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OK- Sex offenders struggle to find jobs

7-10-2005 Oklahoma:

As many as 270 sex offenders head to work in Tulsa each day, most in low-paying jobs in busy retail and industrial areas of the city, an analysis of Department of Corrections data indicates.

They often take jobs as stockers, carpenters, janitors, cooks, truck drivers, handymen and temporary laborers.

And those are the lucky ones.

Many sex offenders find it difficult to get a job while on the registry.

"It limits the type of employment that you can secure," said Sandra Lewis, executive director of the Day Center for the Homeless. "Just because of the stigma that goes along with having to register."

Plotting where each of the 584 registered sex offender lives in Tulsa reveals a map with many living in or near downtown. Other concentrations of sex offenders can be found living near 61st Street and Peoria Avenue, near 11th Street and U.S. 169 and 31st Street and Garnett Road.

Plotting where sex offenders work reveals a map depicting concentrations of offenders again in the downtown area as well as areas near major highways such as Memorial Drive between the Broken Arrow Expressway and the Creek Turnpike.

About 15 sex offenders also listed work addresses along the busy industrial area near Mingo Road between 51st and 61st streets, according to DOC data.

Nearly 60 percent of employed registered sex offenders working in Tulsa listed occupations in the labor industry such as painters and mechanics. Another 21 percent work in service industry type positions such as sales, customer service and in one case as a hair stylist.

Twenty-one registered offenders, or about 8 percent of the total employed, worked in professional-type positions such as engineers, computer programers and accountants.

Many sex offenders either work in the service industry or are self-employed, said the Rev. Steve Whitaker, executive director at John 3:16 Mission homeless shelter.

"Construction, concrete, roofing -- those kinds of things are where those guys typically can make a good living," Whitaker said.

"Some of those guys are dangerous and they need to be watched for the rest of their life," Whitaker said. "But there are some of them, I think, we can restore back to our cities, our churches, as our neighbors."

One mother said she is not sure how much of an impact the sex offender registration requirements had on her son and his attempts to find a job.

The mother, who requested anonymity, said her son was a senior at Salina High School in 1999 when he was arrested for what she described, with much embarrassment, as a "high school thing." The mother said her son was walking to the high school restroom when he exposed himself to a group of freshman gym students.

Police were called and her son was led away in handcuffs from school to jail, where he stayed until his court date, she said.

Four months later, he pleaded guilty to indecent exposure. He received a five-year suspended sentence and was ordered to perform 120 hours of community service, court records reflect.

While her son avoided prison time, she said he couldn't escape the specter that followed him in the small Mayes County community.

"He had to leave this community," the mother said.

Her son dropped out of high school and moved to Tulsa. The mother said her son had a hard time landing a job and when he did, he had trouble keeping it.

"It seemed like after that happened, he didn't care," the mother said.

Her son was found shot to death in November 2000 in a wooded area near Lake Hudson in what officials ruled a suicide, state Medical Examiner records indicate. He was one month shy of his 20th birthday.

Looking back, the mother said she is not sure whether having to register contributed to her son's suicide.

"I'm not saying that's what did it," the mother said. She said some consideration should be given to sex offender registration requirements when the charge stems from a nonviolent act.

"He was a pretty normal kid," the mother said. The sex offender registration requirements "changed his life." ..News Source.. by CURTIS KILLMAN World Staff Writer

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