Letter to Obama

Marbury, Alex; Apr 27 2008
Type of WorkLetter

(Senders name with-held - regarding sex offender registration laws)

From: Newsletter reformsexoffenderlaws.org, April 2008

Dear Senator Obama,

If you're reading this, there might actually be a little hope for me and others who are in my situation. However, throughout the entire campaign thus far, I've not heard a single candidate from either side even whisper about the current, most blatant, government-sanctioned civil rights violation that grows uglier every single day in the United States.

Although I have read your ideas and accomplishments with great satisfaction, and although my entire household is actively campaigning for you in Texas

  • (my wife and I are both Precinct Captains, our children watch your speeches, speak up in class and hold signs),

I must point out something that you have overlooked, either out of apathy or naivety, though you speak of "ex-offenders" in your civil rights discussions. "Ex-offenders" have no civil rights if they are also "sex offenders," and neither politicians nor the population could possibly care any less.

As far as the State of Texas (and now the entire nation, thanks to the Adam Walsh Act) is concerned, even though I have never spent a day in a jail, and though a judge has dismissed the only indictment against me, allowed me to withdraw my original plea, dismissed the possibility of any conviction, and has removed

  • "...all penalties and disabilities arising from the deferred adjudication in [my] cause,"

I must continue to register as a sex offender for the rest of my life, no matter where I go. Why? Because sex offender registration is considered "administrative," not punitive.

I've got to say, that's news to me! I would think that

  • the annual check-in with the [... city redacted ...] Police Department
    (including the usual humiliation from the officers),
  • the annual in-person renewal of my drivers license,
  • the fact that I can't have a porch light on during Halloween
    (we drive to another neighborhood so my kids can trick-or-treat),
  •  the fact that I can't get a job
    (I used to make $67,500/year as a Microsoft-certified computer/network administrator until I was laid off in May of 2005 - now my only alternative is self-employment),
  • the fact that I cannot move without informing the police,
  • the fact that if I spend more than a little time in another county I have to register with the police department there as well,
  • the fact that anyone in the world can look me up online and find out where I live and even use Google Maps to overlay my picture and "crime" (even though I have never been convicted of one) over a map of our neighborhood, 
  • the fact that many cities across the nation have passed ordinances so restrictive that I can't even enter their city and certainly could not attend one of their churches or public basketball courts
    (while the unlucky "registered" residents of those cities are now living under bridges)...

... it all feels rather punitive to me, and there is more than you could ever dream. It has taken me weeks to start this letter, because I couldn't imagine where to begin.

When the news reports that a "registered sex offender" committed a sex crime, one has to wonder how being "registered" prevented the crime.

The rest of us who are registered, however, know that with each "breaking news" article like this that appears - no matter how much the articles are founded in fear as opposed to truth, fact and rationality - we all must sink a little farther under the radar.

It doesn't matter that the lies continue to circulate about

  • the rate of recidivism for anyone who commits a "sex crime,"
  • nor the fact that most "sex crimes" are not committed by strangers, but by family, further negating the need for a public list.

It doesn't even matter that those "myths" are publicly denounced by the "Texas Council of Sex Offender Treatment," the same body that is commissioned by the Texas Legislature to research and set standards for registration requirements in this state. The myths are still presented as fact to police officers in this state during their training.

Sex offender registration

  • is wrong for the 19-year-old who has a consensual sexual relationship with his 16-year-old girlfriend.
  • It's wrong for the man who is caught urinating beside a dumpster in an alley.
  •  It's wrong for the father who is falsely and maliciously accused of sexual misconduct only because he finds himself in a custody battle.
  • It's wrong for someone who commits a crime, but realizes his or her mistake and wants to correct it and move on.
  • It's even wrong for a child molester,

and here's why: If a person fulfills the punishment that a judge and jury decides, and if that person is trusted to live outside a prison, that person should have all the rights and privileges of every other citizen. Most of all, that person should have the right to a normal life, outside of the humiliating fishbowl that all registered sex offenders are lumped into and ordered to live in.

How many other crimes - including heinous crimes - require that the perpetrator's name, address, picture, crime, statistics and even shoe size be put on a list that is made available to the public and searchable on the Internet?

  • Are drunk drivers required to put large bumper stickers on their cars so that we can avoid them on the highway, "just in case?"
  • Are tax evaders required to check in with the IRS every year, in person, along with all the other tax evaders?
  • Are people convicted of manslaughter required to post large signs in their yard to warn the neighbors?

What other crime warrants the kind of constant vigilante justice that "sex offender registration" (a slight "administrative" annoyance, right?) provokes - everything from failing to return phone calls to a prime job applicant after finding out that they're "registered," to "concerned citizens" hanging signs all around a registrant's neighborhood, to creating laws that prohibit them from enjoying public places and churches, to burning down their house and killing their wife by mistake (it just happened in North Carolina).

This happens daily in our country, and people either turn the other way or justify that "the guy probably deserved it anyway."

  • Signed (name with-held here, but sent to Obama by a registered sex offender in Texas)