Reply To: “A sex offender wants to talk to you”; reporter’s journey leads her to Nebraskans Unafraid

Ree Bebetu

The Registry would be considered illegal, and unconstitutional if the roughly 800,000 people on it were convicted of any other crime except so-called sex offending. All others pay their debt to society and are freed to pick up the pieces of their lives. Some will go right back through the prison doors because they have been the victims of a justice system in which punishment reigns supreme and rehabilitation is a dirty word. But many of them move on and build new and lawful lives. Not so for sex offenders. . . .

It all began in the eighties when a couple of disgruntled Congressmen slipped through the incipient sex offender legislation that has burgeoned into a huge poisonous web of hatred based on ignorance in this enlightened twenty-first century. It is true that there are good numbers of sex offenders on the registry who have committed heinous crimes against children–and women. But it is also true that there are huge numbers of sex offenders who have committed the most minimal of crimes. Consider the old man–or even a very young man–who got caught exposing himself when he couldn’t wait and relieved himself behind a bush. Consider the eighteen-year-old boy who got caught making love to his seventeen-year-old girlfriend. Consider, thousands of men who were invited into a chat room by a “friend” but had no idea what they were getting into, and then once charged, were forced into making pleas for fear of spending thirty years in federal prison rather than fifteen with a plea and a lifetime on the registry. There are many thousands of men in American prisons, who have no criminal records, no history of violence, no desire to to harm our nation’s young, but who were curious and took a peek, or who were invited to take a peek by a “friend” because misery loves company. These men are not criminals: they made a mistake–to the delight and pleasure of vehement US Attorneys who send these men to prisons with overlong sentences. It keeps the prison system in business.

And yet overlong prison sentences and the registry do not promote justice; Clearly, they represent a travesty of justice in this great land.