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PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT FOR SEX OFFENDERS IN THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS

Following is an editorial comment my husband wrote to the Eastern Oregonian Newspaper. They refused to print it.
COMMENT

The article about sex offenders on the front page of the East Oregonian, "Don't You Be My Neighbor", August 21, was well written and timely, although it raises more questions than it answers.
The underlying theme of this article appears to suggest that some sexual offenders are not dangerous and that most benefit from treatment. This simply is not true, contrary to what David Fidanque, director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oregon who was quoted extensively throughout the article, would have you believe.
The Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) was established by the Oregon legislature with the mandate to protect the public from convicted violent felons. A progression of this mandate resulted in the formation of another useless level of bureaucracy- the Oregon State Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision (OSBPPS) agency.
Unfortunately, as occurs with many well-intentioned endeavors, once a corporation becomes a major governmental entity, its focus inexorably shifts from its original mission statement to that of merely ensuring its continued survival and all other considerations are relegated to secondary status.
Considering that ODOC incurs a whopping 95% recidivism (failure) rate over a five-year period, quite obviously it is not "correcting" anything, a fact which indicates its original intent to protect the public has become secondary to its newly adopted primary purpose of survival.
David Fidanque cites an example of a sex offender who should not, in his opinion, be considered a danger to the public. Regarding the sex offender whose crime was to engage in consensual sex with a boy- or girlfriend who is a minor, Fidanque opines, "These offenders just want to get on with their lives... Many have successfully completed treatment and the public shouldn't be threatened by them."
Fidanque's disingenuous assertion that " some of these [sex] offenders... have successfully completed treatment, and the public shouldn't be threatened by them" is false and misleading.
First, any criminal act is a crime, period. Those sex offenders who are willing to disobey the law governing prohibited sex with a minor have stated by their actions that they believe they're above the law and are willing to violate it whenever they choose. By definition, their willingness to do so constitutes a clear and present danger to society.
Second, most studies indicate sexual offenders cannot be "cured" of their bizarre predilection toward sexual domination. Any person endowed with a modicum of intelligence can reach their own conclusion that it is ludicrous for a professional person to advance such statements in that face of the many studies, which disavow Fidanque's opinion.
Fidanque would have us believe society "shouldn't be threatened" by someone who has decided to disregard those parameters, which were enacted to protect the public. Utilizing that particular logic of the "Fidanque Doctrine", any person who chooses to violate the law can simply argue that society shouldn't be concerned with his dangerous behaviors.
Why has Fidanque attempted to rationalize, minimize, and justify a sexual offender's incurable behavior which is emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually devastating to an innocent woman or child, behavior which by its very definition is as dangerous to society as any behavior can possibly become?
What makes a sex offender any less reprehensible than an arsonist or robber? A robber can at least be taught that it is wrong to steal. An arsonist can at least be taught the error of his thought paradigms.
But a sex offender, no matter how hard he tries, cannot be taught to control those primal urges roiling through his loins. Granted, he might be able to put those thoughts from his mind for a few minutes at a time. He might even be able to postpone acting on his impulses. Sooner or later, however, like a smoldering volcano, statistically, he is going to explode. Whose angelic child will become his next victim? Whose loving wife or mother will be the next to suffer and die?
Mark Royal, director of Umatilla and Morrow County Community Corrections, states, "If we have an individual who we feel is a public safety issue... I will do a community notification... "
Royal represents the last level of protection in the ODOC's mandate to protect the public. The first level of public safety begins with the Oregon State Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision agency, which is chaired by Michael Washington, an attorney. Before any sex offender can be released from custody it is Washington's sole responsibility to ensure his agency is not releasing any dangerous individuals unto and into the public domain.
Since most major studies have determined that a sex offender cannot be cured, since a relatively recent study conducted by the Minneapolis Star Tribune has shown that sex offenders actually become more dangerous after receiving sex offender treatment, and since statistics show sex offenders sooner or later will commit another sexual assault after their release from custody, it should be of grave concern to the public-at-large that Washington is failing miserably in performing his duties as Chairperson of the OSBPPS agency.
Astoundingly, Max Williams, director of the Oregon Department of Corrections, has recently renewed Washington's contract as Chairperson of the OSBPPS agency for another four-year term. Does this make any sense to you as an intelligent, rational human being?
Still, the unsuspecting public continues to allow the Governor's office to funnel more and more taxpayers' dollars into the insatiable, inefficacious maw of the Oregon Department of Corrections.
There is a saying in treatment circles: "Insanity is performing the same action over and over again, and expecting to achieve different results." The Minneapolis Star Tribune's study that shows sex offenders become even more dangerous after they have "successfully completed treatment" is a prime example of insanity in action, as are the actions of our elected officials.
Consider the following: the people we have elected to operate our government statewide have decided to drastically cut or eliminate funding to all self-help improvement programs throughout the Oregon penal system, with the solitary exception of funding for sex offender treatment programs.
It is time to put a stop to this insanity. Stop funding those programs and instead reinstate funding for those programs, which have proven to be up to 80% effective in combating recidivism, post-secondary college education (PSCE) courses. Educating someone is the most effective weapon against crime, and treating sex offenders only makes them more dangerous. It does not make sense to eliminate the one venue that works while funding the program that doesn't. We need to get a clue- sex offender treatment programs do not make the public safer. In fact, they make the sex offender much more dangerous.
But, do not tell that to Michael Washington, the sex offenders' champion. He steadfastly refuses to label any sex offender as "dangerous", although he possesses the authority to do so, and he continues unabated to order the parole release of seriously dangerous sex offenders at an alarming rate. Like Fidanque, Washington apparently believes sex offenders aren't dangerous to the public and that it is good company policy to release any who appear before the OSBPPS agency.
In light of the prevailing trend set by Washington in releasing violent sex offenders onto the public, it appears the OSBPPS agency is pursuing an agenda which is counterproductive to the well being of society and which is intended solely to create an erroneous perception that all felons should be categorized in much the same genre as sex offenders.
Not only is this perception inapplicable to thousands of individuals who have committed a property crime or a non-morals crime during an unthinking moment, that perception speaks eloquently against the politician's and prisoncrat's contention that a parole system and parole board are essential elements in a progressive and forward-thinking society. If all criminals are alike, there is no need for an over-paid, rubberstamp agency as the OSBPPS to fatuously gather at taxpayers' expense to decide if one case differs from another.
It appears many people in powerful positions are not aware or refuse to validate this important information regarding sex offenders in our society. Unfortunately, their refusal to acknowledge this information will continue to lend itself to the ongoing rape, molestation and murder of our most important resource- women and children.
If anything substantive is to be accomplished to protect society from those sexual predators, people must be willing to speak up, to step to the helm and demand that our elected representatives perform the duties to which they have been entrusted. New laws must be enacted which will ensure those predators will remain incarcerated for the rest of their lives so they can never again bring harm to an innocent child or defenseless woman.

homepage: homepage: http://www.nojusticeinoregon.com


this is horrible 16.Mar.2006 20:26

an S.O.

there are so many things wrong with this I don't know where to start

Ha? 17.Mar.2006 05:37

Ha?

Ok....so anyone who breaks any law for any reason is a danger to society? Even when the laws encroach or negate basic human rights? If homosexuality were declared illegal, would the author then describe anyone who engages in homosexual acts a "dangerous criminal"? The "consensual underage sex" the author is screaming about could be a case of over-zealous prosecution, as in the 20yrd boyfreind being prosecuted for sleeping with a 17yrd. It could be that the younger partner misled the older. It could be love. The law, which the author so enshrines, does not allow for exeptions. As soon as you begin to criminalise sexuality, as opposed to sexual violence, the goverment has you by the neck. When basic human drives are criminalised, then everyone becomes a criminal, and the government gains that much more power over you. This is one of the real reasons behind the cyclical "sex-abuse" witch hunts that crop up every five years or so. This is why, in the words of Law and Order SVU "Sexualy based offenses are considered especially heinous". Because it scares people, it makes people afriad of they're neighbors, teachers, family members, freinds, and themselves.

This is not to say that sexual violence should be ignored. My family and many freinds have been victims of such acts, but there is a big difference between rape and consensual sex between to individuals who happen to be just far apart enough in age for a zealous prosecutor to accuse one of statutory rape.

The religious right doesn't approve of sex, not really. As far as they're concerned its only for procreation in a highly restricted marriage enviroment. But how do you convince others, who aren't religious fanatics, that something as wonderful and healthy as sex is bad? You make it a crime, and especially, you make it a threat to children.

This is the thing no one over here in Europe gets. I know tons of parents that won't let thier kids watch PG movies made in the US because of the violence, but thier kids all watch Rˇnja RŠningasdˇttir and such films, which have plenty of nudity, but is viewed as humorous or natural, not as a threat to the childs emotional well-being. Not like watching Arnold shoot a roomfull of "bad guys" and then make a joke.

think 17.Mar.2006 08:16

v

first they came for the pedophiles...

Wrong on most claims 17.Mar.2006 15:42

Wrong on most claims

The author of this article is wrong on most points. The author attempts to depict all individuals convicted of sex crimes equally -- which is obviously wrong. The author includes consentual "statutory rape" in the same breath as the violent rape of children, making the High School teacher who beds one of her students the equal to a dope-addled rapist that preys on children in the park -- which is obviously wrong.

Also the author claims that the correctional facilities we're plagued with have a 95% failure rate and thus aren't fufilling their charter. That's wrong. The prisons have a 100% failure rate when viewed by the fact that crime and punishment is supposed to be a deterrant, but deterrance and rehabilitation aren't the primary reason why we build prisons: we build prisons so that we can lock violent offenders away from society to protect us from harm. Rehabilitation is a notion that was never serious, a word used for political reasons only. We lock people up to keep them from commiting further harm. Rehabilitation? <snort> The prison system is where criminals go to learn how to be better criminals. Nobody expects otherwise.

Many -- probably a minority -- of "sex crimes" should not be crimes at all, in fact. When a crime suddenly stops being a crime 30 days later, the basis and validity of the law should be examined and reworked or discarded as needed. If someone ages 30 days and suddenly becomes "legal," the law is simply flawed. When there's no victim, laws should be abolished.

In addition to the sex laws that need to be reworked or discarded, there's also the need for actual laws that should be applied in so many cases. One which springs instantly to mind is Mr. Michael Jackson if, in fact, the allegations against him are at all valid. My inpression is that the parents were engaged in child prostitution of a sort, and probably, in my opinion, knew what was going on and accepted it. It would be reasonable to investigate the parents for allowing their children to spend sleep-overs in Michael Jackson's bed, even if the parents honestly believed nothing sexual was taking place.

Finally there's the question of harm. Most children the ages of the alleged Michael Jackson case couldn't be expected to make decisions on sexual behavior rationally and with foreknowledge, and there's the real possibility of future mental problems as they grow older. There's also a lower probability of such children not being harmed in any way or actually considering the experiences fufilling and beneficial -- and High School kids who bed their teachers could reasonably be expected to look back on the experience in a positive light.

My point is probably that the author looks at a difficult and complex series of issues and rubber-stamps them all into the same venue. It's reasonable to lock away rapists, sickos who expose themselves to children, and all the rest. They _do_ constitute a safety hazard and there's real harm and real victims when they do what they do. At the same time, it's also true that pedophilia studies conclude that pedophiles can't be cured. That's something the author got correct.

My opinions only and only my opinions.

questions arising 18.Mar.2006 14:31

fireweed

Thank you very much for writing. And thank you for the Star Tribune study reference.

I would like references for the other studies you refer to, as I've seen studies that say differently. There is one Vermont study that says that 7.7% of Vermont-treated sex offenders will reoffend. You can find that at

 http://www.smith-lawfirm.com/Connsacs_offender_treatment.htm

The community of Hollow Water has shown a 2% recidivism rate

 http://ww2.psepc-sppcc.gc.ca/publications/abor_corrections/apc2001_e.pdf

A national study shows a general range of 17%-22%

 link to www.atsa.com


There's more out there for those willing to look. There's a pretty big range in the statistics I've just shown and I'm not showing them to invalidate what you write. I really appreciated knowing about the higher education stats (would have liked a link, but I can do the looking too) and about the fact that there are stats with a larger range than I've previously found through research.

Question: what are the definitions of recidivism you're using?

There are apparently quite a few of these. I'm not yet sure which definitions the studies use.

The RESTORE program of Arizona has this to say about recidivism statistics:

"A precise recidivism rate or even range is difficult to provide due to the many program types that fall under the rubric of restorative justice. Further, various definitions of "recidivism" have been used by different programs (e.g., police contacts, prosecutorial charges, or reconvictions). Also, it takes a long time period to allow for program participants to age out of the period of highest risk for re-offense. For these reasons, there is less information available on recidivism than for satisfaction and procedural outcomes of restorative conferencing. The available information indicates that restorative justice does lower the rate of re-offending. As long as the rate is no worse, many believe that it is more important to focus on whether people felt they were treated fairly, were heard, believed that the plan developed adequately addressed the harm caused by the crime, and derived moral satisfaction from the program."

 http://restoreprogram.publichealth.arizona.edu/questions/success.htm#suc2

I generally agree that programs are capable of turning into entities that use ideology to enhance their own survival at the expense of truth. I also think all people, including myself, are capable of this as well.

I'm grateful for the information in your article. By using different sources, you help give me a chance to check and see if I've mistakenly taken things for facts that are in fact questions.

I hope that people will take the information I just provided in the same light.

I AM UTTERLY AMAZED 18.Mar.2006 18:33

D. Gray

What a sad commentary about the American consciousness....that everyone is so concerned about the poor sex offender, yet there is not one peep about the article "Native Americans Catch-22" which clearly delineates the gross injustice being perpetrated against Native Americans throughout America's prisons. O'cry me a river for the po', po' sex offender.


point taken 19.Mar.2006 01:08

fireweed

What kind of responses would you like?

and 19.Mar.2006 02:26

fireweed

I was part of a group of folks who demonized perpetrators and said they could not be worked with without having done any research on the topic.

Maybe it's true that no one really has figured out how to heal perpetrators, and they're all bluffing for $$$. Maybe the programs I've read about have learned how to truly heal people and communities. I don't know. Maybe God/dess knows. Maybe we should all go find out.

What I do know is what happened when the perpetrators were demonized. The survivors stopped coming out. Why? Because when they came out, they were stepping into a situation of war. It was a war where one truth sought to kill another. The entire community polarized. The survivors ended up getting demonized as well. I personally ended up homeless, revictimized, and revicitimized again. The majority of cases I've seen have had similar results. I have had friends who were raped beg me not to tell anyone else because they didn't want the rape to become a community issue.

In a situation like that, those survivors who have come to detest their abusers seem most likely to speak out.

Since most survivors are raped by those nearest and dearest, those upon whom they depend most, this does not often happen.

I read a NY Times magazine article in 2002 that, if I remember correctly, said that after the rape crisis workers stopped pressuring survivors to leave or press charges against their perpetrating partners, then more survivors disclosed. They also stuck with the program longer, which, as you very accurately pointed out, does not mean that healing necessarily happened. And without disclosure, and consistency, I see no chance of accountability.

So what else could encourage consistency of participation in healing programs and disclosure - in this issue, and in racism, and in environmental destruction, and in cultural genocide, and in genocide, and in war, and in prison activism, and in sexism, and....?

Timidity doesn't seem to do it. Condemnation seems to feed itself.

I honor that your liberation is key to my own.