By Fred . . . Imagine that life is good as you and your smiling wife walk hand in hand at the fairgrounds. She is seven months pregnant; both of you are excited about starting your family as you trade ideas for the baby’s name. You just drove 120 miles to enjoy the North Carolina State Fair. You planned to enjoy the over-priced pineapple drinks and ride in the tractor pulled taxi to keep your wife off her sore feet. You have no reason to think anything could go wrong on this day.
Suddenly you are surrounded by up to 30 police officers and torn away from your wife. You are thrown to the ground and your arms are twisted, then cuffed, behind your back. Your wife stands frozen in shock and fear as you struggle to ask the officers what you are being arrested for.
Onlookers stare in disbelief at the scene unfolding before them. Surely they must think you are a terrorist or a fugitive on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, but it is actually nothing like that at all. You are merely on North Carolina’s Sex Offender Registry. You were convicted 10 years ago for an incident that happened 3 years prior when you were only 16.
The police whisk you away, leaving your scared wife standing there with no idea whom to talk to or where to go. As she makes her way back to the car, she is overwhelmed and struggles to fight back the tears when the realization sets in that this is the family life she has to look forward to, a family life where her husband can not fully participate, and her child is going to want to know why.
As surreal as this scenario might seem, this is what happened several weekends ago when a North Carolina registrant and his pregnant wife made a 120-mile drive to enjoy the North Carolina State Fair. A new law went into effect on September 1st that bans 17,000 registrants from fair grounds within the state.
He was convicted when he was 19 years old for something that happened when he was only 16. He had completed his entire sentence and had not been in any trouble since.
The City of Raleigh, where the State Fair is held, sent people door to door to notify all registrants of the new law. However not every city in North Carolina used this method, and obviously because the law is still new, not every registrant has been informed yet.
This is a perfect example of how sex offender laws prevent registrants from moving forward with their lives and establishing the stable support system that is necessary in order for one to grow and strive to reach their full potential. These laws cripple an entire class of people, forcing them under a rock and away from civilization. These laws also effectively break up families, therefore causing emotional and psychological damage to the children of registrants, which in turn can set them up for risk in their own adult lives.
This system of oppression would be very fitting in Nazi Germany, but it has no place in the modern United States. The land of opportunity is supposed to exist for all. Even convicted murderers have more opportunities to change their lives and become productive members of society than former sex offenders, who in far too many cases were charged for having sex as teens or in victimless police stings. However, regardless of age when convicted or the severity of the crime, in the United States the right to Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness applies to all citizens.
Many other groups struggle to get ahead in the United States, but when it comes to former sex offenders, actual laws are written and passed with the sole intention of keeping them down and out of society. That is wrong. That is un-American.