RSOL Is Now Officially Incorporated!
A current copy of our new bylaws is making its way through the "system," with the goal of gaining tax-exempt status for RSOL as a 501(c)4 advocacy organization. Thank you to Janice in California for helping us through this process.
Your input is strongly encouraged regarding the new bylaws.
We made a promise to those present at our annual conference that our affiliates would have input - indeed, we promised that states would be a part of the ratification process. Well, we failed to keep the second part of that promise in our eagerness to get the incorporation and tax-exempt process under way. For that that oversight, we sincerely apologize. But your input is still wanted! All public and non-public signatories of RSOL are encouraged to share feedback with us. Visit this link
to make your voice heard at RSOL. Comments must be received no later than February 29.
Four new Admin Team members
will be chosen by a Committee of Electors made up of designees from each Affiliate. This new 9-member Admin Team will address all concerns and comments about the bylaws which have been received during this time. Any necessary changes will be presented to all affiliates in advance, as required by our current bylaws
Report from the Electoral Committee
Having finalized a working set of Bylaws for the national organization, the RSOL Admin Team has decided to expand its membership by four new chairs. At the conclusion of this process, the Admin Team will have nine permanent members, three of whom will stand for election each year, with all nine members facing an elective process over the course of three years.
In this interim period, as the Admin Team expands its numbers and moves towards a more democratic system of governance, a Committee of Electors has been tasked with the responsibility of filling the four newly-created chairs. Nominations for a position on the RSOL Admin Team opened at 12:01 a.m., Wednesday, January 25, 2012, and will close at 11:59 p.m., Friday, February 3, 2012. The four new members of the Admin Team will then be selected by the Committee of Electors from among the names submitted. These new members will immediately join the current members on the Team.
Nominations are open to all supporters of RSOL. Any person may nominate another or him or herself. If you are interested in submitting anyone's name (including your own) for consideration by the Committee of Electors, please direct such name to Robin at email@example.com
prior to 11:59 p.m., Friday, February 3, 2012.
Explanation of United States v. Reynolds
by Larry Neely, Paralegal and Legal Committee member
There is some confusion regarding the recent decision of the United States Supreme Court dealing with retroactivity of the Adam Walsh Act (AWA). There were three issues before the Court, but none involved the constitutionality of sex offender registration itself.
The AWA became effective on July 27, 2006, but Congress delegated the authority to the Attorney General to determine how to apply it to pre-Act offenders. Keep in mind that by July of 2006, all states had registries operating, so the AWA did not create the obligation to register as a sex offender. The AWA created a new federal crime for a person “…who is required to register under the Act and who ‘travels in interstate or foreign commerce’ knowingly to fail to register or update a registration…” See 18 U.S.C. § 2250(a). Except for the new federal offense of failing to keep one’s registration current, the AWA primarily requires that the states strengthen their registration laws, and promptly share registration information with other jurisdictions.
Congress sought to remedy what it perceived to be a significant problem of 100,000 registrants who had disappeared from state registries because they had moved from one state to another, and the departing state had no interest in pursuing them or forcing them to return. Using the authority granted to him by Congress, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales issued an “Interim Rule” on February 28, 2007, declaring that the AWA’s criminal penalties for interstate travel would be applied retroactively to all pre-Act offenders.
In this case, Reynolds was released from a Missouri prison sometime in 2007. He initially registered in Missouri but relocated to Pennsylvania in September 2007. Reynolds was indicted by a federal grand jury for violating the AWA. The Indictment alleged that Reynolds had engaged in “interstate commerce” when he moved from Missouri to Pennsylvania without keeping his registration current in either jurisdiction. Reynolds filed a Motion to Dismiss the government’s Indictment, arguing that the “Interim Rule” was invalid because it violated both the Constitution’s “non-delegation” doctrine and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Reynolds did not challenge the constitutionality of registration itself.
A decision by the Supreme Court was needed because there was an almost equal split among the Circuit Courts on these questions. The Supreme Court had previously ruled in Carr v. United States (2010) that this provision of the AWA cannot be applied to anyone whose interstate travel occurred prior to July 27, 2006, the AWA's enactment date. The District Court denied his motion to dismiss and the Third Circuit affirmed that decision.
The Supreme Court reversed the Third Circuit and also resolved the split between the Circuit Courts by declaring that the "Interim Rule" does not apply to any registrant that traveled in interstate commerce prior to the Attorney General’s issuance of the rule. In other words, those that traveled between jurisdictions after the AWA became law (July 26, 2006) but before the AG's "Interim Rule" became effective (February 28, 2007) cannot be prosecuted pursuant to 42 USC § 2250(a). The Supreme Court directed the Third Circuit to make a determination on the question of whether the Attorney General’s “Interim Rule” sets forth a “valid specification.” If the Third Circuit determines that the “Interim Rule” is invalid, this could potentially extend the retroactivity date beyond February 28, 2007. This ruling is huge for any pre-Act offender who was prosecuted and convicted federally for interstate travel, even though it has no bearing on the constitutionality of sex offender registration itself.
Again, this decision has no bearing on a person's duty to register pursuant to state law. Neither does it impair the government’s ability to prosecute those who move from one jurisdiction to another after adoption of the “Interim Rule,” unless the Third Circuit finds that the “Interim Rule” was improperly implemented.Those prosecutions can go forward provided that the government can establish that the travel occurred on or after February 28, 2007. In this case Pennsylvania could and may still prosecute Reynolds for failing to comply with their state registration requirements, assuming that the Statute of Limitations has not expired.
Before beginning the state reports, we wish to make an important announcement from the state of New Mexico.Our state organizer, Lloyd, and his wife, Esther, are the proud parents of a beautiful baby boy. Jeremiah Isley Swartz made his first appearance at 7:26 p.m. on January 12th, weighing in at 8 pounds, 2 ounces. We offer the happiest of congratulations to the family.
We have an additional important announcement: welcome to Marjorie and David , our new organizers for the state of North Carolina. We are so pleased that you have joined our RSOL family.
For months now I have been bemoaning the fact that there is only one halfway house in the entire state that accepts level 1 & 2 sex offenders and NO homeless shelter. Well, thank heaven for small victories. There are now several other options.
Since last year, each Arkansan on the state sex offender registry is required to take personal responsibility and remember the date of your semiannual or quarterly residency verification visit. You will NO LONGER receive a reminder letter. You MUST mark your calendar and show up when and where you should.
In addition to the well known requirement for all level 3 & 4 sex offenders to reside at least 2,000 feet from a school, park, daycare center, or community center, Act 394 of 2007 prohibits all level 3 & 4 sex offenders from knowingly residing within 2,000 feet of his or her victim and from having direct or indirect contact with his or her victim for the purpose of harassment. It also added Internet stalking of a child, felony video voyeurism and felony voyeurism to the list of offenses defined as “sex offenses.”
According to 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. I am encouraging all eligible registrants to explore the possibilities of removal. Anyone who was released from prison or placed on probation or parole before 1997, regardless of how long you have been on the registry, is eligible to file for removal. If you need guidance or advice, let us know. If you are successful or if you fail, let us know. Tell us your story.
If you are a convicted felon, sex offenders included, and you are “off paper, ” no longer on probation, parole or federal supervised release, you can register and vote. This year every state legislator will be up for election. With 11,000 Arkansans on the registry multiplied by our combined families, we can create a voting block of tens of thousands! This year we can make this voting block have value by encouraging campaigners and incumbents alike to listen to us, their constituents, and yes they DO listen.
In April, during our regular monthly meeting, 2pm to 4pm on Sunday the 15th, we are hosting a 'train the facilitators' program which will communicate the "how to's" of organizing, hosting, managing and developing successful 'support groups' for people around Arkansas who are living with the grave encumbrances of our current system. We are bringing in a special workshop leader for this Very Important Program, Mary Sue Molar, who heads-up Texas Voices (which addresses the same issues we do) who has developed a VERY successfully network of such groups in her state.
All of which, as we see it, dovetails perfectly with our 'master plan' to make Arkansas Time After Time a strong and well-recognized advocate for laws that actually do make communities safer by the time the 2013 legislature assembles.
The California legislature defeated Assembly Bill 625, in a vote of 41 to 19, on January 30. The bill would have ended the lifetime registry for many of the state's registrants and distinguished between registrants convicted of single, non-violent offenses and those convicted of multiple violent offenses. California RSOL lobbied in support of the bill over a period of four months ending with a group of 12 registrants, family members and Board members. Due to this vote, the bill must be reintroduced in 2012. Although a setback, California RSOL will continue its efforts to educate the public, litigate, and oppose legislation that harms the civil rights of registrants. The next meeting will be held on Feb. 18 at the ACLU Building in Los Angeles.
With session about to start and the Adam Walsh Act at our front door step, we decided that each State Representative and Senator needed to hear from us - again. We drafted a new fact sheet and titled it, "Afraid of Looking Soft on Crime? Know these Facts Before Passing New Laws" One side lists multiple facts, including statistics, and the other side was filled with quotes from previous Illinois lawmakers when voting on past sex offender legislation. Our goal of doing that was to show all lawmakers that there has been opposition in the past and hopefully some of the quotes would stick when it came time to vote on new legislation. We had 250 printed, wrote a personalized letter to each lawmaker, and mailed them to their district offices.
We also appeared in the MTV show "True Life: I’m a Sex Offender." I was quite surprised by the amount of time we actually appeared on the show but was pleased with the end result. If you’re interested in hearing more about our experience with the show, click here
We also have 6 people who are mailing out letters to everyone on the Illinois sex offender registry and introducing ourselves. It’s a slow and expensive process, but it needs to be done. So far, we’ve mailed out at least 200 letters and have received a large amount of responses. We’re hoping by the end of 2012, every person listed on the registry in Illinois will have heard from us.
We’re reaching out to our lawmakers (some supporters have been meeting them face-to-face while others are writing), we’re growing as a group, we’ve had a few people attend town hall meetings, and one of our goals for 2012 is NO NEW LAWS!
The legislative session is in full swing! There are too many bills up for evaluation this year, so I won't list them all. I would advise you to go to the Indiana RSOL's web-page and read the bills, then write to your representative about them. It is vitally important that we all speak out for the rights of ourselves and those who we love facing these laws and restrictions!
Indiana's membership is growing and we are becoming a powerful voice! We now have plans to video tape a public service announcement, that we hope we will get aired on local television stations throughout the state of Indiana. We are continuing to grow our residence and employer data bases as well. So please join our discussion forum on the website to view housing and employment needs!
Until next month!
Maryland's legislative session has begun, with only a smallish number of bills out so far. However, we are not letting down our guard: we are seeing bills for restricted voting for registrants, removing statutes of limitations, and expanding the victims' "Bill of Rights" in the constitution. We also anticipate having to fight once again against excessive and draconian Registry Regulations, which we expect will be re-introduced sometime in February. I'm so grateful to have a couple of experienced legislative folks helping me this year, too!
We continue to have meetings around the state, from the Eastern Shore to the panhandle region. Our second state-wide meeting in Annapolis was very successful, in spite of some nasty weather the night before. Our guest speaker stressed the importance of contacting our lawmakers about pending bills, of dealing with fear of public speaking, and of the value of showing up in numbers for public hearings even if only a handful actually testify.
Next month's state-wide meeting will be on February 25 in Urbana (near Frederick, MD). Our guest speaker will be a prominent defense attorney, who will be updating us on current civil cases challenging our state's excessive registry laws.
We had an amazing group meeting on January 21st, the biggest one yet, over 40 people. We had an author there who wrote a book about his ordeal of being falsely accused and ending up on the registry for life and a TV producer from France, who flew in specifically for our meeting to find out about the injustices with the registry in the United States; puritanism was their topic. It was incredible; she was able to interview people and even went home with some to see what they get to deal with on a daily basis. She will be doing a 52 minute documentary on this subject because France is trying to stop extreme sex offender laws from happening there, and this producer is trying to show why. The author's name is Shawn Webb, and his book is called A Motion for Innocence and Justice for All, very good book. We have had such great support and enthusiasm from our group to educate others about the SO laws and how horrific they are.
I also had a Newsweek reporter visit my son and me from New York and do a story on him and what happened with his ORDEAL spending 6 1/2 years in prison. They also talked to the attorney who had him removed from the registry and covered the sex offender laws in the United States and how reform is in dire need. The story took place on an on-line news site that has many viewers all over the US; it is called the Daily Beast. The story, titled "Should Teens Be Jailed for Sex Offenses?" may be accessed below under "Media Updates."
Due to this story we have been contacted by 20/20
, by the Today Show
, and I did a radio interview with Fox Satellite show in Canada and another Canadian station that did a live interview that will air tonight at 8pm as well as our local Fox 2 News. The word is getting out, and that is what we need. There is also a New York Times piece on the story that may be accessed here
Very awesome. Things are happening in Michigan, and we are very excited about this. I will keep you posted on any other information and media coverage we get.
MCR has started off with a meeting filled with some new supporters. We are growing to the point of needing a new meeting place! Our monthly meetings are a time of legislative work and encouragement. We continue to work toward a support session. It is difficult to accommodate all registrants as well as family members of registrants.
The Missouri General Assembly has just come back into session. We look forward to the promise of submitting a new bill for reform of the current sex offender laws in the near future.
New Jersey Voices
We have had several meetings with registrants and their family members, and the response is positive with regard to them becoming more involved in the group. We had a meeting last week which was attended by a former ACLU Director and a former NY Times reporter. It was a brainstorming of ideas session as we try to come up with the best possible means of reforming the laws of NJ. We are in touch with several lawyers, including a public defender, and one of our private lawyers is willing to go on board and challenge PSL or Parole Supervision for Life which is our biggest concern right now.
We are also in the process of getting ourselves ready to talk to legislators in hopes that we can at least educate them about the reality of the sex offender laws. We are also in touch with law students, criminologists, a criminal justice professor, and a therapist so we can have a discussion about the issue. Things are getting along well, and we have big upcoming projects that we hope to accomplish by the end of the year.
Our administrative team had its second in person meeting January 12, with several calling in by phone. We now have position papers for the group on registration and residency restrictions that will be used to help make sure our message to legislators is consistent on these issues. We are working on a revised position paper on GPS monitoring. We have a total of 20 bills to fight this legislative session, including GPS, SORNA compliance, civil commitment, and a new felony charge for failure to report child sexual abuse. Our new legislative chair was elected at the January 12 meeting and is gearing up for a busy session. We are continuing to get donations and new members as a result of the winter 2011-2012 newsletter that went out in December. Plans are being made for a garage sale fundraiser this spring.
Texas Voices members have been busier than ever. Currently, an average of 111 people are added to the Texas public registry every week. As you can imagine, the over-reaching registration laws have resulted in a large influx of members, and we are working hard to organize for the next legislative session. We are happy to announce that support groups have formed in Ft. Worth and Dallas, and we are in the process of scheduling two groups for the Houston area and another in Austin. Going strong and united in Texas!
RSOL affiliates and organizers have been getting some very favorable press and television coverage.
On January 18th, MTV aired a program titled "I'm A Sex Offender" as part of their True Life Series. This program featured Illinois Voices, our Illinois affiliate, Tonia, our state organizer, and her son Jason. It was a hour long program, and a young man in Florida and his story were also featured. The program tracked some of the day to day experiences of both registrants in two different states, including their struggles to be removed from the registry since their registerable offenses were both consensual situations. View the entire program here: http://www.mtv.com/videos/
"In late 2010, I received an email from one of our supporters named Justin. He told me that MTV was interested in his story and even more interested in the fact that we were talking to a State Representative about legislation that would allow certain people with certain types of offenses to petition the court for removal. Justin wanted society to see how easy it was to be labeled a 'sex offender' and wanted the reality of the laws and restrictions to be exposed. I agreed to help." So begins Tonia's first-hand account, complete with photographs, of her experience with the MTV filming. Click here
to read her full story.
On January 25th, an article was published in a Newsweek publication called "The Daily Beast." Titled "Should Teens Be Jailed for Sex Offenses? A Growing Parental Rebellion Says No," this excellent and lengthly article by Abigail Pesta features our Michigan organizer Francie, her son Ken, and Michigan Citizens for Justice, our Michigan affiliate.
And then, also on January 25th, a story appeared in the Arkansas Times titled "Sympathy for the Devil" with a sub-title of "Police and other experts say some of our laws on sex offenders may be doing more harm than good." Written by David Koon, this also excellent and lengthly piece features our Arkansas affiliate Arkansas Time After Time and it director, our Arkansas organizer and National Admin Team member Robert. Read the full article here: http://www.arktimes.com/arkansas/
(more media news in next column)
Help Us Help Them
As most of you know, RSOL sends copies of the Digest to those in prison under two different programs. The largest of the programs is to those incarcerated in state prisons throughout the United States. These are printed and mailed each month at a cost of approximately a dollar a copy. At this point, we mail approximately 400 each month. Feedback from the prisoners who receive these is extremely positive. Each month, immediately after the copies have been mailed out and received, there are new requests to be put on the mailing list. The cost is borne totally by National RSOL. National RSOL has no means by which to raise money or generate income. We rely on the families, friends, and supporters of the inmates, of the program, of our goals, and of our overall mission. We desperately need a steady source of donations to keep this program afloat. Within the immediate future, we will offer you the ability to sign up for donations on a regular basis through Paypal using your credit or debit card. If everyone who is able would commit to a regular monthly donation of whatever you can afford, be it two dollars, three dollars, five dollars, or ten dollars, our Prison Project would flourish and grow even more. Until we can offer that convenience, we welcome today anything you can do. You may send a check, money order, or stamps to RSOL, P.O. Box 400838, Cambridge, MA 02140.
Thank you for helping us help others.
More Documentaries Are in Progress!
A Reason TV journalist is doing a short documentary regarding registrants and proposed legislation affecting registrants in California. We have continued our dialogue with the Anderson Cooper show. The interviewees had reported serious problems with the direction of the interviews, but the producer has promised some heavy editing of the taped episode, which should air in February. Finally, a French producer has been interviewing people around the USA, including Arkansas, Maryland, and Texas, for a documentary exposing the many draconian aspects of registration (they consider it an example of “American Puritanism”) that will air in France and Belgium.
What do September + Beautiful New Mexico + A wonderful and educational experience equal? Why the National RSOL fourth yearly Conference, of course. For more information or to make reservations, visit http://www.rsolnm.org/