Monday, September 7, 2015

Action Item: It’s Time that Virginia Removes the Employer Information From Public View

It’s Labor Day, not just the official end of summer but a holiday that recognizes labors fight for workers rights. 

Employment is a necessity, not a luxury. Without steady employment you can not secure housing, food, clothing, water to bathe with and heat to stay warm in the winter months. 

Securing employment with a felony conviction can be near impossible, but try it while listed on the VSP Sex Offender Registry for a felony or a misdemeanor.  

The Virginia State Police Sex Offender Registry lists the employer/company name, their full address and has a map to the location. 

Virginia is one of only 6 States that publicly posts an RSO’s employer & full address. 

29 states do not publicly post ANY employer information, 5 of those States are certified Federal Adam Walsh Act/SORNA compliant. 10 States post just the address, 8 of those are AWA compliant. 5 States post the city, county and/or zip code & 3 of those comply with AWA.  

In September 2013 Texas and in 2012 Kansas both removed ALL employment information from their public registries. 

Why? Because 44 States & Congress recognize employment as a top priority in an ex-offender's successful reentry back into our communities. Without employment the rules of probation would be broken, court fines and restitution would not be paid and stable housing would be impossible. 

I have looked for the specific piece of legislation (bill) somewhere between 2006 and 2008 that made the employer information public in Virginia; I can NOT find it anywhere which leads me to believe the VSP did it on their own with no direction from the Virginia Legislature. 

Virginia Businesses are being punished and shamed for hiring an RSO and participating in the successful re-entry of ex-offenders in Virginia. 

Twice I was able to get a bill proposed to remove the employer information from public view and twice it has died in the Virginia House of Delegates:
·       2010- SB635 (Passed the Virginia Senate 40-0 to then be stopped in a House Militia, Police and Safety Sub-committee of 6)
·       2012- HB413 (“Laid on the table” instead of be voted on by the House Courts of Justice Criminal Sub-committee of 8) 

The VSP Legislative Liaisons have opposed these past bills even though the VSP Policy is NOT to take a pro or con stance on proposed legislation. 

I received an email from a Virginia RSO yesterday that I would like to share with you; here is an edited portion of that email:
The constant harassment since my very public conviction has been difficult.  

I believe the family of my victim has been soliciting my registry information and was successful in getting me fired from a previous job.  

My current employer knows my situation and yesterday called to tell me a "customer" came in and told some of my fellow employees that I was on the registry and showed it to them, and this proceeded to be spread ALL over the place to every employee, and people expressing their concern to my boss that "we have a pedophile working here..." Thankfully, my boss STOPPED that and said that was NOT true and He knew the facts and the employees don't, and even put out a generic letter about how harassment is not tolerated in any form at work.  

We have cameras, so I wonder if we can see who it is. 

I know the Virginia registry says that using the information on the registry for the purpose of harassment and intimidation is punishable by a class 1 misdemeanor, but I don't know if I want to go through the humiliation of making a police report where if the person is caught and arrested its once again put me back in the news and this person will be a hero to others for harassment to sex offender that everyone thinks is a monster. 

I just want to be at peace, and I thought having my managers know would be enough but now when I go back to work (thankfully I was off when this incident occurred), I will have to deal with the really awkward working environment with people who will probably think the worst of me. 

It’s just a matter of time before this young man loses his current position and as long as his employer name and address is posted online he will most likely lose the next few or many jobs. Not because he’s a bad employee, not because he’s not qualified but because the online information is being used to target, harass humiliate and destroy those who are listed. 

A homeless RSO is an untraceable RSO, & that makes registration irrelevant. 

Virginia claims to support the successful reentry of former offenders back into our communities, but yet the State is making it near impossible for its 21, 800+ Registered Sex Offenders to ever secure steady employment. 

44 states do NOT list the employer/company name online and 29 states do NOT list the employer/company name OR address for their Registered Sex Offenders not only so their RSO’s can find employment but so their employers and business owners aren’t under constant attack and scrutiny. 

It’s time that Virginia removes the employer information from the VSP Sex Offender Registry. The VSP will still have all current employer information for every Offender, the VSP will confirm in-person that the registered information is correct and the VSP will know if the place of employment violates any laws, but the public will not be able to use that information to harass, intimate or shame employers or RSO’s who are just trying to provide for themselves and their families. 

Let’s make this much needed change with legislation in 2016! 

If you support such legislation here in Virginia, please email or call your one State Delegate and your one State Senator THIS WEEK and ask them to sponsor a bill in January 2016! 

Mary Devoy