St Joseph, MO–From the Associated Press’ Sex Offender Banned from Son’s Graduation (5/10/08):
“School and law enforcement officials have told a St. Joseph man that he can’t attend his son’s eighth-grade graduation because he is a convicted sex offender and isn’t allowed on school property.
“James Jones, 36, said he may go anyway although the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Department has told him he would be arrested and face up to four years in prison.
“‘I’ve already been punished for this. This isn’t about me anymore. Now they’re punishing my kids, and that’s taking it a little too far,’ said Jones, who served five years in prison after being convicted in 1990 of forcible rape of a 15-year-old girl when he was 17.
“‘I’m always preaching education to my children. How does that make me look if I’m not there at graduation?’..
“Sheriff’s investigator Shawn Collie said although Jones has argued against the school property restriction more than any other offender, he has signed an agreement acknowledging he knows about the restriction. That means he can’t claim ignorance if found on school grounds, such as for the May 22 graduation.
“‘We’ll be there. And we’ll arrest him if he’s there,’ Collie said.”
A few thoughts:
1) Regarding the rape, he was convicted, so let’s assume he’s guilty. “Forcible rape” is pretty bad stuff, and it’s real hard to feel sorry for a rapist. Yes, Jones was only 17, and that’s young, but it’s old enough to know it’s wrong to cause other people pain. And I’m sure that two decades later the young woman he assaulted still suffers because of it.
2) Prison is supposed to be about punishment and rehabilitation. Rape is a terrible crime, but Jones paid for it with five long years in prison–upon his release, he’s paid his debt to society and should not be subjected to further punishment.
3) The best thing for society is if criminals are able to be rehabilitated, and from what we see in the article, it sounds as if Jones is an excellent and admirable example of this rehabilitation. For this, Jones deserves credit, not exile.
4) It probably will mean a lot to his son for him to be at his graduation, and will be hurtful if he can’t attend.
All in all, I side with Jones.
Thanks to Jeremy, a reader, for sending the story.