From the Admin Team
It is with both humbleness and pride that we share with you the completion of our final organizational documents. We were pleased last year year when the Bylaws
were completed, posted, and distributed. We then started work on our vision, mission, goal, and assertions statements
, and, to be honest, I don't believe any of us had any concept of how many hours and how much blood, sweat, and tears would be expended before we were satisfied.
That day finally came. The vision, mission, and goal statements have been on the website, as each was ready, for some weeks now. The assertion statements have now joined them, but we would also like to post them here.
Some of our most faithful readers are currently incarcerated and receive the Digest through our Prison Project; many of those readers do not have Internet access, or have very limited access, and would not be able to view the assertions on the site. For those readers, we offer these, the assertion of the beliefs that are the guiding principles for our work. We sincerely hope that our affiliates will likewise use them, as well as the vision, mission, and goal statements, as they formulate plans and projects for their individual states.
Sex offender registries were originally presented as a means for tracking persons convicted of the most heinous offenses, but their reach has expanded exponentially to include even teen sexting and consensual relations between young people.
Public registries provide no measurable protection for children or the general public yet endanger the well being of children and family members of registrants.
Public registration, proximity restrictions, and residency restrictions that are extended beyond an individual's sentence are punitive and thereby violate protected constitutional rights.
Evidence-based policies and programs can reliably reduce new sexual offenses and thus make our communities safer.
The misinformation and stigmatization used to justify harsh sexual offense laws undermine the welfare of society, creating unnecessary panic and distrust.
Choosing to set apart any group of people and deny them civil, constitutional, and human rights threatens the rights of every person in our nation.
A Vision of Hope
Some of the most promising and positive occurrences for our advocacy are taking place in the courts. The issue of social media and whether or not registrants should have restrictions regarding it has been a hot-button topic of late. This ruling
from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals concerning an Indiana law is significant in its opinion that blanket restrictions of those on the registry runs afoul of constitutional protection.
Residency restrictions continue to come under fire, and favorable ruling are being seen more and more, as this one from DePere, WI,
The issue of residency restrictions continues with this article
, which presents a fact-based look at the topic.
Another positive sign is the greater frequence with which well-researched and well-written opinion pieces are appearing in both the print media and the Internet; this one
addresses the homeless issue faced by registrants.
is an absolute must-read for our advocates. It shows what can happen when people of faith and conviction put those attributes into practice and set an example for others, even in the face of criticism and protests.
All needed to know about this one is that the author is Roger Lancaster, author of the book Sex Panic and the Punitive State
. His strongest points are encapsulated in this scholarly piece
This is a reader-contribution section. Anyone who wants to submit a piece for consideration should select an article that has been in the news concerning our issues within the past month and write commentary on the article. It may be commentary that you have submitted to the publication in response to the article, or it may be commentary that you have written just for the Digest
. One submission a month will be chosen. All submissions are subject to editing; include a link to the article.
This month's selection comes from Michael J., a reader from Idaho.
I am a person who eleven years ago could have been the juvenile in this article. I was thirteen and my brother was ten. We had found a porno magazine in the gutter walking home from school. We hid it from our parents and looked at it. My brother thought it was gross, but I kept looking.
One night I convinced my brother to do some of the stuff we saw in the pictures. He did, but then he was freaked out. He kept saying he was going to tell. I was really scared and a little sick over what we did, and I persuaded him not to tell. I kept thinking abut the pictures, though. I have never touched him or anyone that way again, and I never will, but I wish I could talk to someone about it. I think I would feel better if I talked to a counselor, even after all this time, but everything I have read lets me know that if I tell any professional about it, I will probably end up going to jail and being a registered sex offender and destroying our family because of it.
It shouldn't be this way. We should have been able to tell our parents and go to a counselor and talk about it. My brother and I hardly ever talk about it. He says it was no big deal. I wonder if he really feels that way. I know it bothers me more than it seems to bother him. When kids do things like this, they don't know what they are doing. They need someone to help them understand it. They don't need to be treated like criminals and put in jail and put on a public register so everybody will think they are some horrible person. Why can't people understand this?
And what about other kids, kids today, who do stupid stuff? I know if I had a kid who came to me and told me he had done stuff like that, even if he was still doing it, I wouldn't try to get him professional help. I feel sure he would end up on the registry, his life would be destroyed, and what actual good would be done?
Thank you for reading what I wrote. I hope it is good enough to print. There have to be others who feel like I do.
Representatives of RSOL and of W.A.R.--Women Against Registry--attended a three day conference in Houston, Texas, on Feb. 20-22. The fourth annual Prisoners' Family Conference drew attendees from several other states as well as Texas. Although not sex offender specific, many of the issues and much of the information relate directly to our concerns about the collateral damage to the families of those on the registry and to the difficulty of finding employment, suitable housing, and other elements essential to successful re-integration into society that all face upon release from prison. We passed out brochures and other materials, made some new friends, heard some excellent presentations, and signed up some people for contact from state affiliates and for the Digest. It was an interesting and valuable experience.
Several of our affiliates and affiliate representatives attended the US Sentencing Commission's briefing on the Report to Congress on Federal Child Pornography Offenses on February 25 in Washington, D.C. Those who attended feel the most important aspect of it is that it has opened a dialogue for discussion about possession of CP. It also seems that the federal laws do not prosecute the same offenses as the state laws do for simple possession. The state laws appear to be more inclusive in who they target.
Overall, it is a favorable report; you may read the full report here
, and you are encouraged to contact Kira Antell, Congressional Liaison, Office of Legislative and Public Affairs, United States Sentencing Commission, at 202-502-4544 if you have any questions.
The Power of Words
Some time ago, inspired by someone whom some of us know, Marshall Burns in CA, a great many of us started using alternate language to say "sex offender." Most of us settled into "registrant" quite comfortably, and I see "registrant" frequently now. Just this week another Californian many of us know, Janice Bellucci, wrote that their group was replacing the word "recidivism" with "reoffense." What is called recidivism can be reported on by ten different writers, and it will quite possibly have ten different meanings. A reoffense is exactly that--a repeat offense. I was reminded of a very short video
I saw that shows the power that words have in our lives. At the end, it says, "Change your words; change your world."
From Our States and Committees
February 1 was a big day for AFC in Colorado. We received the Outside Evaluator’s Report on the treatment program in the prison system. Last year the Department of Corrections asked for $1.9 million to add more treatment beds so more individuals inside the prison system could be treated, which is a requirement for release. Part of Doc’s decision to request the funding was based on the fact that AFC has a lawsuit against the DOC for not providing treatment as required by law. AFC testified before the House and Senate Judiciary committees on the inadequacy of the treatment program within the Sex Offender Treatment Management Program (SOTMP), and it was decided by the Joint Budget Committee that a study should be done to determine the effectiveness of the program before providing additional funding to DOC. DOC was given $100,000 to do the study and the remainder of the requested $1.9 million was denied for 2012.
We hope that people can be paroled, as the law was intended, after serving their minimum, and released, after appropriate treatment, to continue and complete their treatment in the community.
Missouri Citizens for Reform has introduced a bill in the House of Representatives. HB589 is sponsored by Rep. Dave Hinson. The summary should be available shortly. The 64 page bill is available for viewing on the MCR website. The general assembly session runs for 4 months. We are in the process of seeking a Senate sponsor. We continue to reach out to family and friends and encourage them to write to their legislative officials asking them to support reform of the sex offender laws in Missouri.
The Finance Committee would like to make an appeal for all of our readers to make whatever donations you are able. Our Scarlet Legal Project is especially in need as several opportunities are presenting themselves where our having some funds to lend some aid could make a difference. If you are able to make a one time donation or a recurring monthly donation to our Legal Project or to our regular fund to offset the Prison Project mailings and regular expenses, please visit us here, and thank you.
Arkansas has had two bills that we testified against; one was SB12 to keep Level 3 & 4 registrants from having access to the swimming or playground areas of state parks. Our concerns were how this would hurt families and the difficulties and arbitrariness involved in enforcing such a law. However, the bill passed.
SB150 allows more offenses to be added to the list of registrable offenses. This bill also allows the parole board to keep someone in prison if they deem them not ready to be released, making sexual offenders serve more of their sentences instead of getting out early on good behavior. We shared relevant statistics and spoke about overcrowding. Nevertheless, again, the bill passed.
We Showed Up; We Spoke Up; We Stood Up. We will continue to do so.
New Mexico RSOL is celebrating. We are having a whirlwind legislative session, and so far we are excited at our successes. Of the many bills we have been watching, we are actively opposing five separate bills. HB 446, which the administration erroneously claimed would have effectively made NM SORNA compliant, was tabled last week in the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee (HCPAC). This occurred after heated debate and impassioned testimony which did not conclude until after midnight.
Also tabled was SB 252. This bill, heard in the Senate Public Affairs Committee, would have given the Children Youth and Families Department (CYFD) the power to remove parental rights from individuals on the basis of their just being on or having been on the registry.
A third bill, HB 48, pertaining to social media restrictions, which RSOL National joined us in lobbying against, was expected to easily pass the House of Representatives because the bill’s reach had been so narrowly tailored due to our opposition efforts. Representative Yvette Herrell attempted to hijack the legislation with an unfriendly amendment on the floor of the House. As a result of Herrell’s stunt, the bill was referred back to the House Judiciary Committee where we hope it will die.
HB 570, which would add six new offenses to the list of registrable offenses and make some other changes to SORNA, is still awaiting its first hearing in HCPAC. Please remember that the session is not over; tabled bills are not dead; they can come back to life or can be rolled into other legislation. We will continue working and hoping for more good news to come.
Indiana also has good news to announce!!!!!!
1) SB 0430: Improper sexual conduct (this is the bill we fought that would have raised the age of consent for “fondling” to 18 years old): DEAD
2) HB 1278: Serious Sex Offenders on School Property even to vote: DEAD
3) SB 0596: Serious Sex Offenders on School Property even to vote: DEAD
4) SB 0260: Educational and Good time Credits Abolished for SO’s: DEAD
5) SB 0220: Social Networking and Media Sites not allowed for SO’s: DEAD
We have two that are still active, and both are GOOD bills we are pushing to get in to law! It looks promising!
Texas is so busy with this legislative session that we scarcely have time to breathe. We are studying and analyzing bills, visiting legislators and their staff, attending sessions, registering either 'for' or 'against' votes by phone, postcards, and email, attending hearings and sessions, and testifying in front of committees.
There are several good bills we are pushing really hard. There are several others we are working equally hard to defeat. We will have some results next month.
The Conference Committee affirms that the 5th RSOL National Conference, "Justice for All," will be held in Los Angeles (near LAX) from August 22—25. Save the date and watch for good deals on plane fares!
GREAT rates are available for the hotel, too. Plan to come a little early or stay a little longer for the same rate and check out some local attractions!
The Florida Action Committee hosted a 'meet and greet' in Palm Beach County with 28 in attendance plus 3 FAC board members. As a result of the success of this second meeting, two more have been scheduled for the near future.
In addition to getting acquainted and sharing stories, commitments were made to work on behalf of changing the laws and ordinances. The end results of getting new members, raising money, and raising awareness gave hope and inspiration to all who attended. The meeting was hosted at the church of a new FAC member who has a family member currently incarcerated.
North Carolina RSOL extends a warm welcome to our new RSOL state organizers in Nevada and Colorado who have joined us in fighting the difficult, but necessary fight against injustice. As we grow in state numbers, so will our influence on a national level.
Currently the new NC state legislative session has been quiet in terms of re-introducing AWA compliance bills, and it looks as though it is not a high priority for the State Assembly in Raleigh this session.
However, last week Senator Thomas Goolsby proposed SB122: Sex Trafficking/Sex Offender Registration Act, which adds sex trafficking to the growing list of "sexually violent offenses" requiring registration. While sex trafficking is a heinous crime, the bill is another useless, feel-good piece of legislation; by placing already convicted traffickers on the registry, it is a futile attempt at effectively preventing and controlling new trafficking offenses.
The other bill of note filed last week, SB123: Clarification of Sex Offender Residence Law, confirms the mistaken notion that residency restrictions are effective in preventing sexual offenses against children.
We have been observing and reporting to our members the successes of other RSOL-affiliated states. Congratulations to the affiliates in all states who are challenging these oppressive laws. We also applaud and support RSOL's legal efforts, through SLAP, to oppose bad legislation. We will continue to encourage our members to support your efforts through letters, phone calls, and monetary contributions.
NCRSOL organizers continue to reach out to our members with support newsletters informing them of advocacy efforts throughout the state and country. We have not had a region or state-wide meeting yet but hope to in the future for developing strategies to oppose the anticipated bills from the Assembly and to establish a plan to meet with legislators and have a presence in Raleigh.
From Affiliate Development
, it is with sadness that we say good-by to Vickie, our Utah organizer, and we wish her the best in her move to Montana, where she will remain active in RSOL. A new Utah organizer will shortly be announced on our website and welcomed by email to all affiliates and here in our next edition.
Additionally, Todd has joined Georgia Rising as primary contact. Laurie welcomes his help as she travels a great deal. The Affiliate Development Committee will have other announcements in the near future. Stay tuned!
Oklahoma has the usual a number of bills that are negative this year, but also some that could be positive. We hope to work with some authors to make some changes that would make them even more positive.
We've had some early successes last week, with one bill raising the age of consent soundly defeated by committee members who raised our very concerns only hours after the author refused to consider those concerns when meeting with us.
On another bill, we were able to work with the author to remove language that would have prohibited registrants from loitering within 500 feet of state parks. There are still several out there that we will have to work on, but we're encouraged by what we've seen so far from this legislature.
We're still working on plans for support groups and developing relationships with like minded organizations and media in the state.