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Wetterling began to talk to Ricky. These included not just juveniles but also young adults, eighteen and older, who could be tried and sentenced accordingly. In at least twenty-nine states, Human Rights Watch reports, consensual sex between teen-agers can trigger registration. There have been scattered efforts at reform, including in Texas.

But for many people found guilty of sex offenses, including Anthony Metts, in Midland, they came too late. Metts settled into his new life in the oil fields, reluctantly accommodating an array of strictures that he regarded as pointless. Each Halloween, for instance, he reported to the county probation office with dozens of other local sex offenders, and was held from 6 to 10 p.

But it also introduced him to a troubling new aspect of his life on the registry. His status banned him from living with her, and thus with his wife. Still, Metts sneaked visits, breaking the rules. His mother, Mary Helen, obtained formal certification as a chaperon so that he could see his daughter in her presence, spending Saturday mornings by the duck pond or having brunch at Fuddruckers.

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Eventually, as his daughter grew, Metts says that his probation officer granted him approval for simple, unchaperoned outings, like crafting trips to Hobby Lobby, with a stop for doughnuts. Metts had a record of technical violations, so a judge ordered him to wear an electronic ankle bracelet, administered by a private monitoring company that charged several hundred dollars a month. The device would notify the authorities of any infractions—stepping too close to a mall, park, bar, or church, or leaving the county without permission.

The circumference of permissible life kept shrinking. Within a year and a half, he had gained a hundred pounds. He returned to college, began to party, and made friends for the first time in years.

He tossed back several beers and took a dip. A few weeks later, Metts was led into a courtroom in hand-cuffs, leg cuffs, and a chain around his waist connecting them. The judge took some time to think it over. The next morning, she sentenced Metts to ten years in prison. In many states, compliance with the registry can prove to be a Sisyphean task. In McMinnville, Oregon, I met with Catherine Barnes, whose son, Christian, had been placed on a sex-offender registry for life after a sexual encounter, at the age of seventeen, with a thirteen-year-old girl.

In Oregon, the age of consent is eighteen. McMinnville is a town built on second chances. In the past few decades, it had lost its Hewlett-Packard and Pillsbury plants. But, as domestic-wine prices have surged in recent years, tasting bars have cropped up in the wine-country town, filled with tea lights and tourists. At a bright new bistro, Barnes showed me a video on her iPhone. After our meal, Barnes took me to her house, where Christian had lived with her.

In the winter of , after years of being turned down for employment, Christian, then twenty-eight, was offered a job in Idaho as a clean-energy repairman for a well-known company. Giddy, he packed his suitcase and said his goodbyes. The night before his departure, he got a call. His mental health deteriorated, and within weeks he was facing a possible felony charge for falling behind on his annual registration at the police station.

On a Friday in April, Barnes called Christian from the grocery store in the early afternoon to see if he wanted anything; there was no answer. She has since learned that suicide is not uncommon among registrants.


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Her son, who left no note, sent his girlfriend a goodbye text. Often, parents are the ones who carry the weight of the registry. In a study of more than a thousand male juveniles with sex-crime convictions, Elizabeth Letourneau and her colleagues found that public registration did not reduce repeat-offense rates.

Similar groups had emerged around the country, consisting mostly of parents whose children were on the registry or in detention. In the Midwest, there were the mothers who had formed Women Against Registry, seeking to educate the public about the effects of registration on families. In Maryland, another mother led parents in lobbying against strict residency restrictions. When her son first appeared on the Texas registry, some friends and relatives stopped speaking to her. Then she got a letter from Mary Sue Molnar, a San Antonio mother whose son was in detention for a sex offense.

The founder of Texas Voices, Molnar had contacted the families of thousands of registrants in the state. But after her son was sent to prison she agreed to start a local chapter of the organization in Midland.

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As many as two hundred registrants and their loved ones travelled across the country to attend. Around big circular tables, parents shared stories about vigilantism and therapy troubles, as well as tips on navigating the demands of compliance. Eighteen dollars? Twelve dollars?


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  5. Among the parents whose children were charged with sex crimes, discussion revolved around how to change registry laws. Her visit to Japan during college had filled her with a rush of big-city anonymity. Now she was determined to seek her second chance abroad. Like nearly every other country, Japan has no public sex-offender registry. DuBuc taught English and fell in love with a Filipino man from her church named Kimo, a surfer and a karaoke enthusiast who worked at a Disney resort.


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    6. Along the way, Kimo joined her, and proposed. In , they married over doughnuts in Bangalore, and soon returned to Tokyo, where their son was born. To show the baby off, they planned to travel to Fukushima, where Kimo had spent much of his childhood and where his family still lived. DuBuc planned to stay in Japan, despite the devastation; she felt that God had called on her to help rebuild. Denniston had been pushing the legislative reforms that DuBuc had helped promote. DuBuc decided to take her family home. Her father now had a girlfriend who owned a horse-rescue farm, where Leah and Kimo could work while they looked for steady employment.

      Even without a high-school diploma, Kimo quickly found a factory job making plastic car parts.

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      Her fingerprints and her record still popped up in certain criminal-background checks. She spent months with the baby on her back, shovelling snow from horse stalls and tending to the hogs and cows before dawn, continuing her job search when the sun came up. She found work at the Salvation Army, helping families in search of housing, but she was let go after several months without an explanation.

      Some companies have programs that retain information that was expunged from registries, which they publish online, demanding that offenders pay steep fees in order to have the damaging data removed. But the Internet refused to forget. Just Click the Facebook Icon. With each rebuff, DuBuc tried to motivate herself afresh. In Pennsylvania, in , the state Supreme Court ruled that mandatory lifetime sex-offender registration for juveniles was unconstitutional, after the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center led a legal challenge.

      And in Texas an official task force has formed to assess ways of improving outcomes for juveniles charged with sex offenses; Josh Gravens was invited to testify at one of its hearings this month. But the legislative provisions have proved far more recalcitrant. In the early two-thousands, Pittman worked as a public defender on the juvenile docket in New Orleans, where she first noticed the long-term toll that the registry took on convicted offenders. Her findings were released in a hundred-plus-page Human Rights Watch report, which she was sure would inspire changes in policy. On the road, Pittman met with members of local government to present her findings, and most politicians listened politely.