Archive for March 9, 2010

Sex Offenders, Supporters Lobby Georgia Lawmakers for Reform

March 9, 2010 Comments off Sex Offenders and their Supporters Lobby Georgia Lawmakers for Reform.

March 8, 2010 — Last weekend, sex offenders in Georgia took a step towards replacing the failed policy of registration and residency restrictions with a policy based on reason and with the goal of making their communities safer, actually protecting children, and restoring the nation’s international image for fairness and basic respect of human rights.

On Saturday, March 6, 2010, Georgians for Reform held a twelve hour conference in the Georgia State Capital. In attendance were more than 180 friends and supporters. Speakers included a District Attorney who participated in writing the original legislation creating the sex offender registry in Georgia, a Defense Attorney who addressed the ex post facto aspects of the registry, a lobbyist, a lawyer, and a sociologist who spoke about the wrong directions taken by the registry and its detrimental effects on both registrants and society as a whole. Several religious leaders also spoke about the challenges sex offender registrations pose to the faith community. Prison counselors and chaplains spoke on the reality of the registry for those incarcerated and released. Also in attendance was Paul Shannon, who helped establish Reform Sex Offender Laws (RSOL), a national advocacy organization for sex offenders and their families.

Every speaker, including the attorney who participated in the original legislation, told those gathered that the registry is a failed policy and serves as an extension of criminal punishment–a violation of Due Process protections guaranteed to every American citizen by the Fourteenth Amendment.

To gather close to 190 people in conference, the majority of whom are not on the registry, in the state of Georgia, leaves little room for anyone to claim it can’t be done. Who now can claim that society has written off persons convicted of a sex offense, that these people have no support, that these people do not deserve the basic human dignity spoken of so eloquently in our own Declaration of Independence? Who can continue to support the hyperbole, ignoring the statistical facts presented by the United States Department of Justice, or the reality of systemic failure on the part of registry schemes from state to state?

The guiding principle of the Georgians for Reform conference was that no speaker would be asked to address their topic from the organization’s stated perspective. Each speaker was asked to address the conference from his own perspective about the registry and was not vetted in advance about that perspective as a contingency for invitation. Speakers were invited because they satisfied one of the criteria of conference presenters: professional status in law enforcement, the clergy, the legal field, the study of sociology, psychology, or in the practice of therapy.

That each of the speakers in attendance came to the same conclusion about the registry as a failed policy speaks very loudly.

Georgians For Reform is deeply disturbed by the failure of sex offender registries to prevent incidents of human suffering at the hands of people such as Phillip Garrido and Anthony Sowell (both cases of sexual predation and abuse by registered sex offenders). We mourn the loss of Chelsea King, and we believe that the failed registration policies are partially responsible for her loss and the terrible pain felt by her family and friends.

Georgians For Reform demands that these failed policies be eliminated and replaced with policies based on the best available and empirical evidence. Such action–and the development of reasonable policies–will make our nation’s communities safer, protect children, and protect the right of people to heal and move forward. More importantly, law enforcement agencies will be able to focus on the truly dangerous offenders in their local communities.

Georgians For Reform will continue to speak out against these failed policies and demand a reform that works towards making our communities safer, protecting our children, and respecting the dignity of human beings. We will no longer accept ‘feel good’ policies that protect no one, lend a false sense of security, and help foster an environment that makes our children and communities less safe.