Dear Members and Advocates:

We’ve always said that until a politician has a family member in our situation, we’re not going to find much sympathy for our cause from the legislature. Well, we finally have someone with enough political clout that is close enough to influence the President, who is pushing for federal sentencing reform. It’s not exactly our situation, but Charles Kushner, the father of presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, did some time in a federal prison after being convicted of illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, and witness tampering in 2005.

Unfortunate for the Kushner family, but fortunate for families of the formerly convicted, Jared was able to experience the realities and impact (not only to the inmate, but their family) of America’s system of over-incarceration. In an interview with ABC News earlier this year, he described his mission as, “The Administration wants to assist long-time prison reform advocates with their initiative to create a prison system that will rehabilitate citizens who have made mistakes, paid the price and are deserving of a second chance – which will ultimately reduce crime and save taxpayer dollars.” It’s a laudable mission and one that has even earned the strong support of President Trump, so what’s the hold up in getting this implemented?

We fear it might be the political wrangling that it takes to make a bill palatable enough that those who want to appear “tough on crime” can save face with their constituents. We fear even more that in the negotiating process to get this thing passed, there might come a process of “throwing some offenses under the bus” – excluding them from relief – and at the top of everyone’s mind will naturally be murderers and sex offenders. According to an article in yesterday’s Washington Post, a “change that has been floated privately is including additional categories of sex offenders in the group of inmates who would be ineligible for early release, according to one Senate official.” This is one that we’ll be watching closely!

Taking place in international politics; two nearshore countries; Bermuda and Belize are close to implementing sex offender registries of their own. Likely arising as a result of pressure from the US who expects other countries to take reciprocal measures to International Megan’s Law, the two countries will likely implement their registries shortly, but unlike the US and in line with every other country having registries, theirs will not be public. Recognizing that a public registry will make it nearly impossible for the person to re-integrate and will bring with it dangerous consequences (such as homelessness and vigilantism), they have smartly chosen to make theirs for law enforcement only and require registration only for a limited time.

In another country, Ireland, they discovered a troubling trend – their registry is growing, but what’s being caught in their net are children themselves. More than 1/3 of sex crimes against minors are committed by minors. Certain crimes, such as cases of minors caught in possession of child pornography had tripled in 2017. In 30 of the 47 “child defilement” cases, the “offender and injured party were in a relationship and had made the mutual decision to engage in sexual behavior”. So a label that’s intended to protect children, might actually be harming many of those it is intended to protect.

To look at the scenario with a positive note, it seems the people of the United States are beginning to realize that we have a broken justice system. The fact that the United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet we have almost 25 percent of the world’s total prison population is a glaring illustration that something is wrong. Had this excessively punitive system we’ve implemented cured our country of phenomenon such as mass shootings, perhaps there would be an argument that it’s effective, but clearly it has not. So with a political climate that’s receptive to change and years of statistics to show that what has been attempted has failed miserably, the time is right to advocate hard!


The Florida Action Committee


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