Sunday, May 31, 2009

Registry Adds Hurdle for Offenders Seeking Jobs (Houston) : Registry Adds Hurdle for Offenders Seeking Jobs.
(note how the term "predator" is misused in the headline of this story)

In today’s economy, finding a job is tough for most people. But imagine what it would be like if you had the equivalent of a scarlet letter attached to your job applications.

A Rosenberg man who has been out of work for several months says that since the state recently added new information to its revamped online sex offender registry, it’s been more difficult for him to get a job.

Employers, who might have been willing to give the 25-year-old registered sex offender a chance, now refuse to hire him because they don’t want their business name and address listed on the registry, said Gordon, who asked that his last name not be used to protect his privacy.

The Texas Department of Public Safety added employment, school and occupational license information to offenders’ profiles about six months ago as part of a $1.2 million redesign of the online registry, which includes a new e-mail notification feature. DPS officials said states are required to post such information under federal law.

Making the information available to the public has struck a chord with registered sex offenders and their advocates who say it’s unnecessary and poses another hardship for offenders who want to be productive citizens. Crime victim advocates, however, argue the information is an another tool to protect the community.

Mary Sue Molnar, a founder of Texas Voices, a sex offender advocacy group, said more information means less safety if sex offenders can’t find work or lose their jobs. She said she gets e-mails daily from offenders and their loved ones asking for help.

“This is not keeping the public any safer,” said Molnar, whose son is a convicted sex offender. “It’s a feel-good law. It’s a tremendous problem. We want them to reintegrate into society and lead productive lives, and they can’t do that when they don’t have jobs.”

She said state and federal laws should distinguish between dangerous and non-dangerous sex offenders (but they do not do so). She said many sex offenders pose no risk to the community. Some are low-risk offenders who were in consensual relationships and the offender didn’t know the victim was under age. In some cases, they are married to the victim and they have children. Having their employer and school information online can be devastating to their families, she said.

Gordon, who is listed as a moderate risk on the state’s registry, agrees with Molnar. He is serving eight years of probation after accepting a plea deal on aggravated sexual assault of a child charges in 2004. He said he had a consensual relationship with a teenager who said she was 19. He believes only dangerous sex offenders should have employer and school information posted on the registry.

Gordon, who lives with his parents, said he is up front with employers about his criminal history and has had other jobs since his conviction. He said he follows all the requirements of his probation, including sex offender treatment. All he needs now is a job.

The information posted on the registry is required under the Adam Walsh Act signed by President George W. Bush in 2006. The act established a national sex offender registry and states were given three years to implement the law. The state attorney general has the authority to issue guidelines in interpreting and implementing the law.