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Home / Articles / News / Features /  The New Ball & Chain

The New Ball & Chain

New Mexico’s laws keep sex offenders under lock and signal

September 23, 2009, 12:00 am


While GPS can’t show a parole officer what an offender is doing, it can prove what he hasn’t done.

It’s generally true, Baker says, that when a violent or sexual crime occurs, sex offenders living in the surrounding neighborhoods are often the first suspects. GPS provides strong alibis.

In a recent murder case in which a Nambé woman was accused of stabbing her mother to death, the defense attempted to pin the crime on her ex-boyfriend, Joseph Herrera, a registered sex offender convicted in 1999 of third-degree criminal sexual conduct of a minor.

Herrera’s GPS logs exonerated him.

“When it happened, we got a call advising us what was going on, so we just ran the tracking,” Baker says. “He was at his house at the time it happened and that was pretty much black and white.”

The GPS also can protect sex offenders from accusations made by vengeful ex-relations.

“I have had clients whose disgruntled girlfriends have accused them of crimes, battery, violating parole and Terry Baker can look it up see that [the client] wasn’t even there,” Santistevan says. “That doesn’t make my guys appreciate their GPS much, though.”

Advocates for sex offender rights concede the monitoring system has its benefits. Alice Benson, a co-director of Citizens for Change New Mexico, which acts as an advocacy and support group for sex offenders, recalls an incident with an offender she hires to chop wood in her backyard.

Due to his GPS device, his parole officer caught him drinking at a party. He went back to prison for a few months and hasn’t violated his parole since.

“I think he learned his lesson,” Benson says. “So, that was one advantage.”

 

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More than 90 sex offenders live and work in Santa Fe County.

Eighteen years after 11-year-old Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped in northern California, parole officers discovered she was with Phillip Garrido, a registered sex offender. El Dorado County sheriff’s deputies arrested Garrido and soon information emerged that despite twice-monthly home visits, parole officers failed to discover the backyard shed where Dugard was kept.

Would modern technology have helped free Dugard earlier?

The quick answer is: probably. Parole officers could have looked up every sex offender’s whereabouts that summer day in 1991 to identify which one had passed by Dugard’s school bus stop where she was snatched. Failing that, they could have hauled in every offender whose GPS monitor was out of service.

At New Mexico’s parole response center, Tennant dreams about real-time satellite imaging, which would allow him to zoom in and see not only where the offender is, but who he’s with and what he’s doing—yet another way of stopping a Dugard scenario.

Tennant also looks forward to the day that the state Corrections Department can implant offenders with sub-dermal GPS devices. The devices would monitor whether an offender has drugs or alcohol in his blood stream and would cut down on tampering.

“Offenders would have to dig it out with a knife,” he says.

It sounds very Big Brother.

Tennant leans forward in his desk chair and says, “And that’s the way we like it.”  SFR

 

Web Extra: Accountability and the Sex Offender

Like it or not, more than 90 sex offenders convicted of a range of offenses live and work in Santa Fe County under heavy supervision.  C., who served seven years in prison for criminal sexual contact of a minor, says that the community is justified in its fear of offenders. Yet, as he writes in this essay for SFR, he says he hopes sex offenders can earn the community’s trust through taking responsibility for their actions.

The transition from being a prisoner to re-entering society is, in itself, an exercise in a combination of fear, anxiety, hope and courage. Most men leave prison with only a bus ticket and a few dollars.

You’ve served your time and now you’re thrust once again into the real world, desperately in need of food, clothing and shelter. Employment becomes paramount—without a job, survival becomes much more difficult for anybody.

Some states have taken a closer look at the numerous problems facing newly released ex-offenders. In most cases, however, there are very few resources and/or agencies available to offer assistance. Without such assistance and support, many men wind up returning to prison.

I am a registered sex offender. Although I did not have to wear the GPS-monitored ankle bracelet (due to the serving of all my sentence plus parole time while incarcerated) I still have to register with the sheriff’s department, inform any employer in writing that I am a registered sex offender, disclose to my landlord the same thing and duly notify, within 10 days, the authorities if I change jobs or residences, under penalty of law.

Those regulations are understandably stringent and failure to abide does, indeed, result in a fourth-degree felony automatically. Accountability is a necessary quality for those who must abide by such regulations.

Although I ran the risk of not getting hired or obtaining a place to stay, I was counseled and encouraged to disclose immediately to any potential employer or landlord my status as a registered sex offender. The old adage, “Honesty is the best policy,” is as true in this respect today as any factor.

Generally, and again, understandably, public reaction to sex offenders is nearly unanimously negative. Fear, concern and disgust usually prevent any possible dialogue or interaction. I have learned, however, that accountability and honest disclosure can soften the most skeptical heart. I have a decent job and housing, I am law-abiding, I try to be an asset to my community and continue to be accountable by accepting responsibility for my actions, past and present.

Here in Santa Fe, only a few groups and people have the courage and understanding necessary to assist and work with registered sex offenders. Some, as for example, HOPE HOWSE International and its founder, Jane Davis, have worked for years to assist those who’ve paid their dues to society.

Sex offenders deserve a chance to prove themselves. As with any set of people it is difficult to know with certainty that someone may re-offend. Acceptance of responsibility for my mistakes and daily accountability for my actions along with tolerance from other members of my community make that likelihood remote and unthinkable.

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