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Sex Offender Sweep: Keeping Them in Check

An inside look at sex offender compliance checks.
NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA) -- A release from jail doesn't always equal freedom, especially in the case of a sex offender.

In some ways, certain restrictions and regulations are just beginning.

"It's important to make sure that they are being truthful with us, and that we know where they are," explains Ashley Harvey, a probation officer for Arkansas Community Correction,

Convicted sex offenders shouldn't be hard to find.

In fact, a couple of mouse clicks on a computer can lead you right to their doorstep.

But, as the Internet does from time to time, searches -- online or not -- can lead one astray.

Harvey encounters dead-end searches from time to time. She's the designated sex-offender parole officer for offenders in Washington and Madison counties.

"They know the consequences for failing to comply with their conditions," she says. "And they don't want to deal with the consequences."

Any previously jailed sex offender in Washington or Madison county can expect Harvey to stop by, any time, unannounced.

But, it's no friendly visit. She has authorized access to any room in the home.

"I'm going to make sure that he is living there, that he is home," Harvey says. "I'll sit there and talk to him, my partner will look around the house."

No guns. No drugs. No alcohol. And, if any of them try to cross a county line, they owe Harvey a phone call first. Those are just a few of the sex offender stipulations.

"I'm here to help them re-integrate back into society," Harvey says. "I hope to accomplish two things: one that there's no more victims, and two that they do become successful citizens."

The drive-by meetings are usually monthly and done at night.. Harvey and her partner bounce from front porch to front porch, scanning a makeshift offender address book while matching up street signs and house numbers.

As mentioned earlier, sometimes the search leads to an offender who is MIA.

"It kind of shows me that maybe he's not going to take parole that seriously," she says. "He faces jail time,I mean he can be returned back to prison."

Other visits turn up a few no shows, but some absences are excused. For example, Harvey knows which ones have jobs and when they work.

"If I wanted to go to his work I could," says Harvey. "That is another thing that they have to allow us to do."

While the process seems invasive, Harvey explains how the purpose is justified.

"It helps to hold them accountable," she says. "They do trust that I'm here to help them and not ...send them back to prison. That's not what I'm here for."

"I think it's great," says one offender on her list, who asked to remain anonymous,

The Washington County man was convicted of sexual assault 10 years ago.

"They are protecting children when they do it," he says. "I don't pose a danger right now to children, but there's a lot of people that I spent a lot of time with while I was down south and they do."

We also spoke to another man. He speaks out partly for, partly against, post sex-offense stipulations.

He responds with a sigh after being asked how long he has to register as a sex offender.

"Rest of my life" he says.

Click here to access the Arkansas Crime Information Center's Sex Offender Registry.

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