NARSOL frequently gets letters with questions in response to Digest pieces. Larry chooses some for the Legal Corner, and we answer as we are able those that adhere to the letter-writing guidelines. This letter-writer asks two questions in response to “NARSOL asks administration to use them as resource,” which also appeared in the Digest. This is our answer, written by Sandy and Larry.
You ask two questions: What is our overall goal and what would we ask of the current – or any – administration if we could sit face to face with the President.
The answers are not the same.
Our overall goal is expressed in our vision statement found on our website: NARSOL envisions a society free from public shaming, dehumanizing registries, discrimination, and unconstitutional laws. So that is our overall goal, to rid society of dehumanizing registries, discrimination, and laws that are in opposition to principles stated in the Constitution.
But if we could sit face to face with the President? That would be a much more complex conversation.
We would first let him know that we understand, though many do not, that some of what we will ask of him is not in his power to grant because much of what makes our advocacy necessary is the result of state laws. Having said that, we do recognize that the President does have a bully pulpit and he can provide leadership which can offer political cover for elected officials in the various states who are inclined to make positive reforms.
We would convey to the President that the entire registry scheme itself should be abolished. NARSOL believes that persons who commit sexual crimes should be treated the same as those who commit other crimes; that when their sentences are complete, they are done; that those who never reoffend drop off of law enforcement’s radar after a few years; and that those who do reoffend are given appropriate sentences and supervision when released.
We would then explain our advocacy and why we advocate as we do. We would emphasize that creating a class of sub-citizens who are prohibited by law from participating in a full, American life is not inducive to public safety nor in society’s best interest.
We would fully expect his agreement with that, so then we would ask his bold leadership to accomplish these goals:
- End carve-outs that deny benefits or opportunities to those with sexual crime convictions who are otherwise eligible and deny “good-time” or other initiatives connected with the criminal justice system and incarceration.
- Reform the federal Adam Walsh Act (AWA) so that no state is required to have lifetime registration for Tier III offenders in order to be deemed substantially compliant by the federal government.
- Reform the AWA so that everyone registered as a Tier I or Tier II would automatically be dropped from the registry after ten years without a reoffense.
- Reform the AWA so that all registrant information be removed from public view and public dissemination.
- Officially encourage research and study of the intersection between sexual crime and the intellectually and developmentally disabled.
- Provide leadership in fostering an environment where state leadership will be able to accomplish these goals:
- End restrictions that apply only to registrants and no one else, restrictions such as residency, proximity, Halloween, local and state “carve-outs,” and any others that fit the category.
- Discourage the practice of charging juveniles in adult court for sexual crimes committed while minors.
- Discourage the practice of charging/punishing probation and registry infractions as sexual crimes.
We would be grateful for any step accomplished towards our long-range goal because we will be helping some with each step along the way.
But we will not be satisfied until all are accomplished and the registry scheme itself, an ill-begotten and worse-imposed malignancy, is annihilated.
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.