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Newsletter #1, August 2020

Hello to all of our supporters across Pennsylvania. We at PARSOL wish you the best during a summer where we face unprecedented challenges on so many fronts.

Welcome to the inaugural edition of our new newsletter filled with news!
As always, feel free to reach out to any of us on the team with questions or concerns. While we will continue to fight on behalf of those on the registry, their families, and the people who remain at-risk for sexual exploitation, we could use all the help and support we can get.

On to the news:

State Supreme Court Decisions

4 out of 5 rulings in PA Supreme Court Decisions leave PA Registry intact. “Further fact finding” ordered for remaining constitutional challenge.

Supreme Court of PA finds the conditions of the public registry within the bounds of law. Reform in PA now rests on the case with the most serious challenge to the registry: Torsilieri’s assertion of his Right to Reputation.

Back in Nov. 2019. the PARSOL Board convened in Harrisburg to attend Supreme Court hearings on five defendants challenging the public sex offender registry. Eight months and a pandemic later, the Justices have ruled in favor of the Commonwealth in the cases of In re: H.R., a minor; Lacombe; Witmeyer; and Butler. These defendants must live with the conditions of the Registry as they currently stand.

The fifth defendant, Torsilieri, made his case on a more fundamental level than the other four. He and his counsel argued that the public-shaming aspects of our state’s registry are a violation of his indefeasible Right to Reputation.

You can find a deep dive into this unique feature of PA’s Constitution here, on our website.

Our Legal Team provides us with an analysis:

The Supreme Court sent Torsilieri back to the trial level for a further evidentiary hearing on the legislative findings. The current legislative findings construct SORNA as a collateral consequence and therefore constitutional. Should SCOPA’s next opinion rule in favor of Mr. Torsilieri, then the General Assembly’s argument that SORNA is constitutional based on the collateral consequence construct will fall. Essentially, the General Assembly will not be able to use these findings in the future, thus forcing them to acknowledge that SORNA is punitive and is in violation of numerous PA and U.S. Constitutional rights.

We see the upcoming trial court evidentiary hearing as an important battle ground for moving toward rational sex offense laws that will truly be safe and just for all. This is an opportunity to establish policies and laws that are constitutionally sound and that actually promote public safety and prevent sexual abuse.

While PARSOL does not give legal advice, you can send an email to josiah@parsol.org with questions about these and other cases working their way through the Courts.


From the Capitol: Bills to watch

Reactionary legislation proposes stiffer penalties for sexual offenses.

Draft legislation fails to include any evidence-based approaches to preventing sexual crimes, but one Senator seems to be taking prevention seriously.

So far in 2020, we have seen

  • SB 1075 (Sen. Arnold) proposes several amendments to the way that crimes involving child pornography are graded and adds sentencing enhancements for these crimes
  • HB 1538 (Rep. White) aims to limit parole applications for those convicted of sexual offenses or offenses related to a failure to register to once every 3 years.
  • HB 2653 (Rep. Murt) would make the use of the internet a crime for people required to register for an internet-related sexual offense.
  • HB 2700 (Rep. Murt) would impose restrictions on individuals required to register as sexual offenders and prohibit them from establishing a residence near schools and playgrounds.

PARSOL’s Legislative team has reached out to the Chairs of the Judiciary Committees in both the Senate (for SB 1075) and the House (for the HB’s, or House Bills).

Before these bills get a full vote by all Members, they must be voted out of Committee. It is our aim to raise awareness of the flaws in these proposed pieces of legislation so that they remain idle in Committee and do not become law.

In an interesting development, SB 1075 is morphing into something very different from what it began as. After contact from PARSOL members, staff in Senator Arnold’s office amended the bill to include the formation of a Child Sex Abuse Prevention task force. To our knowledge, this is the first effort of its kind in the PA Legislature. The formation of a task force is the kind of rational policy that experts in the field are calling for.

While we enthusiastically commend Senator Arnold’s office for drafting language which would form such a task force, we remain concerned that the bill retains its call for increased punishment for a serious felony that is already on the books. Conviction of child pornography crimes carries consequences that last a lifetime, and enhancing these sentences reinforces the idea that we can “punish our way out of a problem”.

The demand for illegal pornography has only grown over the years, and we must look for other ways to combat this underground market. Preventative measures like the formation of a task force to study the problem and deliver guidance is a step in the right direction.

For more info on lobbying and legislation, feel free to send an email to randall@parsol.org . We also have legislative resources on our website parsol.org.


Interns working with PARSOL

Four students working towards degrees in political science and public policy have taken on summer internships with PARSOL.

PARSOL is pleased and honored to have provided Internship opportunities to four undergraduate students attending PA colleges this year. Two students have investigated different challenges incarcerated people face as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage through institutions. One of them is examining the prevalence of COVID-19 in the PA prison system and the other is looking at the economic impact of COVID on PA prisons. Another intern has researched prevention to sexual abuse within the context of a socioecological model, including how current law and policy do or do not contribute to prevention. Finally, one of the interns has completed an overview and analysis of best-practices in treatment interventions for persons who have sexually offended.

If you or someone you know would like to support PARSOL or get involved, please see our Volunteer page at https://secure.parsol.org/volunteer/ . You can also give us a call at 717 820 2237 .


Fearless Groups Continue Online

Each month, live online or telephone support is available to those affected by PA’s registry.

Join us on the second Saturday of every month from 4 - 5:30PM as PARSOL hosts a free video / telephone meeting open to all residents of PA who are affected by the public registry. This includes registrants themselves, their family members, and their friends. We aim to create a safe environment free from the influence of law enforcement or treatment providers.

To take part in this one-of-a-kind meeting of people “who get it”, you can either send an email to theresa@parsol.org or call 717 820 2237 .
Our next meeting is scheduled for Sep. 12, 2020 at 4PM. Tell a friend, or come to the meeting and make one!


PARSOL Online Gets a Makeover

New Webmaster brings a fresh face to parsol.org, adds social media accounts.

PARSOL is proud to have contracted the services of a webmaster, bringing us to completion of one of our long-time goals. We now are better able to stay in touch via email blasts and also provide you with useful information (check out our RESOURCES page on parsol.org). The comments feature is enabled, so please join the conversation at the end of our posts.

Be sure to follow PARSOL on social media and help us spread the word. You can find us on Facebook, and on Twitter

 



   


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PARSOL
P.O. Box 399
New Freedom, PA 17349
United States

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