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QUOTE OF THE MONTH

¨Missouri, like some other states, has a law compelling ANY citizen, under penalty of being charged with a felony, to report non-registered ´sex offenders,´ for nonregistration.  The closest I can think of to these laws are the laws in place during slavery, requiring people to report runaway slaves, including in ´free states.´ Shame on Missouri!¨

-- Marshall Burns, ListMail2@MBURNS.com
Reform Sex Offender Laws
June Digest, 2011

3rd RSOL National Conference

August 12-14, 2011 @  St. Louis, Missouri

Preparations are going well for our 3rd Annual Conference. All that is missing... is YOU!  Registration and Room Reservation links are available at www.sites.google.com/site/rsolnationalconference.
 
Confirmed speakers are:

  • Amy Borror of the Ohio Public Defenders Office and Adam Walsh Act expert;
  • David Day from the Missouri House of Representatives;
  • Tim Russo, former attorney, political, foreign policy & developmental consultant, and social media professional;
  • Janice Belucci, Attorney, professional lobbyist; and
  • Discussion panel with ACLU, ATSA, and OPD.

In addition we will have workshops covering a wide variety of advocacy and organizational issues. Details and updates are available on the conference website. Please send questions to nationalconferencestl@yahoo.com.


Freedom Riders

by Jennifer Van Waes

My husband and I watched a documentary the other night on the Freedom Riders. If you aren't familiar with that movement, it was a group of folks of various races who in 1961 decided to break down barriers by riding commerical buses through the Deep South, sitting in seats as they chose and infiltrating the white-only portions of the bus terminals. I learned of the Freedom Riders somewhere along my educational path, but I did not learn or did not truly realize the brutality and sheer maliciousness they encountered along the way. It was calculated brutality, orchestrated, in some cases, or silently supported, by state police and the FBI.  The Riders were beaten, imprisoned, and some were killed. All total, over 400 were sent to one of the worst state prisons in Alabama, until the state had to do something because of prison overcrowding. Eventually, this group's tenacity, perseverance and determination got them to their goal of riding those buses all the way down to New Orleans...and closer to equality for all races.

That was 50 years ago, five years prior to my birth. As I watched the show, I thought how ludicrous it was and beyond my comprehension that someone could be arrested, brutally beaten, or killed with silent permission from law enforcement for merely standing in the wrong side of a bus station or sitting in the wrong seat of a bus. Perhaps my children, who are ages 7 and 9, will look back 50 years from now and think how ludicrous our fixation with sexual offenses has become - that a man's life could be essentially ruined for one consensual sexual encounter with an underage partner, for merely observing a few inappropriate pictures on the Internet out of curiosity, or for being duped by the lies of an underage girl passing herself off as older than she really is. I hope they will also see the folly of our need to shame and blame while largely ignoring the real issues of sexual abuse that plague our culture and our families.

We can learn a lot from the Freedom Riders. They sacrificed greatly for what they believed in. Their participation did not come without a cost. And they forged ahead even with dissention in the ranks about strategy and policy in the greater Civil Rights Movement, but yet, we all know the outcome of their sacrifice. So it is with us, as we embark on our movement. We have experienced all these things in our group - sacrifice, great cost, and yes, dissention. We must recognize that these struggles are inevitable, but yet, our goal of a restorative approach to sexual offenses and sexual abuse will one day come to fruition if we all stay the course and are willing to pay the price. I believe that my children - all our children - are worth that price. Don't you?



RSOL State Reports

I have been working my way through our list of organizers, making contact with every state organizer to introduce myself and get more detailed contact information. I am very pleased with the response and can say that we have a very dedicated group of organizers! We also are very excited that we have added organizers:Beanne in NJ and Kelly in Connecticut. Every give them a big welcome when you get a chance.
Jennifer Van Waes, Affiliate Coordinator
affiliatecoordinator@yahoo.com

Oklahoma RSOL
     -Rebecca Walkup, President
May saw the legislative session end a week early. Final results for 2011 bills are as follows.
Dormant
HB1193 Requiring info and photos of sex offenders to be published in local papers
HB1450 Aimed at bringing OK into compliance with Adam Walsh Act
HB1627 Prohibits Sex offenders from having certain types of jobs
HB1988 raise age of consent to 20 when accused is in a clergy/ministerial role
HB2006/SB920  defines cases of sexting between minors and penalties for each case
SB334 GPS monitoring of all level 2 and 3 sex offenders
SB691 Prohibits Sex offenders from having certain types of jobs
Failed
SB257 limits definition of parks to those operated by a government entity
Passed
HB1549 Providing for civil suits in child porn cases
SB282 offenders with out of state convictions must file certified copies of their sentencing and judgement reports each time they move to a new jurisdiction in OK
SB446 removes penalty and registration requirement for public urination
SB852 Requiring Hand Up ministries to house one SO per house.
Bills that are Dormant will be automatically reintroduced in the 2012 session, so we will have to kill them again next year.

Plans for the summer and fall include continuing to lobby legislators against these dormant bills and educate legislators about residency restrictions. With SB852, homeless SOs have come to the forefront in the media. There has been growing opposition in the state to residency restrictions, and we hope to introduce a bill next session to decrease the distance and applicability of the restrictions. Other goals for the summer are to get a website up and send a snail mail newsletter to a large chunk of the list in hopes of gaining additional supporters.

RSOL of Indiana
     -Kimberly DuBina
We've made it through another tough legislative session! RSOL of Indiana is already gearing up for the next session. We have been in contact with many state representatives to start communications about new bills we would like to have sponsored for the 2012 session. We are looking at the possibility of eliminating residency restrictions and keeping employers off the registry. While our long term goal is to eventually prove that the registry is not a preventative measure against re-offenses, we will be providing to representatives the costs to implement and maintain the registry as well. With on-going cuts in the Indiana budget, we hope to provide legislators with evidence that could stop the Indiana registry. We are going to need everyone involved to help and write lawmakers. We will be gearing up on this campaign soon and will keep you posted!

Texas Voices
     -Mary Sue Molnar
The Texas legislative session has finally come to a halt. Our members were able to successfully kill a couple of bad bills. Unfortunately, we were not able to push through and see passage of the bills we supported. We are disappointed but certainly not discouraged. Better luck next session. We are now in the process of planning for our yearly Texas conference and seeking to better organize our swiftly growing group. Texas Voices is now an official non-profit 501C4 organization: TVRJ, Inc. (Texas Voices for Reason and Justice) http://www.txvoices.com

Arizona RSOL
     -James Coghill
We finally received our business license from The AZ. Corporation Commission recognizing AZRSOL as a tax exempt corporation. We paid $119.00 to the Capitol Times newspaper to place our Articles of Incorporation in the public notice section which completes our Corporation Commissions requirements. We made extensive changes to our website which now permits us to accept membership applications and receive contributions directly from our website. We sent 28 letters in May in support of the inmate legal club, costing $35.50, paid by me. Our current bank balance is $274.19.

FAIR, Inc. (Maryland)
     -Brenda Jones, Executive Director
We have six groups meeting monthly around the state, with a seventh on the way. This month we will hold our first annual Family Potluck Picnic for our organization, which we're getting excited about. We added a Resources Director last month and will soon get an Advocacy Team (think Lobbying and Public Education) together. For all of that, there are always needs we cannot meet and problems we cannot solve. Through our groups and forum, we do what we can to support each other.

Missouri Citizens for Reform
    -Donna Conlin
Missouri Citizens for Reform wrapped up an excellent run in Jefferson City in the General Assembly. We made HUGE progress with our lobbying efforts which will carry through to the next session. We are preparing for the RSOL National Conference and look forward to this event being in St. Louis. As part of the conference committee, we want to assure everyone this will be a terrific event and encourage ALL to attend. MCR continues to meet monthly to inform and encourage each other in the on-going work for reform.

Tennessee RSOL
    -Richard and Sandra
Here in Tennessee, the legislature has adjourned. They did not pass the juvenile bill due to the cost. A bill that would allow more than two folks on the registry to live in one residence failed. They did pass a law that folks on the registry are no longer allowed in libraries. They also passed a law allowing broader exemptions to searches of homes without a warrant. Sandra and I continue our effort to educate the legislature here, and we are still trying to recruit folks to help with this cause.

Survey Participants Needed!

Researchers from Pennsylvania State University are performing a research study "to explore current attitudes about registration for perpetrators of sexual offenses (Megan’s Law)." Participants will be asked to answer 35 questions. It should only take about 10 minutes. You might feel some "discomfort" due to questions related to sexual offenses. The "benefits" might include learning "more about yourself, your attitudes, and your positions on community access to information about sexual offenders."

 
We encourage as many of our members as possible to take the survey, and to share this link with friends. If only John and Jane Public answer it, the answers will be skewed!

Correspondence Committee / Minutemen report

By Sandi

While an element of the Minutemen has been very busy, the work of the responders has fallen off considerably. A small handful of very faithful monitors continue to post articles, but the responses on the articles by our Minutemen are down to a trickle. Some rejuvenation is in order! Conversely, the Correspondence Committee has of late branched out into other projects and been extremely busy with them.

An offshoot of the registry research project, the registry outreach committee has completed one goal and is preparing for the next. After targeting Idaho, a state that has never had an RSOL presence, 100 postcards were mailed to the parents of 100 juvenile registrants there. Responses thus far have been sparse, but the phone lines are still open. Next the committee will target adult registrants in the capital city of Boise.

We are, sadly, very financially limited in the number of cards we can mail. If anyone feels moved to make a donation, no matter how modest, to a worthy cause, this one fits the bill. You may send a check or a money order to RSOL, PO BOX 400838, Cambridge, MA 02140. Additionally, the ranks of the Minutemen could use some new blood, especially responders, so if you like to write and want to find out more about what we do, please email me at sandihr@sbcglobal.net.

As an example of what we do, one recent article posted on our site was about RSOs working for contractors whose jobs occasionally took them to expansion projects for schools. The article quoted an assemblyman who said that the laws dealing with who may be on school property need to be revisited, and he, of course, meant with an eye to tightening them. A reader responded with:

" ‘State Assemblyman Curt Hagman of Chino Hills says this case illustrates why state laws about who can come on to a school campus need to be revisited.’

There is nothing to revisit. The law was changed around 2007/2008 requiring sex offenders to obtain permission from a school's chief administrator prior to setting foot on campus, even if their own children go to school there. Enforce the laws we have, don't waste more ink.”
 
One of the Minutemen responders answered with this: “I agree that the law needs 'revisiting,' but because it is bad law. It serves no purpose. It protects no one. Recidivism of registered sex offenders across the spectrum of all offenses is extremely low. Close to 100% of child molestation is not committed by registered sex offenders but by never arrested individuals; well over 90% is committed by those who are a part of the children's lives, primarily their family members and trusted family acquaintances. It costs ill-afforded resources to enforce without delivering anything positive for the expenditure. It closes yet more avenues to former offenders who are already hard-pressed to obtain and keep gainful employment. It reflects total ignorance of all research in the field of sex offender management and in effective laws.

Why should it not be 'revisited'?”

Liz's Dream

I had a dream - it was a dream of fear - it was a dream of anger - it became a dream of hope.

In my dream I was trying to save a few - those who came to me - those who could slip away down the back roads - those who were hunted. In my dream the roads became blocked - the National Guard, the county sheriff, the local cops all tried to stop the escape of the people.

I sat on a cliff and saw the crowds of people who were trying to get away. In this crowd I saw a teacher I knew - a lawyer I knew - a coal miner I knew - Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians I knew. I saw those who hated me - those who loved me - those who didn't know me - but all wanted help from me.

In my dream I looked at all these people and felt sadness and hope at the same time. Sad because it had come to this - hope because it had come to this. As I stood there on my cliff I told them the quote by Pastor Martin Niemöller :

"First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me."

My addition was this:
First they came for the people of color; now we have fought for their rights, to vote, to love and to live.
Then they came for the homosexuals; now we fight for the rights of gays to vote, to love and to live.
Then they came for those who are mentally, physically, or emotionally handicapped; now we have fought for their rights to vote, to love, and to live.
Then they came for the Sex Offenders - young lovers, people who pee in the bushes, and true predators; now we fight for their rights to vote, to love and to live.
Now they are coming for the pet owners, the gun owners - anyone someone might see as a problem. Who will fight for them? Who is next?

All of this was a dream - a dream of sadness and a dream of hope. The hope is that with enough registries and rules more people will step up to say NO so more won't have to hide away.

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I continue to dream. It is a dream of hope - of power - of love.

As I stood on the cliff looking at the teacher, the lawyer, the coal miner, the Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians and so many others, I heard a noise nearby. As I looked around I saw coming out from behind the trees others - others I knew about - others I had heard about - others I never thought I could meet.

The others at my back to help and to support me were the men and women who had lent their voices to the various causes. People who believe that freedom is not just for the few or powerful but for all. Men and women who believe no child should feel pain. People who believe everyone has value. People who believe in truth. People who care!

The feeling I had with these strong people behind me was enough to bring me to tears - tears of joy - tears of hope - to know I am not alone and neither is the teacher, the lawyer, the coal miner, the Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians and so many others.

I know that there is a leader among us - a person whose voice will be heard, whose story will carry us forward. This is a dream now of hope and power and love!

Of Love, and Grief, and Mothers

Last week, a series of posts on our organizers' forum caught my attention: maybe because, like these ladies, I too am a mother fighting for a son. An arrest triggers all the same feelings of a sudden death or injury; the cycle of grief is much the same. That is what we all saw in Mr. Miller's essay. How much more difficult it can be when the "subject" of that grief has instantly become a national pariah! I am sharing a heavily-excerpted version of that thread below in lieu of an editorial.  -- Brenda Jones

When Crisis Has Changed Your Life
            By James E. Miller

Sometimes life hurts us. Sometimes it robs us of something or someone very dear.

Sometimes it causes us pain, a pain we did not choose and do not want. A future we had taken for granted will not come to be. Plans, carefully drawn up, will not lead where we expected. We find ourselves face-to-face with circumstances not of our liking, life choices not of our making.

A life, in short, we don't know how to live.

We wonder: how do we go on? Where is the meaning? And how do we re-design our lives when the future that is before us is so different from the one we've foreseen?

What must happen first is quite clear, quite natural-and perhaps quite overwhelming. We must let out our feelings. We may surprise ourselves with the strength of our feelings, but that is okay, and even good. For the presence of strong feelings today is a good prediction that we'll have strong ones tomorrow as well. Tomorrow, when we'll feel something different and more encouraging.

As we do so, we will discover an inner strength beginning to grow, giving us hope, leading us on. Gradually, the initial shock wears off, and it becomes a time for exploring. A time to learn more about what has happened to us so that we'll know more about what to expect, about what we need to do and not do. If we are diligent in our search, we will uncover riches of information: others who have persevered and how they have done so; others who share our lot in life and how we can be connected.

And even though we have no control over what has happened to us, we do have a certain control over how we respond. We may choose to go into hiding, from others, from ourselves, or we may choose to be as open and honest as we can be. We may choose to give up, thinking "what's the use?" or we may choose to marshal all our resources in our drive to rebuild our future.

As we learn more about this crisis in our life, it will serve us well to remember what crisis actually means: it is a turning point which challenges our ability to cope…. It is a point when life will go one way or another, when it is ripe with possibility.

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Mom #1
Thank you for sending this!

Since a few weeks I feel overwhelmed. I can't think straight, I am not concentrating outside of work. Just work, that I can keep straight. I want to get organized with answers to so many things... I am not able to verbalize them the right way. I feel paranoid, left out, alone.

I want to be part of it, but paralyzed. I want to go to the parks, zoos, festivals. Knowing my son cannot do it, I am not doing it either. I hate those demons taking over my life, telling me what to do, disabling me. I look around; my son is healthy, safe so far. Life is not so bad, but not the same. I am struggling so very much with this, some days more than others.
 
How can this country slam a young man's life for just the question, “Hey you need a ride?” How can they just throw his life away for something like this? And so many others? Who are these people doing this? I just don't get it. It would be good to hear the answer: When will the initial shock wear off?
 
How can one learn to see the pain in her child’s face? I lift my arms, and they are so heavy. I want to trust, but I am so suspicious. I want to deal with people, but I am pulling away. Oh well, I just had to get it out. I hope this weekend will end, so I can go back to work. There I feel safe, there I can keep it together.

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Mom #2
Your exasperation brings tears to my eyes. When this nightmare started for my family. I used say, "Someone out there has to be going through this pain and I need to find them.” We are some of the lucky ones in that we found each other.

I will tell you this, what hurts them more than their own pain is seeing the pain in your eyes and face and feeling they caused it. That is unbearable for them. When I would go and see my son, which was once every six months, I would say, "Are you OK?" and he would say, "If your OK....I'm OK." and that is the truth. They can cope better.

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Mom #3
I want to thank you so much for sharing this. Many times this is how I feel
- it has been 3 1/2 years since our "nightmare" started but every time I think I have a handle on it something new comes up. The pain becomes a numbness and when the next bad thing happens and I don't react, is it because it no longer bothers me, or because I am so numb that I can't react? How long does it take to totally destroy hope?

I still hope and pray for the best - pray that the truth comes out - pray that the people who lie get punished in an honest manner - pray that the future that we dreamed of comes true in some form or another. I have hope but I feel parts of it going away each time there is another hurt, another disappointment, another betrayal from someone I trusted

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Mom #4
You spoke the words of my own heart. There are days I want to just lay my head down and cry. There are days that I do just that, though perhaps those days are fewer now. Maybe I've got to the state of numb. Maybe that's preferable to the pain. I don't know. But, if I feel so bad, how much more difficult is it for my son? So, we don't show it, we hide those tears. My words of encouragement for him are rote.

My biggest fear? I'm his biggest supporter. I'm the one that fights. But I'm getting old. If things don't change, if the laws continue to punish for life, what happens to him when I'm gone?

 

Down to the Wire

As the deadline approaches to comply with federal rules on sex offenders, some states are saying “no thanks.”

May, 2011:
While some states scramble to comply with portions of the federal sex offender registration law by its July deadline, others think the law’s rewards are just not worth the costs. The new requirements are extensive. The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA)—a portion of the Adam Walsh Act that passed in 2006—expands the categories of offenders that states and tribes must register to include juveniles who commit certain serious crimes and some adult offenders convicted before the law was enacted. Some consider the amount and kind of information that states must now collect, regularly verify and share as onerous....

Some policymakers ... question the value of all these requirements. State sex offender registries already contain names, addresses, photos, vehicle, job and other identifying information on hundreds of thousands of convicted sex offenders. If public safety is the goal of maintaining all these public registries, it’s not clear if all the information makes communities safer or if the most dangerous predators become lost among a growing swell of electronic information.

For the full article, click HERE.
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