Image Is Everything: How The Anti-Registry Movement Has A Potential Public Relations Image Problem

Today I read in the news where an elementary student in Florida was bullied for creating and wearing a homemade version of the University of Tennesee shirt for a “college colors day” school event. But what happened next was a complete surprise for the student at the University of Tennessee adopted his design, making it an official design which has been the highlight of anti-bullying sales. It is where negative development suddenly became a positive experience for both the student and the community. Mainly, it was an excellent lesson learned moment in how to image and public perception quickly manifests into a unique public relations opportunity.

But anti-bullying sometimes has a two-way street. A discussion with doctorate students tackled how the sex offender registry seems to be along with the same tactics of bullying towards a specific group of people — mainly registered offenders. However, many in the discussion group also emphasized where anti-registry organizations tend to become rather intimidating in return towards the opposition. But an interesting sociological research discovery has quickly identified that anti-registry advocacy websites, in dates ranging over fifteen years, are defined as targeting its primary membership or followers. Rather than emphasizing policy indifferences, the discovery of rhetoric or discourse became personal in nature and parliamentarian. This led to further discussions that anti-registry advocacy, in general, isn’t focused upon the core legislative or policy of facilitating open dialog. Anti-Registry members often create quasi-registries identifying individuals within their advocacy. I was unsure how to approach this because of my relationships within anti-registry support and being harassed by a specific individual from the past. But the consensus of the doctoral level discussion group left me with a feeling that anti-registry organizations have a public relations snafu on its hands, and the internet is not very forgiving upon removing past discussions. It is viewed in the interim moment as a disgruntled group of people that seem to cannot come together to remedy a complex issue. A core reason to take away from our discussions over the past three weeks was anti-registry groups appear solidly disgruntled in general. This was a disturbing revelation to me and provided me insight on how the future of anti-registry movements must become more diplomatic and rational in discussions to maintain a close dialog with leadership rather it be opposite or within scope.

Sociologist, psychologists, communications, and policy scholars researched the internet and media sites deeply to discuss our topic of registry image and effect. The assignment provided research tools from an outside perspective that presented insight that I was unaware of. Rather than guiding others on how they viewed the sex offender registry, I wanted to gain knowledge of how they saw the registry by seeking “anti registry only materials or websites.” What the group discovered was a dark and often vicious bully styled dialog or information about the opposition or policy. There was little to no alignment towards sharing commonality or similarities that would perhaps open a dialog towards “being in the same room” to discuss how to remedy many situations where registrants may have a voice. Instead, scholars came to the same conclusion that anti-registry advocates don’t appear to want to facilitate change or chip away at issues. Instead, the consensus was it was an all or nothing gamble with an amplified noise effect of laying claim to victimization. I am unsure if I agree with these assessments. But as a researcher, I must keep an open mind that our image is our cause. One nasty comment or bullying tactic from within about others reflects upon us all and will ultimately set back any hopes of navigating forward.

To best address negativity within the anti-registry movement, there must be an act of forgiveness for the actions of others. This began with lengthy discussions with various members of Congress, state representatives of multiple states, and candid dialog with sheriffs, attorney generals, and pro-registry organizations. This is a reset for the organization I represent but also how I can influence change among a persuasive university. So far, the motion is working, and some legislation has been tabled, deleted, or challenged. Is it an absolute win? Not always. But the open doors has managed to develop into a transparent dialog and small steps towards better resolution and outcomes. The days of bullying one another have significantly ended. Congressional, state and municipality leadership now has credible representation to perform diplomatic relationships where each side has a value in being heard and respected. The outcome has both positive and negative results. However, the benefit is that there is an opportunity to be continually heard without the need for bullying, petty name-calling, and allowing discussions to be facilitated among professionals rather than amateurs. This is where mastery level and higher scholars collectively agree that anti-registry organizations must do more to expand among other organizations that have dotted line influences to determine best that registry advocacy and its effects are among all walks of life, race, religion, and gender.

Our initial findings quickly identified that anti-registry movements must promptly develop a strategy to reach out to media outlets to discuss the problematic stigmas but also reasonably address how to facilitate effective public policy. Merely throwing a target to media that the registry must be abolished was not the most effective methods in starting that conversation. Next, there must be a face representation and aligned embodiment of the same language, script, and calm delivery that changes the stigma that all registrants are angry individuals with a motive to shout down legislation or policy leaders. Again, the consensus was that anti-registry issues had to become personal where others are deeply affected, but those individuals would be required to come forward to advocate from their perspective. Lastly, image means everything in today’s media-filled world. The delivery must be polished and well-rehearsed. Too much data doesn’t get the message delivered. The public image wants to visualize rehabilitative, reformed, and well thought out diplomatic individuals willing to calmly work with the most strenuous opposition. There must always be a methodology of cohesiveness and respectful disagreement but complimentary as not to alienate from within or the intended audience. Again, image and easy to follow scripts are the keys towards successful and credible conversations. If the public relations perception fails to change, then so will the same result become increasingly clear that the registry or similarly policy-driven initiatives will remain for decades to come.

Disclosure: doctoral-level students of law, public policy, sociology, and communications researched in depth about sex offender advocacy websites to best determine if they could understand the cause and effects of registrants, families, and allies. Their findings were not influenced by myself. The research group studied scholarly and anti-registry organizations solely based upon web-searches The assessment presented is only based upon their discoveries and document sharing. No interviews were necessary for this academic workshop. The purpose was to learn how credible information may be introduced, and the impact researchers can be emotionally influenced as a particular cause may have significant issues that distract from the core cause of the organizational framework. This is not a scientific published study. However, the communications and sociology departments have discussed perhaps pursuing a scholarly project. 

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Sen. Lauren Book Isn’t The Problem. Lobbying Is The Problem.

For the people on the sex offender registry living in the state of Florida must be a complete hell living experience. The random sex offense laws conjured up appears to be one of the most repressive compliance standards in the nation. However, there seems to be a focal point on assessing blame to Florida State Senator Lauren Book making a case for those oppressive bills to become law. But I would argue that Senator Book isn’t the problem with registry issues in the state of Florida. I would say that lobbying perhaps is the fourth branch of government for the Sunshine State that allowed such harsh conditions for Florida registrants.

First, all one has to do is follow the money trail. That begins with a simple search of the Florida Department of State Campaign Contributions website. A quick query instantaneously identified a plethora of lobbying donors in addition to real estate, educators, attorneys, and a trickle of a few large corporations. Rather than place direct blame at Senator Book for her legislative introduction, she was perhaps influenced by high profiled lobbying. Before anyone begins shooting fish in the barrel and tossing a lawn dart on Ron Book. I would suggest focal attention on the outside players. The Book family remains successful only if it has spending dollars filling its coffers. This implies that lobbying to introduce strick compliance laws for registrants are motioned by perhaps real estate, educational, and entertainment contributive dollars.

Let’s take an easy example of entertainment lobbying economics. Disney is perhaps the most identified source of revenue for Florida. The Disney corporation provides a political donation. Not because Senator Book has a pretty face. Instead, it is a political contribution to be heard later down the road once in office. So, if Disney wants to strengthen its “family atmosphere,” it would suggest a public policy that would eliminate possible harm or liability from happening on its property. Disney has said it utilizes facial recognition software to ban registered offenders from its property. But Disney doesn’t escort people off its property. That task has been outsourced to the local Sheriffs department. That indicates that Disney and the county have an exclusive agreement in place to trespass people from its properties. Disney has exclusively outsourced its problems to Florida presenting an illusion that it was deputies the entire time seeking offenders entering its properties. Naturally, this allows the Book family to become victims of circumstance. Sure, there is a plausible argument that there wouldn’t be such a case if Senator Book hadn’t introduced registrant bills that become law. However, it is safe to say that lobbying would have identified another member of the legislature to pass its restrictive measures sooner or later.

The money trail in sex offender legislation in Florida is pretty clear that the entertainment, real estate, and educators are the leading lobbying effort and establishment of maintaining a sex offender registry to rid of people from its state. Otherwise, why would a rising star democrat senator become the voice of the opposing party by introducing legislation typically found in republican policymaking? Deductive reasoning and logic points directly to lobbying and a need to sterilize the state entertainment sector from certain liabilities.

So, how does the sex offender registry advocacy tackle how to deal with lobbying? Simple. It begins a boycott campaign, not with Florida. But with the businesses that contribute to campaigns. An economic woe no matter how small, will eventually send a ripple effect to the business sector, even if you never step foot in the state of Florida. Rather than focus energy an attention on Senator Book. Focus and energy should be pressured upon the very contributory organizations that help finance and pressure public policy. To stop lobbying in its tracks, it is essential to slow their cash flow.

I’d bet if registry advocacy lobbying somehow became a contributing source of campaign influence during elections to render the registry obsolete, that opposition would be employing the same tactics.

Most of all, being visible to speak with legislatures is a crucially important role in our democracy. If people don’t listen, it’s okay. Eventually, if they see you in the hallways each week, they begin to pique an interest because they have no idea if you are making headway or not? Being visible in registry advocacy is vital not to tell your message but to describe how the registry has increased homelessness, higher unemployment rates, starvation, and other issues relevant to your particular state. Advocacy begins with being a lobbyist and sharing concerns for all constituents past, present, and future.

Lauren Book isn’t the problem. Lobbying is the problem.

Footnote: I would be willing to talk to Lauren Book about registry issues affecting her state in a professional diplomatic discussion if she would allow me the privilege?

Epstein Issue Is Common Among Jails But Ignored

There has been so much emphasis in news coverage of Jeffrey Epstein that one would perhaps think that he was the most wanted terrorist on American soil. However, that was not the case. Epstein didn’t decide his criminal conviction. Politics played its part in its decision making. However, the general public chose to weigh in well after the fact because of the politicized connectivity. Now that Epstein has died in the custody of an agency that has a duty to protect communities and provide structure to ensure such tragic events never occur. The fact is that Epstein died at the hands of government officials, which should send a scary chill down the spines of every American – especially when such a high profile individual was recently in the news for allegedly attempting to take his own life.

Perhaps a better question to ask one another is, “should have Jeffrey Epstein with a condition of potential suicide been relocated to a psychiatric facility for assessment and medical self-harm concerns?” Instead, the emphasis of the government and a judge was to keep Mr. Epstein in custody without bail. Naturally, the government side of the case deemed that Mr. Epstein met certain conditions that could place his safety at risk. But today we see that the government was extremely negligent in its duty to the American people.

There will of course by opposition or noise to inject that Epstein got what he deserved. To any human being, the notion of wishing death upon others may be an emotional reaction but is harmful. But it rings similarities to the death of Jeffrey Dahmer while he was imprisoned. It is bad enough that the sex offender registry is a tool to create public shaming on the outside world but its even more disturbing that American culture has instilled that prison life is a world filled with a retributive prisoner on prisoner punishment.

While there may be a blame assessment of Epstein died at the hands of the government, I would inject that the media played a significant part in allowing the Epstein story to become similar to the Princess Diana story where the press ultimately played a role in his death. The recent release of the Epstein report naming celebrity and other high profile names is not only entertainment value but brings additional harm in the allegation game. Nevermind how many people use the famed Nevada bunny ranch for paid sex or hookup apps such as Tinder, Grindr, Chaturbate or the now-defunct personals of BackPages and Craigslist. It will only be a matter of time before these apps catch up with mainstream media and sex scandals now or later. Eventually, this became a war on sexuality and power.

The media has shifted from reporting the news towards a talk show format to discuss how our culture and behaviors should be normalized. The innermost decisions made at home are now outsourcing to media and its commentary. No longer are we a society free of our own choosings or preferences. We are dictated to a degree how to engage with others. The media and society is no longer a culture of forgiveness, redemption, and a format of discussion. Instead, we are indoctrinated into a culture of entertainment where a life that ended, taken, or humiliated somehow becomes a celebrated moment? To me, that is a sick and demented society.

Are the alleged crimes of Epstein wrong? Of course! But society and the media had placed a shaming and entertainment value of this reporting well ahead of the economic and global outlook and survivability of mass murders and global threats. To me, that is more seriously important than a rich person engaging in sexual improprieties.

But finally, I leave with this valuable lessons learned moment. Did anyone come to the defense of Jeffery Epstein? I am not suggesting that Epstein be defended for his actions. Did anyone come to the rescue of Epstein for being listed on a national or state registries? Certainly not. In fact many advocates either remained silent or kept a safe distance not to become consumed with the rhetoric or grouping. But that is where I beg to question if anti-registry advocates are indeed advocates of ridding of the registry when why didn’t they create a momentum that Epstein is no different than any other registrant? Until the registry community learns to tackle the most difficult questions or situations, then all registrants risk being stuck in the mud for a very long time. Registry advocates must begin to take the Epstein moment to discuss how the registry, allegations, the judicial system, politics, and all the touchpoints affect all families and registrants. Do not avoid this topic because that is what the opposition desires. Epstein was a registrant and deserved equal treatment among fellow registrants to bring a cause that harm is always around the corner. Epstein situations happen all the time in the registry community. However, I will assume that there will be a few firings, and this will be swept under the rug just like all the rest.

It is an unfortunate day for our judicial and pretrial systems all across America.

Records Expungement Isn’t Really Expunged

The State of North Carolina recently introduced House Bill 863 that would bar convicted felons from running for the office of Sheriff. It seems like a no-brainer if one only reads the title. However, the fine print in the legislation mandates explicitly and clarifies that even if a conviction is expunged, the individual is still a felon. Why? Because the Governor has not pardoned the felony.

A pardon is a government decision to allow a person to be absolved of guilt for an alleged crime or other legal offense, as if the act never occurred. The pardon may be granted before or after conviction for the crime, depending on the laws of the jurisdiction.

Okay. That seems fair right? Perhaps. However, I would argue that if a conviction has been expunged, then shouldn’t that also indicate that the criminal record is no longer valid? I only bring up this particular issue because if Second Chance laws are passed around the nation to expunge criminal convictions does that imply that criminal records are indeed expunged? According to the North Carolina General Assembly that answer may be a short “no” and a concern for the validity of Second Chance laws across this nation.

A very real distinction exists between an expungement and a pardon. When an expungement is granted, the person whose record is expunged may, for most purposes, treat the event as if it never occurred. A pardon (also called “executive clemency”) does not “erase” the event; rather, it constitutes forgiveness.

A particular question to be addressed is, “why is it the business of the legislature to determine who can or cannot be elected as a citizen?” It isn’t as if the people of North Carolina suddenly rose up in protest to voice a person shouldn’t be able to become Sheriff. After all, the office and duty of Sheriff is an elected position by the people. It is highly unlikely in a YouTube and Twitter world that the most skilled reporter or journalist wouldn’t vet any person seeking a political office. However, the more profound concern is that such laws creeping into policy will eventually make anyone ever convicted of a crime, even if it is erased, unable to seek political office. It seems like a law for the elite rather than for the will of the people.

On July 1, 2010, the North Carolina General Assembly passed House Bill 1307 that allowed the voters to decide on an amendment to the North Carolina Constitution (N.C. Const. art. VII, § 2). This amendment was passed by the voters in November 2010, officially amending the North Carolina Constitution (Attachment 1). Until this amendment, there was no constitutional provision prohibiting a convicted felon from being elected or appointed sheriff. This amendment prohibits anyone that has been convicted of a felony from serving as sheriff, which applies to both a sheriff elected or appointed. Also, the individual does not have to be convicted of the felony in North Carolina, rather any conviction, anywhere qualifies.

Personally, I am concerned about the passing of this bill. On the one hand, we have our constitution that allows people to govern and seems to have been working for hundreds of years. On the other hand, we are beginning to micromanage, who is constitutionally protected and applicable for a position that has been around for centuries. Legislatures should be in the business of fixing government for the people rather than breaking it. It appears that the unnecessary micro details are easier to perform than the macro duties we elected them to settle in the first place.

In the common law legal system, an expungement proceeding is a type of lawsuit in which a first time offender of a prior criminal conviction seeks that the records of that earlier process be sealed, making the records unavailable through the state or Federal repositories

You Can’t Handle The Truth!

Decades ago turning on the television was a race at 6 PM each evening to host what would be the nightly headline. Of all the media segments, it seemed, as if all the major networks were delivering the same news stories injecting its interviews or overlapping interviewing at press conferences. There was an overall sense of trust in the media that the information we received was the truth without bias or political leanings. However, the most significant part of American journalism was that all people, regardless of political compass, seemed restrained enough to invoke his/her part of a discourse by not forming a quick opinion until all of the evidence, over time, had been delivered.

Today journalism isn’t what it used to be. Instead, the art of journalism extends to anyone with a laptop, cell phone, and blog to post anything or whatever they want without much need for articulation or fact-finding. The death of trust in the media came to an abrupt halt once the internet took over. American culture and society have shifted from print newspapers, magazines, and credible orators or writers towards an a la carte version of subscription-based or safe-space journalism. I would be willing to assert that our knowledge base of reporting only the facts and what was said rather than injecting our thoughts are perhaps a critical reason that the free press isn’t open anymore to seek an unbias delivery. It has become chaos driven by entertainment-based journalism so that media sustains its membership somewhat like a drug with adverse effects. Media, along with public policy, has shifted from a balance of compromise towards a social trust barrier that no matter how much evidence there is to support one thing, we believe the opposite entirely.

Social trust is a belief in the honesty, integrity and reliability of others – a “faith in people.” It’s a simple enough concept to describe. But it’s never been easy to figure out who trusts, or why

When America Online and CompuServe introduced instant messaging on computers, we witnessed the first-hand scope of what the future of news would be. When CNN began its cable news network and launched the scroll at the bottom of the television screen our attention was no longer on the actual news, but we suddenly became ADHD candidates for absorbing information without synthesis for what is fact versus bias. When Facebook and other social media companies began sorting how data would be disseminated and delivered to individuals, it perhaps then was the reason many credible news agencies faltered, and print media eventually died. Our confirmation bias began to shift that news media took too long or wasn’t instantaneous. Therefore, people texting, posting on social media (with video clips), and presenting its version of accounts must be the truth because it’s the first to break the story in a live format. Society no longer cares about the fact because there is no need incentive to becoming truthful by American standards anymore. Politics has created a deep divide in America that the truth is only relevant if you belong to “our way” of thinking or diplomacy.

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses. It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning.

Some may suggest that “all products have a shelf life” and are replaceable to the next new thing. The problem is that the next best thing isn’t actually our best delivery for the truth or truth. I would argue that our lives are too filled with news instead of stories of how to remedy the problem. As a society, we are entertained with emotion and reality measurements to either celebrate or vilify the images we see on our smartphone, in media, or splashed on a television screen. All it takes is less than 15 seconds of a story, and society has managed to make up its mind in an armchair jury fashion as if they have all the evidence they require. It is a scary indication of how humanity has suddenly reinvigorated the verso pollice as its measure to rate other human beings without much fact-finding or critical decision making. Our minds have become the outsource of anyone behind and camera, keyboard, or microphone.

If America or the rest of civilization in a globalized world intends to become diplomatic and end repression, hunger, crime and justice reforms, violence, and begin growing virtuous to all of humanity with equal effort. It must start to think critically from all sides and embrace an ear of understanding to become better citizens for all instead of self — humanity isn’t entertainment of suffering or scorn. Hopefully, we have grown mentally as a society since the ancient Rome days?

Pollice verso or verso pollice is a Latin phrase, meaning “with a turned thumb”, that is used in the context of gladiatorial combat. It refers to the hand gesture or thumbs signal used by Ancient Roman crowds to pass judgment on a defeated gladiator.

Crime Does Pay – if you work for the prosecution

If you think that crime doesn’t pay? Think again. The criminal justice system in America is perhaps the most well-financed institution of government anywhere in the world. In fact, to provide how well funded criminal justice inquiry alone is probably is to reflect on previous Presidential investigations ranging from Watergate to the Bill Clinton affair. There is no expense cap on how much money is spent. But take a moment and try to imagine how prosecutors in courts across America with sometimes unlimited resources don’t try to locate the truth? Instead, it seems to be to find the win. Many cases uncovered over past decades by advocacy organizations or third-party investigators have witnessed an alarming trend that prosecutors, despite evidence that could significantly deteriorate a case or allow an innocent person to be free, insists on plea bargains and continuing the cases all in the name of winning. It makes absolutely no sense. Or does it? Perhaps the art of winning a claim has no repercussions because the way policy and law protect prosecutors and the state.

Prosecutorial immunity is the absolute immunity that prosecutors in the United States have in initiating a prosecution and presenting the state’s case. “Firming up what had long been held as common practice, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976 ruled in Imbler v. Pachtman that prosecutors cannot face civil lawsuits for prosecutorial abuses, no matter how severe.” Prosecutors have qualified immunity in other activities such as advising police and speaking to the press.

When the Duke Lacrosse case made headlines all across living rooms, we listened to Nancy Grace of CNN vilify a university rape culture of athletes taking advantage of a poor African American woman by violently raping her over and over. The news was enough to make anyone angry that such alleged activity would take place. However, as the evidence unfolded, there became significant cracks on both the police, the prosecution, and witness, and the overall method in which the case had been investigated from the start. Instantly, the news splashed released from police reports already created the most damaging evidence against the accused where they will be forever known as the “Duke Lacross players accused of rape”. In fact, there was no rape at all! To make matters worse; Nancy Grace never made a formal apology to the team, coach, or university for her brash and unfiltered scorn of something that didn’t happen. Nancy simply moved on to the next big story in her unapologetic manner. However, we do see the same tactics being used over and over each week in the news by prosecutors, police, and the media. The difference is maybe that there was a Lacrosse team whereas most rape or sexual assault cases involve only one on one allegations. Mostly, the team story was scripted. It was a validation of truth by a group of men with the same story backed with evidence, whereas one versus one in other cases does not have such luxuries. Therefore, prosecutors don’t really care if the truth is out there. It becomes an art of only finding a win for the prosecution.

The prosecutor is an administrator of justice, a zealous advocate, and an officer of the court. The prosecutor’s office should exercise sound discretion and independent judgment in the performance of the prosecution function.

There are naturally good people and good prosecutors. But there is a stigma all across America that prosecutors are elected people that need reelection to maintain and keep their jobs. Doesn’t it seem a bit odd that we never hear in the media where a prosecutor discover evidence that may set a person free and perhaps convict the false accuser? This never happened in the Duke Lacross case and didn’t seem that it will ever happen in other courtrooms across America. Doing so, by the voices of prosecutors and lawyers would place the judicial system in a tailspin. Perhaps that is what our nation requires? A pursuit of the truth – so help us, God. Justice reforms aren’t about tearing down the judicial system. Reforms are about the discovery of the truth to align the field evenly so that justice for all prevails.

Perhaps another issue regarding justice reforms may begin with how the media reports and could sway the public from a fair trail by disclosing too much information — reigning the press in a bit with regards to public records and judicial matters aren’t silencing the media. Instead, it allows a cooling period so that both sides are protected. Under the current system, the victims are ALWAYS protected while the accused is splattered across airwaves and social media in nanoseconds. We ought to change that system for the sake of justice reforms and perhaps restorative justice.

More than 90 percent of state and federal criminal convictions are the result of guilty pleas, often by people who say they didn’t commit a crime.

Again, the state and prosecution have an unlimited resource of funding at its disposal. Yet we have “backlogs” of DNA testing, cases where plea deals are often 85% or higher of most case settlements, decades later evidence discovered or unearthed in storage rooms long forgotten by police agencies, and advocacy groups without much funding at all uncovering questionable evidence that could have allowed a person to be free. It is disconcerting, especially in a country where parties are required to swear upon a bible or affirm, they are telling the truth before a court. However, this policy is not extended to prosecutors to affirm or swear they are telling the truth. They don’t have to because they will always have immunity. Doesn’t seem right, does it? But it is your system of government. So, what are you going to do about it?