How do people live as "high risk" sex offenders in the world? Some barely do, but life is so precious that they will become virtual hermits in order for that privilege.
I spoke recently with a former client who served time in juvenile corrections for molesting his stepsister when he was a teenager. Now he is in his mid-thirties and has not been in trouble with the law for over a decade.
He was referred to me by another treatment provider who said he couldn’t work with Fred…not his real name. Fred told me that while in juvenile detention, in the late 1990s, there was no confidentiality and not enough control over what happened to people who opened up about their crimes while in group treatment.
After awhile, as a way to protect himself emotionally, Fred said he began to parrot back what others were saying, rather than revealing more about himself. That eventually led to his being considered a problem, and eventually led to a longer sentence because the treatment provider wrote a letter to the court that crimes previously removed from his charges should be added back, due to his noncompliance with treatment. The result was that Fred served more time and was released with a “predatory” label because of multiple sex offenses.
In Oregon, the predatory label will be removed from use in the next few years, but it will probably still apply to those who were given the label before the new law. But even if the label does come off, Fred will continue to be required to register each year as a high risk offender. Those convicted of sex offenses have opportunities, with no new offenses of any kind, to lower their risk level (high to medium; medium to low). Those with low or medium risk can eventually petition to have their names removed from the state sex offender registry. Those labeled high risk can get their risk level reduced, but can never be removed from the registry.
I believed Fred to be ready to graduate from my program after about 3 years of continuous treatment work. But I kept him on as a client for about 10 years because his parole officer didn’t believe he could ever be trusted and, thus, wanted to assign him to another treatment provider. Some providers believe a high risk offender should never be released from treatment. Some providers make a lot of money holding onto that belief.
Fred did graduate, but even after more than a decade of clean conduct, and continues to live a solitary life, just to avoid potential conflict, discrimination and harassment. He has held a steady job for years, making minimum wage as a graveyard shift janitor. Though his intelligence is above average, he is reluctant to make a better way for himself in the world because of the social stigma against sex offenders. He rents a tiny apartment, lives alone, doesn’t date and socializes very little. Though not mandated to live such an austere life, doing so gives him more confidence for reduced stress. It sounds like prison to me.