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FREE TO RAPE AGAIN
The Reader's Digest (OLD print issue) ^ | Oct 1991 | Robert James Bidinotto

Posted on 07/20/2002 6:11:03 AM PDT by GailA

Readers Digest Special Report October 1991

Freed to Rape Again

By Robert James Bidinotto

By the time Michael L. Reese was 17, he had sexually assaulted at least four children. Each time he was caught he spent, at most, a few months in a youth facility or in counseling.

Later, given six years in prison for a rape, Reese was paroled in three. With in weeks, he attacked another girl and got six months in jail. Soon after his release, he raped again. But the judge refused to impose any mandatory minimum term. "I feel that is inconsistent with having him treated," he said.

After spending three years in a sex offender program at Oregon State Hospital, Reese was declared a "successful graduate" and paroled. Then he tried to sodomize an 11-year-old girl. He got three -- to -- ten more years, but was paroled after serving the minimum sentence. Last December, Reese kidnapped and tried to sexually assault a young woman.

James Charles Stark got three years to life for a kidnap-- rape in California. He was paroled it less than three. After attempting rape again, he got 1 to 20 years but was in there three. Six months later, he molested a 14-year-old girl.

Stark was sent to Patton State Hospital near San Bernardino. After four years there, he was to return to court and sentenced to eight years in prison. Paroled only a year later, he then kidnapped, raped and shot a teenage girl.

Sickening cases like these two are occurring with alarming frequency, a nationwide Readers Digest investigation has discovered. Of the thousands of chronic rapists and child molesters, who prey on society, surprisingly few are arrested or convicted. And for those who are, the punishment rarely fits the crime.

Their juvenile offenses are glossed over. They are allowed to plea -- bargain. They are put on probation. When they do receive prison terms, they are paroled early. "Most return to their predatory ways," says Capt. Thomas Chronin of the Chicago Police Department, a noted expert on criminal psychology. "Often, their behavior escalates in frequency and brutality."

Haunting Picture. "Up to the mid-1960s, we saw few juvenile sex offenders," reports veteran forensic psychologist John Cochran. "Today, there's a flood."

The justice system has failed to come to grips with the problem. A study commissioned by Utah juvenile -- court executives explained that many sexual offenses by youths went unreported, or charges were dropped, redefined as normal "experimentation."

Teenagers Timothy Anthony Combs and Danny Lee Hill were well known to authorities in Warren, Ohio. Combs, who had and extensive arrest record, had been convicted for gross sexual imposition on another boy. Hill had been given a "permanent commitment" to juvenile facilities after raping two women at knifepoint, during which he threatened to kill his victims and rape one woman's three-year-old daughter. While incarcerated, Hill sexually molested a boy and threatened other boys with violence. Nevertheless, he was released after only a year.

On September 10, 1985, 12-year-old Raymond Fife of Warren, Ohio was biking to a Boy Scouts meeting. He never made it. Hill and Combs raped, beat and tortured Raymond. After choking him with his clothes, they impaled the unconscious born with a stick. Then they set him on fire.

Raymond, who was found by his father, Isaac, never regained consciousness and died two days later. The horrors of that evening still haunt Isaac. "I can't tell you the hell he has had to live with, seeing that picture in his mind," says his wife, Miriam.

"Bargain Day" in Court. Investigators have discovered that by the time sex criminals reach adulthood most have committed an extensive member of offenses that are never reported. Psychologist Philip Humbert of Eugene Oregon, was treating eight sex criminals charge with 16 offenses in all and convicted of 12. The eight admitted to over 13,000 deviant acts, including molestation and rape.

When the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit in Quantico, Virginia, research the backgrounds of incarcerated serial rapist, they found that 41 of them were responsible for at least 837 rapes and over 400 more attempts. In a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, Emory University psychiatrist Gene G. Able found that 453 criminals admitted to molesting more than 67,000 children. Those who abused girls had an average of 52 victims each. But men who molested boys had an astonishing average of 150 victims.

When these repeat sex offenders are finally caught, they are encouraged to plead guilty to lesser charges in exchange for reduced punishment. Multiple charges pending against them are dropped, and they are often given probation instead of prison. Wisconsin Court of Appeals Judge Ralph Adam Fine asks, "What is the serial rapist to think when its 'bargain day' at the courthouse: three rapes for the price of one?"

Melvin Hemphill was arrested in Hollywood CA for robbery and accused of sexual assault by the victim. A plea bargain dropped all him but misdemeanor charge. Hemphill was freed on two years probation. Arrested again for robbery and sexual assault in Ohio, he was allowed to plea bargain only to robbery. His 3 to 15 years sentence was suspended. Hemphill was put on probation and sent back to California.

A few months later, in May 1988, a janitor at Hollywood High School followed a 200-ft. trail of blood to a ventilation shaft. There, strangled and sexually assaulted, was the body of teenager Robert Campo, Jr. Hemphill was soon arrested and allowed to plea bargain to second-degree murder. He will be eligible for parole in 1998.

"More than one person murdered my son," says Robert's mother, Mary Campo. "The whole criminal justice system let us down."

Crazy like a Fox. Many of us assume that anyone who would molest, torture or kill women or children must be insane. As a result says Terry Miller, an Oregon therapist who has worked with many violent offenders, "treatment programs have been used as a substitute for imprisonment." The Vermont based Safer Society Program, which monitors treatment efforts, reports that such programs have mushroom nationally, from fewer than 600 in 1986 to over 1400 today.

Yet, increasingly, experts reject the few that sexual deviants are mentally ill. Virginia clinical psychologist Stanton Samenow, has studied criminals for over twenty years. "The sex criminals anything but 'sick.' He is calculating and deliberate in his actions. He just shuts off his knowledge of right and wrong long enough to commit his crimes."

Warren Bland, the serial rapist, was sent to California's Atascadero mental hospital, released on probation, convicted for more rapes imprisoned and paroled. He then abducted, sexually assaulted and tortured and 11-year-old boy with clothespins, wire and pliers. "I get my fun this way to" Bland told the screaming child.

Sexual predators take their primary pleasure in dominating a helpless victim. "They are playing God," says Miller.

No "Cure." Oregon researcher Lita Furby and two associates reviewed the re-offense rates of sex criminals from treatment programs through out North America and Europe. They concluded: "There is as yet no evidence that clinical treatment reduces rates of sex re-offenses." Cautions forensics psychologist Cochran, "Treatment has been oversold."

Moreover, the legal system rarely monitors offenders once they are diverted into therapy. "Judges and parole boards order sex criminals into treatment, but do not necessarily follow up when they quit," complains Steve Jensen, director of the Center for Behavioral Intervention in Beaverton, Oregon. And to often psychiatrist recycle dangerous offenders back into the streets, says Wisconsin's Judge Fine.

Convicted of exposing himself to a small boy in Washington, Wesley Allen Dodd entered a sex offender treatment program. Even though he repeatedly violated treatment rules, a court allowed him to move to Idaho and enroll in the another therapy program. Officials there said he seemed to be "benefiting from the sessions." Less than a month later, he was arrested for molesting another boy. Dodd was ordered to resume treatment.

Dodd moved back to Washington, abused a four-year old for months, then tried to lure another boy to an building. He spent 118 days in jail, was again put on probation and the to seek treatment.

In September 1989, Dodd raped and killed William and Cole Neer, ages 10 and 11. In October he sodomized four-year-old Lee Iseli, then hung the boy in a closet to die. In November, Dodd was caught trying to abduct another boy from a movie theater. He now awaits execution.

Theodore Frank was convicted of numerous statistic sexual assaults on children. Frank was committed to, then released from, several mental hospitals, where he became an eager student of psychology. He was invited back to a California hospital to lecture as a guest speaker at a model of the effectiveness of therapy.

Weeks later, he raped, then strangled a two-year old girl. "When convenient," he admitted, "I have used by knowledge of psychotherapy as an ongoing game a manipulation."

"Sexual offenders are far better at manipulation and deceit than many therapists can comprehend," says therapist Jensen. "And I admit that I can be fooled by them."

Common-Sense Solutions. Sexual criminals must no longer be allowed to terrorize society with impunity. To control this growing menace, psychiatric experts and law-enforcement officers suggest these measures:

1. Get tough on first offenders. For those who commit violent assaults or sexually abuse children, penalties should be massive from the outset. Too many first-time sex offenders get suspended sentences or probation. “This is a gross perversion of justice and common sense,” argues Chicago’s Captain Cronin. “When first offenders get a slap on the wrist, they think, ‘I’ve beaten the system.’ They get the wrong message from the start.”

Experts warn that therapy should never be a substitute for incarceration. “Every sex offender should do some jail time,” Jensen says. “It gives them a taste of reality.”

2. Get even tougher on repeaters. Jill Otey, a former sex-crimes prosecutor in Portland, Ore., who helps victims with civil suits, says of violent rapists, “After the second offense, such attackers deserve life in prison. Why give them a third chance?”

But though sentences can be undermined by plea bargaining, which is sometimes meant to spare victims further pain. “This puts the rest of us at risk,” Judge Fine says.

Though a judge must make sure that a trial is not overly traumatic to victims, Fine contends that “in my experience, the victim’s worst trauma occurs when the attacker isn’t properly punished.”

In addition, the lunacy of basing parole on a sex criminal’s behavior in prison must end. “Of course the rapist or pedophile is going to behave himself behind bars,” observes Captain Cronin. “No women or children are there to attack.”

3. Tracking them. Whenever sex offenders are freed, their activities must be carefully supervised and monitored.

“Right now, our country has huge gaps in the identification and tracking of convicted sex offenders,” declares Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

David Barry Harrington was convicted of child molesting in Connecticut. While under investigation for a similar crime in Vermont, he disappeared. Then Harrington became principal of a private school in Maryland, where he molested several young boys. A pre-employment background check of Maryland records had revealed none of his out-of-state crimes.

California requires anyone convicted of specified sex crimes to register with the state, and to notify local police whenever they move. The registry helped lead police to serial rapist Warren Bland, for example, and to William Bonin, the infamous “Freeway Killer,” who is currently on death row for 14 sex murders.

“There should be a sex-offender registry in every state, and these should be coordinated through a national network,” says Ernie Allen.

The ultimate price of our leniency toward violent sexual marauders is paid each year by the thousands whose lives are destroyed.

Five-year-old Kenny Claudio of Roslindale, Mass., left his house to play one October afternoon. He never came back. A few days later, police discovered Kenny’s body in a garbage bag. He had been sexually assaulted, then drowned in a bathtub.

They arrested Matthew Rosenberg, 14, who later pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in juvenile court. But the criminal-justice system responded in all-too-familiar ways. The Massachusetts Department of youth Services placed Resenberg in sex-offender therapy, from which he may be released as early as March. A DYS spokeswoman explains, “Every kid should be given a chance.”

“He’s a rapist and a murderer. How many chances does he get?” asks Marilyn Abramofsky, the woman who raised Kenny. “My Kenny is dead. How many more have to die?”


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Front Page News; Government; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: crime; sexoffenders
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The disappearance of Elizabeth Smart and the kidnapping, rape and brutal murder of Samantha Runnion have FReepers asking WHY are these monsters on our streets instead of in prison. This old article gives a lot of answers to those questions.

This is an older article it is NOT online. The information in it is valuable in understanding why we are not locking our sex offenders up for life.

1 posted on 07/20/2002 6:11:03 AM PDT by GailA
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To: GailA
Just incase you would like to send cards or donations to the family of 5 year old Samantha Runnion of Stanton Ca., who was kidnapped and murdered this week, I have listed the address below.

Samantha Runnion Fund
Stanton City Hall
7800 Katella Ave.
Stanton, CA. 90680

2 posted on 07/20/2002 6:12:05 AM PDT by GailA
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To: GailA
Thanks for posting this. 11 yrs later I wonder how much more revealing these stats would be.

No parole, no get out of jail free card, no free meals in an air conditioned facility at taxpayer expense for the duration of the prison sentence.

NO MORE LIFE AND BREATH FOR CHILD RAPISTS AND/OR MURDERERS!!!

No sitting on death row for 10-20 yrs.

Execution to be carried within 3 mos. of conviction.

Scum of the earth is what these perverts are.

3 posted on 07/20/2002 6:18:47 AM PDT by tutstar
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To: Nightshift; FresnoDA; davidosborne
ping
4 posted on 07/20/2002 6:19:53 AM PDT by tutstar
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To: GailA
The thought just occurred to me, did you save this copy of RD for this many years? LOL
5 posted on 07/20/2002 6:20:48 AM PDT by tutstar
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To: tutstar
No I re-typed it into Word to save on my hard drive.
6 posted on 07/20/2002 6:22:07 AM PDT by GailA
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To: GailA
This plea bargaining and paroling early for good behavior, I'm sure it frustrates the police who know the guys are going to be back in their neighborhoods, preying on people they're trying to keep safe......something must be done in the legislature to have parole not been an option for sexual offenses (i.e., rapes).
7 posted on 07/20/2002 6:28:39 AM PDT by nicmarlo
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To: GailA
I feel like taking a shower after reading that article.
8 posted on 07/20/2002 6:35:20 AM PDT by cardinal4
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To: GailA
Obviously we as a society have decided that we would rather spend time and effortgiving absolutely useless so called treatment to the animals who have declared war on every decent human being. Clearly should any such animal ever attack someone close tome then there is nothing to prevent me from stopping him from any further attrocities and I would certainly do so.

Stay well - Stay safe - Stay armed - Yorktown

9 posted on 07/20/2002 6:48:57 AM PDT by harpseal
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To: GailA
Well, we have to make room for those recreational pot smokers! You know, the "three times and you're out" hazards to society who are caught with a joint or two that have to fulfill those "mandatory" jail terms.


Let all the sexual creeps/pedo-pervsrapistsumbagsdogvomitus out to make room for joe, the the "pot head"
10 posted on 07/20/2002 7:09:14 AM PDT by corlorde
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To: GailA
In criminal proceedings, much attention is paid to insuring the Constitutional rights of the defendant and it is forgotten that the prosecution is the representive of the people who also have the same rights as the defendant. Thus, the courts and other government bodies administering "justice" are subject to the admonishments of the Constitutional Amendents to insure equal protection under the laws. Early release of dangerous felons is governmental action which may result in the denial of civil rights to innocent victims and thus is unequal protection
under the law.
11 posted on 07/20/2002 7:16:53 AM PDT by monocle
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To: GailA
http://www.geocities.com/gcclibertarian/bidinotto.html

ROBERT JAMES BIDINOTTO

A former economics major at Grove City College during the late 1960s, Robert James Bidinotto is an award-winning investigative journalist, author, lecturer, and a nationally recognized expert on crime.

He is perhaps best known for his article "Getting Away With Murder" in the July 1988 Reader's Digest. That investigative piece stirred a national controversy about prison furlough programs during the 1988 presidential campaign, and helped make convicted killer Willie Horton a household name. The Almanac of American Politics 1990 called it "the most influential piece of journalism in the whole campaign." It was honored by the American Society of Magazine Editors as a finalist for Best Magazine Story of 1988 in the "Public Interest" category.

Bidinotto has since authored Reader's Digest exposes on sex offenders, the secrecy of criminal "rap sheets," the legal system's "revolving-door" policies, and probation abuses. His November 1994 article "Must Our Prisons Be Resorts?" inspired federal legislation to reduce excessive amenities available to inmates. Criminal Justice? The Legal System Versus Individual Responsibility, his first book, was published in 1995 with a Foreword by John Walsh of the "America's Most Wanted" TV show. Acclaimed by legal scholars, victims' rights groups and law enforcement officials, it was distributed to every member of the 104th Congress. His latest book, Freed to Kill (1996), was issued in a first printing of nearly 150,000 copies. Promoted in media appearances by Fred Goldman, a vocal figure in the O.J. Simpson murder trials, the book garnered wide attention.

In 1985, the Free Press Association awarded Bidinotto its prestigious Mencken Award for Best Feature Story. During the National Victims' Rights Week ceremony in New York City on April 21, 1991, a coalition of 22 crime victims groups presented him their 1991 Media Award, "for sensitivity and fairness in reporting victims' issues." In 1996, he received the media award of the Philadelphia Coalition of Crime Victim Advocates, "for exemplary service and support to victims and witnesses of crime."

Besides his work on crime, Bidinotto has written investigative articles for Reader's Digest on such topics as homelessness, global warming and the 1989 Alar scare. His articles, columns, essays, book and film reviews have appeared in The Boston Herald, Success, The American Spectator, City Journal, Reason, Writer's Digest, and in many other publications and anthologies. His work has been cited or reprinted in such major media outlets as U. S. News & World Report, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Boston Herald, The Boston Globe, The Detroit News, The Miami Herald, Advertising Age, Forbes, Liberty; The Spectator and The Guardian in England, The Alberta Report in Canada, and in other journals.

A frequent public speaker and talk show guest, Bidinotto has appeared on such programs as CBS radio's "Crosstalk," CNBC's "Rivera Live," CNN's "Sonya Live," "The Rush Limbaugh Show," "Geraldo," and on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio network.

Currently, Bidinotto is on the staff of The Objectivist Center in Poughkeepsie, New York. In addition, he is at work on a novel, and other non-fiction projects.

http://www.objectivistcenter.org/




I don't think I ever heard of that guy. There's 104 hits at google on him. As far as I can tell, this is his latest article (9-11):

http://www.libertates.org/provo_unilateral%20moral.htm
Unilateral Moral Disarmament
12 posted on 07/20/2002 7:18:56 AM PDT by JudyB1938
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To: UCANSEE2; FresnoDA; Mrs.Liberty; demsux; MizSterious; Jaded; skipjackcity; RnMomof7; spectre; ...
*** PING ***
13 posted on 07/20/2002 7:21:52 AM PDT by JudyB1938
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To: JudyB1938
Sickening.

IF these guys have to be released back into society, it should be mandatory they are neutered before they are set free.

sw

14 posted on 07/20/2002 7:35:44 AM PDT by spectre
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To: Thud
A criminal punishment adjustment needed ping
15 posted on 07/20/2002 7:46:54 AM PDT by Dark Wing
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To: spectre
I honestly don't think that would do any good. It's not about sex is what I've been reading - it's about violence and control. I think those kind of people should be given the death penalty upon a second offense, to be carried out within a designated time - regardless of the appeal system.
16 posted on 07/20/2002 8:48:01 AM PDT by JudyB1938
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To: GailA
Is it possible that the "judges" that give these slime light sentences aren't perhaps themselves rapists and child molestors just as klein in orange county, CA.

What filth walks the streets of America and perhaps wear black robes in some instances.

17 posted on 07/20/2002 8:51:14 AM PDT by poet
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To: GailA
I read a good post on one of these threads a while back that said the Eighth Amendment should be modified to read something like:

"No cruel or unusual punishment... unless the crime involves physical violence against a child. Then knock yourselves out."
18 posted on 07/20/2002 9:00:39 AM PDT by Jonathon Spectre
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To: tutstar
BTTT
19 posted on 07/20/2002 9:00:51 AM PDT by FresnoDA
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To: GailA
2. Get even tougher on repeaters. Jill Otey, a former sex-crimes prosecutor in Portland, Ore., who helps victims with civil suits, says of violent rapists, “After the second offense, such attackers deserve life in prison. Why give them a third chance?”

Why give them a second chance? They deserve life imprisonment the first time around.

20 posted on 07/20/2002 9:25:02 AM PDT by Mrs.Liberty
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To: GailA
They concluded: "There is as yet no evidence that clinical treatment reduces rates of sex re-offenses."

It would seem most sexual predators are sociopaths. They have no conscience nor are they apt to develop one.

Somebody can't be "rehabilitated" without remorse and an internal stoplight flashing red when he is doing wrong. To these reprobates, life is mostly all about satisfying whatever evil, perverted desire they have. Their most important aim is to succeed and not get caught. Because they are so clever, they can easily fool the rest of us into thinking they are "normal" or "rehabilitated". They are consumate liars and con artists.

As the article correctly points out, they are very clever and determined to fulfill their monstrous desires at the horrifyingly inhumane expense of others. Their sociopathic behavior usually accelerates over time to ever-increasing perversities sometimes resulting in torture and/or murder as they attempt to satisfy the ever-growing demons within themselves. The slide always goes downhill, never uphill.

These people are hopelessly damaged goods, for whatever reason. Rehabilitation should not be an option. These are the ranks from which come most serial killers and other fiendish criminals. Swift, public execution is probably the only "deterrence" to their crimes and protection for the rest of us. To assume otherwise is whistling past the graveyard.

21 posted on 07/20/2002 9:34:55 AM PDT by Gritty
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To: GailA
BUMP for truly great freeping!
22 posted on 07/20/2002 9:36:52 AM PDT by Lancey Howard
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To: GailA
Funny, when I read the title I thought it was a Clinton thread.
23 posted on 07/20/2002 9:40:54 AM PDT by Lancey Howard
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To: tutstar
There must be no mercy for any SOB who violently molests a child.

Take them right from the courtroom to the hangman's noose.

There is no need to complicate things with tales of the perp's own disturbed childhood or with his having missed his medication.

24 posted on 07/20/2002 10:09:07 AM PDT by Age of Reason
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To: Gritty
These people are hopelessly damaged goods, for whatever reason. Rehabilitation should not be an option.

Even if they were capable of rehabilitation, we should still hang them.

25 posted on 07/20/2002 10:11:38 AM PDT by Age of Reason
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To: GailA
You cannot depend upon the legal system to protect the citizens.
26 posted on 07/20/2002 10:29:18 AM PDT by Don Myers
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To: GailA
By the time Michael L. Reese was 17, he had sexually assaulted at least four children. Each time he was caught he spent, at most, a few months in a youth facility or in counseling.

All the media attention is on the Catholic Church but the bishops did nothing different than the secular courts do. They keep believing pedophiles can be rehabilitated and they can't.

27 posted on 07/20/2002 10:30:36 AM PDT by FITZ
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To: JudyB1938
Buuuuuump!
28 posted on 07/20/2002 10:31:25 AM PDT by Alamo-Girl
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To: GailA
"Up to the mid-1960s, we saw few juvenile sex offenders," reports veteran forensic psychologist John Cochran. "Today, there's a flood."

Why? The million dollar question.

29 posted on 07/20/2002 11:34:04 AM PDT by Canticle_of_Deborah
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To: GailA
Thanks for this post. One strike you're out!
30 posted on 07/20/2002 11:36:42 AM PDT by Travis McGee
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To: poet
No, these judges are liberal/socialist do gooder's who are convinced that they can be rehabed into model citizens.
31 posted on 07/20/2002 12:13:40 PM PDT by GailA
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To: GailA
I looked at the Colorado sex offender site the other day and was shocked at how soon a lot of these perverts get released back into society. Something has got to change. These sickos don't change that's for sure.
http://sor.state.co.us/off2/results.asp?sorFirstName=&sorLastName=&sorCity=denver&sorZip=&Submit=Search
32 posted on 07/20/2002 12:17:36 PM PDT by beaversmom
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To: JudyB1938
Bob is one whale of a expose writer. I am thrilled you looked his bio up and posted.

I've used his work for several years to educate congress critters who are totally ignorant of the fact that the laws they pass are just feel good legislation.

33 posted on 07/20/2002 12:18:17 PM PDT by GailA
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To: GailA
Good article. It's time for the people to rise up and DEMAND life sentences for these child-rapists.
34 posted on 07/20/2002 12:27:36 PM PDT by Palladin
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To: JudyB1938
READER'S DIGEST

NOVEMBER 1994 BY ROBERT JAMES BIDINOTTO

MUST OUR PRISONS BE RESORTS?

Mercer Regional Correctional Facility is a complex of tidy brick buildings situated in the rolling countryside of western Pennsylvania. From a distance, a visitor might mistake this state prison with its manicured green lawns for one of the nearby liberal arts colleges.

In his office, Superintendent Gilbert Walters explains that Mercer's 850 convicted felons "aren't evil, by and large. Many just did not have good life circumstances and have reacted inappropriately." Walters, who began his career in counseling and refers to the inmates as "clients," tries to make the prison experience "as much like the street as I can."

It's hard to imagine that, for most of Mercer's "clients," life outside could be this good. One of the three full time "activities directors" shows me the Recreation Building. "Nothing cheap here," he says proudly, pointing out the full sized basketball court, hand ball area, punching bag and volleyball net. There are enough barbells to "bulk up" 15 criminals at a time; others can use weight lifting machines. Nine electronic exercise bicycles and four stair type aerobics machines face a TV, all part of the Leisure Fitness Program. Outside, the men can play softball and sharpen their tennis skills. Emotional problems? Five psychologists and ten counselors are there for Mercer's "clients."

Housing about a third of the inmates are two dormitories with 8x10 foot "rooms" (not cells) equipped with desks and bookshelves. As we enter one room, a chubby, middle aged man turns down the volume on his TV set. This housing unit, the guide says, shelters a "peer group" with "special needs"" largely rapists and child molesters. Mercer is not an exceptional institution; it is, in fact, typical. A nationwide Reader's Digest survey shows that in most prisons, felons have access to a startling array of creature comforts.

*Hard labor is out, physical fitness is in. From aerobics to strength training to boxing, today's thugs and armed robbers can return to the streets bigger, stronger and faster than ever. *When they're tired of working out, they can join theater groups, take music lessons or college courses--all for free. Or they can tune in the latest R-rated movies. *The overall cost of these prison amenities is soaring. They take up a huge portion of state correctional budgets, while thousand of violent criminals are released each year for lack of space.

Inside New York's maximum security Attica prison, which houses many of the Empire State's most violent felons, there is an incongruous sight: three small white buildings, which some staffers call "the hotel." Here, a counselor schedules up to 18 inmates per week for sex with their wives. New York offers such facilities for so called private family visits at 14 of its prisons. In seven other states, including Washington, and New Mexico cottages, trailers, mobile homes, even tents are used.

Washington State's David Jirovec hired two hit men to kill his wife for insurance money. Now serving a life sentence, the Walla Walla inmate receives conjugal visits from his new wife. In New Mexico, it took a public uproar to cancel Ricky Abeyta's eligibility for that state's program after he married in prison. Abeyta had killed seven people, including two police officers and a five month old baby.

According to Larry Meachum, Connecticut's Commissioner of Correction, "We must attempt to modify criminal behavior and hopefully not return a more damaged human being to society than we received." It's a statement repeated over and over by prison administrators as the reason for the vast array of recreational and physical fitness amenities available to convicts.

Weight lifting equipment, all but universal in prisons, is far more expensive than most taxpayers might suspect. The Arizona Depart of Corrections, for example, calculated that injuries sustained by prisoners lifting weights produced medical bills for $600,000 to $700,000 last year in that state alone.

At the high security Sullivan prison in Fallsburg, N.Y., twin yards filled with barbells and recreational equipment also have outdoor TV's, so inmates working out don't miss their favorite shows. Inside, prisoners "jam" in a music room crammed with electric guitars, amplifiers, drums and keyboards.

In Pennsylvania, most felons can get in cell cable TV, including premium channels, at a huge discount. The maximum security federal penitentiary at Lewisburg, PA., offers HBO and Cinemax to its resident drug dealers and killers.

At the Jefferson City Correctional Center in Missouri, inmates run their own around the clock, closed circuit TV studio. Four channels routinely broadcast movies containing sex, horror and violence.

Hollywood likes to film at the century old State Correctional Institution in Pittsburgh because it looks like a real prison: massive stone walls, guard towers and a huge core building with five ugly tiers of barred cells. But inmates can wander the yard at will, congregate in gangs, lounge on the steps of buildings. Visitors enter the prison in large numbers, and contraband--including drugs is a big problem. "Security has become a costly nightmare," complains a state prison employee.

Socializing with the outside world is also a feature of prison life. In Louisiana, the Angola prison Drama Club players (whose president is a convicted murderer) visits colleges and theaters. On the grounds of the Penitentiary of New Mexico near Santa Fe, some 1200 inmates and their guest whoop it up at the annual "Outta Joint" picnic. At last year's festivities, they were entertained by a clown, a puppet show, a political satire performance and eight bands.

Last March 19, in the $2 Million visitor' center at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Norfolk, the Lifers Group held its annual "Lifers Banquet." Some 33 convicts, mostly murderers, and 49 invited guests enjoyed catered prime rib dinners.

"Inmates are sent here as punishment, not for punishment, says Joseph T. Smith, Deputy Superintendent for Programs at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in New York State. In truth, nothing seems too much for society's predators.

How did the pendulum swing so far from the austere, even harsh conditions of the past? John J. DiIulio, a prominent political scientist at Princeton University who has studied and written about prisons for 15 years, explains: "Prisons used to emphasize inmate discipline and forced labor, and wardens ruled the cellblocks with an iron fist. Beginning in the 1960s, federal judges ruled only that prisoners were entitled to nutritious meals, basic health services and protection against arbitrary discipline at the hands of guards. But a number of federal judges went beyond such reasonable reforms and began ordering that prisoners be provided with expensive, untested treatment programs and a wide range of recreational opportunities regardless of the cost.

"Most of these judges never set foot inside prison themselves," DiIulio continues. "Instead they appointed monitors to investigate prison conditions--many of whom came from the prison right movement. At first, security minded wardens resisted the new orders from federal judges. But their resistance was gradually undercut by case managers and psychiatric social workers. In time, treatment personnel became top prison officials.

"When many prisons experienced unprecedented numbers of escapes and had hostage taking incidents," adds DiIulio, "the remaining guards from the old school argued that discipline had become too lax. But nobody listened, preferring instead to hear academic 'experts' proclaim that prison violence and other problems were caused by a lack of adequately funded rehabilitation programs. More programs, of course mean bigger staffs, fatter budgets and more perks."

In principle, few Americans would oppose basic efforts to educate and rehabilitate convicts. But what we have today borders on the absurd.

Morgan County Regional Correctional Facility in Tennessee offers six vocational programs and four levels of academic education. To house the expanding programs, it had to erect a new education building at a cost of $1.5 Million. In California the corrections budget for 1993-94 includes $50 Million for academic education, $40 Million for vocational training and $57 Million for inmate employment.

Last year, the Boston Globe reported, Massachusetts set up a Correctional Recovery Academy in its state prisons at a price tag of $1000 per inmate. A major component was yoga.

At the Dade Correctional Institution near Miami, members of the Inmates' Cultural Club have developed a taste for opera. Prison librarian Rolando Valdes obtained a series of federal grants and purchased a 50 inch TV and laser disc equipment. Each Saturday night, he conducts opera appreciation classes in the prison library. Funded by another government grant, several inmates have even written their own opera, El Caido-a tale of a prisoner who rehabilitates himself. Says co-composer Elton Edwards, a "lifer" convicted of murdering a home owner during a robbery, "its been great therapy for us."

Therapy for mental health, aggressive behavior, domestic violence, sex offenses and substance abuse has grown into a prison cottage industry. Yet after decades of attempting behavior modification, the overall results of rehabilitation and therapy are meager. When asked by Reader's Digest how many sex offenders he has rehabilitated in his years on the job one New York State prison counselor bluntly responded, "None."

Inmates, for their part, are not fools: participation in education and therapy can chip time off their terms. "The saying among inmates is 'get a program,' says criminologist Charles Logan of the University of Connecticut. "They know that it will help with the parole board."

Studies by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics have shown that between 60-70 percent of inmates revert to crime after release. A model federal prison at Butner, N.C. applied every known rehabilitation technique to inmates for over a decade. The results: no reduction in recidivism and no improvement in convicts' employment prospects.

After extensive study of prison rehabilitation criminologist Logan concludes: "Despite claims to the contrary, no type of treatment has been effective in rehabilitating criminals or preventing future criminal behavior."

At present, prisons or prison systems in 35 states operate under federal court order. In North Carolina, following a class action lawsuit brought by state inmates, U.S. District Court Judge James B. McMillian approved a settlement in which the state would provided at each of 13 prisons, softball and basketball equipment for two teams, a piano, a set of drums, three guitars and five Frisbees.

Elsewhere, prison inmates have demanded and won access to pornography. Says Pam Smith-Steward, a senior staff attorney for the California Department of Corrections, "One inmate, who tortured and killed his own infant daughter, wrote sadistic stories in exchange for pornographic photos of women being tortured. When the prison staff confiscated and destroyed the photos, he sued in federal court. California taxpayers ended up paying the prisoner compensation."

In 1993, inmates filed nearly 33,000 civil suits in federal courts a stunning 14% of all federal law suits. The New York State Attorney General estimates that prisoner lawsuits chew up 20% of his department's resources. In Arizona, 70% of all lawsuits brought against the state are by prisoners.

And things are getting worse. Last year Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), intended to protect the religious freedoms of American citizens from government intrusion. But at the urgent request of 25 state attorneys general and the heads of every state prison system, Sen. Harry Ried (D-Nev.) introduced and amendment excluding prisoners from the law's strict provisions. State officials were certain that RFRA would allow inmates to file even more outrageous lawsuits.

Attorney General Janet Reno dismissed their concerns, however, and urged Congress "to approve the bill without the amendment." Reid's amendment was defeated.

Indeed, RFRA has opened a Pandora's box. Following a "religious freedom" lawsuit, the Florida Department of Corrections has been forced to allow into state prisons virulently racist materials intended to incite hatred of whites. In Illinois, a follower of the "religious" arm of the Aryan Nation which believes in exterminating blacks and Jews has sued under RFRA to demand its own ministers, literature and the right to congregate inside prisons.

After adjusting for inflation, prison spending per inmate is nearly 2 1/2 times higher than it was three decades ago. In fiscal 1994, prisons cost society around $20 Billion. Says Princeton's DiIulio: "At least 40% of prison expenses go to rehabilitation programs and inmate amenities that have little bearing of institutional security, and that far exceed basic standards of human dignity. Roughly speaking prisons cost nearly twice as much as they should."

When Sam Lewis took charge of the Arizona Department of Corrections in the mid 1980s, he found "security problems and a bunch of spoiled inmates." A former Airborne paratrooper, Lewis decided to clean house.

He imposed a strict dress and grooming code and ordered that newly built prisons would have no weight lifting equipment. He also stopped unescorted furloughs, interprison recreational travel and the annual prison rodeo.. To alleviate overcrowding, he started double bunking inmates in some maximum security facilities and using inmate labor to build new prisons.

"The message inmates are supposed to get, " Lewis explains "is 'this is not a place I want to be' not because it's brutal, but because it's a strict, tough environment without a lot of creature comforts." The results? The system's escape rate, once the highest in the nation, plummeted and so did costs. Arizona now spends 38% less than the national average to build a new medium security prison cell and 45% less for a maximum security cell.

Arizona Governor Fife Symington has encouraged Lewis's reforms and becomes sharply critical of federal judges who interfere with prison operations. "It's nonsense for them to say that convicts have a constitutional right to taxpayer provided services that many taxpayers can't afford on their own," he declares.

"The intellectual and bureaucratic forces that have turned prisons into 'resorts' are deeply entrenched," John DiIulio notes. "They won't be changed unless there's a loud, persistent and politically pointed public outcry."

Until then, we will see memos such as the following, which was posted at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Norfolk by policy coordinator James Krantz: "A third softball field will be make in the West Field in order to allow more inmates to play softball. The horseshoe pits will be temporarily relocated near the golf course. The bocci area will be relocated at the site of the new gym. The soccer field will be relocated to the East Field behind the softball field."

Hasn't the time come for us to require public officials to explain why prisons need to be resorts?

35 posted on 07/20/2002 12:27:43 PM PDT by GailA
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To: GailA
...FReepers asking WHY are these monsters on our streets instead of in prison.

Not this FReeper. I'm asking why someone isn't executed for rape and murder.
36 posted on 07/20/2002 12:29:20 PM PDT by BJClinton
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To: GailA
Not surprisingly both examples are cases that originate in the mostly LIBERAL courts in the extremely LIBERAL States of our country.
37 posted on 07/20/2002 12:35:28 PM PDT by PISANO
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To: GailA
. "Up to the mid-1960s, we saw few juvenile sex offenders," reports veteran forensic psychologist John Cochran. "Today, there's a flood."

Up until the mid 60's, young women didn't dress like hookers. They dressed properly and responsibly, not attempting to attract the attention of older men, the men with MONEY. Watching the school kids walk past my home in the afternoon is as good as going to a strip show.

If they were my kids,.........well, I better not say it here.

38 posted on 07/20/2002 12:37:54 PM PDT by B4Ranch
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To: GailA
I'm not the kind to shoot my TV but yesterday when they showed a picture of Avila I ran up and slapped his face. A little insane, yes but oh how I'd like to get near him right now. I just think that no torture would be enough for him and I really want him to hurt. It just makes me so furious!!!!!!!!!
39 posted on 07/20/2002 12:41:19 PM PDT by tiki
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To: GailA
In September 1989, Dodd raped and killed William and Cole Neer, ages 10 and 11. In October he sodomized four-year-old Lee Iseli, then hung the boy in a closet to die. In November, Dodd was caught trying to abduct another boy from a movie theater. He now awaits execution.

Wesley Allen Dodd accepted Christ as his Savior after his last arrest, but did what few other prisoners who claim to have changed after becoming a Christian. He demanded that no defense be put forward and demanded that he be sentenced to death by hanging. Unlike many others, Dodd accepted that part of repentence still meant that he must accept the punishment as the consequences of his sins. Dodd was eventually executed by hanging and resisted all unwanted attempts to have his death sentence set aside.

40 posted on 07/20/2002 1:07:00 PM PDT by connectthedots
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To: connectthedots
bttt
41 posted on 07/20/2002 2:56:21 PM PDT by Bradís Gramma
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To: GailA
Thanks for posting this.
42 posted on 07/20/2002 3:25:39 PM PDT by dalebert
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To: nicmarlo
I don't believe in parole or time off for good behavior. If your given 20 years, you should do twenty years. If you "misbehave" and break the rules, you do 30 days on bread and water in solitary, with the 30 days added to your 20 years.

When I was in the service, if you went to the brig, each day in the brig was added to your enlistment time. I had a guy come into my squad in Viet Nam that already had 3 1/2 years in on a 3 year enlistment, and had 13 months to do in Viet Nam. He was making up his "bad" time.

43 posted on 07/20/2002 3:30:31 PM PDT by stumpy
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To: GailA
. "Up to the mid-1960s, we saw few juvenile sex offenders," reports veteran forensic psychologist John Cochran. "Today, there's a flood."

Raising children without fathers, and a sexualized culture do this.

44 posted on 07/20/2002 4:35:38 PM PDT by mindprism.com
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To: JudyB1938; GailA
Thank you for the ping Judy.And thank you GailA
for the thread.
45 posted on 07/20/2002 8:02:34 PM PDT by Snow Bunny
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To: All
I am sickened by this and outraged. If the prisons are too crowded then build more or impose the death penalty to all rapists, molestors and murderers and it will create vacancies real quick in the prisons we already!
Saving taxpayers lots of money at the same time! When are people going to wake up and smell the coffee of reality.
46 posted on 07/20/2002 8:22:49 PM PDT by MadisonA
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To: Dark Wing
G.I.G.O.

Maybe the trash compactor from Star Wars is needed to put a squeeze on these lemons.

47 posted on 07/20/2002 8:34:44 PM PDT by Young Werther
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To: GailA
One more thing. When a kid is molesting other kids there is a very high chance he was molested.

Find that person as well.

48 posted on 07/20/2002 8:46:48 PM PDT by Dinsdale
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To: stumpy
I think that's exactly how it should be. Why should someone get rewarded for good behavior in jail? This after they've murdered or raped. It's immoral and wrong.
49 posted on 07/20/2002 10:23:31 PM PDT by nicmarlo
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To: Dinsdale
You are SO right!

We keep hearing TOUGH ON CRIME. It's about time they do it!
50 posted on 07/20/2002 11:21:20 PM PDT by JudyB1938
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