Friday, February 23, 2018

without opposing testimony

The South Dakota Senate has been hard at work:
Bills to toughen the punishment for attempted human trafficking of minors and repeatedly failing to register as a sex offender continue to make their way through the legislature. 
Senate Bill 61 would increase the penalty for sex offenders who fail more than once to register after moving to a new address. Currently law penalizes second offenses the same as first offenses, a class 6 felony. Under the bill, a second offense and any subsequent offense would be a class 5 felony.  
South Dakota has about 4,600 people on its sex offender registry, said Attorney General Marty Jackley. The state has about a 98.5 percent compliance rate, where offenders re-register and follow the restrictions that come with being a sex offender. This bill is for the 1.5 percent who don't comply, he said. 
Why more punishment for something that the South Dakota Attorney General admits rarely happens...and for something that is not even another sex offense?

Because a lazy, unthinking Senator wants to propose a bill that will pass.

Because no one stands up for those on the registry.
Both bills passed unanimously and without opposing testimony. They will move to the house floor. [My emphasis.]
Because they can.

Follow what is happening in your state legislature and also at the national level and if you find a lazy legislator writing bills on the backs of registrants and their families, speak up. Protest.

Talk to your legislators and remind them that people on the registry are also their constituents.

Ask why they are willing to make life more difficult for their constituents.

Ask why they aren't protecting their constituents, their neighbors, their community.

It is hard to stand up the first time, to walk into a Senator's office and say that you are a registrant or a family member of a registrant. Do it once, though, and you might be surprised. With over 861,000 people listed on sex offender registries, it only follows that millions of people, some of whom work in legislative offices, know a registrant.

Make an appointment to speak to your legislator and tell stories about how the registry affects you and your family. That is the best way for legislators to see people and not imagine monsters.

Send letters to your legislator and remind him that you and your family are out there. Remind him or her that your family votes. If you are able to vote, make sure to say so. That is the best way for legislators to see votes.

Stand up, speak up.

Is it scary to do that? You bet it is. Do it once, though, and you might be surprised at the people who hear you and respond with their own stories about someone they know on the registry.

Find out how to testify in front of the legislature or a legislative committee. Google and Bing and Duck Duck Go and your community librarian are excellent tools. There are no stupid questions when you want to know badly enough.

You will not need to start from scratch because organizations all over the country are dedicated to changing sex offender laws--if not dedicated to abolishing the registry. Contact those organizations and ask how to prepare and deliver testimony.
Their very purpose is to work with you and help you make a difference in your state. Perhaps your state has its own organization and you will be able to meet other registry-affected families near you.

The registry is so obviously wrong that it is possible to change the stance of good people. Arm yourself with data showing that the registry protects no one.

Show them a scrapbook with all the news stories about sex offenses committed by someone not on the registry...and the stories about new sex offenses committed by registrants, if you can find any.

Be seen, be heard.

Do everything you can to make sure the next article about legislation to increase difficulties for those on the registry does not conclude with the sad, infuriating words, without opposing testimony.

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