Tuesday, April 24, 2012

At Ground Zero for the war on sex offenders

In the shadow of Ground Zero, with the new construction of the "Freedom Tower" in the background,
the media frenzy over the possible Ground Zero for the war on sex offenders was bustling with activity.
This photo (c) 2012 Derek Logue of www.oncefallen.com, not to be reused w/o permission.
"In many ways, it was the end of an era of innocence. And parents suddenly became much more protective and much more hovering over their children." -- Ernie Allen, NCMEC

"We want kids to walk around smart and not scared," -- Alison Feigh, Jacob Wetterling Resource Center

"I said to him, 'If you got a sense from us that the world is a scary place, it came from Etan Patz. That's where it came from. And I'm sorry if we did do that. Because it's not a good thing to imbue in a child." -- Cass Collins, wife of the father of a child in Etan's playgroup, to her son

"Though I realize that the likelihood of any one of my own three children being abducted is likely less than them being struck by lightning, that doesn't mean that it's not a real, albeit slightly irrational, fear."-- Jodi Halkin, of Palm Beach, Fla., who grew up around the corner from Adam Walsh. Halkin won't even write her children's names on their T-shirts or backpacks out of fear that a stranger might be able to call one of them by name.

All above quotes came from the Christian Science Monitor article, "Etan Patz: His disappearance started the era of parental anxiety," by Meghan Barr, April 23, 2012

This past weekend I went to New York City to be on the Paula Gloria Show. As I was sitting at the station awaiting my transport, the Etan Patz case was all over the CNN channel, which was playing in the lobby. Who is Etan Patz? He was a young boy who went missing on May 25th 1979, and his disappearance was the catalyst for the current era of parental anxiety, and ultimately the war on sex offenders.

The Etan Patz disappearance was among the first disappearance to trigger a massive search for a single missing child in the modern era, and while overshadowed by the death of Adam Walsh and the activism by his John Walsh (who helped begin the NCMEC and the milk carton campaigns), the Patz case is still Ground Zero for what would ultimately become the "war on sex offenders." Patz was the first child features on a milk carton, according to AMNY, a free local newspaper handed to me by a local.

A local TV reporter tries waving off a fan while reporting on the Etan Patz search.
This picture (c) 2012 Derek W. Logue of www.oncefallen.com. Do not reuse w/o permission
It seemed no mere coincidence this 33-year-old case would make national news as I began my trip to the Big Apple. With my copy of the AMNY in hand, I made my way to the corner of Prince and Wooster. In the distance, the Freedom Tower, the new World Trade tower replacing the Twin Towers destroyed on 9/11, loomed in the background barely a mile from the other "ground Zero." The narrow streets were packed with media vans lined up around the block, and dozens of portable metal fences separated the crowds of people from the media and the investigators searching a basement in an effort to find the missing child. The media swarmed around a short, balding man in a way reserved only for Hollywood stars surrounded at the Red Carpet by the Paparazzi.

The short balding guy in the beige clothes is swallowed by the media frenzy.
Behind the media antenna to the right stands Freedom Tower.
This picture (c) 2012 Derek W. Logue of www.oncefallen.com, do not use w/o permission.
As I took my own shots of the media frenzy, people began asking me what was going on. Many never heard of Etan Patz. I can understand. After all, it is a case older than my ex-wife, 33 years old. Without knowing much about the latest developments, I mused doubt they would even find anything more than mere speculation. The speculation was based upon a maintenance man who worked in the area around the time of the disappearance and was spotted with the child the day before.

The FBI and NYPD cordoned an entire block for nearly 5 days in a futile search.
This pic (c) 2012 Derek W Logue of www.oncefallen.com. Do not use w/o permission
The next day, I was on the Paula Gloria show, with the site of both ground zeroes still on my mind. I was only two years old when Patz disappeared. The site reminded me why the war on sex offenders was as poorly fought as the wars of the past, including the ongoing "war on terror." Media frenzies, misinformation, and knee-jerk reactions helped create this costly and ineffective war. It became a point I could use to resonate with those locals tuned in to the local access channel and help them understand the faulty logic behind the war on sex offenders.

Etan Patz's parents left a note outside their apartment asking to be left alone
As I unpacked my bags at home, I turned my computer on and read the search had yielded nothing and was called off despite digging up tons of earth believing the boy to be buried under some newer concrete. I'm not surprised. To me, it merely validated my feelings about the war on sex offenders. We have reached a point in our society where we spare no expense in finding a lost child no matter how vague the clue may be. We did the same with the Adam Walsh case recently, announcing vague new evidence which turned out to be no evidence. Police went by the nose of a cadaver dog, which might have sniffed a dead animal or even the blood of a human who cut his hand while working. We'll never know.

Whatever the case may be, if indeed the "era of innocence" was lost, so has the age of common sense. one look at the frenzy over this case is all it takes to see how far we have gone in exalting missing child cases in this country. For the war on sex offenders, as in the equally misguided war on terror, the war began in downtown New York City.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The sequel no one wanted: Bookville II, return of the Miami sex offender camp

The fourth and final of my Examiner.com articles. In the future, I will NOT support The Examiner as they discriminate against ex-felons.

Bookville II, return of the Miami sex offender camp

Derek Logue
Cincinnati Crime Examiner

You cannot have your cake and eat it too. -- Old proverb
Five long years ago, Miami's stringent 2500 foot residency restriction laws forced the city's registered persons into a handful of locations where it was still legal for them to live.The Julia Tuttle Causeway "sex offender camp" began with five men forced to live under the bridge connecting Miami Beach to Miami's Midtown. Over time, the camp grew to over 100 residents before the camp was destroyed in March 2010, and the former residents were scattered among the remaining available locations. 
At the heart of the Julia Tuttle Causeway Sex Offender colony is Ron Book, a powerful South Florida lobbyist who, with the help of his daughter, Lauren Book-Lim, spearheaded the efforts to create the toughest residency laws in the country. The result was a residency restriction law barring sex offenders from living within 2500 of any place children may congregate, leaving the Julia Tuttle Causeway and a handful of isolated areas as the only legal places for registrants to live.
Ron Book has not been without controversy. Ron Book was convicted of violating Florida's campaign finance laws multiple times, and now has a criminal record. Book still holds power in South Florida despite being under federal investigation for more political corruption. Corruption seems to be par for the course in South Florida.
In a cruel twist of fate, Ron Book is also head of Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, entrusted to assist the homeless. Thus, Ron Book was charged with the task of assisting the very people he forced into homelessness in the first place. Needless to say, Ron Book was not well liked or trusted by those he forced under the bridge. The JTC registrants even posted a sign proclaiming "Welcome to Bookville." At least when pandering to the media, Book claimed he was doing everything he could to help the residents. He even admitted he was "wrong" to promote residency laws.
The solution seems simple enough-- abolishing or reducing residency laws, as Iowa had done. But since we are talking about South Florida, the natural law of logic does not apply. Consider the following from Senator David Aronberg:
"Aronberg — at 37, the youngest member of the Senate — said when the state passed a law in 1993 prohibiting sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, and day care centers it seemed like a good idea and local municipalities soon followed suit...
"Ironically, Aronberg said, what started out as a well-intentioned way to keep kids safe from sex offenders has actually put them in greater danger. Unable to find housing after being released from prison, sex offenders have become homeless or have gone underground in record numbers. He noted Miami-Dade County made national news recently when sex offenders there were sent to live under the Julia Tuttle Causeway...
"In an attempt to remedy this situation, Aronberg said he has put forth legislation — with the support of law enforcement, prosecutors, and child safety advocates — to create a single, consistent 1,500 ft. residency restriction throughout Florida. Aronberg said the bill, which passed the Senate last year, but was not taken up by the House, would end the confusion caused by 128 different ordinances, and would eliminate the homeless sex offender problem that endangers public safety."
To sum up Aronberg's statements, sex offender residency laws do not work because it creates homelessness and puts lives at risk, therefore, the solution is increasing statewide residency restrictions to make more restricted areas across Florida and increase homeless registrants across the entire state. That makes perfect sense.
Back at Bookville, Ron Book pandered to the media once again, proclaiming he found federal funds to relocate the JTC residents. It was the perfect plan--hide the city's international embarassment under the guise of assisting the homeless, and the media bought it hook, line, and sinker. The camp was closed and the residents were moved to temporary shelters. The media soon forgotten about the debacle (or more accurately, swept under the rug), but for those who once lived in Bookvville, the story was far from over.
It wasn't long before Book pulled the funding he collected to aid the registrants, and they were forced back onto the street. Since the Julia Tuttle Causeway was now off-limits, the registrants were sheltered at a Department of Corrections parking lot. Meanwhile, Ron Book was back to his old tricks, defending his support of the residency laws and mocking those who appose him as "advocates for predators" and "suspect."
It may have been the end of the Julia Tuttle Causeway camp, but not Bookville. The Emperor of Bookville found a new spot for his empire; Emperor Book began a conquest of Shorecrest. Soon Book found himself back on damage control. Here is a statement from Ron Book from the Miami Herald in November 2011:
Whatever the merits of Book’s resettlement efforts, he cautioned they were temporary: “I can’t pay rent for these people forever. It runs for a period of time and runs out.” Indeed, soon afterwards, Book declared an end to the Trust’s aid for the Bookville exiles: “As far as we’re concerned, our help for people under the bridge is done.” He acknowledged, however, that without this aid, many would “end up back somewhere on the streets,” adding ominously “We just don’t know where.”
And here is his statement in response to the media's uproar over his new Shorecrest kingdom:
“I’m shocked. It makes me crazy. We worked very hard to make sure this crap didn’t happen again.”
It does not look like Ron Book is being honest. Book has done everything to keep his law on the books, including using his daughter Lauren to promote his laws. Lauen has increased her yearly "awareness" walk by 500 miles each year; this year she allegedly walked 39 miles for 39 days, or about 1,500 miles. The books are sponsoring even more legislation to ensure more residents of Bookville in the future. The motivation behind it is Lauren Book's abuse at the hands of her nanny, who was not listed on the public registry. Nothing the Books have advocated would have prevented Lauren's abuse.
Ron Book wants to have his cake and eat it, too. He wants his residency restrictions yet wants the homeless camps swept under the rug. It is the bad sequel nobody wanted for everyone involved. Once again Miami finds itself the center of international embarassment, and once again, Ron Book is the star of the show. 
More on the Julia Tuttle Causeway/Bookville Saga can be found at Once Fallen.

Privatizing the sex offender registry puts you and your children at risk

The third of my Examiner.com articles.

Privatizing the sex offender registry puts you and your children at risk

Derek Logue
Cincinnati Crime Examiner

Privatization is the latest craze in government. In recent years, a number of government services have been targeted for privatization, including social security, medicare, and prisons. Privatization has many negative connotations associated with the practice, and as a result, controversy and opposition is not in short supply.
In recent months, the Louisiana-based "Watch Systems/ Offender Watch" business is privatizing the sex offender registry. Hundreds of Sheriff's offices and a handful of states have switched over to Offender Watch. The motivation for privatization is simple-- money. Supposedly, contracting business to the public sector saves a few taxpayer dollars. 
Is the state of Ohio really saving money by turning over the operation of sex offender data to a private business? I have my doubts. In 2007, when Ohio was debating the passage of the Adam Walsh Act, the legislative fiscal notes indicated the change of the current internet registry (then known as eSORN) would cost $475,000 in one time expenses and $85,000 per year in maintenance. By contrast, under the state of Ohio's current contract with Watch Systems, the state is shelling out $399,000 per year. 
In addition, Offender Watch has caused many problems in its short history. In November 2011, 10tv of Columbus reported that hundreds of people were "mistakenly" added to the public registry by Watch Systems:
 The state had been working to switch the entire registry operation over to a Louisiana company called Watch Systems. 
In early October, the state said the company took control of the search operation of the registry and mistakenly put inaccurate information into the system for all to see, Strickler reported.
The state attorney general's office said the problem was a result of human error. 
"There were probably hundreds, but we don't know exactly because we didn't take the time to go through the records individually," said Steven Raubenolt, Deputy Superintendent of BC&I.
I have my doubts this was "accidental." States compete for registry dollars, and the more people on the registry, the more money goes to the state. After all, this is the reason whyFlorida lists long dead sex offenders on their state registry (and perhaps in case they return from the dead). 
A second controversy has surrounded the misuse of statistics to justify their existence. Offender Watch-run websites have posted a false statistic claiming "50% of sex offenders re-offend." This stat was extrapolated from yet another privately run registry, Family Watchdog, which recently removed the statistic from the website. Some websites have posted the offending stat while others have posted more lower and more accurate stats (CLICK HERE to view the different web pages for comparison). 
One such example of stat inflation was recently reported in Connecticut, where a recent study has confirmed what has been known for mny years-- sexual recidivism is far lower than believed. The Connecticut study found only 2.7% of convicted registered sex offenders repeated their crimes, far lower than the 50% Offender Watch standard. Now, Offender Watch has dropped the 50% stat from many of it's websites
The thought of privatizing the registry should scare you, since it is obvious they will public advertise fear to sell their wares. Imagine a corporation investing money in promoting laws making it easier to add you or your loved ones to the public registry. Perhaps we'll see sex offender registry stock on the New York Stock Exchange as we currently see with the private prison companies GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America. Worse, imagine contracts to keep the registry ever at full capacity like the private prison industry. In KATU of Portland's March 2012 article on the debate over expanding the registry, the person representing the side of expansion of the registry is Dan Meister who sells--what else-- background checks to paranoid individuals. 
The current registry is already bloated as a result of ill-conceived legislation, fear, propaganda, and special interest groups. Adding private business aspects to the registry will only serve to exacerbate an already existing problem with an all-encompassing public registry. How many more people are we willing to sacrifice for this false sense of security?

Ohio Governor's Office, DRC, DYS to host Cincy Collateral Consequences symposium

The second of my Examiner.com articles.

Ohio Governor's Office, DRC, DYS to host Cincy Collateral Consequences symposium

Derek Logue
Cincinnati Crime Examiner

Like many former felons, I have struggled with obtaining gainful employment after completing my sentence and released into society. Despite graduating cum laude with a Bachelor's degree from a major university, I found myself stocking shelves for minimum wage, and it took me seven months to find that job. I was one of the lucky ones, because the jobless rate among ex-felons is roughly five times higher than citizens without criminal records. There is a definite link between unemployment and recidivism, but many businesses routinely discriminate against individuals with criminal records. As the number of US citizens with a criminal record tops 65 million, with nearly 750,000 singled out for inclusion on the National Sex Offender Registry, the need for reintegration programs is integral to reduce recidivism.

Ohio is adressing this problem by hosting a symposium entitled " Addressing Collateral Consequences in Ohio, Part 4: Clearing the Road to Gainful Employment," Held from 10am to 2pm on February 29th, 2012 at The Vineyard Church Healing Center in Springdale, OH.This is an opportunity to address the many barriers ex-felons face in obtaining and maintaining gainful employment. According to the event flier, there will be a number of workshops at this event:

"Driver’s License Suspension/Infraction/Indigent Fees - Ohio has many convictions that result in losing driving privileges where there is not a direct nexus to a driving offense - i.e. non-payment of child support, trespassing and shoplifting under $100.  This workgroup will focus on the civil and criminal penalties directly associated with this topic.

Fair Hiring Practices/Expungement - This workgroup will focus on employment barriers associated with the State of Ohio’s application process and discussion of Ohio’s expungement process for misdemeanor and felony convictions.

Child Support Practices - Currently child support orders and arrearages continue to accrue while an inmate is incarcerated, even though their income drastically decreases during the incarceration period causing the offender to have less earning power once released, due to the barriers associated with a criminal conviction. This workgroup will focus on changes to arrearages that accumulate while a person is incarcerated, modifications to child support orders and driver’s license suspensions and reinstatement fees associated with non-payment of child support.

Collateral Consequences- Research provided by the University of Cincinnati found Collateral Consequences in more than 800 places in Ohio laws and administrative rules. This workgroup will focus on a system that is publicly available to criminal justice professionals/stakeholders and returning citizens.

Juvenile Justice- Many policymakers do not realize that collateral sanctions impact youth adjudicated to DYS.  This workgroup will focus on the breach of confidentiality of juvenile records and the educational needs for youth returning to their communities.

Order of Limited Relief - This workgroup will focus on creating an Order of Limited Relief for ex-offenders who seek relief from mandatory disabilities pertaining to employment and other barriers, in some cases, years after the conviction has occurred."

I suggested there should be a workshop specifically for sex offenders, who face even more restrictions as a result of the public registry, but at the moment there is not anything planned specifically for registrants. 

Below is the contact information for more information on this event. 

February 29, 2012
10:00 A.M. - 1:00 P.M.
(Registration will begin at 9:30 a.m.)

Healing Center Cincinnati
11345 Century Circle W.
Springdale, Ohio 45246
(513) 346-4080 

Please RSVP to:
No later than February 24, 2012

Why the Cherokee Nation needs to reject the Adam Walsh Act

This was one of my four articles written for The Examiner before they decided to discriminate against me. So I'm republishing it here 

Privatizing the sex offender registry puts you and your children at risk

 "Once you're on a publicly accessible registry, your life is pretty much shot." -- US Representative Bobby Scott, during the March 10, 2009 Congressional SORNA Hearing
When I read the article "AG Office warns council on sex offender bill" in the Cherokee Phoenix,  I was disappointed to learn that the Cherokee nation is debating the issue of sovereignty versus passing a feel good law that will actually harm many native tribesmen.
The Adam Walsh Act was a stagnant bill until it was championed through Congress by John Walsh and Mark Foley in 2006. The bill bypassed standard Congressional procedure by abusing "Suspension of the Rules," which allows certain bills to pass through legislatures without a full debate or review. Those who voted on the bill did not even know what was in the bill.
The AWA imposes a negative penalty on those who refuse to adopt this bill. For states, this means facing a 10% of Federal law enforcement grants (known as Byrne/JAG). Apparently the negative penalty extends to sovereign tribes as well, as mentioned in your article. However, to give into federal demands would be willingly relinquishing that sovereignty anyway, as they are forcing a bad law upon your tribe.
As of February 2012, 15 states and 9 Native American tribes are "substantially compliant" with the AWA. However, of those 15 states, two of them, Missouri and Kansas, are reconsidering their compliant status. Some traditionally tough-on-crime states, like Texas, California, and Arizona, have publicly stated they have no plans to pass this law.
There are a few major criticisms of this law. The first major criticism is the AWA demands children as young as age 14 to be listed on the public registry. Teens caught in consensual relationships (known as "Romeo and Juliet," or R&J) or "sexting" have landed on public registries across the US. Second, the AWA is expensive, with costs of implementation far outweighing that 10% cuts the federal government imposes on those who refuse to comply.
A major part of the expense of the AWA comes from the reclassification of registrants. When Ohio and Oklahoma changed their registration laws in an attempt to comply with the Adam Walsh Act, the number of people who were listed on the highest tier, the "Tier 3" or "High-Risk" category rose dramatically overnight. In Oklahoma, that number jumped from about 25% to 78% overnight. They did nothing to warrant that change. While most states utilize risk assessment evaluations, the AWA uses an offense-based classification. In other words, the AWA classifies on the basis of how the crime is defined by the state. Instead of streamlining this process across the USA, it has made things worse.
During one congressional meeting in March 2009, a spokesperson for Louisiana stated that a teen having consensual relations with other teens would be forced to register for 25 years.
I should not even have to mention the destructive power of being listed on the sex offender registry. It is a social death sentence. People won't hire you, rent to you, or date you. If you have a wife and kids, they suffer with you. You live in fear of vigilante attacks or politicians passing the next feel-good law against you to pander for votes.
Rejecting the Adam Walsh Act is not about being "soft" but "smart" on crime. Education and prevention programs proven to reduce the prevalence of sexual offending in society do inded exist, like Stop It Now or the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center. However, these level-headed programs are ignored in favor of revenge-motivated law enforcement and an industry that sells us a false sense of security.
This list is very expensive to maintain. The state of Ohio reported they spent over $10 million in legal defense and reclassification of registrants as a result of the Adam Walsh Act.Ohio spends $40,000 a month to Offender Watch just to maintain the oline registry. This does not even count the cost of complience checks or notification, just the cost of the registry. 
The public registry fails us because we have grown to rely on a list that only shows us at most 5% of the problem. About 95% of sex crime arrests are of people with no prior sex crime arrests. Furthermore, about 95% of those on the public registry never re-offend, but it has nothing to do with the registry. In fact, studies suggest the public registry may actually create an environment that makes people more likely to re-offend.
If the Cherokee Nation wants to protect children, don't adopt the Adam Walsh Act. If the Cherokee Nation wants autonomy from American interference, then don't adopt the AWA. 
Learn more about the dangers of the Adam Walsh Act by visiting Once Fallen's Adam Walsh Act fact guide.