Labeled for Life
Angela Salscheider, wsaw.com, May 2006
With Web sites that allow you to track where sex offenders live, many of you are now aware some live right in your own neighborhood.
That knowledge is putting a new kind of pressure on people to keep themselves and their kids safe, but what you may not know is how this
also affects the offenders and their families.
There are more than a thousand registered sex offenders living in NorthCentral Wisconsin and chances are, you or someone you know lives
Mark and Nicole Kruger of Wausau just found out a registered sex offender lives two doors away from them.
This worries them, considering their 2 young daughters love to play outside.
"We were thinking about putting a fence up this year just to surround the backyard," said Mark Kruger.
"Our daughters are very, very friendly and that concerns us but we can't watch them every minute everyday so we're trying to take extra safety
precautions to make sure they're okay," said Nicole Kruger.
The Krugers admit they haven't called the Corrections Department to find out more about their neighbor, such as what type of offense he committed
and how likely he is to do it again. The label, "sex offender," is enough for them.
"Especially because we have daughters," said Nicole. "I can't think of
it in a rational manner."
About 90 miles away, in the small town of Friendship, another little girl plays in her front yard.
Watching over her is her father, Arlan Meer, a registered sex offender.
At the age of 18, Arlan was convicted of first degree sexual assault of a child after having sex with a 12-year-old girl.
The criminal complaint shows Arlan knew the girl, and doesn't reveal any
violence or force were used. Arlan spent four years behind bars for that offense.
Now, nearly 13 years later, Arlan is still reminded daily of the choice he made that night.
Wisconsin law requires him to register as a sex offender for life.
"We've had condoms on our mailbox, we've had phone calls, we've had reports to social services that we have sex toys laying around, that we
parade our daughter around naked in front of men," said Meer. "I can't even get a job. A real job."
Arlan's long-time companion, Jennifer Hale, says some laws for registered sex offenders aren't fair.
"I want to know when it became our jobs to judge other people," said Hale.
"I want to know why there's not a registry for murderers or
attempted murderers because I don't want to live next door to them, either."
Arlan is just one of the hundreds of registered sex offenders across the state, but local authorities will be the first to tell you none of them
In Part 2, we'll clear up a lot of misconceptions authorities say people have about sex offenders.
We'll also tell you how likely it is some offenders will act again.
"Someone that hurts children." "Child molester."
They're the first things Nicole and Mark Kruger think of when they hear the term, "registered sex offender." They've been concerned for their
childrens' safety since learning an offender lives just two doors away.
"It spread like wildfire in the neighborhood," said Mark.
Spread, just like the news reports of 12-year-old Carly Brucia.
It was march 2004 in Sarasota, FL when a surveillance camera caught Joseph Smith abducting her from a car wash parking lot.
Her body was found behind a church four days later.
However, not all sex offenders are like Joseph Smith and not all of them hurt children.
'"A lot of people think it's the person jumping out of the bushes and attacking somebody," said Sara
Hohenstein, a parole agent with the WI
Dept. of Corrections in Wausau. "That's such a small percentage of who we deal with."
"Frankly, 92% of all convicted sex offenders are known to their victims," said Mike Williams, a corrections field supervisor for the WI
Dept. of Corrections in Wausau. "They're not strangers. Only 8-percent are the stranger cases everybody thinks about as their average
Another concern parents like the Kurgers have, is whether a sex offender will strike again.
"Sex offenders do not have a high failure rate, " said Williams. "Part of
that is the fact that they are almost all felons and therefore facing prison and facing some pretty serious incarceration. So there's a heavy
incentive for them to comply."
Williams says 75-percent of sex offenders on supervision follow the rules the court sets. But that still leaves 25-percent who don't comply.
While authorities work hard to keep those people off the streets, parents like Mark and Nicole still fear for the safety of their kids.
"I really, really believe that every American citizen deserves certain rights, but it gets really cloudy when it gets near these issues, " said
Nicole. "Especially because we have daughters. I can't think of it in a
Most sex offenders are required to go through therapy as part of their sentencing.
In "Labeled For Life, Part III," we'll explain how it works and how authorities determine whether or not a sex offender is safe enough to
live in your community.
The Dept. of Corrections requires anyone convicted of a sex offense to go through
treatment. It's in hopes sex offenders can understand their crimes and why what they did was
Arlan Meer is a registered sex offender. It's his label for life, after having sex with a 12-year-old girl when he was 18.
A criminal complaint shows Meer knew the girl and it doesn't reveal violence or force
were used. Now, after serving a four year prison sentence, the 31-year-old Meer is still
trying to piece his life back together.
"This wrecked my life," said Meer.
He is now a father and long-time companion to Jennifer Hale.
"We are a good family, we are stable," said Hale.
Stability is what local probation agents and therapists want registered sex offenders to
find, to help keep them on the right track.
The main type of treatment used is group therapy, similar to Alcoholics Anonymous
meetings, where admitting to mistakes are crucial.
"For example, someone early in treatment would say, 'It was the alcohol that made me
do this.' but a member who's been in group longer would say, 'No it was your choice
that made you do this,'" said Bob Fox, a psychotherapist with Elmergreen & Assoc. in
"An individual, in all likelihood, will be in a community-based group for two or three
years, some longer."
But sex offenders aren't just monitored in group meetings. Parole agents, like Sara Hohenstein go directly to their
"If an individual has a specific rule that they can't be involved with children's items or
pornography, we would take a brief look around and see if they have any of those
items, " said Hohenstein. "If there are any children in the residence, we want to see
where they're living and if they're following their rules."
"We do not let offenders live next to schools, next to parks," said Mike Williams, a
corrections field supervisor for the WI Dept. of Corrections. "There isn't exactly an
amount of feet in wisconsin like there is in some states but what we do is make an
assessment of the residents and how close the risk factor is."
But it still doesn't make some people, like Nicole and Mark Kruger, feel any safer.
They have two daughters and just found out a sex offender lives two doors away.
"I honestly believe if you hurt a child once, you shouldn't see the light of day again,"
But Arlan Meer is seeing the light of day again.
"I did the crime, I''ll do the time, but should I have to pay for it for the rest of my life?"
Many of you might be answering, "yes" to Arlan's question, and it's a debate that's
surely here to stay.
However, Bob Fox says it's very possible for sex offenders never to commit a similar
In Labeled for Life Part IV, we'll tell you what you can and cannot do if
you find out a registered sex offender lives near you.
Four months ago, Mark and Nicole Kruger found out a registered sex offender lives on
"We were really frightened because we have two young daughters and they love to
play outside and we've always felt relatively safe in this neighborhood," said Nicole.
But Mark and Nicole say they would never confront their neighbor.
Mike Williams, a supervisor for the department of corrections in Wausau, says that's a
"What the person should not do is take in their own hands to do something that could
potentially be illegal and get themselves into trouble," said Williams.
Williams says once a sex offender is no longer under the state's supervision, law
allows them to live where they want.
It's the case with Arlan Meer, a registered sex offender living in Friendship. He knows
he'll carry that label for the rest of his life but says harassment has kept him and his
family from moving on.
"We've had condoms on our mailbox, we've had phone calls, we've had reports to
social services that we have sex toys laying around and that we parade our daughter
around naked in front of men," said Meer.
"I really, really believe that every American citizen deserves rights," said Nicole
Kruger. "But it gets really, really cloudy when it gets near these issues. Especially
because we have daughters. I can't think of it in a rational matter."
Williams says a lot of parents feel this way, but it's important to remember not all
registered sex offenders have a history of targeting children or even someone they
don't know. He encourages you to call your local corrections department to find out exactly what
the offender living near you was convicted of.
"We can look to see what they're on for, we give them a little information about the
offense history, their profile," said Williams. "It's the people you don't know about is
who you should be more concerned about."
Authorities say to make sure you talk to your children about strangers and keep an eye
on them and yourself no matter who your neighbor is.
There are several ways to find out if a registered sex offender lives near you.
Mapsexoffenders.com allows you to type in actual addresses. Also, be sure to check
out the Wisconsin Dept. of Corrections Sex Offender Registry at
>. It can give you more details about what type of
offense the offender was convicted of.