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Halloween forbidden for Hall sex offenders
Those on probation will spend evening at county office
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Come Halloween night, Hall County sex offenders on probation will be required to report to the Gainesville Probation Office rather than enjoy one of the most festive holidays of the year.

Depending on the individual probation office, the Georgia Department of Corrections requires sex offenders to either turn off their lights, avoid decorations and remain at home for Halloween or report to their probation office.

Hall County opted to require all sex offenders to report to its Gainesville office for five hours unless an employer signs a letter ensuring he or she will be working between 5:30 and 10 p.m.

According to a letter sent to all registered sex offenders on probation, each "will be required to report to the Gainesville Probation Office," and "shall be prepared to remain at the probation office until 10 p.m. unless you have verified employment, which shall be discussed."

Multiple requests for comment from the Gainesville Probation Officer were denied and directed to the Department of Corrections.

After serving their jail sentence, many registered sex offenders argue that requirement is just another way to punish them.

The Times spoke with a registered sex offender who is currently serving a 15-year probation sentence for a child molestation charge for which he served jail time several years ago. Because he wished to remain anonymous, The Times will refer to him as Mike.

Although he is not required to report to the probation office Monday due to work, he has been required to do so in previous years.

"For two or three years I've had to do it," he said.

"Last year I was working so I didn't have to go, but I had to sign all kinds of papers and everything else stating that I would be at work."

Like many other registered sex offenders, he feels the requirement is an act of injustice.

"I felt imprisoned," he said. "I've been to prison, I did my time and then they continue telling me ‘you got to do this, you got to do that' and I felt like I was false imprisoned."

Gwendolyn Hogan, spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections, said the purpose is to ensure the safety of children.

However, not every registered sex offender was convicted of a sexual crime against a minor. Various sex offenses among Hall County offenders include sexual battery, public indecency, incest, sodomy and pandering, none of them crimes against children.

The Times spoke with another registered sex offender currently on probation for an indecent exposure charge.

He, too, chose to remain anonymous.

"All mine was was an indecent exposure from (urinating) outside," he said.

He also has been excused from reporting Monday because he is exempted due to work, but he would otherwise be required along with every other registered offender on probation. He argues that he presents no danger to children in the community, but the probation office makes no exception based on the nature of the sex offense.

The majority of the nearly 300 registered sex offenders in the county, though, are charged with sexual crimes against a minor. Some of those offenses include child molestation, statutory rape, child pornography and enticing a child for indecent purposes.

The Department of Corrections says in order to ensure children's safety, it requires all sex offenders to follow the requirements regardless of whether they committed a sex offense against a minor.

When asked to justify the need of the Halloween requirement, the department said in a statement: "Halloween is a day in which we must increase the focus on the department's core mission of protecting the public."

"With thousands of children participating in activities in every community across the state, supervision is increased," the statement said.

Each registered sex offender can be found on a map on the Hall County Sheriff's Office website (www.hallcounty.org/sheriff), allowing parents to ensure their children don't visit that residence.

While some probation offices will provide some sort of entertainment for the five hours they are required to report, Mike said during the years he was required to report to the Gainesville Probation Office, offenders were simply made to "sit there for at least five hours until they say ‘go home.'"

He understands that because he's still on probation, he is required to abide by certain stipulations, but he doesn't agree with a requirement to leave his residence for an extended period.

"I guess I'm under their stipulations because I'm on probation," he said. "They control my life and tell me I've got to go somewhere and sit there for five hours and can't do anything."

Another complaint he had was during the five-hour period offenders must remain at the office, they aren't given any food or other amenities.

"They don't furnish any food or meals or anything like that, and there's just two little bathrooms that didn't have toilet paper in them," he said.

Mike has four years of probation remaining following his release from incarceration more than 10 years ago. He said he simply wants to move forward with his life, but being a convicted sex offender makes that difficult.

"I would just like to get this over and behind," he said. "Once you're considered a sex offender you always have to register and they always come check on you. Nothing ever changes."

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