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Sex offenders collect financial aid
AP on Yahoo ^ | 3/17/08 | AP

Posted on 03/17/2008 4:09:41 PM PDT by NormsRevenge

MADISON, Wis. - James Sturtz is not your ordinary college student struggling to pay tuition.

The 48-year-old rapist is one of Iowa's most dangerous sex offenders, locked up in a state-run treatment center for fear he will attack again if released. Yet he has received thousands of dollars in federal aid to take college courses through the mail.

Across the nation, dozens of sexual predators have been taking higher education classes at taxpayer expense while confined by the courts to treatment centers. Critics say they are exploiting a loophole to receive Pell Grants, the nation's premier financial aid program for low-income students.

Prison inmates are ineligible for Pell Grants under a 1994 law. Students convicted of certain drug offenses are also ineligible. But sexual predators qualify once they are transferred from prison to treatment centers.

"This is the most insane waste of taxpayer money that I have seen in my eight years in Congress," said Rep. Ric Keller, R-Fla., who is pushing to stop the practice. "It is a national embarrassment that we are wasting taxpayer dollars for pedophiles and rapists to take college courses while hardworking young people from lower-class families are flipping hamburgers to pay for college."

Moreover, some institutions report that sex offenders are putting the financial aid to questionable uses by buying such things as clothes, a DVD player and music CDs — sometimes, after they have dropped out of school. Pell Grants can legally be put toward expenses that are education-related. But the unused portion of a grant is supposed to be repaid when someone withdraws from school.

Keller's plan would affect 20 states that allow authorities to hold violent sex offenders indefinitely after they have served their prison sentences. He predicted the measure would save taxpayers millions.

Some say taking away the financial aid for correpondence courses would be a mistake. They say education could help sex offenders build stable lives and reduce their chances of committing another crime if they are ever released.

The U.S. Education Department does not track how many sexual predators confined to treatment centers have received aid, in part because the offenders do not have to disclose their living arrangements on the application forms. But within the past five years, at least several dozen have received Pell Grants. And the department is only following the law.

"They are eligible," Education Department spokeswoman Stephanie Babyak said. She said the department generally does not track how recipients pay their expenses, "but if there is an issue with people getting overawards, we would look into that. We'll be happy to check it out."

The institutions and the government do not keep count of how much money sexual predators receive. The maximum Pell Grant is $4,310 per year. The government generally sends payments to colleges for tuition, and any leftover is sent to the student to cover expenses.

At the Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center in Mauston, Wis., six patients are getting Pell Grants, and others did so in the past. Some patients used their grants for living expenses that were already being covered by the state's taxpayers, according to administrators.

"I think that the current practice — which results in large checks being sent to the patients for living expenses — is pretty much indefensible," director Steve Watters wrote in an e-mail to an aide last year.

In Iowa, 14 offenders in the Cherokee Mental Health Institute have received Pell Grants in recent years, said administrator Jason Smith. He said nine of them dropped courses after receiving money.

Some patients used their money to buy a DVD player, a television, a radio, music CDs and movies, Smith said. Because of vague guidelines, staff members could not determine whether those were inappropriate expenditures, he said.

In California, a number of predators living at the Coalinga State Hospital receive Pell Grants, said Department of Mental Health spokeswoman Nancy Kincaid. But she said the hospital has no way of tracking who gets them or how much money they receive.

Representatives of other states, including Kansas and Minnesota, said they could not recall sex offenders signing up for Pell Grants. Other states said they had no idea whether that was the case.

"They don't really tell us what they are doing. They have a lot of liberties they want to exercise without our oversight," said Dr. Henry Richards, superintendent of the Special Commitment Center in Washington state, where some patients take correspondence courses.

Keller introduced his bill to ban the practice after a newspaper reported in 2003 that 54 offenders at one Florida center got $200,000 in Pell Grants in one year.

Some Democratic members of Congress and others say it would be counterproductive to put up a barrier to education for sex offenders who are trying to rehabilitate themselves.

"These are people who we want to prepare to go into the communities. They need to have access to educational programs," Richards said. "I think the numbers of committed persons aren't so large they would significantly preclude other citizens from taking advantage of educational support. To preclude them seems mean-spirited to me."

Sturtz illustrates both sides.

The Iowa man was convicted in 1980 of sexually assaulting a 4-year-old girl. He earned his high school equivalency diploma behind bars and trained to be a janitor. He was convicted again in 1989 of attempted rape after pulling a knife on a woman.

After another stint behind bars, he struck again in 1994. This time, he met a Coe College student waiting for a bus, persuaded her to get in his car and raped her at knifepoint. He was sent back to prison and then ordered to Cherokee after his sentence ended in 2006.

Sturtz said he signed up to take business courses through Kirkwood Community College and received B's in business communication courses. But he has put his schooling on hold.

He said he dropped algebra and two other courses that were too hard. And he said he was unable to complete one class because he was not able to watch the required movies. Like other sexual predators, he is not allowed access to the Internet, and that has complicated his schooling.

He said he used his $100 in leftover grant money to buy jeans and underwear and saved the rest in case he tries to take more courses.

So far, none of the 72 predators in the Iowa center has been released since it opened in 1999. Sturtz admitted he is not ready for freedom anytime soon.

"It wasn't about the money for me, man. It was about the education," he said. "God knows I'm going to need all the help to get a job."


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; News/Current Events; US: Wisconsin
KEYWORDS: collect; financialaid; pellgrants; sexoffenders; sexualpredators

1 posted on 03/17/2008 4:09:42 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
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To: NormsRevenge

“Like other sexual predators, he is not allowed access to the Internet, and that has complicated his schooling.”

Only in an AP article can we see gems like the one above...LOL.

Hang the bustard instead.


2 posted on 03/17/2008 4:20:30 PM PDT by indcons (Buraq was the name of the horse on which Mohammed supposedly "travelled to heaven and back.")
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To: NormsRevenge
I'm so glad that you posted this. I just saw it and was going to post it myself if the search revealed that it hadn't been posted.

I was so angry when I read this that tears actually came to my eyes.

"This is the most insane waste of taxpayer money that I have seen in my eight years in Congress," said Rep. Ric Keller, R-Fla., who is pushing to stop the practice. "It is a national embarrassment that we are wasting taxpayer dollars for pedophiles and rapists to take college courses while hardworking young people from lower-class families are flipping hamburgers to pay for college."

Amen to that!

Here is how to contact him to encourage and thank him:

U.S. Congressman Ric Keller

3 posted on 03/17/2008 4:38:21 PM PDT by LucyJo
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To: indcons
Hang the bustard instead.

Agreed. After all, the constitution shouldn't apply to people like this. / s

4 posted on 03/17/2008 4:41:18 PM PDT by Clint Williams (Read Roto-Reuters -- we're the spinmeisters!)
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To: LucyJo

Can illegals apply for Pell Grants too?


5 posted on 03/17/2008 4:53:06 PM PDT by sionnsar (trad-anglican.faithweb.com |Iran Azadi| 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t Y0ur5 (SONY) | UN: Useless Nations)
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To: sionnsar

I wouldn’t be surprised at this point.


6 posted on 03/17/2008 5:12:58 PM PDT by LucyJo
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To: NormsRevenge
In California, a number of predators living at the Coalinga State Hospital receive Pell Grants, said Department of Mental Health spokeswoman Nancy Kincaid. But she said the hospital has no way of tracking who gets them or how much money they receive.

Why the f... not? Inmates in a state hospital cannot be tracked? They are getting money and nobody knows how much? Un-freaking-believable.

We have surrendered our greatness to PC silliness.

7 posted on 03/17/2008 5:53:48 PM PDT by WarEagle (Can America survive a President named Hussein?)
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To: sionnsar; LucyJo
Can illegals apply for Pell Grants too?

Technically, no. Many (but not all) schools are fairly strict about checking the citizenship (legal presence) of students applying for financial aid, and so is the Department of Education. If a school gets audited or if illegally present students get hit with verification requests (meaning they have to submit tax returns and such), the school can get in big trouble if illegals are improperly receiving financial aid or in-state tuition benefits.

Nevertheless, I would think that there is some level of fraud and waste in the education financial aid system (including illegals improperly receiving benefits).

8 posted on 03/17/2008 6:11:00 PM PDT by rabscuttle385 (I have great faith in the American people. I have no faith in the American government, however.)
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To: NormsRevenge

This is an injustice, but did you notice the predator served less than 9 years after assaulting a 4-year old? Why was he ever released in the first place.


9 posted on 03/17/2008 8:09:01 PM PDT by chae (I am karmic retribution)
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To: rabscuttle385; sionnsar
This is an excerpt from an email that I received this morning:

Letter by a Florida teacher................ A teacher speaks

This is a subject close to my heart. Do you know that we have adult students at the school where I teach who are not US citizens and who get the PELL grant, which is a federal grant (no pay back required) plus other federal grants to go to school?

One student from the Dominican Republic told me that she didn't want me to find a job for her after she finished my program, because she was getting housing from our housing department and she was getting a PELL grant which paid for her total tuition and books, plus money leftover.

She was looking into WAIT which gives students a CREDIT CARD for gas to come to school, and into CARIBE which is a special program (check it out - I did) for immigrants and it pays for child care and all sorts of needs while they go to school or training. The one student I just mentioned told me she was not going to be a US Citizen because she plans to return to the Dominican Republic someday and that she 'loves HER country.'

I asked her if she felt guilty taking what the US is giving her and then not even bothering to become a citizen and she told me that it doesn't bother her, because that is what the money is there for!

I asked the CARIBE administration about their program and if you ARE a US Citizen, you don't qualify for their program. And all the while, I am working a full day, my son-in-law works more than 60 hours a week, and everyone in my family works and pays for our education.

Something is wrong here....

I realize this is just another one of those emails, with no verified source, that make the rounds from time to time, but it reminded me of the conversation on this thread and I decided to post it.

10 posted on 03/18/2008 6:17:58 AM PDT by LucyJo
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To: LucyJo; sionnsar
The e-mail is a hoax. While the WAIT and CARIBE programs actually do exist in Florida, the services described in the e-mail are not provided (more info).
11 posted on 03/18/2008 8:41:30 AM PDT by rabscuttle385 (I have great faith in the American people. I have no faith in the American government, however.)
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