by Conor Friedersdorf
The Ann Arbor News reports on a young man's travails after being put on a sex offender registry for having sex at age seventeen with his fifteen year old girlfriend. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the ordeal is ruining his life. Insofar as it caused him to miss graduating from high school and to have trouble getting a job, it also makes it more likely that he'll be a burden on society in the future. Unlike me, however, some of you may be unsympathetic to stories like this one. As one reader said in the comments of the newspaper story, "He's having problems because every step of the way he knew the rules and chose to not live by them." Said another, "Why are we now supposed to buy his sob story."
I'd ask these folks to turn there attention to the other victims of this man being on Michigan's sex offender registry: his neighbors. As the story notes, "The registry lists the charge for which someone was convicted, but doesn’t give background on a case." One mother in this young man's neighborhood found out about his conviction for "fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct with force or coercion," a charge that is misleading in itself since everyone stipulates that all acts with his girlfriend were consensual: the "coercion" was that she fell below the age of consent.
On learning there was a sex offender in her neighborhood, the woman became alarmed and contacted police.
She wrote that a sex offender of a “child under the age of 13” was living in front of the school.
“I can’t let my children play at this school anymore because he is always outside playing basketball, watching the kids that are playing,” she wrote. “How creepy, how disgusting…please help us get rid of him.”
So right there, you've got an anxious mother who is needlessly frightened for the safety of her children -- it is unclear why she thought a 13 year old was involved -- and the woman's kids, who are no longer allowed to play outside. It isn't unreasonable to imagine that this woman told a friend or the parents' of her children's playmates or her own parents about her concerns, but let's stick to what we know: that a woman and her two children are made worse off by the absurd way that Michigan runs its database of so-called sex offenders.
One wonders how many other concerned parents are similarly made worse off by this state of affairs.