Testimony before the Illinois Legislature against SB31

I am Vicki Henry and I am the President of a nationwide organization, Women Against Registry. We exhibit at National Legislative Summits each year as well as at NACDL National Conferences, conduct workshops at Annual Public Defender Conferences to educate on the impact a public registry has on our families. We also speak at events held by other like-minded advocacy groups.

We advocate against a public sex offender registry due to the collateral consequences experienced by our registrant family members, many on a regular basis. According to the NCMEC map, there are 819, 218 men, women and children registered across the nation. That impacts approximately 3 million individual family members. The numbers of registrants is increasing by 2,600 a month so we will be at 1,000,000 within seven years.

Something seldom considered regarding publicly listing a registrant’s employer and/or address is the potential for a person to see that and go there with or without a child and then accuse the registrant of some inappropriate action. Please don’t think that would never happen because there are cases of females who have done just that.

There are cases where one female has successfully gotten several males convicted and placed on a registry. One I am familiar with involved a military base, a girl and lying.

Please consider the long-term effects on a registrant when, due to their inability to be gainfully employed there is no insurance. Who pays for any care they receive? Also, when they have no 401K or pension for retirement? Again, who will they look to for help? Our families are being annihilated by these laws and restrictions and the irony is they are the population that wants to work and provide for their families.

(No Easy Answers – Human Rights Watch, page 83 & 84)
Parole officers supervising former sex offenders also testify to the difficulty
registrants have in finding work. An officer in Michigan told Human Rights Watch that “most employers, whether they are required by law or not, refuse to employ sex offenders, even if the crime the individual committed was not violent. They say it’s bad for business. So now, I have a hard time lining up work for my sex offender parolees, so my parolees are stuck in halfway homes, unable to meet the full conditions of their parole.”282 An Arizona parole officer expressed similar concerns: “I have found it near impossible to find an employer willing to take a chance on a convicted sex offender.”283 As a parole officer in Florida told Human Rights Watch, “We have to find ways to find appropriate jobs for sex offenders, in a way that will both protect the public and also help sex offenders successfully reintegrate into society.”

When a registrant has to go another state the charge codes don’t always transfer to the secondary state’s code leaving the staff in a quandary.

AWA and Title 1 (SORNA) – only 17 states are “substantially” compliant and the state of Nevada is currently considering a bill which would take them out of compliance. There are also rumblings of Nebraska making some changes.

When the employer information is listed on a public registry and that profile is printed by a co-worker and passed around the workplace there is the potential for some who don’t understand the terms used on a profile to embellish and further endanger a registrant from vigilante actions.

Let’s not forget about the ‘rag mag’ publications that try to extort money from registrants who ask that their information be corrected or removed if no longer required to register.

Some employees may be in a union and if fired because of their past offense the union can file a grievance about the discharge and push it to arbitration.

Internet publication of an employer name and address is one of the consequences of registration most likely to destabilize an offender socially and psychologically. The risk of consigning an offender to a lifetime of unemployment may also be a factor in deterring some family reporting.

During the closing speech at the 2013 ATSA Annual Conference, Patty Wetterling openly stated that the registry has been “hijacked!” Based on research from sources too numerous to mention here I would say the legislative bodies are faced with a dilemma. Do the right thing by the people of your state and protect them from sexual harm by developing and implementing a risk assessment protocol therefore losing the Byrne Fund Grant money altogether, which, by the way is not adequate compensation for the expenditure Illinois will face OR choose to stay with the poorly designed and non-funded act for which there was NO mandated annual recidivism study directive.

Per the Bureau of Justice Statistics:
The Hate Crime Statistics Act (28 U.S.C. § 534) defines hate crimes as “crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, gender or gender identity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.” The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) measures crimes perceived by victims to be motivated by an offender’s bias against them for belonging to or being associated with a group largely identified by these characteristics. For a crime to be classified as a hate crime in the NCVS, the victim must report at least one of three types of evidence that the act was motivated by hate: the offender used hate language, the offender left behind hate symbols, or police investigators confirmed that the incident was hate crime. If our families continue to be attacked by vigilantes we will pursue legislation accordingly.

Women Against Registry has a Support Line that is manned by our members who want to help others struggling to live. This service is operational from 10 AM to 10 PM seven days a week. We place the calls under one of five categories; H=housing, J=job, S=someone to listen, G=a group to allow them to learn about advocacy and L=legal help which we have none. Here is a small synopsis of our calls where someone was needing help finding work:

Rob called to tell the volunteer who helped him find a job that he was fired after 3 days.

Mom of registrant called needing help finding housing and a job for her son.

Sean has been fired from 31 jobs due to registry status.

Billy – Sheriff shows up at new job to make sure employer knows he is a registrant and he gets fired.

Dennis – Released on Friday. He needs help finding housing and job. Most of the IL folks are held through eligible parole time due to inability to find approved housing because of restrictions.

Theron – Works as a chef and can’t keep a job because sheriff’s deputy calls new employer to make sure they know he is on the registry.

Andrew – Needed job, housing and support group to affiliate with.

Academics and researchers have clearly stated, for successful re-integration into society folks need three things; a job, a home and a “positive” support system.
Please consider the information provided and help our Illinois families by voting NO on SB31.


The opinions expressed within posts and comments are solely those of each author, and are not necessarily those of Women Against Registry.
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