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Quote of the Month:

Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.
 
― Benjamin Franklin




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THE DIGEST  -  FEBRUARY, 2014
RSOL's Monthly Newsletter
                                             
     
                                                        
From the Admin Team
 
Conference 2014!

The sixth annual conference of RSOL is beginning to take shape! Dallas, Texas has been selected as the host for the 2014 Conference which will take place from Wednesday, July 16 through Saturday, July 19. Please stay tuned for details on this event, but for now, save the date and make plans to attend. We’re sure it will be the best yet!

We are very pleased to have as our keynote speaker Lenore Skenazy, renowned publisher of the website Free-Range Kids.

Our focus this year will be on building stronger advocates for the cause. We’ll be announcing other speakers and, as always, looking for experts and experienced advocates to lead workshops on such topics as lobbying, constitutional arguments, fund-raising, organization-building, volunteer management, and other concrete skills and information needed by advocates.
 
In the News
 
Remember when the sheriff in a town in Florida decided to put bright red signs in the yards of those labeled sexual predators? It seems the idea is spreading. Another Florida town is gearing up to do the same thing. After reading this article, I wrote this letter to the editor. Time will tell if it get printed.

Your headline of 1/24 declared, "Port Orange council member wants signs for sex offenders." The signs are bright red; they include the name of the registered citizen living in the house and will be placed in front of the registrant's home.
 
The city council member doesn't just want to identify the registrant for  other citizens. No, in his own words, his intent is "to tell sex offenders they aren’t welcome in Port Orange."
 
Does the city of Port Orange know that they are contradicting everything research says about sex offender management? Signs in their yards? City officials openly hoping that those affected will get the message they are not welcome?
 
How does any of this fit with the goal of rehabilitation and successful re-entry for registered citizens?
 
A Port Orange resident "acknowledged the signs could turn offenders into targets for harassment but said it’s more important to protect children." Only her children? How about the children of the registrants who will also be living in the houses with the signs in front of them? Is it okay if they are targets for harassment?
 
According to the same article, Port Orange has been busy with other activities designed to alienate registered citizens. Registrants are harassed and forced from their homes. Will they be homeless, on the street? How does that improve public safety?
 
Did anyone read the research before changing the restricted residency area to 2,500 feet? Does anyone care that what you are doing is shown to have no positive effect toward community safety? Does Port Orange have so much money that they can throw it away enforcing policies that are shown to have no correlation with public safety or an increase in sexual offenses?
 
Is Port Orange not obligated to determine the most effective methods of serving all of its citizens and make that a priority?


Late Breaking News

 
Headlines that an artist and political activist had created his own registry online and was including on it the names of those who facilitated the online sex offender registry had quite an effect. The story broke because a suit filed to force Dennis Sobin of New York to remove his site, www.idiotsregistry.info, was coming up in court. The time-frame was short, but supporters managed to get there in time for the hearing, among them Vicki Henry, president of Women Against Registry, and long-time activist Derek Logue. After a favorable ruling for Mr. Sobin and his website, both Vicki and Derek were interviewed by a Washington Post and had quotes included in the ensuing story. While RSOL's stance is against public registries, anything that draws attention to the damage that the public sex offender registry does is good, and Mr. Sobin and his website have certainly done that.
A Vision of Hope
 
This past month has produced a large number of good and hopeful articles that address our advocacy issues.

The subject matter is sad in this “Dear Prudence” column, but the RSOL website is mentioned as a place that offers “...understanding and support regarding your family’s particular hardship.” The columnist further writes, “This organization makes the case that increasingly punitive and expansive sex-registration laws ruin the lives of people on the registry without improving the safety of the public.” When I wrote “Prudence” thanking her, she replied with a very kind and supportive email.

The title of this article found on the Juvenile Law Center Blog says all that is needed in introduction of this piece: “Juvenile Law Center Wins Second Ruling Declaring Pennsylvania's Juvenile Sex Offender Registration Requirements Unconstitutional.”

The same can be said of this news article printed in the Tampa Bay Times: “Pinellas County Sheriff's Office to stop posting on-line mug shots.”

Headlines are definitely improving; this one was found on the American Civil Liberties Union website: “ACLU Stops Suspicionless Home Searches in Etowah County, Alabama.”

California continues in its success to have bans against registrants’ access to public places lifted due to pending and to successful litigation, no small part of which is due to CA RSOL (see the California report under “States and Committees.”)

This article also deals with California ordinances and quotes Janice, our California affiliate leader and an attorney who is helping to drive what is happening there.

This excellent article explores the origins of the Adam Walsh Act and examines its effectiveness—or lack thereof.    

Dr. Karen Franklin, in this blog entry, discusses the flaws and poor predictive record of a very popular psychopathy test used in court in assigning risk levels and labels.

“Entrapment” sites, believed by many to be on the wrong side of legal, meet an enemy who is speaking out against them in Florida.

Some of the infamous “sex offender blackmail sites” are changing their tactics due to pending and successful litigation.

This is only the second case of which I am aware where a registrant was seeking the right to take the bar exam in his state. The first was in Virginia, and I blogged about it. The journalist read the blog, called for a phone interview about this case, and included a quote citing RSOL in his article.

This well-written and provocatively named piece –“Do you really want the government in your bathtub?”—explores the ever-expanding role of government in the private lives of citizens and the implications for the future.

The RSOL Communications Committee Chair had the honor of having this letter to the editor printed; it is in response to a town in Connecticut preparing legislation that would create “child-safe zones” by imposing residency restrictions on registrants.

Georgina, our Dakota affiliate leader, who has been pinch-hitting a bit in Arizona, had this editorial printed in the the Yuma sun.

Potpourri
 
 Many of you will remember a letter printed in the Digest several months ago from an inmate named Jay. Jay had organized a group of fellow inmates as an RSOL support group that he has now named the INSIDERS. It was Jay and his group that prepared the lovely Christmas card that was printed in the December issue.

Jay has developed a newsletter, and he sent it to us and introduces it with this:

"I have enclosed a copy of the first ever INSIDERS newsletter.  My efforts are to try and get as many inmates and each of their individual families involved as possible.  The purpose of the newsletter is to provide information for offenders and non-offenders alike.  I also think if some see that someone from the inside is making an effort to connect with others, then they may help push some others to become more involved in these reform issues. 

I feel the information is significant enough to be included in the RSOL newsletter that will be published in February for as many as possible to see.  I want the INSIDERS group to grow--not just what is there now, but inmates, male and female, from all over to join in the effort.  This is my intention with this newsletter."


We agree, and are happy to provide an outlet for Jay's INSIDERS newsletter. For Jay's primary audience, those behind bars, the text of the newsletter, along with an open letter to congressmen, follows here. For everyone else, they can be viewed by clicking here

From Our States and Committees

Vermont has been very active this month.  There are a number of bills in the Legislature here that I have been inquiring about and may even give testimony as to the impact on registrants.
 
I have spent between 3 and 5 days a week in the State Capitol. There have been a number of meetings with officials, including the Lieutenant Governor, to explain who RSOL is and our vision and mission.

I have been asked to testify to a few bills that directly impact registrants and their families.  In addition, I have been invited to submit guest editorials to VTDigger, an on-line paper.

I will be busy through the year following up and advocating on important issues that continue to fall through the cracks.

  

Colorado Advocates for Change has started its busy season.  The legislature is back in session, and we’re getting ready to bring them up-to- date information and educate them on the laws we have here.

The big news here is the external evaluation of The Colorado Sex Offender Management Board Standards and Guidelines.  You may have already seen the report and, hopefully, it will help provide you support for arguing against the laws and the misunderstandings of sexual offenses in your state. The report by Central Coast Clinical & Forensic Psychology Services, Inc ., was completed  and has been received by the legislature, the SO MB and is now in general distribution. The report is 168 pages long and hits many topics of interest to AFC and how the SOMB does business in Colorado.  It was very gratifying to see something in writing that supports what we’ve been saying for years.

The SOMB is reporting to the Joint Judiciary Committee on January 28 and AFC, as well as other groups on our side of the discussion, plan to testify.  The external evaluation gives ample information to use for the testimony. 


 This month Dakota RSOL has sent an Opinion on Prevention statement to our six major newspapers, a request to seven 2014 South Dakota senator candidates to make prevention a campaign issue, emailed 105 South Dakota legislators, other state officials, lawmakers, DSHS, and several behavior therapy treatment centers with fifteen pages of education which included a compilation of inmate stories on the benefits of prevention.  If you would like to request copies of those 15 pages for prevention legislation, please email me.

And the exciting news to report is that Dakota RSOL now has a co-affiliate contact.  Please welcome Beverly Bruce who will serve as a second contact for the state of South Dakota.
 
Happy Valentine’s Day to my 20 sweetheart pen pals and also to all RSOL members and affiliates, and to the many other groups working toward reform.


 
Our Maryland legislative season has begun quietly. We expected some bills in response to the Doe v DPSCS decision in March, but perhaps because our state has refused to take anyone else off besides Doe, lawmakers don't yet have it on their radar. We continue to prepare for a legal challenge that will force the state to apply the decision to everyone else possible whose situation matches Doe's - and that's a LOT of additional registrants. Stay tuned!


 






Affiliate Development announces some additions to our family. Will is taking over the reins of Illinois Voices. He has worked with the organization for quite a while now, and we welcome him as the primary contact.

A new organization in Colorado has joined us. Colorado Coalition for Sex Offender Restoration has been organized by Susan Walker, and we welcome Susan as our newest RSOL contact. She has hit the ground running, being quoted in this article about the results of an independent audit of the Colorado sex offender management program.

We also welcome Beverly as a secondary contact for Dakota RSOL (see Dakota state report).

It is with great sadness that we say good-by to one of our long-time affiliate leaders. Kim of Indiana Voices has played a dual role in advocacy for some time now; in addition to serving as RSOL affiliate leader, she is also an officer in Women Against Registry, and that position is demanding more and more of her attention. We wish her the very best with our sister organization W.A.R.. Thank you, Kim, for your dedication to our advocacy; you will be missed.



 
California's success in overturning city and county laws that prohibit registered citizens from entering public libraries, parks, beaches, and other recreational areas continues!  Two cities and one county repealed their laws, thus opening up the public areas to more than 100,000 families in the state during the past two months.  In addition, a state appellate court ruled on January 13 that a similar county law was preempted by state law and thus could not be enforced. This court decision is expected to serve as precedent for overturning the remaining 112 laws throughout the state which restrict the presence of registered citizens from public places. 

California RSOL is moving from a virtual organization to a real organization with the establishment of its first office -- in the ACLU building in Los Angeles -- on February 1.  Monthly meetings continue throughout the state for registered citizens and family members in order to educate them regarding existing laws and recent court decisions.

 
Texas is very pleased to announce our 4th state-wide annual conference, “United for Reform.” It will be at 3014 Skillman Street, Dallas, Texas, on February 21 and 22.
 
Speakers and presenters include Melissa Hamilton, Joshua Gravens, Nicole Pitman, and RSOL’s own Jon Cordeiro.
 
Visit our website for additional information.

 
The Scarlet Legal Action Project (SLAP) is optimistic that 2014 will be a year when RSOL’s efforts will begin to pay dividends. SLAP’s plans for the year include:
  • continuing our support  of constitutional challenges in cases where a victory would potentially impact the quality of life for a significant number of registered persons; and
  • conducting regular telephonic workshops where attorneys and legal professionals answer questions and explain complex legal issues and strategy.  
Our first workshop is scheduled for February 8th, 2014, at 2:00 p.m. eastern time. California RSOL president Janice Bellucci has graciously agreed to lead the first workshop. Ms. Bellucci has successfully litigated various residency/proximity restrictions in the last two years. As a result of her successes, some local governments have voluntarily agreed to repeal or no longer enforce these misguided laws rather than facing Ms. Bellucci in court. We are fortunate that Ms. Bullucci is willing to share her knowledge and samples of her pleadings with other attorneys who may be contemplating undertaking similar challenges.
 
The workshop is open to any interested persons, especially attorneys. We cordially invite everyone to come and learn how to successfully litigate in this arena. The call-in number is 530- 881-1400 followed by access code 957605.
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