NOT ALL SEX OFFENDERS ARE THE SAME (OpEd – Florida Today)

Marshall Frank, Community columnist Published 11:03 a.m. ET Dec. 31, 2018, Florida Today

Florida Bar Association President Michelle Suskauer recently penned a column published in FLORIDA TODAY about needs for reforming the criminal justice system. In her piece, she focused on a number of important issues about mental health, curbing recidivism, re-entry, sentencing and much more.

Missing among these targets for reform, however, is the ever-present quagmire dealing with sex offenders, a topic most politicians and justice officials prefer to ignore. Suffice to say, the very term “sex offender” presents a vile image that calls for eternal condemnation of anyone within that category. When offenders finish serving time, they are required to register for life within law enforcement, even if they were not predatory. This goes for the federal as well as state systems.

A young man aged 19 who engages in consensual sex with a 15-or-16-year-old female will wear the Scarlet Letter for life, forever banished from living in specific locales within a certain distance from schools, parks, bus stops, or anywhere where youngsters gather. This doesn’t mention the inability to get jobs or housing because the condemnation is far reaching. That 19-year-old offender will sustain a life sentence even if not all behind bars.

Have we gone crazy?

Bridges and causeways, such as the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami, have been rife with homeless men by the scores, seeking shelter and to survive day to day. The same goes for other cities around the country.

Meanwhile, the music, fashion and entertainment industries blatantly saturate film, print and airwaves with strongly suggestive sexuality. Implied or explicit, sex is ubiquitous in the 21st century, “normal” among all ages. According to the Resource Center for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention, 30 percent of high school students reported being sexually active. Sixteen-percent of student females reported having sex with someone they just met or was just a friend.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice (2016), the age with the greatest number of sex offenders is 14. Much like adult offenders, they are required to register leaving them stained forever. The study reports that 23 percent of all sex offenders are under age 18.

I know one 50-year-old man who was interested in porn within the privacy of his home. One day, curiosity called and he downloaded a porn site which included underage youngsters. Such sites are monitored by law enforcement. He was arrested, searched and convicted for possession of child porn. Investigation revealed no history of predatory behavior. He looked at pictures.

Law enforcement was able to pick from the lowest hanging fruit to establish a foolproof prosecution. Because of minimum-mandatory sentencing laws, the judge was compelled to give him six years in prison. He had to live in a sex offender compound when released. He is now on probation for 12 more years, plus he must register as a sex offender wherever goes, for life.

His crime was being a consumer, which was wrongful. But did he deserve a life sentence living under a black cloud his entire life, forever banished by society?  Perhaps more law enforcement manpower should be directed toward the producers of child pornography.

The term “sex offender” is a broad brush covering one extreme to the other. It’s easy to access Google on your computer, enter a zip code and type “sex offenders.” It will reveal names and addresses of registered sex offenders, but not the actual crime. It does not tell you if the offense was forcible rape, consensual sex with a teen, peeing in public or looking at child porn.

It is important that prosecutors and cops maintain good batting averages getting convictions for crimes in general. However, with sex offenders the quality of enforcement activity should be more important than quantity.

Meanwhile, criminal justice overhauls should also tackle the problem of broad brushing all offenders for life. Imagine being 80 years old, still paying for a crime committed at age 18. Something’s wrong with that.

Not all sex offenders are the same

Marshall Frank is a retired police captain from Miami-Dade County, author and frequent contributor. Visit marshallfrank.com.

9 Responses to NOT ALL SEX OFFENDERS ARE THE SAME (OpEd – Florida Today)

  1. Helen Bennett December 31, 2018 at 5:14 pm #

    I agree with you, Marshall. I agreed even before I read your column.

  2. Charlie December 31, 2018 at 6:39 pm #

    As usual Marshall you are 100% right.

  3. lori December 31, 2018 at 11:17 pm #

    The sex offender continues to pay for his crime …… but so do the tax payers. We are paying for the registry and all the costs when there are far worst criminals running around….like drug dealers and CEOs of drug companies that are killing Americans
    out of greed.

  4. Jeffrey M. Minick January 1, 2019 at 9:33 am #

    Excellent article, Marshall. I hadn’t really thought in these terms before. You are right on the mark.

  5. Gerry January 1, 2019 at 3:54 pm #

    Good article, Marshall. It seems like you can’t ever really retire.

  6. reality January 2, 2019 at 1:49 pm #

    Yes, Marshall, you’re right. But funny you should mention 80-year-olds. Some of the men in the photos that were arrested at a beach nearby, looked pretty old; and there were a lot of them! Perhaps they were no danger to anyone, but a parent, or a young teenager of either sex, has no way to judge. It is a worry, and pretty gross to see. Their names were printed in the Stuart news some time back, so maybe you could contact some of them and ask why they have to do this stuff in public? And maybe the interview the policemen too, for their take on such activities? Thank you.

  7. Michelle January 2, 2019 at 8:43 pm #

    Thank you for putting forth some common sense on this subject. Understandable the average person has no idea just what is happening and continue to believe the hype of protecting children and using this broad brush to do so. As you point out…..it does not and not all are the same. And there are plenty of children being hurt who are children and grand children and nieces and nephews of these folks who are paying the price dearly as well. But those children don’t seem to matter. That is not to say there should not be consequences but we have gone way to far for many. As you noted. The hard part is getting people to speak up even when they do understand. So thank you.

    Regards,

    Michelle

  8. Bill Solen January 4, 2019 at 12:54 pm #

    You are correct Marshall.. Something as innocent as urinating behind a tree and being unexpectedly seen by a 10 year old child could lead to branding someone for life.

    This is akin to the felons non-voting law which was recently amended. Okay, in 1970 when I arrested someone for possessing a single marijuana cigarette and one methaqualone tablet he was convicted on one felony. Should he be branded as a convicted felon for life? I don’t think so just as the urinator should not be branded.

    Just like the amended felons voting laws it will take a politician to stand up and say enough is enough. I won’t hold my breath on that one.

  9. clearstory January 5, 2019 at 11:33 am #

    I agree with Mr. Frank. The system is totally unfair. A serial child molester like former Republican Speaker of the House Denis Hastert only gets 15 months. He should have served years.