By SEAN MURPHY
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahoman sex offenders who claim state laws make it practically impossible to return to productive lives are finding little sympathy before a Legislature that cannot stomach their crimes, even if they don't involve young children.
"All I ask is that you not view all of us as monsters," [name withheld], a former teacher convicted of second-degree rape involving a 17-year-old male, told a House committee last week as it considered tougher laws against sex offenders.
Oklahoma's sex offender registry includes those convicted of a broad swath of crimes, not just those against children, but some lawmakers argue the very nature of those crimes makes it imperative to crack down on offenders.
|Rep. Leslie Osborn|
- What a crock! If they wanted to be "tough" on crime, then they'd require all ex-felons to register on a public shaming hit-list, and to have similar residency laws! Sex offenders are just their way of helping themselves look "tough" to the people, while actually doing nothing to prevent or deter crime. And, not all of those on the registry are rapist or child molesters. Just wait until your son or daughter get slammed with the label!
[name withheld] testified before legislators as the House considers laws that would keep sex offenders out of state parks and prohibit them from going to schools unescorted if their victim was younger than age 18 — rather than 13 as the current law reads. It passed on a 12-1 vote.
"I've tried to stay out of the legislative fight for the past few years because it's become so depressing for me and my family, until these bills hit the floor this year," [name withheld] told the unsympathetic panel. "If bills like this pass, I will not be allowed to go to my nieces' and nephews' birthday parties. I will not be allowed to go walking in the park with my husband. I will not be allowed to pick up my children when their sick unless I have a chaperone with me. That's impossible."
|Rep. Fred Jordan|
"The whole motive of that bill is to further protect children, and that's got to be our No. 1 concern, and that's my concern every time I vote on one of these pieces of legislation," Jordan said.
Two years ago, sex offenders testified against a bill that would have chased them from an Oklahoma City trailer park. When the bill passed, many moved to tents on the park's outskirts. In the state Supreme Court, justices are currently considering whether it is legal to make registry laws retroactive. Two plaintiffs in the case claim they are exempt from the state's sex offender registry rules because their crimes pre-date the creation of the registry in 1989.
- If you are obeying the Constitution, then it's not legal, it's an unconstitutional ex post facto law.
The American Civil Liberties Union says recidivism rates for sex offenders are much lower for sex offenders (slightly more than 5 percent) than for those convicted of robbery, burglary or larceny (above 70 percent). The figures are from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.
"We also know these bills and current statutes make us less safe as a society by marginalizing those that have to go on the sex offender registry," said Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Oklahoma chapter.
[name withheld], who was convicted of lewd or indecent proposal to a child in Pittsburg County, said he's met several offenders through his court-ordered counseling sessions that can't find work and become homeless because of the current restrictions. He said a law passed a few years ago that requires the words "Sex Offender" to be printed on their driver's licenses also is a problem.
"Let's say you're applying for a job. You can't escape it. I know a guy who got beat up in a convenience store because when he was ID'd for a pack of cigarettes," [name withheld] said. "It's the scarlet letter of our time, for God's sake. It really is. For some people, one little tiny mistake can blow up their whole life."
- Maybe ex-offenders need to start suing those who pass these laws for harassment, bodily harm, etc? If that is possible? They probably have immunity from their actions, which is insane in our opinion.