Living in Terror: A Nightmare Forever

originally posted 2/25/2009

I am a registered sex offender. In 1995 I agreed to a plea bargain of 10 years deferred adjudication probation in exchange for a guilty plea. In the end my sentence included 10 years probation, sex offender counseling, a $10,000 dollar fine, 60 days of work release jail time, 400 hours of community service and of course, sex offender registration. But the consequences did not stop there. I was evicted from my apartment and once my case was finalized, my wife filed for divorce. As a condition of the probation I had to report to a probation officer once a month and attend sex offender classes twice a week. The classes took place during normal working hours and I was missing so much time at work that I was fired from my job. I also had to take a polygraph at least once a year at a cost of $350 per test. About 5 years into the probation we got a new sex offender councilor who offered evening classes at a cost of $40 per session. Do the math, two sessions a week for 52 weeks at $40 a session. It was expensive but it was the only way I could attend all those classes and keep a job. There is more, so much more.

It was a difficult time and in spite of all the harassment and restrictions I did everything in my power to be a model probationer. Eventually I satisfied every requirement of my probation and in March of 2005 I was dismissed from community supervision. However, I am still required to register on an annual basis for life.

Having my name on the sex offender website has made it difficult for me to rebuild my life. I find it especially hard to find and keep friends. Most people abandon me the moment they discover my past. A few will give me the courtesy of conversation but close friendships are almost impossible. Intimate relationships are even more difficult to form. For years I tried to find a lady who would overlook my past and have a relationship with me. It is difficult because if I tell them about my past up front they won’t even give me a chance to get to know them. If I get to know them first and reveal my past after we’ve been dating for awhile, they feel betrayed and end the relationship. I finally gave up and decided to live alone for the rest of my life. There just doesn’t seem to be any other option for me.

Finding and keeping a job is a nightmare. I am educated and highly skilled and my skills are in demand. I have to explain my past on every job application I submit and as soon as I say the words sex offender my application is thrown into the trash. A few companies will consider an applicant with a felony if the crime is not recent but sex offenders are held to a different standard.

For example, I recently applied for a job with an employer in Oregon. The job application asked if I had any felonies within the past seven years and I replied no, which is the truth since my case is 14 years old. I am well within the guidelines the company uses to determine eligibility and so I submitted the application. I went thru the interviewing process and the company extended an offer of employment. A few days later I received an official job offer letter indicating salary, start date, and benefits. I signed the documents, sent them back to the company, and began making preparations for a move to Oregon. Meanwhile, they conducted a background investigation and of course my case showed up. Shortly thereafter I received a phone call from the company stating that they are withdrawing their offer of employment. I explained that the case is 14 years old but they still insisted on withdrawing their offer because of the nature of the offense, as they put it. I was being disqualified solely on the basis that I am a sex offender. If my case had involved any crime other than a sex crime their offer of employment would not have been withdrawn. I could understand their concern if the position involved interaction with minors but it doesn’t. It’s a computer programming job in a corporate environment where there is absolutely no contact with anyone other than adults.

I’ve been unemployed off and on for the past fourteen years. I find it impossible to obtain a permanent position in my field because almost all employers in my field conduct background investigations. I have managed to find temporary contract work from time to time to sustain me but there are often long periods of unemployment in between jobs. It is a never ending nightmare.

Before I end this letter I’d like to say a word about finding a place to live. The short version is this: I contacted 37 apartment complexes in the Portland area before submitting an application and all of them said they had empty apartments. But when it came to submitting an application several of them said they do not accept applications from anybody with a felony in their background no matter how many years have elapsed since the conviction took place. Some of them would accept a felony conviction if it was more than seven years old (magic number 7), but even they would not rent to me when they found out that the felony was for a sex offense. Of the 37 landlords I contacted only 1 of them would rent to me. It was a run down looking apartment in an area that didn’t look safe. But at least I did manage to find a place. I hear that some sex offenders are living in their cars.

I am determined to live the rest of my life without ever breaking the law again, and all I want is a chance to rebuild my life and put the past behind me. To that end I am doing all I can do to hold a job and be an honest citizen. But the sex offender registration laws make it impossible for me to ever put the past behind me. I am reminded every time I fill out a job application or look for a new place to live. I am reminded on my birthday each year when I am forced by law to report to the nearest law enforcement office for fingerprinting and to update my personal information. I am reminded every time a policeman knocks on my door to see if I am living where I said that I was living on the registration form. I am reminded every time one of my neighbors conducts an internet search and obtains my photo, address, and details about my past. I am reminded every time I encounter a broadcast regarding the latest round of new restrictions for sex offenders that are being discussed by law makers. I am reminded every time I hear my coworkers discussing sex offenders because that usually means somebody found out about me and it is only a matter of time before someone complains and I will once again be discharged. I live in terror and isolation, alienated and ostracized with no hope of a reprieve. It is a nightmare that never ends.

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