Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Ex-Offender Mentorship: Level 3's Working Together
The seed was planted back in 2007, when my former probation officer asked if I could help a Level 3 Sex Offender under his watch. Was he kidding? The fact that he would look to me—after all the trouble I experienced under my own Level 3 designation—felt ironic beyond words.
Then again, it was also quite a testament to the successes I’d achieved since completing probation. And from that perspective, his request made perfect sense. Who better to help someone saddled with a monster’s label than one who had managed to rise above it? Unfortunately, I had so much on my plate at that time that I never followed up on this fascinating opportunity. But it was an idea I never forgot.
So when one of my employees told me about Christopher Gaylord—a likable young man trying to find work under a Level 3 label—I knew immediately that I wanted to meet him.
Chris smiled as I pulled up in my truck, looked directly in my eyes as we were introduced, and reached out to shake my hand. “Thank you for giving me this chance.”
He told me about being molested repeatedly when he was eleven, how he acted-out as a result, and how this led to him being convicted of two juvenile sex offenses by the time he was fifteen. He also described the ten years he spent growing up in various programs and institutions, including three years fighting a civil commitment sentence from McNeil Island, the Alcatraz of the Pacific Northwest.
At my property I showed Chris the river running through the forest, the house I built with the help of my community, and various areas of the Zen Garden still in development. “This is exactly what I’d like to build for myself someday,” he said. It was a good sign that he used the term build instead of get, as I emphasized that achieving great things with a monster’s label is not for the faint of heart.
I wondered whether Chris’s remarkable attitude—or any of his admirable qualities—was considered when the Sheriff’s Department did his risk assessment. If my own Sheriff’s assessment is any indication, the answer is no. And I find this very sad.
Some people might wonder: “Won't it look bad on you if he offends again?” To them I would say that nobody is without risk, and I would rather have helped out of compassion than to have turned away out of fear. It’s incomprehensible to me that our courts are regularly trying children as adults, and branding adults for offenses they committed as children. The sex offender registry was supposedly established to protect children but now, tragically, so many children are its victims.
Note: As this story went to post I learned that Chris was told by a Parks official that he cannot continue living in any Jefferson County campgrounds.
I look forward to the day when the mindset that developed these wonderful programs described in Yes Magazine is applied to ex-sex offenders...for the benefit of everyone.