I would like to thank Matt Comer for his editorial in the Jan. 10 issue. He made some very good points about me and the purpose of my writing.
I would also like to thank Kevin Scott for taking the time to write his commentary, voicing his opinion in the same issue. Mr. Scott made some strong comments and this letter is intended to open a discussion about points that need clarification and further information.
Mr. Scott writes that I show no remorse for my crime or my victim in my writing. He is correct. The articles Iâ€™ve submitted to Q-Notes have nothing to do with my crime or my victim, but are about my experiences as a gay man in prison.
I most certainly do, however, have a great deal of empathy for my victim and for the pain and suffering I caused him, his family, my family and the community I lived in. This is the reason I applied for admission to the Sex Offender Accountability and Responsibility (SOAR) Program (which was not court-mandated, as Mr. Comer mistakenly reported). The only way to get into SOAR is to willingly admit to committing a sex offense and being accountable for it.
After graduating from SOAR in 2003, I stayed on as a peer counselor for a year, helping other inmates entering the program and left only to earn a bachelorâ€™s degree in business administration. I encourage Mr. Scott and the readers of Q-Notes to learn more about the SOAR Program, which boasts a success rate of 98 percent of its graduates not returning to prison or creating other victims.
It should be known that the majority of people who commit sex offenses do not seek treatment willingly and these are the people most likely to reoffend. I would also like to point out that the majority of men who commit a sex offense are heterosexual, whereas I, of course, am gay.
Mr. Scott seems to think that members of the GLBT community donâ€™t make mistakes or commit crimes. I have been locked up with enough gay and bisexual men to know that this is just not true. But the actions of any one or a few members of the community are not a reflection on the community itself but on the individual.
I think that, as a community seeking to find equal treatment from society, we must set an example by accepting all in our own community, despite the mistakes they may have made, looking instead at the person they are in the present.
Mr. Scott is also correct in that I lost some of my rights when I was sentenced to prison. However, I still retain a First Amendment right to freedom of speech. That is what my lawsuit against the Department of Corrections is about and it is, by no means, frivolous. It is this freedom that allows me the privilege of having my writing included in the pages of Q-Notes and allows Mr. Scott the same.
A sex offense, be it child molestation or rape, is a disturbing crime that affects us all and such offenses create many secondary victims. This is especially true of people in law enforcement, who may be emotionally victimized by sex offenses while doing the difficult job of conducting investigations and prosecuting those crimes, and I can appreciate Mr. Scottâ€™s concern and desire to protect others.
Sex offenses are crimes of exclusion; they are committed in isolation and in secret. Driving a former offender into isolation by rejection could trigger that personâ€™s committing another offense, especially if the person hasnâ€™t completed a program like SOAR. The best way to help a sex offender not reoffend is to include that person. Inclusion in the community also allows for monitoring by that community. Someone who is truly remorseful and committed to not reoffending will welcome the scrutiny.
My hope is that the readers of Q-Notes, along with the straight and GLBT communities, will be able to see the person I have become through my treatment and my educational accomplishments while in prison, rather than the person I was when I committed my offense. I also hope that members of the GLBT community will become a network of support, helping me to focus on the future while avoiding past mistakes.
[Ed. Note â€” Click here for Matt Comerâ€™s column for more about the editorial staffâ€™s decision to allow the publication of Urbaniakâ€™s limited-run column.]
Q-Notes strives to provide the Carolinas LGBT community with an open forum for discussion and commentary. The views of guest commentators do not necessarily represent the official views or positions of Q-Notes, its editorial staff or publisher.