Dear Members and Advocates,
I have a theory that Florida loves sex offenders.
After the recent Michigan decision and similar cases from other states bringing relief for their registrants, you would think that there would be a mass exodus of registrants from Florida to these other places that are less draconian. But there hasn’t been. Aside from the obvious challenges of leaving behind family, businesses and a lifetime of connections is another, more compelling reason. Even if you leave Florida and go someplace else where you would be off their registry in 10, 15 years, Florida will keep you on their registry for life! So what’s the point?
Even if you’re living on the opposite end of the country and not on the registry in your home state, when prospective employers, neighbors or your children’s classmates google your name, the first thing that will come up is the Florida Sex Offender Registry. If the shaming will follow you forever, no matter which state you chose – even if you leave the country, why bother going?
Another problem Florida creates is that even if you are removed from the registry in the state in which you live, by virtue of Florida keeping its claws on you, you will still be subject to many Federal laws. For example; International Megan’s Law, which requires “an individual required to register under the sex offender registration program of any jurisdiction” to comply with it’s requirements. So lets say you were convicted in a State that has a 15-year registration requirement, your fifteen years have passed and you are off the registry in your home state however you visited Florida for a week ten years ago and got added to their registry, you are on the registry of another jurisdiction (Florida).
By now it is common knowledge that fewer than half of the people on Florida’s sex offender registry are actually in a Florida community and that Florida keeps people on even after they die. Florida also allows it’s registry to be Google indexed, has no gateway to restrict access to only those actively seeking to search the sex offender registry and has optimized the list to appear high on search engine rankings. Why is Florida so actively trying to promote it’s sex offenders by artificially inflating its number of registrants and so aggressively advertising them? You would think that a state whose biggest industry is tourism would want to suppress that! Would you want to stay in a hotel that drew attention to it’s high number of bed bugs? Eat in a restaurant that publicized the third highest rate of food poisoning in the community? Probably not.
There must be something so valuable about “sex offenders” that Florida politicians are reluctant to let them go – even after death. There is (and I think that if you’ve gotten the slightest insight from your experience with the registry, you know why). First, there are federal grants that pay States for implementation, training and technical assistance that are based on the number of registrations. Second, there is a substantial industry that depends on registrants to keep it going. Politically connected individuals have interests in private entities that get GPS monitoring and re-entry contracts and charities that get millions in state funding. While high numbers of “sex offenders” might seem like a bad thing, to those with a financial stake in this game, lower numbers would be a terrible thing. Think of it this way… Hurricanes are devastating tragedies, but if you owned a debris removal business, you’d want as many of them as possible.
In a general sense, Florida might be the most extreme state but that doesn’t stop other states from having some pretty ridiculous laws as well. This past week, the Utah woman whose stepchildren saw her topless was effectively forced to plea guilty because had she not, she would have faced trial for a crime that could have landed her on the sex offender registry. Also, in Pennsylvania, a woman was charged with child abuse and had her son removed from her custody because she left him alone with her boyfriend who had a sex offense conviction 28 years ago (note that it was not alleged that the boyfriend had done anything to the child). And in Tennessee, legislators are working on a re-write of a law passed last year that was challenged in federal court (thank God) that would have prevented parents with a past sex offense conviction from living with their own children (note that it was even if the offense wasn’t against their child). Can you imagine?!?
What all this tells us is that the general public needs to start opening their eyes to what’s going on. When they start seeing that the registry does little more than enrich the people who support it, maybe they will be a little outraged. When they start seeing that the people on these lists are not all monsters in trench coats staking out playgrounds but it could also include a mom whose children accidentally saw her topless, it will change their perception of who is a “sex offender”. And when people realize this list is more than “filling out a price club membership”, but a vehicle through which decades old convictions can dictate who you can date or entitle someone to take your children from your custody, they will see it for what it is… Punishment!
Share these stories, share your own stories and let’s get the truth out there!
Our guest speaker on the next Monthly Membership call, Thursday March 5th at 8pm ET, will be Dr Caren Neile, FAU professor of Storytelling Studies. Her presentation will discuss the purpose and power of telling your story, and we have scheduled two in-person workshops for members who are interested in having their story videoed for upcoming FAC projects. Watch for more details. Your story is important.
The Florida Action Committee
Amazon Smile – select (FAC Outreach Partner “Justice Transitions, Sanford FL” as your charity. Make purchases using https://smile.amazon.com in order to be certain that Justice Transitions (and FAC members) benefit from your purchases.
Wed Feb 26 – Free Registrant Peer Support group (no therapist) meets in Pinellas Park area at 5:30 pm.
Fri Feb 28- Free therapist-led Family Support session (no registrants) meets at 7pm in Tampa.
Sat Mar 7. Free therapist-led Family Support session (no registrants) meets from 11am-1pm in Central Broward.
Seating is limited for all events. For more information, or to RSVP email [email protected] or call 904-452-8322. No children please.
SOME HEADLINES FROM THE WEEK
The government sometimes arrests parents for giving kids responsibility. In South Carolina, mom Deborah Harrell was jailed for letting her 9-year-old daughter play in a park for the day. Local media outlets breathlessly reported that Harrell left her daughter at the…
PA: Child taken from woman who left son with person required to register for a decades old conviction.
This is a really scary decision out of Pennsylvania where a mom had her 9-year old son removed from her custody because her boyfriend, who had a 1992 conviction for a sex offense, had been left alone with the child. There were no allegations that the boyfriend had…
Watson, who is serving a life sentence for a 2009 murder conviction, wrote that six days after he arrived at the prison, a child molester moved into the pod. Watson believed the man began taunting other inmates by watching children’s television programming. “I could…
In a rare role-reversal, a day care filed for a variance to live closer to a sexual predator! Jacksonville, FL has a law that prevents a day care from opening within 2500 feet of a sexual…