Colorado’s sex offenders maintain that the state treats them as pariahs, closely monitoring where they live, what they look at, who they talk to and what they discuss. One claimed he was warned against keeping a crucifix because it displayed partial nudity. Another, convicted of groping a woman, said he had to write down his thoughts every time he saw a school bus. The idea was to protect children, but the resulting system that cut off offenders from their own families has been struck down in federal court. That leaves Colorado to create a new sex-offender treatment and management system that defense lawyers say is long overdue but prosecutors worry will put children at risk, the Denver Post reports.
Supporters of the changes point to lives disrupted by what they call an outdated and overreaching system. David Zayatz, 39, said authorities threatened to separate him from his family after he was arrested on a parole violation. An indecent-exposure charge when he was 15 years old — for “mooning some people,” Zayatz said, put him on Colorado’s radar as a sex offender. “I mooned someone when I was 15. How many kids do stupid stuff like that every day? And here I am turning 40 years old and still dealing with it,” he said. Critics argue that Colorado has for too long treated a broad cross section of parolees and probationers as posing the same risks to children when in reality they differ greatly. Those separated from their children include a 35-year-old man who sent sexually explicit e-mails to fellow college students and a man who as a 15-year-old had unlawful sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl. “There has been a historical mythology that there is this one thing called a sex offender, and a lot of hysteria has been around a certain imagined stranger-profile predator,” said Laurie Kepros of the state public defender.’s office. “The real cases are sometimes very immature people doing things that are technically in violation of statute but aren’t even necessarily abnormal behaviors.”