Monday, April 5, 2010

YMCA Bans Registered Sex Offenders (DE, MD, VA):YMCA Bans Registered Sex Offenders.

Salisbury -- As part of a national initiative, Lower Shore YMCA branches will deny sex offenders access to facilities and programs.

The Mid-Delmarva Family YMCA announced that it would compare membership rolls with the National Registered Sex Offender database.

"This is an opportunity to identify and remove anyone posing a threat to them", said Rich Stover, Mid-Delmarva YMCA chief executive officer.

The program, scheduled to begin this week, will screen anyone who has registered with the facility. Stover said any matches will be verified, and anyone flagged as part of the scan will be allowed to appeal. Any person appealing the decision will have their case looked at more specifically. Other YMCAs across the country have said the circumstances around a member's offense may be taken into account.

Some are concerned that the program could open YMCA up to legal action based on anti-discrimination laws, but Stover said he isn't worried about the possibility.

According to the screening service providers DAXKO and Raptor Technologies, sex offenders are known to the victim in more than 80 percent of sex crimes. In other words, they say, the suspect can be a parent, relative, caretaker, neighbor, co-worker or significant other. Sixty-seven percent of adults convicted of felony sex crimes have no prior criminal history.

Dr. Kathryn Seifert, CEO of Eastern Shore Psychological Services and a member of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Offenders, said there are a couple concerns that come to mind on the issue.

"I understand people's need for safety and I can't stress enough that I am all for keeping children safe," Seifert said. "One thought I have though is, if they're going to screen out sex offenders, are they also going to remove people with a history of murder, of selling drugs or people with assault charges? Where are they going to draw the line? I don't know the answer, and the issue is very complex; but as there is the person who stole a candy bar as a teenager and the person who robs a bank and then the person who goes into a home robbery and kills a family -- with sex offenders there are also levels."

"I'm more worried about the sex offender sitting next to you in church," Seifert said. "The offender who has not been identified is often who is most dangerous. There are some offenders who have been through treatment and will never offend again. ... Part of people coming out of jail is learning to be part of a pro-social society. If they can't be a part of that society. they will continue to be anti-social. ... Looking at the circumstances of someone's offense would be the common sense approach."

Raptor Technologies said its service will rescan the YMCA database every 90 or 180 days. The Chincoteague Island Family YMCA and Lower Shore Family YMCA will also participate in the program, which many branches across the country have already begun.

The Mid-Delmarva Family YMCA
P.O. Box 3296, Salisbury, MD 21802-3296

Lower Shore Family YMCA Branch
1900 Worcester Highway
Pocomoke City, Maryland 21851
(410) 957-9622

Mid-Shore Family YMCA Branch
715 South Schumaker Drive
Salisbury, Maryland 21804
(410) 749-0101