Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Registry is a Hydra: Why I believe we must #abolishtheregistry rather than reform it


In Greek mythology, the Lernaean Hydra was a mighty serpent with great regeneration powers -- cut off a single head and two grow back. It was only when all the heads were severed was the hydra truly defeated. 

I've stated this many time before in many places (and even discussed this on this very blog at least once before), but I want to emphasize my belief here the the mythical Lernaean Hydra is the perfect illustration of the sex offender registry. 

I do not believe the registry can be nearly reformed, and after years of butting heads with a number of other legal reformists for pretty much this entire decade, I don't believe that merely limiting the registry to Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) or advocating for Tiered Registries or limiting the registries to "high-risk offenders" will solve the problems caused by these registries. 

If we attempt to sever a single head by attempting to limit the registry for use by certain people or to those we merely consider "high risk," it will only take a couple of inevitable rare but tragic cases to regenerate that law and strengthen it. After all, the Jacob Wetterling Act was limited in scope, a non-public registry for use only by LEOs (though states had discretion, not the obligation, to allow public access), and within 2 years, it became public. We are also seeing laws that were once rejected make a comeback; Minnesota was among the first states to conclude residency restrictions were useless and counterproductive, yet has been a battleground for residency restrictions over the past couple of years. Where is the registry today?It is obviously far greater in scope than imagined by those who created it. 

States are moving away from assessing risk by way of actuarial testing and towards the offense-based classification scheme embedded within the federal Adam Walsh Act, but promoting a Tiered system is like getting to choose your own method of torture in a POW camp. I've watched those within the anti-registry movement make dubious claims about the efficacy of a Tiered system to promote the concept to a state lacking a Tiered system. In doing so, we have to decide who gets thrown under the bus, and in many case, I was among those thrown under the bus. 

My own life story is a testimony of the failure of a risk assessment system. Risk assessments are ultimately flawed because test-makers err on the side of caution. Risk assessments are completely arbitrary and subject to the whims of decision-makers. If you take a risk assessment and you score high risk, well that's proof you are a threat. However, if you score low on the risk assessment test, then the decision makers have the discretion to toss that out. How do I know this fact? I've lived with an erroneous assessment since 2005. 

What I'm experiencing in my personal life at this moment is why I cannot trust the registry to be limited to Law Enforcement Agents. The registry in ANY form can be weaponized against those on the list in many ways. Do you need to silence a political activist or protester? Do you want to push a registrant out of the community? Even in the hands of law enforcement, the registry can be used against us in many different way. 

No matter what happens to me in the near future, I won't rest while there is a registry in existence. The registry needs to be abolished, nit just "reformed." I don't need to write a whole book about why I feel that way. I have lived a never ending nightmare for almost 20 years. I'm still waking up to it daily. There are many reasons why I feel the registry should not exist, here are just 25 off the top of my head:
  1. It is ineffective
  2. Most sex crimes aren't committed by registered persons
  3. It makes the public believe everyone on the list will rape and kill your children
  4. Registrants struggle to find housing
  5. Registrants struggle to find employment
  6. Vigilantes use the registry to find their targets
  7. The registry promotes social ostracism 
  8. The registry justifies discrimination against RCs
  9. The registry can be used as a weapon to hurt you by anyone from family to jilted lovers and beyond
  10. Police can misuse registry info to trump up false charges on RCs
  11. Failure To Register can send a person to prison longer than an actual sex crime would in many cases
  12. The registry is costly to everyone involved
  13. The registry continues to expand
  14. The registry fuels new, more restrictive laws the longer it is allowed to exist
  15. Scammers are using the registry to collect sensitive data
  16. Registrants find it hard to get justice for crimes committed against them
  17. Registrants are finding it difficult to get assistance in natural disasters
  18. Registrants are increasingly expected to pay for the privilege of being on the government blacklist
  19. Registrants are used as cannon fodder by media and politicians
  20. Once you are on the registry, you are listed on private registry and extortion sites long after you're off the actual registry. 
  21. States like Florida routinely drag registrants to their states or force them to register just to visit in order to boost their numbers
  22. Anyone who is ever connected to registrants, be it a lover, family member, a roommate, or a neighbor, experience a number of the consequences I listed above
  23. Non-registrants who look like someone on the registry or live at the address connected to the registry have been harassed or attacked
  24. Many innocent people have accidentally been added to the registry or had a mark placed them by the government because they screwed up paperwork
  25. Incentives to actual reform of the laws are stymied or of fear of angry constituents and losing votes

Yes, reforming the registry is a step in the right direction but we should not make that the end game. In pushing for these steps, we should never compromise the message of abolition as the endgame for our efforts. A Tiered system might indeed be superior to a non-tiered system, and a limited access registry will always be superior to a fully public-accessed registry, having NO registry is far superior. 

Nothing anyone can say can change my mind. If I live to 100, I want to have that moment where I'm sitting on my deathbed and able to look back at my life and see a world without a registry. I don't think I can rest in peace any other way. 

Friday, March 1, 2019

Important Notice Regarding OnceFallen and the Fire

Official Notice and Update: Due to a recent fire, OnceFallen services will be extremely limited. Derek can take phone calls and answer emails but cannot accept letters (mail operations have been suspended, there's no mailbox). Those wanting to donate can only do so via Paypal at this time (you can send Paypal donations to iamthefallen1@yahoo.com). The OnceFallen website bill is due this month, but don't worry, it is covered.

This is the current situation: A fire burned down the apartment building Derek was staying in. Thankfully, he discovered the fire early, called 911, & got everyone out of the building. The fire was quickly contained. Nobody got hurt. Derek's quick action saved lives.

Unfortunately, Derek's living area was hardest hit. It wasn't the fire itself but the water that damaged property. Many possessions were destroyed. Thankfully, Derek's penchant for usage of rubber totes saved some items like clothes, basic necessities and work items, including most of the art from last year's Maine Event were spared. It wasn't a total loss but close to it.

Derek has an out-of-state property to move to but loose ends must be tied up first. Obvious, moving is difficult for a registered person. There will be a long transitional period, but Derek is committed to keeping as many services going as possible.

Monday, January 14, 2019

OnceFallen 2018 Annual Report: Website & Assistance Requests increase greatly, contributions remain steady

OnceFallen wrapped up its 11th year of operations in 2018. Much like last year, our website saw exponential growth in usage, and our prison newsletter (The ICoN) has also increased by leaps and bounds. 

FINANCES

OnceFallen had a few major expenses -- The Art Protest Project in Maine (the biggest & most expensive project of the year, about 60% of the total expenses), the appeals for the lawsuit in Florida, and a new laptop, annual website fees, and regular expenses for the prison ministry (stamps, paper, ink, etc.), and for the second year in a row, expenses exceeded contributions. For the first time since 2015, OnceFallen was operating with a deficit. (Thankfully, a few contributions following the new year has risen the OnceFallen balance into positive territory.) Contributions remained steady, raising a similar amount to 2017, which was a third below 2016. As a reminder, OnceFallen generally has a low overhead, so small contributions go far. This year, we expect to work on projects closer to home to keep costs extremely low and looking ahead to bigger things for 2020. 

WEBSITE

Website total visitors: 334,687 (228,275 in 2017, a 68.2% increase and a 150.7% increase from the 133,491 visitors in 2016). Visitors increased every month, peaking in August, and declining slowly as winter arrived. Media appearances and the unfortunate negative press from losing the Florida SLAPP suit (now in appeals) had little impact on website usage. 

CONTACTS
  • ICoN Users: 350 (+129 from 2017; 63% increase) 
  • Inmate Letters: 172 (-8 from 2017; 1% decrease)
  • Media Appearances: 9 (+1 from 2017)
  • Individual Contacts: 401 (-21 from 2017; 5% decrease)
  • States w/ one known contact: 43 & DC
  • States w/o known contact: HI, ME, ND, RI, SD, WY
  • Non-US known contact: UK (1), Brazil (1)
  • States from most to least known contact: 26 (OH); 25 (FL); 22 (CA); 21 (NY); 15 (IL); 13 (AL, PA, TX); 12 (CO); 10 (MI); 9 (AZ, GA, TN); 7 (KY, WA); 6 (NJ); 5 (MN, OK); 4 (MD, MO, NE, NH); 3 (AR, DE, KS, MA, MS, NM, NV, VA); 2 (CT, DC, IN, LA, MT, UT, WV); 1 (AK, IA, ID, NC, OR, SC, WI)
  • First Contacts by type: Email (160); Phone (113); Corrlinks (52); Letter (47); Text (22); Facebook (5); Twitter (2)
  • First Contacts By Month: Jan (42); Feb (60); Mar (34); Apr (26); May (29); June (32); July (30); Aug (21); Sept (40); Oct (32); Nov (33); Dec (37)

Individual new contacts and inmate letters (which are mainly info requests) decreased slightly in 2018, but the ICoN received huge increases in membership. 

PLANS FOR 2019

OnceFallen's plan for 2019 is to spend most of the year catching up on writing and finding ways to improve the website. There are not any planned protests, but we want to improve upon the campus awareness event we had in Maine. Most likely, any events similar to the Maine event in 2019 will take place close to home. 

Monday, January 7, 2019

The Unsung Heroes of the Anti-Registry Movement

Do you love football? I do. It is playoffs season. The NFL playoffs started this past weekend, and the NCAA college football championship is tonight. Chances are, even if you aren’t a big football fan, or even know much about the sport, you probably know that the quarterback is the flashiest, most well-known position on the football field. Even when you played backyard football going up growing up, you most likely wanted to be the quarterback. The quarterback gets the most attention, when’s the biggest awards, and usually makes the most money.

Even in the anti-registry movement, most folks want to be the quarterback. However, a football team needs more than a quarterback.

Have you thought about what it takes to make a football team successful? Obviously, you need more than a quarterback. There are 11 people on offense and defense. You need people who can catch the ball, you need running backs you can run the ball, you need people who can block, and you need people who can kick the ball. Then, there are the coaches; you have the head coach, assistant coaches, and coaches that work specifically on a position. For every level of football below the professional level, coaches work for the school, and it is up to the school to adequately raise the funds needed to field a successful team. It is really no different at the professional level, except that responsibility falls on the hands of a private owner rather than a school. Don’t forget the support personnel, from the cheerleaders to the water boy to the people working inside the medical tents. Every one of these positions on and off the field must click together to be successful.

Obviously, in our efforts to reform the registry, there are some people who received the most attention because they are the heads of various organizations. However, there are plenty of people working at various positions in this movement that don’t receive a lot of attention. Their positions aren’t the flashiest, and obviously they receive little attention. Some of them don’t even want their names to be listed publicly. That is very understandable. After all, we are a very unpopular team. However, we have plenty of fans who support our efforts, even if they don’t proudly sport the team colors.

Since this movement has settled into his current form in 2008, many people have come in to play various positions within the movement, and left for various reasons. Some have died, others left because of personal reasons, and if you may have left because they did not feel they receive the recognition they deserve. In football, teams are always dealing with personnel changes, as players retire, get injured, or transferred to another organization. Obviously, not everybody can be the quarterback. Even a fanatic of a particular sports team cannot name a journeyman utility player from five years ago. However, that player came in and performed in that position to help their team to success.

I wish there was a better way to recognize these people. Not everybody we have worked with over the years shared their identities with people nor have they wanted anyone to know who they really were. Many of us fear taking the field because if we get recognized, it may cause us to be attacked, harassed, or lose our jobs and homes. However, those of us who have fought hard for this team, our anti-registry team, should be recognized for our efforts.

In December 2016, I went to Miami to hand out underclothes and toiletries to the homeless camp. Even though I was the “QB” of this event, I did not work alone; a member of SOSEN and his wife had shown up to help me put together the care packages. They lived somewhere in the central part of Florida, and drove down to help. They had also helped me buying some of the clothing items and toiletries. There were over 250 people listed as living at the homeless camp, so even after raising $1000, that came to a mere four dollars per person. Everyone who donated also helped to make this event a success. That money was used to make small miracles happen in the lives of the homeless registrants. I even had enough money left over to buy them other supplies in need by a handful of registrants living at the camp. One of the men we had  met previously at the camp also helped me distribute the care packages. “Christmas at the Camp” 2016 was indeed a team effort.

I want to talk a little more about the couple who came down to help. The husband was someone who had actually showed up at my “Rally in Tally” 2015 protest against the Books, the people responsible for making that homeless camp in the first place. It was a longtime member of SOSEN. However, his wife had been afraid for him to show up at my rally, and for years was reluctant to help the cause out of fear. She was also not of great health. Yet, she wanted to help the people at the homeless camp. She came down and helped with putting together the care packages. I took them to lunch, a modest meal at KFC, and we stopped at the store to buy some last-minute supplies, and then they had to leave. (After all, it was a 4 Hour drive just to get to Miami.)

A couple of months later, I had learned that the SOSEN member’s wife had passed away due to health issues. However, there was comfort in knowing that before that day had come, she had taken the field to be part of the game after years of fearing even being in the stands. I was honored to have both of these people attend and help during Christmas at the Camp.

There are a many other people will come and gone in various ways. NARSOL has endured the deaths of a couple of their staff members over the years, and last year we lost eAdvocate. But not everybody who passed away is known to us. We are constantly faced with finding new recruits to help fill in the gaps, just as every football team has to draft new people to fill in injured, lost, or retired players.

I would like to recognize those who have contributed to this cause over the years. There are so many people behind the scenes helping to keep this team on the field, and, as imperfect as we are, we have made great strides in changing how people view the public “sex offender” registry. While we can’t all be quarterback, I believe we can give recognition to our punters, our defensive players, and even sure support to those whose only contribution is finding our efforts. It takes a collective effort from every position to make our team’s success, so while our quarterbacks might indeed lead our team to victory, we should not forget the rest of the team doing their part to help us in victory.

In another week, I will start voting for the annual Shiitake Awards. However, I also want to give recognition to the BEST of those that have helped to reform the registry. And to be honest, I cannot pick just one single person to offer this award to, so I’ll just pick a few people. I have named it the Duval Award in honor of Mary Duval, so it is fitting that I recognize the staff at SOSEN as my inaugural Duval Award winners. For years, SOSEN has offered an online forum for support and research for registered persons and their loved ones. SOSEN has provided these services free of charge. In the past year, SOSEN has also helped OnceFallen with projects like the ARM Art Protest in Maine (two SOSEN staffers helped in person at the event) and through the posting of various topics on the front pages of their forum. For years, I have offered SOSEN’s forums to those who contact me seeking a support network. Recently, SOSEN also suffered a death in their ranks, a long time behind-the-scenes advocate who had helped Mary Duval during her trip to Miami in 2009. Thus, I find it fitting that everyone at SOSEN should be recognized as the inaugural Duval Award.

I hope that in the future, I can recognize more people, and I want individuals throughout the year to share their stories of success, whether big or small. Again, not everybody has to be to quarterback, but everybody can do their part, no matter how big or how small, even if it is not much more than writing a letter to a legislator, comforting or assisting a fellow registrant, or simply donating to one of the various organizations out there (I suggest donating to OnceFallen, of course). Football games are not won by throwing for the touchdown every single play; sometimes it helps just to advance the ball to inches closer to the goal line. So please, do your part to make 2019 the most successful year for our anti-registry movement ever.