Sunday, June 12, 2011

Encinitas Skirmish in The War on Sex Offenders

There are two distinct bodies of literature on sexual offender law. The most important is that from the mass media, for example the "San Diego Union Tribune," that printed close to a thousand articles cheering on Chelsea's Law. Columnists vied with each other to most floridly express their loathing for the perpetrator of the crime, while praising this law and it's sponsor, Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher. There was so little space given for serious analysis, that the rare articles that made it to print died of isolation. This includes a single editorial that demanded elimination of excessive residence restrictions. It was ignored in the legislation and never mentioned again in the newspaper.

The other body of writing is from academic sources, the disciplines of anthropology, sociology, psychology and law that underlie the field of criminology. These research based, often cross cultural studies describe the political processes of creating this body of law, along with evaluation of their effectiveness. Such literature, examples of which I have referenced in my personal blog article linked below, are little read by the public, and have almost no effect on policy. I will not be writing here about this this body of research.

Readers of this blog are intensely interested in the small city of Encinitas California, and follow its council members like the general public follows Members of Congress,. So, this blog article will start with one event, a five minute segment of a city council debate over sending a letter of endorsement for Chelsea's Law. It's best to watch the video linked below and we can continue right afterwards. (for those who can't access it, or if you want the short synopsis in my recent article in Coast News along with additional references, it's here on my own blog AlRodbell.blogspot.com.) I'll continue with this excerpt from that article. In a break from a major focus of Lucadia Blog, this is not written to criticize or praise any of the members of the Council, but to illustrate a process of creating legislation in this area which transcends local politics.

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From The Coast News:

The political dynamics were clearly illustrated on May 26, 2010 (available on video drop down to discussion at 1hr 50 m ) when the City of Encinitas Council was asked to vote on endorsing a letter supporting the law.
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The law provides for up to life imprisonment for aggravated first offenses, at a cost estimated to reach over a hundred million dollars a year. As with the truism that prevention is more effective than incarceration, the belief that early inappropriate sexual activity is predictive of later violent crimes is equally uncertain. But by the time the issue came to the Encinitas Council this law was on steamroller, and sending the letter of support to the legislature seemed assured.

One member of the council, Maggie Houlihan, suggested that while she, like everyone else, abhors sexual violence this law should be considered in the context of other social needs. She suggested a modification of the letter of endorsement that would have noted the need for this larger perspective.

Councilman Jerome Stocks dismissed this vehemently, saying, "I don't want to hear about potential problems, let the legislature find the money." Maggie wasn't intimidated. After a sharp interaction, acknowledging that her vote against unconditional support of the bill would draw constituent's anger, she concluded with, "This is a much larger problem of our penal system."

The vote to send the letter was only opposed by Maggie, with the other three members who were clearly ambivalent not willing to go on record against it. Several months later at an election forum at Cardiff, I brought this up in front of the large audience. Candidate Dan Dalager (under siege for alleged corruption), whom I confronted for passively voting for this resolution, didn't defend his vote, but pointed out that three other members did the same thing.

Then, Teresa Barth, who was also on the ballot for the council, stood up and made a statement that explains much about the political process in our country at all levels. She said, "I didn't want to vote to send that letter. But, if I had voted against it, every candidate's mailer would have blasted me for not supporting Chelsea's Law, that I was soft on child sexual predators."

Maggie Houlihan may well have been the only elected official in California to publicly question Chelsea's Law.

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I ended my Coast News essay with this:

The law was promoted, and accepted as being targeted for "the worst of the worst" the irredeemable sociopaths such as Chelsea King's killer John Gardner. Actually, the first person who was prosecuted under this law was Joseph Cantorna, a fifty five year old brain damaged man whose offense was inappropriately touching two boys whom he believed to be his grandsons. After the expense of pre-trial incarceration and preparing a prosecution under this law, it took the Judge five minutes to throw the case against this obviously incompetent person out of court.

I have written this synopsis of the half hour jail house interview with Cantorna, a man who still wants to play doctor with the little girls and boys. He doesn't want to do any harm, yet has a temper that explodes when he doesn't get his way. We, as a society, unlike others in other times, have decided to accept him, acknowledging his severe mental deficiency that precludes the development of sexual constraints that shape what we describe as acceptable behavior. Yet, when he is caught doing something rather minor, that is for his five year old mental-emotional age; with Chelsea's law, we have chosen not to segregate him from others in a protective place, but rather put him in a prison with hardened predatory felons to live out his life.

While I have a pretty good idea what is wrong with this system, getting it right is more of a challenge. And that's where I'll leave it; hoping to get some insights from others who may read this.

Al Rodbell
Encinitas Resident and frequent contributor to DailyKos.

12 comments:

  1. I don't see Mr. Rodbell coming to an end conclusion here. What would be preferable to Chelsea's law? He also never states what he think the problems with Chelsea's law are, but rather just demonstrates Maggie Houlihan's.

    Also the end parable about the mentally disabled man lacks a little common sense.

    If he is a mentally disabled person, who was caught 'touching two small boys inappropriately' who experiences short bursts of furious anger, than why shouldn't he be institutionalized. The judge could have easily mandated a treatment that required him to be removed from society, and should have done so.

    A 55 year old, who wants to play doctor with small children and 'touch them inappropriately' gives public exhibitions of boundless rage, although it is not his fault that he is this way, should be removed from places in which he could do possible harm.

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  2. Two links that do not appear on the early posting of my article:

    The first is a summary and link to the interview with Joseph Cantorna,

    http://consilienceforum.blogspot.com/2011/06/interview-with-first-person-tried-under.html

    A major point of this essay is the contrast between this individual and the John Gardner, the murderer of Chelsea King, the "worst of the worst, this law was designed for.

    Another important link is to the full Coast News article, which contains numerous additional references:

    http://alrodbell.blogspot.com/2011/06/references-for-coast-news-essay-on.html

    My blogs on Dailykos can be accessed by this url:

    http://www.dailykos.com/blog/arodb

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  3. A few problems with Mr. Rodbell's view.

    First, the fact that the judge threw the case out is evidence that the law is not being applied more broadly than intended. One silly prosecutor tried to push it too far and got shot down.

    Second, the facts of the Chelsea King case are appalling because the tragedy was so preventable. Gardner had committed violent rape on a child (including a vicious beating) and got out after only a few years. On top of that the parole monitoring was useless. If the liberals in the legislature want to avoid "draconian" public reaction to dangerous predators, they shouldn't have allowed a failed system for so many years that made murders like Chelsea King's inevitable.

    As to the Encinitas angle, Jerome Stocks was grandstanding because he thought he had a shot at higher office, and he was probably also trying to play "gotcha" on Barth.

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  4. Good points Balloo. Maybe Al is first trying to get the public to recognize the problem before tossing out a solution. Just saying.

    Prison is just one type of institution. University is another.

    Silence is complicity, Balloo. Why don't you have any objections to the city council wasting so much money on the roads report defense?

    One hundred thousand dollars and counting.

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  5. I think we've hit an anomaly, I agree almost 100% with what W.C. Varones.

    @ Starman - Although I would stay away from the comment that Silence is complicity, because it has some implications that I have problems with, I do agree that sometime soon, I need to comment on what's going on with the Cummins case and the road report fiasco. There's been a bit of a lapse in my commenting/blogging in the last few months because I've been incredibly busy, but I intend to re-enter the blogosphere to a deeper extent soon, and I promise that the Cummins case will be the first new post.....Not that anyone reads anyways.

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  6. Mr. Rodbell;

    In my opinion, you and many Americans are too focused on why someone does something and less focused on the act itself.

    I personally could care less if someone had a bad upbringing, has wires crossed, is retarted, slow, doesn't know what sex they are, or flat out makes bad decisions their whole life and are completely incompetent to do anything right; when someone molests a child, they should be skinned like a slaughtered chicken and hung from a post for all the world to see.

    If that was the case, all the other "sick" minded people would see their future if they act on their impulse and the world would be a better place. In addition, tax payers wouldn't have to pay to keep "scum" alive.

    In my opinion, it would greatly help humans evolve into a more positive creator for this earth.

    This country and others needs to learn to kill off our bad citizens in a cost effective way. The world greatest problem is over-pollution by the ever=polluting humans. We definitely do not need any of the bad eggs around.

    When you and all vote, lets put people in office that will off these losers in the lowest method possible. I say a blunt hammer to skull would work fine.

    Thanks for caring and lets improve this world today.

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  7. Baloo,

    Even stranger than you agreeing with W.C., I agree with your points.

    I say skin and hang any 55 retard touching young boys inappropriately. If that what he does, lets rid our earth of scum like that.

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  8. Well Jack, I wouldn't go as far as you do, but I do think we need to get predators out of society; mentally ill or not.

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  9. Jack>>...all the other "sick" minded people would see their future if they act on their impulse...>>

    Unfortunately with this sort of impulsive crime by a person with a mental disorder, that's not true. Indeed keeping offenders locked up forever does nothing to prevent first time offenders, which all repeat offenders were at one time.

    We should not be satisfied with ONLY stopping repeat offenders, we need to understand WHY someone becomes a first time offender.
    With that I totally reject your suggestion that >>you and many Americans are too focused on why someone does something>>>. AFAIK we're not really doing ANYTHING significant to understand WHY someone does it, despite their knowing the lifelong consequences. Until we do, I see no reason how the frequency of first-time offenders will change, sadly.

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  10. Its called elliminating the bad seed so they don't reproduce or cost us any additional costs. As soon as they display that bad behavior, kill them. Two major goals accomplished.

    1. Bad seed removed from Earth.

    2. Taxpayers not paying to keep the bad seed alive and future costs are eliminated.

    Kill them quick and kill them often. There is no good reason to keep them alive.

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  11. Jack>>.1. Bad seed removed from Earth.>>

    Sex offending is hereditary?????
    If you have any evidence to support that claim it would be ground breaking. I suspect you just made that up.



    Jack>>2. Taxpayers not paying to keep the bad seed alive and future costs are eliminated.>>

    The reality is it costs $90,000 more per year to keep someone on Death Row than in a maximum security prisons.
    See Report of the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/costs-death-penalty


    Also, what about situations such as http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kern_County_child_abuse_cases

    The 34 wrongfully convicted each spent many years in jail. what if, as you're suggesting, they'd been executed?

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  12. Jack>>.1. Bad seed removed from Earth.>>

    Sex offending is hereditary?????
    If you have any evidence to support that claim it would be ground breaking. I suspect you just made that up.

    It doesn't matter if its hereditary or not. Get rid of the bad ones and you have less problems on earth immediately and in the future.



    Jack>>2. Taxpayers not paying to keep the bad seed alive and future costs are eliminated.>>

    The reality is it costs $90,000 more per year to keep someone on Death Row than in a maximum security prisons.
    See Report of the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/costs-death-penalty

    that means there's a problem with the system. A simple suggestions to get costs down would be once convicted in Court, take them to a room in the back of the court, shoot them in the head, and send them to the incinerator. My way would cost probably between $100 and $200 per person. I could probably even do it for less.


    Also, what about situations such as http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kern_County_child_abuse_cases

    The 34 wrongfully convicted each spent many years in jail. what if, as you're suggesting, they'd been executed?

    Who's to say the estimate of 34 is correct. It could be wrongfully calculated. I do realize, in our system a small percentage gets prosecuted that are innocent which sucks. Life is not fair, our system is not perfect, but it doesn't change the point that molesters should be killed immediately. If more were killed, people would be extra sensitive to being on the best behavior. You point doesn't change anything from my point of view.

    ReplyDelete

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