As 2023 draws to a close, your PARSOL leadership team has paused to examine a year in review, and share highlights of our work. Your ongoing support helps us keep moving forward in each of these areas. The continued support of our members and donors, paired with a small-but-growing group of volunteers makes our work possible. Please remember PARSOL in your end of year giving to help us continue to make progress.
The 2023 PARSOL Dinner & Annual Meeting
PARSOL held a joint session of the combined Board of Directors on Nov. 11 and 12. Holding our inaugural annual dinner was an exciting milestone for us all. We never thought we would grow as strong as we are in such a short time from 2017 to now. We had a wonderful evening honoring our founders and acknowledging our achievements with YOUR help. It was a bittersweet evening as we welcomed three new directors to our board: Ashley P. (Allegheny County), Melinda (Erie County), and Lisa (Schuylkill County), while bidding farewell to Theresa as Chair, a position she held since 2018. I, Josiah K., was elected to chair our educational and support organization (501c3) while Randall H. (Harrisburg) was re-elected chair of our advocacy organization (501c4).
On the second day of our meeting, the emphasis was on PARSOL’s growth and advancement in the year to come. In pursuit of this objective, we are restructuring our 501c3 and 501c4 organizations, establish chapters across Pennsylvania, refine our projects in alignment with our strategic plan goals, and institute working groups within each committee.
Clarifying Organizational Structure
The 501c3 educational and support programs entity is the Pennsylvania Association for Rational Sexual Offense Laws, and the 501c4 advocacy entity is PARSOL Advocates. All committees, except for the Support and Resources Committee, the Public Awareness/Education Committee, and Legal Information Programs, operate under the 501c4. This strategic allocation aims to optimize our financial resources. Operating under the 501c3 umbrella allows us to pursue grant opportunities, facilitate the establishment of a reentry program for PFRs, and expand our community resources project. Meanwhile, the Legislative and Public Policy Committees and Legal Action Program, housed within the 501c4, will intensify their advocacy efforts to reduce and reform irrational laws.
Engaging on a Community Level
Pennsylvania is a sizable state, including fifty senatorial districts, 67 counties, and 203 house districts, presenting a significant expanse for us to engage and integrate into our movement. Recognizing this diversity across the state, we want to establish a more personal connection with our members, addressing their specific needs within individual communities. Disparities in resource availability are evident, with more populous counties such as Allegheny and Philadelphia offering greater resources compared to rural counties like Clearfield and Perry.
In response to these considerations, we are in the process of establishing regional coordination to better cater to the unique characteristics and requirements of PA’s PFRs. These regions are being drafted and will be officially announced by the end of January. As we move forward, we will actively seek dedicated leaders to initiate and guide their respective regional PARSOL Chapters, fostering a more localized and effective approach to addressing the needs of our community members. We are building our regional volunteer list, so sign up today!
Working Groups and Special Projects
We’re also establishing working groups within each of our committees. As previously highlighted, we are actively seeking individuals willing to contribute their efforts on the ground. Understanding that not everyone may be inclined to take on a full year’s committee membership, volunteers who may wish to engage in the work directly or have limited time and can engage for a limited time period. This approach is designed to enhance our time management and optimize the utilization of our volunteer resources, ensuring a more efficient and effective implementation of our initiatives. Be sure to sign up today, so we can hit the ground running in 2024.
Strategic Progress 2023, 2024, and Beyond
Last year, we updated and simplified our four long-term strategic goals: 1) cultivate partnerships, 2) build PARSOL’s public awareness, 3) involve professionals in PARSOL’s programs and activities, and 4) increase the level of our legislative advocacy. Cultivating partnerships is crucial to any movement. But how we go about it is important so that the movement’s integrity does not waver.
Strategic Advocacy Work
An example of our strategic advocacy work is PARSOL’s representation on the PA Attorney General’s Pennsylvania Reentry Coalition (PARC). The commission’s subcommittee for Persons with Sexual Offenses exists because of PARSOL’s advocacy. It provides a voice at the table with State administration, including the Attorney General’s office, the Department of Corrections, and the Commission on Crime and Delinquency. PARC’s primary mission “is to make communities safer by reducing recidivism and victimization through the successful reintegration of returning citizens by supporting the efforts of county reentry coalitions and other federal, state, and local reentry organizations.”
Elevating Public Awareness
Elevating PARSOL’s public awareness involves a dual approach: Building a strong presence across Pennsylvania by engaging with key stakeholders, effectively communicating our name and core message, and dispelling the myths and misconceptions perpetuated by the media and registry advocates, particularly those upon which SORNA is based. While we are grounded in research and data that challenge these narratives, our current emphasis is devising more impactful ways to disseminate this information.
Furthermore, it is crucial to enlighten the public about the draconian nature of the registry provisions, especially given their propensity to evolve following major court decisions. We are evaluating online sources of outdated or inaccurate information to achieve these goals, including regularly updating the NARSOL PA state wiki page. Additionally, we will consider organizing regional or state gatherings to facilitate broader discussions and awareness. Lastly, we will enhance our communication strategy by issuing more letters to print editors and press releases, ensuring a comprehensive and informed dialogue surrounding the issues.
Involving Professionals in Programs and Activities
The third goal, which entails the integration of professionals into PARSOL’s programs and activities, has witnessed notable advancements in certain aspects while facing challenges in others. We have successfully addressed the attorney referral task by speaking with the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, leveraging their attorney directory searchable by county or offense type.
However, an area where progress is yet to be realized involves the engagement of treatment providers. Our involvement with Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Licensed Professional Counselors, and members of the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board is limited to a handful of practitioners. Recognizing the potential efficacy of treatment programs when applied strategically, we are in the process of transitioning our approach to include these professionals. As a specific example, we are exploring models such as the Good Lives Model, recognized for its strengths-based approach to reintegration. We aim to forge partnerships that facilitate the implementation of proven and effective treatment strategies within our programs, contributing to the overall success of our initiatives.
Increasing Legislative Advocacy
Our fourth goal on increasing the scope of our legislative advocacy, is a hands-on initiative that requires dedicated efforts on the ground. To achieve this, we seek reliable volunteers who can engage directly with legislators on behalf of PARSOL. These volunteers will undergo training on effective communication with legislators, utilizing our designated talking points to articulate our message clearly and persuasively. In addition to volunteer engagement, we are also searching for subject matter experts willing to testify before Pennsylvania Legislative Committees. Their expertise and insights will bolster our advocacy efforts and convey a compelling case for our cause. By building a team of knowledgeable and articulate advocates, we aim to strengthen our legislative impact and advance the goals of PARSOL in the legislative arena.
We look forward to a strong start to 2024. We have a widely diverse board with many skills and talents. As the only founding board member who has not yet rotated off the board,I am proud to be a continued part of such a great organization. The Directors, committee members, volunteers, and donors have made PARSOL what it is today. I am confident we will see a shift in the wind shortly because of YOU. Thank you!