There's a Mandatory Seminar for Sex Offenders Tonight

click to enlarge There's a Mandatory Seminar for Sex Offenders Tonight
October 31 is largely known as the day when thousands of costumed children ask strangers for candy.

It's also the yearly gathering of sex offenders in Bexar County.

On Monday, between 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., some 300 registered sex offenders will crowd a county building to attend seminars reminding them of their limited civil rights. One class is on probation rules—outlining where they're not allowed to live, work, or visit. Another is on changes in modern technology—adding new apps and devices to a long list of things they cannot use. Shannon Jones, supervisor of the Sex Offender Management Unit, said it will be a win-win event.

"It's something beneficial for them," said Jones, who's put the event on for seven years. "They get ten hours of community service, we get to keep our community safe."

Not every registered sex offender has to go to tonight's event, only people on probation or people that "don't like to comply," Jones said. Officers will be checking in on all other registered offenders at their homes tonight to make sure they aren't opening doors to trick-or-treaters or even leaving a porch light on, Jones says.

Tonight's mandatory event and check-ins apply to everyone who has been convicted of a sex offense in the state, even if it had nothing to do with children. Many get on the list for peeing in public, sexting, or being forced into prostitution. Meanwhile, people convicted for violent crimes against children—from neglect to physical abuse—are left unchecked on October 31.

Several studies have shown that the fears behind these classes are probably overblown—sex crimes don't increase on Halloween day, especially among past offenders. Still, Texas joins a handful of other states in requiring sex offenders to stay inside on Halloween (California calls their law "Operation Boo").

The only other holiday given this kind of treatment in Bexar County is Fiesta. Sex offenders are banned from participating in any of the festival's events. According to Jones, this is because many parents get drunk during Fiesta and don't keep track of their children. For some reason, registered offenders are the people punished for this problem.

"We don't have a trust relationship with these people," said Jones. "We never can be too careful."