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Sex Offenders, Experts Question Effectiveness of New Restrictions

LITTLE ROCK, AR - After serving their time, some sex offenders can be on another list for the rest of their lives. Now some registered sex offenders and their families are saying this branding is doing more harm than good.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - After serving their time, some sex offenders can be on another list for the rest of their lives.

Convicted sex offenders are required to register with their local law enforcement office for at least 15 years, often much longer than that.

Now some registered sex offenders and their families are saying this branding is doing more harm than good.

"Sam," a registered sex offender who asked to have his identity concealed, calls every day a battle.

"No sooner did we move and the house was getting egged," he says. "They spray-painted on the porch that I need to move. Why keep attacking me?"

Another registered sex offender we'll refer to as "C," says he sees the same struggles.

"Two kids in the area accused me of fondling them," C says. "You want to crawl into a hole and you're afraid."

The Arkansas House of Representatives passed legislation earlier this year prohibiting level three and four sex offenders, considered the most likely to re-offend, from swimming areas and playgrounds in state parks.

They also can't live within 2,000 feet of any school, day care, public park or youth center.

These men say the restrictions, along with the sex-offender stigma, make it nearly impossible to find a steady job and safe place to live.

"Sir, many of our employees are going to be uncomfortable with your working here, so we're not going to be able to hire you," C recalls hearing from a prospective employer.

Spouses of sex offenders say these restrictions also tear apart their families, frequently hurting the most vulnerable.

"I can't tell you how many times my daughter has come home crying because children told her she shouldn't be allowed to live with her dad because he's a rapist," says Carrie Moore, who is married to a registered sex offender.

"It's been really hard. We live in a mobile home," Lynn Gilmore says. "We will never have the American Dream."

Lora Morgan, Director of Arkansas Time After Time, works with legislators to change sex-offender laws, saying current laws can force an offender to commit other crimes just to stay on their feet.

"So a sex offender, they might have done 5, 10, 15 years in prison, then once they got out, the day they're released, that's when their 15 years starts on the public registry," Morgan says.

University of Arkansas-Little Rock professor Dr. Tusty ten-Besel says there are some misconceptions about sex offenders.

"Previous research has shown us that less than 10 percent will actually commit another sex crime," she says.

Dr. ten-Bensel is interviewing registered sex offenders to also find out if current law and rehabilitation programs are working effectively.

"If these laws are helping, 'Wonderful,' that's what we'll say. If it's not, then maybe we need to go back and revisit these laws to make it more effective," she says.

It may be years before all the information for her research is gathered, but the offenders we talked to say whatever it shows, life on the list will likely never change.

"We are the low-hanging fruit on the trees," C says.

Are sex offender laws prohibiting convicted men and women from becoming a productive part of society?
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