As we look back at 2013 and begin yet another year of activism, our spirits are buoyed by the hope for an even better year to come. These past twelve months have been a banner year of growth and expansion for RSOL and its affiliate organizations. And our expectations exceeded themselves in several areas worthy of reflection:
Our Affiliates and Projects:
Our New Mexico affiliate worked to successfully defeat legislation imposing social media bans*, blocked Halloween restrictions*, passed a prohibition against any municipality or county imposing restrictions not already in the state code, and once more blocked a move to make New Mexico AWA compliant;
Our Texas affiliate successfully blocked Halloween restrictions, worked to defeat legislation imposing social media bans*, and helped to pass legislation removing registrants’ employee information from public view;
Our Maryland affiliate’s role in an amicus brief played a key role in a huge judicial victory against ex-post facto applications of registration requirements under certain circumstances*;
And in California, our affiliate helped to initiate litigation against “blackmail” websites* (still pending); effectively lessened Halloween restrictions; and successfully settled a suit reversing residency restrictions in some areas.
* indicates areas aided by National RSOL in some manner
We had a number of TV, radio, and newspaper interviews featuring RSOL state contacts and affiliate leaders. Among them were Mary Sue Molnar of Texas, speaking both to the foolishness of Halloween restrictions for registered citizens and what research has to say about restrictions keeping registered citizens from places like public parks;
The vigilante murders of a South Carolina registrant and his wife drew significant media attention, and both Brenda Jones, Executive Director of National RSOL and Lila Folster, RSOL contact in South Carolina, were interviewed for television and print coverage;
During 2013, RSOL sent a total of 24 releases, many focused on bad legislation such as park restrictions, Halloween restrictions, forced castration, and the so-called “Vitter Amendment” that would deny food stamp benefits to many registrants.
The 2013 national conference, Justice for All, proved a modest financial success and a tremendous organizational success. With close to 150 in attendance, the sixth annual conference holds the distinction of being the best attended RSOL event ever staged on the extreme West coast of the United States.
A great many of our activities require funds to increase their effectiveness. For example, we missed several opportunities to advocate on behalf of registrants and their families simply because there weren’t sufficient funds to partner with an attorney. While we were able to provide assistance on a limited basis in Maryland and California, we could be doing so much more.
We have begun to develop a model that has enormous potential for success. The only thing that keeps us from perfecting it is a lack of sufficient funds. Consider how much more we could do to:
Send representatives to promote RSOL’s message at other conferences. In 2013 RSOL representatives attended the Prisoner’s Family Conference in Houston, Texas; the New York Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers; and the National Conference of State Legislatures Summit in Georgia. These were valuable investments for learning, networking, and identifying new opportunities for advocacy.
Continue involvement with the Corr-Links email program to send the Digest to federal inmates and mailing out printed copies of the Digest to inmates who reside in institutions where email is unavailable. This is a project that has grown significantly due to RSOL’s growing name recognition and greater demand for the Digest.
Participate in litigation which, if successful, would dramatically impact the lives of registrants living in areas affected by the litigation and further develop the reputation of RSOL as an organization committed to the long-term success of legal reform efforts.
We certainly appreciate the support and financial contributions made in the past. Without your help, it’s hard to say where we would be in the fight for justice and civil rights for registrants and their families. It is fair to say that we certainly would not have accomplished as much in 2013.
Beginning a new year traditionally comes with a renewed awareness about the areas in our lives that need improvement. RSOL has a robust agenda for the next twelve months. We must continue to publish the Digest and plan for the national conference. We must support state legal actions and legislative efforts that hold back the tide or press for positive change. In sum, we must continue doing the hard work of advocacy.
But we must do more. Much more. And we cannot do any more than our funds will allow. So please be as generous as your personal finances will allow. Defending the human dignity of every registered citizen is the most important civil rights challenge of the Twenty-first Century. With your help, we have come a long way already. With your continued support and financial assistance, the future remains promising, and the hope for serious reform is well founded.