(Weekly Update #234 )
Dear Members and Advocates:
This past week, the [President of the United States], recognizing the massive failure of a long standing policy and the draconian unintended collateral consequences it has caused, took measures to roll back [marijuana possession laws]. This move comes in the wake of years of research proving that the original policies were largely based on misinformation and politically motivated. In fact, studies show that [marijuana possession] has no correlation to the harms these laws were intended to prevent. Criminal justice advocates call the measure a step in the right direction, but that it does not do enough to repair the harms of those caught up in the misguided [war on drugs], which has proven to be a colossal failure.
Dear Members and Advocates:
This past week, the [Gainesville City Commission], recognizing the massive failure of a long standing policy and the draconian unintended collateral consequences it has caused, took measures to roll back [its sex offender residency restriction]. This move comes in the wake of years of research that the original policies were largely based on misinformation and politically motivated. In fact, studies show that [residency restriction] has no correlation to the harms these laws were intended to prevent. Criminal justice advocates call the measure a step in the right direction, but that it does not do enough to repair the harms of those caught up in the misguided [sex offender registry], which has proven to be a colossal failure.
Before you look up… No, we didn’t make a mistake copying and pasting and no, you didn’t read the first paragraph twice. The bracketed words are different though the rest of the paragraphs above contain the same message. Last week, two political entities, the President of the US and the Gainesville City Commission, took steps to roll back some draconian laws that prevented returning citizens from successfully reintegrating into society and that were based on beliefs we now know to be untrue. Study after study has demonstrated that the recreational use of marijuana has no correlation to drug trafficking or other crimes. Just as study after study has demonstrated that proximity to schools and parks has no correlation to sexual offenses.
At the end of the day, a policy was failing and someone had the integrity to say, “hey, this isn’t working as we thought it would, in fact, it might be creating even more problems” and reversed course. What supported these decisions were not the opinions of Willie Nelson and Gail Colletta, but government studies. When considering dramatically changing policies on recreational marijuana use (even legalizing retail cannabis dispensaries), these studies found that marijuana legalization displaced illicit criminal organizations and decreased crime by enabling law enforcement to focus on more harmful substances instead of some ordinary joe smoking a joint. Similarly, the studies on residency restrictions are also clear and conclusive (https://floridaactioncommittee.org/some-conclusions-from-studies-on-residency-restrictions/ for just some). Opening up housing options will alleviate homelessness, reduce absconding and provide people with the stability to live law abiding lives so they won’t reoffend.
Shifting our primary focus to the issue that impacts us more directly, Gainesville’s move is a very positive one. Several years ago, Palm Beach County (not the individual cities, but the unincorporated areas of the County) rolled back their residency restrictions to the State’s and there was no increase in sexual offenses at all. I would like to think that Gainesville’s move was motivated by their analysis of the research showing the restriction does not work and their good-hearted belief that people should not be legislated into homelessness, but I’m not kidding myself. In August, a registrant sued the City over their SORR (Alachua Case No. 01 2022 CA 002500). As of Friday, the parties have agreed to stay that lawsuit and the pending injunction motion until the City decides whether to roll back their SORR or not. A move that the City Mayor and Commissioners appear to be taking seriously.
On the other side of the country, in Washington, their state’s sex offender policy board (which Florida does not have, but should) met to discuss ideas for a forthcoming report to legislature and they also recommended eliminating the residency restrictions in that state. What I believe is happening is that we have reached a saturation point. The politicians poured too much Kool Aid into the residency restriction glass and it’s beginning to overflow and create a mess (I was considering using the septic tank analogy, but either way you get the point). We have come to a stage where residency restrictions have become too big of a problem to ignore. Municipalities are no longer passing them because they actually believe they will solve the problem of sexual offenses. They are passing them because they think they will solve the problem of registrants being displaced into their communities. Rather than becoming the “dumping ground”, they pass the hot potato to the next city, all the while, people are left homeless and (as we’ve unfortunately seen a lot of lately), left dying on the streets.
It is no mystery that residency restrictions are one of the biggest problems facing registrants in Florida. As thousands of people get added to the registry each year with no attrition, the availability of compliant housing is dwindling. With more residency restrictions being added or expanded, the already limited pockets of availability are shrinking or disappearing entirely. And as we age, this problem becomes even worse, as we are restricted from most assisted living or nursing homes in the state. The biggest problem facing politicians, however, is that most recognize the problem and completely agree with us that it’s absurd to restrict where someone sleeps between 10PM and 6AM when schools and parks are closed, but they don’t want to be the ones to commit political suicide by suggesting the policy get rolled back. They need a scapegoat.
So what can we hope for? In a fantasy world the registry is abolished tomorrow and residency restrictions go away along with all the other disabilities. In an ideal world, a case comes along that challenges the general concept of the residency restriction and banishment laws are eliminated nationwide. In a ‘not ideal, but we’ll take it’ scenario the State preempts the patchwork of municipal residency restrictions in favor of the state law that gets applied uniformly. And in a more realistic scenario we create our own scapegoats to offer local politicians the cover they need to do the right thing and defer to the State statute. Whether the proverbial scapegoat is suing these smaller cities so they can use the lawsuit as a justification for rolling back their restrictions, or if it means bringing together several neighboring municipalities who all agree to roll back the restrictions as a joint measure to ameliorate their collective problems (homelessness, monitoring, constitutional issues, etc.), we need to start offering lawmakers a way out of this mess they created because they are not going to take it upon themselves.
What you can do to help the process is contact the Gainesville Commissioners and express your support for rolling back the residency restrictions. You can also do the same in your own city. South Florida, where the population is the densest, the homeless problem is the worst, and the cities have the money to fight legal challenges tooth and nail, might have been a bigger fish to fry years ago in Does v. Miami-Dade, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work back up to it. Share the research and get these people to stop drinking the Kool Aid.
The Florida Action Committee
ANNOUNCEMENTS – MARK YOUR CALENDARS
Next Monthly Membership Meeting – Thursday November 3 at 8pm ET. Call 319-527-3487. Topic: Long-Term Care for Aging Registered Citizens with Guest Stephanie Jerstad PhD, Millersville University. Trouble connecting? Text CALL ME to 319-527-3487 to received a call back and be connected to the meeting.
See Calendar of Events – Keep up with Meet-and-Greets in your area, Support groups, Membership Calls, and other events. For questions and more information contact the Membership Team; [email protected] or call 833-273-7325,Option 1.
Click Here for Calendar, and double click on the event to view details and RSVP instructions. Just some of the upcoming events below.
Sat Oct 22 – Hernando/Brooksville Meet FAC reps Joel and Robb -2-4pm. For location RSVP to [email protected] or call 833-273-7325 Option 1
Sat Oct 22 -Sarasota/Manatee Meet FAC Reps Jennifer and Chris -1-4pm For location RSVP to [email protected] or call 941-500-4706.
Sat Oct 22 – Duval/Jacksonville. Meet FAC Reps Brad and Cindy for a Pot Luck dinner 3:00-5:30pm For location RSVP to [email protected] or call/text (904) 300-0109.
Sat Oct 29 -Lee County Meet-and-Greet has been Canceled. We hope that local members are safe and have the resources and support that they need. For assistance or just need someone to talk to, reach out to your FAC representatives [email protected] or text/call 941-315-7914
Sat Oct 29 – Orange-Seminole Meet-and Greet with special guest and discussion on Civil Commitment: Intent vs Reality- Apopka (Orange County) – FAC is hosting the visit of a research Sociologist from University of South Carolina, Greensboro in preparation of his research on Civil Commitment. He is interested in meeting and talking to persons that have knowledge and experience with the Civil Commitment Center in Arcadia FL. Former residents, family members, professionals are invited to join us to identify issues/concerns, understand the intent vs reality of the system, and to identify the areas of research that need to be studied to support changes. For location and details RSVP to [email protected] or call 833-273-7325,Option 1.
Become a County Coordinator. The only requirement is your desire to HELP us organize your county. If you are interested in joining the County Coordinator Team, leave message at 833-273-7325, Option 1, or email [email protected]
Letter-Writing Campaigns – If you would like to participate in sending educational information to specific decision makers in Florida, please contact [email protected]. Volunteers must be willing to proudly identify themselves by using their own name and return address on the letters.
SOME HEADLINES FROM THE WEEK
We all know that rare and sometimes completely benign events can lead to some terrible laws. In Ohio, a woman employed in a haunted house quit her job after realizing that two of her coworkers at “Spooky Ranch” were on the registry. It’s not that they did anything to…
More than a dozen registered sex offenders are living too close to children, that’s according to the Lamesa Police Department. The chief of police confirmed that 19 residents received notices stating they were in violation of the city’s code of ordinances. Eugene…
Below is a letter sent to the Gainesville City Commission. FAC Letter to Gainesville City Commission The letter is in response to the commission considering an amendment to their residency restriction that would roll back the restriction from 2500 to the State’s 1000…
The opinion that came out of the 11th Circuit yesterday in the McGuire case sucks. There is no other way to put it, no other way to see it. It sucks on so many levels. The opinion itself is awful. It basically ignores everything that has happened since Smith v. Doe…