Another year, another conference

By Sandy . . . And what an awesome conference it was! The room was packed at every plenary session. The presentations were amazing. The awards dinner was fun-filled and delightful.

The opening presentation by Meghan Mitchell over the effectiveness—or rather lack thereof—of criminal registries set the bar at excellent, a level that was continued throughout, both in plenary and break-out presentations.

MacKensie Leclaire made us cry as she told us about life after sexual harm and gave us hope with her discussion of restorative justice alternatives. SHINE made us feel the indignities that women on the registry live with. Kimberly Buddin made us laugh—if you can imagine such a thing—in her presentation of the history of the registry. Janice Bellucci, Brenda Jones, and Amber Vlangas encouraged us as they not only talked about but demonstrated the value of coalitions.

Featured speaker Vicki Henry reminded us of her journey into advocacy, the pitfalls, and the triumphs, in her awards dinner speech. Daniel Lambert, from behind bars, told us of his work to expose the conditions where he is in civil commitment at Moose Lake, Minnesota–conditions that are an affront to human rights, safety, and dignity.

Lisa Kessler-Peters and Waleisah Wilson, in their presentations, both showed us the importance of faith and how their journeys into advocacy depended on that and keep them going. There were more, too many more to name here, but all thought-provoking, heart-felt, and encouraging.

The awards dinner was a time to relax, enjoy food and fellowship, and listen to long-time advocate Vicki Henry reminded us of why we are in this fight. Master of Ceremonies Robin Vanderwall was at his best. Richard Mori had the audience in stitches as he conducted an auction of prison art for the benefit of the men incarcerated. The awards themselves recognized individuals in various aspects of advocacy for their special and valuable talents and their service to NARSOL and to the men and women for whom we advocate.

Braveheart award: Daniel Wilson in Moose Lake, Minnesota, Civil Commitment Center

Excellence in service award: Ken Roberts, Mississippi, NARSOL’s gatekeeper

Excellence in leadership: Mary Sue Molnar, Texas Voices for Reason and Justice

Advocate of the Year: Margaret Hawkins, Delaware Advocates for RSOL (DARSOL)

Lifetime Achievement Award: Gail Coletta, Florida Action Committee (FAC)

Hawthorne Award: Kimberly Buddin, attorney

Planning for next year’s conference is already underway. It will be in Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 26-29, 2025, and the super early bird price is $179. The sign up page can be accessed here.

Thanks to everyone who attended, watched, or helped support the conference in Atlanta–and a special thanks to everyone who works so hard to make these conferences successful.

Sandy Rozek

Written by 

Sandy, a NARSOL board member, is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.

4 Thoughts to “Another year, another conference”

  1. AvatarJeremy from Indiana

    Not trying to be negative here, but what’s the point of these conferences?

    Nothing gets done. Nothing gets organized.

    A bunch of people preach… to the choir.

    The people who need to listen to us aren’t there: politicians, attorneys, judges, constitutionalists, law enforcement.

    When I asked for help finding a lawyer, none was given.

    I’ve been following this organization over 10 years and nothing seems to have changed.

    You sure posted about this pointless conference a bunch though.

    1. AvatarBrian

      I would answer this in that we need to show that we are organized and eventually can be a power to reckon with. The Conservative Coolition has done this. The Tea Party has done this. Strength in numbers. Again., if we can get every registrant and or family member to donate just $1 a month, imagine the power we would have to fight laws and show we are a force to reckon with.

  2. Sandy RozekSandy Rozek

    Jeremy, we are sorry that you are so unhappy and feel so hopeless.
    To address your concerns, those who are involved in advocacy also experience those feelings sometimes. To get together with others, to receive new ideas, to remind ourselves that we are not alone, to be able to talk about our feelings openly–all of these things recharge and invigorate us and give us hope and strength and courage for another year of doing the work that we do, work that involves confronting legislatures and helping legal actions and providing help and support for families in our states. Those things are exhausting and sometimes overwhelming. We need recharging. The conference helps do that.

    1. AvatarDave

      Someone needs to hold the politicians accountable that are creating these laws. Best way to do it is follow the money. These laws are not being created for justice. They’re being created for money. Follow the money you will find the criminal. Think about it. Why does Florida register dead people and out of state residence? Money! The number one topic of these conferences should be who to vote for and who to expose. Remove the corrupt politicians, and you will fix the laws.

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