You Are Not Alone
Halloween Hysteria is over now, and we come to the time of the year that is both joyful and sad, anticipated and dreaded. With Thanksgiving this month and Christmas just around the corner, emotions run the gamut.
If you are a registrant and are reading this at home with family and loved ones, you are blessed, and they are blessed to have you there.
If you are a member of a registered family and are reading this knowing your loved one cannot be with the rest of the family for the holidays, keeping your spirits up is a challenge, and one you will often lose.
If you are a registrant and are reading this from a prison cell, or somewhere apart from your family and loved ones, please know that you are not alone. There are those thinking of you. There are those fighting for you even though they do not know your name or your situation. Even though we cannot live your experiences, we can and do empathize with you. You are not alone.
And if you are a registrant and fortunate enough to be at home with a family who loves you but are struggling with the fallout of the public registry, the word that may apply is “bittersweet.”
This is the word used by a mom to title these beautiful and haunting words penned by her as she watched her son draw so near to the edge, to the breaking point.
Daily, registrants and those that love them deal with the atrocities that continue to batter them long after a sentence is served. There seems no light at the end of this tunnel, and for each step forward, there are often two steps back. There are days I just want to throw my hands up and quit, admitting defeat. Then I look at the face of my son, the haunted eyes that no longer spark with life and hope. I watch him, listening to his frustration as he looks for work, the pain and dejection that cause his broad shoulders to slump even more with each rejection. I sit quietly, crying and praying after he withdraws, telling me that death would be preferable to this hopelessness.
On the other hand, he's fortunate to have support, to have people that love him, in the best of times and in the worst of times. I often wonder though if that's enough....But I can't fix everything. Not anymore. Not like when he was little and Mommy and Daddy could save the world. At least his world.
[Though] despondent...angry...hurting..., for today, my son is safe. He came through a storm, but there are still so many ahead. Will he weather the next one? How many until the devastation of the storm is so complete that there is no rebuilding, no coming back?
I'm not going to lose him if I can help it. Just as my personal faith is renewed, so is my faith in the work and goals of RSOL. How brave and courageous each of you are. I have so much respect for you individually and as a group. It's because of people like you and an organization like this that keeps the hope alive. And, because of you, change will come.
No, Mom, you and your son, and the countless others like you, you are the ones with courage. You are the brave ones. It is because of people like you that our organization has meaning and a purpose and a mission. It is because of you that change will come, that change must come. You are not alone.
A Message From Our Executive Director
I was talking to an "old friend" from the Movement who's been out of the country for a while, catching him up about RSOL. It made me realize just how far we've come in less than two years. We have made big strides toward transparency, with all of our leaders' names on our website, open admin meetings, and an electoral process for adding new admin team members. We've incorporated, and are moving toward applying for a 501c4 tax exemption. But I think our most important work lies just ahead.
We are approaching the finish line to creating a clear, concise Vision, Mission, and Goals for RSOL, as well as a Beliefs/Facts statement. All of these, once ratified by the full Admin Team, will be shared with our affiliates to use as models for their own state organizations, and will guide all that we do at the national level.
At the same time, we've launched a couple of new committees and are "beefing up" old ones. Each committee has a specific charge, and has begun developing that charge to further the greater Cause. They are: Conference, Correspondence/Media, Planning, Affiliate Development, Finance (with a Revenue sub-committee), and Legal. Every Admin Team member serves on at least one of these committees, and "non-Admins" interested in the workings of any committee are welcome to get involved.
We are no longer just a website. We still have a long way to go to say we've "reached the next level," but I'm optimistic about our direction, and proud of our progress. To fully reach that next level, we could use YOUR help. Consider a contribution (one time, or monthly) to RSOL, get involved in one of our committees, or connect with the affiliate in your state. Any of these options will show your support for our Cause, and you'll feel good knowing you are helping us effect real change in sex offense laws.
Brenda Jones, Executive Director
5th Annual Prisoner’s Family Conference
February 20-22, 2013 – Houston, Texas
The conference is significant for ALL wanting to learn and DO more to improve the quality of life for the prison family and the reintegrating prisoner. While not specific to our advocacy, the purpose of the conference meshes perfectly with some of our goals and objectives.
Credible research finds that strong family support during and following a loved one’s incarceration is crucial to successful community reentry and family reunification. The goal of the conference is to strengthen the prison family and promote successful reentry and reunification, ultimately reducing the recidivism rate in the country. To that end, the National Prisoner’s Family Conference provides critical connections and information to improve the quality of life for the entire prison family and offers ample networking opportunities with those from across the country serving the prisoner and their family.
National RSOL will be represented as well as WAR. If you are interested in attending as a representative of your state organization or as an individual, conference and registration information can be found here.
The Winds of Change Are Blowing
The new year will see some changes in the Digest, and some of them involve you, our readers--all readers.
You will see a "Readers' Corner," and we need submissions from our readers beginning right away. What may you submit? Editorials; commentary; poetry; links to articles and original commentary about the article. There is much negative in our lives; we don't have to dig too deeply to find it. This column will be designed to focus on the positive, on aspects of our world that give us hope or bring a little sunshine, even humor, into our day. Sometimes we have to dig deeper to find the positive, but, like diamonds deep in the earth, that makes it more worthwhile. All submissions will be subject to editing. Send submissions here or to:
PO BOX 400838,
Cambridge, MA 02140
Submissions that are mailed will take longer to process but will be considered equally with all others.
A Brief Report From the Legal Committee
We have not been active recently due to having to focus considerable energy on the Annual Conference. The intent is to pick up the pace of work in the coming year, focusing on the Committee’s current priorities. At this time our goals are:
Recruitment of additional legal professionals to augment the Committee;
Development of a short questionnaire to be used for initial case screening;
Selection of one or more cases that RSOL can support;
Marketing those cases to assist us with fund-raising efforts for the Legal Fund; and
Development of RSOL Policy Statements for issues such as Civil Commitment and GPS tracking.
We are in need of individuals with a legal background to assist the Committee. Those that cannot volunteer time are encouraged to make a monetary contribution to the Legal Fund. You may contact the Legal Committee or make a donation to the Legal Fund through RSOL’s website
. If you do not have Internet access, you may write to:
RSOL Legal Committee
P.O. Box 36123
Albuquerque, NM 87176
As Halloween draws near, we at Illinois Voices decided to issue a press release to dispute the myths leading to Halloween hysteria when it comes to those labeled as sex offenders. It has been picked up by several media outlets and can be found here or on our website.
It has recently come to our attention that one major city in Illinois is refusing to waive the $100.00 annual registration fee for those who are indigent (as the law states) and threatening violations of the registration act. This prompted us to send out hundreds of emails and letters to find out if there were other cities refusing to register people because they could not afford the fee. We have received multiple responses from people who are being threatened with violations throughout Illinois. We have given this information to an attorney who is in the process of filing a suit against the “major city” – more specifically, for not allowing a process to prove the person is, in fact, indigent.
We are still sending out letters to everyone on the registry and are still receiving a large number of responses. Currently, our list of supporters is approximately 700 (with and without email addresses).
We are now in the beginning stages of forming committees (which includes searching for employment and housing resources, summarizing legal research, stuffing envelopes and mailing out letters and newsletters, answering letters from those without email addresses, and much more). Perhaps when the Adam Walsh Act comes back in the near future, we will be more equipped, with more voices of opposition, to fight this legislation once again.
Several Missouri legislators have been involved in joint committee hearings throughout the summer and fall. On Tuesday, October 16, the Joint Interim Hearing met at 1pm in the Senate Lounge of the Capitol Building in Jefferson City to discuss the sex offender registry.
The hearing went well. We had 5 of our supporters testify with their personal stories. We also had the good fortune of a St. Louis attorney driving all the way to Jeff City for his 3 minutes of testimony. We had written testimonies from licensed counselors and treatment providers and the Ohio Public Defenders Office. We then wrapped up the time with an overview of what we want to see changed. There was also support from MASW (Missouri Assoc. of Social Workers) who are also working toward reform. Their spokesperson also testified. Once this interim session has ended, the committee will submit their recommendations.
We now continue the process of writing a new bill for the next General Assembly session, which will start in January.
Since our supporters are spread out over the entire state, we will try a new "meeting" process with conference calls. It is a way to have everyone stay informed and involved without driving a great distance or taking time off of work. We continue to send our MCR monthly newsletter to those who are incarcerated.
We encourage everyone to go out and vote in the elections next week.
Indiana has been highly successful in stopping the compliance of the Adam Walsh Act. We had several members testify as to the detrimental effects and the costs entailed to the state. Indiana RSOL (now Indiana Voices) also presented a Power Point presentation to the committee members showing that the costs to implement AWA would be in excess of 10 million dollars.
Our phones and emails were jammed with reporters and legislators wanting our presentation and links to the costs we presented.
I believe because of our efforts and our diligence, we were successful in proving to legislators that AWA is not a good option! We were told by a committee member that AWA is NOT in Indiana’s future!
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
This past week a reporter from one of San Antonio's major television stations went to the home of Mary Sue Molnar, president of our Texas affiliate, Texas Voices, and conducted a taped and recorded interview.Mary Sue talked about Texas Voices and their advocacy work, about the laws and the labels that people wear for life, and about the registry.
Also present and interviewed were several members of Texas Voices. They spoke about life on the registry and the effect is has on entire families, including children, and of their concerns for family members.
The interview and filming personnel appeared to be surprised at much of the information. They made it clear that the resulting piece will be balanced and representative of both sides, but they were very respectful of everyone concerned. The piece is expected to air within the week; when a link is available it will be circulated.
Utah is moving slowly; we are taking donations so that we can become incorporated, hopefully this year. I challenged everyone on my list to donate $20. We need more people to donate. This cannot be done alone. I have had a few responses from family and friends now that are willing to help and possibly someone who will work on our website.
Here is a video
I would like to share if possible (it made me cry). Someone in my group shared it with me when I was having a discouraging day. I feel like I'm in the dark ages compared to other states, but I won't give up until our goals are accomplished.
I enjoyed the conference so much and learned what I need to do, and so I've been reaching out to those on my list to fight along side me; some are coming forward, but I need them all. I have had contact with a paralegal and a couple of doctors, and families are writing to their legislators, so to me that's moving in the right direction.
Everyone I talk to thinks I can help them with their own situation, I tell them we have to join together to help everyone. That isn't what they wanted to hear, but now I think they are realizing we are all into this together.
And the Fight Goes On
Some of you will be familiar with a story in Texas over the past month or so. A registrant and his family were living in an apartment where the manager who rented to them knew their full story. When a new management company took over the complex, the claim was made that they had never revealed their status and were therefore being evicted. The family included several young children. The family, members of Texas Voices, refused to move and fought to stop the forced eviction; in court they were denied their claim. Josh fills us in on current developments in these words:
Nicole and I want to thank each and every one of you for your prayers, kind words, and support. If it were not for the support of others we would never have been able to go public with our story as we have. We understand our struggles pale in comparison to most of the issues each and every one of you have faced.
We had filed a suit in regard to an eviction case, and the court ruled for the apartment management company. Though we strongly disagree with his judgment, our family has accepted his decision. We are moving out of the apartment today and placing most of our belongings in storage. We are not quitting this fight; we are just choosing our battles.
This eviction has brought much attention to one of the many chronic injustices faced by families who are affected by the sex offender registry. The registry is not simply a release of data as the US Supreme Courts labels it but rather the most anti-constitutional act taken by a country against its citizens.
This event has not beaten us down but rather has encouraged my wife and me to fight even harder for the restoration of freedom and rights. I will be forever an advocate for reason and justice. Where the system tried to beat me into submission, they only incited my passion to seek reform all the more.
I travel to Abilene, TX this week to stand before the judge who sentenced me in my original juvenile case. He has taken a simple letter I wrote requesting access to my files and accepted this letter as a formal motion to make my registration non-public. After Abilene, Nicole and I will temporarily part ways, I returning to the Dallas area while she goes to her sister’s in Amarillo. We ask that you would keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we move into the next chapter of our grand adventure. Thank you all.
Your friends in this fight,
Josh and Nicole