I participated once again in the SMART symposium. This is an information only presentation intended for law enforcement agencies including the federal Marshall service and local law enforcement agencies around the country to be brought up to date on SORNA.

As I expected the information was presented in a manner which paints this as a necessary policy to protect communities from threats posed by those people required to register.

A few points I’d like to make.

The points presented were consistent to what we’ve been hearing for years.

In fact at the last presentation I attended I had the opportunity to ask and make my concern know about the constant reference to this population as “SEX OFFENDERS” and asked they reform their language when referencing this population of “people required to register”, and I was informed. “you must take that up with the legislature, as this is language in statute, so this is what we will use.”

Now a bit about my experiences and thoughts about this symposium. Although I was not part of the majority in mindset and background or experience with SORNA and spoke openly when the opportunity was presented, at this event, I at no time was treated disrespectfully nor did I feel threatened in any way.

So…that being said, I believe it gives you an idea of who are the gate keepers.

The opening Plenary “An Overview of The National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction” Stacie B. Harris presenter – This was nothing outside of the expected reiteration of what we already know. They want to stop the proliferation of ongoing offences of child pornography and child sex trafficking. Which we can all agree is a good thing. (Probably not in agreement with their methodology and assumptions, but…)

It was really at the second plenary:  “DNA and Cold Cases” Steven L Armentrout, Ph D., Brian Martin presenters – This is where I realized what the government was doing here and their overall intent in their messaging. It was a very interesting case which was presented, and I found the forensic content fascinating at times and the inside look at the process for catching up with a perpetrator especially on an old case informative. However, it was the way the messaging was presented. It was blatant sensationalism and intended to infuriate and incite an outraged response from the law enforcement in the room. Which it did. Shame on our government for manipulating the law enforcement population charged with monitoring and implementing these policies. I agree the April Tinsley case was awful and bizarre and the individual who kidnapped and murdered this child should be held  accountable, painting a picture to insinuate this is anything but an exception to those who are on the registry and that it is anything but an exceptional case by a very sick individual, is irresponsible.

After being at the conference for 2 days I will tell you, I interacted with both presenters and attendees, I had the opportunity to converse with several folks and although not all discussions were of total agreement, I believe for the most part it was respectful. I’m not sure I changed any minds of those in attendance, but at least we agreed there is room for improvement and the only way we will get that is by legislative reform at the state and federal level. Everyone there has a basic position of, “I’m just doing my job”.

In some specific discussions I had with guests who stopped me to ask about my SORNA Button (a simple button I wore with the word SORNA and a red circle with a line through it, denoted not supportive) I was able to educate, share my thoughts and my business card. I saw that as a good opportunity.

I had opportunity to ask questions at other presentations and share what I know to be facts, based on research and clarify some of what they were saying. I cannot say what they presented was misinformation, but what I can say is the presentation of some of the way it was presented was from a skewed perspective.

One of the presentations I attended clearly talked about the Child Pornography offenders and the risk tools being used and the bottom line was that those who are in the possession only category are more likely to be low risk to reoffend and unlikely to have a contact offense. This is supported by research as well as compared to other categories of offenders, (drug offenders, property theft, etc..) the overall recidivism rate of the “Sex Offender” population is low by comparison, but the mind set is, one is too many, when is comes to this category of offender. What was reinforced to me was this is all based more on moral outrage than anything else.

 

Thank you again for allowing me the opportunity to represent Florida Action Committee and to be your voice.

 

Gail Colletta

President Florida Action Committee

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