Lenore Skenazy with Reason.com recently had an article published, “Disabled Man on Sex Offense Registry Pardoned by Illinois Governor.” An intellectually disabled man was placed on the sex offense registry when he had no idea what he had done wrong. After just over a decade, the governor of Illinois recently gave him a full pardon along with having his record expunged. You can read the article here.
Florida has similar situations, whether it is an individual who is intellectually disabled or suffering from dementia or brain damage.
As an FAC member, I have been advocating on behalf of some of these individuals in Florida. I recently mailed a letter through the USPS to all 160 Florida legislators and Governor DeSantis, telling them my story. I have also emailed all 160 legislators with additional information. Nothing might change in Tallahassee, but our government leaders are not going to be able to say that “no one told them.”
After seven years of cognitive decline, the offense occurred for my family member. Even with a brain MRI showing atrophy of the brain cells in the frontal lobe and a neuropsychologist willing to testify that judgment would be a problem for any person with this type of damage, I was told that Florida statutes do not allow for dementia to be considered by the courts.
In my family member’s case, dementia was not allowed to be considered for the offense, for placement in the Florida prison system, by probation, or for re-registration. Even though my family member is in the last stage of dementia, has been declared incapacitated by a civil court, is enrolled with hospice, has been given 100% disability by the VA, has no idea what his offense was, cannot drive a car, understands nothing about the registry and its accompanying statutes, and cannot tell the registration office if any of his information has changed, law enforcement has told me that he must still re-register in person
This problem goes far beyond my family member who has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. It also encompasses people with any form of dementia, autism, or any condition that causes the individual to become intellectually disabled, whether being genetically predisposed or developing the condition later in life.
I am asking the legislators to change the wording in the statutes so that judges and prosecutors can consider dementia (or any form of intellectual disability). Expecting these people to be able to do anything that a person who has no cognitive limitations is inhumane.
In most cases, the burden falls upon family members who have not broken any laws. They are the ones who must study the applicable state statutes, take care of all the draconian sex offender probation rules, make sure that all registry requirements are met, take the family member to re-registration, take care of meeting the residency requirements, and so on.
Punishing mentally and intellectually impaired individuals and their family members violates our human rights that this country claims to be protecting.
For those of you who are in a situation similar to mine, I encourage you to contact some of our legislators to tell them your story. Ask them how justice is being served by not allowing for consideration of cognitive impairment or intellectual disabilities.
Contact information for our legislators can be found in the Call to Action for long-term healthcare that is posted above.