By Sandy . . . In response to this article, this was emailed 8/10/18 to each of the four addressees:
Dear Jackson Free Press, Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba, chief administrative officer Robert Blaine, and Larry Perry, president and CEO of New Way Mississippi:
As an organization that deals with and advocates for returning citizens, NARSOL has tremendous respect for the decisions that have been made by you in creating and initiating this work program.
However, as an organization whose full name is the National Association for Rational Sexual Offense Laws, we are appalled at the statement, “…with the exception of sex offenders,” especially as it appears in juxtaposition with the statement that both violent and non-violent persons are eligible for the program.
So, due to this decision, the man who had pre-marital sex with the woman now his wife when she was 15 or 16 or, in some states, 17, is shut out of even applying for this work program, but the man who killed his friend in a drunken bar fight is eligible. Those who committed armed robbery and may have hurt or killed innocent people in the process are welcomed, but those who had a single image of a scantily-clad, underage teenager on their computers are denied.
We commend you for including those whose criminal records include violence. We are totally unable to understand why this is not extended to those whose criminal records reflect a sexual offense.
What do you fear? As a group, those with sexual offense convictions have the lowest reoffense rate of all classifications of crime with the exception of those who have murdered. A significant percentage of sexual convictions are for non-violent offenses. Surely the screening done for behavioral issues will identify the rare registered sex offender who might pose a threat to others just as it will identify those with other categories of crime who would not be a good fit for the program.
We ask you to reconsider your decision. The vast majority of individuals on the sex offender registry are exactly the type of individuals who would benefit from your program. They struggle to support themselves and their families. They are and have been living law-abiding lives since a single conviction — for some, decades ago. They have a wide variety of talents and abilities to offer. They, above all, will be grateful for the opportunity, for they above all know the pain of being excluded based on nothing but a label that covers a vast multitude of behaviors.
Your program is innovative, wonderful, and a win-win for everyone involved, especially the community. Please extend it so that all who could benefit at least have a chance.
Sandy Rozek, Communications Director, NARSOL
Sandy, a NARSOL board member, is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.