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Former Facebook executive funds anti-trafficking initiative

Facebook’s former chief privacy officer is bankrolling an anti-human trafficking ballot measure that would dramatically expand how California monitors sex offenders.

The initiative – called the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act [PDF] – would toughen penalties for sex trafficking and add those convicted of the crime to the state’s sex offender registry. Most significantly, it also would require all registered offenders to surrender their “Internet identifiers” to law enforcement, including user names and email accounts.

“Every girl sold on the street today is also being sold on the Internet,” said Daphne Phung, executive director of the advocacy group California Against Slavery.

Chris Kelly, the former Facebook executive, has contributed $1.6 million to the initiative since December, according to campaign finance filings. That amount is 94 percent of all donations.

The spending marks Kelly’s return to campaign politics after a failed bid for state attorney general in 2010. He finished third in the Democratic primary despite spending millions of dollars of his own money.

In that race, Facebook’s spotty history on user privacy and safety opened Kelly to questions about how he’d protect Californians as residents move more of their lives onto digital networks.

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Palm Springs sees rise in anti-gay hate crimes

California hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation bucked a national trend and rose by 25 percent – nearly all of the increase coming from cities. The most dramatic shifts took place in Palm Springs and San Francisco – both cities with significant gay and lesbian populations.

In Palm Springs, hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation jumped from three cases in 2009 to 14 in 2010. San Francisco recorded six incidents in 2009 and 24 in 2010.

Rhonda Long, administrative services officer for the Palm Springs Police Department, said she could not explain the uptick in cases without looking at them individually. Long said the department was taking steps to prevent hate crimes in the community.

Officers complete sensitivity training, which is provided by the district attorney’s office. The Anti-Defamation League also trains officers to identify what may constitute a hate crime. Officers also encourage people to contact police if they are having conflicts with others, instead of allowing something to potentially escalate into a violent confrontation, Long said.

 

The police department has been rebuilding its image within the gay community since a 2009 scandal. Palm Springs Police Chief David Dominguez retired in January after he was accused of – and later admitted – making insensitive comments during a sex sting operation in 2009 targeting gay men who officers believed were having sex in a public park restroom. Officers arrested 19 people in the operation.

Filed under: Public Safety, Daily Report

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Sex offenders at state hospital protest ‘violent predator’ designation

In one unit of Coalinga State Hospital, a few convicts ruled to be sexually violent predators are starting to publicly protest their indefinite incarceration.

More than 900 sex offenders are housed at the mental hospital in Coalinga, a small city along I-5 in Fresno County. The hospital houses criminals with assaults on their rap sheets and psychological conditions showing them to be a danger to society.

That population had been growing slowly for years. However, the California state auditor recently reported that courts have all but stopped [PDF] designating sex offenders as violent predators in the past two years, as fewer convicts have met the requirements.

And the prisoners in Unit 9 at Coalinga have been running a public relations campaign to prove they’re being wrongfully held. Some have set up websites; others are mailing reporters large manila envelopes stuffed with documents, from court transcripts to psychological evaluations.

 

And on Sunday, one attempted civil disobedience.

Ruben Herrera, convicted of statutory rape in 2004, climbed atop an outdoor basketball hoop. For two hours, he refused to descend during what he describes as a demonstration against hospital conditions.

“We’re not supposed to be punished, but that’s exactly what they’re doing is they’re punishing us,” Herrera said in a phone interview yesterday. “They blocked off these windows and painted them black. They don’t let us leave.”

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Few sex offenders deemed 'violent predators,' audit finds

The year before California voters passed Jessica’s Law, a broad crackdown on sex offenders, the state prison system referred 512 potentially “violent predators” for examination.

By 2007, the year after the law (Proposition 83) passed, that number had rocketed by more than 1,600 percent. Meanwhile, the number of convicts actually deemed sexually violent predators almost tripled, from 15 in 2005 to 43 in 2007.

But the number of convicts considered violent predators has dwindled in the years since, according to a report released yesterday by the California State Auditor. After a significant uptick in sexually violent predator commitments in 2006 and 2007, the number dropped to 16 in 2008 and just three in 2009, according to data collected by the auditor.

The auditor’s examination [PDF] also found that the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has been referring far more inmates for examination as possible sexually violent predators than the law permits. Rather than discerning which sex offenders to refer, the prison system has instead forwarded all such offenders for review.

Further, the corrections department has not given the state Department of Mental Health the required six-month lead time for examinations.

Filed under: Public Safety, Daily Report

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