Several powerful and moving responses were posted in response to yesterday’s “Incompetent Elected Official of the Week” article about Rhode Island legislator Lisa Baldelli-Hunt’s crusade to make it impossible for registered sex offenders to live in her state. I was unable to choose between the three that follow, one by the mother of a registered sex offender, another by Sherika, who includes a letter written on behalf of the families of registered sex offenders, and the third by Shelly Stow, who offers a letter she wrote to the legislator (and that was bounced back to her). I find myself wondering if Baldelli-Hunt has spoken to or listened to any residents of her district with stories and opinions like theirs, whether she has considered these perspectives, or, as her own comments suggest, just doesn’t care about fairness and collateral damage when it involves the people she regards as “the worst of the worst.”
Here are the Comments of the Day on Incompetent Elected Official of the Week: Rhode Island State Rep. Lisa Baldelli-Hunt:
- From RW’s Mom:
“…I am a mother of a young man who was 17 at the time he was accused and charged with a sexual crime. I am also a mother of a young lady who was 5 years old at the time the police came (3 officers) into my home and tore my son’s room apart for over 3 hours. They found everything the young lady told them to look for in his room. My son is only guilty of trusting adults and his girlfriend—adults, for giving him their word of approval to date their daughter, who was 14 at the time. His girlfriend broke her trust to him when it was brought out that she was 14 and not the age of 15, soon to be 16, as she had said. To make a long story short, her many lies became too much for her to cover up and the “rape” story came out to her parents. While awaiting trial for over four years, we learned the reason why it had taken so long to go to trial. She had another boy’s baby and the prosecution didn’t ‘want her pregnancy to sway the opinion of the jury of her.’
“The prosecution’s office personnel even babysat her child while she testified how horrible my son was in court! That was after they made her up to look like a 12-year-old. They washed her makeup off, clothed her in clothes that only saints would wear and put her hair up in a pony tail. When my son was found guilty on two of the 15 charges, she and her family walked out of the court room laughing and carrying on with happiness. I, on the other hand, sat and watched as they handcuffed my son, and I looked in to his eyes as they were filled with fear of the unknown. It was 4 months later that I would see him again, wearing an orange jumpsuit.
“My daughter, she has prayed every night for her brother to come home. She won’t sleep in her own room, or go to another room without my husband or me. She lives in constant fear. She has not seen her brother now in over 5 years. She is 11 years old now. But when he comes home, she will not be allowed to see him because of the laws. She will be 18 years old before she can hug him again. As for my husband and I, we have suffered financially, with our marriage, and physically from all the stress involved with this ordeal. We miss our son horribly and want him to come home and be able to build his life and live happy.
“This all happened because of the lies and the ease to accuse and convict someone on these lies. To know that we have politicians out there that continue to placate to these types of laws and seem to add fuel to the hysteria just breaks my heart!
My son and my family want nothing more than to free his name and to live a life of contentment and happiness…”
“To think we have people making our laws who are so close-minded scares me to death… What bothers me the most, though is that none of them ever think of the children and families of the offender. I will post a letter that was put together after talking and hearing from such families over the past year or so, and I wish they would consider ALL the consequences of such hate-filled laws….
Life as a Child of a Sex Offender
I would like to take the time to tell you what it is like to be a child of a Sex Offender.
I wake up every day wondering how many signs may be on our front lawn. How many people are going to ride by our house and point and take pictures? How many people are going to watch every move we make today? How many times are people going to call the police because my parent has done something, which for an average person would be normal but because they know a Sex Offender lives here that activity with their child looks suspicious?
How many more birthdays will be with just family because parents will not let their kids come to my party. How many parties will I not be invited to? How many more games will my parent not be allowed to watch me play? How many field trips will I not attend because it is too hard to listen to the whispers of the parents?
Are we gonna have to move again because my parent cannot find a job to pay for rent? Are we gonna have to stay in the car again; because it is hard to find a place to live, because our government has decided we are prohibited to live in low income housing?
How many years am I gonna have to watch my parents cry with frustration because they can’t provide even the simplest life for our family?
Why is it everyone wants to protect children but no one thinks about me or kids in the same situation as me? Can anyone answer that question? Why do we not count?
I was always taught to do the right thing and if you didn’t you would have to pay for it. I did not know that meant you would pay for the rest of your life. I did not know that people would treat you as an outcast forever! The Bible says; you should forgive. The Constitution (which I learned in school) says we have rights, but it seems to me if your parent is a sex offender the Constitution does not apply. Otherwise, how could they make laws that are retroactive? Laws that continue punishing the person (and their family) forever, prohibit us from living somewhere or prohibit us from free travel? Is the Constitution obsolete now? I know everyone says these are not laws but civil regulations, but in my mind regulations are the same thing as a law. They tell you what you can or can’t do and if you do not follow them, you go back to prison. So, what is the difference between laws and regulations?
…I am hoping someday, before it is too late for me to have a normal life. Not always be a victim of society’s unfounded fear of all people labeled a sex offender. They are not all monsters! Maybe if people looked into their own lives, they would realize they too could be considered a sex offender for things they have done. Maybe even if these laws were in effect a long time ago you or someone in your family could be one…
I cannot give you my real name as I fear it would put us in more danger, so I will give you a name for the life I wish I had…Living Free.”
- From Shelly Stow:
“When I read the original article, I wrote and emailed this letter to Ms. Baldelli-Hunt through the contact information given on her official website. However, her spam filtering system would not put it through to her; I received it back with a “failure” notice explaining that. If the Representative has her spam system set to reject her constituents’ emails, much is explained. I will attempt to reach her through this forum.”
“Dear Representative Baldelli-Hunt:
After reading your remarks in the article about your proposed legislation–”I’m not interested in their [those released after a sex conviction] rights or protecting them. I have no concern for them because they are the worst of the worst.”–I am quite frankly appalled, and I beg you to think about what you have said.
You know that these men, women, and children who are on the registry are almost always released back into their home communities. Therefore, they are your constituents just as much as any other person. Many are on the registry for offenses that, when you were a teen or young adult, were not considered illegal or were misdemeanors. Some were falsely accused. How can you have no concern for them? How can you call them the worst of the worst when you don’t even know the circumstances of their alleged offenses and of their lives? Many of them had no offense involving a child. Many of them are children themselves. Well over 90% of them will never re-offend and want nothing more than to atone for what they did and to assimilate back into their communities, yet you would drive them in fear and desperation from your midst.
And speaking of that, you also said, when openly advocating public shaming for them so as to drive them out, “It’s not our responsibility to be concerned with how other states handle their sex offenders.” Again, I am appalled. We no longer live isolated and separated from others; we are a global community. To openly admit, in any situation, that you have no concern for your neighboring states shows a degree of selfishness and arrogance that is not what one hopes for in his government representatives.
I do not write this to create antagonism but rather to beg you to think about your responsibilities as an elected official. I beg you to spend 30 minutes researching with ordinary online computer search engines what all reputable studies, both governmental and university, have to say about the sex offender registry and those on it. I beg you to develop some compassion for all, not just those that you deem worthy.
Thank you for reading my letter.
Sincerely, Shelly Stow