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It's Friday, August 4, early morning at the Norfolk County House of Detention in - page 1 / 3





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It's Friday, August 4, early morning at the Norfolk County House of Detention in Dedham. Following breakfast at 7 a.m., the prisoners serving sentences for non-payment of child support and scheduled for release are to be taken to Dedham Probate & Family Court for a last attempt at shakedown. Bill Leisk has been told by the prison caseworker that he is one of the prisoners scheduled for the trip. Despite protestations that he is not in jail for child support and that his thirty-day sentence ends tomorrow, August 5, the harried case worker assures Leisk that the computer shows he is headed for Dedham Court today.

Given his street clothes -- sans wallet and shoelaces -- Leisk is ornamented with the customary prison jewelry: handcuffs that attach to a chain belted around his waist and another chain that joins ankle cuffs. Along with a dozen or so other prisoners, he shuffles to the van for the trip to the courthouses.

Fifty years old, with no prior criminal record, Leisk has recently become a member of the fastest growing segment of the nation's incarcerated: men accused of 'domestics.'  Such crimes include non-payment of child support, violation of a 209A domestic abuse prevention order, assault and battery on a spouse or 'partner', or other miscellaneous offenses such as non-payment of attorney or Guardian ad Litem fees incurred in a divorce or custody case. Leisk reveals that his cellmate at Dedham, Bobby Cavanaugh, was serving a four-month sentence for an alleged $3,750 arrears in child support for an 18-year-old daughter who lived with him. Such are the Orwellian incongruities that

According to Dedham prison officer Brian Connoly, approximately 45 percent of the prisoners at the Norfolk County House of Detention are there for domestics: about 5 percent for contempt of court related to child support and the remaining 40 percent for 209A domestic abuse prevention order [issues] or assault.

Unlike conventional criminals who are convicted of a crime by a jury of their peers, many of these men like Leisk are sentenced by a Family Court judge who has found them in contempt of court. Ranging from the {serious}_______ to the ridiculous, the reasons for being found in contempt are as fanciful and varied as the myriad charges typically leveled at men embroiled in divorce and custody litigation.

Case in point: Bill Leisk.

Leisk was sentenced to thirty days in jail by Dedham Probate & Family Court Judge J. Kopelman on July 6 this year for buying an airline ticket to Hawaii for his 16-year-old daughter, who had asked him to buy the ticket. The how-and-why of Leisk's criminalization illustrates just how far our system of justice has degenerated in a relatively short period of time.

Leisk and ex-wife Camille Morin met, married and started their family in Hawaii in 1984. They divorced there in 1996 with an agreement to share legal and physical custody of their three daughters. Presently, the entire family resides in Massachusetts. Leisk has visitation privileges with his daughters, including half of the summer. He had planned a

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