We are NEVER safe–but we CAN control our destiny. A cautionary tale from Rhode Island

By Brenda Jones…..

We at RSOL heard the news on Monday with a sinking despair that could only be topped by the desperation clearly felt by Rhode Island’s Level III registered citizens. In June of 2015, Rhode Island legislators passed a law that would restrict all Level III’s from living within 1000 feet of any school. That’s a 700-foot increase over the previous restriction. The article reported on how registrants were in shock – although most had known this was coming – begging for more time to find a new place to live, fearing or indeed facing homelessness as a result of this law.

We connected with the ACLU and will continue to work with them to the best of our abilities. They are doing all they can. But with so little time remaining, there will not be much that can be done for those who face arrest if they do not comply and homelessness if they do. Our hearts go out to all of them.

Where, you may ask, was RSOL when this bill was being considered, when it was presented in the legislature, when it was voted into law? RSOL is only as strong as its state-level volunteers. They are our eyes and ears, our boots on the ground. And we have NO volunteers in Rhode Island. Not even any members.

So really the question is, where were the registrants?

Yes, the ACLU was there talking about civil rights. Reentry experts were there with evidence about the ineffectiveness of such restrictions; advocates for the homeless were there talking about how destabilizing such a law would be. Even the public defender’s office was represented in opposition to the legislation. But as far as we can tell, there were none of the people who would actually be impacted.

Where were the registrants? Where were their families?

Our past experience says they were at home, totally unaware of what was going on in their capital, thinking, “It isn’t so bad here. Let’s not rock the boat.” Or maybe they knew about it but said that it couldn’t POSSIBLY apply to THEM, and anyway, they weren’t good speakers, they were too busy working or looking for work to take time off to go to their capital, or they figured a letter to their national representatives or the president would help. (It doesn’t, not at all.)

Folks, NO registered citizen is ever truly safe in this country. There is NO state without at least a few lawmakers ready to jump on the bandwagon to crush the stereotypical monsters such bills inevitably target. Rhode Island lawmakers also introduced a version of the Adam Walsh Act. Fortunately, that bill did NOT pass

It is up to each and every one of us to ALWAYS remain vigilant.

What can a registrant do? What can a family member or friend do?

As our California affiliate is fond of saying, Show up; Stand up; Speak up.

RSOL needs Advocates in EVERY state. That means registrants and family members IN that state need to step up and volunteer. RSOL Advocates learn about their existing state sexual offense laws. If they don’t know already, they learn how bills are introduced and how to track them when they are introduced. And they make time to go to their state capital and SAY something when bad bills are introduced.

You don’t have to be a legal expert. You don’t have to be a gifted orator. Your greatest strength will be YOUR particular impact statement.

When residency restrictions were introduced in Maryland, a handful of us were there. There had been a ton of bills heard that day; it was late and we were all exhausted. When I took a turn, I had maps (something none of the experts had thought to bring, apparently, either in Maryland or Rhode Island). I told the legislators that all those experts had spoken the truth, but pictures speak louder. I held up my maps, showing almost no place to live except underpasses. “So where are they going to go?” I demanded? “Where do you expect them all to go?” The bill died in committee. (Even the folks who didn’t care about registrants decided they didn’t want a bunch of homeless sex offenders camping in their rural communities.)

We can NEVER rest in this task. The Haters will always be out there, looking for opportunities. Even if the registry is struck down, we must continue our vigilance. Where there is hate, there will be those seeking to cause new harm.

Please, get up from your safe place. Show up. Stand up. Speak up.

Your life depends on it.

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  1. Thank you Sandy, this was a great article and shows why we need to be involved at the beginning process when these bills are introduced. We are not going to have a Knight in shinning armor that save the day. It is up to each one of us to do our part in shooting down these bills. I could only imagine what would of taken place if wives and children showed up tearful asking where were they gonna live. As it has been said before- “There are three types of people in this world. Firstly, there are people who make things happen. Then there are people who watch things happen. Lastly, there are people who ask, what happened? Which do you want to be?”

    1. sandy

      Thanks, Don, but Brenda wrote that excellent piece. We are pleased you liked it.

  2. Tim L

    Hot shame is hard to bear. RISO’s will only find dignity as a group and ONLY if they choose to. You can lead a ………..drink. Let’s face it sometimes liberty isn’t free.

    p.s. don’t use the email address. It is being monitored by BIG BROTHER

  3. Roger

    Fellow registered citizens, I live in California. I never, ever wanted to take time to fight offender-hating bills. I thought others would do it. I rationalized that I wasn’t a great speaker. I thought that I couldn’t take time off from work to drive to the capitol and speak to public safety committees.

    However, after years of watching anti-offender bills stacking up and making my life miserable, I realized that hiding and remaining scared and silent–like a rabbit hiding in a hole–and hoping for someone to protect me DOESN’T WORK. Politicians will reach into our hiding holes with legislation and pull us out into the cold and to slaughter! They know that no one will fight back.

    But in California, we DID fight back this year! AND WE WON BIG TIME! We stopped four (count ‘em!) nasty bills! The politicians were so used to no resistance to offender bills that they were shocked when a bunch of us showed up looking professional and explaining respectfully in just a few words how each bill would destroy our attempts to be law-abiding, productive citizens. The politicians said that they had never actually talked to an offender, and it swayed their votes, along with the government statistics showing these punitive bills don’t work.

    If I can do it, you can too! Please don’t just sit on the sideline! Click the Donate link on this page. Visit this website weekly. Tells others that RSOL offers hope, which offenders desperately want to hear. PLEASE GET INVOLVED so RSOL can stop legislation that would make your lives living nightmares. Having people lined up at the mic to share why this bill is a bad idea will defeat bad bills. And taking action will decrease our fear, because we are being proactive, not just reactive.

    The choice is yours: endless bad bills that make your lives almost unendurable, or fresh hope by taking action. Read our progress in California at http://californiarsol.org/

    1. Pamela Sorensen

      A BIG thank you for words of encouragement & hope. We need help for advocacy in Utah too, like in Calif. And Yes…the practices of the registry painfully robs people (families) of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776; ” the freedom to govern themselves.”