From the Admin Team
A Message from our Executive Director
Dear RSOL Friends:
Thanksgiving is officially a time to think of our blessings. This can be a challenge for those of us who advocate in this Most Unpopular Cause. With so much needing to be done, and so far to go to reach even the smallest of our goals, I often forget just how far we have come. And we have made progress! RSOL has moved from a fairly closed group to an open team, with an electoral process that allows for representation in every state where we have a Contact, Associate, or Organizer. This process elects nine Admin Team members on rotating 3-year terms, who chair or act as liaisons on several committees which are evolving into the driving force for action in RSOL.
Our FINANCE committee keeps the books, oversees fund-raising, and assures that we handle our tax reporting requirements. The CONFERENCE planning committee prepares and presents the conference so many of you have come to expect and depend on each year to connect with other advocates. Our AFFILIATE DEVELOPMENT committee works with our state leaders to develop programs, educate new advocates, and build their organizations. The STEERING committee offers suggestions for changes to policy to assure that RSOL is moving forward with all due speed toward its Vision, Mission, and Goals. Our LEGAL OVERSIGHT committee seeks ways to support legal action around the country which could have a significant impact on sexual offense laws. And our COMMUNICATIONS committee continues to build contacts with media around the country, sends press releases on many topics, publishes the Digest, maintains a Facebook presence, and will soon start a Twitter presence.
Two new areas we are moving into this year are launching a Membership program and a Public Relations program. I am looking forward to seeing these areas develop over the coming year, along with growth of our existing programs. We are able to move forward because of the dedication and commitment of our leaders at the national and state level and because of the ongoing involvement of the many supporters we have around the country and abroad.
Thanks to all of you, around the country more people are becoming aware of the violations of civil and constitutional rights being placed on registered citizens, and the broad brush that is sweeping more and more people onto that dreaded list. I hope that you will each consider these blessings this month, and send a contribution
to RSOL to further this work. What better way to give thanks?
Changes in the Admin Team
It is with sadness that we bid goodbye to Jennifer, an Admin Team member since 2009. Jennifer's term expired this year, and she elected not to run again so that she could devote more time to her family. We wish her and her family the best; we aren't letting her totally off the hook, though. We plan to put her to work on at least one committee.
We have been very fortunate in Jennifer's replacement. RSOL's Electoral Committee gave us an outstanding candidate in Mr. Tom Madison. Tom is by no means new to advocacy involving sexual offense issues. He has been a political activist since 2001 in the fight to reform sex offender laws in Oregon with groups such as SOhopeful Legal Defense Fund, SOhopeful International, SOclear Media Productions, and Activist Central talk radio on BlogTalkRadio.Com as of 2013.
Tom's recent activities include testimony given to the Oregon Legislature (2013), attending all local area town hall meetings (since 2010), and organizing local library political activities presentations (since 2011). Tom and his wife Marlayne happily reside in the Portland area with their one dog and two cats.
It is with great pride that we welcome Tom to the RSOL Admin Team.
More videos are uploaded on our website and can be viewed here. More will be added as they are made available.
In the News
For weeks now, Halloween hysteria has dominated the news. Actually, it started far longer ago than that. As far back as August, a legislator in Michigan made news by proposing legislation to restrict registrants on Halloween.
September brought about more a few more, but it wasn't until October that the
inundation began. I personally responded to no less than 25 negative articles and read a great many more. I consider an article negative if it perpetuates the stereotypes and myths about Halloween and sex offenders. "Shelly" was again compelled to argue against the need for restrictions that reinforce the myths.
Most Halloween restrictions apply to everyone on the registry, whether or not their offenses had anything to do with a child. This broad-brush application is bumping up against constitutional protections. Many registrants are forced to gather in one place for special "therapy sessions" or "pep-talks" or movies shown by law enforcement. If the registrant is not under community supervision, this sounds a lot like unlawful detention to me.
It is an unconscionable waste of taxpayer money. There are so many other areas in which law enforcement could be gainfully occupied on Halloween other than checking that registrants have no lights on and no jack-o-lanterns on the porch or showing movies to a roomful of registrants. One of these areas is traffic duty since the only increased risk to children on Halloween is not assault by registered sex offenders but car-child accidents.
Many, probably even most, registrants are family men. They have children. Under these restrictions, they cannot decorate their houses with or for their children; they cannot attend the carnival at the school with their children; they cannot take their children trick-or-treating.
This year, however, brought something new. This year brought some push-back.
This ABC article and video
include the fact that most information that circulates about registrants falls under the category of myth, especially as it relates to Halloween. "Halloween gets a lot of publicity for myths surrounding sex offenders and their behavior, but it is rarely a day when offenders will commit sex offenses against others."
Making an even stronger case for the facts and empirical evidence is "Is Halloween law needed?
" This article includes a Facts Box and quotes California affiliate leader Janice Bellucci in discussing the truth about the risk of sexual harm to children from registrants on Halloween.
Another excellent piece challenging the myths and the hype is "No evidence of more sadism, sex crimes during Halloween" by
The crowning jewel, however, is this excellent piece
written by Emily Horowitz. Titled "Manufacturing Fear: Halloween Laws for Sex Offenders," this well written and documented article fully explores the subject and concludes, "There are some actual threats to child safety on Halloween -- like an increase in pedestrian car accidents -- but sex offenders and poisoned candy aren't among them."
And RSOL, totally frustrated by the gigantic waste of resources, issued this press release
challenging law enforcement to listen to the facts and allocate resources accordingly. As Halloween ended scant hours before press time, an analysis of any positive fallout from this will wait until next month's edition.
A Vision of Hope
Our new Affiliate Development Chairman, Jon Cordeiro (see Affiliate Development report below) brings us this wonderful vision of hope.
Ever wonder where you belong and how you fit in this topsy turvy world? For those of us who have the added burden of being labeled for life as sex offenders, it can make things even more interesting, especially if we listen to and believe the lies perpetrated by those not interested in the truth about sex offender recidivism. Those who choose to remain ignorant to the truth are the ones deceived; let’s not join them in believing those lies and choosing to be less than who we were created to be. Humans are amazing,and yet we have a propensity to miss the mark, especially when we operate out of F.E.A.R. (false evidence against reality).
Many dreams and desires have been dashed upon the reefs of fear during the stormy seasons of our lives. Don’t lose hope; even if you can’t rebuild the dream, you can redirect the desire and find new dreams. Most of us would agree that dreams don’t just happen--they are met through intent. RSOL offers many ways for redirected desire to someday intersect with the dream of true justice and restoration for those presently persecuted perpetually for their past. I look forward to seeing you in our dreams.
Christopher Zoukis has written some brilliant pieces; "In Defense of Rational Sex Offender Public Policy and Laws
" may be the most brilliant to date, doing exactly what the title suggests with class and style.
While this piece
in the New York Times
about the conference has some inaccuracies, it is still a giant step forward in that our conference has made the Times
! It quotes Admin Team member Larry Neely in one of his conference presentations.
Jacob Sullum responded to the Times
piece by taking issue with something said during an interview with an attorney for a crime victims' group; "Is It 'Very Offensive' for Sex Offenders to Demand Just and Sensible Laws?
" his title asks, and he answers it very well in this Reason.com article.
San Antonio, Texas, has been making the news due to a councilman there who is doing his best to pass an ordinance banning registrants from city parks. He picked the wrong issue; San Antonio is the home of Mary Sue, our Texas affiliate organizer, and she fights back with interviews with TV news media. Read about it and see her in action here
We know we are making progress; we are seeing court rulings favorable to registrants, and we are seeing the ACLU getting involved in some registrant issues. These articles all portray that progress.
Dr. Elizabeth Letourneau and Dr. Andrew Harris at Johns Hopkins University are conducting a survey of youth and young adults who are in treatment for sexually offending.
The aim of this study is to examine whether or not certain policies such as registration and notification seem to influence youth/young adult mental health, peer, and family relationships and attitudes. We intend for our results to be used to improve current policies aimed at youth and young adults.
These researchers need help identifying potential participants. Eligible participants include two groups:
1. Youth ages 12-17 currently in treatment for sexual offending behavior, regardless of whether they are subjected to any registration or notification requirements.
2. Youth ages 12-17 currently in treatment for sexual offending behavior, regardless of whether they are subject to any registration or notification requirements.
We are looking for registered and non-registered youth. Youths' parents or legal guardians must consent to a youth's participation and are also asked to complete a separate survey.
Both surveys take about 20-25 minutes to complete and families are given a $25 Amazon gift card following participation.
Interested parties can contact study coordinator Amanda Ruzicka at email@example.com or at 717-269-9886 or Elizabeth Letourneau at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 410-955-9913.
Additional information is available here
for juveniles and here
for young adults.
Thank you for your interest.
From Our States and Committees
In Oklahoma on October 8, Rebecca gave a presentation on how the registry affects registrants and their families as part of an interim study by the House Judiciary Committee. The presentation was well received by most of the legislators in attendance and is opening the door for further dialog with the committee members. We are continuing to work toward developing a coalition of individuals and organizations from the different stakeholder groups in the registry issue to create a stronger voice to the media, legislature and public, with a goal of having an initial meeting before the end of the year.
In the past month, a change has occurred in the online listing of the Maine registry. Currently, the initial page of the registrant's information includes his zip code of residence and his employment address, but to get his residence address, the inquirer must fill out a form to request the individual's further information.
In my opinion, this is an improvement. If one must go to that trouble for each individual in the zip code, it is at least time-consuming if there are more than two or three within the zip. It also precludes someone getting that information without revealing who they are, which means that they are less likely to actually target the registrant since they realize that this action can be traced back to them.
The next legislative season will see us going to any committee meetings where registrants may be impacted by proposed bills. A priority will be to get the company name and address of any employer removed from the "front page" at least, and we would prefer that it be eliminated from the public's reach altogether. Other states have gained this as a concession to the fact that it is very difficult for a registrant to get a job. Most are not aware, but about 66% of the Maine registrants are unemployed, and most of the remainder are either self-employed, employed at a temp service, or seasonally employed, which means that they spend a large portion of the year with no income. Since stability is important in enhancing community safety, this should be a major issue.
Any other issues which will arise in the legislature will be dealt with as they arise or as they are opened for public comment. We attempt to first email the committee members, and then we bring evidence with us to hand out to legislators when we address the committee.
The Florida Action Committee hosted yet another very successful “meet and greet” in the southern part of the state this past weekend. Those who attended enjoyed meeting new members, good food, and review of current events!
FAC will have two members attend the 32nd
Annual Research and Treatment Conference, ATSA, Oct. 30-Nov. 2nd
in Chicago. President Gail Colletta and Education Chair, Barbara McClamma will attend sessions, some of which will focus on Empirically Informed Conceptual Model of Risk updates, research, and future directions sessions in addition to several exciting keynotes including a closing plenary session presented by Patty Wetterling.
President Colletta and Drs. Suzonne Kline and Eric Imhof continue to meet with legislative leaders in the state’s capitol. When possible, additional FAC members have been able to join in such meetings. There is a small amount of optimism about interest in using risk assessments in the early stages of arrest.
As one of the newer members of the group there is very little to report from the Green Mountains. I am trying to build a coalition and find out who current RSOL members in Vermont are and how we can all meet up.
I have big plans for the upcoming months and will let the group know as those plans develop.
It has been a very sad month for the Dakotas. I attended the funeral of a forty-one year old divorced man in my hometown who tragically took his own life, leaving behind four children. I have been told he was being charged with a sex crime for having consensual sex with a minor and chose to take his own life rather than face the charges and be labeled for the rest of his life. The church was packed with people standing on both sides of the church. He was allowed to be laid to rest with dignity, and I could only cry in silence as I thought, “If only our laws would allow confidential treatment versus punishment, this wonderful, loving father, who was loved by so many, would still be alive today.”
The next blow came when I received one of my member’s letters back with the word “deceased” written on the envelope. I never met this man in person, but I grieve for him and I am so sorry society treated him the way they did. I had received two letters from this gentleman and had one lengthy phone call with him. He was a good man and I loved him. He called me his “Angel of Mercy.” He was seventy-five years old, and his memory was failing. He forgot to go down and register on the day he was supposed to, and when he went in, they said, “No problem,” and registered him. But the next month when he again
forgot, they showed up early in the morning, arrested him, and took him to jail. He was not given any time to make arrangements for his dog to be cared for or tend to any of his chores at home. He was taken to jail and had to spend two nights in jail before being released. Rest in peace, Virgil; I feel so fortunate to have known you. You will remain in my heart forever, and you are now FREE from the registry. Because of the wonderful people I have met and the horrible stories I have heard from them, I will continue to fight for their rights. Thank you RSOL, W.A.R., SOSEN, FAMM, CURE, Caution Click, and the many other organizations and individuals fighting for reform!
It has been a wild month in Pennsylvania, but a productive one. This month has seen progress in a project that was with a connection passed on to me by Georgina Schaff, in which I have been working with an Arizona inmate to build an RSO website for inmates to share their resources, stories and more in an online media format. This will provide those within the walls a voice in the free world.
We are working to put housing programs in place to assist RSO's in finding housing upon release from incarceration, as well as following evictions. We are in the process of contacting several municipalities in an attempt to remove their residency restrictions (as there has been a federal court ruling that doesn't allow cities to pass such laws in PA because they interfere with state law) and hope to get them removed without the need for litigation.
I have spent some time in the development of my state website, and hope to be able to finally make it live in the coming week or two.
Finally, I have been working with a small, but determined group of individuals, and we have grown our ranks to fill several positions on our admin team. We are presently deciding where to put them, so that we are fully ready to deal with the upcoming
In closing, it is difficult to show progress to others when there is so much going on behind the scenes that may never be seen-hours spent building connections with other Criminal Justice Reform groups, fielding calls for housing, countless hours with emails and just listening to folks talk. I commend all of my fellow affiliates for the hard work and determination and hours that you put in on the things that do not get seen and for the new affiliates, You may not get patted on the back for it, but it is appreciated.
Affiliate Development is pleased to welcome Tim as our new contact in Vermont.
Timothy Burgess was born in Vermont, and even though he moved away, he came back and became deeply involved in state issues, first running field organizations for political campaigns. He then ran for a State Representative position, and he has served on a library committee. In 2004 he was convicted of a sex crime, went to prison for 5 years, and is now on parole. Since his release he has been advocating for the rights of those under supervision, with an emphasis on creating a safe environment for both sex offenders and victims of these crimes. His advocacy has three parts. First is finding solutions to the mass incarceration state and ending the use of private prisons. Second is doing everything possible to show that a public registry for sex offenders is wrong. And third, since it is obvious that the rules are inherently different for registered citizens, he wants to examine what is in place and work toward changing it to a fair, level playing field.
We welcome Tim to our RSOL family.
We also are extremely pleased to announce our new affiliate director. Jon Corderio is the founder and National Director of New Name Ministries which has provided community safe residential reentry for former sex offenders in Fort Worth, Texas since 2005. He is ordained in the State of Texas through Apostolic Servant Ministries and provides educational presentations and consultations with churches and national organizations on issues of residential re-entry for sex offenders, policies and procedures for sex offenders in the church, and public education presentations on "Sex Offender Sense." Jon is currently on the Board of Directors of Texas Voices for Reason and Justice, and also on the National Admin Team of Reform Sex Offenders Laws Inc. He has given testimony twice for civil commitment trials as an expert on sex offender reentry for Public Defenders in the state of California.
He is co-author of Unprecedented- How Sex Offender Laws Are Impacting Our Nation
Jon and Cynthia, his bride, moved from Maine to Texas in 2004. If you ask Jon how long they've been married he'll tell you "not long enough!" If you really need to know it’s only been 19 years. They have a grown married daughter as well as numerous spiritual sons and daughters.
Indiana has revised its parole stipulations due to the upcoming Bleeke decision. Adult registrants whose offense was with an adult victim will be allowed to have visitation rights with their own children. In addition, parole stipulations are more defined as to what “enticing” a child means. Please make sure that you are given the newest parole stipulations dated June 2013.
As always, Indiana is gearing up for the upcoming legislative session and will keep you informed of any new bills coming up.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
things are moving slowly; many, possibly even most, on the public registry cannot use the Internet. I plan to seek support from our local CURE and from a Reno group called My Journey Home
to produce a newsletter to send to those listed on the public site seeking their and their families’ involvement.
Ohio continues to attempt to act at the legislative level through leveraging our position by making small, suggestive steps backed by empirical data and fact finding evidence. The Attorney General's office continually contradicts our mission no matter how sound our proposal/amendments.
Ohio is seeking volunteers to help with the many activities needing to be addressed such as education, organizing, and outreach. If anyone is interested in collaborative efforts, please contact us at Ohiorsol@yahoo.com.
Maryland's FAIR just held a state-wide meeting with 42 members in attendance, many of them new members who just recently came on board. We were especially pushing for new volunteers and for contributions toward our legal fund.
Helping us on the latter agenda item was Nancy Forster, who we like to call "our" attorney because she is so passionate about fighting bad sexual offense laws. She is probably the best appellate attorney in the state, too, having won the Doe v. DPSCS decision declaring Maryland's SO registry (as implemented in 2010) to be punitive. Ms. Forster is also attorney of record on several other cases awaiting their day in court this Spring, which will hopefully apply that ruling to a wide number of other registered persons whose offenses predated public registration, and who originally had not been required to register but were pulled onto the registry when Maryland implemented SORNA in 2010.
Finally, we announced that FAIR will soon be entering an agreement with Ms. Forster to launch a class action against the state of Maryland challenging them to apply that decision to the many hundreds - probably thousands - of registrants who saw their registration requirements and terms increased as a result of that same 2010 law. As soon as our agreement is signed, we will begin seeking out plaintiffs and "stakeholders" (persons who are contributing a significant dollar amount to the litigation and will get the same updates as actual plaintiffs.) We're very excited about this development ... and with our newest volunteers!
Things are relatively quiet for New Mexico since the legislature is not in session. At this time we are not anticipating much legislative activity in 2014 because the upcoming session is a short session lasting only 30 days. In addition, the short sessions are limited by our constitution to those items specifically requested by the governor and for adoption of the state’s budget. Of course, all this could change should there be a high-profile incident by a registered sex offender between now and January. Regardless of what is on the agenda, RSOL will be present and well prepared to oppose any SORNA legislation requested by the governor or the state Department of Public Safety. We are very encouraged by the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s ruling in Starkey where the court found that the ex post facto application of that state’s registration requirements is unconstitutional.
RSOL-NM’s primary top priorities at this time are:
Requirement of new members;
Improving our website;
Raising funds for our own ex post facto challenge;
Networking with other groups and advocacy organizations.