By Larry . . . We recently received a letter written by a prisoner asking specifics on what the Vivante Espero Foundation does. The writer suggested that he would consider supporting us if we addressed his concerns. We view the letter as an opportunity to help our readers who are incarcerated better understand what we do since most incarcerated individuals are not able to stay fully connected due to the constraints of the penal system. Our Digest newsletter/magazine is the best means of connection for those incarcerated.
First, he asked what Vivante Espero is. Vivante Espero is the education and program arm of NARSOL, and it has been granted 501 (c)(3) status by the Internal Revenue Service. This is consistent with how other organizations are structured. For instance, the ACLU has a foundation which permits them flexibility to separate their day to day operations from their core mission. Donations made to Vivante are tax deductible.
Second, the writer observed that we have some nice brochures and questioned if that is the best utilization of our resources. We have learned that this is a no-win situation, and we are criticized regardless of what we do. If we print black and white brochures in-house, we are criticized as being unprofessional. If we have nicer brochures and letterhead, some feel we are wasting resources. We have concluded that quality materials enhance the image of the organization, and we purchase printed material at very favorable prices.
The most significant point the writer noted was that our brochure mentions conferences, lobbying, strategic planning and litigation, and he wanted more details. NARSOL has held a national conference each year since 2009. Unfortunately, our 2020 national conference which was scheduled to be held in Raleigh in June will be conducted electronically because of the pandemic. National conferences consist of 2 ½ days of fantastic speakers and workshops which assist those advocating for reform.
NARSOL is involved in a number of legal cases around the United States. For example, we have filed amicus briefs in some important cases, including Millard v. Rankin in the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. This is the case in which a Colorado federal judge found various aspects of their registration law to be unconstitutional. NARSOL also has initiated litigation. We initiated two cases in Georgia challenging rogue sheriffs who decided to unilaterally impose a requirement forcing registrants to erect signs on Halloween. Due to extremely limited resources, NARSOL only supports impact litigation, which means cases that have the potential to have far reaching ramifications.
The lobbying that NARSOL does is facilitated by our affiliates and advocates at the state level. This is because each state has its own registration scheme, which means the battle must be fought at the state level. If Congress were to repeal the SORNA component of the Adam Walsh Act, there would still be 50 registration schemes operating, and they would not go away. This does not mean we do not think it’s important to lobby at the federal level. We are hoping for the day that additional resources will materialize which will permit us to have a presence in the U.S. Capitol.
In addition to the things listed above, NARSOL conducts training and holds regular conference calls which are well attended. Those conference calls review important cases and feature attorneys and other prominent leaders who help our stakeholders in professional development. The Vivante Foundation publishes the newsletter six times each year which is distributed in printed form to approximately 1,000, to more than 5,000 to those receiving it electronically, and to over 1,000 in the Federal Prison System. NARSOL and Vivante send representatives to important conferences each year such as the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA). It manages and supports Humans on the Registry and Fearless support groups.
The Vivante Espero foundation is a vital and important component in NARSOL’s fight for equal rights of all people and in accomplishing our goal of eliminating the shaming public sexual offense registry.
Larry serves as NARSOL’S treasurer and is publisher of the Digest. He writes the “Legal Corner” column for the Digest and legal analyses for the NARSOL website. He is a regular on the “Registry Matters” podcasts.