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By Louis Hansen
_____ arrived at Norfolk Circuit Court on a cold December morning, guilty and worried.
On his mind was a pink slip buried in his mailbox for days - maybe weeks. The small piece of paper was a receipt for a registered letter from the state. His freedom depended on it.
_____, 68, is a convicted violent sex offender. The letter represented his remaining debt to Virginia. Every month, he is required to return it to the Virginia State Police with his fingerprints and signature.
For the past 14 years, his lawyer estimated, he met that responsibility 166 of 168 times. His failure to be perfect has earned him one thing - prison.
In 1966, _____ was convicted in Chesapeake of attempted rape and assault of a woman. The 21-year-old was sentenced to life, served more than three decades and won parole in 1999. Except for twice failing to register with the state, he has no criminal record since his release.
His case highlights what some say is a shortcoming in Virginia's approach to aging offenders. Critics say state law captures _____ and others in a life of dependency, costing public money and resources to follow men who usually pose little threat to the community.
The General Assembly continues to support the state's approach. The proposed two-year state budget calls for an increase of nearly $1 million to supervise a growing number of sex offenders.
Inside the Norfolk courtroom, _____ stood and listened as his lawyer offered a guilty plea. After the hearing, he talked again about the mailbox and the pink slip.
_____ can't remember his own phone number and often loses his glasses and keys. Nearly four decades in prison has worn hard his body and mind.
But he remembered finding the pink slip, and cursing himself.