From the Admin Team
The Admin Team is proud this month to have a representative of RSOL at a National Conference. The National Prisoner's Family Conference
is being held this year in Houston,Texas, February 20th-22nd. Our representative will share a display table with Women Against Registry. We hope to make this only the beginning of representing our organization at National Conferences.
We continue to work on finalizing our goals and assertion statements; we continue in our support in PA, NM, and TX against legislation that is unconstitutional, expensive, and unnecessary for public safety. And we continue to be in serious need of monetary support, especially to our legal fund, if we are to indeed continue in this support.
You may make contributions here
; you may see the full minutes of the January. Admin Team meeting here
From the Executive Director
"Send not to ask for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
I blew my stack today.
When we're out lobbying in our state capitals, it's always pretty stressful: new bad laws coming at you right and left, maybe one you like that you're trying to push, and only so many hours in a day. Add to that (for most of us) a day job, family obligations, and other tasks, and it's a wonder we have any hair on our heads or any nerves un-sprung.
And yep, that's why I blew my stack. I'd just spent most of my Saturday picking apart a couple of bills we need to address here in Maryland and posting information to our forum about whom to contact, what to say, when hearings would be... and there on our forum, late at night, was a post from a member complaining about lawmakers who "…grab votes from those who do not know the truth, and all they see is that they are getting tough on crime. You would think people would be in outrage over so many young bystanders getting killed due to other crimes and demand action. But lawmakers keep shoving getting tough on sex offenders down their throats."
Here’s what I had to say: The way to stop this is to START contacting your legislators and TELL them to change their tune. If people don't know the truth, we need to TELL them the truth. If they don't listen, VOTE them out of office!
If we within this movement are so outraged, why aren't more of us reaching out to lawmakers and telling them the truth? If folks in the city are outraged about young people dying on the streets, fear not -- a new, equally ineffective, feel-good registry will be formed for gang members and murderers and drug dealers and drunk drivers--unless, of course, WE start making noise in our state and national capitals telling lawmakers to STOP.
No offense intended, but I get really tired of the whole "government is out to get us" motif.
REALITY CHECK: A handful of people in government are making lots of stupid decisions for political gain. A much larger group would like to stop them, but they're scared of losing their political careers. Maybe they feel like some of us who say we want to fight these laws, but we're too busy with our jobs, or (like our lawmakers) we’re too scared to speak out, or we don't have time to write or call. Maybe we're waiting for that mythical “silver bullet, or for RSOL to save us. Folks, WE are RSOL.
THE REASON WE ARE STILL SEEING CRAPOLA LAWS LIKE THIS IS THAT NOBODY IS TALKING TO LAWMAKERS.
They are all right there in our state capitals, folks, with office staff just waiting for us to call and tell them what we think of these proposed or recent laws. Some of RSOL’s state leaders are making it even easier for us by giving some talking points.
What are we waiting for? Let’s hop in our cars or pick up the phone right now and get the TRUTH out there.
A Vision of Hope
A Big Mea Culpa
Boy, did I goof up. In this column last month, I included a link to a summary of a very important study just published in Florida by Lynn University and Dr. Jill Levenson and titled "New study finds federal sex offender law not effective.” However, my brain was on vacation because in my write-up, I misidentified Dr. Levenson. She has graciously accepted my personal apology, and this is public notice to all our readers that the author of this study
is Dr. Jill Levenson.
We start this month on a personal note. This was submitted by Janice, our RSOL CA affiliate leader and is, as she called it, a sad story with a happy ending.
“I received a call a few days ago from a registrant who was just released from civil commitment after spending more than 20 years "incarcerated" (prison plus state hospital). While he was incarcerated, both of his parents died, and he was left an interest in the family home where he had lived prior to his incarceration. He stayed at the home a few days and then went to register with the city police department. He was told by the police that he couldn't live in that home because of a city ordinance and spent the next two nights in a homeless shelter. In the meantime, an attorney (not me) intervened on his behalf and provided paperwork to city police that showed he had lived in his family home prior to incarceration. As a result, the police agreed that he could, in fact, live there, and he successfully registered at that address. This registrant was lucky in that there is an exception in the city's ordinance that allowed those already residing in the city to stay there.”
In, Wyoming, a legislative committee on January 15 defeated a bill that would have banned sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of child care facilities. Read about it here.
This excellent article, "The predatory justice of juvenile sex-offender laws" by Frank Zoorob, takes a hard look at the damage done to society by our juvenile sex offender practices.
This story with a twist comes from Jefferson, Missouri and is one in which Women Against Registry took an active part.
" A Missouri legislator recently filed a bill, requiring real estate agents to let neighbors know when a registered sex offender is buying a home in their neighborhood. However, the bill is going nowhere in the Missouri House after a representative single-handedly put the skids on it. Oddly, the bill’s sponsor and its opponent are the same person: Rep. Charlie Davis (R-Webb City)." Read more here.
A lawmaker in New Hampshire is proposing a bill to study the sex offender registry. "State Rep. Timothy N. Robertson, D-Keene, says each sex offender’s case should be treated individually instead of a one-size-fits-all approach." These are refreshing words to hear from a legislator! Read the full article here.
Last month we initiated a new section. It is called
This is a reader-contribution section. Anyone who wants to submit a piece for consideration should select an article that has been in the news concerning our issues recently and write commentary on the article. It may be commentary that you have submitted to the publication in response to the article, or it may be commentary that you have written just for the Digest. One submission a month will be chosen.
A Civilized Society?
This ordinance and others like it make broad, sweeping assumptions in regard to a real threat to society, namely child abuse and assault and the needed measures to protect children. These are the rally cries to action that politicians and some law enforcement use to garner public support. I think everyone agrees that this is a major aspect involved in the sex-offender registry justification in light of current attempts to place more restrictions on the whole class of sex offenders. By restricting the civil liberties of the whole class, legislators are using a shotgun approach towards prevention and are in effect only playing into the sensational hysteria portrayed in the media.
District Attorney Rackauckas' statement, “This is a long-term battle against sex offenders and we must use every tool to fight these predators, including legislation,” does nothing to quell public fear, address the problem he identifies, nor educate the public about the issue of child sexual abuse and prevention of these acts.
His choice of words, battle and predator, are meant to acknowledge the hysteria, rev it up, and throw out rational thought and discourse. It assumes that all sex offenders will re-offend and these regulations are the only way to react to a threat. It labels all sex offenders as predatory pedophiles. It portrays this class of ex-offender as not deserving of any chance of reintegration into society. It contains punitive language, and these punitive ordinances are aimed again at a special and specific class of ex-offenders.
And worst of all is the assumption that the stigma is deserved, that there is no chance of redemption, no hope, no chance of rehabilitation, and that this whole class can never pay its debt to society. This premise, that if an individual has this distinctive label earned from whatever mistake may have been made, there is no forgiveness and the rest of society must keep an ever vigilant eye on this group of individuals for ever and ever, is a puny attempt at addressing a problem.
“I would like to thank the Huntington Beach City Council for continuing to make children’s safety a priority,” stated District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. “This is a long-term battle against sex offenders and we must use every tool to fight these predators, including legislation.”
This language is inexcusable from a public employee whose job is to serve all of his county's residents. Upping the community hysteria over perceived menaces from all sex offenders is a disservice to his community and serves as an injustice to ex-offenders. It adds not one iota to any solutions to the problem other than to further punish. It does not allow for an ex-sex offender to be accepted back into society after treatment, criminal punishment, or rehabilitation and assumes the worst for everyone with the label. Here is yet another good reason to do away with the special label, sex offender, and to allow second chances to everyone as mandated by the concepts of a civilized society.
We have again had responses from those incarcerated who read the Digest behind bars. This is from someone civilly committed in the state of Minnesota and was written on a Christmas card that he sent to RSOL.
“Well the civil commitment of sex offenders In the state of Minnesota at the “Minnesota sex offender program,” or MSOP for short, is now going into its 20th year with only 1 person being provisionally discharged to a half way house with 24/7 surveillance following his every move. The rest of us 600+ and counting have filed a federal lawsuit that is in the cards right now claiming the program is unconstitutional and just another way to warehouse sex offenders instead of treating us and then integrating us back into society. I will keep you posted as things happen here. P.S. keep the newsletters coming. We all love reading them!!!. Merry Christmas and happy new year.”
These greetings and messages came via the CorrLinks program by which the Digest
is electronically sent to those in federal institutions. These men are all behind bars, far from loved ones, and they all express a degree of hope and positive forward-looking that is, to this humble editor, amazing.
Well, I can't believe that another year has passed us by already. I've been here at this facility for four years now and it seems like I just got here yesterday. I was sitting here at the computer and looking at everyone on my email list and wanted to send along some Holiday Greetings. Be safe this holiday season and I hope you have a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!
You better watch out....You better not cry.
If I haven't said it earlier,
I want to say it now;
MERRY CHRISTMAS, 2012, and HAPPY NEW YEAR in 2013
Happy Holidays to All:
Another year is just about gone and that means some of us are another year closer to a free life. I hope that God is watching over all of you and your loved ones. He has definitely been watching over me. I received a WONDERFUL Christmas present just last week from the BOP. They approved the medication I had been requesting for 5 years. This is a first in the BOP (so I'm told) for this type of medication.
I again wish to express my gratitude to everyone out there who do so much for us in here. THANK YOU! My God bless you all and bring peace and happiness in the years to come.
I hope you have a Merry Christmas and have an happy upcoming New Years Celebration.
Be safe and comforted by your family and friends.
Well, I made it through to another year.
I send out thanks to you for your support.
In this NEW YEAR of 2013, expect the best.
This poem is also written by one in the BOP system and sent through CorrLinks; it speaks for itself.
Within These Four Walls
by Michael S.
I am confined to a world behind these four walls
Where no one else can see me
and I can't even receive
Often I fall asleep and awaken alarmed,
thinking that any moment
I might be harmed.
It is just a dream, I realize as I come back to
then as I look out my window, all I can see
is these four fences.
I somehow make it through the whole day
waiting for mail call,
but none never comes
Not a letter, a card, or even
a small note.
When no one writes you,
it causes you to lose all hope.
Just a little word or two
that says everything is fine;
just a few small words
that will ease my mind.
Kind words, well wishes
just to let me know that
you are still there.
Anything for me that will
show that you still care.
YOU WILL NEVER KNOW WHAT
A FEW SMALL WORDS COULD EVER MEAN
UNTIL YOU HAVE BEEN WHERE I HAVE BEEN
OR SEEN THE THINGS THAT I HAVE SEEN.
From Our States and Committees
The Affiliate Development Committee and all of RSOL are thrilled to add two states to our affiliated network. We extend a big "Welcome!" to Pat and the Colorado Advocates for Change and to Charlie and Nevada RSOL.
Colorado Advocates for Change (AFC) began in the fall of 2009. We currently have about 500 members.
Inherent in AFC’s mission is the belief that each person, whether one who has committed an offense or is a victim of an offense, is not solely defined by the label “offender” or “victim” and, as such, is worthy of just and humane treatment.
We are a very committed group that comes together weekly for a Breakfast Action Group (BAG) meeting. We also have a monthly meeting with guest speakers in Denver and work with the Colorado Springs and Ft Collins chapters of our organization.
Currently, AFC is involved in a class action lawsuit against the Department of Corrections. Colorado has an indeterminate sentencing scheme where people enter prison on a 2 , 3, 4, 8, 12 etc. to life sentence and won't be considered for parole until they receive treatment on the inside. There are too few treatment providers, and the lawsuit is about the individuals not receiving treatment in order to have an opportunity for parole.
We were also influential in convincing the legislature to hire an outside evaluator to study the treatment program inside the prisons. The report on that study will be available in early February.
There is so much work to be done and our group is dedicated to seeing a change in attitude and the laws. Education is something we do now with the legislators, but we hope to push that to a more public forum in the future. We are proud to be part of the RSOL family and know that there is truly a strength in numbers.
The RSOL Legal Committee
has taken a new name. Henceforth, its operational endeavors will take place under the heading of Scarlet Legal Action Project (or SLAP, for short). SLAP is happy to report that recent efforts to organize support for a legal challenge to AWA compliance in Pennsylvania have gone exceptionally well. Of course, much work is left to be done as we move closer to pursuing a bona fide legal strategy. SLAP invites affiliate leaders who wish to broaden their legal footprint to contact Larry Neely
about the possibility of a joint project in your state.
Additionally and as indicated above, SLAP is joining state affiliates in New Mexico and in Texas in challenging the proposed legislation in each state regarding social networking by registrants as over-broad and unconstitutional.
Like many states, Maryland's part-time legislature began its session this month. To encourage more members to get involved and overcome the hurdle of just getting to the capital, we scheduled a tour about a week into the new session.
Our "March on Annapolis" began by watching a short video about what goes on during Maryland's legislative process; then we took a tour of the State House and concluded by watching and listening to a brief Senate Floor Session. We then made our way to the House of Delegates, got a few suggestions and talking points, then went out in twos and threes to talk to our elected representatives.
Just about everyone spoke to at least one or two representatives, or their chiefs of staff, and opened a few eyes about the damaging effects of public registration on registrants and family members. Most have no idea what life is like for a registered person, that a majority of registrants are actually very "low risk," and that there is no way to get off or lower your tier level over time.
Our members who came had a great time and left feeling much more positive about their ability to affect change. Hopefully more people will join us next year -- because we are definitely going again!
The key words for the Communica- tions Committee
this month have been "press release." Working with the Legal Committee, we have released three directed toward legislation that would seriously impede the use of the Internet and social networking by all registrants in two states. Focusing on the blatantly over-broad and thus unconstitutional aspects of such overkill, we issued initial releases, first, throughout the state of New Mexico
and then to media sources in Texas
. And then, on the 28th, four days ago, on the eve of the New Mexico bill being heard in committee, a second release
was distributed there. We will continue our opposition to these bills in both states.
The Communications Committee has begun this month a practice that we hope to sustain each month, and that is issuing an informational press release to our national media list. The January one
focuses on a new year and a new beginning and serves as an overview of our current and planned projects for the year.
The new Missouri General Assembly session has begun in Jefferson City. As of this writing, we continue to get ready to present a new bill for sex offender reform. We are very, very close to completion and will announce the number and its contents as soon as it is available. The bill writing process can be very long and tedious. It is so important to include every detail and need for positive reform. This will be our third bill in as many years in Jefferson City. We are hopeful for reasonable, common sense form in the Show Me Sate.
Hello from Indiana; January has been a very busy and successful month. Not only has Indiana Voices been busy with new bills and a longer legislative session, but also we have had two successful court decisions passed down in our favor!
The first decision was Doe V. Marion County Prosecutors, which challenged the constitutionality of registrants being restricted from Facebook and other social media. The 7th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Chicago overturned a federal judge's decision upholding the law, saying the state was justified in trying to protect children but that the "blanket ban" went too far by restricting free speech.
The second decision was Bleeke V. The State of Indiana and DOC. This case challenges not only Bleeke's 5th amendment rights not to admit guilt in therapy classes but other challenges relating to ex post facto laws. The upshot in this case is that the potential for revocation of parole forces Bleeke to give up his Fifth Amendment privilege or possibly return to prison. And although the five-year statute of limitation for perjury has expired, Bleeke is still subject to the possible use by law enforcement of any other incriminating statements. The SOMM program’s requirements violate the Fifth Amendment.
Arkansas Time After Time has been busy opposing SB12. This bill is intended to amend an existing law that was passed in 2011 that prohibits any level 3 or level 4 offender from visiting any government owned swimming pool. The new amendment is to include any state park having a water feature like a swimming pool, swimming area, beach, and/or a playground. ATAT Director Carla Swanson and the CEO of SOSEN, Lynn Gilmore, both testified against this bill. The reception we received was rude. The bill passed in the Senate. We will try again in the House. Some of the representatives are on our side. We hope to have a better reception in the House. We did get the ATAT and SOSEN names in the local papers. So far this is the only bill that has been filed that we are trying to educate the legislators about. We have until the middle of March for the deadline for the filing of new bills, and we definitely expect more.