by Kay Helbling
Having had first-hand experience with a sex offender’s prospective release into our neighborhood, you’d think I’d be screaming “foul”, but instead I must applaud their decision. And here’s the reason why.
The “quirk in the law” that the papers refer to with his release, simply stated, says, in Oregon, if a sex offender has been convicted of a crime and serves out their entire sentence—no early release, no parole—but serves the entire sentence, they are released with no restrictions—none whatsoever. That is what would have happened here, so they instead chose to release Walters on parole. As a parolee he could be supervised and more importantly, monitored.
In our case, it was 1996 and Roger Bishop was about to be released from prison. He intended to move in with his parents, just a couple of doors down from our home. Because he’d served his entire sentence, he would have every right to move smack dab in the middle of a cul-de-sac of young boys, ages 8-10, a perfect match to their sex crime profile, a profile that matched our two sons and six other young boys.
On the very weekend of his release, he was going to head down to the beach as a camp “counselor” for a youth church group on a weekend outing. He could once again “coach” youth softball teams, and could invite young boys back to discuss the “game” as he’d done in the past.. He could go to the local park, hire young men for work that would require a “physical examination” he did in his home.
Pretty ugly, you bet, but these were the facts that faced us. At least we were made aware he’d be coming, which may not have been the case. You see, back in 1996, there were no “predator notification” laws as are coming about today. We just heard about it through the community grapevine, finding out on a Monday about his release scheduled for Thursday. We had only four days in which to act. But act we did.
What did we do? Well, we literally did not sleep, not one minute, for 72 hours. Every minute we spent organizing community meetings, encouraging school officials to notify parents and to offer students general informational material about “being safe”, organizing neighborhood watch schedules and contacting lawmakers from the town mayor all the way up to the governor. If he was moving in we were going to be prepared.
We held candlelight vigils. Some folks worked on finding him employment and a place to reside outside of neighborhoods with children, should he be release. Others tried to raise funds to pay his parents to place him elsewhere. I researched the laws of Washington from where he’d be released. We all prayed.
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