Succubus "stuff" has diverted my attention the last few days, but my posts here at Smashed Frog have proved irregular these past couple of months.
That's because I've have been in celebratory mode. :)
My loved one has satisfied the obligation owed to the state of Florida.
Most beloved Froggers will catch my drift immediately. For those who have arrived here in Paradise and somehow managed to avoid the criminal justice, allow me to clarify.
Five years has come down to two words.
No more threat of the dreaded VOP, no more unexpected guests for holiday dinners, no more searches of the house. No more. D-O-N-E.
So, we've been out doing or planning fun stuff, You know, like staying the length of the late movie instead of rushing home to meet curfew, driving across the state line (hell, driving across the COUNTY line) and staying out just when the fun starts without mumbling some lame exit line.
I couldn't have made it without you all, people huddled with me beneath an umbrella of shared circumstances, who have chosen to poke back hard at a politically-assigned designation that has disrupted our families through collateral and unintended consequences.
For a murderer, life would resume in an almost normal fashion. But for those deemed a sex offender, the punishment goes on via residency restrictions, ankle bracelets and the public stockade of a registry accessible to anyone with access to a computer. Finding employment is much like the story of the Three Bears. It's tough these days, even tougher for any ex-offender, but the toughest of all for an ex-offender designated as a sex offender via an online registry. No one dare risk hire those kind of people.
The work goes on.
When Smashed Frog first posted back in June 2006--as reported by Orlando Weekly (Ghosts in the Machine, 11/24/2005), 36,037 offenders were listed on the Florida Sex Offender Registry. Of course, 541 of that number were dead, 807 offenders were deported, and 7,173 had moved out of state. Oh, and "...8,260 on Florida's rolls are in custody at the local, state or national level." Even five years ago, concerns were expressed about the "...thousands of other offenders still on the site who pose little or no threat to the public."
But who's counting?
As more and more Floridians found themselves, friends or family members caught up in one of the many offenses the state deems as sex offenses, the tipping point was reached and the education wildfired grassroots about what was really going. The bigger the list, the better the chance of obtaining federal grant funding.
Today 53,500 people--an increase of nearly 50 percent in five years--are listed on the FSOR. Nationwide, the tally of registered sexual offenders exceeds 700,000. St. Petersburg Times, (Five Years After Jessica Lunsford, 2/22/2010).
We screamed, shouted, faxed Congress and our state legislators, found ourselves betrayed by those thought to be fellow activists, used self-addressed stamped envelopes to mail the latest research back to whoever opened the company mail in hopes to educate and have stood opposed by many who have stood to profit both personally and financially by keeping children less safe. Many among us found occupations jeopardized or lost entirely. When we thought the laws couldn't get any worse, boy did they and back to court we went to fight off the ex post facto lawmaking.
We searched for a interstate billboard to post a public service message.
We found Jill Levenson. (Or did the researcher find us?)
The Human Rights Watch wrote No Easy Answers. Real people took a chance and told their stories here at SF. Yet, we witnessed people with influence (Josh Lunsford) and people of affluence (North Miami city attorney Barry Kutun) commit sexual offenses, yet wiggle out of the stigma of the sex offender laws via connections and money.
We called out Coward Activists. (wink-wink, NG). :)
This nation's state Attorneys General found themselves embarrassed by the very report they themselves commissioned. The esteemed Berkman Center for Internet Safety found teens were more at risk for cyberbullying than online predation. (Read Enhancing Child Safety and Online Technologies here).
Several very brave women opened Pandora's Box on the Julia Tuttle Causeway at a risk to their own safety and as a result, the Miami New Times spotlighted the homeless colony. Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm took notice as well and faster than we could yell Bookville!, Newsweek, TIME and the BBC were straight up reporting the human rights disaster created by a certain lobbyist and Homeless Trust chair with an oh-too-personal-conflict-of-an-agenda.
Children of offenders spoke out (Dear Governor Crist) and requested an audience with officials elected to represent us all. To my knowledge, Florida Governor Charlie Crist has yet to open his door to these budding civil rights attorneys or future public servants.
Do we dare believe that it's all about to change?
In the above St. Pete Times article, the introduction of legislation at the Florida state house proves the truth is reaching the right ears. And if we want to be perfectly truthful, sex offender management costs $36 million annually and this wonderful state is about two quarters shy of bankruptcy, but hey, whatever works.
I'd like to highlight a few very important points made in Five Years After Jessica Lunsford.
But before I do... thank you. Thank you, thank you thank you to each and every one of you, for the support, the advice, the knowledge and the acceptance. For the snarky laughs at the ridiculously obvious, for the shared disbelief at the lows many elected officials and those who slime among them will and do stoop.
As Dorothy said in Oz, I love you all.
The difference being, I'm not going anywhere.
It's been some five years. Let's cross the finish line together.
"...after time, a trial and the killer's death have dissolved the zeal that spurred the Jessica Lunsford Act in 2005 — a number of lawmakers are rethinking how the state monitors sex offenders and whether current laws are really making children safer.
"The emotion and publicity and political science that comes into play after a horrific situation tends to create an overreaction," said Rep. Mike Weinstein, R-Jacksonville, a prosecutor."***
"But recent studies and state statistics show that the fear that propelled the laws doesn't match reality.
"Across the country, studies are not showing that changes in sex crime rates can be attributed to those policies," said Dr. Jill Levenson, a professor at Lynn University who studies sex offenders. "Sex crimes against children are on the downslide — but since the 1990s."
The laws also have created unintended consequences. The restrictions on where sex offenders can reside made hundreds homeless and prompted dozens in Miami to live under the Julia Tuttle Causeway. And the requirements to register those convicted of lewd crimes put the sex offender label on people authorities don't deem a threat. (i.e. F.S. 800.04).
"There is no empirical support that restrictions on where sex offenders live prevents sexual abuse or reoffending," said Levenson, a clinical social worker. "Not every person who commits a sex crime is a predatory pedophile."
"This is the message Jennifer Dritt, a leading victims advocate at the state Capitol, preaches. As executive director of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, Dritt supported tougher restrictions on sex offenders. But she said the lesson from the Jessica Lunsford case was misunderstood. Most sexual offenders are not strangers across the street. The overwhelming majority are those with familial authority.
"In a positive vein, (Jessica's case) really raised awareness of sexual offender management issues," Dritt said. "But I think it also sponsored a lot of knee-jerk reactions."
• • •
State Rep. Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City, is sponsoring legislation to revamp Florida's sex offender laws by implementing a "circle of safety" to protect children instead of strong residency restrictions on sexual offenders. The main provision of the bill (HB119) would prohibit sexual offenders from loitering within 300 feet of locations where children are present.
"Sometimes we focus on where those people live," Glorioso said. "Where they are sleeping last night really isn't the issue. It's what they are doing when they are awake."
He said he wants to protect children but readily acknowledges the problems in the existing laws. "These people, whether we like it or not, still have constitutional rights," he said. "I don't want to infringe upon their rights, but I don't want to jeopardize my kids either."
(Side bar. Glorioso has been forced to modify bill HB119 as municipalities are a bit verklempt with the inclusion to preempt "...local residency restrictions on sex offenders, forbidding counties and cities from making barriers tougher than the 1,000-foot standard in state law.
Glorioso said that even though research shows the restrictions don't help, he plans to strike that part of his bill, blaming political opposition."
On the state Senate side, Dave Aronberg's S1284 has been filed and referred to committee).
"I think after a period of time you have to determine whether it's working the way you designed it to work," said Ron Book, a prominent lobbyist whose daughter was a victim of sexual abuse. But, he added, "nobody wants to read a piece of mail in a campaign that they have somehow lessened child safety laws."
Rep. Adam Fetterman, D-Port St. Lucie, embodies the difficulty of legislation so closely tied to emotional crimes. His wife was abused as a child, and he is pushing a measure to limit sex offenders' access to the Internet if they used a computer to commit a sex crime.
"I don't want there to be a boogeyman, but for too long we refused to accept the number of children … who have been victims of sexual abuse," said Fetterman, a lawyer.
But he also thinks the existing laws need a tweak to make them more effective. "I think the Legislature passes all kinds of laws that haven't been well thought out because of political reasons," he said.