The Cambridge English dictionary defines the word “brink” as the point where a new or different situation is about to begin. The word “brink” therefore accurately describes the current situation facing almost 1 million people in the United States who are required to register as sex offenders. There are three reasons this is true.
First, the United States is about to either re-elect the same President or elect a new President as well as countless other politicians on the city, county, state and federal levels. The results of those elections may or may not be known on Election Day, but they will eventually be known and when they are known there is sure to be a shift to either the right or the left. The question is how that shift will affect registrants and their loved ones. Will the newly elected officials see the mistakes made by their predecessors and stop punishing those who have already paid their debt to society? Or will they refuse to see that harm and continue to punish an increasing number of Americans?
Second, the proposed SORNA regulations are looming on the horizon. Will the current administration address the 618 comments they received? And if so, will that administration revise the proposed regulations based on those comments? Or will that administration issue final regulations without consideration of important issues such as whether the federal government may lawfully require an individual to comply with federal regulations that a state refuses to enforce? And what will happen if there is a new administration? Will that administration stop the proposed SORNA regulations using the Congressional Review Act or another law that allows a new administration to scrutinize and even halt regulations proposed during the final days of the past administration?
Third, will the COVID-19 virus continue to spread throughout the nation resulting in a growing number of deaths and greater harm to the nation’s economy? Although there are no known statistics on this topic, it is logical to believe that registrants and their families have suffered and will continue to suffer greatly both physically and economically from the harm caused by the COVID-19 virus. After all, it is difficult for a registrant to find a job in a robust economy. When the economy in less than robust, that important task is even more difficult, if not impossible.
While there is great uncertainty at this time for registrants and their loved ones, it is also a time for hope. We have learned a lot during the past decade as we challenged Halloween signs, employment restrictions, presence restrictions, and even residency restrictions. We have found our voice and in speaking Truth, we have made a difference in state capitols as well as state and federal courts.
There is no guarantee that next week’s election will solve all of the nation’s problems, including the problems faced by registrants and their loved ones. Given what we have learned and practiced, however, we know that we have begun to collect the resources necessary to reach the Tipping Point at which society will wake up, face the harsh reality of the harm that has been caused by the registry, and end the registry for all. Until we reach that Tipping Point, we must continue to increase our resources and our efforts. We must continue to Show Up – Stand Up – Speak Up.