Scott Horowitz | September 20, 2005
Still rather quiet lately on here, so I thought I'd start another discussion.

School started out here about a week ago. I have noticed now that a lot of parents wait for their kids to get on the bus. I do not remember this happening when I was younger (granted I walked to school, but I would not walk with my "mommy"). Could this be due to increased fear of abduction? Overprotective parents? Or did it happen when we were younger and I'm having a complete brain fart?

Discuss among yourselves

Jackie Mason | September 20, 2005
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Lori Lancaster | September 20, 2005
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Michael Paul Cote | September 20, 2005
My son started kindergarten this year and either my wife or I or our neighbor (who's kids walk with us) walk with the kids. It's only 2 blocks, but let's face it, kindergarteners are much to young to go on there own.
Halloween around here is interesting. Our town closes down Main St. and opens it for trick or treaters. Most shops stay open, hand out goodies and some even create mini haunted houses in their stores. We have the traditional town run haunted house and also many events for kids of all ages. The last two years, we have geared up for trick or treaters in the neighborhood, and got... a lot of left over candy. I wish for the good ol days, even 5 years ago when I was in NH we got lots of revellers on All Hallows Eve.

I think that erring on the side of caution has less to do with paranoia than with the reality of today. Let's face it. There are dangerous people out there, living in your neighborhoods. It's easy to find the list of sexual predators living in your area and sad as it is to say, times like to and from school and trick or treating give these predators too many opportunities if parents aren't carefull.

Looking back, I have to wonder, where did these predators come from? Were they around when I was a kid and just not as advertized by sensational TV, movies and media? I remember the scandal of the Boston Strangler and the terror that went through Northern Massachusetts at the time, even though I was just a kid. But now, he'd be considered tame or boring compared to other serial killers.

All in all, I guess it's just another sad commentary on the society of today.

Jackie Mason | September 21, 2005
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Scott Horowitz | September 21, 2005
Halloween has always been "Mischief Night" around here. I've heard of some local towns having the kids go out on 10/30, so they can avoid Mischief night. They even do Trick-or-Treating at schools/malls to keep kids off the roads

Dave Stoppenhagen | September 21, 2005
Where I live there are a lot of kids but we never seem to get any trick or treaters, always have candy left over. Don't know if it's the bodies on my hood or laying in the yard or what. Even in the neighborhood Lori and I grew up in I don't see as many people out when I've been in town.

Jackie Mason | September 23, 2005
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Lori Lancaster | September 23, 2005
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Jackie Mason | September 23, 2005
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Scott Hardie | September 24, 2005
I know I'll worry about my kids too if I ever have some to send out on their own, but the logical part of me thinks the fear of sexual predators is way out of hand (sorry Mike). I don't have statistics to back this up, but I suspect there's maybe one active sexual predator per tens of thousands of families. Walking on their own, your kids are more likely to get hit by a car, be beaten up by other kids, or even be bitten by a stray dog than they are to fall victim to a pedophile. I want to make my kids safe by teaching them not to talk to strangers and to stay out of the street and to take other precautions, but I don't want to deny them the fun of trick-or-treating or inconvenience myself every day by having to drive them to school. I say, keep the precautions in proportion to the threat.

And speaking of which, I know this is a total bleeding-heart liberal thing for me to say, but I'm against the publicizing of sex-offender registries. In fact, I'm against them altogether, since there's really no point to having them except to publicize them. Not only are they illogical (we can't say that a prison sentence rehabilitates a felon if we continue to treat him like a criminal upon his release), but they make life a living hell for the men who are on them. They can't get jobs, they can't date or make friends, and they can't find places to live. Everywhere they go, they endure constant harassment from "concerned citizens" who insist that they'll recidivate even as they try their damnedest not to. If we're going to take a nimby attitude towards every sex offender, we may as well just give them mandatory life sentences because there's no way for them to live anything remotely like a normal life as long as they're on public registries. (And yes, I'm sure that solution would be just fine by lots of people, but to me it's letting the punishment get out of hand. Hell, why don't we just execute them instead of letting them serve life sentences? And why don't we execute everyone suspected of it, just to prevent any from evading justice? The line has to be drawn somewhere reasonable.)

Lori Lancaster | September 25, 2005
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Jackie Mason | September 25, 2005
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Lori Lancaster | September 25, 2005
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Scott Hardie | September 29, 2005
Are we looking at the same registry? I went to the state of Illinois's site (link) and found 15 names in St. Charles, only 5 of which were listed as predators. Strangely, Harvard is a fraction the size of STC but has 18 offenders and 6 predators. That's high for Harvard obviously, but about the proportion I was expecting for STC.

Recent goo Marcus Dixon is a good example of why "sex offender" is far too broad a definition for panic over one in the community. And that's not even mentioning a ten-year sentence for a technicality. I remember being 18 and having a 17-year-old girlfriend and being worried about the legal consequences of sleeping with her, on top of the usual worries about sex.

Lori Lancaster | September 29, 2005
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Amy Austin | September 29, 2005
Oh, I so agree about the "predatory" distinctions... and I don't even want to discuss the (prompted) paranoia I had with my "first" (17 & 25... which, in my shoes now, I can see how people might have been thinking -- but I don't have any regrets!)...

Kind of weird to think that sex offenders would have a "preferred" neighborhood...

Lori Lancaster | September 29, 2005
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Amy Austin | September 29, 2005
Hmm... sorry to hear that, Lori -- God knows this is just one more reason I'm glad not to be a parent of human children! ;-D (Believe me when I say that if you saw how pathetically babied these dogs are, you'd almost think they were real children, too!)

Michael Paul Cote | October 4, 2005
I agree about the distinctions, an 18 year old dating a 16 or 17 year old should have different determining factors than a guy that rapes a 5 year old child. However, Scott, I disagree with the sentiment of going "easy" on these people. If someone is going to do something as heinous as molesting a child, then in my mind they sacrifice any rights that they have. Absolute proof must be met, but once it is...kill em? Sure. Like any other crime that happens in this country, there is no fear for the criminal of what will happen to them if they are caught. From what I can see prison does not rehabilitate criminals, only makes them worse. For sex offenders, if they can't be rehabilitated, or if it's "a disease" then quarantine them from the rest of society so they can't "infect" others. If people don't want sex offenders in their neighborhoods (and I can't see why anyone would) make neighborhoods just for them. Take closed down military bases and make them into little sex offender cities. Total access, but GPS any resident leaving the facility. There are places in these complexes that can house stores and/or other places of business. Isolate them from the temptations that they can't withstand. If I sound coldhearted and uncaring maybe I am. The courts are too easy on criminals, giving them too many loopholes to slip through. If the cops prove that a person is guilty, they should be guilty whether or not the proof was gotten "illegally".I just know, that if any one hurt one of my children in that manner, and I knew for certain who it was, proof positive, I would take the law into my own hands and then I would end up being the criminal. Where's the justice in that.

Mike Eberhart | October 4, 2005
Damn, that was a great comment Mike. That sounds just like something that I would have said. I totally agree with everything you mentioned. I've told people before that if something happened to one of my kids, and I found out who it was, I would hunt them down and take them out myself. It would be totally worth it to me. I'd have my revenge and no one else would have to worry about that guy hurting anyone else. I know that sounds harsh, but that's how I feel.

Jackie Mason | October 6, 2005
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Michael Paul Cote | October 6, 2005
According to the FDLE listing in Pinellas County there are 1151 registered offenders. Don't know off hand what percentage of the population that is, but in my opinion, it's too high.

Kris Weberg | October 12, 2005
Bear in mind that "sex offender" is both a really expansive term and a lifeling status. To use the example of a person I knew second-degree some years ago, a guy who got drunk at a frat party at 19 and groped a girl -- grotesque and criminal behavior, to be sure -- might be registering as a sex offender 10 years later despite having been convicted without jail time, gone through AA and counseling, and being stably and happily married with a kid.

Michael Paul Cote | October 13, 2005
That's why I feel that more determining factors are needed in the classification. With the "suit-happy" people and people who get pissed off with a little vengeance in mind and have no qualms about making false accusations, a person's life could be unjustly ruined.
However, I feel that real, dangerous sex offenders are not treated with the severity that they deserve and like any criminal it's easy for some to slip through cracks in the system. I recently saw a report on the local news about a man, obviously a career criminal, out on bond, that shot someone while he was waiting to go to trial. This man had been convicted of violent crimes in the past, and not only was he continually released on bond, but had possession of a handgun. Why is he still walking around free?

John E Gunter | October 13, 2005
More importantly Mike, how is it, with current gun laws, does he have possession of a handgun? After all, aren't certain criminals supposed to not be allowed to buy guns with the current laws? I believe he would fit!

Oh I know it's because we don't have enough gun laws! Let's write some more and maybe that will fix the problem! ;-)

Part of the big problem is the police do something wrong, whether intentionally or un-intentionally and a lawyer gets the criminal off because the law wasn't followed correctly. Now, I have nothing against lawyers, but some lawyers really flabbergast me in how they pursue their careers.

I know by our system, you're supposed to be innocent before being proved guilty, but if you look at past records of some of these citizens, why do they keep getting out of prison, if they're only back in for a similar offense only a few years later?

John

Kris Weberg | October 13, 2005
Actually, there aren't that many "technical dismissals" and there never have been, for the quite simple reason that judges who do such things aren't reelected or -- if they're appointees -- are sometimes forced to resign. No one wants to look soft on crime, especially not sexual or violent offenses. It's a gross distortion spread by TV and movies, which use it a cheap plot device to generate outrage; it's also the product of the fact that any such dismissal gets screaming headlines, while the couple hundred guys who just pled guilty or lost at trial are mentioned in small print in the blotter section.

I challenge anyone to name, say, 10 sex offenders or violent criminals freed solely on technicalities in the last year. Just 10 will do. If it's so epidemic and outrageous, it should be simple to point out cases of a criminal guilty as sin who got evidence tossed out or a verdict overturned, rather than, as with OJ Simpson or Michael Jackson, being flat-out acquitted by a jury that was nonetheless presented with lots of evidence at trial.

No, the real reason for short sentences and repeated freedoms is the fact that police and prosecutors now work towards plea bargaining agreements because it's faster and easier. The State gets a high conviction rate without blowing loads of tax dollars on the kind of airtight case that the lawyers on both sides are professionally required to prepare. Plus you get plain confessions, thereby eliminating both the protracted and publicly appeals process* and the possibility of some lawyer or just some nutjob on the outside claiming that the perp was railroaded and the evidence faked, which undermines public trust. But to get a plea, you have to offer something: reduced jail time.

Not that a criminal with mounds of evidence against him would do well at appeal, of course; appellate court judges don't like to look soft on crime either. But appeals take time and money, and the victim's family -- plus, again, the public, as demonstrated on this very thread -- naturally freak out over every appeal because they're sure that ever since Miranda it's easy as pie to toss out evidence.

Why do criminals get plea agreements for shorter sentences? It's faster, cheaper, and it looks better precisely because most people have gotten the image of the idiot, hidebound judge who tosses evidence out on a whim engraved in their minds thanks to around 40 years of strident anti-Miranda rhetoric.

John E Gunter | October 14, 2005
Actually, from what I'm told by a lawyer, the police can't plea bargain, only the State Attorney can do that, at least in our state that's the way it is. Granted, I'm guessing that the police can tell the State Attorney that said criminal has cooperated with them, but the police do not have the power to make those decisions.

But if a police officer tells a perp that if he confesses to all the crimes he's done, even if the police don't know about said crimes, they'll be able to reduce the number of crimes he's being charged with, is a false statement. That's also something the attorney told me about.

John

Kris Weberg | October 14, 2005
But that's what the police do; it's not illegal to effectively lie to a suspect in an interrogation, and police routinely do things like pretend to have more pull and more evidence than they do. So long as they don't coerce testimony -- that is, beat or torture things out of the perp -- they're fine by the courts.

Scott Hardie | October 16, 2005
Mike: I understand the value of revenge and taking out a potential repeat violator. But wouldn't that just act leave your kids growing up with their dad in prison or on death row? Wouldn't that just make things a whole lot worse for them? (I don't expect an answer, especially now, but it's something I've been meaning to ask since you wrote that.)

Lori Lancaster | October 17, 2005
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