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Quote of the Month:

Don't judge me by my past. I don't live there anymore.

~~author unknown




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THE DIGEST  -  APRIL, 2014
RSOL's Monthly Newsletter
                                           
                                        From the Admin Team
 
Membership campaign launched!

At long last, National RSOL has launched its new membership campaign. We invite all readers to join us by going to our website and choosing and following the membership button on the right hand side of the screen. The yearly fee is very minimal, only $20.00, and can be paid from the site using either PayPal or your debit or credit card. You may also mail in a check or money order to the address given on the site.

Why join RSOL? When you do, you can take pride that you are supporting one of the few organizations fighting for the civil rights of registered citizens and others with past convictions for a sexual offense. Our supporters are our lifeblood, allowing us to continue such programs as our prison project, our monthly Digest newsletter, and our annual national conference. RSOL is entirely donor-funded and volunteer-run, so your support will go entirely to worthwhile projects, not to overhead. Our supporters receive our monthly Digest via email, along with an occasional Call for Action on topics near and dear to all of our hearts.

RSOL New Mexico has stepped out in a bold move that we would like to see followed by other states who charge membership fees. They are offering reciprocal membership to any of their members who join National RSOL. Not all state organizations have membership dues, but for those who do, this is something to consider and a wonderful way to help strengthen the coalition between National RSOL and your state organization.

We thank you, one and all, for your support over the years and for your continued support as we together work to further our goals and our advocacy.
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The conference is drawing nearer

You can now register on our conference site, and we have three levels of early-bird discounts. The earliest birds don't get a worm; they get the lowest price, and they get it until April 30. Regular early bird discounts are available through the month of May with last-chance discounts during the month of June. After that the full price will apply. A couples' price is also available as well as tickets for one-day-only attendance. All of the admission fees will include lunch served on-site for the day or days of attendance. You may also pay for banquet tickets; the banquet will be on Friday, the 18th. Additionally, child care will be available. All of these things can be reserved and paid for from the site.

We are actively soliciting presentations and workshops. You will find an application on the same site and can fill it out online.

Our keynote speaker is Lenore Skenazy of Free Range Kids fame. Bookmark the conference site and check it often for other featured speakers and workshops as well as information on the return of the fund-raising auction.

See you in Texas for the conference July 16-19.
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Good-bye and hello

Admin Team member Tom Madison has stepped down from the Admin Team so that he can focus more fully on other issues, including state issues. With Shelly of Oregon Voices and Tom's Activist Central, Oregon becomes another of several states with more than one contact; RSOL is growing!

It's time to dig deep
                                                                              
RSOL needs your financial support to help us with two upcoming events that we plan to attend later this summer. 

It is our hope to have booths at the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, which runs July 29th through August 2nd, and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Legislative Summit in Minneapolis, which runs August 12th through15th. These events provide us with a fantastic opportunity to share our message with lawmakers and attorneys from all over the country. 

We are ready to step out and send our most experienced representatives to do the job. This will be a sacrifice for them as they must stop everything else they are doing and be gone from their day jobs for a good portion of the week in order to make this trip for us. Leading our delegation will be Larry Neely (Admin Team, Chair of our Scarlet Legal Action Project, and Board member of RSOL-NM). Larry is the ideal person to lead RSOL’s delegation at both events. With his extensive background in legislative advocacy and firm understanding of "our" issue and message, Larry knows how to get our core message of constitutional and civil rights across to busy politicians and attorneys.

We will do everything we can to keep costs down, but the expenses for our two representatives, which will include at least four nights at a hotel, four days of meals, and airfare will cost RSOL at least $1200.00 per person. If we want to give at least one of our representatives full access to all the sessions (and to the lawmakers), that will cost an additional $400.00 or more per event. Finally, renting the space and the necessities for the exhibition area will easily run over $2000.00 for both events.

Altogether, our goal is to raise $5000.00 for this project.

We know how much you want to see RSOL’s message delivered to our nation’s lawmakers and attorneys at these two important events. Please give generously. Send your checks TODAY to RSOL, P.O. Box 36123, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87176. Write “NCSL/NACDL” on the subject line. Or donate online with a special message mentioning “NCSL/NACDL” so that we can be sure to credit your gift appropriately.

Dig deeply!!
In the News
When this editorial appeared in the Denver Post in mid-March, Carol Walker with Coalition for Sexual Offense Restoration, one of our associates in Colorado, agreed with the premise of the op/ed but took exception to the characterization of registrants and wrote a lengthy reply to the editor making her points clear. This is an edited version of her letter, edited to focus on her disapproval of his language and her suggestions as to what might improve the situation rather than worsen it. The full version of her letter can be viewed on the organization's website.
 
Good afternoon Mr. Carroll:
 
Well, at long last, there is something in the sexual offense arena that we are in at least partial agreement on. It is my opinion that Jessica's Law, in either version, makes no sense for Colorado...Serious research shows that the vast majority of persons with sexual offenses are low risk to re-offend once they have received 12 - 18 months of treatment.  We currently treat them much longer than that, and the research shows that treating those at low risk to re-offend too long actually increases their risk of sexual offense recidivism.
 
The disgusting behavior your editorial mentions (i.e. "Lets be clear.  This is disgusting behavior...") is widespread across all socioeconomic, political, career, and racial lines.  Judges, police officers, legislators, general white collar workers, blue collar workers, physicians, lawyers, public defenders, and newspapermen seem to be troubled by an ages long problem, and that is offending sexually.  While there are a few women who are convicted of sexual offenses, the vast majority of these offenses are committed by men.  It is epidemic, and it is not one "disgusting" group of people who commit them.
 
A tiny percentage of those with sexual offenses may be in some sense "hardwired" to commit these offenses and most likely represent the awful "stranger danger" offenses we hear about that are the precursors to such laws as Jessica's Law.  Most of these laws are BAD laws. It is interesting that programs like Circles of Support and Accountability  from Canada, now starting in Colorado,  has years of research-documented success supporting and surrounding those who are at highest risk to offend. The vast majority who offend are family members, friends, neighbors, and others with family connections.  Even boys as young as ten years old are arrested for this "disgusting" behavior and put through the rigors of sexual offense treatment and sometimes incarceration.  Many are affected by their bout with the system well into adulthood, sometimes forever.  
 
When I think about how we look on folks who have committed these offenses (which seems to be most of society), the song from the 60's comes to mind - "Everybody's got to have somebody to look down on," and in today's society, this group is the most looked down upon.  I am certainly not in favor of anyone forcing sexual activity on anyone, especially not children.  Even disgusting behaviors, however, can be changed in the vast majority of cases.

Here are some facts:
 
1) Research shows that those who have been convicted of sexual offenses are most successful if they have 12 - 18 months of treatment and are allowed to have stable housing and work opportunities.
 
2) Stranger danger offenses are an extremely small percentage of the sexual offenses that we see, and yet the most denigrating and damaging laws, usually named after the children who were hurt or killed in these offenses, are created based on them.  Not only are they extremely expensive to implement, but much of what is called for in these laws is not correct and does not work to protect children.
 
If we really want to see this "disgusting behavior" change, the Denver Post could help by encouraging people who don't like to see those with sexual offenses sleeping in their cars on neighborhood streets or roaming about town without jobs and housing to get involved in the Circles of Support and Accountability Programs that are starting up around the state.  They could also recommend that church people, club members, sports teams, and professional groups check into becoming involved as support, either through Circles of Support or through the individual "support person" program through the Colorado Department of Corrections.  
 
The DISGUSTING BEHAVIOR would decline greatly if we would take these avenues to help instead of continuing to look down on these folks.  

Thank you.


A Vision of Hope
 
This wonderful article is another that opens our eyes to the destructive nature of the registry, especially when applied to juveniles; it, like other important works on the same topic, includes input from Nicole Pittman.

"Conservatives propose public sex offender registry, despite its failure in the U.S.," written about the progress of the registry in England, summarizes the major failings of America's registry and the foolishness of any other country proceeding with one.

"Ban the Box" is a positive move toward removing the initial rejection of registrants and others convicted of a crime when filling out job applications. Criminal history is part of most applications, but this move assures that those with records get past the initial hurdle on the same footing as everyone else. This is how it is being handled in Kentucky and in California.

California also continues to make news in having excessive residency restrictions removed or declared in violation of the state laws. That has happened most recently in El Centro City and in Loma Linda, and a new suit has just been filed against the city of Paloma. See more in the California report under "States."

Circles of Support, a restorative justice program, has proved invaluable in helping registrants not only with initial re-entry but also with long-term connections; it is shown in action here in Wisconsin and is also referenced above in "In the News" as starting up in Colorado.

The title and first sentence of this article say it all: "Mass. Court Says Sex Offender Law Not Retroactive": The state’s highest court has ruled that Massachusetts cannot retroactively post information about thousands of registered sex offenders on the Internet. "Wahoo!" is one of several appropriate responses.

Even though there are still many unanswered questions, the news that Offendex and other Arizona-based blackmail sites were having their business dealings seriously curtailed brought joy to many.
Potpourri
 
Pioneer advocate for reforming sex offender laws dies

The Reverend David Hess died on March 7. Many of us are too new to have known him, but he is truly one of the "founding fathers" of our movement and stayed engaged  to the end in spite of the illness that took his life.

In a letter written shorty before he died, he reminds us why he continued the struggle and why we must, and he also shows he kept his sense of humor to the end. He writes, "Myth based laws that lead to unemployment, homelessness, and isolation increase the risk of recidivism and make for less safe communities.....
At least my death will get me off the registry. :-) I had hoped for a different exit."

Derek Logue, who knew him and was influenced by him, includes this in his beautifully written eulogy: "Rev. Hess was a quiet voice, but was among the many silent heroes in the battle against tough-on-crime legislation. We may not see everyone on the front lines of the cause, but that does not belittle the efforts of those like Rev. Hess, one of the early pioneers who helped mold and empower the reform movement in his own way." 
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Message from an inmate: This was received through the Corrlinks email system by which some incarcerated in federal prisons--for sex offenses, almost always computer stings and illegal pornography--receive the Digest.

I found out today that the reason my family has not been in touch is because they can no longer handle the situation. My wife said, "We just cannot deal with it anymore." What can one say? She isn't well. She also doesn't know where she is going to live and how she is going to get along with her life. Yeah... my conviction was done to protect the family. I want to thank the prosecutor for all she's done to help my family and protect them from such an evil man as I. I also want to thank all the law makers that have saved all the other families that are now broken and injured from the laws that they put in place. They saved them from the terrible people that they loved and were loved by. We just can't tolerate those who have been looking at pictures on a computer. They are such a danger to their families and neighbors. They are so bad that they are given a life sentence and shut out of the dreams they had like the freedom to pursue happiness and life and ... Oh yeah, liberty, a God given, unalienable right according to the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. But those great thoughts no longer apply.

Keep up the good work.

From Our States and Committees

Colorado CSOR is fighting against the passage of a Jessica's Law for Colorado. Both houses have a version; that the Dems would insist on the passage of a bill that will, most likely, be called Jessica's Law even though it isn't Jessica's Law in the purest Florida form, so that it will look as though they are just are hard on those with sexual offenses as the Republicans, makes no sense at all.

We continue to push for some recognition of the independent study done by the Sex Offender Management Board which shows that Colorado needs a massive overhaul in its sex offender management programs.

We are thrilled to see the Circles of Support and Accountability program begin in Colorado. They will be strong allies in support of our position. (see more about this under "In the News.")

It has been a while since Tennessee has reported anything  Our legislature is pushing several bills this year being as it is an election year; this is without doubt a tough on crime tactic. We have been focused on three bills, one requiring life time registration, one for a $50.00 notification fee on top of the $150.00 registration fee every year, and one increasing the penalties for indecent exposure. The general assembly session ends the middle of April, and we continue trying to be heard by the legislative committees involved. National RSOL has joined our fight with emails and telephone calls to committee members enumerating the points why the additional $50 fee is bad legislation.

  

In Maine we are s-l-o-w-l-y growing. A few minor bills were presented early in the session of the Maine state legislature which could have had some effect. They were tabled and are expected to face defeat in committee.

Research in homeless services in Maine have found that there are NO homeless shelters within the state of Maine which will accept persons on the registry and only 2 private treatment homes which will accept registrants, and then only when the crime was NOT against a child, no matter how minor the crime. Those with a crime against a minor are universally referred to by those homes as "pedophiles," or at least they have been using such incorrect terminology. It has been explained to them that pedophilia is not a legal term but a psychological one, and that most convicted of a crime against a minor are NOT pedophiles. Few have changed their use of the term and none have changed their policies.


 
Oklahoma is having an inexplicably light legislative session this year. We have started two support groups in Tulsa and Norman and are hoping to start more.

We are also starting the paperwork to incorporate as a 501(c)(4).

New Mexico is pleased to announce the results of our elections held on March 22, 2014, in Albuquerque. We were especially gratified that more than fifty (50) percent of our total membership participated in the election. All members were provided a mail-in ballot along with bios of each nominee. Our state is unique in that we provide our membership the opportunity every two years to approve or reject each nominee that serves on the board of directors. All nominees presented to our membership were approved by wide margins.    
 
RSOL-NM’s Board of Directors for the next two years are:
Lloyd Swartz
Rick Dean
Larry Neely
Alice Benson Johnston
Teller Limon
Charles Knoblauch
 
After the member’s votes were counted, the newly elected board named the following board members as officers.
President: Rick Dean
Vice President: Lloyd Swartz
Secretary: Alice Benson-Johnston
Treasurer: Larry Neely
 
RSOL-New Mexico’s board is very excited about the membership program recently begun by National. Our board has decided that we will provide any person that becomes a member of National RSOL with concurrent membership in our organization at no additional cost. We will be working closely with the Admin Team to effectuate this policy. 



The Vermont Senate has passed S.295.  This bill is currently pending in the Vermont Judiciary committee of the house.  The Vermont RSOL team has been advocating for an amendment to the bill that would allow for a rapid intervention program for registrants. The principal idea behind this amendment would be to allow people charged with certain crimes to avoid incarceration by participation in an immediate treatment program.

Tim Burgess was voted unanimously by the Vermont RSOL team to serve to the Electoral Committee.



 
California filed a lawsuit in federal court on March 24 that is the first in a series of lawsuits challenging city laws that restrict where a registered citizen may be present. Lawsuits will continue to be filed on Mondays throughout March and April unless and until more than 70 cities within the state have agreed either to repeal their ordinances or to formally agree not to enforce them until a decision is made by the California Supreme Court regarding a related case.  

California RSOL continued to lobby in the state capitol in support of a pending bill (AB 1640) that would give judges discretion regarding whether to require an individual to register as a sex offender.  That bill is sponsored by the District Attorney of Los Angeles and was introduced by a Los Angeles member of the State Assembly.  

In addition, California RSOL continued its monthly educational meetings of registered citizens and family members in Fresno.
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