By Sandy . . . Sometimes situations arise that leave me almost too speechless to write about them. This is one such case.
Four years ago, in 2016, Brandon Hester was a middle school teacher in Clarksville, Tennessee. He was charged, convicted, and incarcerated for sexual contact with one of his young male students. He is now on probation and living in the community. He sought and gained employment with a clothing store in Clarksville. Having lawful employment is a requirement of his probation requirements.
In December of last year, Mr. Hester became the owner of the store. His reopening of the business with him as owner was recognized by the mayor, the chamber of commerce, and other community representatives in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The outpouring of hatred, vitriol, and thinly-veiled death threats on Facebook is staggering. (posted 1/22 at 12 a.m.) One individual posted a graphic of a case of bullets with the words “There is now a child molestation vaccine; one shot and it’s cured” superimposed over the picture. Other comments referenced hanging from a tree, a bullet to the head, or just “Kill him!” Some want the mayor fired for supporting the newly-acquired business.
A few brave individuals pointed out that for those who didn’t feel Hester should be supported or who actually feared for the safety of their children in the store, the solution was simple: don’t go in the store, but for the majority, that common-sense solution was woefully inadequate to what they felt should be done.
The logical facts are these:
Everything Hester has done since his release is legal and in keeping with his probation terms.
Establishing community connections ranks high in correlation with not re-offending.
Statistically, his risk of re-offending is very low. A recidivism study done by the state of Tennessee (p.8) shows a 7.6% rate for another sexual crime, and this is a bit higher than the norm; most studies result in reoffense rates of between 1 and 5%.
Except for the most heinous crimes, usually involving the death of someone, people who break the law do not remain in prison. They are released to live in the community, and they are expected to rebuild their lives as responsible, contributing, law-abiding citizens. Mr. Hester is doing this in every respect.
Since the primary concern with Mr. Hester seems to be the safety of any youth who might come in contact with him, this might be of interest:
Virtually all sexual crime committed by adults against children is committed by persons who are not already on a sexual offense registry, persons who are either family members or authority figures of the victims, as was the case with Hester and his victim.
When it comes to the sexual abuse of children and those on the registry, two statement are accurate:
- If an adult sexually molests your child, the perpetrator is many, many times more likely to be someone who would be found around your table at a holiday meal rather than found on the sexual offense registry.
- Your child is many times more likely to end up on a sexual offense registry himself than he is to become the victim of someone who is on one.
Sandy, a NARSOL board member, is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.