November 21, 2014

Everybody deserves a second chance

11-21-2014 National:

If you randomly ask anyone if they believe in second chances, the answer would most likely be “yes.”

Our society believes in a new day and a fresh start. This ties in nicely with the popular saying that “everybody deserves a second chance.”

Yet, the National Sex Offender Public Registry takes what could be a second chance from previously convicted sex offenders on the registry.

The Registry is a searchable website that links state and territory sex offender public registries.

It gives users access to public information about sex offenders throughout the country.

The site delivers instant matches on sex offenders, coupled with detailed information and often a photograph.

Since it was launched in 2005, the National Sex Offender Public Registry has done more harm than good to society.

When the Department of Justice launched the Registry, within a twelve hour period, the site received 22 million hits.

It is no guess what the users were trying to find. The users were indeed searching for sex offenders living within their communities.

While this was good for individuals and communities who seek to know those with a previous sex offense record, understandably to protect children and create awareness, it did little for ex-convicted sex offenders. It took away from them a second chance and a chance to be better persons.

They are “ex-convicted sex offenders” for a reason. This means, they served their time in prisons and did pay for their crimes, a payment, law and society deemed was enough.

The Sex Offender Public Registry and its easy access give individuals and societies the power to make ex-convicted sex offenders pay twice for the crimes they have committed.

The Registry raises serious safety questions.

While it is clear it provides “safety information” for the public, it does not provide any form of safety for former offenders.

A single query from a web capable computer instantly gives a user detailed information, which includes address of the former offender and photograph.

This makes them an easy target for anyone who wants to harm them.

In 2006, two former sex offenders were murdered on Easter Sunday.

The murderer allegedly found their addresses on the Maine online offender registry.

When the police confronted the murderer who was twenty, he shot himself.

On that day, three lives were lost, a loss that could have been prevented.

The former offenders committed no crimes after their release many years on; yet, their lives were cut short.

When the story broke, one former sex offender was quoted saying, “It’s really scary. I live alone…. way out in the country and basically I could be here for days, a dead body,” according to the Associated Press.

This is true for many former offenders. Society forces them to live alone, far away from normal life.

They would be easily targeted and killed. They would be dead for many days without anyone knowing. Nobody deserves that, especially after they have paid for a crime.

The Sex Offender Public Registry is not a bad thing.

It has a lot of advantages, especially when it comes to creating awareness among community members.

However, there are a lot of things wrong with the registry.

“Who should be on that registry” still remains a question unanswered.

The length of time any former offender should be on the registry is still very much debatable.

Since no crime is punished twice by society, why should sexual offenses be an exception?

If people commit crimes and pay for their crimes, their crimes should not follow them wherever they go and for the rest of their lives.

There should be a balance between providing information to the public and ensuring the safety of former criminal who are entitled to protection by the legal system like everybody else.

There should be control over who gets access to these information, and rather than focusing on exposing former criminals, rehab should be given a chance.

Ultimately, it is not about privacy, but a fresh beginning. ..Source.. by Ndey Kumba Demba, The Campus Chroncile

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For-Profit Prison Companies Have A Worrying Plan For Boosting Profits

11-21-2014 National:

For-profit prison companies are exploiting "new markets" to compensate for the recent decrease in America's prison population, according to the report released by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).

Psychiatric facilities in particular could bring in major cash for private prison companies. These state facilities typically include a number of "forensic" cases, meaning patients ended up in a psych facility because they committed a crime.

For-profit prison operators also stand to gain from a type of confinement known as civil commitment, which confines sex offenders after their prison sentences if they're likely to abuse somebody again.

Both of these prison alternatives could be more lucrative for for-profit prison companies than running an actual prison. From the report:

Unlike prisons, from which over 90% of those incarcerated are eventually released, mental health hospitals and civil commitment centers represent the potential for lifetime confinement, which spells long-term, guaranteed profits for private corporations.
While there's definitely a need for forensic psych units, it can be problematic if they're run by for-profit companies.

Just like for-profit prisons have an incentive to keep people locked up in prison, they may also be inclined to keep patients committed on psych wards long after it's necessary, as a recent paper published by the University of Texas pointed out.

Currently, though, there is only one private prison company taking advantage of the profits to be made from psych facilities and civil commitment, according to the AFSC report.

GEO Care, which was recently acquired by Correct Care Solutions, runs five psychiatric hospitals in Florida, South Carolina, and Texas. GEO also runs America's only privatized civil commitment center, which is in Florida, according to the AFSC report. ..Source.. by Erin Fuchs

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November 20, 2014

Special Report - Campus Sex Crimes

11-20-2014 Michigan:

You trust your kid's college to keep them safe, but sex crimes on campus are happening more often than you think. College campuses across West Michigan are battling what some call an unreported sexual assault epidemic.

According to a White House report, it's estimated 1 in 5 women have been sexually assaulted, usually by someone they know. In September, the Obama administration started a new plan to combat sexual assault on college campuses.

The new program--called "It's On Us," aims to educate young men to stand against assault. It also launches a website to help colleges and universities do a better job tracking sexual assaults on campus.

Kalamazoo College officials say with the new federal requirements to increase awareness, prevention, and reporting, the hope is fewer sexual assaults will take place on campuses such as K, and that when assaults do occur, they will be reported.

It was 2010 and Amanda Geer, who was an art history major at Kalamazoo College, couldn't wait to study abroad in Rome.

"It was a really exciting opportunity for me," she said.

In Rome, she was invited out by a student group that organized what was supposed to be a fun night out.

"I was a little bit afraid to go out, because it was such a large city, and I didn't want anything bad to happen to me," she said.

Geer tells us as the night went on, her friends went home and she was left with an American student instructor, who knew she was vulnerable.

"And he walked me into the bathroom, and started undoing my pants," she recalled.

Geer became a survivor of rape that night.

"And I woke up the next day, and I kind of lost my mind a little bit; I just felt very broken, and violated and dirty," she said. "I wanted to report it, but the consent laws in Rome are different, if you are in the company of a man, alone in Rome, it's considered consent."

Geer is not alone. White House statistics show 87-percent of sexual assault victims do not report it.

We found it may be due to shame, victim blaming or gender stereotypes.

"The more we push this idea that boys will be boys , and that its OK, because it's the masculine way, the more hurt is going to happen," Geer said.

Research shows that men are often reluctant to speak out against violence against women because they believe other men accept it.

But the S3A student group at K College is working hard to change social norms. They offer confidential counseling and resources to their peers.

"Men expect women to stop when they say things that aren't right, but when another man tells them to stop, they're not ridiculed, they just don't say anything. It's surprising,"said K College S3A member Kelan Gill.

Kalamazoo College is now requiring students to take a one-hour course about sexual misconduct, or they won't be allowed to register for classes.

"This stuff is really important; this is in alignment with stuff we've been talking about for years at K College. We want people to be safe, we want people to keep each other safe and we want them to keep themselves safe," said Kalamazoo College Dean of Students Sarah Westfall.

And in March of this year, K College students organized a walk to end what they call "rape culture."

According to the Office of Civil Rights, right now 86 educational institutions are facing Title IX sexual abuse investigations by federal education officials--including Grand Valley State University, U-of-M, and Michigan State University.

But how many sexual assaults are actually reported at colleges and universities in western and mid-Michigan?

After poring over dozens of annual reports, we found since 2011, MSU topped the list with 62.

WMU reported 22, followed by Ferris State at 14, and Grand Valley at 10.

Most of the smaller campuses reported 0 sex offenses.

But the numbers--we're told by S3A--are drastically skewed from what's really happening.

"I think if every woman reported a sexual assault when she went through it, then the police system would cease to function, there would be too many," said S3A member Andrea Satchwell.

Geer tells us more survivors need to share their story.

"I want to inspire others that have been sexually assaulted to be brave, and to speak up if they can, because the more we speak up, the less clouded this issue will become," she said.

S3A at K College is also working to change the language men use, putting a stop to people joking about rape, and by educating students about what consent means, even within a romantic relationship. ..Source.. by

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November 19, 2014

New Factor in Campus Sexual Assault Cases: Counsel for the Accused

11-19-2014 National:

As the Columbia University student tells it, the encounter was harmless fun: A female freshman invited him into her suite bathroom, got a condom, took off her clothes and had sex with him. But as that young woman later described it to university officials, the encounter was not consensual. The university suspended him for a year.

He felt the outcome was unjust, but he did not know what to do about it. His lawyer, Andrew Miltenberg of Manhattan, did.

Invoking Title IX, the federal gender-equality statute that is typically used to protect the rights of female students, he sued Columbia, saying his client had been “discriminated against on the basis of his male sex.”

At a moment when students who have been sexually assaulted are finding new ways to make their voices heard, and as college officials across the country are rushing to meet new government standards, a specialized class of lawyers is raising its voice, too. They are speaking out on behalf of the students they describe as most vulnerable: not those who might be subjected to sexual assault, but those who have been accused of it.

To do so, they have appropriated the legal tools most commonly used to fight sexual misconduct and turned them against the prosecution, confronting higher education’s whole approach to the issue, which they describe as a civil rights disaster.

“Everyone’s first blush when you think about this is: It’s sort of an ugly position to take,” Mr. Miltenberg said of defending the accused students. “My own family members have said to me: ‘What are you doing? You’re 49 years old. You have a successful business litigation practice. Why would you jump into this?'  ”

He said he felt compelled to get involved when he saw how colleges handled accused students. “You’ve got factual statements made that you’re not necessarily allowed to review and you’re certainly not allowed to have copies of,” he said. “You may or may not be able to present your witnesses. You probably don’t have the chance to cross-examine.”

To women’s rights activists, objections like those may have an oddly familiar ring. For decades, activists have argued that campus policies were biased against accusers, who are typically women; that the officials who run the investigations lacked training; that assailants were absolved far too easily. (One recent study determined that among students found by their colleges to have committed sexual assault, fewer than one third were expelled.) Now, defense lawyers are denouncing inconsistent standards and inadequate training, but they arrive at the opposite conclusion: The system is biased, the lawyers say, against men. ..Continued.. by ARIEL KAMINER

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November 18, 2014

Family Says Minor No Sex Offender

11-18-2014 Mississippi:

A minor's life has been ruined because Mississippi made him register as a sex offender and it was made public, the child's family claims in court.

Connie and Ian McKee sued the Mississippi Department of Public Health and Union County, Miss., in the federal court in Oxford on behalf of their minor nephew, who is identified only as W.G. in court documents.

W.G. allegedly sexually assaulted his sister when he was 13 and was moved from Alabama to Mississippi because he was ruled delinquent in Alabama.

An Alabama juvenile officer told the McKees during the August 2013 move that W.G. needed to be registered as a sex offender in Union County within three days.

The McKees said they questioned whether he needed to be registered as a sex offender considering his young age, but were told by the Union County Sheriff that he did.

"The plaintiffs then asked, even if he had to be registered, whether such registration was supposed to be made public or not, considering the age of the child and Alabama law which said that records of such a young child were not public," the complaint states. "With full knowledge of the minor child's age, not only at that time, but at the time of the original offense and the finding of delinquency, the McKees were told that the child's records would be public for anyone to see and would be posted, along with his photograph and other identifying information, on the Mississippi sex offender website."

Not wanting to break the law, they registered W.G. as a sex offender with both Union County and the state's public health department.

His picture, address and other information were "posted for, literally, the entire world to see" on the sex offender website and it wasn't long before a classmate discovered the information, according to the lawsuit.
"Shortly after beginning school in New Albany, one of W.G.'s classmates did a Google search for the minor child and discovered that he was a registered sex offender," the complaint states. "This information, as would be expected, was immediately known by everyone in the child's school, in the McKees' neighborhood and elsewhere."

Since the exposure, W.G. has been treated as an outcast and has been physically harassed, the McKees say. "This has completely destroyed the child's possibility of a happy life. He will have to confront this situation daily, increasing his current and long term emotional problems as long as he continues to live in the area, and probably anywhere else if schoolmates become aware of where he is," according to the complaint. "He has suffered a huge amount of emotional damages which, regardless of future circumstances, will haunt him and continue for the rest of his life."

W.G.'s sex offender registration was removed from the website last December after the Alabama juvenile officer asked that it be removed.

Mississippi state law clearly states that W.G. should not have been registered as a sex offender in the first place and should not have had his information posted publicly, according to the complaint.

"The McKees have lost time and income having to repeatedly deal with problems their nephew is having at school, which are a result of the torture and ostracism he has been put through because of the county's actions," the lawsuit says.

The McKees and W.G. are represented by Luke Fisher in Oxford. ..Source.. by KEVIN LESSMILLER

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California court blocks requirement of sex-offenders to report changes of Internet providers

11-18-2014 California:

A federal appeals court has continued to block a voter-approved measure requiring registered sex offenders to give authorities a list of their Internet providers and screen names.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday said the requirement violates free speech rights. The ruling upholds a lower court decision in 2013 that put the requirements on hold.

The reporting provision was part of Proposition 35, which 81 percent of voters passed in 2012 and toughened penalties for human trafficking. The harsher prison sentences remain in effect.

But the appeals court said the requirement of sex offenders to report on their Internet activity is too vague and that offenders' anonymity is insufficiently protected. The court also said requiring offenders to report to authorities with 24 hours was too onerous. ..Source.. by The Republic see also

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November 17, 2014

Students required to answer questions about sex life

11-17-2014 Florida:

Does your school have the right to know about your sex life? That's what some students at Florida Atlantic University are asking after being required to answer some extremely personal questions.

"I just don't understand why questions pertaining to how many times I've had sex have anything to do with campus life," student Cheryl Soley said. Before Soley was allowed to enroll in classes, she says she was required to take an online questionnaire she found highly offensive.

Among the questions:
-How many times have you had sex (including oral) in the last three months?

-With how many different people have you had sex (including oral) in the last three months?

-If you had sex (including oral) in the last three months, how many times had you used a condom?
The questions are part of a required online course called "Think About It."

"It has to be changed. It is a total invasion of privacy," Soley says.

But an FAU spokesperson says Federal Law requires all universities to offer training to students about sexual assault and prevention.

"Nationally, approximately 20 percent of women report being assaulted while in college. To help reduce this percentage, federal law now requires all universities offer training to students about sexual assault and prevention, and the U.S. Department of Education recommends mandatory training for all incoming students. To comply with this federal mandate, universities throughout Florida and the nation are rolling out similar training modules," FAU spokesperson Joshua Glanzer said in a statement released to WPTV.

But Soley and some other students have concerns about their privacy. "How do I know who is viewing that information...and can it be used against me," Soley asks. The university says the answers to the questions are kept anonymous. Glanzer says only one percent of the 8000 students required to take the training have expressed concerns.

"This is the first year we’ve conducted the training provided by the vendor, and we will continually assess to determine whether changes need to be made. We fully support the national emphasis placed on the prevention of sexual violence on university campuses through the Campus Save Act, and this training is just one part of a holistic approach to building a culture of prevention, and ultimately, a safer campus," Glanzer said.

Despite her complaints, Soley says she eventually agreed to take the questionnaire because she was told if she didn't she would not be able to enroll in her courses. ..Source.. by Brian Entin

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The Rise of the Robot Therapist

11-17-2014 Global:

Over the past few decades, we've seen a rise in different interactive technologies and new ways of using them to treat various mental problems. Among other things, this includes online, computer-based, and even virtual reality approaches --to-- cognitive-behavioural therapy. But what about using robots to provide treatment and/or emotional support?

In recent years, the field of robotics has advanced to the point that social robots have become increasingly common. Defined as an "artificially intelligent system that has a physical embodiment, is autonomous, and interacts and communicates with humans," social robots such as Tico, Jibo, and iCub are already moving beyond the laboratory to interacting with people in real-life environments. Some social robots such as Hitchbot have even become media stars and their potential to do far more is just beginning to be understood.

Some researchers have already coined a new term, robotherapy, to describe the different ways that social robots can be used to help people in need. This includes specialized robots for helping children, adults, or the elderly with cognitive, social, or physical problems. Not only can robots be available twenty-four hours a day, but they may also help with the growing shortage of trained support workers, especially for older adults with dementia. Research has already shown that social robots can help improve the quality of life for many people who might otherwise "fall between the cracks" due to not having the help they need.

To read more, check out my new Psychology Today post. ..Source.. by Providentia

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Court rules man won't have to register as sex offender

11-17-2014 Alabama:

A Muscogee County man who pled guilty to a reduced charge after he was indicted for sexually abusing a little girl in Lee County (Ala.) won't have to register as a sex offender, according to a ruling today by the Supreme Court of Georgia.

Mario Urbina, of Columbus, was teaching piano lessons in Auburn, Ala., when he allegedly lured a female child into a room at Auburn United Methodist Church. There he was accused of engaging in some kind of sexual conduct with the child, who was younger than 12 years old.

Urbina was indicted on charges of enticing a child to enter for immoral purposes and sex abuse of a child less than 12 years of age. In April 2012, Urbina pled guilty to a less serious and non-sexual offense of interference with custody, a felony in Alabama. Urbina was to serve four years in prison, but the court a month later reduced the sentence to probation, which Urbina sought to transfer to Georgia so he could return to Muscogee County with his wife and children.

Because Urbina pled guilty to a felony in Alabama, the Georgia Department of Corrections informed him he would be required to register as a sex offender. Urbina then sued the department seeking to prohibit the department from forcing him to register.

The Supreme Court's ruling upholds a Fulton County judgment that said Urbina did not have to register. While the trial court based its ruling on the distinction between a misdemeanor and a felony, the Supreme Court based its ruling on the distinction between the crime with which he was charged and the crime of which he was ultimately convicted.

"The factual basis set forth in the later information upon which Urbina was actually convicted are quite different, and it is the facts related to the conviction, not the allegations relating to the abandoned indictment, which must control our analysis," today’s opinion said. ..Source.. by STEPHANIE PEDERSEN

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