A concise guide to effectively lobbying your government leaders
RSOL is not just a lobby group. The primary purpose of RSOL is to influence public opinion about the growing national hysteria concerning sex offenders and deviant sexual behavior. Specific strategies include promoting research, publishing articles, and writing letters to the editor to demand that real protection of children from sexual harm be coupled with civil liberties for all people concerned, including alleged sex offenders. We also support changing or amending existing laws that violate the rights of offenders and do nothing to protect children, especially those that humiliate and shame offenders, those that criminalize consensual sex among adolescents and young adults, those that restrict the residences and employment of offenders, and those that continue to incarcerate offenders who have completed their sentences under so-called civil commitment. We urge our state groups to propose such amendments and also to oppose new, Draconian legislation.
Lobbying for sex offender law reform has several clear steps.
- First, the state group should identify the state legislative committees and committee chairpersons (as well as all House and Senate members) responsible for sex offender laws. This differs from state to state; sometimes it is the Judicial Committee, sometimes Mental Health, sometimes another committee. Information about the committee and its staff, as well as the telephone and email numbers of members and staff, should be kept in a simple format for future use;(NOTE: Also important is to identify both potential supporting House and Senate members and their staffs, as well as key opponents, and to keep in close contact with potential supporters).
- Second, the state group must ask the appropriate committee chairs to provide copies of all existing sex offender laws, especially sex offender registry and commitment laws;
- Third, the state group asks for copies of PROPOSED bills before the committee to amend or add to existing sex offender laws, together with the timeline and hearing room information for hearings in the House and Senate for these bills, as well as a timeline for voting in the whole sessions of each chamber;
- Next, the state group should make a brief list of the names and important provisions of both existing laws and proposed bills on sex offenders. Where possible, the group should enlist a House or Senate member (or more than one in each house, preferably) to author an amendment or a new bill or to launch an effort at an amendment or repeal of existing laws;
- The state group, through email, phone contact, or face-to-face meetings with state participants, should then draw up a priority list for actions it seeks to repeal or to amend regarding existing laws or to oppose or support part or all of proposed bills. It is probably best to limit the priorities to the two or three most urgent ones and to start with the one deemed most feasible;
- The state group should identify expert professionals: lawyers, religious leaders, and its own members – including sex offenders and their families – who are available to speak at hearings or at public events. A speakers’ group should be established to go out to speak at churches, schools, or civic groups;
- The state group should encourage participants and others to draft articles or letters to the editor about these priorities and efforts to amend or oppose laws and bills before the legislature;
- The state group should keep National RSOL (reformsexoffenderlaws.org) apprised of its priorities and actions;
- The state group should keep a file of all pertinent media coverage about sex offender issues in the state;
- The state group should keep a list of all state and district federal court decisions concerning sex offender laws; and
- The group should celebrate and publicize successes in reaching its priorities by amending, opposing, or supporting laws and bills and should engage in a self-critique when success has failed.
Proposed Form Letter:
People at the state level or nationally should contact one another by email or in person to begin a lobbying committee aimed at specific, proposed state or federal legislation or at existing laws. It is important to know the name of your own representative or senator and his or her committee membership and full address. You may also wish to send a copy of your letter to him or her to your local newspaper. This is especially helpful in small communities. You may also make reference to ReformSexOffenderLaws.Org, and to the many prominent citizens who are joining this effort.
<Insert Address Here>
<Insert Date Here>
To the Honorable <name of U.S. or State Representative or Senator>
I am a proud constituent of <name of rep or senator and state> who is writing to ask for your help with issues that are critical to preserving the United States Constitution for an approximate 700,000 people who are registered sexual offenders and to inform you that I do not support efforts to further restrict registered sex offenders.
Below are some statistics that lead me to question the effectiveness of Megan’s Law and further restrictions against registered sex offenders:
- Megan’s Law and the Wetterling Act were created on the assumption that recidivism is high for sex offenders. However, the United States Department of Justice indicated that the recidivism rate for sex offenders is 5.3%, meaning that 95% of those who are on the registry are not likely to re-offend. In New York (<enter your state statistics here>), the recidivism rate is only 2%;
- The list creates the myth of “stranger danger,” but most (95%) sex offenses are committed by someone known to the victim;
- Research suggests that sex crimes decreased significantly beginning in 1989, before the Wetterling Act and Megan’s Law were in place. Again, this brings to question the effectiveness of these laws;
- In Minnesota, the Department of Corrections found that between 1990 and 2002, of the 3,166 sex offenders released from state prisons, only 224 of these were returned to prison for a new sex crime through 2006. The report contains the statement, “Not one of the 224 sex offenses would likely have been deterred by a residency restrictions law”;
- Registration requirements, while deemed regulatory by the Supreme Court, continue to punish through ever-changing registration requirements and residency restrictions, leading to ex post facto application of new laws, which I don’t have to remind you is unconstitutional and a violation of civil rights;
- While not the explicit intent of the “regulatory” laws, the consequences of these laws are a form of double jeopardy as those sex offenders who served their time and paid their dues are facing additional punishment in the form of employment and housing discrimination, being segregated from and run out of their communities, and separated from their families. Double jeopardy also comes into play when sex offenders are forced to move from their homes when in violation of residency restrictions and are arrested for violating new residency and registration requirements. My story is an example of this.
<briefly tell your personal story here in one short paragraph>.
I urge you to reconsider your position on sex offender registration requirements and restrictions. I will not support your decision to support any of the bills related to additional registration requirements or residency restrictions of sex offenders.
<Insert your name here>