Some sex offenders get to quit probation  

AzCdKayle 62T
24 posts
6/20/2006 4:03 pm
Some sex offenders get to quit probation

This is going to be two parts, now I work in the probation department here and when I saw this I was taken back, why because of all the problems that have nationwide with sex offenders being released from jail, prison and whatever else re-committing acts against children and young adults(teenagers).

How would you all feel about this if they consider this in your town, city or county?

County considering pleas to end lifetime monitoring

The Arizona Republic
May. 1, 2005 12:00 AM
Sex offenders who were supposed to be monitored for life are beginning to ask to be let off probation in Maricopa County - and some of their requests are getting the OK.

In the past three years, 20 sex offenders went to court and successfully petitioned to be released from lifetime probation, according to Maricopa County's Adult Probation Department. Some say it's just the beginning of a push by sex offenders to ease the strict behavioral restrictions placed on them for more than a decade.

The petitions come 12 years after the county formalized its specialized sex offender probation program and as the result of a state law that allows all probationers to petition for early termination. The first wave of sex offenders now have completed years of intensive treatment and have been on a maintenance program long enough to argue they are no longer a danger.

Those who agree with them say there should be some sort of "light at the end of the tunnel" to motivate sex offenders to comply with treatment requirements and behavioral restrictions. But others say the risk of a sex offender committing a new crime is simply too great to loosen the reins, particularly when society believes that they will be watched forever.

Two recent child-abduction murders in Florida have ignited a national debate about how closely sex offenders should be watched and for how long. Both murder suspects are sex offenders; neither was on lifetime probation.

Currently, 1,542 sex offenders are on lifetime probation in Maricopa County.

Before a judge terminates that, he looks at the severity of the offense and whether the concerns that initially triggered lifetime monitoring have been addressed. Also factored into the decision are the sex offender's performance on probation, risk assessments, and the victim's opinion.

Those most likely to get a second chance include offenders involved in statutory or incestuous relationships.

"I just can't imagine the thought process," said Stephanie Orr, executive director of Casa, the Center for Prevention of Abuse and Violence.

"When this happens to families, it's much like a disease. Somebody gets diagnosed with diabetes. You don't just go on the medical plan that they have for diabetes and then when they seem like they're getting better, you take them off the diet and the program.

"This is it for life. This is how your family's going to be for the rest of their lives. It's not an option. We have to protect the children."

But Charles Onley, a research associate at the Center for Sex Offender Management, cautioned, "Not all sex offenders are the same.

"You may have guys who are in for Internet porn and never touched a kid. You may have guys in for statutory . There's a lot to be said for what type of offender you have there. How much of a threat does he actually present to the community?"

One of the men who had his probation terminated had served more than two years in prison for the attempted sexual abuse of a child. After eight years on probation, he was released to live with his new wife and two minor stepdaughters in Montana. Montana officials would not allow the man to live with his family if he was still on sex-offender probation.

Another man who molested his stepdaughter and one of her friends was released from probation after psychological evaluations and risk assessments determined he had taken responsibility for his actions, was remorseful and could control his behavior without supervision.

In addition, The Arizona Republic reviewed the cases of 44 sex offenders who appeared in court over a yearlong period and found one in four was granted some sort of modification of his probation terms.

Those ranged from allowing a sex offender to go with his wife on a seven-day trip that he had earned at work, to allowing a father to take his children to parks, school events and movies and allowing his children to have playmates at the house as long as his wife was home, too. Another sex offender, convicted of engaging in intercourse and oral sex with a 16-year-old family friend, was granted permission to be present in public forums, including grocery stores and sporting events, "for legitimate purposes."

A surge in termination requests prompted Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Eddward Ballinger Jr. to start a monthly sex-offender court last year to "prevent us from making mistakes." But Ballinger insisted there is not, and will not be, a "wholesale termination of probation."

"If someone says to me, 'Lifetime probation means lifetime probation,' you're right," Ballinger said. "There better be a good reason to change it."

One Valley sex offender, who is getting ready to petition to be let off lifetime probation, said he is undergoing a battery of tests and evaluations to prove he isn't a danger.

The man, 36, who is not subject to community notification and asked that his name be withheld to protect his family, has been on lifetime probation since 1991. He said he was involved in "incestuous behavior" with his younger siblings while he was a teenager and again as a young adult. He turned himself in to get help.

Over the years, he's learned to understand his offense cycle, recognize red flags and avoid them. He lives under strict probationary restrictions as well as safeguards he and wife have built into their lives. He won't initiate contact with minors. Going to a baseball game is OK, but he's never been to a Little League game. His wife attends the parent-teacher conferences and other school events for their three children. Every year, he takes a polygraph test.

If he were let off probation, the man would be able to travel without approval, which he can't do now. And he could attend large family gatherings without having to tell every parent what he's done and obtain their written permission for him to be there.

He said he doesn't need supervision to remain vigilant, but he understands the community's trepidation about sex offenders. He's crossed the line and he knows some would say it would be easier for him to do it again. Even he's had that "oh my gosh" feeling when he gets public notifications about sex offenders in his neighborhood.

"You can't help but be a little worried," the man said.

But, he said, "I wouldn't be as high-risk as other people might be. . . . I chose to live a better life."

Before 1985, lifetime probation didn't exist for sex offenders. But that year, the Arizona Legislature passed a statute permitting it, and two years later Maricopa County created a specialized sex offender supervision program. Formalized in 1993, it quickly became a national model for the management of sex offenders.

While nearly 15 percent of 2,967 sex offenders released from Arizona prisons were rearrested for a new sex offense, those in Maricopa County's lifetime probation program fared better. Fewer than 2 percent of 2,344 supervised offenders committed a new sex crime.

The recidivism rates are a good reason to keep offenders on lifetime probation, said Rachel Mitchell, chief of the sex-crimes bureau at the Maricopa County Attorney's Office."They can relapse," Mitchell said. "Sex offenders have deviant sexual interests and while you can curtail those if you're dealing with a pedophile, you can't completely obliterate that as a sexual desire. The same issues that led you to offend before can lead you to offend again."

Today, about a dozen states have some sort of lifetime supervision for sex offenders, and Florida is pushing legislation that would include lifetime electronic monitoring for child molesters.

In Maricopa County, lifetime probation now is included in nearly every plea agreement involving a sex offense. At the same time, anyone on probation for any crime is allowed to petition the courts to have the terms modified or eliminated. Generally, sex offenders who petition to be released from lifetime probation must have completed about five years of intensive therapy and stepped down to a maintenance program for another two years.

Lifetime probation involves intensive treatment and surveillance, and routine polygraph testing. As a sex offender complies with requirements and makes progress, restrictions are lessened and probation officers check on the offender less frequently.

"That should be the reward, decreasing the controls but not severing the relationship," Casa's Orr said. "It keeps the person in the system and it keeps a level of monitoring. It may be drastically reduced but at least it's some level of monitoring."

For a long time, Dr. Tom Selby, who treats Valley sex offenders, would have agreed. But Selby said there is "an incredible range" of sex offenders, and not all of them pose a lifelong danger to the public. At one end of the spectrum are pedophiles, hard-core exhibitionists and who will never get off probation no matter how well they do. At the other end are sex offenders convicted of statutory after consensual sex with a girlfriend just a couple years younger and men who were involved in incestuous relationships where "beyond that there was little or no other acting out," Selby said.

These sex offenders tend to mature with years of therapy and take responsibility for their actions. Some marry and have children. And Selby said he eventually has to ask himself: Are we damaging their families? Are we setting them up for failure by keeping them under strict sex-offender restrictions?

"For years I've preached life is life," Selby said, "but there is a small percentage that it probably is appropriate to get off."

"They won't be getting off probation unless at that point they were deemed to be not a threat."

Onley of the Center for Sex Offender Management said the possibility of someday getting off lifetime probation could be an incentive for sex offenders to do well during treatment.

"Not having an expectation of an out becomes self-defeating later on," Onley said. "There's two doors here. I do one thing and I can go back to prison. I do another thing and I can get off this supervision. . . . Having the possibility of an out may be a motivator."

Mitchell sees it differently: The prison term hanging over a sex offender's head can be a huge incentive to attend therapy and abide by all the behavior restrictions. It also can ensure that if an offender's situation changes, he can be forced back into treatment.

"We want to keep these people monitored for as long as possible," Mitchell said.

"The bottom line is it makes society a lot safer."

I will admit that maybe in a rare case that a probationer depending on his behavior over time and probation record and all the test, that yes he should get some type of less supervision, but I do agree that a sex offender should be off lifetime probation period, most all know what is right and what is wrong, you do the crime you do the time.


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