Saturday, May 29, 2010

Alabama politics is a joke, says New York Times.

Alabama Politics is an embarassment. Only in Alabama do we have a candidate for Governor demanding English-only exams for driver's licences. Of course, I'm speaking of Tim James, the same clown wanting to increase registration times for registrants. I wonder if he realizes regisrants ALREADY do face to face registration with the sheriff? Probably, but he assumes the people don't.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/29/opinion/29collins.html?emc=tnt&tntemail0=y

May 28, 2010

Alabama Goes Viral

Alabama goes to the polls!
O.K., not an opening likely to maintain reader interest. Let’s start again, with the words of Dale Peterson, candidate for agriculture commissioner in Tuesday’s Republican primary:
“Listen up! Alabama ag commissioner is one of the most powerful positions in Alabama. Responsible for five billion dollars. Bet you didn’t know that. You know why? Thugs and criminals!”
This is the start of Peterson’s campaign ad. He rides into the screen on a horse that looks increasingly worried as things progress. Brandishing a rifle, the 64-year-old farmer barks at the camera about his opponent (“a dummy”), somebody stealing his yard signs and immigrants being “bused in by the thousands.” The overall effect is like being cornered at a party by an eccentric neighbor who thinks the garbage man is spying on him for the federal government. It’s extremely popular.
There is quite a lot of this sort of thing going on this campaign season. You raise enough cash to film an outrageous ad. Then you post it on the Web and pray that it goes viral, gets mentioned on the cable talk shows and draws in enough donations to put the thing on TV.
The trend goes back to Demon Sheep, the legendary ad for Carly Fiorina’s campaign for the Senate nomination in California. It had regular sheep and then cartoon sheep and then a guy crawling around the ground disguised as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He had on a cardboard mask with red light bulbs for eyes. I believe the message was supposed to be fiscal responsibility, but really, all you got was Demon Sheep. Red eyes. Carly Fiorina.
The man who made it, Fred Davis III, then took up the cause of Tim James, a deeply unremarkable Alabama businessman who wants to be governor. To separate James from the crowd, Davis came up with “Language,” a 30-second ad in which the candidate stared at the camera and demanded to know why “our politicians make us give driver’s license exams in 12 languages.” (The actual answer is: a federal court ruling.)
“This is Alabama. We speak English. If you want to live here, learn it,” James said irritably. “We’ll only give the test in English if I’m governor. Maybe it’s the businessman in me, but we’ll save money.”
James’s staff insisted it was fiscal conservatism, not xenophobia, that put their candidate on the driver’s license warpath. But Alabama’s tests are automatically graded by computer, using federally financed software — even the approximately 2 percent that are taken in a language other than English. Given the fact that the state would probably have to defend the policy in court, James’s idea would actually be a new expense.
But I cannot emphasize how totally beside the point all that is. “Language” went viral. “This is the first election in a long time where the fate of the campaign really did change on a single ad,” said David Lanoue, chairman of the University of Alabama political science department.
James is now one of the front-runners, despite a last-minute crisis involving a rumor that he believed the state was spending too much money on the University of Alabama football coach, who makes $4.1 million a year. Which James vigorously denied wanting to cut. It’s the businessman in him.
He now has a sequel to the driver’s license ad, in which he says that as a businessman, he feels sex offenders should be required to “re-register with the state, face to face, every 90 days.”
“Some politicians think that might inconvenience the sex offenders,” James said somberly. He did not explain who those politicians were, but I suspect the same guys who keep stealing Dale Peterson’s signs.
This has been a peculiar political year, even for Alabama. James’s biggest opponent, Bradley Byrne, was attacked by a group called True Republican PAC, which ran an ad charging that Byrne supported the teaching of evolution.
Byrne, who has multiple degrees and was chancellor of the state community college system, indignantly denied the charges.
But wait, there’s more. It turns out that True Republican PAC was bankrolled by the state teachers’ union, which is angry at Byrne for trying to ban teachers from holding second jobs as state legislators. The Alabama Education Association apparently felt a good payback would be to spend $500,000 on a group that encourages people to vote against any candidate who believes there is a scientific explanation for the origin of life.
Meanwhile, over in the Fifth Congressional District primary, Les Phillip, a Republican, has an ad that features him telling a story of two young African-American men. One did great, served his country and became Les Phillip, while the other fell in with terrorists and other bad company and became Barack Obama.
So far, this is only on the Web, but the campaign is hoping to go viral.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Greg Bartlett, fear mongering sheriff

I was cruising through Decatur the other day and saw this sign. I wonder if Morgan Co. Sheriff Greg Bartlett realizes most of his sex crime arrests are of first time offenders? Well, if anyone else besides me wants to educate this sheriff on the facts, he was kind enough to post a link to his website.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

MY VIEW: Penalities for sex offenders out of step

http://blog.al.com/birmingham-news-commentary/2010/05/my_view_penalties_for_sex_offe.html

MY VIEW: Penalties for sex offenders out of step

By Special to The Birmingham News

May 16, 2010, 5:35AM
By CECIL M. JONES JR.
At the suggestion of a friend, I recently became a volunteer at the Shiloni Transformational Ministry for Homeless Sex Offenders. Shiloni is a faith-based program in Birmingham founded five years ago by Bill and Barbara Grier to help sex offenders after they get out of prison by providing them a temporary place to live while they try to find a job.
The ministry addresses their spiritual and physical needs. All offenders are difficult to help, but sex offenders are more so. Shiloni is the only program of its kind in the entire state.
Recently, the Legislature unanimously passed and the governor signed into law a bill affecting where sex offenders may live. Already, under a prior law, sex offenders cannot live or work less than 3,000 yards from a college, school or day care center.
I believe such constraints are reasonable, but the new law is not.
For example, along with other ill-conceived requirements, the law says no more than one adult criminal sex offender and one unrelated juvenile sex offender can live in the same house, and only one sex offender may live in an apartment complex within 100 yards of the residence of another sex offender.
Basically, the thrust and intent of the law are that sex offenders may not live anywhere.
However Draconian and unfair it may be, it is easy to pass a law in Alabama affecting sex offenders. I believe that if a bill were proposed to brand offenders on the forehead with the letters "SO," it would pass the Legislature unanimously.
Like other people, I thought I knew all I needed to know about sex offenders: Put them in prison and throw away the key. Case closed.
It is not that easy. We think we know what a sex offender is, but we do not. What do a 17-year-old boy having consensual sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend, a streaker, and a drunk, naked frat boy rolling around on the front lawn of his fraternity house shouting "Roll Tide" have in common?
According to Alabama law, they are all "sex offenders." Once arrested and found guilty, they are branded for life.
The streaker and the drunk frat boy are easily dismissed, but the two teenagers are not. Alabama law holds that a girl under the age of 16 cannot agree to consensual sex with a boy older than she is; therefore, the boy is a rapist and a sex offender.
Ridiculous? Think again. I know such a boy in the Shiloni program. Mom and dad get mad, and the boy gets jail.
Or, consider "Brad." Brad's father left when he was 1 month old. He was later molested by his half-sister's husband. When he was 14, his mother suddenly died. Brad was alone and an emotional wreck.
He then started acting out sexually. He was arrested and sent to the state juvenile detention center at Mt. Meigs, where his life was saved. However, when Brad was released at age 18, he was branded as a sex offender.
One person I will never forget was a 53-year-old man who had consensual sex with an underage girl. Having been a missionary and a pastor, he was stricken with guilt at his sin and turned himself in to police. He knew it was wrong in the sight of God.
None of his past life's goodness and his deep remorse was taken into consideration at his sentencing. He was given 30 years.
When sex offenders are released, if they have not found a place to live within three days, they are arrested and put back in jail. This is not morally right. They have served their sentence and committed no additional crime. They are in a catch-22 situation.
What we should be concerned about are real sex offenders -- the predators, the pedophiles and the serial rapists who cannot be rehabilitated.
The biggest barriers sex offenders face when they are released are finding a place to live and finding a job. The Shiloni ministry helps with these two needs. Providing a place for sex offenders to live is a huge problem because, understandably, no one wants them in his backyard.
Without a lot of fanfare, well-intentioned people representing the city, the county and their respective police forces should be able to work together to find an appropriate place for a shelter.
Bill and Barbara Grier have put their hearts and souls into helping sex offenders. They have spent endless hours and thousands of their own dollars to sustain their ministry. They are what I call "special people" who have been tapped on the shoulder by God. They need help both in goodwill and in financial support.
Shiloni is just one program. There should be more like it.
Cecil M. Jones Jr. of Cahaba Heights is a retired social services director. E-mail: cecilmjones@gmail.com.
© 2010 al.com. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Another AL town gripped by Predator Panic

A very good illustration of Predator Panic, but you have to love some of the comments made here.

http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100425/articles/4255035

Neighborhood troubled by sex offenders

Officials: Nothing can be done about high numbers in area

Published: Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.

Residents in a neighborhood near downtown Sheffield are frustrated by what they say is a large number of convicted sex offenders living there, but the police chief and sheriff said there's nothing anyone can do about it.
"The only thing they could do as a community is be sure everybody knows who's who in the community," said Police Chief Greg Ray. "Be informed."
The advice doesn't make residents such as Vicki Despigno feel any safer.
"I have a problem with too many of them living here," Despigno said.
"I don't appreciate them walking up and down the street looking at my two granddaughters."
Despigno's granddaughters are 12 and 14.
According to a website maintained by the Alabama Department of Public Safety, there are 31 convicted sex offenders living in Sheffield.
The site provides photos of convicted sex offenders, their names, addresses, charges and their victims' ages and gender. Of the 31 registered sex offenders living in Sheffield, 30 are male.
Seven of them were convicted of crimes involving adult victims.
Of the 24 people convicted of crimes involving minors, four involved underage male victims. The rest of the victims were female, according to the site.
Crimes included sexual abuse, sodomy, enticing a child for immoral purposes and second-degree rape, which involves consensual sex with an underage person. One person was convicted of possessing child pornography.
Ray and Colbert County Sheriff Ronnie May say convicted sex offenders released from prison must register with the sheriff in the county where they plan to reside and must contact the police department in the city where they will reside.
Ray said convicted sex offenders cannot live within 2,000 feet of a school or day care, nor can they reside within 1,000 feet of a former victim.
Four women who live in the area north of downtown and bordering the Manning Homes housing project expressed concerns to the City Council last week but were informed that there is nothing the city can do because a crime has not been committed.
Dallas Walker, of Parsons Street, said she has heard about the number of sex offenders living in the city.
Walker has 7-year-old and 8-month-old daughters and sees children playing outside frequently with no parents present.
"I didn't realize there were that many sex offenders in the area," she said. "I was really shocked to hear that."
Walker said she and her husband didn't know of any sex offenders living near their home when they moved in.
"We love our house," she said. "It's an adorable little starter house in the cutest neighborhood with the best neighbors," she said.
She said she plans to circulate as much information about registered sex offenders in Sheffield as she can so her neighbors know who is living nearby.
Shirley Whitten, executive director of the Sheffield Housing Authority, said she plans to do the same.
Anitra Agnew, who told City Council members her 12-year-old son was approached by a registered sex offender, lives at Manning Homes, which borders the area that is home to several registered offenders.
"If there is any good side to this, it is that at least under the current system, you know where they are," Whitten said.
"The real problem with sex offenders is when you don't know who they are."
Whitten said convicted sex offenders are not allowed to live in public housing.
Both the police chief and Capt. Scott Wallace said for the most part, the registered sex offenders living in Sheffield keep a low profile and mind their own business.
Wallace said two reports concerning recent incidents did not involve registered sex offenders.
"We're investigating both of them," Ray said.
Wallace said residents should not hesitate to report anything unusual that involve their children.
"If there is a problem, come forward," Wallace said.
Ray said registered sex offenders tend to cluster in the same area because they know they will be in compliance with the law.
"There's a network in prison where these people communicate with one another," Ray said.
Whitten said sex offenders will learn through the network about landlords who will rent to them.
Wallace said many of them have little money and cannot afford to live anywhere but in low-income areas.
Ray said the police department has officers who keeps tabs on the offenders, making sure they remain in compliance with the law.
"We want to keep them on their toes," Ray said. "At least once a year we go to their house to make sure they are there. We interview people. We should be able to do that every month, but it's hard to do."
Sheriff May said it's difficult for sex offenders to find places to live, especially in larger cities that have numerous schools or day cares.
Sometimes older motels attract registered sex offenders because they know they can live there and be in compliance with the law, the sheriff said.
Such is the case of Shady Court Motel on East 12th Avenue.
Wallace said a new day care nearby won't require the offenders who live at Shady Court to move, but no new ones may move in.
Despigno said she doesn't believe sex offenders should be allowed to live so close to Riverfront Park, but that isn't part of the law. She said there should be a limit to how many sex offenders can live in an area, but again, there isn't.
Whitten said she would include a reminder in the next Sheffield Housing Authority newsletter, which is circulated to all of her tenants.
She said she will provide tenants with the web address of the sex offender database and allow those without Internet service to view the site in the housing authority's office.
Doris Teague, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Public Safety, said the sex offender database is updated daily, but depends on local law enforcement agencies to mail them information on new sex offenders that move into their cities and counties.
Whitten said keeping an eye on sex offenders and letting them know they're being watched is a deterrent.
"That works as well as anything," she said.
Russ Corey can be reached at 740-5738 or russ.corey@TimesDaily.com.

Monday, May 10, 2010

2010 Political Ads exploiting Predator Panic

So far, two politicians running for office in Alabama are exploiting sex offenders for personal gain.

Troy King for Attorney General: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99AT7lwRgB8#normal

AND--

Tim James for Governor: http://www.timjames2010.com/blog/tim-james-takes-aim-at-convicted-sex-offenders-in-tv-ad/

Sadly, the latter article blatantly distorts the study from the US Department of Justice. Tell them about http://www.oncefallen.com for the truth about sex offender laws!

US Marshals come to town. What do you do?

Recently, US Marshals, in conjunction with State and Local Authoriries, have begun conducting the latest round of so-called "compliance checks" across the USA. Unfortunately, under the federal Adam Walsh Act, the US Marshals have jurisdiction in sex offender cases, even though Alabama has not yet chosen to comply with the AWA.

http://www.usmarshals.gov/news/chron/2010/042210.htm

Above is one such sweep in Alabama. Below are some tips on what you can do if the US Marshals come knocking on YOUR door.

  • DO NOT sign anything, ever, at your door! No matter how "innocent" it seems. Politely refuse,
    unless you can speak to your lawyer first.
  • DO NOT answer any questions beyond confirming that you are you, and required registration info.
    Anything else could be used (or twisted) to incriminate you.
  • DO invoke the 5th amendment if necessary. But be prepared to be peppered with more questions
    (What are you hiding? Eh?), and reply only that you want your lawyer present first.
  • DO NOT let anyone into your home without a warrant, unless you are still "on paper" and it is
    required. In almost every state, LE has no right whatsoever to enter a person's home without one.
  • DO NOT leave your home while LE is still at your door. You have strong protections in your home,
    but practically none once you are out on the street.
  • If you have easy access to a camera (cell phone in pocket), take a picture of the group on your
    porch, or better yet record the whole thing. Many cell phones have a "record" feature for you to talk
    into. Turn it on and keep it aimed at everyone speaking.

The last one is highly important, in my opinion.
Recording media is a registrant's best friend.
There are also
a number of spy cameras online.

Oppose HB 135: Civil Forfeiture

This is a potentially dangerous law that can be very easily abused because of lack of oversight. It says "people convicted of ceratin crimes," but the language is so vague, it seems there is a loophole which allows civil procedures without conviction. Also, the taking of property not related to the crime, especially the house, is different than civil forfeiture in direct relation to criminal gains, such as the forfeiture of a car bought with drug money.

http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/acas/ACTIONViewFrameMac.asp?TYPE=Instrument&INST=HB135&DOCPATH=searchableinstruments/2010RS/Printfiles/&PHYDOCPATH=//alisondb/acas/searchableinstruments/2010RS/PrintFiles/&DOCNAMES=HB135-int.pdf,HB135-eng.pdf,

4 (1) Property subject to forfeiture may be seized by
5 state, county, or municipal law enforcement agencies upon
6 process issued by any court having jurisdiction over the
7 property upon a showing of probable cause.

Oppose HB 108: Anti Clusting Bill

This bill has stalled thus far, but that doesn't mean this law couldn't be resurrected soon.

In short, this is an "anti-clustering ban," which will bar two or more registrants from living in the same apartment complex or house. This will impact thousands of registrants, because many live in apartments out of necessity and lack of housing.

http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/acas/ACTIONViewFrameMac.asp?TYPE=Instrument&INST=HB108&DOCPATH=searchableinstruments/2010RS/Printfiles/&PHYDOCPATH=//alisondb/acas/searchableinstruments/2010RS/PrintFiles/&DOCNAMES=HB108-int.pdf

SYNOPSIS: Existing law prohibits an adult sex offender from having a residence in certain locations. This bill would allow the Legislature, by local law, to prohibit sex offenders from residing in the same residence, to provide that no more than one adult criminal sex offender may reside in an apartment complex unless there is a distance of at least 100 yards from the residence of any other offender, and allow a civil penalty for each violation.

Oppose SB 48: Social Networking Ban

Since this bill has come out, the bill has changed somewhat.

The original bill read:

Quote

Section 1. (a) It is unlawful for a convicted sex offender who is registered pursuant to Article 2 of Chapter 20 of Title 15 of the Code of Alabama 1975, to access a commercial social networking website when the sex offender knows or should have known that the site permits minor children to become members or to create or maintain personal web pages on the commercial social networking website.
The bill apparently as currently written, as of May 10, 2010, now reads as follows:

Section 1. (a) It is unlawful for a convicted sex
offender who has been convicted of a sex offense where the
offender was over the age of 21 and the victim was less than
14 at the time of the offense who is registered pursuant to
27 Article 2 of Chapter 20 of Title 15 of the Code of Alabama
1975, to communicate with a minor child utilizing a commercial
social networking website access a commercial social
networking website when the sex offender knows or should have
known that the site permits minor children to become members
or to create or maintain personal web pages on the commercial
social networking website.


While the Senate struck down the social networking ban (Hopefully after my letter I had written in opposition to this bill), I am still wary because the definition of social networking ban is still too vague. Thus, I'd still be wary of this bill.

http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/acas/ACTIONViewFrameMac.asp?TYPE=Substitute&AMDSUB=119965-1&DOCNAME=119965-1.pdf&DOCPATH=searchableinstruments/2010RS/Printfiles&INST=SB48

Complete 2005 AL RSO Statutes Online

http://law.onecle.com/alabama/criminal-procedure/chapter20.html
Here is a PDF file of the complete 2005 Alabama Sex Offender Statutes. However, everything here can be subject to change at a moment's notice.

At this time I am unsure if this site has updated the info in accordance to AL's approval of the Adam Walsh Act.