Sunday, December 31, 2017


I wrote this for the ICoN Newsletter but I thought it would also make a nice end-of-the-year message as we enjoy the last holiday before the next round of legislative sessions begin. I needed this message this morning as much as anyone, as quite frankly, I've been depressed and grumpier than usual as of late.


I was trying to come up with a last minute idea to fill space for this month’s newsletter when I just happened to turn on CBS Sunday Morning. With December 31st falling on a Sunday this year, the show was filled with discussions of the events over the past year (as expected), but they discussed something interesting I felt was worth sharing. They discussed something called “Kintsugi.” Kintsugi (or Kintsukuroi, which means “golden repair”) is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with a special lacquer containing powdered gold (sometimes silver or platinum) which not only breathes new life into a broken vessel, but increases the beauty of the once broken piece. This repair method celebrates each artifact's unique history by emphasizing its fractures and breaks instead of hiding or disguising them.

“Kintsugi art dates back to the late 15th century. According to legend, the craft commenced when Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa sent a cracked chawan—or tea bowl—back to China to undergo repairs. Upon its return, Yoshimasa was displeased to find that it had been mended with unsightly metal staples. This motivated contemporary craftsmen to find an alternative, aesthetically pleasing method of repair, and Kintsugi was born.

Since its conception, Kintsugi has been heavily influenced by prevalent philosophical ideas. Namely, the practice is related to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, which calls for seeing beauty in the flawed or imperfect. The repair method was also born from the Japanese feeling of mottainai, which expresses regret when something is wasted, as well as mushin, the acceptance of change.” [From “Kintsugi: The Centuries-Old Art of Repairing Broken Pottery with Gold.” Apr. 25, 2017.]

We in America live in a throwaway society. If something is broken or has imperfections, we throw it away or donate it to a thrift store. Vegetables that do not meet a specific standard for shape and overall looks are rejected for sale in grocery stores. This principle seemingly applies to people as well. We are considered “broken vessels,” useless and ready to be discarded. However, those of us who are considered broken can not only repair our lives, we can strengthen what were once our imperfections and make them beautiful.

Two ways of applying Kintsugi on our souls is through personal healing and through an activist lifestyle. Whether you are still in prison or are in the “free world,” we all have great struggles to endure. You don’t have to face it alone. There are treatment organizations willing to help those still struggling with personal issues. There are online support groups like SOSEN that can help those in the “free world” but struggling with life on the list.

Even in prison, there are ways to prepare for life as an activist; activist organizations like OnceFallen help those adjusting to life on the registry and gain knowledge needed to navigate the confusing world of registration. (On a related note, OnceFallen turned 10 year old on December 5, 2017). This newsletter offers up resources and activist tools each month.

My slogan for is “Through Knowledge and Wisdom, We Rise from the Ashes.” (It is by design my logo is a Phoenix).  Like a repaired piece of broken pottery or the legendary Phoenix, we can overcome and be made whole again. That slogan I shared was for a treatment-focused group I was forming with some prisoners called SOPHIA (SOs Pursuing Healing In Adversity). I believe that knowledge (“book smarts”) and wisdom (“street smarts”) IS power. You may not be able to stop every bad thing that happens from here on out, but you can make the most of your life in whatever life situation you currently face. Many of us find contentment, peace, and life a good life even in the midst of this persecution.

To me, there is no greater beauty than one who can rise from the ashes of a broken life. Your success, however, won’t be measured by income or material possessions, but in finding happiness in whatever situation you find. Imagine the looks on the faces of the “haters” when what were once cracks and imperfections now glitter with gold!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Remember, Remember the 5th of December: turns 10!

Long before I knew there was even a movement against the registry, one of my dreams while incarcerated was to create a resource for registered citizens. In Alabama, a registrant was not allowed to register as homeless; people who could not find housing before their release dates were being charged with FTR and sent back to jail. I remember when I was in the county jail, one man had lived there for months past his end-of-sentence date. I didn't have anyone searching for housing for me. I was at a disadvantage. I was a week away from an FTR charge myself when I found a church in Cincinnati willing to take me in, and I've been here ever since. 

Before I became an activist, I had already endured the similar struggles we all faced as registered persons-- homelessness, job discrimination, housing search difficulties, and harassment. Many local charities refused to help me get on my feet. I eventually found a menial job and a sleeping room, but eventually, the state of Ohio decided I didn't receive enough punishment, arbitrarily reclassifying me as a "predator" and forcing me to move away from a GED program for people ages 16-21 (16 is the Age of Consent but the GED program counted as a school under the law).

I first discovered an online network of registrants while looking for housing and employment online from a defunct site that debated the need for sex offender laws. I started chatting with a woman named Jan, who was a registrant, and through her I was introduced to a group known as SOHopeful. Jan helped me fight the residency restriction laws and even though I lost after a year-long battle in the courts, it bought me time to find a new place to live. However, no sooner than I moved into my new home, I was forced to defend it again, this time at Cincinnati City Hall (On December 5th, 2006). I won a partial victory, inspiring others to speak out against the bill and getting the city to water down the law to where it impacted fewer people. It was my first taste of activism, which I shared in a video:

I had shared an article I wrote as part of my battle against the city [CLICK HERE to read it], and people told me I should write an entire book. I spent the first half of 2007 writing, going to the law library at the University of Cincinnati, printing out researching before returning home to write up part of the book, and repeating. (I did not have home Internet back then.) During this time, our movement was small but growing. RSOL was a petition site, SOSEN was still a Yahoo Group but looking to create their own website, and there wasn't even an activist group in California. SOHopeful was the big dog at the time, but leadership was lacking. Having tasted street-level activism and seeing how it can be effective, I always found behind-the-scenes work to be dull and lacking impact. That is why I was excited to learn the organizations not named SOHopeful was having a rally in Columbus, a mere 100 miles away, I just had to be there. 

There was a lot of behind-the-scenes drama surrounding the event, of course, and SOHopeful was in utter chaos. While the top brass there hated the rally and didn't support it (in fact, they condemned it), many folks supported it. The result of the in-fighting was a mass exodus from SOHopeful to SOSEN and RSOL, and SOHopeful quickly faded into oblivion. I pretty much figured SOHopeful was on the decline, and I had already written a handful of useful articles, so I decided it was best to publish my writings elsewhere. I did a little research, and even though I did not have home Internet, I had a laptop, and I found what I thought was the best deal at the time. Thus, on December 5, 2007, one full year to the day that I walked into the Cincinnati City Hall to fight for my right to live in the city, Once Fallen went online. 

This journey has not been easy. For the past decade, I've had to balance my life as a voice for the voiceless with a personal life. I'm on call almost all the time, and since I'm a one-man operation, I have to do everything myself, from taking calls to speaking to legislators and media personalities. My operation continues to expand (as well as my website) as I continue to take on more projects like inmate newsletters and taking on more out-of-state legislation. I get burned out at times from the annoying aspects of life as an anti-registry activist, like dealing with drama from fellow activists (and with some that term is rather subjective), dealing with online idiots, and the overall lack of support from most of the other groups for even simple things like sharing my latest survey on disaster preparedness. However, I remain 100% committed to offering support services to those who needed, and unlike some other organizations out there, I won't ever shed my status as a grassroots activist or forget that support also includes resource information gathering and sharing. 

So here's to a decade of, and hopefully, I'll survive another decade of this. Better yet, here's to the hope that in a decade, there won't even be a need for a site like mine because the registry is abolished. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

A somewhat premature requiem for "Innocent Until Proven Guilty" and the right to a fair trial

"It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer" -- William Blackstone in his seminal work, Commentaries on the Laws of England, published in the 1760s.

Alas, poor US Constitution. We knew you well. Well, some of us did.

In particular, this requiem is for the parts of the US Constitution that deal with the right to a fair trial. We once placed safeguards to protect the rights of the accused because we recognized our system of punishment destroyed human lives to the point we wanted a high degree of probability of the guilt of the condemned. Obviously, those days have long since passed. Today, innocent until proven guilty is little more than a myth. 

I had a recent conversation with my doctor during a routine check-up and the conversation progressed to what I spend my days doing. My response was that I advocate for the rights of those who served time to become productive members of society. he brought up Brock Turner, of all people, as an example of the system not being "tough on crime," to which I brought up the fact that for every case like his, there are thousands more where the person gets far more time. We didn't even discuss the registry, a punishment even worse than prison. Stories like Turner's make the jobs of the victim cult easier. 

I've heard an old mantra that the US Constitution began eroding the day it was committed to paper. Perhaps it is true to some extent, but it had also strengthened. Numerous groups fought in the past to become part of that wonderful concept of all persons being "equal." Blacks, LGBTQ+, women, the disabled, Native Americans, Hispanics, and Transgendered people have fought for that right, as many of us that are placed on the arbitrary government blacklist known as the "Sex Offender Registry." While those of us condemned to a life of shame and discrimination struggle to fight for the right for opportunities to become equal members of society, thousands more human lives potentially face life on the list.

Our movement tends not to focus much on the rights of the accused, and that is understandable given the fact we're all struggling just to find jobs and housing or trying not to get murdered by vigilantes who thinks every human on the registry molested a stadium full of toddlers. However, our fight for our lives began the day we were accused of a sex crime. 

As everyone likely knows by now, there are already limitations on the right to confront accusers thanks to Rape Shield Laws, a concept that largely began in the 1970s. Now, states across America are trying to pass "Marsy's Law," a "victim's bill of rights" to amend state Constitutions across America. This bill is very dangerous because Marsy's law includes a provision that allows accusers "to refuse an interview, deposition or other discovery request made by the accused or any person acting on behalf of the accused." The accuser under Marsy's law would not have to turn over potential evidence that could prove she was lying about the crime! 

Marsy's Law passed in Ohio by a margin of 82.5% to 17.5%, showing that people placed little value on the rights of the accused. Why would they, when our airwaves were flooded with commercials supporting Marsy's law, like THIS ONE:

Marsy's Law is a marvel of victim industrial engineering, funded by celebrity star power and one of the richest men in the world (Henry Nicholas). Marsy's law's key selling point, repeated in Marsy's Law ads, is ripped out of the victim industry playbook:

"Currently in the United States, the U.S. Constitution and every state constitution has enumerated rights for individuals accused of a crime and those convicted of a crime. Yet, the U.S. Constitution and 15 state constitutions do not extend enumerated rights to victims of crime. Marsy’s Law for All seeks to amend state constitutions that don’t offer protections to crime victims and, eventually, the U.S. Constitution to give victims of crime rights equal to those already afforded to the accused and convicted.

We can all agree that no rapist should have more rights than the victim. No murderer should be afforded more rights than the victim’s family. Marsy’s Law would ensure that victims have the same co-equal rights as the accused and convicted – nothing more, nothing less."

People bought it hook, line, and sinker. There weren't any ads warning people that Marsy's Law was designed to take away an important right to confront accusers. That provision is carefully worded and hidden deep within a ballot initiative that also included provisions like notifying crime victims of a convicted perpetrator's release or the right to restitution (something Ohio already had without needed to attach a name to a bill). 

Of course, that's official law, and we haven't even gotten to the "Court of Public Opinion" yet, where accusations pretty much equal guilt. I still remember the infamous Duke Lacrosse case and the infamous Wendy Murphy statement she made, stating, "I never, ever, met a false rape claim, by the way. My own statistics speak the truth." Once the accusations hit the airwaves, the presumption of guilt already permeates the conversation, driven mainly by feminists like Murphy. Feminists also use dubious stats to dismiss or minimize the notion that false allegations ruin lives by claiming only 2%-10% of rape allegations are false. (Using that mantra, then that means of the 861,837 registrants in the US, between 17,236 and 86,183 potentially innocent people are on the registry.) 

Now, as much as I've enjoyed seeing celebrities and politicians (both purveyors of Predator Panic) get a dose of their own medicine, it also illustrates this mantra in action. We've already condemned the accused without benefit of a trial. Surely having multiple allegations means that the accused is 100% guilty right? We've never been wrong on that before, right? (*cough*cough* Satanic Ritual Abuse *cough*cough*). It is amazing how we seamlessly transferred the same moral panic from roving bans of satan worshippers to "pedophile priests" or to Illuminati congressmen buying kids off a Pizza menu stored underground bunkers in DC. No matter how outlandish the story, we are taught the accused is to be believed until proven otherwise. 

This brings me back to the original premise of this article, the erosion of our rights. The current state of our system of justice has been influenced by the feminist media and by those with lots of money. The erosion of our rights comes packaged in the name of a person, much in the way a land was once conquered in the name of Jesus Christ. The religious imagery is relevant; after all, many victim's rights advocates look at their work as a Crusade, much like a tent revival preacher from the previous generation saw his work. But the Original Crusades were about conquering the Holy Land by the sword, not by preaching. The victim industry's crusade is no less of a bloody war. Human lives aren't destroyed in a movement but in a war. We're no longer allowed to doubt the intentions of these Victim Crusaders, mind you, that's pure blasphemy. And, much like the religious zealots of our day, victim advocates claim they are persecuted every time their stories are questioned or when one of their own are accused of lying.

Perhaps the Constitution isn't dead just yet, but rather on life support, but the victim advocates are seeking to pull the plug.

Marsy's Law is but the latest in a series of laws spanning a generation eroding the rights of the accused, nor will it likely be the last. Blackstone's formula no longer seems valid here is the "Land of the Free." We are becoming more willing to erode our Constitution. Many don't even know what they support (as in the case of Marsy's law supporters) because people are far too quick to believe an ad campaign featuring a celebrity like Kelsey Grammer. However, all hope is not lost and we are not doomed to accept this march towards a less balanced court system. At least Marsy's law was struck down in Montana courts. As advocates for the rights of former offenders, we have to take on these proposals -- and the cult of victimhood-- head on.

The right of the accused to a fair and impartial trial and the rights of the accused should never be compromised. Human lives are at stake here, and someday, that life at stake may be your own.