A Bill That Discriminates? Clean Slate Bill

Cindy Prizio, Executive Director of One Standard of Justice, recently said: “I see Clean Slate being an anti-discrimination bill that discriminates. Rather than looking at people as individuals, we’re lumping all these people into the same pot.” My interview with Cindy discusses the Clean Slate Bill in Connecticut and how it “carves out” exclusions for people forced to register.

On June 10, 2021, Gov. Ned Lamont signed a “clean slate” bill that will wipe records of misdemeanor convictions and lower-level felonies after a set period. You’ll also see the additional conversation on restorative justice and a brief insight into Cindy’s story and how her son was arrested for a sex offense. The interview is relaxed yet informative while covering criminal justice reform and the “us vs. them” mentality within our country.

(Additional notes: Clean Slate — if a person is offense free for a period of time in the community his criminal record will be auto erased which bypasses a backlogged BOP. (Excluding sexual offense and family violence offenses) Misdemeanors: 7 years, offense free Low level felonies: 10 years, offense free)

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

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0:00:05.3 Speaker 1: Welcome to The Outspoken Offender Podcast.

0:00:11.6 Speaker 1: I’m a filmmaker, podcaster, dog dad, and of course, an advocate. I encourage people forced to register, and their family members, to move beyond stereotypes and social ostracism. Welcome to the show.

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0:00:31.3 S1: How are you today? It’s The Outspoken Offender Podcast, thanks for joining me. Today I’m talking about Except for Sex Offenders. When it comes to prison re-entry and the criminal justice system reform efforts going on in this country, it’s a problem, I’ve seen it a lot, I’ve read it a lot, and what’s happening is we’re seeing basically two branches of reform or resources for re-entry. We have one side, the typical, I’ll say, I’ll just say the typical former offender, someone that was incarcerated with a felony record other than a sex offense. We have that branch. And then on the other side, the other branch of this tree, is people convicted of a sexual offense. And people are being left out, and who are being left out? Well, we know it’s people convicted of sex offenses. And today, I wanna talk about some examples of re-entry services that are saying, “We’ll help you if you have a felony, but if you have a sex offense, we’re not.” And then at the end of the podcast, I’m going to talk about organizations that are helping and some possibilities that may help you, if you happen to be in a situation where you need assistance.

0:01:46.9 S1: At any one time, nearly 6.9 million people are on probation, in jail, in prison, or on parole in this country. Each year, more than 600,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons. Another nine million cycle through local jails. And furthermore, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, as of 2016, there were 859,500 registered sex offenders in the United States. So, that was five years ago. We know that number to be much higher now, most likely over a million. As I was doing research for this podcast, I actually had a very challenging time locating organizations that assist sex offenders in the re-entry process. I’m not specifically talking about organizations such as Women Against Registry or NARSOL, they’re wonderful organizations, but I’m targeting more re-entry services that assist you from incarceration into reintegrating into society.

0:02:52.3 S1: The individuals that need help the most are not getting it, and those are people convicted of sexual offenses. Already with the registry, at least, they are seeing restrictions that are outlandish in some areas. “You can’t live this far from a school,” “You can’t live near this location,” “You can’t go there, you can’t do that,” things like that, all under this assumption that we are protecting children and society, which has been proven time and time, that the registry and the laws and restrictions put into place have really no effect on public safety. The Paul Murphy story, I’m not sure if you’re aware of the story, Paul Murphy was originally sentenced to three years of probation after his conviction in 2011 on charges of aggravated child pornography. Now, Murphy was impoverished and homeless at this time. And after he was found violating his parole by sleeping in the doorway of a church, he was ordered to serve his sentence in prison. He finally was approved to be released from custody in March 2014 into the state’s mandatory supervised release program. But because he was homeless and couldn’t find a place to live that satisfied the what we know of the crazy restrictions and regulations, Murphy, who was 61 at the time, had to remain in prison.

0:04:18.8 S1: So, here is a gentleman that has finished his sentence, but because no one will approve his housing plan, he remained in prison. Finally, he applied for housing at a halfway house in St. Louis, that honestly was the only one in Illinois that accepted sex offenders. One place in Illinois accepting people with sex offenses. Insane, just outrageous, in my opinion. Murphy was told that there was a five-year wait at the time he applied for this halfway house. And then the facility had since closed at that time. And so, he filed a lawsuit and it contends “Murphy faces imprisonment in the Illinois Department of Corrections for the rest of his life.” It could have happened, if he never found a place, he could have remained in prison. Luckily, he has been released since, I did some research on that, but he served more time than his original sentence because of sex offender restrictions and regulations.

0:05:24.8 S1: The story of Landreaux Yantz. Are you familiar with this gentleman? In 2011, he was convicted of rape and third degree for having sex at age 26 with a 14-year-old, and he was sentenced to six months in jail. His sex offender status now meant he could not live within 1000 feet of a school at that time, which, in his home of New York City, ruled out pretty much everywhere. Yantz said he had no way to search for a place to live from prison. His father and cousin’s homes were rejected, and he was quoted by saying, “I know a guy who put in 19 addresses, and got denied at all of them. It’s impossible for us to live anywhere.” Now ultimately, the Brooklyn Defender Services found him a bed at a three-quarter house in a remote Queens neighborhood where the public assistance covered most of his $250 that he paid each month to share a room, get this, share a room with four men and shower with 17 of them. An open shower, and rooming with four other men. This was the only place he can find. And it ended up being that Yantz moved into this place in Queens more than a month past his maximum sentence.

0:06:43.1 S1: This is happening a lot; these are not rare occurrences, because people with a sex offense that cannot find housing sometimes will remain in prison past their sentence. Now, just a personal side note, I do remember a lot of talk with my case manager when I was incarcerated, and he stressed, “It’s gotta be approved. You can’t have this, you can’t have that.” And I remember talking to a lot of the other guys in there saying the same problem, they will worry that they wouldn’t be able to get to a halfway house or be even released at the release date because of a lack of residence that met the qualifications.

0:07:19.3 S1: I now wanna shift my focus on post-incarceration, what organizations, what businesses, reject sex offenders. Now, of course, I’m not gonna go through all of these, but I wanna give you a few examples on the situation, and I wanna start off with the Small Business Administration. They provide small businesses with low interest loans to help recover from disasters, including the financial disasters that has been seen by the coronavirus outbreak. The loans can save companies and their employees from going under during difficult times. Now, according… I read this article on, I think it was Women Against Registry, the SBA, the Small Business Administration, is here to save small businesses. A lot of people that have been through prison, find starting their own business is probably easier than going out and finding work. But the Small Business Administration will help companies, unless they are owned by a person registered as a sex offender. This is not a joke. Registered sex offenders are ineligible. Now, to qualify for loans from institutions participating in the small business lending fund, businesses must certify that none of their principals has been convicted of or pled no contest to a sex offense against a minor.

0:08:42.3 S1: What about Goodwill? Another personal side note, I, in the past, a few years ago, I had applied for a Goodwill job and I was denied several times. Now, back then, I was thinking, “Okay, maybe just Utah doesn’t like it. Maybe Utah Goodwills don’t hire people convicted of sex offense as well,” I did some research and I’m starting to see that is not true. I believe this is a national restriction. As you may know, Goodwill provides job training, employment placement services, and other community-based programs for people who have barriers preventing them from otherwise obtaining a job. That is their mission statement. Barriers preventing them from finding a job. A light bulb goes up in my head. I mean, yeah, we’re talking about people that have been incarcerated, and especially people with sex offenses. But no! Goodwill says no!

0:09:39.4 S1: I looked around online and I found an official online job application for the South Central Wisconsin Goodwill. Their criminal background policy states, now, I’m quoting here: “Goodwill is committed to hiring and supporting the employment of individuals with criminal backgrounds. However, some positions that Goodwill cannot be held by individuals with particular criminal convictions, so we must ask whether you have ever been convicted of a law violation or any other pending charges against you.” Now, look, it doesn’t say specifically, “We don’t allow sex offenders,” but more research that I have found, and I am reading people’s experiences that have applied there, my experience, and just a general feel, that they are discriminatory against people with sex offenses. Now, according to one man’s experience I read online, and again, I’m quoting, “Sex offenders do not need to bother with Goodwill. I am a sex offender, and I went to a Goodwill employment job fair. The orientation paperwork stated clearly that murderers and sex offenders are excluded.”

0:10:49.2 S1: We all know housing for people with sex offenses is extremely challenging to find. But then we go to senior communities, and that’s kind of a different story. We have older people that need additional assistance, but at this Buenavista senior community, except for sex offenders, here’s the clause, sex offenders. “If the applicant or any household member has a conviction other than acquittal for any sexual offense, the application will be rejected,” and then it goes to say, “Sex offender registration: If the applicant or any household member is subject to registration under a state lifetime sex offender registration program, the application will be rejected.” This, again, is not a rare occurrence. It’s not just one senior community. There are many, many, many senior communities. Just imagine, you have a sex offense for 30 years ago, and you have nowhere else to go, you need to have assistance in an assisted living, and every place that you contact denies you because of a very old offense. You would think an organization like Volunteers of America would assist people with sex offenses. No.

0:12:02.0 S1: The Coventry Place II consist of 39 one-bedroom mid-rise apartments, this is managed and it’s all connected through the Volunteers of America. According to their little blurb here, “Applicants must not have been convicted from any other federally-assisted housing, including project-based or tenant-based subsidy, public housing, or LIHTC developments for drug-related criminal activity within three years.” Okay. Well, I didn’t hear anything about sex offenses. So I wanted to read that because it’s giving you a timeframe. Three years, within three years. Okay? Now, that’s good and bad, but at least there’s some time frame for other offenses. But then when we move to the sex offenders clause, it reads, “Applicants must not have been convicted to any determination showing guilt such as entry of probation before judgment, for any degree of sexual offenses within the applicant’s lifetime.” You are barred for life. It doesn’t matter if it’s been 70 years ago, you will not get into this place through a huge organization, Volunteers of America.

0:13:17.1 S1: An additional clause there, it says, “Sex offender registration: Applicants must not be currently court-mandated to registration as a sex offender.” Okay, so no registered sex offenders and then no sex offenders, period, no matter if you’re on the list or not.

0:13:31.3 S1: I move on now to the Urban Ministries of Durham. Oh, boy. They connect with community to end homelessness and fight poverty by offering food shelter and a future to neighbors in need. Oh, but I guess people on the registry, they don’t need any help, according to Urban Ministries. This is actually an emergency shelter, that’s part of it, that’s part of their program, and it offers a bed for 14 days, during which the Urban Ministries of Durham staff will use assessment tools to match them to a specific journey program track. On the front page of their website, you can check it out, it says it right there, “Everyone is welcome to the shelter except for sex offenders, and if the client is on the shelter banned list,” except for sex offenders. Oh, I don’t know about you. I’m trying not to be negative.

0:14:25.6 S1: Oh, I have some good news at the end, though, so this is not all bad, but before we get to that. St. Patrick’s Church Financial Assistance. I mean, my God, this is a Catholic church, right, you would think that a religious organization would accept everyone, right? No! You’re wrong. St. Patrick’s Church, they provide a food pantry shelter, assistance with gas, utilities, and other assistance such as clothing, bus fare, and gas money. So, they serve all the population there in the five cities area, Aurora Grande, California. But on their website right there, in caps, the word “except” is in capitals, “except for sex offenders.” Does it have any relations to the Catholic church issues with child abuse, I don’t know, and I’m not gonna talk about that issue on this podcast episode, but you never know.

0:15:19.4 S1: Okay, so this one is actually a little confusing, but it’s very important. It is the clean slate legislation for Connecticut. There’s a woman, Rogsbert King, she requested to the Board of Pardons and Parole for a pardon. Now, it was eventually approved. So during the legislative session, she teamed up with the Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut, its acronym, C O N E C T. They wanted to promote a clean slate bill that would have expunged people’s criminal records, if they remain crime-free for up to five years after serving their sentences. Very recent, just last month, on May 27, 2021, the House of Representatives voted 91 to 56 for final passage of a clean slate bill in Connecticut. So this is where this gets interesting: The governor there, Ned Lamont, who actually proposed a more modest version back last year covering selected misdemeanors, actually expressed concern about the reach of the bill that was revised at the insistence of House Democrats, to make crimes involving children and other vulnerable victims ineligible for expungement.

0:16:32.5 S1: The governor was quoted saying, “I would tend to walk before I run. I tend to start with a smaller set of non-violent crimes, show that the system works, and then expand from there. That would be my inclination.” So, as confusing as it is, we have a narrowed-down or watered-down bill there that is excluding some sex offenses, depending on the situation. If you search online “clean slate bill Connecticut,” you’re gonna find more information there about what is happening, and this is very recent, within the last month or two. And in fact, I wanna go back to the halfway house situation. I did find a halfway house that accepts sex offenders, but the community outrage was evident.

0:17:19.5 S1: So, there was a email sent to Springfield News Leader in Missouri, and this is what this original email, the body of the email, said, “Not sure if this is something you’re interested in, but there’s a halfway house located in a residential neighborhood with as many as eight registered sex offenders.” So here’s a community member concerned that there is a halfway house accepting sex offenders. Community outrage, so, here is a halfway house saying, “We need to help people convicted of sex offenses reintegrate into society,” but society says, “Oh, my God, get them out of my neighborhood.”

0:17:56.4 S1: So the story continues, Robertson and Recovery Chapel, that’s the place, made news. This happened in 2012. Now, according to Robinson, the men his program serves qualify as mentally handicapped under the Federal Fair Housing Act because they are recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. He also said that the recovery programs he runs aim to help ex-inmates stay sober and reintegrate into society. Not all are sex offenders, although he acknowledges many are. He says, “Because we’re the only program willing to take the risk of managing this difficult population, everyone comes to us.” I mean, if that quote doesn’t say it all, I don’t know what will. I mean, I’m being sarcastic here, but do we have to find another planet in the universe to send people with sex offenses to live their lives? I know that sounds silly, but it almost feels that way sometimes, where, in the United States, at least, you cannot integrate after a sexual offense, or it’s very, very difficult.

0:18:58.4 S1: So I’m gonna end this podcast episode on a positive note. There are organizations that do assist people with sex offenses, a few and far between, but they are out there. So programs that do help, and there is a big organization that is gaining a lot of positive attention. Circles of Support and Accountability, or COSA, their goal is no more victims. They provide sex offenders released from prison with pro-social support as they return to society and emphasizes accountability by insisting that offenders accept responsibility for their actions. I don’t have a personal experience with them, but I’ve many, many good things.

0:19:37.3 S1: There’s also something that I found that I was not aware of during my research, the organization is called Let our House be Your Home. It’s a non-profit organization with an emphasis on returning citizens, paroled and released inmates, both male and female, seeking to overcome life’s obstacles in a safe environment conductive to this objective. They have a therapeutic residential housing and counseling service for male sex offenders exiting the Georgia Department of Correction prison system. The program is designed to be a transitional step down from incarceration into community living. Wonderful, wonderful news. Unfortunately, that’s only in Georgia. We need more locations like this, we need more support.

0:20:20.0 S1: Reset Missouri, I am on their board of directors, I have to mention them not just because I’m on their board, it’s because I knew they do amazing work. They provide housing for sexual offenders in the St. Louis area. Again, few and far between when it comes to housing and jobs or just support. And that was the big reason why I wanted to do this episode today, because I’m seeing that branch split, and it concerns me, and I don’t know exactly what the answer is, but I hope that our politicians and voters and the community start to realize that if we continue to ostracize the sex offender community or the individuals and their families, we’re gonna have a bigger problem on our hands.

0:21:07.4 S1: Thank you for listening to this episode, I am The Outspoken Offender, and I’ll talk to you next time.

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0:21:17.5 S1: Welcome to The Outspoken Offender Podcast.

0:21:22.4 S1: I’m a filmmaker, podcaster, dog dad, and of course, an advocate. I encourage people forced to register, and their family members, to move beyond stereotypes and social ostracism. Welcome to the show.

Helping registered citizens and former inmates move beyond stereotypes and social ostracism.