Reprinted from email from Vicki @ womenagainstregistry.org in respect to the first National WAR initiative.
What started with a WAR National Board of Director’s decision to take a bit of a new direction in 2016 evolved into a strategy to go on-site in twelve states and help our WAR members conduct Meet and Greet events at their state capitol. The process of training and assisting in bringing awareness to the collateral damage experienced by our registrant families’ will begin to take on a whole new platform.
Our first event occurred last week in the state of Arizona. One thing we expect to learn is that each of the twelve states will invariably have their own set of obstacles to overcome in order to accomplish our goals. The initial step in Arizona was Liability Insurance is required to hold any event on capitol grounds. We set about acquiring said insurance. Next we submitted the liability insurance certificate along with the application for our event to the proper capitol office for approval. Once that hurdle was crossed the next was the manner in which events are held in the state. All events at the Arizona state capitol are held on the capitol lawn. While the weather is very nice in Arizona we planned for the worst case scenario of wind, rain or even cool temperatures. So we set out to rent a tent with sides, table and chairs for the Rose Garden area of the capitol grounds. We managed that and just had to meet the company on the grounds and instruct them as to where and how to set everything up.
We wanted to give WAR families the opportunity to convey their experiences with the numerous, egregious laws compounded by residency restrictions on their loved ones. Meet & Greet invitations were sent to all the state senators and representatives via email. Our state leader and her husband took brochures to the front desks of each house building for the folks at the desk to pass on to the legislators. Then we sent a reminder email the morning of the event. Phoenix media was also advised of the event prior and the day of.
Part of our strategy was to coordinate our event with some other function at the capitol and low-and-behold the Home Owners Association (HOA) was holding a Luncheon on the grounds for legislators and staffs.
The night before our event we met to further discuss our plans and make signs to carry while marching around the capitol square at lunch during the time there would be plenty of foot traffic. Folks stopped and asked us questions and we were very thankful to have the child of a member join us with her mother for a period of time and carry a sign. She was quite the trooper. Their family story involving CPS was conveyed at every opportunity.
Arizona was on our radar due to their lifetime probation statute which was codified in 1988. Maricopa County is their largest county and a recent publication indicated 77% of the county registrants are on lifetime probation with little hope of possibly being relieved of that hopelessness.
We knew it was going to be a challenge and we would have to work for any positive results. The WAR directors like to give the participants the opportunity to share their experience and many times the new members and advocates are not comfortable in this format but let us tell you about what we saw.
Some ladies came suited with a hat or baseball type cap with long bills lowered and sunglasses to hide their identity. Once we got our table display, banner and signs situated they were ready. Something about being there at the capitol, prepared and supported by others was empowering so ladies set out to locate their legislators or staff and talk to them. But, they didn’t stop there, they talked to a number of legislators or their staff and guess what had disappeared when they came back…the headgear and sunglasses. Wow that was fun to watch. They proceeded to stop legislators as they passed by our booth reading our signs to tell them who we were and voice their concerns. In response to our invitation a number of legislators and staff personnel dropped by. We even talked at length with a lobbyist and an Associated Press reporter. The two main topics were the lifetime probation issue and the suggestion of limited probation along with the large number of homeless offenders in the county. The ladies that maintain the registry did not have the number of homeless registrants so in preparation we raked that number off records to the best of our ability and conveyed there were 425+ homeless in the county.
We had the pleasure of meeting an individual who was informed of our upcoming Meet and Greet and he dropped by. He is hoping to soon become a justice of the peace in Phoenix and currently has one housing facility. One term that he spoke of resonated with us. He said instead of calling human beings sex offenders he referrers to them as ‘individuals’ required to register.
We will have a critique call this week with the Arizona members and send follow-up emails to the legislators and media. Also, planning is underway for our next Meet and Greet in Utah. Now if you are wondering if WAR National will come to your state to conduct some training and ground support send us an email at contact@womenagainstregistry and we will be happy to discuss.
WAR Board of Directors