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.

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. 

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

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?

Registrant Apartheid: A Warning on Government Infringement

There is a saying that every man’s home is his castle. This saying originated from ancient Rome and later became a part of values with regards to privacy and security. There is a certain amount of honor in having a space to call your own. Rather it is a house, apartment, mobile home, camper, tent, motel room, shelter, or couch surfing home is where you should feel welcome, comfortable, and safe.

quid enim sanctius, quid omni religione munitius, quam domus unusquisque civium?
What more sacred, what more strongly guarded by every holy feeling, than a man’s own home? —Cicero

Upon visiting the doorsteps of others, there is often a welcoming greeting mat awaiting your either expected or unscheduled arrival. The welcome is clear that you are valued as a person with the freedom to engage with others unrestricted without the need of chaperon or assistance. However, society has turned from its welcoming mats to a sorted inquisitive band of uncertain litmus tests using a scoring mechanism only they understand. It is as if people that are supposed to be our trusted friends and allies have suddenly become narcissists?

There are plenty of narcissistic people on the planet (perhaps you know a few on Twitter?). But a home whether permanent or temporary shouldn’t be subjected to emotional strain and narcissistic behaviors in the forms of businesses sharing guest information with police.

A few years ago the hotel chain Motel 6 began a voluntary program sharing hotel guest information with police. Police would then run the guest information by national criminal computers to check for outstanding warrants, immigration, and sex offenders perhaps staying on its properties. Many of those snared took the issue to court and won massive legal settlements against the hotel chain.

Motel 6 will pay $12 million to settle lawsuit after sharing guest info with ICE

Recently the state of Florida introduced a legislative bill mandating that hotels or forms of lodging check all guest information for potential sex offenders visiting the state or seeking shelter. Florida already has the worst conditional restrictions for those visiting or living in the state. But to go a step further creeping into the privacy of a business to share its guest information with police is far reaching into dangerous territory. Sooner or later the police checks will expand into other sensitive details allowing firms to cherry pick who it chooses to allow as guests. We can see it now that as an example of the story of John Smith. John Smith is visiting Orlando on business. Back home in Texas he has a lovely wife and two wonderful children still in school. However John planned a discreet rendezvous with a lovely lady he met through a phone app. He checks into the hotel; the hotel runs a check and police come busting in because John Smith shows as a registered sex offender from Texas! However, it is the wrong John Smith. Now his embarrassment surfaces on a TMZ Odd Storys TV segment. His marrigage is instantly shattered placing his infidelities in public light. His future to mend ways with his wife and family are in peril. Rather than quickly blaming John for his poor choice of action or blame upon the police, the hotel is the key responsible party for sharing his mandated data. Sure, Mr. Smith was in the wrong for cheating, but his rights to privacy and his castle was violated. If Florida wants to check guests staying for 30 days or more, then that may be a bit more reasonable than staying overnight or a few days? Mr. Smith may have a civil claim with some very interesting litigation potentially placing a hotel chain in bankruptcy from the settlement he could receive? Nevertheless, the business has a duty and responsibility to protect consumer data, its property, and its guests. The hotel didn’t call the police. Instead, the law supersedes the business ability to act within autonomous actions by making a warrantless searches much easier.

Apartheid (segregation; lit. “separateness”): a system of institutionalized segregation characterized by an authoritarian political culture. It entailed the separation of public facilities, social events, housing, and employment opportunities. Complex laws are created to suppress and punish both individuals or supporters.

All this unnecessary panic legislation has taken liberty and freedoms this country embraces into a practicing police state. The nation and states already have a public sex registry tied into schools, employment, apartments, and volunteer organizations. It is frustrating enough to pay extra fees to the government to take part in PreCheck amenities to prove I’m not a flight risk to go through airport security. But laws similar to Florida are opening a door to only the privilege that PreCheck styled services or data sharing between businesses and police will extend to hotels, car rentals, U-Haul, gyms, hospitals, and perhaps to retail stores with fitting rooms.

For decades Americans have tried every method possible to rid of policing within bedrooms or homes. It is one thing when a person commits a criminal offense. But to begin a trend instructing a person where, when, and how they may live is unAmerican. When any government branch instructs by policy a business to share user data for a paid services without consent and expectation of reasonable privacies, it endangers free movement and prohibits choice. Services aren’t the same as purchasing bullets, dynamite, drugs, or restricted materials. The castle that we choose to make our home will always be a human right. The defense of that castle is a government facilitating registrant apartheid no different than blockbusting tactics and a revision of sundown towns.

Sundown towns, also known as sunset towns or gray towns, were all-white municipalities or neighborhoods in the United States that practiced a form of segregation—historically by enforcing restrictions excluding people not white via some combination of discriminatory local laws, intimidation, and violence.

There are many sex offense laws on the books with residential restrictions, employment exclusions, public space constraints, social media limitations, and the list goes on. If someone made a smartphone app to provide legal information to registrants or the curious, it would be inconceivable to develop. It is perhaps why there won’t be an app for that particular purpose because updates would have to occur daily to keep up with legislation, legal decisions, and refined interpretations. Pretty much the future of iPhones would require a Tesla vehicle battery pack to keep up with sex offender laws on any given day!

America is no longer the home of the free. Instead, it may reconsider changing it to Home of the Fee. There is nothing more disgusting than watching America with a populist agenda sway from the governance of law to experiment with socialist criminal law, embracing utilitarian principles. We are a society on a pathway towards the destruction of individual liberty but for the beginning of government interference upon capitalism and autonomy thanks in part to states such as Florida leading the way to mandate sharing consumer information without any probable cause.

Surely the utilitarian must admit that whatever the facts of the matter may be, it is logically possible that an ‘unjust’ system of punishment—e.g. a system involving collective punishments, retroactive laws and punishments, or punishments of parents and relations of the offender—may be more useful than a ‘just’ system of punishment?H. J. McCloskey

Sure, the notion of every man’s home is his castle is undoubtedly questionable as America continues its quest to legislate freedoms. Perhaps it should say, every man’s home was once his castle.

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