Thursday, February 21, 2013

Press Release: Shiloni Transformation Ministries opposes HB 85 anti-clustering law

Shiloni Transformation Ministry      Press Release

     Shiloni Transformation Ministry has taken a stand against Alabama HB 85. We believe this bill to be in direct violation of Holy Scripture and of citizen's unalienable rights. For those who are not familiar with the bill in question, we are referring to the Anti-Clustering Law being made statewide in Alabama. This law was passed in 2010 for the City of Birmingham in Jefferson County as a "test run" for the entire state to adopt this very damaging piece of legislation. When it was passed in 2010 it effectively disabled our ministry from being able to take in former sex offenders out of prison on a transitional basis. Our ministry has been working to rehabilitate those said sex offenders through use of the Bible, church-related classes, group therapy sessions, and accountability training. We focus on tried and true methods proven time and time again to lower the recidivism rate of sex offenders within all areas of the criminal justice system. HB 85 does state that there is a provision made for half-way houses that are "state approved," we have researched this statement and have found that currently there is no state approval agency or standard set in place. What this tells us is that the legislature of Alabama has taken a stand against our ministry, the US Constitution in the Freedom of Religion and has violated the due process of law, both on a federal and state level.

The Director, Bill Grier, of Shiloni Transformation Ministry had this to say, " The State of Alabama has selectively opposed the assistance of any and all convicted sex offenders. It breaks my heart that I have been made the messenger to sex offenders and even their families that my hands are tied and there is nothing I can do to help them because of the current residency restrictions. It used to be, before the homeless sex offender laws took place, that a sex offender could not even be released without a legal address. It is my belief that we are worse off with the homeless laws in place because the sex offender can be registered in the woods, under a bridge, or even a vacant house. This does not help to prevent them from reoffending but only supports recidivism because they have no structured environment to teach them to take responsibility, and hold themselves accountable for their past and enable them to move forward to become productive members of society. In fact, they don't even send out notification flyers for those registered as homeless. There are sex offenders who already have been granted parole but have nowhere to go. I and my wife Barbara saw this need while working as volunteers in many of the prisons in the State of Alabama and made it our mission to fill this need not only for the sex offenders but also to help protect the community. The current lack of proper treatment of sex offenders is largely to blame for the recidivism of sex offenders and has resulted in an over-crowding of the state and county jails. This is why Jefferson County and the City of Birmingham has went bankrupt since the issuance of the anti-clustering laws within Jefferson County. We will see the same thing happen statewide if  HB 85 is passed into law. We need to have some guidelines for operation and supervision  set in place for proper transitional housing. We need to stop viewing this problem as a political gambit and start working to correct the underlying problems that have been created by these laws. Only then will we see a positive change in our society."

We would also like to bring forward the statistics found from the State of Colorado Department of Corrections Study in 2003. They found that residency restrictions had no effect on recidivism of sex offenders, but a positive living environment, such as a halfway house or with a supportive family, increases an offender's likelihood of living a productive, successful life once their sentences have been served.

Please contact:

Dr. Dustin T. Friend    205-467-8293

ReFORM-AL in the news: "Sex offender pushes for classification reforms"

Yes, this is Yours Truly on CBS 42, speaking out against the registry. I got a plug for this organization. Too bad we also had to share time with VOCAL (Victims of Crime and Leniency), a previously unknown group. Still, this is a positive story I hope helps encourage those willing to fight the upcoming HB 85. My full interview is online already if you are interested.

The VOCAL people are not very educated, and resorted to slandering me instead of stating fact. Feel free to contact VOCAL and educate them on the facts:

Miriam Shelane and Janette Grantham of VOCAL need an education

Victims Of Crime And Leniency
422 S Court Street
Montgomery, AL 36104-4102
(334) 262-7197

Sex offender pushes for classification reforms

Reported by : Phillip Ohnemus
Published: 2/20/2013 - 4:46 pm

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) - When it comes to a threat of our children nothing raises a red flag like the threat of a sex offender living in our community.

In the last 20 years penalties for sex offenders and laws restricting their movements have grown exponentially.

It's something Derek Logue is fighting. "We still have a far long way to go to determine who is a high risk and who isn't."

Logue uses himself as the ultimate example. In 2001, he was convicted of sexual abuse of an 11-year old girl.

But he says it was an isolated incident and he's no threat to the general public. "I'm not out reoffending… I've been out for 10 years and I haven't reoffended haven't been accused of reoffending and it's not enough to satisfy society. Tthey judge me on something I did in my college years and I'm a middle aged man now."

Janette Grantham and Miriam Shehane say "big deal."Tthey are victims rights advocates. 

Through their non-profit organization VOCAL, Victims of Crimes and Leniency, they stand up for victims who cannot or will not stand up for themselves.

Neither has any sympathy for a man who served just 25 months of a six year sentence for his crime.

Grantham says victims aren't so lucky. "It stays with them. If they could serve two years or three years and then they could go on with their life that would be great. But they can never go on with their lives because they are never the same again."

But Logue argues he has paid his penance. He believes the restrictions he and others like him are forced to live under a decade after their release from prison are punitive.

"You send them to prison, they're glorified dog cages. You incapacitate them for years and years they develop no skills they get no treatment when they're in there and when they get out of prison. You deny them housing, you deny them a support network, you deny them jobs. I was homeless for a while."

Logue attributes the homelessness and the fact that he is not working to his status as a sex offender. "I have a degree, I should be out working, but society fears me so much that most people won't hire me because of the label. You're a sex offender."

Logue takes issue with the sex offender database. He says it was intended to allow law enforcement to have a private list to check up on when a child goes missing... But changes in law have made the database public.

Where Logue takes issue there is no classification in Alabama making it impossible for people to determine who is and is not a threat.

Says Logue, "We feel like we have to rely on some list that can't differentiate between a drunken mooner and a pedophile to make a determination on a person's character. You can't judge my character based on a list."

Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls admits the system is flawed. And legislators are working to find a way to better classify and identify who is a danger to society. But Falls says the subject is not a black and white issue.

“It's very delicate trying to create a law that everyone will agree with. The question becomes, should that be required for the rest of their lives? And, every situation is different."

But victim’s advocates have a much simpler solution.

Janette Grantham suggests, "All they have to do if they don't want to be burdened with a sex offender label on their driver's license and everywhere they go, then don't commit the crime."

Mirium Shehane adds "everybody has choices. And you better think about that. What choices you make in life… there are consequences."

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

State Rep. Wallace admits to segregationist NIMBYism motivation behind HB 85

It is amazing what a little community pressure does to expose the real reason behind a politico's actions. I give you Senator Kurt Wallace and his NIMBYism:

Community concerned over sex offenders living at a church

Posted: Feb 05, 2013 11:51 AM EST
Updated: Feb 06, 2013 10:47 AM EST
By Clare Huddleston - bio | email

FOX6 News discovered that 36 sex offenders have listed this church as their place of residence since 2010. Source: WBRC video

Triumph Church on County Road 374 looks like many churches in Chilton County. It has a cross above the door, an inspirational message on the sign out front, but it has also become home to 36 sex offenders. 

"I don't like them living that close to me because my wife works in the yard a lot and they walk up and down the road all the time," explained Gordon "Duck" Burkhalter. 

Burkhalter says Triumph Church popped up a few years ago. He does not mind the ministry, but he does not think it needs to be in a group setting and he does not like their living conditions. 

"They got 4, 5, 6 trailers with 3-4 people in each trailer as far as I know," said Burkhalter. 

As more sex offenders started moving into the trailers behind Triumph Church, it caught the eye of Chilton County Chief Deputy District Attorney, CJ Robinson. 

"When somebody is released from the Department of Corrections and they are a registered sex offender, the DA get an info packet from the department of corrections and it lists the address, names, and info about the offense," said Robinson.

Since August 2010:

36 sex offenders have listed Triumph Church as their address once they got out of prison.

29 of them committed their crime against children; the youngest victim was 4 years old.

13 cases involved some form of child molestation.

Another concerning stat for Robinson, these convicted criminals don't appear to have any ties to Chilton County. "Only one committed their crime in Chilton county," said Robinson, "That offense was a misdemeanor, it was a non-jail sentence, it was a probationary sentence." 

"It's a scary thought," said State Representative Kurt Wallace, "I wouldn't have a problem with us taking care of our own but don't send me your problem children." 

Wallace isn't happy these sex offenders are moving into his district. He has pre-filed House Bill 85 for the 2013 legislation session. The bill states two sex offenders must live 500 feet apart from each other; they can't live under the same roof unless they are related or in a state-approved facility. 

At this time there is no treatment center for sex offenders and if Wallace's bill passes it could severely limit where sex offenders can live. 

Wallace said, "The biggest concern that people have is where are they gonna go? I don't know. I would suggest they go back to their families and I know where I don't want them to go. I don't want them in my neighborhood.

Ricky Martin who runs Triumph Church declined to talk to Fox 6 News on camera. However, last year he told our sister station in Montgomery, WSFA, that all of the sex offenders who have come through his church have left as success stories. 

Martin confirmed to Fox 6 News he's against Wallace's bill and he believes his ministry is helping. One sex offender agrees. 

"He has helped us out," said Selid Holt. Holt was convicted of first degree sexual abuse of a 9-year-old female. He moved to Triumph Church from Barbour County. 

Robinson confirms the sex offenders like Holt, who have moved to Triumph Church, have not committed another sex crime that he's prosecuted. Still he thinks in this case it's better to be proactive than reactive. 

"If we wait until there is a child that has been victimized we've waited too late," said Robinson.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Press Release: ReFORM-AL strongly opposes Wallace’s segregationist HB 85 proposal

Hopefully this will get out to the proper press.

Press Release: ReFORM-AL strongly opposes Wallace’s segregationist HB 85 proposal

Press Release: State Representatives Wallace, Jones, and Beckman have sponsored a bill (HB 85) that, if passed, will restrict those forced to register as “sex offenders” to live 500 feet apart from each other and no more than one to a residence or apartment building. While this idea sounds good on paper, the results have disastrous consequences that could put families at high risk of harm.

The state of Alabama currently has a 2000 foot living and work restriction in place; as a consequence, the vast majority of registered citizens, intent on obeying the law after serving out their sentences, are forced to live in very small pockets where they are legally allowed to live and work people will rent to them. The so-called “sex offender clusters” were created by residency restriction laws. For this reason, a growing number of states, like Iowa, and municipalities across the United States have scaled back residency restrictions. Studies in Minnesota and Colorado have shown residency restrictions not only failed to protect citizens, they may actually encourage recidivism. Unlike other states, Alabama's state legislators have decided to exacerbate the problem by creating further limitations on where those forced to register can live.

If HB 85 passes, thousands of Alabama's registered citizens will be forced out of their homes, and that instability has been proven to increase the likelihood of re-offense. When Iowa created their residency restrictions in 2005, they saw a 350% increase in homelessness, and increase the failure to register cases, and even a slight increase in sex crimes in that state in the year following an increase of residency restrictions. In short, while increasing residency restrictions sound good on paper, it actually encourages crime.

Those who sponsor this bill claim that when sex offenders are concentrated in a particular area, this somehow poses a higher risk. Studies have found the opposite; the 2003 Colorado Department of Corrections study on residency restrictions found that residency restrictions had absolutely no impact on recidivism, but a positive living environment, such as a halfway house or with a supportive family, increases an offender’s likelihood of living a productive, successful life once their sentences have been served.

Recidivism among those convicted of sex crimes are already far lower than comparable crimes; the US Department of Justice found after three years, only 3.5% were reconvicted of a new sex crime. Longer-term studies have found recidivism rates are lower than comparable offenses. Interestingly, in an e-mail from Sen. Wallace, sex offenders were compared to “crack addicts”, implying that merely forcing them to live a certain distance away from their “addictions” is a viable solution. In our society, drug offenses had been increasingly subject to a number of punitive laws over the years, and only now have we seen the negative impact that many well-intentioned drug laws have created; in many cases, drug laws had created an environment that encouraged further drug abuse. We recognize in our society that drug offenders are now amenable to treatment, and there are no shortages of halfway houses, treatment options, and support groups for drug offenders. We are also aware that drug offenders are not limited by geography, nor are all drug offenders the same.

Sex offenders are not a homogenous group. Not everyone on the registry will reoffend in spite of the laws, not because of them. Sex offenses are not a matter of geography, but of relationships; what person sleeps at night has no impact on what a person does during the day. While there are a small number of sex offenders who are “fixated” and resistant to treatment, the majority of sex offenders are indeed amenable to treatment, and many have also shown remorse for the things they have done and have no desire to harm anyone.

ReFORM-AL strongly opposes HB 85. We believe this bill will cause far more harm than good for our society. While it may be popular to harm those convicted of sexual offenses in every way possible, our focus should be on doing things that work, rather than things that simply feel good. This law will ultimately backfire; if passed, expect to see an increase of homeless registrants, registrants who simply failed to register, and a possible increase of sex offenses. We are not even addressing the fact that the vast majority of sex crimes are committed by people with no prior record (about 95% of sex crime arrests). Thus, we are devoting a large amount of resources focusing on roughly 5% of the potential threat at best; only about 5% of that 5% will likely re-offend.

Instead, ReFORM-AL would like to offer a solution based upon solid research and experience. Residency restrictions have been proven to be counterproductive; therefore, instead of passing more restriction laws, the state of Alabama should look at repealing them altogether in favor of using the meager resources wasted on this bad piece of legislation on proven methods of education, treatment, and rehabilitation. There are a number of successful resources proven to greatly reduce the already low recidivism rates for those convicted of sex crimes, such as restorative justice programs, circles of support and accountability, and organizations like Jacob Wetterling Resource Center and Stop It Now!

The state of Alabama is only one of seven states that do not support treatment programs of any kind. The sponsors of this bill deny any effective treatment program exists, despite the evidence given by 43 other states and a number of nations around the world that treatment programs that stress accountability, empathy, and responsibility are very effective. This bill, despite the included language that claims an “exception” for halfway houses, will have no exceptions in practice. In an interview with WTVY 4 Dothan, state Representative Mike Jones stated he was going to propose what we now call HB 85 in order to prevent a halfway house from forming. Yet State Representative Wallace claims there will be an exception to the law. Based on Jones’s words, we can reasonably conclude no halfway house will ever be approved as the exception.

Instead of promoting the treatment, rehabilitation, and education programs proven to reduce recidivism, they are choosing to gamble with the lives of your children bypassing feel-good legislation proven time and time again to exacerbate the problem of great concern and our society. Revenge driven laws have proven to make things worse; tough on crime does not mean smart on crime.

The bottom line is if you truly care about children, you will also oppose HB 85. Our efforts to reduce sexual offending in this country should begin with evidence-based education and awareness programs that stress sexual accountability, responsibility, and open communication, coupled with services that provide proper treatment for those who have sexually offended so they at are at least given the opportunity to atone for their past crimes and become a productive member of society. Doing this is not “sympathy for sex offenders”, but in investment in ending the perpetuation of all manners of violence in our great nation.

Derek W. Logue
ReFORM-AL (Registered Former Offender Restoration Movement)