(Weekly Update #222)
Dear Members and Advocates,
When I was searching for First Amendment firms to help the registrants in Brevard County who were banned from their county commission meeting, I reached out to many nonprofit organizations that focus on freedom of speech. Surprisingly there are a lot of them. I sincerely believed that based on the extraordinary facts in this situation and the legal research I did into both the Federal and Florida Constitutions as well as Florida’s robust open government laws, this case would be a slam dunk for any legal aid organization that would pick it up. I turned out being absolutely right about the merits of the case, as evidenced by the success Florida Justice Institute is having thus far, but I was absolutely wrong in thinking that First Amendment rights organizations would jump on this. Actually, I should correct that statement. They jumped on it, but when they discovered who the plaintiffs were, they were equally quick in jumping out.
There is a bias when it comes to dealing with our population and that bias comes, in large part, from the media and politicians who ignore the facts and have used panic to generate viewership and political brownie points. Even those who don’t personally hold that bias know that it exists and have to account for it in their decisions and interactions. I know that FAC has to account for it all the time. When we approach people as “criminal justice advocates” the doors open, but when we disclose the population we advocate for, the change in tone is palpable – even over the phone or through an email. We get it. There’s a public perception that everyone on this list is an inhuman recidivist who has abducted and molested a kid, when that’s absolutely not true. And while we can do a great job in educating the public and might be able to change the minds of 90% of the people we speak with, there will always be that 10% who think everyone on the registry should be shot. Whether that 10% represents a single judge or juror in a civil trial against Brevard County or a nurse in a Tennessee hospital, it’s a reality we all need to recognize.
Going back to when I was searching for free speech organizations to take up the cause, it wasn’t their bias against our population that became the sticking point, but bias that would come from public sentiment. The people who actually replied were quite sympathetic and agreed that this is a case that needed to be brought. They were extremely supportive, up to the point of being willing to put their organization’s name on the complaint, which none were willing to do. They all felt that whether it came from a potential judge who believes anyone on the registry deserves nothing other than punishment, or from a donor who discontinued their support of the organization after learning of the case, the bias is out there and with that bias comes risk.
Nurses in Tennessee are currently fighting for a bill that would require anyone on the registry to disclose their status to the hospital when being admitted. Although they claim, and might possibly believe, that there will be no difference in treatment, nobody should be that naïve. What if one nurse in the unit is part of the 10% referenced above? What if a nurse was the victim of sexual abuse when they were younger? What if the nurse had absolutely no opinion on the issue whatsoever, but was just told by a supervisor that the person she is going to draw blood from is “dangerous”? Do you think she will be focusing on getting the IV needle into the vein or worrying that the person she is treating is about to sexually assault her?
There is another aspect to this proposed law that people are not considering. People might forego necessary medical treatment out of fear of being harmed (or treatment withheld) by someone who may hold a personal bias against them. Or, people might forego necessary medical treatment simply in order to avoid having to self-shame themselves at the hospital. It’s the same reason many people would rather remain in their homes or vehicles rather than having to “check in as a sex offender” at an emergency shelter during a hurricane. Put into legal terms, it will have a chilling effect on people needing medical care but are deterred from seeking it because they don’t want to humiliate themselves or be exposed to potential harm or neglect.
If people can get laws passed on the implication that county commission meetings or hospitals are hot beds of sexual violence where people on the registry need to be formally flagged or provide advance notice, this argument can extend practically anywhere. Unchallenged, hair stylists, bartenders, flight attendants, or practically anyone providing a service can seek advance notice.
One of the best ways each of us can fight back against these bad laws or bills is to share our personal experiences in connection with active litigation. Sometimes, when you attach a real-world example of how a law has or would impact you or your family, it humanizes the problem and shows how even a well-intended law has had some serious unintended consequences that, in many cases, can even be a matter of life or death. We saw this over the last couple of months when a 71 year old homeless registrant was unable to obtain cancer surgery because of his housing situation and further, how his housing situation led to him being killed by a hit and run driver. Neither tragedies were the legislative intent behind the residency restrictions, but both were a direct real-life consequence of the law.
On the top of our website, we pinned a request. We are seeking your participation in fighting back against some horrible laws here in Florida by asking you to submit real-life examples from real-life human beings in support of the ex-post-facto challenge. If you have ever asked yourself what you can do in order to alleviate your situation, this is a perfect opportunity for you to take action. You can find more details and information here: https://floridaactioncommittee.org/have-you-been-impacted-by-floridas-3-day-requirements-or-drivers-license-branding/
If you want your voice heard, email your summary to [email protected] and we will consolidate the responses. If you don’t have email, print a hard copy and mail it to the address on our contact information. If you don’t have a printer, write it in crayon on a napkin, we don’t care. We need these ASAP!
The Florida Action Committee
See Calendar of Events – Keep up with Meet-and-Greets in your area, Support groups, Membership Calls, and other events. For questions, contact [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
Aug 20 – Meet-and-Greet in Daytona
Aug 26 – Women Only Meet-and-Greet – Fort Lauderdale
Aug 27 – Meet and Greet in Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood
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 THIS WEEK
Nurses in Nashville are hoping to put a new bill on the books that would add another layer of protection against registered sex offenders. The hope is to have legislators take up a bill that would require sex offenders to present their offender identification card…
Joliet City Council members unanimously voted Tuesday night to buy a house, with plans demolish it and turn the land into a park — a tactic they hope will legally allow them to force out convicted sex offenders who are living in an apartment building nearby. The move…
A 35 year old serving a sentence for a sexual offense in a Florida correctional institution was killed on July 27th. The FDLE is investigating his death….
Yesterday the Brevard County Commissioners voted unanimously to enact an amendment to their proximity ordinance that would allow private businesses to self-declare themselves a “park”. As a “park” these businesses would be considered another landmark creating a 1000…
With Unity Comes Change -Get Involved and Volunteer Today!
Florida Action Committee