06 February 2010

Sex Offenders Underground

(Photograph copyright 2010, all rights reserved.)

Some days, I open the morning paper - in my case the Chicago Tribune online - take a casual glance and suddenly can't even turn away long enough to sip my coffee. I'm sure we've all had that experience. Every once in a while, something hits you like a tone of bricks and it's like a train wreck, you just can't look away.

This morning's headline was Unregistered Sex Offenders Roam Chicagoland . (Ok. The Tribune sucks at this.They'll take you to an error page instead of the article. Lame. Just go to the front page and you'll see the headline.) It seems like a pretty sensational headline, doesn't it? Something you might see on a grocery store tabloid, not a "real" newspaper. I read the article and got myself an education today.

According to the Trib:

- There are almost 800 sex offenders in the Chicago area who have been missing for more than a month. (This means that they registered an address at the time they were paroled, then moved/left/went underground.)

- No arrest warrants were issued for more than 80% of them.

- Of those offenders with previous criminal convictions, no warrants were issued for 90%.

- Police are hit and miss on searching for these folks. For example, they don't check to see if the offender is still alive. In one case, they ignored Social Security when they notified police that an unregistered sex offender was receiving payments at a certain location.

Between mid-December of 2009 and mid-January of 2010;

- Chicago ALONE had 591 sex offenders missing in that time period.

- In the entire region including Chicago, there are 771 missing offenders.

- Only 135 arrest warrants have been issued for the entire region.

- Even during traffic stops, where the in-car computer system TELLS the police that the person they've stopped is a missing or unregistered sex offenders, MOST of them are never arrested.

The article goes on, citing various cases including one offender that was recently arrested for repeatedly sexually assaulting a 14 year old girl.

It's a mess. The police don't want to make arrests without warrants. Individual officers are told not to make arrests by their superiors. The courts are reluctant to issue warrants because full jails are very expensive and judges are elected officials (an idiocy about which I will rant at another time). This is not strictly an Illinois problem. Several other states are in the same fix. In ALL of those states, sex offenders are merrily offending, safe in the knowledge that no one is even going to come and look for them.

The article concludes with the announcement that the federal government is looking into this and threatening to withhold grant money from states that don't clean up their act in the near future.

Why was I so shocked? Like a lot of people, I hadn't even considered that this kind of crappy enforcement was going on. I figured that sex offenders were automatically registered before they got out of prison (they aren't - they have to register THEMSELVES after they're released), and that law enforcement, even if they didn't watch them every second, could at least find them if necessary. Another illusion blown, right?

So, what do you think? Have you heard anything about this where you live? How long do you think it's going to take states and municipalities to get a grip on this problem?

Inquiring minds and all that.


  1. In theory there should be greater enforcement. But I'm not sure I understand the legal rationale behind the whole sex-offender registry in the first place.

    - If the idea is that these men are so dangerous that they should be constantly watched lest they perpetrate their crime again, then what are we letting them back on the street for? Let's just make child molestation a capital offense and kill the motherfuckers good n' dead as an example for the others?

    - If they're not that dangerous, then creating a registry and restricting their activities relegates them to second-class citizen status (and possibly runs afoul of the Fourteenth Amendment in the process). Once they have that permanent pariah status, they're essentially reduced to nothing as far as earning potential and social integration is concerned...which makes them embittered, which leads to noncompliance at best and recidivism at worst, and next thing you know you've made them MORE dangerous!

    What's more, there's something creepy to me about parents letting law enforcement protect their kids from strangers when it's the parents' gods-damned job. It's an inroad for fascism under the Helen Lovejoy "think of the children" umbrella and I don't want to live in a society like that, even though I personally am not affected---I like my women all grown up, thanks.

    The whole thing is an outrage---but not for the reasons you'd expect. Personally I advocate option #1. You molest a kid, your life is forfeit.

  2. Messy, I have to say that I'm with Fox in spirit--at least regarding most of his post. I don't have the stats in front of me, but, "stranger danger" and "sex offender registries" really piss me off. They're all hype and no meaning. Worse, they suck up valuable resources. As I don't have the stats in front of me, I won't try to quote them, but, I would guess that 90%, yepper, 90% of those people on sex offender registries are there for non-physical offenses (meaning, basically, porn). Further, those that aren't, the ones who actually molested children, I'd say that 90% of them, yepper, again with the 90% thing, molested children in their own families. Of the latter group, that's not to say that they shouldn't be on a registry, but, think about that for a second. We're going to have the police tracking these guys when, in 9 of 10 cases, they're molesting family members--children they're either going to have access to or not based entirely on the family?! Again, I'm not condoning the act, nor am I saying that the 1 in 10 children molested by strangers (and I'd bet it's even less than that) don't need protection! I'm just saying that it'd be a hell of a lot easier to protect them if we'd use some common sense about who goes on these lists, how long they stay there, and, as Fox says, about how long the true offenders have to stay in jail.

    Another very nasty thing that you should know is that states get national funding for their sex offender programs based on how many people are on those lists. :-(

  3. Well, the point of the article is that these guys aren't registering at all. The guy that was profiled was able to repeatedly rape a 14-year-old girl in her home while she was on painkillers recovering from surgery BECAUSE no one bothered to look for him and no one thought it was worthwhile to keep track of him.

    In fact, even AFTER police knew where he was and KNEW that he should be picked up, they didn't bother doing it. Why? Well, they had been called to his ex-girlfriend's home after their disabled son had been badly beaten by this father. The police declined to pick him up because that's "not what they were there for."

    This is AFTER he'd been to prison twice for raping children - two kids out of the many, many others that he assaulted. The problem with these people is that pedophilia is a sexual preference. It can't be "cured" any more than heterosexuality or homosexuality can be "cured".

    So, you wanna kill the guy? Be my guest. He's a waste of skin.

    What really gets up my nose, though is people who whine about the "rights" of people who constantly sexually assault others (for example, Paul Bernardo, the notorious Scarborough Rapist is out of prison and no longer on parole) to "live like human beings" after they've "served their time". They don't have rights. They have an obligation to be available to authorities.

    Also MOST people on sex offender registries (or who should be) ARE "real" offenders. They commit sexual violence against others, they do it consistently and can potentially have hundreds of victims over the course of their lives.

    We HEAR people whining about how they became sex offenders because they "look at porn", but they are in the tiniest of minorities. Also keep in mind that criminals lie. All the time. The perception that "most" sex offenders are harmless is a dangerous one. It's a case of squeaky wheel - they make the most noise, that's all.

  4. In theory, I agree that one forfeits one's rights as a citizen the moment he (or, to be fair, she, although female offenders are rare when compared to the men) commits a grievous sexual offense.

    In practice, though, the Fourteenth Amendment is supposed to exist to ensure all free citizens equal protection under the law, and sex offender registry statutes as currently written violate that constitutional principle.

    As such, I have to oppose those statutes, applying the Pastor Niemoller principle ("when they came for X, I did not say anything because I was not X", etc.) Meanwhile, I find no inconsistency intellectually in saying "just shoot the bastards", because of two simple reasons: 1) capital punishment is neither cruel nor unusual given the circumstances, and 2) a few 5.56x45mm NATO rounds and the M-16 to fire them are cheaper than administrative costs or incarceration costs.

  5. Do you really think the constitutional argument applies? I would argue that registered sex offenders DO have equal protection under the law. They just have to be where the law can see them.

    The trouble with most sex offenders is that a vast majority of their crimes don't get reported in the first place. To catch one, someone has to come forward with their story, and historically that's been a dangerous thing to do. The police, the courts, the public are all reluctant to the point of blind idiocy to take such charges seriously or to believe the victims.

    Sexual assault victims are STILL treated badly and accused of "wanting" to be abused or "dressing like a slut" or "asking for it" by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the case of child sexual abusers, it's even worse. Many can offend for literally decades without being caught, racking up hundreds of victims.

    This whole business of not wanting to register sex offenders or pick them up if they violate the conditions of their paroles is part of the same story. No one wants to admit that the person will reoffend, even though sex offenders have the HIGHEST recidivism rates among all crimes against persons.

    Murderers, as I was once told by a professor who had been a parole officer, are the best parole risks. Most of them are caught crying over the body of the person they killed and will never reoffend.

  6. I've always wondered...in the case of convicted sexual offenders, especially where the crime has been perpetuated on a minor, why don't courts utilize the option of castration?

    It may make me a vindictive person, but personally, I'd go for this option over the death penalty simply because I would want that person to live forever without that part of themselves.

  7. Vicatella: Unfortunately, the problem with castration is that it's been found that the offender takes to raping their victims with objects once they are not able to perform normally. I did, however, hear an interesting story about a Canadian man who opted for chemical castration and massive therapy, and he said he felt he was recovering. (Oh, and that he hadn't told his girlfriendwhat he went to jail for yet. *YUCK*) I agree with Messy though. Not sure if these guys can be cured.

    My only problem with child molestation = death penalty and/or being sent to Chimo Island is that some of our laws that brand someone as a sex offendrd are ridiculous. There's a difference between a 37 year old man raping a 14 year old girl and an 18 year old having consentual sex with his 15 year old girlfriend. Yet, there isn't really a legal difference between the two, or for the levels of offenders in the sex offender registry. (They have 1, 2, etc, but I doublt people read those and understand it affects the danger level.)

    If you're the list, you're kept from being near children, etc. Even if you aren't really a child molester. (Should high school seniors who actually take advantage of freshmen with the intent to have sex with them get in trouble? Yes! I just don't feel they fall into the same category as a man who hangs around playgrounds groping himself while watching 6yr olds.)

    So, reform is definitely something needed with this. The sex offender registry gives people a false sense of comfort, and I think it makes parents more likely to either over or under react. If we managed to perfect the law, and managed to get a group of these bastards together, I say we put them on a harsh remote island. Leave them some farming manuals, and let them survive far away from civilization.

  8. It's not quite that bad. Many jurisdictions do provide for the high school set by setting limits on the age difference between the two kids and in many cases that's four years. More than four years difference, and they're in big trouble. Less and it's a different story. So the 15-year-old girl and her 17 or 18-year-old boyfriend are all right.

    I still have problems with the 18 or 19-year-old boys messing with the 14 and 15-year-old set. Something is definitely not right there. As for the 20-something men who mess with the teenybopper set - I have a problem with that. ANYONE, no matter what their age, who aim at teenagers who are below the age of consent (and that varies) has REAL problems.

    Let's not forget that sexual preference is set early and pedophiles are as aware as straights or gays of their preferences at the same time. So the 15, 16, or 17-year-old kid that's into 14 (or 12 or 6)-year-old girls can easily become the 50, 60, or 70-year-old guy who's hanging around the playground looking for kids in the same age group that they've targeted from earliest youth.

    Some communities do jump the gun and declare the wrong people to be sex offenders. But that is unusual. In fact, it's rare. Again, they do a lot of yelling about it, but they're in the minority.

    1. Wow Aunt Messy, you just throw stuff out like it's fact. You are really clueless about who these registries net. Sexting (say an 18 year old to a 15 yr. old), urinating in public, prostitution and many more things that aren't men victimizing women necessarily.
      If you have a male child you should really get educated.

      A few facts you probably don't care about:

      1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before their 16th birthday.
      (US Department of Justice)

      In one study of 30 male victims of sexual abuse, the average age at the first time of abuse was 8 years, 4 months. (Dorais, 2002)

      Women are responsible for one-third of the sexual abuse of boys, according to the 2 December 1998 CE Journal of the American Medical Association

      80% of men who have experienced sexual abuse have been abused by a female, most often their mother.

      So when you think about the pervs, think clearly.

  9. I don't think our prison system is set up to properly handle sexual predators or really ANY criminal. They have to be kept off the streets and away from possible victims, especially children, I get that. But when a crime is perpetuated, there's an element of justice that's missing when these people essentially get social "time out" for 10-20 years.

    Yeah, it's a hardship to be locked up and your life essentially put on hold. But how does that restore the victim to pre-crime status? Some things can never be atoned for, but most hurts can be lessened by restitutionary action.

    Whether that be time, money, or something else given personally by the offender to the victim, I think this is truly what is missing in our "justice" system. People in prison are paying for their crimes, but who are they paying? Certainly not the victims, and depending on the crime, when they get out the victims can be in more danger than before.

  10. Do you have any idea how sexual predators of ANY kind are treated in prison? They are the worst, the lowest of the low and they have the highest death rate of any group in the prison population, especially those who target kids.

    They usually end up spending their sentences in solitary, or as they call it now "protected custody". I can't think of anything worse, barring the death penalty.

  11. OK, I'm on limited time so I didn't read the above posts. How odd that today my neighbor told me that the man who as a teen molested her daughters was now jailed at the age of 30 with new sex charges of some kind. We had a discussion that the judicial system does not come close to providing any long term answers. It really is up to the citizens to protect their own, in every matter actually as Katrina pops into my head along with any other disaster one may find themselves in. Offenders not registering is no surprise, why, when there is no reason to in their minds? If the police don't pull them in for arrest if they're stopped for some driving infraction this news travels far and wide. I imagine offenders laugh at those that do register. And if you believe in rehab, you also believe the Easter bunny is coming your way soon. I think we all know the only reason to actually believe an offender will never offend again. It's because they are dead.

    Look at it this way, one of the largest known protectors of sexual abusers is functioning as if all is well in their world with followers, and all sorts of educated people providing the funds necessary for their continued success...that's the Catholic Church. And so far, all is well in their world, their followers look away from the ugly, tell themselves it's only a few instances when the victims speak out, then within months all is silent and the abuse continues.

    How do you deny human sexuality and not think this will cause issues? How do you have this rule and then deny you have some responsibility in the outcome? And when word gets out that you are protected from within an organization does that not draw you to it, knowing there is a fresh supply of sexual victims at your disposal and you will be cared for until you die, and all your sins forgiven with a few good words and deeds?

    I don't mean to harbor ill will towards anyone in this faith but it is a prime example of why sexual abuse and society has not taken steps to make any lasting changes. We are not capable nor prepared to do so.

    And I believe sexual abusers are never strangers...some one knows them and deems them safe inside your own circle of family and friends. Trust no one with your young children...and when your gut tells you something is not right, believe it, Grandfather, Teacher, Brother, Sister, abuse has no age nor gender qualifications. Being sexually stimulated feels good at any age so most are not rushing to tell about the abuse as it is too confusing for them to understand, add in the trust they feel for the abuser and it silently continues...until the damage is done.

  12. This is a headline for an article on CNN today.
    It is never ending.

    A Nigerian man who sang in a Vatican choir arranged gay liaisons for an Italian government official who served in the unpaid role of papal usher, according to transcripts of wiretaps collected by Italian authorities.