Monday, June 29, 2009

"Music is the language of the Universe" Even for Prisoners

What more can we say... Congratulations for Treating your Inmates with dignity, respect and providing them a way to GIVE BACK

Thank You
Robert Paisola
The Prison Partners Foundation USA

Dancing Inmate's Michael Jackson tribute

What more can we say... Congratulations for Treating your Inmates with dignity, respect and providing them a way to GIVE BACK

Thank You
Robert Paisola
The Prison Partners Foundation USA

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Linda Nef and Valynne Bowers, Female Teachers From Bountiful, Utah Arrested For Sex Abuse, Posted by Robert Paisola

From parents to students to the Davis School District Administration, there is disbelief over the news that two popular Bountiful Jr. High School teachers admitted to having sex with a 13-year-old boy.

“I was totally shocked,” said Lorri Flake, a parent of a student at Bountiful Jr. High. “It blows me away-- it's pretty sad.”

“It happened both at private homes and in public parks,” said Lt. Randy Pickett, Bountiful Police Department.

Earlier this week, 46-year-old Linda Nef-- a Utah Studies teacher and the school's cheerleading advisor suddenly resigned-- then Thursday, showed up with her attorney at the Bountiful Police Department with a shocking confession. From December 2007 to February 2008, she said she had been having sex with a student 33 years her junior.

“She also disclosed that there was a second teacher also sexually involved with the same student,” Lt. Pickett said.

Police say Nef found out the same boy was currently sexually involved with one of her colleagues, 39-year-old Valynn Bowers-- a math teacher. Fear of the news spreading prompted her to fess up.

“All kinds of eyebrows are raised because two teachers in one school,” said Chris Williams, spokesperson for Davis County School District.

Williams says no matter who initiated the contact, the fault lies with the teachers.

“That student, no matter what the age cannot give consent,” he said. “We have adults that crossed over a line they never should have crossed.”

Williams says the administration held a meeting with all of the teachers and staff at the school to explain the situation. Bowers is currently on paid administrative leave and is in the Davis County jail. Nef was booked and released until her first court appearance.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Internet child pornography consumers aren’t always pedophiles

The proliferation of Internet pornography has been a boon to both the novice and most seasoned consumers of erotica. Every taste and proclivity — from the most pedestrian soft core porn interest to the most twisted (e.g. sadistic or degrading) and illegal (e.g. child pornography) interests — can be indulged in the privacy of one’s own home, often at no cost. The more problematic the interest, the more likely it will engage penal sanctions, and the more important it will be for lawyers to understand what the behavior is all about.

Internet pornography consumers are as heterogeneous a group as there is, and include, among others (of a non-exhaustive list): the repressed, the shy, the fearful, the insatiable, the compulsive and addictive, the impulsive, the inadequate, fetishists, masochists, deviants (a social and moral term) and paraphiliacs (a medical and diagnostic term) and oh yes, the “normals.” Major mental disorders like bipolar disorder (i.e. mania) are occasionally implicated.

Contrary to views held by some, including law enforcement, lawyers and perhaps even judges, not all consumers of child pornography are pedophiles. There are many reasons why an accused may have accessed or be in possession of child pornography obtained through the Internet. Prevention of victimization and denunciation of the behavior are clearly forefront issues, no matter what motivations underlie the behavior, but it is always important for the justice system to know who it is dealing with and to not mis characterize the offender and the offense.

In dealing with issues and behaviours that have psychological or emotional underpinnings, there is no substitute for a detailed forensic psychiatric (medicolegal) assessment. These frequently multidisciplinary evaluations consider not just the problem behaviour, but the whole person in the context of his life history. In the case of accused caught possessing or disseminating Internet child pornography, a detailed evaluation of this kind is critically important in defining the motivation for the behaviour and assessing and managing future risk.

From defence counsel’s perspective, understanding what motivated her client to participate in the activity is critical. If there are mental health considerations or psychological issues that have played a role in the behavior, then bringing that out in a detailed and well-reasoned report can and should influence a more therapeutic and risk- management oriented sentence. Of equal importance, it would be more challenging for the court to meet the aims of justice — ensuring punishment, protecting the public, rehabilitating the offender and preventing recidivism — without an assessment of this kind. Treating these offenders as a homogeneous group — which they are not — could also lead to a one-size-fits-all approach. A failure to discriminate between offender and offence variables that allow for tailor-made sentences is generally anathema to those interests and values the justice system works hard to uphold.

There are subclasses of Internet child pornography consumers, including those who pursue this type of imagery and stimuli deliberately and exclusively, those who stumble across it and who, apart from its erotic content, were further titillated by the forbidden and illegal nature of the material. There are individuals with polymorphous sexual interests for whom novelty and variety is at least, if not more important, than any one particular type of material.

This latter group, as well as those who exhibit addictive and compulsive cybersex propensities (Internet use addiction is a contentious diagnostic area), may become gripped by their need or addiction and obsession to a degree that impacts or dampens their judgment in discriminating from one (acceptable) source to another (unacceptable) source.

While there are limitations in an expert’s ability to definitively diagnose or rule out pedophilia (an erotic preference for pre-pubescent children — a key diagnostic consideration for Internet child pornography users) — an in-depth evaluation is the best means for getting at the truth of the offender’s sexual interests and makeup, or any other psychological motivating factor. The assessment subsumes a detailed psychiatric and sexological evaluation, phallometric testing (a physiological measure of sexual arousal), access to collateral information (individuals who have known the accused and potentially interacted sexually with him), as well as laboratory investigations and, often, psychological testing (including use of risk assessment tools).

Experienced forensic psychiatrists generally approach cases featuring this behaviour with a high index of suspicion (i.e. a questioning and even cynical approach — an occupational hazard) about the nature and purpose of the behavior and the diagnostic realm to which it belongs. Pedophilia is invariably hypothesized, but is only tenable if the individual has a fairly entrenched and predominant interest in prepubescent children that has manifested in (masturbatory) fantasy, urges and behaviour and he has acted on these urges, is distressed by them or has experienced interpersonal difficulty as a result.

There may be subgroups of pedophiles out there who have lived exclusively in fantasy and have the wherewithal, self-control and enough of a repertoire of acceptable sexual interests and behavior to have successfully avoided acting out (some have just avoided getting caught). In the (false, as it turns out) security of their home, computer access created the first instance in which a miscalculation (possibly brought about by the bounty of forbidden and erotically stimulating material) caused them to fly headfirst into the radar.

Again, distinguishing the pedophile from an accused who viewed and downloaded Internet child pornography because, among so many things (on his computer), it met his needs for novelty and diversity is a different diagnostic matter, has different implications for society’s risk and well being and, arguably, is an entirely different situation for the justice system.

It would be very important for the assessor to consider, apart from all of the information noted above, the manner in which the accused went about accessing the child pornography (did he pay for it, join chat lines, take steps to access or meet children), the exclusivity or degree of representation of child pornography in his collection of erotic or pornographic material and the degree to which any interest in children, deduced from the materials seized or websites visited, reflects previously enacted subtle or overt sexually motivated behaviors toward children.

The lawyer and expert should communicate prior to the assessment so that the lawyer can be informed and, in turn, inform the client of what to expect, allay concerns, review confidentiality and duty to warn considerations and stress the importance of honest disclosure (and the pitfalls of a lack thereof). Ongoing communication is ideal. The lawyer will want to know where the assessment is headed and the implications of either a potentially positive or negative assessment on legal strategies.

Individuals convicted of crimes falling under the general category of Internet child pornography will already bear the designation “sex offender.” If the truth about the offender’s sexual diagnosis (or lack of one) and motivation is not brought out, then he may further be labeled a “pedophile” — an even more noxious pejorative and socially loaded designation that could dog him for life.

Hy Bloom is a forensic psychiatrist and lawyer. He assesses individuals whose psychological and emotional state, motivation or behaviour are of relevance in a criminal, civil, professional regulatory or employment matter. He is a director of workplace.calm inc., consultants in workplace conflict and violence prevention and management. ..News Source.. by Hy Bloom

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Budget woes prompt states to rethink prison policy


AP National Writer

NEW YORK » Their budgets in crisis, governors, legislators and prison officials across the nation are making or considering policy changes that will likely remove tens of thousands of offenders from prisons and parole supervision.

Collectively, the pending and proposed initiatives could add up to one of biggest shifts ever in corrections policy, putting into place cost-saving reforms that have struggled to win political support in the tough-on-crime climate of recent decades.

"Prior to this fiscal crisis, legislators could tinker around the edges -- but we're now well past the tinkering stage," said Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, which advocates alternatives to incarceration.

"Many political leaders who weren't comfortable enough, politically, to do it before can now -- under the guise of fiscal responsibility -- implement programs and policies that would be win/win situations, saving money and improving corrections," Mauer said

In California, faced with a projected $42 billion deficit and prison overcrowding that has triggered a federal lawsuit, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to eliminate parole for all offenders not convicted of violent or sex-related crimes, reducing the parole population by about 70,000. He also wants to divert more petty criminals to county jails and grant early release to more inmates -- steps that could trim the prison population by 15,000 over the next 18 months.

In Kentucky, where the inmate population had been soaring, even some murderers and other violent offenders are benefiting from a temporary cost-saving program that has granted early release to nearly 2,000 inmates.

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine is proposing early release of about 1,000 inmates. New York Gov. David Paterson wants early release for 1,600 inmates as well as an overhaul of the so-called Rockefeller Drug Laws that impose lengthy mandatory sentences on many nonviolent drug offenders.

"These laws have neither curbed drug use nor enhanced public safety," said Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union. "Instead, they have ruined thousands of lives and annually wasted millions of tax dollars in prison costs."

Policy-makers in Michigan, one of four states that spend more money on prisons than higher education, are awaiting a report later this month from the Council of State Governments' Justice Center on ways to trim fast-rising corrections costs, likely including sentencing and parole modifications.

"There's a new openness to taking a look," said state Sen. Alan Cropsey, a Republican who in the past has questioned some prison-reform proposals. "What we'll see are changes being made that will have a positive impact four, five, six years down the road."

Even before the recent financial meltdown, policy-makers in most states were wrestling with ways to contain corrections costs. The Pew Center's Public Safety Performance Project has projected that state and federal prison populations -- under current policies -- will grow by more than 190,000 by 2011, to about 1.7 million, at a cost to the states of $27.5 billion.

"Prisons are becoming less and less of a sacred cow," said Adam Gelb, the Pew project's director. "The budget crisis is giving leaders on both sides of the aisle political cover they need to tackle issues that would be too tough to tackle when budgets are flush."

In contrast to past economic downturns, Gelb said, states now have better data on how to effectively supervise nonviolent offenders in their communities so prison populations can be reduced without increasing the threat to public safety.

Safety remains a potent factor. In California, for example, the state correctional officers' union contends Schwarzenegger's proposals will fuel more crime.

In Idaho, a combination of budget cuts and prison overcrowding contributed to an uprising Jan. 2 in a former prison workshop that was converted into a temporary cell block. Inmates who engaged in vandalism and arson had been placed there as part of a cost-cutting effort to move other prisoners back to Idaho from more expensive quarters at a private prison in Oklahoma.

Thomas Sneddon, a former Santa Barbara, Calif., prosecutor who is now executive director of the National District Attorneys Association, said he and his colleagues support reappraisals of corrections policies yet worry constantly that dangerous criminals will be released unwisely.

"I don't think the public at large has any idea of who's in these prisons," Sneddon said. "If they went and visited, they'd say 'My God, don't let any of these people out.'"

He noted that many states are seeking to send fewer offenders back to prison for technical violations of parole conditions. Some of these violations are indeed relatively minor, Sneddon said, but often they are accompanied by more serious criminal behavior that warrants a return to prison.

As budgetary pressures worsen, some advocacy groups are concerned that spending cuts will target the very programs needed to help inmates avoid re-offending after release -- education, vocational and drug-treatment programs.

"The idea that we'd cut programs and then release inmates early is a toxic combination," said Pat Nolan, vice president of Prison Fellowship. "Just opening prison doors and letting people out with no preparation -- that's cruel to the offender and dangerous to public."

However, Nolan, a former California legislator who served time in a federal prison on a racketeering charge, sees the current climate as ripe for the kind of reforms Prison Fellowship has advocated with its Christian-based outreach programs.

"It's forcing the legislators to see the actual costs of imprisonment, because it's coming out of the budget for schools, roads, hospitals," he said.

The Council of State Government's Justice Center has been working with 10 states to develop options for curbing prison populations without jeopardizing public safety. Tactics used in Texas and Kansas have included early release for inmates who complete specified programs, more sophisticated community supervision of offenders, and expanded treatment and diversion programs.

"There's an unprecedented level of interest in this kind of thinking," said the Justice Center's director, Michael Thompson. "It's a combination of fiscal pressure and a certain fatigue of doing the same thing as 20 years ago and getting the same return."

In Florida, where prisons are so crowded that the state has acquired tents for possible use to house inmates, officials say 19 new prisons may be needed over the next five years. As an alternative, Corrections Secretary Walter McNeil told lawmakers they should re-evaluate the state's hard-line sentencing policies and look at ways to help released inmates avoid returning to prison.

One important variable is the role of private prisons, which some advocacy groups consider less accountable that state-run prisons. Elizabeth Alexander of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Prison Project expressed concern that fiscally struggling states would rely increasingly on private operators.

The largest private prison firm, Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America, operates in 20 states and says some of them have asked if CCA can expand its capacity so more beds don't need to be added to the state-run system.

"Of the states we do business with, none have made prison construction a priority in this economic environment," said Tony Grande, CCA's executive vice president. "Our partnership with the states will become even stronger. ...We want to be a part of their financial solution."