Dear Members and Advocates,
So much respect is deserved by Patty Wetterling. In 1989, Patty’s son Jacob was abducted and killed near their home in Minnesota. Three years after Jacob’s abduction, Minnesota enacted a registry in his memory and a couple years after that, the federal government did the same. In fact, the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act was the federal law that proceeded the Adam Walsh Act and was the original federal law that required states to enact a sex offender registry. At the time, Patty was the driving force behind the push to enact these laws.
Today, Patty is behind another effort – to curb the very laws she encouraged congress to pass decades ago. Over time and with the help of a significant amount of education into the research and results, Patty realized that the registry isn’t working the way she had envisioned. As an article in today’s Minnesota Star Tribune pointed out, “now, Wetterling and others are pushing state lawmakers to take a closer look at the Predatory Offender Registry she helped establish, arguing it was expanded over the years when legislative panic over sexual predators was high but scientific research on reoffending was low. The list has grown and become so punitive that experts argue in some cases it could be counteracting the original goal — to keep children safe.”
While the current measures in Minnesota focus on registered children, Patty has been a vocal opponent of expanded registration laws for years. During her closing speech at the 2013 Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA) conference she said that “the registry has been hijacked.” The list that was intended to draw attention to only the most dangerous and predatory people, now includes people who relieved themselves in public and sexting teens. The number of registrable offenses expanded, the duration lengthened, the sanctions made harsher and the requirements became unnavigable.
It takes a great deal of integrity admit that a well intentioned plan simply didn’t work out, but it takes an unimaginable amount of compassion for someone who has gone through what Patty did, to advocate for the reversal of that failed plan. One realization that Patty came to was that her son’s kidnapper would have never been on a registry because he had never been charged with a sex offense before Jacob’s abduction. These registry laws would not have prevented her family’s tragedy and worse, with its focus on punishment and not prevention, the registry destabilizes former offenders making children less safe. As I read the article, it made me think of another victim who has aggressively pushed for registration laws that would have done absolutely nothing to prevent her abuse.
Earlier today I watched the Senate Criminal Justice Committee hearing at which they discussed SB 932 (the bill that prohibits a court from granting time-sharing with a minor child to a parent registered as a sexual offender or sexual predator). I would like to think that our efforts had some positive effect because there was discussion among several senators, including the bill’s author, to amend the proposed language to eliminate the blanket ban. As Senator Brandes pointed out, just because someone did something horrible years ago, doesn’t mean they are not a good parent and unless there’s a nexus between the crime and their child, we can’t treat everyone as incorrigible. Even though the bill passed through to the next committee, we can anticipate that the language we were afraid of won’t be included.
As I watched the brief (6 minute) hearing and reflected on the words of Senator Brandes, it made me think of another parent… one who actually brought his daughter’s abuser into their home and was seemingly oblivious to it for years because he was too self-absorbed to see what was going on. Maybe that is the type of horrible parenting that is deserving of a bill stating that a court “may not grant a parent timesharing with his or her minor child” in the event of a divorce? Or, we can accept that everyone is worthy of learning, growing and becoming better people.
May we all be blessed with the compassion and insight of Patty Wetterling!
The Florida Action Committee
New Research Studies – Voluntary Participation.
- Dr Jill Levenson is conducting an anonymous survey about Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) for people required to register and their family members. For more information about the study and how to access the survey, click here.
- Shelley Kavanagh (Doctorial Candidate) is conducting one-on-one phone interviews with mothers of registered citizens living in Florida. For more information about the study and how to schedule an interview, click here.
Thursday March 18 – 7:00 pm ET – Fearless Group – Peer-led support group. Phone 727-731-2927. If unable to connect, text “CALL ME” to same number to receive call back and be joined to the meeting.
Want to be a County Coordinator for FAC? Sign up for a class to receive your training package. Class A meets by phone on Sundays or Class B meets by phone on Wednesdays. Looking for members who want to be part of the Membership team for their local area. It requires 2-4 hours/week, self-motivation and a one-year commitment. No limit, you can have multiple coordinators in one County if you have a friend or family member that wants to help. We will provide the training, support, and materials that you need to succeed. If interested, contact membership at 833-273-7325 Option 1 or email [email protected] for more information.
Need to Talk? FAC has peer volunteers that are here to talk one-on-one, call 904-452-8322. Volunteers are not available 24/7 but you will receive a call as soon as possible. If you have an emergency, call 911, or helpline at 1-800-273-8255 or a crisis center (Listing of Crisis Centers and Hotlines)
SOME HEADLINES FROM THE WEEK
Finally a balanced article! This one features our friend, Mary Sue, from Texas Voices for Reason and Justice. Kyle City Council will consider passing a new ordinance which would restrict where some individuals on the Texas sex offender registry can reside, regardless…
Several individuals filed a federal lawsuit yesterday against Paco County Sheriff, Chris Nocco for repeatedly harassing them, not because of what they did, but what they “predicted” a family member might do. Essentially, what the Pasco Sheriff did was create a “list”…
Earlier today the Florida Clemency Board voted to automatically restore most civil rights stripped from felons once they have completed their sentences, including court-ordered financial obligations. Felons who meet the criteria for restoration of rights still won’t…
Like we didn’t see this one coming… About a month after her children’s pediatrician was accused of a sexual offense, Lauren Book introduced Senate Bill 1934. That bill would immediately suspend the license of a physician charged with a sexual offense. Under current…