USA FAIR believes that it is important that we honor those who have the courage to speak out for justice and fairness on one of the most emotional issues of our time – the sex offender registry.
In doing so, we have created the Mary Duval Award, named for the late activist who succeeded in getting her son Ricky removed from the registry.
Ricky’s case was a so-called “Romeo & Juliet” type of relationship involving two teenagers. Ricky was 16 and the girl he was dating was 13. When her parents found out about the relationship, Ricky was prosecuted and he pled guilty with no requirement to register. However, due to retroactive changes to the law, Ricky soon found himself listed on the public registry - and because of the girl’s age, he was classified as a “high risk” offender.
Faced with the frightening prospect of an adolescent mistake inflicting life-long damage upon her son, Mary became an advocate for registry reform and started “rickyslife”, a website that would tell their story. Adding to the challenge, she did this at the same time that a medical condition was causing her to lose her eyesight.
Mary became one of the most outspoken critics of the sex offender registry and was interviewed on numerous news programs, including appearances on CNN and Fox News. As she learned about the increasing sanctions being imposed on registrants, she expanded her activism beyond juveniles and fought for all law-abiding former offenders.
She became the CEO of SOSEN (Sex Offender Solutions & Education Network) where she devoted much of her life to counseling families dealing with the impacts of having a loved-one on the registry. One of her proudest moments was when she went to Florida to support the dozens of registrants who were forced by newly enacted residency restrictions to live under the Julia Tuttle Causeway Bridge.
Through several years of lobbying, Mary succeeded in getting a “Romeo & Juliet” provision adopted in her home state of Oklahoma and Ricky was removed from the registry.
While it would have been easy to have declared a personal victory and go back to a routine life, Mary decided not to give up the fight. She thought of all the people who reached out to her on the SOSEN help line and all the men she met living under the bridge… and she could not leave them behind.
Mary continued to speak out until she became ill and died of cancer at the all-too-young age of 39.
USA FAIR is honored to name its annual award of recognition in the memory of Mary Duval.
We will solicit nominations for this award in the spring of 2013.