Most people when they hear the term sex offender immediately think pedophile or rapist. They are by far the most heinous criminals to mind. Other felons in prison detest them so much that they have to be held in separate barracks for their safety. Many people will agree they lose any rights to civilized society and anything resembling a peaceful existence. They are often exiled by city ordinances, probation and parole to the outskirts of cities were children are few and far between.†
The sex offender registry was created in 1994 and was known as the Wetterling act. Sex offenders had to register where they lived with local police department. By 1996 Meganís law was passed to make the registry available to the general public and child pornography prevention act was enacted the same year. 1996 was the year America Online (AOL) first offered their unlimited internet access plan. The internet was a scary place for many middle-aged people and politicians. The laws were written with very broad definitions to give prosecutors a lot of leeway to handle the new emerging technology for crimes they havenít faced yet. You can guess what happened. Sex offender cases skyrocketed and further propelled fear in the public. Some states expanded local laws beyond federal standards and opened up more offenses that could get juveniles tried as adults. (Oregonís Measure 11) No one batted an eye to any breach of the constitution these laws created. I am thankful that my teenage years of sexual exploration was before 1996. The good old days of spin the bottle, truth or dare and having a polaroid of your revealing girlfriend was not a felony. Now that the panic is over, studies are showing that these laws are doing more harm than good. Public opinion is changing thanks to reports like this link from the National Review. People are being excessively punished because low level offenders are lumped in with child predators and violent male rapists. Why do I specify male rapists? There are female sex offenders now. We have all heard those stories of a female high school teacher that has a sexual relationship with a student. That is a textbook statutory rape offense even though the male student consented, due to his age, the law does not say he can legally consent. Would you agree that a 15 year old boy responds differently about voluntarily getting frisky with his math teacher than a 15 year old girl that is screaming no and is forced by a stronger male? If you havenít yet, be sure to read my story on my 5th Amendment violations page about a female juvenile tried as an adult for playing the equivalent of strip poker with her foster sisters.
When Meganís laws were first enacted amongst many other expansions, a parent kidnapping their own child in a custody battle would get them registered as a sex offender, construction workers urinating at a job site would get them listed. Getting drunk and peeing in a water fountain made you a sex offender. For a list of low level sex offenses that can get you registered click here. Not all sex offenders are the same and many are not lack of control adults that that canít be healed. Some are parents that had their children taken away because they didnít lock the bedroom door on date night when their child walked in on them. Some offenders are legally consenting adults/teens that merely failed to secure their privacy at home, in a tent, on a beach or in a car.
Cities create laws to protect themselves from sex offenders that find themselves in the free world after prison or on probation. Many cities have Sex offender residency laws where sex offenders are not allowed to live within a specified distance of schools, parks and child based businesses. Distance varies from city to city. However, this has been challenged many times by federal courts that you can read further about clicking here.
Hereís my take on the sex offender registry. As a parent of two daughters, I do not fear for their safety at all from sex offenders that have been caught. Itís the ones that havenít been caught you have to watch out for and teach your kids as early as possible that no one touches them. There should be a registry, local police should know where offenders are and available to public upon request at the police station the way it was before 1996. Many of the crimes that that put people on the registry are of no threat to our children. The real predators rarely get out of prison. Furthermore, because I believe whole heartedly in our constitution, these sex offenders do have a right to reintegrate in our society and we have no right to exile them. Their constitutional rights are being violated by ex post facto laws (Click link for definition) such as Meganís laws, Jessicaís laws and double jeopardy enforcement of these laws after they have served their sentence while on probation or parole for other violations. Housing restrictions imposed on sex offenders should a be a two way street. A city cannot build a park where a sex offender lives and nor should a day care license be issued to anyone where a sex offender lives. There are many stories such as this link here banishing sex offenders. I personally donít mind most sex offenders living near me in the least. I would rather know where a true pedophile is than have them desperate, homeless and with nothing to lose for offending again.
Because the sex offender laws and parole/probation policies continue to snare non-threats to society, I sympathize for them as it destroys their families. Especially female sex offenders with children that were not abused. Read about how female sex offenders are being assessed and treated the same as male offenders through the misuse of the Static 99 risk assessment tool written for male offender specifically. Mothers are losing contact or forced to give children away and the tool clearly states that it is not to be used for females due to females having a tenth of the risk that males do of reoffending.
Their families are the best judge of a personís redemption and when a family supports the offender, it gives them the motivation they need to heal from their indiscretion. When a person becomes a sex offender, there are two lives that need healing. The victim and the offender. Read on to my Restorative Justice model and how to address the healing process.