I read a recent article by Robert Litchfield showing the plight of homeless registrants in the town of Auburn, CA. This is a town that has gone far and beyond due diligence in assuring that those on the registry have no place they can legally be. This is a writer who has the remarkable gift of painting a picture, vivid and haunting, with his words. I do not want to know the person whose heart is so hard that this article would not bring a tear to his eye.
However, several fitting that description found their way, as they will, to the comment board of the article. Replying to one response expressing dismay at the treatment of the registered men, another noted that the author documented that one of his subjects had served a 12 year sentence before being paroled to Auburn and said, “… one does not do 12 years for a minor sexual indiscretion.”
The point, of course, was that his crime was so serious that he did not deserve treatment any better than what he was receiving or the sympathy of anyone. And even though there are certainly exceptions, he is probably correct in his original premise; a lengthy sentence and then release on parole indicates a serious offense.
But that isn’t actually the point, is it? No matter how serious a crime was committed, no matter the length of the sentence, unless the death penalty or life without parole was given, the person will be released into society. He will be told, “Get a job, tell us where you live, make sure you are actually living there, obey your parole conditions, keep your nose clean.” Ah, but if he is on the registry, he is told, “Get a job—however no one will hire you; live where you say you do—however this and this and that part of town, actually the whole town, is off-limits. Obey your parole conditions—however, you can’t go anywhere to charge up your GPS, so that’s a violation right off the bat. Keep your nose clean—however, you really aren’t going to be able to keep it dry and warm, let alone clean.”
And if he is on the registry, he is also told, “Most important of all; don’t re-offend.” And then he is given conditions and restrictions that strip away every ounce of control and potential stability, and those are the conditions that research tells us most often lead to re-offending.
I see a schism developing, dividing state from state, sometimes county from county and town from town. I read articles about states or counties who, based on research and expert witness testimony at congressional hearings, have made the decision not to implement residency or presence restrictions for registrants or, if they already have them, are striking them down. Then I read articles like this one, articles that paint the most horrific of pictures.
And I think about the attempts to force that most horrific scenario on every state, territory, and Indian nation in the form of the AWA.
And I shudder.
Update on Human Rights Project
Attorney and advocate Nicole Pittman of Human Rights Watch is still looking for more juveniles to interview who have been forced to register as sex offenders. This is an update from Nicole.
The requests for interviews are still coming in large numbers. So far, I have conducted nearly 100 interviews of youth and their families. I am back in Philadelphia this week. At the end of April I head out to interview in Texas (Dallas/Fort Worth area). I will then be traveling to Florida, Michigan (Detroit), Illinois, and Washington (Seattle/Tacoma) during May 2012. I have yet to solidify my travels for June.
As you can imagine, I am learning so much from the wonderful people I interview. Many interviewees have suggested that I tailor my ‘search for interview bulletin’ to clarify that I am looking for child registrants and not just children affected by registries. My Supervisor at HRW and I took some time this weekend to revise my “search” materials. Below is a copy of the email body.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
Thank you so much for everything!!!
My name is Nicole Pittman.
I have worked on reforming federal and state sex offender registration laws for nearly seven years. As an advocate and researcher for Human Rights Watch, I am currently conducting a nationwide investigation on the harmful impact of sex offender registration and notification laws on children. The published Human Rights Watch report will focus on documenting and advocating against the human rights violations that stem from placing children on sex offender registries.
Interviews will extend to but are not limited to persons who meet the following characteristics and categories;
Children (under the age of 18) who have been adjudicated delinquent or convicted as an adult of a sex offense AND;
Subject (or subjected) to sex offender registration and notification laws.
Were subjected to registration or notification laws but successfully petitioned to get off the registry.
Were subject to registration and notification laws but aged out of the juvenile justice system and no longer are required to register.
Family Members affected by a child relative subject to registration and notification. Family members can also include siblings, cousins, grandparents, aunts/uncles, coaches, clergy, foster parents, teacher, principals, or anyone in a guardian/mentor-like position in the child’s life that was indirectly affected by the child’s registration status.
Attorneys representing children in underlying criminal proceedings or adjudications.
Government Officials A Government official in this case can be a probation officer, a judge, prosecutor, mandatory sex offender treatment provider, sex offender registration group treatment provider, police officer, interstate compact on juvenile official, etc.
I will be interviewing in various states during the spring/early summer 2012. Please feel free to contact me directly (email is best).
Nicole Pittman ESQ.
1441 Sansom Street #729 | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19102
Update from Women Against Registry
As of today, 4-27, we have 223 members and contacts in our organization. There are four groups active--California, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, and Alabama--and we will be holding our first conference call in May with the point of contact folks in those states. There are two more state groups scheduled for kick-off in May and another two pending.
We are still collecting stories from the family members of registrants for the Innocent Victims website. Please contact me if you would like to submit your story, and I will send you the format and form.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Awareness month, and I saw a notice of a conference in the local newspaper. I went to their office to register and pay. I ended up talking to the lady and a couple of her employees for about 15 minutes about the registry, cited a few stories, and left one of our brochures for them. They were very interested, and the lady said she had never stopped to think about the impact the registry has on the families. She told me to bring any literature I had to put on the information table. I did and was amazed at the end of the conference to learn that only a couple of things remained. There were 80 people in attendance, mostly ladies, and I had no idea who they were or why they were there. I soon learned they were mostly care givers and many were required to take courses. I completed the course and received 4 contact hours of professional development. I had the fortunate opportunity to sit next to a lady, who was later introduced as the newly appointed CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) Director for our county. As the conference progressed, I supplied her and another lady at the table several statistics and stories. During a break I introduced myself to the police captain who did the presentation on sexual offenses. We talked some about the registry. and he agreed it was too massive and needed some changes. Overall it was a very good day.
Each day I feel more and more hopeful. We are getting our message out there, journalists are taking note of the facts, letters are being written to legislators, and even some in law enforcement are voicing a need for change. So use your voice, your keyboard, your Twitter, your Google+ or whatever it takes, and if you don’t feel as I do that things are changing, then contact me, and I will tell you why you feel that way.
Women Against Registry
In the Media
Amir Bar-Lev, a respected National Geographic documentary film journalist, is creating a series for National Geographic Television about neighbors in America, with the purpose of creating dialogue between community members and changing people's minds on issues about which they may have preconceived notions. They want the pilot to focus on the increasing number of people on sex offender registries, and they contacted RSOL for possible candidates. The information was dispersed, and within a week we received word that they had filled the casting need. We have no idea if an RSOL member was chosen, but whether or not, we look forward to the making and airing of this program. We will keep you updated as to when it will air.
One of our brand new organizers, Vickie in Utah, contacted me with the information that her husband will be interviewed by the local Salt Lake City Fox television station. The air date for the interview is set for the end of April. We will make every attempt to locate a link or, at the very least, do a follow-up on the outcome of the interview.
A short while ago I received a communication from a young woman named Christina who was seeking information for a school project she is doing. It is focused on teenage sex offender cases, especially cases that involve consensual or statutory situations. I was able to send her several links and references that she found helpful. I assumed that she was a college student, but our dialogue back and forth revealed that she is a high school senior and has been working on different aspects of this project all year as her senior project. She assures me that she will send me her final product or products. Since statistics are showing us that young people ages 13 to 19 are the fastest growing category of new registrants, I am pleased to see the young people themselves taking an active role in exposing and fighting this growing trend. I will certainly share here whatever Christina shares with me.
An up-coming Paula Gloria show, "Further Down the Rabbit Hole," will feature interviews with Ken Kish, the author of Despised Things, Lynn Gilmore, CEO of SOSEN and author of Consensual Consequences, and Derek Logue, author of Once Fallen and owner of http://oncefallen.com/.
While they were in New York, two other talk show hosts invited them to be on their shows while they were there at the Paula Gloria show! Again, we do not know network or air date or dates yet, but we will keep you updated as soon as possible. Check the website frequently for updates on all of these events.
PayPal Is Here!
RSOL National could not continue to operate without the generosity of supportive friends. A great amount of our funds is extended in the Prison Project, which mails print copies of each month's Digest to inmates in state prisons throughout the U.S. Making contributions has become simplified in that we now have a PayPal button on the home page of our website. It may be used to make a one time donation in any amount as well as to set up regular, re-occurring donations of a set amount each month. We urge everyone possible to visit our home page and make use of this function. And speaking of the Prison Project, we now have volunteers in Texas, Illinois, Virginia, Arkansas, and North and South Dakota who have undertaken the responsibility of printing and mailing the Digest to the recipients in prisons in their specific states and serving as "pen-pals" as well. The originator of the project, Lynn, continues to do the printing and mailing for all of the other states. If anyone in your state would like to volunteer to do this for those in prisons in your state who want the Digest, please contact Lynn
The RSOL 2012 National Conference, “Catching The Dream of Reform,” coordinated and hosted by RSOL New Mexico at the renowned Ramada Inn Conference Center in Albuquerque September 6-9, 2012, offers a unified approach to legislative advocacy and volunteer-driven organizational development with topical expert presentations and three distinct yet interrelated 'skill & awareness building' paths through panel discussions and training workshops.
With the overarching mission of empowering citizen-driven law reform groups to better understand and legally remake the convoluted complexity of current thinking on sex offender registration issues, distinguished speakers will provoke a collaborative think-tank full of proven ideas for and best approaches to making all communities safe and abuse-free.
The workshops and panel-forums, which may be mixed-and-matched at discretion, are actually organized as mini-tutorials with consecutive segments building awareness one upon the next under three headings:
How lawmaking works and what regular people need to know to have an impact on the process.
What the current laws on sex offenders are and what the experts recommend be changed about them.
How to organize effective advocacy/support groups and grow professional communications networks.
In addition to several informally structured (and entirely optional) social excursions designed to serve conference objectives by enhancing professional networking in relaxed social environments, several 'open sessions' are on the 3-day agenda during which attendees will have some designated time and space to interact directly with peers and experts on topics that they would most like to discuss. Also, parents traveling with children will have the option to participate in collaborative child-care arrangements during conference hours.
California RSOL issued a Bill of Rights for state registrants, which includes references to the state and federal constitutions as well as the state penal code. It is intended that registrants use the Bill of Rights to address challenges such as discrimination in employment and housing. A copy of that document can be found on the organization's new website at www.californiarsol.org. California RSOL also started an on-line petition to protest an Orange County ordinance that bans registrants from parks, beaches, harbors and other recreational areas. Signatures are being gathered here
. The petition is focused upon that county because its district attorney is lobbying cities within the county to pass similar ordinances. California RSOL scored a legislative victory recently in the state capitol, however; we are now opposing 3 state bills and 1 federal bill bill that would punish further all registrants. California RSOL continued its monthly meetings for registrants and family members with an April 21 meeting in Los Angeles.
April has been a very busy month as we begin to organize. I traveled to Rapid City to meet another member, and we stopped at the Shelter for Abused Women, the Rapid City Journal, and the Police Department to introduce ourselves and inform them of Dakota RSOL as we attempted to find a list of places that would rent to a registered sex offender. We were given a list of possibilities by The Corner Mission, so we have a start. As we sat in the office with Captain Deb Cady and Captain Doug Thrash discussing the hardships that the registry places on families, Captain Thrash asked, “What do you want from us? We don’t make the laws but what can we do?” It was a very warm reception and genuine interest in our cause. It really started me thinking, “As an organization, what do we want?” I emailed other members, and we are now working on our goals.
My good deed for the month has been responding to Prison Pen Pals to offer a ray of hope, share the Digest and other information with them, answer any questions, and assure them there are many people working for reform. I encourage anyone who has the time to be a Prison Pen Pal for your state. Believe me, you will be appreciated. It is very lonely in prison, and everyone could use a friend. South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard is conducting a study regarding high prison population in South Dakota, and after sending RSOL information to all judges in North and South Dakota, I sent a packet of information to Governor Daugaard requesting to be a part of that study if that was a possibility.
I am so proud to be from South Dakota because of the “team” effort being made on prevention, prosecution, and reentry. I am certain you will be hearing more from South Dakota because I am just getting started and there is so much opportunity for education and reform which will protect children, provide treatment and respect for the whole family, and hopefully keep some families intact. Unconditional love is a powerful tool, and that is what it is going to take to bring families back together. I am also writing to several sex offender treatment centers to encourage more research, studies, and statistics on treating AND curing sexually challenged victims versus prosecution, incarceration, lifetime registry, and persecution of “the family.”
The Florida Action Committee continues to meet bi-weekly for our board and monthly for our membership sessions via phone conferencing and Talkshoe connections. President Gail Colletta attended the Florida ATSA chapter conference and came away with several contacts that can assist us in our work of getting change to the registry through the use of appropriate risk assessments. The 3200 post card mailing has resulted in almost 200 responses to our site. A total of 8 regional contacts from our membership are personally calling each of those who have responded. . Board members Dave and Diane, South Florida, are maintaining membership records that are serving as a vehicle to increase our active membership. Board member Carol hosted a meeting for Brevard and surrounding counties to begin to engage those members in her Regional area. Florida is represented on the planning committee for the National RSOL 4th Annual conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, September 7-9, 2012. The board is also in contact with the Florida ACLU leadership. A special FAC face-to- face board meeting is planned for May 10 to develop the strategy that can best involve the ACLU, possibly targeting the residency restriction issue. Florida has participated in sending letters to almost 100 Federal judges in the state’s three districts about possession of child pornography sentences. This is part of a national effort. The FAC web site is under new management thanks to board member Julius Colletta and two members of Julius and Gail’s family. Board member Anita and FAC member Barb S. have worked in the Central Florida area with groups to provide support for those who have a family member or loved one on the registry.
April is ending! I can't believe it! That means summer is just around the corner. With that said, this summer Indiana legislators will be convening to study the criminal codes related to registrants. They will be studying to become compliant with SORNA laws, better known as the Adam Walsh Act (AWA). You can believe that INRSOL will be presenting factual information to the representatives that serve on this committee. We will also be testifying at these meetings, if we are allowed.
Our membership is growing at a tremendous rate. Each week we are receiving 10-20 new requests for membership! So, we saw a need for a support group for registrants and family members. INRSOL is now affiliated with a support group, to remain anonymous, for those who need a friend or accountability partner. This group meets every other Friday evening and remains in contact throughout the two weeks. We are excited to be able to provide this support to our members. Until next month, blessings to you all!
--Kim, Lynn, and Nick
continued on next column
continued from previous column
The 2012 legislative session was a SUCCESS in my book! I want to tell everyone just how AWESOME you are. We had at least 16 or 17 people present. Two of those were teenagers, speaking about the damage the registry is doing to them and their siblings!
Sheri and Bob testified against a bill that would have reduced good time credits for violent and sexual offenders (the ones that are being sentenced to lifetime supervision) and both cleared up some really bad facts on the issue. The bill sponsors were saying that these sex offenders had a 50% recidivism rate, and Bob and Sheri both pointed out that right on Maryland's web site the Governor was bragging about how this group recidivates at about 1%.
Nearly everyone testified against the Halloween restrictions and the Community-based Organizations ban. Our members did a great job pointing out to the committee just how much such restrictions would hurt their families, especially their innocent children.
All the bills we fought died - many without even the dignity of a vote in committee. I am sure there are many factors that played into some of these, but your presence and phone calls and letters no doubt had an impact. Of the two bills we were supporting, only one passed. Removal of persons convicted of kidnapping an adult will soon be a reality.
What I have learned from this is that even when all the "heavy hitters" are supportive, we need to push hard for the bills we like.
As April comes to a close, MCR still is working in earnest to pass HB 1700 in the Senate. We are getting close to the end of our session. Things are still moving forward, but not as swiftly as when we first started. Many of our supporters have flooded their state senators with letters asking for "yes votes" on HB 1700. The efforts needed to pass a bill are MONUMENTAL! But.... we will not cease. We will work till the end, and we will return next session.
We are growing and moving to a new meeting location. This too is encouraging! Together we can make a difference!
New York Caution Click
We are thrilled to be uniting our efforts with Shana on NYS sex offender issues. We have continued to expand our support and established NYS district leaders. We plan on a group trip to Albany to meet with or elected officials.
We have continued to work with others nationally to support federal reform of child pornography sentencing guidelines. The Unites States Sentencing Commission is currently reviewing the guidelines. We initiated mass mailings to contact them with a compilation of research to support revising the guidelines.
We also have worked with Florida Action Committee to contact local federal district judges to enlist their support for sentencing and post incarceration reform.
CAUTIONclick can now be accessed by inmates via Corrlinks. Our outreach efforts multiply daily to increase our national efforts to influence reform of cp laws.
We have supported FAMM (Families Against Mandatory Minimums) in their efforts to influence legislation related to child pornography offenses. Please take a minute and visit their site and read the report "An Introduction to Child Pornography Sentencing".
A compilation of our stories has been made and will be sent to author Jodi Piccault.
We continue to support Fed Cure's effort to introduce the Barber Amendment, which would increase good time for federal inmates.
CAUTIONclick is now on TWITTER...check it out.
New York RSOL
Several of our members met for the first time and attended an ATSA-sponsored workshop where we listened to Dr. Jeffrey Sandler, PhD, present his and other researchers' findings about the impact of the registry and notification on community safety. Not surprisingly, all research indicated that there had been no impact on community safety and that sex crime rates have remained the same since before and after SORA.
Several of our members have taken it upon themselves to meet with some of the ATSA board members including Dr. Sandler himself and have been studying the research material, using it to further our argument that the registry and related legislation are poor tools at protecting children.
Shana Rowan has been on local NY news stations discussing the issue of collateral damage twice in the past month.
Texas members are excited about our up-coming meeting and interviews with Nicole Pittman from the Human Rights Watch Organization. Several of our wonderful folks have scheduled to meet with her and talk about their experiences with the registry, residency restrictions, and living life on the dreaded registry.
Although an average of 111 people are added to the Texas registry each week, We are encouraged that the tide is slowly turning....Before long, every Texas citizen will know someone who is required to register. It's a shame that most people just don't get it until they find themselves or someone they love caught up in the mix.
We look forward to up-coming articles and media events which are currently in the works.