By Eric Nicholson
In May, the Texas Observer profiled [name withheld], a 25-year-old Plano man struggling to find a job and otherwise coping with life on the Texas Department of Public Safety's sex offender registry.
His crime? Molesting his 8-year-old sister -- when he was 12.
[name withheld]'s case illustrates a flaw in the state's rules for handling sex offenses perpetrated by juveniles, the absurdity of which has been previously documented. In 2009, when the Houston Chronicle examined the issue, there were 3,600 registered sex offenders who were juveniles when their crime was committed. Eleven of those were required to register at the age of 10.
This all stems from the 1991 law that established sex offender reporting requirements and made registration mandatory for adults and juveniles. Tweaks have since been made to the law, allowing juvenile sex offenders to petition a judge to remove juvenile sex offenders from the registry, but mandatory registration, which lasts for 10 years, under current DPS rules, remains.
The rule is perplexing, both since it means that the punishment for a crime committed as a child extends well into adulthood and because the Texas Department of State Health Services concludes that "there is no compelling evidence to suggest the majority of juveniles with sexual behavior problems are likely to become adult sex offenders."
In [name withheld]' case, his inclusion on the registry has more or less ruined his life. He enrolled at Texas Tech but later dropped out after he began receiving death threats following the inclusion of his name and picture on a local TV news report about sex offenders. He got a job on a construction crew after dropping out but was soon let go. His next gig, traveling around the country and putting up wind turbines, took him to Washington for a month, where he was convicted for failing to register as a sex offender. (It's not directly addressed in the Texas Observer story, but that's presumably why he was required to remain on the registry beyond the 10 years, until the age of 31). He eventually got married and had two kids, but he still couldn't find a job.
The future's a little brighter for [name withheld] now. The Texas Observer reported Friday that [name withheld] successfully petitioned to have his name struck from the list.