Monday, October 29, 2012

GREEN BAY - Prisoners at Green Bay Correctional Institution are learning about financial literacy. 

Education is a big part of the state corrections department's re-entry program at GBCI. 

Deputy Warden Sarah Cooper says the program is designed to help inmates cope with life after prison. 

"There's a lot of different things that we try to teach, and meet core competencies, so that when they do go back to society, they have some skills to succeed," said Cooper. 

Cooper added if an inmate can succeed on the streets without going back to a life of crime, everybody wins. 

"There's less victims, there's less incarceration, it costs less money and we want the inmates to go out into the community and succeed," said Cooper. 

Circles of Support, a Goodwill Industries program, has a similar mission aimed at reducing repeat crimes, also known as recidivism. 

Through group meetings and individual sessions, "Circles" helps recently released prisoners transition from incarceration to the community. 

"They may come out without a state ID where they can't get a job, they can't do anything without that. So we'll drive them to the DMV and get that taken care of, and we'll just meet them where they're at," said regional director Anne Strauch. 

Strauch said statistics show the program, which is funded in part by the Department of Corrections, is on the right track. 

"Right now, I just figured out the statistics for 3/4 of the year and we're at 98.5%. So 1.5% have been revoked and back into prison, which is pretty good," Strauch said.

Are the various re-entry efforts in Wisconsin working? According to a new Department of Corrections report , the answer is yes. It shows the rate at which prisoners are committing new crimes after their release from prison is on a downward trend. 

"As long as that rate keeps coming down, I think that's a positive sign for safety in Wisconsin," said Department of Corrections secretary Gary Hamblin. 

The report tracked nearly the recidivism rates of 125 thousand offenders over a period of 20 years. It looked at people released from prison who re-offend within a three year period. 

Recidivism is defined in the study as a new offense resulting in a conviction and sentence to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. 

Analyzing follow-up periods of one, two, and three years, the report shows the three-year follow-up recidivism rate decreased by 28.5% from 1993 to 2007. 

That means an offender released in 1993 was nearly 1 1/2 times more likely to recidivate within three years than in 2007.

"That's a tribute to the folks in the Department of Corrections who have engaged a lot of their time and energies on re-entry efforts, preparing offenders to re-enter the community, with the education, the job skills, the other types of support they need to succeed," Hamblin said. 

While the report data looks encouraging, Kathy Johnson can attest to the challenges of not re-offending. In 2001, she was incarcerated for a year after her fifth drunken driving offense. She said once she got out, things tended to deteriorate.

"Because I started to feel like I was not an ex-offender, that I was just like everybody else, and why can't I just do this and have a couple of drinks and different things," Johnson said. 

Then, less than three years after Johnson was released, she was picked up and put back behind bars again for drunken driving. This time she served three years. 

"I didn't think I was going to get caught. I think I was just going to breeze through it. The agent I had was pretty easy going and I figured I had bluffed my way through all these other things I can just bluff my way through that too," said Johnson. 

After her release, Johnson got back on her feet with the help of Circles of Support, and today runs her own consignment shop inside Appleton's City Center Plaza. 

She said re-entry programs in prisons weren't available when she was incarcerated, but added the fact they are now is very important. 

"Just tossing people out and putting them in a motel or letting their family fend for them is not making a difference," Johnson said. 

Hamblin said the department's next step is to start looking at individual programs and determine which ones are having the greatest impact on the recidivism rate. That's where resources will go. 

"The challenge for us is to go back in now and say was it the educational program that helped him succeed? Or was it the job skills that they had? Or was it the alcohol treatment that they received? Which one of those things helped them succeed so that's going to be the harder part, I think, to determine which programs are most successful," said Hamblin. 

As far as whether the recidivism rate will continue to drop, DOC officials said it may not go down as sharply in the future as things like various specialty courts, such as OWI and Drug Treatment Courts, gain a foothold in Wisconsin. 

They added, over time, the people coming to prison will be the hard core criminals, and they are going to present

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Conference targets employers for hiring former offenders

Conference targets employers for hiring former offenders

The Milwaukee Re-Entry Network will host its first Employer Summit on Wednesday, Nov. 7 at The American Serb Hall, 5101 W. Oklahoma Ave., in Milwaukee from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Summit will bring together more than 100 Wisconsin employers who have job openings, with a main goal of wiping out myths that are often associated with hiring former offenders as employees, and instead showcasing this population as a viable talent pool for employment. 

The Milwaukee Re-Entry Network is a partnership made up of Wisconsin-based nonprofit organizations, government entities and community-based organizations who came together to develop an ex-offender summit for employers who currently hire former offenders and those that have not explored this option.  The summit will educate employers on the resources, benefits and facts when hiring former offenders.

The summit will feature nationally known speaker Yariela Kerr-Donovan, director of Project REACH-Resources and Education for the Advancement of Careers at Johns Hopkins University.
“Businesses recognize the value of reaching and retaining talent, however when organizations don’t consider people with criminal convictions they are missing out on a valuable talent pool,” said Angela Turner, president of the Center for Self-Sufficiency.

“Many former offenders are already equipped with skills in various trades and ready for employment,” said Janice Stricker, U. S. Probation Office, Eastern District of Wisconsin. “Having already received valuable training while incarcerated equates to a cost-savings to the employers who will hire them.  In addition, and to dispel yet another myth, employers are entitled to a tax savings in the form of a tax credit incentive (Work Opportunity Tax Credit) for hiring former offenders in full-time positions.”

The Milwaukee Re-Entry Employer Summit is sponsored by the Center for Self-Sufficiency, Wisconsin Department of Children & Families, Wisconsin Department of Corrections, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board, U. S. Probation Office, Eastern District of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Community Services and the YWCA.  Employers interested in participating in the Milwaukee Re-Entry Networks Employer Summit are encouraged to contact Lauren Bridgeman at the Center for Self-Sufficiency at (414) 326-3151.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

In the news by Karen Franklin PhD: Static-99R risk estimates wildly unstable, developers admit

In the news by Karen Franklin PhD: Static-99R risk estimates wildly unstable, developers admit


The developers of the widely used Static-99R risk assessment tool for sex offenders have conceded that the instrument is not accurate in providing numerical estimates of risk for sexual recidivism for any specific offender.

The startling admission was published in the current issue of Criminal Justice and Behavior.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Judge overturns parts of Nebraska sex offender law : Politics

Judge overturns parts of Nebraska sex offender law : Politics

The Ruling Full Text

A federal judge has struck down parts of Nebraska's new sex offender laws, which would have made it a crime for some offenders to use social networking sites and require them all to notify the state whenever they post on the Internet.

Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf said it wasn't his prerogative to second-guess Nebraska's policy judgments, so long as they are within constitutional parameters.

And he earlier upheld parts of the state's new sex offender registration laws despite personally believing them to be "both wrongheaded and counterproductive."

But, Kopf said, "for three sections of Nebraska's new sex offender registry law, Nebraska has violently swerved from that path."

Specifically would have:

* made it illegal for sex offenders whose crimes were against children to use social networking sites, instant messaging or chat rooms;

* required all sex offenders to subject themselves to searches and monitoring of their computers and cell phones; and

* to tell the government every time they posted on Internet sites or blogs.

The laws, the most recent changes to the state's Sex Offender Registration Act, were passed in 2009 but put on hold as a result of the lawsuit before they were to go into effect in 2010.

It was sex offenders themselves who sued. At a trial before Kopf in July, they testified one after another about how the changes would impact them and, in many cases, their work.

On Thursday, Omaha attorney Stu Dornan, whose firm represented the men and women challenging the laws as John and Jane Doe, hailed this week's ruling, saying the laws had left people on the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry unsure whether they could text or email family members or even turn on a computer.

He said Kopf's ruling upheld the Constitution as a document that protects even sex offenders, who are viewed by many Nebraskans, as Kopf said in his order, as the lepers of the 21st century.

"The Constitution, if it does not protect this group of people, it does not protect any of us," Dornan said.
An appeal seems likely, though.

As scathing as Kopf's 73-page order was at times, the judge did also set out a pathway for Nebraska lawmakers to cure it.

"Plainly put: Concentrate on demonstrated risk rather than speculating and burdening more speech than is necessary -- use a scalpel rather than a blunderbuss," the judge said.

As it was, Kopf said Nebraska lawmakers had gone too far, putting a stake through the heart of the First Amendment and gutting protections against suspicion-less searches.

He said the ban for child sex offenders alone had the potential to restrict them from communicating with hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, of adults and their companies, even if the communication had nothing to do with minors.

And Kopf found -- perhaps most surprisingly -- that the Legislature's intent was to punish sex offenders, based on comments made by State Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh, who introduced the bill, and Corey O'Brien, the man in the Nebraska Attorney General's Office who drafted it.

"The truth is the hand-picked introducer of the bill that spawned these extraordinary statutes ... essentially admitted the punitive intent of these provisions," Kopf said.

The bill's stated purpose was to protect children from sexual predators by strengthening penalties and bringing the state's laws up to date.

But in a Judiciary Committee session on the record, Lautenbaugh said he had a "revulsion" for people convicted of these crimes and admitted some provisions were harsh and restrictive with the purpose of limiting and tracking what they're using the Internet for and to avoid a repeat offense.

At trial, the attorney general's office argued that the laws did not keep offenders from using the Internet entirely.
But Kopf said the Nebraska Legislature went far beyond its purported purpose when it criminalized the provisions.

"These statutes retroactively render sex offenders, who were sentenced prior to the effective date of these statutes, second-class citizens," he said. "They are silenced. They are rendered insecure in their homes."

He said lawmakers could draft a statute that required convicted sex offenders to provide Internet addresses that the state could track, rather than requiring sex offenders to constantly update the state about when and where they post, for instance.

The state also could narrow social networking and chatroom restrictions to offenders who committed their crimes using the Internet, he said.

"There is not the slightest reason to believe that such a targeted solution would not be sufficient to address Nebraska's legitimate, rather than speculative, concerns for children," Kopf said.

Reached Thursday afternoon, Lautenbaugh declined to comment on Kopf's decision, saying he hadn't had time yet to read the order.

"I really don't have anything to say," he said.

Shannon Kingery, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Jon Bruning, said his office respectfully disagreed with the court's decision.

"We are reviewing the ruling and assessing our options," she said.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Assembly majority leader hopes CA court tosses Halloween sex offender suit - WTAQ News Talk 97.5FM and 1360AM

Assembly majority leader hopes CA court tosses Halloween sex offender suit - WTAQ News Talk 97.5FM and 1360AM

After reading this, I have to ask the question...  How many children were harmed on Halloween by ANY sex offender, registered or not?

The answer? From the research I have done, there is only ONE and the victim was the daughter of the girlfriend of the not yet apprehended offender.  It is the ONLY one I was able to find in the whole of the USA, not just Wisconsin.

Mr. Suder need to do some fact checking and learn to allocate our precious tax dollars more wisely. 

California's court should hear out the case, for that is is what this country is supposed to be all about.

Friday, October 12, 2012

"Some Girls Rape Easy", the comment that rang around the world.

I have just got done reading a plethora of articles about ONE comment ONE Wisconsin Representative made.  Taken completely out of context (just as our news media likes to do, sound bites, gotta love'em) and twisted to make him sound like someone that does not take victims seriously.

I have not met anyone yet in all my adult years that will not take a victim of any kind of assault seriously.  Mainly because I believe that most people in their lifetime have been subject to some kind of abuse of one kind or another and an usually identify with a victim even if they do not completely understand the gamut of feelings that they could be going through in their own personal situation.

There are a few things that I would like to point out to the masses about assault and abuse.

  1. Assault and abuse are not always sexual in nature or even have that component, it is usually about power and control no matter how the abuse is delivered.
  2. Assault and abuse is not limited to happening to ONE gender but happens to BOTH, although due to the machismo image that is projected for men we do not hear about the assaults and abuse against them for even the laws themselves are stacked against them.  As you have noticed "The Violence Against Women Act" (VAW) isn't really geared towards 'gender neutral'. 
  3. Assault and abuse does not always leave visible scars or bruises but like visible scars and bruises they will heal with enough time and effort.
  4. Victims of assault and abuse are predisposed to perpetuating the cycle of assault and abuse in their own futures regardless of their gender. 
I will always feel for the victims of assault and abuse, especially those that are too young to defend themselves, for those teen girls that were being referred to in the comment made by the representative I will always look at their accusations with a grain of salt.  Being a teenage girl some years ago, I know exactly what me and my friends were capable of at the time.  The vindictive nature, the manipulation of others around us, and the sense that we really were ten feet tall and bullet proof, only reinforces my opinion on the validity of many of the Romeo & Juliet cases that have been ensnared in today's laws.  I know that I could have given life sentences to several boys back then, if the laws and attitudes were the same back then as they are today.

With the laws the way they are today in Wisconsin the advise that was given was good advise, because consensual sex can and will turn into rape if either person is under the age of 18.  While it could have been consensual the moment it happened, hindsight is always 20/20 and that consent can be reversed by just saying "I was raped" by either party involved to law enforcement.  At that point officers are required by the VAW to believe and investigate the claim as if it were the only truth out there.  Which means when it comes to anything that falls under the VAW, the accused is Guilty until Proven Innocent.