COVID-19 Lack of Domestic Planning

Shortly after the terror attacks of 9/11, our nation created a cabinet department of the U.S. federal government named The United States Department of Homeland Security. Its stated missions involve anti-terrorism, border security, immigration and customs, cybersecurity, and disaster prevention and management. But 17 years and billions of net discretionary dollars annually, we are met once again with a potential crisis that we are not utilizing or prepared to handle.

When we reflect on natural disasters just after 9/11, such as hurricanes Katrina, Irma, and Maria, our nation with an allegedly prepared Emergency Management System in place witnessed casualties surpassing the 9/11 events. Today, these epicenters are still in some forms of recovery mode in planning because of the beuracacy of how emergency management is mitigated.

In 2009 our nation endured the H1N1 virus pandemic, where an estimated twelve thousand people in the United States died from flu symptoms. After action reviews by the CDC and healthcare professionals began recommending annual flu vaccinations so that such a crisis does not occur again. The problem with that particular plan and model is that the debate over healthcare, where, and who should be vaccinated a mixed bag of messages. Additionally, the congressional political hot potato of “repeal and replace” health coverage has many citizens, not uninsured or underinsured. Therefore, there is no plan and billions of dollars wasted while our leadership sits on the sidelines using political tactics rather than scientific or strategically planned tactics to win a pandemic war.

Today we are witnessing a crisis without any planning. However, most disturbing is that the very agency, The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the very agency that is supposed to keep the public informed, has been almost silent and somewhat nonexistent. Instead, the Vice-President of the United States has been the Coronavirus “expert,” leaving the Centers for Disease Control and Homeland Security out of the equation. To prove my point, I bet many of us cannot name who the Secretary of Homeland Security? That assessment alone should send a chill any emergency management taskforce because once again, we do not have a plan to execute and remedy the coronavirus.

A question we should begin asking leadership is, “where did the nearly $51 billion dollars spent each year at Homeland Security go?” “where is our investment to handle any crisis?” After all, these are your tax dollars and should meet a means test as to how your money is spent and how we prepare ordinary citizens.

What I have learned about Homeland Security and various emergency management agencies isn’t a pessimistic outcome but a reality. Emergency Management agencies are ill-equipped in strategic leadership to handle any situation. A critical reason is that emergency management is not led by professionals and experts in their field, but led by politicians with an amateur role to read from a teleprompter without an ounce of understanding about the topic at hand. It is as if we have handed out honorary doctoral degrees to politicians and kept the real doctors on the sidelines.

While I am optimistic that the coronavirus will go away, I am increasingly concerned that agencies such as Homeland Security and elected leadership is far behind the learning curve of understanding and impact on its citizens. You wouldn’t send troops to the front lines of battle, ill-equipped and untrained. Perhaps we need to learn how to defend ourselves on the domestic front by learning to win a pandemic war and solve some critical local issues.

Reflection of 2019

Looking back in 2019, I must say that it was a pleasant and prosperous year. Often we misplace gratitude by substituting an adverse event as if it defined the entire year. Clearly, that is not the experience I encountered.

In February, I was able to speak and interview with Mary Sue Molnar of Texas Voices about her work and advocacy affecting registrants. She is an amazing woman and champion for registrants all over America. Speaking with her was indeed a privilege and helped spark a transformation about if my doctoral research was in the direction I really wanted to pursue. A week later, I was able to interview Dr. Alissa Ackerman, Sex Crimes Expert, and Social Justice Advocate that focuses on restorative justice. I often don’t discuss my personal life of those that have an impact on “the type of person I wish to immolate.” However, Dr. Ackerman embodies everything I wish I could possibly be in critical thinking. She has no idea how much her TEDx Talk changed not only my perspective of restorative justice but helped improve not only my Ph.D. direction but lit a fire within me to learn and advocate her message.

In March, I interviewed Dr. Will Mingus, Editor-in-Chief of Lifetimes Magazine. His awe-inspiring message of positivity helps lift many from a dark place in the world towards the light. If you are not a subscriber of the Lifetimes Magazine, you should subscribe today. Naturally, speaking with Dr. Nick Dubin made me feel like I had connected with a friend and ally that I had not seen in decades. His passion and insight about autism opened new doors for me to become inclusive in advocacy. Though we have never met in person, his story and personal connections that felt similar to mine presented a warm-fuzzy feeling that we all have a purpose, message, and similarities.

I also had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids. I absolutely loved listening to her story and how she, with an unafraid approach, tackles fear to identify the facts left to question why we were fearful in the first place?

April I spoke with Rachel Barkow of New York University. Dr. Barkow thoroughly researched criminal justice reforms that can make the most staunchly close-minded individual changing his/her tune towards better reforms starting in the courtrooms all across America. Listening to Dr. Barkow is easy to understand lectures with easy to follow guidelines that are fair and balanced for both sides of an issue.

May I met Paul Dubbeling and began lobbying efforts with North Carolinians for Rational Sexual Offense Laws (NCRSOL). I spoke to both chambers of the North Carolina legislature to halt Senate Bill 199. For the first time in nearly a decade, registrants of the sex offender registry were able to appear in person at the legislative building without reprisal or fear of arrest. Later during the month, I was able to interview and speak with David Lee Garlock. His story touched my heart. While we have never met, he too feels like a long-lost brother. We often collaborate via social media, and I am deeply impressed with his vision of inclusiveness despite all that he has endured. He is an amazing young man.

Of course, the NARSOL National Conference in Houston, Texas, was a highlight I will never forget. Meeting so many beautiful people from all over the nation is a memory I cherish each and every day. I met others with fantastic stories and talents that I began to rethink where I could best serve registrant advocacy on the national level.

In June/July, I pressured the state legislature to remove language that would be challenged in court. However, the state budget took the spotlight. Quietly the bill was stripped down to barely nothing at all. Victory, no matter how small or insignificant, was transforming into a triumph for registrants.

In August, I met with Senators Tillis, Burr, Kaine, Rubio, and others at Congress to discuss how to reign in sexual offense reforms. I was assured by all senators and representatives that no new legislation would be introduced. Amazingly, they kept their word. I was fortunate to speak with Sen. Lauren Book (FL-D) in a cordial conversation about how the sex offender registry harm families. It was the first step in perhaps the right direction of diplomacy through dialog. Hopefully, there will me more upcoming conversations.

In October/November, I began NCRSOL partnerships with the NAACP, The NC Justice Center, Second Chance Alliance, and the Latino League to engage our message about the registry and the impacts it has on families.

In 2019 I was elevated to the NCRSOL Board of Directors and appointed as Executive Director. I am proud to say that NCRSOL has not only the best staff but is the most effective team that genuinely cares about registrants, families, and allies.

I purchased a new car, which was highly overdue. I managed to change Ph.D. programs and switch universities, providing me an opportunity to focus on my desire to focus more on collateral consequences. There are so many people that I could mention that such gratitude for having the ability to connect with them all demonstrates that advocacy is not an isolated job. There are plenty of resources to effectively work as a team and build wonderful friendships and opportunities.

Overall, 2019 has been an incredible year for me. Despite the minor setbacks by a few unsavory characters, I and the bigger message of inclusiveness was supported by people that genuinely care about others and took risks to protect not only me but others with a firm understanding of the bigger picture. A lessons learned moment is that we must be mindful and distant of those with an agenda filled with hate and a self-serving agenda. I pray for those individuals that they seek a betterment of life for themselves.

2020 has so much more to offer. Despite registry setbacks for many, I am optimistic that change is around the corner. This upcoming decade is geared towards criminal justice reforms for all. Not just a few.

The ACLU is Not Our Friend

Since the beginning of President Trump’s tenure, there has been rhetoric about immigration, and violent sex offenders turned loose because of differing municipality policies. Leading the way was the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). But the ACLU missed a significant step forward in fighting for the rights of those impacted by the sex offender registry. Instead, the ACLU failed to identify the inaccuracies, injustices, and misinformation about sex offender registries. Instead the ACLU focused upon people that are not American citizens and have direct diplomatic relations with their respective nations to highlight an obvious problem. Registrants have no constituencies what so ever. While I think it is essential to protect all people, the American based (ACLU) focused on non-Americans to grow its membership internationally, alienating sex offenders, families, allies, and most of all the common American citizen.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a nonprofit organization whose stated mission is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

The ACLU has had since the 2006 federal passage to a nationally based sex offender registry has failed to become involved in the sex offender registry issues. Anyone that performs a web search where the ACLU has become a defender of registry issues may be in for quite a surprise. The ACLU has made no real effort to fight for the rights of registrants and their families. However, when a case such as Packingham v. North Carolina or the recent Michigan Doe vSnyder, the ACLU will take credit for something it didn’t really have an initial substantial interest or follow-up after the fact. The ACLU habitually misses civil justice by quickly touting a win in the courtroom but failing to apply that win to the public for immediate use. It is deeply saddening and an injustice to all of those impacted by the sex offender registry that the ACLU has done nothing to enforce the rulings after the fact or to become involved in complex registry issues. The lack of representation by a nationally known organization somewhat renames the ACLU to the “Abandoned Civil Liberties Union.”

Over the past year, I and many others have reached out to form partnerships, memberships, and request guidance or assistance for blatant human rights violations of registered sex offenders particularly in North Carolina or the national level. Such developments surround the Alabama Castration law, registrants in North Carolina unable to attend religious services, and the Georgia Halloween issue that quickly spread into North Carolina that still goes unanswered and unchallenged. Each and every time, I received a reply that “the ACLU is unable to provide assistance at this time.” My question to the ACLU is, “when is an approrpiate time?” Thos on the sex offender registry have endured ex post facto policies and inhumane liberties for decades. Yet the ACLU rushes to the #MeToo movement alienating simple Americans because they are not as cash rich as the Hollywood machine to capitalize a money gravy train. When the ACLU fails to address the complexities of sex offender registry issues presents a harsh reality to the sex offender community that the ACLU has given its stance about sex offender registry rights by completly ignoring them and will continue to ignore them.

But one thing is for sure, the ACLU and its chapters are quick to send out a mass mailing or email to beg for our money. It presents an appearance that the ACLU has migrated from grassroots to become a cash-for-rights agency, or it appears to be the reality for most registrants.

People listed on the sex registry, not on probation or monitored, are banned from religious services, banned from public spaces, banned from picking up or dropping off their children from school or daycare, banned from attending church, banned from visiting a state fair, banned from Facebook or other social medial platforms, cannot vacation or commercial properties in Florida or other states without registering within so many hours or the threat of jail. Yet, the ACLU remains invisible to sex offender registrants. The harsh reality is that at least those detained in an immigration holding center have more freedoms and representations than a person affected by the sex offender registry because they may do all those things mentioned once released. Immigrants are not living under a bridge, homeless, jobless, have a sex offender stamp printed on their driver’s license or passport, can receive health care, and assistance for legal advice. Registrants do not have these basic needs and equal access to these rights as Americans.

Civil rights begin right here on our doorsteps. Our nation relies upon effective leadership and organizations to advocate our concerns. But the ACLU with its ennoormous tax-free breaks and agenda on the backs of hard working Americans has gone to the wayside in the name of big donors and publicity of the easy tasks. The ACLU has become an agency center-stage to politicize its agenda by involving itself in the center of the #MeToo movement. Doing so presents a one-sided advocacy that rather than a focus on liberty and justice for all which implies both sides. Clearly the ACLU doesnt seem to care about liberty and justice unless it is profitable for them and allows easy access in giving the ACLU sole recognition value for hard work done by grass-roots advocates. The nearly 1 million registrants and their families have been significantly let down by the ACLU.

The purpose of “Me Too”, as initially voiced by Tarana Burke as well as those who later adopted the tactic, is to empower women through empathy and strength in numbers, especially young and vulnerable women, by visibly demonstrating how many women have survived sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace.

The ACLU has had nearly a decade to identify through various high profile federal cases grass-roots organizations to help benefit their primary cause and mission statement. Organizations such as NARSOL, ACSOL, WAR, and other state-affiliated organizations seek a relationship with the ACLU. But perhaps the ACLU is too ashamed to deal with real problems or association? With almost a million registrants, there doesn’t seem to be a blip on the radar screen that the ACLU is an ally the registry community can rely upon or trust. Civil liberties don’t take sides. It is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country. This is where the ACLU has failed us and will continue to do so until the registry community hold them accountable for for abandoning registrants. Registrants are not seeking to overturn convictions. Registrants are simply asking for liberty to be preserved after incarseration or sentencing once completed.

We must immediately stop any contributions to the ACLU financially and socially until it returns towards its grassroots of defending liberty and civility for all citizens. Registranst can no longer depend on the ACLU name to support unjust causes – unless, of course, you have a significant cash reserve to present to them. The ACLU must stop acting like a social club with a velvet rope among its very supporters of liberty. Perhaps it is time to close the good ole boys club and support real causes that affect real people?

States Require Citizenship for Americans

There was a time in history where movement by people was regulated by paperwork, passes, or other means to determine how those moved freely. I remember growing up during the Cold War where I would often hear of Soviet people having to endure checkpoints of movement within their own country. While I have not heard of such practices continuing today, I do recognize that the United States doesn’t require paperwork or identity to move freely between state to state.

However, the sex offender registry has changed that perception of freedom quite significantly. Today the United States, thanks in part to how California law created this injustice of liberties, have implemented citizenship requirements due in part to the Adam Walsh and other registry related acts or laws.

Even if an individual was removed from the sex offender registry in his/her state, there would be citizenship requirements to visit, live, or pass through to another state. Each state, due to states rights legislation, have its own various laws in place. But rely heavily upon federal guidelines or policies creating a labyrinth of complexities to remain legal or in compliance. There are no passport checkpoints similar to the Soviet era in the United States. While the United States prides itself upon freedom and liberty, it has implemented with the assistance of the REAL ID act and other methods to create an electronic monitoring measurement to trigger when a person leaves one state to enter another.

To bring an additional arguement into the equation, we are witnessing U.S. Border Patrol agents no longer working the physical border and implementing pop-up check points hundreds of miles from the actual border. When will such checkpoints begin occurring for those affected by the registry? Perhaps we are already experiencing such methods? Such methods include random traffic stops, stop and frisk policies, Stingray monitoring use by law enforcement, facial recognition software, and of course social media meta tagging tracking our every move.

Americans exclaim they haven’t given up their liberties and rights. But at the click of a terms of service button those rights are given up forgiven. The checkpoints are discreet hidden but no different than those Soviet days we thought were barbaric and jeopardize freedom. However, those days are very relevant here in America. Turning the technology clock backwards is nearly impossible. Essentially, the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is in jeopardy or about to die altogether.

I am not suggesting a part of a conspiracy theory or implying that Americans are identical to Soviet days. I am suggesting that the blame of communism and socialism once loathed by American culture has become an normative part of our way of living. The sex offender registry is just the beginning of soviet based policies that we “think” is providing a network of safety. In fact, opening such a door of “false safety” measures allows us to chip away our liberties and freedoms each day we fail to address how such technologies and citizenship requirements truly affect our liberties.

Neighbors Cancel Halloween… but it’s a good thing.

I live in a neighborhood that, for the most part, that is pretty quiet. Many of the people that once lived here have left or passed away. Over the past decade, lots of Hispanics and Latinos have become a significant part of my community. I did my part by welcoming all of them. This year my neighborhood has given me the ultimate present. My neighbors are not participating in “Halloween candy handouts” to anyone. One of my dearest neighbors, Jessie (an immigrant from Mexico), his wife, and two teenage boys, have been very supportive of me being on the registry. They let me know that all the neighbors decided to not allow trick or treating in our neighborhood. In fact, today, when a deputy came to do a home visit, my phone rang from three other Hispanic neighbors to let me know a deputy had come to my door for a unannounced compliance check when I wasn’t at home. All of my neighborhood thinks the registry is a bad idea overall and naturally do not trust police because they too have been profiled and labeled by others for the langauge they speak. But to take matters to another level, my neighbors won’t allow Halloween because it would exclude me because of phone apps available from the NC Attorney General that direct parents to avoid particular addresses of registrants. So, in turn, they have kicked out the long standing tradition citing, “if one is excluded, then everyone is excluded.” This is an awesome gift from my 38+ neighbors and homes!

To demonstrate how committed my neighbors are, the public school notified parents a few months ago that the bus stop directly in front of my home was to be relocated elsewhere because I was on the registry. Parents, knowingly aware of my registry status, refused to relocate their children to another stop, citing safety concerns of high-speed traffic which was true. They all pushed back to the school system where the bus stop remains in front of my house claiming they the school had no right to interfear in community affairs. One neighbor said, “the bus driver doesnt have to do anything but pick up and drop off my children. If the bus driver has a problem with it, then get another bus driver!” By the way, all the kids wave at me randomly in the morning when walking to the bus stop. Isn’t this they way communities should be for all? I am not the guy on the sex registry. I am a human treated like any another human that so happens to be on the sex registry for something with an adult almost a decade ago. Amazingly, not one parent was in opposition to moving the school bus stop and dropoff back to my house. It demonstrates that not everyone is consumed with the fear selling tactics of government telling others who and how you may interact with others.

Additionally, most Latino and Hispanic cultures think that Halloween intrudes upon a sacred holiday to honor the dead called “All Souls Day.” So our neighbors will be cooking some rather exciting dishes to celebrate. Of course, I am invited to take part in the festivities. Such demonstrations of good faith and neighborly friendships are how communities should be for all. It is a shame that the rest of the nation cannot follow the examples of others that not only risked their lives to settle in a new country but also protect a fellow American to rid of social stigma. Perhaps Latinos and Hispanics understand the consequences of the registry better than the average American? At least that is my understanding. But having neighbors like this shows that there is hope that we may look after one another despite having a language, cultural, or other barriers that seems so far apart but really arent.

I should make a bumper sticker for my car that reads, “¡Mis vecinos son mejores que tus vecinos!” which translates to “My neighbors are better than your neighbors!”

Freedom with an Asterisk

Those that were convicted of a sex offense in North Carolina and not serving a day in the walls of a prison suddenly became prisoners in their own homes. Instead of the infractions of too many stamps, unauthorized cigarettes, or yelling profanities at staff while incarcerated shifts to being set free but unable to live where you want, unable to secure employment, cannot attend church, and unable to access the internet under the consequence of bring imprisoned for just a hint of being accused.

When people leave prison, the first initial desires are to order a steak, or watch a movie, go on a trip, or finally reach out to family, friends, and other support mechanisms to share the joy of being released. However, registrants experience a much different circumstance. They are not permitted to access the internet, go to Disney or any theme park, make a call on SnapChat, share a joyful event on Facebook, or display a happy face on Instagram. Registrants are also under the threat of being rearrested and feloniously charged with going to a movie, mall, McDonald’s, the beach, or accessing the internet because of state laws and restrictions.

Perhaps those of the registry do not have any luxuries of support by family or friends. The most they can do with their new freedoms are to dream about going to a museum, going back to school, the discovery of workshop therapy to overcome anxiety or stress. Instead, those same registrants that dream of such activities are again prohibited from accessing any of those abilities under the threat of arrest and prison.

Politicians that tout justice reforms and lowering prison populations are the same people that created this fiasco of freedoms. For every two laws that are overturned, it is politicians and community leaders without facts, data, or supportive evidence that create fifteen new laws and provisions restricting more freedoms. Leaders lay claim about teamwork, inclusiveness, and equality for all; however, they use the word “but” to wedge a blanketed liability policy to protect themselves from the scrutiny of appearing weak.

Religious leaders that exclaim the love and joy of God with an all-forgiving sermon of “all are welcome” and “this congregation welcomes sinners” suddenly interjects an asterisk of exclusion of sex offenders. Ministers now have other gods before them by allowing the challenge of the state to dictate how they should seat their congregations. Insurance companies dictate to religious institutions policy provisions that clearly state sex offenders must be excluded because the property has Sunday school or daycare during services. The church is no longer autonomous but a follower of man, not God. Ironic, and institution that is supposed to teach about confronting fear is the very place that fails to address and face its fears and learn or embrace trust and forgiveness.

But I am pleased not to have Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, be a sucker of Disney memorabilia, attend church, listen to politicians, participate in overpriced movies, visit museums or be a part of the fake agenda laced internet. Perhaps I should thank lawmakers for allowing me to see the light on my own rather than the peddling of their darkness. Sure, I would like to have unlimited choices as others. But perhaps this lesson is that not only am I excluded from the adulterated scheme and fraud of religious, economic, and social freedoms. But I am a product that because of the registry, there is no such thing as freedom in America – only the illusion of such qualities with and convenience and hidden asterisk. It is all these collective institutions that promote freedom, all while excluding free choices based upon its intnerally laced liability scheme of fraud and misleading information.

I embrace these restrictions because I can now see the real mission of politics, leadership, and how influential products guide us towards their way of thinking rather than the free will and openness of genuine choice and liberty. Maybe I should begin some self-imposed disconnects to bring clarity around me? I lived without much of these luxuries before either they were invented or available. Perhaps dialing the clock back isn’t such a bad idea after all. Let me take away before “they” take it away, and I have to ween myself off of other pacifiers.

But I would like to have the freedom to walk in any park – which is still against the law in North Carolina. Choices can be a bitch sometimes.

Sex Offender Registry is Not an Educational Tool

Sex offender registries were created as a free and public educational tool; however, is that assessment entirely correct? Since 2006 when states were mandated with implementing registries, society has watched the registry, and all its strange collection of information become stale and flat. In fact, to seek out the educational benefit of the registry are quickly identifying major flaws where education is hugely lacking or not relevant at all.

Logging on to the North Carolina’s sex offense registry allows the public to access such features as offender statistics. However, the only statistical data available to the public is the census data per all 100 North Carolina counties – nothing more. If a visitor or researcher to the website wants to search a basic account of racial, gender, origin, misdemeanor versus felon, high risk, repeat offenders, out of state but relocated or other simple information, it cannot be quickly or accurately assessed. However, the state website has been in production since 2006 without any updates. That’s right! Despite the hundreds of legislative bills, laws, and changes within the law, and a pouring of federal and state dollars to “educate the public,” the highest law enforcement in the state has failed to educate with relevant and updated information beneficial to the State of North Carolina.

Some may argue, “why make the registry better?” I would counter by saying, “if the subject matter isn’t of any relevant or current use, then let’s cancel or eliminate the materials altogether.” Why on earth would the state try to hide how many African Americans, Hispanics, or gender on the sex offender registry? Perhaps those that crafted the registry intended on a “lump sum” design so that anyone listed is indeed publically shamed or assumed to be the worst of the worst. But perhaps another issue is that the best academic scholars are unable to rely on a registry that is supposed to be the most accurate system available to the public? Masking critical data that may best-identified trends and analysis has not been readily available. The omission of essential data presents severe questions and scrutiny of potentially and often being false or highly misleading.

Facts remain that the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry is a profitable enterprise business scheme rather than an actual educational tool. Police and sheriff agencies that enter facial recognition data from the website to port into such services as Amazon with use at fair events just the cusp of problems that lay ahead of the registry’s usefulness. It is a state-mandated marketing tool to comply with federal law and guidelines but used for other testing means to pry and inch its way into being a relevant topic matter with no instructor, no course materials, no test, and naturally no real results.

Nearly all of the 24,000 North Carolina registrants have committed a crime well over twenty plus years ago. Yet this is the best solution to monitor a specific crime using ex post facto methodologies? The registry is clinging on to a poorly designed process with an even more horrible process under the guise of safety and security. The only people secure with the sex offender website are those with business connectivity with prison, software, and lobbying contracts to keep it alive. It is millions of dollars of taxpayers wasted money that has collateral consequences of creating the most harm in the way we educate, rehabilitate, and reintegrate those that commit certain crimes.

The registry is way out of date and no longer a need for the people of the United States and the people of North Carolina. Let’s agree its time to move on with this trainwreck experimental program. It is time to end the registry before it comes to collateral damage morphing into drug, DUI, or other crimes with no pathway of redemption or something that occurred decades ago. Just like justice reforms are a hot topic of change across our nation, so should educational reforms be an integral part of that discussion. The sex registry, in general, isn’t an educational or justice tool. It is, after all, nothing more than a poorly designed marketing tool that must be ended before it inevitably ends democracy and freedoms as we know it.