Why Reentry Programs Should Be Open to Sex Offenders
By Debron B. – Criminal Justice Intern
Reentry resources are pivotal to every returning citizen’s reintegration into society, especially sex offenders. Despite that, sex offenders have to deal with additional barriers that obstruct their reentry process. It is believed that by giving offenders an opportunity to impact their communities positively, they will be less likely to recidivate back into the prison system. Contradictory to this belief, sex offenders are often denied the chance to reintegrate into their local community and even get harassed for attempting to find work and employment. It is beneficial for both the sex offenders and the general public that this subset of returning citizens is given the ability to use the same reentry resources as others.
Sex offenders are in dire need of more reentry programs that cater to their specific residential and employment needs. Numerous states still have employment and residential restrictions for registered sex offenders. These restrictions were originally created to help the victims of sex offenders, appease the public, and control crime. However, these restrictions ended up only hampering these offenders’ ability to rebuild their lives. The goal of rehabilitation is to make sure offenders have access to the resources they need in order to refrain from reoffending. Reentry programs can help sex offenders by partnering with housing and employment organizations that are willing to assist these transitioning individuals in securing a place to live and finding gainful employment.
In addition to residential and employment reentry programs, there are also treatment programs that focus on the mental health of returning citizens. In general, a large percentage of those who are released back into their communities struggle with mental health issues such as depression, substance abuse disorders, and antisocial personality disorder. Sex offenders, however, are often denied access to programs and services that otherwise welcome those who committed non-sex crimes. These treatment programs are beneficial not only to the individual who participates, but to society as a whole since the mental health of an individual can have a significant effect on their recidivism rate.
Finding housing, employment, and reentry resources without the use of the internet has become nearly impossible in the 21st century, therefore sex offenders should not be restricted from using the internet. Parole and probation officers now have access to comprehensive monitoring software that can be installed on an individual’s computer or smartphone and all but guarantee their compliance with any established restrictions. The monthly fee for this software is paid for by the monitored individual, not the government. Without the ability to locate and access resources, how can a returning citizen be expected to succeed? Probationinfo.org provides databases of reentry resources, probation conditions, and crucially, sex offender registry requirements for every state and U.S. territory. Currently, the only way to access this information is online through our website. Unfortunately, many registered sex offenders are prohibited from accessing this information that could be pivotal to their success.
Everyone in society benefits when returning citizens have a smooth transition when coming home from prison. We cannot exclude someone from access to resources based on the category of their offense, especially if they, in particular, face greater barriers to reentry. Equal access to housing, employment, and mental health services is crucial for the successful reentry of every returning citizen and should be available to all those in need.