From the Admin Team...Happy New Year!!!
Highlights from December
Our biggest news, as you can read elsewhere in this Digest
, is that RSOL is publicly challenging implementation of new SORNA laws in Pennsylvania which we feel are unconstitutional, expensive, and unnecessary for public safety. We are excited to be taking this step, but we will need your monetary support
in a big way. As we have seen with the Nebraska challenge
, costs are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for a strong civil case such as this.
Another exciting news item: We have confirmed that the National Conference will be on Labor Day weekend (Thursday through Sunday) in Los Angeles, California. Save the date and watch for more information coming soon!
Our Planning Committee has been hard at work developing a Mission Statement and Goals. The Mission you see below was adopted on December 11 and can be found on our web site. Goals are awaiting final approval at our January meeting.
RSOL will promote laws and programs
·limiting registry access strictly to law enforcement agencies;
·terminating registry requirements upon completion of a court-imposed sentence;
·reversing retroactively applied restrictions;
·reforming civil commitment processes;
·re-humanizing, rehabilitating, and reintegrating former offenders;
·increasing public safety by reducing sexual offenses; and
·reducing acts of discrimination, hatred, and violence directed at sexual offenders.
Our Correspondence Committee is officially changing its name to Communications Committee to better represent the diverse work they are doing, such as the Digest, preparing displays for state and national conferences, and drafting and sending press releases.
Admin Team meetings will now default to the first Tuesday of each month, unless that falls on a holiday. The next meeting will be January 8 at 7 p.m. eastern.
Some Very Special Thank-You's
From a few in federal institutions who receive our Digest via CorrLinks:
I just wanted to send a little note to say Happy Thanksgiving! Also, to say thank you for all that you do for those of us on the inside. Thank You! May God bless you and your families on this holiday!
Very truly yours, Keven M.
Have a safe and fun time with your families on this Thanksgiving. Let's remember to give thanks not only for those things that WE have, but also pray for those who haven't as much. Let's redouble our efforts so that next year at this time, the bounty of world and the happiness that it brings can be shared by more people--both in our country and abroad. Hanging in there here at Elkton.
With much love and peace, Kevin F.
Just wanted to wish everyone on my email list a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you all have many blessings to be thankful for this year and even more next year. Have a safe and happy holiday!! (Eat an extra piece of pumpkin pie for me too) T.E.
Well, it's that time of the year, again. I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. Eat as much as you can and enjoy the day with friends and family. A.H.
From a few in Texas prisons in response to the Texas Voice’s Christmas Card mailing:
I wish to thank you for all the Christmas cards I am receiving. I got 3 so far!!! The Holidays are very hard on us inmates here in TDCJ especially when most of our family members have `fallen off', meaning that they no longer write to us. It is very difficult and depressing to try and understand why our own family doesn't write. My birthday is on December 29th and it will pass like every other year and like every other day. Thanks to God's mercy and yours, I am able to smile once again during the holidays. Merry Christmas and happy New Year to all. Richard L
I've been blessed this month with several Christmas cards. May God bless all of you for thinking about all of us. Craig B
Knowing that there are people who care about people like me warms my heart. Thank you for all your hard work and for trying to shed the light of truth amongst the darkness. Conan B
Thank you for the Christmas card I got from Germany. It made my day and night. The only cards I got this year were from the Texas Voices family. I hope that one day Jesus Christ will let me be a part of this family. Gene B
Texas Voices, your members have helped me through a very painful Christmas this year. I miss my children but each card put a smile on my face. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Warren
Last year, the other inmates decorated their areas with all the cards they got from their family and friends. Last year, I only had one card to decorate with. This year, I am so happy to have so many cards to decorate with. I feel loved for a change…
Thank you and all the volunteers who give us hope in dark times. It's amazing to hear from people who care about what we are going through. Donnie E.
A Vision of Hope
Not only are RSOL and other advocacy organizations actively fighting discrimination and unconstitutionality, but individuals are also doing so. In Austin, Texas, a registrant sued his condo association for banning registered sex offenders from living there soon after he was released from prison. Theodore Whipple and his wife sued the Valley View Village Condominium Homeowners Association in Federal Court. Whipple claims he was convicted of a sex offense 20 years ago and that he has lived with his wife at the condominium since 2008. Read more about the case here.
In California, driven by a CA RSOL legal challenge, overly broad and unconstitutional ordinances are beginning to topple. A panel of Superior Court judges has challenged a controversial 2011 Orange County law that bans sex offenders from parks, beaches and even some roadways and asked the state Court of Appeal to review the measure. Read more here
and in the California report below.
From Lynn University in Florida, under the auspices of Dr. Jill Franklin, this summary was published November 28: “New study finds federal sex offender law not effective,” and it says, “According to a report released last week by the U.S. Department of Justice, the federal tier-based sex offender registration and management system put in place in 2006 does not predict risk of recidivism by sex offenders and its authors point to the need for a system based on more empirical data.” Read more here
about why Title I of the Adam Walsh Act (SORNA) is being called into serious question by the DOJ itself and click the link in the paragraph to view or download the full study.
Within days of the Lynn University release, Dr. Karen Franklin’s In the News blog
announced, “APA rejects hebephilia, last standing of three novel sexual disorders. In a stunning blow to psychology's burgeoning sex offender processing industry, the Board of Trustees of the American Psychiatric Association rejected the proposed diagnosis outright, not even relegating it to an appendix as meriting further study, its proponents' fall-back position.”
From earlier in the year and from as far away as the Netherlands comes this promising information: “Sex criminal register does not work as a deterrent: Setting up an official register of sex offenders, as happens in the US and Britain, does not reduce the re-offending rate, a report for the Dutch justice ministry said on Monday.” More here.
In Nebraska, proving that what we do does make a difference, a federal judge has ordered the state to pay more than $292,000 in attorneys' fees in a lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of changes to the state's sex offender registry laws. The lawsuit was initiated and driven by our Nebraska affiliate, Families Affirming Community Safety. Read more here.
And finally, from Indiana comes a story of a state legislator named Steuerwald who had made public statements that registrants needed to register in every county they visit and that if they have “physical appearance changes,” they need to update the registry within 72 hours of the change in appearance. Indiana Voices reports, “We jumped on a letter/email writing campaign to Rep. Steuerwald. We voiced our opinions and the need for reform. We told him our stories this past summer of how the registry is affecting all who are involved. Rep. Steuerwald was also on the AWA study committee this summer and trying to bring Indiana into AWA compliance. Look at what he is NOW
saying and doing in regard to the use of the “sexual predator” label for registrants!" This also shows that what we do makes a difference and that determination and willingness to work without giving up are changing things.
This month we initiate a new section. It is called
This is a reader-contribution section. Anyone who wants 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, as our first piece is, or it may be commentary that you have written just for the Digest
. One submission a month will be chosen. Our first offering is a piece that Paul Shannon submitted as a letter to the editor in response to this article that was in the news titled "Specter of predators puts parents in constant vigil."
Letter to the Editor
Does anyone else see the tragedy – and lunacy – in the reaction of many parents to the danger of sexual harm being done to their kids? One mother doesn’t let her kids play at a friend’s home unless she knows all the adults who live there and all the visitors who visit. But the vast majority of children who are harmed sexually are hurt by people well known to the child’s family. Another mother won’t let her child sit on Santa’s lap because the man behind the beard is a stranger. But what if her child is more likely to be struck by lightning than to be goosed by a shopping mall Santa right in front of her mother? Would she then prohibit her child from ever going outside when it rains?
Common sense precautions – absolutely. And even then there is no absolute guarantee that a child won’t ever be sexually touched or in rare cases, much worse. But what if this all-pervasive fear and suspicion of strangers that this focus on sex offenders engenders actually seriously undermines the lives of children? And what if it diverts our attention from more prevalent threats to kids welfare? I feel fortunate to have grown up when I did. We were allowed to be kids even though the dangers of being sexually violated were perhaps even greater than they are today. And the people who engaged in inappropriate touching or even much more harmful behavior were, for the most part, just messed up people, not violent predators – as is the case today. Would that there had been much more awareness of the problem and some support for kids, young people and adults who were in fact seriously harmed or traumatized or shamed. But at least we learned to trust the vast majority of priests, scoutmasters, teachers, coaches and other adults who were in fact trustworthy, who generously gave their time to us, and who made our lives worth living.
Like most Americans, my heart sank with the news of the Newtown Connecticut shooting. On behalf of RSOL, I send my deepest condolences to the Newtown community, especially to each parent who lost a child.
My heart also aches for the many people who will find themselves caught up in the legislative backlash of this disaster. The onslaught of laws introduced in the coming months will rightfully seek to create a safer world, but we often miss that the best solutions will come, not from tougher laws, but from a more knowledgeable and healthy community.
We can never completely stop these disasters from happening, but we can minimize risk and recover more quickly by understanding how they happen, why they happen, and how all involved, victim and perpetrator alike, can best move on and lead happy, healthy lives afterward. In other words, our greatest protection will come from learning how to eliminate or minimize the environmental and societal factors that can create a person who is capable of such heinous atrocities.
What does not work well to prevent these tragedies is punishment. Instead, we must educate ourselves, with the long-range goal of building a society that produces fewer sick people and helps the sick get well, thus preventing future atrocities.
All of us, parent or non-parent, pre-teen or senior citizen, must learn and practice critical thinking, reasoning, and empathy. Only an educated and compassionate society, effective treatment of the mentally ill and former offenders, and community-wide nurture of our young can produce a safer society and reduce crimes against children and adults.
~Brenda Jones, RSOL Executive Director~
Submitted anonymously by a member of Indiana Voices
Bits and pieces, bits and pieces.
People important to you,
People unimportant to you cross your life, touch it with love, and move on.
There are people who leave you, and you breathe a sigh of relief and wonder why you ever came into contact with them.
There are people who leave you, and you breathe a sigh of remorse and wonder why they had to go and leave such a gaping hole.
Children leave parents, friends leave friends. Acquaintances move on. People change homes.
People grow apart. Enemies hate and move on. Friends love and move on.
You think of the many people who have moved in and out of your hazy memory.
You look at those present and wonder.
I believe in God's master plan in our lives.
God moves people in and out of each other's lives, and each leaves a mark on the other.
You find you are made up of bits and pieces of all who have ever touched your life.
You are more because of them, and would be less if they had not touched you.
Pray that you accept the bits and pieces in humility and wonder, and never question and never regret.
Bits and pieces, bits and pieces.
From Our States and Committees
The dominoes are falling in California. That is, "sex offender" ordinances in California are being successfully challenged in state and federal courts. During the month of December, a state appellate court ruled that the Orange County ordinance that prohibited all registrants from entering county parks, beaches, harbors and other recreational areas violated the state's constitution. In addition, the first city in that county repealed its ordinance after one lawsuit was filed and a second lawsuit threatened. Further, California RSOL filed a lawsuit against the City of Lancaster in federal court challenging the ordinance it passed which prohibited all registrants from entering public areas as well as private areas such as movie theaters. More cities throughout California are expected to repeal their "sex offender" ordinances as we await the decision of a higher appellate court regarding the constitutionality of these ordinances. The new year also has provides us with hope for a positive decision in federal court to stop permanently enforcement of Proposition 35 which would require registrants to provide all on-line identities. A temporary restraining order against Prop.35 was granted in November. California RSOL will continue monthly meetings of registrants, family members and supporters as we return to L.A. in January and expand to a new city, Bakersfield, in February.
"Reform Sex Offender Laws Inc. (RSOL) plans to soon challenge sections of Senate Bill 1183 (Pennsylvania’s new sex offender registration requirements) on multiple constitutional grounds."
With this words, RSOL’s Legal Committee
and Admin Team have thrown our collective hats into the ring. Read the full press release here
, on our website, and an article incorporating it here
. Those who continue to use myths and propaganda to justify the unjustifiable of ever increasingly oppressive measures against many of our nation’s citizens must be held accountable for their actions. We are excited to be taking this step; however, if we are to be successful, we will need your monetary support
in a big way.
The costs of mounting a constitutional challenge can easily exceed $100,000. In fact, the attorneys handling a recent successful challenge in the state of Nebraska were awarded almost $300,000 in legal fees and costs. This amount is substantial and beyond the reach of most individuals; however, numbers work in our favor because there are more than 11,000 persons registered in state of Pennsylvania. Small donations can quickly add up if a substantial number become involved.
Our next step is a letter to ten-year registrants across the state of Pennsylvania informing them of our impending legal challenge and encouraging them to contribute to our fund-raising efforts. We are also extending that encouragement to each of you reading this. This challenge doesn't just affect PA or any one state. A victory anywhere is a victory for us all; we are truly all in this together. Please go to the link given above and make a donation to the legal fund by clicking on the legal fund PayPal button or by mailing a donation to RSOL Legal Fund, PO Box 36123, Albuquerque, NM 87176. Donations to the legal fund go directly to this and other challenges by RSOL. Please help us help you and your family! Thank you.
On the morning of January 15, Maryland FAIR members will gather outside the Legislative Services in Maryland's capital for a quick introduction and an official tour. We will see a short film, tour the Statehouse, and observe a Legislative Floor Session. Afterward, we will re-group in the House Office Building for a special FAIR briefing, then spread out to talk to our elected officials! FAIR will provide instructions and talking points. Also, we will send people in twos, which is more comfortable for everyone.
Greetings from Texas
Voices. The up-coming legislative session will certainly be challenging this time around as we will be attempting to educate many new state representatives and a few senators as well. We are diligently watching and tracking bills which are already being filed. Texas Voices will hold a one-day conference in Austin on January 12 in order to prepare our members for the legislative session. The next few months will no doubt be hectic as we lobby for and against bills, attend committee hearings at the Capitol in Austin, and encourage members to help in any way they can. Wish us luck!
In the Dakotas, the loss of 20 sweet innocent children has taken a toll on all of us as we mourn and can only imagine the loss and heartache for these families. Such a tragedy clarifies the necessity for prevention as the cure for all tragedies.
I will spend my week between Christmas and New Year writing to legislators, pleading for them to sponsor bills for law reform that require mandatory confidential FAMILY treatment for non-violent, first time sex offenses and allow qualified sex therapists to determine who is a risk to society versus twelve unqualified jurors. The benefits would be seen in more willing reporting by children and families, quicker and more effective help for offenders, and better allocation of financial and other resources,
May 2013 become a year for change!
Happy New Year and Peace On Earth!
The Florida Action Committee is gearing up for another legislative session here in Florida. We are actively participating in justice initiatives here organized by THE SMART JUSTICE ALLIANCE and have found it to be a great resource for networking and an opportunity to speak with legislators, law enforcement, prosecutors and public defenders as well as community business leaders. It has been fruitful thus far. We are seeking sponsorship of our bill and are pushing a risk assessment tool as part of our agenda. This will be year 3 but are feeling good about the receptiveness thus far. We are hopeful we will see something positive this legislative session.
Indiana Voices is pleased to announce that the study committee for the Adam Walsh Act has now convened.The study committee for Criminal Codes and Sentencing has recommended that Indiana NOT implement AWA and additionally, this quote was taken from an Indiana representative’s newsletter:
The Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee made the following key recommendations with respect to the sex offender registry:
Dept. of Corrections to remove information relating to a sex or violent offender who is deceased or no longer required to register from the public portal of the sex offender registry.
Persons convicted of kidnapping and criminal confinement to register only if a court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the offense was committed for a sexual purpose.
Indiana Voices has fought hard for the rights of those having to register over this past year. DOC officials have tried to pass bills that would have kept information of registrants on the registry permanently, even after the registration requirements were fulfilled by law. The study committee was presented costs and research by Indiana Voices and other entities that proved keeping registrants' information on a public shaming list forever was not only ineffective, time consuming, and costly to the state, but unconstitutional as well. We are of course pleased that our work prevailed in sensible recommendations sent by the committee to the legislature.