Approve – Not Approved

By Jason C. . . .

In 1999, I was convicted of several sexual offenses. At the time, I was 22 years old – still young, still making stupid decisions. My mother warned me time and again to change the course of what I was doing, but at that age, you swear you know everything, and believe you are invincible. However, my world came to an abrupt halt when I was arrested and thrown into prison. I was questioned by a detective, using scare tactics like, “They are going to throw you away,” “If you don’t tell me what I want to hear, I will spread the word that you are a sex offender, and those guys inside those prison walls will rape you and use you like you are just a piece of meat.”

Of course, this scared me because I had never been in trouble before. Prior to my arrest, I had honorably served in the United States Air Force, had a full-time job making good money, was engaged, and was going to college for a Computer Science degree. Never once did I think that I would end up in the justice system. I was one of those people that had the same thought most people had – you do the crime, so do the time. I did not realize that my perception would change.

Going through the proceedings, my mother was at every court hearing. She was working overtime to help me and try to save me from the claws of the criminal justice system. After 8 months of going through this, and seeing my mother lose about 50 pounds, I figured I could fight my fight better once I got into a state prison and took a plea deal. My state appointed attorney had already told everyone that I pleaded guilty and he kept telling me that there was no hope. I plead guilty to 25 years and watched in horror as my mother ran out of the courtroom crying her eyes out. It was the lowest point in my life.

Throughout the 19 years I did in prison, I accomplished everything a model inmate could. Received hundreds of certificates, earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology, a Welding certificate, a Certificate of Technical Studies in Computer Network, earned Toastmasters International’s highest aware of Distinguished Toastmaster, worked my way from a tutor position to the prison magazine’s Editor, where we earned several national awards in graphic design and writing. I was even given a trustee position, which was uncommon for sex offenders.

I was released in 2017. I had a job from day one and earned several raises over the years. I followed all the rules, regulations, lived on the same street, and generally kept to myself, living life as a citizen should. The Parole Officer loved me, the Sheriff’s office had no qualms with me, and anytime I was asked to do something, I did exactly what they asked me to.

In October 2020, I filed for an Interstate Compact to move from Louisiana to Mississippi. I bought a house for $250,000, had my sister move down from Kentucky to ensure I had some support in my move, and was approved by Mississippi Probation and Parole in December 2020. The neighborhood had a couple of firefighters and a couple of police officers living in it, so I knew that this would be a good neighborhood. I moved my belongings and my entire existence and went to do all the normal things a person was required to do as a sex offender. That included reporting to the Sheriff’s Office, the DMV, and the Parole Office. When I went to the Sheriff’s Office, the person handling my processing said she had to run my address again to ensure the address was approved. She did and said that the address was good. After she processed me and I filled out all the necessary paperwork, I went to the DMV, where I had to process to get a “Sex Offender” identification. Took care of that process and afterwards, I reported to my Parole Officer. Filled out the paperwork, was given instructions on how I would report to them, and I went on my way and started living life as a Mississippi resident.

Two months later, a new person took over the sex offenders at the Sheriff’s office. She asked me to come back in because I needed to get fingerprinted, photographed, and give a DNA sample. Took care of that and she again read my rules of what I could and could not do. Two days after that, two sheriff’s officers stopped by my house to do a house check to make sure I was living at the house. They were super nice, and every answer was “yes sir” and “no sir” which was nice considering that is not normally how they answer an ex-offender.

Two days later, my community notifications go out. I thought to myself, “Ok, lets see how many neighbors change their attitude towards me.” I did not see any obvious signs and just kept to myself, as I normally do. Little did I know that something was lurking beyond what I could see.
Last Friday, I received a letter from the Sheriff’s Department that said a “playground” was found in the back of my subdivision and that I had 30 days to move or face arrest. I was shaking so bad and crying, but I gathered the strength to call this new person to find out where this “playground” was. I went driving to this site and was shocked at what I saw. It is literally a gazebo and a jungle gym set that anyone can buy at Lowe’s. This was not an industrial style playset. This “playground” is butted up against a house, with no fence separating it, and no sign that signifies it to be a public playground. I explained that I was approved by two legal agencies (three if you consider that the other parole office had to approve me as well) and that I bought a house – I did not just rent or move in with family. She said, well, you were provisionally approved and if we happen to find something later, it is my responsibility to stay in compliance. I explained that is not how that works. I cannot be provisionally approved, especially considering I bought a quarter of a million-dollar house. She said, you have until March 1 to move or face arrest.

I have reached out to several organizations – one being the MacArthur Justice Organization. One of their attorneys is looking into this and when I showed him the pictures, even he was shocked. I asked several friends to go past this “playground” to give me their honest opinion of if they would let their kids go wander off into this are and they all resoundingly said no because it looks like private property. I also have an attorney who has agreed to take the case, but obviously for a large price. One attorney who did some digging for me did find out that someone in the neighborhood called on me – not because I did anything, but because they got a card on me.

It is mind boggling that, after 22 plus years, first time offender, that I am still fighting the system. It also is shocking that one person can make a call after getting the community notification to try to force me out of the very house that I bought, put my savings into, and was living quietly in until said notification came out. How does two agencies run my address and approve me to live in a house, which I have done successfully for two months, and then one of those agencies gets to come back after community notification goes out, to tell me that I have to leave. Not only leave, but face arrest if I do not. I understand the fear of not knowing – it is understandable – but watch me, keep an eye on me, see that I am not the person that your mind believes a person who has made a stupid decision in his youth, is today. Give me the benefit of the doubt, especially considering you know how much the houses in the neighborhood go for. If I was not doing what I am supposed to be doing, I would never be able to afford this type of house.

Please keep me in prayer. I am amid a fight to keep my house and need all the help I can get.

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