Sex offenders need not apply

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By Shelly Stow . . . How many times, when reading about virtually anything, has the phrase, “No one with a conviction for a sex offense is eligible,” or “No registered sex offenders allowed,” been part of the narrative?

In everything from voting in some states to being eligible for many government and criminal justice programs to seeking shelter in emergency situations, those who are called sex offenders by virtue of being on the registry are excluded.

The latest to cross my desk is this, “VCU offers chance for jail inmates to ‘write way out,’ ” about a program being offered by Virginia Commonwealth University.

The program sounds great. Its goal? “To help offenders ‘figure out a way to live a better life, a life that keeps them out of the criminal justice system, a life in which they’re proud of what they’re doing, where they’ve discovered a new life purpose or just kind of figured out those self-sabotaging behaviors that create a lot of pain in their own life and in the lives of others.’ ”

Wow.

A secondary outcome is that those in the class, inmate and non-inmate alike, learn  “how to respect one another in their very diverse struggles.”

The program offers something that is not normally found in the more traditional crime to conviction to punishment path: introspection and hope. To be eligible, applicants must be able to read and write and want to break the cycle of criminal offending.

Oh, and they cannot be incarcerated for a sex offense – any sexual offense – or a violent felony or burglary.

Why is this program not available to those who have committed non-violent sexual offenses?

Would sexual offenders benefit from figuring out a better way to live? From figuring out self-sabotaging behaviors? From understanding the pain they have created for themselves and for their victims? It sounds like a page out of a sex-offender therapy manual, one of the actually good ones.

Do those who have committed sexual offenses need to learn how to respect themselves and others? Do they need introspection and hope? Can they read and write?

What are we saying when we close off these sorts of opportunities to those who may need it most of all? What message do we send? We don’t want you to figure out a better way to live? We don’t want you to understand how your behavior caused pain? We don’t want you to have self-respect or respect for others or hope?

Everything about being on the registry says those things already, and the registry is not working, has never worked, and will never work in any positive way, not for those on it nor for society in general.

If having understanding of one’s own behavior and having self-respect and having hope are desirable goals, why do we withhold this opportunity from those on the sex offender registry JUST because they are on the sex offender registry?

Source: With Justice for All

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