From the Admin Team
Conference 2013, Justice for All, was a success by many standards. The speakers and presentations were outstanding. Some are uploaded on our website and can be viewed here
. More will be added as they are made available.
The banquet was a great success and very enjoyable.
These are just a few comments that were captured:
"My head is still spinning from it all!"
"The speakers were great!"
"I was blown away by the workshops."
"I got many useful 'nuggets' that I will definitely use."
"There were some great 'A-hah' moments."
RSOL thanks everyone who worked so hard to make the conference a success. We thank CA RSOL for inviting the conference there. And we thank each of you who attended and hope that you each took away at least one thing that will be useful in our fight.
The Work Ahead
The admin team has spent many hours developing goals that reflect our mission and purpose. We also took care that the accomplishment of each goal could be evaluated in terms of observable outcome. Every admin team member will be involved in several goals. This is an overview of the five goals for the coming year.
develop a policy statement that reflects our primary goal of removing the registry from public view
build up our Scarlet Legal Action Project
develop and launch a marketing and media plan
launch a membership campaign
build a solid affiliate development program
In the News
Our news this month is cause for celebration. First, some background: in Orange, California, an ordinance was passed in 2010 prohibiting registrants from decorating their homes or participating in Halloween in any way. In addition, each resident was required to display a sign. "The signs, which are mandated by the city, read 'no candy or treats at this residence,' and must be no smaller than 12 inches by 24 inches." And so it was until this year. CA-RSOL and state organizer Janice Bellucci filed a lawsuit against the city for the sign requirement.
Quick flash half-way across the country to a little town close to Houston, Texas, named Nederland. Nederland updated their Halloween ordinance against registrants mere days before they were challenged. They too required a sign; "Starting this year, registered sex offenders in the town of Nederland, Texas will be required to place a sign on their door identifying them as such during the evening hours of Halloween."
RSOL's Texas affiliate organizer Mary Sue Molner, Texas Voices, was instantly on the alert. RSOL members placed phone calls to city hall asking about the ordinance. Almost immediately, on September 18th, Mary Sue received a phone call from a reporter, Angel San Juan with 12News, asking for an interview. The resulting TV report and article
garnered 112 comments. Mary Sue made it clear that Texas Voices was prepared to move forward with litigation.
Back to California: On September 21, the Los Angeles Times
announced that the city of Orange would "probably" drop the requirement for registrants to post signs on Halloween and then within a few days announced that they had done so
And then, back in Texas, on September 23, less than two weeks after approving their new Halloween ordinance, Nederland city hall suspended it. News12 reported
, "...state advocacy group Texas Voices was threatening legal action against Nederland, calling the amended ordinance unconstitutional," and this excellent article
quoting Mary Sue was published in the Beaumont on-line paper on September 25.
Two Halloween restriction ordinances in two little towns half-way across the country from each other may seem unimportant, but they aren't. These two situations show what can happen if we make the truth known and do not back down.
This is the type of situation that the Legal Project of National RSOL wants to jump into and help with when a state group has identified a specific issue that has significance on a broad scale for a significant number of registrants and has an attorney ready to get involved.
For now, let us just say---WAY TO GO, TEXAS VOICES AND CA-RSOL!
Breaking news...this just in:
California RSOL Challenge Featured on National TV Show
California RSOL and its recent legal challenge to the Halloween ordinance in the City of Orange that required registered citizens to post a sign in front of their residences was discussed yesterday on "The Doctors," a national TV show on CBS. The discussion was a 5-minute segment that included "the doctors," a mother from the City of Orange, and CA RSOL president Janice Bellucci.
"This is an important opportunity to educate the public on one way in which the civil rights of registered citizens have been violated," explained Bellucci. "I am honored to have represented the organization, all registered citizens, and their loved ones."
A Vision of Hope
In addition to the removal of ordinances requiring registrants to post signs on their homes on Halloween, as discussed in "In the News," other good things have been happening.
This also comes from Texas and is the result of a bill written by Texas Voices and passed this year in the Texas legislature. The following statement is now listed on the TxDPS registry site:
"Effective immediately, the Texas Public Sex Offender Registry will no longer display a registrant’s employer name, address or telephone number. This is in accordance with Senate Bill 369 passed during the 83rd Regular Legislative Session (2013). This amendment modified Article 62.005 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to make this information non-public."
This encouraging word came through our website from a Georgian EX-registrant: "I would like you guys to know that I have been removed from the sex offender registry in Georgia. I am so excited to have my life back. I encourage everyone to never give up!"
When I wrote back congratulating him, I told him I would share this with everyone and asked what he wanted in regard to using his name; this is his reply:
You may use my whole name that is fine. I just want people to know not to give up hope..ever. Since I was placed on the registry I went back to school and got a AAS in Criminal justice, a BA in Psychology, and my MBA. so now that I am off the registry those degrees will come into play and push me ahead.. I suggest all RSOs to go back to school before they close that loop hole. But most important is to always remain positive and never give up no matter what others say. There is always a way out! Good luck to you all.
So to ex-registrant Eric Trivett in Georgia, we send a very loud, "WELL DONE AND THE BEST OF LUCK!"
From Oklahoma comes this good news: the state Supreme Court has ruled in favor of an appeal by two registrants that
people convicted of sex crimes in other states should not be required to register as sex offenders in Oklahoma if the convictions occurred before the Oklahoma Legislature passed a sex offender law and if they completed their sentence, including probation or parole, before it was passed. The finding is allowing others who fall into the same category to be de-registered
. This case will have no direct impact on registrants in other states, but it is an excellent precedent against retroactive application for other states.
More and more articles are appearing that discuss the very serious problems with the public registry and the very legitimate needs for reform. This one, a blog entry titled "Sex Offenders Aren't All Monsters" appears in a blog titled Prison Law Blog, and includes a link to OUR website. When I wrote Diane Frazee-Walker to thank her, she graciously responded and included a link to prisoneducation.com
, an excellent resource for those involved in prison reform.
"We believe it’s time for Utah’s sex offender policy to be based on sound empirical evidence rather than paranoia and hysteria
." This is a key sentence in this excellent article
which summarizes the research done by the authors and their findings. They encountered, not surprisingly, opposition to their work, but they fought and won to have it published in a peer-reviewed journal from the Utah Department of Corrections.
This is another article on the same theme. It concludes by saying that we need to find "...better ways of encouraging those who made big mistakes to start a new and better life after prison. Perpetual, public shaming is not one of them."
The early part of September, this excellent blog post appeared: "The Wrongfully Convicted Sex Offender" written by Phil Locke, who is with the Ohio Innocence Project and the Duke Law Wrongful Convictions Clinic. I wrote Mr. Locke thanking him for articulating so well the issue. He responded to me with this note:
Thank you for your kind and encouraging words.
I've been doing innocence work for over 5 years now, and have always been struck by how the sex offender laws, and "treatments," have gone so far past what is reasonable and just.
Unfortunately, sex crimes are an area that immediately capture everyone's prurient interest, and, as I mentioned, "scrape a particularly sensitive part of the human psyche." This makes it easy for politicians to "cash in" on the issue at the polls by proposing all kinds of new laws. And these new laws get highly pubic support from victims and their families (although, you can hardly blame them), but they are clearly not in position to have a proper perspective.
Keep up the good work.
Very Best Regards,
This timely and insightful article
on challenging civil commitment features Galen Baughman, who is now the Director of Communications in the CURE office in Washington, DC.
We have a new representative in Iowa, Michael Byars, and you will read more about him in the Affiliates Development report below. Michael has hit the ground running with getting acquainted with those on the affiliates' email group. Several days ago Michael posted this to the affiliates; it very well explains why we do what we do.
What are we working for? Some of you way have personal experiences but I would like to share mine. Tonight I was visited by my son's mother; my son is four years old and will be five October 24th. Recently I bought my son an ATV power wheel which he absolutely loves. He explained to me that he had two friends with power wheels and he knew that his would out race theirs; lol. I told him if he ever wanted to have his power wheel at his friends', he could just ask his mom to have me bring it over. Well, two days later he did. His mother said she didn't want me to drop the power wheel off because it would be an embarrassment having a sex offender show up at one of his friend's houses.
We then got in to a discussion. It was said that if I was not on the registry, she would have me at his basketball games and soccer games. She would have me over for dinner and go do things together with our son. It upsets me that not only is the registry affecting my life but my child's life also. It is taking away from his God-given right to have his father present throughout his life. We NEED to change these laws. THIS is what you are fighting for. You are fighting for children and offenders all over America to move on and enjoy normal lives. No matter what it takes, we NEED to do all that we can. January 2014 I will be assembling members of ROSL to attend meetings with me. The Iowa legislators have been very responsive to my ideas and requests, and I believe that if we can get something done in Iowa, other states will follow suit.
I really appreciate all of you. I may not know who you all are, but I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for seeing me as a human being and not an animal; thank you for standing up for my rights and protecting me from being thrown into a second grade bracket of society, and most of all, thank you for standing up for my four year old child and my family. God bless you all. I pray that God will give us all the strength we need to overcome this horrible situation for offenders and their families.
Sincerely, Michael Byars
From Our States and Committees
Texas Voices is finding it very hard not to dance in the street! We were thrilled when the legislation that removed a registrant's employment information from public view was passed and signed by Governor Perry (see "Visions of Hope" above). This is a step toward having other information removed from public view.
Then when the Nederland situation of requiring signs on registrants' homes for Halloween (see "In the News" above) was resolved so quickly, with Nederland rescinding the ordinance they had just put in place, we were jubilant.
We don't know what tomorrow will bring, but bring it on!
September in California began with hosting the national RSOL conference and ended with the repeal of a sex offender ordinance that would have required registered citizens to post a sign on the front doors of their homes for 24 hours on Halloween.
The conference, which was held in L.A., was a great success in that it educated registrants and family members as well as attracted support from the Southwestern School of Law which has agreed to assist RSOL with the preparation of at least one lawsuit each semester.
The ordinance in the City of Orange was repealed after CA RSOL filed a lawsuit in federal district court on September 18 challenging the city's Halloween sign ordinance. Only 6 days after the lawsuit was filed, the City Council voted unanimously to repeal the ordinance, citing the lawsuit as the primary reason for doing so.
California RSOL held a monthly meeting for registrants and family members on September 14 in L.A. and will conduct its next monthly meeting on October 12 in Berkeley. For more information about CA RSOL, please go to www.californiarsol.org
The Florida Action Committee was well represented at the sex offender hearing hosted by Rep. Janet Adkins in Jacksonville on Sept. 4th. The hearing was prompted by the horrific child abduction and murder in North Florida by a person on the registry. The panel included representation from law enforcement, activists and lobbyists for child safety, head of the civil commitment center, Dr. Suzonne Kline, and state attorneys. There were 7 representatives from our organization, three of whom spoke. The only applause to ANY speaker was given when one of our members, Donovan, spoke from the position of a registrant. That was a big surprise because it is always difficult to know those in the audience and what they may be thinking (number was about 60). Given that he followed the mother of the victim and other very emotionally charged statements, he made points with which the group could identify.
While there was a lot of misinformation given, Dr. Kline made a very good case for actuarial risk assessments. Rep. Adkins indicated this was just the beginning of the conversation. FAC gave her a petition signed by over 250 persons requesting a workshop with law makers and all stakeholders to address the registry in our state.
Florida was also represented at the national RSOL conference with 4 members including president Gail Colletta, our incoming ATSA state president Dr. Eric Imhof, Dr. Kline, and defense attorney Gilbert A. Schafnitt. Gail, Dr. Kline, and Dr. Imhof conducted a panel discussion, and Dr. Kline also presented a keynote on Public Policy and Risk Based Assessment.
A meet and greet is planned later this month in the southern portion of the state. These meetings provide opportunity for face to face discussions and are usually well attended.
Pennsylvania has been quiet for a few months but not inactive.
We are preparing to launch our new website, we hope the first of October.
We have been working on a program to give inmates a voice outside their prison walls. We have been in contact with inmates in PA and are adding a blog section to our website that will allow prison inmates to blog from inside prison.
In conjunction with our prison blog program, we had a contact passed to us by Georgina Schaff, the North Dakota affiliate, and we are assisting an offender incarcerated in Arizona to develop a similar website.
PAJRC has been working on its volunteer program. We have broken the state up into 10 regions and have secured volunteers to be regional directors in all but two of our state regions.
We have been in contact with three well established criminal justice reform organizations in our state and are working to put together an agreement to share resources and contacts and work together on legislative efforts.
Finally, I have been invited to visit with one of our state representatives, who seems to be fairly supportive in making intelligent changes to the state SORNA laws.
In Kentucky we continue to hold our monthly teleconferences on the second Sunday of the month. Our next teleconference is scheduled for Sunday, October 13, 2013, at 6:00 pm Central time. Currently, we are working on developing some regional groups with focus on northern Kentucky and the Lexington areas. We continue to watch for any movement toward Adam Walsh Compliance and other legislative issues concerning the registry.
At the beginning of September, Jennifer attended the RSOL conference in Los Angeles, CA, and presented in two sessions - one panel discussion about developing a successful state organization and another session on preparing effective testimony for the legislature or a legislative committee.
Affiliate Development is pleased to welcome Michael Byars as a new contact in Iowa. Although Michael is young, he already has legislative experience and accomplishments under his belt. He first received publicity when he was arrested for a parole violation for lobbying.
He has been part of a panel debate and discussion on Iowa Public Radio.
The bill he was lobbying for is actually one he wrote and, with support from some Iowan legislators, was passed.
We welcome Michael to our RSOL family.
Arkansas Time After Time has been networking for the past 3 months. We have met with a professor at UALR who is doing research on the effect of being on the registry. She wants to interview anyone regardless of where they live in the US. Participation in this study will take about 2 hours and can be done over the phone or by email. With the help of the professor, ATAT is being interviewed by a local TV station for an in-depth look at the hardship of being on the register. This will be aired sometime in November
You may reach Dr. ten Bensel at 501-683-7665 to leave a message.
Tusty ten Bensel, Ph.D.
Criminal Justice Department
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
2801 South University Ave. Little Rock, AR 72204
ATAT is still going to committee meetings in Little Rock to learn more about the parole changes that are taking place. We are also getting in contact with as many experts as we can.
Ohio is still working on legislation as we attempt to build a collaborative team of professional groups who will assess and support a change in laws. This is a time consuming and labor intensive effort.
North Carolina registrants appear to be moving into the litigation phase of our advocacy strategy, as two cases challenging state restrictions for registrants have been featured in the recent news. Lester Packingham, Jr., challenged the state law barring North Carolina registered sex offenders from using social media websites on the grounds that it violated his rights to free speech, expression, assembly, and the press, guaranteed under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Although the law was struck down by the state appeals court, it remains in effect due to Attorney General Roy Cooper's petition to the State Supreme Court for a stay.
Glenn Gerding, the attorney for Packingham, is also representing another registrant filing a lawsuit against State Governor Pat McCrory, Attorney General Cooper, and every district attorney in North Carolina, challenging the constitutionality of the statute banning offenders from certain locations. North Carolina General Statute NCGS-14-208.18, the 300-feet proximity law, prohibits sex offenders from being within 300 feet of any place intended primarily for minors; it includes schools, museums, child care centers, public libraries, malls, playgrounds, and churches. Again, Attorney General Cooper says he will fight the federal lawsuit against him and the state.
We continue to ask North Carolina registrants and their families to contact their state representatives, urging them to oppose Roy Cooper's efforts to uphold these laws.
In addition, we urge all RSOL advocates and registrants to contact their federal representatives and ask them to support the Justice Safety Valve Act, S. 619 (Senators Rand Paul and Patrick Leahy), a bipartisan bill in Congress that would alleviate the impact of mandatory minimum sentencing, which would apply to all mandatory minimum sentencing offenses. I was able to attend the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on "Reevaluating the Effectiveness of Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentences" last week in Washington. The focus of the hearing was on the problem of the unsustainable federal prison population and the costs associated with it. Most senators and witnesses seemed to favor reform of the Mandatory Minimum sentencing laws, with the exception of Senator Chuck Grassley (Iowa) who favors retaining mandatory minimums and who stated that he would in fact favor increasing the minimum sentences for two areas: Financial Crimes and Child Pornography. For further information on the hearing, feel free to contact me at NCRSOL@charter.net
Our sister organization, Women Against Registry, has posted on its website an informational and encouraging blog post dealing with reentry.
Since the inception of what's known as the Second Chance Act that was initiated in 2008, a multitude of states have sought complimentary ideologies to placate the over abundance of tough on crime policy. As we know, this population of former offenders most affected by the Second Chance Act and what's also known as 'Reentry' has been largely those former offenders considered to be non-violent based on their crime of conviction. Read the full piece here.
I'm not telling
you it's going to
be easy, I'm
you it is going
to be worth it.