From the Admin Team
Things are really heating up for our national conference, Justice For All: Conference to Reform Sexual Offense Laws
. You've already heard about our primary speakers: Alex Landon, Catherine Carpenter, Suzonne Kline, and Clare Anne Ruth-Heffelbower, who will be speaking on a wide range of topics from re-entry to legal matters to psychology. Our presenters are all but finalized now and will cover such topics as "Can the Courts Bring Down the Registry?" "SORNA in Plain English," "Recruiting and Retaining Volunteers," "Registrants Speak Out (and Win!)," "Overcoming Reentry Barriers," and "How to Meet with Legislators." Check out the latest additions at nationalrsol.org.
REMEMBER to sign up soon for the conference. The early bird discount expires on July 30, as does the special hotel rate. By the time you get our next Digest issue, those discounts will be gone, so SIGN UP NOW.
We Are the 5000
This project was begun to raise money for our legal fund. We started with a flurry of donations which slowed somewhat to a steady stream but is now slowing down even more. We are not asking those of you who have already so generously given to give more. We are asking you to spread the word to others. Forward this link
to them explaining the project. Direct them to our donate page
where they can join the 5000 and have their first name or pseudonym listed as a member of the 5000
Special announcement for CorrLinks users
The Communications Committee is opening a new email address for CorrLinks requests. Everyone who is reading this right now through the CorrLinks program will continue exactly as you are with no changes at all. Please help us spread the word to new potential subscribers to make their requests to email@example.com. The service will be exactly the same. Thank you.
By now most of you are aware that Cherish, an eight year old girl in Florida, was taken from a store and later found dead. The person charged with her abduction and murder is a registrant who had befriended the family only hours earlier.
The thoughts and prayers of everyone in RSOL go out to Cherish's family. The grief is deep, answers will be slow in coming , and nothing can ever really explain why such a thing happens. All we can do is keep the family in our hearts and keep searching for laws and policies that stand a better chance to prevent similar tragedies in the future. This is a goal we must all strive for, day in and day out.
This is a reader contribution section. Anyone who wishes 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, or it may be commentary that you have written just for the Digest. One submission a month will be chosen. All submissions are subject to editing; include a link to the article.
This month's contribution comes from J.P. in Virginia and is our first piece of satire.
Bobby Ray Rainwater, Jr., Registrant Protection and Safety Act
Given the murder of Bobby Ray Rainwater, Jr., in California in 2011, Congress has agreed to debate a new memorial bill that will provide additional security in and around the homes of registered sex offenders. Mr. Rainwater was viciously attacked outside his home on the morning of Dec. 1, 2011, by his neighbor, Robert Eugene Vasquez. Vasquez waited outside Rainwater's home with the intent to kill him because Rainwater was a registered sex offender. When Rainwater left his home, Vasquez punched him in the back of the head, then stabbed him multiple times, nearly severing his head.
The bill, also known as the Registrants Assured of Increased Neutrality (RAIN) Act, was drafted by California's U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, along with California's U.S. Representatives Maxine Waters and Nancy Pelosi. Its primary focus is to implement a measure of public safety for the most vulnerable in our communities by installing security systems in all registrant homes as well as along entire property boundaries. The bill is supported by most major companies selling and installing security systems including ADT, FrontPoint, Protect America, Sam's Club, and LifeShield. The National Society of Professional Surveyors based in Frederick, MD, whose members would likely be called upon to prepare boundary surveys before security systems are installed, has confirmed its support of the legislation. Legislators confirm that an untold number of jobs will be created in all U.S. states and territories.
The bill requires a property survey and security system installation for each registrant that is not currently incarcerated. The security measures must be installed and active on the property of incarcerated sex offenders seven days before their scheduled release, which cannot be delayed by any requirement in the law. Funding will be provided by individual states who must draft contracts for private sector bids; however, the contracts do not require Federal approval.
While opposition is expected from the states, claiming the bill is an unfunded Federal mandate, most legislators are likely to support the measure as a jobs creator just as they have similar memorial laws that permit public access to registrant information including names, home and business addresses, and physical descriptions. Representative Bobby Scott (D- VA) has voiced his opposition to the bill, stating that a better and less expensive approach would be to remove sex offender registries from public access, leaving them in the sole purview of law enforcement. He pointed out that this publicly available information is likely what enabled Vasquez to identify Rainwater as a registered sex offender and, in true vigilante style, to kill him in front of his own home. Scott serves on the House Committee on the Judiciary and is a member of the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice.
Both Senate and House versions of the legislation are scheduled for debate sometime after the August 2013 recess, the same month that Vasquez is schedule to be sentenced for the murder.
A Vision of Hope
Each month there seem to be more and more encouraging articles and news reports. When I first started this column a few short months ago, I had difficulty finding enough to make a decent showing. Now I can pick and choose and have some left over.
We start with this piece
written by one of our state affiliate leaders, Gail of the Florida Action Committee. It explores the fallacies behind and the negative consequences of policies that render registrants homeless. It is not a “happy” article, as pieces in this column generally are, but a very important one in that the opinions and knowledge of our advocates are being sought out and published, a strong sign that we are making a difference; people outside of our advocacy circles ARE listening to us.
Fantastic news from Oklahoma
where the state Supreme Court has issued a ruling that may result in several thousand registrants whose offenses were prior to 2007 being removed from the registry (also see SLAP report and Oklahoma state report, both below).
This excellent analysis and discussion
is about the recently invented crime of Failure to Register. This sentence from the article will resonate with every registrant. “…each failure to report ordinary life events is an opportunity for registrants to commit a new felony.”
Minnesota’s civil commitment program has long been under scrutiny, and even though everyone agrees something must be done, the legislature there declined to take action on very modest first steps toward reform. This article
rightly criticizes the fear of being labeled “soft on crime” taking precedence over doing what is right.
The article “Why Queers Should Care About Sex Offenders
,” written by a sex offender therapist, brings a fresh new look at the issues that shape the lives of registrants.
The trend of naming laws after missing or murdered children has long been a blight on our criminal justice system. This article
brings the news that that trend, never a good one, is dying out.
Written by Shana Rowen and printed by Lenore Skenazy in Free Range Kids
, the title of this very personal piece
says it all: “The Man Who Abused Me is Not on the Sex Offender List (The One who Saved Me Is)”
This past month saw several hundred registrants in Louisiana removed from the registry
there as the victims of archaic and discriminatory laws are finally experiencing a degree of justice.
We end as we began, with something that directly involves our own. Maryland FAIR and SLAP, our legal action project, participatory in crafting briefs and working with an attorney in Maryland, saw their efforts result in this significant victory
over ex-post facto application of registration requirements in that state.
Three months ago I listed a few blogs that dealt with sex offender issues. I received emails giving me the titles of more, and the next month I received even more. This is a list of all of which I am aware at this point. Please add to my list by emailing me
with links to blogs that are, if not exclusively dealing with registry issues, at least predominately so.
Some of these have not been updated in a while but still have good information available.
With Justice For All
The Federal Communications Commission is hosting a workshop on Wednesday, July 10, 2013, in Washington, D.C. on Reforming Inmate Calling Services.
"The all day workshop will focus, among other things, on the impact of current inmate calling services rates on inmates and their families, a review of state reforms of inmate calling services rates, and a discussion of the costs of providing inmate calling services and how to balance the needs of consumers and correctional facilities." (FCC)
For those of you in the Washington Metro Area who would like to attend this event, it is free and open to the public. The event will take place at the following address, and there is an interactive map at the link below:
Federal Communications Commission
Commission Meeting Room (TW-C305)
445 12 th Street, S.W.,
Washington, DC 20554
It will also be streamed live on the FCC website. For more information, please CLICK HERE
Professional Survey Request: Registrant Compliance Checks
Dear Potential Participant,
My name is Nicole Pittman and I am a national expert on the harmful application of sex offender registration and notification laws to children. On May 1, 2013, I completed a nationwide investigation into the harmful impact of including children in sex offender registration and notification laws by way of a Human Rights Watch report entitled, Raised on the Registry: The Irreparable Harm of Placing Children on Sex Offender Registries in the US. For more on the report, please click on US: More Harm Than Good
I am currently volunteering to assist the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project as they investigate sweeps conducted by state and federal law enforcement to check compliance with the sex offender registration requirements. The ACLU is looking to evaluate options to possibly reform these disturbing practices.
for information on a brief survey I created to help get a sense of the national scope of this practice. Thank you, in advance, for sharing your experiences.
If you have any questions or concerns. Please feel free to email Nicole Pittman
From Our States and Committees
The Scarlet Legal Action Project
Since the Senate Judicial Committee hearing back in March, 2013, on the status of Nevada
's AWA adoption, I have not heard of any other actions from the state, so my guess is that it is still being worked down from the appellate court to the local level. I have heard that it is being worked on at the juvenile level in regard to how they will be treated versus adults. I am unaware of anything else that may be going on behind the scenes.
I have received two requests for information within the last 6 months. Nevada is a quiet state when it comes to sex offenders, for the most part, unless there is a sensational news story. I guess it has to do with the libertarian political element here, but that is just my limited take.
On a personal note, I have finally found a job and it is going well.
California RSOL is disappointed to report that its tiered registry bill was stopped this year in the State Assembly. We will work hard next year to move it to the finish line. California is pleased to report that the City of Palmdale repealed its sex offender ordinance, which included both presence and residency restrictions. The city did so based upon a threat to file a lawsuit although no lawsuit was filed. This is the seventh city in the state to repeal its sex offender ordinance. California RSOL is actively participating in the planning of the national RSOL conference, which will be held in California this year. The newest addition to the conference is a concert on Saturday night that is free to conference attendees and available to non-attendees as well.
In June Colorado had its quarterly Citizen’s Meeting with the Department of Corrections staff. The entire staff, along with the head of the Parole Board, is present and available for questions. It is a wonderful opportunity to interact with people who make a difference in our lives. The interim director of DOC, Roger Werholtz, was very well spoken and helped explain so much of the chaos that is currently happening with the department right now. At the time of the meeting, Tim Hand, head of Parole was on administrative leave but has since been fired. And Dr. Anthony Young, head of the Parole Board, has been replaced as of July. In so many ways there is great upheaval in the system and all the people AFC has worked with for so long. AFC will start again with getting to know the new faces of corrections. The new Executive Director of Corrections, Rick Raemisch from Wisconsin, has been hired and will be working with Mr. Werholtz until the interim appointment ends at the end of July.
Other than administrative shakeups, the Joint Budget Committee approved additional funding for treatment in the prison but withheld funding for the polygraphs given as part of the treatment. They are interested in the “why” of the polygraph and the excessive costs of each exam. They will revisit the issue at a committee meeting in September.
--SLAP--is very excited to report that the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled on June 25th that the retroactive application of the 2007 amendments to that state’s registration law is unconstitutional. The case is known as Starkey v Oklahoma Department of Corrections
. We have not had sufficient time to do a complete analysis of the decision, so stay tuned for more details. They did not declare registration to be unconstitutional in and of itself, but they did note that many aspects of the law are punitive. Bottom line is that it appears to mean that anyone registered in Oklahoma cannot have their period of registration retroactively increased, regardless of whether or not the original conviction occurred in the state of Oklahoma.
SLAP intends to implement a new teleconference model where we answer legal questions from our affiliate leaders and other interested persons. The plan is that we will have a different topic each month for discussion. For example, we might deal with some or all of the following topics:
The plea bargaining process;
The admissibility of prior criminal history in the guilt or innocence phase;
The role that a person’s criminal history plays in the punishment phase;
Can a victim’s recantation of allegations undo a conviction?
Recent court decisions that have potential ramifications for our cause; and
Significant cases currently being litigated.
We hope that this new project of SLAP will provide advocates an increased understanding of the issues and empower them to move our cause forward.
An Oklahoma Supreme Court opinion on June 25 stated that the Oklahoma Department of Corrections officials have been violating the Oklahoma Constitution by retroactively applying a 2007 state law which increased the time former sex offenders had to remain listed on the sex offender registry.
The court ruling of 6-2 is going to lead to a significant number of people who will be able to move on with their lives, as they felt should have been the case for a long time.
In accordance with the case of Starkey v. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections and Justin Jones as Director, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections is reviewing all registrants on the Oklahoma Sex Offender Registry and will be removing offenders that are determined to be subject to the opinion. A Court Order will not be required for removal of offenders that are subject to the holding in the Starkey case, according to a a release posted on the Oklahoma DOC website.
Actual numbers are not definite, but it could run into the hundreds, and possibly even into the thousands.
Texas has a major victory. Governor Perry has signed SB369!!! Place of employment information will be removed from the public registry. We can expect to see the info removed from the registry soon as the law takes effect September 1st. Thank you to all who helped us lobby for this bill by sending letters, emails, calling your legislators and visiting offices at the capitol.
This is the second session that we pushed for this bill and FINALLY ...... progress.
Thank you John Haralson for meeting with Representative Burnam and asking him to sponsor this bill and to Senator Whitmire who sponsored the bill in the Senate.
In the Dakotas
, I find that besides Educate, Legislate, and Litigate, the most important is ORGANIZE! I spent the month organizing my files: printed out, categorized, and listed every study, article, and piece of information I have. I am now organized and ready to legislate! July will be a month of contacting legislators with all this information in an attempt to draft legislation to present this next session. In Aberdeen, South Dakota, an attempt is being made to exclude registrants from attending the State Fair in August, so we are keeping a close eye on that and have asked to have our voices heard before a decision is made. Everyone have a safe and happy Fourth of July as we celebrate our independence.
Kentucky CFR held a meeting in Northern Kentucky and will be working on setting up further meetings in other parts of the state. Our hope is to begin regular meetings in regions across the state. We have been collecting information regarding Adam Walsh Act compliance in Kentucky to work on opposing compliance in the 2014 legislative session. Information regarding our next teleconference meeting will be sent to supporters in the first week of July.
RSOL New Mexico is excited to announce that we have launched a major fund-raising campaign for our own constitutional challenge against SORNA. An anonymous donor pledged to match all donations dollar for dollar up to $10,000. This means your donation, regardless of size, will immediately double. If this fund-raising campaign is successful, it is our expectation that we will file the challenge by early 2014. We are encouraged because the Oklahoma Supreme Court just ruled a few days ago that the 2007 enhancements to their registry are unconstitutional as applied to offenders registered under the old law. Our 2005 version of SORNA (lifetime registration) is very similar to what was enacted in that state in 2007.
Revisions to SORNA (HB 570) become effective on Monday, July 1st. It is vitally important to know that HB 570 is applicable only to “a person who, on or after July 1, 2013, is found guilty of committing a sex offense.” (
Section 5, HB 570)
Key provisions of HB 570 are:
Persons convicted of Child Solicitation by Electronic Communications Device must register provided that the conviction occurs on or after July 1, 2013;
Creates a new definition of an “out of state registrant;
Requires that sex offenders provide a substantial amount of new information that is not currently required by law such as email addresses, Internet monikers; professional licenses, passports, telephone numbers, and immigration documents;
Reduces the amount of time from ten calendar days to five business days for a registrant to notify law enforcement of changes in registration information;
Requires that the DPS create a secure system where a registrant can submit all required changes electronically;
Adds new language that streamlines the registration process. After registrants’ initial registration, all future updates of registration information will achieved by simply a returning (in-person) to the county sheriff a “verification form” sent by the DPS;
Requires that the DPS to send registrants notice at least 15 days prior to verification dates; and
Preempts the imposition (by any governmental entity) of any requirements or restrictions not specifically included in New Mexico’s SORNA.
There are both good and bad in HB 570. The good news is that the intent of the legislation was to:
Reduce the likelihood of junk prosecutions that occur for those that are technically out of compliance simply because the person miscalculated their 90-days between registrations; and
Prevent the spread of local restrictions that are cropping up all over the country, and to some extent, here in New Mexico as well.
The bad news is if the law is interpreted literally as it is written, it will fail to achieve those purposes. It is quite possible that they (sheriffs and prosecutors) will argue that the duty for the DPS to send notices and the prohibition against additional restrictions do not apply to any sex offender convicted prior to July 1, 2013. If they do take that position, it stands to reason that no sex offender convicted prior to July 1, 2013 can be subjected to the additional obligations imposed on sex offenders either.
In Maine we are making progress in the case of a woman married to a sex offender who had her child removed for "negligence." The judge in the case has ruled that the state must start implementing a reunification plan with the mother.
As the affiliate for Maine, I have started a Corrlinks correspondence with a federal inmate. He originated from a Maine case, and I'm trying to keep him up-to-date on what we are doing in Maine toward improving the chances for community reintegration for registrants.
This is a slow time for us, but we are looking at drafting some proposals for legislation, based on the Texas effort, to remove the employer data from the public portion of the sex offender registry. Eventually, we would like to have an organization similar to Illinois Voices, which has many features we would like to implement.