Advice Column: The dad of my daughter’s friend is on the sex offender registry.

Dear Prudence,

My husband and I have a 7-year-old daughter. We are friends with another family who have a child the same age. They are a nice couple. The husband is not very talkative but never gave me any odd vibe. A while ago I was trying to find the number for their home business and when I searched his name the sex offender registry came up! My husband talked to him, he was very upset and said when he was 18 years old he had a 14-year-old girlfriend and the parents reported him when they found out they were having sex. I have no reason to doubt this, but I can’t verify it because the offense occurred in another state that does not post details online. My concern is that we have already hosted their daughter for a sleepover, and now my daughter is asking when she can go over there. Before I knew this information I had no qualms about the family, but now that I know I feel obligated to “do something.” What should I do?

—Stumped


Dear Stumped,

This man, when he was a very young man, exercised gravely bad judgment by being a legal adult who had sex with a girlfriend below the age of consent. He paid a huge price for this, and if his story is accurate, he is exactly the type of person who should not be on the sex offender registry. He has been held accountable for his actions, he is no threat to the community (including your daughter), and what he did was he was a teen should not haunt him the rest of his days. I have written that our burgeoning sex offender registry (now about 750,000 people) is out of control. I’ve been heartened by how much support I’ve gotten from readers. I think the public understands better than the legislators how foolish and useless this is. The registry doesn’t narrowly track the worst of the worst, but is a blunt weapon that politicians love because it allows them to say they’re tough on crime. So a lot of low-level offenders become lifetime pariahs, which often ends up making victims of their own families. You believe the father was telling the truth, and so I understand you regret ever stumbling upon this information. But now that you do know he’s on the registry, you will have a gnawing doubt about it if you can’t confirm his account. See if the information on this Department of Justice website is useful in helping you get details. If it doesn’t, and you don’t want to let your daughter sleep over without being certain, your husband should go back to the other father. He can explain he hates to reopen this subject, but you two want your daughter to have sleepovers with their daughter, and so your husband feels obligated to see something that confirms the account, while reassuring the other father that you two will not discuss this with anyone else. Let’s hope you get the peace of mind you desire, so you can relax and go back to seeing them as the lovely couple whose child is your daughter’s friend.

—Prudie

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/dear_prudence.html