Category: Reintegration & Rehabilitation

Picture Yourself a Registrant

restaurant-small1by Michael M.

Consider this hypothetical scenario:  While your 15-year old son is scrolling through the pictures on his phone, you catch a brief glimpse of a nude photo and ask him to hand the phone over. Reluctantly, he does, and upon inspection you discover that his girlfriend – who is also 15 years old – has recently sent him a couple of nude photos. Would you call the police and report it?

If you’re like most parents, the answer is probably going to be no.

Related imageMost parents would likely confiscate his phone, revoke all privileges for a reasonable period of time, and continue to lecture him until his head explodes. You might even contact the young lady’s parents to ensure that an adequate level of “boom lowering” is taking place in that household, as well. Naturally, they self-righteously proclaim that their innocent little angel would never do such a thing! So, to prove your case, you send them the photos. That’s when “Murphy’s Law” begins to exert its awful influence.

Instead of thanking you and nominating you for “Parent of the Year,” the young lady’s parents are suddenly and inexplicably angry about the fact that you’ve seen naked pictures of their little angel. They rant and rail at you over the phone, calling you a pervert and plenty worse. You hang up, your head reeling from the unexpected attack. You shake your head, mumbling to yourself, “No good deed goes unpunished!”  You delete the offending photos from your son’s phone and go back to your daily routine.

Related imageWithin a couple of hours, there are a two police officers at your door with a search warrant. After talking to your son (who is still mad at you) and seizing all phones, tablets, and computers in the house, they inform you that you are being arrested for possession of child pornography, exploitation of a minor, distribution of child pornography, destruction of evidence, and obstructing an investigation. They explain to you that some of those charges carry a potential twenty-to-life sentence and that it’s their fondest wish that you’ll grow old and die from scabies in prison. Then they give you a scribbled receipt for your stuff, which you’ll never see again.

Months later, while still in jail, you have several meetings with your attorney where he explains your choices. You can fight these five charges, but the prosecutor only needs to convict you of one of them to put you away for a long, long time. Sure, he says, you can definitely beat some of the charges, that’s not a problem. But expecting to beat all five charges – especially when prosecutors have a 97% conviction rate – is unrealistic. He tells you that your best bet is to plead guilty to a single charge that will result in a maximum sentence of five years in prison. In return for your plea, the prosecutor will drop the other four charges. With luck, he says, you’ll be home in a year or two. He says this with a used-car salesman’s grin and pats you on the back as if you’ve just won the lottery.  As much as this plea agreement goes completely against the grain of everything you’ve ever believed in, you agree to do it. It isn’t until three months later, at your sentencing hearing, that your attorney whispers to you, “Did I forget to mention that this plea agreement means you’ll be listed on the sex offender registry?”

Welcome to the never-ending hell that is life as a registrant. Even if you are lucky enough to be removed from the registry someday, you’ll always be referred to by the authorities and the media as “a sex offender who no longer has to register.” That label has a special kind of glue.

Perhaps that hypothetical scenario is a little too far-fetched for you to believe that it could ever happen to you. Maybe you can’t really relate to it because you don’t have kids, or you simply can’t imagine our judicial system being so fatuously dysfunctional. Fair enough. Let’s talk about some things that you may have actually experienced in real-life.

selfie1Have you ever sent a nude photo of yourself to another person without first getting permission to do so from the other person? In most states, without explicit prior consent, that’s considered a sex crime. And if you didn’t verify that the person was over 18, you may have unwittingly committed a sex crime against a minor. Ignorance of the person’s age is not a defense, nor is being lied to by the minor.

Have you ever engaged in a sexual act while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or with someone else who was under the influence? An inebriated person cannot legally give or get consent. How do you know if someone is too inebriated to consent? That’s a very good question! Police officers regularly resort to breathalyzer or blood alcohol tests to determine if a person is too drunk to drive. So, how is an average person supposed to know if someone is too drunk to engage in sex?

Image result for furry handcuffsSpeaking of consent, this bears repeating loudly and often: Minors cannot consent to sex under any circumstances, even with other minors. A person who is asleep or unconscious cannot legally consent to sex. A person with a mental illness that impairs his or her judgement is cannot legally consent to sex. A person who is restrained by bondage or handcuffs cannot legally consent to sex in most states. Generally speaking, students cannot consent to sex with their teachers, prisoners cannot consent to sex with their jailors, patients cannot consent to sex with their doctors, and clients cannot consent to sex with their lawyers.

Ever pinched, patted, or swatted someone on the behind without first getting his or her permission to do so? That’s considered a sexual assault just about everywhere. Maybe you’re thinking, “No worries, I’ve only ever done that to my wife.” Sorry, there’s no spousal exemption from the law.

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Tracy Lords

Do you ever watch porn? How do you know for certain that the porn stars you’re ogling are of legal age? More to the point – how could you possibly know? In 1987, porn super-star Tracy Lords was a coast-to-coast sensation with dozens of films to her credit when it was discovered that she had used false identification to get hired when she was just 15 years old. Retailers nationwide scrambled to pull her films off the shelves to avoid child pornography indictments, and several industry moguls went to prison.

Consensual sex between teenagers under the age of 18 is a registry offense in twenty-nine states. Cohabitation with a member of the opposite sex is still illegal in four states.  Being HIV-positive can result in involuntary civil commitment after incarceration or being placed on the sex offender registry in six states, and thirty-three states have HIV-specific criminal statutes. Soliciting a sex-worker can land you on the registry in five states, even if you never had sex. Sodomy (defined as “unnatural sex,” which can include oral and anal sex) is still illegal in twelve states, despite a Supreme Court decision striking down state anti-sodomy laws. Urinating in public can land you on the registry in thirteen states. Exposing yourself, even if there is no sexual or lascivious motivation – such as when streaking, flashing your breasts, or skinny dipping – is a registerable sex offense in thirty-two states!

The average person – unless he has spent his entire life in a cave on a remote, deserted island – has probably committed at least a few of these “sex crimes” and yet most are spared from being chewed up by our crapulously obnoxious legal system.

It’s easy to imagine that every person who is listed on the sex offender registry is a monster who is an imminent danger to the community, but that simply isn’t the case. While there will always be a small percentage of registrants who recidivate, the overwhelming majority of registrants live quiet, lawful lives, harming no one in the process.

Those people deserve a chance at redemption – just as you would, if you were on that list.

Signs of the Times for Sex Offenders

restaurant-small1by Michael M.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  For those who say that being on the sex offender registry is simply a minor administrative inconvenience for registrants which allows law enforcement to better track their whereabouts and activities, here are a few pictures to refute that notion.

Imagine becoming the target of these “good neighbors,” after your incarceration has been completed, after your fines and victim compensation have been paid, after you’ve served your probation, been through your SO treatment program, and made peace with your family, friends, associates, and your God.

Like anyone who has paid an awful price for you crime, you just want to move forward and build a good life for you and for your family.  Supposedly, that’s what society wants, too.  Re-integrating former offenders back into society to live a productive, crime-free lives is the stated goal of our criminal justice system.

But then this sort of thing happens…

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The next door neighbor of a Robinwood, Alabama sex offender resorted to erecting this sign in an effort to force the registrant to move out of the neighborhood in November, 2016.

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In Nassau County, Florida, the local Sheriff’s Department erects these red signs in the yards of known sex offenders during Halloween season.

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A woman in Marion County, Florida put signs in her front lawn and on telephone poles on her street to warn everyone that a sex offender lived six houses down the street from her.

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One Arkansas father discovered his 16-year-old daughter was having a sexual relationship with a 21-year-old man. But when the concerned dad brought his findings to the police, there was nothing they could do because she was over the age of consent.  So he did this:

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This registrant was sentenced by a local judge to walk up and down the main thoroughfare of his town in Petersburg, Indiana wearing a sign that said, “Registered Sex Offender Who Bought Alcohol for Kids.”

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What, exactly, do these “good neighbors” expect will happen as a result of their actions?    Human beings and their families don’t just go *poof* – disappearing, never to be seen again.  They continue to exist, perhaps not on your street, but on someone else’s street, somewhere else.  And you’ve created an entire caste of people – including the spouses and children of offenders – who may become bitter, unemployed, or homeless as a result.  Hopeless people are dangerous people.

If you’re one of the people helping to create this growing body of social lepers in our society, you’ll have only yourself to blame for the unintended consequences of your insane short-sightedness.

The “Predator” Granny Next Door

restaurant-small1by Michael M.

[The following is a true story, published with permission, which has had significant and lasting consequences for everyone involved. The names and some minor details have been changed to protect those individuals from further harm and stigmatization.]

In 2003, JoAnne Hester was a 39-year old married mother of three children, carving out a typical small-town existence in a rural county of the State of Virginia.  As a working mom, she certainly had her fair share of parental challenges, but the most vexing problem in recent months was her oldest child.

JoAnne’s 14-year old son Erik had been going over to the house next door an awful lot over the past few months, which seemed extremely odd, since there were no other kids living there – just Brenda Mears, a 28-year old divorcee who seemed to have way too much free time on her hands. When JoAnne confronted Erik about it, he claimed that Brenda was teaching him how to do scrapbooking, a hobby he’d never shown any interest in previously.

mom-sonSkeptical, JoAnne told Erik that he was not to spend any more time at Brenda’s house, a decree that angered him, but which he grudgingly accepted.  Even so, just a few days later, JoAnne saw him exiting Brenda’s front door one afternoon and confronted him about it.  There was a shouting match on the front lawn punctuated with sharp denials from Erik and escalating threats of punishment and loss of privileges from JoAnne.  By the end of the confrontation, Erik was grounded for a month.  JoAnne naively thought that would put a stop to his increasingly out-of-control behavior.  She was wrong.

Two weeks later, on her way down the hallway to the bathroom at three in the morning, JoAnne found Erik’s bedroom empty.  In a fit of anger, she called the local police. When they arrived, she told them that her son was most likely next door, ensconced in Brenda’s bed.  The policemen went next door and pounded on Brenda’s front door.  After what seemed like several minutes of knocking, Brenda answered, wearing only a robe.  After some questioning, she admitted that the boy was in the house.  They took the boy aside, and questioned him, too.  His responses must have been damning, because a short time afterward, the officers arrested Brenda for carnal knowledge of a minor.

Next, the officers spoke to JoAnne and asked how long this had been going on.  Without thinking for a moment that she, herself, could become the target of a police investigation, she replied that Erik’s suspicious visits to Brenda’s place had been going on for at least three or four months.  After a huddled conversation amongst themselves, the officers advised JoAnne that she was being arrested for failing to report a sex crime in a timely manner, a sub-section of the state law against indecent liberties with a child by custodial or supervisory relationship.  By legislative decree, that charge is classified as a “violent” felony.  Her son Erik was also taken into custody at that time and placed in juvenile detention.

A few months later, while still in the county jail, JoAnne sat in a bare cubicle and listened in disbelief as her attorney advised her to accept a plea bargain that was being offered by the State’s Attorney.  The proposed deal would result in a maximum twelve-month prison sentence, her attorney explained, rather than risk a possible twenty-years-to-life sentence by going to trial.  Though her head may have been spinning at the time, to the best of her recollection, JoAnne swears that her lawyer never told her that accepting this guilty plea would require her to register as a violent sex offender for the rest of her life.  She just knew that a maximum of twelve months sounded a hell of a lot better than a minimum of twenty years in prison.

WOMEN-N-JAIL-1She took the plea.  She spent twelve months in a state prison as a model prisoner.  Thirty days prior to her release, her prison caseworker informed her for the first time that she would be placed on the state registry upon her release.  She says she was blindsided by this news, and she spent her last month in prison in a daze of stunned disbelief.

That was fifteen years ago, and JoAnne is still on VADOC probation and considered a violent sex offender by the state.  Due to other hardships in her family she is now raising four of her six grandchildren, and yet she isn’t allowed to take them to school or pick them up, can’t attend any school sporting events or recitals, can’t take them to play at the park or swim in the community pool, and can’t take them trick-or-treating.

She’s happily married, but the hardships of being on the sex offender registry have taken a terrible toll on her relationship with her husband, who is also affected by the irrational residency restrictions, endless humiliation and harassment from the community, and the added expense and hassles of having to arrange for others to take the kids where they need to go every day.  She can petition the state to allow her on school property,  but the process is a lengthy one, and may be denied.

JoAnne suffers her fate in relative silence, fully aware that most people will simply assume that because she is classified as a violent sex offender that she must therefore be a predator of the highest magnitude and worthy of the scorn that they heap upon her and her family.  The public is largely unaware that 83% of the sex crimes under VA law are classified as “violent,” whether they involved any actual violence, or not.

She and her husband are barely making ends meet financially, which means that pursuing a legal remedy for her situation will be difficult, if not impossible.  She tells her story to anyone who will listen, but nothing changes.  If anything, the restrictions and persecution have only gotten worse for her over the past few years.  The one island of stability in their lives has been the fact that they have been able to stay in their home. Virginia has 500 foot residency restrictions, unlike many states which have 2000 or 2500 foot restrictions which often force registrants out of their homes and into homelessness.

The people on the sex offender registry are individuals, each with a story to tell.  Their crimes are incredibly diverse – sometimes laughable, other times horrifying.  Registrants exist on a spectrum ranging from the seven-year old who gets caught playing doctor with his little sister on one end to the psychopath who rapes and murders strangers for kicks at the other end of the spectrum.

The great majority of registrants are at neither of those extremes.  Most are simply common people who have made some extraordinarily bad decisions, people who have paid an enormous price for their mistakes, and now simply want a chance to rebuild their post-incarceration lives free of fear, harassment, or discrimination.

Keeping them shamed, unemployed, or homeless serves no purpose but vengeance, and makes our communities less safe for everyone.

The SO Registry’s Deadly Collateral Damage

restaurant-small1by Michael M., NARSOL & The Registry Report

It is easy for some people to feel that no matter how oppressive the hardships imposed upon former sex offenders may be, they probably deserved it.  The most common refrain we see posted by unsympathetic social media commenters typically contains some variation of, “He (or she) should have thought of that before they committed their crimes!”  While such a response may be emotionally satisfying for the person who makes such a statement, the unspoken assumption is that any punishment, no matter how cruel, can be justified by the fact that you’ve committed a crime, no matter how trivial.  Oh, so you were beheaded for jaywalking?  Well, you should have thought about that before you stepped outside the crosswalk!

It also completely ignores the plight of the innocent bystanders who often bear the brunt of our country’s draconian sex offender registration laws. The families, friends, employers, landlords, and associates of former sex offenders often become the unintended casualties of the current wave of anti-sex-offender hysteria sweeping the nation.  Recent studies have begun referring to these tangential victims as “collateral damage,” as if we were talking about accidentally backing the car into the neighbor’s mailbox, rather than the complete destruction of innocent people’s lives.

By the way, it isn’t just the families and associates of sex offenders who suffer.  Most of the states will admit that their sex offender registries are difficult to maintain and contain inaccuracies.  One study discovered that as many as 25% of the addresses on the registry were incorrect, which resulted in the addresses of family homes where no one was a registered sex offender being listed on the registry.  A Detroit, Michigan couple didn’t learn that their address was incorrectly listed on the registry until they tried to sell their home.  They reported the error to the local police, who told them that nothing could be done about the problem until they tracked down the former owner who bought the house three years previously from a registered sex offender.

sign1In Cleveland, Ohio at least one large real estate brokerage’s property questionnaire includes the question, “Have you ever been notified that a registered sex offender was living in the neighborhood?”  Say yes, and your property value may plunge.  In other words, you don’t have to be a sex offender; you don’t even have to know a sex offender, to be “collaterally damaged” by social hysteria.

For the families of former sex offenders, it can be much, much worse.

evictionOne eleven-year old juvenile sex offender’s profile popped up during their landlord’s internet search for offenders, and the boy’s family was given two days to move out of their home.  In Fallon, Nevada, a registrant’s failure to update his information in the registry resulted in news stories which, in turn, led to death threats, burglary, and vandalism against his innocent wife.

The 8-year old daughter of a registered sex offender whose offense was 31 years in the past found herself at the center of a public outcry when her school sent out information about area sex offenders in 2007.  She immediately began feeling the effects of being disinvited from events and shunned by friends. The following year, in middle school, she became the constant target of sexual harassment and lewd propositions.  Eventually, her family left the country in 2013 to escape the persecution.

Research into the “collateral damage” suffered by family members of RSOs reveals that 49% often felt afraid for their own safety as a result of their family member being on the registry.  66% said that shame and embarrassment often kept them from participating in community activities, and 77% experienced feelings of isolation as a result.

aloneThe children of RSOs report alarmingly high rates of suicide ideation, with 13% exhibiting suicidal tendencies. Other reported consequences of being the child of an RSO include harassment (47%), ridicule (59%), physical assaults (22%), depression (77%), and anger (80%).

Sadly, one needn’t be related to a sex offender in any way to be “collaterally damaged.”  A widely reported recent story from Kissimmee, Florida, featured a man who poured gasoline into the motel room and vehicle of four persons he believed to be registered sex offenders with the intent of “barbecuing all the child molesters.”  Two of his intended victims were not RSOs.

In Dallas, Texas, a man who had just moved into an apartment that had recently been vacated by an RSO was mistaken for the previous tenant by a vigilante and beaten with a baseball bat.  In another Dallas case, a man who was mistaken for an RSO was beaten by four men and had his teeth knocked out as his attackers shouted “Child molester!”

In Kern County, California, a 32-year old man was stabbed at least 50 times and his body dumped in the desert after a Facebook rumor falsely alleged that he was a sex offender.

body-outline.jpegA Las Vegas man shot and killed two homeless people because one of them (Alfred Wilhelm, age 53) was an RSO stemming from a 1984 rape conviction in Hawaii.  The second victim (Rhonda Ballow, 27) was an innocent bystander who was killed simply for being a witness to the first murder.

In 2013, a husband and wife team of vigilantes in South Carolina told RSO Charles Parker, 59, “I’m here to kill you because you’re a child molester” before killing him. They then killed his wife, Gretchen Parker, 51, simply because she lived in the same house. Both were shot and stabbed multiple times.

These examples are not as isolated or anomalous as some would have you believe.  We often hear that victims of sexual abuse are afraid to come forward for fear of being disbelieved, but rarely do we consider the fact that victims of registry “collateral damage” are often reluctant to tell their stories for fear of being targeted for further vigilantism and harassment.  For every case that gets reported to law enforcement, there could potentially be dozens more that are endured in silence. Police reports are a matter of public record and are often reported in local news media. What sane person would want to invite even more scrutiny and abuse?

As long as the media continues to stoke the public’s vitriolic anti-sex-offender hysteria and as long as our government continues to furnish vigilantes with a convenient “hit list” (which may or may not even be accurate), absolutely no one is safe from becoming “collateral damage.”

Kids on the Sex Offender Registry

 

restaurant-small1by Michael M., for NARSOL

The headlines today are full of stories of righteous indignation over immigrant children being separated from their families. While that dilemma is certainly newsworthy, the American public seems largely unaware of the fact that tens of thousands of our own children are being taken from their families each year and tossed into a rapacious legal system that chews them up and spits them out as sex offenders.   As hard as it may be to believe, The Department of Justice estimates that there are at least 89,000 children on the sex offender registry, and it should come as no surprise to anyone that it’s destroying their lives.

Imagine, for a moment, what it would be like to have your child listed publicly on the sex offender registry, complete with a photograph, home address, and even a description of the sex crime that resulted in his (or her) inclusion on the list.   Consider what kind of life your child would have if, because of sex offender restrictions, he couldn’t attend school, go to a park or swimming pool, or have a birthday party because other children will be there. Some states simultaneously have laws requiring minors to attend school while at the same time forbidding sex offenders from being anywhere near a school. 44% of sex offenders overall (and presumably juvenile sex offenders, as well) are unable to live with their supportive families due to residency restrictions. Many are forced into foster care, even as bills have been introduced to bar juvenile sex offenders from foster homes and other communal youth facilities.

Elizabeth Letourneau, PhD and professor at the Bloomberg School’s Department of Mental Health and director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse said, “Not only is this policy [of putting juveniles on the sex offender registry] stigmatizing and distressing, but it may make children vulnerable to unscrupulous or predatory adults who use the information to target registered children for sexual assault.” Letourneau’s findings in a 2018 study published in Psychology, Public Policy, and Law found that registered children are five times more likely to be approached by an adult for sex than non-registered child sex offenders and four times more likely to have suicidal thoughts.

Other wide-ranging unintended consequences of being a juvenile on the registry include harassment and violence. 52% of juvenile registrants have reported violence or threats of violence which they directly attributed to their inclusion on the registry.   Bruce W., whose two sons (aged 10 and 12) were placed on the registry for an offense against their 10-year old sister, reported that a man once held a shotgun to his 10-year old son’s head. In a 2012 Human Rights Watch interview, one female juvenile registrant said, “I was on the public registry at age 11 for the offense of unlawful sexual contact… Random men called my house wanting to ‘hook up’ with me.” Other HRW interviewees described beatings, drive-by shootings, and even beloved family pets being killed.

Without a doubt, some of the children on the sex offender registry are convicted of horrific crimes which led to appropriately harsh punishments. There are others, however, who end up convicted and branded as sex offenders for what has been characterized as fairly normative behavior for children or teens, such as playing doctor or engaging in sexual exploration. Teens who exchange sexy selfies shouldn’t be charged with creating child pornography. Having consensual sex at that age may be a very stupid thing to do, but it hardly rises to the level of sexual assault or predation.

At least 27 states and one territory require that juveniles must register if they commit a sex offense for which an adult in the same jurisdiction would be required to register.   37 states reserve registration for juveniles convicted of specific qualifying offenses. It is difficult to know exactly how many children have been placed on sex offender registries nationwide, however. Studies regarding children on the sex offender registry are relatively rare, and the states typically do not track information regarding the ages of offenders when they were added to the registry. Human Rights Watch attempted to obtain this information from each of the 50 states, but only two responded – and those with aggregate counts only. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, juvenile sex offenders comprise 25.8% of all sex offenders and 35.6% of sex offenders against juvenile victims. They estimate that in 2004 there were 89,000 juvenile sex offenders known to police.

As for the overall age distribution of these juvenile offenders, there is very little data available. Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Texas allow juvenile registration at 8-years old.   Massachusetts allows sex offender registration for kids as young as 7-years of age. In 2011, there were 639 children on Delaware’s sex offender registry, 55 of whom were under the age of 12.   In 2009, a study conducted by the Department of Justice discovered that nationwide, one in eight child sex offenders who committed crimes against other children was under the age of 12. Overall, according to the DOJ’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, “Known juvenile offenders who commit sex offenses against minors span a variety of ages. Five percent are younger than 9 years, and 16 percent are younger than 12 years.  The rate rises sharply around age 12 and plateaus after age 14.”

Maya R. was arrested in Michigan at the age of 10 for play-acting sexual scenarios while fully clothed with her step-brothers, aged 5 and 8.  She pled guilty to criminal sexual conduct and was required to register as a sex offender for 25 years.  In many states, when children engage in sexual similar conduct, each child is charged with a crime and is simultaneously listed as the victim in the other’s case.

According to a 2013 Human Rights Watch report, the idiosyncrasies of the juvenile justice system can seriously compound the problems associated with how child offenders end up on the registry.  It is doubtful, for example, that they fully understand their rights to due process and against self-incrimination.  And we really don’t know if they fully comprehend the devastating (and sometimes forever) consequences of pleading guilty before they accept a plea bargain. Even adults can find the plea bargaining process confusing or coercive, even though this is how 94% of all criminal cases are resolved.  Often, these juveniles are not informed that they will be subject to registration until after they have pled guilty, and sometimes not until they have finished serving out their juvenile detention or incarceration.  The decisions made by a 10-year old should never have permanent ramifications that will impact them for the rest of their lives yet, in many of these cases, they do.

The inclusion of juvenile sex offenders on the registry was mandated by SORNA (Sex Offender Registry and Notification Act) and has been a major bone of contention and non-compliance by the states since it was signed into law in 2006.  In 2016, additional guidelines were issued to give states more flexibility in implementing laws regarding juveniles on the registry, but many states remain out of compliance and some of the states who are in compliance are being challenged in the courts. It is worth noting that the DOJ estimate of 89,000 juvenile sex offenders was in 2004, two years before SORNA began pushing the states to put juveniles on the registry. That number is probably much higher now.

The 2018 study in Psychology, Public Policy, and Law supports these legal challenges, finding that “in combination with the available literature indicating that these policies do not improve public safety, the results of this study offer empirical support for the concerns expressed by those calling for the abolition of juvenile registration and notification policies.”

The abomination of having nearly a hundred thousand children on the sex offender registry is just one of the many reasons why SORNA is unconstitutionally cruel and unusual and needs to be repealed now.

Illinois Has 596 Missing Sex Offenders, Asks the Public for Help Finding Them

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by Michael M., Editor

The Illinois State Police have taken to Facebook, asking for help in locating some 596 missing sex offenders.  A journalist covering this issue called the number of missing offenders “startling” and highlighted the anxiety that this lapse has caused for the victims of sexual crimes and the public at large.  Not so much as a word about why the state of Illinois is having big problems keeping track of its more than 33,000 sex offenders.

The dirty little secret behind this problem is the simple fact that the sex offender registry is broken, and it isn’t going to get fixed by putting more people on it or getting tougher on those already registered.  The unintended consequences of draconian rules for registered sex offenders sets them up for failure and virtually guarantees that they will run afoul of the complex and often irrational rules associated with the registry.

Communities set rules that effectively banish registered sex offenders from 90% of the available housing, but then punish them for having no fixed address.  The registry and related notification policies make it almost impossible to obtain and keep a job, but then we excoriate registrants because they are unemployed.  And oh, by the way, even if they have no fixed residence and they aren’t working, they still have to be someplace… which is fine as long as it isn’t near a school, park, bus stop, library, day care center, church, or anywhere where children might be found (which, let’s face it, could be anywhere).

Is it any wonder you have missing registrants?  The Law of Unintended Consequences supercedes all other laws.

Today, They Stamped “Sex Offender” on My Drivers License

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I’d been dreading this day for months – the final day before my Oklahoma state driver’s license expired.  Recently, my state had passed legislation requiring that the licenses of those convicted of aggravated sex offenses be marked “Sex Offender” in bold capital red letters in two different locations on the front of the card.

Red letter days are supposed to be joyful occasions, but not so much in this case.  I certainly wasn’t going to submit to this particular humiliation by renewing my license any earlier than necessary, so I procrastinated until the very last moment.  Perhaps I was simply in denial.  Maybe I was hoping against hope that our elected representatives and the courts would miraculously come to their senses and see the utter insanity of this policy before Thursday rolled around.  But, of course, that didn’t happen.

That morning, I prepared myself mentally by indulging in a sumptuous meal.  I’ve always believed that bad things seem even worse on an empty stomach.  I showered, shaved, and put on a new shirt.  “Look good, feel good, and you’ll be at your best,” is what my mother always told me.  I drove the scenic route to the licensing agency.  I was in absolutely no hurry to do this.  I pulled into the parking lot, took a few deep breaths, and strode into the airy office with a smile on my face that didn’t reflect the churning in my stomach.

For the first time in my life, I was hoping for a long line…  and yet there I was, the only customer in the place.  A woman beckoned me to her station, and I handed her my expiring license with a smile.  “I need to renew this,” I said.  I silently considered adding some pithy remark befitting a condemned man on his way to the gallows but realized that I’d probably then have to explain it, which would only make things worse.  She cheerfully invited me to have a seat in another lady’s cubicle and I did.

She asked me if any of my information had changed.  I thought, everything has changed.  My life has been turned upside down. I was nearly bankrupted. Society now considers me a monster.  I smiled and said, “No, nothing’s changed.”

She was undoubtably viewing my information on her computer screen and the digital proof of the license as we chatted.  SEX OFFENDER.  Big.  Bold.  Red.  Letters.  If this perturbed her in any way, she gave no indication of it whatsoever.  Instead, she asked, “Are you a veteran?”

I responded, “Yes, I am.  Why do you ask?”

She positively beamed, “We can print VETERAN on your license!  You know, in case you want to get a military discount while shopping or at restaurants!”  I chuckled and told her to go ahead and add it.

Not that I’ll be showing off my new red-letter license to the cashier at IHOP anytime soon.