Monday, October 31, 2016

Read it, Loved it, Recommending it! Refining Child Pornography Law: Crime, Language, and Social Consequences (Law, Meaning, and Violence) by Carissa Byrne Hessick

Over the last 8 years of advocacy I have always made a point to read current books, studies and reports related to this platform. I believe as a volunteer advocate who claims to be for data-driven reform, I better know the data even if I might not agree with it or if it may not support my efforts. Funny thing is almost every piece I’ve read over the last 8 years backs up my efforts here in Virginia. 

I especially like books that are point and counterpoint because I need to know what the opposition is saying, what they believe and where they are getting their information from, credible or not. 

If we only listen to one-side of an argument then we are not only misinformed but we risk doing more harm than good. One-sided legislation leads to knee-jerk laws, one-size-fits all sentencing and feel-good campaign slogans. It’s time for the collateral damage from this kind of willful ignorance to end, we deserve better. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

The US Supreme Court Will Hear North Carolina Case on Law that Bans Social Media Sites (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc) for Registered Sex Offenders

If the U.S. Supreme Courts voids the North Carolina law then any other State that has a similar law on the books will have to revoke it OR rewrite it if the Supreme Court leaves the door open for a rewrite. 

If the U.S. Supreme Courts upholds the North Carolina law then you can bet your bottom-dollar States across the country will jump on the bandwagon and pass laws doing the same. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Halloween 2016 Do’s and Don’ts for Virginia’s Registered Sex Offenders

Halloween 2016 is next Monday! 

What Can and Can't Registered Sex Offenders (RSO’s) in Virginia legally do on and around the holiday? 

In Virginia there are NO State or Local Laws prohibiting RSO’s from participating in Halloween activities.
RSO’s  Can:
  1. Have their front door/porch lights on
  2. Decorate their door/home/yard
  3. Accompany their children, grand-children, step-children, step-grandchildren, siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins or ANY child trick-or-treating (but not at a school-sponsored event or at a daycare facility)
  4. Answer their own door and hand out candy
  5. Wear a costume
  6. Attend Halloween parties / events (but not at a school-sponsored event or at a daycare facility)
BUT, if the RSO is under Virginia’s Department of Correction Probation Supervision then there MAY be restrictions specific to THOSE RSO’s that they MUST follow or face a Probation Violation (a felony). These VA-DOC Halloween programs are known as Operation Trick-Not-Treat AND Operation Porch-Lights-Out. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Virginia Budget Crisis Means it's Time to Consider Some VSP Registry Reform in 2017

Dear Virginia Delegates, Senators and Administration, 

Good morning. 

According to yesterdays news the Virginia State Police are facing a budget crisis. 

Troopers 'fleeing' the department, state police association says

McAuliffe budget cuts include 26 layoffs, set stage for new bid to expand Medicaid
The moves also will replace $5.5 million in general funds for state police with money from four special funds, including one earmarked for technology upgrade of the sex offender registry.

On Tuesday I sent you all an email reminding you that in 2015 the VSP Registered Sex Offender certified letters cost $10.48 each, 55,757 were mailed-out at a cost of $584,333 JUST for the postage per year.  Also that I’ve been proposing for a few years now, to eliminate these wasteful USPS letters, but so far no Virginia Legislator has been willing to propose the needed legislation because of Virginia Code.  

Today I am re-emailing you a second proposal I’ve been making for a few years that would reduce the annual cost (2015- $8.4 Mil) of the VSP Registry. 

It would be to allow the approximate 17% of the VSP Registry who are classified as Non-Violent to be automatically removed on their 15th anniversary instead of requiring them to hire an attorney, 2 therapists and file a court petition that would be opposed by the Commonwealth’s Attorney and VSP which would most likely be denied by the judge because no one wants to sign-off on the removal of an RSO from the VSP Registry.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Waiting for VSP Re-Registration Letter to Arrive and Only 7 Business Days to Comply with Virginia Law or Face a Felony Charge for Originally a Misdemeanor Conviction

Dear Virginia Delegates, Senators and Administration, 

Good evening. 

As many of you may remember from past years October is re-registration month for my husband who is a Non-Violent Registered Sex Offender on the VSP Registry and with that come all the what if’s. This year (every 2 years) his VSP photograph is due to be renewed those of you in office back in 2013 may remember my email to all of you titled The VSP refused to take my husbands photograph today which was not a pleasant experience. I go with him every year to see how our RSO’s are being treated and 2013 was a very bad year for the VSP for a check-up. 

The Virginia State Police mail out USPS certified letters every 30, 90 or 180 days OR annually (Non-Violent RSO’s) to those listed on the VSP Registry depending on their conviction and/or if they have any failures-to-register.  

In 2015 these VSP letters cost $10.48 each, 55,757 were mailed-out at a cost of $584,333 JUST for the postage.  

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Myth and the Propaganda of Halloween and Registered Sex Offenders Captured in Articles and Research since 2007


3 weeks from today is Halloween 2016 and in about 2 weeks I’ll post my annual Do’s and Don’ts list for RSO’s in Virginia on Halloween. 

Over the years of advocating for data-driven laws and reform here I’ve learned the worst time of year for Myth-Based and Hysteria-Driven articles, policies and laws is Halloween. Halloween can be more emotionally draining than the annual Virginia General Assembly in Richmond. 

So over the years I’ve also gathered all the sane and research-based articles and studies to send to local reporters when they produce a sensationalized article or video segment. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Action Item: Virginia is One of Only 6 States that Publicly Posts Registered Sex Offenders Employer/Company Name AND Full Address, Shaming Virginia Businesses and Increasing Unemployment

This post is Part 10 (the last) of If You Risk Nothing, You Gain Nothing….  series. 

#1 of my 28 Legislative Fixes (or Goals) has always been to remove the Employer information from the online Virginia State Police Sex Offender Registry. Virginia Businesses are being punished / shamed for hiring Virginians listed on the VSP Registry because they are willing to contribute to the successful re-entry of former-offenders in Virginia. 

Virginia is one of only 6 States that publicly posts an RSO’s Employer/Company name AND full address. 

- 29 states do not list any employer information publicly; five of those States are Federal Adam Walsh Act AWA/SORNA compliant.
- 10 States publically post just the address; eight of those are AWA/SORNA compliant.
- 5 States post the city, county and/or zip code; 3 of those are AWA/SORNA compliant. 

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

Why? Because those 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. 

Removing the Employer Information from the Internet changes none of the Registration Requirements of Virginia's RSO’s.
1. RSO’s would continue to register ALL their employer information with the Virginia State Police (and their VA-DOC Probation Officer).
2. The Virginia State Police (and their VA-DOC Probation Officer) would still confirm that their place of employment does not violate any State Law AND they would still confirm that the RSO does actually work there.  

Action Item: For the Last 9 Years the Virginia Legislature and the State Police Have Intentionally Kept VA Code that is Impossible to Comply With. Ask Them to Finally Act in January 2017!

This post is Part 9 out of 10 of If You Risk Nothing, You Gain Nothing….  series that I started back in May. Where I select a few of my Legislative Goals for Virginia and ask you to take action on the ones that speak to you. 

#3 of my 28 Legislative Fixes (or Goals) has always been to get Virginia Code to align with Virginia State Police hours of operation / registration availability. Current Virginia Code conflicts with the reality of the access our RSO have to be able to comply (register, re-register or change data) with the VSP Registry mandates.  

Goal #3 has always had 2 parts and I am going to leave it that way in this post. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Virginia's Habeas Corpus, Writs of Actual Innocence, the Number of Governor Pardons Over the Lasts 7 Years AND the Sway Commonwealth’s Attorneys have with Virginia Legislators /Legislation


4 "Absolute" Pardons for RSO’s!
20 Years After Being Bullied Into Confessing, ‘Norfolk 4’ Are Pardoned, March 21, 2017

Original Post:

On Monday October 3rd I arrived to the second-half of the Virginia State Crime Commission meeting not because of any particular issue being discussed but because I was waiting for my last meeting of 2016 with a Virginia Legislator to begin. 

I sat through VI of the agenda (see above) to the end of the meeting. 

It was decided that the new 2016 VSCC Chairman is Virginia Delegate Rob Bell (running for VA Attorney General nominee in 2017) and the new VSCC Co-Chair is Virginia Senator Mark Obenshain. 

But I found the Habeus Corpus presentation and then the two public speakers to be the most interesting. 

A Habeas Corpus challenges the due process from a past conviction, NOT the proof of innocence. 

Also in Virginia with a Habeas Corpus filing EVERY issue must be raised in the 1st filing (unlike in many other states), otherwise all preceding files will be barred, In other words Virginia law mandates a defendant show all their cards at once, no surprises. Virginia has been called a “One Habeas State” because of this rule.