“Has she brought up her children well?” – 1 Timothy 5b NLT
“Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older, they judge them, sometimes they forgive them.” – Oscar Wilde
I haven’t written one of these segments in a long while. Perhaps the rapidity with which the faces come in and out of focus became too much for me; it’s really impossible to say. As you will see, only one of the faces I referred to in the title is known to me and I hope it stays that way. I see too many of these youthful faces in here and it weighs heavily on my heart and mind.
Perhaps I shouldn’t care. Perhaps none of it should bother me at all. It certainly doesn’t seem to bother those who send them here. Quite possibly, by the time the stories of these two young men have been told, we will all understand why I care. And if I do my self-assigned job well, you will care too.
I will have to call the young man whom I do know by a name that I’ve invented. So let’s invent him as an Albert. Yes, that works since I don’t know an Albert. And let us just pretend that Albert comes from Utah. These are the first and only untruths that I will tell you about him.
Albert recently saw the passing of his 21st birthday. Notice I didn’t say “celebrated” because Albert doesn’t do much celebrating these days. He is a big, soft gentle person who reminds me of a giant panda. He has black hair and white, white skin. His face is marked by moderate acne, some of which would probably clear up if he spent some time in the sun. Hair sprouts from all visible parts of his body – not extremely dense, just there, everywhere his skin is exposed.
Albert is about 5’10” or 5’11” and has big bones that are covered with a thick layer of flesh that is not toned enough to be called muscle, but not exactly soft enough to be called fat. He is just big and soft and slow moving, like that giant panda I mentioned. His eyes are a pleasant light green and are clear, displaying intelligence but also betraying sadness. His voice has a slight nasal tone to it and his words are spoken with a peculiar laziness that makes it seem as if it requires an effort to speak. The sadness that is betrayed in his eyes is also evident in his speech, accompanied by an undertone of defeat. In conversations Albert always has more questions than answers, as if this is all a big puzzle to him that he is having trouble putting together.
I cannot offer a physical description of the other youthful face I am writing about since I have never laid eyes on him. I can tell you that he is 20 years old and his name is Sidney Holloway Perry of Pulaski County, Arkansas. I did not invent Sidney’s name or make up where he is from. I learned these things from the August 11, 2012 edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Neither young man had a criminal record prior to their current problems. They were both arrested for possession of child pornography at around the same age. From the moment of their arrests onward, their treatment in the judicial system was as different as night and day.
Sidney Perry of Maumelle, Arkansas was a very lucky young man. According to the newspaper article “Federal Prosecutors declined the case because of (his) age.” This left it in state court and while Sidney was apparently facing 20 years, Judge Barry Sims sentenced the young man to six months in jail, followed by five years of probation for two felony child pornography convictions. The judge sternly informed Sidney that he would go to prison for those 20 years if he repeated his behavior. Fair enough. There was not a tremendous amount of detail regarding his background or upbringing, although the judge excoriated Sidney’s mother and father and felt they were to blame for not properly supervising Sidney, who had been “diagnosed with depression” attention deficit disorder and some cognitive difficulties. He also had dropped out of school in the 9th grade. Judge Sims actually compared “their inattentiveness to abandoning a child on the street with drug dealers.”
Sidney’s mother, Julie Ann Holloway, was the director of the Arkansas State CASA Association, which serves children who are in the court system after being removed from homes because of abuse or neglect. “You are a child advocate,” the judge said, “but you haven t done anything to help him? If I were you, I would resign today. My anger is directed at you. I want to help him if I can.”
“I want to help him if I can.” Praise God and thank you, Judge Sims. If only you had been around for Albert.
Perhaps I should have pointed out earlier that Albert gave me permission to identify him and name the state he was from. Since Albert’s story involved other members of his family, it was my decision to mask his true identity.
Albert’s story actually begins with his older brother who was sexually abused by a male babysitter when he was eight. The sitter, according to Albert, “wasn’t quite right. . . there was something wrong with him mentally.” The abuse to Albert’s brother was detected not by his parents but by his aunt who “noticed something was not right.’ She fired the babysitter. Nothing else was done at the time. It was shortly after that when Albert’s brother began sexually abusing him. He was five years old. His brother was nine. The abuse continued until Albert was 14.
According to Albert, his mother knew his brother was abusing him “for years but didn’t say anything.” It wasn’t until later that the older brother received counseling, but there was none to be had for Albert “because by then we didn’t have any more money.” I didn’t dig in to how it all came to light or what prompted the counseling, but Albert did say that the abuse was mentioned in court.
The one day I really had time alone to talk with Albert, we R ran into each other in the rec yard. He joined me as I made my way around the track and the conversation just started. One of the things we discussed was whether or not his family was spiritual and Albert said, “Very.” But then he chuckled in a manner that belied more than a little cynicism as he said, “It was kind of a screwed up church we belonged to, though.” The church, he said, had been through four pastors in 10 years; two had been arrested for child molestation, one had been fired for having affairs with female members and one had been fired for sexual harassment, pressuring unwilling female members of his flock into having sex with him. “Kind of screwed up” indeed.
As we continued our walk, I asked if he minded telling me how a 13 year old boy becomes addicted to pornography – and child pornography at that. I had known from an earlier conversation that this was the age at which all of this had begun but we hadn’t had the chance to go into further detail. He said he didn’t mind talking about it and told me how adept he was at using a computer, as many young people are today. This was around the period at which the sexual abuse by his brother was coming to an end and perhaps this was serving as some sort of substitute. His computer was located in the privacy of his bedroom and he began, quite simply, with Google and progressed to following links to various sites where files were shared.
I inquired about parental involvement and monitoring and he replied that they tried but he was better at hiding his tracks than they were at following them. He also told me that his mother caught him one time and moved his computer into the dining room where his activities could be monitored. He said he “made too much noise and it was too inconvenient for everyone” so the computer was returned to the privacy of his room.
It is becoming apparent that the ISPs, and therefore the authorities, are aware of who is doing what where child pornography is concerned, so it is just a question of who gets the most attention and I guess Albert was the lucky one. Well . . . not as lucky as Sidney. The federal government did not decline prosecution due to Albert’s age and lack of criminal record. Nor was any consideration given to the abuse he had experienced or any reports from court appointed psychologists that suggested Albert was not a pedophile, not a risk to children and at low risk of repeating his offense. Albert obviously needed help. He needed someone to help him get his thought processes back on track.
What Albert did get was nine years in prison and ten years of supervised release. By the time he is released, he will have spent almost a third of his life behind bars. The insanity of all of this is mind-numbing. The irresponsible manner in which the government of this country is treating this issue is so pathetically ineffective and destructive as to be beyond comprehension.
I cannot do this young man’s story justice. I am not that good, nor do I have enough space. I can only cry out in his behalf and try to make people aware that there are many confused, yet harmless young men like Albert who need help, not prison time.
There are enough experts in all of the different fields related to the topic of child pornography who consistently say that there simply is no rhyme or reason for the sentences and abusive treatment and restrictions of registry that are destroying a good portion of this country’s future.
Albert needed a Judge Sims, but there was none to be found when his turn before the bench came. I am sorry, Albert, if I have failed you as so many others in your life have. But I think I can answer that question now as to why I should care: I should care because Albert is a child of God and this is what God would expect of me. I should care because I am sorry for the poor judgment and lack of moral character I displayed and I know so many others are as well.
And I care because my ongoing hope in that caring will cause me to find the right words and somewhere, somehow, someone’s life will change for the better.
God bless you all.