This is a completely new situation to me, and I really have no idea how to handle it.

I was at the local grocery store, waiting in line at the deli. As I usually do, I make small talk with some of the people around that are also waiting. Today there was a gentleman that said he was new to the neighborhood, and we talked about the area and stores, things to do, that sort of thing.

Got home, and when I got the mail there was a flyer that gets mailed out by police. (In the United States, when people convicted of certain crimes relocate, the new neighborhood gets notified of the person moving in, the crime they were convicted for and their address). In this case, it turned out to be the person I had just been speaking with. He had served 12 years in jail for sexual misconduct with a family member under age 14. He is not near enough that I would probably run into him on the street near my house.

I believe that when a person serves their sentence they should be given a chance to start anew (and he apparently was released several years ago), but I given the nature of the crime I really don't want to associate with him at all, and I certainly don't want my children around him.

How do I approach the situation if I meet him again in a public setting?

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    What is the question? Do you want to associate with him? or not associate with him? It sounds like you don't, which is fine. Just don't talk to him. If he remembers you, just say "Hi" and go on your merry way. Or don't even say "Hi". Either way, it's your decision. But if you have kids, definitely stay away. You don't want to give your kids the impression that he's a safe person to speak to. Commented Oct 21, 2017 at 23:07
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    @StephanBranczyk 'You don't want to give your kids the impression that he's a safe person to speak to.' --> No, you should teach your kids that he's a person, that they can talk to him (say hello in the supermarket etc.). You want them to understand that he's not a safe person to be alone with, sure. But you don't teach kids to ostracize people IMO.
    – Tinkeringbell
    Commented Oct 22, 2017 at 13:57
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    @Tinkeringbell A convicted sex offender and pedophile is not, by any stretch of the imagination, someone your kids should be encouraged to think of as OK to talk to. He made his choices, yours should prioritize your children's safety, not his feelings. Commented Oct 22, 2017 at 15:06
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    @Tinkeringbell, You don't teach kids to ostracize other kids. That, I understand. You also don't teach kids to bully and target an adult. That too, I totally understand. And I live in a city with more than one million people, so maybe, that's where the misunderstanding comes from, but if I had kids (which I do not, but if I did), I wouldn't want them to think that I was friends with an unsafe person, because then that unsafe person could easily claim that they're friends with me if/when I'm not around. This is social engineering 101. Plus kids are not that smart, some kids are, but many aren't Commented Oct 22, 2017 at 15:30
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    "but I also know the recurrence rates on these types of crimes" Do you? It came out recently that recidivism rates among sex criminals are vastly inflated. Commented Oct 22, 2017 at 18:51

3 Answers 3


What kind of person do you want to be? If you don't want to interact with him, don't. No one is forcing you to.

But if you want to be a decent human being, I say treat him as you would want to be treated if you were in his shoes. I can say a lot of self-righteous stuff, but the bottom line is that no one over a certain age is innocent, and all - or almost all - human beings deserve to be treated with a degree of compassion and respect. You don't know this man's heart.

In the Emergency Room, we did all the county's pre-incarceration physicals, which meant everyone who was going to jail had to be seen by one of us first. I used to ask the officer(s) accompanying the person what they were being charged with. Sometimes the answer would anger me greatly, and I would not be very nice to the person whose physical I was doing.

One evening, I was informed (after asking) that the man whose room I was about to enter had raped a little girl. I hated that man, and I'm sure he knew it.

After some soul searching, I knew that was not the kind of person or doctor I wanted to be. Afterwards, I never once asked what the offense was. I treated everybody the same, with dignity and respect. Sometimes the prisoners were visibly surprised and appreciative. I didn't ask why.

So, this is really very opinion based: your opinion about who and what you want to be is paramount.

Just keep your kids away from the guy.


He had served 12 years in jail for sexual misconduct with a family member under age 14.

First let's not be silly : this is a serious crime and you should prioritize your family's safety, not his feelings. That 12 years is a long sentence and implies a very serious offense.

From a practical point of view about 45% of all offenders re-offend. So the naive idea that someone served their time and deserves a second chance is not the full picture. Giving them a chance does not mean not using your own common sense.

How do I approach the situation if I meet him again in a public setting?

This doesn't sound like a really big issue, to be frank.

I see no reason to apply anything but common courtesy. I'd probably keep some distance - I would not tell this person anything personal at all. Sport, weather, politics, prices -sure. Kids, family activity and schools - no.

This is also someone I would discretely tell my children to avoid and to tell me if they're approached by him.

Remember, any ostracism is a result of his choices, not yours.

Would I work with such a person ? Yes (if no kids were involved, or handling personal data).

Would I chat with them ? Yes. Mindful of keeping family details to myself. I certainly wouldn't be showing them pictures of the kids.

Would I socialize with them ? Not me. Period.

Let me say that I've been a victim of crime and my experience has left me with a believe in harsher sentences and less worry about the criminal and more about their victims and potential victims.

And if you're feeling sorry for his isolation, think about his victim(s) : I very much doubt their problems ended the day he left prison : they'll have problems for life.

  • I agree with most of this, especially that the victim may will probably suffer from his actions for life. But neither the OP nor you are his victims. I've been the victim of a violent crime as well. I feel for victims, and I hate crime (and sometimes the criminal.) But hating the criminal does me little good, and probably costs me in the long run. I forgave the perpetrator a long time ago. It would seem strange if someone begrudged him when I don't. But to each their own. Commented Oct 22, 2017 at 17:12
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    "45% of offenders re-offend" This is not true, and it is a dangerous misconception. Commented Oct 22, 2017 at 18:57
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    Simply because the NYT reports something does not make it fact. You would need to look at the details of the study involved (and it's only one study) to see how it applies. How many of the people on the register would be classed as serious offenders, for example ? Don't just grab an NYT article and spread it as gospel. For example, this study is more detailed and gives a different picture. Commented Oct 22, 2017 at 19:23
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    @StephenG Despite our president's protestations, the NYT is not generally in the business of making fake news. If they report that hundreds of studies have come up with a ~4% recidivism rate, I'm willing to believe them over a single study that seems to have an incentive to come up with a high number. Commented Oct 22, 2017 at 21:28
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    @StephenG - Your own link doesn't support your statement. When the author whose work informed the Supreme Court's decision on the judicial treatment of sex offenders renounces his own study, that deserves notice, not ridicule. Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 16:08

As I mentioned in the comments, I've seen a case where this sort of situation turned into a witch hunt. If you see that happening in your community, you may want to discourage it, but not for the sake of the offender. It's worth explaining to people that the registry is a good thing, you want people to be aware and be safe, but starting a witch hunt may cause the offender to flee and go off the radar.

That's not a good thing for your community or anyone really. Right now the police know where he his and keep a pretty close eye on him. If he runs because of community pressure the police can't do their job as efficiently.

I would assume this guy is very accustomed to not being invited to the neighborhood block party and is probably accustomed to being generally ostracized. I wouldn't go out of my way to make him feel welcome, but I wouldn't go out of my way to avoid him either. As far as I would be concerned, he's a face to remember, but not to bother to acknowledge unless you have to.

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