aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Saturday, October 27, 2007
A model of juvenile justice
The NYTimes says Missouri has turned its juvenile justice system into a nationally recognized model of how to deal effectively with troubled children:
Missouri has abandoned mass kiddie prisons in favor of small community-based centers that stress therapy, not punishment. When possible, young people are kept near their homes so their parents can participate in rehabilitation that includes extensive family therapy. It is the first stable, caring environment many of these young people have ever known. Case managers typically handle 15 to 20 children. In other state systems, the caseloads can get much higher.
The oversight does not end with the young person’s release. The case managers follow their charges closely for many months and often help with job placement, therapy referrals, school issues and drug or alcohol treatment. After completing the program, officials say, only about 10 percent of their detainees are recommitted to the system by the juvenile courts.
A law-and-order state, Missouri was working against its own nature when it embarked on this project about 25 years ago. But with favorable data piling up, and thousands of young lives saved, the state is now showing the way out of the juvenile justice crisis.
Again Georgians, it’s time we get out and advocate change for our outdated and inadequate juvenile justice system. If you’re in Gainesville, Augusta, Griffin or Milledgeville, there’s a town hall meeting coming soon to your town (scroll down). Go and speak up!
Court decision freeing Genarlow: scarier than Halloween
The pithy Senate President pro tem Eric Johnson on the court decision freeing Genarlow:
Senate President pro tem Eric Johnson (R-Savannah) condemned the ruling, saying that, by a single vote, the court opened the prison door for the release of “hundreds of sexual predators.”
Georgians, he said, “may cheer the release of Genarlow Wilson, but they should be scared to death of what that means for their own safety and the safety of their children. This is scarier than Halloween.”
He’s been singing that same song for a very long time.
BTW, I’ve been reading Johnson’s claim that 1,100 sex offenders could be freed to suggest that there are 1,100 kids in jail for sex offenses in Georgia. Thankfully, that is way, way wrong:
According to the Department of Corrections, as of this summer, 58 of 1,322 inmates imprisoned for aggravated child molestation were 18 years or younger at the time they were sentenced.
Johnson’s just been using the baseless notion that to free a kid opens up the prison gates for all sex offenders as a scare tactic to keep Genarlow locked up. I’d still like to know more about Johnson and McDade and the distribution of that sex tape.
Genarlows free, others remain. Change the law!
Many young people are trapped on the state sex offender registry for nonviolent and consensual sex acts as teens.
The registry is a prison sentence in its own right, fencing even low-risk offenders off from most of society. Georgia law bars offenders from living or loitering within 1,000 feet of schools, day care centers, parks, rec centers or skating rinks. Last year, the General Assembly added churches, swimming pools and school bus stops to the list, and, for the first time, placed limits on where offenders could work. Now, sex offenders can’t hold jobs near schools, child care centers or churches. [...]
Those sweeping limits have stranded other young offenders with virtually no place to go. Also convicted at age 17 of having oral sex with a 15 -year-old, Jeffery York, 23, of Polk County has resorted to sleeping in a camper van in the woods to comply with the registry. When she was 17, Wendy Whitaker, 28, of Harlem had oral sex with a teen about to turn 16; her sodomy conviction landed her on the registry and forced her and her husband to move twice already.
Now that the Supreme Court has issued a common-sense ruling that sex between teens is not the equivalent of adults preying on children, it’s the Legislature’s turn to act on reason. Lawmakers must amend the sex offender registry law so that it distinguishes between two immature high school kids hooking up at a party to a pedophile molesting the toddler next door.
Agreed. Most kids don’t belong on the registry at all. But while we’re calling on the legislature to change laws, let’s not stop at the registry.
[The Georgia Supreme Court] found Genarlow Wilson’s 10 year sentence to be “cruel and unusual punishment” for the crime of which he was convicted. However, I’m not sure this majority opinion is that sound or has any precedential value whatsoever.
Specifically, I’m not sure that its distinguishment of Widner [pdf] is appropriate. The Court says that the main reason Widner is distinguishable (in Widner, the defendant was 18 and the “victim” was a few days shy of 14) is because the legislative change that altered the punishment for Genarlow did not do so for Widner.
What troubles me about this is that the Court seems to take its cues on the “evolving standard of decency” from legislative acts… The court is essentially saying that a 10 year sentence for consensual oral sex between a 17 year old and a 15 year old is “cruel and unusual”, but it is okay if the actors are 18 and 14, because the legislature didn’t want to change that.
Age-span provisions are clearly lacking. William Saleten writing in Slate says it’s time to abandon the myth of the “age of consent.” He articulates the notion of a graduated age-span provision that takes into account differences in the age of physical, cognitive and emotional maturity. It’s the beginnings of a logical scheme for regulating teen sex:
I’d draw the object line at 12, the cognitive line at 16, and the self-regulatory line at 25. I’d lock up anyone who went after a 5-year-old. I’d come down hard on a 38-year-old who married a 15-year-old. And if I ran a college, I’d discipline professors for sleeping with freshmen. When you’re 35, “she’s legal” isn’t good enough.
What I wouldn’t do is slap a mandatory sentence on a 17-year-old, even if his nominal girlfriend were 12. I know the idea of sex at that age is hard to stomach. I wish our sexual, cognitive, and emotional maturation converged in a magic moment we could call the age of consent. But they don’t.
Georgians, it’s time we get out and advocate change in our outdated and inadequate juvenile justice system. If you’re in Gainesville, Augusta, Griffin or Milledgeville, there’s a town hall meeting coming soon to your town (scroll down). Go and speak up!
RELATED: On sex offender registries: do they work? (hint: no!)
The Advocate: How did this happen? Was Mr. McClurkin vetted?
Senator Obama: Obviously, not vetted to the extent that people were aware of his attitudes with respect to gay and lesbians, LGBT issues—at least not vetted as well as I would have liked to see.
Having said that, we viewed this simply as an opportunity to have a gospel concert as part of our overall outreach, and since he was singing at a concert along with a number of other artists, as opposed to being a spokesperson for us, probably it didn’t undergo the same kind of vet that someone who was serving as a surrogate for me might have.
Some black gay activists I’ve spoken to say this doesn’t make them question Obama the senator, but it does make them question the campaign—do they really understand the nuances of these issues, are they really sitting down and talking with gay folks, because it seems like this decision came purely through the lens of faith?
Look, these kinds of issues are going to crop up inevitably through the course of campaigns. It’s important to recognize that these are issues that every Democratic candidate who has African-American ministers as supporters may have to confront. It just so happened that it popped up on the screen in this particular instance. But I assure you, I am not the only candidate who’s got a black minister or a white minister who’s supporting them prominently who subscribes to similar views.
Part of the reason that we have had a faith outreach in our campaigns is precisely because I don’t think the LGBT community or the Democratic Party is served by being hermetically sealed from the faith community and not in dialogue with a substantial portion of the electorate, even though we may disagree with them.
Part of what I have done in my campaign and in my career is be willing to go to churches and talk to ministers and tell them exactly what I think. And go straight at some of these issues of homophobia that exist in the church in a way that no other candidate has done. I believe that’s important. We can try to pretend these issues don’t exist and then be surprised when a gay marriage amendment pops up and is surprisingly successful in a state. I think the better strategy is to take it head on and we’ve got to show up. These people of faith may be operating in part out of unfamiliarity, or they may be insular in terms of how they’re viewing LGBT issues, they may not understand how what they say may be hurtful, and the only way for us to be able to communicate that is to show up.
I know you’re in a difficult position here trying to balance these two constituencies—but by keeping McClurkin on the tour, didn’t you essentially choose your Christian constituency over your gay constituency?
No, I profoundly disagree with that. This is not a situation where I have backed off my positions one iota. You’re talking to somebody who talked about gay Americans in his convention speech in 2004, who talked about them in his announcement speech for the president of the United States, who talks about gay Americans almost constantly in his stump speeches. If there’s somebody out there who’s been more consistent in including LGBT Americans in his or her vision of what America should be, then I would be interested in knowing who that person is. [READ ON]
Ok. Good. I’m largely persuaded.
LATER from Open Left:
So, by Obama’s own admission, the campaign made a vetting mistake with McClurkin, and then got caught between two groups who wanted different outcomes. Claiming after the fact that this means the Obama campaign is some great big tent where people of all stripes come together and forge new alliances ignores that this only became an issue because of a mistake. The Obama campaign might indeed be such a big tent, but the Obama campaign did not intentionally invite McClurkin to sing in order to have a coalition building conversation between the GLBT community and more stridently homophobic members the African-American clergy
Paul Newman exits
At The Moderate Voice today, Robert Stein looks at the friendship of Paul Newman and Robert Redford:
“Certain friendships,” Robert Redford once said about Paul Newman, “are too good and too strong to talk about.” This month, Redford broke his silence to say that the final movie they planned to make together was not to be:
“It’s not happening, sadly. Paul and I were planning to do a film version of Bill Bryson’s wonderful book ‘A Walk In The Woods.’
“I got the rights to the movie four years ago, and we couldn’t decide if we were too old to do it. Then we decided, ‘Let’s go for it.’
“But time passed, and Paul’s been getting old fast. I think things deteriorated for him. Finally, two months ago he called and said, ‘I gotta retire.’ The picture was written and everything. It breaks my heart.Ã¢â‚¬Â�
In the summer of 1970 I was a ticket taker at The Harrisburg Drive-In Theater. There I watched Newman and Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid twice a night for the duration of its two-week run. We’re all getting older.
[L]ast spring, the 82-year-old Newman told an interviewer, “I’m not able to work at the level I would want to. You start to lose your memory, you start to lose your confidence, you start to lose your invention. So I think that’s pretty much a closed book for me.”
Redford at 71 has a new picture coming out next month, “Lions for Lambs,” which he directed and plays a leading role in. More polemical than his previous work, Redford hopes the movie will encourage young people “to take command of their voice” in American politics.
Over long careers, Newman and Redford personified an alternative American manhood to the full-throttle macho of John Wayne and the young Clint Eastwood–a more complex mix of strength, wit and sensitivity. (Newman turned down “Dirty Harry.” )
Off-screen, they lived away from Hollywood–Newman in Connecticut, Redford in Utah–lives of social responsibility rather than movie-star celebrity. [...]
In the early 1980s, our mutual friend A. E. Hotchner wrote about their light-hearted efforts to bottle and sell Newman’s salad dressing. Since then, a line of Newman’s Own products has earned $200 million for charity.
Meanwhile, Redford was creating a mecca for independent film makers in Sundance, Utah and giving their work recognition and commercial opportunities.
As Newman exits from the public stage and Redford keeps working for the public good, those repeated showings of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” on TV are reminders of how much actors can accomplish in what we call real life.