The Summer of Missed Opportunities -- Now Extending to Fall 2009?

Are you kidding me? Has the "Summer of Missed Opportunities" extended to the Fall of 2009, as well? It sure looks that way!

The summer of 2009 was marked by cases where there were clear "missed opportunities," a term used to define cases where law enforcement, prosecutors, parole, the judicial system, and the criminal justice system as a whole failed society and individual victims. How? By allowing the "worst of the worst" to be free and to commit heinous acts against numerous unsuspecting, vulnerable victims.

The specific cases that give rise to this year's "Summer of Missed Opportunities" include the case of Lily Burk (the 17-year-old slashed ear to ear by a third-striker who was not prosecuted as such because he was out of custody due to a "clerical error").

Then, there was Dae'von Bailey, the 8 -year-old Los Angeles boy killed by his mother's boyfriend despite a dozen calls by concerned citizens to The Department of Children's and Family Services). And we can't forget Jaycee Dugard, the 11-year-old girl who was held captive in a registered sex offender's "tent city" for eighteen years and actually bore two children for him. (Officials reports document that he was only correctly supervised 12 months of the 123 months he was on parole. Put another way, in the Inspector General's own words, "Put another way, 90 percent of the time the department's oversight of Garrido lacked required actions.)"

Well, if the summer hasn't had our heads spinning enough, it seems that the evil in our society never ends. Last week, it was the case of the gang rape in Richmond County where everyone sat idle. Today, it is the heinous revelations coming from Cleveland, Ohio.

Eleven dead bodies have been found at the home of Anthony Sowell, along with a skull in a brown bag, with possibly more bodies on the premises. As I type this, investigators are still digging up Sowell's backyard and searching his walls for the remnants of more human remains. If this image isn't vile enough, add to it that Sowell was on parole for an '89 rape. Furthermore, there were numerous complaints of a disgusting stench, and even complaints and calls to the officials claiming the same. Sound familiar?

Apparently, Garrido's neighbors finally called 9-1-1 for fire assistance when they became aware of the bizarre housing behind his house. Does it sound as if regular citizens had more sense than those whose jobs are to protect and serve?

Well, let's look at these cases. After his release from jail in 2005, Anthony Sowell (a former US Marine who has struggled with drug and alcohol misuse for years) moved into an apartment in the crime-ridden district of East Cleveland, OH. Sowell was convicted in 1989 of raping a woman who was three months pregnant and spent 15 years in prison for that crime.

As a registered sex offender, Sowell was required to report regularly to the local Sheriff's Department. Reports online and on the news have said: "Officers did not have the power to enter his house." This is ridiculous! It would be very easy for officials to have gotten a warrant to search his home, especially since there was the smell of DEATH around where he lived (apparently the smell persisted for three years, and the community demanded the sewer lines be changed -- which, obviously, did not help). Clearly, Sowell should have been monitored more carefully!

On September 22, officers visited his house just hours before a woman reported being raped and choked with an electrical extension cord there. Why didn't the officials pick up on something suspicious? Why is the system failing so severely?

Sowell was apparently denied sex offender rehab (which he asked for) in 1983. Why was he denied? Although many have said that would not have done any good because of the violent predator he was, we have to wonder why the system was not more involved in the case of this incredibly dangerous person.

We have also learned this week that the parole of Phillip Garrido was severely mishandled as well. Garrido, an alleged kidnapper and rapist, was poorly supervised by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, according to the results of a report by California's Inspector General.

Inspector General Dave Shaw said the investigation found several missteps during the 10-year period Garrido was supervised by California parole agents--failures that led to the continued captivity of kidnap victim Jaycee Dugard and her two children.

Parole officer visited Garrido twice a month for years. An officer once saw Jaycee at Garrido's house (clearly a violation of parole, since his is a sex offender's home). Garrido was on federal parole from 1988 to January 1999, and in 1991 he allegedly kidnapped Jaycee and sexually assaulted her (in 1991). California took over Garrido's supervision in 1999. Here are the highlights of the report from the CA Inspector General:

The report cites the corrections department:
• Failed to adequately classify and supervise Garrido.
• Failed to obtain key information from federal parole authorities.
• Failed to properly supervise parole agents responsible for Garrido.
• Failed to use GPS information.
• Provides the public a false sense of security with a passive GPS monitoring program that falls short of its potential, raising OIG's concerns about the department's current and future uses of GPS monitoring.
• Ignored other opportunities to determine that Garrido was violating the terms of his parole.
• Failed to refer Garrido for mental health assessment.
• Failed to train parole agents to conduct parolee home visits.
Missed opportunities to discover the existence of Garrido's three victims, including:
• Failing to investigate clearly visible utility wires running from Garrido's house toward the concealed compound.
• Failing to investigate the presence of a 12-year old female during a home visit.
• Failing to talk to neighbors or local public safety agencies.
• Failing to act on information clearly showing Garrido had violated his parole terms.

This is unacceptable! Yet, why does it take missed opportunities and further victimization to incite change? And why aren't these unforgivable omissions being discussed at national summits? I can recall the exchange between Professor Henry
Luis Gates and Sergeant James Crowley, a case that in my opinion was a case
of mutual snafus, poor manners, while others claimed "racism." Whatever your opinion, that one event drew international attention, climaxed by a "beer summit with the President of the United States!"

Yet women and children are dying and all we hear are apologies - sometimes--and more often, just a shifting of blame.

We, as a society, must demand accountability of government agencies and those we entrust to ensure that our children are safe. We can no longer simply accept these snafus as "missed opportunities." They speak to a far larger problem, and one that affects every American family--the fate of women and children in a society that seems to have forgotten how to keep them safe.