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Shawna: A Life on the Sex Offender Registry

Shawna: A Life on the Sex Offender Registry


Shawna’s daughter: What do you call a witch that lives in the sand? Shawna’s son: A sandwich. Shawna: Let me see your hands. Shawna’s son: Why do I have to do hands? Shawna: Because you get syrup all over them and it makes everything you touch sticky. [Shawna’s son laughs] Shawna: Go, be free! [Water runs] Shawna: My whole life, even when I was younger, I always wanted to be a mom. My daughter, I mean she doesn’t know what I did, but she knows that I did something I shouldn’t have. When I was a teenager it was my birthday, and I decided to kind of have like a little party together and we were drinking, dancing and you know,
doing things like that, and then it ended up that the underage male and I slept together. He put his arms around me and he was like, “What? I just don’t want you to think I’m taking advantage of you while you are drunk”. And I was like, “I don’t think that”. The next morning, his mom called me. And she said, “My son hates me.” And then she said, “I just filed against you.” I got a call from an investigator and they said they wanted to talk to me and ask me some questions. And I went and she said if I was honest I wouldn’t get thrown in jail. I was basically told if we go to trial you will get 20-25 years for this if they find you guilty. If you take a plea, minimal time, lifetime registry, lifetime probation. I am defined under the registry,
when you look me up, child molestation. Actually a level three, which is the worst of the worst. [Shawna and kids singing] Shawna: This is the last time that I am going to be able to take you and your brother to the park. I’m sorry. Shawna’s daughter: It’s ok. Shawna: I love you so much. Shawna’s daughter: I love you too, Mommy. People stay on these registries and on the internet for decades, maybe for life. You have a whole broad range of crimes that are classified as sexual offenses, so it includes the 19-year-old who’s dating the 14- year-old, the person who is urinating in public in the wrong circumstance, and the person who violently rapes in a sadistic way. And yet these registries collapse those distinctions and catch all of those people. News announcer: A new law has forced registered sex offenders to live in these tents. More than 50 sex offenders live here because they cannot live near where children congregate. Philippe: If I go stay with anybody I’m going to get arrested. If I go and live with my family I’m going to get arrested. And if you don’t get here on time you get arrested. I never got in trouble with the law. Never got a ticket. Going out with this girl that was only 15 years old by the time I was 19. Four months in jail, five years probation, and a lifetime registration. Val Jonas: Here’s the thing, whenever people get very, very frightened, they are willing to dispense with the protections of the Constitution. That’s what’s going on right now with sex offenders. The media has kept everybody in an uproar. The legislators have jumped on the bandwagon, they never lost a vote for being mean to sex offenders. Eric Janus: It’s a race to see who can be harshest,
who could be strictest, who could have the most draconian laws about sex offenders. Tom Ivester: You can’t find a more hot button issue. The great fear among politicians is being thought of as soft on crime. Sentiment has been to err on the side of safety even though maybe the net has been cast too wide. News archival: An Elko County woman spending
the rest of her life in prison for having a 13 year-old boy touch her breasts. They were having sex in front of dozens of people in the middle of the afternoon. They’re on the sex offender registry. Half a dozen students are said to face child pornography charges. You are now classified as a sex offender. You have been kicked out of college, you are not allowed to use the internet, you are not allowed to live with your dad because he lives too close to a school. Do you think that the punishment fit the crime? Shawna: Is that my beautiful, precious baby girl? Shawna’s daughter: That turned into an eating flesh zombie? [Shawna laughs] Shawna’s son: There’s a snake in my boot! I’ve worked about 10 different jobs since I’ve been convicted. But then there was a spot that came open to write in the paper, and I went from working at the gas station to, oh wow I’m writing for a newspaper, like I’m doing something. This could really lead somewhere. And then there was a complaint. Somebody found out that I was a sex offender. They just said that we can’t have your name out in the public like that, so we’re going to have to let you go. I had the skills and the personality for it, it’s just that one thing stops me from moving up over and over. This stops me from being the best mom I can be. Twenty years down the road when my kids are grown and I want to buy an RV and just go travel the world, I can’t do that because I have to be available for probation and I have to be available to take polygraphs. And if go to a new state I have to register with that state. I want to show my kids something different than Oklahoma. I tell my children all the time there’s a big world out there. Let them know that when it’s time to pick a college, honey go, go. Go see the world, go do so much more than I did. Val Jonas: I think you judge a society
by how it treats the least among you. And I think at this point in our society sex offenders are considered to be the least among us. If you’re willing to carve, you know,
kind of a hole in the Constitution for them, you know you can do it for anybody. Nancy Gertner: It’s as if we’ve taken this entire category and said these are not human beings, we don’t care about them. We put all of them on the registry with the same restrictions and that doesn’t make sense even as a public safety issue, it doesn’t make sense as public policy, and it surely doesn’t make any sense in terms of justice.

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