The following email was received from the Women Against the Registry (WAR) organization:
Today (Monday, August 5, 2019) an “All In” Letter was sent to Dawn Doran, Acting Director of the SMART Office, William Barr, US Attorney General and Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor to the President of the United States. Below is a list of advocates who braved being scrutinized to deliver a much-needed message. Thanks to Jonathan Grund and Derek Logue for their work in crafting this letter.
August 5, 2019
Those of us who have signed this letter attended the symposium hosted by the Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehension, Registration and Tracking (SMART) Office on July 17 & 18, 2019 and have deep concerns with the policies and presentations offered by this government agency.
We are an alliance of organizations that work directly with people convicted of sexual offenses, many of whom are impacted by the “Adam Walsh Act” (AWA). We have seen firsthand the negative impact of the registry on registered citizens, their families, and the community as a whole. Representatives of our alliance wore similar shirts stating, “The Registry Does Not Protect Children” because 1) empirical studies and numerous firsthand accounts have confirmed that children of registrants suffer unjustly due to the inclusion of a family member on the registry; 2) it is well-documented by scientific studies that the vast majority (about 95%) of offenses against children are committed by individuals who are not on the registry; 3) studies have clearly shown that registries do not lower the incidence of sexual offenses. The AWA currently allows children as young as 14 to be listed on the public registry.
These collateral consequences were downplayed or ignored during the presentations at this symposium. Studies showing any positive effects of the public registry are lacking, so the symposium relied upon anecdotal examples to promote this flawed system. As expected, this symposium was a partisan affair, which was a disservice to the primary issue of sexual abuse prevention.
If you wish to have a truly effective system for preventing sexual violence, then you cannot present only one side of the issue. Numerous studies addressing many questions about the efficacy of public registries as a public safety tool, most of which cannot find any positive link between registries and sexual offense reduction, cannot simply be ignored. Voices of dissent and criticism are also important to the discussion.
While some of you have concerns that allowing criticism and dissenting opinions will lead to “career suicide,” we have yet to see a single legislator who lost a subsequent election or was fired for stating the current registry scheme is ineffectual. We met a number of government and law enforcement attendees at the symposium who were skeptical of the public registry, but were afraid to state that skepticism publicly.
We believe that future SMART Office events should allow those critical of the current laws to be a part of the conversation. We would like to offer the following suggestions for future events in the interest of fairness and balance to future conference attendees:
- A roundtable discussion or debate with representation from both sides of the issue should be implemented for future symposiums.
- Presentations offered by a more diverse group of individuals. The symposium consisted primarily of those advocacy groups and agencies that benefit directly from federal AWA funding. Researchers that find the registry ineffective and advocacy groups focused on assistance for registered persons were neither encouraged to attend nor represented in any of the symposium presentations.
- There should be more discussions about actual research on the efficacy of the registry. There was a lack of discussion from actual researchers in the field, and the presentation on research lacked specifics other than stating many studies were flawed.
We believe that allowing our voices to be heard is integral to reforming the entire system of sexual abuse prevention. As we have seen at the symposium, partisan efforts to reform a flawed system, like the public registry, fail because those who simply promote a business model overlook serious flaws within the system.
We advocate for those on the registry, not because we are soft on crime but because the registry is unconstitutional. We advocate for the family members of these individuals because they have committed no crime yet are punished alongside the registrant. And we staunchly believe in measures that provide safety for innocent children. We believe the SMART Office should follow this same holistic approach and apply the principles of Restorative Justice to improve the system in which they advocate; to restore the victim, to restore the offender, and to restore the community. Allowing all sides to participate in this effort is the only way to improve it.
Vicki Henry – Women Against Registry (WAR)
Derek Logue – OnceFallen.com
Shelli Weisberg – Michigan ACLU
Jonathan Grund – WAR
Debra Grund – WAR
Chuck Henderson – WAR
Kathleen Garner – the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws (ACSOL)
Gini Aland, – SOSEN.org
Ken Ackerman – Nebraskans Unafraid
Penny Gates – LRIDD of IL
Carol Nesteikis – LRIDD of IL
Veronica Williams – Mothers of Wrongfully Convicted
Joseph Ajlouny – CURE-SORT