Letters to the Editor

Youth offenders: Don't wreak vengeance for life

Re: “When has a criminal paid his debt?” (TNT, 6/11).

John McGrath’s column about Luke Heimlich’s criminal history problems clearly illustrates the need to change the laws affecting former juvenile sex offenders.

Here is a young man who foolishly offended at age 15 year, took responsibility for his offense, completed two years of counseling (most likely the state’s Special Sex Offender Disposition Alternative, “SSODA,” (program), and now wants to go on with his life and play professional baseball.

The SSODA counseling program was created in the early 1990s by the Washington Legislature as an alternative to sending juveniles to prison for sex offenses. The program has been an outstanding success. According to the Washington Institute for Public Policy, the Legislature’s research arm, SSODA graduates have a re-offense rate of about 1 percent.

In spite of that our legislators, in the late 90s and early 2000s, passed law after law to show they were tough on crime, virtually guaranteeing that these juveniles will never be able to vacate/erase their criminal record. Thus they will be punished, over and over, in one way or another, for the rest of their lives.

Is our intent to change their behavior or to wreak long-term revenge on them?