Saturday, April 23, 2011

Ronald Schell: Abuse of sex offender rules wastes taxpayer money

Dear Editor: The Department of Corrections (DOC) routinely applies the harshest sex offender parole rules to individuals who are not a threat to the community. These rules make living a normal life nearly impossible and feed a prison population in Wisconsin that is already more than twice the size of Minnesota, which has about the same population.
Jonathan (not his real name) is a UW-Madison graduate who was convicted of burglarizing a friend’s apartment and forging a check. He served two years in prison. Because he was convicted of sexual activities with other boys when he was in foster care at the age of 12, the DOC imposed dozens of oppressive rules including prohibitions on using the Internet, visiting a health club, going to a park, going to bars, or coming near any place frequented by even one person under the age of 18. It didn’t matter that Jonathan’s offenses occurred 18 years ago, or that he was never again convicted of any sexual offense, or that a psychologist determined that he is not a threat to commit sexual crimes.
Informed that he had used the Internet at his job, Jonathan’s parole officer put him in jail and recommended that he be sent back to prison. As his lawyer observed, “When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Thanks to the DOC’s hammer, we are all paying to house someone who could be a productive member of society.
Ronald Schell

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