Wow, it's good to finally hear a decent and fair article on ex-sex offenders by someone in a position of authority.
Editor’s Note: This guest column is in response to the AGN editorial: “Sex offender program needs federal review,” Oct. 6, amarillo.com.
It is true that tracking registered sex offenders is expensive and costly to taxpayers.
Law enforcement agencies all across the U.S. continue to see the number of convicted sex offenders grow. Most offenders are sentenced to some jail time and/or probation, but most receive a lifetime order to register as a sex offender.
I have been the sex offender registrar for the Randall County Sheriff’s Office since 2001.
I am responsible for all sex offenders who live in rural Randall County outside the city limits of Amarillo and Canyon. In 2001, Randall County had approximately 25 registered sex offenders living in the rural part of the county. Today, that number has tripled to 75.
The sex offender registration system is broken nationwide.
Most people think that if a person is a registered sex offender, that offender cannot live in close proximity to schools, day cares, parks, etc. That is not the case. The location where a sex offender lives or works can only be dictated if the offender is on supervised release and if it is in the terms of his/her probation or parole requirements. Once a sex offender is off parole or probation, he/she can live where they like.
The main reason the system is broken is because the system is clogged with offenders who are not true sexual predators. There are hundreds of cases where a young offender had consensual sex with his underage girlfriend — she being 16 and him being 20 constitutes an aggravated sexual assault of child charge. There are cases where girls lie about their age or go to bars with fake identifications and participate in consensual sex. The male will still be charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child and will have to register for life if convicted. The girls have no culpability according to the law. The sex offenders in these types of cases are not sexual predators.
I have had two cases in the past where the offender was married to his victim, but he still had to register for life. These are just of few of many scenarios that make the current sex offender registration system inadequate.
Once a young man or woman is convicted of a sex offense in these circumstances, their ability to be a productive citizen is quite diminished. They have received a life sentence and will find it difficult to find a decent job. There is much hysteria connected to the label of registered sex offender. They are not all child molesters or rapists. In fact, of all the offenders that I register right now, 75 percent are not sexual predators and will likely never offend again. Many of these registrants have no other criminal record other than the sex offense.
In my opinion, the last thing we need is for the federal government to dictate sex offender registration rules to the states. Texas has a decent system in place, but the sheer numbers we in law enforcement have to deal with is staggering.
The solution is to put in place a system, whether locally or nationally, where the true sexual predators are dealt with differently than the one-time offenders. The way it is now, the system is not fair and just. Plus, it is costly and impossible to manage.
Our justice system works because criminals are charged in relation to the seriousness of their crimes, i.e. misdemeanors, felonies, etc. In sex offender registration, all offenders are treated equally regardless of the circumstances of the cases. Once an offenders name, address and photograph appear on a public sex offender website, they are branded for life as a sexual predator whether they are or are not.
Danny Alexander is a deputy and Public Information Officer for the Randall County Sheriff’s Office.