In preparation for writing this article I asked other RFSO’s how going in to register made them feel. Since I also register I thought I already knew. But what I found surprised me. For each person the experience is quite different. Oh there are similarities, but there are also many differences.
While researching this, another group asked to be heard and this group was very different from the above group. This group does not go in to register. They have not broken any laws. They in fact are innocent bystanders and yet profoundly affected by the registry. These people are the family members of RFSO’s.
Let me first express my feeling of how it feels when I must register and then I will share how others feel in this regard.
Two weeks before I must go in to register I start to watch the calendar, every day I become more worried that I might miss my registration date. I await the letter that the State Highway Patrol sends to me every 90 days. I worry that it may be lost in the mail since it is sent without confirmation. If I do not receive it and take it in and have it signed by the local registration officer, it could mean ten years in federal prison for me.
The last week before I must register my family notices that I am irritable and tend to snap at them a lot. I lose interest in most everything and do not eat very much. I look at the date as many as twenty times a day. I can’t be late. I get sick often and I don’t sleep. Depression set in and I find it hard to concentrate.
About two days before I have to register I start playing the what if game. What if the law has changed and I didn’t know it? What if they change it to a strict 90 days and not the three month calendar date? What if they arrest me for something I don’t know about?
The morning of the day I must register is trying. The minutes tick by. I must be there at 1 PM, no sooner and no later. What if my truck breaks down on the way?
The same scenario plays out every time. I take my wife into my office. I make sure she has all my internet passwords and accounts. I make sure she has our lawyer’s phone number close at hand. I make sure she has my SOSEN information, just in case something happens she can get in touch with those most likely to be able to help my lawyer.
It is now a solemn time. I go to my son and daughters rooms. I spend a few minutes with them and assure them that everything will be fine, though I never feel that that is true. My daughter always cries. My son is somehow indifferent; he has seen how the system works and feels that we are all doomed.
I have no trust of the law or the system. I was falsely accused, prosecuted and imprisoned and I know it can easily happen again. I pace around my office watching the clock. I know it takes twelve minuets to drive from my home to the Sheriff’s department, but I leave a half an hour early. Better to sit and wait than miss my registration date.
Now I drive the three mile to the Sheriff’s office. Once there I go to a steel door on the lower level. I usually wait until no one is around before I walk up. There is a button next to the door. I push it. It makes a buzzing sound.
I hear a voice, but can’t see anyone as the person speaking is on the top floor. What do you need?
As quietly as I can, I say. Registration.
OK you will have to wait, take a seat on the bench where I can see you.
I sit on a wooden bench under a camera. If I move the loud speaker will demand, Where I am going?
Sometimes others will come to the door as this is the place where those who are bonded out of jail are released. I usually dress in a suit so the question is. Are you a lawyer? That is better than, What are you here for.
I really want to say, Sex Offender Mam, please stay back 500 feet. But it is not a time for jokes.
Usually they call for me within a half an hour. When they do a jailer come to the door and the lock buzzes and the door pops open. I then enter the belly of the beast.
Tension is high and I feel the muscles in my neck tighten.
I am lead to another locked door. We wait until it buzzes open and then we move through it. It clicks shut behind us.
My chest tightens and I feel a little pain.
I am now locked behind two steel doors. I find it hard to breath and the anxiety is growing. I make small talk to try take my mind off of my surroundings.
Now there is another door, but first I must sign in. I hear the buzz and drop the pencil. We now enter an eight by ten room and the door behind me closes and locks.
I feel light headed.
A door to my left buzzes and we enter the booking room.
As I enter I see two silver stools with shackles at the base of each. I am told to stand next to one of the stools and wait.
While the jailer retrieves my paperwork I look around the room. Concrete block walls, brown in color. It is cool around 65 degrees. There are three holding cells behind me and a shower in the open to my left. On more than one occasion I have been there when a prisoner was stripped and showered by force, once it was a woman. I felt so badly for her. She cried as they removed he cloths showered her and threw her into a holding cell. The jailers, one man and two women laughed and made comments about her body. I was sickened by it and ask myself, Who are the sex offenders?
Now the jailer comes back and my thoughts return to the present.
Drivers License. Any Changes? I hand it to him and answer, No sir.
Job. I reply, Same job for 28 years
I have to ask. I reply, I know. It’s just a job.
Letter. I hand it to him and he signs it.
Your NCIC is clear. How many copies do you need? I answer, Just one of everything.
It takes about ten minutes to register if there is no one else in booking and then I am led back through each locking door. On the way out I sign out and breathe a sigh of relief.
As soon as I get to my truck I call my wife. I put my head on the steering wheel and thank God that it is over.
Now here are some of the feeling of others regarding registration. I will let them explain how they feel in their own words.
Every 90 days when my child is forced to register as a high risk, violent predator, for consensual sex at age 16, I feel a fire burn through my veins at how callously his life has been destroyed not only by the ignorance of the politicians but the citizens of this country who are under the myth that registries protect children. As a mother, parent and citizen I realize I have a responsibility to educate others with the truth on these laws and find ways to truly prevent child sexual abuse by using facts, statistics and education and treatment
A Former Serviceman
Having to the duty to register, and the other restrictions that come with it, makes you feel as if you are a man without rights. You served your time as set down by a court of law, paid your debt, and are “freed” into the community. But you are not free; you are a walking prisoner with laws as your invisible bars, a non-citizen, whom society has deemed without any constitutional rights.
I feel the deepest humiliation and betrayal by my country to the core of my being. This is a country I believed in, I proudly took an oath to uphold the Constitution of this country and was shamed and derided for wearing this country’s uniform. I regard my son, registering as sex offender, the same as when my husband registering for the draft in 1969 and was forced into a situation not of his choosing – something countless unfortunate sons are forced to do by the government of this country.
A Family man.
I look forward to it each year with dread. I go to a PROBATION office and am interviewed as if I am on Parole, like a common criminal. Fingerprinted and photographed pointlessly. It feels like I have no rights, my country is waging war against me and my family, and nothing I have done in 23 years counts for anything. I feel like I have no respect, and my self-esteem is hurt, at least for a few days.
A Loving Wife.
Because my husband’s birthday falls over the Christmas holidays, he goes in to a seasonal funk starting around Thanksgiving. I don’t really find much joy in the holiday season and he doesn’t find much joy in anything. It pains me to see him this way, knowing that he continues to be punished long after his time on paper ended and even longer after the crime was committed. As he gets older, he slips further and further away from feeling like he’ll ever find any kind of redemption on this earth. He’s also distanced himself more and more from his family because they’ve given him little opportunity for redemption. It’s very difficult to watch on a daily basis.
A Man Whose Constitutional Rights Have been Violated.
Well, today is the time I have to Register. I have to call in and make an appointment, which means leave a message. I then have to wait for a return call to set up the date and the time. In the mean time I’m attached to the phone waiting for the call. I feel like I am under house arrest, or phone arrest, because they call my home not my cell phone. I cannot travel during these 90 day periods, for if a miss, I go on another trip. I feel like I am on some worse than probation, for on probation I had NO restriction what so ever. I just had to report to my PO every 2 weeks. Today because of the registry I am restricted in just about everything. Tell me again, this is not “Pun***” right!
A Former Military Man.
I served 19 Years of Honorable military service in the Army and Navy. I screwed up making the wrong decisions in 1997. I lost my Military retirement, was given a Dishonorable discharge, and am required to register in Georgia for life. I must give my user names and passwords. I’m embarrassed to walk in the sheriff’s office to register. Telling people that I don’t know about my offense, makes me feel about three feet tall and everybody stops and looks at me.
There are currently around 850,000 people on the national sex offender registry. For each registered person there is a story, and for each registered person there are family member; mothers, fathers, wives and even children who have stories about the registration of humans in our society.