcing parole or probation ($27.45/day), but cheaper than civil commitment, which averages more than $100,000 a year per person.  According to Peter Michel, the president and CEO of iSECUREtrac (a maker of electronic monitoring devices), about 40 states currently have legislation on the books or are in the works that require GPS monitoring of certain sex offenders.  In 2015, there were more than 125,000 people overall being monitored by the courts using GPS devices, up from 53,000 in 2005.  With an estimated 10% rise in that number each year, that’s would equate in 2018 to 166,000 users, or $6 million dollars per day – $2.2 billion per year.

Seven companies have already captured 96% of the offender GPS market. Since GPS device users can’t be upsold or super-sized (limit, one per customer) the only way these companies can increase sales and revenues is to increase the size of their potential market.

The 900,000 people on the sex offender registry represent a huge potential market for more GPS tracking devices and software applications.  If even one tenth of those offenders become future candidates for GPS monitoring, that would amount to $3.2 million every day, or an additional $1.2 billion dollars per year.

Let’s also consider the privately owned and managed civil commitment facilities for sex offenders who have completed their criminal sentences, but are deemed too dangerous to be released into communities.  The cost of incarcerating one prisoner in a traditional prison is roughly $31,000 per year, but civil commitment facility costs run closer to $100,000 per year by some estimates due to programming and therapy costs.   There are over 5,400 sex offenders currently languishing in civil commitment facilities in twenty states. That’s a whopping $540 million per year!

Private prison companies are raking in the cash.  And they’re dishing it out, too. They paid 10 lobbyists $480,000 dollars to lobby Texas state lawmakers in 2017. The GEO Group alone spent $320,000 on lobbying there.  Private prison lobbyists also gave more than $225,000 to Texas lawmakers via political action committees between 2013 and 2016.  And that’s just one state.

Boogeyman.jpgFinally, we should make note of the fact that the news media industry absolutely loves sex offenders, but not in a good way. Consider this recent Newsweek story: “Sex Offender with no nose jailed for child pornography,” where the writer goes out of her way to outrageously depict the accused man as a real-life boogeyman. Just when you think the media can’t sink any lower, they prove us wrong, and in a big way.

Network television news revenues have been stagnant for years and newspapers and magazines seem to be leading a charge into bankruptcy.  This leaves the media increasingly desperate to generate as much hysteria and fear as possible to increase ad revenues.  Sex offenders, like it or not, are their new cash cow.

Is it any wonder that, every year, companies that specialize in “sex offender management” solutions for the courts and law enforcement send their lobbyists to each of the state capitals and to Washington D.C. to influence public policy and legislation with huge wads of cash to spread around? At the same time, many sex offender registrants are deprived of their right to vote, kept off the internet, and saddled with unemployment and homelessness.

There’s a problem-solving principle called “Occam’s Razor” which postulates that a person, when presented with competing hypothetical answers to a problem, should select the answer that makes the fewest assumptions and is inherently the “simplest.”

You want to know why very little ever seems to get accomplished in the sex offender law reform movement?  The answer is simple.  Money talks.

Congress Moves to Ban Child Sex Robots

restaurant-small1by Michael M., Editor, The Registry Report

Apparently, there’s been a child sex robot crisis brewing in America that no one knew anything about until now.  Not to fear, though. Congress, which is always anxious to peddle a solution for which there is no corresponding problem, is on it.  The bill, which has already cleared the House and is now on its way to the Senate, stands a fair chance of actually becoming law. After all, who in Congress wants to be portrayed by an opponent’s campaign ads as being “soft on child sex robots?”

creepy-dollI don’t even want to contemplate what unintended consequences this ridiculous piece of legislation will bring.  For starters, there is zero evidence that child sex robots are actually being imported to the U.S. in any significant numbers.  A few companies are certainly attempting to make and market such items, but we shouldn’t mistake their marketing hype for actual sales and imports. In fact, they are probably salivating at the thought of all the free publicity they’re about to get from our nitwit lawmakers.  There’s irony for you.  By trying to outlaw these things, our elected representatives are practically guaranteeing their commercial success.

Second, even if these little abominations were being imported into the U.S. in any significant numbers (and there isn’t any evidence of that), there’s no evidence whatsoever regarding who’s purchasing them or for what purpose.  Sure, we can assume, but if you’re going to pass laws about something like this, shouldn’t you actually have some hard data upon which to base your conclusions?  And oh, by the way, we shouldn’t ignore the journalist’s flair in referring to these gadgets as the “child sex robots favored by pedophiles.” Exactly how, pray tell, do we know this?  Did they conduct a survey? I’m guessing no.

Finally, there is absolutely no evidence that “child sex robots” will have any effect at all upon the incidence of actual child sexual abuse.  It could exacerbate it, but for all we know, it could just as likely reduce child sexual abuse.  No one actually knows, because there is no data. None. Nada. Not that a complete lack of understanding or evidence has ever stopped Congress from passing laws about things it knew little or nothing about in the past.

Below is an excerpt from the original article by Tim Johnson at The Fresno Bee:

 June 13, 2018: Congress moves to ban child sex robots favored by pedophiles

The U.S. House approved a ban Wednesday on the importation and trafficking of anatomically correct child sex dolls and robots that “normalize sex between adults and minors.”

The proposal was approved in the House by a voice vote and now moves to the Senate.

“These dolls can be programmed to simulate rape. The very thought makes me nauseous,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican.

“Once an abuser tires of practicing on a doll, it’s a small step to move on to a child. My bill takes necessary steps to stop these sickening dolls from reaching our communities,” said Rep. Dan Donovan, a New York Republican who sponsored the legislation.

The child sex dolls are imported from China, Hong Kong, and Japan, often labeled as mannequins or models to avoid seizure by authorities. No current U.S. law specifically bans the importation and sale of the sex dolls.

Sex robots are increasingly lifelike, composed of silicon flesh-like material, some with basic artificial intelligence that allow conversations based on moods.

The bill is called the CREEPER Act, which stands for Curbing Realistic Exploitative Electronic Pedophilic Robots Act.”

The proposal says the obscene dolls and robots “are customizable or morphable and can resemble actual children. … The dolls and robots normalize submissiveness and normalize sex between adults and minors.”

Goodlatte said he was “distraught” that the problem of child sex dolls even exists.

“I am saddened that there are people in this world who would create realistic child sex dolls and distraught that there are people in this world who would buy them,” Goodlatte said.

“Customers can order bespoke dolls, providing pictures of specific children they would like the doll to resemble. They can indicate a preferred facial expression such as sadness or fear,” he said.

A change.org petition in support of the CREEPER Act has received more than 166,700 signatures.

The rate of child sexual abuse in the United States is difficult to determine because it often goes unreported. The Department of Health and Human Services has found nearly 3 million cases referred to agencies for investigation of child abuse annually, and believe that more than 8 percent involved sexual abuse.

A smattering of social scientists say the child sex dolls may reduce pedophilia but Goodlatte said there is no scientific literature to support that view.

“To the contrary, these dolls create a real risk of reinforcing pedophilic behavior and they desensitize the user causing him to engage in sicker and sicker behavior,” Goodlatte said.

Child sex dolls are one niche of a nascent robotic sex industry that has generated debate about the ethics of the use of lifelike machines for sexual activity. It is a subject that turns from squeamish to outright revulsion for many when it touches on child sex dolls and robots.  (More…)

Read the full article at the Fresno Bee.

Kids on the Sex Offender Registry

 

restaurant-small1by Michael M., for NARSOL

The headlines today are full of stories of righteous indignation over immigrant children being separated from their families. While that dilemma is certainly newsworthy, the American public seems largely unaware of the fact that tens of thousands of our own children are being taken from their families each year and tossed into a rapacious legal system that chews them up and spits them out as sex offenders.   As hard as it may be to believe, The Department of Justice estimates that there are at least 89,000 children on the sex offender registry, and it should come as no surprise to anyone that it’s destroying their lives.

Imagine, for a moment, what it would be like to have your child listed publicly on the sex offender registry, complete with a photograph, home address, and even a description of the sex crime that resulted in his (or her) inclusion on the list.   Consider what kind of life your child would have if, because of sex offender restrictions, he couldn’t attend school, go to a park or swimming pool, or have a birthday party because other children will be there. Some states simultaneously have laws requiring minors to attend school while at the same time forbidding sex offenders from being anywhere near a school. 44% of sex offenders overall (and presumably juvenile sex offenders, as well) are unable to live with their supportive families due to residency restrictions. Many are forced into foster care, even as bills have been introduced to bar juvenile sex offenders from foster homes and other communal youth facilities.

Elizabeth Letourneau, PhD and professor at the Bloomberg School’s Department of Mental Health and director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse said, “Not only is this policy [of putting juveniles on the sex offender registry] stigmatizing and distressing, but it may make children vulnerable to unscrupulous or predatory adults who use the information to target registered children for sexual assault.” Letourneau’s findings in a 2018 study published in Psychology, Public Policy, and Law found that registered children are five times more likely to be approached by an adult for sex than non-registered child sex offenders and four times more likely to have suicidal thoughts.

Other wide-ranging unintended consequences of being a juvenile on the registry include harassment and violence. 52% of juvenile registrants have reported violence or threats of violence which they directly attributed to their inclusion on the registry.   Bruce W., whose two sons (aged 10 and 12) were placed on the registry for an offense against their 10-year old sister, reported that a man once held a shotgun to his 10-year old son’s head. In a 2012 Human Rights Watch interview, one female juvenile registrant said, “I was on the public registry at age 11 for the offense of unlawful sexual contact… Random men called my house wanting to ‘hook up’ with me.” Other HRW interviewees described beatings, drive-by shootings, and even beloved family pets being killed.

Without a doubt, some of the children on the sex offender registry are convicted of horrific crimes which led to appropriately harsh punishments. There are others, however, who end up convicted and branded as sex offenders for what has been characterized as fairly normative behavior for children or teens, such as playing doctor or engaging in sexual exploration. Teens who exchange sexy selfies shouldn’t be charged with creating child pornography. Having consensual sex at that age may be a very stupid thing to do, but it hardly rises to the level of sexual assault or predation.

At least 27 states and one territory require that juveniles must register if they commit a sex offense for which an adult in the same jurisdiction would be required to register.   37 states reserve registration for juveniles convicted of specific qualifying offenses. It is difficult to know exactly how many children have been placed on sex offender registries nationwide, however. Studies regarding children on the sex offender registry are relatively rare, and the states typically do not track information regarding the ages of offenders when they were added to the registry. Human Rights Watch attempted to obtain this information from each of the 50 states, but only two responded – and those with aggregate counts only. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, juvenile sex offenders comprise 25.8% of all sex offenders and 35.6% of sex offenders against juvenile victims. They estimate that in 2004 there were 89,000 juvenile sex offenders known to police.

As for the overall age distribution of these juvenile offenders, there is very little data available. Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Texas allow juvenile registration at 8-years old.   Massachusetts allows sex offender registration for kids as young as 7-years of age. In 2011, there were 639 children on Delaware’s sex offender registry, 55 of whom were under the age of 12.   In 2009, a study conducted by the Department of Justice discovered that nationwide, one in eight child sex offenders who committed crimes against other children was under the age of 12. Overall, according to the DOJ’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, “Known juvenile offenders who commit sex offenses against minors span a variety of ages. Five percent are younger than 9 years, and 16 percent are younger than 12 years.  The rate rises sharply around age 12 and plateaus after age 14.”

Maya R. was arrested in Michigan at the age of 10 for play-acting sexual scenarios while fully clothed with her step-brothers, aged 5 and 8.  She pled guilty to criminal sexual conduct and was required to register as a sex offender for 25 years.  In many states, when children engage in sexual similar conduct, each child is charged with a crime and is simultaneously listed as the victim in the other’s case.

According to a 2013 Human Rights Watch report, the idiosyncrasies of the juvenile justice system can seriously compound the problems associated with how child offenders end up on the registry.  It is doubtful, for example, that they fully understand their rights to due process and against self-incrimination.  And we really don’t know if they fully comprehend the devastating (and sometimes forever) consequences of pleading guilty before they accept a plea bargain. Even adults can find the plea bargaining process confusing or coercive, even though this is how 94% of all criminal cases are resolved.  Often, these juveniles are not informed that they will be subject to registration until after they have pled guilty, and sometimes not until they have finished serving out their juvenile detention or incarceration.  The decisions made by a 10-year old should never have permanent ramifications that will impact them for the rest of their lives yet, in many of these cases, they do.

The inclusion of juvenile sex offenders on the registry was mandated by SORNA (Sex Offender Registry and Notification Act) and has been a major bone of contention and non-compliance by the states since it was signed into law in 2006.  In 2016, additional guidelines were issued to give states more flexibility in implementing laws regarding juveniles on the registry, but many states remain out of compliance and some of the states who are in compliance are being challenged in the courts. It is worth noting that the DOJ estimate of 89,000 juvenile sex offenders was in 2004, two years before SORNA began pushing the states to put juveniles on the registry. That number is probably much higher now.

The 2018 study in Psychology, Public Policy, and Law supports these legal challenges, finding that “in combination with the available literature indicating that these policies do not improve public safety, the results of this study offer empirical support for the concerns expressed by those calling for the abolition of juvenile registration and notification policies.”

The abomination of having nearly a hundred thousand children on the sex offender registry is just one of the many reasons why SORNA is unconstitutionally cruel and unusual and needs to be repealed now.