(This Op-Ed – by yours truly —  appeared in the March 10th issue of Florida Today)

‘There must be a better way’ to look at sex offenses”  Marshall Frank

“Let’s be honest here:  Sex is condoned directly or by inference to kinds by the millions. Then the law plays the morality card when it’s easy to secure a conviction”


According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), there are 843,260 registered sex offenders listed in the United States. Some will spend five, 10 or 40 years in prison, but in truth, when they get out and reenter society, offenders are doomed to a life sentence without bars.

I’m no bleeding heart. I put hundreds of criminals in jail for serious crimes in my 30-year career, including sex crimes. Anyone who commits a violent sex act against a child (or adult) should be duly punished. Those who have shown a proclivity for stalking or violating children should be restricted from contact with kids. No argument.

My concern is with the offenders who, in reality, have shown no real danger of predatory behavior, yet still fall under the broad brush of all of sex offenders, thereby subject to lifelong registration.

A 19-year-old boy who has consensual sex with a 15-year-old girl and goes to prison, will not only serve time, he will live the rest of his life as a banished sex offender until old age. Never mind that we are living in blatant sexual active times for the young, as denoted by risqué role models, clothing, music and salacious entertainment and open societal behavior, whereby language and sexual references are commonplace.

Recent studies reveal that 46 percent of all high school age kids have had sexual intercourse. (excluding data for non-intercourse sex). By 12th grade, 9 million kids will have had sex. In many states, half of those 9 million are guilty of some crime.

Let’s be honest here: Sex is condoned directly or by inference to kids by the millions. Then the law plays the morality card when it’s easy to secure a conviction.

While we want to do everything possible to protect young teen girls, (or boys) it’s a fact that in many states, simply urinating in public is considered a sex offense requiring registration for life. Most states and the federal court system have imposed minimum-mandatory laws which limit the discretion of judges in handing out verdicts, sentencing and registry requirements. Judges don’t judge anymore; they merely facilitate predetermined rules.

I’m currently in communication with a 52 year-old man who, four years ago, downloaded a kiddie porn site and watched it from his living room. Gross? Yes. He had no history of sexual deviance, no predatory background, and no history of sexual contact with kids. He looked at dirty pictures. Sure, as a consumer, he deserves some punishment. But to this level? He is not only serving a mandatory six-year prison sentence, he’ll have to register – for the next 40-plus years – as a sex offender. That translates to no jobs and nowhere to live.

Have we gone nuts?

Sex offenders cannot live within specific footage of parks, schools, bus stops, recreation centers, and other places children visit. Managers of rental units ban convicted sex offenders of any definition. That leaves offenders no choice but to live homeless, in the woods and under bridges.

For four years, Miami’s Julia Tuttle Causeway became an encampment for banished sex offenders where laws were so strict some offenders chose to live in the Everglades. As many as 140 lived under causeway bridges in 2009, required to be on premises from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. daily according to the Corrections Department. Most of the living quarters were cardboard shelters and/or tents.

That’s rehabilitation? That’s assisting offenders with re-entry? Where’s the humanity and education?

Yes. Innocent people must be protected from dangerous predators. But we’ve lost perspective when we label nearly everything as a “sex offense” to and including public urination, looking at pictures, and mid-teen consensual activity that’s as rampant as smoking pot. If every “offender” were to be arrested, we would have to build ten times the prisons.

There’s got to be a better way, including isolation, rehabilitation and education, but the focus of lawmakers is narrow. We have lost sight of humanity.

Politicians say: “Fighting crime means more cops, jails and prisons.”

That’s a good punchline at election time, but it solves nothing.

Marshall Frank is a retired Miami-Dade police detective and frequent contributor to FLORIDA TODAY.


  1. Anonymous March 10, 2017 at 3:38 pm #

    Makes sense

  2. Marcy March 10, 2017 at 3:48 pm #

    I have no sympathy for anyone who looks at kiddie porn, Marshall. My sympathy is for the hundreds of the child victims that were in those photos. If they have to live with what happened to them, why shouldn’t the people who support the sickos who post that stuff, do the same?

  3. Chris March 10, 2017 at 4:20 pm #

    We may have gone overboard lumping all the offenses together. It is time to examine each case based on the circumstances…not the black and white of some words on a piece of paper. I am not condoning any aberrant behavior, but some common sense is needed here.
    We have the disgusting practice by Moslem men of marriage to multiple women and sexual intercourse being ok for a man of 50 with a girl of 8…and it is happening HERE in America with a wink and a nod to Islam meaning it is ok. Well, that is NOT ok, and I would rather see us enforce that strictly, and put a stop to that barbarism. That is my two cents.

    • Just Me March 11, 2017 at 9:46 am #

      Chris – You are right about Muslims.
      Their revered prophet married a 6 year old girl and did what he wanted
      with and to her before having penetrating sex when she turned 9 years old. That is pedophilia, yet their sexual practices are rarely mentioned because the left is so worried about “offending” them and most people are afraid of being labeled Islamaphobic. No one seems to care about the physical and mental trauma their victims suffer all their lives.

      The real term should be not be Islamaphobia but Islamanausea for their treatment of women, little boys and little girls.

    • SharG March 25, 2017 at 10:33 am #

      Chris I agree. Sorry I am so late in responding but I haven'[t been on line for a while.

  4. Snake Hunter{s} March 10, 2017 at 4:57 pm #

    I’m in complete agreement with Chris.- reb
    ___ ___

  5. Bill March 10, 2017 at 5:02 pm #

    You call a 52 year old man who downloaded and watched kiddie porn “a consumer”. I don’t know about that. That man should have his testicles removed. I donot believe any of the people you talk about can be rehabilitated. But really, what can we do?

  6. Ron Fischer March 10, 2017 at 5:03 pm #

    Interesting subject. We have a sex offender within our family. He was the youngest brother in a family of 5 brothers and 1 sister. He worked in the television and movie industries until he was prosecuted and sentenced.

    He’s out of prison now and has moved out of the country. There is no reasonable expectation to ever recover from a sex offender label in this country. But, it has not only been his burden to carry. The entire family suffers the stigma and we are a family that places a high value on leaving a positive footprint in our community. We do a lot of volunteering and we work a lot with kids, females, minorities, and disadvantaged members of our community.

    And so you might ask, “has he changed now?” The answer is, “No, he has not. But he’s in a country that finds his behavior absolutely normal and he is now a financial success there.”

    I do not know what the answer is to find a way to resolve sexuality with our core values as a Christian-Judeo society. Frankly, I’m very much against sexual predators living among us and I don’t think it’s any “illness” that should solicit public sympathy.

  7. Pete March 10, 2017 at 5:10 pm #

    Concur with most of it. The issue is to separate those who truly deserve the max from those who are below that bar. Those offenders who are below the max bar become merged into a “group all” and don’t get the benefit of any post trial mitigation once convicted.

    Much of the issue can be handled at the State Attorney level before the actual filing; it often is….but there are those public driven cases which find themselves into the uncertain judiciary process. Many additional variables come to bear and usually not in favor of borderline defendants. Also depends on the locale of the offense; a conservative rural venue v an urban or even cosmopolitan. The variables can be exponential.

    Our culture has become so immune to the constant bombardment of stimuli the after effect of conviction for those who never should have been in the “group all” is society’s way of saying they dealt with the issue….when clearly not to the benefit of the offender or the life they lead thereafter. Sad, just sad.

  8. jkr March 10, 2017 at 8:28 pm #

    The term “sex Offender” paints with a brush that is too broad and includes many cases in which the offender should be punished, but not labeled for a lifetime.

    An excellent film, “The Woodsman”, stars Kevin Bacon. He portrays a predator, just released from prison, who is fighting his inner demons.

    He was guilty and deserved prison, probation and lifetime labeling. The movie deals with the several months following his release.

  9. Fred Ingley March 10, 2017 at 8:48 pm #

    In addition, why the hell does the law dictate what one may put into one’s own body. I’ve got about 20 years of LE behind me and have come to realize that if some alpha hotel wants to put shit (dope) into his/her own body, and in doing so harms no one else, why should we care. My only stipulation is that my tax dollar should not be spent for medical costs due to you overdosing, nor should my tax dollar go toward you receiving welfare which probably would do nothing by enable you to continue using that shit. Let’s remove the criminalization for drug use, free up law enforcement to persue criminals who pose a danger to others, and reduce this idiotic prison population size. I have to admit that my attitude toward drugs has changed over the years. However I would never consider putting any of that shit into my body, but I don’t believe I (nor the government) have the right to tell you that you can’t.

  10. Alice March 10, 2017 at 8:53 pm #

    I agree with you and Pete (above comment). The “variables” can include someone with a mental condition. An example would be someone that has a bipolar disorder who only watched porn, not a a distributor. The judge already has his mandates and will not at all consider treatment in a facility, only prison time with no medical help there. If there were only some way to get rid of those mandates and let the judges make their own rulings, as you have stated in your article. Also, anyone with that sex offender ” tag” doesn’t have much of a chance in our society. Anyone else getting out of prison that have done other crimes don’t have a “tag” following them around and they can live where they like. There is nothing fair or humane about that.

  11. Frank Mina March 13, 2017 at 10:20 am #

    Well said, could’t agree more