Monday, November 9, 2009

OH Sex Offender Families Seek Help from State Rep. (Ohio) : Sex offenders and their families seek help from Goyal.

Sex offenders (and their families and friends) who met Friday with state Rep. Jay Goyal said they believe the state registry system fails to differentiate fairly between severe sex crimes and lesser offenses. About a dozen offenders and members of their families met with Goyal at a south side restaurant Friday to talk about how state policy affects them. The group invited Goyal to the meeting. He said it's a complex issue and the needs of both sides, victims and sex offenders, should be weighed by state representatives.

"Your most important duty as a state representative is providing for the safety and security of your citizens," Goyal said. "That's always the No. 1 priority. However, you need to make sure you're balancing that with the appropriate punishments.

The group said the system fails to offer opportunities for people who have worked to turn their lives around. They aren't allowed back into society's good graces, they said.

Michael Proietti, 24, said he had consensual sex with a girl when he was 19. He woke up to find a cop standing over him, asking whether he knew the girl was 14. After he admitted having sex and not knowing her age, he ended up convicted of a felony -- even though the girl's family didn't seek criminal charges because of her history, family members said. Since then, according to his father, Gary Proietti of Mansfield, Michael Proietti has had trouble finding or retaining a job, despite being a hard worker with high skill levels.

"If we weren't here to help him, he would be living under a bridge somewhere," said his mother, Faith Proietti. "There are corporations that, even if someone did want to hire him, wouldn't be allowed to give him a job. Those are minimum-wage jobs, but they won't let you work there, even if it's just cooking back on a grill."

They say their son is barred from attending The Ohio State University and Ohio University, and that some community colleges might not accept him.

The 24-year-old said he knows he used bad judgment in getting involved with the girl, has taken responsibility for his actions, grown up, and has not committed other criminal offenses. "I don't think it's wrong that I was arrested. I think it's wrong that it's perpetual -- for the rest of my life," he said.

"There's nothing in there that allows for improvement," his mother said. "There should be some kind of rehabilitation -- some kind of test, to say 'You don't have to be on this forever.' "

Del Jackson, of Mansfield, said he'd like to see the system allow offenders to reintegrate into the community once they have shown they have turned their lives around.

Jackson said the Volunteers of America program in Mansfield has received unfair criticism, but has had success. The program really works, he said. "Isolation, versus integration, will never work," he added.

People react with fear when they learn someone has a sex offender registry label -- no matter the details of the crime, said his wife, Tammy Jackson. "As soon as people hear the words, it's the very same thing," she said. "My husband can't get a job, because he was a sex offender."

Del Jackson's father-in-law, Robert Palm of Lexington, told Goyal it breaks his heart to see not only his son-in-law, but his daughter and young grandchild suffer. "When I see someone who works hard, downtrodden all the time ..."

John Orchard, 76, of Medina, said he was sentenced for a sex offense 18 years ago. He said other adults living in his house, who never committed such a crime, are subjected to jeering by neighborhood children who call them perverts. They don't deserve that, he said. "That's all we're asking for, is to give us that chance that we're all entitled to," he said.