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The more than 800,000 registered sex offenders in the U. may feel that their parole restrictions are onerous, but the mere presence of a known offender in almost any community precipitates clashes of competing interests and legal battles that have only intensified in the wake of the #Me Too movement.In at least 10 recent lawsuits filed in states from Pennsylvania to Colorado, civil rights proponents argue that sex offenders face unconstitutional punishments that other criminals do not, and they note that there are no government registries for murderers or other violent felons in most states.(TIME has given both the men and the therapists pseudonyms in this story.) They sit in the circle, the man who exposed himself to at least 100 women, next to the man who molested his stepdaughter, across from the man who sexually assaulted his neighbor.The group includes Matt, whose online chats led to prison; Rob, who was arrested for statutory rape; and Kevin, who spent decades masturbating next to women in movie theaters.They are complaining about co-workers and debating the relative merits of various trucks when a faint beeping interrupts the conversation.One man picks up a throw pillow and tries to muffle the sound of the battery running low on his ankle bracelet, a reminder of why they are all there.Private therapists can refuse to see certain patients at their discretion.
Instead, these men were all found guilty and had their names added to a state sex-offender registry.Someone has shoved a workout bike into the corner to make room for a circle of overstuffed chairs dug up at the local Goodwill.The men jockey for a coveted recliner and settle in.But they say that by the time most of their patients leave therapy, they are equipped to take responsibility for their actions, to understand what led them to commit their crimes and, finally, to empathize with their victims.“Working with these men and watching them change actually gives me hope for all men,” says Jennifer.
Every one of the eight men in the room has been convicted of a sex crime and mandated by a court to see a therapist.