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YMCAs Revoke Memberships of Registered Sex Offenders

February 4, 2010

ABCNews: YMCAs Revoke Memberships of Registered Sex Offenders.

A group of YMCAs in Connecticut have begun revoking the memberships of registered sex offenders in a move officials say is meant to comb out predators (again, most sex offenders are not “predators”) who may come in contact with the thousands of children who use those Ys. Last week, 12 YMCA community centers in Connecticut cross referenced their membership database with the state’s sex offender registry. The new policy by the Connecticut YMCAs is the latest in a spreading movement by YMCAs. Similar programs already exist at Ys in Florida, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan.

While the policy has been applauded by some, it is also raising questions whether it violates the rights of registered sex offenders and makes it harder for them to be rehabilitated.

Philip Dwyer, the president and CEO of the Central Connecticut Coast group, said “Technology has caught up and made it easier to do these checks,” said Dwyer, “and so we took the natural progression on that journey and began to check the database of the entire membership as well.”

Offender advocacy groups worry that with registered sex offenders already limited in where they can live and work, closing another door to them may hurt their chances at a normal, crime-free life. “I assume that at some point we’ll get to a place where registered sex offenders won’t be allowed to breathe,” said Paul Shannon, one of the founders of the Boston-based Reform Sex Offender project. “This is just going down the same path of lunacy.”

Many states limit how close in proximity registered sex offenders can live to schools or playgrounds. Depending on their crime, some registered sex offenders aren’t allowed to live with children either, even if they are related.

Shannon said the YMCA’s screening process is “ineffective” and lumps all registered sex offenders together, when really not all of them are dangerous. “We have to stop using horrendous cases that are typical of a registered person as a way to violate the rights of registered people and to further jeopardize the possibility of community in society,” he said.

According to the Center for Sex Offender Management, a part of the U.S. Department of Justice, between 12 and 14 percent of sex offenders are known to have repeated their crimes.

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