A Parallel Universe book, Alex Landon, designer laws, myths about sex offenders, civil rights,
Megans Law, Caylees law, Megans list, Chelseas Law, Jessicas law, overreaction to sex crimes, wives and children of offenders,
sexual predator, constitutional rights of convicted people, registration of sex offenders, GPS monitoring of sex offenders,
no-live zones for sex offenders, therapist client confidentiality, Caylee Anthony, Danielle Van Dam, Samantha Runnion
a former federal prosecutor, I thought I knew something about sex offenders
and sex-crime laws, but this book showed me I'd been taken in.'
"A Parallel Universe,"... anyone who still thinks that by
electing an African-American president we have adequately redressed
burning civil rights issues will be thoroughly disabused of the idea.'
— Tomás Gayton
with two separate voices, Landon and Halleck inform the reader by citing
case histories and legal doctrine ... While we ponder the facts, the
reader is slowly introduced to a poignant story of a young man who suddenly
must withstand a barrage of injustices.'
— Sandra Waterkotte
the powerful forces behind the enactment of the reactionary laws that
we see on a daily basis.'
— Jackie Crowle
Two tales of public folly and personal
By Alex Landon and Elaine Halleck
this genre-busting morality tale, two authors take the reader on two
unexpected journeys unexpected because they oppose vast and vague
perceptions that are themselves embraced with moral fervor.
The timeline of both the fictional and nonfictional story begins in
2000 and traverses a fearful decade. The "millennium bug"
doesn't materialize, but the 9/11 attacks do, bringing a stampede of
apocalyptic horsemen disease scares, economic malaise, a senseless
war and simmering racism.
The setting of both tales is mostly California, said to be the future
of the world. Here, helicopters pursuing "illegal aliens,"
scrambling jet fighters, and black towers beaming Amber alerts preside
over 14-lane freeways. This landscape is convulsed from time to time
by abductions of photogenic youngsters rare tragedies that are
crafted into media tsunamis bringing in their wake designer laws
that ultimately make things worse.
The landscape is highlighted by a snapshot: a blond Sunday school teacher
stares at a computer, her hand covering her mouth, while a sheriff shows
her Megans list, a database profiling one out of every
135 California men which could include a teenager caught with
his underage girlfriend, or a man who took a leak in a field near the
Mexican border. Outside the photo frame are those who enabled it: politicians
molding misinformation into images starring themselves as saviors. An
average sex offender, in their lifetime, commits 360 sex offenses,"
Thus is created a class of men who live in fear of a knock on the door,
dont get jobs and are driven from their homes. One is Danny Fernandez,
a single father who clings to the American dream even as a witch hunt
exiles him into a parallel universe where principles enshrined in that
dream are ignored.
Landon is an attorney specializing in criminal law. He is a professor
at the University of San Diego School of Law; past president of California
Attorneys for Criminal Justice and the San Diego Criminal Defense Bar
Association; and former Executive Director of the Defenders Program
of San Diego, Inc. Elaine Halleck is a journalist. She has contributed
to publications including the (Detroit) Metro Times, the Tokyo Journal,
the Sacramento News and Review and the Guadalajara Reporter.
Campbell, Law Professor, Author "Trial and Error: The Education
of A Freedom Lawyer"
the nation's top attorneys has teamed with a novelist to cast light
on the stunning realities of our country's sex-offender laws. Interweaving
law with personal lives by writing alternate chapters, Landon (the lawyer)
and Halleck (the novelist), reveal the "parallel universe"
of sex-crime legislation and enforcement. What makes this universe parallel
to, instead of part of, reality is its utter irrationality. The authors
reveal its origins in myths, made-up statistics, and political demagoguery,
its enormous cost, its beneficiaries, and its devastating distraction
from effective law-enforcement. As a former federal prosecutor, I thought
I knew something about sex offenders and sex-crime laws, but this book
showed me I'd been taken in by misleading reports in mass media and
baseless pronouncements by "experts." Taxpayers, law-abiding
citizens, and victims of crime should read this book and join the growing
ranks of realistic reformers who are puncturing the puffed-up paper
tiger from the "parallel universe."
Gayton, Civil Rights Attorney, in National Lawyers Guild
publication, October, 2011
Civil rights and criminal defense attorneys are well aware of the erosion
of our civil liberties and the devolution of the criminal justice system
into the prison-industrial complex. But after reading "A Parallel
Universe" by Alex Landon and Elaine Halleck, anyone who still thinks
that by electing an African-American president we have adequately redressed
these burning civil rights issues will be thoroughly disabused of the
Attorney Alex Landon teaches at the University of San Diego and has
battled for many years for justice in the criminal courts of San Diego,
and journalist Elaine Halleck has reported on social dynamics in contemporary
society and in Nazi Germany. Together, in alternating nonfiction and
fiction (based on facts) chapters, they treat the hot-potato issue of
sex offenses and laws the authors call them "designer laws"
that were named after the victims of gruesome sex crimes, such
as laws passed after the summer of 2002, dubbed "The Summer of
the Abducted White Girl."
The alternating chapters by Landon and Halleck, although they closely
parallel one another and partly explain the title, will challenge some
readers because of the mix of genres. And the book maybe be generally
challenging because so many have been deceived by fear-mongering politicians
to believe that designer laws (Megan's Law, Jessica's Law, etc.) actually
protect children. So people suffer a false sense of security, while
convicted people live in a parallel universe where they are not protected
by principles that others take for granted.
Landon describes how the forces of fear have mutated those who were
once described as "Mentally Disordered Sex Offenders" to "Sexually
Violent Predators," "pervs, perps and peds." We now have
a system where the Hippocratic Oath has mutated into "police-affiliated
therapists" who are not troubled by the lack of voluntary consent
or doctor-patient confidentiality in their "sex therapy sessions"
because they profit from the public financing of this charade. The abuses
are well described in Halleck's chapters, with one convicted man saaying
he'd rather be in prison than in "therapy."
Landon explains the larger constitutional issues involved in some U.S.
Supreme Court decisions, such as the 2002 decision, McKune v. Lile,
that"put another bullet in the already badly maimed body of convicted
people's rights," in this case the protection against self-incrimination,
and the 2003 decision that gave the green light for Megan's list to
go on the Internet. (Landon's factoids in Chapter 3 that one out of
every 135 California men are on Megan's list and, in Chapter 23, that,
per Jessica's law, the annual cost of GPS tracking for all sex offenders
would cost $1.05 billion are illuminating.)
Halleck's fictional chapters present a Mexican-American family
in Orange County from the POVs of a convicted man named Danny
Fernandez, his mother and daughter who are suffering the effects
of Danny's blacklisting under Megan's law, such as housing discrimination,
hate incidents and vigilantism.
The "parallel universe" into which Danny and the "surfing
fool" sex offender Michel are exiled is certainly not a pleasant
place to visit, even from an armchair. But Danny's mother, daughter
and Michel interject lighter notes that engender empathy and smiles.
In conclusion the authors ask the reader "if the 'parallel universe'
where precious rights are scarce and where tax money disappears into
a dark hole, has grown too large to take on." Implicit in the question
is the challenge to 21st century Americans to take action before the
new Jim Crow and sex crime juggernaut wake us up to a financially ruined
Defense (a publication of the San Diego Criminal Defense Bar
Association and the Criminal Defense Lawyers Club) www.sddefense.org
Jackie Crowle, president
book A Parallel Universe is a bold and fascinating look at designer
sex laws and their impact on the lives of people in our community. Co-authored
by criminal defense attorney Alex Landon and journalist Elaine Halleck,
the book alternates chapters of non-fiction and fiction in looking at
a story of tragedies.
chapters describe the historical roots of sex offender laws, and the
American penchant for using the tragedies of abducted and murdered girls
to enact harsher and more restrictive legislation. He looks Jessicas
Law, Megans Law, Ambers Law, and Chelseas Law. He
explores the powerful forces behind enactment of the reactionary laws
that we see on a daily basis. He describes how what he calls the Summer
of the Abducted White Girl has become the prime motivator behind
the new sex offender laws. The book is packed with well researched facts
and detail, yet it is concise and readable for the lawyer and non-lawyer
reflects the theme of the book: how sensational cases, public fear,
public hysteria, pseudo science, psychology, political grandstanding,
and economic factors like the prison industry have combined to create
increasingly draconian laws supposedly meant to protect children by
targeting sex offenders. If this sounds complex and multi-faceted, it
is. There are no simple causes, and no simple answers. Alex covers such
diverse topics as the penile plethysmograph, therapists mandated
reporting, Oprah Winfrey, and police stings involving fictitious children
in chat rooms.
adds stories about affected individuals. Her chapters recount the effects
of designer sex laws on men, women, and children who lead ordinary lives.
She tells of families stigmatized by sex offender databases. She tells
of social ostracism and homelessness. She tells of Chicano families
and Anglo families.
are mothers, sons, daughters, fathers. Some are fearful, driven by the
sensationalism of the crime headlines that pervade their lives. Some
are obsessed, seeing sexual predators on every corner. Some ponder how
an erosion of human rights has occurred. Some, especially the children,
are confused. Some ask questions, others spout venom or repeat what
they hear. Religion and racism play their parts too. Elaine captures
the emotions of our times in the stories she tells. She shows the very
real consequences of designer laws on mainstream America.
weave the fiction and non-fiction to fulfill their promise of Tales
of Public Folly and Personal Devastation. The book has a strong
political point of view, which in my opinion makes it shine. Its
message: the cookie cutter laws designed to protect children are not
accomplishing their objectives, but rather are imposing lifetime incarceration
and public vilification of individuals. Yet, this book does more than
just preach to the choir. It provides us with a deeper understanding
of how these laws came into existence. It demonstrates how the laws
utterly fail to differentiate between a one-time offender from decades
ago and a serial pedophile. It gives us the ammunition we need to speak
out not just in court, but in the political arena. While its fictional
conclusion may be a bit contrived, the research done and the care shown
in the writing make this a must read.
educational reading piques your interest, take a look at Russell Banks
newest novel "Lost Memory of Skin"the story of The
Kid, a registered sex offender. One reviewer says the story goes
beyond the plight of the individual to our troubled society where
zero tolerance has erased any hope of subtlety or compassion
a society where isolating the offender has perhaps created a new kind
of victim. While lurid novels detailing the horrors of stranger
abduction and child victimization abound, new books with a more nuanced
perspective are welcome.
Universe offers a unique approach that blends story-telling with
reporting. This book doesnt fit neatly into any category: It is
a novel, textbook, editorial, a narrative taken from headlines, a primer
on the American legal system, a manual on how the American legal system
can be overwhelmed by the fears we seek to quiet, a treatise on family
bonds, and a thoughtful exposé of an issue that has captivated
Americans for the past decade. This book educates the reader about the
scary societal questions surrounding the fate of accused or convicted
sexual predators real and imagined and the hysteria that
fuels the system that deals with them. A Parallel Universe poses
the questions we all should be asking.
with two voices, Halleck and Landon inform the reader by citing case
histories and legal doctrine, never talking over our heads, as they
ask questions about what should be important to all of us. While we
ponder the facts, we are slowly introduced to a poignant story of a
young man who suddenly must withstand a barrage of injustices that hes
not equipped to understand or to compete against. That story
is brought to us through the eyes of a woman who begins to ask questions
about things that many of us have failed to consider. We too often assume
that whats legal must be whats right. What if that isnt
Universe should facilitate an important public discourse about how
our system deals with an issue that no one wants to debate. Like anything
else in America today, this issue is many-sided. The reader cant
help but face questions that touch on racism, public policy, our complex
system of government, social agencies overloaded and often uncaring,
and our need to prioritize what truly matters. Youve heard read
it and weep ?
The authors talk about writing the book in two videos: