Saturday, December 25, 2010

Empty Building Reflects Empty Hearts: NIMBYism and the closing of Shady Court

 Shady Court sits empty now, a sad reminder of the emptiness of the hearts of many who judged its residents solely on label rather than character. Shady Court was home to a dozen registered sex offenders barely a year ago. Thanks in large part to residency restrictions and intolerance of sexual offenders, those who carry the stigma of “sex offender” are left with few housing options upon release from prison or after sentencing. Sex offenses can range from rape and sodomy to offenses to urinating behind a bush or even consensual relations between teenagers; in Alabama, all register for life. With the closing of Shady Court, there are even fewer housing options.
I moved to Sheffield a year ago to be closer to my fiancée (I never liked living here before but I was willing to prove my love to my fiancée). Like many of the former residents at Shady Court, I am on the Public Sex Offender Registry. I am also a nationally known advocate for the rights of former offenders, working with groups like in addition to running my own advocate site I even received a partial pardon in 2007 as recognition of my rehabilitation.  My first order of business in Alabama was establishing a working relationship with John Starnes, owner of Shady Court.
My fiancée and I spoke with Mr. Starnes and his fiancée in September 2009. I wanted to work with Starnes because we both believe in rehabilitation. Starnes was holding meetings for sexual addiction, and cooperated with law enforcement to keep any potential troublemakers in check. We held similar goals of running halfway houses to help ex-offenders reintegrate successfully into society. Starnes had taken the vision one step further—he located a potential site for his halfway house, a quaint and isolated ranch outside the city limits, far from the complaining residents that surrounded Shady Court. Starnes was optimistic and working hard to bring his vision into reality.
By the time I had made my move to Alabama in October, everything had changed. Not long after my initial meeting with Starnes, backlash from the August 16, 2009 Times Daily article[i] shattered that optimism. Starnes and his fiancée began receiving late night telephone death threats.  The city of Sheffield’s building inspectors were under pressure to shut down the dilapidated hotel. Someone even drove around the hotel in the dead of night, noting the layout of the place while discussing bombs, and subsequently posted the “findings” on Youtube[ii]. Churches denied assistance to anyone working or living at Shady Court. Despite working with Law enforcement in the past, the police did nothing to help. No one wanted to rent from a hotel flagged as a sex offender ghetto, and eventually Shady Court closed its doors. Most of the registrants simply moved to another part of town.
By the time I ran into Starnes a few months later, the dream had died. He moved to a new location and is selling the property. I understand his frustrations. I was targeted by my fiancée’s neighbors. A local crime blogger posted a picture of my ex-wife and with the suggestion to “tattoo” my forehead. The Times Daily forums filled with personal attacks, even individuals mocking my mother’s passing. My fiancée couldn’t handle the stress and walked away. The residents claim victory on both counts. They could not be further from the truth.
In 2003, the Colorado Department of Corrections published a study[iii] which found no correlation between residency restrictions and sex crimes. Furthermore, they found “Shared Living Arrangements,” much like the arrangement at Shady Court, actually decreased recidivism among high risk offenders. On the flip side, studies found instability in life, such as denial of housing and employment, increases recidivism[iv]. What does that mean? It means Sheffield residents destroyed something beneficial to society in the name of “NIMBYism” and possibly made their streets a little less safe. Sheffield is not alone; in June 2009, Huntsville shut down the Myrick Hotel[v], and in April 2010, Jefferson County passed an anti-clustering law specifically to target a halfway house run by Shiloni Ministries[vi].
Everything you have come to believe about sex offenders is a lie. Sex crimes have more to do with relationships rather than geography[vii]. Most sex crimes are committed by someone the person knows[viii], and most sex crime arrests are of first-time offenders[ix]. Sex offenders have the lowest rate of recidivism, which can be lowered even further with treatment, rehabilitation, and support options which include stable housing and employment[x]. Very few sex offenders are “pedophiles[xi].” High-profile kidnappings are extremely tragic but thankfully extremely rare (less than 115 in a nation with over 71 million children[xii]). Every myth about sex offenders we hold fast to fuels our thirst for vengeance. The current revenge-oriented system of justice has failed to prevent sex crimes because our approach counters the only effective methods of reducing sex crimes in our country.
Shady Court was a lowly program doing the work no one was willing or able to do. We chose revenge over reason. We cried out, “Not In My Back Yard!” The issue has gone nowhere. Despite the complaints and protests of Sheffield residents[xiii], sex offenders will continue to live in Sheffield. I still live here. Life goes on.
Soon I will leave an empty apartment to return to Cincinnati, my dreams of marriage as empty as the crumbling hotel and the dreams of a program that would have made a difference. It is quite possible another sex offender will take my place. If I meet one looking for a place to live, I will highly recommend it.

[ix] Jeffrey C. Sandler, Naomi J. Freeman, and Kelly M. Socia, “Does a Watched Pot Boil? A Time-Series Analysis of New York State’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Law.” Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Vol. 14, No. 4, Nov. 2008, P. 297

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Vote for the 2010 Annual Shiitake Awards

Our favorite politician Tim "English Only" James is up for election... in the 2010 Shiitake awards! And much like the real elections, he is losing. We can change all that! Just go to and vote Tim James as worst politico of 2010 today!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Fox 10 Mobile on Alabama Pardon and Parole Board

This article is not exclusive to sex offenders; however, it gives a good illustration to our insane attitudes about incarceration and punishment in America.

Special Report: Pardon and parole

Updated: Wednesday, 24 Nov 2010, 10:03 PM CST
Published : Wednesday, 24 Nov 2010, 10:03 PM CST
Libby Amos

Photojournalist: Robert Brown, Riccardo Montgomery

(WALA) - When prison overcrowding is so bad that early release is granted to well-behaved prisoners, and judges are told to punish with the least jail time possible, more criminals get out of jail sooner than they should.

[Comments: Alabama gives ridiculously long sentences for petty offenses, and the USA in general gives the longest prison sentences in the world on average. By "sooner than they should," they mean anything LESS than the maximum penalty]
The State of Alabama has the highest case load ratio of officer to parolee in the country. Once inmates are free, the state doesn't have enough parole officers to keep track of them. Cynthia Dillard heads up the Pardon and Parole Board in Montgomery. She said they catch a lot of blame for people getting out of prison and then re-offending. "When people are released from prison, everyone thinks they must be on parole. But over a third of them are getting out on a split sentence probation that's ordered by the judge, nothing to do with the parole board. Another third are getting out end of sentence neither probation or parole," Dillard explained.

[Comments: I was floored. A third of inmates do every day of their sentences! Split sentences are common in Alabama. Split sentencing is a form of determinate sentencing. For example, if you get a 10 split 3 (10/3), you do three years and the rest on probation. Notice also the caseload for parole officers, yet they still find the time to arrest someone for being unale to pay the $30 a month probation fee.]
Prisoners who are serving a split sentence, life without parole, or are facing the death penalty are the only ones who are not eligible for parole. Dillard said every single other inmate is guaranteed by law to be considered by the board for early release. Dillard put the parole consideration process in perspective. "Their sentences are coming up. Say, they are going to EOS (end their sentence) in two years. The board has to look at them and say, 'Now, do I really want to parole this sex offender who could get out and the next day molest another child? And have that on my conscience and have that child damaged? Or do I want to look at is as if I let this person out a year early we could get him registered as a sex offender, we could help him get established where he needs to go, making sure under condition that he not have any contact with children, that he not go certain places? And we tell him where he can work, tell him where he can live, and make it lot less likely he is going to violate another child.' That's a big decision, you know," she said.

[Comments: This is the typical mentality of society, and it is sad to see this coming from the mouths of those in charge of rehabilitating former offenders. Let Big Brother tell you where you can work and live. Every sex offender is suspected of being a threat]
The complications in the system only get worse. The Board of Pardon and Paroles budget has been cut by $10 million in state funding. The lack of money is forcing each officers case load to get heavier every month. But the numbers show that someone who is paroled or on probation and under strict supervision has a better chance of staying out of prison than someone who walks out end of sentence and has no contact with an officer. Thirty-eight percent of people released EOS return to prison within three years.
[Comments: I'd like to note that is a general recidivism rate, which means that any parolee that commits any type of crime, as opposed to a parolee who commits the same crime. A bank robber who later gets busted with a joint is a "general recidivist" but not a "specific recidivist." Yes having supervision is important but having a positive support network is better.]
Alabama employs fewer than 300 officers who supervise 67,000 parolees and probationers. The question is: How strict is the supervision? "Our average case load per officer right now is 196 per officer, plus they have to write these mandatory pre-sentence investigations and that's a major problem," said Dillard. "So one parole officer who is working out in the field is responsible for making sure that about 196 people are coming to him, being drug tested and have a job and are following the rules?" FOX10 asked. "Exactly. And there's usually a lot of rules. It is scary," Dillard added. Dillard said her officers do great work even against the odds.

[Comment: There is a lot of rules on parolees. Unfortuntely, POs have nearly godlike powers and can impose very strict rules]
Much like the prison system in Florida, the parole/probation arm of the corrections system in Florida is fully funded by the state. Florida law mandates that each parole officers case not exceed the range of 70-90. If that figure is exceeded, the state is responsible for providing money to hire more officers.
The American Probation Parole Association recommends no more than 70 cases per supervising officer. Once again, Alabama ranks in the highest percentile of overloaded correction systems. The problem now is too many people in the State of Alabama are on probation or parole because there is no room for them in prison. It's also a bargain for the state to keep on probation or parole. It cost about $41 a day to keep someone in prison vs $1.87 to supervise them on parole or probation.
In Mobile County alone, there are more than 500 people who are wanted for violation of their parole or probation. With the number of outstanding cases parole officers don't have enough time to track down everyone.

[Comments: Maybe if Alabama did not inarcerate people for such long periods of time, there would not be such a problem. Alabama prisons are at twice the intended capacity.]

Friday, November 5, 2010

Alabama News Roundup nov. 5, 2010 -- The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Three new news stories, courtesy of WAFF 48 in Huntsville:

Associated Press - November 5, 2010 4:24 PM ET
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A state appeals court says an Alabama law requiring sex offenders to give an address where they will be living before getting out of prison can't be applied to a homeless inmate with no money. Thornal Lee Adams was arrested when he couldn't give an address where he would be living after his release from a state prison in Montgomery County. He argued that he couldn't give an address 45 days before his release because he had no family to live with and he had no money to pay for an apartment. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals said applying the law to Adams is unconstitutional because he's being punished for being homeless. But the court said it does not hold that the 45-day-requirement is always unconstitutional.

GOOD NEWS: Alabama has a longtime policy of charging a sex offender with failure to register if they cannot create a home plan. Now courts are finally stepping up against this practice. Alabama needs to support more halfway houses.

By Stephen McLamb

ALBERTVILLE, AL (WAFF)- Some Albertville residents would like to see a convicted sex offender, who recently moved to their neighborhood, kicked out. But is there anything that can really be done? Albertville police say they've been getting calls from residents along East McKinney Avenue after getting flyers that a sex offender is now their neighborhood. "Basically they don't like it because he's moved into the area," said Albertville Police Sgt. Jamie Smith.

Whether it's Albertville, Guntersville, or somewhere else, Sgt. Jamie Smith says there's little anyone can do as long as the offender is in compliance. "Registering with local law enforcement, obviously they're within the distance requirements set by the law for schools and daycare," said Sgt. Smith.

While you may not be able to remove a sex offender from near your home, Sgt. Smith urges people to be aware. The best way is to use the internet to see if there is a sex offender in your neighborhood. "It will show you everyone that's registered there in the town. We've got 22 here in Albertville," said Sgt. Smith.

If you would like to know if there is a sex offender in your neighborhood, click here.

COMMENTS: This story angered me, quite frankly. It was a non-story. The good news is no one was singled out. The bad news is a bunch of liquored up rednecks will be whipped up in a frenzy over this piece of fluff. Just bad, bad journalism.


ATHENS, Ala. (AP) - How bad did Democrats in Alabama get beaten on Tuesday? To quote Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely: "Alabama Coach Nick Saban running on the Democratic ticket could not have beaten a one-legged child molester running as a Republican." Blakeley, a Democrat, survived because he had no opposition on the ballot. But The Decatur Daily reports that for the first time in Limestone County's recorded history, all local Democratic incumbents who faced opposition lost. Along with the sheriff, nine other Democrats did not have opposition and won new terms.

COMMENTS: Too bad no one legged registrant ran against Mike Blakely. Okay it was a silly copper comment but Alabama politics is like that.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Steve Hurst running on human mutilation platform

This is Steve Hurst, who is seeking a fourth term for the State House of Representatives. Like most politicos, Hurst is bringing up sex offender issues, which likely means he's probably losing in the polls to his opponent. Either that or there are more than just questions about the $85,000+ he received by PAC groups in the past month.

That in itself is not groundbreaking news. The legislation he has proposed, however, is very disturbing and for this reason, ReFORM Alabama prays this man loses his election:

One of the bills Hurst cites as most important to him in seeking another term deals with punishments for people who sexually abuse children.

“The attorney general presented a package two years ago, I think, that would have provided chemical castration for convicted sex offenders. I added an amendment calling for surgical castration. The AG asked me to remove the amendment so the federal courts didn’t strike down the whole thing, but promised me he would support me on a stand alone bill that would do just that. I want it to be tested in the federal courts. You don’t ever get in if you don’t keep knocking.”

The attorney general offered no help with the stand alone bill, but Hurst said he kept up the effort anyway.

The most recent version of the bill required life in prison for conviction of a sex crime against a child less than 12. Release would require surgical castration, which would be up to the inmate. Under Hurst’s original bill, molestation of a child under the age of six could carry the death penalty. In the version that passed the House Judiciary Committee, a sentence of life without parole was required for the rape, sodomy or sexual torture of a child under the age of 8.

“That’s the reason I want to go back,” he said.

Read more: The Daily Home - Hurst says he s not done yet has more work to do
Steve Hurst wishes not only to disobey the US Supreme Court by executing sex offenders who do not kill their victims, he wishes to castrate them as well. It is a bad thing when even Troy King, the sadistic soon-to-be-ex-AG, warns you to remove a mutilation provision of a bill. This man must NOT be re-elected!

UPDATE: Hurst won in a VERY CLOSE race with his opponent in the Nov. 2 election. Too bad.

State House: Room 627-C
11 S. Union Street
Montgomery, AL 36130
(334) 353-9215
District: 155 Quail Run Road
Munford, AL 36268
Home Phone: (256) 761-1935

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Trial begins for suspended Jefferson Co. Judge who "let SO off the hook"

A judge allegedly allows a man accused of a sex crime to plead to a non-sex offense so he can have a place to live, and gets dragged before the ethics board for not destroying the man's life.

Trial begins for suspended Jefferson County Judge Dan King

Published: Wednesday, September 22, 2010, 12:46 PM     Updated: Wednesday, September 22, 2010, 12:52 PM
Anita Debro -- The Birmingham News Anita Debro -- The Birmingham News 
The nine-member Alabama Court of the Judiciary met for about an hour this morning in Montgomery to begin the trial of Jefferson County Circuit Judge Dan King, who was suspended in June after being hit with 16 charges of ethics violations by the state Judicial Inquiry Commission.

Opening statements began at 11 a.m. The hearing broke for lunch about noon and is expected to begin again at 1 p.m. with the presentation of testimony and evidence. 

Scheduled witnesses include: Arthur Green, the district attorney for the Bessemer division of Jefferson County; Bessemer Division Chief Assistant District Attorney Bill Veitch; Ronnie Ashford, a man whom King once represented and whose rape conviction King set aside a year ago so he could forego registering as a sex offender and move in with his mother; and Linda Ashford, the man's mother who asked King to help.

The Judicial Inquiry Commission found it improper that King set aside the rape conviction of a man he represented and for whom he negotiated a plea deal. The commission noted that Ashford's mother cared for King's son at Children's Hospital several years after Ashford was convicted.

The commission also accused King of ethics violations related to an April order in which King accused a fellow judge of succumbing to political pressure in a ruling related to electronic bingo. 

© 2010 All rights reserved.

Auburn Police given grant to harass sex offenders

The combination of hick-town policing and big brother funding leads to potentially idiotic results, especially when local hick town news reports it in a negative light:

Grant helps Auburn Police buckle down on sex offenders

Christina Chambers

They are not allowed to live near schools, daycares, or churches, but it is easy for a registered sex offender to blend in with the community. 

[NOTE: I know of no Alabama law that bars registrants from living near churches, unless it is a local ordinance. Alabama does, however, ban registrants from living within 2000 feet of colleges.]

The Auburn Police Department received a "Child Sexual Predator Program" grant from the United States Department of Justice through their "Community Oriented Policing Services" (COPS) Office.

The grant is worth $110,500. It is designed to reduce and prevent child endangerment and protect communities from sexual predators. "The safety and well-being of our children is crucial to a healthy community and the grant will assist us in our efforts in this area," said Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson.

Auburn is the only department in the state of Alabama to receive the grant this year. Dawson said the money will be spent in investigations, education, and personnel to help with sexual abuse cases.

"This is huge, and it means a lot for our department to receive such an award," said Lieutenant Steve Woods. Woods investigates and regulates all registered sex offenders in the Auburn area. "One sex offender is one too many," said Dawson.

The Auburn Police Division was nominated for the grant by the United States Attorney's Office and the United States Marshals Service for the Middle District of Alabama.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Alabama News Round-up Sept. 2010

Not a lot happening lately but there were a few news briefs of interest this month:,68082?

Decatur Daily: Area News in Brief 9/11/10

Sex offender faces charges

A sex offender is in Morgan County Jail faces charges of altering his criminal status on his driver’s license. Falkville Police Chief Chris Free said his officers stopped J**** D****, 52, of ****, for a traffic violation on Monday and while conducting a background check on his license, noticed he had colored over part of the license listing him as a sex offender. D** was convicted of first-degree sodomy in 1993 in Macon County for a sexual offense with a 7-year-old girl. Police charged D*** with sex offender registration violation. He remained in Morgan County Jail on Friday in lieu of $100,000 bail.
--Paul Huggins

COMMENTS: The state needs to repeal this scarlet letter law to begin with. It has served no purpose other than increasing the chances of social ostracism and vigilantism. And check out the bond set. A bit excessive, don't you think?

County gets unexpected jail expense

WEDOWEE-- Jail administrator Craig Davidson told the commission as of Oct. 1 the state will no longer do maintenance for the Live Scan fingerprint system at Randolph County Jail. County administrator Cindy Arrington said court funds cannot be used for this system; it will have to come from the jail's budget. Davidson said it is mandated they have this system for the sex offender registration and notification act. The county will have to pay for the maintenance and upgrades to be in compliance. The commission tabled any action on the fingerprint system until the new sheriff is elected.

COMMENT: Cry me a river, Randolph County. You wanted it, now pay for it! I wonder how many people realize how much it costs to have Big Brother harass area sex offenders. If they think it is bad now just wait until Alabama tries implementing the Adam Walsh Act.

Birmingham crime rate down overall; still ranks 4th in U.S.
Published: Tuesday, September 14, 2010, 5:45 AM     Updated: Tuesday, September 14, 2010, 6:12 AM

Birmingham's crime dropped in every category last year, with the number of murders reported in the city decreasing by 20 percent.  Still, despite a 10 percent drop in overall crime, the city ranked fourth nationally in overall crime because of a national downward trend in crime, according to the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Report for 2009. In 2008, Birmingham ranked third nationally in overall crime.....  "Even though we are having a banner year in homicide reduction, there is no universal antidote or magic formula for this trend," said Birmingham Deputy Chief Herman Hinton. "Still, I believe that it's more about us expanding our community-based effort through prayer and prayer walks, along with focusing more on high-risk people such as probationers, sex offenders and outstanding felony warrants."

COMMENT: Considering sex offenders have statistically the lowest rate of re-offending by far, I'm scratching my head over the comment made by the B'ham deputy chief. Actually, all the social ostracism and harassment makes them more likely to re-offend. Idiots.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Annitston Star gives a really bad editorial -- FEAR MONGERING AMONG US

I've never understood just newspaper would print such nonsense when they refuse to print the truth or any of my editorials.

Predators among us
by our readers
Moms, shut your doors and keep your kids in; the “big bad wolf” is lurking around the corner. The reality is that sex offenders are littering our country. Kids can be snatched from our front yards and become victims of a sex offender.

The “Leave it to Beaver” days are long gone, and mothers need to be aware of the ever-growing danger. It is even a risk to let our kids go alone to school. The offender knows where there is an “easy catch.” Those men are sick individuals who need regular follow-ups with officials. Kids ought to have special classes that teach them how to protect themselves.

Our children have become easy prey, and we need tough laws to protect them. Playgrounds, wooded areas and close-to-home schools should have extra security. Sexual abuse and the killings of our children have become a national cancer.

The $587 million and most costly school in the U.S. recently opened in Los Angeles. That money was wasted and could have been used to enforce better security and build more jails for outlaws.

Margit Suesser


Read more: Anniston Star - Predators among us


This has to be the worst excuse of fear mongering and blind ignorance I have ever seen in an editorial. People are always saying we see "these kinds of stories" "every day," but statistic from the NCMEC show those high profile cases are extremely rare.

We're already spending more on costly prisons and security. We treat school children like prisoners these days with random pat downs, metal detectors, and heightened security. The only "epidemic" in this country is the epidemic of fear. We fear everything from Pig Flu to Y2K and Satanic Cults in Day Cares.

Like everything else we have grown to fear in our generation, our fears are based upon media sensationalism. Nancy Grace's bread and butter are "Tot Mom" and sex abuse cases. It is interesting to note her two favorite cases on her show, the Caylee Anthony and Sandra Cantu murders, were committed by people not on any public registry.

There are a lot of problems with the public registry. It gives people such a narrow focus on a small group of people, of which only 3%-5% of them will ever commit a new sex crime (there is such a thing as "rehabilitation"). The focus is so narrow we miss the 95% of new cases that will be committed by first time offenders, i.e., people not on the registry.

It has become obvious that these laws are based more on revenge than rehabilitation. The shame game, social ostracism, and denial of second chances has failed to reduce recidivism. Yes we need more education, but you have to include topics like sexual accountability to your youth.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

At least she wasn't using sex offender issues as a platform this time

It is yet another article devoted to crazy Alabama politics. No, it isn't a sex crime issue, but we all need a little humor. Hm, now I have an idea. I have a pic of Bob Riley and Troy King, who's got Phoyoshop?

Photoshop Used to Simulate Political Endorsement, Temporarily

If you are running for office in Alabama, it would be great to have the endorsement of University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban.  Having a picture of you and Coach Saban together would really go a long way.  And with today's technology, the fact that you have never actually met Coach Saban is not an obstacle to realizing this dream.
Photo courtesy of Birmingham News Dorothy Davidson, a candidate for mayor of Bessemer, Alabama (a suburb of Birmingham), said last month that Saban had endorsed her candidacy, and she distributed fliers showing the two of them side-by-side on a golf course.  Asked about this, the school's athletic department said Saban had not endorsed anybody.
Asked about that, Davidson insisted that the picture of her with Saban on the golf course was real and had been taken three weeks before.  When she was later shown an eerily similar picture of Saban apparently standing in exactly the same place on the same golf course, wearing the same clothes, and with his hair in exactly the same position, but with his wife next to him instead of Davidson, Davidson then clarified that position.  Her picture had been taken three weeks before.  It had then been (poorly) digitally added to the Saban photo, after Saban's inconveniently placed wife had been digitally removed.
Actually, it appears she was not entirely removed -- it  looks to me like some of Mrs. Saban's hair is still visible at the top right of Davidson's head.
According to Davidson, "[t]hey said we could do it this way," and her campaign manager, Kevin Morris, clarified that "they" was Coach Saban. Morris said he had asked Saban about it one day on the golf course and that Saban had said okay.
Later that day, though, Morris admitted that maybe that was not one hundred percent true, either.  "I lied," he conceded, but said he had deceived Davidson, too.  Obviously Davidson knew she had not posed with Saban, but Morris said he had told her (falsely) that Saban had agreed to the Photoshoppery. (Whether Saban ever expressed support for Davidson is not clear.  Morris maintains that he did.  Saban himself does not seem to have commented, but the athletic department consistently denied that the coach was ever contacted for an endorsement.)  Morris resigned.
In the election on August 24, Davidson got 13 percent of the vote, placing fourth out of six.  The top two will go head-to-head in an October runoff, although maybe there will be three in the picture by election time. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Shiloni Ministries on ARC Talk Radio show! 09/01/2010

On Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2010, at 7pm, American's Reality Check radio interviewed Shiloni Transformation Ministry, a faith based initiative and halfway house located in Birmingham. Shiloni was negatively impacted by the Jefferson County anti-clustering law. Click on the link below to find the show. You can listen from the Talkshoe website or download the podcast. This ministry needs your support and a repeal of these laws. Ohio makes exceptions for certain halfway houses from the residency laws, Alabama should do the same.

More on American's Reality Check (ARC Radio):

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Court to decide if RSOs must have a home [to be free]

I am hoping the courts uphold the ruling striking down the practice of re-incarcerating sex offenders for not being able to obtain housing before their release dates. I am passionate about this one because I was five days away from being charged with "Failure to Register." If it was not for a church in Cincinnati, who knows when I would have found a place to live. I am hoping to have a letter from an Alabama inmate who was sent back to prison for being homeless soon.


Court to decide if sex offenders must have a home

By BOB JOHNSON Associated Press Writer
Published: Saturday, August 28, 2010 at 9:14 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 28, 2010 at 9:14 a.m.
The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals is deciding four cases that will determine if convicted sex offenders must provide a permanent address when they are released from prison.

Montgomery County Judges Truman Hobbs and Tracey McCooey ruled last year in separate cases that a law requiring inmates convicted of sex offenses to have a permanent address before they are released from prison is vague and unconstitutional.

Alabama Attorney General Troy King has appealed and asked the Court of Criminal Appeals to reinstate the law. King says the statute is necessary for law enforcement officers to keep an eye on people convicted of sex crimes like rape.

All briefs have been filed and arguments made in the four cases. Attorneys say the court could rule at any time.

This article is a longer version of the same story, courtesy of the Anniston Star:


Alabama court to decide if sex offenders must have a home
by Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer
August 28, 2010

MONTGOMERY — After serving his prison sentence for rape, Jeffrey Seagle tried to find a place to live. But with no fixed address and no family or friends able to take him in, Alabama's sex offender law kept him behind bars.

When it came time for him to leave the Kilby Correctional Facility near Montgomery, he was re-arrested. The reason: He couldn't give officials an address where he would be living.

"This is essentially an eternal prison sentence. It could be a life sentence," said attorney David Schoen, who represents Seagle and three others in similar situations. "It is the ultimate scarlet letter."

Challenged by Schoen, the law was later declared unconstitutional by two Montgomery circuit judges, but the state attorney general has appealed to have it reinstated. State's attorneys say the four inmates could have complied with the law by listing a park bench or even a street corner as their permanent address.

Montgomery County Circuit Judges Truman Hobbs and Tracey McCooey ruled last year in separate cases that the law is unconstitutionally vague. The ruling struck down charges that the four inmates violated the law when they declared that they were homeless and did not provide an address for where they would be living outside prison.

Seagle and the other three inmates were arrested for violating the notification law when they started to leave prison at the end of their sentences. They have since been released after the law was ruled unconstitutional.

Alabama Attorney General Troy King has asked the state Court of Criminal Appeals to reinstate the law, which he said is necessary for law enforcement officers to keep an eye on people convicted of sex crimes like rape. The four men — Phillip Handley, Thornal Adams, Richard Coppage and Seagle — argued in court briefs that they were unable to find a homeless shelter, halfway house or other permanent home.

Under Alabama law, convicted sex offenders are not permitted to live within 2,000 feet of an elementary or high school or college or university.

Although they are now out of prison, Schoen said his four clients are still having a hard time finding a place to live. He said they have stayed in homeless shelters and other temporary locations.

Many states that adopted stringent community notification rules for sex offenders are now grappling with the issue of how homeless sex offenders can comply.

Last year, probation officers in Georgia had to find temporary housing for nine homeless sex offenders who were kicked out of a makeshift tent city they had built in the woods behind a suburban Atlanta office building. The men said the tent city was the only place they had been able to find where they could live and comply with state law.

In a similar case, almost 100 homeless sex offenders in Florida were forced to move earlier this year from a makeshift camp under a bridge on a Miami causeway.

Mississippi has a law similar to Alabama's, but it gives sex offenders 10 days to find a permanent residence after they are released from prison. In California, sex offenders are allowed to register as "transient" if they can't find housing.

Schoen has argued that the Alabama law violates the Constitution because it requires a convicted sex offender, who has "paid his debt to society," to have a roof over his head.

But the attorney general's office has argued in court briefs that the law does not require a specific address and that inmates can say they are going to live on a park bench or under an interstate overpass, as long as they remain the required distance from schools and police know where to find them.

"You can say 'I'm going to live under the overpass on Ann Street," King said, referring to a Montgomery street not far from the Capitol.

Virginia law allows homeless sex offenders to list a street corner, parking lot or other vacant space as their home.

Deputy Attorney General Pete Smyczek denies claims that the Alabama law is an attempt to give homeless sex offenders life sentences.

"We just want them to give us something definitive enough to allow law enforcement to locate them," Smyczek said.

The law passed the Alabama Legislature in a special session in 2005. The House sponsor, former state Rep. Neil Morrison, D-Cullman, said King and some legislators were concerned that "predators were disappearing back into society" as soon as they were released from prison before law enforcement officers could find out where they were living.

"I felt strongly about this. We owe protection to our children," Morrison said.

Schoen said he believes the Legislature intended to require sex offenders to stay in prison if they lack a permanent address and that the argument about living on park benches is being made to improve chances of winning before the appellate court.

But Morrison said that's not the case.

"Nowhere did we say in the law that they have to stay in prison. The intent was to protect children," Morrison said.

In court filings, attorneys for the sex offenders say their clients went to great lengths to abide by the law.

Seagle, who was initially convicted of rape in Montgomery County in 1995, had been in prison for 14 years when he was told he would have to provide an address before he was released from prison and at that time didn't have any relatives or friends he could live with, according to his filing to the appellate court. The filing said Seagle wrote to a number of halfway houses and was only accepted to live in one in Oklahoma City.

But that halfway house later informed him it was full and he could not live there. The filing said Seagle did not have money to rent a house or an apartment and he did not have access to the Internet in prison to help his search. It said Seagle "did not think he could put down that he would be living on a park bench and that if he did, he would probably get arrested again."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Critiquing another scare tactic courtesy of the local media

John Walsh Courtesy photo
Living in the Shoals is not all that great with all the fear-mongering and small town thinking resonating around this place. So it comes as no surprise to see a scare tactic in the local sale paper advertising that Big Brother child fingerprinting and DNA kit sponsored by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. What better way to get everyone to turn in their children's DNA to our federal government than by scaring you into believing your child's kidnapping is imminent? The TV show "South Park" covered the child abduction panic quite nicely. At any rate, I will break down this article and expose it's myths:

FLORENCE–Every 40 seconds in the United States, a child is kidnapped.

COMMENTS:  That is not true. In the NISMART-2, the definitive study of missing persons cases, and ironically sponsored by the NCMEC, found that in one year, there were 797,500 missing person reports, hence, the "every 40 seconds" bit. There is one major flaw in this logic. The NISMART-2 includes all missing person cases, including runaway children. The majority of missing person reports are of runaways. Of those who aren't runaways, the vast majority of "abductions" were by non-custodial parents. In fact, out of those 797,500 missing reports, only 115 were the so-called "stereotypical kidnappings" that people fear the most.

Law Enforcement officials insist that time is critical in the recovery of a missing child. Currently, there are over 603,000 registered sex offenders, threatening the safety of our children. That number grows daily children. That number grows daily and doesn’t include those with criminal minds who have simply not had the opportunity to take a child.

COMMENT:  There are over 700,000 Registered individuals across the USA, but most are not a threat to children. Granted, we live in a state where we prosecute teens who have consensual relations with teens three years apart in age. The vast majority of sex crimes occur in the home, by a person the victim already knows and trusts, like a parent, and is most likely someone not on the sex offender list. Ninety-five percent of sex crimes are committed by someone not on the registry.

The John Walsh Child Safety Program equips parents with the vital tools needed in a crisis which can save law enforcement precious hours or days. 

Elkins Funeral Home at 1535 Hermitage Drive in Florence is sponsoring a DNA LifePrint Child Safety Event Saturday, August 28, 9:30am-2pm in the Elkins parking lot. 

COMMENT:  I've never understood how they figure child fingerprinting and DNA helps prevent kidnapping. Honestly, it is more about data mining than anything else. A picture of the child is generally the biggest help in located a missing person. DNA would only be valuable in very rare incidents, like if a child is killed or dies from an accident out in the woods like that child in Arizona did recently.

Also joining us will be the Florence Police Department SWAT Team and the Florence Fire Department with Sparky the Robot and the Fire Safety House, Face Painting, and Bike Raffles.
Biometrics is the newest and most advanced technology available today for obtaining fingerprints. It is the same equipment presently used by Federal Agencies, Law Enforcement, and the US Military. Law Enforcement officials know that time is critical in the recovery of a missing child. The Biometric Technology allows a child’s fingerprints to be immediately submitted into the FBI Database as soon as they are reported missing. When the child’s fingerprints are entered into the FBI Database, the fingerprints become immediately available to all law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. 

COMMENT:  Again they make the statement time is of the essence. However, law enforcement is NOT going to set up roadblocks and fingerprint every kid matching a general description until they find a match. The technology has improved but is not infallible, and somehow I find it difficult to believe smaller police departments like Florence has them equipped in all squad cars.

The program is endorsed by John Walsh, host of the popular TV show, America’s Most Wanted.
Detective Sergeant Joe Matthews, a retired supervisor in charge of the homicide division for the City of Miami Beach Police Department, founded DNA LifePrint in association with Walsh after solving the nationally publicized “Baby Lollipop” homicide. 

During his 35 year career as a criminal investigator, Matthews supervised and conducted over 20,000 criminal investigations and over 2000 death investigations. He has obtained confessions and convictions in numerous high-profile cases including several serial rapists. Matthews serves as an analyst/consultant with Fox News, USA Today, Associated Press, America’s Most Wanted among others. 

COMMENT:  The combo of Walsh and a Miami cop raises a red flag with me personally. Walsh has plenty of criticism for lying before Congress and inflating statistics and making outlandish public statements, while Miami has become an international embarassment for forcing registrants to live under the Julia Tuttle Causeway bridge. 

Those attending the event Saturday will receive: 

• a FREE FBI Certified Biometric 10 Digit Fingerprint Profile.
• a FREE high resolution full color Digital Photograph of your child.
• a FREE Child Safety Journal which will provide law enforcement officials with all the necessary vital information about your child and other important facts they will need immediately after a child is reported missing.
• a FREE Home DNA Identification Kit that is easy to use and lasts through generations.
There is no databasing: After each child goes through the line, parents are handed a Child Safety Journal which contains the Biometric Fingerprints, a Digital Photo, and a DNA Kit. The DNA Kit contains detailed instructions on how to use the DNA Kit at home. The only record of the visit is handed to you to take home: The event sponsor keeps no records on file. You will also be given John Walsh’s Child Safety Tips. All the information provided at this Child Safety Program is recommended by child safety experts and law enforcement officials to be updated every six months. 

COMMENT:  They may not "keep records" at this event, by my ex-girlfriend went to one and they took records of her kid at that time. There must be some money made on the kits since now you need to do it "every six months." Why? Does DNA and fingerprints change so drastically that six months later you have a fresh set? This may be all "voluntary," but someone's getting paid for this.

If a child comes up missing, parents greatly increase their chance of quickly recovering their child if they immediately provide a FBI Certified Biometric 10 Digit Fingerprint Profile, a DNA Sample, a High Resolution Full Color Photograph, and current statistical information.

COMMENT:  I'm a bit guilty of using the oxymoron "comes up missing," but it is still funny to see it in print. Anyways, the picture I can understand, but considering it takes weeks for DNA testing, I fail to see its value except in identifying old remains or something.

The bottom line: The NCMEC makes money off of these kits, though they have limited value at best. For the most part, a good pic is all you need with a description. Most of the time, however, cases are events like runaways or a kid spending too much time somewhere he should not be, or went to a friend's house without permission. My brother ran away three times in a year when I was a kid, so some of those "missing person" reports are of the same person. If you feel this is valuable, don't let me stop you, but personally most anything the NCMEC sponsors should be taken with a grain of salt.

Friday, August 13, 2010

11th US Ct of Appeals sends sex offender suit back to court

This is the longer and more detailed version of yesterday's headline.

Federal appeals court reverses ruling on sex offenders' lawsuit

Published: Thursday, August 12, 2010, 8:30 AM

A federal appeals court has reversed a U.S. District Court judge's decision to throw out a lawsuit filed by four sex offenders who say Jefferson County's sheriff should not be allowed to hold them after serving their sentences just because they are poor and don't have a place to
call home.

Alabama's Community Notification Act requires that before convicted sex offenders can be freed at the end of their sentences, they must provide an address where they will live after their release. The residence must meet certain requirements, including not being within a certain distance of a school.
If an inmate completes a sentence but can not provide an approved address, he or she can be held by the local sheriff in jail indefinitely, according to the state law.

U.S. District Court Judge Scott Coogler in February 2009 threw out the four sex offenders' lawsuit.
The four men appealed the judge's decision to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Last week two of the three judges on the appeals panel issued an order reversing the judge's decision.

"The district court failed to appreciate that this claim, if successful, would not affect the validity of their conviction nor the resulting sentence imposed, and would not necessarily result in immediate release," according to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling.

One of the three judges had agreed that the judge had made the right decision in dismissing the case.
The lawsuit now goes back to Coogler, unless Hale or the State of Alabama seeks a rehearing before the appeals court.

"All this does really is let us proceed with this case," said Kira Fonteneau, attorney representing the sex offenders. "It's a great first step ... It (the appeals ruling) doesn't determine anything as to what is going to happen with the case."

Sheriff's officials said they will not appeal the ruling and will continue to fight the case in the lower court.

They feel strongly about it, Sheriff Mike Hale said, because victims of sexual assault and sexual abuse have a very difficult time putting their lives back together, if ever, especially victims who are children.
"The argument that these offenders have paid their debt carries little weight with us," Hale said. "The laws involving sex offenders were created with one thing in mind and that is to protect others from becoming victims."

"We strongly believe they are trying to create a loophole in that law by claiming to be indigent so they may go about in society unmonitored," Hale said. "We will fight that vigorously and look forward to the case being considered by the lower courts."
Closing a loophole

The sheriff said he will ask the state legislators to strengthen the law closing any such loophole possibility.

"We agree with the state of Alabama that they must provide a legitimate address before being released back into our society," he said.

Chief Deputy Randy Christian said investigators would have little success doing that if a sex offender was released without authorities having the ability to warn the public about who they are, what they look like and where they intend to live.

"Our job is to be advocates for crime victims and protect potential victims. Not only is that the right thing to do, but Sheriff Hale demands it," Christian said.

The four men -- Sidney Gipson, William McGuirk, Timothy Guthery and James Sasser -- had sued in 2008. Their lawsuit asks that a procedure be put in place to determine if they are indigent. If they are deemed indigent, provisions would be made for them to comply with the law without being indefinitely held in jail.

Lack of a process

If the state is going to require people to get housing then there ought to be some process for people who can't afford to get housing, Fonteneau said. "The law does not provide a process for law enforcement or the individual to deal with it ... There's just nothing there," she said.
Gipson and McGuirk remain in the Jefferson County Jail, while Guthery and Sasser have been released.

Fonteneau said she doesn't know exactly how many inmates in the Jefferson County jail are in the same position as the four men who filed the lawsuit.

Christian said Wednesday there were six inmates in the county jail who have provided addresses, but they aren't compliant with the law, so they haven't been released. Either the addresses don't exist or they fail to meet with guidelines, for example, being too close to a school, he said. One inmate continues to be held because he hasn't provided any address at all, he said.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Lawsuit against keeping RSOs past EOS date reinstated

The practice of arresting someone for "Failure To Register" in Alabama simply because a registrant lacks the ability to find a home after his/ her End Of Sentence date is draconian and should be abolished!

Ala. sex offenders' lawsuit reinstated

The Associated Press
Published: Thursday, August 12, 2010 at 1:16 p.m.
A federal appeals court has reversed a U.S. District Court judge's decision and reinstated a lawsuit filed by four sex offenders.
The sex offenders say Jefferson County's sheriff should not be allowed to keep them in jail after they finish their sentences just because they don't have a place to call home. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to a lowe court for reconsideration.
Alabama's Community Notification Act requires that before convicted sex offenders can be freed, they must provide an address where they will live after their release.
If an inmate completes a sentence but can not provide an approved address, he or she can be kept in jail.
The lawsuit now goes back to U.S. District Court Judge Scott Coogler.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Authorities stepping up efforts to combat child exploitation in North Alabama and the nation

The National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction: Report to Congress Aug. 2010:

It is a bit of grandstanding; however, the US Marshals are conducting regular compliance sweeps these days so it is good to be mindful of these type of announcements:

Authorities stepping up efforts to combat child exploitation in north Alabama and nation

Published: Monday, August 02, 2010, 3:30 PM

Two undercover operations have been launched to target online child exploitation in north Alabama, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Birmingham announced today.

The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency in Birmingham and the Hoover Police Department are conducting one operation and the FBI office in Birmingham is conducting the other, according to the press release from U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance. Both operations were begun in the past 60 days. The announcement of the operations came in conjunction with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement today of the U.S. Justice Department's first-ever National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction. That plan calls for specific goals for existing programs to combat online-predators and child pornography, and increase cooperation in investigations among federal, state and local agencies. Among the changes are that the U.S. Marshals Service is launching a nationwide operation to target the top 500 most dangerous sex offenders who are not complying with registration laws. The U.S. Justice Department also has added 38 more assistant U.S. Attorney positions around the country devoted to prosecuting child exploitation cases. The U.S. Attorney Office in Birmingham is not among those expected to get one of those assistants, said Peggy Sanford, a spokeswoman for the Birmingham office.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Person accused of sex crime actually acquitted!

It is a rare occassion to see a man acquitted of a sex crime, even more so if the person accused is allegedly a registered sex offender.

Houston County jury acquits Ohio man of sex abuse

By Matt Elofson

A Houston County jury acquitted an Ohio man Tuesday of sexually abusing a 7-year-old boy.

Gregory Hermans, 30, of Chester, Ohio, was arrested July 22, 2008, about five days after the alleged offense happened.

Assistant Distrist Attorney David Holmes said the boy testified during the trial of how he reported the sexual assault to his teacher and school principal. Holmes said the jury deliberated about four hours before returning with the not guilty.

Attorney David Hogg said his client Hermans was acquitted even though there was testimony his client was already convicted of attempted rape and of failure to register as a sex offender.

Hogg said argued that neither the child’s mother of the child’s school principal believed the child was molested by the defendant.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cullman County to make entering a park a felony for RSOs

Since the state legislature will not reconvene until next year, there is plenty of time to counter this:

July 28, 2010

County seeks felony status for sex offenders in parks

CULLMAN — Registered sex offenders are finding recreation options in Cullman County harder and harder to come by.

The Cullman County Commission unanimously agreed Tuesday to join with other county municipalities in making it a crime for sex offenders to enter public parks. Unlike Hanceville and Dodge City, which recently passed ordinances making the transgression a misdemeanor offense, the county intends to make it a felony for perpetrators to enter any of the five public parks in the Cullman County park system.

In order to do that, the commission will have to get some help from the state legislature. By statute, the county commission cannot pass laws designating criminal offenses and must have a member of the local legislative delegation introduce a bill to incorporate the new law into the Code of Alabama. That, said commission chairman James Graves, will not happen before the start of the 2011 legislative session early next year.

“We passed a resolution today requesting our legislators to introduce a bill next year that will make this a felony,” said Graves. “So far, we have heard from (House district 11 Rep.) Jeremy Oden, and he is very receptive of it. We believe the others will support it as well.”

While a bill has not been drafted yet, the commission recommended the inclusion of language that would make “each entry into such [county park] areas, regardless of the time period between such entries...constitute a separate offense under this ordinance...anyone who is found in violation of this ordinance shall be guilty of a Class C felony.”

Associate commissioner Doug Williams said the measure is intended to keep registered sex offenders out of the way of locations—such as parks where children often play with limited supervision— that could invite repeat offenses.

"It's a statewide trend to protect our children, and we're using our ability as a legislative body to do this," Williams said. "We don't want sex offenders around our children."

Graves agreed, saying the law should help supplement existing laws by equipping local enforcement with a local ordinance that carries more weight.

“If there’s something lacking in the laws we have, then I’m all for giving law enforcement some more teeth in a law that allows them to do something where we’re having problems,” he said. “At Sportsman Lake in particular, we now have more and more children coming around with all the improvements that have been made there, and we want to make sure this kind of problem doesn’t arise in the future.”

Cullman County operates five public parks: Smith Lake Park, Sportsman Lake Park, Clarkson Covered Bridge, Stoney Lonesome OHV Park and Lions’ Club Landing at Cold Springs. Graves said Tuesday the commission had not yet discussed how enforcement at Sportsman Lake Park, which is wholly within the city limits of Cullman, would be handled if the bill becomes law.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Scam Alert:

There are a number of people willing to prey upon people's fears. There are a number of websites willing to sell registered sex offender info to the highest bidder. Below is one such website:

Access any Alabama sex-offenders records with detailed and accurate information! All registered sex-offenders records of Alabama - get it here! is the best possible place to venture into the records of Alabama Sex Offenders.Register with us today to avail the most authentic and updated sex-offenders’ records in any corner of Alabama from the comfort of your home

I hate to say this, but I do not pity anyone who falls prey to this website. If you read the typos throughout the site, it becomes obvious it is run by a foreign company that speaks broken English. On the contact page it says, "We are looking ahead to hear from you." I'm not an English major, but it should say, "We are looking FORWARD to HEARING from you!"

The site goes on:

Do not be confused about which site to choose if you are looking for sex-offenders records in Alabama, US. Everyday thousands of people register with us to be sure of getting all comprehensive and updated information on the sex offenders who can be a danger to your family and your children any day. So do not waste time, be aware and be sure to protect your child from any sexual predator. We boast of our huge and comprehensive database which is enriched with all registered sex offenders’ records in Alabama. So make your search to stop the impending danger today and get the best results.

The search site for Alabama sex-offenders records is professionally designed and updated on regular basis to offer you the latest records. Take the privilege of our smart search tools which make your search so effortless! Here you can track down the sexual predators and their crimes so easily.

 If that is not enough to scare the bejeezus out of someone, they follow-up with a scary statistic. The site uses a stat pulled out of the ether with the claim 225 million children are sexually "abuse" every year. Only thing is, there are only 74.5 million kids in the USA. Stats laundering is quite common in places that promote public or privately run sex offender registries. 

A Whois search lists the company as working out of India. Are we outsourcing our sex offender registry or something these days?

Consider this my good deed for the day. Never trust a site offering their own privately-run registry. You end up getting more than you bargained for.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Fugitive RSO hunter arrested in Florida

There is an old saying the one that screams loudest about someone else has the most to hide. A Florida self-professed vigilante, Barbara Farris, is one such person. She was arrested for "Menacing," a class B misdemeanor. She put a loaded gun to someone's head. Personally she should serve more time than 6 months but I hope the judge throws the book at this scumbag. Harassing and threatening registered individuals is a crime.

'Sex offender hunter' arrested in Florida on Alabama charge (with video)

Published: Friday, July 23, 2010, 12:27 PM     Updated: Friday, July 23, 2010, 12:28 PM

ORLANDO, Florida -- Barbara Farris -- the president of a group known as the Bee Squad, which tracks sex offenders around central Florida -- was arrested Thursday on a warrant from Alabama on a charge of menacing, according to a report on CF News 13.

Farris received notoriety for leading a charge to put up cameras at an Orlando trailer park to monitor sex offenders has been arrested. The arrest warrant was out of Coffee County, Alabama, and Farris' last known address is in Enterprise, Alabama, but further details about the Alabama allegations were not immediately available.