Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Winchester Star Newspaper Recklessly Prints Article that Shames 4 Compliant RSO's, How Much Damage Will it Cause in Their Successful Reentry?

Dear Winchester Star, 

Why would you list “Notorious Cases” including photographs and names of Virginians who were convicted years ago? By doing this the Winchester Star has made their ability to retain housing and employment for a successful reentry back into our communities an impossible feat. 

Listing “Wanted” Registered Sex Offenders is providing a pubic service, listing compliant RSO’s is counterproductive. If they lose their rental or their job because of the publicity you made then they can not pay for their Probation Services, their Court Fees, their mandated SO therapy, their mandated polygraphs, GPS monitoring, their Victim Restitution not to mention food, clothing and housing. 

The Virginia State Police  who monitor our RSO’s and who own the data on the Registry from which you took this information does NOT randomly list compliant RSO’s on their website, their Facebook page or their Twitter account. WHY? Because it guarantees they will fail on their reentry.

You state that the classification of “Sex Offender” in Virginia varies. Why yes it does. 

Virginia has an inferior 2-Level Conviction-Based Classification system instead of a 3 or 4 Level Risk-Based Classification system. Approximate 83% of the VSP Registry is dumped into the “Violent” group. If Virginia had a proper 3-4 Level Risk-Based system then the highest risk category would be approximately 17-24% (like in States that have implemented Risk-Based systems) instead of our current 83%. Virginia is wasting already scarce resources monitoring RSO’s who do not pose a risk in our communities because we do such a poor job at classifying them.               

In 2006 and 2008 hundreds possibly thousands (don’t know the actual number because the VSP denied 2 FOIA requests asking for the totals) of  Non-Violent Offenders were retroactively reclassified to Violent, this happened when the Virginia Legislature increased misdemeanors to felonies and the Virginia State Police (VSP) applied the change retroactively to old convictions. Doing so changed these Virginians Sex Offender re-registrations from once a year to every 90 days and their minimum time listed on the VSP Registry from a minimum of 15 years to a Lifetime with no option to ever be removed.  

When the VSP elevated these old convictions it significantly increased the costs to Virginia, including:
1.       The number of re-registration letters being tracked, printed and mailed out 4 times a year instead of once a year checks for offenders who pose a non or low risk to the communities for an additional 20-50 years.
2.       The VSP “man-power” to be on-duty at the VSP Barracks to accept these additional re-registrations 4 times a year instead of once a year checks for offenders who pose a non or low risk to the communities for an additional 20-50 years.
3.       The VSP “man-power” to continue twice a year residential checks for offenders who pose a non or low risk to the communities for an additional 20-50 years. 

And yet no fiscal impact statement was ever requested, produced, presented, debated or approved by the Virginia Legislature at either the 2006 or 2008 sessions, when the VSP knew of the pending additional costs. 

You state that the RSO’s have “3 days” (not 3 business days) and “30-minutes” to update their information.  

Virginia’s RSO’s MUST register in-person (not electronically or over the phone) and most Virginians live 1+ hours from the nearest VSP Barracks and those Barracks are open Mon-Friday 8:30-4PM. There are two 4-Day (Thanksgiving & Lee-Jackson) Holidays and a minimum of four 3-Day Holidays (President’s Day, Memorial, Labor & Columbus Day) for Virginia Sate Police every year when our RSO's can not update any information within the mandated time-frame.   

Virginia Code and re-registration availability with Virginia authorities for our RSO’s are at odds with each other and the penalty is a felony even if the conviction that placed them on the VSP Registry was a misdemeanor. 

Over the last 8 General Assembly sessions since I became an advocate I have gotten 3 Bills proposed to fix this error, all have failed.
  • 2011- HB1628 (Amended in House Militia, Police and Safety, VSP opposed it. Left to die in Appropriations)
  • 2012- HB416  (“Laid on the table” instead of voting by the House Courts of Justice Criminal Sub-Committee of 8, VSP opposed it.)
  • 2016- SB243  (Failed to Report 6-9, in Senate Courts of Justice)

You broke down the RSO numbers in your surrounding counties. 

I track national numbers.  

As of November 2015 (waiting for the newest numbers) we had 22,049 Registered Sex Offenders in Virginia, approximately 1/3 are incarcerated, 1/3 are under VA-DOC Probation supervision and 1/3 are living under VSP Supervision (in 2015 the VSP spent $8.3 Million on monitoring and management of this group) . For an idea of growth when I started advocating in late-2008 the count was 16,238. As of June 2016 Virginia has 2.62% of the total U.S. RSO population 

As for the per-capita number Virginia is #25 out of the 50 States and U.S. Territories, with 264 RSO’s per 100,000 persons and 1 out of every 379 people in Virginia is an RSO. Oregon is #1 and Guam is #2 in per capita. 

You also stated that “some offenders are prohibited from living with 500 ft. of those facilities or public parks that share borders with a school or are used for school activities”.  

Did you know that the Virginia State Police has no idea  how many or what specific RSO’s fall under this restriction. The VSP doesn’t know which means the RSO doesn’t know. 

Now, these points I’ve made here are actually newsworthy and I didn’t destroy anyone’s housing, employment or reentry opportunities by making them. 

It will be very interesting to know if in the next 2-4 weeks if the four men you listed in your article under “notorious cases” lose their jobs or are displaced from their homes because you recklessly included their names and photos for a sensational piece in the Winchester Star. If they do………… a jobless and/or homeless RSO is more likely to commit a new crime than an RSO with stable housing and employment.  

Your article was not a public service, you purposefully decided to humiliate (maybe even to do some damage) to those 4 men who are abiding by all their restrictions and regulations…….. the Winchester Star should be ashamed.
Mary Davye Devoy