The Michigan Sex Offender Registry is in need of major reform. Low risk, non-dangerous registrants should be removed from the registry. The registrants I’m describing include mostly juvenile and teenage offenders who engaged in consensual sex.
Michigan has the second highest number of registrants on its sex offender registry based on population in the United States. This ultimately makes the registry in Michigan ineffective and not furthering the purpose for which it was designed – to help identify true pedophiles and predators.
One of my colleagues, Cheryl Carpenter, serves on the Professional Advisory Board for a Coalition for a Useful Registry. This week, the Board met with legislators to explain some of the problems the current Michigan Sex Offender Registry faces.
Two registrants shared their stories. One registrant was a senior in high school when he met his high school sweetheart. She became pregnant at 15 years old. When he went to the hospital to sign the birth certificate, he signed his life away. He was arrested and placed on the sex offender registry for 25 years for having sex with a person who was younger than 16. The couple proceeded to have another baby two years later and now have teenage children. This man has remained on the registry as if he were a sexual predator for having consensual sex while he was in high school. The true victims in this case are his teenage children who have been stigmatized by classmates and cannot have their father at school functions due to his status on the registry as a sex offender.
A second registrant was thirteen years old when he was placed on the registry for life after sexually experimenting with a 9-year-old boy. Now he appears to be a pedophile and cannot find a job, find housing or live like any other adult who ever played “doctor” as a child.
It is sad that our registry labels people sex offenders for normal juvenile and teenage behaviors. It makes Michigan appear to have the highest population of sexual predators, which is simply garbage. Most importantly, it causes people who rely on the registry information to fear people who pose no risk to society whatsoever, and it makes the sex offender registry not as useful for its true purpose. Aside from that, the registry as it stands destroys lives unnecessarily for people like those who shared their stories. They do not deserve to be registered…and this puts every one of our children at risk – at risk for being listed as a pedophile and predator for normal child behaviors and non-criminal acts.