National Conference on Sex Offender Issues, Sept. 6-9, Albuquerque, NM
“Children’s safety is at stake,” asserted Robert Combs, this year’s Reform Sex Offender Laws (RSOL) conference committee chairperson, “and it will remain at stake until the sex-crime panic can be countered with factual information to ensure public safety.”
“Inclusion on the sex offender registry does not signify the person is any sort of a threat whatsoever,” agreed Brenda Jones, RSOL’s executive director. “And therein lies the problem. We as a society need to educate ourselves, and the 4th annual RSOL national conference taking place in Albuquerque, NM, September 6 - 9 is THE place to do just that," Jones concluded.
Amy Borror, one of the conference’s keynote speakers and the legislative and media liaison with the office of the Ohio Public Defender, has long been active in the sexual laws reform arena. With her detailed knowledge of legislative and legal procedures, Borror brings insight and authoritative experience to the conference. Her expert knowledge of the AWA (Adam Walsh Act) and its devastating impact on families and public safety qualifies her uniquely for her workshop presentations.
She draws on this expertise in her solo workshop, “Hope for Legislative Change: Successful Strategies.” Here she will discuss and educate conference attendees with strategies and methods designed to help state organizers and all advocates work with lawmakers in designing smarter alternatives to public registration.
Another prominent speaker, Norm Pattis, a leading New England-based civil rights defense attorney, brings to the RSOL conference the same energy and dynamic style which has earned him a national reputation as the lawyer to have if the case is difficult or impossible, although “impossible” is not a word in Norm’s vocabulary.
His solo presentation, “Legal Impact of the Registry,” will focus on which sorts of legal challenges will work the most effectively in America’s courtrooms toward the goal of bringing about positive change. In addition, Pattis and Borror will team with attorneys Melissa Hill and Scott Pawgan to present “Model Registry Reform,” an interactive Q & A session that will culminate in a law-reform committee that will continue working to implement the ideas established in the workshop.
The conference officially convenes at 8:45 am, Friday, September 7, in the Kiva room of the Albuquerque Ramada Inn & Conference Center at 10300 Hotel Ave. NE, Albuquerque. Registration for the 3-day event is $60 per person. The on-site registration desk, located in the south (A-frame) lobby of the hotel, opens at 8:00am, concurrent with the media briefing and news conference being held in the Kiva room at that same time. Expert presentations and panels run continuously throughout Friday and Saturday, concluding around the noon-hour on Sunday.
Combs acknowledged that the idea of reform can be frightening, but dispelling damaging disinformation is one of the primary reasons that RSOL exists. “Most lawmakers are well-intentioned and think they are promoting community safety while in reality their bills are filled with unintended consequences and based on faulty assumptions. We advocate for laws that keep everyone safe.”
August has been a difficult month for many in our RSOL family, and members of the Admin Team are among those who have lost loved ones.
Paul suffered the loss of his father and honors his memory with these beautiful, poetic words:
"There are some people who hold the world together and make it sane,
Who anchor it with their compassion and common sense and love.
My dad is one of those people.
I am convinced that he is the most remarkable man I ever met.
(And when I grow up I want to be just like him.)
How graced we are to have walked with him during his time among us.
This is a gift that no one can take from us,
Something that will always bring some measure of joy to each of us:
That he touched something good and true and alive in us.
He put the world together in a different way from anyone else.
And he worshiped a god that saw the world in a different way than other gods.
His was a god that saw the world as good and every person of infinite value and deserving of respect – regardless of what they had done.
His god was a god of life who wants good things for all of us,
A god who has a special love for those whose lives have come apart at the seams,
And who lifts burdens from shoulders rather than laying on more guilt and rejection.
We know this because that’s how my dad treated every person.
His life’s work was building a house in which there was a place for everyone."
Jennifer’s father-in-law died this month also.
"Many of you know that my father-in-law passed away earlier this month after a long battle with an incurable lung disease. I can say that he was a true example of how healing and restoration can occur, even for families that have experienced the all-too-common effects of intrafamilial sexual abuse. For the early part of my relationship with my husband, he and his father had a very rocky relationship that was quite scarred by careless choices on both their parts. But we came to a crossroads that called for either allowing healing to occur or severing the relationship entirely. We chose the first option, although we knew it would probably have been much easier to take the other path. At the point of that decision, we all came together and developed a deep relationship with a wonderful man who loved us in spite of all the family baggage. He doted on his grand-kids, helped my husband launch a business when the employment opportunities dried up, and sheltered and supported us in our time of need when my husband was forced from our home unconstitutionally because of these same decades-old choices. As difficult as it has sometimes been, we are deeply thankful for the road less traveled."
"The Road Not Taken"
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robin speaks lovingly of his Uncle Ben who passed this month after losing his brief battle with liver cancer. “ He was 83-years-old and married to the same loving spouse for 62 years…. recently, and quite frequently over the last three years, I worked closely with Ben in the upkeep of his little farm--repairing barns, fixing fences, and beating back the never ending surge of growth each spring. He was the hardest working person I've ever known...and did not stop until he was forced to, just five weeks prior to his death.
“I loved him dearly. Still do. Always will. More than anything else, I respected his devotion to family and hard work. He was a humble man, graciously devoid of pretension or presumption. He spoke how he felt and felt what he spoke. There was no equivocation. He could speak for quite a long strand about how to break a field with a mule and how a smart mule would know where the crags were and stop just before them. I suppose we could all learn a thing or two from a mule. Uncle Ben learned lots. I'm grateful he shared his portion with me.”
Our Georgia affiliate leader Lauri remembers her brother-in-law, who died suddenly and much too young from a heart attack. “My brother-in-law, Dale Gebeau died at 46 years old. This shocking and tragic loss has saddened our family tremendously. Dale was a gentle soul who loved everyone. Dale was an animal lover and would often arrive at work early just to feed the raccoons at his job-site. He was a true source of strength and goodness and will be greatly missed.”
All deaths leave holes in the lives of those left behind. The biggest holes are those created by despair and hopelessness and an inability to keep fighting anymore. This past month, despair and hopelessness claimed the young life of Michael, a member of New Jersey Fair. Michael was on the New Jersey sex offender registry. He was falsely accused by a young lady who, first, lied about her age, and then lied about what transpired.
Michael was afflicted with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. He accepted a plea because he was told he would go to jail for 15 years if he did not, and he did not understand about the consequences afterwards. While incarcerated, he was beaten, suffering head trauma and additional physical injury and abuse.
Three years later he was released and put on parole supervision for life. During the next three years he constantly tried to create a better life, becoming engaged and becoming a father to a little boy. He was required to move by his parole officer. He had just moved into his new apartment and had an appointment to register his new address. He fell asleep, and when he woke and realized he had missed his appointment, he panicked. Michael had always followed every direction given to him except for missing this appointment. Being terrified that he would be incarcerated, Michael took his own life rather than face prison again. He was 26 years old.
Michael leaves behind his parents, his fiancée, his son, and a host of other family members and friends. He will never be forgotten. He will live on through his music, his passion, his poetry, his impact on others' lives, and, most importantly, through his little boy.
All of our RSOL family offer our condolences to those who have lost loved ones this month, both those known to us and those of whom we are unaware. Peace be with each and every one.
~Thanks to Terry of NJ Fair for helping write the article about Michael
and to Paul, Jennifer, Robin, and Lauri for sharing their memories of their loved ones.~
Road Trip Report
A couple of years ago, Dr. Marshall Burns of SO took a road trip across the nation. He was accumulating data for a project, and he has now completed and published the results. Dr. Burns introduces us to the report:
Dear friends and colleagues,
The report on my Registry Road Trip is finally available.
Sex offender. The words strike fear in the heart and soul like no others. But who is it that wears this label? I wanted to know. So I set out to drive around the United States to meet people on the registry and hear their stories. My purpose was to gain an understanding of what it means to be a registered person in 21st-Century America. In this report, I share some of what I saw and learned on the trip.
For five and a half months, I drove 15,000 miles on a circular route around the United States. I had 113 meetings, in which I interviewed 205 people, including 86 who had been prosecuted for sex crimes, 77 of whom were on the registry. The interviews also included seven people who admitted to committing sex crimes for which they were not prosecuted, 74 parents and other immediate relatives of people prosecuted for sex crimes, and 15 people designated as victims (whether they agreed with that designation or not). The people interviewed included 15 pedophiles (people with a predominant sexual attraction to children), as well as 21 people who were juveniles (under 18) at the time of their sex crimes. Those included six who were still under 18 at the time of the interview; the youngest, wearing a GPS tracking device on his ankle, was 13.
Read the illustrated report at:
Marshall Burns, PhD