By Shana Rowan
ATLANTA - For the first time ever, five national advocacy groups fighting for sex offender registry reform have come together to exhibit at the National Conference of State Legislatures at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
Booth 114 will be manned by USA FAIR, Inc. (USA Families Advocating an Intelligent Registry), a national nonprofit group representing family members of people on the registry; Florida Action Committee, a state-level advocacy group fighting for evidence-based sex offender laws; and Caution Click National Campaign for Reform (CCNCR), a federal child-pornography awareness campaign.
Booth 315 will be manned by Women Against the Registry, created in 2011 to publicly advocate for the family members of those convicted of a sex offense. Joining W.A.R. is Reform Sex Offender Laws (RSOL), Sex Offender Solution and Education Network (SOSEN), Illinois Voices for Reason and Texas Voices. Literature pertaining to the 'End Mass Incarceration' National March on Washington D.C. 2014 is also available. All of the groups point to voluminous governmental and independent research, which disproves the common beliefs that all sex offenders are dangerous to children and have high recidivism rates as the basis for their philosophies.
Shana Rowan, Executive Director of USA FAIR, explained that many people – from legislators to law enforcement to the general public – don’t realize how harmful public registration of sex offenders is to their loved ones. “Innocent women and minor children who have committed no crime are punished just as harshly as their registered family members, from public access to their home addresses and vehicle information to harassment, ostracism and increased vigilantism. There are millions of family members across the country suffering collateral damage, and our voices need to be heard in this age of ever-increasing and broadening of sex offender legislation.”
Gail Colletta, President of both Florida Action Committee and CCNCR, emphasized the need for individualized risk assessment by qualified practitioners for all types of criminal offenders – not just sex offenders – as a tool for the court from pre-sentencing to release. “Risk assessments should be mechanisms for determination of removal from the state and national sex offender registries. Additionally, because the sex offender registry is described as a law enforcement tool, it should be used only by law enforcement with no public notification. Research conclusively shows that sex offender recidivism is in the single digits; unless public notification is limited to the small percentage of would-be recidivists, it remains an ineffective safety tool.”
WAR Director Vicki Henry states, "The discriminative nature of the public sex offender registry is causing unjust strife for loved ones that include financial hardships, humiliation, and fear years after a conviction. This is why it is so important for W.A.R. to partake in this year's Legislative Summit – to educate the legislators and their staff that the public registry is more of a hit list than a proven safety tool."
Brenda Jones, Executive Director of Reform Sex Offender Laws, Inc., stressed that current laws targeting former sexual offenders often violate basic civil and human rights by punishing people who have already completed their sentences. "If we as a society take away the constitutional rights of even a few of our citizens, it puts the rights of all of us in danger," she observed.
Leaders of each group will be available Tuesday, August 13, through Thursday, August 15, to speak with the media and provide personal testimony, university research and other compelling information which calls into question common myths and misconceptions about sex crime.
We'll keep you posted on how it goes...