Nicole Pittman of HRW is engaged in a major project involving the registry and juveniles. Her initial point of contact was in New Jersey, and Terry and New Jersey FAIR have worked very closely with Nicole on this very important project.
New Jersey led the way with many interviews being held in Terry’s home. Interview subjects include juvenile offenders, family members and other adults in the young registrants’ lives, their attorneys, and various categories of government officials and law enforcement.
Human Rights Watch is one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. Their previous publications on sex offender issues have been remarkable! We are proud to be part of this important project and look forward to the completion of the interviews and the publication of the results in September of this year.
Like many of you, I was deeply shocked when I learned the news of Alex Marbury's death. Alex had been a dear friend of mine for over 6 years, and during my work with RSOL, I had the privilege of being in touch with him on a daily basis.
When I think of Alex, the first word that comes to my mind – and to that of many others I'm sure – is the word “radical.” Before I met Alex, the word “radical” had a negative connotation in my ears: I associated it with extremism, lack of pragmatism, ideology, and so forth. In Alex's use of the word however, “radical” meant compassion, devotion, love. A radical is someone who stands up for what is right and against what is wrong. I'll always remember the admiration and love that I detected in Alex's voice when he referred to individuals like Paul or Mary Sue as “true radicals.” That was the ultimate compliment he could make to anyone.
Alex was truly a radical in every sense of the word. His life was entirely dedicated to helping minorities and individuals in need. He was a true man of conviction, and he even went to jail for his principles when he was leading the anti-draft movement. He risked his life on a few occasions in his fights for justice. I'll always remember the story that Alex told me of himself as a young pastor, when he was fighting against segregation in the South. He was trapped inside a church surrounded by KKK members holding torches, and inside the church with him, among other people, was a man named Martin Luther King. I'll always remember the story of his time in Haiti, when he was supporting former President Aristide – who would call him by his first name. Alex and a group of supporters once had to hide in the mountains to escape a group of political enemies who were shooting at them. He saw a man die in front of him that day.
A true radical, in every sense of the word.
His work with RSOL in the last few years of his life may not have been as “James-bondian” in nature as some of his previous fights had been, but he kept the same level of passion and dedication. Alex understood and was able to connect with oppressed minorities more than anyone else I know. Registered former sex offenders are truly modern day lepers, and Alex had spent a life fighting alongside modern day lepers. His involvement with this cause was therefore as natural as breathing to him.
His contribution to RSOL should not be under appreciated. The organization and the movement would not be where it is today without him. We should all be grateful for what he did for this movement. More than anything, we should ignore groups and individuals who spread hatred and try to divide us. That's what Alex would advise. If we stay united and focused on our goals, Alex's contributions to this cause will not have been in vain.
Alex may have left this world, but his heritage stays with us. He has created hundreds of radicals like himself, and I am proud to count myself as one of them. And with this army of radicals marching in Alex Marbury's footsteps, there is hope for a better tomorrow.
Alain served RSOL as state affiliate coordinator for several years. He retired last year to pursue his doctorate in philosophy.
SCR -4, the sex offender parole bill, introduced into this year’s budget session, died in the House Rules Committee. Our dedicated legislators did the right thing as this bill would have placed indecency with a child in the same parole category as capital murder.
The Central Arkansas Re-Entry Coalition’s “Re-Entry Resource Fair” was a great success. It connected those recently released from prison and their families with rehabilitation, employment, training, and other support-service providers in Central Arkansas. Arkansas Time After Time was instrumental in organizing, promoting, and operating the fair. In direct cooperation with the U.S. Court’s Office of Federal Probation, we teamed up to create a dynamic program.
On April 15th we will host a special seminar called "Training the Trainer" conducted by Ms. Mary Sue Molnar, founding director of Texas Voices for Reason & Justice. This group is one of the nation's leading and most outspoken advocates for the reform of sex-crime laws. Under Ms. Molnar's leadership, Texas Voices has grown into a powerful group of advocate-organizers who have state-wide local groups, each with dozens of participants, who meet face to face with legislators. This program is hosted and coordinated as a public service by Arkansas Time After Time, an independent legislative advocacy group dedicated to making communities safer by reducing recidivism, and provided free of charge to the general public.
This year all of the US House districts, every state legislator, and many judges are up for election. It is our responsibility to actively work to promote candidates that we feel will work in our best interest. Get involved, get out, register and VOTE! If you are a felon / sex-offender you CAN register and vote as long as you are no longer “on paper,” meaning you have completed your sentence, parole, probation, or supervision and paid all of your fines. See our web-page for deadlines and candidates.
California RSOL has good news to report! First, we obtained approval from the IRS to be recognized as a tax exempt organization. This happened despite an extra 30-day review of our application. Second, the Reason Foundation through its affiliate Reason.TV completed and released a short documentary about registrants and the challenges they are facing in a state that has a life-time registry. In addition to this good news, we have had a few challenges. Our monthly meeting scheduled for March 24 in Orange County was canceled after a newspaper publicized the date, time and location of the private meeting. This occurred after a request to NOT publicize it since attendance at the meeting was by invitation only. And the City of Cypress in Orange County passed an ordinance full of residency restrictions, park bans, Halloween restrictions and a limit of one registrant per hotel. The City Council passed the ordinance after testimony from California RSOL and a recommendation by their City Attorney to delay further consideration in order to conduct further research. California RSOL will continue its monthly meetings in Los Angeles on April 21.
The Florida Action Committee (FAC) is in the process of redeveloping its web site to better serve the organization. The board meets bi monthly via telephone conference and the membership meets monthly via teleconferencing.
A total of 3200 post cards have been mailed to Florida residents on the registry to build membership. Subsequent mailings will occur to complete the total of more 35,000 who are on the registry but no longer on probation. FAC has 8 regional directors who are responsible for returning calls to those who respond to the cards. The membership chair of FAC maintains a data base of those requesting information.
The Education Chair of FAC has been compiling mailing lists of Federal Judges by Circuit and Districts to all state reps who make a request. This effort targets specifically the issue of sentences for possession of Child Pornography as recently addressed by the US Sentencing Commission. Congratulations to the following states who have already participated in this national mailing campaign: Florida, Vermont, North and South Dakota, Montana, Arkansas, New York, New Jersey, Indiana, New Hampshire, Missouri, Indiana, and Massachusetts. Any state organization or individual can request a list of names and address of the federal judges in their respective states to: firstname.lastname@example.org
. A sample letter and information will also be provided.
FAC president, Gail Colletta, is scheduling contacts with legislators in their home districts to occur once the Florida legislature completes its special session on redistricting.
We have finally been able to take a break since the legislative session is closed. We have been doing research to gear up for a summer study commission that will be looking at the effectiveness of the registry and the laws around it. You can bet INRSOL will be in full swing this summer attending as many meetings as we can.
In addition, I have been invited to attend several meetings and groups that focus on re-entry and support for the registrants and families. This summer looks to be a busy one! Until next time!
On March 17, 2012, Kentucky Citizens for Reform conducted its first in-person meeting with 8 attendees. The discussion focused on getting acquainted, issues that registrants face in Kentucky, Adam Walsh Act compliance, and planning our next meeting to be held in June. The group brainstormed potential speakers for the June meeting.
In the legislature, HB 469 was proposed for bringing Kentucky into AWA compliance. With only a few weeks left in the legislative session, this bill has not been heard at the committee level, rendering it dead for this session. We anticipate that it will appear again in the 2013 session.
I am so proud of our FAIR members who came to the two hearings on "sex offender bills" earlier in March! We had at least a dozen for the Senate hearing, and 16 or 17 in the House. Two were teenagers, speaking about the damage the registry is doing to them and their siblings - and learning a little civics! For many, this was a second or third hearing, and I think it really showed. They were more comfortable and confident, kept their "cool" under fire, and really had great things to say.
The bill creating a new misdemeanor offense and private Tier I listing for young "statutory" offenders (consensual, 14/15 yr old "victim," less than 10 year age difference) has passed in both committees - and we're very glad. It was pushed by the governor, sponsored by our Sex Offender Advisory Board, and approved our Dept of Public Safety and crucial victim advocacy groups. Hopefully this will also be retroactive.
We also supported a bill which would take non-sexually-motivated kidnapping of adults OFF the public registry (including retroactively). This one, too, has passed both committees. There was a lot of support for getting non-sex-offenders off the registry, in part because one man convicted for "kidnapping" a fellow ADULT drug dealer in a car for a couple of hours testified about how his life was totally messed up when they put him on the registry in October of 2010. We would have liked to see even more kidnapping offenses come off (simple domestic kidnapping of children for instance) but this is a start.
We testified against a bill that would have reduced Good Time credits for violent and sexual offenders (the ones that are being sentenced to lifetime supervision) and both cleared up some really bad facts on the issue. The bill sponsors were saying that these sex offenders had a 50% recidivism rate, and we pointed out that Maryland's Governor was bragging right on the state website about how this group recidivates at about 1%. Sheesh!
One bill we're still fighting seeks to allow victims to learn the address of the offender, even if they were sentenced in juvenile court. There is NO guarantee the victim would not use this information to the detriment of the juvenile offender.
Nearly everyone testified against the Halloween restrictions, and/or against the Community-based Organizations ban. Our registrant members and our family-of members did a great job pointing out to the committee just how much such restrictions would hurt their families - especially their innocent children. Others corrected facts and pointed out constitutional concerns. They were AWESOME, one and all.
As March rolls on, Missouri Citizens for Reform is still working toward the passing of HB 1700 in the House. Although the process is taking longer than planned, it is a process which we must accept. The bill has had a few revisions, but we are hopeful to see it through the House, the Senate and the Governor. Our supporters continue to write to their legislators requesting their endorsement of HB 1700.
New Jersey FAIR
NJ FAIR has been working extremely hard on a number of issues this past month: providing assistance to the Human Rights Watch, educating leaders in NJ regarding SORNA, speaking to and gaining support from clinicians, law enforcement, educational institutions, state leaders, etc. on removing Lifetime Parole Supervision for Tier I and some Tier II offenders, thus saving the state approximately $17 million. These have been huge tasks, and we have tackled them with the passion and urgency they deserve in order the make lives better in the state of NJ.
We have also cataloged all the new sex offender bills submitted so far in the 215th legislative session. In analyzing these bills, we found a cluster of legislators submitting these bills, and we are developing a strategy, as some of these bills will never make any movement while others will be, and are, on the fast track.
We have also linked NMRSOL with the Human Rights Watch for possible participation in our 2012 conference.
New Jersey Voices
We are currently in the process of organizing a round-table discussion here in NJ with select lawyers, therapists, activists, ACLU legal people, and law professors and students; the work is overwhelming but so important. I will keep you updated on the progress of this project in the months to come.
NCCAUTION is a newly formed RSOL affiliate and family support group currently in its organizational and recruitment phase. We are in the midst of publishing our first family/registrant support newsletter and will follow soon with putting up our website. Many thanks for the warm welcome and encouraging words from several other RSOL state affiliate leaders following the announcement of our leadership position for the state of North Carolina. We greatly appreciate your support as we are not only new to the leadership role but are new residents of North Carolina and just learning our way around the system here. We're gratified to become part of the national effort to dispel the myths surrounding sex offenders and the registry, to educate lawmakers about the realities of the registry and its harmful effects on family and community, and to work toward reform of the current unjust laws.
As many of you are aware, North Carolina is among several states that has not yet adopted the provisions of the Adam Walsh Act and is not yet SORNA compliant. The decision whether to adopt AWA is currently under review by a joint legislative study committee according to the House Bill Studies Act of 2011, H773. During the next few months, we will dedicate our efforts toward contacting the study committee members as well as other NC General Assembly representatives, hoping to educate them with facts regarding the actual effectiveness of the registry and its fallout for registrants' families. Next week we will be attending a Sex Offender Management Workshop in New York State featuring speaker Jeffrey Sandler, PhD., who will be presenting a talk on "The Effectiveness of New York State Sex Offender Management Policies: Are we making communities safer?" Jeffrey Sandler is one of the authors of the most definitive study on the effectiveness of the sex offender registry, and we hope to bring back additional facts to present to North Carolina legislators in their consideration of SORNA compliance for our state.
In recent news, North Carolina has become the first state in the South to start a Circles of Safety and Accountability rehab and support group for newly released sex offenders. The Durham, NC COSA steering group includes representatives from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, the Durham Criminal Justice Center, and those with experience in community support for ex-offenders, restorative justice, corrections, child protection work, and the criminal courts. Circles (small groups) of volunteers, often faith-based teams and interested citizens who believe in rehabilitation, will meet with registrants to provide support for re-entry issues like housing and employment.
As fledgling group leaders, we are grateful to the numerous North Carolina registrants and families who have already contacted us with offers to support our efforts in educating and influencing our legislators toward reform here in NC. We are in need of additional members to provide a strong voice in opposition to the excessive and harsh registry laws being proposed. Please email us at email@example.com
--Margie and David
Ohio is busy in preparing research and data collection for a major project that we are working on. Our main focus in Ohio is to distinguish the collateral consequences of the registry and to disseminate this information to the right audiences. We are fortunate in having a network of individuals and organizations to assist us in our research as well as to provide direct advocacy.
We will be sharing ideas/findings amongst the members of RSOL when the time is appropriate.
Texas Voices members are hard at work preparing for the up-coming legislative session. We are scheduling meetings with our elected officials, working on a new brochure, and creating informational packets on various issues regarding efforts for reform. Currently, member support groups are available in Dallas and Ft. Worth with the addition of newly organizing groups in Austin and Houston. Please visit our website for additional information and up-dates on the recently filed residency restriction law-suit.
Hello everyone; I'm Vickie from Utah, and I am the new affiliate/coordinator. I'm so glad to have found RSOL, and hopefully together we can make things right. We are working hard to get our website up and running, and that should be completed soon.
Here are updates from our legislature on "some" being able to be removed from the registry, HB 13.