Bonds, Parolee’s and Sex Offenders
You’ve journeyed through Hell.
You’ve traveled the long road of court dates and jail/prison sentences. Done your time.
And now, finally, you’re out. Free, Semi-Free, On Supervision,whatever you want to call it.
Time to get on with your life, right? WRONG !
In a normal world, that’s how it happens. Things have a beginning and an end.
In the world of a Registrant, that’s not how it happens at all. Getting on with life, isn’t as easy and it’s certainly not Normal.
On the way home from prison, there is a stop at the local sheriff’s office. “Register”, you tell yourself, “just get it over with.”
The sign above the counter in the middle of the lobby says “Bonds, Parolee’s and Sex Offenders”. No, I’m not kidding. It is right there in the lobby. It doesn’t “read” as if you are free, in fact, it “reads” very much like the title of a reality TV show.
There is no privacy. Anyone can over-hear that you are there to register. Anyone walking by can see you. In this particular case, your tax dollars were hard at work. There was one government employee to type info into the computer, another to pull the printout off the printer and several other gawkers to look over the shoulders of the previous two, just to “see” what was going on, what kind of “fiend” was being registered.
The only privacy afforded was when you went behind a half-wall to get your picture taken. (Remember, dress nicely!)
You are handed a printout of Registrant Do’s and Don’t’s. Apparently anytime you “turn around” you must report back here and notify (let’s just call them “the registrar” ). Change your car, report it, change you address, report it, change jobs, report it, change your underwear, report it, change anything, report it. And, no, you can’t call-in, fax or email changes. You must report them in person. And it will cost you $6 to park. Every frickin time ! Should we even mention that the sheriff’s department is not “near” your home, you’re in the county, they’re in the city, it’s a traffic drive nightmare just to get there. And you have no car and you aren’t on a bus line.
And then there’s the initial meeting with your P.O.
The P.O gives you another, different, several page Do’s and Don’ts List. (But you will later learn that this is not a “complete” list and you will have to figure out for yourself when you might “trip up” on a Don’t that you didn’t even know existed.) Paranoia has set in.
Report any new friends, new girlfriends, new credit cards, leaving town, moving, going here, going there, report going anywhere!
If it wasn’t so sad, this has all the makings of a great Dr. Seuss book!
You knew there would be rules, regulations, requirements, but who knew that Premium Channels on your TV would be banned? You are informed by the P.O. that it’s because some have an “R” rating, they might cause sex offenders to get some kind of “sexual gratification” from watching them.
Has this P.O. ever watched regular channels on TV? A whole lot of deviant behavior going on there too.!
While you were “on the inside”, your family “on the outside” was carefully letting you know about the registry, requirements, what you’d be up against when you got out. Obstacles, hurdles. They were supportive, they didn’t mince words but they didn’t want to overwhelm you either. “Things would be different, difficult” they said, but it was always prefaced with, “you’ll be OK, you can overcome this. You’re stronger than you know.”
What you didn’t see coming was fees (it seems there’s always fees), random drug screens, random self-pay polygraphs, “S.O Treatment” that you will be required to pay for once/if you get a job. (Someone please explain why it is that during the 5 1/2 yrs you’re in prison for a benign sex offense, you don’t require any S.O. treatment, but the moment you are out and can be billed for it, all of a sudden, you need treatment?) Another one of those “govern-mental” bright ideas I suppose. Maybe they get a cut of the treatment profits.
And to make your day even brighter, the S.O. treatment group is held in the “seediest” section of town, even further away than the sheriff’s office. The chances are good that you will find your car (when you get one) up on cinder-blocks when you leave the meeting.
But, over the years, you’ve been well educated by your WAR family member. You have your own list of questions for the P.O. about the places you can and can not go, the things you can and can’t do. And, guess what?. He doesn’t have the answers. The registry is vague and contradictory. “I’ll have to check on that one”, he informs you with the first, and second and third of your questions. He is your P.O. If he doesn’t have the answers, tell me who Exactly is he going to check for answers with because that’s the person you really need to be talking to, the one with the answers!
So, you’re out of prison. Should be a JOYOUS DAY, right?
You’ve been locked up for 5 1/2 years. Your first day out and you’ve already been informed of far-away places you are required to be and monies you will be required to pay. You have no car, you have no job, you have no money.
This, unfortunately is the “Welcome Back” that most registrants receive when they get out of prison.
And for the families of registrants, the nightmare of prison that you thought was ending, has just been replaced by a different kind of nightmare. You now worry about the toll the “vagueness” of the registry and the “fear” it instills, will have on your loved one’s mental health.
The happiness and relief expressed on their face the moment they walked out of prison, just hours ago, is now replaced with panic. They are scared to go anywhere, afraid to look at anyone, uncertain of who, what, or where their place is in the world. The first shocking reality of the registry has set in and it is pure terror.
It’s depressing for family members to watch.
And all you can do is whisper the same words you’ve said for 5 1/2 years, “you’ll be OK, you can overcome this, you’re stronger than you know.”
But this time you add something else,” WE WON’T LET THE REGISTRY WIN !”