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Kat’s Blog: Law Enforcement Denies Registrants Full Access to AA Meetings

You’re a registrant on parole with an alcohol/substance abuse problem.

You want to help yourself by attending AA, NA or some other supportive type group meetings. Your PO thinks it’s a fine idea, however, you may be prevented from fully participating in the AA program and it’s not AA who’s preventing it, it may be your PO.

It’s not  only in real estate where “location” is everything.

Due to the endless boundary lines or buffer zones that registrants must navigate, wanting to attend an AA meeting can become a logistical nightmare for a registrant who is “still on paper.” This is a nightmare that could potentially sabotage your hard earned efforts to maintain sobriety.

Recently a registrant alerted me to the fact that in his large metropolitan area where there are multiple AA meeting groups and locations, he had been advised by his PO that there was only one meeting, held one night per week, at one specific locale that was OK for him to attend.

Out of the 20 or more different group meeting places offered in this city, only one, the registrant was advised, was held in an area that was not within a 1,000ft buffer zone of a school, park, playground, greenway, etc.

Briefly, AA is a support group, if you’re trying to maintain sobriety you can attend meetings as many times per day or week as you feel the need for.  You can pick up a meeting in your home town or in any town USA while traveling cross country

So is it just those “still on paper” that are being denied full access to AA meetings or is this a common theme with anyone on the registry?  And if so, why? It would seem that a registrant seeking support for an illness would be something commendable rather than deterred.

Many AA meetings are held in church or school basements, but that is “after” school hours, “when there’s a reasonable belief that no one under the age of 18 would be on school grounds?” Most registry rules indicate that you can’t be within buffer zones “without a legitimate reason for being there?” Shouldn’t attending a support group that is part of your recovery process qualify as a “legitimate” reason? 

What’s next, will PO’s deny registrant’s access to their physicians, hospitals or any other treatment providers of their choice if those providers are within one of the many buffer zones that exclude registrants?  The last I heard, alcohol and substance abuse were both medical/mental health conditions that require treatment and many physicians suggest participation in meetings such as AA as part of that treatment.

In this particular metro area, one nondescript professional building in a commercial area of hospitals and physicians offices conducts the highest number of meetings in the area, meetings are held almost continuously throughout the day, every day of the week. A safety net for alcoholics who may need frequent daily support groups to help maintain their sobriety.

But….this safe haven happens to be in a daycare buffer zone. (By my map calculations, the daycare is probably right on the 1000ft boundary line, that’s how far it is from the meeting facility, there are several office buildings, parking lots and a strip mall that separate the two.)

Support groups are considered healthcare, whether you are a CA survivor attending a CA support group or an alcoholic attending an alcohol support group, these groups benefit your mental health and the health care profession encourages patients to seek them out.

What if a registrant feels the need to attend more than one AA meeting per week to maintain sobriety? Is the denial of his access to AA meetings based solely on their locations the actual law or a huge misinterpretation of the law? According to the Sex Offender Law in this particular state, the presence restrictions indicate that registrants should not be in buffer zone areas if they are loitering, idly sitting or standing or being there without a legitimate purpose.

Isn’t attending a group that supports your physical or mental health a “legitimate purpose”?

The registrant questioned his PO about the denial of access because according to the registry map, it appears there is a second meeting location that is not in any buffer zone but remains off limits to registrants because of something called a “greenway connector”. Also known as “any street that runs through the entire city” greenway connectors can get you from one greenway to another. If this is the PO’s reasoning, it would make virtually the entire city one big buffer zone.

The last I heard, the registrant hadn’t received any further response from his PO, but maybe it will give the PO and other law enforcement something to think about.

But in the meantime, I find it ironic that printed right there on the AA meeting schedule for the one group that the registrant was informed by his PO that he could  attend, there are directions to the meeting locale and they read as follows  “entrance is next to playground.”

Join the discussion

  1. Eric

    This single biggest impediment, if not the only one, to successfully integrating into society is the justice system and the laws therein.

    • C

      I’ll put that another way:

      The biggest impediment to re-entering society are laws which literally ban us from re-entering society period

  2. TS

    This can actually be fixed with AA counselors and AA themselves by working with them to locate meeting areas that are not excluded or even with smaller groups (must watch for a rule about not congregating with others who are on the registry too). I have never heard of an AA counselor (am the nephew of one who lead them in many locations, so they are mobile) who won’t work with those who are in need of their services.

    While the description here is bewildering for the help they are seeking in the best interest of all parties involved, it is something that can be worked with.

  3. Facts should matter

    The Irony is, many have likely developed an alcohol dependency from the results of being unable to find employment, housing and shamed Online 24/7/ 365 > to infinity.

    Not punishment? Right.

  4. Chad

    Same thing happened to me. Was part of my probation to go to AA 3x a week. Ended up having to drive 30 minutes to get the 3rd meeting in. And yet since I was on home confinement, they wouldn’t give me that much time away from home (Basically 2:15)

  5. Dustin

    I think the odds are better than average that this is a (deliberate?) misinterpretation from this particular PO. Equally possible, if not likely, he has a side agreement with that particular counselor.

  6. R M

    One solution is to create and host your own AA meeting. The one obstacle will be where the meeting place is.

    • Anonymous

      Not even kidding. I would go to the AA meeting that was least intrusive to my probation “rules” and if I got a violation of probation,, I would feel confident that the judge would change stupid probation rules so I would be able to attend said AA meeting. Probation rules can’t be blanket. Must be tailored to be least restrictive. Been there. Done that. Won my vop charge.

  7. AJ

    I suspect this is more of a PO issue than anything else. From the way the law is stated here, attending the meetings should be fine. One is not loitering if engaged in a meeting. One is not loitering if listening to a speaker. One is not loitering if speaking. Remember, POs are typically lazy, underpaid, and averse to going out on a limb.

    Something else to look into is whether the Court of Last Resort for your State and/or the Circuit Court of Appeals in which you reside have determined AA to be a religion (https://ffrf.org/faq/state-church/item/14012-court-ordered-participation-in-aa). The URL cites most the CCoAs as having found it to be a religion, and a cursory search shows TN and NY State have found likewise. Though the cases were by people who were trying to avoid being mandated to go (Establishment Clause), the facts play both ways if one cannot be forced to go to a religious program, one likewise cannot be barred from attending said religious program. If it’s a religion in the courts’ eyes where you live, you should be able to make a 1st Amdt. claim regarding Religious Freedom. If a Religious Freedom issue, it would be subject to strict scrutiny and the onus is on the State to say why it’s the least restrictive method to satisfy a compelling need.

  8. Tim

    Affirmative disability and restraint as intended upon adoption of the machine.
    MN>HN~null
    The outcomes inevitable.
    Damn poor leadership.
    What’s worse the potential of electronic gerrymandering!
    https://www.dailysignal.com/2019/06/27/in-gerrymandering-case-supreme-court-rules-its-a-matter-for-lawmakers-not-judges/

    Let the extremists parties figure it out? God save U.S.

  9. ReadyToFight

    They want us to be “Criminals” for L$fe

  10. Harry

    I wonder how will take for a good lawyer start getting this stuff challenged. Good God, a blind person can see these laws are malicious.

  11. Bruce Ferrell

    My offense was over 26 years ago. I’ve been in 12 step recovery groups for over 21 years with over 21 years clean and sober now; I’m out of the system and off paper for over 17.

    I did have one probation officer for about two months who behaved in the manner described. In talking with other people I knew in recovery, I was told he was an aberration. I also had to make regular appearances in drug court to prove to them I was attending meetings.

    At the time, virtually everyone staffing the drug court I was in were involved recovery in some way (clerks, bailiffs, a lot of the judges and most of the ADAs… The defense side was a “whatever” bag, as can be expected) . I didn’t find that out until years later. Somehow, I was reassigned to another PO. I got the VERY distinct feeling those folks don’t like their program fooled with by the “civilians”.

    A bit over a year ago, I had a member of a meeting decide to go “avenging angel” around my offense at the end of the meeting and attempted to stab me at in front of everyone there. Police were called and the assailant was taken away and walked with a misdemeanor brandishing a deadly weapon (not a gun). The meeting members have been VERY supportive of me.

    Fun? No. It’s freaking hard. But worth it.

  12. Dwayne Daughtry

    In North Carolina, this has been an ongoing issue with AA/NA meetings for a decade or so. Current NC law states that registrants are not permitted on school grounds, places with daycare, or that facilitate children’s programs. This means registrants searching for recovery programs are more than likely unable to attend because many meetings occur at churches or schools or facilities adjacent to school properties. In some cases, there have been compliance arrests because registrants are seeking recovery but violating how the law is written and not engaged with children because the schools or daycares are closed when recovery meetings take place. However, the letter of the law is often unforgiving, and registrants suffer additional felony charges and a further three to five-year prison sentence.

    As for the statement about “hospitals or any other treatment providers,” becoming the next target? Many NC hospitals have implemented their police force. For example, in Wake County, NC, the three major hospitals are UNC-Rex, Duke Health, and WakeMed, which all respectively have its police department and specially marked police vehicles. There is no formal indication that these hospital police departments run background checks on patients. However, it is quite noticeable with daily blotter reports that individuals are arrested at emergency rooms on outstanding warrants at these three hospitals. With the implementation of children’s units at all of these hospitals, arrests of registrants have been made for being in or on emergency room settings. Which brings me to a valuable point that hospitals are indeed checking its patients’ backgrounds despite what policies or guidelines say otherwise. When will such practices become universal? That depends on how states wish to pursue its restrictions gambit.

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