The sex offender registry — a blight on justice and freedom

By Sandy . . . We are well accustomed to those on sex offender registries making the headlines. A registrant in Washington State named Wes Heyden recently dominated the news cycle for several days in a most unexpected way.

The founder and owner of a popular coffee shop which, under his leadership, expanded to a chain with more to come, came under fire recently when he told the coffee shop employees that they were not allowed to wear shirts or clothing promoting the BLM movement. His official statement was, “No clothing worn (may) include graphics displaying any political, religious or personal biases.”

Employees unhappy with this took to social media in protest, creating a firestorm in which Heyden compared the difficulties he faced as a registrant to those faced by African Americans.

“I can’t vote. I can’t buy a gun. I can’t rent an apartment. I can’t get an SBA loan. I’ve been hated! . . . If I protest anything it’ll be for reformed sex offenders so they can restore their freedoms that should be open to all people. . . . What’s worse, being beat and profiled by cops, which I have over and over again, or living like you don’t deserve to? Being hated by all . . . ”

His statement drew some support and praise for what he had accomplished but also harsh, bitter criticism. One Facebook post encapsulates the reason for the anger: “But this guy on social media compared the consequences of his chosen sex offender life to the hardships that are felt of living as a Black person, saying that he had it just as hard.”

Heydon has now resigned his connection with the chain of coffee shops, turning over his creation to a long-time employee.

The crime for which Heyden was convicted occurred in 1993 when he was 15 years old, a juvenile. As is sometimes the wont of the justice system, he was not tried and convicted until 1996 so that he could be tried as an adult.

In his enumeration of the difficulties he has faced and faces due to his status as a registered sexual offender, Mr. Heyden is not only accurate in what he said, he is also brave for speaking out. The person who referenced his “chosen sex offender life” needs to think about the facts.

Whatever Heyden did, he was 15. The incident was such that one of the charges in connection with it was a misdemeanor. Heyden did not choose a “sex offender life.” He screwed up big time as a teenager 27 years ago. What he chose was to be rehabilitated and to live a law-abiding life as a responsible, contributing member of society. I do not believe that he, and most definitely not I, intended to denigrate the difficulties that African Americans have in dealing with our justice system.

I believe that he, and most definitely I, want the public to understand that another part of our justice system, the post-punishment sex offender registry, is as much a blight on justice and freedom and as much a cause of destruction of American lives as is systemic racism.

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Sandy Rozek

Sandy 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.

  • This topic has 18 replies, 1 voice, and was last updated 4 months ago by AvatarDexter.
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    • #74037 Reply
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      Carol Salacka

      I was watching the movie ‘Philadelphia’ last night, about the extreme bias against homosexuality decades ago. The attorneys discussed the ‘airline case.’ The favorable decision for homosexuals (and people vulnerable to HIV?) who were fired for being in that class/group said that it resulted in a ‘social death’ because others ‘assumed characteristics about all members of that group.’ Maybe we should use this legal premise as registrants, no matter their crime, age, etc. They are all assumed to be ‘child molesters,’ or ‘the worst of the worst’ as my former state Rep. said. If there a nearly a million registrants it time we all rise up and say NO, ENOUGH, as this man did.

    • #74038 Reply
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      WC_TN

      Is it even legal to wait until a juvenile who commits a crime AS A JUVENILE is an adult to prosecute just so the harshest penalties can be applied? Is there no legal principle or right violated by doing such a thing? That seems awfully spiteful and cruel. Why even have a juvenile justice system and separate, MORE LENIENT penalties for juveniles if the state can just wait until a juvenile turns legal age of majority to prosecute? Has anyone ever heard of this being done with any other crime outside the realm of “sexual offenses”?

    • #74039 Reply
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      H n H

      If they want to defund the police, then start with abolishing lifetime parole. Make it reasonable, like not to exceed 5 years or half the length of time spent in prison, whichever is less. Then abolish and defund the entire sex offender registry database. That would be nice to see the registration offices shredding all documents related to the registry, then the offices closed down. Parole officers may not be as needed as well, saving even more money. Base the parole office near a prison or jail to remind check-ins of the consequences of violating parole, free up even more office space. THAT would be a real start!

    • #74050 Reply
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      Linda

      I commend this man for speaking out. If all of us who know how harsh SO registries are would speak up against it I believe
      We could make a difference. The registry
      is just a way to further humiliate and punish the offender. It is harsh and for a lifetime. It is the only crime where you are punished for a lifetime, even when you have completed your time served. Most people
      labeled sex offenders have never had any contact with a child and never would but people hear SO and jump to the worst conclusion possible. It is unfair and the registry should be done away with . There are people I am sure who deserve to be on there but when they have served time for their crime it should be over. Murderers are not on a registry…. All people can change and be redeemed by God and live a normal life but the law does not allow this…. they do not forgive and their are some who see the public registry and use vigilante justice.
      The registry takes away your rights and that is unconstitutional. With child pornography you are punished for something you didn’t even do, I do not condone it but why doesn’t the law work to take this off the internet instead of punishing people and treating them like they are worthless? Please think about taking a stand against the registry, if you have experienced it you know the harshness and unfairness of it. Everyone deserves a second chance to prove that people can change and be the people God intended for them to be. If you haven’t experienced it you have no idea how this hurts the offender and his family, especially the children. I am so angry..,
      Linda

    • #74060 Reply
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      d

      There are plenty of us who were not guilty of the crimes we were convicted of. This is the answer to the “you got what you deserve crowd”. There must be a price for wrongful conviction, and torture on the registry, and it must be = to that which was inflicted upon us!

    • #74078 Reply
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      Ed C

      Carol the plight of former sex offenders has a direct analogy with gays prior to the Stonewall riots. Gay sex was unlawful, at least until Lawrence v Texas. Gays were murdered just for being gay, etc. etc. This is in no way a modern phenomenon.

      IMHO, the prejudices evolved because, as is well known, people tend to hate what they fear most in themselves. Homophobia generally results in persons who have at least a kernel of sexual insecurity and lash out in an attempt to overcompensate.

      Look at this broad category of persons termed sex offenders. We all know the spectrum ranges from innocent childhood sex play to the most heinous violent rapists. This begs the question of why society tends to lump all together.

      Doing so is a way to, metaphorically, push away the mirror. Sexuality is deeply embedded in humans, and is not just a secondary characteristic of the species. Virtually everyone has had some stray thought that made them feel uncomfortable and fearful of their own potential. This could be as simple as a married person having fleeting thoughts about a coworker, a brief speculation about gay sex, or merely taking note of a niece blossoming into a young woman.

      It is very comforting for a person to convince him or herself that any potential for sexual impropriety is not internal, but exists only in those “others” who are permanently damaged. Then the mirror has receded to a manageable distance.

    • #74083 Reply
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      Phil

      The SO Registry is a “PROXY PUNISHMENT SCHEME”.

      a proxy punish scheme is made to severely punish someone for a crime or for a crime they were somehow, someway associated with based on the wording of the law and how it ONLY applies inside if a courtroom.

      These people get punished for crimes which go unpunished by law enforcement / court system. The SO Registry seeks to punish these specific people for crimes which they have no involvement in whatsoever simply because they were convicted of a crime of a sexual nature.

      “Since we cannot convict all crimes of sexual nature, we will convict YOU for all crimes that go unpunished.”. That is how Proxy Punishment Schemes work.

    • #74087 Reply
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      Brian

      To Carol’s points about “the extreme bias against homosexuality” I was doing a bit of research about the history of the sex offender lists (aka registries) and come to find out – the registries (or lists) started as far back as the turn of LAST century – and they were meant for keeping sexual deviants (gay/lesbians) on… So to me this thing just seems to be evolving and getting twisted around the legal arm of things.

      Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying we shouldn’t have some sort of boundaries to protect innocent/younger people, but I often wonder how the law twists and turns itself inside of pretzels to maximize prosecution and that is to be gained. There are a lot of people who are convicted as adults, even though they are a minor… either they are a minor or they aren’t.

    • #74111 Reply
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      Strain Theory

      In Criminology, there is a theory called Strain Theory, which asserts that crime is committed due to difficulty meeting their own basic needs, a strain on them. Thus, in order to cope and compensate for tthis strain, they resort to criminal behavior.

      Those that created the registry are aware of it’s overall effect and strain on on those they afflict with forced registration. They know that creating strain often leads to criminal behavior. It is intentional. If there design were to reduce criminal behavior, they would not create structures such as registration which greatly increases strain on the individual. Rather, they would focus on structures that would reduce strain and ease reintegration.

      Registration keeps the masses scared ( via news and corrosive entertainment). Fear and indoctrinated disinformation is what keeps registration from falling through the cracks. If you are going to fight the medias, better put up posters everywhere, send mail, create ads which imply the truth, write books, etc. Get busy. If you are going to destabilize the system, create a detailed map of every office related to registration, every detail about how it flows, and share all information with every SO publicly listed ( by their listed address). The more you map it out the registry system in detail, the more weaknesses in their structure will become visible to you.

      Keep studying law, and keep picking away at the registration regime, find every opportunity to take it to court. Remember there is a law that requires registration, but there also exists a whole set of laws that remove basic rights which only apply to those forced to register. Those are so unconstitutional they are burning a massive whole in the US Constitution. Litigate relentlessly.

      Make friends, start a family. The social design of registration is to isolate you, don’t isolate. If you can’t find friends currently, remember that you have fellows in the same situation, many go to support groups. Don’t let them isolate you, find your friends, start a family.

    • #74119 Reply
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      Bill

      “The person who referenced his “chosen sex offender life” needs to think about the facts.”
      If you follow this line of thinking then George Foreman suffered the consequences of trying to pass a fake $20 bill. If only he had not “chosen” to do so.

    • #74123 Reply
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      Sheri

      To Sandy, what a GREAT article and respect the defense you took to the sex offender life person. These are such small minded people. Just drives me crazy. And to you sir, what a brave scary notable thing you’ve done by standing up and literally risking everything by yourself out there like you did. I never once thought you were taking away from BLM but were only saying… ALSO.., ALSO THIS SITUATION MATTERS AND NEEDS ADJUSTING MORE THAN PEOPLE REALIZE. Which they won’t because they are so robotic minded to a stereotype. With a blanket effect punishment for all. My son too was 15 and will be 35 on the 17th if this month. And he also as you have has his own business which is doing VERY well, got full custody of his kids. (As a S O) And has had the world against him and some of the most harshest punishments and restrictions II and others have ever seen. With his incident that no where meets the punishment. Please everyone know I’m not minimizing what he did. I’m saddened 20 years later without any incidents is still paying the price and seems a noise around his neck a lot of time. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for your bravery.
      Blessings.

    • #74126 Reply
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      Brandon

      It’s no doubt registration was intended to make people fail and forever to be in the system; which is why registrants are always excluded. Our re-offense rates are no where near frightening and high; yet the government will do everything to instill fear. It’s time for advocacy groups to play hardball and overturn Smith V. Doe and put these useless laws in the sewer where they belong. It’s time to go after the people who used their platform to instill fear for persecution of a group they made the boogeyman. Enough of this oppression in the United States. Justice for all or justice for nobody. Time to speak up, stand up and knock this damn down!!

    • #74207 Reply
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      Ben Franstook

      The registry is punitive no two ways about it. Having said that it’s been 18.5 years since I committed my crime and will soon be 5 years since I completed my criminal sentence. In many ways I’m glad it came to light. It allowed both my victim and I to begin to heal. That’s the important part. Yet I’m still forbidden to leave the state of my conviction. My civil supervision is identical to criminal supervision save in name. Most days are ok. Every now and then I remember I’m still a prisoner. The cell is just bigger and gilded.

    • #74242 Reply
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      Facts should matter

      “Heydon has now resigned his connection with the chain of coffee shops, turning over his creation to a long-time employee.”

      And by doing so, he indirectly did everyone with the label a disservice by reinforcing the public’s notions that everyone on the list is a coward, pushover and timid. By him quitting or stepping down, it shows that he lacked the courage of his convictions and was unable to weather the criticism with resilience.

      BLM does NOT want anyone to steal their “moment in the spotlight,” so naturally they attacked, but until we get as loud, expect more of the same. Whoever gets the loudest and militant receives the needed coverage and attention that leads to change.

      Too many on the list are hiding behind their wives and children’s legs not wanting to “make waves.”

    • #74283 Reply
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      Thomas

      Linda I appreciate your enthusiasm in your statement. But as someone who made a mistake in 1997, I met a 13 year old girl who reached out to me when I was 19 years old. I understand the frustrations of what we go through. I also go through a cycle of wishing to just simply end my own life.

      I have not been able to hold down a solid job except once, when I lived in Michigan. I worked for a tech company for 5 years.

      Then I lost that job and was forced to move in with my parents. I went from a 25 year registration period to now being a life registration, all because I changed states. Because I got arrested 3 1/2 years for another issue, not sex related, I am in-elligible for petitioning for relief ever. Already been told by an attorney this. The same one that does work for this website.

      When my parents pass away I will become homeless. Since moving to Florida I have been unable to find much in the way of work. In some ways I wish I was one of the victims killed by a vigilante.

      The vast majority of the population want as many pedophiles to be hung as possible because of the sex trafficking being brought to light. And in the eyes of most, there is no difference between a Sexual Offender, Sexual Predator or Pedophile. They all mean the same thing.

      When I did work, I was traveling for a work contract. I was in Virginia. I had the cop who did my monthly check-ins call me on my phone asking when I was going to return home. He had waited until the end of the month. When I answered not for a couple weeks he began to tell me I must be there for my checkin. He implied I could be arrested if I missed my check-in. This was a North Port police officer in Sarasota County. This is the same cop that reached for his gun when my father came around the corner of our house, on our property while he was out doing yard work.

      This is the harsh reality that all offenders must face.

      I will be leaving Florida in a month, moving to Georgia. The stigma of this is that Florida will never release me from their public registry. I was convicted in Michigan, but I will be searchable on the internet for the rest of my life. Just type my name in, ping, Sex Offender from North Port, now living at such and such address in Georgia.

      Application – Denied; reason, not eligible to work here. And this has been the reason I have been denied employment repeated.

    • #74394 Reply
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      The King of Facebook

      I am a mixed (black&white) SO in Tennessee and I grew up being assailled by derogatory racial slurs police profiling and I can tell you being a SO is far worse.
      It’s more akin to being black in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

    • #74593 Reply
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      Jay

      Yes, and is done quite often.

    • #74736 Reply
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      Dexter

      Interesting how you refused to point out that he was ALSO convicted of a felony charge. You wouldn’t be hiding that detail because it would make a significant difference, would you?

    • #75291 Reply
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      NH Registrant

      Today, we had company over from out-of-state.

      And today, the State Police decided to just randomly show up at my door for the ridiculously unnecessary and stupid residency check.

      They embarrassed me in front of my company.

      No other type of criminal has to deal with this kind of humiliation and outright invasion of their personal life. Only those of us on the Registry.

      What a world we live in. I’m beyond humiliated and very angry. But, what can I do about it? Nothing. As long as there’s money to be made from ignorance, the registry will live on.

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