Saturday, October 26, 2013

Personal Bias or Conflict of Interest: The Virginia State Police is Hiding Behind a Flexible Statute Denying FOIA Requestors They Don’t Like, but Complying With Those They View Will be Good P.R. for the Registry

I do my very best to follow the rules and the chain-of-command. But when policies are ignored, when favorites are played and when discrimination is the chosen path by those in authority who fear releasing facts /data will prove a need for reform I am left with no other choice but to make the effort to discriminate against me known.

The Virginia State Police refuses to comply with FOIA requests for the Virginia Sex Offender Registry because they are personally prejudiced against me, but they comply when others make similar requests.

In October 2013 I learned that the Virginia State Police was fulfilling Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for data from the Virginia Sex Offender Registry to out-of-state organizations and in-state researchers, some of the same data they denied to me in 2011 and 2012.

In February 2011 only one of my requests was answered the rest were denied including:
1.       the number of female offenders and the number of male offenders
2.      the number of offenders who were 25 years or younger when convicted
3.      the number of offenders convicted in another state 

In May 2012 again only one of my requests was answered but I was charged $26.36, the rest were denied including:
1.       the number of female and the number of male offenders
2.      the number of offender’s classified as Non-Violent and Violent
3.      the number of offenders aged 50-59, 60-69, 70-79, 80-89 and 90-99
4.      the number of offenders listed as unemployed
5.      the number of offenders listed as self-employed (same address as their home)
6.      the number of offenders listed homeless or mobile (an address that is not a residence)
7.       the number of offenders that petitioned to be removed from the registry in each of the years 2006 through 2011.
8.      of those that petitioned how many were successfully removed from the registry in each of the years 2006 through 2011.
9.      the number of offenders with charges before 1985, 1990, 1995 and 2000 

The VSP based the 2012 denial on the Virginia statute 2.2-3706(H), so at that time I gave up on FOIA requests. 

I have never requested a list of offenders birth dates, SSN’s, phone numbers, email addresses or vehicle registrations I believe that type of specific information should be denied in a FOIA request. 

Then in October 2013 I came across 3 separate examples of the Virginia State Police sharing data from the Virginia Sex Offender Registry with other requestors. 

1)      Longwood University Authors of Neighborhood Tipping and Sorting Dynamics in Real Estate: Evidence from the Virginia Sex Offender Registry. 

They were given 10 years of data by the Virginia State Police
Each offenders
1.       past addresses, including all move-in and move-out dates
2.      current address
3.      age
4.      sex
5.      race
6.      perpetrated crime
7.       Violent or Non-Violent Status 

2)     The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s May 29, 2013 U.S. Map of Sex Offenders listed 19,901 Registered Sex Offenders in Virginia. That total would have come from a specific request to the VSP.

3)     Klass Kids Foundation as of July 30, 2013 listed 20,174 Registered Sex Offenders in Virginia. That total also came from a specific request to the VSP. 

In contacting a few different Virginia Organizations in October about the VSP cherry-picking FOIA requests I learned the following. 

In July 2012 the statute the VSP used to deny my request  was re-codified and is now found at 2.2-3706(A)(2)(k) 

k. Records of the Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry maintained by the Department of State Police pursuant to Chapter 9 (§ 9.1-900 et seq.) of Title 9.1, including information obtained from state, local, and regional officials, except to the extent that information is required to be posted on the Internet pursuant to § 9.1-913; and

One reason for the re-codification of this section and all of the other provisions dealing with access to law enforcement records was to emphasize that there are certain records that MUST be released, MAY be released, and CANNOT be released.  

The exemption from the VSP in May 2012 fell under the MAY be released. Law enforcement thus MAY release the information if they choose to, but they do not have to.  

Usually when discretion is selectively exercised it is when information about THIS situation is released but not THAT situation. That is, they're choosing to release/withhold based on the content of the record.  

When the same information is being released/withheld based on who is doing the asking. It is not exactly prohibited under FOIA (discretion is discretion is discretion), but it is poor public policy to pick and choose among requesters 

FOIA does not require a government agency to create a record that does not exist. While we may think certain records or databases contain unique data points that we think are relevant, that may not be the actual case. Being too specific in the breakdown, grouping or sorting of data could result in a denial. On the other hand, the manipulation of a database to excise or specifically include/exclude data fields is not considered creating a new record. (See 2.2-3704(G)) Manipulation of fields, however, is different from going through those fields to organize or sort the data in a different manner. 

It appears the VSP is biased against me a long held suspicion that couldn’t be proven, until now.  

Why would the VSP be prejudice against me?  

Because I use data and statistics to support or oppose proposed legislation at the yearly General Assembly session versus the traditional method of myth, assumption and fear to push through flawed legislation that used to regularly pass through in a block vote.  

Most times when I’m opposing a proposed bill at session that is based on myth and fear instead of facts the VSP Legislative Liaison is standing a few feet away supporting the bill to the subcommittee. 

Then there are the “good” bills that I’ve found sponsors for over the years that the different VSP Liaisons have opposed to the House and Senate sub-committees claiming the Department doesn’t support the end result or they claim that they are already making the information readily available to RSO’s when in fact they were not. 

Message From Charlie Sullivan of CURE: Congress’s Heartless Denial of Food Stamps / SNAP Benefits Not Just Against Former Offenders Who Have Paid Their Debt to Society But Their Children

Blog Followers, 

Back in 2009 I met Charlie Sullivan (founder of Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants CURE) in Washington D.C. during an Adam Walsh Act Compliance hearing of the House Judiciary Committee. I met his wife Pauline at a D.C. hearing two years later. There have been a few VA CURE and National CURE meetings and 1 or 2 other D.C hearings where we've talked about my platform and the barriers that we all encounter.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this group or Charlie and Pauline Sullivan, there is National CURE , there is International CURE, there is Federal CURE, there are state chapters of CURE including Virginia CURE and there is Sex Abuse Treatment Alliance (SATA) / CURE Sex Offenders Restored through Treatment (SORT).Plus a CURE for Veterans, a CURE for Women and a Civil Commitment of SVP’s CURE quarterly newsletter. I probably missed a few other initiatives but you can sign up for more CURE information via the links I included above.

Charlie and Pauline Sullivan are amazing people; they are the best example of successful grass-roots advocacy that I know of. 

Today Charlie sent out the below email to the National CURE followers. 

I asked Charlie if it was alright for me to post his message and he was more than happy to have me share it beyond the CURE followers. 

As you all know from my numerous posts over the last 3 months there are more than a few versions of Farm /Food Stamp –SNAP Bills being amended, discussed and voted on in Washington D.C. 

Here are my past posts on the Food Stamps bills 

-          October 23, 2013:     
-          October 12, 2013:     
-          September 29, 2013:
-          September 20, 2013:
-          July 3, 2013:                

Below Charlie has shared a response from one member of Congress with a constituent who wrote them in opposition of the Food Stamp proposals and then Charlie shares some insight into what the Food Stamp exclusion really does. 

I hope those of you who don’t currently support Virginia CURE, National CURE or the Civil Commitment newsletter will consider doing so in the near future. 

Thank you for following my blog. 

Mary Devoy

A child is not to suffer for the actions of the parent
October 26, 2013 

Dear Friends, presently, we are fighting three major issues. The first is that the phone companies are trying to slow down the implementation of the historic ruling by the Federal Communications Commission that the costs of phone calls by people incarcerated should be substantially reduced. 

The second is that women prisoners in the federal system should not be transferred hundreds of miles (maybe thousands) from their present prison in Danbury, CT. This would also close the only female prison in the Northeast corridor. 

And the third issue is that Congress should not take away food stamps from people formerly incarcerated.  

The other day I received a copy of an email from a CURE member who had written a member of Congress about the food stamp issue. The response from the member was basically that it was too bad the children of the prisoner would lose food stamps, but he would vote to do this. And yet, this same member of Congress is supporting our efforts to keep the Danbury Prison open to women because they can now receive visits from their children. 

Then, it hit me. All three of these issues have the same primary reason--THE CHILDREN! Whether it is continuing to bond with their parents through visits or through low-cost phone calls or not going hungry when a parent is released--it is the children who benefit the most from our efforts. They are truly the forgotten victims of crime.