ORIGINAL “ONCE FALLEN” ARTICLE AND SPEECH TO CINCINNATI CITY COUNCIL, Jan. 10, 2007
In 2006, I was evicted due to Ohio’s residency restriction law. After finding a new apartment, the city of Cincinnati sought to expand restrictions through a local ordinance. While I tried fighting the laws in the courts, I had been unsuccessful. This time, I would try fighting the legislation before it passed. It was my first efforts at stopping bad legislation, and I was successful. The city eventually backed off and I was able to keep my apartment.
This was my first true act of Anti-Registry activism. This report was one of the first I wrote, finished a year before I began OnceFallen.com. I have obviously come a long ways since 2006. This little piece of history will remain here completely as a virtual time capsule into my first foray into Anti-Registry activism.
SOPHIA WINTER 2006 REPORT “ONCE FALLEN”
By: Derek Logue, “The Fallen One”
As I walked out of Cincinnati City Hall the afternoon of December 5th, I let out a great big sigh of relief. Just three hours earlier, I had discovered on Channel 9 that the city council was hosting an open house to debate the efficacy of tightening residency restrictions on sex offenders. In haste I threw on some clothes, grabbed my 61 year old mother and my camcorder, and hopped the first bus downtown. I knew I’d be the only “monster” there, and my heart was pounding. I knew what I was about to say would create controversy. But no one else was willing to take a stand for me or anyone else with my label. I committed a sex crime in Alabama way back in 1999, nearly eight long years ago. More specifically, I had kissed an underage girl. I typically don’t tell people the reason for my actions that day because people would say I’m justifying or minimizing my actions, but the fact is that it was a consensual yet age inappropriate act. Yet I take full responsibility for my actions. I was warned to steer clear of her, but I didn’t listen because I was stubborn and lonely and depressed. In the end I blame no one but myself, however, and realize the wrongfulness of my actions.
I was arrested not long after graduating college with a Bachelor’s Degree in, ironically, Criminal Justice. I freely confessed to my actions and I accepted the terms of a plea bargain approved by the state and the victims family, and rejected probation. I served three years in Bullock County Correctional Facility in Union Springs, Alabama. I received good time but did not receive parole. I moved to Cincinnati because out of over 60 halfway houses I contacted across the country, only one would give me a chance. I didn’t even know I was moving to Cincinnati until five days before my release, because a halfway house in Pensacola, Florida who had previously agreed to take me in backed out at the last moment. Alabama does not release sex offenders who lack a place to go upon release; the state actually charges them with a felony failure to register charge. Thus I faced more time in prison simply because I could not find a place to live. But a controversial church accepted me and my Catholic priest bought the hundred dollar one-way ticket to Cincinnati.
I arrived in Cincinnati April 1st, 2003 with the clothes I was wearing, about a buck fifty left from the lousy ten bucks the prison sent me out with, and all my class notes from the various secular and religious education classes I took in the penitentiary. I registered with the local sheriff’s department; they determined I was a sexually oriented offender. For ten months I stood on street corners selling M&M candies; hated it greatly I did, and I was probably the worst fundraiser they ever had, but it beat sitting in an Alabama jail cell. Between prison, this church program, and my subsequent seven month term as a homeless person on the mean streets of Cincinnati, I became a man. I was never confidant in myself, I did not know how to take care of myself, to do what’s right, to hide my fears, or to do what needs to be done for myself. All that has changed. I am not the person I once was. I am different. Bolder. More confident. More motivated and determined to prove people wrong.
In my last Sex Offenders Anonymous meeting before I left prison, I was asked to give a presentation. It was a bittersweet goodbye. Many of these people were my friends, and I still to this day write them faithfully. They gave me a card to encourage me but they doubted I was going to last three years. I heard all the stories about what sex offenders endure upon release; people shooting at them, chasing them out of town, and so forth. Well I heard the same thing before I went to prison about the pecking order and “Bubba” but I survived prison without having to “fight or fuck.” I was just as determined to prove them wrong as I was to prove the lawmakers wrong.
I carried this determination with me out the gate and off the streets. I accepted a menial job in May 2004 I was at one time too proud to take before, because I was determined to survive. I found a sleeping room which the sheriff’s department claimed met the residency requirements for sex offenders. I moved to Walnut Hills in June 2004. I lived a boring, “normal” life for a time. I even started dating again. I had fallen in love with a woman who had children. I told her on the first date the whole story of my sex offense. Honesty is always the best policy; no point in wasting anyone’s time if they couldn’t accept me for who I am, after all. She accepted me at the time and I thought I had beaten the odds.
Then the gates of hell opened. After two years, in April 2005, the sheriff’s office suddenly decided that simply because I came from a state which mandates all sex offenders to register for life regardless of status, I was to be reclassified as a “sexual predator.” The backlash was swift and severe– my girlfriend dumped me and became a bitter enemy. Then in June 2005, I got a notice from the City Solicitor’s office that I was too close to the Life Skills Center. I lost my job in August 2005, only a couple of weeks after the store received a new female store manager. Again I was faced with a scenario similar to the one I faced around the time I committed my crime. Depression, loneliness, instability of life, constant harassment by the people are the primary factors of recidivism. Yet the thought of committing another sex crime repulses me. In spite of my despair, depression, and fear, I was determined for the first time in my life to stand up for myself and fight.
I began my long legal battle in June 2005 with a hearing on my classification status. David Singleton from the Ohio Justice and Policy Center was my attorney. A legal juggernaut he is, yet his arguments fell upon deaf ears. My designation of “sexual predator” was upheld. I was incensed and wanted to throw a chair at the judge, but David calmed me down. He told me in so many words that I have to keep my cool if I’m going to ever be heard. I took those words to heart because I’ve always solved problems with fists and weapons but in court the weapon is the mind not the fist or the sword. Ever since I’ve handled all my legal affairs in a professional manner for the most part. I argued my own case on the constitutionality of ORC 2950.031 in September 2006 in the Court of Common Pleas. Unfortunately the argument again fell on deaf ears, but I filed an appeal.
As I sat in City Hall that day waiting for the meeting to begin, I watched the secretary hand out a three page report I had typed up to each of the four present city council members. I saw Jeff Berding scoff at what I had written and roll his eyes before whispering some comments before whispering some comments to Cecil Thomas. I bit my tongue because I knew I was going to be the last speaker that day and I would have my chance to look him in the eyes and speak my mind. Finally the meeting began. First up was David Singleton, my attorney, followed by nearly a dozen people, some in support and some opposed. There was one lady, a crime victim, who said we should all be executed. Others seemed more concerned about their property values. There was a reverend who opposed the law as well as a top legal analyst and researcher who opposed it.
Finally I was introduced and I spoke in a very bold and clear voice. I told them I was a sex offender and many were taken aghast. I looked each of the four council members, Cecil Thomas, leslie Ghiz, Jeff Berding, and Chris Monzel in the eye, and described the troubles I endured as a rehabilitated sex offender who is just trying to live out the rest of his life in peace and about how the laws do not protect our children. One of my quotes would later be used in the Fox 19 10 o’clock News about how the laws dictating where I lay my head at night do nothing to prevent where I go during the day. Though my words have once again fallen upon deaf ears, I wanted these people to see how these laws affected a living, breathing human being, not some flat mug shot on a flyer or the internet, or some anonymous statistic.
The moment the meeting was over, I was approached by the reporter from News 5. He shook my hand and introduced himself and told me I had guts for stepping up before the city council and freely identifying myself as a registered sex offender and requested a brief interview. While I was doing that, my mother stood nearby waiting on me to finish and overheard comments city council member Leslie Ghiz was making about me. When she approached Ghiz, Ghiz silenced herself. The crime victim would not even look my mother in the eyes and kept quiet until the media hounds focused their attentions on her. With that my mother and I took our leaves.
I am not your average sex offender. I freely admit to my mistakes and have done all I can to make reparations for all my sins. If anyone commits a sex crime they should do time in prison. But harassing sex offenders upon release from prison solves nothing; in fact, it makes the problem worse! I am in the process of forming a non-profit organization called Sex Offenders Pursuing Healing In Adversity, or SOPHIA, an informational and educational network for sex offenders and those desiring to learn about sex offenders. A large part of my job is information and research on sex offender laws. What I have found has only solidified my belief that residency restrictions cause more harm than good.
The Fallacy of Residency Restrictions for Sex Offenders
In 2001, the State of Iowa passed a law restricting sex offenders from residing within 2000 feet of a school or daycare center. This law was endorsed by the Iowa County Attorneys Association, a group of prosecuting attorneys. On February 14th, 2006, this same group of prosecutors released a “Statement On Sex Offender Residency Restrictions In Iowa.” Among their findings was the following:
There is no correlation between residency restrictions and reducing sex crimes against children; the vast majority of sex crimes, quoted here as 80-90% are committed by someone the child knows, a relative or acquaintance. The laws have forces many sex offenders to either become homeless, to register false addresses, or simply disappear (go underground); this defeats the purpose of Megan’s law and “is contrary to the well established principles of treatment and rehabilitation of sex offenders.”
The ICAA suggested major reforms in the law not out of sympathy for sex offenders, but for concern over the negative unintended consequences of the residency restrictions. I would like to break down some of the research which substantiates the findings of the ICAA;
First, “there is no correlation between residency restrictions and reducing sex crimes against children.” There are two studies on the subject. The first is the “Minnesota Dept. of Corrections, Level Three Sex offenders: Residential Placement Issues, 2003 Report To The Legislature.” This study of high risk sex offenders who recidivated concluded proximity to schools played absolutely no role in these crimes: “Enhanced safety due to proximity restrictions may be a comfort factor to the general public, but it does not have any basis in fact (page 9).” Another study was done in 2004 by the Colorado Department of Public Safety, Sex Offender Management Division, entitled, “Report On Safety Issues Raised By Living Arrangements For And Location Of Sex Offenders In The Community.”
This study also failed to find any correlation between proximity to schools and recidivism and rejected residency restrictions as a feasible solution to the sex offender issue. “A tight web of supervision, treatment and surveillance may be more important in maintaining community safety than where a sex offender resides (Page 31).” The ideal residence, according to the researchers, is a “Shared Living Arrangement” or a “three-quarters” house. The Colorado researchers contacted seven states with residency restrictions to see if they had also examined the link between proximity and recidivism, and the four states that responded- Illinois, Florida, Oregon, and Alabama- reported their laws were not based on research. The concept that the closer a sex offender is to a school the more likely he is to recidivate is a fallacy!
Now, in regards to the percentages of children victimized by strangers as opposed to friends or family members. The quote comes from a November 2003 report on Victim/ Offender Relationships from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a division of the US Department of Justice, from the report entitled “Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison in 1994.” For the sake of this argument I focus only on victims under age 18. The victim/ offender relationship is as follows: Stranger, 6.7%; friends and Acquaintances, 46.8%; and family, 46.5%. In other words, a child is 14 times more likely to be hurt by Uncle Joe or Coach Bob than some stranger with candy. Of
those under age 18, 51.6% were age 12 or younger, while the other 48.4% were teenagers. A second study done is the “Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 1999 National Report,” released by the National Center for Juvenile Justice. Here the total stranger victimization percentages is listed as 4.9%, broken down further as follows: Offenders over 24, 2.3%; offenders 18-24, 1.1%; offenders under 18, 1.3%. The base victimization percentages for family members, by contrast, was 39.1%, and Friends and Acquaintances were 55.9%.
Fallacy number two is that most sex offenders are trench coat-wearing, candy waving, bush dwelling monsters, but the reality is that the vast majority of sex crimes are committed by someone they know!
A closely linked fallacy concerns the actual recidivism rates of sex offenders. The actual stat listed in the Department of Justice lists a base re-arrest rate of 5.3% within three years. But re-arrests can include technical violations of parole, such as “dirty urine.” The study broke down the re-arrest rates even further. Of the 9,691 sex offenders released in 1994, 213 of them, or 2.2% of them, were re- arrested for a new sex offense against a child within three years. Among the 262,420 non-sex offenders released from prison in 1994, 1,042 of them, or 0.4% of them, were arrested for a sex crime against a person under the age of 18. From this comes the statistic that sex offenders are around five times more likely to commit a sex crime than a non-sex offender. But look closely! Look at the actual numbers of offenders rather than the percentage. Based on the actual numbers of re-offenders, the opposite is true: about four times as many non-sex offenders commit sex crimes than sex offenders! Compare these “specializing” recidivism rates to those for other crimes (from the Michigan Parole Board in 2000): Forgery, 6.86%; Auto Theft, 7.92%; Burglary, 10.56%; Sex Offenders, 2.46%; Robbery, 5.17%; Larceny, 12.65%; Drug Offenders, 6.42%. The only crime with consistently lower recidivism rates than sex offenders is murder. If there are about 1500 sex offenders in Hamilton county, then depending on which statistic you wish to believe, then 33 (Michigan), 80 (US Dept. of Justice), or 109 (Ohio) of se crimes in the next three years will be committed by registered sex offenders, which is all on par with Cincinnati’s current murder rate.
Why is three years the magic number? Check out the 2001 study completed by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, a ten year follow-up on sex offenders released in 1989. Of all the sex offenders re-arrested for a new sex offense, one half did so within 2 years, and two-thirds did so within 3 years. The total sex related recidivism rate after 10 years was 11.0%, a number which included sex related technical violations, such as soliciting a prostitute. Without the technical violations, the number becomes 8.0%. By victim typology: Rapists, adult victims, 17.5%; Child molester-extra familial, 8.7%; Child molester, Incest, 7.4%. One last comment in
regards to recidivism; a June 2003 study on recidivism by the Canadian Solicitor General lists recidivism at 0.7% to 1.7%. Then again, Canada has a national sex offender management program which works to rehabilitate the sex offender, which includes proper reintegration into society upon release from prison, something seriously lacking in the United States.
The ICAA also described a disturbing trend among sex offenders after the 2000 foot residency restriction was passed. The number of sex offenders “missing” or “whereabouts unconfirmed” rose from 140 in 2005 to over 400 by the same day in 2006 (source: Monica Davey, New York Times, March 15th, 2006). That is a jump of 285% in a single year! Those who do consistently try to follow the laws find themselves homeless, living out of their cars, in tents in the woods, abandoned buildings, shady motels and slums. The issue goes beyond mere denial of housing; part of the inherent problem is limited resources stemming from denial of employment or assistance programs to help reintegrate the rehabilitated sex offender.
Take my own call study, done under the SOPHIA banner, during the summer of 2006. From about the end of June 2006 to the middle of September 2006, a period of about 10 weeks, I had made contact with 131 landlords renting apartments under $400 monthly, the maximum amount I could afford to pay out of my SSI check and pay my other bills as well . After identifying myself as a sex offender, the vast majority ended the conversation abruptly. Many never returned phone calls, and some even threatened my life over the phone. In all, only three residences out of the 131 I had called during this period met the criteria and a fourth stated he would rent to me only if my status was sexually oriented offender. This doesn’t even count the people I have called since I began searching for a new home since October 2005!
During one of my recent check-ins, I asked the deputy how many homeless sex offenders there are in Hamilton County. “About two dozen or so,” she replied. They all check in every day but they can claim they slept anywhere but where they actually are, because they have neither the time nor the resources to verify said sex offender slept at said location last night. Either a sex offender becomes homeless or goes completely underground or lies about his whereabouts. Whatever the case, the purpose of Megan’s law is circumvented altogether.
In 2005, Jill S. Levenson and Leo P. Carter released the results of their own survey of sex offenders, entitled “The Impact of Sex Offender Residence Restrictions: 1,000 Feet From Danger or One Step From Absurd?” A survey of sex offenders found that after Florida passed their own residency restrictions, 22% were forced to move out of their homes, 28% forced out of their apartments, 25% could not return home out once released from prison, 44% could not live with supportive family, 57% had difficulty finding housing, 48% suffered financially, and 60% suffered emotionally. The offenders also noted it would not stop anyone from re-offending if they so chose to. The second prevailing theme is how these law isolate the sex offender from the support network integral to efforts to rehabilitate. A Hanson and Harris study done in 1998 listed more chaotic lifestyles (I.e., lack of a stable life), unemployment,
substance abuse, depressed mood, anger, and hostility are critical dynamic risk factors for recidivism. There are other factors as well but my focus at the moment is on the dynamic factors most associated with the issue at hand.
Another incentive to go underground, as listed in John Q. LaFond’s (of the American Psychological Association) 2005 book entitled “Preventing Sexual Violence,” is vigilantism, propagated by the fear and paranoia as generated by the mainstream media and the misinformed public. The totality of circumstances generated by the subsequent hostile environment is referred to by LaFond as the “Displacement Effect (page 118).” Passing even more restrictions simply give a sex offender ample incentive to become dishonest in fulfilling registration and residency requirements.
Colorado is far closer to a feasible solution than Cincinnati in solving the sex offender issue. In the Colorado report, researchers found so-called “Shared Living Arrangements” as an ideal living arrangement for high risk sex offenders. Ample research has shown the efficacy of proper rehabilitation and social support networks. In the Ohio study I previously mentioned, the recidivism rates for those with “programming” was 7.1% compared to 16.5% “without programming.” Canada has an extensive reintegration program as can be noted on the Solicitor General’s website, and their recidivism rate is half of the lowest rate quoted in any American recidivism rate I have studied. Treatment for sex offenders in prison and reintegration programs has been a standard for decades.
Even within the city of Cincinnati, there has been a highly successful sex offender treatment program run by the Volunteers of America. And now the city of Cincinnati seeks to further endanger the welfare of our society by shutting down this program, and preventing churches or organizations like SOPHIA to implement programs to greatly reduce recidivism rates. Look at the above Ohio stat. Shutting down rehabilitation programs would more than double sex offender recidivism rates! Maybe those open house meetings will last more than five minutes next time I pay Mayor Mallory a visit.
I asked during the city council meeting back on December 5th, “How does [residency restrictions] help anybody?” The short answer is they don’t. I know a woman whom I love dearly but for the sake of anonymity due to an ongoing investigation I will name her Aeris. Aeris has a school aged son. She lives in a state with one of the most restrictive sex offender residency laws in the nation. Yet she recently discovered her son was molested, not by one of the over 5,000 registered sex offenders, nor was it a random act of violence. It was a relative, a disabled man who has no prior history of sex offending. Megan’s law did not prevent this tragedy, nor community notification,
nor residency restrictions, nor the propaganda machine. Yet Aeris and I had seen serious warning signs so-called “experts” miss.
Ironic how a sex offender is a tool to be used to prevent sex offending. I advocate education and information. That is not the same as fear mongering and vote getting. Save that spiel for highway repair proposals or raising sales taxes and the like. We are talking about human lives.
SOPHIA is all about teaching sex offenders not to re-offend, to accept responsibility for their actions, and to make reparations to those they hurt when it is proper to do so. This concept is not original; it is called “Restorative Justice.” SOPHIA seeks to glean the knowledge from the sex offenders themselves to discover ways of preventing sex crimes BEFORE they occur. But by the same token, efforts must also be made to successfully reintegrate sex offenders who have successfully completed their sentence and treatment.
Harassing them or exiling them is not a feasible solution.
I expect to be the first victim of the new ordinance once it is passed, seeing as how I am already on the city‘s “hit list.” I stand ready. I moved once before after a year long court battle, and I stand even better prepared the second time around. I will not back down without a fight. If I have learned anything by my recent experiences is to battle with my mind rather than by my fists.
Constitutional challenges have been made in other states, and to date there have been several successful challenges to similar laws across the country in lower courts. In Massachusetts, the state dropped the charges against a level 3 sex offender after a District Court magistrate dismissed the case (Thor Jourgensen, “Revere Sex Offender Law Dismissed,“ Daily Item, August 16th, 2006). In Oklahoma, the ACLU settled a suit involving a sex offender forced out of a residence after the house he bought had been pre-approved by the sheriff’s office (http://www.acluok.org/legislatureCourts/DoevLane.htm). Iowa has had two successful challenges: the first was Doe v. Miller, 216 F.R.D. 462 (S.D. Iowa 2003) as a violation of a plethora of basic civil rights; more recently, in the case of State of Iowa v. Benjamin David Groves, 05771-AGCR-199229 (Polk Co. Iowa 2006), the judge dismissed the state’s case, stating the law is a severe restrictions on the defendant’s liberty rights.
Within hours of Proposition 83 being voted in by the people of California, US District Judge Susan Illston struck it down as unconstitutional, and as “punitive by design and effect.”
I still to this day fail to see the logic in spending all of Cincinnati’s manpower, time, effort, and money on forcing an otherwise law abiding citizen who had committed a crime in the past but served his time, when Cincinnati would better use that money to build that new jail to lock up all those people robbing and killing citizens, or selling drugs on every corner. Like most other social issues, Cincinnati City government is mismanaging our priorities.
Someone at the city council meeting stated Cincinnati is “twenty years behind the times.” I disagree– it is two thousand, as in the draconian era. Sex Offender laws constitute “Banishment by Attrition.” In the days when lepers were banished from the community (“cut off from the people”) in Biblical times, leprosy still existed. People threw stones at lepers; leprosy still existed. People ran from lepers for fear of leprosy; yet leprosy still existed. In time, banishment went the way of trials by ordeals, slavery, and burning witches at the stake. But then again, retro keeps coming back into style.
© 2006 Derek Logue, a.k.a., The Fallen One
Notes for Derek “the Fallen One” Logue © 2007
January 10th Cincinnati City Council Speech on Sex Offender Residency Restrictions
[Chris Monzel stated in the last meeting on sex offender residency restrictions, “I want to pass the Ordinance still and then we can look at the data over time and we can come back and repeal it.” This statement reminds me of the old Greek myth about Pandora’s Box; once the box was opened, all the evils unleashed in the world could not be so easily placed back into the box.]
It saddens me to think that even in our modern society, people are so willing to “experiment” with living, breathing human beings in the name of public safety and social progress. One of Adolph Hitler’s favorite programs of his campaign of racial cleansing, outside of the extermination of the Jews, was the so-called “re-education” of sex offenders and deviants. Re-education was a euphemism for state endorsed imprisonment in concentration camps, slave labor, castration, and surgical human experimentation.
[The Nazis are not the only people to commit atrocious acts on human beings in the name of either social progress or public safety.] The United States sent my ancestors on the Trail of Tears in the name of Manifest Destiny and progress. Much of our nation’s early prosperity came at the expense of slaves. Once the slaves were freed, nearly a century passed before they were even allowed to share even a water fountain or the same bus seat with the rest of society. And during WW2 President Roosevelt signed an order sending Japanese-Americans to so-called “Internment camps,” American Concentration camps where many people died, because our society feared all Japanese were spies.
It is far easier to discriminate against a human being when society succeeds in viewing a person as less than human. Hitler used the “Ministry of Propaganda” to indoctrinate even German youth to hate those Hitler viewed as inferior or detrimental to the better good of society. And one of his first acts was to prey upon the fear of society concerning post-WW1 Berlin becoming a Mecca for sexual deviants. [And the public, bombarded with media propaganda, became the eyes and ears of the Gestapo: 70% of Gestapo arrests came from public tips.]
Even sadder, this sentiment has echoed in the halls of this council room; Cecil Thomas said “We should not have that many (sex offenders in Cincinnati).” At times it even seems less like protecting children as it is discouraging individuals who have served their time but are labeled “undesirable” to reside in Cincinnati. All the while, murders have reached an all time high, our football team has the highest arrest rate in the NFL, and crime is spreading to the suburbs. But perhaps the saddest of all, you are willing to compare this law with a marijuana ordinance! Comparing criminal activity that is currently taking place with an ordinance on an act not related to criminal activity, namely, the basic human need for shelter, defies sound logic. I for one will not be a willing participant in your human experiment. A repeal will not undo irreparable harm to living breathing human beings like myself. [I have suffered enough, and I will sue this city if this Ordinance passes.]
Italic quotations in bracket parentheses [ ] are last minute omissions, as I later discovered I had TWO minutes to speak rather than THREE minutes.