Monday, October 12, 2015

Registered Citizen says registry amounts to punishment for life

The state Supreme Court agreed.

http://www.cleveland.com/court-justice/index.ssf/2015/10/a_sex_offenders_experience_on.html

Sex offender says registry amounts to punishment for life

By Ida Lieszkovszky, Northeast Ohio Media Group 
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on October 08, 2015 at 7:00 AM, updated October 08, 2015 at 7:07 AM

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Nearly three decades ago, Emil Basista was convicted of raping a 33-year-old woman. While serving time in prison, he was retroactively labeled as a sexual predator, a designation that requires him to report where he lives every 90 days to the sheriff's department.

Basista, 66, is one of several thousand Ohioans who have tried to challenge the state's sexual offender registration requirements, contending that the publicly accessible registries amount to life-long punishment.

During a recent interview with Northeast Ohio Media Group, he said he has turned his life around since his release from prison.  He is married, and said he has become a model citizen despite the hardships that go with being labeled a sexual predator.

"It's been tough for me and my wife because sometimes it just gets to you, especially when you feel you did wrong and you've been punished for it and you did your time and now you want to carry on as a responsible citizen, but society makes it really tough to do that."

Basista said he applied for dozens of jobs, but as a convicted sex offender he was "dead in the water." He managed to piece together several jobs through people his wife knew, and has since retired.

He also credits his wife with helping him find a place to live. Registration laws limit where sex offenders can live. For instance, they can not live within 1,000 feet of a school. Basista's wife has a Middleburg Heights home that complies with the laws, so he was able to move in there. But as required under the law, all of his neighbors were sent postcards notifying them that Basista had moved in.

The registry also limits his daily activities. For instance, he can't go to recreational centers, many of which screen for sex offenders in an effort to keep their patrons, particularly children, safe. 

He also thinks its unfair that he is forced to register since the sex offender designation wasn't part of his original sentence when he was convicted. 

"I think it is a form of punishment because it doesn't enable you to get back into society and do what you're supposed to do because there's always a cloud over your head," he said.

But worst of all, Batista said, is the social stigma that comes with the label since people often mistakenly assume the term "predator" means he assaulted a child. 

"I don't care if people call me a rapist, but don't call me nothing having to do with children" he said. "That really bothers me because that's the furthest thing from my mind is hurting a child."

Basista said many people he speaks to don't understand the registry system or its labels, and instead just respond with fear.

According to the state public defender's office, more than 7,000 sex offenders have challenged the state's laws on registry requirements, and several have taken their cases to the state's highest court. Several years ago, the Ohio Supreme Court agreed with an offender that the current registry system is a form of punishment.

Basista said he doesn't want to remove his name from the registry entirely, but hopes to downgrade his status so he's no longer called a predator. He has not been successful.

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