Tuesday, March 18, 2014

R.I.P., Rev. C. David Hess (a.k.a., "The Parson")

I am saddened by the news that long-time reform activist, the Reverend David Hess of NY State, has passed away.

[Read one of Rev. Hess's final letters of advocacy at USA FAIR, written just days before his death]

I can't write a memorial as well for Rev. Hess as I did for Mary Duval; I only conversed with Rev. Hess a few times over the years. I met him on the old sexcriminals.com site way back in 2004 (ancient times as far as the sex offender reform movement is concerned) and later at SOHopeful, where he was always known as "The Parson." He is one of the few people I know who had been in this fight longer than me. He was far more level-headed than I (no surprise), and gave encouragement at many times to people. He was a pastor, first and foremost, after all. 

I remember, however, the help he gave me after my first taste of real activism, back in December 2006, during my battle with the city of Cincinnati over increasing residency restriction laws. He was one of the first to praise my efforts. Back then I did not have the knowledge and know-how to add videos to the internet (or an internet connection), so Rev. Hess uploaded the video for me. 

Rev. Hess was a quiet voice, but was among the many silent heroes in the battle against tough-on-crime legislation. We may not see everyone on the front lines of the cause, but that does not belittle the efforts of those like Rev. Hess, one of the early pioneers who helped mold and empower the reform movement in his own way. 

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN to Rev. Hess's sermon entitled "Lepers Among Us." He tells the story of a registrant who was turned away from a shelter because of his registry status during his sermon. 

Here is a brief bio of Hess from his Official Memorial page

David was born May 31, 1949 in Charleston, West Virginia. He was a graduate of Berea College and received a Master of Divinity and a Doctor of Ministry from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. While in Seminary he pastored the Mt. Herman Baptist Church in Kutawa, Kentucky. Subsequently, he served the Glenwood Baptist Church in New Jersey, The First Baptist Church in Hamilton, NY and for 16 years the West Henrietta Baptist Church in New York, the longest pastorate in this nearly 200 year old congregation. Much loved and respected by his congregation and a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. He was active in the work of the American Baptist Churches of Rochester and Genesee Region and in many other local and statewide organizations. David served as the Chaplain of the West Henrietta Fire Department and the Henrietta Fire District. His love of music was widely recognized both within his congregation and also by his active role in the Eastman Rochester Chorus.

Home:Scottsville/West Henrietta, NY
Death Date:March 07, 2014
Birth Date:May 31, 1949

Birthplace:Charleston, West Virginia

The BULLETIN from Rev. Hess's church, West Henrietta Baptist Church:

Our beloved Pastor David Hess succumbed to lung cancer on March 7th 2014 while a patient at the Wilmot Cancer Center of Strong Memorial Hospital.

David Hess has been the pastor of our church since April, 1998. He is a native West Virginian and  a graduate of Berea College. He has  received Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary ("When," he says, "it was a good seminary.")

He has served pastorates in Hamilton, NY; Glenwood, NJ; Kuttawa, KY.; and Carrolton, KY. When in college he served as a student summer missionary to Trinidad.

Rev. Hess also ran a website called "SO Hopeful of NY." This was Rev. Hess's mission as founder of SOHopeful NY. Below was the mission statement from SOHopeful NY. Back during those early days of the moment, there were not very many organizations fighting against tough-on-crime legislation. Now, we have a number of organizations like SOSEN, RSOL, WAR, USA Fair, and my own website to help continue the fight that the good Reverend believed in:

Our positions:

1. We want effective laws that prevent sex crimes against children and others.

2. We recognize that effective laws are based on facts, not mythology and false assumptions. Most sex offender laws are enacted to prevent the victimization of children and adults by former offenders and strangers. Such crimes are much more likely to be committed by other individuals. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 93% of children who are victims of sexual abuse are victimized by family members or acquaintances. 95% of those arrested for sex crimes in New York State have not previously been convicted of a sex offense and thus  are not listed on any registry. Contrary to mythology, most sex offenders do not repeat their crimes. According to a study by NY State Division of Criminal Justice Services, just 8% of registered sex offenders in New York State are arrested for a new sex offense within 8 years of the date of their initial registration. The sex offender registry must not over promise. It is powerless to prevent the vast majority of sex crimes which are committed in New York State. It may even serve to cloak the true danger from the public. (More on sex offender recidivism in New York State).

3. We recommend that New York return to the earlier version of its law where only the most dangerous offenders were posted on the Internet registry, and that low risk, non-contact, non-violent, one time offenders be dropped from the registry after ten years.  Public sex offender registries are becoming so large that the public cannot identify those who truly present a continuing danger. Furthermore, we recommend that a path be opened up for those deemed "higher risk" offenders to earn their way off the registry. (New York State reports that 89% of even those "high risk" offenders  (Level 3) are not arrested for a new sex crime within 8 years of their date of first registration.

 4. We are against laws that increase the danger to the public. For example, it is well known in the field of corrections that recidivism is less likely when former offenders have stable employment, stable housing, and stable family and social support. Many sex offender laws actually increase the danger by making it more difficult for former offenders to find stable employment and housing. Many sex offender laws also have a significant negative impact on former offenders’ families, especially their children. It is a fact that many former offenders can become productive, law abiding, tax paying members of their communities. Specifically, we urge that public registries not include information about former offenders’ employers and that no residency laws be enacted for those no longer on probation or parole. (More on residency laws).

5. We support the recommendations on "Effective Sex Offender Management in New York State” found in the NY Senate Crime, Crime Victims, and Corrections Committee’s 2010 Annual Report.

6. In particular, we urge that New York State not implement the Adam Walsh Act (AWA). It is not the case that the federal government always knows better than the states. AWA is much more expensive and less effective than what New York presently has.  It is with good reason that only 4 states have implemented AWA to this point. Many states rightly object to the cost of AWA. For example, the Texas Legislative Budget Board, an independent review agency for the state's legislature, published its legislative biennium-based report. Its summary offers this fiscal impact information from Texas:

"Both state and federal laws play a role in establishing sex offender registration and notification requirements. In 2006, the federal government passed the Adam Walsh Act establishing comprehensive sex offender registration and notification requirements that may be costly for states to implement. Early estimates indicate it could cost Texas $14 million a year to comply with the Act. The penalty for non-compliance in fiscal year 2010 would have been $2.2 million."

 Ohio was the first state to implement AWA. In addition to the cost of implementing AWA, the state also had to wage a costly legal battle in defense of the law. The ultimate result was that the Ohio Supreme Court found Ohio’s law to be unconstitutional.  (Update: NY has notified the U.S. Justice Dept. that NY will not comply with the Adam Walsh Act).