From the Admin Team
The Year in Review—Our Accomplishments in 2013
We sent a total of 24 releases to a variety of different media lists. Some focused on bad legislation such as park restrictions, Halloween restrictions, forced castration, and the Vitter Amendment that would deny food stamp benefits to many registrants.
Some were protesting outrageous attitudes and actions, such as Halloween hysteria, the murder of registered citizens, and vigilantism in general.
We had a number of TV, radio, and newspaper interviews featuring RSOL state contacts and affiliate leaders. Among them were Mary Sue Molnar of Texas, speaking both to the foolishness of Halloween restrictions for registered citizens and what research has to say about restrictions keeping registered citizens from places like public parks.
The vigilante murders in South Carolina of a registrant and his wife drew media attention, and both Brenda Jones, Executive Director of National RSOL and Lila Folster, RSOL contact in South Carolina, were interviewed for television and for print coverage.
Successes in states:
Several of our state organizations were directly responsible for stopping negative legislation or restrictions or getting favorable ones passed. In some of the cases, the state organizations were aided to some degree by National RSOL. Those in which National helped are designated with an *.
- New Mexico: defeated legislation imposing social media bans*; blocked Halloween restrictions*; passed a prohibition against any municipality or county imposing any restriction not in the state code ; again blocked AWA compliance
- Texas: blocked Halloween restrictions; defeated legislation imposing social media bans*; passed legislation removing registrants’ employee information from the public view
- Connecticut: protested against implementing residency restriction legislation* (outcome pending)
- Maryland: successful suit, aided by amicus brief, against ex-post facto application of registration requirements in that state under some circumstances*
- California: initiated litigation against “blackmail” websites* (still pending); effectively lessened Halloween restrictions; successful suit reversing residency restrictions in some areas.
In addition, in 2013, National RSOL also:
Held our fifth National Conference, Justice for All, in Los Angeles, California.
Sent representatives to attend other conferences:
- Prisoner’s Family Conference; Houston, Texas
- the New York Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers
- National Conference of State Legislatures Summit; Atlanta, Georgia
Co-sponsored with W.A.R. and SOSEN the re-launching of the Support Hotline.
Finalized our vision, mission, goals, and assertion statements.
Launched the “We Are the 5000” campaign to raise funds for legal involvement.
Produced and distributed
12 issues of the Digest
Continued involvement with the Corr-Links email program,
sending the Digest to those in federal institutions and seeing the program grow significantly.
Created new structures
designed to strengthen our continued and future advocacy.
- Legal Oversight Committee
- Laying groundwork for membership program
- Laying groundwork for media relations program
We must do more, but we cannot do any more than our funds will allow. So please be as generous as your personal finances will allow. Defending the human dignity of every registered citizen is the most important civil rights challenge of the Twenty-first Century. With your help, we have come a long way already. With your continued support and financial assistance
, the future remains promising, and the hope for serious reform is well founded.
Vision of Hope
We have a mixed bag of hope this month. First is a blog entry from a staunch supporter who gives us the gift of common sense by reminding us of Bobby Scott of Virginia appealing to Congress to consider what they were doing with these most logical of words: "
The problem with mandatory minimum sentences is that they defy common sense. If you deserve the mandatory minimum, you can get it. If it violates common sense, you have to get it anyway."
Next is good news from California
where a court ruling promises a favorable outcome for our RSOL affiliate and potentially many registrants.
Another favorable outcome in California is shown here
: one town withdraws its enforcement of its residency and presence restrictions due to litigation by CA RSOL.
Getting our editorials and letters printed in the mainstream media is still an uphill battle, but the publication of "Sex Offender Bill is Unnecessary
" shows it does occur.
Although a little older--March, 2013--this wonderful article
by Gail Rosenblum deserves keeping at the forefront; it is hopeful and positive and offers much of value to the reader and and legislator as well, especially in consideration of the direction that civil commitment programs need to go.
A highly significant bit of hope come from Dr. Jill Levenson et al
and a new research study
dealing with the effect of sex offender residency restrictions on transience and homelessness. Their conclusion? "When implementing sex offender management policies, lawmakers should consider transience as an unintended negative consequence."
And finally, these words of hope and encouragement come from Dave, our contact and "roving reporter" in the Philippines:
Hope you had a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year from me. Hopefully, we'll be seeing things start to turn around in our favor next year, HOPEFULLY. Let that be our united goal, our daily mantra in 2014, whatever the cost and struggle. Let each one here work in their own way to bring about change and reform. We owe it to ourselves and our loved ones. Get involved with RSOL, both nationally and at the state level. Find out how you can get involved, ask how you can help, and what's needed. You'd be surprised at how something relatively small can make an impact and make a difference to us all. You get OUT whatever you put IN. With time and donations, the groups can do more to fight the laws, believe me. Plans and strategies are out there for reform; we just need the money and the resources. Above all, please, don't be afraid to SHOW UP, STAND UP, AND SPEAK UP.
In the News
The article cited above is about a murder that took place in New Hampshire the weekend before Christmas. David Wheelock, the man shot to death, was suffering from multiple sclerosis and was wheelchair bound. From the few, scant favorable comments on various articles by those who actually knew him, he was a nice man and a good friend. Most of the comments were negative, nasty, and vile. Those were made by people who never met him and didn't know him. Those were based on the reports in local media that he had been registered as a sex offender due to a single arrest in 2005 for 28 counts of child pornography.
The person or persons who murdered him have not been apprehended and possibly will never be. Suppositions that he was killed by a vigilante because he was on the registry are very logical in light of the escalating violence toward registrants by vigilantes, but they nevertheless remain suppositions.
This editorial is not about that. It is not about the propensity of big-mouthed bullies to spew venom in these situations. It is not about the very real fears that registered citizens and their families face every day because their names, faces, and addresses are on a registry viewed by a public that has proven itself totally incapable of handling such information in a responsible manner.
This editorial is about something seldom--possibly even never before--found in these situations. I first became aware of it when, in the article referenced above, I came across the phrase, "Demonstrating the dehumanizing effect placement on the list elicits from some individuals..." and continuing with harsh criticism of the vicious, verbal attacks against Mr. Wheelock on a Facebook page, even quoting several of them.
Then I became aware of the title of the article: "Investigation into Homicide on Pearl Street." Not "Sex Offender Found Dead" or "Sexual Predator Murdered." I looked at other articles by local media. While they all included reference to his earlier offense and inclusion on the registry, none of them made reference to it in their headlines. And then this morning, Christmas Day, I read this press release
issued by the New Hampshire DOJ, the office of the state attorney general. It is nothing short of surprising and refreshing. It publicly puts the support of this office squarely with the state and local police in investigating this murder in the hopes of bringing the killer to justice.
I'm not sure what this means. Is New Hampshire operating on a higher plane, one that enables its media and its law enforcement, from the attorney general on down, to understand that having once committed a sexual offense does not remove from the individual that which makes him a valuable human being who is worthy of respectful treatment and whose murder deserves the full attention of the law? Is it possible that a corner has been turned and registered citizens can hope to be considered citizens who made a mistake and are worthy of a second chance and basic, decent treatment?
I don't know, but whatever it means, I'll take it. We are beginning a new year. If there is a chance that attitudes are changing, I'll take it.
From Jay and RSOL friends incarcerated in Louisiana
From other readers behind prison bars across the states
- I wish you all a wonderful holiday....As we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus. Bob
- Merry Christmas and Happy New Years!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Scott
- I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. If you are not of Christian faith I wish you the best for whatever holiday you do keep. Larry
- Just want to wish you a happy holiday, and offer my deepest thanks for all the efforts you put forth on our behalf all through the year! Thanks So Much! Brian
- Happy Holidays to all and hope you all have a very prosperous and healthy New Year. Yours, Ben
- My friends I am so very thankful for each one of you and I hope that your Christmas is wonderful. God is good and He loves us so much. Love and blessings to you, Jerry
- Merry Christmas to everyone out there; may your holidays be safe and plentiful and may God bless each and everyone. Love from the inside. James
- Hi all, I hope you and your families all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Doing well here. Kevin
- Merry Christmas, 2013 & happy new year, 2014. May God truly Bless you and the family. Arnold
- Just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I thank everyone for what you do for us inmates. It is greatly appreciated. Good Tidings, Jonathan
- Merry Christmas and a very HAPPY NEW YEAR! All the blessings of life to you and yours! Kelly
- Happy Holidays to all and hope you all have a very prosperous and healthy New Year. Yours, Ben
And finally....from Darrin
I'm gona make a wish this Christmas.
I'm gona say a little prayer.
I'm gona stop here for a moment,
Before the moment disappears.
The world's in a hurry this December.
The city streets and shopping malls.
I wish we'd slow down and remember,
The meaning of it all.
In this shadow world of people.
In a star that lights the way.
You will find Him in a manger.
The Heart of Christmas has a Name.
Where ever you are, no matter how far.
Come back to the heart, the Heart of Christmas.
Live while you can, cherish the moment.
The ones that you love, make sure they know it.
And don't miss it, the Heart of Christmas.
From Our States and Committees
This was an eye opener year for Arkansas. It was our first year to really understand what all goes on with the legislature. We have more members this year than we did in 2011. We lost a few bills but won the big one. Our session lasted from January to April. ATAT kept our members informed during this time and directed them when they needed to fight back. They came through for us. Without them we would not have been able to do all we did.
We lost a bill that does not allow registrants inside the playground or swimming area of state parks. The big bill we did win would have put a large number of registrants on the registry for life. In Arkansas registrants can petition to get off in 15 years. We are so pleased not to have that lost to many of our registered citizens.
Next year is a budget year. We do not expected any new bills to be inducted, but we will keep our eyes on them.
Dakota RSOL has had a busy 2013 year, but 2014 promises to be even busier. I have exciting news! I now serve as Board Member/Secretary for W.A.R. (Women Against Registry) and will actively participate in the WAR towards Prevention.
My prison pen pal list continues to grow, and I now have 20 pen pals to whom I send the Digest wrapped in hope.
Michael Winder, Communications & Information Manager, South Dakota Department of Corrections, is assisting me in gathering statistics to complete my ten year incarceration study in South Dakota. So 2014, I welcome you and look forward to a prosperous New Year for legislation, prevention, and reform! Together we can make a difference.
WE ARE THE
Join the 5000!
There is really no greater area of urgent need than RSOL's legal fund. The Scarlet Legal Action Project (SLAP) is woefully underfunded for the next fiscal year. Rather than committing RSOL | SLAP to legal challenges that could potentially pound holes into the concrete wall of oppression and control (aka, the sex offender registry), SLAP is largely constrained to engage its meager financial resources for fear that it will over-extend. Failing to fully provide the kind of professional legal assistance needed by litigants who are seeking to overturn unconstitutional aspects of SORNA or state imposed registration requirements is a consequence of inadequate funding. Therefore, we continue to need your consistent financial support for this most important area of advocacy.
If you've not already joined the 5,000, please do so today. Make a level of monthly commitment
that you can sustain for the next twelve months without harming your household budget. If you have PayPal, you can easily set up a payment plan for a monthly payment of whatever amount you can afford.
If you are already one of the 5,000, please consider raising your monthly contribution by matching your present level of giving (doubling the amount), or make an incremental increase of whatever amount you can manage. Do it today! Let's get the new year off to a good start. Let's make sure that RSOL | SLAP doesn't have to pass up on the most important cases of 2014. Be one of the 5,000!
Despite the fact that SLAP
--our Scarlet Legal Action Project
--has kept a low profile, we have been active in recent months. It is our hope that more of you will become aware of our work as we move into 2014. Our current projects include:
- Working with our Maryland affiliate on the matter of Doe v the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Most of you know that Doe prevailed on his claim that Maryland’s 2010 registration scheme violates the state constitution’s prohibition against imposing any disadvantage after the fact. In other words, Maryland’s highest court has held that the 2010 registration enhancements constitute an ex post facto punishment. Despite Doe’s victory, the state initially refused to remove him from the registry and they are now asserting new claims that will require further litigation. SLAP will be actively assisting counsel with the goal of expanding the reach of the Doe decision;
- Joining with Citizens for Criminal Justice Reform (CCJR) and three other activist organizations in an amicus brief in a case of John Doe v The State of New Hampshire which is currently pending before that state’s supreme court;
- Assisting our New Mexico affiliate with a similar challenge that they are planning to initiate in the first half of 2014;
- Recruiting additional attorneys and legal professionals to be involved with SLAP; and
- Increasing our overall visibility and participation.
Please keep in mind that SLAP has very limited resources at this time, which means that we are only able to scratch the surface in terms of what is needed; therefore, any legal action we support must have the potential to impact registrants as a group rather than a single person’s case. (see We Are the 5,000 below)
This time of year is generally quiet for RSOL New Mexico,
but we expect that this is merely the calm before the proverbial storm. Our legislative session convenes on January 21, 2014. and we expect the pace of legislative activity to be fierce because it is a short session (30 days) which means that anything that passes the process must move very quickly. We do not anticipate any significant legislation as it pertains to SORNA itself, but we do expect several bills related to sexual offenses and increasing penalties. Keep in mind that 2014 is an election year, which presents lawmakers a golden opportunity to crack down on criminal conduct. We expect legislation to be introduced that would:
- Broaden the definition of “human trafficking” and dramatically increase the penalties for a conviction;
- Add “human trafficking to the list of registrable sex offenses;
- Terminate the parental rights through a civil proceeding of those accused and/or convicted of certain sex offenses;
- Raise the age of consent from sixteen to eighteen years of age.
It is our expectation that most legislation dealing with criminal penalties will face a difficult time this year because our legislature has appointed a subcommittee and tasked them with presenting a comprehensive proposal forward that would potentially change the way we handle adult offenders in New Mexico. The subcommittee will be working on the proposal throughout 2014 and is expected to present its recommendations in 2015. Since this process is already underway, we do not expect significant enhancements to our current penalty scheme.