“Ross’ Past ACLU Leadership Looms Large…”
Raleigh, NC — Today’s front page story in The News and Observer provides a look at a handful of the dangerous actions Deborah Ross took during her radical tenure as the top lobbyist for the ACLU. Ross’ fight against the sex offender registry is just one example of her pattern–one that carried over into her career in the General Assembly–of prioritizing convicted criminals over the safety of North Carolinians.
When Ross is asked specifically about the 1995 memo that detailed her fight against the creation of the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry, Ross doesn’t have a clear answer for why she opposed the bill and pivots to actions she took nearly ten years later. At the time, Ross was worried about sex offenders having trouble “reintegrating into society.” She only cites language she used two years later when she fought against a 1997 bill that put the sex offender registry online.
Bottom Line: Ross fought against a bill that simply established the sex offender registry so that members of the public are aware of the convicted offenders in their community. She has not “always” supported a sex offender registry. Any objection to that registry being available to public is an outright objection to the intended purpose of the registry.
“In a memo Ross wrote to ACLU members, she said the registry “would make it even harder for people to reintegrate into society and start over and could lead to vigilantism.” She also argued that the registry might harm victims who were abused by family members because the victims’ names could become public by association.
‘”The unintended consequence is that people are going to be very surprised at who’s on the list,’ Ross said in a 1997 News & Observer article. ‘It’s not Jeffrey Dahmer. It’s going to be a family member, a cousin or an uncle.’
“But Ross said it’s wrong to claim she opposed the registry. “I’ve always been in favor of a sex offender registry,” she said. ‘When I became a legislator, I voted 18 times to strengthen the sex offender registry.’
“She says she wanted lawmakers to consider potential consequences of the registry. ‘Nobody really knew what was going to happen with what was going to go out over the internet,’ she said.'”
· “Within months, Ross was in court trying to prevent a 13-year-old boy facing rape charges from being tried as an adult. She continued to work on juvenile justice issues, joining Gov. Jim Hunt and then-state Sen. Roy Cooper – now the attorney general running for governor – in developing an overhaul of the state’s system for dealing with young offenders. The bill aimed to treat juveniles according to the seriousness of their crimes, the risks they pose and their personal histories, while funding more detention centers, training schools and prevention efforts. Ross applauded the initiative but continued to criticize the state’s practice of treating 16- and 17-year-old offenders as adults.”
· “She also opposed a 1995 law that required unmarried females under age 18 to get a parent’s permission or a judge’s permission to have an abortion. Ross said delays resulting from judicial action could create health risks.”
· “Republicans are now hitting Ross on a similar issue: a 1997 bill that made failure to report child abuse a misdemeanor. Ross threatened an ACLU lawsuit if the bill didn’t exempt clergy. The National Republican Senatorial Committee recently launched a TV commercial highlighting the law. ‘Who was she trying to protect?’ the narrator asks over sinister-sounding music and footage of children. ‘Not the victims of sexual abuse. Deborah Ross: Too radical for North Carolina.’ Ross says her request to exempt clergy was in order to ensure the law complied with court rulings on religious freedom issues. Some were concerned that Catholic priests wouldn’t be able to promise confidential confessions, for example.”