From the Admin Team
Friends, advocates, activists: We need your help.
So much of what RSOL has done and can do centers around you - our friends. Each year we hold a conference that grows in scope and attendance (look elsewhere for info about this year), bringing professionals and activists from across the country to plan and network around our mutual cause. We are growing our organization, making it stronger, and making a name for ourselves as a reliable and transparent collective of affiliate groups and sister organizations.
We have launched a campaign that seeks to find and challenge the most egregious civil rights violations around our country and make a real difference in people's lives. Through our legal fund we can challenge retroactive registry laws, draconian restrictions, and other indecencies inflicted upon United States citizens with a sexual offense conviction in their past. We are grateful to have each one of you with us as we step out on this and all of our new ventures.
I want now to remind you that we need you to show your support in a very concrete way. Please contribute to our general fund or legal fund by clicking on the link provided at the top of this Digest or by sending a gift to the address shown . Share this Digest, or portions of it, with your family and friends, and encourage them to support us, too.
Public registration affects all of us: registrants, families, neighborhoods, and indeed all of society. Let's work together for change.
~~Brenda Jones, Executive Director, RSOL
CA RSOL Files Lawsuit Against Extortionist Websites
For years now, registrants and their families have been plagued by the specter of websites that have created their own private "sex offender registries," often posting information that goes far and beyond what is required on an official site.
Registrants who are removed from an official registry due to having fulfilled their registry obligation or due to having died remain on these black-market sites. Furthermore, the sites proudly boast that they make no claim as to accuracy of information, so erroneous material is included; some have gone so far as to include information, even pictures, of family members. Any attempt to have the information corrected or removed is met with an extortion demand; they want money, and many a registrant or his family has paid a fee only to be told that was just to open a "case," and that the investigation into whether anything should or would be removed would cost even more.
These sites have operated for years, skirting the law by claiming that everything they post is public record, although this has not always been true, and claiming they are charging for a service requested by a "client," and that they have the right to do that.
Enter Janice Bellucci, attorney, and president of CA RSOL. This organization, with support and endorsement from National RSOL, Women Against Registry, and Families Against the Registry, on March 20, 2013, filed a suit in a CA federal court against Offendex, Online Detective, and SORarchives. This press release
was issued the next day by National RSOL and includes the full press release issued the day before by CA RSOL.
The morning of the 22nd, two articles, one at KOMOnew.com
and the other in OC Weekly
, were drawing attention and comments. This one
and this one
soon followed, and before long both the Huffington Post
were getting in on the action. You can be sure we will keep you posted on this one!
This is a reader contribution section. Anyone who wishes to submit a piece for consideration should select an article that has been in the news concerning our issues within the past month 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. All submissions are subject to editing; include a link to the article.
This month's contribution comes from Charley in Nevada.
We have a serious problem with suicides of teenagers and even younger children in this country. I believe that children learn to be bullies at home; it is reinforced by their schools due to apathetic ignorance on the part of teachers and administrators. This is especially true when it comes to gay kids, and, in the case of this article, the suicide victim who was both daughter and victim of a registrant. The story of 14 year old Angel, the hateful bullying she suffered at the hands of her peers, and the apathetic response from her principal is so wrong but understandable with how the "tough on crime" crusaders see the world and what they communicate to their communities.
This poor child was not given the opportunity to forgive. For any victim to heal in a mentally healthy way, some kind of forgiveness of the perpetrator is necessary. She only learned hatred, disgust, and other unhealthy reactions from her surroundings, the authority figures in her life, and her community at large. Her community failed her and her family.
How can we call ourselves civilized as a nation and as communities when these pseudo-fascist tactics are seen as okay by communities? There has to be compassion for both the victim and perpetrator, or else we risk following in the footsteps of history's biggest monsters. I cannot imagine the guilt the registrant father must live with. Do I condone his behavior? Not in the least. Can we have compassion and reach out to help him? If we want to prevent future abuses, absolutely yes.
With the suicide of his daughter, his victim, I doubt he will ever recover. This is not the America I want.
A Vision of Hope
The top of this list is, hands down, the lawsuit against extortionist websites, covered above.
This article almost trumped that. Written by Jennifer Bleyer, titled "Patty Wetterling Questions Sex Offender Laws,
" this is not a quick or careless read, but it is an absolute must-read. Ms. Bleyer is the investigative journalist who, last fall, wrote this remarkably insightful and accurate piece
about pedophilia and in January of this year, this one about child pornography
Another indication of hope is in the title of this excellent piece: A Case Against Sex Offender Registries
. Close to the end is this sentence, which captures the hope that drives us in our work: "Those who care about ending sex crimes must demand that policymakers reject one-size-fits-all laws to address sex abuse and begin to invest the political and financial resources in policies and programs that actually work."
An excellent and hopeful ruling
came down from the Maryland Supreme Court, John Doe vs. Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. A plurality of justices called the changes made in 2009 and 2010 "public shaming" and clearly punitive, making its retroactive application unconstitutional in Mr. Doe's case. We are hopeful that this will open the door for thousands of Maryland registrants who have seen their terms increased.
It is refreshing when attempts to make conditions even more onerous for registrants backfire with demands that the focus be shifted from punishment to treatment and that laws reflect what research indicates will be effective rather than based on myth and lies. This article
, dealing with the "pocket parks" being built in Los Angeles in an attempt to drive registrants from the area is one such, as is this one
about the attempts in Massachusetts to include low level registrants on public listings; it gave Paul Shannon and others the opportunity to speak out about what works and what doesn't and what is needed versus what "feels good."
This one almost belongs in Ripley's "Believe It or Not"; a Florida public defender as well as prosecutors and law enforcement in West Palm Beach all agree that registry restrictions serve no purpose and should be lifted. Gail and the FAC are quoted in the article
barely made it in time for deadline, but it must be included. The TX Senate has just passed a bill hard fought for by TX Voices, one that removed place of employment and employer information from the public registry. The bill must still make it through the House.
This piece is anonymous; it was sent as part of an email, and I have been unable to trace the source or gather any information. If anyone reading this has information about it, please contact me here; thank you.~Editor
I spoke with my son today. He's been in a holding pattern while they decided where in the country they were going to transfer him. They finally decided, so he's been in transit for a few days...a miserable experience including a flight to Atlanta, another flight somewhere to pick up and drop off others, and now a wait until they either fly him on his last stretch or decide to bus him. They had 150 crammed into a room to sleep on mats on the floor, and they ate their meals with their hands shackled to their bellies. He dislocated his shoulder in football several years ago, so this was not an easy task and left his shoulder sore and he was unable to sleep. Keep in mind that sleep is a blessing in their environment.
Still, he sounded good. Not happy, but hanging on to the idea that when he gets to his destination, he'll be able to work and move around a little bit and not be stuck in a small cell all day and night. He has a great attitude...always looking to the future and not the past or even the present.
But he said something to me that made me sad and then it made me mad as hell!!!! He said, "Mom, I was looking at the US Marshals that have been moving us around and I couldn't help but think that should be me on the other side of these chains." His dream was to become a cop--it has been since he was little and the Cops show was on TV. While they were playing the "Bad boys, Bad boys, whatcha gonna do” theme song, he would be frantically trying to put on all his gear: the vest, the belt, and his toy gun and badge. He was hoping when the economy improved that he would join the police department.
Now my first reaction was to sob. But I'm not a crier...at least not until recently. But it didn't take long for the tears to dry and the anger to set in again!!! My son is not a criminal!! He is not what they want to portray him to be so they can gain votes and beat on their chests and proclaim what a good thing they've done!! He is a human being who made a mistake One single mistake, and they want to crucify him and ruin his life forever!!!!!!!
They want the public to believe that anyone who has ever looked at CP will go out and harm a child. That is ridiculous. If it were true, then everyone who had ever looked at adult porn would be going out raping adult women!! There are any number of reasons why people look at these images--some are predators, some have issues that they should get therapy for, and some just made a stupid mistake!!
I know there are members out there who are probably afraid to write to their lawmakers. I was too. I started small and only wrote to those I thought were good people who would not try to research me and find out where we live. I was afraid of becoming a target. But I couldn't just let this happen without doing something! So I wrote. And you know, no one ever came back to me about it. I received some canned replies, and one actually sent me a meaningful response--not what I wanted to hear but meaningful and thoughtful. No one has tried to do us any harm, and no one has even been disrespectful.
Now I understand that I've been taking the wrong approach, that I shouldn't speak as a parent or a loved one of someone who has fallen into the trap, but as a tax payer who doesn't believe we should be wasting the people's money incarcerating people who are no danger to anyone!!
That is actually a relief. I can quit writing as a Mom - it's not effective anyway. I can now write from a different angle like I am just another taxpayer. I can do this! And everyone else can too. We need to stand up! We need to support our state and our national organizations. Some of us can't volunteer because of our work life, our home life, or our other responsibilities that cannot be pushed aside - maybe a combination of all of it. Maybe we don't have money that we can donate.
But speech is free.
And if you are reading this on a computer, there is no additional cost to writing a letter and emailing it to our lawmakers.
It takes almost no time at all to let them know you are not happy with the laws they've created.
We cannot sit back and let the dreams of our loved ones die because we were afraid to speak up!!
I refuse to sit back and let them kill my son's dream. I've always heard that nothing is impossible. If you want it bad enough--fight for it!!
I am fighting for my son, and the fight would be more easily won if everyone would stand up and join in!!
From Our States and Committees
Progress continues in California
as another city virtually repeals the onerous sex offender ordinance it passed only six months ago. The decision of the City of Lancaster is a key settlement issue in resolving a lawsuit filed by California RSOL. Lancaster is the third city to repeal its sex offender ordinance in the past three months, and more cities are expected to follow. California RSOL is poised to file new lawsuits if the cities fail to do so.
In addition to city ordinances, California RSOL is challenging in court three websites which identify individuals as sex offenders and publish personal information regarding them, including name, photo and home address [see special news section, above]. The website listings harm individuals in obtaining employment and housing as well as expose them to vigilante violence.
Further, California RSOL is active in the state legislature opposing several bills that would harm registrants and advocating for a bill that would create a tiered registry. Finally, California RSOL continues to hold monthly meetings of registrants and family members in order to educate them regarding issues of importance.
Our Maryland legislature has had a relatively "quiet" session for us, with everyone focused on repealing the death penalty and various weapons bans or restrictions. We did introduce our first bill, which simply sought clarification for a proximity restriction preventing registrants from being on school property, which has the unintended consequence of banning registrants from some churches with schools on their property. The bill did get a hearing but did not make it out of committee. We're expecting this to be a multiple-year project, however, and were just glad for a chance to stand up in SUPPORT of something for once and still get our message of collateral damage across.
The big, big news in our state is the Court of Appeals decision in Doe v. DPSCS, which solidly declared our public registry laws to be punitive and therefore they cannot be applied retroactively [see Visions of Hope, above].
We just heard that the DPSCS will be interpreting the law quite narrowly. Many will still be removed, but the decision could mean much more. We intend to file a challenge to insist that Maryland do what is right and reverse ALL of the registry increases that have been applied unconstitutionally.
Arkansas ATAT has been to the capital for 9 weeks now. We lost the first two bills that we opposed but have had better luck after that. ATAT and its leaders are gaining recognition by the legislators and others in the capitol building.
ATAT is still working on a bill that would put most of the Sex offender on the register for life. Currently in the state of Arkansas you can petition to get off the register after 15 years. We have so far stopped this bill before it has gone to committee; we will continue opposing it until it dies.
We have been successful in stopping 2 more bills; one of these we were able to defeat in collaboration with the Board of Corrections. Only two remain that we are working one; we have high hopes for the rest of the session.
Illinois Voices for Reform, Inc. has been busy dealing with a large number of bills that were introduced in Springfield this year. This included HB1454, Illinois’ attempt to become SORNA compliant. Among our many efforts to defeat this bills was a detailed booklet outlining the empirical studies done around SORNA and AWA. The booklet was printed, bound, and sent to each of the Senators and Representatives in Illinois. A copy of the booklet is available as a PDF on our website and is a must-read for anyone working to defeat SORNA laws.
Our efforts were largely successful this year as only a handful of sex offender-related bills made it through committee by the deadline. We are cautiously optimistic as HB1454 did not get heard or passed through the House Judiciary Committee. As of now, no SORNA bill has been introduced in the Senate, although we are keeping our eyes on a large number of deceitful “shell” bills that could be amended at any time as a sneaky, back-door way of getting SORNA introduced in the senate.
There are several other bills that did make it through committee that we will be actively opposing in the coming weeks. Going forward, Illinois Voices would like to explore various opportunities to challenge ineffective and discriminatory laws in court. We are closely watching what is being done in other states to get ideas and suggestions on how to proceed with lawsuits. We know that laws like park bans and social networking bans have been successfully challenged in other states, and our goal is to challenge similar laws here in Illinois.
New Mexico’s 2013 legislative session has ended; we are pleased to report that nothing really bad was passed. HB 570 passed, which will impact some registrants in some relatively minor ways, but we had managed to have the more onerous aspects removed.
HB 466, which would have had wider and far more serious ramifications for all registrants, including adding sex new offenses to the list of registrable offenses retroactively, was tabled, a great victory for RSOL NM. HB 48, the Internet prohibition bill that would have banned all sex offenders from social networking, was killed. HB 38, the termination of parental rights, was merged with HB 508, a similar bill, and both bills died.
HB 270 would have added the offense of Electronic Solicitation to the list of offenses that require the imposition of an indeterminate five to twenty year sentence and require that the offender pay for his/her own Risk Assessment; it is dead. SB 252 was tabled, another major victory. This bill would allow a parent to lose parental rights just for being or having been on the registry.
New Mexico has ended the legislative session with great victory for registrants.
In Nevada the ACLU Vs NVAG case against Assembly Bill 579 (lost last year) is working its way back down the court system from the US Appellate court. Eventually, the adoption of AWA SORNA requirements will go forth in Nevada, and the new reclassification notices will be mailed to Nevada RSOL, probably in April or May.
A Nevada resident whom I assume is a registrant contacted me stating that he was trying to promote some legislation regarding getting off of the lifetime registry requirement (for him personally). I do not know what legislation he is referring to nor how reliable this information is. I will go to the State website and see if I can find what he is referring to and report back.
We are struggling in Nevada on many levels; we will have a website; we will work against onerous laws. We will not give up.
Ohio is actively gathering information in opposition of HB 108 that would mandate a $100 yearly fee to be paid by ALL registrants to the state toward the cost of a Rape Crisis Center project. OH RSOL members are in pursuit of data that reflects the high number of unemployed registrants by contacting counties in Ohio in preparation of a comprehensive report to be presented to the committee who will vote on the bill.
It’s been a busy month for the Dakotas
gathering information and facts to present to our legislatures when we meet with them to propose legislation based on education and empathy versus hate and punishment. Please sign our petition
if you support our position.
Indiana Voices started this legislative session with seven bills, 5 of which we opposed and 2 we supported. The 5 bills we opposed have died in committees.
We have attended committee meetings, legislative floor meetings, and conducted letter-writing campaigns to make our voices heard. We are proud to say that HB 1108 was endorsed and will be signed in to law this July. This bill will enable juvenile offenders alternatives to incarceration, even if waived in to adult court. It will further allow juveniles complete expungement of their criminal records once the sentencing is fulfilled. We are still working to get the wording of HB 1053 changed that would force registrants to update “appearance changes” within 72 hours. Indiana Voices felt this verbiage is too broad and legislators are scrambling to find different language to pass this bill. We do support this bill, as it will mandate DOC to remove registrants’ information once registration obligations have been served. Let’s hope this bill passes with the needed corrections!
Oklahoma is happy to report that most of our negative bills died last month. We're still working on two bills dealing with loitering restrictions. It looks like we have a good chance of amending at least one.
A senate bill creating a minimum sentence for failure to register has been amended. We're still trying to get the minimum removed.
SB889: DOC reviews registration history of levels 1 and 2 at the end of their 15 or 25 yrs. If they've failed to register at any point, they have to stay on for that period of time after their original end date, and then they come off.
SB1027 prohibits registrants from entering state parks and is currently in the house judiciary committee. We're hopeful about our chances of killing this one.
We're also still working on starting support groups in Tulsa and Norman.
will send occasional email newsletters to those who are interested in issues affecting Virginia registrants and their families. Click here
to view the first issue released on March 27. The Safer Virginia Web site is active and will be expanded in the near future. You're invited to widely distribute its address, http://www.safervirginia.org/
, and our mailing address, P O Box 8251, Richmond, VA 23226-0251. You may email John here
The Florida Action Committee continues to be represented in the state capitol by President Gail Colletta and partners Dr. Eric Imhof and Dr. Suzonne Kline. The organization is in the process of developing plans to raise funds for a lobbyist as many of the state’s legislators have advised that this should be the next step for FAC. The membership numbers as of March 25, 2013 include: 25 non-email members, 51 advocates (across the country, either affiliates or through websites/blogs), 247 general members, and 7 professionals (lawyers, reporters, psychologists) with a current active membership of 330 total members. With over 57 thousand on the state’s registry, FAC is actively engaged in building its membership to include not only the families of those on the registry but members of various community safety, law enforcement and child advocacy groups.
FAC was well represented at a recent Criminal Justice Commission meeting in Palm Beach County where the discussion focused on the various residency distances throughout the county ranging from 750 to 2500 feet. Accurate data on the ineffectiveness of such restrictions was presented by Public Defender Carey Haughwort and well received. A follow up meeting is scheduled regarding the validity of Residency Restrictions at which the Palm Beach County Reentry Task Force subcommittee on Sex Offenders will be present as well. FAC members are supporting the repeal of the 2500 residency restriction here in PBC. As residency restrictions have yet to be in any type of decline in the state, FAC is working hard to see Palm Beach County’s action turning the tide for the state in a multiyear battle to have ordinances and laws based on empirical data rather than emotion.
Our website is one of our most valuable sources of information, and the Communications Committee wants everyone to get the best possible use of it. Our upcoming 5th annual conference is a big topic right now. On the website under "Take Action" is a National Conference page. Clicking there will give you the most recent published information plus a place to sign up for email alerts when new information is released.
With much happening in different states and on the national front, a "What's Happening Now" page has been created, also under the "Take Action" menu.
Under "Resources," the "Digest" page offers access to back issues of the Digest for 2012-13, and the "References" page gives a listing of valuable articles, some old, some new, and a listing of the official press releases issued by National RSOL since Dec. 2012.