Sex Offender Insanityby Doug Mataconis
I’ve written several times in the past about the manner in which America’s sex offender registry laws have led to insane, some might even say unjust, outcomes. There was the six-year old boy in Virginia who will go through the rest of his school career tagged as a sexual offender. The 15 year old Ohio teenager who was charged with distribution of child pornography for sending a nude picture of herself to her friends. Last week, I wrote about a 24 year old woman in Georgia who could lose her house because she was declared a sex offender for having oral sex with her boyfriend when she was a teenager. And, then, of course, there’s the case of Genarlow Wilson, who spent was sentenced to 10 years in prison for having oral sex with his girlfriend.
Well, the insanity continues.
When Ricky was 16, he went to a teen club and met a girl named Amanda, who said she was the same age. They hit it off and were eventually having sex. At the time Ricky thought it was a pretty normal high school romance.
Two years later, Ricky is a registered sex offender, and his life is destroyed.
Amanda turned out to be 13. Ricky was arrested, tried as an adult, and pleaded guilty to the charge of lascivious acts with a child, which is a class D felony in Iowa. It is not disputed that the sex was consensual, but intercourse with a 13-year-old is illegal in Iowa.
Ricky was sentenced to two years probation and 10 years on the Iowa online sex offender registry. Ricky and his family have since moved to Oklahoma, where he will remain on the state’s public registry for life.
Being labeled a sex offender has completely changed Ricky’s life, leading him to be kicked out of high school, thrown out of parks, taunted by neighbors, harassed by strangers, and unable to live within 2,000 feet of a school, day-care center or park. He is prohibited from going to the movies or mall with friends because it would require crossing state borders, which he cannot do without permission from his probation officer. One of Ricky’s neighbors called the cops on him, yelled and cursed at him, and videotaped him every time he stepped outside, Ricky said.
“It affects you in every way,” he said. “You’re scared to go out places. You’re on the Internet, so everybody sees your picture.”
His mother, Mary, said the entire family has felt the ramifications of Ricky being labeled a sex offender. His younger brother has been ridiculed at school and cannot have friends over to the house; his stepfather has been harassed; the parents’ marriage has been under tremendous pressure; and strangers used to show up at their door to badger the family. One neighbor came to the house and told Mary he wasn’t going to leave them alone until they took their “child rapist” away, so they moved, she said.
Ricky’s family should probably be thankful they don’t live in Florida, though, because they’d probably be living under a bridge:
MIAMI, Florida (CNN) — The sparkling blue waters off Miami’s Julia Tuttle Causeway look as if they were taken from a postcard. But the causeway’s only inhabitants see little paradise in their surroundings.
Five men — all registered sex offenders convicted of abusing children — live along the causeway because there is a housing shortage for Miami’s least welcome residents.
“I got nowhere I can go!” says sex offender Rene Matamoros, who lives with his dog on the shore where Biscayne Bay meets the causeway.
The Florida Department of Corrections says there are fewer and fewer places in Miami-Dade County where sex offenders can live because the county has some of the strongest restrictions against this kind of criminal in the country.
Florida’s solution: house the convicted felons under a bridge that forms one part of the causeway.
The Julia Tuttle Causeway, which links Miami to Miami Beach, offers no running water, no electricity and little protection from nasty weather. It’s not an ideal solution, Department of Corrections Officials told CNN, but at least the state knows where the sex offenders are.
Now, it’s likely the case that the men living under the causeway are dangerous offenders, but where’s the logic in a law that is so draconian in restricting where they live that it encourages them to drop out of the system so that nobody will know where they are ? And where’s the logic in extending the sex offender registry system to offenses that aren’t really offenses at all, but rather just teenagers being teenagers ?
Steve Verdon makes this point:
Making them register as sex offenders and destroying their lives is simply stupid. And even for actual sex offenders releasing them then passing laws that make it impossible to live anywhere in society is just mind boggling stupid. If they are still such a danger to society, then lock them the Hell up. Don’t release convicted criminals who are so highly likely to re-offend back into society and set up a monitoring system that is so harsh it actually encourages them to avoid registering as a sex offender.
While at the same time ruining the lives of essentially innocent people.