Thursday, February 22, 2007

Sub May Spend Her Life in Prison

We haven't been following this story, but it really should be on our radar screen, if only because it shows how out of control things can get.

The story in today's Norwich (Connecticut) Bulletin sounds plain enough:
NORWICH -- Sentencing could be postponed for the former substitute teacher convicted of exposing her seventh-grade students to pornographic images on a middle school classroom computer. Norwich porn case may be delayed

Do you know this case?

Here's a wrap-up from last week.
NORWICH -- State Prosecutor David Smith said he wondered why Julie Amero didn't just pull the plug on her classroom computer.

The six-person jury Friday may have been wondering the same thing when they convicted Amero, 40, of Windham of four counts of risk of injury to a minor, or impairing the morals of a child. It took them less than two hours to decide the verdict. She faces a sentence of up to 40 years in prison.

Oct. 19, 2004, while substituting for a seventh-grade language class at Kelly Middle School, Amero claimed she could not control the graphic images appearing in an endless cycle on her computer.

"The pop-ups never went away," Amero testified. "They were continuous."

The Web sites, which police proved were accessed while Amero was in the classroom, were seen by as many as 10 minor students. Several of the students testified during the three-day trial in Norwich Superior Court to seeing images of naked men and women.

Computer expert W. Herbert Horner, testifying in Amero's defense, said he found spyware on the computer and an innocent hair styling Web site "that led to this pornographic loop that was out of control."

"If you try to get out of it, you're trapped," Horner said.Teacher guilty in Norwich porn case

If you're reading this, you're on the Internet, and if you're on the Internet, you've seen those pop-up windows that, when you close one, it opens another one. I once had to replace my hard drive, it got so bad -- sites for kids are especially likely to have this sort of thing, and a lot of it is porn.

This substitute teacher was in front of the class when this started happening. And now she may go to prison for forty years.

Here -- a Washington Post reporter talked to her, see if this sounds like any teachers you've seen:
I had a chance this week to speak with the accused, Windham, Conn., resident Julie Amero. Amero described herself as the kind of person who can hardly find the power button on a computer, saying she often relies on written instructions from her husband explaining how to access e-mail, sign into instant messaging accounts and other relatively simple tasks.

On the morning of Oct 19, 2004, Amero said she reported for duty at a seventh grade classroom at Kelly Middle School in Norwich, Conn. After stepping out into the hall for a moment, Amero returned to find two students hovering over the computer at the teacher's desk. As supported by an analysis of her computer during the court proceedings, the site the children were looking at was a seemingly innocuous hairstyling site called "new-hair-styles.com." Amero said that shortly thereafter, she noticed a series of new Web browser windows opening up displaying pornographic images, and that no matter how quickly she closed each one out, another would pop up in its place.

"I went back to computer and found a bunch of pop-ups," Amero said. "They wouldn't go away. I mean, some of the sites stayed on there no matter how many times I clicked the red X, and others would just pop back up."

Amero said she panicked and ran down the hall to the teacher's lounge to ask for help. "I dared not turn the the computer off. The teacher had asked me not to sign him out" of the computer, she recalled. Amero said none of the teachers in the lounge moved to help her, and that another teacher later told her to ignore the ads, that they were a common annoyance. Substitute Teacher Faces Jail Time Over Spyware

Now ... I just did an experiment.

I just went to new-hair-styles.com and looked at it. I didn't get any pop-ups (yet), probably because I'm behind a firewall and I run a special popup-blocker.

This is sneaky, all right. Like, if you look at the page, you see a list down the left side that says "Woman's hair galleries," "Men's Hair Galleries," etc. Under "Man's Hair Galleries" their is a subheading ">> Short hair styles." If you click on the words "Short hair styles," you go to the next screen, which shows you ... short hair styles. But IF you click on the ">>" part, it sends you to this link: sweet.sweetmeet.ru/sex_hot_story/story67/woman69/woman_story104.html -- a Russian porn site. Links like this are hidden all over this web page. It's like a minefield.

This teacher was running Windows 98 with Internet Explorer 5, obsolete software seriously lacking in security features. The antivirus software subscription had expired. The computer was found to be infected with spyware and trojans. There was no firewall, no content protection, and no pop-up protection.

On the other hand some children were exposed to nudity, so this substitute teacher just might be spending the rest of her life in prison.

(If you'd like to donate to her defense, the family has set up a web site HERE.)

29 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have no doubt she won't go to jail. Probably won't be convicted either although they may be facts we don't know about. Prosecutors always go overboard. It's one of their tactics.

How long did this go on? Did she inform the principal? Why didn't she just turn off the monitor? Assuming she wasn't tech-savvy enough to do that, couldn't she just move the computer in the corner and facing the wall?

Still, you have a hard time finding a jury that didn't sympathize with her.

February 22, 2007 10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate to break it to you guys but there is now evidence that using condoms and engaging in exclusive lesbianism is bad for females.:

"Department of Psychology, State University of New York at Albany, Albany, New York

In a sample of sexually active college females, condom use, as an indirect measure of the presence of semen in the reproductive tract, was related to scores on the Beck Depression Inventory. Not only were females who were having sex without condoms less depressed, but depressive symptoms and suicide attempts among females who used condoms were proportional to the consistency of condom use. For females who did not use condoms, depression scores went up as the amount of time since their last sexual encounter increased. These data are consistent with the possibility that semen may antagonize depressive symptoms and evidence which shows that the vagina absorbs a number of components of semen that can be detected in the bloodstream within a few hours of administration."

February 22, 2007 2:12 PM  
Blogger andrear said...

I'm sorry anon- I know you have no attention span but there is no connection between the subject and the article(from 2002) which you cut and pasted- your conclusions are wrong as usual.

I was in the public library one day and saw the sort of thing that this teacher did. I told the librarian since I wanted her to be sure and see that this was happening. She did turn off the computer. While I am against banning books- I wonder that the library system did not have something that would prevent these images from showing up in full view of children as well as adults like me.

February 22, 2007 2:53 PM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Anonymous at February 22, 2007 10:39 AM

Uh, anonymous, she already WAS convicted - she's awaiting sentencing.

Anonymous at February 22, 2007 2:12 PM

Clearly propaganda and wishful thinking from horny men.

February 22, 2007 3:28 PM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

This teacher was running Windows 98 with Internet Explorer 5, obsolete software seriously lacking in security features. The antivirus software subscription had expired. The computer was found to be infected with spyware and trojans. There was no firewall, no content protection, and no pop-up protection.

Did this gal sub in a small school district? It sure sounds like they don't have a tech dept to keep on top of these sorts of things. I had a variation of this problem...truly maddening.

February 22, 2007 3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Clearly propaganda and wishful thinking from horny men."

Peer-reviewed. Done at a respected university. Published by a prestigious science journal.

Yeah, must be propaganda.

I think it's obvious who engages in wishful thinking.

"no connection between the subject and the article"

What's this supposed to mean? Exclusive lesbians or women who use condoms are missing a substance that prevents depression.

February 22, 2007 3:45 PM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Anonymous said "Peer-reviewed. Done at a respected university. Published by a prestigious science journal.".

Yeah, peer reviewed by horny men, done at a respected university by horny men, published by horny men at a prestigious journal - the whole thing's a joke.

Anonymous said "I think it's obvious who engages in wishful thinking.".

Yes, and obviously not me - I have a committed relationship with my man, I'm not afraid of a lack of condomless sex making me depressed.

February 22, 2007 3:55 PM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Ok, Anonymous, this entry is clearly about one subject: the fate of a clearly innocent woman.

Your "contribution" (if one can call it that) was to post this,

I hate to break it to you guys but there is now evidence that using condoms and engaging in exclusive lesbianism is bad for females.

(which interestingly enough does not have a link...hummm).

If you have something to contribute regarding this story, then fine, contribute. But to attempt to distract from the focus of this entry is not ok in my book (and I think my differences with TTF are well known...lol).

Oh, and THANK YOU Jim for posting this story...may Justice prevail in this case, which has a better chance now that you have publicized this story.

February 22, 2007 4:14 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...

Windows 98 is extremely difficult block viruses from.

Once of the kids computers on our home network had these popups, and I ran just about every virus removal program I could find and could not get rid of them. I finally ended up reloading the operating system with XP (an exercise that I have since decided is simply not worth the amount of effort)

I am not a computer novice, by any means.

I don't think this woman should even be on trial - they should have gone after whomever put up the site that masqueraded as a regular internet site, but was actually linked to porn sites.

And the porn site, for not having age restriction warnings on their web site.....

Hopefully that is also happening, but since these are Russian based sites I would doubt it.

February 22, 2007 4:26 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Theresa, when my son was younger he went to a lot of joke sites and frequently picked up "browser hijackers." These things are terrible to get rid of. I spent a week once going through the System32 folder file by file, deleting everything that didn't look like it belonged.

These programs install an installer, so if you delete the file that's giving you trouble it just installs it again. Plus, this one created random filenames, like udhhveyu.exe, so there's nothing to look up.

I beat it a few times, but like I said, I had to replace the HD once, just moved my primary drive to the secondary position so I didn't lose any data. I have found the best thing is to keep current on Windows updates.

As for the semen/depression study. The guy's hypothesis is that one or more of the many proteins in semen counters depression. It's not too much to think that nature has a built-in system like that to encourage sex and procreation.

It does not mean that lesbians "lack" something. Just means the stuff can cheer you up. Draw whatever moral you want from that. There's a pretty readable article on it HERE.

JimK

February 22, 2007 4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If you have something to contribute regarding this story, then fine, contribute. But to attempt to distract from the focus of this entry is not ok in my book"

I didn't mean to distract from the story. It's easy to sympathize with the teacher because we, obviously, all experienced this same thing. But there was a trial. Makes you wonder if there was some other reason to question the negligence of the teacher. Hard to believe she couldn't keep the kids from looking at it somehow.

The other item was appropos to the topics usually discussed here. If we are only to discuss the topic posted, I haven't heard the blogster say so. I'm happy to follow any consistently applied rule that the managers of the blog create.

The article was from a 2002 issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior, the same journal that ran the Spitzer study proving homosexuality is malleable.

"The team also found that depressive symptoms and suicide attempts were more common among women who used condoms regularly compared with those who didn't."

This is from the article Jim posted about the study. Given the risk of suicidal feelings, it would seem prudent not to advise those in monogamous marital relationships to use condoms. Might be a good idea to warn exclusive lesbians too.

February 22, 2007 5:37 PM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Anonymous the Spitzer study didn't prove that "homosexuality is malleable". It was merely Spitzer's opinion that in some rare cases it might be. There is nothing saying that all those "successes" simply weren't liars.

February 22, 2007 5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, said "Might be a good idea to warn exclusive lesbians too." I reead that article too. Look at the next to the last paragraph. He is saying it might a good idea for a guy like you to get a buttfull every once in a while to make you less depressed. I figure that's why you brought it up.

February 22, 2007 6:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's the quote for Anon:

"I understand that among some gay males who have anal intercourse, it is not uncommon to attempt to retain the semen for extended periods of time," he adds. "Suggesting, of course, that there may be psychological effects." But further research will be needed to confirm whether exposure to semen through oral or anal sex really does affect mood in heterosexual or homosexual partners."

The conclusion one would draw from this study is that a monogamous gay male relationship (therefore no condoms)with lots of anal sex going both ways would yield the most hypomanic or least depressed couples of all the pairings. The conclusion being that this is where the term "gay" came from in the first place.

February 22, 2007 9:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As for the semen/depression study. The guy's hypothesis is that one or more of the many proteins in semen counters depression."

It's more than just a hypothesis. They did tests that produced results consistent with the hypothesis.

BTW, there were three researchers and one was female.

"It's not too much to think that nature has a built-in system like that to encourage sex and procreation."

No, it isn't. According to that article you linked, however, this is unlikely to be explained by natural selection. Another pointer in the direction of intelligent design.

"It does not mean that lesbians "lack" something. Just means the stuff can cheer you up."

Funny, when reparative therapy causes depression, its proof that its unethical. Condom use and lesbianism are hunky dory though.

February 23, 2007 9:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous, said "Might be a good idea to warn exclusive lesbians too." I reead that article too. Look at the next to the last paragraph."

The article that you read and Jim linked is not where the study was published. The "next to the last paragraph" You refer to is an interview with one of the researchers who says that he has heard that recipient gays have a similar experience. He didn't test it, he didn't endorse the idea, he just was suggesting it might be an area for study.

What he did test were the effects on women and results were pretty strong.

"He is saying it might a good idea for a guy like you to get a buttfull every once in a while to make you less depressed. I figure that's why you brought it up."

As enticing as that sounds:

1. he didn't test males

2. homosexuality is immoral

3. anal sex is dangerous

4. human body doesn't appear designed for this activity

5. disgusting

February 23, 2007 9:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The conclusion one would draw from this study is that a monogamous gay male relationship (therefore no condoms)with lots of anal sex going both ways would yield the most hypomanic or least depressed couples of all the pairings. The conclusion being that this is where the term "gay" came from in the first place."

Ridiculous. The researchers didn't study gay males. Guys probably are probably wired with some other design mechanism to prevent depression and suicidal tendencies.

February 23, 2007 9:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous the Spitzer study didn't prove that "homosexuality is malleable". It was merely Spitzer's opinion that in some rare cases it might be. There is nothing saying that all those "successes" simply weren't liars."

All that is necessary to prove homosexuality is malleable is one case. Spitzer was convinced he found several. His guess about why he was unable to find a bunch of people eager to discuss how they used to be gay is an opinion. His conclusion that homosexuality is malleable was based on research data and, thus, more than mere opinion.

Any study about sexuality is subjective and, of course, the subjects tested could always lie. There are ways to minimize that risk, though, and Spitzer is an accomplished researcher in thos field.

Let's face it. You believe what you want to believe.

Further research should be able to find out how these people were able to change and provide a template for therapy.

February 23, 2007 9:36 AM  
Anonymous ellaffsalot said...

Re: the study on semen's supposed anti-depressive qualities--important to remember that correlation is not causation. Several alternate hypothesis come quickly to mind; for instance, lesbians are surely the object of much opprobrium, which might explain indicators of depression. As for heterosexual women who manifest increased symtoms of depression between deposits of semen (you started this, anon!), it might be that those people who are less desireable sex partners aren't exactly cheered by that fact.... Lots of equally viable explanations for the outcomes to which you refer, making the study at best marginal in its importance.
signed-ellaffsalot

February 23, 2007 10:35 AM  
Anonymous Warning, facts ahead said...

Doctors have known for approximately 60 years that injecting testosterone into men with low levels of testosterone reduces their symptoms of depression. Semen is rich with testosterone and there are FDA approved sources for the anti-depressant hormone testosterone besides semen. These sources include "intramuscular injection, transdermal (cream, gel, or patch), oral, sub-'Q' pellets." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testosterone)

Many studies and reviews of studies have been conducted on the anti-depressive properties of this hormone. Here are a few:

http://www.hno.harvard.edu/gazette/2003/01.09/01-testosterone.html
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/testosterone-therapy/MC00030
http://www.biopsychiatry.com/testosterone.html
http://www.biopsychiatry.com/testos.htm
http://www.biopsychiatry.com/testosmood.htm
http://depts.washington.edu/mednews/vol8/no05/depression.html
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=9919317&dopt=Abstract

DHEA, which is the most abundant hormone in the human body and is the precursor of androstenedione, testosterone and estrogen, has also been found to relieve depression in men and also in women when taken as a long term supplement. This week's Newsweek http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17190411/site/newsweek/ has a cover story on male depression which states: "In a recent study, DHEA, an over-the-counter hormonal therapy, was shown to be effective in treating major and minor midlife-onset depression."

February 23, 2007 11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Guys probably are probably wired with some other design mechanism to prevent depression and suicidal tendencies."

You really need to read the Newsweek story, especially if you are the Anon with the weakness for Jack Daniels. This excerpt might show you why you need to read it:

"Six million American men will be diagnosed with depression this year. But millions more suffer silently, unaware that their problem has a name or unwilling to seek treatment. In a confessional culture in which Americans are increasingly obsessed with their health, it may seem clichéd—men are from Mars, women from Venus, and all that—to say that men tend not to take care of themselves and are reluctant to own up to mental illness. But the facts suggest that, well, men tend not to take care of themselves and are reluctant to own up to mental illness. Although depression is emotionally crippling and has numerous medical implications—some of them deadly—many men fail to recognize the symptoms. Instead of talking about their feelings, men may mask them with alcohol, drug abuse, gambling, anger or by becoming workaholics. And even when they do realize they have a problem, men often view asking for help as an admission of weakness, a betrayal of their male identities.

The result is a hidden epidemic of despair that is destroying marriages, disrupting careers, filling jail cells, clogging emergency rooms and costing society billions of dollars in lost productivity and medical bills. It is also creating a cohort of children who carry the burden of their fathers' pain for the rest of their lives. "

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17190411/site/newsweek/

February 23, 2007 11:37 AM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Anonymous said "All that is necessary to prove homosexuality is malleable is one case.".

Ridiculous. By that logic all it takes is one case where it is not malleable to prove it isn't. Not to compare gayness with cancer, but just because a tiny percentage of certain kinds of cancer patients can be cured doesn't mean it is curable all the time which is what liars like you and PFOX are implying. Spitzers methodology of using phone interviews instead of objective measures of change has been roundly criticized and under no circumstances can be taken as proof that anyone whatsoever changed. A large number of the people who participated in his study were paid "exgays" or had indicated a bias that being gay was immoral and as such there is no assurance that any of them weren't lying. There is no assurance that Spitzer had even one case where gayness was malleable. If he and his participants were truly confident that change had taken place they'd have been eager to back it up with polygraphs and plethysmogaph tests - they weren't because they were lying.

Anonymous said "homosexuality is immoral".

What's immoral is hurting others. A consenting relationship between two adults that hurts no one is by definition moral. What's immoral is trying to dominate someone else's live when it doesn't affect your own. Religious bigots trying to oppress gays are by definition immoral.

As to the semen study there is one big hole in the conclusions. The women using condoms in their relationship are obviously less confident and secure with their sex partners. This is the likely cause of their higher scores on the depression inventory.

February 23, 2007 12:52 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

According to Anon, rape of women has the benefit of causing less depression in those women, too.

February 24, 2007 8:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an inane comment, Dr.

The study findings would be a helpful piece of advice for those, such as married couples, who engage in legitimate sexual activity. God (or Mother Nature)

It's also good for potential lesbians to consider. It's an unnecessary risk factor.

As for the male homosexual implications you are all trying to make, remember the male organisms are the source of the supected hormonal catalysts so male homosexual implications are likely superfluous.

Besides, like the Dr's flippantly mentioned rape situation, homosexuality has other derogatory effects on mental health.

February 24, 2007 11:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CORRECTED POST

What an inane comment, Dr.

The study findings would be a helpful piece of advice for those, such as married couples, who engage in legitimate sexual activity. God (or Mother Nature or Uncle Natural Selction if that's your idea) obviously intended it that way.

It's also good for potential lesbians to consider. It's an unnecessary risk factor.

As for the male homosexual implications you are all trying to make, remember the male organisms are the source of the supected hormonal catalysts so male homosexual implications are likely superfluous.

Besides, like the Dr's flippantly mentioned rape situation, homosexuality has other derogatory effects on mental health.

February 24, 2007 11:07 AM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Anonymous, Evelyn Hooker in the 50's showed that gays are indistinguishable from straights in terms of their mental health.

February 24, 2007 12:53 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

And what is a "potential" lesbian? Or a "male organism"?

I was being facetious, Anon, but you wouldn't recognize that.

February 24, 2007 5:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sex-offender residency laws get second look

By Wendy Koch, USA TODAY
Updated 2/26/2007 8:22 AM ET

Oklahoma state Rep. Lucky Lamons was a police officer for 22 years. He calls himself a "lock-'em-up kind of guy."

Yet Lamons wants to loosen his state's law that bans registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or day care center. He says it forces many offenders to live in rural areas where they are difficult for authorities to monitor. Also, he says, it does not differentiate between real predators and the type of men he recalls arresting for urinating in public, a sex offense in Oklahoma.

"We need to focus on people we're afraid of, not mad at," says Lamons, a Tulsa Democrat who wants the rules to focus more on high-risk offenders.

Lamons is among a growing number of officials who want to ease the "not-in-my-backyard" policies that communities are using to try to control sex offenders. In the past decade, 27 states and hundreds of cities have reacted to public fear of sex crimes against children by passing residency restrictions that, in some cases, have the effect of barring sex offenders from large parts of cities. They can't live in most of downtown Tulsa, Atlanta or Des Moines, for example, because of overlapping exclusion zones around schools and day care centers.

Now a backlash is brewing. Several states, including Iowa, Oklahoma and Georgia, are considering changes in residency laws that have led some sex offenders to go underground. Such offenders either have not registered with local police as the laws require or they have given fake addresses. Many complain they cannot find a place to live legally.

The push to ease residency restrictions has support from victims' advocates, prosecutors and police who say they spend too much time investigating potential violations.

They're battling a mountain of momentum, however, because residency restrictions remain popular.

New or expanded ones have been proposed in 20 states this year. Some legislators are reluctant to pare back restrictions they passed only recently.

"We ought to give it time to work," says state Rep. Jerry Keen, author of Georgia's law, passed last year, which bans sex offenders from living, working or loitering within 1,000 feet of where kids gather. Keen, Republican majority leader of the House, says Georgia's rules put children's safety before the convenience of sex offenders.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has a similar view. "We're trying to protect children," she says. "We're dealing with people raping children. These are horrible crimes." She says Illinois' restrictions target those who have seriously hurt children.

Others see growing problems with the residency laws.

Broad restrictions provide a "false sense of security," says Nancy Sabin of the Jacob Wetterling Foundation, which fights child exploitation. She says such laws do not protect the more than 90% of abused children who suffer at the hands of people they know. And many of the laws bar offenders from living near schools but do not stop them from loitering there, she says.

Most of the restrictions also lump all sex offenders together, even though some are child rapists and others may be 18-year-old men who had sex with underage girlfriends. There is no national breakdown of sex offenders by severity of their crimes.

"You can't paint sex offenders with a broad brush," says John Walsh, host of Fox network's America's Most Wanted. He says residency laws are worthwhile only if they can be enforced, and tens of thousands of the nation's 600,000 sex offenders are giving police fake addresses.

Walsh prodded Congress to pass a law last year — named for his son Adam, who was abducted and killed 25 years ago — that makes failure to register a felony for serious sex offenders such as rapists and child molesters. Those are the people Walsh says residency rules should target.

Some state lawmakers are trying to move in that direction:

•Iowa —Legislators began holding hearings in January on the effectiveness of a 2002 law that bars sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or day care facility. Sen. Keith Kreiman, Democratic co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, says he expects the law to be revised but not repealed. "It is very politically risky to even hold hearings," he says, because lawmakers who change the rules could be called "soft on crime."

State figures show sexual-abuse convictions have remained steady since the law took effect, but the number of sex offenders failing to register has more than doubled. Sen. Jerry Behn, a Republican who wrote Iowa's law, says it may be overly broad. He says he's talking to colleagues about how to focus on "true predators."

•Oklahoma —Like Lamons, other legislators say they'll try to narrow their state's restrictions. "Let's apply them to those who are the highest risk to society," says state Rep. Gus Blackwell, the Republican majority whip.

Sgt. Gary Stansill, head of the Tulsa Police Department's sex-crimes unit, says the current law applies to too many offenders and that he spends "way, way too much of my time" trying to enforce it. He says he investigates as many cases of sex offenders not registering as he investigates rape reports. He considers less than 10% of the state's 8,000 convicted sex offenders to be high-risk and is lobbying lawmakers to focus on them.

•Georgia —Republican state Rep. Robert Mumford, vice chairman of a judiciary panel, says he plans to propose a bill to scale back the state's law. With the backing of the Georgia Sheriffs' Association, he suggests removing many bus stops and churches from the list of areas where offenders are banned.

•Kansas —On Feb. 12, the state Senate passed a bill that extends for another year Kansas' moratorium on local governments restricting where sex offenders can live.

Some cities have rejected such restrictions. Among them: Topeka; Maplewood, Minn.; and Covington, Ky.

Several offenders have challenged residency rules in court, claiming they unfairly punish offenders who have served their time. In December, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Valerie Armstrong rejected a local ordinance as too broad. She said it had several flaws. For example, she said, it violated U.S. law that says being on a sex offender registry cannot disqualify someone from housing.

'Unintended consequences'

Many of the state laws are known as "Jessica's Laws" because they were passed or expanded after the slaying in Florida of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford in 2005. Her neighbor, convicted sex offender John Couey, is on trial for the crime.

The surge in residency restrictions happened in the absence of research proving that they work.

"Residency restrictions have a lot of unintended consequences," says Jill Levenson, professor of human services at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. She says many offenders are "more likely to resume a life of crime" if pushed into rural areas, because they have less access to jobs and mental health services that bring them needed stability.

Levenson surveyed 135 sex offenders in Florida, which passed a law in 2003 barring those who hurt children from living within 1,000 feet of where kids gather. Most said they had been careful not to commit crimes near their homes, so residency rules made little difference. Others said that even outside restricted areas, they live near kids.

Sex offenders seeking victims are likely to go to another neighborhood so they won't be recognized, the Minnesota Department of Corrections found in a 2003 study.

In Colorado, convicted molesters who committed more offenses lived no closer to schools or child care centers than those who had not re-offended, according to a report in 2004 by the state's Department of Public Safety.

In Arkansas, however, Jeffrey Walker of the University of Arkansas found in 2001 that child molesters are nearly twice as likely to live near schools than those convicted of sexually assaulting adults. Walker says he doesn't know why that's the case, or whether proximity to kids makes them more likely to offend again.

Housing problems

The need for housing for paroled sex offenders in Illinois is "close to crisis levels" because of residency restrictions, says Jorge Montes, chairman of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board. He says it's in a Catch-22 situation, because without a place to live, a parolee cannot be released.

"We go into cyclical incarceration," he says, adding that more than 400 sex offenders are doing parole in prison because they have no place to go. He says many are not child predators.

Janet Allison, 45, a mother of five in Georgia, says she was forced to move from a four-bedroom home in downtown Dahlonega to a two-bedroom mobile home "way off on a dirt road" because she is a convicted sex offender and her former home was within a quarter-mile of a church.

Allison's situation also reflects how residency laws can affect those who aren't sexual predators. Allison says she was arrested five years ago for allowing the 17-year-old boyfriend of her pregnant daughter, then 15, to move in with them. She was convicted of being a party to child molestation.

Allison didn't go to prison, but three of her children were put in foster care, and she's not allowed to have contact with her daughter or grandson. "I didn't touch anyone," Allison says. "I just thought I was protecting my daughter."

Keen, author of Georgia's residency law, says it applies to all released sex offenders, regardless of their offense, because the state has not classified them by risk. He says those released in the future will be assessed, and the restrictions will target more serious offenders.

Additional approaches

Dyersville, Iowa, is among the cities with the strictest residency laws for sex offenders: It bars them from living anywhere in the city.

Mayor Jim Heavens says the city did so to protect public safety and property values. "We consider this a crude tool, but at least we can do something. We're not trying to banish people," he says, adding that the city might make an exception for sex offenders who pose little risk to public safety.

Researchers who study sex offenders say that other approaches could be more effective in dealing with released sex offenders than broad residency laws:

• More checks by probation officers — David Finkelhor of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire says the best way to monitor offenders is to require frequent meetings with well-trained officers.

•Mandatory therapy — Kim English of Colorado's Division of Criminal Justice recommends having freed offenders attend therapy in group residential centers.

• Polygraphing — Levenson says lie-detector tests also can be helpful, along with electronic monitoring and required driving logs.

Illinois is inviting officials from other states to a conference in April to discuss the effects of residency restrictions.

"Somebody is going to end up with a huge problem," says Frances Breyne of the Kansas Department of Corrections, "unless we all get on the same page."

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-02-25-sex-offender-laws-cover_x.htm

February 26, 2007 11:02 AM  
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August 13, 2007 3:22 PM  

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