By The Outspoken Offender…
First and foremost, I’m not my crime. I believe this is one of the most powerful and important statements that people should hear. And not just for me, but for the countless others that have been convicted of a crime, including people living on the registry. This isn’t a statement that condones what I’ve done in the past or that I condone what others have done. Rather, it’s statement that says, “I’m still productive. I’m can still be an active, positive member of society if I choose to do so.”
Living on the Registry
Before my arrest in 2006, I was very active in TV news, radio broadcasting and film production. Since I was in the industry, my case was blasted all over the local and national news. It was a horrible experience to say the least, not only for myself, but for my family as well. After spending 41 months inside a federal prison, (2007-2012) and five years on federal supervision, my life continues as a registered sex offender. I actually don’t like that description so I prefer to say, “registered citizen.” But you get the point.
Jobs and Housing
I’ll keep this topic brief as I talk more about it here. Besides the social stigma of being on the sex offender registry, the constant denial of jobs and housing is one of the worst things to endure. This is true for anyone with a felony record and especially for people living on the registry. You only have to read reports like this one to grasp the crisis. Luckily, I’ve never been homeless but I’ve been close. Thanks to my families support, my never ending and fierce ambition to survive, and my diverse job resume, I’ve been able to keep off the streets. I know that I’m one of the lucky ones. Hopefully my luck will continue.
The Labeling Theory/Ostracism
“Labeling theory states that individuals who are given a label eventually subscribe to that label; in other words,it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the case of sex offenders, this can only mean more damage to society.” – Carla Schultz, San Jose State University
I agree Ms. Schultz’s statement. Again, without going into all the details here, the registry has caused more damage than good. It is a false sense of security and a moral panic.
In 2017, I completed my fifth film entitled, NOT FOR RENT!, a documentary that discusses discriminatory housing issues among ex-felons and sex offenders. The film also covers Utah’s Good Landlord Program and the negative effects it’s had on fair housing among former offenders. Among the numerous interviews in the film, I spoke with Kipling D. Williams, a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Purdue University. He states:
“Being excluded is painful because it threatens fundamental human needs, such as belonging and self-esteem.”
If we want a safer society, why ostracize people living on the registry by banning them from most housing rentals and employment? Wouldn’t this cause more instability and a better chance of re-offending? Though many experts believe this is the case, laws are still being enacted today that does the exact opposite of what we should be doing.
Advice for Others
Why am I putting myself out there, you ask? Because I want to help others and educate the public. These are my main goals. People living on the registry (and children!) are not the monsters you think they are. They are not a threat to anyone including your child(ren). But the stigma of the sex offender registry has already been applied. It labels people as dangerous, threatening, or worse, a violent sexual predator. I’ve imagined what would happen if I announced to people while grocery shopping that I was a registered sex offender. Of course I would get some weird looks. How many moms and dads would hold on to their kids tightly or actually leave the store? When did a sex offender automatically become a threat to all children?
My other focus of this blog is relationships. After my divorce in 2017, I’ve come to realize how little friends I actually have. Why is that? Does it have anything to do with my offense? I believe some of it does. I’ll never forget when I was still incarcerated I wrote a letter to a long-time friend of mine. She actually replied back and I was so happy to hear from her. She gave me a quick update on her family. She also mentioned that she didn’t hate me. That was a huge relief because her friendship meant a lot to me. I then sent her a Christmas card a couple of months later. Unfortunately, I received my own card back in the mail with “Return to Sender” written on the front. I was devastated. To this day, I have never heard from her.
I do appreciate you stopping by and reading my blog, and watching my vlogs on YouTube. It does mean a lot to me and hopefully I can be of some inspiration and support to you and your family. I always welcome your messages and stories. Hopefully we can form a team effort to educate and bring powerful stories to light. If you have a story to tell, contact me. Your story will always remain private.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:
“To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson