Thank You for Another Opportunity | Justice Reform
The Directors of WAR National strive to be the voice of the families whose loved ones are required to register as sexual offenders. Our advocacy also includes the families whose loved ones are currently incarcerated. These folks want to fight for change prior to the release of loved ones so they don’t have to face the punishment and associated stigma at the State and Federal levels. We appreciate your support. As part of our effort, Vicki Henry spent four days in Washington, D.C. last week.
During that time, Garnett Baughman and Vicki visited with Galen Baughman, Garnett’s son. Galen and Garnett are running the Just Future Project. Many of you may know that Galen is fighting, at the Virginia Supreme Court level, against the state’s determination to civilly commit him.
We toured the capitol with a member of Senator Roy Blunt’s staff and were invited to participate in a regular weekly session between constituents and staffers which the Senator typically joins at the end. Unfortunately, we were scheduled for other meetings but let them know that we appreciated their gracious offer.
We were invited to take part in the Justice Roundtable Quarterly Assembly where Daniel Gotoff, from Lake Research talked about his pre-midterm election research and analysis. They polled Florida citizens regarding the restoration of voting rights for those with felony convictions. As we know, our folks and those convicted of murder, were excluded from this legislation. They also conducted research for the Pretrial Justice Institute. For further details, visit the Marshall Project website: https://www.themarshallproject.org/2018/11/13/voters-want-criminal-justice-reform-are-politicians-listening
Neil Volz, the Political Director for the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition shared some of his efforts to get Amendment 4 (Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative) passed. The steps to implement the vote of the citizens are now being debated by the new Governor-elect, Ron DeSantis.
Vicki spoke with Mr. Gotoff and Mr. Volz about our advocacy and the impact that the laws, restrictions and registry have on our families. She also shared with Mr. Volz the manner in which Desmond Meade, who is also part of this group, communicated the process used to determine the will of the people of Florida regarding those disenfranchised while participating in a panel discussion at the NACDL Shattering the Shackles Conference a few months back. The statement was that some women didn’t want the rapist and child molesters to vote. From the microphone Vicki shared information about our organization and challenged the conclusion. His response was that his commission was “ok” with the will of the people and reiterated what he said prior then asked if he had answered the question to which Vicki said, ‘it is still discrimination!’ Speaking ‘truth to power’ is an important part of any advocacy.
After the session, a member of Florida Action Committee (FAC) and Vicki spoke further with Mr. Meade. Points were made, issues were discussed, but it is doubtful that any minds were changed. Advocacy is a process, and this was part of it. Several other judicial and human rights organizations were present, and Vicki made an effort to speak with many of them to inform them about our issue and our work. Another important part of advocacy work is building relationships. W.A.R.’s President had a very engaging conversation with a legislative representative in Oklahoma. Gwen Fields had just completed a campaign for a Congressional seat for the 2nd District of Oklahoma and was eliminated. Vicki handed her a business card upon her arrival. Later, she sought Vicki out and talked at length about the current laws and the impact to those trying to reenter society after incarceration. She was particularly interested to hear about the impact to the family members.
The following day was dedicated to meeting of the National LGBT/HIV Criminal Justice Working Group which focused on these members who have been impacted by sex offense laws. The list of panel participants crossed quite a spectrum of advocates, academics, attorneys, and various directors of LGBT organizations. Topics ranged from SO law, to research and strategy, to life on the registry, to how the laws impact the LGBT community and to sexual harm and the criminal legal system’s response.
The presentations were enlightening and, in a few cases, completely surprising. The heart-rending story of a young man from Louisiana who has HIV and the things he has experienced were sad, but he is now the Executive Director of the Sero Project and he is making a difference. The time spent asking questions and getting acquainted with others was phenomenal.
Lastly, there was a discussion about several working groups. Vicki will bring this up with the WAR Board of Directors to determine if we might become involved in one or more of these groups.
On the last day, Charlie Sullivan from CURE National, Sam Caplan from DC CURE and WAR’s President attended a public meeting of the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) whose primary function is to gather crime data and research and to make sentencing recommendations to Congress. The meeting was amazing; interesting and informative. The five-person committee is very accomplished and dedicated to doing the best possible job with the facts, the data, and the guidance of legal counsel. We were not able to schedule a formal meeting with any one individual but did talk briefly with the Legal Director, the Assistant Legal Director, the Chairman of the Commission and the Research and Data Director. Vicki was able to distribute several brochures and share some important information about our organization. When she spoke with the Research Director and told him about the plight of our families, he admitted that he was surprised and unaware of this backlash. Unfortunately, that is a common response wherever the voices of our families are heard.
In a diversion from the main purpose of this letter, we want to finish by informing our members about a very important recent decision. The Board of Directors for WAR National, after a couple of meetings with the Core Planning Committee, has decided to postpone our ambitious triple event in Washington DC originally scheduled for September 2019. There is no new date currently. The idea for a conference, march/rally, and a prearranged visit to our legislators on Capitol Hill is a fantastic idea and an idea whose time has come for our issue. If done correctly, with ample planning and multiple coalition partners, this event could really make a difference. The addition of multiple coalition partners could result in the influx of very large attendance numbers – which is exactly what we need to “Make a Scene”, even if it isn’t in 2019. But the addition of multiple coalition partners and two additional events increases the planning, coordination and cost substantially. We just didn’t feel like there was enough time to do this right. And we really want to do this right. So, stay tuned. As we continue to work on this project, we will keep you informed of our progress.
Thank you to all who support, understand, appreciate and advocate alongside us.
Thank You for Another Opportunity | Justice Reform
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