What Is a Tale?
There are fairy tales and scary tales. We have the Canterbury Tales
, A Tale of Two Cities
, and Tales from the Crypt
. RSOL offers its own version of the tale genre: Tales from the Registry
. These are submitted to our website by registrants and by family members of registrants, and it is one of my responsibilities as well as one of my pleasures to read, edit as needed, and publish them on the site.
Some are long; some are short. Some are written in beautifully flowing prose with every comma in place, and some are terse, choked with emotion and misspellings. They all have one thing in common: they bring tears to my eyes, a lump to my throat, and, more often than not, a burning fury to my heart.
I have known for days that I needed to start work on this Digest issue. I set up the page, decided to experiment with a new look, and then stared at the blank page; inspiration does not always come on demand. I decided to clear my mind by switching tasks for a while; I clicked to the website and the Tales that needed editing and activating, and there it was--my inspiration. I read; I read a second time. I emailed the author asking for permission and a few other questions. I am humbled and honored to share with you the heart and soul of why we are in the business that we are in. John's story is not only my inspiration for this specific moment; it, and the many hundreds of thousands that are variances of it, are the inspiration for us all, for what we do, and for what we will continue to do, for as long as it takes us to do it. I give you John's Tale.
My name is John, and I live in California. I'm an RSO as of April, 2012, having served a year in county jail, and I now have a felony on my record. I have 5 years of probation to complete wherein I have to find a job and stay away from minors, including my own children, as well as parks and schools. Added to that is the horrible knowledge of the stress and shame I caused my wife, parents, and my church. I am a Christian man, and I am also a sinner. I decided my wants and needs were more important than obeying God's commandments. Now I pay the price for my actions, and not only me but also those around me that I love as well as the victim and her family. I spend a lot of time reading sad stories on the Internet about how RSO's are struggling: how they've lost loved one, their kids, and their friends; and how they can't make ends meet and can't find jobs. It makes me worry about what's going to happen to me, my family, and all those I've affected. Yes, I'm guilty. Yes, I say I'm willing to pay the price, but sometimes it seems like the price is too high to bear. I'm on the Internet for all to see--old friends, neighbors, coworkers, vigilantes. I fear for my parents with whom I live. I fear for my wife and children. I fear for my life as well. I fear I won't be able to move forward.
There was a time that I thought I was immune to sin and its traps, but I was wrong. I know that in spite of my wrong-doing, God has not abandoned me. To live daily with the unfairness of the law, the mistreatment by society, the embarrassment, the shame, and the ridicule, I must trust the Lord. For many of us, we got ourselves in our situations. For others, they were unfairly convicted. Nevertheless, we are all in the same position, and for some it is worse than for others. For all it is a hard, hard road, and for those of us who were guilty, those are the consequences for choosing the paths we did. For all, the guilty and the wrongly convicted, we are modern day lepers, outcasts of society, objects of scorn.
I believe the laws are unfair, and I believe that we can make changes to the unfairness of RSO laws. I signed the RSOL statement as a non-public signatory. I opted to be informed of activities and volunteered to help organize activities. If I can be used to help others like me who have to learn to live as an RSO, then I want to be used.
I pray that for all of us, we learn to trust in God and His ability to perform miracles, even for us "lepers" of society. I pray for healing for our spirits, souls, and bodies. I pray for healing for those we have hurt--those close to us, the victims, and their families. I pray for us to have faith in Him who is faithful to see us through. I truly believe in a God who is much greater than our sin and our fallen nature and who, out of the ashes, can raise us up into His glorious light.
God Bless you all,
RSOL will be "Catching the Dream of Reform" in New Mexico this summer. The 2012 Conference Planning Committee is pleased to announce the Fourth Annual RSOL National Conference in Albuquerque September 6th through the 9th. This year's conference seeks to empower law reform groups to find workable options for change that will help communities become safe and abuse-free. The conference will be focused on three distinct yet interrelated paths, with each segment building one upon the next. Speakers, workshops, and panel discussions will cover the lawmaking process and how to make an impact; how experts envision changing current sexual offense laws; and organizing, growing, and promoting effective advocacy/support organizations.
The hotel and conference site are ready to receive reservations, and the host affiliate, New Mexico RSOL, is making available a variety of local interests and attractions. Please go to http://reformsexoffenderlaws.org/nc.php
to see the program and schedule, read about the speakers, register for the conference, and make hotel reservations. See you in New Mexico in September!
The Electoral College
By the close of the nomination period on April 20, the RSOL 2012 Committee of Electors had received four applications for consideration as new members of the Admin Team. Completed questions and answers for each of the applicants have been distributed to all the Electors. The next meeting of the committee is scheduled for June 3rd when the Electors will discuss various options for proceeding to bring this matter to a successful conclusion. Given that there are four positions open and four nominees, one possible option is to fill the positions with the applicants presently nominated, but that is a decision that the committee will make at its June 3rd meeting.
We have, once or twice, printed a poem here written by one of our members. I personally have never seen a "professionally" written poem that speaks to our issues, but one of our state organizers sent me these lyrics to a country song that seems to fit the bill. It is written by Merle Haggard and is entitled "Branded Man."
I'd like to hold my head up and be proud of who I am,
But they won't let my secret go untold.
I paid the debt I owed them, but they're still not satisfied;
Now I'm a branded man out in the cold.
When they let me out of prison, I held my head up high,
Determined I would rise above the shame,
But no matter where I'd traveled, the black mark follows me;
I'm branded with a number on my name.
If I live to be a hundred, I guess I'll never clear my name
'Cause everybody knows I've been in jail.
No matter where I'm living, I've got to tell them where I've been,
Or they'll send me back to prison if I fail.
I'd like to hold my head up and be proud of who I am,
But they won't let my secret go untold.
I paid the debt I owed them, but they're still not satisfied;
Now I'm a branded man out in the cold.
And for additional reading...
Two books have recently come on the scene that deserve a closer look. One is A Parallel Universe by Alex Landon and Elaine Halleck. Primarily a work of fiction, this futuristic novel weaves a tale of America under a reign of terror from within, living under a police state where the government sanctioned persecution of those deemed to be sex offenders creates a backdrop against which one man fights for his survival and dignity. Interwoven into the fictional story are the true accounts of the creation of the registry and all subsequent laws and policies that point the way to where we are headed.
The second book is Unprecedented, written by J.B. Haralson and J.R. Cordeiro. The subtitle, How Sex Offender Laws Are Impacting Our Nation, sums up the content and the emphasis of this powerful, non-fiction work. Both the authors bring a unique perspective as they know the world they write of from both sides, first as registrants and now as those who each spearhead successful faith-based re-entry programs in Texas and work on a daily basis with those whom our society has labeled beyond salvation.
The past ten years or so has seen the emergence of several well-researched and well-written books dealing with the issues that are the focus of our advocacy, written by those highly knowledgeable in the field. These two books rightly and justly take their place among them.
From Our States
Some important issues in Arkansas right now are:
-On May 22nd our state’s primary was hard fought, but it is over: now we will work toward the November elections.
-The Arkansas Parole Board looks at RSO numbers of those incarcerated and paroled.
-According to the ACIC, after 15 years any level 1, 2 or 3 sex offender can seek removal from the registry. This year hundreds of Arkansans will become eligible for removal.
-Develop a cohesive state-wide advocacy network.
-Provide regional training workshops in the 'how to’s' of advocacy.
-Coordinate and facilitate communications, planning and actions among those who wish to be involved in a manner that is meaningful to them and beneficial to the organization as a whole.
-End Residency Restrictions
-Limit the Registry
-Exempt non-violent/no-contact offenses from sex-offender classification
-Put an end to the DHS's "child endangerment' list.
-Develop transitional housing / halfway houses, homeless shelters, and co-operative rental housing
-Make strides in employment issues, more positive public perception, and meetings with political figures
-Draft a charter and bylaws
California RSOL continues to bring light to elected officials through testimony and letters. Another city in Orange County, Santa Ana, has proposed an ordinance that would prohibit all registrants from visiting parks, an outdoor theater, and public libraries. California RSOL testified before the City Council that the ordinance is unconstitutional as well as overly broad and not narrowly tailored to a government interest. We even told them that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in April 2012 that a similar ban in Albuquerque was found to violate the First Amendment of the Constitution. Despite this information, the Council unanimously approved the ordinance. California RSOL has also continued to educate registrants and family members during the first meeting held in San Luis Obispo County. California RSOL will return to L.A. on June 16 for the next such meeting. There are more than 11,000 registrants in L.A. county and more than 93,000 in the state of California. Those numbers continue to grow because the state has a lifetime registry for all registrants regardless of the offense.
***The New York Times has picked up on this story and has written an editorial about Orange County and its zealousness in creating these ordinances. Read what they have to say about it here.
May has been membership month for Dakota RSOL. We are growing and organizing with lots of excitement, building enthusiasm for the convention in New Mexico to really get us motivated. May you and your loved ones find brighter days ahead.
The Florida Action Committee board held its semiannual face to face meeting on Saturday, May 19. Plans discussed included: priorities for upcoming legislative session, contacts for legislators, and areas of emphasis to include the Florida ACLU. President Gail attended the Florida ATSA conference this past month. Members are looking forward to attending the National RSOL conference in Albuquerque, NM Sept. 7-9th. Membership contact records are in development to systematically contact those who are either emailing or using the Florida Action Committee website to express interest in the work.
As the legislative session has ended for 2012, INRSOL believes we have faced some hard issues and prevailed. We are gearing up for the summer’s Criminal Codes Study Commission. This study group will consist of legislators and law enforcement personnel who will be examining the laws, the registry, and looking into the Adam Walsh Act for Indiana. You can rest assured that the leaders of INRSOL will be present to voice our needs and concerns on implementation of AWA.
INRSOL has already begun accumulating evidence, research, and cost analysis to present to the legislators in a packet. These packets will be sent to each person sitting on this study committee. I would encourage you to write to your local representative asking them to consider you and your families when making their final decisions. Also remind them to consider the cost for each and every tax payer in Indiana as well.
KYCFR was represented at a seminar entitled "Debunking Myths about Sex Offenders" held in Frankfort on May 2, 2012. Jennifer, director of KYCFR, was one of several presenters. Her presentation was titled "Perspectives of a Registered Family." Other presenters included treatment providers, representatives from the Department of Corrections and the Office of Public Advocacy, and Juvenile Justice. The audience included probation and parole professionals, mental health counselors, social workers, college students, and other persons interested in reform of the registry.
The next meeting of KYCFR will be on June 23, 2012. from noon to 3:00 p.m., EST, in Frankfort, KY. Our speaker will be Mr. Brad Fox, PLLC, of Fox and Scott. Mr. Fox is a criminal defense lawyer who specializes in sexual offense and registry law. In 2009, he successfully argued Baker vs, Commonwealth, which declared the retroactive application of residency restrictions unconstitutional. He is licensed in both Kentucky and Ohio. If you would like to attend, please contact Jennifer
It's been a busy but not very newsworthy month for us. We have a newly-rebuilt website at our "old" address, www.fairregistry.org
. Like any good website, it's still something of a work in progress, but we are liking the new look and will soon be migrating our forum and membership management there.
The General Assembly session in Missouri is now over. We nearly had reform in the Show Me State and are certainly planning on succeeding next year. HB 1700, Sex Offender Registration, sponsored by Rep. Rodney Schad, was a bill which would have reformed the current lifetime registration in Missouri. It would have given an opportunity of removal from the registry and made changes on the public website regarding employment and many other steps in a positive direction of reform. We had all but 20 votes in the House of Representatives. The Senate would have been successful too had it not been for one lone senator who would not let the bill come out of the Senate Committee hearing. We will have a joint committee hearing in the fall before the next session starts. We are a bit disappointed, but we will bounce back and continue to work toward reform in Missouri.
What I would like to do in my first report to RSOL is bring everyone up to date on the activities in NH during the first part of this year, 2012. To be clear, most of what I bring forth is from writing by Chris Dornin and others; I can be a pretty good cut & paste guy. The content will be brief; anyone wanting additional information is welcome to contact me.
I have focused on the bills specific or related to SO issues; there were other bills that related to other criminal justice issues that were of concern by CCJR.
Lawmakers submitted nearly 100 criminal justice bills this term, and the NH board of Citizens for Criminal Justice Reform was involved in eight of them to varying degrees. We did better with helping defeat the ones we opposed than we did helping pass the ones we helped write and/or favored, but that too is a victory. Ot the three we hoped to pass, none did, but we will continue work on one that creates a sex offender management board and have future hopes for it.
Of the five we opposed, they all died in committee and did not make it through.
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We have been featured in the national and local news lately for not-so-positive activities such as the Amendment One Referendum vote and the spotlight on the Federal civil commitment process at the Butner, NC, Federal Correction Complex, home of the flawed and infamous 2009 Butner Study. While disheartening, but not surprising, the support of Amendment One which does not recognize same-sex marriage here in North Carolina, was not a complete set-back for civil rights. There has been a definite backlash against the Amendment One vote, as more people are vocalizing their outrage at the loss of civil liberties for all groups of citizens. One Asheville Citizen-Times columnist has labeled Amendment One "Abomination One," called it "legal intolerance," and wrote this: "—we will look back on 2012 as a shameful milestone in our state's persecution of yet another minority group."
In the same way, we are seeing glimmers of hope as more courageous folks are vocalizing their outrage against the unjust treatment of convicted sex offenders by our criminal justice system. We are seeing numerous young scholars publicizing their recent studies, backed by statistics, which debunk the myths of recidivism by sex offenders; judges departing from unfair sentencing guidelines; and support from other organizations (FAMM, WAR, ACLU) and brave individuals such as clergymen, lawyers, and talk show hosts writing and speaking up about the injustices. Although we sometimes feel discouraged by the misinformation being disseminated on a regular basis against sex offenders, we feel the momentum is growing for positive change as we pursue our goal of educating our legislators, public officials, and everyday citizens about the realities of the current ineffective sex offender laws.
Our newly-formed NCCAUTION group continues to slowly grow in numbers. We published our first family support newsletter for registrants and their families in April, and are currently working on the June issue.
At the end of March, we attended the NYSASOSP sponsored workshop in Batavia, NY, with several members of the CAUTIONClick and NYRSOL groups. It featured speaker and researcher Jeffrey Sandler, Ph.D., who reported on his recent study: "Effectiveness of NY State Sex Offender Management Policies: Are We Making Communities Safer?
" The basic conclusions reached and shared with us were that there has been no significant impact associated with the registry and notification enactment on the reduction of sex offenses, and that residency restrictions had no impact either. Dr. Sandler also summarized results obtained from other states' studies which agreed for the most part with the conclusion of his study: registration, notification, and residency laws have had very little impact in reducing sex offender crimes; that most sex offenses are committed by first-time offenders; and that the limited effects of such laws did not justify the expenses relating to maintaining the registry and enforcing these laws.
During the month of May we were involved in several letter-writing campaigns:
To our NC General Assembly representatives urging them to reject compliance with SORNA laws, HR 773: Studies Act of 2011
To Senator Chuck Grassley urging him to support the Federal Good Time Provisions of S.1231, the Second Chance Re-authorization Act
To the ACLU on fair sentencing for sex offenders
In our June newsletter, we are asking our registrants and their family members to send their stories and letters to David Fathi, supporting the ACLU National Prison Project and urging sex offender law reform. In addition, we urge them to share their stories with Reverend Dick Allison, a retired NC pastor and a hospital staff chaplain, who has written a newspaper column about the unfairness of sex offender sentencing and the registry. ("Painting Offenders with a Broad Brush," The Greenville News/GreenvilleOnline.com, May 17, 2012.) We need to let people like Reverend Allison know how our families have been affected by the current laws and how ineffective they are in keeping communities safe and, most of all, how grateful we are for their courageous support.
--Margie and David
The Oklahoma legislative session ended May 25, and we were relieved that most of the nearly 20 bills introduced pertaining to our issues died in committee without ever being heard. Only three made it through the entire process.
HB2300 added a new criteria permitting no reasonable effort to be made to maintain a child in the home during a child permanency hearing if a parent is registered. It passed with no changes. We're still waiting for it to be signed. We learned late in the session that it is based on a federal requirement that states include this provision or loose DHS dollars.
HB3049 originally prohibited all aggravated registrants from living with children. We were able to get it changed to only registrants with an offense against a minor and exclude parents, stepparents, and grandparents. It was signed last week. We weren't able to get siblings added to the exclusions but are hoping to work on it more next session.
SB1355 requires a court order for levels 1 and 2 to be removed from the registry. We proposed that the DOC review the registration history to see if a person had been delinquent and only require a court order for those people. They took our suggestions but then didn't really do what we asked. Everyone still has to get a court order, but they've added that the DOC has to provide the registration history for the court's review in making the decision. We are hoping to work with the author next session to get a provision added that will provide information to registrants about obtaining the court order without hiring an attorney. This one hasn't been signed yet, but we're expecting it will be.
SB1365 would have added state parks to the 500 foot loitering zone. It was never heard in committee as a result of our conversation with the author about the pitfalls of the legislation and the fact that it wouldn't keep people out who intend to commit a crime but would just keep law abiding registrants from enjoying state parks with their families.
We met in April with Representative Pittman to start drafting a sexting bill based on the bill out of New Jersey last year that provides an alternative to the justice system for first time teen sexting offenders. We're waiting for her to call another meeting this summer that will include several other players including educators, law enforcement, DAs, and child advocacy.
Now that the session is over, we're turning our attention to researching candidates' positions and planning our first membership meeting for July.
I have emailed Representative XXX and this was his response to me:
A group of legislators is going to meet under the direction of Rep. XYZ who was one of the original sponsors of the Offender Registry. He agrees that some changes need to be looked at. I will be participating in that group.
I'm so excited that maybe finally something will change in Utah. I'm starting to send out letters, but it's a slow process since I'm doing it by myself, and the time and the expense are not insignificant factors. It is accurate to say that things are starting to move in Utah but very slowly. We shall see what the new year brings in the legislation. I'm still working on the website, but mostly I'm trying to get my letters to people so maybe I can get some help and form a group. If you are reading this from anywhere in Utah, please consider contacting me