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Let’s play “guess the gender”. I’ll give the background and you guess whether the perpetrator is male or female.

From yesterday’s Florida Times Union ( “A 28-year-old former St. Augustine High School teacher was sentenced to six months in jail Wednesday morning and classified a sex offender for having sex with a then-16 year-old student, according to St. Johns County court records.”

Now it’s your turn to guess… Male or Female perpetrator.

If you guessed ‘Female’ you are right. Playing true to the double-standard, if a male teacher molested one of his students, the jail time would be in the decades with extra time thrown in for being “in a position of authority”.


The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children updated their “Sex Offender Map” and statistics in May, 2017 to account for the latest statistics.

Our colleague from Virginia has put together an analysis of the new counts, which can be found here, but the summary of the statistics for our state are that:

Florida dropped from #8 to #11. 1 out of every 295 Persons, 1 out of every 226 Adult Persons, AND 1 out of every 111 Adult Males is a Registered Sex Offender.

The governor did not say, “Dammit … I’m getting to the bottom of this money-sucking private prison mess.”

Rick Scott’s reticence might seem a bit out of character, given his self-crafted persona as Florida’s cold-blooded budget-cutting crusader. Here’s a guy who over the years has vetoed state allocations for Special Olympics, Goodwill Industries, United Cerebral Palsy, the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, the Holocaust Memorial on Miami Beach, not to mention dozens of state grants to colleges, libraries, ferries, sewer projects, museums, industrial parks, after-school programs, healthcare for the homeless and raises for state firefighters.

“I go through the budget and I try to find out what’s best for citizens. This is their money. It’s not government money,” Gov. Scott declared a couple of years ago, as he whacked $461.4 million from the budget. “They’re paying taxes, and I’m going to do my best to make sure that money is spent wisely.”

Except when that taxpayer money is ladled out to the private-prison industry.

You’d think that the governor or maybe a state Cabinet officer or a conservative state legislator or some honcho over at the Florida Department of Corrections would have perked up when a forensic auditor found that the so-called savings promised by private, for-profit prison contractors were the illusionary byproducts of creative bookkeeping and brutal cutbacks in prisoner services.

Private contractors oversee about 10 percent of Florida’s 98,000 state prisoners, collecting some $142 million a year to run seven prisons on the promise, etched in law, that these for-profit corporations will charge the state 7 percent less than what it costs DOC to incarcerate convicts.

Except no one has bothered to check to see if these saving were legit. Not until state Rep. David Richardson came along. The retired forensic auditor from Miami Beach has taken it upon himself to dig into the records and conditions at the prisons run by contractors. Richardson has spent the last two years interviewing hundreds of inmates and examining the books of the privately run prisons and work-release programs. He found that inmates overseen by for-profit contractors were shortchanged on food and basic services (even hot water at one women’s prison). Meanwhile, DOC was funneling the least troublesome, most easily managed convicts into private operations.

Yet Richardson still couldn’t find the promised 7 percent savings. Apparently that money has been diverted into corporate profits and executive salaries. Though, to be fair, a sizable chunk of private-prison income has come back to Florida in the form of generous campaign contributions.

“Let me say, I absolutely think there’s a nexus between political contributions and the fact that there has been no meaningful results concerning my audits,” Richardson told me.

He described a hearing in which his findings were discussed. He noticed lobbyists for the for-profit prison industry were standing in the back of the room. None spoke. No need. It was signal enough to the legislators that they just showed up.

Of course, this amounts to the circle of life in Florida, where private-prison lobbyists have been conniving with their pet legislators for years to privatize a chunk of the state prison system.

Oh, it’s not just Florida tussling over privatized prisons. Last year, the Obama Justice Department decided to stop contracting with private outfits because they “simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and… they do not maintain the same level of safety and security.”

Which sounds mightily close to what Richardson has found in Florida.

But Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s attorney general, has other ideas. After taking office, Sessions, a longtime champion of prison privatization, promptly reversed the Obama directive. No wonder stock in the Boca Raton-based GEO Group, a giant private-prison and detention-services operation, has gone wild since Trump was elected. The Motley Fool reported in April that GEO stock had gained 103 percent since November. Meanwhile, stock prices for CoreCivic, the nation’s largest private-prison operator, jumped 136 percent.

Sessions figures he’ll need plenty of extra prison cells, given that he has ordered federal prosecutors to revert to the old war-on-drugs policies and “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense in each case.” Plus, the Trump administration wants private contractors to house the expected hordes of undocumented immigrants swept up in those ICE raids that make the president’s supporters fairly giddy. (Unless the supporters happen to be farmers or vintners or poultry processors or roofing contractors.)

But the Trump get-tough policy has shown some definite bottom-line results. The Daily Beast reported Tuesday that so far in the 2017 fiscal year, eight people have died in ICE custody, compared to 10 deaths during the entire 2016 fiscal year. All but one of those deaths this year, and all but two last year, occurred in private, for-profit detention centers.

Maybe, in the Trump era, those deaths will go down in the account books as so many fewer mouths to feed. The likes of Jeff Sessions and Rick Scott can chalk up the resulting savings to the introduction of corporate efficiencies into an old-fashioned prison bureaucracy.

About 2.7 million criminal records in Florida could soon be sealed to the public under legislation awaiting action from the governor.

Defense attorneys love the idea, but public records advocates worry that it goes too far.

People accused of a crime are considered innocent until proven guilty. But in this internet age, once someone is arrested, many have found themselves presumed guilty because websites that publish mugshots charge arrestees to remove their photos even after they are found not guilty.

“If they pay one, how many are they going to continue to have to pay to have their picture off?” criminal defense attorney Lee Meadows said.

The bill originally sought to prevent websites from charging to remove arrest photos. But the legislation morphed into an automatic, sweeping closure of arrest records of people who are found innocent of crimes.

Open government activists say acquittal doesn’t mean not guilty.

“Many people are acquitted or charges are dropped because the witness refuses to testify,” Barbara Peterson of the First Amendment Foundation said.

Attorney General Pam Bondi said the sealing of those records could be detrimental to future cases.

“Especially the sex offenders, because we all know how difficult it is to convict a sex offender,” Bondi said.

There is also a fear that sealing the records could make it difficult for prospective employers to know whom they are hiring.

“You go to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement background check page, (and) that person won’t be listed,” Peterson said.

Trial lawyer Bill Sheppard made the case that with the internet, nothing is ever sealed.

“A month later, somebody will send you a note that says, ‘For $400 more we’ll really get it sealed,but it’s in the public domain,” Sheppard said.

Charging files of those found not guilty would still be public record, accessible through county courthouses, but to get the information you would need to know the county in which the person was charged.

Gov. Rick Scott has until June 20 to sign the bill into law, veto it or let it become law without his signature.


An article, written by Social Science Analyst Thomas H. Cohen and Probation Administrator Michelle Spidell, came out yesterday on registrants on Federal Supervision.

No surprise: those convicted of sex offenses in general scored lower on the Post Conviction Risk Assessment (PCRA) and recidivated less frequently than those convicted of non-sex offenses.

No surprise further:  not all sex offenders have the same risk of recidivism generally and sexual offending specifically. Among the sex offender types, offenders under supervision for sexual assault were arrested or their supervision was revoked at the highest rates, while child pornography offenders exhibited lower recidivism rates.

Despite these FACTS, which are known to Federal Probation – federal policy recommends that all sex offenders begin supervision at the “highest” risk levels and sex offender requirements are applied uniformly.

To read the article:

Download the PDF file .

Words matter

Ghastly. Abhorrent. Sick. Perverted. Despicable.

Words any of us might use without a second thought when describing a person who sexually abuses children.

But when a judge uses those words while sentencing a sex offender, it’s another matter altogether.

That’s what a state appeals court ruled last week when it ordered a new sentencing hearing — and a new judge — for an Elk Grove Village man convicted of abusing two Addison girls in 2011, when they were 9 and 5 years old.

The ruling stems from the 46-year prison sentence Scott J. Gates received in 2015 after a DuPage County jury convicted him of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child and aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a child. In handing down the sentence, Judge John J. Kinsella blasted not only Gates but child abusers in general, labeling them “ghastly,” “abhorrent,” and guilty of “shameful and despicable conduct.”

In a unanimous decision, the appellate court ruled Kinsella crossed the line between commenting on an individual defendant before him and expressing personal opinions.

“The trial court’s comments suggest that it may have based defendant’s sentence on its own opinion of child abuse offenders,” Justice Robert Spence wrote. “Therefore, we must remand the case for resentencing before a different circuit court judge to ensure that defendant’s sentence is based only upon proper factors and not upon the trial court’s subjective feelings.”

A new sentencing hearing for Gates has not yet been scheduled.


Marion County recently launched a campaign of posting warning signs at schools and visiting all the county’s registrants.

The hysteria they are creating has prompted individuals to create their own signs. See the article below:


A Marion County woman wants everyone to know that a sexual predator lives in her neighborhood.

Karin Ahrman put signs in her front lawn and on telephone poles to warn everyone that ______________ lives on NE 23rd Avenue in Ocala.

There is nothing illegal about what Ahrman is doing because the information can be found on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s website.

“I nailed them on every telephone pole in the neighborhood,” Ahrman said. “I was molested at 4. I was raped at 12. You don’t get over it. Someone has to be here and be the voice for the voiceless.”

There’s nothing illegal about the sign, but Deputy Paul Bloom said Ahrman could still end up in legal trouble if something goes wrong.

“If this person, this sex offender was attacked and that person was determined that they attacked him because they heard that they were a sex offender, certainly there’s going to be some civil liability there,” Bloom said.


As the U.S. and Australia regulate the passports of child sex offenders, critics say the measures violate rights.

The days of overseas travel may soon be over for Australia’s convicted child sex offenders.

On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she planned to introduce legislation that would cancel the passports of about 20,000 people on the national child sex offender register. The new legislation will “make Australia a world leader in protecting vulnerable children from child sex tourism,” according to the foreign minister’s office.

While on the surface the announcement may not seem controversial, the move drew criticism from within Australia and in the U.S., where officials have also moved to regulate the international travel of child sex offenders.

In February of 2016, President Obama signed International Megan’s Law. Though less aggressive than Australia’s policy, which if approved by Parliament will strip sex offenders of passports, the U.S. law requires the government to notify countries of international travel by registered sex offenders and to add “unique identifiers” to their passports.

Critics have called both policies unfair, ill-informed and ineffective.

“We have initiated a boycott of Australia and everything that is Australian,” says Janice Bellucci, executive director of the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws, which brought an unsuccessful lawsuit against the U.S. law. The California-based group advocates for the civil rights of sex offenders. “We have asked friends and family not to buy anything from Australia.”

Bellucci and other critics opposed to the policies say they paint all registered child sex offenders with too broad a brush. Having sex with a 15-year-old when you’re 19 or possessing child pornography, they say, is much different than engaging in child sex tourism.

They also argue that the policies are not informed by academic research.

“People have this belief that once a sex offender, always a sex offender – that people have the inability to control themselves and they will offend over and over again,” says Tamara Rice Lave, a professor at the Institute for Legal Research at University of California—Berkeley. “In fact, that is not what studies show about sex offenders. And in Australia you are talking about 20,000 people who can be impacted.”

In effect, critics say, these passport laws can unnecessarily curb the rights of people who are unlikely to re-offend or who offended as juveniles. One Australian politician said there would be exceptions to the law for “legitimate business or family reasons, and for pedophiles living overseas who need to return to Australia as their visas expire,” according to The Associated Press.

But Lave says the devil is in the details.

“If it’s Friday and you find out your brother is hit by a car and is in the ICU, when are you going to get before a judge? Not before the weekend,” she says. “It’s best to have exceptions, but does that mean someone will be able to take advantage of them?”

According to the Australian foreign minister’s office, almost 800 registered child sex offenders traveled abroad in 2016, and more than one-third did so without permission. The foreign minister hopes the higher standards will stop child sex offenders from visiting vulnerable countries where they are out of the reach of Australian law.

Child sex tourism is a widespread problem in Southeast Asian countries, the closest neighbors to Australia.

Exact figures about the sexual exploitation of children in Asia are hard to come by, though a report by UNICEF found that between 11 percent to 22 percent of girls and between 3 percent to 16.5 percent of boys across East Asia and the Pacific are sexually abused. Southeast Asia continues to experience a tourism boom, with 187 million tourists predicted to visit in 2030, according to a report by charity World Vision. With such rapid growth, the number of travelers with easy access to vulnerable children increases, the charity says.

Aside from tourists, an increasing number of international business travelers are visiting Southeast Asia, the report found. Expatriates are also working, living and retiring in the area in greater numbers. While Australians, Europeans and other Westerners have received extensive media attention for sexually abusing children in Southeast Asia, recent research suggests that an increasing number of traveling sex offenders come from other Asian countries, according to the report.

The U.S. government has no similar plans to cancel passports of child sex offenders, but Lave says she could foresee similar legislation being proposed.

“Anti-sex offender laws are as American as apple pie,” she says. “You can get re-elected by associating yourself with a sex offender law, even if they don’t work.”


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