We Have A Choice

Every election cycle may see the creation of a legislative bill aimed directly at people on the sex offender registry. Regardless of what the bill is titled, there will always be an argument without supporting facts or evidence the bill “will keep children safe”. 

It has been only a month into a new political cycle. We are once again witnessing a national legislative agenda filled with residency restrictions, senior assisted living, exclusionary benefit schemes, parental rights, and other bills directly aimed at people on the sex offender registry. 

However, only a few short months ago, we heard manifestos of politicians exclaim criminal justice reforms and a return to compassion for human life. However, the same elected people that we count on to make that change and live up to their word are often the very people that alienate their agenda, returning to fear-laced propaganda and divorcing rational thought. 

If you were to take any of the current sex offense bills and remove the title “sex offender” and replace it with African-American, Jewish, Gay or Lesbian, or Latino, there would certainly be an outcry of discrimination. But that is what politicians do when creating law. The United States has been down that road before with Jim Crow-styled laws and loud politicized rhetoric that always seems to mention protections without any supporting facts or evidence. The truth is that historically once such laws if and when have been rescinded, there are years of apologies, compensation programs, and reeducation policies to heal all the decades of wrongdoing to ordinary human beings. 

It is all a more incredible lesson of what Nazi soldiers said after the war about witnessing atrocities and the rounding up of human beings they were told to treat as criminals. In their defense, Nazi soldiers would say, “I had no choice” or “it was my duty”. Nazi leaders would tout, “this is the protection of the fatherland”. Similar arguments are continually argued about the U.S. Civil War reconstruction era, the Hopewell Native American treaty, the Civil Rights Selma to Montgomery marches, to the Stonewall riots. However, the lesson learned moments are striking similarities that lawmakers and people haven’t learned much from history and continue to spew rhetoric to incite fear without data or evidence citing it is for America’s safety. 

As Americans, we ought to be striving for opportunities to educate and facilitate best practices towards confronting our worst fears by creating a fair policy for all. Instead, we continue to live in a world guided by Jim Crow laws with a McCarthy-styled methodology that everyone could be an offender or sympathizer. We shouldn’t want to live in a nation where fear drives us? 

Our leaders have a moral obligation to do the right thing for all people. While politicians lay claim to following a spiritual path, they too often stray, leaving behind moral thought and embracing corruption by saying, “I had no choice”. Thus history ultimately repeats itself, causing morality to be stuck in the mud. 

Perhaps the best medicine for our history is to become stewards of what is right and fair for all. But such action requires people to become active voices in pushing back. Never assume that others are doing the work for you. While people sat idly by and witnessed Nazi atrocities, civil, gay, or Muslim rights being egregiously violated, what are you doing to back up the voices that represent your concerns? Pick up the phone and call your legislative representative to voice your opposition to a bill. Invest in memberships to organizations that support your cause. Show up in person to your legislature, allowing your lawmakers to see advocacy no longer afraid. 

Dr. Judith Levine researched in 2016, African Americans account for 22 percent of publicly listed registered sex offenders nationally; they make up just 13 percent of the U.S. population. However, that number is staggeringly growing by the day. During this period of Black History Month, we ought to take a moment to reflect on how far we may have come but how far we have to go. We have a moral duty to get things right moving forward.

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 from prisons. Leading the way is, supposedly, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). But the ACLU has habitually missed significant steps 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 national 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.”

Sure, there can be a supporting argument that Michigan ACLU did a marvelous job in protections of those impacted and punished by sex offender registries. However, it is safe to say that the national ACLU didn’t lend the Michigan chapter much support. Instead, I foresee the ACLU with an agenda to further other registries without taking into consideration that “all registries do harm” approach. Therefore, I am a skeptic of the ACLU because the organization fails to embrace the sex offense conversation and the collateral consequences associated with registries.

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. Registrants 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 the very supporters of liberty. Perhaps it is time to close the good ole boys club and support real causes that affect real people?

Eventually, the ACLU will become ensnared into the registry somehow. I certainly do not wish that upon anyone. However, for the lack of ACLU representation amongst us it will perhaps take years of trust building to return towards a civil and educative conversation. The ACLU has abandoned those impacted by the sex offender registry and should be ashamed to call itself an national organization that “defends and preserves the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country. ” A friend would not abandon another brother.

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.

Advocacy Is A Buzzword

Over the summer, I have been enrolled in doctoral courses to meet my educational requirements towards the completion of my Ph.D. in Public Policy. I have had the interesting ability to collaborate with various universities. During a recent conference call, we managed to discuss the particulars of research that we are currently engaged with or wish to pursue. Many students took a moment to review the various organizations they have been connecting or collaborating. There were discussions on how to better understand the perspective. Are the usefulness of information, advocacy, and how the organizational framework is useful towards a community or audience? One identifying issue kept repeating itself. That issue is that organizational fractures are common. Perhaps a reason that many causes or concerns never officially get off the ground is actionable working agendas, or motivational advocacy are too involved in personal issue or squabbles over petty things.

I too struggled over the past few months within organizations that, to me, seemed to be the best insightful methodology at quickly identifying issue or concern. What may be considered petty politics are often blown way over the proportion of the realities that either nobody cares or people are concerned with the microcosms of office politics. But a departmental professor brought up a very valid point that “advocacy is a buzzword that projects an interest mainly with one-sided viewpoints.” I had to let that sink in for a moment to grasp the concept. But perhaps the professor is right? Public policy, at least from my skill set, should be about the approach of balance from both sides. It doesn’t imply that I should discard my advocacy or belief systems. Instead, I should allow discourse to learn, strategize, but use compromise as a way to tweak towards results-driven deliverables.

There is much research, data, and scholarly information readily available if one looks deep enough. At times there may not be relevant data on a larger scale. But when I seek databases to drill down far enough, I can obtain the data to start something or allow an issue to expand by updating the results or findings. After all, that is, research in general.

What is missing from sex offender registry advocacy is professional quantitative research methods. Sure there are informational sites that show various statistical data, but rarely, are available by journal sites. However, for the sake of fairness, there is plenty of sex offense data from federal and state publications. While that particular data may be discouraging to sex offender advocacy, the data is credible and adequately peer-reviewed. But I pose this challenge to seek out a specified research method and bring that into the academic arena. Only then will that information become credible, listened, argued, and scholarly enough to gain traction. Perhaps this is why sex offender policy is stuck in the mud. There is only the emotional data rather than equity of research methods that may be introduced into an academic and shared among those that practice law?

Until state or local sex offender advocacy organizations begin to utilize comparative analysis and research methods within its structures, it will continue to fall upon deaf ears. Primarily because that particular data is a buzzword of credible information that fails to meet the credibility standard to the academic community. Now is time to begin shifting the burden of knowledge to scholars, professionals, and laypersons to deliver that message striking a chord of compromise and discourse.