We had Untouchable. And now we have Pervert Park. These films are important. They are heartbreaking and poignant and very, very worthwhile. They open doors to conversations and to realizations and to minds.
But they are not the reality of most of America’s registered citizens.
The majority of registrants living in communities across America are living lives that much more closely resemble the lives of non-registered citizens than they do the registrants living in Pervert Park.
Once no longer on community supervision, many registrants are in places where there are no restrictions on where they live. They live in mobile home parks and apartments and houses just like their neighbors. Many have children and are raising their families just like their neighbors. Were it not for their listing on a public sex offender registry and the fallout from that, their neighbors would not know they bore the distinctive title of “sex offender.” Many do deal with extensive fallout from the public registry listing. Many have gone through turmoil to get where they are. But they are there.
For those who live under the burden of residency restrictions, finding a home is more challenging, more difficult, and probably less conveniently located to needed services and things like schools for their children. However, most of them manage, and they too raise their families and live their lives much like their neighbors – except for everyone knowing that it is a “sex offender” house or apartment or mobile home and the rest of the consequences – the fallout -- of being listed publicly as a sex criminal.
The income and socio-economic level of America’s registered citizens varies widely, just as does that of America’s non-registered citizens. Some are dependent on government assistance to feed themselves and their families. Most are making it to varying degrees. Some are well-off, and a few are wealthy.
Just as with all Americans, the standard of living tends to be higher commensurate with the level of education attained. Many are finding that going into business for oneself eliminates many of the barriers to earning a decent living.
And some, just like their neighbors, regardless of their circumstances, cannot and do not deal with it. They are broken and destroyed. They end their lives.
For a few registrants, in a few places, life is unimaginable, and stories, documentaries, and even fictionalized accounts put a public face on the private horrors that to these registered citizens are their lives.
But for most, once the sentence is served completely, the only thing setting them apart from their neighbors, from the other members of their community, is the public sex offender registry – and the fallout from it. Were there no public listing, they would be the same people, continuing to live their lives in their communities, just like everybody else.
And so once again, the question must be asked.
The public sex offender registry -- what purpose does it serve?