From the Admin Team
Justice for All--A Conference to Reform Sexual Offense Laws
This month we are all about THE CONFERENCE. We are at 28 days and counting. Plans are being finalized. The speakers and the presentations are outstanding. Information about the featured speakers, their backgrounds, and their topics is found here.
Also on the same page is a link to the presentations
to help you plan your schedule ahead of time. There are also links to register
for the conference and to reserve hotel accommodations if you still need to do this.
We have four very special featured speakers. Alex Landon, a prominent criminal defense attorney and our keynote speaker, is co-author of the book A Parallel Universe that analyzes sex offender issues from both legal and human perspectives. Landon is also former president of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice and is a current board member of the California Reform Sex Offender Laws (CA RSOL) organization. In his presentation, "Finding the Answers," he will ask and answer the difficult questions, those that are at the heart of our advocacy.
Catherine Carpenter is also a criminal defense attorney and a professor of law at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles; her primary focus of scholarship is on issues pertaining to sex offender registration laws and sex crimes. Her presentation, "Sexual Offense Laws and Constitutionality," will explore the spiraling nature of sexual offense laws and the lack of constitutional foundations underpinning them.
Doctor Suzonne Kline, former administrator of Florida’s Sexually Violent Predator Program, is currently in private practice specializing in forensic evaluation, risk assessment, sexual offenders, and the provision of expert testimony regarding effective sexual offender management. Dr. Kline will focus on developing effective sex offender management practices using risk-based assessment to make risk-based decisions regarding public safety in her presentation, "Public Policy and Risk-Based Assessment."
Doctor Clare Ann Ruth-Heffelbower is the Founding Program Director of Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA) at the Center for Peacemaking and Conflict Studies at Fresno Pacific University. She is a former minister and has been involved in restorative justice work for more than 30 years. She helped to found the COSA program in 2007 with a start-up grant from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Her presentation, "Restorative Justice and Sexual Offenders," will give an overview of restorative justice principles with a focus on Circles of Support and Accountability.
Among the workshops and presentations are:
"Registered Traveler" - answers passport and travel questions, both for overseas and U.S. travel
"Plain English Guide to SORNA" - everything you want to know about SORNA in understandable terms.
"Sex Offender Myth Busters" - the origin of sex offender myths and how to deal with them
" Federal Sentencing Guidelines in Child Pornography and Child Enticement Cases" - examines federal sentencing guidelines in child pornography cases
"Screwed by My Plea?" - examines the plea process in detail
"Introduction to Support Groups" - a step by step look at establishing and maintaining support groups
"RSOL State Leaders Speak Out" - shares the experiences of seasoned state leaders
"How to Work With the Experts and Meet With Your Legislators" - examines how taking an expert with you can enhance your effectiveness with legislators
These are just some of the conference offerings. Whatever your interests and concerns, you will find something for you at the conference, so we will see you in Los Angeles on August 29!
Another important conference is taking place this month, one which RSOL will proudly attend. The National Conference of State Legislatures Summit is being held in Atlanta, Georgia on August 12-15. Representatives from RSOL will join representatives from W.A.R. and other reform advocates in meeting and talking with legislators and distributing materials. Legislators from every state will be in attendance, making this an excellent opportunity to make our presence and our goals known. Some of you have contributed to the fund-raising that is enabling our participants to attend, and we thank you; we are deeply appreciative for your moral and financial support. This is a high-price-tag event, and without you, we could not attend.
This month's IN THE NEWS column will be somewhat different.
Less than two weeks ago Charles and Gretchen Parker were brutally murdered
in South Carolina. They were killed by another man and his wife, Jeremy and Christine Moody, people who did not know them at all. Mr. Parker was targeted because he was on the South Carolina public sex offender registry. He has been on there since 1991 when he was registered for sexual misconduct. Mrs. Parker was not on the registry. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was at home with her husband. They had children and families who mourn their loss.
The wanton murder of registered citizens and their innocent family members must stop. Since this is very much a developing story, by the time you read this, more will have happened, but this is a summary of activity to this point.
RSOL sent a press release to every possible media outlet in the state of South Carolina and to the broader media contact list throughout the U.S. Titled "RSOL Calls for Immediate Moratorium on SC Sex Offender Registry; Demands Response from Gov. Haley," the full text is available here
and is linked and quoted from in this article
, which also includes an interview with Brenda Jones by a journalist at South Carolina Radio Network [see below].
A version of the press release adapted into a letter to South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was sent to her by registered mail.
A Vision of Hope
Even though several favorable and encouraging articles will be posted, this month's Vision of Hope emphasis is on two separate yet similar court cases in two different states--Oklahoma and Kansas.
Both cases were suits brought by registrants due to the implementation of amendments to each state’s registration laws. In both cases, the application of the SORNA amendments was retroactive . In virtually unprecedented opinions, both courts found that due to the punitive nature of the additional requirements and consequences of public registration, the ex-post facto clause of the United States Constitution had indeed been violated.
The Oklahoma case, Starkey v The Oklahoma Department of Corrections
, was decided in the state Supreme Court with the end result being that Mr. Starkey's name was ordered to be removed from the Oklahoma registry after the expiration of his original 10-year term.
The case in Kansas, John Doe v Kirk Thompson et al
., resulted in virtually an identical finding and result. What is distinguishable in this case is that the finding was by a trial level court. In his summary, the presiding judge made clear that the nature of the public registry was indeed punitive on several fronts. He alluded specifically to the shaming by social media and the discrimination faced in seeking both housing and employment. He also acknowledged that "...our data indicate that after 20 years in the community offense free, the risk of re-offending is extremely low."
Kansas has already announced that it intends to appeal the trial judge’s ruling to that state’s Supreme Court. Either case could ultimately end up before the U.S. Supreme Court in the future.
Whether they are or not, a milestone has been reached. The true nature of public registration as a sex offender has been acknowledged in courts of law and is part of official record. The judgments rendered in each of these cases affect the lives of only these two plaintiffs, just as a similar finding four months ago in Maryland affected only that registrant, but the precedent is set. Courts are on record saying what every registrant and every loved one of every registrant have known for many years: the public sex offender registration scheme is additional punishment and, applied retroactively, violates the Constitution of the United States of America.
There have been some other positive events during the past month.
A Message from Women Against Registry
Women Against Registry is proud to partner with RSOL and SOSEN to form a demand team to end the public sex offender registry. Our demand and resolution will be presented to incumbents and their running mates in the Spring of 2014 at a March on Washington to End Mass Incarceration.
Mission: The END MASS Incarceration Movement unites numerous small factions and individuals committed to eliminating unproductive and detrimental laws and practices fueling the continued growth of the dangerous and economically disastrous prison industrial complex. The demand will be made of our legislators for a substantive re-writing of the penal code in a manner that will eliminate mass incarceration throughout the United States and produce humane, effective, and fiscally sound practices throughout the entire criminal justice system.
Goal: By holding a massive peaceful “March on Washington DC” in the Spring of 2014, END MASS Incarceration will demonstrate strength and solidarity among citizens and taxpayers by delivering thoughtful and reasonable written demands directly to our nation’s legislators to effect the end of mass incarceration in the United States.
Join us and be a part of taking our public registry demand to the attention of legislators in the March on DC. Please visit the END MASS Incarceration face book page
and “like” it to join your voice in this effort. Reach out to others and other groups to spread the word and grow our numbers. With numbers, means power. With power, we can achieve anything! We look forward to seeing you there! Paul Shannon represents RSOL on the demand committee; you may contact him here
From one of our most faithful incarcerated readers, Kevin, last month: " I would like to wish each and every person out there a very happy 4th of July! Your services to those of us who are incarcerated are truly invaluable. I cannot express how much I appreciate all that you do! I thank you for your commitment."
As Communications Committee chair and Digest editor, I receive many emails from many, many people. This past month I received one with a signature that touched my heart and teared my eyes. It said:
Not a Number
From Our States and Committees
Here in Texas, we are winding down from a grueling legislative session. We were not able to stop a couple of bad bills from becoming law, but we did manage to make a bit of progress; place of employment information will be removed from the Texas public registry! Plans are now being made for our state-wide conference to be held in February of 2014 in Dallas and another to follow in Austin. There is never a dull moment here in Texas as the registry continues to grow and grow and grow……..
California RSOL filed its sixth lawsuit in July challenging an ordinance adopted by a city or county. This lawsuit was filed on July 18 against El Dorado County, which passed an ordinance that prohibits all registrants from visiting county parks and other recreational areas. As a result of this ordinance, registrants are not allowed on or near most of Lake Tahoe. Prior lawsuits, with one exception, have resulted in the repeal of the challenged ordinances. In the exception, the lawsuit is still pending.
California RSOL met in L.A. on July 27 to discuss the meaning and impact of a California Supreme Court decision which ruled that laws passed after a plea agreement can unilaterally change the terms of a plea agreement.
California continues its preparations for a warm welcome to the national RSOL conference in L.A.
In Indiana, efforts in fighting the Vitter Amendment to the Agricultural Farm bill began. Emails, letters, phone calls and information in opposition to this amendment were sent to each Representative in Congress. A vote on this “Vitter amendment” was made. The bill did NOT pass Congress!!!!!! It will now go to a study committee for revisions and then back to the House of Representatives for vote. You can rest assured that all of us will be closely watching this committee and will be contacting the committee members with information to oppose this amendment if it is added to the new bill.
The Florida Action Committee continues to reach out to new members. We will have at least 5 attending the 5th Annual RSOL conference in LA and hopefully 4 attending the ATSA conference in Chicago.
President Gail Colletta will also attend the National Conference of State Legislatures in Atlanta, Georgia from August 12th through the 15th, where we will be able to lobby legislators from all 50 states.
The Case Consideration forms are coming in at a slow but steady pace. These forms will assist in determining any legal focus for the organization.
It's been a very busy month for Dakota
RSOL with seven new prison pals this month and a meeting scheduled with a South Dakota senator and a North Dakota representative. August will be legislator contact month so we can hopefully have some positive legislation to introduce this session.
.An interim study comparing Oklahoma's registration scheme to those used in other states was approved. The representative who requested it seems to be on our side, so we're hopeful that it will turn out well.
We have a new newsletter editor who's done a great job on our summer newsletter that went out to more than 1,200 registrants in addition to our membership list. We're hoping for a good response and more active members and donors. We're also launching an in-reach project to get more of our current members actively engaged.
Two support groups will be starting in the next few weeks after several months of planning and preparation by our outreach committee. Thanks to Mary Sue Molnar for all her advice and assistance during this process.
This month has me mostly doing "upkeep" work. I've made a list of email addresses (where available) of all Maine legislators and sub-lists of Budgetary Committee and Criminal Justice Committee members. I've done a little emailing to the legislators in my state, with strong concentration on the listed Committee members. I have suggested that perhaps it might help us to reduce recidivism if we helped re-integrate former offenders into the communities. This was particularly in reference to the Vitter Amendment to the Farm Bill, and I hope some have contacted our federal legislators, especially since the amendment would not allow states to opt out of compliance.
I've been marshaling my facts and keep a list of those studies which will prove our points. I am trying right now to organize these into a coherent and logical presentation. presented to the committee who will vote on the bill.
Arkansas executive director Carla Swanson has been making multiple trips a week to the state capital in order to observe committee meetings. She confirms what local news coverage has reported--the Department of Corrections is having to answer questions from the legislators. These hearings have largely focused on problems within the department's operations, including the parole process.
These trips have been very educational and also beneficial in making new contacts with department personnel and legislators and in renewing contacts with others. Due to the time and cost involved with these trips, ATAT is temporarily suspending its monthly newsletter and the monthly meeting. We will send out emails to keep everyone informed, and will resume the newsletter when the funds are more readily available.
The Nevada Supreme Court upheld the 2007 law mandating lifetime supervision and community-notification requirements for current and former juvenile sex offenders — including the language applying those rules retroactively to cases as far back as 1956.
It mandates that all sex offenders 14 and older be subject to lifetime supervision and community-notification rules if they commit sexual assault, battery with intent to commit sexual assault or lewdness with a child.