Sitting on My Porch Swing: An Exercise in Anti-banishment

My favorite place to relax is in my front porch swing. I can’t think of too many other places where I have felt this content and happy. Of course, there is that one beach in the Caribbean and a certain cafe near the Champs-Élysées but I don’t think I’ll be visiting those places again for a long time. No, my life has certainly become more simple, more humble in recent years. This isn’t by choice, being a registered citizen has simply squeezed my life down to a much smaller scale. Anyway, I take my moments of peace and comfort where I can and my front porch swing seldom lets me down.

The huge red swing is hung under the grand porch that wraps around our 1920s Arts and Crafts pier and beam home which is nestled into an eclectic and diverse neighborhood in Midcity Baton Rouge. I enjoy living here. I feel a connection to this neighborhood, I see myself as part of the fabric. This is my home.
The view from my porch makes for good people watching but more importantly it allows me the opportunity to commune others. In turn, this communal aspect gives me a feeling of connectedness to the life thriving in my neighborhood.

From my vantage point on the swing I can regularly watch folks waking dogs, bicycling to work and school, tending to their yards or visiting with other neighbors. My consistent presence has often made me the default runaway dog rescuer and a resource for lost drivers in need of directions.

Some of my long time neighbors even tell me they feel safer because of my porch swinging habits. A routine that also happens to make me pretty familiar with the daily comings and goings on our street.
Seen as trustworthy and dependable by many of neighbors, I am periodically asked to intercept a FedEx package, hold onto a spare key or watch a house for suspicious activity while the owners are on vacation. It feels really good and I must admit I feel a bit of pride in this.

I used to have a pretty independent, free spirited personality. From a young age I rejected conformity, and was turned off by those who needed the constant affection and approval of others to feel validated. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy being appreciated by others, I certainly adored the sound of applause during my theatre years. I simply assert that my need to belong and be accepted didn’t even register on the charts until I became sex offender.

I used to think of “otherness” as a badge of glory. When I think of my “otherness” these days depression rolls in and the feelings of despair begin to weigh heavy on my soul. I fuss myself for spending countless hours daydreaming about the comforts of blending in. I hate that I wish for a day when I could be simply unremarkable. These kind of thoughts are not in line with my personality at all but I tend to return them for comfort just the same. I suppose it’s understandable that I have these notions when you consider what my present notoriety is based on. Not wanting the be the “someone” I have become, I guess it’s natural to want to be “no one.” What I really want actually lies somewhere in between. Finding that balance which allows one to be autonomous while also being a part of whole.

These days my semi-public interactions with others from the swing have become vital in helping me to understand who I am and how I fit in with others. Despite (what I believe is) common knowledge of my criminal conviction and my status as a registered citizen, many of my neighbors behave in ways that suggest acceptance; they speak to me as if I one of them. Keeping this in mind, it is almost possible to imagine myself as social asset, a valuable part of the civic network, a good person to live next door to. I welcome these moments of optimism and I work hard to put myself in spaces where my self confidence has a chance to grow.

For whatever reason, I am most confident about who and what I am when I’m swinging on the porch. Things are simplified. I can participate in the ancient ritual of exchanging greetings and news with neighbors and strangers. It is an exercise in anti-banishment I suppose. I extend myself to others in the spirit of good will and quite a few of those I come across reciprocate. I don’t have friendly or decent interactions with most folks but to say “quite a few” would be accurate.

Between the notification post cards and the public notices printed in the local paper and the registration website, (which I am forced to pay for) the government has done a pretty bang up job of letting the public at large know that I should be looked upon with contempt and fear. There are people who buy into this concept without any personal knowledge of me or any true understanding of how the ridiculous registry way the registry is put together. There are people who hate me and with the constant label and punitive exercises I’m forced to perform I occasionally struggle with hating myself. Constructing a strong healthy self concept is challenging for a sex offender.

While I have come to expect that most of the folks passing by my house will demonstrate the best in human behavior, I also have to remain vigilant. Even from the safety of my swing, people can donor say things that cause pain. There have been people who words hurt my heart or caused me to feel threatened or whose actions demonstrated their hate or fear. It’s only happened a handful of times but that doesn’t make it any less traumatic. On the contrary, when I feel attacked on my own turf it wrenches into me on a visceral level.

Dealing with these moments of social rejection is hard but I’ve worked hard to cope and accept and sometimes, let go. I no longer feel crushed when the elderly woman down the street obviously (and a bit dramatically) changes the course of her route to avoid driving or walking past me if I’m working in the yard. It just makes me feel sad. I no longer have an instant panic attack when a certain employee at the neighborhood grocery puts a “register closed” sign on the check out when I approach. It’s so absurd and mean spirited it’s almost funny. I’ve done my best to forgive the guys in the red truck who feel compelled to pull up to my house on numerous occasions and scream sexual obscenities before peeling out and speeding away. They obviously have issue of their own. I’ve learned not to cry over that gabby young stroller pushing couple as well. The ones who, upon realizing I’m outside, suddenly stop their conversation, favor me with an intense look of pity mixed with suspicion and then start hustling in double time until they clear my block.

Instead of dwelling on what the social rejections I described above “say about me,” I try hard to focus on the many elements of my personal life that seem to suggest I might actually be a good guy. I have a loving husband and a strong relationship with my wonderful daughter. I am also lucky to have many devoted and encouraging friends and a satisfying career as well. These things don’t prove I’m a “good person” but I think they make decent supporting evidence for the theory. After all, my spouse, family, friends, boss, coworkers and friends in the neighborhood know all about my arrest, my offense and my name on the registry. If they love me, accept me and see value in me, maybe I can feel that way about myself too.

Every day that I chose to go out and sit on that swing I’m “putting myself out there.” I don’t know what the moment will bring, who I will talk to or how they will react but I do it all the same. I will probably have a positive experience but the risk is there. I am driven by more than the simple drive to be a to be a part of the social network, I want people to see me, experience me and gain an understanding of who and what I am. By sitting on my porch instead of hiding in my house I’m saying, “I have purpose! I am one of you! I belong here too!” Because despite my occasional bouts of self doubt, all of that is true and no government scheme designed to shame and banish me can change that. So I wave, I greet, I help, I share laughs and I swing………….

******

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SO Registry is unique to nations in Anglosphere with U.S. being most restrictive in comparison to others

As I have been reading various SOR/RSO research, I came upon the topic of which countries actually have a registry.  It turns out it’s a phenomenon present only in English speaking countries, or the Anglosphere.  Much of the help for my research on this topic was found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_offender_registry though I did look at some other sources that confirmed at least part of it. I expected to find similar laws in other countries (particularly Canada and the UK). While i did find some similarities, there were obvious patterns of difference where the United States proves itself worthy of buffoon status among all countries of the world once again.  The other 7 countries, much less so.

Public Registry

The most shocking find was that the United States is the ONLY country in the world with a Public Sex Offender Registry (SOR).  We are the only country in over 20 years of SOR development that has the gall to subject its citizenry to such public humiliation despite such acts being outlawed under the cruel and unusual punishment clause of our most sacred Constitution.   Why, out of 8 countries with a SOR, are we the only ones who think public humiliation is okay?  As J.J. Prescott pointed out in his recent law journal, Portmanteau Ascendant: Post Release Regulations and Sex Offender Recidivism  it comes down to one word : Politics.  RSOs are a very easy and hated target for politicians to step on to show their voters they won’t tolerate crime and have the best interest of society in their minds.  On paper this is common sense; but as the consensus of social science research shows, continued plucking of this low-hanging fruit can (and does) actually increase the danger to society as shown in Prescott’s simple economic model.  It also has the dual detriment of wasting tax dollars and human resources that could serve much better purposes.  In Louisiana, this typically translates into funding cuts for Education and Health Care. Believe it or not, I find a registry accessible to law enforcement agencies a mostly reasonable approach though it still has its own set of problems and intrusions including harassment and the real threat of information leaks.  Research says that the nations who employ these private registries have seen decrease in recidivism (Big Brother is definitely watching!)

Offense-based vs. Risk-based Systems

Once again, the United States takes first place in infamy by using the most ridiculous system of the bunch.  We mostly use what is called an offense-based system (Louisiana included of course) which, is discussed in some detail in my earlier blog post Is early relief from Registration a possibility?  and the risk-based system is actually in line with my suggestions for changes in our laws in Louisiana.  As shown in the above-mentioned post,  our offense-based systems does not not allow much flexibility for non-threats to be removed from the registry (and thus freeing resources to be used on potentially imminent recidivists).  The few states that do employ the most empirically supported risk-based system are under pressure from the federal government to change to the widely accepted offense-based system.

I have not looked into more details on our overseas cousin-nations, but as typically seems to be usual, our northern neighbor Canada employs a far more reasonable approach than the United States.  They employ a risk-based system with plenty of opportunities for non-threats to prove they no longer belong on the registry.  The first words that came out of my wife’s mouth (and probably to the reader’s mind) when I mentioned Canada’s laws to her were “Well, I guess it’s time to move!”  That is often a very attractive notion for RSOs and their loving families, But I reminded her that this is our home country where we were born and our families reside.  While being patriotic can be quite difficult under SOR, it is still our rightful duty to fight for reform and not run away.  The problem will still be present for nearly 1 million U.S. citizens whether we leave or not.  We need to be the proverbial sacrificial lambs if we hope to reform our society.  Besides that, the recent passport law will likely make running away an impossibility for all RSOs as some countries have already refused to allow us in.   Ceteris Paribus, The trend towards increasingly backing a population into a corner will lead us towards devastating results (and more unintended victims). History has obviously failed to teach America not to back people into corners. Still, our other English-speaking cousins seem to have developed much better approaches that have yielded much better results (or at least not made things worse like ours has!)  Maybe our lawmakers can learn something from them?

written by Discarded Asset on September 8, 2016.

Child Pornography: Preferred Offender or Situational Offender?

This topic has been long overdue to touch on.  My entire week  (and even my personal offense of possession of child pornography) has led me to feel the need to address this issue.  The common sentiment society has on internet-based crimes, such as is overwhelmingly the case in child pornography offenses, is that anyone who has looked at child pornography is a dangerous sexual deviant who seeks only to have sexual relationships with minors.  While this can be considered resoundingly correct in some cases, such as a person who has hundreds of thousands of images, produces child pornography, etc., The often unreported fact remains that those who participate in such widespread victimization using child pornography often don’t see the light of day after conviction.  You often see these cases getting huge sentences ranging from 40 years to life in prison.  The offenders society does get to see coming back into society are cases such as mine.  For the sake of this argument and for my own credibility as being thoroughly researched and invested in this topic, I will tell you some things about me, my offense, and the events that lead up to it.  In an effort to avoid bringing any negative repercussions or shame to my family, I will refrain from identifying details such as my name or where these events took place.  These are events I am not proud of and wish never happened, but admitting and embracing them was the most important step in becoming a better person that is no threat to society.

I was exposed to pornography by a relative around the age of 5-6 on a regular basis. I can’t specifically remember my age at the time, but it was well before I started first grade.  No child pornography was involved, but I still had an unnaturally early interest in viewing pornography.  This relative gave me several pornographic magazines including a playboy (I remember innocently liking the playboy bunny logo).  Developmentally speaking, this relative was considered, by me, to be a role model (a terrible one, of course).  I remember thinking that looking at these women was the coolest thing I could do because Cousin Mike did it.   Imagine my shock when my parents found these magazines, freaked out, and struggled to explain to me why I could not have them?  I was quite confused at that age and even had a sense of loss.  Why can my cousin Mike have these cool magazines and I couldn’t? not more than 2 years later, I was playing with a female cousin who I ended up having a sexual encounter with.  Specifically, we engaged in mutual masturbation.  She actually initiated the contact (which makes me wonder if she was also a victim), but  I wanted to take it further and try some of the things I had seen (including penetration) on the pornographic movies I had seen with Cousin Mike.  Thankfully, she was afraid we would get caught.  I thank God to this day that it didn’t progress to that point, as research indicates penetration is a line that, once crossed, leads to much more problems.  But why, at the age of 7, was I even aware of these things?  The answer, which I did not know until 4 years after my conviction, was that I had been victimized and was dangerously on my way to perpetuating the victim-offender cycle.

I had two other such encounters in my childhood and I didn’t think of them as weird in the least because of the early seeds planted into my impressionable young psyche.  Things came to full swing at the age of 10 when we got our first personal computer (pc).  I had (and still have) a natural affinity to computers and internet usage and it was not long before I was regularly viewing pornography and even masturbating to it (pre-pubesecent masturbation!).  My parents actually never knew I had pornography on my computer because of my knowledge and ability to cover my tracks (as well as their utter lack of even basic computer skills at the time).  In fact, When at the age of 21 I called my parents and told them my computer had been seized, they said they had no idea I even looked at pornography.  That said, child pornography was actually something I looked at frequently during my teenage years (seeking my peer group).  I quickly became desensitized to it. As a young adult, I never considered having it was illegal since it was actually a norm for me to view these images for over a decade with no one out there to call me out on my deviant behavior (which I desperately needed). Despite my early desensitization to child pornography, forensics only confirmed 5 files of child pornography on my computer.  As a scare tactic to ensure my guilty plea, they tried to say I had more (I believe they claimed about 120 images); but when I asked to see the evidence, they dodged that question which to this day leads me to believe it was a smoke screen.  They never considered that I had nearly 10,000 images saved on my computer making ratio of actual child pornography in my collection to non-illegal pornography 1 in 2000. This ratio comparably is 24 in 2000( or 3 in 250 in simplest terms)  if you consider the slim possibility that all images they said I had were indeed child pornography (some were young adults posing as children for example).  They did not care that I had an very small percentage of child porn compared to regular porn. They only wanted an easy conviction.  It took me nearly 2 years of therapy to finally take responsibility for my role in this crime and to take real efforts to stem my pornography addiction (which is what I really needed).

I was convicted of one count of possession of child pornography in federal court (since state did not conduct their search of my computer properly) in May 2008.  This conviction was less than two weeks after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems.  in 2013, not long after reaffirming my faith in God and working tirelessly to beat my addiction to pornography, I earned a second degree in Psychology with the hopes of becoming a therapist for other offenders.  In Louisiana, I could not find a program where Sex Offender laws did not bar me from earning my Masters with the needed clinical work for licensing.  I still hold hopes of becoming a therapist in a field where I have a unique understanding that non-offenders are by definition handicapped in fully understanding. Until laws change, those hopes are on hold indefinitely.

My story leads me to believe that there are other men out there who are in the same boat.  Although my therapy is long over, I still go to group therapy twice a month as stipulated by federal probation (I am on year 6 of 10 of supervised release).  SAFER Louisiana is a topic that comes up often in group and I was shocked Tuesday by the approach of two members who were also convicted of computer-based offenses.  We had a discussion about how these crimes we are convicted of portray us with the assumption of having tendencies towards pedophilia (If not assumed to be true pedophiles) when in fact other issues were underlying the offense.  They pleaded with me to find a way to change these assumptions which struck my heart like Robin Hood splitting his own arrow on a perfect mark.

This got me thinking more about how many other RSOs fall under this umbrella.  All 3 of us had very minor factors in our offenses compared to many high profile cases that are publicized.  None of us actually touched a minor (as adults),  yet we are considered tier 2 offenders where people who have actually had hands-on action (non-aggravated) are usually tier 1. From our standpoint, as downloaders (not distributors or producers) of a small amount of child pornography, we view someone actually molesting a juvenile as a more heinous offender. The distinction between tiers does not make sense unless you consider where the assumption of our level of “threat to society” comes from.  I had to share with them what I have learned (sometimes reluctantly) over the last 6 years being focused on Sex Offender therapy both in practice and in schooling.

Please note, for the purpose of this post and for the sake of simplicity, when I say objectification of women, I refer to the vast majority of offenders (and specifically those discussed in this post) who are heterosexual men.  I am aware, and do not discount, that there are other cases that include women viewing child pornography as well as gay, lesbian, and bisexual situations involving juveniles.

Research shows that prolonged usage of pornography leads to a high level of objectification (viewing people as sex objects vs. human beings who deserve the utmost respect).  Research also indicates that objectification is significantly correlated (keep in mind correlation does not always equate to causation) to committing sexual offenses.  This leads to a logical (though potentially fallacious) assumption that people who view child pornography are far more likely to view children as objects and thus be more apt to use them accordingly.  In this light, it makes some sense that lawmakers view us as tier 2 offenders whereas situational molestation or statutory rape offenses are considered tier 1.  The problem with this line of thinking is it assumes that we are not capable of changing our ways of thinking, and that we are predetermined to continue to objectify women.  It is but a simple step to also assume, since we actually viewed any amount of child pornography at all, that we are also predetermined to objectify children.  This can be true in some cases;  But I believe with all my heart that, with proper therapeutic techniques and a sincere willingness to change,  viewers of child pornography (this can also extend to RSOs in general) are not only capable of obliterating their own sexual deviancy, but actually becoming less sexually deviant than those who have never been convicted of a sex offense.

Since I consider myself a therapeutic success (admittedly subject to bias), I will add my thoughts on this matter.  We are much more likely to continue to objectify women than we are to objectify children (assuming that was even present in the first place).  I believe future therapy for our types of offenses should include rigorous therapy for sex addiction and training ourselves to view women far more respectfully than society in general dictates (feminists can agree with me on this statement!).  Prolonged effort to avoid objectification is paramount to success.  This is one of the many reasons I desire to become a therapist.  I desire the redemption of all offenders (not just sex offenders) with all my heart and every fiber of my being and want to extend the frontier of offender therapy.  True Empathy for sex offenders is arguably not achievable by non-offenders and I sincerely believe having someone in the field who has actually walked the walk of a sex offender is crucial to the success of treatment in general.

My answer to the topic of this post, “Child Pornography: Preferred Offender or Situational Offender?” is that it depends on the individual offender as well as their ability and/or willingness to accept responsibility for their role in their offense and make a concerted effort to change themselves.  This can be aided by improved therapeutic techniques focused on the many factors involving the individual offender including past victimization, severity of offense, personality, religious beliefs, familial support, and so on.  Lumping us all in one basket and making blanket assumptions on our risk level as a collective is not and will never be the answer (Even though it is the path of least resistance for lawmakers)!  Therapists need to go beyond “Best practices” of making sure RSOs take responsibility for their role in their offense and also “Meet them where they are.

 written by Discarded Asset. on August 19, 2016.

 

 

 

 

Employment for Ex-Offenders? Hope for the Felon (but Not the Sex Offender)

I read a story in the paper today about Jeff Landry, the Louisiana AG, hiring a convicted felon, Quendi Baloney, to work in his office. Despite the usual cringe I feel when I see his name, the news story itself really got me thinking. I’ll make no bones about it, I strongly dislike Landry’s politics. I see him as carrying on the same legacy of poor policies and practices as our last AG Buddy Caldwell. Veritably ignoring the legitimate responsibilities of the Attorney General’s Office, Landry continues to misspend prodigious amounts of tax money on cyber crime entrapment and extortion schemes. Instead of tracking down and arresting the people actually producing CP and rescuing these abused children, the AG office distributes online porn bait to create new criminals in our communities. This makes their “cybercrime unit” look bad-ass on paper. Appealing to traditional ultra-conservative peers and constituents is a well known super-objective for the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office. So why did Landry do something as socially progressive as employing a felon?

While the hiring of an ex-felon sets an excellent positive example in our state, Landry’s
action was not altruistically motivated. In truth, the ex-felon he hired happened to be the daughter of another politician who’s endorsement he badly needed. (Did someone say “conflict of interest?”) Landry actually broke the policies of his own office, part of our legal branch of government, when he hired Baloney. He didn’t fight to change the agency policy barring felons from employment. He didn’t pave the way for more qualified people with criminal histories to find job within his office. He simply chose to ignore the rule creating a barrier between himself and a self-serving scheme.

Yet despite the dust being kicked up over the usual corrupt practices in our government, there is a silver lining. An ex-offender is gainfully employed. While her position may only last as long as Landry’s tenure, her future prospects are much improved. The public is witnessing an elected official giving a great job to a felon. While the story eventually reveals this gesture to be highly suspect, the headline does contain the words, “Jeff Landry hired..” and “looking past her criminal record.”

Hey, I count progress in pennies.

My feelings about Landry aside, hiring former offenders is a good thing. The more resilient of the people who have navigated the devastating consequences of a criminal conviction often develop characteristics very desirable in a employee. As Quendi Baloney says, “(My past has made me) a stronger, harder working ethical adult with much more to share with my family, my employer and our community as a whole.” And you know what? I believe her. My personal experience has created a positive bias in this direction. I believe the under and unemployed ex-offender class has great potential to become an asset to our society. Your worth, knowledge, talents and experience are not erased with a conviction. Nor is a person’s ability to learn skills diminished.

I work part-time for a prison reentry program. I know first hand how important community reintegration is for felons. (For both the incarcerated and those disenfranchised by probation) Among other things, statistics draw clear lines of cause and effect between steady employment and reduced recidivism/increased quality of life. We also know an offender’s connection to the community, the strength of their family bonds and their access to support and assistance programs are true game changers in the prevention of reoffending. As an advocate for the previously incarcerated, I’m a big supporter of employer incentives, protective statutes, nonprofit services and public awareness campaigns that increase employment opportunities for this class. The politics behind the story I read today are shady, but if I squint my eyes this article appears as evidence of society’s willingness to incorporate people with a criminal history. I cheer when this cause is promoted, even if it’s a vicarious endorsement.

Though America has a very far way to go, I’ve seen advancements in many areas of this issue lately. Employers who hire ex-felons can get free protective bonds from the government. (Reducing the potential employer’s fear of suffering financial damage if the “ex-con” reoffends on the job) There is now an unprecedented amount of resources for reentry programming coming from the Federal government. Private foundations are making reentry grants a priority. Social concern for the previously incarcerated is the cause de rigueur. Public perceptions are changing and people with records are slowly moving toward employment. As a person with a felony conviction myself, one would assume this makes me feel pretty confident about my future. But I’m not. None of this progress applies to me.

Registered citizens are conspicuously left out of this entire equation. While I celebrate what the new state law, “Ban the Box” could potentially do for many of my clients, I am also struggling to accept the other laws passed to increase employment restrictions on registered “sex offenders.” As I secure educational grants to provide IT job training programs for prisoners I also deal with the fallout from a new notification law for RSOs that jeopardizes the security and confidentially of my own internet accounts. My agency helps ex-offenders secure access to resources like public housing, food stamps and tuition assistance but as a registered citizen I am forever banned from these benefits. This exclusion isn’t just the result of public prejudice, it’s a statutorily mandated segregation of those with sex related convictions from the rest of the population.

I think it’s scary, no, terrifying, how low-risk registered people (who make up the majority of the SOR) are being divided from the ex-offender class in addition to being quarantined from the general public. Adding insult to injury, the vitriol directed at the registered and the socially acceptable subjugation and disenfranchisement we suffer is based on a massive and abominable body of misinformation, manipulative propaganda and damaging myths.

Every person found guilty of any one of the myriad of “sex crimes” (the absurd variety of offenses under the umbrella are staggering) on the books is labeled (branded, marked) a “sex offender.” This label is a public declaration that fuels the perceptions of society that as a sex offender is highly dangerous and consequently unemployable. “The danger that the individual is perceived to pose is especially focused on being a danger to children. Reoffending seems to be assumed.”* (Citation below) The blanket sex offender label has relegated over 850,000 Americans to thrash heap. They are the unforgivable and the unredeemable. They have no value. Worse than criminal, the registered are understood to be immoral, compulsively deviant and dangerous. The policies of our government reinforce these myths as fact.

The average American believes the registered are the “enemy within” because the government tells them so. Why does the construction of more and more laws to restrict sex offenders continue? Why did the US institute the most massive civilian surveillance program (SORNA) the public has ever seen? Why the whole-sale violation of constitutional rights for almost one million citizens? How can any of this be happening unless the fears over sex offenders are based 100% on facts? The average American can’t be blamed for drawing this conclusion. Traditional offenders are released back into society, allowed to start their life again. This makes them candidates for the more socially conscious of potential employers. But even the boss with a heart of gold buys the negative hype about sex offenders. Is it any wonder no one is hiring any sex offenders in the want ads today?

The REGISTERED SEX OFFENDER is currently the most reviled of Americans. Perhaps, DOMESTIC TERRORIST would trump the registered label, though this may be arguable as well. Look at the true life tales told in media and the dramas played out in our popular entertainment. A traditional ex-offender may find himself playing the hero in a feel good story, à la Shawshank Redemption or the comeback of Michael Vick. No way in hell a sex offender will be cast in those roles. True story or fiction, society has no desire to connect to the humanity of a sex offender. People don’t want to hear about a sex offender finding success or happiness. Sex offenders don’t deserve joy or freedom much less a job. The disparaging difference in the perception of a felon and the felony sex offender is unfair but it is a reality. The plight of the registered is a narrative with little in common to that of the traditional felon. The evidence of their progress and the gains they achieve are not ours.

So, while I congratulate Quendi Baloney on securing a $50,000+ job with the Attorney General’s Office in fraud control despite having 11 felony counts of credit card fraud and theft on her record…..I also feel feel slightly jealous, and very much left out. There is indeed a tale of two felons in America. For everyone’s sake I hope traditional felons continue to make strides and will enjoy a brighter future. For my own sake, I just daydream of a social advancement from sex offender gang to the regular felon club.

No offense to my low risk registered brothers and sisters out there but I’d trade your company for that of the drug dealers, thieves and violent thugs any day. Im not saying these guys are better than you. On the contrary, low risk offenders represent a fairly stand-up group of folks. Most of the registered only offended once. Outside of this offense they lived law abiding lives. Most of them had no criminal intent. And all of the registered participated in therapies to help accept responsibility for their crimes and gain empathy for victims. Traditional felons rarely do this. The precarious access to the limited freedoms a sex offender does is contingent on their remorse, by sincerely convincing everyone they would never offend again. If you meet one of us, you know how much we regret our actions. This isn’t true of a traditional felon outside of a parole hearing. Yep, the regular felon is a suspect group, one must accept incorporate them into their life with caution. But, oh how I envy them. Lord, I want to be in that number. Please let me wake up and be a plain old felon!!

*Incarcerated Sex Offenders’ Expectations for Reentry
Richard Tewksbury and Heith Copes

 

Is early relief from Registration a possibility?

Facts

This is one of the biggest questions tossed around among registered citizens, but is often more thoroughly looked into upon completion of treatment and any probation and parole requirements. The short answer is “With a clean record, Maybe.” The long answer is hidden deep within the law itself–R.S. 15:544.  We encourage you to reference this law (and read it fully if you have the time) as you read this post.

If you are interested in relief information from a state other than Louisiana, http://ccresourcecenter.org/ has compiled a chart of all 50 states which is accurate as of May, 2015.

However, here at SAFER-Louisiana we are focusing on what this law provides for registered citizens in our state. Below is a concise summary of what is provided in the statute.

  • Citizens who must register for 15 years (Tier 1) can petition for relief after ten years.
  • Citizens who must register for 25 years (Tier 2) currently have no provisions for relief and must register for the entire 25 years.
  • Citizens who must register for a lifetime (Tier 3*) can petition for relief after 25 years.

To be eligible for this relief, the individual must have a “clean” record during his or her period of registration.  as stated in R.S. 15:544, the “clean record” includes not being convicted of a felony or any sex offense, successful completion of a treatment program as provided under R.S. 24:936, and completing any supervised release, probation, or parole which most will have completed before the opportunity for relief has come up.*

*Some offenses that are not tier 3 are being given lifetime supervision and/or probation and parole.

Reflection

Despite Louisiana’s heavy-handed approach to Registered Citizens to date, these provisions are somewhat generous in comparison to some of the other 50 states.  However, I would point out that tier 2 offenses could also use a form of relief for a “clean record.” For example,  Possession of child pornography is considered a tier 2 offense.  Someone who had hundreds of thousands of images probably needs the whole 25 years sex offender registration. But what about someone who had 5 images and does not show any particular leanings towards being attracted to underage people?   I Believe this is where the Louisiana Sex Offender Assessment Panel provided under RS 15:560.2 can actually serve a purpose other than wasting tax payer dollars.  As it stands now, each offender gets a one-time risk assessment which is based on the offense they were convicted of and does not consider aggravating or diminutive factors such as number of victims, criminal intent, etc. as its title implies.

Why does this panel not review cases more than once after a period of time (Say 10 years) and based on track records, treatment profiles, probation and parole feedback, etc. provide a new assessment for the individual?  People can and do change over time for better and for worse.  An assessment may be able to determine if an offender who once posed a significant risk to society now poses a minimal risk or even vice versa!
This is one of the many laws in our state that could use a little tweaking for sure.

written by Discarded Asset on July 24, 2016.