News Articles

Give me your cold and homeless — but not your cold, homeless sex offenders

On December 31, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

"Give me your cold and homeless — but not your cold, homeless sex offenders

"By Sandy - NARSOL 12/31/17

By Sandy . . . In September, as Hurricanes Irma and Juan raced across the Gulf Coast states dumping tons of water and destroying homes and lives, advocates geared up for what they knew would be a major battle, and they did not gear up in vain. The treatment of those on the sex offender registry seeking shelter proved as discriminating, as inhumane, and as horrific as feared.

Four months later, another natural disaster spells danger and death for the homeless, and once again those whose names appear on a sex offender registry face the same unfounded and myth-driven discrimination in seeking shelter.

It is winter. Our eastern and northern states, preparing for snow, ice, and plummeting temperatures, also prepare their ready-made speeches: “Sex offenders will not be allowed.”

Some show great duplicity in saying this. A Christian ministry in Alabama, not often a state that must prepare for sub-freezing weather, says that it “wants to make sure no one is without shelter Sunday” when the temperatures are expected to drop drastically. A spokesman said, ” ‘We’ll be removing the pews and stuff and bring in cots and just anybody that needs to come in for the cold weather will be able to.’ ”

The article stresses that “The ministry will be taking in anyone who wants to escape the cold,” and the spokesman continues, “ ‘People need the shelter. I don’t really know too many in this area to take in any and everybody that needs shelter,’ ”

It is not until the last paragraph that we are told, “…sex offenders will not be allowed to stay because of children,” and this is immediately followed with the statement that the ministry “wants people to know that anyone in need is always welcome.”

Well, no, not anyone. Not “sex offenders” – because of the children. What about “sex offenders” who have children? What about “sex offenders” who ARE children?

“I Once again, advocates who feel that one life has as much value as the next and that those whose past crimes include murder, violence, arson, and drugs may well be more of a risk to children than those whose past crimes were of a sexual nature are gearing up in protest. This is seen in Rhode Island, where discriminatory rules regarding registrants in shelters are being fought.

It will be seen more and more as temperatures drop and the homeless, of whom those on the registry are a disproportionate number due to residency restrictions — another discriminatory and useless practice — try to find shelter from ice and frigid temperatures.

And it will be seen here every time a shelter announces over and over that “anyone” is welcome and then turns their charity into a cruel lie by saying, “Well, no, we don’t mean you.”

Sex Registries as Modern-Day Witch Pyres: Why Criminal Justice Reform Advocates Need to Address the Treatment of People on the Sex Offender Registry

On December 30, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

"Sex Registries as Modern-Day Witch Pyres: Why Criminal Justice Reform Advocates Need to Address the Treatment of People on the Sex Offender Registry

"By Guy Hamilton-Smith - Law grad, civil rights activist, and author writing about criminal justice, sex offense policy, media, and culture.Dec 12, 2017

Perhaps the most irrefutable statement that can be made about modern day America is this: we have a penchant for putting people in cages. More than any other nation on the planet, we rely on incarceration as the fix for our social ills.

America’s unprecedented prison boom spawned advocates who work tirelessly to put the police state toothpaste back into the tube. As a result, despite a steady media diet of cops and robbers police procedurals, the rhetoric on crime policy has begun to shift. The country appears to be approaching something akin to apostasy. We have begun to lose our faith in imprisonment as an effective response to problems like drug addiction. For the first time since the data was tracked, state and federal prison populations declined in 2014, albeit slightly, from historic highs.

Yet amidst this wave of reform, one group of people continue to languish in the collective “harsher is better” mindset: sex offenders.

The American journalist H.L. Mencken once said that

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.

Mencken was right: if you’re interested in defending human freedom, get ready to spend a great deal of time defending people you might not like. The guns of oppression are aimed at the friendless before they swing to the connected and moneyed.

And no one is more friendless than those on the sex offender registry.

The sex offender is the modern-day witch: the registry, the contemporary pyre. A scarlet letter for our technocratic era, forcing people to register as sex offenders “is what puritan judges would’ve done to Hester Prynne had laptops been available.” While undoubtedly there are those on the registry who have been convicted of blood curdling crimes, the designation is also extended to those who have been convicted of far more banal ones.

Reformers urgently need to draw public attention to the cruel and unnecessarily harsh treatment afforded to sex offenders within the justice system. Sex offender registries are rapidly proliferating and becoming an increasingly popular back-end tool for feeding people into the carceral state.

In understanding the reasons why sex offenders ought to be a higher priority for mainstream justice reform advocates, a grasp of the evolution and operation of the sex offender registry is critical.

The forebears for modern sex offender registries and so-called “sexual psychopath laws” first appeared in late 1930s California, and largely targeted LGBTQ individuals. What began as relatively simple lists of individuals convicted of crimes grew in the wake of two high profile murders of children in 1937, which spawned a moral-sexual panic: simultaneously horrifying and captivating the nation.

Operating on the premise that the American public had a right to know about the sordid pasts of those it deemed miscreants, registries began to spread from state to state, city to city, arguably arriving in modern form in the wake of the grisly rape and murder of Megan Kanka in New Jersey in 1994 — the namesake for Megan’s Law (the colloquial term by which sex offender registries are most commonly known).
Perhaps owing to our puritan roots, it has been said that everyone in America lies about sex, because everyone lies about the designs that they have on their neighbors’ bodies.
In 2003, in a case titled Smith v. Doe, the United States Supreme Court was asked to consider whether the Alaskan sex offender registry was so punitive as to be constrained by the ex post facto clause of the United States Constitution, which is meant to stop punishments from being increased after the fact. In asserting — falsely, as has been conclusively demonstrated — that the risk of re-offense posed by sex offenders was “frightening and high,” the Court green-lit a cross-country, decade-long race to the bottom in denying those on the registry essential and time-honored legal protections.
Despite having been given two recent high-profile opportunities to revisit its holding and erroneous factual assertions, the Supreme Court has so far chosen not to do so. Worse, in the concurring opinion in 2017’s Packingham v. North Carolina, the conservative wing of the Court reaffirmed Smith’s central fallacy, which laid the foundation for present-day sex offender registries. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who authored the majority opinion in both Smith and Packingham, remained silent on the elephant in the room that was given life by his authorship in Smith: the erroneous assertion on re-offense rates.
In the wake of Smith, sex offender registries and their attendant restrictions have grown at a brisk clip. The number of people listed on a sex offender registry in the United States has grown from slightly more than 500,000 in 2005 to 874,725 today. Research has found that sex offender registries have a disproportionate impact on minorities.
While registries and their attendant requirements are sold as enhancing public safety, research consistently indicates that they are exceedingly bad at this goal. One explanation is because, contrary to Smith’s baseless assertion and what most believe, people on the registry have one of the lowest rates of re-offending out of any class of criminal.
Click on title for the rest of the story

REGISTERING WITH DIGNITY: A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR REENTRY AND LIFE ON THE REGISTRY

On December 30, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

"REGISTERING WITH DIGNITY: A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR REENTRY AND LIFE ON THE REGISTRY

"By Sex Law and Policy CEnter

Over the past year, we’ve diligently worked to draft a reentry guidebook specifically for people on the registry and the people that love and support them as they navigate the ins and outs of registration and reentry. There is a discussion about the varying pieces of federal legislation requiring registration for sex offenses. One section details constitutional protections, while another section outlines what to expect from registration. Community supervision and how to successfully complete it is covered later on, as is the reentry process and sex offender treatment. This guide explains a registrant’s rights to sexual expression and what to do if they feel their rights are being violated. There is an additional section specifically for women and juveniles on the registry. This guide also helps your loved ones understand what to expect from loving and supporting someone on the registry. In short, it helps registrants, and those they love, understand their rights as someone on the registry. If you have recommendations for improving Registering with Dignity, let us know by filling out the survey below.

https://www.sexlawandpolicy.org/dignity/

Go to website for Full Guide

Electronic etchings: The damaging permanence of lists in the digital era

On December 25, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

"Electronic etchings: The damaging permanence of lists in the digital era

"By Rebecca Beitsch- NARSOL 12/22/17

By Rebecca Beitsch . . . Mike Anderson was an 18-year-old freshman at Texas State University when he was busted with less than a gram of weed. Police arrested him, took his mugshot, and he spent the night in jail.

The legal consequences for being caught with such a small amount of marijuana — just enough for a joint or two — were minimal, but expensive. Prosecutors offered to drop the charges if he attended a drug program and did community service, and he could later get the record of his arrest expunged for about $500, wiping the history of his arrest from public view.

“After I got it expunged I thought it was pretty much a done deal,” he said of the order granted earlier this year.

But the next time he Googled his name, he realized the ordeal was far from over. His arrest photo was posted on Mugshots.com. The page was one of the top results for anyone who might be looking for him. And as Anderson applied for internships — a graduation requirement for mechanical engineering majors — recruiters who initially seemed interested would offer the spot to someone else.

“It wasn’t right,” said Anderson, a junior, who asked that his real name not be used for fear of drawing further attention to his mugshot.

“I called [Mugshots.com] on the phone, and they told me basically the only way I could get the mugshot to come down was to pay a certain fine. Proof of expunction wasn’t valid.”

At a time when personal information can end up online and rocket around the globe in seconds, the estimated 78 million Americans with criminal records are a rich target for websites that collect mugshots from police departments and sheriffs’ offices across the country and typically charge hundreds or thousands of dollars to have the photos removed. Even people who are arrested but never charged have their photos on the sites.

At a time when personal information can end up online and rocket around the globe in seconds, the estimated 78 million Americans with criminal records are a rich target for websites that collect mugshots from police departments and sheriffs’ offices across the country and typically charge hundreds or thousands of dollars to have the photos removed. Even people who are arrested but never charged have their photos on the sites.

Since their business practices came to light in 2013, the websites have drawn the ire of state lawmakers who criticize them as exploitative. Texas is one of 18 states with laws designed to help people like Anderson, cracking down on mugshot websites by banning them from charging removal fees, stemming the flow of mugshots from law enforcement agencies, or requiring that the postings be accurate.

But so far, the laws have been largely ineffective in providing relief to those whose photos are featured on the sites.

“They haven’t worked,” said Eumi Lee, a law professor at University of California-Hastings who has spent three years studying the effectiveness of mugshot laws for an upcoming legal review article to be published by Rutgers. “But they’ve had a bunch of unintended consequences.”

Mugshot websites have ignored the laws or quickly figured out ways to work around them, Lee said. In places where people can no longer pay to have photos deleted, they often have no remedy to get them removed. And once law enforcement releases the photos, they have little control over where they end up.
Mugshots.com, one of the biggest purveyors, has entries for nearly 30 million people, including people in states that hoped to make it easier to have mugshots removed.
A Stateline review found evidence across the country of the laws’ inadequacy:
Georgia - twice tried to get mugshots off websites, first blocking sites from charging arrestees who were never convicted to have their pictures removed, and then requiring affidavits from any entity requesting law enforcement copies of mugshots. Still, Mugshots.com claims to have 2.3 million records from Georgia on its site, including entries for those arrested after the law took effect.
California - enacted a law in 2014 barring mugshot companies from charging to remove photos. But even its sponsor doesn’t know how well it’s working. Pressed recently by Stateline for evidence of the law’s effectiveness, the office of state Sen. Jerry Hill, a Democrat, found a still-operating site, Whogotarrested.org, requesting a fee to remove photos. He requested a probe by the state’s attorney general.
And in Illinois, where the law similarly bans fees to remove mugshots, Mugshots.com is being sued for charging arrestees.
One of the plaintiffs in the Illinois suit, Peter Gabiola, said he can’t escape a criminal past — despite time served — because his face keeps popping up on Google searches. Gabiola said Mugshots.com told him it would cost $15,000 to have his information removed from the site. He contends he’s repeatedly been fired shortly after starting new jobs, even when he disclosed his criminal past, because Mugshots.com incorrectly insists he is still on parole.
“I made my life hard enough making some of the decisions I made in the past as a knucklehead, so I don’t need some worldwide company or whatever making it harder by publishing incorrect information,” Gabiola said.
Sheryl Ring, Gabiola’s attorney, said that’s part of the company’s business model — people who are already struggling because of a criminal record will be more likely to pay if the listing makes things look worse than they really are.
Despite the laws’ dubious track records, states keep enacting them. This year Florida, New Jersey, Ohio and South Dakota all enacted laws targeting mugshot websites.
To be sure, trying to rein in mugshot websites is a challenge. In most states, mugshots are a public record. The companies can digitally scrape the photos from law enforcement websites, uploading them to their own sites in just hours, or put in public information requests to get others. When they’ve been sued, the sites’ attorneys have repeatedly argued their work is protected under the First Amendment.
Please read the rest of this article at Stateline.

Once a sex offender always a sex offender — even beyond death?

On December 25, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

"Once a sex offender always a sex offender — even beyond death?

"By Sandy - NARSOL 12/24/17

By Sandy . . . Who was Benjamin Gran?

Registered sex offender sentenced to a lifetime of supervised release after he was caught with a massive amount of child pornography;
Autistic young man caught in a “witch hunt” after being duped by an unrepentant pedophile;
Third fatality in the deadly Amtrak derailment;
Member of the Special Olympics team;
Member of a pedophile group online;
Someone who paid his debt to society and was on the right path;
Convicted sex offender found in possession of child porn while working in IT at a college;
Huge train enthusiast, an Amtrak fan to the max;
Caught in an investigation into an online forum dedicated to promoting the sexual abuse of children;
Beloved son and an autism success story.

What did others say about him?

His death left his friends and family shattered beyond belief;
The child porn negates anything else that sick P.O.S. ever could have accomplished in his wasted existence;
A dear sweet friend considered by Special Olympics coaches as family;
He cannot hide from his crimes even after death;
Because of his optimism, a team of professionals, and his best friends who believed in him, Ben turned his life completely around and was living his life in a mature, contributing manner, and was the happiest he had been in his life;
A tiny bit of good news: one of the casualties in the Washington Amtrak derailment was a guy named Ben Gran, who was in 2011 convicted of numerous counts of producing child pornography;
He was incredibly kindhearted and insightful and brought such joy and love to everyone he met.

It sounds like two different people. Boiled down, as much a possible, to non-emotional facts, they are these:

Ben Gran was one of three men killed in the recent Amtrak derailment; He had autism; He was a train and Amtrak enthusiast; He had served prison time, was released in 2015, and was under lifetime supervision for the crime of child porn possession – not production — on his computer; There is no evidence he had re-offended since his release from prison; He was a member of the Special Olympics and is remembered with love and respect by his friends, family, employers, and coaches; He is reviled even after death by anonymous posters on articles and social media.

His death and its aftermath raise a series of issues and questions that must be examined.

A highly disproportionate percentage of young men who become involved with viewing – virtually never distributing or producing, but viewing and possessing – illegal pornographic images are teens and adults on the autism spectrum. While studies have been done, this is an area that begs for more thorough investigation.

(https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/my-life-aspergers/201308/autism-and-porn-problem-no-one-talks-about)

(http://www.downtownexpress.com/2016/10/20/aspergers-autism-and-sex-offenders/)

While writing this piece, I read twelve articles about the train derailment and those who died in it. Eight of the twelve chose a headline with the words “sex offender” in it; eleven of the twelve found it necessary to delve into Ben’s past and criminal history somewhere in the telling of the tragedy. This is but one example.

Why? Were the details of the horrific accident not salacious enough?
Any action that can be labeled a sexual offense carries with it a condemnation that far exceeds any other crime. Notable others who have been involved in drug trafficking, in armed robbery, even in murder, have repented and been embraced as success stories of our rehabilitative judicial system and lauded for their bravery in publicizing their stories. Why is this forgiveness not extended to those whose indiscretions can have the word “sex” attached to it?
Is looking at a nude child’s image on a computer worse than selling the child drugs that destroy his life? Is a twenty-year-old man having sex with a willing sixteen-year-old girlfriend worse than smashing in her head with a gun and stealing her car? And, as horrible as it is, is sexually assaulting a woman worse than killing her?
Finally, what does it say about the heart and soul of our nation when we are willing to forgo all pretense at compassion for those left behind in order to be as vile as possible in speaking of their deceased love ones? It would be easy to blame the media, and certainly they bear some responsibility, but they do not use the words “sex offender” as many times as possible and print nasty comments by anonymous persons because they believe their reading audience does not want such content.
If one person reading this seriously examines any of the issues raised by the death of Ben and the public’s reaction to it, then perhaps his loss will not have been totally in vain.

“Sex offense is the one crime that you can never pay for” By Sandy

On December 8, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

" “Sex offense is the one crime that you can never pay for”

"By NARSOL Posts 12/07/17

By Sandy . . . Some of you will remember a story from a little over a year ago about a registrant named Daniel Silverman. Dan was convicted of a sex offense in 2009, served 13 months, and has been out in society since late 2010. Based on polygraphs and his probation officer’s recommendations, his probation was terminated early.

Knowing he would be virtually unemployable at any meaningful job, Dan did what many registrants do and created his own company. As an artist and a photographer, he created work traveling to comic and other similar conventions and creating green screen photos for people.

he company was successful and grew very popular, and Dan had a client load of approximately 40 conventions of all sizes each year, allowing him to earn a decent living and start saving for retirement.

Then it all came tumbling down. Someone started anonymously emailing the convention organizers, telling them that he was a registered sex offender, sending a link to his public registry listing.

We know where it went from there. Virtually all of his clients severed his contracts, but he managed to hang on, even adding a few new contracts. Then a year or more later, a self-styled defender of the people, Trae Dorn, at a blog called Nerd & Tie, saw fit to publish the entire story again, giving a “reminder,” he said, that a registered sex offender was actually daring to run a business and earn a living. He named conventions that had employed Daniel.

He gave Daniel’s full name and the name of his company, and he suggested that anyone who hired him was putting their clientele at risk of harm, a claim for which there is not a scintilla of evidence and is in fact contradicted by his former clients and the courts. Dorn even included a link to Daniel’s entry on the sex offender registry, something that the original, anonymous, vigilante e-mailer had also done. Within hours, Daniel had received cancellation notices from virtually all of the accounts he had left.

Again, suicidal and facing bankruptcy, Daniel hung on, slowly rebuilding his business. I have touched base with him a few times, and he was feeling more upbeat as time went on.

Now he has written me again, and nothing I could say would convey the situation as well as Daniel’s own words.

”I’ve tried to carry on with my business as best I could. I recently got hired to do celebrity photo ops at a convention near Boston. The show owner asked me about my offense, and I gave him my information as well as an affidavit stating that I had passed my polygraph examination (showing I was truthful), that I am not a threat, etc. He agreed to have me at the show after reading my side of things and decided to stand by me. This was a welcome surprise. However, as a result, his convention came under attack by a few people who feel the need to track me, it seems, because they firmly believe that sex offenders are all predators attempting to find new ways to rape and assault people, particularly children.

It all ended up sprawled across the pages of Facebook. Dan continues:

There were other posts elsewhere. Some threatened me physically. One person was planning to create fliers about me to pass out to all attending the event. The convention owner decided to attempt to defend me as he has known me for several years. He may not have done the best with his choice of words, but people grew angrier. I became afraid to attend the event, fearing that something would happen to my property or me. I also wanted to help out Gary, the owner of the show, so I resigned from doing the photo ops. He posted my resignation email and even THAT made people mad. As a result of having to back out of this show, I have lost much needed income that was meant to get me through the rest of this year and January. I am scrambling to make ends meet. Sex offense is the new witch-hunt. We are not people … not in the eyes of others … but monsters who should be put to death. People do not care about the truth or circumstances surrounding the offender. And even when the offender has served his time for the crime he was convicted for, he is not allowed to move on with life. Sex offense is the one crime that you can never pay for, no matter what the justice system says. And this public registry is ensuring that people who have tried to move on, cannot. It’s that simple.

Analysis: Changing the boys’ club culture at the Texas Capitol

On December 1, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

"Analysis: Changing the boys' club culture at the Texas Capitol

"by Ross Ramsey – The Texas Tribune 11/15/17

It's hard to argue that Texas lawmakers do as much as they could to protect the victims of sexual harassment in the state Capitol — staffers, lobbyists and even some female lawmakers. It's been a boys club for a long, long time.

Hey, Texas legislators, how about setting an example once in a while?

It could be something simple, like getting rid of — or perhaps, at least, editing — that historically false Confederate war marker in the extension to the Texas Capitol. It might’ve been easier to do it 24 years ago, when the extension opened and the plaque in question was moved to its new location. But there’s always time to correct a mistake.

Or something else that’s well-identified but slippery and harder to achieve, like significant reform to the ethics laws for state officeholders — reforms that have been on the emergency-items-not-addressed lists for Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Legislature for four years now. Self-regulation is always hard, especially when it gets tangled up with the kind of score-settling that starts in political campaigns and takes hold when the winners take office.

Or maybe, legislators could set their sights on one of the oldest and least acknowledged issues in this and many other governments (not to mention the movie and media industries, to name two) — that of sexual predators with official titles preying on staffers, lobbyists and, once in a while, each other. That cultural cancer — the subject of a cringeworthy story by The Texas Tribune’s Alexa Ura, Morgan Smith, Jolie McCullough and Edgar Walters — is only partly about the sexual harassment that plagues the Legislature and the people around it; it’s also about the failure of the system to give the victims meaningful help or recourse.

That failure is something the leaders in the executive and legislative branches can repair, if they want to.

The great state of Texas has had 5,415 men in the Legislature and only 155 women. This is and always has been a boys club, often marked by misbehavior. But sex and sexual harassment aren’t the same thing. The first involves mutual consent; the second doesn’t. And that’s where the leaders can do some good, if they are so inclined — they can make a distinction in their rules and laws, and make it stick. As it stands, women in the Capitol can’t do much to stop harassment; reporting it carries career and professional risks and little assurance that anything will happen to the predators who assault them. Too much of the time, it’s a take-it-or-quit culture.

It’s not easy. A woman on the House side could bring a complaint to the House Administration Committee, but there’s not really a procedure there to protect her and her job if she does. She’s going to run into Charlie Geren, the Fort Worth Republican who heads that committee. Here’s what he told the Tribune when asked about complaints: “There’s nothing to talk about because we don’t have any. I don’t deal in ifs. When there’s one I’ll handle it. And that’s it.”

If he’s right, the Texas House of Representatives might be the safest workplace for women in the United States, which is lucky, since you can’t sue the state without the state’s permission.

Geren’s in no position to police this, anyway. Each of the 183 representatives and senators, their staffers and the lobbyists who haunt the halls is tied together in a system of trades, favors, debates and relationships that conflict with their ability to settle disputes over sexual harassment. Geren has the same conflict of interest everyone else does. He’s got bills to pass — an imperative that competes with the need to police fellow lawmakers.

his legislator needs that legislator to pass a bill, to get out of the way, to do something or not do something; horning in on that touchy business with something as volatile as a sexual harassment claim messes with the work they’re hired to do.

That’s not an excuse for the way they act; it’s a description of the conflict of interest that prevents even trustworthy and moral legislators from protecting the victims of the Capitol’s worst occupants. And there are already calls to action coming from state officials who want to make it a safer place for women.
Anyone working in the Texas Capitol — whether on their own account, on the state payroll or on behalf of someone who can afford a lobbyist — ought to be safe from sexual predators and protected when they report harassment. That’s not how it is right now: In practice, the predators are free to do what they’ve always done.

For Illinois Sex Offenders, Six Years Can Turn Into Life In Prison

On November 20, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

"For Illinois Sex Offenders, Six Years Can Turn Into Life In Prison

"by Max Green – WBEZ NewsNovember 13, 2017

J.D. Lindenmeier completed his six-year prison sentence in 2011, but he hasn’t been released because he has nowhere to go. Inmates call these extra years behind bars “dead time.”

The Rockford native committed a sex crime, and in order to get out of prison he has to meet the state’s long list of rigid parole requirements for those convicted of predatory criminal sexual assault. He could remain behind bars for the rest of his life if he doesn’t find appropriate housing. For Lindenmeier, that means finding a place to live where, among other things, he is away from children and has no internet-accessible devices like smartphones and smart TVs.

Lindenmeier said he couldn’t afford his own apartment, so he turned to his family for help. But their living situations disqualified them under state law. He said his father lived too close to a park, his mother had a computer and smartphone, his sister had small children, and his dad’s girlfriend’s home was too close to a day care center. The rules even prohibit halfway houses from taking in sex offenders. So he remains behind bars, searching for a home.

And Lindenmeier isn’t alone. He’s part of a class-action lawsuit with other Illinois prisoners in similar situations, though the exact number of sex offenders who remain behind bars after their sentence is unknown. That’s because the Illinois Department of Corrections doesn’t track that information, according to IDOC spokeswoman Dede Short.

When it comes to releasing sex offenders, Illinois has some of the strictest restrictions in the country, said Melissa Hamilton, a senior lecturer of law and criminal justice at the University of Surrey’s School of Law in England. Former state Rep. Elaine Nekritz said that’s because lawmakers want to appear tough on crime.

But Hamilton noted that sex offenders are much less likely to re-offend than most other criminals. For those sex offenders stuck in prison, the laws have left them questioning when they have served their time. But the laws have also created a situation where Illinois residents must weigh the cost of keeping sex offenders out of their neighborhood. It costs about $22,000 per year to house an inmate in Illinois. In keeping Lindenmeier locked for six years past his sentence the state could have spent more than $100,000.

An infinite sentence

Under current Illinois laws, parole for certain sex offenders doesn’t start until they find adequate housing. Only then will a parole board re-evaluate offenders and decide when parole should end. But that wasn’t always the case.

Prior to a 2012 Illinois Supreme Court ruling, a sex offender who couldn’t find compliant housing would serve their parole in prison. Once the term of parole was complete, the prisoner would be released.

Please click on title for the full article

At the Texas Capitol, victims of sexual harassment must fend for themselves

On November 20, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

"At Texas Capitol, victims of sexual harassment must fend for themselves

"by Alexa Ura, Morgan Smith, Jolie McCullough and Edgar Walters, The Texas Tribune Mon 7:03 PM, Nov 13, 2017 | Updated: Mon 8:05 PM, Nov 13, 2017

Disgust overwhelmed her when she felt his tongue on her hand.

A capitol staffer, she had been at a large party celebrating the end of a legislative session a few years ago and was on her way out when a male lawmaker she had never spoken to reached for her.

“You can’t leave yet,” the staffer remembers the lawmaker telling her as he held her hand tightly. She thought he was going to bring her hand to his mouth and kiss it. Instead, he licked it and refused to let go.

“It was in a crowded place,” said the staffer, who no longer works at the Capitol and spoke to The Texas Tribune on the condition of anonymity for fear it would affect her current job. “Maybe it was so subtle that no one else saw anything [but] the audacity of someone to do that and think it’s OK — it just boggled my mind.”

As sexual misconduct accusations pile up against men in power across the country, interviews with more than two dozen current and former lawmakers and legislative aides indicate sexual harassment not only is pervasive at the Texas Capitol but also regularly goes unchecked. Most of those interviewed described how men at the Capitol — some of them lawmakers — engaged in a wide range of harassment, including degrading comments and gestures, groping and unwanted sexual advances.

Yet not a single formal complaint of sexual harassment has been filed in either the House or Senate since 2011, according to a review of public records and interviews with officials responsible for fielding complaints. Even though sexual harassment policies have been in place for two decades, few employees interviewed by the Tribune even knew they could file a formal complaint.

The policies themselves are outdated — both reference a state agency that no longer exists — and rely on Capitol officials with little incentive or authority to enforce them, particularly in cases of harassment by lawmakers.

“Well, you know we can’t fire them. The people get to fire them,” said Patsy Spaw, of elected officials. As the secretary of the senate, Spaw's duties include resolving complaints in the chamber.

“There’s nothing to talk about”

Many of those interviewed spoke of a Capitol culture that offers little support for victims and expressed fears that speaking out would lead to retaliation or career sabotage. Instead, women who work in the Legislature said they try to protect one another by quietly exchanging stories. They pass along the names of men to stay away from and the hallways in the Capitol to avoid.

“You either created a distance or didn’t place yourself in situations where you had to interact with them,” said a former staffer who dealt with unwelcome advances from a lawmaker on the Senate floor and at an end-of-session party.

Another former staffer described the Capitol as a place where sexual harassment is “as common as a hello,” where powerful men can prey on employees with impunity. She recounted greeting several guests at a lobbyist’s party who were sitting at a table. Among them was a lawmaker, who in a “split second” shot his hand up her skirt.
The staffer said she pushed his hand away and quickly left the event in distress. She remembers being thankful for wearing the “right underwear,” noting that otherwise he could have penetrated her.
Please click on title for the rest of the story.

Analysis: Changing the boys’ club culture at the Texas Capitol

On November 20, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

"Analysis: Changing the boys' club culture at the Texas Capitol

"by Ross Ramsey Nov. 15, 2017

AUSTIN — It's hard to argue that Texas lawmakers do as much as they could to protect the victims of sexual harassment in the state Capitol — staffers, lobbyists and even some female lawmakers. It's been a boys club for a long, long time.

Hey, Texas legislators, how about setting an example once in a while?

It could be something simple, like getting rid of — or perhaps, at least, editing — that historically false Confederate war marker in the extension to the Texas Capitol. It might’ve been easier to do it 24 years ago, when the extension opened and the plaque in question was moved to its new location. But there’s always time to correct a mistake.

Or something else that’s well-identified but slippery and harder to achieve, like significant reform to the ethics laws for state officeholders — reforms that have been on the emergency-items-not-addressed lists for Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Legislature for four years now. Self-regulation is always hard, especially when it gets tangled up with the kind of score-settling that starts in political campaigns and takes hold when the winners take office.

Or maybe, legislators could set their sights on one of the oldest and least acknowledged issues in this and many other governments (not to mention the movie and media industries, to name two) — that of sexual predators with official titles preying on staffers, lobbyists and, once in a while, each other. That cultural cancer — the subject of a cringeworthy story by The Texas Tribune’s Alexa Ura, Morgan Smith, Jolie McCullough and Edgar Walters — is only partly about the sexual harassment that plagues the Legislature and the people around it; it’s also about the failure of the system to give the victims meaningful help or recourse.

That failure is something the leaders in the executive and legislative branches can repair, if they want to.

The great state of Texas has had 5,415 men in the Legislature and only 155 women. This is and always has been a boys club, often marked by misbehavior. But sex and sexual harassment aren’t the same thing. The first involves mutual consent; the second doesn’t. And that’s where the leaders can do some good, if they are so inclined — they can make a distinction in their rules and laws, and make it stick. As it stands, women in the Capitol can’t do much to stop harassment; reporting it carries career and professional risks and little assurance that anything will happen to the predators who assault them. Too much of the time, it’s a take-it-or-quit culture.

It’s not easy. A woman on the House side could bring a complaint to the House Administration Committee, but there’s not really a procedure there to protect her and her job if she does. She’s going to run into Charlie Geren, the Fort Worth Republican who heads that committee. Here’s what he told the Tribune when asked about complaints: “There’s nothing to talk about because we don’t have any. I don’t deal in ifs. When there’s one I’ll handle it. And that’s it.”

If he’s right, the Texas House of Representatives might be the safest workplace for women in the United States, which is lucky, since you can’t sue the state without the state’s permission.

Geren’s in no position to police this, anyway. Each of the 183 representatives and senators, their staffers and the lobbyists who haunt the halls is tied together in a system of trades, favors, debates and relationships that conflict with their ability to settle disputes over sexual harassment. Geren has the same conflict of interest everyone else does. He’s got bills to pass — an imperative that competes with the need to police fellow lawmakers.

This legislator needs that legislator to pass a bill, to get out of the way, to do something or not do something; horning in on that touchy business with something as volatile as a sexual harassment claim messes with the work they’re hired to do.

That’s not an excuse for the way they act; it’s a description of the conflict of interest that prevents even trustworthy and moral legislators from protecting the victims of the Capitol’s worst occupants. And there are already calls to action coming from state officials who want to make it a safer place for women.
Anyone working in the Texas Capitol — whether on their own account, on the state payroll or on behalf of someone who can afford a lobbyist — ought to be safe from sexual predators and protected when they report harassment. That’s not how it is right now: In practice, the predators are free to do what they’ve always done.

Thanks for Visiting!

We hope you have enjoyed our website!