If you went on line five years ago to see if there were any sex offenders living in your neighborhood, and recently did the same, you likely noticed that the numbers increased. Why? Where are so many sex offenders coming from? Are there really that many murderers and rapists lurking in our midst?
The answer is no.
Most murderers and violent rapists continue to reside in prison. The crimes of offenders living down the street often involve fondling younger family members, producing and distributing child pornography, and soliciting sex from minors.
But still lesser crimes qualify as well. In fact, it’s far easier to become a sex offender than you might think.
You know that eighteen-year-olds can be arrested for having sex with partners seventeen or younger. But are you aware that if the parent of a seventeen year old wants to press charges and the other partner can’t afford a strong legal defense, the eighteen-year-old is apt to be given probation over prison with the stipulation that he/she register as a sex offender? That used to be for a period of ten years. Now in most states it’s twenty years to life.
How does a young person fill those years when, under registration, it’s extremely difficult to find a sanctioned place to live, get a job, and attract a quality partner with whom to build a family?
I know a young man who, as a seventeen-year-old, was prosecuted for having sex with a girl of sixteen, required to register, and allowed to stay in school as long as he never talked with anyone there under the age of eighteen. When he was caught conversing with a long-time friend his own age, the judge decided to make an example of him and sentenced him to two years in prison.
Do you know that if you stop along a highway to pee in the grass because you can’t hold it a minute longer, you can be arrested for indecent exposure and forced to register as a sex offender?
The most outlandish story I heard involved a fifty-year-old driver who slammed on his brakes to avoid hitting a girl on her bike. Adrenaline surging, he dashed to the front of his car, making sure she was all right. When he saw that she was, he took her by the arm and told her: “I was afraid you were hurt. Be more careful next time.” The girl left, returning moments later with her mom and a policewoman who arrested the man for the “illegal restraint of a minor.” His conviction was upheld on appeal and he was required to register as a sex offender. His crime as listed on Internet offender rolls: “Kidnapping!”
Dolphins are innocents caught in the net of sex offender registration whose crimes—if crimes at all—pale by comparison with those of sexual predators. Unfortunately, under our states’ one-size-fits-all sex offender registration programs, no distinction is made between violent criminals and people who needed to take a leak. More and more, registration is destroying the lives of the very people for whom it was created to protect.