Written by Robin Vanderwall with personal comments from Lynn Gilmore
Advocates and supporters of reforming sex offender laws from throughout the nation converged on its second largest city over the Labor Day holiday weekend to participate in RSOL’s sixth national conference, “Justice for All.” From the evening of Thursday, August 29, through the late morning of Sunday, September 1, the City of Angels played host to the living angels of a cause deeply rooted in the hope for justice and constitutional freedom for more than 700,000 American citizens who populate the country’s myriad registration schemes from coast-to-coast.
Organized with increased involvement from the national administrative team under the direction of the conference planning committee, the Los Angeles conference proved a modest financial success and a tremendous organizational success owing largely to the hard work and determined efforts of Janice Bellucci along with the members of California RSOL. With close to 150 in attendance, the sixth annual conference holds the distinction of being the best attended RSOL event ever staged on the West coast.
Headlining the four-day-event were Alex Landon, a San Diego attorney specializing in criminal and civil rights law; attorney Catherine Carpenter, the Rosenberg professor of law at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles; Dr. Suzonne Kline, an expert consultant to the Florida Action Committee, Caution Click: National Campaign for Reform, and the Missouri Citizens for Reform ; and Dr. Clare Ann Ruth-Heffelbower, the founding program director of COSA (Circles of Support and Accountability) at the Center for Peacemaking and Conflict Studies of Fresno Pacific University.
Catherine Carpenter’s presentation, “Sexual Offense Laws and Constitutionality,” was excellent and well received by everyone. One attendee reports that Dr. Clare Anne Ruth-Heffelbower’s dynamic presentation “Restorative Justice and Sexual Offenders” illustrates how effective restorative justice can be in preventing re-offense. “I’ve known about COSA in Canada and the UK for some time (even mentioned it in my book) and think very highly of the program. I’d love to see more state chapters develop, or better yet, a national one!”
In addition to the four wonderful keynote speakers, attendees were provided with an exhaustive schedule of break-out sessions covering a vast range of topics related to sex offender issues. There were many amazing and informative workshops and presenters.
Marking the end of the first full day of conference events, the Friday night dinner banquet featured a passionate portrayal of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s seminal “Dream” speech slightly revised and refashioned by Janice for the sake of the nation’s newest most oppressed class of citizens: people of the registry.
One conference attendee described it this way: “I have to say, my number one favorite part was when, during the banquet dinner, Janice Bellucci, of CA-RSOL, read Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, adapted to our reform movement.
”The original version of that speech moves me to tears anyway, but to listen to Janice’s version, I literally bawled like a baby, dabbing my gushing eyes with my dinner napkin. Listening to the speech really served to remind me why I have been an activist in this movement for so long and reminded me why I cannot ever give up, because I, too, have a dream.
”I have been riding the energy from that powerful speech ever since! I feel energized and motivated and feel like my mojo is back! Thanks to all the organizers for a GREAT conference! Can’t wait for next year!”
RSOL thanks everyone who worked so hard to make the conference a success. We thank CA RSOL for inviting the conference there. And we thank each of you who attended and hope that you each took away at least one thing that will be useful in our fight. Thank you all.