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Report: More Sex Abuse at Understaffed Juvenile Facilities

July 2, 2016
By Rebecca Boone; Associated Press


Youths are sexually abused more frequently in juvenile detention centers that are understaffed, have more gang violence and more offender complaints


BOISE, Idaho — A new report from the U.S. Department of Justice shows that youths are sexually abused more frequently in juvenile detention centers that are understaffed, have more gang violence and more offender complaints.

The report, released Tuesday by the department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, examined the impact juvenile facilities have on sex abuse rates as well as the risk factors for victims. The work was intended in part to measure how effective federal rules designed to stop sex abuse behind bars actually are at reducing victimization inside youth detention centers.

The study found that lower rates of sexual victimization were reported in facilities with higher staffing levels, less violence and fewer overall complaints.

Lovisa Stannow, the executive director of prisoner advocacy group Just Detention International, said the findings are encouraging and exasperating.

“They are encouraging because they confirm that sexual abuse is a problem that strong youth detention leaders can solve, if they want to, and exasperating because so many leaders continue to insist, against all evidence, that sexual violence is outside of their control,” Stannow said in a statement released Wednesday.

Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act in 2003, and experts across the country worked over the next decade to create rules designed to stamp out rape behind bars. All states were supposed to be fully compliant with PREA in 2014, but some, such as Idaho, initially refused to meet the standards. Idaho officials later reversed course, and in 2015 announced that three state juvenile detention centers passed audits showing they were compliant with PREA standards.

The Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections is currently facing several lawsuits from nearly a dozen current and former juveniles who say they were sexually abused by staffers while at a detention center in Nampa.

Compliance with many of the standards spelled out in the Prison Rape Elimination Act were associated with lower rates of staff sexual misconduct, the study found.

Youth who have previously been sexually assaulted are more likely to be assaulted in detention, the study found, as were kids who identified themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual. Males and black youth were much more likely to be victims of sexual abuse by staff members.

The study included mostly state-owned facilities for youth being held in custody, including residential treatment centers, detention centers, training schools, group homes, boot camp or farm programs and youth homeless shelters.

The highest rates of youth-on-youth sexual assault were found in facilities that only housed females, and male-only facilities tended to have higher rates of staff sexual misconduct.


Copyright 2016 The Associated Press



Georgia Counties Aim to Lower
Numbers of Locked-up Juveniles

Five Georgia counties are participating in a pilot program
aimed at finding alternatives to juvenile detention

Associated Press

ATHENS, Ga. — A national nonprofit that works to improve the lives of children believes the numbers of Georgia juveniles held behind bars can be reduced.

Five Georgia counties are participating in a pilot program of the Annie E. Casey Foundation aimed at finding alternatives to juvenile detention.

Clarke, Glynn, Fulton, Chatham and Newton counties are participating in the pilot project, The Athens Banner-Herald reported.

The numbers of Georgia juveniles behind bars have dropped sharply since the Georgia legislature approved reforms in the state’s juvenile justice systems pushed by Gov. Nathan Deal, a former juvenile court judge, the newspaper reported.

But trainers with the foundation say the numbers can go lower, resulting in benefits to the state treasury as well as less harm to the young people caught up in the juvenile justice system.

Jim Payne, a technical assistance provider with the foundation, and Whitney Dickens, state coordinator of the initiative, were in Athens recently to help launch the project in Clarke County.

Dickens outlined a series of “core strategies” various agencies can use to reduce incarceration rates, and to make incarceration less traumatic for the youngsters locked up.

Many of the issues that result in juveniles being unnecessarily locked up are not unique to Clarke County but apply nationwide, Payne said.

One important factor is race, he said; Nationwide, African-American youths are disproportionately represented in juvenile justice proceedings and in detention, he said.

In Clarke County, a majority of youths that come before Athens-Clarke County Juvenile Court Judge Robin Shearer are African-American, she said.

A similar trend is reflected in some discipline statistics from the Clarke County School District, the Athens newspaper reported.

Through mid-May, the school district conducted 212 disciplinary hearings for high school and middle school students, according to school district statistics; of those, 179 were African American students, about 85 percent.

But race is just a part of the equation; sometimes kids end up in detention because police officers know if they detain a parent or parents, they’ll also have to find a place for their children overnight; it’s easier to take the children into custody, Payne said.

“Sometimes we overreact to kids,” Payne said.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press

Strengthening Megan’s Law

Strengthening Megan’s Law


The Original Megan’s Law
Ten years ago, Senator Skelos wrote, and led the effort to enact, New York State’s Sex Offender Registration Act–or “Megan’s Law.” Named after seven year-old Megan Kanka, Megan’s Law requires convicted sex offenders to register with the state and provides parents and other concerned members of the community with access to this lifesaving information.

Strengthening Megan’s Law in 2006

In January, Senator Skelos wrote a new law to prevent 3,579 convicted sex offenders from escaping the state’s Sex Offender Registry this year.

Senator Skelos’ new law requires all Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders to register for life, with Level 2 offenders able to petition the sentencing court for removal after 30 years. Now, all Level 1 sex offenders must register for 20 years.

Under the old law, most Level 1 and 2 sex offenders were automatically removed from the Sex Offender Registry after 10 years. Level 3 offenders who registered before March 11, 2002, and were not designated as a heightened risk under federal law, could petition the sentencing court for removal from the registry after 13 years.

Without an extension of the Sex Offender Registry’s ten-year registration period, 226 sex offenders would have been automatically removed from the Registry by January 31, 2006, with 3,579 scheduled to escape registration by the end of 2006. During the next five years, 5,365 Level 2 and 46 Level 3 sex offenders would have been removed from the Registry. In addition, 4,231 Level 1 offenders would have been removed from the Registry without any judicial review.

The Megan’s Law Reform Act

After three public hearings across New York State (Albany, Long Island and Brooklyn), Senator Skelos wrote the Megan’s Law Reform Act (Senate Bill 4793-B) to strengthen Megan’s Law in 25 different ways, including mandatory notification by police when a registered sex offender moves into a community, lifetime registration of all sex offenders, requiring information about all levels of sex offenders to be posted on the Internet and GPS monitoring for the worst offenders.

Through the public hearings, the legislation was drafted to reflect the input of law enforcement officials, teachers, school officials, parents and advocates and it has passed the Senate. Megan’s mother, Maureen Kanka, who partnered with Senator Skelos in 1995 to champion the passage of Megan’s Law in both houses of the Legislature, spoke at the first hearing in Albany.

Since enacting Megan’s Law in 1995, the New York State Senate has acted on over 100 separate occasions to pass legislation strengthening Megan’s Law and more than 200 times on other legislation dealing with sex offenders.

Since 1997, the Senate has passed legislation that would provide for the civil commitment of sexually violent predators who are likely to engage in repeated acts of sexual violence. Unfortunately, the Assembly Leadership has failed to act on this important bill.

The Megan’s Law Reform Act would enhance New York State’s Sex Offender Registry as follows:
* Mandatory Community Notification
Under current law, it is left up to the discretion of the police whether they notify community members about the presence of a sex offender. Under this legislation, police must take the following actions based on the offender’s level:
Level One Offenders: Law enforcement agencies where the crime was committed and, upon release, where the offender intends to reside must be notified.

Level Two Offenders: Law enforcement agencies where the crime was committed and, upon release, where the offender intends to reside must be notified, In addition, they must disseminate information, including a photograph, to entities with vulnerable populations located within the area where the offender intends to reside that have been approved to receive such information. At their discretion, both may further disseminate this information to other persons.

Level Three Offenders: The requirements for notification for Level Three offenders are the same as Level Two but in addition, law enforcement agencies must issue a new release to local media. They also may use their discretion to conduct other notification activities within the community, including public meetings, flyers, etc.

* Website and Electronic Communication

This legislation expands the Division of Criminal Justice Services’ website to include information about all sex offenders, not only the Level Three offenders under current law. In addition, visitors to the website would be able to register for e-mail notification regarding sex offenders living in, or relocating to, their zip code.

Level One Offenders: The website must provide a name, a dated photograph, and approximate address.

Level Two Offenders: The website must provide the same information as Level One Offenders, plus additional material regarding the offender’s crime and type of victim.

Level Three Offenders: The website must provide a name, a dated photograph, place of employment, exact address, and other information relating to the offender and his criminal MO.
* Global Positioning System (GPS) Tracking

This legislation would require all Level Three offenders to wear a GPS monitoring device for the duration of his or her registration. The Act includes numerous provisions relating to the type of GPS system the offender must wear, the offender’s required contribution to its cost, penalties for the removal or disabling of the tracking device, and judicial authority to modify the tracking equipment.

* Miscellaneous Megan’s Law Enhancements

In addition, the Megan’s Law Reform Act of 2005:

A. Adds three crimes to the list of registerable offenses:
1. sexual assault against a child by a person in a position of trust in the first degree
2. sexual assault against a child by a person of trust in the second degree
3. endangering the welfare of a child where sexual activity is involved

B. Adds sexual assault against a child by a person in a position of trust in the first degree to the list of sexually violent offenses.

C. Provides that verification forms will be mailed to sex offenders twice a year on a random basis, rather than once a year on the anniversary date.

D. Provides that, even if an offender has not moved, they will be in violation if they do not send back their signed verification card.

E. Changes the determination hearing process in the following ways:
1. the notice to the sex offender will tell them the hearing will determine how much information the community will receive
2. requires sex offenders to appear at the hearing which will determine their level of notification and whether they are designated as a sexual predator, sexually violent offender, or predicate sex offender
3. if an offender fails to appear at their registration hearing, the hearing will be conducted in their absence
4. a sex offender who has been convicted outside of New York will be given notice of the hearing that will determine how long they must register and how much information will be given to the public
5. if an out of state offender fails to appear, the court will still make a determination

F. No longer allows sex offenders to petition the court for a change in their duration of registration.

G. Amends the correction law in relation to what constitutes failure to register on the part of the sex offender, and the penalties for failing to register.

H. Changes the conditions of probation or parole that prohibit a sex offender from going on school grounds to eliminate the necessity that the victim be less than 18 at the time of the offense.

I. Creates the new crime of unlawfully residing or entering upon school grounds in the second degree. No sex offender may go on school grounds.

J. Increases the statute of limitations for a sex offense against a child under the age of 17 to 15 years, from 5 years, after the child reaches the age of 18 and

K. Requires that when individual who is charged with a sex offense, incest, or sexual performance, any plea agreement must include a guilty plea to one of these crimes.

Although the Senate has passed the Megan’s Law Reform Act two times, the Assembly Leadership has failed to act on this important legislation or many of the most significant provisions that it contains.

Strengthening Megan’s Law in 2005

While the Assembly refused to join Senator Skelos and the Senate in support of the Megan’s Law Reform Act, Senator Skelos did successfully enact the following Megan’s Law improvements during the 2005 State Legislative Session:

S. 1168-A – This legislation allows courts to hold level designation hearings for convicted sex offenders in absentia. Currently, courts cannot designate a sex offender’s level if he/she doesn’t show up to the designating hearing, thereby delaying the sex offender’s registration and community notification.

S. 479-A – Under current law, convicted sex offenders whose victim was under age 18 cannot enter onto school grounds while on probation or parole. This legislation prohibits these convicted sex offenders and all level 3 sex offenders, regardless of the age of their victim, from coming within 1,000 feet of the school grounds during their period of probation or parole.

S. 3507 – In 2000, Senator Skelos enacted a law the required victims to be notified when an offender petitioned to legally change his/her name. The law also required the state to keep a record of this name change. This legislation retroactively applies this notification requirement to all name change petitions granted before 2000.

S. 5753 – Under current law, law enforcement officials may notify entities with vulnerable populations when a level 2 or 3 offender moves into an area. This legislation requires law enforcement agencies to keep a record of all organizations that qualify as entities with vulnerable populations within its jurisdiction. The list would be used for notification when it is determined that a level 2 or 3 sex offender poses a risk.

Such a list would include superintendents of schools (public) or chief school administrators (private), superintendent of parks, public and private libraries, public and private school bus transportation companies, day care centers, nursery schools, pre-schools, neighborhood watch groups, community centers, civic associations, nursing homes, victims’ advocacy groups and places of worship.

S. 493-A – This legislation enables law enforcement to include any known aliases used by the level 2 or 3 sex offender in their community notification, as discussed above.