It's over!!! Yea, we can all take a  breath and pat ourself on the  back for a job well done. This year wasn't that bad. We did have some bad one but from years past these were not that bad.

Below is the newsletter.  I will be mailing/emailing it out soon.

7-7-17

   THE 2017 ARKANSAS LEGISLATURE REGULAR SESSION—A LOOK BACK

 

Arkansas Time After Time was a visible presence and was indeed hard at work during the 2017 Regular Legislative session. The legislators focused more attention on other issues but they did file18 bills that involved sex offenders, including budget needs and language clarifications that caught our attention.  If you want to read about all the new sex offender-related laws and bills from the 2017 session, including those not listed below, go to:   http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/2017/2017R

 

PASSED:        

Act 267/Senate Bill 32

This law requires a Level 3 registrant to notify a K-12 school’s administration in writing at least 24 hours before the start of any school-sponsored event for which an admission fee is charged or tickets are sold or distributed, if he or she will be attending that school-sponsored event. It does not matter if the registrant is the student’s parent or guardian—advance notification is now mandatory.  A Level 4 registrant is prevented from being on school grounds during a school day or school event at all times.  ATAT’s input was crucial in getting withdrawn a provision requiring the registrant to be accompanied by an off-duty policeman or a hired security guard—and that the registrant would have to pay all the costs.  http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/2017/2017R/Acts/Act267.pdf

 

Act 538/House Bill 1175

This law requires lifetime registration on the Arkansas sex offender registry for a person convicted of rape when the rape involved the use of forcible compulsion.   ATAT moved early, quickly, and successfully to help defeat the clearly ex post facto provisions that mandated offenders who used force in committing rape, but had completed their sentences and been relieved of their obligation to register, be put back on the sex offender registry!

http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/2017/2017R/Acts/Act538.

 

Act 423/Senate Bill 136  

This law creates the Criminal Justice Efficiency and Safety Act of 2017.  It covers a number of areas, but in plain language, the most important point in this act creates a method for authorities to determine if mental health treatment and/or therapy should be used instead of incarceration.  The bad side is that Arkansans currently on or who will be put on the state’s sex offender registry are NOT included for such consideration.  The good side is a precedent has been set, and registrants may get included—it’s up to all of us to work for this goal.

http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/2017/2017R/Acts/Act423.pdf

 

ACT 506/House Bill 1663:

Arkansas has enacted a much-needed law setting up “Mental Health Specialty Courts”, to address prison overcrowding.  The law calls for more lawbreakers to be evaluated to see if they need therapy or rehabilitation instead of prison time.  Sadly, persons currently on the registry and those who will be convicted of sex offenses remain explicitly NOT eligible for such consideration.  ATAT CEO Carla Swanson gave official, on-the-record testimony supporting the entire bill, save for that exception.  She cited various studies and referenced an Arkansas Parole & Probation meeting that shows Arkansas registrants have the lowest recidivism rates of all crimes, except murder.  Our hope is future legislation will take note of our input and include registrants as eligible for treatment.  This is not a victory for us, but we have hopes—more research, more pressure from groups like ATAT, and more pressure from registrants and their families can tip things in our favor.   

http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/2017/2017R/Acts/Act506.pdf

Act 916/House Bill 1540

This particular work mandates getting more and more “Social media account information” from registrants who do or may have a "Social media account".  Further provisions require registrants to provide this and other required registration information in person within a relatively narrow window of time.  The original bill, which the Arkansas Crime Information Center and other agencies were responsible for writing, also required all registrants regardless of assessment level to provide complete social media account information, including passwords.

 

However, ATAT worked with our attorney friends from the start against this new demand.  In the process we were happy to learn similar efforts in other states had failed after lawsuits were filed; we let the lawmakers know about these results, and that Arkansas would likely face an expensive lawsuit over this law, if enacted with the password requirement.  We are happy to report the password requirement was taken out, a direct result of our work.  Also, if and when necessary, registrants can set a fixed appointment time to meet with local law enforcement offices to provide this information.

http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/2017/2017R/Acts/Act916.pdf

 

For clarification and for your benefit—by definition, and in the Act’s wording:

1. “Social media account means a personal account with an  electronic medium or service in which a user may create, share, or access  user-generated content, including without limitation:  “(i) A video;

(ii) A photograph;  (iii) A blog post;  (iv) A podcast;  (v) A transmission or message;  (vi) An email.”  "Social media account" includes without limitation an account established with:  Facebook; Twitter; LinkedIn; MySpace; Instagram; SnapChat; YouTube; or any other similar format, program, application, or Internet service.

2. "Social media account information" which the authorities want, means information concerning a social media account, including without limitation: a screen name; user identification; or a user name.”

 

 

HUH?

It may at first look odd, but ATAT actually came out for a couple of sex-offender-related billsOne example is Act 506, above.  But we saw that at least parts of a few bills that passed can work to our advantage.  A couple of examples at first look or appear harsh, or harsher; some provisions, though, may be helpful in the long run:

 

Act 571/House Bill 1686

This law increases the severity of a charge and conviction for a sex offense against a family member or relative; but it also calls for more data collection about such offenses.  This step will at least help undermine the “stranger danger” myth.

http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/2017/2017R/Acts/Act571.pdf

 

Act 382/House Bill 1541

This new law does allow a registrant’s removal from the Arkansas registry—if the registrant has died.  ATAT CEO Carla Swanson effectively ended opposition to this law, thanks to her current work experience, when she pointed out falsifying a death report (unless “officially” directed) was not possible.  http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/2017/2017R/Acts/Act382.pdf

 

While we admit neither of the above 2 laws are perfect, we still see them as baby steps going in a positive direction. 

 

ON THE DOWN SIDE:

Act 397/House Bill 1171

This new law blocks a registrant from becoming a licensed chiropractor. 

http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/2017/2017R/Acts/Act397.pdf

 

Act 1060/Senate Bill 730

This law prevents registrants from becoming licensed barbers.  Also, high-risk-assessed registrants are prohibited from even volunteering their services in this or any similar kind of work.

http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/2017/2017R/Acts/Act1060.pdf

 

Act 662/House Bill 1542

This law is an unhappy reminder of the special hostility registered Arkansans still face.  While people convicted for the first time of almost every other crime have a legal chance to start life anew, for the present registrants are pointedly excluded. First-time convicted sex offenders cannot have their records sealed or expunged.  This is the kind of law ATAT will fight at every opportunity.

http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/2017/2017R/Acts/Act662.pdf

 

 

GOODBYE, GOOD RIDDANCE, AND DON’T COME BACK:

House Bill 1173 

This bill DIED. It kept getting passed over, bypassed, and ultimately ignored. It was designed as a “clean-up” bill, but many people had problems with changing the minimum ages of consent and prosecution. If passed, the bill could arrest and prosecute a senior high school male who is dating a girl 15 or younger. Again, it might have caught a few young people who are just dating.

 

House Bill 1177 

This bill was deferred.  (This officially means a bill can be put aside, and lawmakers can come back to it later; in politics a bill’s deferral is often a “kiss of death”.) This bill called for a sex offender whose victim is a family or household member, to be sentenced to a minimum term of imprisonment of 25 years. This could mean the father or mother of the family, who has a victim in the household could be place in prison for 25 years.

 

House Bill 1433

This bill was also deferred, and this means more good news.  Based on irrational fears about one registrant, the bill’s sponsors attempted a new low, preventing Level 3 and 4 registrants from living within 2000 feet of someone who has a mental disability or who lives in a physical disability facility.

 

“AND THE REST”:

The bills dealing with budget appropriations and clarifying the wording in earlier laws concerning sex offenders passed easily. 

 

 

MEDIA MATTERS

It Could Be You (Wednesdays 2-3 PM, KABF 88.3 FM, Little Rock; www.kabf.org) continues to gain more attention and win more friends and potential allies.  John S reports his production/interview schedule is getting fully booked for the next several months.   Other KABF volunteers have checked various sources and find there is still no other broadcast programs like It Could Be You anywhere in the country.  Hopes that KABF will successfully syndicate the program are still strong, certainly if the station can get some grant money to upgrade equipment and install the programs needed to offer ICBY in podcast format, along with other improvements.  (Do any of you know of possible sources for grant money for media outlets?  HINT, HINT!)

 

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED!

Recently one of our attorney friends approached ATAT with a very special request.  He is currently working on a case dealing with an Arkansas registrant who SOCNA re-assessed to a higher risk level.  Discussions with his client raised a number of questions about how SOCNA conducts its re-assessments, and whether or not this agency operates and behaves in a professional, neutral, nonpartisan manner. 

 

His client was verbally accused of “hiding things about his past”, that it was “obvious” his client “was lying” about his sexual activities.  The SOCNA personnel had no interest in the long time his client had gone without re-offending, or that he had turned his life around for the better.  The attorney as we understand it has concluded SOCNA is more interested, for budget and other factors, and may be working to put as many Arkansas registrants into the higher-risk categories as possible.  Keep in mind that Level 3 is the new “default” level SOCNA has.

 

This attorney wants to hear from other Arkansas registrants who for whatever reason—voluntary, court-ordered, or any other reason—have undergone a SOCNA re-assessment within the last three or four years.  He particularly wants to hear about SOCNA re-assessments that raised the person to a higher Level, and if any SOCNA personnel used any language similar to what was used against this registrant, or accused another registrant—you, for example—of “lying”, of “covering up”.  If you have or can get video or audio recordings of this happening to you, this is even better.

 

If you are another of these Arkansas registrants who SOCNA treated this way and put you into a higher risk level, please contact ATAT as soon as possible with your story and your proof (if you have it or can easily get it).  We’ll work with this attorney to make sure he gets your story.  If enough people can and will help, your stories can help improve how Arkansas registrants are assessed. 

 

This is one way you can really, definitely help us to help you.     

 

FUTURE PLANS

Summing up, if “practice makes perfect”, our work and presence in previous legislative sessions, and our growing visibility has helped us make a more recognizable impact this time.  This visibility includes more ATAT members or their families letting their current representatives and senators know they—we—opposed many of the SO bills, and why we opposed them, as well as why we supported other bills. We did not achieve 100% victory, but we can claim (as we see them) more wins than losses.  Our work becomes better, stronger, and more effective with as many members as possible working with us.  If you are not yet a member, or you want to help us advance good ideas and laws, and block the bad ones, let ATAT know right away.  Become part of our work—help us to help you all the more, all the better.  

The more people we have helping, the better. I need people to look up bills, know how to read them. We also need people to send emails to the Senators to let them know we don't like that bill. Please tell your family and friends about us, The more people we have, The louder our voice will be.

Carla Swanson

501-444-2424