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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, September 18, 2008

BKW notifies of two registered sex offenders in the Hilltowns

By Zach Simeone

HILLTOWNS — The Berne-Knox-Westerlo School District received a notice from the Albany County Sheriff’s Department that two registered sex offenders have moved to the Hilltowns.

Joseph Penk, a Level 2 offender, which ranks in the middle of a three-tier system, now lives at 410 Pleasant Valley Road. His residence at the address was last confirmed on Aug. 13.

He was convicted on Feb. 7, 2002 for third-degree rape; the victim was a 17-year-old girl. He was sentenced to six months in state prison, and five years of probation.

According to his entry in the state’s sex offender database, he’s been ordered to register as a sex offender, participate in a sex-offender treatment program, participate in sex-offender evaluations, and seek treatment for alcohol use.

The school also received notice that Donald Ferry, a Level 3 sex offender, now lives in Rensselaerville at 4371 Route 81. However, the New York State Sex Offender Registry lists two sex offenders named Donald Ferry, neither of whom are listed under this address.

Megan’s law

In 1996, New York adopted a law requiring that information about high-risk sex offenders be made public. The law was modeled on one adopted earlier by New Jersey, frequently called Megan’s Law, after Megan Kanka, a seven-year-old who was raped and murdered by a neighbor who had twice been convicted of sex crimes.

States across the country have had a patchwork of different laws dealing with sex offenders. Some sex offenders in Oregon had to post signs outside their homes to alert others they were living inside. In California, legislation mandated castration — physical or chemical — of certain repeat child molesters. A Louisiana law required offenders to publish their whereabouts and background in the newspaper. A county in Washington State sent out fliers and press releases and held public meetings.

According to New York’s 1996 law, sex offenders must register with the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services. The offenders are ranked — 1 to 3, with 3 being the highest — according to their risk of re-offending. This risk is usually assessed at the time of sentencing, according to a number of factors, including the offender’s level of offense, its nature, the offender’s relationship to his victim, and if force was used. All offenders are required to register.

Community notification can happen in four ways. A directory of offenders is available at local law-enforcement agencies. A registry, which can be accessed by phone or Internet, is maintained by the state’s criminal justice department. And local law-enforcement agencies are notified when a sex offender moves into their jurisdiction.

In turn, the law-enforcement agency may disseminate relevant information to any entity with vulnerable populations, like a school district.


Pictures and information on registered sex offenders can be found in the New York State Sex Offender Registry, at http://criminaljustice.state.ny.us/nsor/search_index.htm. For more information, call the Sex Offender Registry Information Line at 1-800-262-3257.

— Melissa-Hale Spencer contributed the section on Megan’s Law.

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