Category Archives: Justice

National Missing Children’s Day

Etan Patz, Author Stanley K. Patz (CC BY- SA 3.0 Unported)

In April of last year, Operation Empty Nest (an undertaking by the U.S. Marshals Service, Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and National Center for Missing & Exploited Children) achieved a small miracle [1][2].

Led by Gerald “Jerry” Dysart of the US Marshals Service/Missing Child Unit, this joint federal, state, and local law enforcement operation succeeded in rescuing 16 child victims of physical and sexual abuse, sex trafficking, and exploitation.  Victims were between the ages of 4 and 17.

In addition to the 16 who had been reported missing, another 11 were found alive. Continue reading

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Fate of the Predator

“Well, I was there and I saw what you did.
I saw it with my own two eyes.
So you can wipe off the grin.  I know where you’ve been.
It’s all been a pack of lies…
Well, I remember.  I remember, don’t worry.
How could I ever forget?…
The hurt doesn’t show; but the pain still grows.
It’s no stranger to you or me.”

In the Air Tonight by Phil Collins

Justice demands that predators – those who harm children for their own pleasure – be punished for their crimes, and prevented from harming additional victims.  But the justice system necessarily has limitations.

Proof can be difficult to come by.  A child may not survive the abuse or may not be able to speak of a violation for years.  Parents may choose that their child not undergo the rigors of a trial.  Predators may be institutionally shielded (as by the Roman Catholic Church), may relocate, assume a new identity, or even pass away, in the intervening years.  Supportive evidence can be lost.

This does NOT warrant vigilantism.  Whatever the temptation, we cannot ally with evil. The end does not justify the means.

What then is the fate of pedophiles? Recidivism is a grave concern.  There are predators whose conscience is seared to such an extent that it no longer functions.  One study, however, found that suicide among non-violent child sex offenders is 183 times more common than in the general public [1].  There are, of course, victims who commit suicide, as well.

In the end, our fate is not dependent on the fate of the predator.  That bears repeating.  Justice matters.  But our fate is not dependent on the fate of the predator.

Whatever the outcome in a particular case, we can trust that there will be perfect justice in the next world, if not in this.  “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice…” (Deut. 32: 4).

[1]  National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, “Differential suicide rates in typologies of child sex offenders in a 6-year consecutive cohort of male suicides” by C. Pritchard and E. King, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16040578.

Originally posted 3/2/14

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Witness to Evil

Children at prayer, Author Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious, Source https://www.flickr.com/photos/99247795@N00/3750019119 (CC BY-SA 2. 0 Generic)

The Catholic Church sex scandal is well-known.  Tragically, it is not isolated.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses

The Jehovah’s Witnesses – considered a cult by mainstream Christian denominations for their failure to recognize the full divinity of Christ – maintain what is believed to be the world’s largest database of undocumented child molesters [1][2][3].

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the non-profit which oversees the more than 8 million Witnesses, has repeatedly refused to comply with Court orders to release that database.

The Watchtower’s Office of Public Information indicates that its policies on child protection comply with the law.  Barring a confession, however, no member can be formally accused of committing a sin without two credible witnesses.  Of course, sexual abuse is not generally a public event.

When child molestation is uncovered, the Witnesses do not routinely notify police [4].

Substantial jury verdicts have been handed down against this religious organization.

The Amish and Mennonites

Investigation into sexual abuse among Amish and Mennonite communities has revealed abuse as “an open secret spanning generations” [5].  At least 52 cases have come to light in the past 20 years, across seven states.  But that number does not reflect the true scope of the problem.

Victims who report rape and incest may be sent to “mental health” facilities or threatened with excommunication. Continue reading

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“Commercial Surrogacy” by Kaeley Triller Harms

Abdomen of a pregnant woman, Author Canwest News Service, Source https://article.wn.com/view/2009/03/19/Vitamin_B12_deficiency_linked_to_birth_defects/, (PD)

The state of Washington legalized commercial surrogacy in 2018, despite opposition by children’s rights advocates [1].  A list of the states which allow surrogacy in one form or another can be found at https://www.creativefamilyconnections.com/us-surrogacy-law-map/.bi .

“Last year I sat in stunned silence at a WA State Senate hearing concerning the matter of commercial surrogacy.  The proposed bill contained 55 pages of legislative text full of demands and bloviations about alleged parental rights.  Its goal was to legalize commercial surrogacy without limit through the entire state.

I listened as concerned citizens pointed out the many dangerous loopholes in the bill and requested amendments that would safeguard both the women and children from potential abuse, but every request was categorically shot down as unnecessary.

There were no limits whatsoever to prevent abuse:

  • No required background checks for prospective parents (Convicted pedophiles could commission children.)
  • No limit to the number of children any given person could order. (One millionaire from Japan has fathered at least 13 children via surrogacy.  His expressed goal is to father at least 1000 over time)
  • No limit to the amount of compensation any given surrogate can receive (Hello, money-hungry human traffickers)
  • No requirements for surrogates to be WA State residents (Again, traffickers?)
  • No language preventing mentally disabled women from being exploited for commercial gain

In all 55 pages of text, there was but one single solitary reference to the needs of the child.  The rest was emotionally manipulative language revealing a deep seated sense of entitlement and a devil-may-care attitude toward the myriad ethical implications on the people most greatly affected by surrogacy- the women and children.”

Continue reading

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Foster Care – A Failed System

Changes in Congregate Care in 8 States (9/30/04-9/30/13), Author US Govt. Accountability Office (GAO), Source https://www.gao.gov, (PD as work product of federal govt.)

Reporting by the Washington Post confirms what the public has long known.  Our foster care system is failing, nationwide.

One major flaw involves the use of detention centers and similar facilities to house children who have committed no infraction whatsoever [1A].

Warehousing

“…in an era when a surging number of biological parents are falling into the grips of drug addiction, and child welfare systems are struggling with a shortage of foster parents…case workers and courts have been funneling children into crowded emergency shelters, hotels, out-of-state institutions and youth prisons — cold, isolating and often dangerous facilities not built to house innocent children for years [1B].”

Both literally and figuratively, children taken into foster care for their own protection are instead being warehoused with rapists and murderers.  Some are forced to sleep on cement floors with harsh fluorescent lights on during lockdowns.

Scope of the Failure

Because foster care is decentralized, accurate figures are difficult to come by.

As of 2013, approximately 56,000 of the 400,000 children in foster care across the country (14% of the foster care population) were living in what is known as “congregate” care – group homes, detention centers, residential drug treatment facilities, and the like [2].  In West Virginia, fully 71% of 6800 foster children between the ages of 12 and 17 have been relegated to such institutions [1C].

The Opioid Crisis is greatly increasing those numbers. Continue reading

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Hospital of Horrors

Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Author Roman Boed of Netherlands, Source Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Most of us view hospitals as places of hope and healing.  According to a federal lawsuit filed last week, Aurora Chicago Lakeshore Hospital does not fit that bill [1A].

Damning Investigations

Investigations by both the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica confirm that children confined to Aurora were subjected to physical and/or sexual abuse there [1B].

Willful Ignorance

Child welfare officials at the Illinois Dept. of Children and Family Services (DCFS) allegedly ignored the issues at Aurora due to a shortage of other psychiatric facilities willing to accept DCFS referrals.

Despite an increased number of complaints to the state’s child abuse hotline regarding Aurora, DCFS did not stop referring patients to that hospital until pressure was applied by watchdog groups and state legislators.

For those reasons, DCFS is, also, named in the suit.

Continue reading

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A Modern Plague – Trafficking in a Small Town

Main Street, Smyrna, DE, Author Dough4872 (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

The I-95 Corridor which links New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington DC with Miami is a major conduit for human trafficking, a plague that has spread across this country [1A].  According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, as many as 100,000 children each year are victims of sex trafficking in the US.

Some 70% of trafficking incidents occur at truck stops.  There, predatory pimps seek out desperate young girls and boys, often runaways [1B].  Most vulnerable are children between the ages of 12 and 14 from broken homes, with low self-esteem and a history of trauma [1C].

Given its nightlife and gambling, Jersey City is considered a trafficking hot spot [1D].

Though situated on the I-95 Corridor, Smyrna – a small town in Delaware founded before the American Revolution – would seem an unlikely location for a human trafficking operation.  However, Smyrna police this week arrested James Walls and Sha Shen at the Kiki Spa for prostitution and human trafficking [2]. Continue reading

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Philippine Children in Crisis

Philippine children, Author US Marines from Arlington, VA, Source flickr (PD as work product of federal govt.)

The Duterte Administration of the Philippines has resorted to mass arrests in its war on drugs, and is planning to broaden that hard line approach to include children [1][2].

New legislation would impose mandatory prison terms of up to 12 years on children as young as 9 y.o.  The children of the poor will be most heavily impacted, since they are more likely to join drug gangs in an effort to survive.

The US State Dept. website describes our nation’s relationship with the Philippines as “based on strong historical and cultural links and a shared commitment to democracy and human rights [3].”

According to the non-profit Human Rights Watch, however, conditions at government facilities for children are already inhumane.  This is particularly true at Bahay Pag-asa (“House of Hope”).  Locked in cages, children there suffer from skin infections suggesting inadequate diet and sanitation.

“I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me’ ” (Matt. 25: 36).

[1]  The Defender Magazine, Spring 2019, “Children in Crisis:  A Report from the Philippines”.

[2]  New York Times, “Philippine Law Would Make 9-Year-Olds Criminally Liable” by Jason Gutierrez, 1/22/19, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/22/world/asia/philippines-juvenile-justice-law.html.

[3]  US Department of State, “US Relations with the Philippines”, 7/17/18, https://www.state.gov/u-s-relations-with-the-philippines/.

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Permanent Record

School books, Author KGV (Free Art License)

Some of us are old enough to remember the threat from a teacher that some minor disciplinary infraction might go on our “permanent record”.  The staff of Berkeley Heights Elementary School would have done well to heed that warning [1].

Amber Pack became concerned when she found bruises on her 6 y.o. daughter, Adri, and the little girl resisted returning to school.  A small recording device proved informative.

Christina Lester, a teacher at Berkeley, and two of her aides, Kristin Douty and June Yurish, were recorded threatening to knock the teeth out of the children in their care or withhold food from them.  To top things off, the school advised Pack to destroy the recording once they learned of its existence.

When prosecutors failed to press charges, Pack shared the recording on Facebook where it went viral.

West Virginia Attorney General, Patrick Morrisey subsequently filed suit against the Berkeley County Board of Education; Berkeley County Deputy Superintendent, Margaret Kursey; and Berkeley Heights Principal, Amber Boeckmann; along with Lester, Douty, and Yurish.  Their permanent record will be one of shame.

Adri has since been enrolled in a new school and is doing well.

[1]  People Magazine, “Ex-teacher, aides charged after mom secretly records abuse” by Harriet Sokmensuer, 8/19/19, https://people.com/crime/former-west-virginia-teacher-aides-charged-abuse-recording.

Of Note:  Registered sex offenders have filed suit in federal court to prevent Georgia Sheriff Gary Long from posting signs on their lawns warning children not to “trick or treat” there.  For details, see https://www.wthr.com/article/georgia-sex-offenders-file-suit-over-sheriffs-no-trick-or-treat-signs.

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Courage

Motivational poster, Cadiz, Spain, Author Emilio Rodriguez Posada (PD)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Courage comes in all shapes and sizes.  In this instance, it took the form of a captive 14 y.o. girl, in fear for her life.

The girl was a Michigan runaway, kidnapped in Indiana, and forced into prostitution in California.  Though aware that her kidnappers would monitor calls, she bravely reached out to the non-profit, Crisis Text Line, which then contacted police.

As a result, the San Jose Police Dept. raided Motel 6, locating the girl and two other women held there against their will.  Antoine Williams, Christopher Lyon Johnson, and Curtis Lee Russell were arrested, and charged with kidnapping, pimping, and human trafficking.

Crisis Text Line https://www.crisistextline.org/ is a free service that connects people in crisis with counselors.  Over 100 million messages have been processed to date.

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you.  He will not leave you nor forsake you” (Deut. 31: 6).

[1]  People, “How a Text From a 14-Year-Old Girl Busted an Alleged Sex Trafficking Ring” by Christine Pelisek, 5/31/19, https://people.com/crime/text-14-year-old-girl-alleged-sex-ring/ .

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

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