Some offenders who are convicted of sex crimes truly do commit horrendous acts; others may be found guilty regardless of whether they committed the crime based on testimony or weak evidence rather than scientific or “concrete” evidence. Even more, some may commit an offense that compared to others is relatively minor, such as indecent exposure. Unfortunately, the majority of residents in Michigan and other states think of those who are on the sex offender registry as “predators,” monsters who prey on others for sexual purposes at every opportunity.
There are three tiers on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry which essentially categorizes those convicted of sex crimes into those who were convicted of less serious crimes to those convicted of the most severe sex offenses. Tier I is the least serious, with Tier III reserved for the most violent or serious offenders. Depending on the severity of the crime, a person may be classified a Tier II offender, which means his or her name will remain on the sex offender registry for 25 years, accessible on the Internet by all who are interested. In the case of someone classified a Tier III offender, anyone can find that person on the public sex offender registry for a life time. Information including address, name, place of employment, vehicle information, criminal offense, and photo of the offender may be available for anyone who wishes to access.
The fact is that being placed on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry can be life-changing, and not in a positive way. Those who are registered must inform authorities of every address or employment change. Neighbors are alerted to the fact a sex offender lives in their neighborhood or community. You can imagine the social stigma those who are placed on the sex offender registry face, regardless of the underlying circumstances that led to a person being on the registry. People are quick to jump to conclusions, thinking someone who is listed on the registry must have committed a horrendous crime and is a serious threat to everyone who lives in the neighborhood. It’s a stigma that never goes away, even for those lucky enough to escape listing after a quarter of a century.
Unlike those who commit other crimes and who are free once they have served their sentences, sex offenders are never “free.” It seems that in the U.S. policymakers feel that alleged sex offenders – and I say “alleged” because not everyone found guilty is actually guilty – must be managed in some way even after they have completed their sentences. Essentially, it is a life term for those who are or ever have been labeled a sex offender in regards to employment opportunities, housing opportunities, even the opportunity to become productive members of a society who view these individuals as dangerous moral lepers.
Does the public need protection from sex offenders, and are they any more likely to re-offend than someone who served time for distributing potentially deadly drugs or driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, putting others’ lives at risk? The fact is, statistics do not support that sex offenders are any more likely to re-offend than other criminal offenders, however they are certainly punished in a way that makes it almost impossible to ever life a normal life.
Certainly there are violent sexual predators in our society, and just as certainly there are those who make a mistake at a young age, or who are convicted of an offense they did not commit. Being a registered sex offender impacts every aspect of a person’s life, and in many cases the attention, suspicion, and ruin of an individual’s reputation and even future is unwarranted.