Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Action Alert! If the Monitor and Manager of All Virginia’s RSO’s (Virginia State Police) Doesn't Know How to Comply Then How is an RSO Supposed to Know?

Back on Sunday July 20th I received an email from a reader (first time) looking for direction to remain compliant and avoid inadvertently committing a felony. 

He is a Virginian RSO and he’s getting married in the next few weeks and they plan to honeymoon in Europe following the wedding. 

He had visited the Traveling as a Registered Sex Offender page on this blog and read about the Federal requirement to notify the authorities of his intended travel abroad. On that page there are article about other RSO’s who failed to notify the authorities prior to travel and when they returned home they were arrested and charged with a new felony, so this reader understood the risk if he did not follow the process. 

Problem is I have been unable to find the process for Virginia RSO’s to submit the planned travel ahead of time.

I knew about the page on the SMART Office website,

But there was nothing on the Virginia State Police website instructing RSO’s how to submit there information, in fact there is no information anywhere on the VSP website about the 21 Day Travel requirement. Only the 44 page list of Virginia statutes for RSO’s, which most people can not understand. A 44 page list of legal mumbo-jumbo is useless, I’ve boiled the list of restrictions down to 5 pages of easily understandable rules, why can’t the VSP? 

The reader that contacted me said,
You had a link on your blog, that talked about turning information about travel, but its not clear to me to whom I should turn it into.  I went to the local VSP barracks here to ask questions, and they really could not help me, except for me to see them prior to departure.  I used that template from that gave my travel info, but still don't know who to give it to.  

He knows about this requirement ONLY because of this blog so he has taken the initiative to notify the authorities and the owner, operator and manager of all Virginia’s RSO’s (the VSP) has no idea what this Virginian is legally required to do in preparation for his upcoming international travel even though his failure to follow the process properly will result in a new felony charge. 
This is NOT the first time I have heard from an RSO or their loved one who has asked for direction/information from the VSP but is turned away without any answers or direction. 

So what did I advise this Virginian to do? 
  1. I gave him a list of email addresses for five people at the Virginia State Police and I told him to send them all an email asking them where and who he must notify 21 days prior to his planned travel.
  2. I then instructed him to email his Virginia Delegate and Senator as a constituent attempting to follow the restrictions imposed upon him that carry a felony charge but yet the authorities will not assist.
  3. And I instructed him to email his member of Congress and our two U.S. Senators (I would provide the addresses for the Judiciary staffers) explaining what he has encountered in Virginia as an RSO who is attempting to remain compliant.
The next day I sent an email to all the Virginia State and Federal Representatives advising them of this recent issue a Virginia RSO had experienced and reminding them all that every year a bill has been proposed (2009- HB2225, 2010-HB1328, 2011-HB2382, 2012-SB420 and 2014-SB553) mandating the VSP must notify all Virginia RSO’s of the State and Federal legal requirements upon registration, when requested and after new laws take effect on July 1st the VSP Legislative Liaisons have vehemently opposed the legislation.

Explaining the requirements and the processes to Virginia’s Registered Sex Offenders is NOT giving legal advice! Where did I come up with that excuse? It’s one of the excuses that have been made by the 3 different VSP Legislative Liaisons over the last 6 sessions while they are lobbying against these bills prior to them being heard in committee. 

If these laws that exist only for Registered Sex Offenders are worth proposing, passing and implementing then they are worth sharing with those whom they are directed towards. Otherwise they aren’t worth the paper they’ve been written on. 

The Virginia State Police employees who answer the Sex Offender Hotline (804-674-2825), who do the compliance checks and who take registration/re-registration information at the VSP Barracks MUST be knowledgeable on all State and Federal requirements that apply to Virginia’s RSO’s! 

No RSO should be sent away after making an inquiry without the correct information and with no offer of follow-up by the department, this is unacceptable! 

The RSO’s who are attempting to remain compliant are most likely the ones who pose no risk of re-offending and the state of Virginia should assist them in maneuvering through the ever changing and expanding State and Federal requirements so that the VSP can focus their efforts on those who are intentionally avoiding the requirements.  

Unknown legal requirements, mystery paperwork with deadlines and no direction by the VSP when assistance has been requested would be unacceptable if it was happening to any other group of Virginians but since its Sex Offenders complacency and an attitude that the current system is "good enough" continues. They are doing the bare minimum when it comes to managing Virginia’s RSO’s and the bare minimum is unacceptable! 

The only way better training of the VSP employees and a more informative, current, user friendly website will happen is through legislation. They have proven they do not care that the current system is badly broken and is intentionally setting our RSO’s up for failure with a new felony. 

Yesterday I received a reply email from one of the below folks at the VSP. 

I had asked for the process of how future RSO’s could notify the VSP of the upcoming travel, the reply gave me the Federal statutes and a link to the U.S. Marshal form. There was no answer on how or who to submit this information to within the VSP. 

So I replied,
I am requesting per this email that the 21 Day notification of International Travel for Virginia's Registered Sex Offenders be added to the VSP website along with a link or PDF to the required information, what is the accepted form of submission (email, fax, in-person) and to whom (your VSP Compliance Officer, your local VSP Barracks, etc) the paperwork should be submitted. 

Please let me know if my request is being denied or if it will be fulfilled and if so a date that it will be completed so that I can circle back and confirm it has been done. 

I have not yet received a reply of any kind and I’m pretty sure when I do it will be similar to the earlier reply, ignoring the issue at hand and my suggestion to fix it. So I’ve decided it’s time for more people than just me to make this request. 

I am asking all of you to send an email to the following folks at the VSP: 

VSP Lt. Tricia W. Powers - Registry Operations    
VSP Col. W. Steven Flaherty                                      
VSP Cpt. Thomas Turner                                            
VSP Lt. Thomas Bradshaw- Legislative Liaison    
VSP Daniel Wilson - Legislative Liaison                    

plus your State Delegate and State Senator, your member of Congress and our two U.S. Senators. 

Ask them to direct the Virginia State Police to disseminate current and accurate State and Federal legal restrictions imposed upon Virginia’s 18,800+ RSO’s during registration, re-registration and after new laws take effect each July 1st. Advise them all of the State and Federal legal requirements that would result in criminal charges if not followed should be posted on the VSP website, that they should be available in writing if requested during residence compliance checks or re-registrations and that they will be mailed off to requestors who do not have access to the Internet. 

Be polite, be factual, share a personal experience you may have had while attempting to remain compliant and be brief. 

Do you know who your representatives are? If not, look them up here.   

Thank you all for following this blog. Being a reader/follower is good but once in a while we all need to speak up when the deck is purposefully being stacked against us or our loved one. This is one of those times. 

Mary Devoy