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May 1, 2008

Another sad story in the sex offender panic universe

This local story, headlined "Plan for sex offender center scuttled by death threat," spotlights the challenges of even providing treatment for low-level sex offenders:

A woman who planned to open a treatment center for sex offenders said she's decided not to open shop after receiving a death threat.  Holly Chandler has been under fire since residents around 1401 Highland discovered she was remodeling a former mechanics shop at that address into a counseling center for sex offenders....

"I got an anonymous threat on my cell phone from a man who said if I stepped in that building, the building would burn with me in it," Chandler said. "I don't need to get hit in the head with a brick to realize the danger." The building has been a target for vandals. Chandler said it's been shot at, windows have been broken and obscenities have been spray painted on its exterior.

Chandler said her clients are afraid to attend classes there. "I never meant to cause a panic, but that's what this whole thing has turned into," Chandler said. "My mission has always been to treat sex offenders as a means of keeping a community safe," she said....

Chandler said the treatment sessions are for fewer that a dozen low-level sex offenders and last for one hour, once a week.  She said she's been having the classes for about 10 years at various locations in Shawnee with no complaints.  She has classes in 23 counties.

May 1, 2008 at 05:23 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Peole view all sex offenders as chld molesters, they don't realize that anybody could be a sex offender now in days.

Posted by: EJ | May 1, 2008 6:35:18 PM

Hopefully the people that threatened her will be convicted of felonies and forced to drive cars with stickers that indicate that they are a danger to their community.

Posted by: S.cotus | May 1, 2008 8:02:19 PM

"Chandler said the treatment sessions are for fewer that a dozen low-level sex offenders and last for one hour, once a week. She said she's been having the classes for about 10 years at various locations in Shawnee with no complaints. She has classes in 23 counties."

In that lays the problem. Its already been going on, but since people don't know about it there was no panic. Same with residency restrictions, as long as someone can look up their address and see no sex offenders within 200 miles they feel safe and secure as if there are no dangers around.

These whole notification system is a completely different monster then what i think was first intended.

Posted by: Mark | May 2, 2008 12:12:57 AM

Much of what was described wasn't "panic." It was nothing more than the behavior of thugs who have discovered there's an entire population of people who can be targeted without consequences.

Posted by: Ilah | May 2, 2008 8:00:51 AM

Oh I don't know, llah. I think it is fair to describe this as moral panic. The sex offender narrative is wound up with, among other things, regression hypnotic therapy, "satanic ritual abuse," homophobic scapegoating, 80s slasher movies, etc.

Before the registries, civil commitment, John Walsh, and general sensationalism I think sex offenders lived relatively quiet post-offense lives, by modern (contemporary) standards. Whatever the theoretical justifications for our sex offender regulations, I have no doubt they were driven by moral panic. To that end I highly recommend "Moral Panic," by Philip Jenkins. Essentially a history of sex offenders in modern America. Also Carl Sagan's "The Demon-Haunted World," which has excellent chapters on the "satanic ritual abuse" fever that gripped the nation for a decade or more. Opened my eyes to the historical realities as much as Mike Gray's "Drug Crazy" did for the drug war when I was in high school.

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Posted by: Jeff | May 3, 2008 7:23:44 AM

I think "moral panic" elevates the motivation of the actors in the article far above what they deserve. While many members of the general public and legislative bodies may be driven by the "moral panic," there are quite a few who merely take advantage of the "panic" in order to act upon their own criminal impulses. If you're a jerk who just can't wait to shoot out some windows, what better windows to shoot out than the ones that'll get you a slap on the back? If you want to take a power trip, what better target for harassment than the person/family Law Enforcement claims "deserves" to be watched and hated?

"Moral panics" have always provided a sheen of legitimacy to vigilantism.

Posted by: Ilah | May 3, 2008 10:36:01 AM

Those who have the responsibility of sentencing sex offenders are, for the most part, incapable of making elementary distinctions. A 19 year old "man" who has sex with a 15 year old "girl" who is his girl friend is often treated the same way as a 40 year old priest who has sexual relations with a dozen pre-teen children. The consequence is that the 19 year old boy has his name put on a sex offender list from which he may never be able to get off. His life is ruined. This is usually anticipated by those who are responsible and they are very pleased with themselves.

Sidney Gendin
Professor Emeritus, Philosophy of Law
Eastern Michigan University

Posted by: Sidney Gendin | May 3, 2008 10:42:41 AM

"Those who have the responsibility of sentencing sex offenders are, for the most part, incapable of making elementary distinctions."

Sidney, even if they made the distinction between the various types of sex offenses there still wouldn't be any justification for half the things that are happening now because of the hysteria. Calling up this woman and making death threats isn't going to magically disappear because some 19 year old that slept with a 15 year old was taken off the registry.

Posted by: Mark | May 4, 2008 9:01:50 PM

The horror stories and fear are too many to describe. All SO offenders regardless of how long or current status were rounded up last Halloween and made to sit in an auditorium. Mandatory regarless of work or family. Threats included jail for failure to show. There is no choice in treatment providers or type of treatment. Treatment consists of passing the lie detector test. Berating and being called the "garbage of society." Everything you say in group gets back to the police and probation. No HIPPA protection in "treatment." How can this be treatment? Police show up at your house wearing SWAT Team bullet proof vests and guns drawn. Life is a hell. I made a mistake in college and looked at child porn. My life is over. Sooner or later someone WILL kill me. There is nothing anyone can do or will do. I have no criminal record and have never raped or molested anyone.

Posted by: DK | May 8, 2008 2:15:35 PM

"I made a mistake in college and looked at child porn. My life is over. Sooner or later someone WILL kill me. There is nothing anyone can do or will do. I have no criminal record and have never raped or molested anyone."

Mark, I have made that mistake, I had child porn on my computer, though only a handful of images. I just graduated from college this month, but I have a hearing on the 30th. I'm scared to death and don't know if my life would be worth living if convicted...Only a handful of those closest to me know about what's going on.

I am a good person and have never done anything wrong nor would I ever hurt a child in any way... people need to realize that everything IS NOT black and white. I don't get the logic in me possibly being labeled a sex offender for life and going to jail for a few images on my computer... How can someone cope with that?

Posted by: Joseph | May 13, 2008 7:36:20 AM

My name is Fima and I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
I came to US as political refugee on human rights violations in former USSR
I am russian jew, and I got a lot of discrimination in USSR
My parents are Holocaust survivors.
But I got the worst thing in USA, never possible in communist country.
I was set up with my computer, convicted as a s..x offender for computer p..rn.
Now I do not have job and can hardly survive under police database
supervision, named s..x offender registration. Nobody want to hire me,
I think because of police database.
And I have family. Who cares? Dirty polititians are playing their
dirty games for more power.
I would like to send you some links to publications about my criminal
case. I was forced to confess to the
possession of internet digital pictures of p..rn in deleted clusters
of my computer hard drive. My browser was hijacked while I was
browsing the web. I was redirected to illegal sites against my will.
Some illegal pictures were found on my hard drive, recovering in
unallocated clusters, without dates of file creation/download.

I do not know how courts can widely press these charges on people to
convict them, while the whole Internet is a mess.
You can find all links to publications about my case here

http://estrinyefim.newsvine.com/_news/2007/06/23/798199-internet-porn-hysteria

Posted by: Fima Fimovich | Jul 9, 2008 4:17:48 PM

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