“If the Sex Offender List Saves One Child…”

Folks, this guest post addresses a sentiment that really disturbs me — the “one child” idea that is used to justify everything from not allowing kids to walk to school to never letting folks who’ve served their time return to the community as anonymous citizens, same as anyone else. “Shelly Stow” is the pseudonym of a member of National Reform Sex Offender Laws, Inc. and of Texas Voices for Reason and Justice. This piece originally appeared in longer form at Corrections.com  – L 

If It Saves One Child by Shelly Stow 

Almost everyone today has some idea of what the sex offender registry is, and most feel it is a good thing. The registry was originally created as a way for  law enforcement (and only law enforcement) to help keep track of repeat, sexually violent child predators. But now it has the names of over 700,000 people on it whose “crimes” are as varied as consensual teen sex, taking and sending a photo of one’s own breasts, and rape. And even though experts and studies have denounced the list as ineffective, the battle cry of its supporters is still, “If it saves one child…!”

“If it saves one child….”

There is no evidence that the registry has done that at all. However, many, many thousands of children have had their lives made a living hell because of it. These are the children of parents on the registry. Some of those registered committed violent crimes, but many — even most —  did not. And yet, all the people on the registry and their families are subject to the whims of local and state laws, including severe restrictions on where they may live. They can also find themselves not allowed to enter libraries, parks or beaches with their children. Some states will bar the registered parent from even being within a 1000 feet of the school his child attends.

Recently a woman took the picture of a registrant that she printed from the Internet and brought it to the school where the registrant’s 5-year-old son was in kindergarten. She showed it around, warning children about this man. His little boy ended up in tears.

Vigilantes have murdered registrants, leaving their children fatherless. The false perception is that everyone on the registry has committed a serious crime and that most, if not all, molested children. So if they have children of their own who are harmed, so what? It’s just collateral damage because the registry might—MIGHT—”save one child.”

“If it saves one child….” Children themselves are registrants on sex offender registries. Nine years old is apparently the youngest age at which children have been put on the registry (in Delaware and Michigan). Several states register children as sexual criminals at ages 10 and 11. Registered 12-year-olds aren’t even rarities. And a 15-year-old who is the child victim for having consensual sex with an 18-year-old becomes a predator and registered sex offender when his or her partner is 14! In Wisconsin last year a district attorney did everything he could, and bragged about it, to have a 6-year-old prosecuted and targeted for sex offender registration for “playing doctor.” Some of these children find escape only in suicide. The registry didn’t save any of them; it destroyed them.

“If it saves one child….” Children do need saving. According to the Justice Dept. and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, many thousands are sexually abused and molested every year. But the registry is not the answer. Most children — about 95% — are abused and molested by their family members and acquaintances, by those they interact with. Keeping the focus on “strangers” on the registry turns us away from the bigger problem, even while taking away  the resources to deal with it.

“If it saves one child” isn’t good enough. Thousands — no, hundreds of thousands — need saving from the registry. When and how and with what will we save them? — Shelly

Not all dots = child rapists.

124 Responses to “If the Sex Offender List Saves One Child…”

  1. Mike May 22, 2013 at 2:08 pm #

    I’ve made this comment before. No politician will dare touch the registry because the attack ads write themselves.

    “Just who is politician X protecting? Because it’s not your children. He voted to allow violent sexual predators into schools. Vote for politician Y and keep your family safe.”

    Politicians will only trim registries when the political benefit from doing so outweighs the political cost. Want to make that day come sooner? Contact your legislators and demand action.

    Until then, more and more things will be registerable. “What, he leered at her? Visual sexual assault, on the registry for life!”

  2. Natalie May 22, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

    I agree, Mike. It has to be a grassroots campaign. No politician would champion this cause.

  3. Lila Williams Folster May 22, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

    @ Mike, You hit the nail right on the head the first time you posted that comment and you are right, change will only come when it has progressed to the point where people with finally say, “We don’t have to take this anymore, enough is enough!”

    So many people, young people, yes, even little kids have lost their entire futures, some even their lives for something that was never intended to happen when the registry was conceived.

    Laws that were intended to keep dangerous predators away from our children are so vague, that they are now being used AGAINST our children for absolutely NORMAL behavior.

    A good example of that is the current BIG news story featuring a young lady named Kaitlyn Hunt.

    I have always believe that everything happens for a reason. There is such an outcry against what many people are calling “unfair and ludicrous charges” brought against this young woman for a relationship with a minor girl. Some have commented it is because of her gender, most can see that it is the self same charges brought against any 18 year old guy who would dare a relationship with an underage girl.

    I find it refreshing to see the bulk of commentors agreeing that prosecution of teen relationships is wrong. Especially prosecution that destroys the rest of the accused persons life over teen love or consensual exploratory behavior.

  4. Sex Offender Issues May 22, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

    The registry doesn’t prevent or deter crime, nor does it protect anybody from someone intent on committing another related crime, it’s only an online shaming hit-list that politicians use to help themselves look “tough” on crime because they don’t have the balls to speak out against the laws.

    http://sexoffenderissues.blogspot.com/2007/09/human-rights-issues.html

  5. a grateful mom May 22, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

    Lenore, thank you for being courageous enough to publish this.

    My husband is a registered sex offender. A decade ago, when he was 25 years old, he was arrested in an internet sting operation. Undercover officers went into a Yahoo adult sex chat room (please note: the room was for adults 18+ seeking out sex or sexual chat–it was NOT a room for children or teens). Of the probably hundreds of women he “cybered” with during a period of time when he was suffering from severe depression and social anxiety and using the internet compulsively was that undercover officer. “She” claimed to be a sexually-experienced 15yo seeking out another hook-up with an older guy. There was, in the months they chatted, not a single mention of school, homework, parents, curfews, or anything that would indicate this was somebody innocent or immature. The only hobbies “she” mentioned were partying, drinking, and getting high. After the officer tried to arrange 3 meetings he failed to show up for, he showed up at the fourth. His car was stopped before he had even parked it, in the parking lot of a public park at 4 p.m. on a weekday afternoon.

    He was arrested and charged with a felony that carried a 25 year prison sentence. He was incredibly fortunate to have ended up with two years probation. He was not nearly as fortunate that his crime, which he had been told he could have expunged in eight years if he didn’t reoffend, was made un-expungeable a year before he was eligible to have it removed.

    He was also not lucky with the registry. In our state, my husband will be on the sex offender registry for 25 years. It’s a decade later. We have three children. He can’t take them to a park or playground. He can’t attend events our oldest is in at his school. He could be arrested for hanging out at a friend’s house or even shopping at a grocery store that happens to be too close to a school or day care center. If I were to die, he could be denied custody of the children he loves and who love him.

    This is not right. My husband was wrong. He made a mistake. But, two psychologists–one he began seeing immediately after his arrest, and one the court appointed–deemed that he was not a predator, not a pedophile, and at an extremely low risk for reoffense. It didn’t matter.

    He is not alone. Our family is not alone. In many states, the majority of men on the sex offender registry are on it for a single, non-violent (and often non-contact), statutory offense involving a willing post-pubescent teen. Many of these men committed their single offense when they are in their late teens or early to mid 20s. In many states, they are on the registry for decades or for life, with no chance for appeal or reconsideration.

    This is not what the registry was ever designed for. Originally, the point of the registry was to alert the public to the kinds of people who, if a child was kidnapped, raped, and murdered, would be likely culprits, due to past violent sexual offenses against children. It was not designed to be a list of men who, in their 20s, made a really dumb, wrong choice with a willing teen girl. And yet that is what it’s becoming, as well as a list of people who, as CHILDREN, made a single bad choice about non-violent, non-forcible sexual contact with another minor.

    No other country in the world has this kind of extensive public registry. The only other country with a public registry is Australia, and there are, in total, under 100 people on it, all repeat child molesters who are evading the police. And yet, children in other countries are no less safe than in the U.S., and in many cases they are safer. These registries don’t protect children: they shame people who often made a single bad choice many years or decades ago, and they satisfy our American desire for vengeance and more vengeance. There are currently over 750,000 people on the sex offender registry in the U.S., in soon it will be over a million. If people are worried about their children, they should be worried about their children having their lives ruined by being labelled sex offenders for life for a single mistake involving non-violent, non-coercive, non-forcible sexual contact with an underage teen.

  6. Olvkrane May 22, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    Well, my kid is allergic to peanuts so maybe we shouldn’t sell peanut butter anymore. If it saves one child!! (Sarcasm to highlight how ridiculous their argument is)

  7. Maggie May 22, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    We should castrate all males at birth. Hey, if it saves even one child, it’s worth it, right?

  8. John Davis May 22, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    My stepson was caught up in a police sting operation and found guilty of “Online Solicitation of sex with a minor” in which he never even saw the imaginary “victim.” He has just completed a 5-year sentence, during which he was denied any contact, even by telephone, with his young children. His wife divorced him, moved the children out of state, and is now seeking to strip him of all parental rights. The children may possibly never have contact with their father until they become adults, although he was an excellent parent who never harmed his children in any way.

  9. Warren May 22, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

    Exactly, there is not a politician alive that would go against the registry. A grassroots effort is useless. This is something that will not change. As long as they can still hide behind the “if it saves one child” more and more names will be put on the list.

    It is one of those situations, nobody can prove that the list didn’t safe a life, and nobody can prove that it did.

    And as for the lives that have be ruined by the registry, the masses all self-righteously agree, that it was their own fault for doing whatever it was that got them on the list.

    What we need is for the police to do their jobs. When that woman printed the picture and harassed the family at the school, she should have been arrested. But the cops won’t do that, because they cannot afford to be seen as defending the sex offender.

    This is a monster that society has created, and it is only going to get bigger and meaner. I honestly do not see it going away. Unless you find elected officials with the balls to lie during the election, and then once in go after the list.

  10. a grateful mom May 22, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

    Shelly, thank you for writing this. I just wanted to add, in case people aren’t clear, it’s not just that registered sex offenders “aren’t allowed” to do these things: they can be ARRESTED if they do. And, states can pass new laws restricting sex offenders any time the want.

    In the decade since my husband’s arrest, our state has passed more and more laws restricting what he can do: ten years after his single offense, having committed no more crimes, held a steady job, had three children, and completed a doctorate, he is MORE restricted than he was during his probation.

    It’s not simply that my husband–arrested for a crime involving considering sexual activity with an officer posing as a willing, eager, sexually-experienced 15yo–can’t take his two toddler children to the park: if he did and was caught, he would be arrested, charged with a felony, and sent to prison for 2 years. It’s not just that my husband can’t go to his oldest child’s end-of-the-year elementary school recital: if he went, he could be arrested and jailed.

    My husband won’t be off the registry until 2029. At the age of 50, 25 years after his offense, he could be arrested for attending his youngest child’s high school graduation.

    And I know people will say, “He deserves it. He did the crime, he deserves the punishment.” But, that’s not how justice works. The state could decide, tomorrow, that anybody who has ever had a drunk driving conviction goes on a registry of drunk drivers for decades. It could also decide that such people can’t ever drive around with children in their cars and are barred from driving within 1000 feet of anywhere where children may congregate, lest they drive drunk again and harm those children. Those people committed a crime. They should not have drive drunk. And some legal penalty–the one they already served–was warranted. But, they would not deserve endless, escalating punishment for a single offense. The same is true for many sex offenses. Those who commit a single, non-violent, victimless and/or statutory offense did wrong, they deserve some punishment, but the endless, extralegal punishment the registry doles out is neither right nor just.

  11. a grateful mom May 22, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    Warren, I have to have hope. I see this going three ways:

    1. We’ve seen courts increasingly inclined to find the registry punitive. As more and more restrictions are tacked on (as opposed to the “send in a postcard once a year” deal that it was when it began), more and more judges seem to recognize that this isn’t simply a civil regulation, but an extralegal punishment. Once it’s declared a punishment, it’s immediately over;

    2. So many people end up on the registry that everybody stops caring about it. We’re going to top a million registered sex offenders soon, especially with the way internet-based sex offenses are being heavily prosecuted. Many people now know somebody who was arrested for online solicitation, for child porn possession, or for a statutory offense of some kind. It’s easy to hate the sex offender you imagine, harder to hate your neighbor of 15 years who was arrested for having been sent a picture by a topless 16 year old he was flirting with on Twitter. The vast majority of people who know my husband’s story in real life not only don’t care, but think what happened to him is an injustice. And, there are more stories like his every day. If the list continues to grow at the rate it has, soon everybody will know a sex offender (or more than one), and people will stop caring. People aren’t going to sift through pictures of 300 non-violent statutory offenders in their zip code in order to find out if there’s any repeat child molesters, and they are going to resent that they have to.

    3. People’s pocketbooks will win out. Having a registered sex offender nearby lowers your property value. The more men we put on the list, the more likely it is that your property values will go down. I’m willing to bet that, at the very least, most people would choose getting an extra $15K for their house over knowing the names and addresses of every single-time, non-violent statutory offender in their neighborhood. They are going to want their neighbor who was arrested for online solicitation 8 years ago or who two decades ago had a child porn possession charge or who at 23 slept with an underage girlfriend off the list, so that their home value will go back up.

    Sorry for posting so much. Just glad to see this discussion, and to see it going as well as it is.

  12. Lila Williams Folster May 22, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    I feel every word you have written grateful mom.

    My son has already lost a large segment of his life over his “first love” and will continue to pay until 2025.

    Another good point is the endless influx of new laws that not only continue to punish the registrant, but his entire family.

    The myth that everyone on the registry has committed a heinous, violent crime, and deserves to be punished until their death, needs to be dispelled.

  13. Warren May 22, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

    @grateful mom

    I feel for you and your family. I fully understand where you are coming from.

    People in general do not care what the registry does to those on the list, or their families. The registry makes them feel safe, and that is all that matters to them.

    There are people out there that figure the best way for you to regain a normal life is to divorce your husband. You know I am not making this up. But it goes to show you, that when your name is on the list, society does not give a rat’s ass about you or your family. All these so called loving caring parents, would spit on an offender, and their family, as soon as look at them.

    I wish you and your family all the luck and happiness you can get. Keep up the fight.

  14. CrazyCatLady May 22, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

    A friend of mine posted a link from a news service about a sexual offender moving to a neighborhood. He is in WA, Level III, which means he was 48 months or more older than his “victim” who was between the ages of 14 and 16. The age of the young man is listed, but not the date of the offense. About half of the jocks in my high school could have been be guilty of this Level III offense. I pointed out these facts to her.

    Personally, unless he started making eyes at my 13 year old, I really wouldn’t have a problem with him moving near me. I am sure he does EVERYTHING he can to now avoid the court.

  15. a grateful mom May 22, 2013 at 4:01 pm #

    Warren, I know. In real life, people who know me and my husband are supportive.

    But when I’ve shared this story online, I’ve had so many people tell me I need to divorce my husband, because he’s obviously going to abuse our children and even that I’m a child abuser and bad mom for staying with him.

    It’s kind of ironic that, in the name of “protecting children” and being “pro-family,” we are pushing policies that tear families part. I have not a shred of doubt that the single most harmful thing I could do for my children would be to take them away from the father they love so much, and who loves them. And yet this is the situation that hundreds of thousands of families are in: do you force children to deal with the stigma of having a sex offender for a parent, or do you cut off all contact, forever, between a child and a parent they love? Those are choices people should not have to make, especially not when the offender committed a single, non-violent, statutory offense, often many years earlier.

  16. TaraK May 22, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

    People always tell me to “check the registry” when we move and so I do. I also check the details section of the registry. Every offender who lives in my town and is on the registry was known to his victims. Know the people you know.

  17. marie May 22, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

    But when I’ve shared this story online, I’ve had so many people tell me I need to divorce my husband, because he’s obviously going to abuse our children and even that I’m a child abuser and bad mom for staying with him.

    I get the same thing, grateful mom. Some of the comments on my blog (handbasketnotes@blogspot.com) are incredibly ugly, telling me that my disgusting pervert of a husband should be shot. I publish the comments because people need to see the ugliness you, Lila and I face. And our children! Do those commenters ever think that my children may read my blog? I have a hunch that they DO think that and they DO hope my kids read their comments.

    Sunlight is the best disinfectant, so I publish them.

    The real sunlight is in the people around us. We have gotten nothing but support from those we’ve told, and from those who heard the story from someone else.

    Thank you, Shelly, for speaking out, and thank you Lenore, for publishing it.

  18. charles May 22, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

    Here is a peripheral dynamic not even discussed or thought about with this issue. And that is how the registry emasculates a man, or what I refer to as “deboning” a man like a fish. A man needs to be able to provide for and protect his family. This means being his family’s spokesman, getting and going to work every day, putting food on the table, paying house hold expenses, being a good father to his children a good husband to his wife and good son to his parents. The registry takes away your inalienable right to be a man. How? As a registrant, you can’t even make decisions as to your own house. The parole officer runs your house. If your wife said “Honey, can we take a vacation?” A registrant has to get his PO’s ok. How does that make a man look to his wife? THINK!!! Women out there, if your husband had to get an ok from another man about your business at home, how does your husband look to you? Childern, how does your father look to you? Chew on that for a minute. Again, this is a peripheral dynamic not even talked about but should be—very loudly!

  19. Nicole May 22, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    I agree that far too many “crimes” are included on the registry. It’s absolutely out of hand, too big to useful, and surely doing more harm than good.

  20. Carol Maloney May 22, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

    Thanks for some common sense on an emotionally laden and badly misunderstood subject. The horror stories always make me thankful that I attended high-school in the seventies, a somewhat less hysteria-prone era. I was in a three-year relationship with a slightly older guy, which started when I was 16 and he was 21, an age difference which, at the time, raised no eyebrows, even parental ones. It was assumed that a smart, relatively mature high school girl would quite naturally prefer a boyfriend who was her intellectual and emotional equal, and it was further assumed that a 21 year old would be likely to show more respect for such a girl than would a teenage boy. How ridiculous, and tragic, that today said young man could be labeled a pedophile for life. Equally stupid is the fact that nowadays, parental acceptance of a similarly healthy, positive relationship would be looked at as child neglect.

    Incidentally, along with the mentioned problems with registries, in Louisiana anyone convicted of prostitution must register as s sex-offender. Stupidity begets stupidity, it seems.

  21. marie May 22, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

    Um… Ms. Internet Savvy (me) posted the wrong link to her own blog. Click my name…that will get you there. Apologies, Lenore, for advertising mine on yours.

  22. Christine May 22, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

    People, listen up as Lenore has pointed out this does NOT save anyone. Did it save the three young girls who were just found in Cleveland. He WAS a friend of the family. You all need to wake up because your child could be next. The states get bribes called the Byrne Grant for putting all these people on the registry, Florida is the worse.
    If you meet a sex offender, or they move on your street don’t be afraid to ask him what he or she did because they will tell you the truth.
    Yes, there are those evil monsters, but not as many as you think. Even with the registry children are getting molested by those closest to them. We have turned our nation into a sexual one and now we are punishing those who are curious on the internet, having sex, and sending naked pictures back and forth.
    We NEED to make commotion. Join is at Women Against the Registry July 2014 in DC and let your voices be heard this is insane.

  23. Warren May 22, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    @TaraK

    You actually check the registry?

    Honestly, I do not know if it was my upbringing, or my confidence in my parenting, or my confidence in my kids, probably a combination of them all, but I have never checked, thought of checking, or ever thought of sex offenders. We have moved a few times with the kids, and the thought of sex offenders never once crossed my mind. When my kids are out and about, I cannot ever once remember thinking about sex offenders, or kidnappers, or any of it.
    Just like in storms, not once have I ever thought I or my family might get hit by lightening. And considering my girls and I love to sit on the porch and watch a good storm……….

    How do parents function when they are thinking about these awful things, is beyond me.

  24. Chuck May 22, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    The best way to make progress on this issue is to rebrand proponents of the registry (in its current form) as vigilantes and sex offender law reformers as seekers of child abuse prevention. I believe the evidence will back up the claim.

  25. a grateful mom May 22, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    I do check the registry, out of a morbid curiosity. My zip code has 88 registered sex offenders, including my husband. (After being kicked out of an apartment complex in the suburbs because threats were made against our family and the management “couldn’t protect us,” just months after my husband appeared on the registry, we moved to an inner city and have been extremely happy here.) As far as I can tell, less than a quarter committed violent crimes, and of those violent crimes, less than half were against children. Nearly all of the men are on for statutory offenses.

    TaraK, I’m surprised the registry in your area provides information about victims: I’ve never heard of that happening. Here is, in it’s entirety, what is listed under the offense information for my husband: “Comp-Net-Comm./To Do Crime – Max > 2 Yrs < 4 Yrs" Super informative, I know! I'm not sure how anybody could ascertain anything about the details of the crime from what they list.

    I would hope, personally, that anybody with questions would come to us and ask about it. I've had, on rare occasions, neighbors do that. We've gone out for a beer, discussed, the situation, and had no problem. Once that's done, people have been cool with their kids coming over, etc. And, if somebody decided they weren't okay with us, that's fine, too; it's their choice. And if they don't want to talk to us, that's fine, as well. But what I don't think is okay is people making threats against our family, or spreading rumors, or harassing us, without ever having bothered to have the guts and decency to talk to us face to face, to find out who we are as people. Thankfully, our only negative experience was that one in the suburbs. But, still, if you are concerned about these things, and do check the registry, in many cases it's probably worth it to sit down with the person and talk to them, especially if the offense is one you don't understand or that happened long ago.

  26. anonymous this time May 22, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

    In the name of safety, we purposely disorient ourselves to focus on the things that are posing the least amount of threat to us.

    This, in a nutshell, is North American culture.

  27. marie May 22, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

    The best way to make progress on this issue is to rebrand proponents of the registry (in its current form) as vigilantes and sex offender law reformers as seekers of child abuse prevention.

    YES. The sex offender registry is a great place to find a list of people unlikely to commit a sex crime.

    And that is true.

  28. Ken Hagler May 22, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

    I checked the registry for my neighborhood in LA once to see if it was really as bad as I’d heard. Sure enough, over 95% of the people one there were convicted of having consensual sex with their girlfriends when they were teenagers.

    Note also that LA has a lot of immigrants, and California’s age of consent (18) is significantly higher than much of the world.

  29. Natalie May 22, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    A grateful mom-

    I admire your ability to think rationally even though you personally are affected. keeping things in perspective will convince more people of your plight, and the plight of others, rather than sloganeering. You’re very well spoken (written?),

    I also think this issue is going to come to a head at some point in the future and force politicians to act. The ny times and other major news outlets have written about it several times in the past few years and rights groups are targeting the injustice of the registry.

    It’s become a human rights issue and it just needs more awareness, like any other problem which people don’t see because it doesn’t affect them directly.

    After a time it will affect a critical mass in which people will likely know the person on the registry, have their pocketbooks hit in housing costs, witness the ridiculousness of the regulations firsthand, or think to themselves that they’ve done something similar, but just didn’t get caught, and didn’t realize that a small offense would carry such a steep price.

    And then politicians will be forced to act.

    I wonder if there are similar issues in history to look at for guidance. Such as the treatment of inmates and the progress in making their living conditions more humane over the years. I’m not saying that everyone on the registry qualifies for jail time, I use it as an example of a segment of the population which has a stigma against it, and were subjected to horrible conditions until regulations were made to change that. Who/what inspired the change?

  30. Warren May 22, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

    Honestly, I do not understand the need to check the registry before or after you move, or periodically throughout the year.

    Please can some parent give me a reasonable reason to check the registry. I just do not understand it.

  31. ROXANNE May 22, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

    Love this article, but as usual the very serious problem of false allegations is not mentioned. I think it would be a service to the public to categorize registrants as to why each is on the registry, for example, consensual teen relationship, falsely accused, sting, etc. FYI for naysayers, not all registrants say they were falsely accused, but from my own investigating the percent is about 40%, National innocence projects across the country put the number between 65 and 95%. SCARY…This article also fails to mention that our justice system is corrupt, especially in Texas. Most Americans have no clue how a person goes from accused to indicted to convicted felon. Most think prosecutors are god, and only try a person if they have hard evidence. That is a big, big myth. Prosecutors are rotten to the core. They have put innocent people to death with no accountability for doing it, and they continue to do while knowing we are figuring out their scam.

  32. Mollie May 22, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    http://voices.yahoo.com/man-grabs-girls-arm-now-hes-sex-offender-112812.html

    I read the above mentioned article when it first happened in 2005. I was shocked then and remain Shocked that this could happen in a Free Country.
    Truly, the Sex offender Laws and the scares that arrive as a result of the Media, Politicans and the scare tatics they use are causing more problems than most with the “SO ” title.
    The smart ones are running free. Look as how long Castro kept the Three “neighborhood” Kids with no one knowing anything but, he accused his ex’s Husband of molesting his Children and the ex’s Husband is in Prison for 26 years.
    So many things about these Laws are unfair.

  33. Bill K May 22, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    So far here in Canada we’ve been spared most of the hysteria about sex offender fears. But our scandal-ridden right-wing federal government has been talking about building more jails and locking up pot growers, and they can’t be far from adopting American sex offender regulations to put up a smokescreen over their many scandals. Like several posters pointed out, it’s really hard to win elected office by being sane on crime.

    I haven’t been able to express it exactly, but sex-offender hysteria and locking down children are the two sides of the same ill-thought-out coin, and I’m happy that Lenore has been speaking out against the registry.

    Russell Banks’ “Lost Memory of Skin” is a great read on this subject, btw. I read that and Adam Gopnick’s New Yorker article on the American Gulag the same month, and realized what kind of boiling pot of water Americans have been sitting in since the Nixon years.

  34. ROXANNE May 22, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

    I would say to all parents who have male children. Warn them about false allegations. Brian Banks story is a great story to learn about that from. Also, watch documentaries that are about prosecutorial misconduct like Witchunt, My Brothers Keeper, Reckless Indifference, The Child Cases(Frontline), The Confessions(Frontline), The Thin Blue Line, Paradise Lost. There are some good Youtube videos of women who lost their children after accusing dad of child molestation also, none from Texas coincidently.

  35. a grateful mom May 22, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

    Roxanne, I’d say false allegations aren’t the only thing parents should warn male children about. If you actually look at the law, there is very little a person can do sexually with a person under 18–even if they are under 18 themselves–that isn’t illegal, now that we live in a computer-based age. Laws against computer sex crimes (which, ironically, often carry much heavier penalties than actual contact sex crimes) often are written to define anybody under 18 as a child, especially if an image is involved.

    So it creates a crazy situation where, if you have an 19 year old son with a 16 or 17 year old girlfriend, the two of them can legally have sex in many states, but if they were to discuss the possibility of having sex via e-mail, a sex crime would have occurred. He could, in person, look at and touch her naked breasts all he wanted, but if he were to take a topless picture of her with his phone, he’d be a child pornographer in possession of child pornography and facing very serious felony charges. Sure, it makes no sense, but this is how the law works right now.

    I don’t think many young people are aware of how serious these internet-based sex crimes are, or how many activities they probably consider completely normal and safe are in fact serious felonies that could get them, in many states, branded as sex offenders for decades or life.

    It is indeed a dangerous time to be a teen, but not for the reasons most people think. I find it appalling, honestly, that we have PSAs warning people against the dangers of DUIs and pirachy and urging them not to commit those offences, but NOTHING warning teens and young adults about sex offenses, particularly internet-based ones (especially since many people still think the internet is an anything-goes playground), when so many people are affected by these laws. We have ad campaigns warning people that drinking and driving will get you arrested but nothing warning people that, under the law in many states, having sex with somebody who has been drinking–even if they don’t seem drunk, even if you don’t know they had been drinking, even if they eagerly participate in or even initiate the encounter–is legally considered rape. People just have NO IDEA, and if they know these things are illegal, they have absolutely no idea how serious these crimes are considered. My husband thought it was possible that his actions were a crime–although, he mostly thought he’d have to actually have sexual contact with a real person for it to be a crime–but he figured it would be, at worst, a minor slap on the wrist, the kind of citation you might get for driving too fast or having an open container of beer at the park. After all, it was just words, just thoughts. To say he was completely floored when he learned he had committed an incredibly serious felony and threatened with 24 years in prison if he went to trial is a huge understatement.

    People need to know these things. Parents need to know, teens need to know, young adults need to know. These aren’t “Sure, it’s illegal, but nobody really cares *wink wink*” crimes anymore, the way statutory crimes have generally been considered. These crimes are now being zealously pursued, millions and millions of dollars of government money (including Homeland Security funds) are being poured into local governments running sting operations online to catch people who would even toy with the idea of potentially committing a non-violent statutory sex offense (although, of course, they call them “child predators,” not mentioning they caught them in ADULT chat rooms while posting as post-pubescent teens eager to engage in sexual with older guys), and the consequences for these crimes are becoming more serious each year.

    If people think these policies can’t affect their families, they are wrong. All your teen or young adult child needs to do is have one conversation where they say the wrong thing to the wrong person, download one wrong torrent from a free file-sharing program, take one picture of one classmate in a state of undress at a party. That’s it. That is all it takes to become a pariah for life in this country today.

  36. Lila Williams Folster May 22, 2013 at 6:35 pm #

    I wish I had known HOW to warn my son. When he fell in love hard for the first time, I had no idea his girlfriend was underage. She looked and acted every bit of the 16 that she swore she was.

    She hung out with her sister and her friends and fit right in with the group.

    It is a hard and bitter pill to swallow when a girl purposely falsifies her age because she fears he wouldn’t look at her twice if he knew how old she really was. I don’t blame her, because she had no idea what the consequences would be for my son and he bears her no ill will either. It was just a situation that never should have occurred.

    He makes no attempt to meet anyone or form any relationships because he does not want to impose his punishments on someone he wants to spend his life with.

    It is hard to watch your child struggle, no matter how old they are. But even harder to watch when they are punished for something they had no idea was a criminal situation, especially when it will harshly impact the rest of their life.

  37. a grateful mom May 22, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

    Last comment, I promise ;):

    The other thing I think many teens and young adults mistakenly think is that non-violent statutory sex crimes are only considered serious when committed by creepy old men. They think that, sure, if some 50 year old dude is talking about sex with a 15 year old in a sex chat room, that might be something the police take seriously, but *they* are only 19 or 20 or 25, so of course it won’t be considered a big deal. Okay, if some 45 year old dude is sending pictures of his weiner to 16 year old girls, maybe he’ll get in trouble, but if it’s one of her classmates, then he’ll be fine. If a 68 year old man is looking at pictures of naked teen girls online, they might consider him a sex offender, but not if the guy doing the looking is just a college student.

    Wrong. Completely wrong. These laws do not care whether you are 19 or 69. My husband erroneously believed, even after he had been handcuffed, that once they learned he was only 25, he’d be let go; obviously they were looking for, like, 55 year old men who had stashes of child porn and made a career out of seeking out teen girls, not guys who were young, had never communicated with an actual teen online, had no images of any minors, and were obviously not pedophiles or predators. He was wrong. He was treated just as harshly as the 55 and 60 year old men arrested in the same sting; the several 19 year old guys who were arrest in the same sting were also treated no differently.

    Law enforcement doesn’t care; they want arrests. They will treat a high school student, a college student, a young adult, just as harshly as they will treat a middle-aged man or an elderly person. They will treat a 4 or 8 or 10 year age difference no differently than they treat a 40 year age difference.

    Young people need to know this. Their parents need to know. Their youth is no defense, and it will not save them, or even spare them a little. I have no doubt that even many young people who *do* know how many sexual activities, especially online, are illegal still naively, wrongly believe that, because they aren’t some creepy old guy, the law wouldn’t be applied against them. They are completely wrong, and our sex offender registries are filled with examples of people who prove they are wrong.

  38. oncefallendotcom May 22, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

    I noticed, Lenore, you posted a screenshot from Family Watchdog rather then the official state sex offender registry. The state registry doesn’t use red dots or, from iPhone mapping software, the menacing face icons.

    The fact that people confuse a private business like Family Watchdog with the real registry is a problem in itself. In Russell Banks’s book Lost Memory of Skin, based of the Julia Tuttle Causeway sex offender camp in Miami, he referred to Family Watchdog as the “national sex offender registry.” Wrong. Family watchmutt is a for-profit list.

    Today, the case of Kaitlyn Hunt is making headlines. Notice that once again in the media, we have a cute, white, blonde victim. Only this time, the perpetrator is the US “justice” system.

  39. oncefallendotcom May 22, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

    I noticed, Lenore, you posted a screenshot from Family Watchdog rather then the official state sex offender registry. The state registry doesn’t use red dots or, from iPhone mapping software, the menacing face icons.

    The fact that people confuse a private business like Family Watchdog with the real registry is a problem in itself. In Russell Banks’s book Lost Memory of Skin, based of the Julia Tuttle Causeway sex offender camp in Miami, he referred to Family Watchdog as the “national sex offender registry.” Wrong. Family watchmutt is a for-profit list.

    Today, the case of Kaitlyn Hunt is making headlines. Notice that once again in the media, we have a cute, white, blonde victim. Only this time, the perpetrator is the US “justice” system. The registry needs to be abolished.

  40. Donald May 22, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

    If the sex offender registry destroys the lives of thousands but saves one child, it’s worth it. I don’t want to have the guilt of helping to destroy thousands of lives by supporting the registry. Therefore I’ll bury my head in the sand.

  41. Donald May 22, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

    @oncefallendotcom

    Where does Family Watchdog get their data from if not from the official state sex offender registry? I think Lenore showed a good example that the registry is a great source of data for vigilantes. It’s irrelevant that it’s not for profit.

  42. Christine May 22, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

    Here is a link to help with the March on DC for Women Against the Registry
    Please “like” the page to show unity and to increase our numbers for this walk. Every “like” will represent a voice in this movement. We need to encourage others in our lives to “like” this page also.
    https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/END-MASS-Incarceration/514844805218729?fref=ts

    http://womenagainstregistry.org/

    And the government also wants to take our guns to save just one child as well. We need to stop this.

  43. Lila Williams Folster May 22, 2013 at 7:20 pm #

    @Donald I sense some possible sarcasm, but really am not sure what you are trying to say. No one here is burying their heads in the sand.

    Are you saying you know something that experts in the field are not aware of? Or are you saying it is OK to destroy hundreds of thousands of innocent lives in the HOPE that perhaps it MIGHT save one childs life at the expense of all the other children? If you truly want to save children, fund educational programs that teach them how to avoid being raped or molested by those close to them. The registry is doing NOTHING to prevent child sexual abuse.

  44. Jenny Islander May 22, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

    It isn’t uncommon in my town for teenage boys to go pee in the bushes. I think it’s disgusting, but if you spend half of the year at an onshore commercial fishing site buried in the wilderness or on a fishing boat with a tiny bathroom crammed in next to the engine room, I guess you get used to just pointing it away from traffic and going on with your day.

    If my son follows his cousins into summer fishing jobs, he could end up on the goddamn registry should he not be as alone in the woods near the lumberyard as he thinks he is.

    Who would be saved?

  45. Lila Williams Folster May 22, 2013 at 7:33 pm #

    Thank you Jenny.

  46. Donald May 22, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

    …..This is something that will not change. As long as they can still hide behind the “if it saves one child” more and more names will be put on the list…….

    I disagree. People like Lenore are making it so that people will no longer be able to hide behind, ‘If it saves one child…..’

  47. Julie C May 22, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

    My son swims for his high school. This year at the annual big championship meet the organizers (not the high school but the section organizers) decided that any parent working at the meet had to be cleared through some sex offender database (which included giving the database your social security number). If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be allowed to volunteer.

    Just so the stupidity of this is clear, the parents volunteer to be timers. That is, they sit in chairs at the end of a lane (three to a lane) and at the end of the race walk to the edge and push a button when the swimmer touches the wall. So they are in clear view of each other, dozens of other swimmers, coaches, officials, and of course, all the parents and other people sitting in the stands cheering. How in the heck anyone would be able to commit a sex offense against a high school kid while doing that is beyond me.

    Of course, the answer is the powers that be just need to act as though they are “taking action” to protect the children. Dumbest thing I’d heard in a long time.

  48. Sarah in WA May 22, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

    I’ve always disliked the “one child” idea, in other contexts as well.

    When I was in my teaching program, we discussed the idea that some have of, “If I can teach one child something that will help them in their lives, then I’ve done my job.” It’s ridiculous when you really think about it. Really? If you teach only one child out of hundreds then I would say you’re not doing your job! What if doctors said, “If I just save one patient . . .”??

    All children matter, but this is the wrong mentality. It doesn’t make sense to not do things for the greater good. It kind of goes along with “better safe than sorry.” Sometimes that idea makes sense, but often it does not.

  49. Donald May 22, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

    @ Lila
    You’re right. I was being sarcastic. I was not saying

    …..it is OK to destroy hundreds of thousands of innocent lives in the HOPE that perhaps it MIGHT save one childs life at the expense of all the other children…..

    I was saying the opposite of that. My sarcasm was directed at people that do think that it’s OK to do so or bury their head in the sand so they don’t know about the hundreds of thousands of lives that are getting destroyed.

  50. Reziac May 22, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

    There have been proposals for “pet abuser registries” as well…. this concept, once it starts, spreads everywhere. Here are a couple examples of the kinds of “abusers” who could wind up on that list:

    –In California, it is now a *crime* (and prosecutable as “abuse”) to offer an animal for sale in public, unless you’re a shelter.

    –In many locales, having even one dog over the limit or unlicensed is prosecuted as “abuse”.

    As you can see, it’s not the level of “abuse” that’s important; it’s the power of the witch hunt. So it is with “child abuser” and “sex offender” lists as well. They don’t protect; they point fingers and encourage others to destroy.

    The whole thing reminds me of those yellow armbands issued in Germany prior to WW2.

  51. Jill May 22, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

    Thank you Lenore for publishing this. The registry does not save anyone. We just had 2 young girls in Iowa abducted by a registered sex offender. Those 2 girls still ended up missing even though this guy was on the registry. Side note, he had no sex offenses in his history, but had 2 other convictions of kidnapping.

  52. Papilio May 22, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

    This makes me wonder how many people migrate to a less hysterical country (where hunting pedophiles is a police job, and hunting free range parents is not) because they or hubby or daddy is on the SOR.
    Or is leaving the USA also forbidden for these people?

  53. Lila Williams Folster May 22, 2013 at 9:14 pm #

    Papilio, I am sorry to say leaving the USA is pretty much forbidden, considering the fact that anytime we leave home for more than three days we have to have the express permission of the Sheriff in our County and the Sheriff in the county of our destination and either of those authorities can change their mind and revoke that permission at any point in time.

  54. Rachel May 22, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

    Shelly Stow, thank you so much for your sincere post and for shedding light on what is actually happening to people who are on the sex offender list. And thanks to everyone who has shared how this law has been so misguided.

    i don’t want to live in a society that treats innocent people like criminals, and still has no good way of helping violent criminals reform and reintegrate themselves back into society successfully. I plan to write a letter to my elected officials and let them that we need to reform the sex offender laws.

  55. Yan Seiner May 22, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

    @Julie C: my kids swim. So of course I volunteer. Once during a meet there was a boy (young man?) – about 15, with the body of Adonis. This kid has perfect physique. I remarked on this to another parent and was rewarded with the “you @#$%^ perv” look and the parent moved away.

    What a shame we can’t appreciate that our kids have beautiful young bodies, without being labeled as “potential” sex offenders….

  56. a grateful mom May 22, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

    @Papilio: Once a registered sex offender is off parole or probation–it’s important to note that being placed on the registry *isn’t* the punishment for the crime, but a regulation people are required to abide by during and AFTER they have served out their actual criminal sentence–they have so far not been denied their constitutional right to free travel. I’m not sure how long that will last.

    As it stands, my family could, theoretically, leave the country. Many countries do have laws against allowing felons to emigrate, but they also often have exceptions that allow people in if the crime they are convicted of would not be a felony in their country. As far as we know, there is no other country in which my husband’s offense would have been a crime, much less a felony. (Other countries do have statutory offenses, of course, but you have to have actual contact with a minor, and they do NOT run these kinds of wide-net sting operations or have laws that allow them.) So, we are pretty sure that, if we wanted to, we could move to most other nations.

    The problem is 1) moving to another country is expensive, 2) moving to another country is a pretty hard process even in the best of circumstances, and 3) everybody we know and love is here. Plus, our family, like many families where one parent is an RSO, struggles financially (despite having a doctorate, my husband makes $30K year, to support a family of 5), and even saving the money for a move is prohibitive for most SOs.

    Yes, I have days–many of them–when I want to just get in our car, drive to Mexico, and start over. But, at this point, we don’t think that would be fair for our kids, to move them from the only place they’ve known, from their extended family, to make things easier for us. That might change: if laws get more repressive, if public opinion gets more hostile and we feel endangered, we may leave. But, for now, we’re sticking it out.

  57. marie May 22, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

    What a shame we can’t appreciate that our kids have beautiful young bodies, without being labeled as “potential” sex offenders….

    My husband is the one in prison for possession of child porn but I find myself thinking two or three times before letting a comment like that out of my own mouth. My fear is that someone would think, “Oh, her too??”

  58. Lila Williams Folster May 22, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

    So sorry you are made to feel that way Marie and Yan. I hope there will be a point in time where we will all be allowed to feel like “normal” people again. There is nothing wrong with appreciating the beauty in our world, it is the people who react that way that turn even the most innocent observation into a perversion.

  59. Chris Williams May 22, 2013 at 10:25 pm #

    I use to managed a tanning salon for 10 years. I use to have conversations with the teen girls that tanned there talking about going clubbing on the weekend. I asked how they got in, and they replied “fake ID”, all so they could “hook up” with older guys. Little do they know the shit storm this could cause. I also had a customer that was a senior in highschool that was dating a sophomore. They had sexted back and forth a few times while dating and after they broke up, he was showing her pictures to his friends. Well, she found out, told her dad, he called the cops and they arrested the boy for possession of child porn. Well needless to say the boys father knew some people and had charges files against the girl for distribution of child porn. Magically the boys case was dropped, and then the girls also. I teach my kids to be safe and cautious without making them paranoid everywhere they go. I could care less about someone who paid a hooker for sex, or urinated in public, or the highschool senior who had sex with a freshman. I am worried about the ones trying to abduct children or the 50 year olds trying to pick up 14 years olds on the internet. The sex offender list is so saturated with BS it has become useless. My wife and I try to look at the offenders in our neighborhood and judge appropriately by the offense, the persons age at the time of the offense, and the victims age, and how long ago it was.

  60. C.J. May 23, 2013 at 12:38 am #

    The sex offender registry would probably be a much better tool if it only had dangerous sex offenders on it. Urinating in public, teenagers having sex and other “crimes” that get people on the list just make it so when law enforcement need to use the list they have to wade through a bunch of useless information and waste time. I highly doubt that some guy that urinated behind a dumpster is out to rape or molest anyone. The guy (or girl) that molests a child, gets out and does it again should be on the list.

  61. lance mitaro May 23, 2013 at 12:45 am #

    The registry has really gotten too big to the point to where it’s a cottage industry that creates so-called “jobs” that monitor and track non-dangerous individuals that are pawned off to the public as imminent threats to children. I call it a fear-for-profit industry that is shamelessly exploiting people’s fears for profit.

    What to hear about some red state ignorance? Most southern states have “adopted” the AWA and spend millions each year maintaining the costs, but these same states have decaying bridges that are structurally deficient and roads 30 years-years-old without re-surfacing. They’d rather gamble all their money on an ill-conceived magical solution in a “list”, but kids riding in a bus over a bridge with mortar falling out of it is perfectly FINE.

    The registry is just another GovCo house of cards waiting to collapse under it’s own weight. I

  62. Donna May 23, 2013 at 4:24 am #

    I’m not sure what single life a list of names is supposed to save. I don’t think sex offenders actually say “well I was going to molest that child but now I’m on the sex offender registry so I can’t.”

    Names on a list allows sex offenders to be arrested if they go into park, school, etc. but it doesn’t form a impenetrable border around those places. Sex offenders can go there; they are simply subject to arrest IF they get caught. I find it incredulous that people truly believe that a sex offender will readily break the do-not-rape-children rule but meticulously adhere to the do-not-go-to-a-park rule.

    A criminal background check covers schools, daycares, etc. from unwittingly hiring sex offenders as well as a sex offender registry does (even better since it can also flag the murderers, embezzlers, meth dealers, and other people you wouldn’t want to hire to teach kindergarten). Employers either do a background check or do nothing. It is not remotely common for them to not do a criminal background check but still run your name through the sex offender registry. Same with volunteers. My kid’s school doesn’t require background checks for parent volunteers and they also don’t run every parent’s name through the registry. I can’t think of any organization that doesn’t do background checks but does run everyone it deals with through the sex offender registry – except sex offender vigilantes.

  63. a grateful mom May 23, 2013 at 7:35 am #

    @Donna: Actually, many SOs are incredibly impacted, employment-wise, by being on the public registry. Many employers who don’t bother with background checks do do basic web searches, and if you are a sex offender, your offense record is the very first thing that pops up if somebody does a search of your name online. Even if the person is applying for a job that doesn’t involve contact with children, even if their crime was decades ago, even if their crime was a single non-violent non-contact offense, their job search is over. I can tell you that my husband had lost at least 4 potential jobs in the last year–data analysis jobs that would have involved NO contact with children–because of a simple web search done by the prospective employer. If he had pled guilty to wife beating, child beating, drunk driving, drug dealing, or attempted murder 10 years ago, he would have those jobs.

    @CJ: The thing is, even if we’re talking about truly dangerous offenders, the registry doesn’t help. I mean, that’s statistically true, but it also makes common sense. For one thing, most dangerous offenders are NEVER caught, because they are close relatives of their victims and their victims don’t report it. (And I can’t help but think that public registries make a person reporting abuse by a family member even less likely. It would be hard enough to go to the police to report that your father or brother or grandfather molested you, even harder if your report means that your father, brother, or grandfather will be on a sex offender registry available to anybody with an internet connection for decades, a stigma that will not just fall on them, but on you and your entire family.) And, when violent sex offenses against children are actually reported, at this point, those convicted get very long prison terms, sometimes indefinite civil commitment.

    If somebody molests a child, gets out, and molests again, putting them on a registry is not the way to go. They should go back to prison, or to a psychiatric facility, until such a time as they are deemed at a low risk for reoffense. Those considered at a high risk for reoffense just shouldn’t be reintegrated into society.

    That’s the silly part about all of this. The idea that somebody is so dangerous that we need to put them on a public list for decades, so parents can keep their children away, *but* that they should be released from prison, is absurd. If somebody is truly that dangerous, then they shouldn’t be released. If they are safe enough to release, then they shouldn’t be on a registry.

    If you want to hear something ironic, there was NEVER any question about my husband’s fitness to raise his own children. We have three children. When my husband was arrested, I was pregnant with our first. (A shocking number of women I know whose husbands were arrested for internet-based sex crimes were pregnant with their first child at the time of their husband’s arrest. Apparently impending fatherhood is a stressor for many men, and can cause them to act out in stupid, immature, impulsive ways online.) At NO POINT has the state EVER shown any concern for the safety of our children. We have not had a single visit from social services, no home visits at all, nobody has even ever talked to me. My husband’s ability to safely raise his children was never questioned. It was clear from the start that nobody involved in his prosecution, from the police to the DA to the judge to his probation officer, believed he posed any threat, but our state has an offense rather than a risk-based registry, so we were in the bizarre situation where he was deemed, three months after his arrest, entirely safe to be around his newborn baby but 25 years after his offense could be arrested for taking his grandchild to the park.

    It’s also important to note, as I mentioned before, that NO other country has this sort of registry. And yet, children in those other countries are generally safer and have far higher qualities of life. The United States, despite our extensive public sex offender registry (the only other country that has a public registry at all is Australia, and it has less than 100 people on it for the whole nation, as opposed to 750,000 and rapidly growing here), has higher rates of sexual abuse of children than many European countries, even though those countries have no sex offender registries, do not run the kind of internet sting operations we run around “online solicitation” and child pornography, and often have lower ages of consent.

    We are, as Americans, doing this all wrong.

  64. a grateful mom May 23, 2013 at 7:39 am #

    Oh, and @Donna, that’s because of the many sites that aggregate sex offender registry information. The official registry of the state we are in will NOT come up if you do a search of my husband’s name, but the many sites that aggregate that information (sometimes for profit), like Home Facts, Family Watchdog, Busted Offenders, and SOR Archives (not affiliated with the actual official registry) will. So an employer doesn’t have to actually run each name through a registry, they just have to do a basic web search, and these aggregate sites (which often include incomplete, out-of-date, or inaccurate information) will immediately reveal that the person is a registered sex offender, even if the employer doesn’t do criminal background checks.

  65. C. S. P. Schofield May 23, 2013 at 8:44 am #

    Any politician, pundit, activist, or other pillock that uses the phrase “If it saves one _____ , it’s worth it” in public should be skinned alive on national television, rolled in honey, and fed to the ants. The proliferation of laws and regulation that waste lives piecemeal in order to save one life every hundred thousand years is a grave and present danger.

  66. Emily Guy Birken May 23, 2013 at 9:26 am #

    There’s an excellent crime novel by the British author Minette Walters that explores this exact issue. The novel is called Acid Row, and it is about (the British version of) the projects in London. This particular neighborhood is walled, and a man who was placed on the sex offender registry for non-violent and consensual sex play with male minors lives there. This man poses no threat to anyone, but when the neighborhood finds out about his presence there, a riot breaks out. Because the neighborhood is walled, the police contain the riot there, which just makes the situation even more violent and out of control, and three individuals end up dying. (This isn’t a spoiler. The book starts by telling you that three people die).

    In any case, it is an excellent examination of the kind of hysteria that can come about from misinformation, particularly from loaded topics like the sex offender registry. What’s really interesting in this book is that there are no truly evil characters (with one exception–and he is not known to the riot instigators). All of these people truly just want the best for themselves and their families and they get caught up in paranoia, hysteria, and the resulting violence.

    If you’re interested: http://www.amazon.com/Acid-Row-Minette-Walters/dp/0515135828

    Also, don’t start reading it unless you have an afternoon to spare. You won’t be able to put it down.

  67. Karen May 23, 2013 at 10:38 am #

    I had lunch yesterday with an older friend of mine. Her wedding anniversary is coming up. She was remembering fondly how she and her husband met: when they were freshmen in college. She was 17 and he was 23, a recently returned WWII veteran on the GI bill. Her parents were very uncomfortable with their relationship at first–they worried about their innocent daughter dating an experienced man of the world. But eventually they came around and the couple married in their junior year–at 19 and 25. He became an internationally known professor. She became an elementary school teacher and later administrator in one of the best school districts in our state. Now: imagine this same scenario playing out today. The hesitant parents have Mr. 23-year-old arrested as a sexual predator. The couple either breaks up, or if they hang in there, they are forced to follow career paths that keep them far away from students of any kind. Sad, yes?

  68. Dave May 23, 2013 at 11:06 am #

    Truth will win out in the end. More posts like this. We must keep pounding the truth that the lists don’t work and in fact hurt many. If the justification for the list is to save one child what is the justification for ruining the life of a child. Seems a bit inconsistent.

  69. Tsu Dho Nimh May 23, 2013 at 11:39 am #

    Ariel Castro, who kidnapped and held three teednagers for a decade, was not on the list … yet a stupid teenager who waggled his penis at a cop (kid was drunk and peeing in public) is on the list.

  70. Reziac May 23, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    For those who think “sex offender hysteria” is a “red state” issue:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McMartin_preschool_trial

  71. Reziac May 23, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    Also, this mentality of “if one child is saved that’s worth 100,000 ruined lives” is counter to what our entire system of justice is founded on, to wit:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackstone%27s_formulation

    “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”

  72. Dawn Marcotte May 23, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

    I am appalled to find out that people are still actively using this list. I had thought (obviously incorrectly) that people were aware that the list is not exclusive to active, violent predators. I completely agree that parents need to be vigilant, but they need to be vigilant about the people the kids come in contact with daily, not strangers.

  73. Donna May 23, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

    @a grateful mom – I don’t doubt being on the registry impacts job prospects. Frankly, ANY felony conviction seriously impacts your job prospects. If you think convicted murderers, thieves and drug dealers are regularly getting jobs as data-analysts, you are crazy. It is a buyers market in the job world and felons are not getting hired over the hundreds of others who apply for every job. Being a convicted murderer may be easier to hide from prospective employers than being a convicted sex offender but prospective employers are not readily hiring either of them.

    The point was that the registry is not necessary to keep dangerous people from working with children. A criminal background check and google serves the same purpose (for a small fee, there are agencies that can check every state for criminal history if you want that in depth). And they are actually more inclusive since I don’t want a person convicted of selling crack last year teaching my child any more than I want a convicted child molester teaching my child. Or a convicted embezzler handling my money. And so on.

    FYI, an argument that sex offender registries provide more protection for employers is not helping your case here. Arguing that there are other ways to get the exact same information without a public registry might convince some people to agree with doing away with the registry. Arguments that sex offender registries make it harder to hide convictions that would make employers not want to hire you doesn’t really get you anywhere.

  74. Maggie May 23, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    Registries would be unnecessary if we had more sense of community. Growing up in a small town, there were men that “everybody knew” young girls weren’t safe around, many of whom had never been convicted of anything and wouldn’t have been on a registry anyway, and people warned their kids to stay away and warned newcomers to the community. As an adult and a parent, I have moved frequently (military family) into neighborhoods where the neighbors didn’t make any effort to welcome us or get to know us. I checked the registries, knowing that not everyone listed was dangerous, and knowing there may be people not on the registry that were dangerous to my kids. I checked so I could prevent known offenders from becoming friendly with my children.

  75. Maggie May 23, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    @Dawn, when a family moves to a new neighborhood, the neighbors ARE people that children will come into contact with, especially for those of us who actually let our kids play outside without a bodyguard and GPS tracker 😉

  76. a grateful mom May 23, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

    @Donna, that’s not exactly accurate. There are, thankfully, many employers who are realizing that criminal background checks that are not related to the job are not only unnecessary, but discriminatory (because minorities are so wildly over-represented among those with felony convictions) and are either not doing background checks at all or only asking about convictions within the last 5 years.

    Two of the jobs my husband had interviewed for explicitly stated that they did not do criminal background checks; one did checks five years back. (The other was for a mortgage company, and we learned that mortgage companies are, across the board, barred from hiring anybody with a felony, which is a different situation.) It wasn’t a criminal background check that revealed his offense, but a basic web search, which is common practice in HR. They can’t, of course, officially say that’s why he didn’t get the job, because, as per their policy of not doing criminal background checks, that would be discrimination, but it was obvious that was the case. If he had, a decade ago, been convicted of any other type of offense–or even if he had been convicted of the same offense in one of the states where it would not have landed him on the public registry (like MN or NY or NJ or OR or CT)–he would have been offered the jobs. People who had a drug conviction a decade ago would indeed have gotten the job, because a drug conviction does not, at this point, show up on a public registry accessible through a Google search (and hopefully never will).

    Personally, I’d have no problem with somebody with a drug conviction teaching my children. It’s unlikely that somebody who was convicted of selling crack a year ago would be out of prison, so their teaching a child would be a non-issue. But once that person has served their criminal sentence, I personally would have no objection to their returning to teaching, or feel that my children were in danger. It’s not like they’d be selling crack in the classroom.

    We are the only country in the entire world where employers routinely run the kind of background checks (criminal records and often credit reports) they do on employees, for jobs where there is no reasonable way to make it an issue. No other countries hands employers so much power and prospective employees so little protection. I was denied a job at the bookstore of my local university because, due to my student loan debt, I have terrible credit, and the corporation that owns the bookstore will not hire anybody with a credit score below a certain number (AFAIK, no other nation in the world does credit checks before hiring somebody). Later that year, that same university hired me as an instructor. Apparently, I was not responsible enough to sell books to the students, but am responsible enough to teach them. This is the country we live in.

    We have no idea, as Americans, how messed up our country is. We have no idea that, in other countries, criminal background checks as a routine condition for being hired are unheard of. For specific jobs, they will happen–teaching children, care of vulnerable populations, etc. For other jobs, no. We have no idea. We take it for granted that the way we do things is normal and necessary. It’s not. People in other countries are safer and happier than we are, and generally live with lower crime rates, even though their employers and landlords aren’t doing criminal background checks.

  77. marie May 23, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

    I checked so I could prevent known offenders from becoming friendly with my children.

    Maggie, what does it mean to “prevent known offenders from becoming friendly with my children”? All known offenders which would be everyone on the registry…or do you try to figure out who is not dangerous? Do you keep your kids from everyone at the registrant’s house or do you tell them they can play with the kids and they can accept cookies from the mom, but don’t let the dad get friendly with you?

    My husband will be on the registry when he’s home, so I’d like to know how you decide who your children should avoid. If not everyone on the registry is dangerous, as you said, where is your cutoff point? Or do you save yourself time by simply avoiding all registered offenders…just in case? Does it simplify things to keep your kids away from the registrant’s kids?

  78. Jenny Islander May 23, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

    @A Grateful Mom: Good point. I used to work for a criminal background check company. They would send local contractors to the courthouse in every city for which the applicant listed a previous address. But they only ever wanted to know about cases that had been closed within the past 7 years. Unless the specific offense was something like “Minor In Possession (3rd or Subsequent Offense),” the company had no way of knowing whether there were any cases prior to that 7-year period.

    But if my son does something stupid that involves his penis, no matter how trivial, it could follow him around for the rest of his life.

  79. Papilio May 23, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

    I discovered the other day that having intercourse with someone under 16 is still illegal under Dutch law (up to 8 years in prison or a big fine! And up to 12 years and a huge fine when the kid was under 12 – that part I get).
    That was a surprise, because I have never ever heard of people getting convicted for having consensual sex with a teen.
    So I asked a renowned centre of expertise on sexual and reproductive health and rights about that inconsistency. I got a very short answer stating that when the sex was consensual, the age difference small and the relationship loving, it hardly ever gets punished.
    What a huge difference between law and reality!

  80. Donna May 23, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

    @Papillo – That is true everywhere. There are thousands of crimes on the books that are never prosecuted.

    In my state, fornication (sex between unmarried people) and adultery are still crimes. We occasionally get teens charged with fornication in juvenile court and they are made to take a sex ed class called Baby Think it Over (with the whole mechanical baby thing). But I’ve NEVER seen an adult prosecuted for either crime.

  81. Warren May 23, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    @Maggie

    You stated that you know not all those registered are dangerous, and that there are dangerous people not on the registry. So by checking the registry, what exactly are you accomplishing?

  82. John Davis May 23, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    There has been some discussion about the imposition of registration requirements on ex-offenders who had completed their sentences prior to passage of the registration act. The Constitution prohibits “an ex post facto law that renders new or additional criminal punishment for a prior act.” To do so deprives the individual of guaranteed due process. It can certainly be argued that registration is an additional punishment in such cases, and may even be double jeopardy. I’m not aware of the findings of the courts in cases like this, but on the surface they would appear unconstitutional.

  83. a grateful mom May 23, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

    The other issue about using the registry to decide who is dangerous is that it’s often really, really hard to decipher by an offense’s name or number what the person actually did.

    You’ll very rarely see, for example, “statutory rape” listed as a charge. People who commit statutory crimes are convicted under other names, like “second degree criminal sexual conduct” or “third degree sexual assault,” classifications that includes a wide range of offenses, some forcible and some not. (FWIW, our university blotter a while back listed somebody convicted of 4th degree criminal sexual conduct. His action? While he was drunk outside a frat party, he hugged a same-age female classmate and, during the hug, his hands strayed to her butt and he copped a feel. That is, in our state, a misdemeanor sex offense that lands one of the sex offender registry for 15 years. She dropped the charges, but if she hadn’t, he’d have been a sex offender for a decade and a half.)

    But “4th degree criminal sexual conduct” is much vaguer and sounds much worse than “once copped a feel of the butt of a 21 year old peer at a party.” Even “statutory rape” sounds better, or at least more descriptive, than “third degree criminal sexual conduct.”

    If you want to know something totally bizarre, in our state, my husband’s original charge (there were two, this one and the use of a comp to commit a crime charge, but they dropped the more serious one when he pled) was “child sexually abusive activity.” “Child sexually abusive activity” is a catch-all charge that covers everything from molesting a child to producing child pornography to, in my husband’s case, engaging in explicit chats with an undercover officer pretending to be a willing 15 year old. The bizarre part is that, if he’d have engaged in explicit sexual talk IN REAL LIFE with an actual teenager, his charge would have been “attempted fourth degree criminal sexual conduct,” which is a misdemeanor. Even if he’d have had actual sex with an actual 15 year old, he’d have been charged with “third degree criminal sexual conduct,” which sounds, IMO, *much* less serious that “child sexually abusive activity.” If I saw “child sexually abusive activity” listed on a registry, I’d assume somebody engaged in contact sexual abuse with a prepubescent minor, not that they engaged in explicit chats with an undercover over posing as a willing post-pubescent teen.

    So, point is, I’m not sure how anybody can determine who is or is not dangerous from the registry, unless they live in one of the few states, like MN, where only violent and/or repeat offenders are listed. (As a point of comparison, MN, which only lists violent and/or repeat offenders, has about 3,000 people on their public registry; MI, which lists all sex offenders on the public registry, has nearly 50,000 people on its public list.) Even then, I’m not saying everybody listed in dangerous, but at least you’d have some basis for knowing something about the type of crime they committed.

    The way laws are written and classified, it would be incredibly difficult to figure out what somebody actually did just by looking at their registry information.

  84. Donna May 23, 2013 at 5:45 pm #

    @a grateful mom –

    You are again missing the point. The point is not that employers should do background checks or that they should discriminate against any criminals. It is that a major argument used in favor of sex offender registries is that they prevent places like schools and daycares from hiring sex offenders to work with children. This is a concern for the vast majority of Americans. Telling them it should not be a concern will get you nowhere.

    However, personal information is readily available concerning most people with a few key strokes on the computer. Schools, daycares and other entities who want the information can have it and with very little effort. It just isn’t that hard in this digital age.

    You have an impossible battle convincing people that they shouldn’t be worried about convicted sex offenders working in schools and daycares. You have a much better chance of convincing people that kids can still be safe from convicted child molesters working in their schools without sex offender registries because there are many, less public ways, of getting this same information.

    “Personally, I’d have no problem with somebody with a drug conviction teaching my children. It’s unlikely that somebody who was convicted of selling crack a year ago would be out of prison”

    Clearly you don’t know drug dealers and drug sentences.

    A drug offense is considered a low level crime and our prisons are waaaaaay too full to lock up every drug dealer. A criminal sentence for a drug dealer is often just probation. If they do get prison, it is generally just a slap on the wrist. They might even get what appears to be a long prison sentence, but in reality is nothing more than a few months in confinement and many years on parole. I had a client charged with trafficking cocaine who was back in jail charged again with trafficking cocaine right about 2 years after the first arrest, despite receiving a 10 year prison sentence the first time.

    It is perfectly reasonable to expect a drug dealer to be out and about in less than a year. Do I want that person then teaching my kid? No way. Some time later after when whatever issues lead to them selling drugs have been resolved? Sure. I certainly don’t believe in holding anything against anybody for life. I do think that recent criminal behavior such as this is problematic and indicative of issues that need to be addressed before the person should be molding young minds.

  85. Donna May 23, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

    @John Davis – That issue has been addressed by the courts, including the Supremes I believe. It has been ruled the sex offender registry is regulatory and not punitive, therefore, ex post facto prohibitions don’t apply. Hopefully, the issue will be addressed again and the Court will have the balls to overrule itself.

  86. Warren May 23, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

    Donna,
    Do you think that the Supreme Courts rulings on regulatory and not punitive, were actually based in law, or fear of public backlash/public opinion?

  87. brian Brown May 23, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

    Drunk drivers kill over 5,000 children per year. We should outlaw alcohol. If it saves just one child . . .

  88. Kathy May 23, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

    My son has been on the list for 16 years. He had consensual sex with an underage teenager. He did 2 years in prison and 3 on parole. That was 16 years ago. When he got out it was easy for him to get a job. He kept moving up and trying to better himself financially. He finally was making good money, bought a house, boat, and his home was the only stable home his son had. One day a police officer knocked on the door and told him to move out. Said he was too close to school property. We measured it and it was over 1,000′ but the officer said “it’s as the bird flies”. They treated him like crap when he went to the police station to register so he went to the State Police Office instead, When he got out of prison, every sex offender was sentenced tp 25 years on the list There were no tiers in MI. He was fired from is job and applied for hundreds but no one will hire him. He moved out of state and then MI changed there laws and he was told he was a tier III Sexual Predator. I thought he’d kill himself. In fact, I almost committed suicide. The law he was convicted of doesn’t exist anymore. He was convicted of stat rape with no force, assault or coercion. His psychological report lists him as a ver low risk of reoffending. Michigan says he’s the worst. My grandson is homeless. What’s the point of living if you are punished for the rest of your life. My son used to be outgoing and had many hobbies and interests. He’s afraid to go anywhere. Will not eat in a restaurant. Will not leave his house if someone is sitting in a car on the street. He gets extremely depressed every time he goes to register because they send his piicture out to his neighbors. The state says my son is the worst of the worst. He’s the least of anyone’s worries, but try telling that to the legislators. My thoughts go out to everyone with a family member in this situation.

  89. Donna May 23, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

    Warren – Difficult question. The Supreme Court Justices are appointed for life and rarely fear public backlash. They are also members of society and have many of the same personal biases as the rest of the society in which they live. Since cases don’t make it to the Supreme Court without having serious legal issues on both sides, personal biases are always at play.

    There are definitely instances where the Supreme Court strictly followed the law, even against public opinion and their own personal biases. There are definitely instances where it is clear that the decision was made first and then justification was sought. Where this decision falls, I can’t know without reading it and I haven’t done that in a while.

  90. a grateful mom May 23, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    Re: SCOTUS, the 2003 ruling was 5-4, so 4 justices, even at the time, thought the registry was punitive. And, it’s important to realize that, in 2003, the law they were looking at was simply a “mail in the postcard once a year and have your name and address on a website” deal. I’m not saying that was great or non-punitive, but having the ONLY requirement placed upon you be mailing in a postcard once a year isn’t particularly arduous.

    In the ensuing decade, there have been SO MANY regulations added in different states. SOs now face restrictions on where they can live and where they can work; being barred from parks, schools, playgrounds, movie theaters, and other places where children may congregation; being unable to “loiter” (which is not clearly defined and can involve things like attending a church service or hanging out on a friend’s porch) with “safety zones” of 1000 or so feet around a school or day care center (even if they have no idea that school or day care center is there); having to stand in line in front of a police station numerous times per year, often for hours at a time; yearly “registration fees”; and being barred from having e-mail or social media accounts. Violating any of those conditions, even when an SO is entirely free from criminal supervision (having successfully completed their parole or probation), can result in a new felony charge and prison terms of two years or more.

    This is a MUCH different situation than was the case in 2003. In the current case, SCOTUS isn’t considering whether the registry is punitive or not–that’s not the central issue–so things probably won’t change. But, other state rulings have indicated that courts can look at the aggregate of restrictions placed upon a person, rather than having to evaluate one restriction at a time, to determine if the registry is civil or punitive. And I think it will, especially as things get worse and more and more restrictions are placed on sex offenders, even decades after they committed their offense, be very hard to maintain that it’s simply a civil requirement, like getting a driver’s license, and not a system of extralegal, ex post facto punishment.

  91. Maggie May 23, 2013 at 9:21 pm #

    @Brian, forget booze, cars period are a leading cause of child deaths. Why not ban the operation of private motor vehicles?

  92. a grateful mom May 23, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

    @Kathy, I have heard too many stories like that, of people who were making themselves a better life, and then new restrictions were placed on SOs that caused them to lose their home and/or jobs, and it was all downhill from there.

    We are also in MI, and it is a TERRIBLE state to be a registered sex offender. I hope we can move to a saner state soon.

    I can see that easily happening to us. When my husband was released from probation, we had NO restrictions. In fact, even on probation, he was granted permission by the judge and by his probation officers to go to parks and playgrounds if he was with his infant son. They wanted him to be fully involved in his son’s life, knew he didn’t pose a threat, and didn’t want his son’s life limited by his father’s crime. At the time, they had the discretion to decide that.

    Then, in just the last few years, restriction after restriction began popping up. Suddenly my husband can’t go to a play at his son’s school. Suddenly he can’t go grocery shopping at a store within 1000 feet of a day care center. Suddenly he can’t take his two younger children to a park or playground. These laws do not allow for discretion, and they do not take into consider the nature of a person’s offense, how long it has been since the offense, or the risk of reoffense. At the very least, I suppose, MI law allows for SOs to drop off or pick up their own child from school (but not any other child, even with that other child’s parent’s permission) and to attend a school conference (but not a school event); there are states that don’t have that exemption, and men who committed a single, non-violent statutory offense in their 20s could be arrested, two decades later, for dropping their child off at school.

    I’m so sorry your family is going through this, too.

  93. Donna May 23, 2013 at 10:55 pm #

    “SCOTUS, the 2003 ruling was 5-4, so 4 justices, even at the time, thought the registry was punitive.”

    Actually, it was 6-3 decision. Only the 3 most liberal justices at the time thought the law was punitive. A couple of the players have changed but the Court hasn’t become substantially more liberal in the intervening 10 years.

    Having just reread the ruling, there is some indication that some of the current parts of sex offender registry laws (where you can live, work, play, etc) may be considered punitive by the current Court but I don’t see any reason to believe that there will be a wholesale change in the view on the regulatory nature of a publicly available list of sex offenders. While that would certainly help with the more onerous parts of the law to some extent, it won’t stop the discrimination that accompanies being on the registry.

  94. marie May 23, 2013 at 11:37 pm #

    One day a police officer knocked on the door and told him to move out.

    That is a chilling sentence.

    Kathy, I am so sorry about your son…I am just so sorry. Your heart must break again every single day, watching him suffer. If only others would recognize the courage it takes for SOs to try to live as normally as possible.

  95. Warren May 23, 2013 at 11:39 pm #

    Have heard stories of those on the list having owned homes for years, but being forced to move because a park, or school is being built near them. That has definitely got to be considered punitive. Especially conidering the full disclosure rules for real estate.
    Why are you selling?
    Well you see I am a convicted sex offender, on the registry, and I can no longer live here because of the new park being built.

  96. a grateful mom May 24, 2013 at 12:55 am #

    @Donna, I’m not sure I’m the one who’s missing the point, re: employment. I certainly never said that schools should not run background checks. In fact, I used schools as an example of a place where there is a valid reason for doing a background check. Obviously, for some jobs–like teaching children–there is a very, very valid reason for doing criminal background checks. Those will be–and I’ve worked as a substitute teacher, so I know this–very thorough checks done through the FBI that involve fingerprinting and extensive nation-wide records searching. A public sex offender registry is not required to do such checks, because a sex offense will be listed on a person’s criminal history anyway. We don’t need a public registry of drunk drivers to make sure that a person with a DUI conviction isn’t driving a school bus, right? That school district just needs to do a criminal background check, and can exclude anybody who had a DUI. That’s fine. But, if that person with a DUI wants to work as a dishwasher at a local steakhouse, and that steakhouse doesn’t do criminal background checks, then that person’s DUI conviction should not prevent them from getting that job. Does that make sense?

    I just want to be clear that I’m not saying it would be awesome if sex offenders could hide that they are sex offenders and get jobs as day care workers. Not at all, in any way. No no no. I’m saying that, if a person who committed a single, non-violent, statutory sex offense 15 years ago wants to work doing data entry in a widget-making company, and that widget-making company has no reason to screen out certain types of offenders (there’s no handling of large amounts of money, no working with minors, no access to drugs, etc.) and a policy of only checking criminal histories 5 years back, then this person’s conviction should NOT prevent them from getting that job if they are qualified. Does that make sense?

    And yet, not because of even the public registry itself–because official state registry results can only be accessed directly through the states registry site, and only after a person reads and agrees to the conditions (such as that the information cannot be used to harm or harass somebody), and the results from those official registries do NOT show up in simple web searches–but because of for-profit sites that aggregate registry information and publish it without any of the terms or disclaimers of the official registries, that person’s 15-year-old conviction will likely be the very first thing a potential employer who does a web search just out of curiosity–not because they are doing a background check, but just because googling each other is kind of just what we now do–will see. If the person’s conviction was for a DUI or a drug offense or domestic violence or assault or a weapons offense, that would not be the case. (As an example, I tried googling a few people I know who have non-sexual felonies on their records that are more than 5 years old. NONE of their convictions come up if you Google their names. If you Google my husband’s name, information about his nine-year-old offense from for-profit aggregate offender lists are the first five entries.)

    I have NO PROBLEM with the idea that my husband can’t get a job as a K-12 teacher. I think that’s totally and completely fair. He’s not a predator, he’s not a pedophile, he’s not a danger, but he made a bad choice that disqualifies him from that job, just like the person who is not a danger, not an alcoholic, not a threat to children but who made the bad choice to drive drunk one time is disqualified from being a school bus driver. Those are, IMO, simple and direct consequences of one’s actions. What I have a problem with is either person being denied ANY AND ALL jobs they might apply for because of a single past offense that is unrelated to the job being applied for. And, that is far more likely to be the case for a sex offender than a drunk driving offender, because of the way information from online public registries are aggregated and indexed.

  97. a grateful mom May 24, 2013 at 1:03 am #

    Or, to be more succinct: If we lived in Minnesota, my husband would not be on a public sex offender registry. However, if he applied for a job as a high school teacher in Minnesota–which he would not do, but this is just as an example–he would still be denied the job, because his conviction would show up during the very thorough criminal background check they do.

    But, if he wanted to be a data analyst for the widget-making company that only checks records back 5 years, his record would not be an issue.

    In the state we are currently in, not only would he (rightfully) not get the teaching job, he would also very likely be denied the widget-company. That’s what I object to, and that’s how the registry affects the employment options of sex offenders in a way that the employment options of any other type of ex-felons are not affected.

  98. Donna May 24, 2013 at 2:29 am #

    @ a grateful mom – I give up. You are arguing apples while I’m talking about oranges. And are essentially arguing with yourself since I agree with everything you said. It is simply not remotely related to the point I was making.

  99. J.T. Wenting May 24, 2013 at 3:44 am #

    “Politicians will only trim registries when the political benefit from doing so outweighs the political cost.”

    iow when more than half the electorate is listed on them… And then only if the law hasn’t yet been changed to deny people on the list their right to vote (which I see coming).

    “Undercover officers went into a Yahoo adult sex chat room (please note: the room was for adults 18+ seeking out sex or sexual chat–it was NOT a room for children or teens). Of the probably hundreds of women he “cybered” with during a period of time when he was suffering from severe depression and social anxiety and using the internet compulsively was that undercover officer. “She” claimed to be a sexually-experienced 15yo seeking out another hook-up with an older guy. ”

    Did the officer claim that to him before the meeting(s) were set up or only in court?
    If the latter, the case should have been instantly thrown out and the officer charged with lying under oath, which carries prison time and should have had her/him fired on the spot.

    Cases like this are a prime reason why any sting operation should be and in many countries is illegal.
    Innocent people are set up to commit crimes, indiscriminately, just to bloat the number of arrests, under the assumption that anyone is guilty of something, it just needs to be shown to happen when a cop is looking.

    “Well, my kid is allergic to peanuts so maybe we shouldn’t sell peanut butter anymore. If it saves one child!! (Sarcasm to highlight how ridiculous their argument is)”

    This has actually been proposed… And many airlines for that very reason no longer carry peanuts for their passengers.

    “Once it’s declared a punishment, it’s immediately over;”

    it’s not over, it’ll only get worse, as it’s then a punishment that can be meeted out as a life sentence for something that carries no life sentence.
    It’s the same here, people can be convicted to mandatory psychiatric treatment, the term indefinite “until doctors announce the person cured”, which they never do. So we have people who would have got 2-3 years in prison instead locked up for life in mental hospitals, with no possibility for appeal, no legal recourse except possibly showing that there is medical malpractice (but as all the people deciding on that are close colleagues of the staff of those prisons/hospitals, chances are extremely slim on that).

    “3. People’s pocketbooks will win out. Having a registered sex offender nearby lowers your property value. The more men we put on the list, the more likely it is that your property values will go down.”

    so you start vigilante groups to drive them out of your neighbourhood. Happens a lot already.
    And you get the mayor and city council involved, threatening (in veiled terms of course) that the bad press for allowing sex offenders in town is going to cost them votes.

    Result is there will be walled enclaves for people “on the registry” with armed guards to keep them in if the scale of the problem becomes large enough. Effective segregation for the “undesirables”.

    “Roxanne, I’d say false allegations aren’t the only thing parents should warn male children about. If you actually look at the law, there is very little a person can do sexually with a person under 18–even if they are under 18 themselves–that isn’t illegal, now that we live in a computer-based age. ”

    or indeed anything at all.
    You could be branded a “sexual predator” for not crossing the street to avoid walking closely past a child on the sidewalk, for walking past a school on the way to the grocery store during play time, for helping a child in trouble who’d otherwise die a horrible death.
    All of these have happened, and even if there’s no official government run registry you’d end up on, there are plenty of privately run ones that take any accusation as fact without any checking at all, and will list people by name and address.

    I’ve fallen foul of this myself. From the moment I moved in to my current house I’ve had to deal with teens in the neighbourhood shouting after me, calling me a pedophile. People I’ve never seen before, the moment they saw lights on started throwing rotten eggs and stones at my windows.
    Call the police and they shrug it off.
    Given that the property stood empty for several months prior to me moving in, and before that a single man lived there, and I never had any trouble at my previous address, it’s clear what’s happening…

    Other people I’ve known had to undergo plastic surgery and change their name, some even had to flee the country, because of such things.
    Welcome to the information age.

    “I don’t think many young people are aware of how serious these internet-based sex crimes are, or how many activities they probably consider completely normal and safe are in fact serious felonies that could get them, in many states, branded as sex offenders for decades or life. ”

    Worse, false accusations are so easy and common it’s almost impossible not to be a victim of them at some point unless you avoid all “social media” (which for privacy reasons isn’t a bad idea anyway).

    “I noticed, Lenore, you posted a screenshot from Family Watchdog rather then the official state sex offender registry. The state registry doesn’t use red dots or, from iPhone mapping software, the menacing face icons.

    The fact that people confuse a private business like Family Watchdog with the real registry is a problem in itself. In Russell Banks’s book Lost Memory of Skin, based of the Julia Tuttle Causeway sex offender camp in Miami, he referred to Family Watchdog as the “national sex offender registry.” Wrong. Family watchmutt is a for-profit list.

    no doubt Lenore posted that precisely for that reason, as it’s the list that the vast majority of people will see when they want to check out who in their neighbourhood they can harass next and drive to suicide or selling their property with total impunity (police won’t help the victims if they’re on a list like that, under the assumption that they must have done something wrong somewhere).

    “Where does Family Watchdog get their data from if not from the official state sex offender registry?”

    if it’s like similar “pedophile watchgroups” here, it’s pure vigilante work.
    Anyone can call them and “report” a “pedophile” who’s then added to the list without any checking whatsoever.
    And yes, they copy data from the official registries as well, but strip any expiry dates and don’t take care to keep track of address changes. If someone on the official register moves, it’s just another new entry in the unofficial ones, so there’s now 2 addresses flagged as housing a sex offender.

    “How in the heck anyone would be able to commit a sex offense against a high school kid while doing that is beyond me. ”

    oh, but those pervs have hidden cameras recording the kids in their swim trunks and bikinis for child porn sites, didn’t you know?
    Same reason many schools no longer allow parents to bring cameras to photograph their own children at sport events and school plays.

    “Or is leaving the USA also forbidden for these people?”

    For those on official registries, yes. They need permission from the police/court to even leave town, let alone the country.
    For those on unofficial hitlists, many end up eventually disappearing. Either changing their name and appearance, and sometimes emigrating, or they end up suicide statistics.

    “I use to managed a tanning salon for 10 years. I use to have conversations with the teen girls that tanned there talking about going clubbing on the weekend. I asked how they got in, and they replied “fake ID”, all so they could “hook up” with older guys. Little do they know the shit storm this could cause”

    oh, they know. But they either don’t care of deliberately abuse the knowledge for purpose of extortion. “hey, you took me out and bought me a drink last weekend. Now looky here, I’m only 15, that makes you a child predator. But if you buy me these expensive things I’m not going to the police”.

  100. a grateful mom May 24, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    @JT: Of course my husband didn’t go to trial. Of the over 300 arrests made in the particular sting operation that my husband was arrested in, we are not aware of a single person who went to trial. EVERYBODY took a plea.

    Why? Because, if their situation was anything like my husband’s, they were told that, if they went to trial, they’d be charged with two felonies (child sexually abusive activity, which carries 20 years, and use of a computer to commit a crime, which can tack another 5-10 years onto that) and facing about 25 years in prison if convicted.

    If they were willing to take a plea, the state would drop the child sexually abusive activity charge–again, AFAIK, nobody arrested in the sting actually ended up with that charge on their record–and bring down the use of a comp charge to a much less serious felony, and he’d get 2 years probation.

    Who, even if they had the money to go to trial (something that takes tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars), is going to take that gamble? When they are offering you 2 years probation versus taking a chance on 25 year in prison, of course people will take the deal. (And this isn’t just for sex crimes: something like 95% of people charged with a crime plead out, often because the state keeps tacking on more charges and more time, which they promise to remove if they plead guilty, to bully them into doing so.)

    I do want to clarify, again, that registered sex offenders who are off parole/probation CAN travel. They do NOT need permission to do so. When somebody is on parole or probation, they generally have very strict rules they need to abide by, and limited travel is part of that. When my husband was on probation, he could not travel without getting permission from the judge in his case. The judge, for the 16 months of probation he ended up serving, allowed him to travel for work purposes (he was allowed to go to two conferences) but not for family. That’s fine. Those were his probation conditions, and they are meant to be limiting.

    However, an SO who is off probation/parole does NOT need permission to go anywhere. They may need to report their travel in order to not be in violation of the registry, but they do NOT require permission in order to do so.

  101. marie May 24, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    Another thing to remember about going to trial vs. taking a plea agreement: taking a plea means the prosecution never has to prove their case to a jury. The conviction rate for child porn charges (not including production) is around 97% and only a tiny, tiny minority of those convictions comes from a trial.

    When the prosecution can threaten the defendant with mandatory minimum sentences, they are guaranteed a conviction. At the federal level, sentencing guidelines help the judge decide on the sentence. Add this many points for using a computer in the crime, so many points for images of very small children, subtract points because this is a first offense, and so on. The final tally provides a range of time in which the sentence should fall. One element that ADDS points is choosing to go to trial. Yes. Exercising your Constitutional right to trial will give you a longer sentence.

    My husband was told that if he lost at trial, he would certainly get more than the mandatory minimum sentence of five years…because going to trial means he isn’t “taking responsibility for his crime.” You are punished for acting as if innocent until proven guilty is a guiding principle of our justice system.

  102. Papilio May 24, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    @Donna: Actually, many of those oldfashioned laws have been kicked out in the last decades. Adultery hasn’t been a crime since 1987 for example, so it’s not like laws never get updated, so to say.
    That’s why I was surprised to learn that sex with kids under 16 is officially still criminal. I thought it was illegal-but-only-a-problem-if-kid-or-kid’s-parents-complain for 12-15yos (16+ is legal unless the older person has some power over the teen, like a teacher or sport coach).
    But the complain-condition has even been deleted since a few years, which is surprising, because the overall attitude towards teen sex is very level-headed and lenient (‘free range’?? 🙂 ).

  103. Kay May 24, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

    There’s just so much extraneous crap on the sex offender list I wouldn’t find it useful at all. Yeah, it might be if it were only the violent and predatory offenders but it’s also only those who have had previous convictions not those who haven’t been caught or who might have intentions either. All the more reason to just be cautious and teach your kids the same when something doesn’t seem right with a person.

    Maybe this is what we need to write our politicians. The dilution of the sex offender list has made it useless. Clean it up if you want to keep it.

  104. Kathy May 24, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

    Here are 2 comments I cut and pasted from another sex offeder column that I thought were important enought to remember:
    1. DISCLOSURE: I myself am not a convicteed “sex offender”. But, I once, as an attorney, represented one who got railroaded by every last rung of our justice system and who pretty much had his entire life ruined because an “offense” that 90% of the people reading this have probably committed at one point or another in their lives. But “THE CHILDREN” are safe so I guess that’s all worth it in the end.

    2. This was America once we had a LAW called the ex-post facto law meaning anyone that is convicted of a crime can not be subjugated to New LAWS being passed after they were sentenced and did their time. We have taken this to the extreme! We pass laws just about every month making it harder for anyone convicted of a sex criime to find a HOME, JOB, and a LIFE. Just how is this protecting anyone? How many times can you kick a dog before the dog bites you?Sex offenders have no rights, jobs, a home or anything. They are cast aside, humilitated and ridiculed to no end, told they are animals. Any time we put this label on a fellow human being we give ourselves the right to keep punishing them long after they have DONE THEIR TIME. We do not do this to gang members, robbbers or anyone else. But it seems perfectly OK as long as that peson is a sex offender, right? 90% of all child molesters are family members or someone really close to the family, not some stranger. Time and again I see whre someone has killed or beaten a sex ofender and they are hailed as a hero. Keep putting more on the backs of them that have done their time and keep putting restrictions on jobs and homes and you will have more to deal with than you have now.
    trickson

  105. Kathy May 24, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    I always sense how my son is feeling just by the sound in his voice, But for those of you who don’t, here is an example written by Anonymous:

    Another door is closed to me
    Another cell, another key, another chain,
    For when I go to any town, they search
    my papers and they find, the mark of Cain
    In their eyes I see their fear.
    We do not want you here!

    And now I know how freedom feels,
    the jailor always at your heals,
    It is the law!
    This piece of paper in my hand,
    that makes me cursed throughout the land,
    It is the law!

    Like a curr, I walk the street
    The dirt beneath their feet

  106. Donna May 24, 2013 at 5:52 pm #

    Another thing about going to trial – it is an extremely risky thing to do if you are guilty. I am not hearing from anyone here who has a loved one on the sex offender registry that their loved one was actually innocent. There is a lot of “this shouldn’t be a crime” or “the punishment doesn’t fit the act,” but not a single “my husband/son didn’t actually commit the crime – didn’t have sex with his minor girlfriend/didn’t possess the porn/didn’t attempt to meet a person he thought was 15 for sex.”

    Criminal trials are not usually good forums in which to right social injustices. The job of the criminal jury is to look at the facts and determine if the defendant violated the law as defined, not to pass judgment on the law itself. In fact, the jury is told exactly that.

    In doing this, you are seeking what is called “jury nullification” – a verdict of not guilty despite being guilty. The catch is that a defendant absolutely cannot argue for jury nullification. He can very obliquely hint at it, but he cannot ask for it or tell the jury that it is within their power. And the jury will essentially be told by the judge that they MUST find the defendant guilty if they believe that he is factually guilty. So, while jury nullification happens, it does so rarely and is a huge uphill battle. I’ve seen it work only in extremely emotion-filled cases. I would love to give it a whirl in a good fact stat rape case (parents approved of the relationship, girl lied about her age, picked up girl in bar) but haven’t found the right case and a willing gambler.

    Because should you fail, you absolutely will receive a worse sentence than if you had taken a plea. Sometimes many, many years in prison worse.

  107. marie May 24, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    Donna, New Hampshire passed a law that lets the defense inform the jury of the possibility to pass judgment on the law. It will be interesting to see how often jury nullification occurs there.

    As for long sentences, my husband got four years in federal which seems insanely long for the mild porn he had. At his facility, he knows of one other guy who got four years but everybody else has much longer sentences. Fifteen years for three images, for example.

  108. Donna May 24, 2013 at 8:21 pm #

    marie,

    That’s great. I wish more states would allow defendants to argue for jury nullification.

    I also wish they would allow defendants to inform the jury of mandatory minimum sentences. I tried a couple cases where I think the jury would have acquitted if they had known that my client faced a mandatory 10 years in prison without parole if convicted.

  109. Warren May 24, 2013 at 9:38 pm #

    Donna,

    What do you think of professional jurors? Still have a pool to select from for jury selection. Just that you would have a group of people that more understood the results of their actions.

  110. Donna May 24, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

    Warren – I think it would violate the “jury of peers” requirement under the Constitution.

    Truthfully, I think juries do a fairly decent job. There is the occasional trial where everyone says WTF when the verdict is read (in both directions), but for the most part, jury verdicts are rational – maybe not what I think is right but at least not completely out of left field.

    I do think that Americans, as a whole, are extremely ignorant and apathetic about things they should know, their rights and the laws included. And sadly don’t particularly care.

  111. Warren May 25, 2013 at 12:33 am #

    Donna,

    I see what you are saying, but think about it, how many on trial for their third strike, are getting a jury of twice convicted felons. LOL.

    Unfortunately, I have to agree with your last paragraph. Just as unfortunate, there are those who come to a verdict on emotion, and not fact.

    All I know is I was married by a judge the first time……..this time I am demanding marriage by jury.

  112. lance mitaro May 25, 2013 at 1:37 am #

    @Donna

    I admire your suspension of disbelief.

    Any kind of non-sex related felonies you get 3 strikes (Drug trafficing, assault and battery, etc).

    Just ONE sex offense in America and it’s ONE and DONE.

    The media, cops and lawmakers have been really great at creating this myth that sex offenders need to be monitored closely because they represent an ongoing and imminent public safety concern because of their likelihood to “re-offend.” Sadly, I don’t see the smoke settling anytime soon.

  113. Donna May 25, 2013 at 3:00 am #

    “I admire your suspension of disbelief.”

    I assume that is in reference to my comment that juries do an okay job. I am a criminal defense attorney. Have been for years. I’ve won the occasional trial that I should have lost and I’ve lost the occasional trial that I should have won. However, in the vast majority of cases, the verdict makes sense. I may not agree with it (I never agree when I lose) but there was evidence for the jury to find the way that it did. It happens, but it is rare to walk out of trial and wonder where the jury got the crack that they were clearly smoking in the jury room to come out the way they did.

    That doesn’t mean that I think every defendant whose trial I lost was actually guilty. It means that there was reasonable evidence of guilt. Sadly, victims and witnesses lie convincingly. Many police officers are far from the saints that they are held up to be. Actions are misinterpreted. Eyewitness IDs are horribly faulty and yet juries love them. People are in the wrong place at the wrong time and get caught up in messes. Some people get duped into participating in crimes without realizing it. Some people do things that they have no idea are illegal.

  114. John May 25, 2013 at 3:25 am #

    Quote: “If the Sex Offender’s List Saves One Child”

    If your home has a rodent problem, demolishing it will also take care of the problem. So would that be the ideal option?

  115. Ronni May 25, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    I have never actually looked up the sex offer list map, but the image shown in this post happens to be the area I live in, ha ha! Well, I guess I know where all the sex offenders in my area are now…not that I’m worried.

  116. Kathy May 26, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    Donna, ask the hundreds of “jury convicted” clients exhonerated by the Innocence Project how many innocent people get tried and convicted and they are innocent. It’s why I always try and make a small donation now and then. Also, speaking of peers in juries. How would you like to be white, maybe have an accident severly injuring a young Black child and look up and find 12 Black jurors, a Black judge and all Black lawyers. You and maybe your husband or a friend are the only white people in the court room. Still feel comfortable?

    Something else that happens very frequently is that families with money who can retain a lawyer will almost always fare better than someone with a court appointed attorney. That’s a fact.

    I have read countless stories of people giving false accusations. This has been in the news many, many times. Also, how many highly recruited football players seem to manage to get their charges dropped or reduced to misdemeanors. All day, every day, Donna.

    Yes, some men have been known to do some terrible things but so do women.

  117. Donna May 27, 2013 at 5:06 am #

    “Donna, ask the hundreds of “jury convicted” clients exhonerated by the Innocence Project how many innocent people get tried and convicted and they are innocent.”

    Kathy there have been 250 innocent people exonerated since 1989. That is 250 people in 25 years. And the vast majority of those exonerated were convicted based on faulty eye witness identifications. The jury didn’t pull a decision out of thin air. The decision was not based on racism. It was based on a victim or witness that said that the Defendant was the person who committed the crime.

    There are approximately 2.3 MILLION people incarcerated in the US. There are MANY MANY things wrong with the American prison system, most importantly an over incarceration of drug and other non-violent crimes. Sorry, but a massive problem with incarcerating innocent is not one of the problems. There are indeed innocent people in prison. The prisons are not full of them.

    “Something else that happens very frequently is that families with money who can retain a lawyer will almost always fare better than someone with a court appointed attorney. That’s a fact. ”

    No, people who have enough money to hire Johnny Cochran and F. Lee Bailey fair better than those with a public defender. Anyone who graduates law school can hang out a shingle. I know very few lawyers that I would hire over the local public defender. Most I wouldn’t hire to get my dog out of the pound.

    Further, no attorney can part water. Facts are what they are. Johnny Cochran isn’t going to help you when you have a computer full of porn or are on video having sex with your daughter.

    “Also, how many highly recruited football players seem to manage to get their charges dropped or reduced to misdemeanors. All day, every day, ”

    Highly recruited football players are not arrested all day, every day. Does this happen? Absolutely. And, coming from a college town of a major SEC football university, I can also take you to the state pen and introduce you to a couple highly recruited football players who did not fair so well. There are MANY reasons that charges are dropped reduced. It really does happen all day, every day for Joe Average. You just don’t hear about it because 99.999999999999999% of the criminal cases in America never make it into the news.

    The system isn’t perfect nor is it complete crap. I have yet to see an alternative that is better. And, frankly, the actual system isn’t the problem. Most of the problems are with crooked cops, overzealous prosecutors and prosecution oriented judges, not with the system itself.

  118. Kathy May 27, 2013 at 10:31 pm #

    OK, Donna. We have diffferent experiences. How many thousands of men have been hung, electrocuted and killed in prison over the years who were innocent? We have the highest incarceration rate in the world. Privatizing prisons will only lead to more prosecutions. Money always talks and those who have money rarely go to jail, let alone prison. That’s what I see. Bringing up OJ makes me wonder what that has to do with what I said or has anything to do with this topic.

  119. Donna May 28, 2013 at 12:30 am #

    Kathy, there is absolutely no proof whatsoever that thousands of innocent people have been executed. I’m sure it has happened. In fact, I’m pretty sure that Texas executed an innocent man fairly recently. It is heeart-breaking and a reason that this country should eliminate the death penalty.

    Yes the criminal justice system is stacked against the poor. It is not because of their attorney. It is easy to blame the attorney but it is much more socially complicated than that. The rich are generally educated, intelligent and know their rights. They are not deferential to authority or easily manipulated. They have attorneys on speed-dial and contact them the second police start sniffing around.

    My clients are uneducated, largely unintelligent, deferential to authority and easily manipulated. In 49 cases out of 50, my client is all but convicted before I come into the case. They commit the stupidest crimes ever. Brag to anyone who listens. Hang out exclusively with shady people who are more than happy to rat them out to get out of their own legal problems. Readily agree to searches of anything just by being asked. Confess at the drop of a hat. Open their mouths to anyone who asks for a DNA sample. Even those who try to help themselves, often end up just screwing themselves. The number of clients we have that, in lying about what happened, actually confess to more serious crimes is simply astounding.

    Combine that the fact that the rich can usually bond out of jail. My clients often cannot. It is much easier to wait out a case at home than in jail. And so many poor people needlessly plea gulity to probated sentences just to get out of jail because a trial will take up to a year.

    However, there are many rich people in prison. And very little of this speaks to innocent people. There is a HUGE difference between being actually nnocent and the State being unable to prove a case against you beyond a reasonable doubt. Clearly the guilty rich go free at much higher rates than the guilty poor. The innocent rich go free at a slightly higher rate than the innocent poor. However, the criminal justice system is simply not filled with innocent people any more than the streets are filled with kidnapping pedophiles. There are some innocent people caught up in the system, but the streets are not being overrun with criminals while innocent people are constantly arrested for their crimes.

    And I didn’t mention OJ (who is rich and in prison by the way). I mentioned his attorneys because they are considered some of the best criminal defense attorneys in the country and pretty much everyone knows their names. I could have mentioned other equally stellar criminal defense attorneys that would be well worth the money to hire if you can afford it (and haven’t already screwed your own case to hell), but they are much less famous and their names would have been meaningless to you.

  120. Joe P May 30, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    Oh for heaven’s sake, the one link above mentioning 6yo’s on the sexual predator website blames the evangelical Christians for making everything illegal. Since I travel in evangelical circles I can l firmly state this attitude is NOT from the churches, nor is it common to Christians, putting minor offenses or underage people on a registry. Then why and how does it happen? It’s the same widespread mindset found in the schools and promulgated by braindead bureaucrats, this “zero tolerance” policy that allows for zero thinking and infinite punishment. Bureaucrats LOVE to do alot of busyness and pretend they’re doing work, so they go after easy targets and pat themselves on the back for a job well done—no real benefit to anyone though………

  121. Angela May 31, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

    It’s heartening to read these comments. I had thought there were issues about the sex offender registry from early on, but it seems so ‘common sense’ that I didn’t know where my reservations were coming from.

    I know two men currently on the registry. One was caught when a 17 year old girl in high school got gonorrhea. Her doctor asked for a list of sexual partners – for public health reasons – and she apparently handed over quite the list. List was given to law enforcement and it was discovered that two on the list were 18. The one from the bad family was charged. The son of the ex cop was not. This story was told to me by the wife of one and the sister of the other, so she knows both of their stories quite well.

    The other I have more info on, as I knew him in high school and reconnected with him later. I remember a friend talking about his conviction when it happened. She couldn’t believe it. This same friend admits she was the biggest tease in high school. She dated him and broke up with him still a virgin and NEVER felt anything but at ease with him, whether they were hanging out with friends or alone making out in her car.

    I learned later from him that he and another friend, at 17 years old, had made a lot of mistakes for a certain 2-week period. Stole his friend’s mother’s car, stole a credit card, and went on a bender. At a party, he had consensual sex with a girl he had had sex with before; she was 15. When cops busted the party, it was discovered she had run away from home. She cried to her parents and gave them a story which included a rape, but when her parents pressed charges she changed her story and refused to take the stand. Her parents realized what was happening and dropped the charges. Sadly, the state decided to pick them up.

    He confessed to everything but the rape up front. He was given a plea deal – to plea to ‘second degree sexual assault of a child’ – which he refused. His public defender encouraged him to take the plea. He refused and fired his public defender (or the guy quit, claiming he was combative [which may have been true], I can’t remember now which). He went through three public defenders before one convinced him that if he didn’t take the plea he’d be in prison until he was 80.

    Since then he has been jailed twice more due to this – once because he visited his sister in FL and didn’t inform anyone, and once because he tried to go to college in IL and informed everyone BUT the right person (his PO told him he was good to go.)

    Several years ago, after we were reacquainted, we began dating. He made sure I knew about it right away (the day after our first date). I have three children from another marriage, we discussed this with them shortly after we began dating, and I was quite worried about how everything would work out. Truth is, there was a larger age difference between me and my children’s father when we began dating (I was in high school, he was in college) so I hoped that he wouldn’t get vindictive but wasn’t convinced. To protect myself, I told the ex about it during a court-ordered ‘family court therapy’ session, in front of authorities, written in legal paperwork, so he can’t use it later and claim I hid it from him. I hope that was enough.

  122. LastTrain June 4, 2013 at 10:23 am #

    The registry goes far beyond simply listing the name, address, and photo of someone who is an RSO. It puts on public display the homeowner (if not the RSO) and anyone else who lives at that address. If you share your home with an RSO, little everyday things that people whose addresses aren’t on a public database probably don’t even think about become a much larger issue to deal with.

    One such example, which people do every day, is having a garage sale. I am the homeowner and share my home with someone who is an RSO. When I place any ads for the sale I won’t put the address of the house, only general directions and “look for signs.” That’s not such a big deal, but it’s something that takes extra consideration because anyone who Googles the address for directions can potentially see that an RSO lives at that address.

    Another example is having contractors come to the house. The house we bought is a fixer-upper. There have been several times when we’ve had to have estimates given for work needed. Every time I give a contractor the address, I worry that when they enter it into Google to get directions they will see that an RSO lives there and either not show up or worse, do something to harm my boyfriend, myself, or damage the house/property because they think some “child molester” lives there.

    Then there’s the issue of eventually trying to sell the house which means it will be listed on MLS. Anyone who searches the Internet for the address will see the link to one of the sites that display RSOs, whether it’s the official state SOR, city data, family watchdog, or any of the other sites that post RSOs.

    It’s bad enough when the name, address, and photo (and in some states vehicle information, including license plate, and the name and/or address of where they work or attend school) of the RSO is accessible to anyone who has the Internet. But when the details on the websites are inaccurate, misleading, and/or don’t give enough information about the offense to know the risk the RSO poses (if any), then it really cannot be treated as a viable resource. Instead of being a useful tool, it has become a bloated database listing everyone who was convicted of a minor misdemeanor to those who are repeat, violent predators — and everything in between.

    With so many people listed and such a large range of offenses, how can the public know who is dangerous and who is not? How does having this enormous online database of names and photos protect anyone, especially when the majority of new offenses will be committed by someone who is not listed on the SOR? Not to mention all of the “other” types of criminals who are not subject to being listed on an online registry who could potentially pose a risk to society. If the goal is to protect society, why place the majority of the focus (and resources) on RSOs?

    The answer is simple: The SOR (and all the other superfluous laws and restrictions) is far less about protecting the public and far more about what boosts politicians’ careers.

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