NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A recent audit of Tennessee’s parole and probation system found officers failed to properly supervise sex offenders, sometimes allowing them access to children.
The Tennessean reports (http://tnne.ws/RWkfM9) the state monitors about 800 felons by GPS. Most of them are sex offenders.
However, auditors found that parole and probation officers were ignoring many of the alerts they received when sex offenders enter a prohibited area, such as a school zone. Only about 18 percent of the alerts were thoroughly investigated.
In 2010, parole officers noticed through GPS that Christopher Federico was living near a daycare in Nashville. They followed up when he failed to attend his sex offender treatment program, pay his state supervision fees and take polygraph tests.
In a July 2010 home visit, parole officers found two children sobbing in a crawlspace.
Authorities rescued the children and Federico was convicted of violating his sex offender provisions.
State efforts to close down Taft Youth Development Center and transfer some of Tennessee’s toughest teen offenders to other state facilities are creating a flow of delinquents into some county lockups, reports Andy Sher.
“All I’m hearing is the detention centers are holding them until there’s an opening [at state facilities] and it’s piling up and bottlenecking,” said Rep. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City, who was among area lawmakers opposed to closing the 95-year-old center in Bledsoe County.
Department of Children’s Services spokeswoman Molly Sudderth denied in an email that there are problems related to shuttering Taft. It houses offenders ages 16 to 19 with at least three prior felony convictions, or those convicted of violent crimes or who have proven difficult to manage in other state facilities.
“We aim to place all Youth Development Center-eligible youth within 30 days of their commitment,” Sudderth said in the email. “On June 14, 2012, the average length of stay for a youth waiting in detention before being placed in a Youth Development Center was 14 days.”
A year ago, it was 22 days, she said. Area lawmakers also pointed out that the final closure has been delayed from July 1, the start of the new budget year, to July 13. But Sudderth said, “We would argue that there is no delay.”
…Richard Bean, superintendent of Knox County’s Richard L. Bean Juvenile Detention Center, said the state has been sending more teens there since Taft’s closure began. The state contracts with Knox County to hold delinquent juveniles.
“We had very few state kids, three or four [before]; you stay a few days,” Bean said Friday. “We’ve been running 30 a day … but we’re down now to 22 state kids. They don’t have anywhere to put the kids.”
He noted that many counties, including Hamilton, don’t contract with the state. In his immediate area, he said, “we’re the only guy in town.”
“They call and say, ‘Can you hold this kid until we find him a bed” either in a detention center or a foster home or group home. “As soon as they have an opening, they come get them.”
Bean said the state pays $132.88 per day per teen, but he doesn’t want to take in more than 25 at a time.
“They’re sending the good ones to someone else and the mean ones to me,” he said.
Davidson County Juvenile Court Judge Betty Adams Green said Saturday that it’s taking longer for state officials to pick up some of the teens she sentences.
“They’re staying a long time,” said Green, who was commissioner of the Department of Youth Development, DCS’ predecessor, back in the 1990s.
Green said two teens she knows of are “well beyond 30 days.” She didn’t know if they are headed for a youth center or other care, but said if the state is prioritizing those destined for the centers, “what about the ones who aren’t getting out because the others are getting preference?”
JACKSON, Tenn. (AP) — A Jackson police officer is being credited with helping change a state law that deals with stricter penalties for sex offenders.
Jackson police investigator Mark Headen says he became mad when he learned that a violent sex offender was again suspected of stalking more than a dozen women.
The Jackson Sun reports that Headen (http://bit.ly/Lyii2g ) proposed a state amendment to increase indecent exposure and stalking charges to Class E felonies punishable by up to six years in prison if the crime is committed by a registered sex offender.
Before Headen worked to change the law, anyone charged with indecent exposure would be charged with a Class B misdemeanor punishable with a maximum 30 days in jail, while a stalking charge was a Class A misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of 11 months and 29 days.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee asked Mayor Tim Burchett on Friday to withdraw a policy he implemented earlier this week banning registered sex offenders from county libraries, reports Mike Donila
In a one-page letter, the ACLU said the mayor’s new rule is “overly broad and raises a host of constitutional issues.”
“As you know, access to information is a fundamental underpinning of the protection of the First Amendment’s guarantees of free speech,” wrote executive director Hedy Weinberg.
The U.S. Supreme Court and other lower courts have held that “some level of access to a library cannot be proscribed if there is no compelling state interest,” according to Weinberg.
“ACLU-TN asks that you rescind this and instead consider addressing your concerns in a less-restrictive manner that is mindful of the First Amendment rights of all Knox County residents,” the letter states.
A federal court in New Mexico last year struck down a similar ban in Albuquerque.
From Mike Donila at the News Sentinel:
Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett by executive authority today banned those listed on the Tennessee Sex Offender Registry from visiting county libraries.
He said if they need to use the services, the offenders can access the library catalog and electronic resources online or have someone else check out and return library material on their behalf.
“What they are, these sex offenders — I just don’t want them anywhere around our kids,” Burchett said.
“The ultimate decision is how we pursue it. I want to get out in front of this. There’s no need to toil around with it. I don’t want them anywhere around our kids.”
The administration said the Knox County Public Library is the first of the state’s big four metropolitan library systems to put a policy in place. The county’s library system has 150,000 active card holders and 19 locations.
“People will say they’ve paid their debts to society but they’ve given some of those kids a life sentence – the kids who have been abused carry it with them for their lives – and I don’t want to give them a chance to be anywhere near them again,” Burchett said.
Any offender who has been warned not to enter a library and does so may be arrested for criminal trespass, county communications manager Michael Grider said Note: Precedent here? Will other mayors follow? Or maybe the Secretary of State could impose a similar ban at State Library and Archives facilities, which he oversees. UPDATE: An expanded and updated story from Donila is HERE.