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May 16, 2009

The Other Ankle Bracelet

The Other Ankle Bracelet

by Guest Blogger and Man of the Blog Will Graham

Attorney and author Andrew Vachss wrote in his novel TERMINAL about the sheer lunacy of the perceived effectiveness of GPS devices on sexual predators.  “Some other geniuses are pushing GPS cuffs for the freaks. Won’t stop them from doing what they do, but it’ll save a lot of money on cadaver dogs. It's just a matter of time," muses his lead character, Burke, right there in black and white on page 23.Ankle_Brac.136141414_std

I’m pretty sure I made a similar comment here in response to a comment or blog.  Whether I was unconsciously repeating Mr. Vachss or had reached a similar conclusion based on the facts of a professional matter at the time, I cannot say and it doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme. 

I would never presume to speak for Mr. Vachss.  I can speak for myself, and believe me when I tell you, I hate being right.  I fucking HATE it.  As Jack Nicholson says in AS GOOD AS IT GETS, “I hate it.  I’m talking Hate.  I mean really seriously HATE [it].” 

Thirteen year old Alycia Nipp of Vancouver, known as ‘Licy’, fell victim to a predator named Darrin Sandford. 

Sandford was wearing, under court mandate, a GPS locator device on his ankle.  This technological wonder has allowed authorities to re-trace his movements and establish a timeline of the crime, which they believe will be of tremendous aid in securing a conviction.. 

Verbatim from CNN: 

Darrin Eugene Sanford was convicted in 1998 of communicating with a minor for immoral purposes and two counts of luring minors with sexual motivation. He was placed on probation, which he violated three times before he was arrested in connection with Alycia Nipp's murder:

• On November 15, 2006, Sanford was jailed for failing to register as a sex offender. He was released July 31, 2008, and ordered to wear a GPS anklet.

• He was then detained August 20 for being in contact with a minor and failing to register. He was released October 19, again with an ankle bracelet.

• On November 24, authorities arrested Sanford for a misdemeanor property violation. He was released with a GPS device January 3, just 49 days before Licy's murder.

-- Source: Washington Department of Corrections

Released on July 31, 2008, and caught on August 20.  Released October 19, arrested again on November 24.  Released January 3, 2009. 

Forty nine days later, he took this young girl’s life.  In a manner that would make Tomas de Torquemada vomit.

One count of inappropriate communication.  Two counts of luring with motivation.  One count failing to register.  One charge of contact, a second failing to register.  Finally, a “misdemeanor” property violation.  (No details on that one yet.)  THREE parole violations.

And he was walking free in our world, because he was ‘monitored’.

For all of its faults, our Legal System is still the best in the world; I’ve seen the courtroom work like a Swiss watch - oiled and perfect and not missing a beat - and I’ve seen it fall victim to ignorance, lack of knowledge, “if it happens on a computer it’s not really real”, don’t-give-a-damn-hurry-up-I’ve-got-a-tee-time-this-afternoon, often with horrendous consequences.

The 1977 movie ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK comes to mind.  For those who have Escapefromnewyork not seen it, due to a combination of war and natural disasters, Manhattan Island was separated from the rest of the country and turned into a maximum security prison.  If you were arrested and convicted, you got dropped over the walls... survive or not, for all intents and purposes you were declared legally dead.  There was no escape.  There was no pardon, there was no stay.  If you were convicted of a crime serious enough, they tossed you over The Wall and that was that. 

Criminals were bad, and needed to be kept apart from society so they couldn’t do bad things again.  And again.  And again.  So, put them somewhere far away where the Bad Guys couldn’t do Bad Things anymore to regular people.

What a concept.

No, it’s not practical.  No, it can’t happen.  Yes, it’s just a fantasy, borne of anger and frustration.

But it sure has a great deal of appeal right now....

Will Graham has expressed his opinion.  If you disagree, don't waste time searching for nude photos of him online; they don't exist, and you wouldn't like them anyway.


Amen William.

I love Andrew Vachss. Read everything of his back when I was in counseling. I learned about the difference between the law and justice. If there had been a Burke around when I was a kid would I have wanted him to kill my step-grandfather and a few other people - Yes. Sexual predators have one of the highest recidivism rates of all criminals. What doesn't the law understand about that. They like what they are doing and will keep doing it.

I am fucking tired of the arguments that come up, oh he must have been abused as a child and now he is repeating what he knows. So what, as adults we have to be responsible for ourselves and our actions. A predator is going to do what they do best, prey. How about stopping them the first time they are caught.

I was abused as a child, quite a few people I know were as well. None of us have become abusers. A lot of the people I know from group therapy, support groups, 12 step programs are the kindest gentlest souls around. So the excuse of childhood abuse as a get out of jail card fucking pisses me off.

As a peace loving gentle Canadian do I believe in Capital Punishment. Yes. For some it would be the only way to stop them.

Evil walks among us, and it is much more clever than any tracking technology.

This kind of thing makes me sick.

I will reiterate my suggestion for all child abusers. We spend way too much money incarcerating and attempting to rehabilitate this filth. Let them go. Just be sure to tell everyone where and when they are getting out.

What a horror tale. Too bad it's an all too common true story.

Remember the 50's and 60's, when frontal lobotomies were performed on hardcore criminals? I'm all in favor of bringing that practice back, along with mandatory castration (and not chemical) for rapists and other true sexual deviants. It's unfair to characterize the perpetrators of some misdemeanors as "sexual predators"; public urination, for instance, should definitely not fall into this category. But true recidivist sexual predators ought to have more serious consequences than a damned ankle monitor.

Gaylin, you are so very right about taking personal responsibility. All too few people do that these days, it seems. Pisses me off, too.

Gaylin, you touched on a very sore spot. What does that say to the tens of thousands of others who were (in some cases) hurt beyond comprehension, and chose to become therapists, child psychologists, police officers, protectors and healers? Good for you on overcoming and moving forward.

Kathy, I'll agree with that, with the stipulation that Margie and Her Cousins escort the individual to the new neighborhood. Kind of beggars description, doesn't it?

Karen, agreed 110%. Guy has too much beer, the line to the Mens Room is out the door, so he steps outside to TCB, and gets caught. Not the most dignified of moments, but hardly worth being branded for the rest of his life. A touch of overkill, if you ask me.

This makes me so sad/mad I don't even know where to start. But thanks, William, for the PSA. And for dedicating so much of your life to protecting people, esp. children.

The first issue is the probation/parole system. It is way overtaxed and not used effectively. Decide how many parole agents the state want to pay for. Calculate how many parolees that number of agents can effectively supervise and that is the number of parolees/probationers there can be. No space in the parole system, sorry you get jail. Maybe you can get on the waiting list.

Second chance is second not fifth chance. Some people do get there act together. Some do not. Any judge who thinks someone needs a third, fourth or tenth chance needs to have that person live in the judge's house. If it is a DWI, the drunk becomes the judge' children's driver.

The public has been sold a bill of goods about 'ankle bracelets'. It is time for the politicians to come clean that this has been and always will be a free pass for criminals and dump the whole setup.

If a sexual criminal is too dangerous to be on the streets without registering his address, etc. then HE SHOULD NOT BE LET OUT OF JAIL! Duh!! Sorry I'm am not into the various castration,branding, etc. thoughts people toss out. Thr problem with this is that the same laws that punish "Monster child killer" also are used against "Uncle Larry" who has a "problem".

BTW the sex offender registry said an offender lived in our complex. I kept an eye on his apartment all the time. Until I found out he had moved out two years before. Yes, I did tell the PD that he did not live there anymore. No, I don't think they did anything about it. They really can't until he is arrested somewhere.

Amen, Brother William. Thank you for dedicating your life to protecting those who can't (for many reasons) speak for themselves.

Thank you for saying all of this William. I think it often takes a particular event or moment for many of us to come to this realization. For me, it was when I had to identify the body of one of my students--raped, strangled and drowned in a school restroom. Her killer? A fellow student who had just transferred to our school (and he'd been removed from his previous school for hiding in the girls' restrooms . . . information that was not passed on to us). I remember thinking, "Okay, I get the desire for capitol punishment now."

He was sentenced to life, no parole (he was one month shy of 16 so couldn't get the death penalty).

He's since been sentenced to death for killing his cellmate in the same way.

Hard post to write. Hard post to read. But so powerful and so true.

Thanks William.


All this criminal justice stuff tends to go in cycles of political opinion, and right now the pendulum is definitely swinging toward leniency, treatment and "rehabilitation," over incarceration, the death penalty and any theory of punishment or deterrence.

In the late 80s in the wake of the crack epidemic, a whole regime of mandatory minimum sentences was put in place for all sorts of crimes -- including gun crimes and drug crimes. Courts from SCOTUS on down got "tough on crime." The crime rate plummeted in response to higher incarceration rates for all classes of offenders, and people felt safer.

Then the whole media barrage began about people wrongly convicted, people sent away for life for minor crimes because of three strikes laws, how minorities are disproportionately incarcerated, etc. All that is true at the margins, just as it's true at the margins that sexual predators are committing stranger rapes and getting away with them. Yes, it happens, but none of it happens in the numbers that hysterical media accounts would have us believe.

The bottom line is, the retreat from the draconian laws of the 80s is well underway. Madatory minimums from the Rockefeller laws to federal three strikes provisions are under attack and getting rolled back. The decriminalization debate for drugs is swinging to the point that the Obama Administration is taking it up. This process will probably take a couple of decades to play out, at which point the crime rate will surge and the calls for tough punishment will start anew.

I beg to differ, Alan. Uncle Larry's "problem" has caused an awful lot of grief in the world. He should not be allowed to continue working out said problem with his young female (or male) relatives, any more than the child killer should.

Incarceration isn't working, clearly. We have the highest rate of incarcerated citizens of any country in the world, and frankly, it's a drain on the system, financially and in every other way. There has to be another way to deal with this than throwing people into jail or monitoring their movements, neither of which address the core issues.

One thing that might help is to catch mental problems before they become serious, which means paying attention to kids as young as six and seven. Parenting classes would help, too, and could make a big difference to the crime rate in the US.

Castration does not actually stop violence, but it's an extreme punitive measure short of a death sentence, and would hold more terror than our current system does. If a perpetrator knew that was a potential outcome he (generally male) might think twice and possibly get help for his impulses.

Hey Alan,
My mother was abused by her step-father, who then abused me and my generation. When my sister had kids was she supposed to let him have access to the next generation while he continued to work out 'his problem'?

I was the one who came forward from my generation and spoke out loud and clear. While we didn't take him to the 'law', justice was served, the last 10 years of his life he was ostracized. No matter how much everyone like old Frank, no one was going to risk their grand kids to his 'problem'.

And the only reason he stopped working out his 'problem' on my generation was my 12 year old cousin getting pregnant.
12 years old, 1973, pregnant. She carried to term, gave the boy up for adoption and was never able to get pregnant again.
The gift that keeps on giving.

Yes, to some degree physical castration does work. Read up on what the loss of testosterone does to a man's behaviour.

My mom was so sad and yet so proud of me when I spoke out. She is one of the strongest women I know and yet had kept the secret for close to 60 years.

Everyone says that the world as it is causes there to be more predators than ever. Not so. This behaviour has always been with us. It is the massive population of the world and the immediacy of media that makes it seem more prevalent.

On a lighter note, it is Saturday, I just slept in really late (noon my time), um, time for breakfast. This afternoon is the library and lunch out! Living well is the best revenge. I think I will have a revengeful day.


Oh yeah, and I am making a batch of flourless chocolate truffle cookies - revenge is Sweeeeeet!

Soooo....I am so clueless about these ankle things. I am under the impression that they allow you to move freely in a confined area like your apartment if you've done something wrong. If you go outside your apartment it sends a signal to your probation person who comes looking for you to see why you are not where you should be. A tracking device tells them where to look.
I'd like to add an invisible dog fence to that assumption. You violate your registered assigned space and it tasers you. Keep doing it because you enjoy the pain and then woof! over the wall with no way out. You knew the consequences yet you keep repeating your behavior? Bad dog!
And I know there are bad people out there. Where and when they went astray should not be ignored either.
It's just a shame I cannot do anything but trust the system. And report any weird behavior I question to the police. That blog this week about burglars had me calling to report a guy in a Brink's shirt putting Brink's security glossy flyers on the doorknobs in my neighborhood at 10:AM. I was walking my dog and saw this man go up my side walk and come back down and asked him what he was doing. He showed me the flyers and asked if I had a security system. I said yes (even though I don't). Was he truly being paid to advertise for Brink's or casing out who is home when? They need a permit to do that in Miami Springs. So I called City Hall. All he'd have to do is drive down the street again and see which houses still had the sign on their doorknob at 4:30 to know who isn't home.
You learn a lot on this blog and not just about books! That's why I like it here.
Just saying.
Thanks William. Everything isn't the perfect world we'd like it to be. Let's try to fix what we can while we can make a difference!


Everyday I witness moral ambiguity of my coworkers and administration. They talk about things that need to be done and insist on creating more patronage, then they get upset when a criminal element starts to take advantage of the freedom that libraries offer.

We have had patrons get nasty with some of the people that I supervise. When I assert myself, the nastiness goes away.

This is not saying I am a tough guy, but I am thankful that I have tough Fort Lauderdale Police Department step up in the building when needed. Sometimes my coworkers and administration voice concerns that the cops went tooo far. But when a cop takes a crook down in a very public display, we have less criminal activity in the public service area.

When I have to assert myself at the job, it is great to know that FLPD has my back. Yet, some of my coworkers whine about police brutality.

The cops deal with this criminal element everyday, I am fortunate enough to not deal with these situations everyday thanks to the cops. Yet some of these criminals are repeat offenders, day after day, week after week, year after year.

I agree with William, let's find a place like Manhattan in "Escape from New York."
Hey, thanks to the Obama Administration, Gitmo will be open soon....

Thanks for writing about something that you obviously have a passion for- being the voice and in some cases the enforcer for those that don't have the power. You are The Saint, 007, Mannix and all the other cool heroes of our generation rolled into one. Who knew he lived in the suburbs??

Wow, great blog William. I don't have the exact answer but I do know a few guys who would love to have a “chat” with these fellows. I’m not much of a talker in these situations, but my solution would be final.

Thank you, everyone, for your comments! I wish I really WAS as cool as the fictional heroes mentioned above; things always work out right!

I wish it was that easy, but the truth is, there IS no Easy Solution. And we all (myself included) need to remember there are often THREE sides to everything: The Accused's Side, the Victim's side, and somewhere in there (it can take some digging to find it), is The Truth.

We didn't even address the poor schmuck who gets accused, by a vengeful pissed-off stepchild, and has his life turned inside out only to be proven completely innocent. Or the guy who admits to "having feelings", but at the age of 49 has never ever acted on them because he knows how wrong it is. Or the father, dying of cancer, who takes the bullet for his son even though there is concrete evidence the father was out of the country and nowhere NEAR the incident.

It's a bad situation, with no clear cut solutions....

Now, I have a friend from childhood who is currently in prison as a sexual predator...I am not excusing him. But I would like to mention that he turned himself in when he could no longer afford to pay for therapy (he is one who was raped by his boy scout leader and some eagle scouts). Every time that he is up for parole he does something just bad enough so that he wont be released....he is afraid of the world now, and also doesn't know if the counseling has worked, so doesn't want to be put to the test and fail.

As for the ankle bracelets? They appear to be a joke if it doesn't stop the bad things from happening. Good for tracking, but not much else. Hmmmm, maybe they should be more like the doggy electric fence collar thing, where the wearer would get zapped every time he was a certain distance from his abode?

Awesome stuff. You made a really nice compilation. Thanks!

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