Turning a profit on teenage sex

This New Yorker magazine article on the sex offender registry gives some insight into how adult Americans can profit financially when teenagers have sex (and not through the typical path of “Child Support Litigation without a Marriage”). Here are some excerpts:

[Anthony] Metts [unwisely agreeing to be interviewed without an attorney present] told [police] that when he was eighteen he dated a girl who was three years younger. And he’d also had a brief sexual relationship with a girl more than three years younger, whom he met during his junior year of high school, when she was a freshman.

When the officers turned the information over to the Midland District Attorney’s Office, the D.A. filed two felony indictments for sexual assault of a child, based on the age-of-consent laws in Texas at the time.

He decided to take a plea deal: a suspended sentence and ten years of probation.

Metts, who was twenty-one by then, read the terms of his post-plea life. For the next decade, he’d be barred from alcohol and the Internet; from entering the vicinity of schools, parks, bus stops, malls, and movie theatres; and from living within a thousand feet of a “child-safety zone.” A mugshot of his curly-haired, round-cheeked face would appear for life on the Texas sex-offender registry, beside the phrase “Sexual Assault of a Child.” And he would have to start sex-offender treatment.

The treatment plan was extensive. He was told to write up a detailed sexual history, and then to discuss it with a room full of adults, some of whom had repeatedly committed child assaults. … To graduate, he would have to narrate his “assaults” in detail: “How many buttons on her shirt did you unbutton?”

The plan also included a monthly polygraph (a hundred and fifty dollars) and a computerized test that measured how long his eyes lingered on deviant imagery (three hundred and twenty-five dollars). He would also have to submit to a “penile plethysmograph,” or PPG. According to documents produced by the state of Texas, the PPG—known jokingly to some patients as a “peter meter”—is “a sophisticated computerized instrument capable of measuring slight changes in the circumference of the penis.” A gauge is wrapped around the shaft of the penis, with wires hooked up to a laptop, while a client is presented with “sexually inappropriate” imagery and, often, “deviant” sexual audio. Metts would be billed around two hundred dollars per test.

The PPG was invented in the nineteen-fifties by a sexologist from Czechoslovakia, and used by the Czech military to expose soldiers suspected of pretending to be gay in order to avoid service.

When Metts balked at what felt to him like technological invasions—not least the prospect of having a stranger measure his penis—he was jailed for ten days. A new round of weekly therapy sessions (thirty dollars for group, and fifty dollars for one-on-one) then commenced.

Eventually, he agreed to acknowledge how he’d “groomed” his “victims”: in one case, they’d gone to dinner, a movie, and—for a Halloween date—to a local haunted house.

Metts settled into his new life in the oil fields, reluctantly accommodating an array of strictures that he regarded as pointless. Each Halloween, for instance, he reported to the county probation office with dozens of other local sex offenders, and was held from 6 to 10 P.M. and shown movies like “Iron Man 2,” until trick-or-treating was over. “If someone’s that dangerous that they need to be locked up, what about all of the other three hundred and sixty-four days of the year?” he asked me.

In 2006, he fell in love with a deputy sheriff’s daughter. One night, he took her out to his favorite Italian place in Odessa, ordered two steaks with risotto, and arranged for the waiter to bring out a dessert menu that read, among the à-la-carte selections, “Will you marry me?” She said yes, and a baby girl soon followed. “My daughter was a blessing and a miracle to me,” Metts told me. But it also introduced him to a troubling new aspect of his life on the registry.

Metts, then twenty-four, learned that he wouldn’t be allowed to see his daughter. His status banned him from living with her, and thus with his wife.

One night, a former classmate saw Metts buying a sandwich at Walmart and shouted a slur at him; she’d seen his face on the registry for “Sexual Assault of a Child.” Rattled, he went to Buffalo Wild Wings to down a beer, and got busted. Metts had a record of technical violations, so a judge ordered him to wear an electronic ankle bracelet, administered by a private monitoring company that charged several hundred dollars a month. The device would notify the authorities of any infractions—stepping too close to a mall, park, bar, or church, or leaving the county without permission.

In the eighth year of his ten-year probation term, Metts decided to reënter the world.

He’d failed to charge his ankle bracelet properly, and the battery died at around 5 P.M. Shortly before midnight, his probation officer arrived at his door: she’d be filing to revoke his probation. A few weeks later, Metts was led into a courtroom in hand-cuffs, leg cuffs, and a chain around his waist connecting them. “I looked like Hannibal Lecter without the mask,” he told me. The judge’s name sounded familiar: she had helped prosecute his original case. … The judge took some time to think it over. The next morning, she sentenced Metts to ten years in prison.

This past July, I drove around Midland, Texas, trying to find the girls—now women—who were involved in Anthony Metts’s case. Having no luck with doorbells, I left notes, and two days later I got a call from one of them. “I never wanted Anthony to be prosecuted,” she told me. “It was a consensual relationship—the kind when you’re young and you’re stupid. My mom knew about it. We’d go on dates, drive around, hang out.” She was shocked to learn of Metts’s fate: his nine-plus years of probation, his current decade of incarceration. “I told [law enforcement] that I didn’t feel like he should have to be prosecuted,” she said.

Obviously life in the U.S. hasn’t work out well for Mr. Metts (nor for any of the other people profiled in the article who got onto a sex offender registry; the registry idea plus the Internet plus the fact that sex with a 15-year-old may be described in the same way as sex with a 3-year-old means that holding a job is generally impossible). But the groups of adults who profited financially from the two teenagers having sex includes at least the following: (1) police officers, (2) prosecutors, (3) defense lawyers, (3) judges, (4) court officials, (5) prison guards and managers, (6) probation officers, (7) therapists, (8) polygraph technicians, (9) penis testing technicians, (10) electronic bracelet vendors, (11) electronic bracelet monitoring technicians.

10 thoughts on “Turning a profit on teenage sex

  1. Horrendous… but this (the list of profiteers in your last paragraph) really cries out for an explicit enumeration, plus a total calculated by some magazine like Mother Jones which then would simply post that tally together with these officials’ etc names for public perusal. After all, THEY have not done anything illegal, so they have nothing to be ashamed of, and most probably feel proud of themselves to be doing such an important job of “protecting American children from sex predators.”

    the groups of adults who profited financially from the two teenagers having sex includes at least the following:

    (1) police officers = how many x hours reimbursed @ hourly rate, etc
    (2) prosecutors – ditto
    (3) defense lawyers – ditto
    (3) judges – ditto
    (4) court officials – ditto
    (5) prison guards and managers – ditto
    (6) probation officers – ditto
    (7) therapists – ditto
    (8) polygraph technicians – ditto
    (9) penis testing technicians – ditto
    (10) electronic bracelet vendors – ditto
    (11) electronic bracelet monitoring technicians. – ditto

    Add: authors of these laws and their legislators. – ditto

    PS. Mr. Metts should have internalized the Army mantra of what to say, then keep repeating, AND NOTHING ELSE, when captured behind enemy lines: NAME, RANK, SERIAL NUMBER.

  2. It’s hard to believe this story is true – it reads like something out of a Kafka nightmare. But Metts did a bunch of stupid things. Being stupid is not a crime but it might as well be.

  3. Even non-sex offender teenagers are viewed as a profit center by the incarceration industry. Unlike adults, the rules surrounding locking them up are murkier. There is a whole industry of commercial juvenile detention facilities that profit per imprisoned teenager. Michael Moore covered it in one of his movies (“Capitalism: A Love Story”, I think)

  4. You should see the list of people who get paid when you get caught driving home with two beers in you. It ran about 8 grand for me and it got thrown out, but if I didn’t have 8 grand the long term costs would have been just as high.

  5. Whoops, I forgot the most important part.

    There is no lobby or group that supports underage sex or drunk drivers, so the government and the “support groups” are free to add charges and increase them pretty much at will.

  6. How can it possibly be helpful to show a sex offender deviant images, or to clamp his privates like in some bondage scenario? Who agrees to that kind of job, and how is it not a felony in and of itself? If he has to pay for it, how is that not prostitution?

  7. Ha! you think it ends at #11. It continues! In California, sex offenders are then moved to the Coalinga Mental Hospital in California, where a bunch of other people can also make money in the treatment before release. If release ever happens that is. Louis Theroux has two good documentaries on sex offenders:

    “A place for pedophiles” where he visits the aforementioned Coalinga Mental Hospital (this video is a must see – the interaction between the patients and the psychologists is interesting). In some cases, it’s good they keep some of these individuals locked up in the hospital – god forbid they get back on the street. But who knows how many ‘Metts’ are in there…

    Also interesting, “Among the sex offenders” where Louis Theroux follows some paroled sex offenders in LA.

    What is scary about the New Yorker article are the stories about kids doing pranks or teenagers exchanging personal photos being labeled as sex offenders for the rest of their life.

  8. Phil, you love to focus on the monetary aspect of stuff. What I find appalling is the whole injustice/human rights aspect. The fact that there is an entire system making money out of it is just the icing on the cake. I can only describe what has happened to this guy as sadism.

  9. John, you are missing the point. Of course it is sadism, but it is PROFITABLE sadism, which is why it continues. A whole bunch of people have a vested economic interest in this type of sadism continuing. If you could take the money out of this, they would suddenly be much less interested in being sadistic. You read this article and you are outraged for a day, but the guy who has the contract to wire up sex offender’s wangs makes his living off of it year after year. Who is going to lobby harder in favor of keeping the present system intact?

  10. The wikipedia page is itself as interesting as the documentary. Basically it is a prison in the guise of a hospital. I guess when the prison terms run out, you can still milk the system by having anyone ‘civilly-committed’:

    “It is a maximum security civil-commitment facility built to ensure that sexually violent predators stay out of the community.[1] Instead of being released after completing their prison sentences, they are transferred to CSH.[2] Currently, the hospital houses 850 sexually violent predators[3] (SVPs) and 100 mentally disordered offenders…The SVPs are men who … are deemed too likely to reoffend to be released and are housed indefinitely at the hospital until they are deemed no longer a danger to the community.”

    “Treatment is offered, but is not required. Approximately 1/3 of individuals accept California’s sex offender treatment. The hospital has a 1,500-bed capacity (as of August 2010 the hospital is 63% full). The median age of SVPs is 47.1 and this is expected to increase as the hospital’s population continues to age.”

    “Instead of calling the population housed at CSH ‘patients’ or ‘inmates,’ hospital policy is to call them ‘individuals’ because they are civilly-committed. ”

    “The hospital has recreational facilities including a gym, softball field, arts and crafts, graphic design room, woodworking opportunities, and a music room.”

    “The annual operating budget of CSH is $152 million (or $157,894 per individual).”

    “Three-quarters of CSH’s 850-plus detainees refuse to participate in a core treatment program, undermining a central piece of Coalinga State Hospital’s purported mission… As of April 2009 the facility had released only 13 inmates in its history.”

    “Many detainees shun treatment because they have become convinced — not without reason — that no matter what they do, they are never going to win freedom. Most detainees at Coalinga have little hope that they will ever be released. Critics say California’s sexually violent predator program looks more like upscale incarceration. There’s a growing sense among detainees that they have been effectively railroaded into a life prison term.”

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