By Georgina Schaff…
Published in the Argus Leader November 21, 2016…
On the eve of Martin Luther King Day, I had the honor and privilege of spending the night with a medically discharged Vietnam vet and his wife residing in Arizona. I have never personally known a totally disabled vet, so this was to be a first experience and opportunity for me to pay tribute to one of the many men and women who risked their lives and fought for our rights.
They welcomed me into their home and made me feel very welcome. This was to be “a learning family experience” for me as this “hero” is also a registered sex offender, and I wanted to observe how these two major events in a person’s life affected the family life.
As they talked about his experiences in the war, being wounded, the pain and agony he endured, the medical discharge and the slow rehabilitation, you could hear and feel the pride in his voice about serving his and our country.
But during that difficult recovery period, he began to use the Internet chat lines and was caught up in a sting operation, prosecuted, served his time and was placed on lifetime probation after his release from prison.
His right to freedom was taken from him. He has to pay a fee to his parole officer who comes for visits to threaten and terrorize him and his wife and monitors all his activities. The P.O. dictates where, when and if he can go to a specific place.
This disabled vet was a Tier I offender for several years, but for no known reason to him, one person in law enforcement decided he should be a Tier II, so his status was changed and fliers were sent out to all his neighbors alerting them he is a sex offender.
As a sex offender, he attends and pays for weekly therapy classes and polygraph tests whenever required. As a disabled vet, he conducts group PTSD classes. I guess one could say he leads a balanced life.
I found they both still had a sense of humor and compassionate hearts through all they had been through and that the next day of my visit would be a day spent in the public.
He wore a Vietnam vet hat and people noticed and some even commented. Another gentleman who also wore a Vietnam vet hat stopped to chat a little. It was apparent they shared a special bond and understood what they had been through.
Whenever a child came near, he would have to leave the area, because he can’t have contact with children. He was no threat to the child, his crime was a “click of the mouse,” but now he cannot even stand near a child in public? He is at more risk from the child than he is to the child. If the child speaks to him he would be “violated” and sent back to prison. Where are his rights?
I also learned that a felon cannot be in the same place another felon is or risk rearrest. Law enforcement know who the felons are, but felons do not know all felons. Cellmates become friends, but once they are released they can have no contact? They also share a special bond and understand what the other is going through, but are not allowed to even speak to each other? Where is their freedom of speech?
Ex-offenders deserve their right to freedom; free from the registry restrictions and free from lifetime probation. This disabled vet committed his computer crime 17 years ago.
Society must learn the truth before they “sit in judgment” and demand to know where every (ex-offender) lives. Do your research, call your legislators and demand that rights be restored to ex-offenders who have served their sentence and paid their debt to society. The public registry needs to become for law enforcement only so they can protect us.
Living under the “rule” of a parole officer creates fear, panic, hopelessness and terror for the whole family. It is no life a person would choose, yet society and our legal system has demanded this system for the “protection” of the public, even for the heroes of our country.