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The sex-offender panic is absolutely destroying lives

By Radley Balko . . . The video below tells the story of Shawna, an Oklahoma woman who is still in mandatory treatment because 15 years ago, when she was 19, she had sex with a boy who was 14. Over at the Marshall Project, David Feige has more about the unlikely people swept up in the sex-offender panic for offenses most of us wouldn’t associate with a typical sexual predator. Take the case of Adrian:

Adrian was a junior at North Dakota State majoring in business management, when he travelled to Miami for spring break. There, he met a girl at an 18-and-over club. They flirted and danced, then walked to the beach where they had sex. They spent about five days together, hanging out on and off and occasionally hooking up.

Adrian returned to college after the trip and all seemed well, until seven months later when he got a call from a detective with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. As it turns out, the girl had used a fake ID to get into the club. She was actually 15 years old at the time. Her mom filed a complaint when she found out what had happened.

Asked to return to Miami to answer some questions, Adrian took a bus back to Florida. He explained to the detective that everything was consensual, and that he’d assumed the girl must have been 18 or older since she was in the club. Officers recorded his statement, thanked him for his co-operation, handcuffed him and placed him under arrest. Unable to post the $40,000 bond set by a judge, Adrian remained in jail for nearly eight months. It was the first and only time he’d ever been arrested.

In Florida, as in most other states, the fact that the girl was a willing participant was not a defense. Having admitted to the affair and facing some twenty years in prison, Adrian had no choice but to plead guilty to four counts of lewd and lascivious battery of a person under 16. That guilty plea guaranteed he’d spend the rest of his life listed on Florida’s sex offender registry . . .

Five years after his guilty plea, Adrian had been rejected from more jobs than he could count. Unable to find housing that complied with a Miami ordinance that prevents registrants from living within 2,500 feet of any public or private school, daycare center or playground, Adrian was was forced into homelessness. He slept in a car parked in a lot — one of the few places sex offenders are actually allowed to reside. His college career was over, as was any hope he ever harbored of having a productive life. Then, two years ago, almost a decade after his conviction, Adrian failed to properly register his whereabouts with the police. As a result, he was sentenced to three years in prison.

Yes, we should discourage 19-year-olds from having sex with 14-year-olds, and 21-year-olds from having sex with 15-year-olds. But these people aren’t predators. They aren’t pedophiles. They showed poor judgment and had non-coercive sex with partners who were physically mature. (Yes, the law says any sex with a minor is de facto coercive.) Perhaps we should punish them, but we shouldn’t seek to utterly destroy them. And in Adrian’s case, the lack of intent makes what happened to him all the more unjust. It’s all the worse when you consider how little evidence there is that these laws do anything to protect society from actual predators.

Meanwhile, the Washington state Supreme Court has just upheld a state law allowing prosecutors to charge minors who send nude photos of themselves to other people …. as child pornographers. If convicted, that means mandatory prison time and a lifetime on the sex-offender list.

The justification for the ruling and the law it upheld is that these laws protect children from predators. Which is to say that Washington state is prepared to stop minors from being harmed … by ruining their lives. It’s hard to come up with a better illustration of the absurdity with which we approach these issues than that.

This opinion is republished from The Washington Post.

This topic contains 32 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Saddles 2 months, 2 weeks ago.

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  • #21809 Reply

    Chris

    I love it…. mainstream media is finally publishing the truth. I see happier days in the not-too-distant future.

  • #21813 Reply

    Cary

    Finally! Truth to be told in 2 parts.

    1) the 14-year-olds, and 21-year-olds from having sex with 15-year-olds. But these people aren’t predators. They aren’t pedophiles. They showed poor judgment and had non-coercive sex with partners who were physically mature.

    2) Washington state Supreme Court has just upheld a state law allowing prosecutors to charge minors who send nude photos of themselves to other people …. as child pornographers. If convicted, that means mandatory prison time and a lifetime on the sex-offender list.

    So not all sex offenders are predators and pedophiles! What makes a pedophiles are rapist and sexual violent pedophiles.

    • #21821 Reply

      Go learn and then come back

      @Cary

      In reference to your conclusion paragraph, go learn about pedophilia then come back and comment. Your ignorance is showing.

  • #21811 Reply

    NH Registrant

    Looking through the YouTube comments is sickening for that video. People twist themselves into knots going out of their way to justify the existence of the registry. Most of them either go out of their way to justify the false findings of recidivism studies of the past. And others are perfectly fine with innocent and non-dangerous people getting snared in the same net as everyone else. It’s sickening. But, what do you expect from a YouTube comment section? Many of the people in those sections are narcissists and let their evil sides run wild because they hide behind anonymity. It’s pretty sad. But, it’s an unfortunate reality in our ignorant society. The brainwashing that the media does: News, Movies, TV Shows, etc., is alive and well. I just saw the movie ‘IT’ recently. Nearly every adult portrayed in that movie was either physically abusive, outright creepy, and/or a sexual abuser. I’m so sick of the media.

  • #21822 Reply

    John

    The hysteria created by Politicians, uninformed parents and the media is absolutely destroying lives. I am an exmple of that. I was around kids constantly, as a coach, church member, and parent. I was having marital issues, had been drinking more.One day I was working from home, on the computer and for a reason I still not comprehend, I clicked on a post is a chat room. It was the cops, I knew this yet was powerless to end the chat.I even took the cameras away, and again, was not able to get rid of them. The cops kept pushing me to meet and I refused. I was arrestfed convicted as a non-violent offender, as a felony. This was my first and only brush with the law. I was on probation for 3 years and placed on the registry for 15 years I lost two businesses, my family and a combined income of $120,000 per year.
    The urges that day lasted maybe 5 minutes and I am now I am unable to find work.
    My life has always been involved with service to others, and now able to even find volunteer work.

    • #21844 Reply

      Lilah

      I totally agree!

    • #21857 Reply

      Jonny everyman

      Did they scare you into a plea?

  • #21818 Reply

    Darrel Hoffman

    Even so-called “pedophiles” don’t deserve that kind of treatment by society, because these days, kids as young as 8 years old are having sex with each other and getting on YouTube and declaring that they are gay. This is the results of a sex-crazed society that now reacts to the hysteria caused by the likes of Megan’s parents, Oprah Winfrey, and a whole host of others. Punish rapists, yes, but once that punishment is served, that should be the end of the discussion. Period!!!! That is what our Constitution intended and I call on the US Supreme Court to acknowledge its own error and have the courage to rectify the damage they caused by upholding these registry laws. They opened up a can of worms that they now find hard to close, but it starts with those 9 spineless wonders to get some courage, and interpret the Constitution in the way our forefathers meant it to be-a document that guaranteed justice for ALL (and that includes pedophiles), liberty, and the right to pursue life and happiness without the government keeping strings on you forever!!!!

  • #21817 Reply

    A mom

    My son also was convicted in Florida, the worst state in the world. As an adult of 35, he had sex with a female 15 year old. I read the deposition, she used language that showed she had sexual knowledge way above her years. My son was the second male to be arrested for having sex with this female. I am not justifying what he did, it was bad judgement on his part. She admitted it was consensual. He has spent 8years in prison and will be on probation for 15 years. He is not a predator, he had never been in trouble before, and I know it will never happen again. His life is ruined. I am sure she went on looking for her next “victim.”
    I also wonder why if sex offenders are so dangerous, why are they not getting treatment, testing, and evaluating while in prison, before they are released, in the event that they are dangerous. They wait until they get out, they require they to get treatment, including lie detector tests at their expense. Maybe the length of time and the fines are Florida’s way of making money.

  • #21882 Reply

    Bobbie

    I may have a unique take on these laws I have seen both sides of this. My two daughters one drugged and raped in her apartment at age 19, 2 young men neither punished. Add that the “officer” who responded never made a report other than to call CPS about her then 18 month old. Never called an ambulance even though she was unconscious, she awoke next day covered in bruises and no memory other than flashes. The “officer” was dismissed about 6 months later on an accusation that he was inappropriate with a female prisoner.
    Another daughter at age 15 groomed by a 28 year old, two instances of sex one statutory (she consented) in Florida consent is age 18. The next instance he “wanted what he wanted, when he wanted it”, she did not consent. No charges, an injunction he has violated, but we only found out later. He has had multiple arrests for drugs, and battery.
    Third instance a son, at 18 he was arrested for child porn on his computer, that he downloaded from Lime Wire. There was also a file (he didn’t know) was shared from his computer that was unopened by him but later opened by a deputy. He did 4 years jail/prison, and now is on a lifetime list. He is not dangerous, that from his attorney, a probation officer, the judge, and a therapist he had till he went to prison. He did something stupid at age 18, he is 25 now, and not the same “kid”. I believe therapy would have been a good option for him and if it had continued would have been an excellent choice. The “list” was supposed to be used as a tool by law enforcement to help with finding those that were truly dangerous. When it started it was to be viewed only by law enforcement, now it is cluttered by non-violent, low risk, or moderate risk, individuals who would benefit more from therapy. It has become so large it is hard to “keep track” of the dangerous predators, it is a weapon not a tool. Shaming persons who pose no to moderate risk, causing homelessness, and unemployment, and tearing families apart.

    • #21910 Reply

      Fred
      Keymaster

      All that must had been hard on you. I am sorry you and your family are going through those ordeals.

    • #21909 Reply

      Maestro

      I don’t think anyone needs therapy for images they didn’t even know were illegal. Lime Wire is a very dangerous tool. I have never had anything happen on my computer from it but I know of it. It’s where many people I know used to go to download music for free (aka pirated).

      We have to stop using “therapy” as our go to thing to propose for individuals who truly do not need it. It’s starting to sound like the sex offender advocates are trying to pander to the sex offended opponents by suggestion SOMETHING.

  • #21898 Reply

    Nena

    This is so sad. I know the pain that poor woman is having to endure. I see it every day with my son. He was 17 years old. He didn’t have sex with anyone. He had opened emails with pictures and long story short, arrested, police report with statements he didn’t make and an attorney saying, “if you go to trial, who are they going to believe, you or the good men of law enforcement. You could face 35 years if convicted.” By the time it went to court he was 18 and given a plea bargain. The assistant DA went out of his way to try to get charges dropped because of No prior criminal history but the Attorney General said no and reduced it to attempt to pocess. Because he was afraid, and I couldn’t choose for him, he took it. Two years probation at the cost of $80 a month, sex registry and publishing his face and all information about him in the paper and post cards to residents in a certain radius with a cost of $400, court fees and registry fees of $2,000, court demanded sex offender classes with a cost of $100 a month for 1 year, $60 fee to sheriff’s department every year to update information, drivers license and sex offender ID cards Every year, at the cost of $50, every 6 months to go to sheriff’s department to make any changes if any, every 5 years he has to go through the newspaper posting and pay again. He will have to do this for 25 years. He lost his ability to go into the Marines of which he had already enlisted. The future he so wanted all taken away. Now at 21 and with a 2 year old son, no parks, no schools, no library, nothing where children congregate. Then the trauma on him when the police came in that day with guns drawn on everyone in my home, to include my then, 2 year old granddaughter. Gun to my son’s head as he was sleeping in the darkness of his room. We all have trouble sleeping, my granddaughter fears police, I have lost respect to law enforcement that I worked along with for many years and my son is being emotionally traumatized every day with the inability to get jobs befitting to a now man that wants to have a future. All this because of the ignorance and lack of courage, of OUR elected officials, to adhere to OUR Constitution. It’s sickening. For the people by the people? Not hardly! For some, not all.

    • #21908 Reply

      Maestro

      This angers me. And it angers me even more that some folks in these comments don’t think it’s wise to march and protest like everyone else does when they don’t like how things are in law enforcement and government. Well, then stories like this woman’s will be the stories of more to come. Unreal.

      • #21922 Reply

        Mig

        Maestro, I would go to an organized march/protest. I’d be there, along with my wife and several friends. However, the first thing that pops into my mind when I think about going to such an event is “are there restrictions prohibiting me from being at the protest site?”. Then, the second thing that pops into my mind is, “wait, doesn’t the constitution give me the right to protest?”.
        All this to say that it is clear that RSOs have their first amendment rights taken away if we are not allowed to legally protest because our presence would be prohibited by these SO laws.
        Are there any other groups of American citizens who, as a group, are prohibited from being in certain places?

      • #21923 Reply

        SElizabeth79

        We MUST start fighting back. It does no good to hide in shame and terror, or to wring your hands and lament. Shame and terror is what they want you to feel and while the hand-wringing is justified, it doesn’t accomplish anything. There are THOUSANDS of these stories and thee will be many thousands more if we don’t start saying “Enough”. March. Testify. Protest. Refuse to accept it. Join with others through the (now) many organizations working for reform. Ten years ago when it happened to MY son there was nothing…crickets chirping. Now you have options. Join the fight, because the struggle is real.

  • #21911 Reply

    Dave

    Nothing motivates an outcry for change of bad laws like when a female becomes the victim of them. Nothing new here except the victim is a pretty young woman, and mother something our society values even if they are in the most discriminated against group of human beings to ever grace Gods green earth. Fix the sexual bias and you will fix the laws.

  • #21907 Reply

    Donnie G

    In our country over the last 20 odd years there has been a federal imperative to get everyone on fed lists. Our government recognizes that the citizens are genuinely ready to revolt. To this end we start seeing Terrorist watch lists including news people, Face recognition tech everywhere, Sex offender lists including anyone they can justify including. The list goes on and on. They keep your child’s medical records At A FED STORAGE facility for Petes sake. The paranoid rationale is that if they can identify threats early (and imprison or neutralize them) no uprising can succeed. My point is that they are moving forward not back. The life time registry is just one of many “tools”. It’s going to keep getting worse, not improve. As a RSF myself this reality is very distressing but none the less our reality.

  • #21920 Reply

    Jerry Walker Sr

    Sounds very similar to what happened to my son about 20 years ago. He met a girl on an adult chat line, she claimed to be 18, she was the primary pursuer which eventually led to consensual sex. She claimed all along to be 18. He had no choice but to plead guilty when faced with a 20 year jail sentence or probation…no ordinary person today can afford the legal cost of fighting the unlimited funds of the state. He has since been an upstanding citizen and loving father but his family, his children and his parents, continue to be terribly punished for this non-crime of 20 years ago. And society provides no way for such punishment to be ceased. I thank NARSOL and similar organizations for commencing hope to the millions of direct and indirect victims of this atrocious situation.

  • #21921 Reply

    Rajendra

    In WWII, USA detonated two atomic bombs over two Japanese cities which resulted in about 226,000 Japanese being killed (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_bombings_of_Hiroshima_and_Nagasaki). Many Japanese who died in those attacks were ordinary people going about in their daily chores. The “intended” target of those horrific atomic bomb attacks were “those crazy Japs.”

    The state of fear and hysteria inside the USA itself against their own citizens of Japanese decent during WWII is demonstrated by the US government putting them in internment camps inside America.

    While the sex offense laws are passed to prevent any crimes like the few high profile cases which are obviously horrendous, yet those laws have become like huge atomic cloud or the concentration camps that have dragnetted many people who should not be there thus making this mushroom cloud ineffective. The Constitution of the USA has become washed out pages due to these draconian sex offense laws which are laughing at every American that proudly says “…the land of the free, Home of the brave….”

    • #21931 Reply

      Bad example Rajendra

      @Rajendra

      Two Points –

      Bad example using the atomic bombs. Those ordinary Japanese people were willing to fight to the death with whatever weapon they could get their hands on to defend their homeland at the direction of the Emperor. They were not just going about their ordinary chores, but going about life in preparation to die for a cause and a belief they believed in. The Battle of Okinawa was a prime example of what a full on invasion of the Japanese mainland would have like. Hence, to save both American and Japanese lives, the two atomic bombs were used. The rest, as they say, is history.

      However, your point on the hysteria is better served here in the argument of comparison in addition to the dragnet and lumping of people with a broad brush stroke that should not be done. Those points, you make, are spot on and are a sad commentary about where our country is going today.

      • #21939 Reply

        Rajendra

        >”Those ordinary Japanese people were willing to fight to the death with whatever weapon they could get their hands on to defend their homeland at the direction of the Emperor.”

        I think that’s how it was sold to the American people.

        • #21972 Reply

          Think again, also, Raejendra

          Same thing goes for you,considering I have Japanese family who lived through that era, I have info direct from the source.

        • #22036 Reply

          Rajendra

          Just because John Walsh had a family member who suffered inhumane suffering and went through horrendous tragedy does not make him right about everything he says and advocates.

        • #22170 Reply

          Shakes head at Rajendra

          @Rajendra

          Comparing John Walsh and my Japanese family is comparing two different things. John Walsh is incorrectly advocating false info based upon his own guilt and the guilt of his wife.

          Again, you bring forth another bad example. Learn to bring to the discussion applicable comparisons.

      • #21954 Reply

        Maestro

        Just because a “country” goes to war doesn’t mean that every living person within that country agrees with the war. So yes, those Japanese men, women and children were going about their daily chores (work, school, etc)
        Don’t take it upon yourself to assume what those people were thinking in regards to the war and what they’d die for.
        Hell, there were probably women giving birth at the moment the bomb struck. So… yeah.

        • #21971 Reply

          Think again Maestro

          Considering I have Japanese family who lived through that era, I have info direct from the source.

  • #21959 Reply

    T

    It seems that our politicians have utilized the junk science about sex offense dangers and present that to the people who are uneducated, fearful, and naive because they are easy to manipulate and are gullible in the eyes of politicians to believe the danger is out there which is not true.

  • #21981 Reply

    Anthony Jones

    I WISH I WERE MAKING THIS UP!

    here is a documentary film that documents that a sex offender is in a time parallel with a Jew in Nazi Germany short of a gas chambert that has been banned by even sex offender reform org’s? evillaw.tk

  • #22143 Reply

    Mig

    Isn’t the SCOTUS meeting on 9/25/17 to decide some further hearings on sex offender laws?

  • #22887 Reply

    R. Arens

    The justice system is a hungry beast which must constantly be fed. Principals went down the pipe a long time ago. Now it’s about money and politics. It’s funny how the fat cat’s of the legislation pat the victims on the back for awhile and after they advance in their endeavors, they move on to another cause and forget the one they just served. When I was a kid in the 80’s, it was all about the war on drugs. Now “society” would rather have gun toting drug dealing gang members for neighbors than a sex offender with a otherwise non existent criminal record living near by. The gang members get parole over sex offenders 10 to 1 every time everywhere. It kind of makes me wonder what the flavor of the week will be after sex offenders.

  • #22899 Reply

    Saddles

    I like the “bad example” that was used about the atomic bomb. That example should tell most all on the registry that they are going a bit overboard on this sex panic stuff. Now I wasn’t in the war but my Uncle was and at the time didn’t some judges give you the option of going to prison or going to war? Sure this sex offender panic is destroying lives in a way if one lets it. I believe like some of these laws they go a bit overboard and cause others to type cast in a way.
    That poor girl in this story and its bad enough for guys more so it seems. Now it seems anyone that talks sexual in anyway form or suggest some type of get together and somehow looses his marbles, these are the types that those in law enforcement look for.
    And if one is lucky to get probation their is all these restrictions, lie-detector test, large fines, and other stipulations,. not to mention reputation ruined, job discrimination and other things in one’s life. Even to having a chaperone to go to church if that is agreed upon. I am sure everybody is intimidated every time they have to take a polygraph test.
    Now my first one, if one passed that test, and I’m sure a lot of you all passed your test, than that should be it but not for the court systems it seems. They will spring a lie-detector test on you and also say to you, but you don’t have to pay for this one. Now how insulting is that, one passes the test the first time and than they have to go thru this again.
    Doesn’t make mustard up. I wonder if anybody wouldn’t think that they could be playing the sin squad. Law and order is law and order but this is no way to rectify this in a lot of these ordeals. Is the law going back to the scribes and Pharisee days.

  • #23364 Reply

    Patricia W

    This is outrageous but not enough people seem to care. What is that saying about “evil persists because not enough good people care or take action?” If there is such a thing as evil, this is it. This country has some underlying serious issues about sex.
    “Maybe the net has been cast too wide ? !!!” wow, that’s a major overstatement.

    What You Don’t Know About Sex Offenders
    . . . But Should
    Collateral Damage of Residency Restrictions
    (“The Impact of Sex Offender Residency Restrictions,” 2005)
    “I have had to move from my house or apartment” 50%
    25% “I could not return to my home upon release from prison”
    44% “I am unable to live with supportive family members”
    57% “I find it difficult to find affordable housing”
    53% “I have lost a job due to proximity to a school or park”
    14 Age of youngest sex offender to be listed on the sex offender registry as part of the Adam Walsh Act.
    Treatment Works… Available research indicates that quality treatment can reduce recidivism by more than one-third. There is no downside to treatment.
    (National Center on Institutions and Alternatives, Inc., 2006)
    Registered sex offenders have the lowest recidivism rates when compared to assault, DUI, robbery, theft, drug offenses, battery, and domestic violence. The only crime with a lower recidivism rate is murder.(Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2006)
    33%
    Domestic Violence
    Battery
    Drug Offenses
    Theft
    Robbery
    DUI
    Assault
    SEX OFFENSES
    Murder
    of new sex offenses are committed by someone NOT on a sex offender registry.
    (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2006)
    Rethinking Sex Offender Laws: Many states are realizing that the current trend in sex
    offender laws do nothing to protect society, increase the risk of recidivism, and violate both
    the US and State Constitutions. The following states have taken measures to address these difficult issues by adopting a more-sensible approach, based on research, to their laws and registries:
    95%
    In 93% of child sexual abuse cases, the child knows the person who commits the abuse. Only
    7% are strangers and as many as 47% are family or extended family.
    (National Sex Offender Public
    Website, US Department of Justice)
    Number of states that provide enough information on online registries for the public to be
    able to interpret the charge and the age of both the registrant and the victim.
    Illinois is not one of them.
    (Justice Policy Institute)
    5
    • AK • AR • AZ • CA • CO • CT • GA • HI • IA • KS • MD • ME • MA • MN
    • MT • NE • NH • NJ • NY • ND • OH • OR • PA • RI • SD • TX • VT

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