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Imagine every time when you go out you fell like an outcast, you receive stares, hear slight laughter and you are not welcomed in certain areas. Next, imagine obtaining a degree in higher education and all of a sudden it becomes meaningless or being told you are unable to be a part of any social networking sites, yet complete strangers has access to know who you are and what your past in tells with or without your approval. This is information is not from a social network site of any sort but from the national sex offender registry. In the United States according to the most recent survey of states found there are 747,408 registered sex offenders in the country today (NCMEC, 2012). The causes of sexual crimes are very broad and can vary on a person by person basis. Generally, you cannot identify one problem or situation that can account for why a person commits such an act however some of the leading causes of criminal sexual activity are imprisonment, divorce, substance abuse, geographic factors and mental illness (Stephan Moritz Hurwitz, 1983).
What is a registered sex offender? A registered sex offender is all persons convicted of crimes involving sex, including rape, molestation, sexual harassment and pornography production or distribution (Hill & Hill). Although sex offenders are those who have committed a form of a sexual crime there are also individuals registered who have not actually committed a crime but are convicted based on a technical law and are them apart of the classification. In some states you run the risk of becoming a registered sex offender if your girlfriend/boyfriend is 16 and you are 18. There are also the situations where the families can press charges if there child is a minor under law regardless of the agreement between the two people in the relationship. Pornographic material can also cause you be listed on the national sex offer registry, this reason alone is the increasing cause of today's youth becoming a part of the registry. Sexting is a form of text messaging where either one or both parties sends a nude photo of themselves or someone else. This violates the law and regardless of if the photo is of yourself a person can be charged with child pornography or distributing pornography.
Sex offenders are classified by offense and severity. According to the Sex offender registry information there are three classifications of sex offenders. Risk levels are a three-tier designation of Risk-Level 1 (Low), Risk-Level 2 (Moderate), and Risk-Level 3 (High) classifying assessing the offender's potential of re-offense (Sex Offender Registration Information, 2007). Level one offender's present the lowest possible risk to the community and lowest risk of re-offending.Â They normally show predatory characteristics and most have successfully participated or are currently participating in approved treatment programs and many are first time offenders. Level two offenders have a higher likelihood of re-offending. They are considered an increased risk to re-offend because of the nature of their previous crime(s) and lifestyle (drug and alcohol abuse and other criminal activity) (Sex Offender Registration Information, 2007). Level three offenders are the most sever offenders. They are a high risk to the community and are a threat to re-offend if provided the opportunity (Sex Offender Registration Information, 2007).Â Most level three offenders have prior sex crime convictions, multiple victims as well as other criminal convictions.
Being registered as a sex offender is very similar to being on probation or having supervised released. Probation is defined as a sentence that does not require confinement by incarceration however it imposes regulations on the behaviors as well as whereabouts of the individual. Supervised release is any type of offender management program where clients must be supervised by probation/parole officer (Champion, 2008). However being a registered sex offender combines both.
How are offenders monitored? In some instances, electronic technologies (such as electronic monitoring or GPS devices) help monitor sex offenders while under supervision. Because these technologies are quite expensive and some studies suggest they are most effective with higher-risk offenders these surveillance techniques may be best used with only the highest-risk or violent sex offenders (Management, 2009). While being monitored as a sex offender it affects where an offender can live. According the New York state division of justice the Sex Offender Registration Act does not restrict where a registered sex offender may live. However, if the offender is under parole or probation supervision, State laws may limit the offender from living within 1,000 feet of a school, churches or other facility caring for children (Frequently Asked Questions).
Offenders struggle on a daily bias many may question, How am I going to put food on the table? How will I be able to pay the bills this month? If I skip this bill what will happen? These are just a few questions that individuals face after being labeled as a sex offender because many of their privileges are relinquished. After these individuals serve their time it does not end their action will surround them for the rest of their life, this is known as collateral consequences. Collateral consequences are consequences which are beyond the terms of the conviction. For example consequences could include disenfranchisement, disentitlement of education loans, loss of professional licenses, or eviction from public housing (Collateral Consequences of Criminal Charges Law & Legal Definition). The government programs such as food stamps, medicad, government checks, housing are the safety net for individual living in poverty or who may need assistance however this amenities are not offered after you become a registered offender and many cases that greatest challenge: the lack of financial resources, housing and support. Often times these individuals are cut off from their families and shunned from society. Society perception to these offenders is an growing issue and concern for it could foster another criminal behavior in order for that individual to get by in society.
The laws are there to protect the community and victims but what things are in place to protect the offenders. Their since of privacy is nonexistent, everyone knows what they look like and where they live; therefore who and what will protect them. The laws are designed to protect all however there is a short coming when looking at the issue of sex offenders. Sammy Joe is a prime example of the law protecting only certain individuals. He is a registered sex offender and has been one for almost 7 years. He was eighteen years old when he met a fifteen year old girl, only two months shy of her sixteenth birthday. They entered a relationship where things turned physical, during one of their physical encounters her parents became aware and they pressed charges. He was not a threat to any one simply an act of lust however he is now a registered sex offender. In interviewing him he stated every day is a challenge his life changed in a blink of an eye for something that ultimately was not worth it (Joe, 2012), he also discussed the law and how it is unfair and excludes offenders from the protection. As stated previously all offenders must report their location, as Sammy Joe did however upon moving he was greeted with signs and violence. He was beat up and critically injured following an attack out front of his home, and for what? Because he was a registered sex offender, an act was consensual between the parties however the registry paints a different picture. Situations like such should make society question should all offenders be monitored heavily, should low offenders be exempted from the location agreement after a certain amount of time and overall is it fair.
The positives, negatives and stigmas are simple. The positives are the aspects of the safety of the community and the closure for the victim or family. However the negatives fall into the hands of the offender for after the initial sentencing the collateral consequences will last forever. For the books registered for life and No Easy Answers implies there are no easy ways of life after being labeled. The sigma's are endless when it comes to sex offenders. However majority are no different from you or I, there is no typical sex offender. Sex offenders can be any race, religion, occupation, age, etc.
The sex offender epidemic is controlled by community corrections, most individuals who offender may never see the inside of the prison walls therefore it is up to community aspect of corrections to control and regulate those individuals. However in controlling and regulating theses offenders we as a society must think about every outcome or every reason for not all people registered are truly bad people.
Today's children could very well be tomorrows sex offenders and should life end because of a lack of judgment, after you serve your time and pay your debt to society should you continue to be punished? All too often society uses just deserts when thinking about criminals or offenders, however, after they are released or their time is served they are too once again apart of society and they should be entitled to all protection and opportunities to correct their life. For, as a society if we ignore the issue or allow for society to discriminate, the original issue of being a sex offender could turn into a generational passing of poverty from one generation affecting the long-term health, wellbeing and productivity of families because these individuals are not offered the same opportunities to support their self and family. Every issue affects the society as a whole. Therefore, I challenge you to extend a helping hand to help the ones who cannot help themselves and break the revolving door of stigmas.