Monday, October 17, 2011

The Sex Offender Down the Street (Is My Son)

Original Article

I thought we had posted this on our blog already, but it appears we have not, so here it is.

09/30/2011

By Lenore Skenazy

Hi Readers — This is a candid letter from the mom of a sex offender who is on the registry for life. Read it and see if our sex offender laws are doing the job they were intended to do: keep our kids safe from predators. — Lenore

Dear Free-Range Kids: My son was recently subjected to a death threat when a neighbor discovered that he was listed on the sex offender registry. What heinous crime had my son committed that our neighbor deemed worthy of death? “Falling in love.”

He was 17, she told him she was 16. At the time he had no reason to doubt her. A short time later he learned a harsh life lesson. They never got beyond kissing or hand holding, but she wrote in her diary that they had made love. When her mother read the entry in her 14-year-old daughter’s diary she quite justifiably became angry. Without talking with either one of them, she called the police and had my son arrested. He spent 45 days in jail awaiting trial.

Had the mother taken her daughter to the doctor, she would have found out that her daughter was simply voicing a private fantasy. The girl begged her mother to stop the proceedings, but the wheels of “justice” were already in motion.

The girl was so distraught about the situation that she constantly sought to contact my son to apologize and beg him not to hate her. She finally convinced her older sister to help her get in touch with him. One day shortly after sentencing and being put on a strict 3-year probation mandating no contact with his “victim,” my son was walking home from the store a block from our house. A car pulled up behind him and he heard a familiar voice beg, “Please stop and talk to me for a minute, we won’t tell anyone, please!

His only reaction was to break into a full run. He burst through the front door of our home and collapsed into a pale, quivering heap of fear in the middle of the floor. He managed to shakily mumble enough for me to realize what had just happened. I immediately took him to the police station and had them document exactly what had happened. Only with their assurance that he had done the right thing and that everything would be OK, could he finally calm down enough to breathe.

My son was quite shy around girls to begin with and she was his first love. As things stand right now, he may very well never have another. He never finished high school due to his probation rules, and will be required to register twice a year for the rest of his life. He has lost every job he has been able to find, due to his listing on the registry. He can never join the military, or even follow his lifelong dream of a career in music, even though he is a talented singer/songwriter and drummer.

Why not? The laws work this way: His sentence was 3 years’ probation and 25 years on the registry in his state of conviction, Michigan. He couldn’t keep a job in Michigan, he kept losing them because of the registry, resulting in homelessness. Homelessness and joblessness are parole violations, so he was sent to jail for six months. After two more trips to jail for failure to register — resulting in three more months in jail — he came here to South Carolina to live with us. As long as he can keep a roof over his head and registers when required, he will be safe. A third failure to register could send him to prison for a mandatory 5 year sentence. Unfortunately, in our state, sex offender registration is lifetime for everyone.

He cannot pursue his musical career because it costs money (which neither he nor we have), for his instruments and upkeep, advertising, etc. Plus, if you are on the registry you have to go in and report everywhere you are employed. Which means if he had a gig in, say, Seattle, he would have to report the address of his performance, the length of time he will be there, where he would be staying for the duration, etc. This is required for each and every change, notwithstanding the fact that anytime he leaves his home address for more than 3 days, it has to be approved with both the sheriff’s department here and the sheriff’s department at his destination, and either of them are at liberty to deny his request at any time.

I also wanted to mention, that although he does not have a driver’s license, he is required to register OUR car on his registry listing, which makes public, the make, model, color and plates of our car. This may seem trivial to some, but to a vigilante our car becomes a target, regardless of who is driving it.

The whole thing makes for a very complicated and many times hopeless existence. — Lila Folster


TX - Recap from 2-day conference (Oct 8th & 9th, 2011)

Original Article

10/16/2011

By Mary Sue

Our first Texas Voices 2-day conference (October 8th and 9th 2011) is now history. I can honestly say that for me, the entire weekend was awesome!

It looks like we had around 100 attend on Saturday and approximately 80 on Sunday.

I am thankful for the members/supporters who joined us- the core people who have been working with us for years and especially the new people who really did not know what to expect.

The Austin Centre was the perfect place for this conference. The audio system was set up to cover the entire building, so the speakers could be heard from the registration area, the food and beverage area, even the bathrooms!

Lots of food and drinks all day long- both days. JoAnn kept the food tables full while Tracy made sure the coffee was always there for us.

I am thankful for the participation of the attorney’s who have supported Texas Voices from the beginning. Bill Habern, Richard Gladden , David O’Neal, and Bill Savoie attended both days and made themselves available for our members to talk with. Scott Pawgan arrived late Saturday night and Tracy and I grabbed him right away to ask questions regarding some legal paperwork. He was very gracious in extending his legal opinion and answered our questions.

The guest speakers were really great! Such a mixture of opinions and ideas, thoughts and information.

Speaker Agenda was as follows:

Attorney Richard Gladden - The Scarlet Letter

Phil Taylor - Understanding Risk Assessments

Judith Levine - Sympathy for the Devil: Moving others to care about sex offender issues

Wayland Matthew Fox - Cave In or Rise Above

Attorney Scott Pawgan - You asked for it

Dr. Shelley Graham - Deregistration: The process

Scott Henson - Grassroots Lobbying

Ask The Attorneys: Bill Haber, David O’Neil, Richard Gladden, Larry Sauer, Bill Savoie

Richard Gladden and Scott Pawgan presented an overview of legal issues, court challenges, and answered many of the questions posed by members.

Dr. Graham brought forth an educational and explanatory presentation on the current process for deregistration. The work she put into this presentation and the fact that she gave up her Sunday morning to speak at our conference was much appreciated.

Phil Taylor presented an in-depth look at risk-assessment tools and enhanced our level of understanding the ways in which risk levels are assigned.

Judith Levine offered a thought-provoking presentation allowing us to analyze different aspects of current laws, public perception, and critical thinking.

Scott Henson (Gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.com) provided attendees with exceptional ideas, advice, and strategies for lobbying our legislators and organizing our fast-growing organization.

Wayland Matthew Fox touched our hearts with his inspirational words of courage and hope after suffering through the consequences of a wrongful conviction. www.firstinthemindandheart.com

Several of our members participated in a “Meet our Members” presentation and of course we managed to fit in our famous “Ask the Attorneys” segment where a panel of attorneys address questions from our members. Attorney Larry Sauer form Austin attended the conference to join this panel.

Herman and I put forth information to the group as well as our wonderful board member Jon Cordeiro who opened each morning with a short talk and prayer.

Below are comments received from attendees:

- I attended the Austin Conference, Saturday and Sunday and enjoyed it immensely. It reflected that a lot of time, effort, and trouble went into the details of putting it together. You have my heartfelt thanks. This includes all the "behind the scene" board members and many other volunteers who saw to everyone’s needs and made it appear seamless. The wonderful spread of snacks, drinks, and potluck dishes were delicious. Austin Centre was easy to find, comfortable, it allowed people to come and go as needed with very little interference to others and even had speakers in the restrooms. Thanks to all of those willing to give the time to shared so much helpful info and opinions regarding TDCJ, BPP, laws, other groups/committees, legal issues, treatments and conditions of parole and/or probation, the Legislature, lobbying, literature, science and studies, philosophy, current events and so much more on ways we can make a difference.

I gained a better understanding of what we are up against in the effort to bring about awareness in the inequalities and injustices our legal system imposes on our loved ones, family, and friends. I now have more tools in my collective "toolbox of truths.” These truths have strengthen my resolve to continue educating friends, family, neighbors, and the public, on how easy and often unfairly, a person can be arrested and labeled a sex offender. It is frustrating when someone admits the may have committed these same type offenses and did not view it as criminal They remain unconvinced of any similarities in what the did back in High School and today’s convicted sex offender and will they support a fairer justice system. It is going to be an uphill battle; still, we must not give up.

Thanks again for the opportunity to receive such a wealth of information from a distinguished array of knowledgeable and informed guests. It provided stimulating conversations, much appreciated validation, and support. For me, this conference offered the best information-gathering forum on sex offender issues that I have ever attended for only $15 and possibly saved $1000's if I had to seek this same information on my own in the private sector.

- God Bless Texas Voices and all those associated with them!

- I want to express to you my deepest appreciation for the very informative, encouraging and delightful Texas Voices first annual conference. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Also, I want to thank you, Herman, Richard, JoAnne and all the others for the hard work and diligent efforts all of you put forth to make this first conference a huge success. To you all I say "bravo." You are awesome people.

- Great information and fellowship.

- I am so glad I was there this weekend! I learned a lot of good information, but, most of all, I met kindred souls. That was priceless to me!

- What a GREAT conference!!! My goodness... I am still trying to absorb it all. I spent an hour with my son going over it after we all left today.

- I just really liked hearing all the different points-of-view.

- I am such a proud member of TVRJ.


IL - Sex Offender Regristration Fees Rise in Loves Park

Original Article

10/16/2011

LOVES PARK (WIFR) -- Police say sex offenders in Loves Park rushed to register last month before the city imposed a higher fee. Sex offenders now have to pay one hundred dollars a year instead of thirty dollars.
- Isn't this basically extortion? Pay the new fee or go the jail and/or prison on a violation.

That money is used for sexual abuse awareness training and education. Right now, Illinois sex offenders must register for ten years. However, a bill to change that law to 15 years is pending in the senate.
- Is it really used for this?  Some how I doubt that.

Rodney Scott, Loves Park Police, says, "It's been on the books, I think, since January first that has allowed the city to do this. We're just doing it now because we did upgrade our sex offender software and we thought it would be a good time to do it.

Loves Park will use the money from sex offenders to help pay for its new computer software. The city has 47 registered sex offenders.