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Sunday, August 31, 2014
Jeff Gates is a Web designer, writer and artist in Silver Spring. His latest project is the Chamomile Tea Party.
After my family arrives on the Cape May ferry for our annual vacation to the Jersey Shore, I take pictures of our two daughters on the ferry’s deck as we leave the harbor. I’ve been doing this since they were 3 and 4 years old. They are now 16 and 17. Each photo chronicles one year in the life of our family and our daughters’ growth into the beautiful young women they have become. Getting just the right exposure and interaction between the two has never been easy. They’ve gone from squirming toddlers to ambivalent teens who barely put up with their dad’s ongoing photography project.
But this year, everything was perfect. It has been an extraordinary summer in the Mid-Atlantic: mild heat with low humidity. On that first day of vacation, the sea was calm and the sky a brilliant blue. As I focused on the image in my camera’s viewfinder, the girls stood in their usual spot against the railing at the back of the boat. I was looking for just the right pose — often waiting for that perfect smile or pausing as they fixed their hair after a strong ocean breeze. I was trying to get just the right exposure and flash combination to bring out their faces in the harsh midday sun.
Totally engaged with the scene in front of me, I jumped when a man came up beside me and said to my daughters: “I would be remiss if I didn’t ask if you were okay.”
Monday, August 25, 2014
On Thursday, Joseph Goldstein of the New York Times reported that "Dozens of sex offenders who have satisfied their sentences in New York State are being held in prison beyond their release dates because of a new interpretation of a state law that governs where they can live." In short, since 2005, sex offenders in the state can't live within 1,000 feet of a school, and a February ruling from the state's Department of Corrections and Community Supervision extended that restriction to homeless shelters.
Because the onus is on sex offenders to find approved housing before they’re released, Goldstein reported, they’ve been left with very few options, especially in densely-populated New York City, where there are schools everywhere. This has led to an uncomfortable legal limbo and sparked at least one lawsuit (so far) on behalf of an offender who is still in custody even though he was supposed to be out by now.
If Mart city employee Lonnie Green’s saga of triumph, despair and desperation demonstrates anything, it’s that justice is often blind in how it’s meted out. This can be particularly true when it concerns sexual offenses, which American society rightly abhors and condemns. Yet there’s a big difference between foolish teens having consensual sex and, say, a middle-aged teacher, pastor or coach sexually preying on youths when he or she knows better.
Many of us only have to think of all the stupid deeds and misdeeds pondered, contemplated and maybe even done in the immaturity of youth to understand the tragedy of Green’s life. A high school football star with visions of playing pro, Green saw his dreams implode when at age 17 he provided alcohol for a party and gave some to a 14-year-old girl before the two ended up in a bedroom having sex. Court documents indicate the girl also had sex with another male at the party.
In any case, the girl’s father went to police a few days later and Green’s troubles began. Some more stupid mistakes, including breaking curfew and visiting the scene of his glories at Mart High School in violation of his probationary terms, finally landed him in prison for seven years. And since getting out, he has had to annually register as a sex offender.
Now 33 and married, Green makes $9 an hour as a laborer for the city of Mart, which has an ordinance limiting how close a sex offender can live to a place where children congregate. And two weeks ago a mother of six spoke to the town council and, holding up a picture of her 12-year-old daughter, demanded that Green be fired for the safety of all children in the area.
Friday, August 15, 2014
Labels: ( .Personal Story
by Chris Dorin
The war on sex offenders makes sense only within a large historical context. My generation grew up practicing air raid drills in classrooms where the teachers made us crawl under our desks in case the real thing took out Cleveland or Buffalo. Neighbors were stocking their bomb shelters with canned goods and ammunition. We lived through the Cuban Missile crisis unsure if hour by hour the human race would survive.
There was a doomsday pressure on everyone. Sen. Joseph McCarthy tapped into it to wield as much power as President Eisenhower for a brief time. His aggressive Senate hearings on Un-American activities blackballed dozens of alleged communists in labor unions and Hollywood. Even a Pulitzer Prize winner like Arthur Miller fell into temporary disgrace.
The Colonists hanged 20 accused witches in Salem in 1692 and crushed another under tons of stone. Consorting with the devil was a sexual offense in those days. The judges and juries were dealing with huge stress from failed crops and the fear of Indian raids.