The Dream Awaits--
A Message from Our Executive Director
RSOL has seen quite a busy month in July! Much can be read about further in this issue, so I won't belabor any of those points. But I do want to take a moment to say that we have a truly GREAT bunch of people working in leadership, both in our Admin Team and among our state affiliates. Kudos especially to Sandy (Correspondence Committee), Mike (Webmaster), and Nick (who hosts our site's servers), who collectively put in hundreds of hours as we dealt with cyber attacks, and to our dedicated affiliate organizers who have kept this Cause moving forward across the country, no matter WHAT comes their way. Yay, team!
What I DO want to talk about is our Fourth Annual National Conference
, "Catch the Dream of Reform." Our Conference Committee has been hard at work for months to make this year's conference a real winner.
This year's host, RSOL New Mexico, will be teaming up with Texas Voices for Reform and Arkansas Time After Time to provide ground support, video-taping, and security. We have an excellent slate of guest speakers and forum presentations
covering three "tracks": lobbying techniques and best practice, organizational development, and ideas for legislative reform.
I've personally been in touch with a number of workshop presenters and panel moderators, and I think you will find the materials and ideas being presented to be both useful and dynamic. You won't want to miss out on this opportunity to mingle with others in this movement, to learn from one another, and to take back tons of great ideas to use during the coming year.
But you need to hurry. Time is running out! Get those plane tickets, arrange those car pools, make those hotel reservations
, and of course REGISTER
today! Don't wait ANY longer.
I look forward to seeing you there.
A New Look for Our Website
Somewhere around 8 p.m. on July 18, RSOL launched its new and improved website at reformsexoffenderlaws.org.
The look is entirely different. The maneuverability is improved. The new graphics are awesome. Most of the content you are used to having is there, easily located and easily accessed. A few items are being revised and reworked, and our signatory/member database is currently unavailable. Please browse around and give us feedback. Let us know if you have difficulty with anything, and tell us what you especially like.
A special thank you to our Webmaster Mike for his countless hours of dedication to this project. Thanks, Mike!!
Let's Watch Television...
Mark your calendars for two upcoming important television events. The first, "Branded for Life," an episode on Lisa Ling's show, Our America, was scheduled for July and was rescheduled due to Olympic coverage. It will now be seen at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday, August 7, on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). You can go to here and use the channel finder for your zip code to determine which channel you should watch. Texas Voices members participated in this documentary.
The other program is still in the works, and most details are not yet known. This will be an episode focused on teenage consensual relationships and activities that resulted in registration and the effect this had on the lives of the registrants and those in their lives. It will be part of a new ABC national talk show. The producer originally contacted RSOL for help in locating individuals to be filmed for the show, and some of you have been in touch with her. More information will be given as soon as it is known.
...And Read a Book
A Parallel Universe is a most unique literary work, combining equal parts fiction by Elaine Halleck interwoven with non-fiction written by Alex Landon. Giving a look at a future America under a reign of terror created by the government sanctioned persecution of those deemed to be sex offenders, the true accounts of the creation of the registry and all of its subsequent laws and policies are as horrifying as the fictional future where they are accepted as normal and right.
Unprecedented is written by J.B. Haralson and J.R. Cordeiro. Both gentlemen are directors for offender re-entry programs in Texas, and Mr. Cordeiro is a member of the National Admin Team. The subtitle, How Sex Offender Laws Are Impacting Our Nation, sums up the content and the emphasis of this powerful, non-fiction work.
"An American Sex Offender"
Only a month ago, a young man named Kevin Foley sent and posted this message wherever he could:
"My name is Kevin Scott Foley; I am a 'sex offender' registrant, and a guy with a background in video production. I'm currently working on an ambitious project to make the world's first feature-length documentary on our cause for reforming sex offender laws." He asked for donations and provided a link; he sent regular updates on the progress of the two-week fund raising project, and less than two weeks later, he wrote, "Still a little more than 24 hours to go, and our project has been funded 100% and then some...I consider myself greatly in debt to all of you who contributed from $1.00 to $1000.00 dollars to get this done. My payoff of that debt will come in the form of hard organizational and creative work - and modest living - until this film is everywhere, and beyond."
We look forward to the completion and the airing of this very promising documentary.
Author Needs Help
We have a request from Dr. Nancy Irwin who is a treatment professional and the author of Make a You-Turn. She is researching and gathering material for a new book. Here is her request:
"I’m attaching the questionnaire I’m asking recovering sex offenders to complete and send me. The title is FORGIVE THEM: THEY KNOW NOW WHAT THEY DO. Non-denominationally based, it will be about the power of understanding compassion for recovery vs shame and guilt. I’m looking for stories of those who (1) committed a sex crime, (2) admit it, (3) have done the work to understand why, (4) are remorseful, and (4) are committed to recovery. This will be a very hopeful, positive outlook on sexual offending recovery to educate the public and offset the stigma. Together, we can make a difference."
Dr. Irwin's contact information, the questionnaire, and how to submit it when completed are found here
"That Which Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger"
Several weeks ago, a group called Anonymous, an Internet group who pursue a variety of social and political agendas, targeted websites that promote pedophilia and other illegal sexual activities. They compiled a list of targets, and, based on our name and we aren’t sure what else, included us and some other innocent sites. We experienced, thanks to our wonderful Webmaster and our Server Admin, only minor difficulties, and we took some reasonable precautions. We were able to contact someone within Anonymous and actually agreed that RSOL would benefit from some rewording to make clearer what our purpose and goals are; indeed our Admin Team had already been working on such in conjunction with building a new site that went on-line exactly a week ago.
Everyone who knows us knows that our agenda has never promoted illegal or harmful activities of any sort; we advocate a change in laws that harm people. We thank our friends and associates for your support and hope that you enjoy the new site.
Brighten Someone's Day; Join the Pen Pal Project
Our mailing list for state inmates receiving a print copy of the Digest each month is growing. Since some of our states are now handling the requests for their own states, with the project coordinator Lynn taking care of all the others, the total is uncertain, but it is growing. The states that are now involved in the Pen Pal Project are Arkansas, the Dakotas, Illinois,Texas, and Virginia. If you, or anyone in your state organization or support system, would like to be a part of a project that means so very much to many men in many states, please contact Sandi
for the specifics. A few hours a month at the most would be required. Most if not all of our state participants absorb the minimal costs themselves, but help is available from National if needed. Thank you for considering this important project.
From Our States
Before we get into actual state reports, we have some especially good news from several. I think we can all agree that
Our States Are Great!
: Janice in California spoke against the enactment of a registrant Halloween restriction at a council meeting, and it was defeated; get the details here
Brian and Nebraska RSOL are challenging a Nebraska law in federal court which bans registrants from using social networking sites. We'll be keeping an eye on this one; read about it here
: Shana from New York attended a City Council hearing and spoke against residency restrictions. It looks like she made an awesome presentation
: Frank writes, "We are challenging the Adam Walsh Act which was recently passed here in Pennsylvania....We have an attorney that will take this case and he has already starting to work on the brief. In addition, I had a meeting with both him and the head attorney of the ACLU here in Philadelphia.They have agreed to help us. So, I have the ball rolling and need all the support possible. People cannot simply look at it as pure financial decision. I personally donated $1,000.00 of my own money to get the ball rolling. Presently, we are at $4,240.00 of the $6,500.00 retainer. All donations can be sent directly to the attorney. They must put "Fight AWA" into the memo section of the check or money order. Thank you."
Weisberg Law, P.C.
7 S. Morton Ave.
Morton, PA 19070
: A Judge has granted class action status to approximately 600 detainees in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, a civil commitment facility; read about it here
Let me introduce myself. I am the new Director of ATAT. I am a 46-year-old mom to 2 great kids. I was a PTA/ Soccer/Band Mom for years. I was very involved in my kids’ lives and with the different activities they were in. I firmly believe all this has given me the skills to be the new director of this great advocacy group.
I am currently working on a few things to help us with our fight. One thing I am working on is a PTA Power Point Presentation. I want to go around to different schools, from elementary all the way to high school., I want to talk about the laws relating to sex offenses, how they work, and, more urgently, how they do not work. Existing laws give us a false sense of security. "Stranger Danger" is very largely a myth, to give one example. I want to point out and discuss better ways to protect your kids.
I am also working on a database. It will list all the legislators and senators in Arkansas, their phone and email contacts, the committees they serve on, and other information. My plan is to have it accessible to everyone. ATAT is also working on a new brochure, one that we can leave with the legislators and senators after we have talked with them.
Let me leave you with this thought:
Although we do not condone any illegal sexual activity,
We will not judge you for what you did.
You do not have to share your story.
Just knowing you want to fight the laws
Tells us that you think you have paid your debt to society
And now want a chance to live your life in peace--
That is all we need to know.
First, California RSOL had its first City Council victory on July 16 when the City of Simi Valley decided to delay further consideration of a Halloween ban for registrants that would have required them to post a sign warning trick-or-treaters not to stop at their homes. Second, three members of the organization testified before a hearing held by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in San Francisco on July 27 in order to illuminate the unintended consequences of California's sex offender laws, including unemployment, homelessness and vigilante violence.
Third, the organization also held its monthly meeting for registrants and family members on July 28 in San Francisco, only the second meeting in that city. Finally, California RSOL continues to request the correction of registrant's profiles on the Megan's Law website. So far, we have a 100 percent success rate in getting the profiles corrected.
A committee of 18 members, including legislators, judges, attorneys on both sides of the system, law enforcement and parole people, and staffers with the governor's office, called the Criminal Justice Initiative work group, will examine prison and public safety issues in South Dakota.
Excerpts from the Argus Leader article:
"....Gov.Daugaard said the state’s inmate population has grown from 600 in 1980 to 3,600 today....A report he cited notes that South Dakota has a prison population that increasingly consists of low-level offenders convicted of nonviolent crimes, and that the rising corrections budget 'has not yielded commensurate improvements to public safety.'
"Rep. Brian Gosch, a Republican from Rapid City, said South Dakota would be among at least 20 states that are implementing prison reforms. David Gilbertson, the state’s chief justice, said various local jurisdictions have treatment and probation programs that might be able to serve the entire state. 'Violent people need to be behind bars — other people, perhaps not,' Gilbertson said.
"Daugaard said South Dakota has crime rates similar to neighboring states but a higher percentage of the population behind bars. The state has 415 inmates per 100,000 residents, a ratio about double the 226 per 100,000 in North Dakota and 185 per 100,000 in Minnesota. He said he’s never understood that and began to look at the issue during the 2010 campaign."
Dakota RSOL will be writing letters to the eighteen members of the Criminal Justice Initiative work group to advocate for treatment versus incarceration. See you all in New Mexico in September!
The Florida Action Committee has continued to maintain regular board meetings twice monthly as well as membership conference call meetings on the alternating weeks. A group has worked closely with the Florida ACLU in a portion of the state to address issues as they relate to residency restrictions and ordinances.
The Lt. Gov. is heading a Safety Task Force that is meeting throughout the state and FAC board has attended some of these meetings. The primary agenda of these meetings has been the Florida Stand Your Ground Law about which the T. Martin case has revolved. FAC is proposing that the issue of sex offenders also be addressed. President Gail Colletta is working through the Lt. Gov. and her chief aide on the goal of establishing a workshop with law makers and community groups to discuss the registry and to provide accurate information to both law makers and the public prior to the start of the legislative session. Members of FAC also were active in mailing letters to the US Sentencing Commission members prior to the July meeting. Florida will have a minimum of 5 board members attending the National Conference in Albuquerque.
Georgia Rising/GA RSOL worked hard in July to meet the USSC 7/23 deadline and successfully managed to rally well over 100 signed letters for consideration and review. We are proud to announce a wonderful addition to our team; Steve, creator of RSOonline has graciously accepted the position of Resource and Information Officer. Steve brings his abundant talent and expertise to the table and will be of great benefit as we work to continue to grow our membership.
One of our main goals is to stop legislation that further restricts those labeled as sex offenders. Each year more and more laws are passed and the list of restrictions gets longer and longer. The 2011-2012 legislative session was no different.
~cont. on next column~
~cont. from previous column~
Fortunately, it wasn’t as bad as previous years. Out of 29 bills filed in the House and the Senate, six passed both houses and made their way to the Governor. As of July 25, 2012, two of those bills have been signed and are now public acts – we are still waiting to see what happens with the other four that are on the Governor’s desk.
One of the two bills that passed is SB3258 – which added "bikeways" and "trails" to the definition of "parks" and are now off limits to the majority of those on the registry. The other bill that passed is SB3579 – which makes it a felony for an offender to participate in a holiday event involving children under 18 years of age. There are a few exceptions (being the parent and exempting a very small number of offenders), but for most on the registry, it is yet another handful of things they cannot do that does nothing to protect society. Both of these laws are effective January 1, 2013.
One of our main concerns this session was SB3359 – the bill that attempts to put Illinois in compliance with the Adam Walsh Act. We worked tirelessly opposing this bill, as well as the two mentioned above. As of now, SB3359 is currently "on hold" but we know it will be back soon.
We were told by at least one Illinois legislator (during testimony on SB3359) that "sex offenders are not usually arrested for violations." We know this is not the case, so we distributed surveys to over 1,000 individuals listed on the registry as having some sort of registration violation. Our goal was to find out just how many individuals were being charged (with felonies or misdemeanors), arrested, imprisoned, and to estimate the costs of those violations. Although not a scientific study, the results were nonetheless quite revealing.
Out of the 1.174 people we located, we received 198 responses. It is interesting to note that 83.3% who responded received felony charges (most were incarcerated for the violation) and 82.8% used a public defender (increasing the costs to Illinois). Also of relevance is the fact that in Illinois, once charged with a violation, your registration time either starts over or is extended. Of these responses we received, 62.6% said their registration time started over, 15.2% said their registration time was extended, and 22.2% were unsure.
I am sure this information will fall on deaf ears, as most of our fact-based research has, but we will continue to push for reform. We need more registrants fighting with us. In Illinois, not including those out of state, there are over 20,000 offenders on the registry. Add just one family member to that list and that’s over 40,000 people who are suffering from our current laws. When a bill is scheduled for hearing, hundreds should attend opposing harsher laws that will affect them negatively. That’s not the case. We wind up with three to six people opposing a bill and only one testifying. The witness slips that can be filed very easily on-line showing opposition to the bills vary from 10 to maybe 30, and that number dwindles to a handful as session goes on. Where are the other 20,000+ people these bills will affect?
I am not sure why more people aren’t standing up for themselves. What people need to understand is this . . . you don’t need to be at every hearing, you don’t need to spend money you don’t have, you don’t need to oppose every bill. What we ALL need to do if we want serious reform in Illinois is to at least speak with your State Representative and Senator. Most don’t have a clue how many people are affected by the laws they pass. I had one State Representative tell me he did not have any teenage consensual cases in his district – he actually has three. None of the three have ever spoken to him so why should he care if he passes yet another restriction on people he’s never heard from? I’ve said this many times and I’ll say it again . . . SPEAK UP FOR YOURSELVES OR NOTHING WILL CHANGE!
This month has been a wild and hot one in Indiana! Not only have we experienced severe heat and drought, we also are fighting AWA implementation. Promising news comes with this though! Indiana has set up a Criminal Law and Sentencing study committee. They are looking at the registry and its long term effects as well as the laws that surround them. Many of the legislators have spoke out for the need to reform the laws and the registry. Over 300 Indiana members have written to the legislators about the laws and effects that their families have endured due to the registry.
On July 23, I and another member took the day to drop off packets at the state house. We wanted to personally get the costs and effectiveness (or lack of) of the registry laws out to the lawmakers. I wanted to be able to look them face to face when talking with them. The responses from some of the legislators, to our members and myself, have been that of their knowing we need reform on all levels, both with sentencing and the registry.
Wish us luck as we testify on August 23 before the study committee!
Will keep you updated next month!
KYCFR held its quarterly meeting in Frankfort, KY, on June 23, 2012. The speaker at the meeting was attorney, Mr. Brad Fox. Mr. Fox successfully argued Commonwealth vs. Baker, the case in which the KY Supreme Court ruled the retroactive application of residency restrictions unconstitutional.
Mr. Fox spoke about the current status of the sex offender registry, calling the current system a “giant mess.” He gave supporters an overview of the implications associated with compliance with the Adam Walsh Act, citing the high cost and challenges encountered in Ohio upon implementation. He addressed issues created by residency and other restrictions and answered questions from participants at the meeting. Mr. Fox ended his presentation by encouraging those with further questions to contact him personally for consultation.
The next KYCFR meeting will be held at the end of September (exact date and location TBA).
Missouri will continue with its aggressive lobbying campaign next legislative session. We are preparing for an interim hearing before the next session starts. We are working together with many entities who are in favor of reform and support our efforts. We are grateful to all our supporters for their continued work through legislative letters, meetings, and phone calls. We will have meetings this month throughout the state in several different locations to build up morale and work together for reform.
~~Donna and Dennis
In Oklahoma we are making plans for our first statewide meeting in Oklahoma City on August 12. We are also working on fund-raising, improving our email communications and other organizational activities. We will speak on our recent and planned legislative activities at a forum on sex offender issues September 11 in Oklahoma City and September 12 in Tulsa sponsored by the Oklahoma Partnership for Successful Reentry. We'll be inviting legislators and candidates to attend the forum. Our delegation to the national conference is expanding. We have a potential six members attending so far.
Texas members now have a total of 5 support groups; one group each in Dallas, Ft. Worth, and Austin, and two groups in Houston. Our folks enjoy connecting with others in a comfortable environment. By sharing feelings, accomplishments, losses, and humor, members can develop strong emotional ties and friendships that can last a lifetime.
We managed to facilitate two area meetings in the month of July, one in Houston and the other in Dallas. We are thankful to the attorneys who attend for our 'Ask the Attorneys' segment.
We are already gearing up for the next legislative session which begins in January and have begun the process of scheduling meetings with our legislators. Lots of work here in Texas....