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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Sex offender registry used as tool both for law enforcement and humiliation

Monday, May 26, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:41 p.m. CDT, Sunday, June 1, 2014

I applaud Sean Ryno's courage ("Missourian sex offender presses for chance to be off registry, " May 15, 2014, Columbia Missourian), not only for telling his story in such a public way but for helping the public understand what is happening to Missouri families and could include theirs in a heartbeat.

We are beginning to see more families stand up and lend their voices to this issue, and those numbers will increase over the next several months.

The stories previously told to committee members in the Missouri Legislature when the merits of a bill are being considered will now be told directly to the media. Why, you ask?

The media tends to promote what is call fear-mongering among the public and if we, the registrants and their families, tell what we consider just as newsworthy, then I think these citizens will clearly understand.

A recent study indicated that “academics, applied professionals, and news media need to do more to rectify the gap between ‘feel good’ policies and ‘do-good’ policies (e.g., scientifically based outcome studies).” (The Sponsors of Sex Offender Bills Speak Up, Michelle Meloy, Kristin Curtis and Jessica Boatwright, Rutgers University)

I encourage registrants to share the details of their offense during job interviews so that others can get an idea of what can land a man, woman or child on “the list.”

One thing I find perplexing is the number of stories done in such a manner that the person’s identity is not revealed. They use a screen, distort the voice and other things but when it comes to a sexual offense the registrant or family member has to be willing to put themselves in harm’s way to satisfy the media.

The registry was originally intended to be a law enforcement tool only and is still used in that manner, but it is also used to victimize, humiliate, damage homes and vehicles of our families. We do have the data to support that statement. (http://murders-new.blogspot.com)

As the Missourian article indicated, Missouri prohibits a registrant from being granted custody in the case of a divorce, so a word of caution to anybody with any type of sexual offense: Don’t get divorced because the state assumes you are going to harm your child and will destroy your family and thereby take away your rights as a parent.

The punitiveness of our sex offender laws, registry and restrictions are totally unsupported by any empirical evidence. It destroys marriages, creates homelessness and perpetuates joblessness by listing the employer and address.

If a registrant gets married and the wife can’t deal with the stress of living under a microscope and being in danger and files for divorce that annihilates the family.

Academics have repeatedly said folks need three things to successfully reintegrate: a job, a home and a positive support system, but that falls on deaf ears.

The Child Protective Services, according to several families, has taken it upon itself to rip the children away from their mother if she is in any type of relationship with a registrant.

Why, for two reasons: Because they have the power and because it is easier than verifying and documenting cases of broken bones, malnutrition, etc. and the needed documentation is already on file.

It appears they are protecting children from a group of folks (with a recidivism rate of 3.5 percent) but in essence, their jobs are already done. Sean Ryno will have supervised visitation with his son. Do you possibly find that absurd?

A registrant’s ability to get off the registry should not be based on a petition, the assumed liability of unlimited discretion by a judge or the legislators but the belief that the debt has been paid just as with any other offense. Redemption has to start somewhere and soon!

As far as the state’s compliance with SORNA and the Adam Walsh Act, I think the data supplied in the article and the recidivism rate of 3 percent dispels the need to spend the Missouri taxpayer’s money on frivolous things.

Spend it on Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Programs. That will protect ALL children. By the way only 17 states have come into compliance since 2006 and that speaks for itself!

Lastly, I would like to challenge Ms. (Emily) van Schenkhof, (the deputy director of Missouri KidsFirst) regarding this statement in the Missourian story: "In general, we don't put juveniles on the adult register," she said. 

I didn’t know she put anybody on a registry, and furthermore, last time I looked there were juveniles on the public registry.

Vicki Henry is president of Women Against Registry, based in Westfield, Ind. She lives in east-central Missouri.


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Comments

Corey Parks May 26, 2014 | 8:09 p.m.

Correct there are plenty of people on that list that were juveniles when the "crimes" were committed. That might have been 20 years ago when the two were 17-18 but they are still on there.

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