News From WAR (Women Against the Registry)

News Release from Women Against the Registry (WAR)

Florida Action Committee                                         WAR
Press Contact:                                                             Press Contact:
Gail Colletta                                                               Kimberly DuBina                   

For Immediate Release

Florida Is At It Again-Putting Children At Risk

A large, national coalition of C.U.R.E, CURE-SORT, F.A.C, USA Fair and W.A.R members have joined together to ask Florida legislators, “Why are the  many children and families of former offenders being placed in danger from missed opportunities of effective legislation?” “Are the children of citizens on the sex offender registry less valuable to law makers?”

As of December 20, 2013 there were 62,318 people listed on the Florida state sex offender registry and the number is growing every day. Legislators have neglected to accept that these registered citizens have families and children who too, are affected by these restrictive laws and thus are victims of vigilante crimes, harassment, community ostracism and detrimental restrictions placed on them.
The mounting empirical evidence outlined in current research studies conducted by some of our nation’s finest scholars contradicts the use of residency restrictions and pocket parks as a public safety tool. In fact, “research has shown when former sex offenders have stable housing, employment, and social/familial support (as are any former offender) they are less likely to commit new offenses. Residency requirements drastically reduce this stability” (Statement from the Child Molestation Research & Prevention Institute Website). 
Residency restrictions are frequently imposed as conditions of probation and parole and as a facet of registration laws in Florida. They raise constitutional issues in addition to the practical problems created by minimizing access to therapeutic treatment and public services which are essential for successful re-entry from incarceration. “The proliferation of these types of restrictions is making it more difficult for corrections to fulfill their mandate of helping offenders make a successful reentry into society,” said Charles Olney, a research associate for the Center for Sex Offender Management , an affiliate of the U.S. Justice Department.
Olney and other experts also question how effective the laws are at protecting children, because strangers are responsible for only about 6.7 percent of sexual attacks on minors. Although incidents of strangers kidnapping and sexually assaulting a child often make headlines, the Justice Department estimates just over 1% of the 60,000 to 70,000 reports of sexual assault filed each year involved an abduction by a stranger.
“People are very, very fearful of strangers being near their children, and most of these laws are based on a knee-jerk reaction to that fear,” Olney said.
“Family members of registered sex offenders (RSOs) are the often-overlooked victims of collateral damage. Increasingly restrictive policies expose RSOs and their families to public scrutiny and place severe limits on RSOs’ employment, housing, and academic opportunities. These policies were designed to protect the public from sexually dangerous individuals, but the collateral consequences of the laws to others were presumably unanticipated.” (Levenson, J. S., & Tewksbury, R. (2009). Collateral damage: Family members of registered sex offenders. American Journal of Criminal Justice)
The Coalition speaking for the families of registered citizens agree that preventative measures are a priority and legislative reform is essential to include protecting all of America’s citizens and their children. It is also paramount to public safety to recognize not all former offenders pose equal risk to the community so not all former offenders should be subjected to the same restrictions.  We are calling on law makers to eliminate restrictions such as residency bans and pocket parks which have proven to be unconstitutional in many jurisdictions. Furthermore they place further burdens on law enforcement agencies that are charged with protecting all our citizens. All children and families need to be considered when enacting laws. Reform should be based on the empirical evidence.


Guest Post: Deserving a Chance for a Pardon

by Marie at Notes from the Handbasket

A 25-year-old registered sex offender has been granted a hearing before the Nebraska Board of Pardons. This is excellent news for this young man because if he is pardoned, he will regain his civil rights and he will no longer be on the sex offender registry. 

According to the Omaha World-Herald article, it is unusual for a sex offender to be granted a hearing because

[t]he Pardons Board rarely considers the applications of sex offenders. But board members said they are willing to listen to this one because Weich has lived an exemplary life except for one crime committed as a 14-year-old.

An exemplary life should be rewarded. 

He didn’t rape, fondle or even touch anyone. In 2003 he and two other teenage boys made a secret video of two or three female classmates using a shower at his mother’s house in Pierce, Neb. The incident involved a game of truth-or-dare and the camera also caught one of the girls using the toilet, according to documents in his Pardons Board application.

A non-contact crime committed as a 14-year-old, not repeated. He was charged as an adult because the crime was not discovered until he was 18.

This man has gained some powerful allies. A state trooper for one and Nebraska’s Attorney General, Jon Bruning, for another.

Other factors in [this man’s] favor include pre-sentence psychological evaluations that found he is not a sexual predator and showed he was a minimal risk to reoffend. He completed all of his probation requirements, which included more than 20 sessions with Dr. Kevin Piske, a Norfolk psychologist who specialized in treating sex offenders.

Not a sexual predator, unlikely to reoffend, got through probation with no trouble. Saw a psychologist for awhile. This man is a success story.

The psychologist was one of 93 people who submitted letters in support of [the man], which likely represents a record number, said Sonya Fauver, the board’s administrator.

Ninety-three letters of support! Many friends in his corner. 

[His] status forced him to give up on his dream of playing football for a major college program. He had been invited to walk on at Kansas State University, but he was told the school couldn’t take a chance on a sex offender. He also had to leave the dorms. 

Although it was difficult, he found off-campus housing and finished his second semester at Kansas State.

Later, he was offered a football scholarship and began playing at Wayne State College in Nebraska. Again, he wasn’t allowed to live on campus. He got his degree in business management in 2012.

The registry still haunts [him], especially when it comes to finding employment and housing. He said he has held some temporary jobs but hasn’t been able to get an offer related to his major when employers learn he is a registered sex offender.

Recently, he had the opportunity to show the National Football League his punting skills. One of his college coaches called him “the best punter he has seen in his 30 years as a coach” so it seems this young man may have a chance at a position in the NFL.

“How many people do you know in the world who would even have a chance to make it in the NFL?” [one of his supporters] asked. “But he can’t because of this. It just doesn’t seem fair.”

No, it doesn’t seem fair to have lived an exemplary life and yet be held back because he is a registered sex offender. 

Among the 93 letters is a letter from 

…retired District Judge Patrick Rogers, who presided over [the man’s] trial. 

“I commend him for all of his accomplishments since 2007, even while carrying the burden of his offense,” Rogers wrote. “He could have easily given up, as I believe so many others do.”

But do so many others give up? 

Statistics show that, like this man, very few registered sex offenders commit another sex crime. 

Like this man, most registered sex offender are first-time offenders.

Like this man, most are deemed at low risk to reoffend.

Like this man, most are not considered sexual predators.

Those are not signs of people who gave up. Those are signs of people who arevery much like this Nebraska man.

Like him, they have trouble finding employment. Like him, they have trouble finding a place to live. 

Like him, they have hopes and dreams for the future that have been stymied by their status as a sex offender.

This young man who lives an exemplary life deserves every chance at his hopes and dreams, just as other law abiding citizens do. 

Just as every other law abiding sex offender does.

This young man is not the exception. He is the rule.

From Women Against the Registry

A news release from Women Against the Registry:

Contact: Vicki Henry, President Women Against Registry 202.630.0345
Women Against Registry is “Pushing Back”

In a recent article published by the Lacrosse Tribune on February 02, 2014, “Rethinking sex offenders: Wisconsin freeing more sex offenders; old recidivism data exaggerated risk” referring to a state civil commitment program, state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout states, “We don’t have enough information to say if this program works or if it doesn’t, Is this a good investment of our resources?”

Women Against Registry is asking the same. For more than 20 years now, laws have been created and implemented to stop sexual crimes from occurring, especially against children. In those past years, lawmakers have listened to victims, parents, media and law enforcement which propagated such laws in to existence. We must ask the question, “Was evidence presented, reviewed or sought to build legislation for such laws to be created? Did law makers who were trusted by the American citizens to make our laws research or seek the truth? Did they search for information and evidence from scholars who work with sexually deviate persons? If not, why?”

In a study where 61 legislators where interviewed (one from at least each state), 65% admitted to “policy being written due to high profile cases” some cases not even within the jurisdiction of their own state. Most of the legislation was written from a few high profile cases such as; Megan Kanka, Jessica Lunsford, Adam Walsh and Jacob Wetterling.

Women Against Registry, Inc. was founded in 2011 by wives, mothers, sisters and other family members to bring awareness to the public, lawmakers and the media of the collateral damages that their families are facing due to the existing laws. With well over 769,000 persons on the national sex offender registry, an estimated 2.5 million people are affected by these laws. They are now taking a stand to educate and present empirical research and studies which proves such consequences associated with sex offender laws suggest they may be doing more harm to offenders than they do good for society.

With the publications of numerous studies and empirical research, Women Against Registry is calling for legislators to repeal laws that are creating more harm than they are good for our children and families. We are calling on our trusted leaders to know the evidence and research before writing legislation.

In an effort to present much needed understandings to the effects of these laws on family members, Women Against Registry often cites a research study by Jill Levenson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Human Services at Lynn University and Richard Tewksbury, Ph.D.,Professor at University of Louisville Department of Justice Administration called Collateral Damage: Family Members of Registered Sex Offenders.

“Researchers have identified ways in which sex offender registration and notification (SORN) laws can impede community reintegration efforts of RSOs and potentially contribute to recidivism. The purpose of this study is to explore the impact of SORN laws on the family members of registered sex offenders.”

Noted in the report: out of 446 interviewed 87% of families suffered hardships due to the registrant finding and sustaining employment,out of 437 interviewed 44% have been threatened or harassed, out of 441 interviewed 30% have suffered bodily harm or property damages due to Meagan’s Law Notification. Further research can be cited and quoted by numerous scholars to back the standing of those members of Women Against Registry.

With evidence presented and accessible to the law makers and media, family members are now “Pushing Back” against legislation that hinders the safety of all children and those who love them. It’s time to regulate laws based on evidence and validity rather than those written out of fear of what could or could not happen in the future.