A Truck and Trailer Story

Many states have a similar disclaimer as the one below:
welcome to the official state of ——–, offender website. Please read the following information before proceeding to view the information about offenders under supervision by the Department of Corrections

This statement is normally followed by a warning for users of the registry:
“It is not the intent of the Legislature that this information would be used to injure harass or commit a criminal act against persons named in the registry, there families, or employers anyone who takes any criminal action against these registrants including vandalism of property, verbal or written threats of harm, or physical assault against these registrants, their families, or employers is subject to criminal prosecution.”

This is an example of the dynamic application of the “nonpunitive” sex offender registry.

Joe began working as a diesel technician part time about six months ago.  This was his second job since getting out of prison. He got out of prison two years ago and got a job within a month. Having no family support, and being banned from using the internet to apply for work, he rode a bicycle around town during a freezing, snowy February to take resumes to employers. He got a job in a deli and worked at this first job for a year and a half, enduring constant scrutiny from management and coworkers, while keeping an eye out for a tech job. Joe applied to many places for a diesel tech job, but it wasn’t until the end of his first year of college that he got an interview. When he went to the tech job interview he told the interviewer about his conviction of 28 years ago and the guy said he had no problem with it. He also said that he wasn’t planning on telling any of the other workers, that it was up to Joe to bring it up if he wanted to. He started out working part time after school; classes at the tech college went from about 9am until 5pm weekdays. As soon as school was out, he’d race home, change clothes and get to work as close to 6pm as he could and work until 11:30pm. He’d come home and shower, then try to do some school work. After getting three or four hours of sleep, he started all over again. Joe was absolutely fired up about the job. He couldn’t stop talking about how happy he was to be able to work on engines in that grimy, filthy truck shop. He ruined several pairs of jeans and shirts with grease and oil stains, happily waiting out the 90 days before he was issued uniforms. He was oblivious to the bruises and cuts he had all over his body from wrestling the heavy iron equipment.

Joe was warned by the guy who hired him that the guys on the second shift were complainers and kind of hard to work with sometimes. One of them had been kicked off first shift crew because of bickering, complaining, and blaming other workers for his mistakes. Another one often was absent from work because he claimed he hurt his back, hurt his leg, or had some other work-related injury. Joe stayed as positive as he could and just concentrated on doing a good job. Because he was taking classes at the tech college, he was considered a student worker and was given basic repair assignments or told to help others. He had been told when hired that the second shift supervisor would check his work and help him when needed. Although he noticed that this supervisor spent most of his time in the office watching television, he didn’t worry about it since there were no complaints about his work, and everything seemed to be going alright. Occasionally he would talk to the guy who hired him and was told exactly that – no complaints, no problems, everything’s fine and that he liked Joe’s work and could make money off him.

The semester ended in early May, and Joe eagerly went full time. After a couple of weeks working full time, he began to understand the workplace “culture” better. He found out that when the Complainer was questioned about not getting his work done, he would say that it was Joe’s fault, that he was holding things back because he was slow. The reality was that the Complainer would stand and talk to Joe while he was trying to work, sometimes for an hour, complaining about the work, criticizing the supervisor and gossiping about the other workers on shift. The Complainer was irritated when Joe told him he didn’t have time to chat and really needed to just focus on work. Sometimes he would be assigned to work with other guy, the Injury- Prone guy. I-P would take the lead and say how a repair was to be done. Joe would quietly follow along and do what he was told. If the supervisor happened to show up on the floor and start criticizing something I-P would stand back and act as if everything was Joe’s fault, then just stand there and watch. He had no problem letting Joe take the flak for something that he was responsible for. When midnight came and his shift was over, Joe had to hurry out because that was when the other workers broke out the beer and brought their own vehicles in to work on, and his parole rules said he could not be around where people were drinking alcohol.

June brought a decided change in the work environment, the Complainer became standoffish, and even rude. Joe began to hear him, just within earshot, say things like “I looked him up”, “You should look him up”, and “I saw him on that one website”. Soon after came “the look” from other workers and the break room conversations that stopped as soon as he came in the room. People wouldn’t talk to Joe much, or even look at him. He kept noticing the Complainer running to the supervisor’s office and standing at the door gesturing and yelling. Not wanting to get involved in something he thought didn’t concern him, he just ignored it. One day the Complainer approached Joe and started ordering him to change a semi tire. Because he was in the middle of something, he said he’d be there in a minute. He then jokingly said, “Hey, so you can’t change a tire?” He went and changed the tire and then went back to his other job. As he noticed the other workers go to the break room, he realized that he was made to change the tire because The Complainer was cooking hamburgers on a grill and they were having a cookout he wasn’t invited to. All he could do was try to stay positive and focus on his work.

Ninety days went by and Joe passed his probation and proudly brought home his new set of uniforms, his wife would no longer have to wash his work clothes at home. His hard work had seemingly paid off. Two days later….. Joe went to work as usual and was beginning a repair project he had been given. Unexpectedly, the night supervisor approached him and said that he was told by management “up top” that he was laid off, as of right now. They’d help him load his toolbox when he picked it up. He couldn’t believe it. He went home, then called an old friend and went to talk to him about what had just happened. Then he told his wife. Still in shock, he got ready to pick up his toolbox the next day.

Joe and his wife went to pick up his toolbox the next morning. He had decided to try to talk to that hiring supervisor, try to find out if there was some other reason for the lay-off. When they walked into the shop and approached the hiring supervisor the guy looked obviously uncomfortable. When Joe reached out to shake his hand, the supervisor put on a smiling face and said, “Gee, I’m sorry, it just didn’t work out.” He said that Joe was the last hired, work was slow, that kind of thing. He said that he would be happy to give a good reference for future jobs, and then said that Joe had worked there long enough that he would certainly get credit for his internship requirement for school. He assured Joe that if his parole officer called, he would tell her exactly what he told him – last hired, work was slow. The guy complimented Joe on his work performance during his short stint, and then they shook hands again. Joe rolled his toolbox up into his trailer and he and his wife drove away. He didn’t realize until later that someone had stolen the creeper he usually stored under his toolbox.

Joe waited a week and then filed for unemployment. He applied for jobs, using the shop as a reference. One day he opened up a letter from the Unemployment office that instructed him to answer questions regarding his Discharge from his job. On top of the form was printed “Work Rule Violations”. He and his wife looked it over and filled it out as best they could, assuming it was just a standard form. But when he called the unemployment number, instead of getting the message that his claim was being processed, he got the message that the claim was under investigation. A week later he got a phone call from the unemployment claim investigator; the shop reported that Joe had been fired from his job. They claimed there were “numerous” incidents where Joe refused to do what he was told, and there were “many” complaints about his work. One specific story detailed how one of Joe’s co-workers had been assigned as a temporary supervisor one night, and when he told Joe to do something, Joe outright refused to do it. So the time the Complainer told him to change a tire had morphed into refusing to do what a supervisor told him. The unemployment investigator had been told that Joe had been pulled aside and counseled “numerous times” by the supervisor concerning his behaviors. During the phone conversation, Joe had gotten his wife to listen along, and she could barely contain her anger. Joe calmly gave his side of the story, answering all the questions the investigator had. Towards the end of the conversation the investigator said that the shop had presented no documentation for any of their claims. As of this writing, Joe’s unemployment claim status is still being decided.

Until it was discovered that Joe was on the SO Registry, people saw Joe as just another guy. As soon as they learned about his past on the internet, people made it their mission to punish him again for his 28 year old crime by driving him out of a job and then going out of their way to try to keep him from getting unemployment benefits. The registry has nothing to do with keeping anyone safe from anything, nor does it prevent future crimes.