A recent Vice News documentary aiming to destigmatize sex predators, dismantle the sex offender registry, and advocate for offenders’ “civil rights” ended on a hollow note after the doc’s main subject, Aishef, sent “a picture of his penis” to one of the show’s producers following his interview.
Vice journalist Alice Hines set out to shed light on the “injustice” faced by sex offenders who serve “dead time” (meaning time past their sentence) because they can’t secure housing that abides by the restrictions placed on them as registered sex offenders. Aishef reportedly served nearly six years of dead time after he was convicted of sexual assault.
Today, he is working in a Michelin Star restaurant but said things haven’t turned around for him. He complained to Hines that because of his status as a former sex offender, his life is controlled by the system. “I’m not free,” lamented Aishef. “I’m still in they system and they control my life. They control where I can go, where I can’t go, when I can leave, when I can’t leave.”
Despite pleading guilty at the time of his conviction, Aishef claimed during his interview with Hines that he is innocent and was wrongfully imprisoned after being accused of engaging in “nonconsensual oral sex and penetrating [the victim] with my fingers.” Aishef alleged that DNA evidence proves his innocence. “DNA is my argument,” stated Aishef, “And I ain’t f-cking do it is my argument, like period.”
Hines said, however, that it was actually DNA that proved Aishef’s guilt, pointing out that the state sent a DNA sample found on Aishef’s victim’s thigh to two forensic scientists who testified Aishef “was a match to a high degree of probability.” She also informed Aishef that Vice hired its own DNA experts to look into his case, and they concluded the same thing. At this point in the interview, Aishef appeared to get hostile with Hines, telling her “you don’t know DNA.”
Hines also interviewed Aishef’s victim, Sarah Anderson, who agrees with Hines that the sex offender registry is ineffective and funds should be reallocated to better forms of rehabilitation. When Hines informed her that Aishef denied he ever assaulted her, Anderson broke down in tears, saying, “It is hard to hear that he doesn’t consider what he did as a sexual assault.” Anderson maintained, however, that his denial could be the result of the state’s insufficient rehabilitation process.
By the end of the documentary, all of Aishef’s wrongdoing — from the unsolicited dick pic to failing to admit he assaulted Anderson — was attributed to the broken “system.”
Hines admitted that she and her team debated whether to disclose that Aishef had illegally sent a photo of his male member to their producer, but opted to include it because it showed viewers “what it means to reintegrate successfully and unsuccessfully as someone who’s on the sex offender registry.” The suggestion was that Aishef’s transgression is just a result of the current “system’s” inability to successfully reintegrate sex offenders into society.
The Sex Registry Makes Us ‘Less Safe’
“I think what we have to do is try to see the humanity in people with these convictions,” said Hines at the end of the documentary, “because the status quo is not working at all.” The only evidence that Hines provided to prove the sex offender registry is ineffective is that the number of sex offenses has gone down, even though more sex offender laws began being implemented in the ’90s and onward.
The only reasonable person in the whole doc was Sheriff James Mendrick of DuPage County, Illinois, who offered a refutation to Hines’ claim. Mendrick pointed out that sex offenses have increased wildly in the digital age. “A large category of sex crime now is possession of child pornography,” explained Mendrick. “The reason that is a crime is because that entices people to commit sex crimes on children to distribute the pornography. So that keeps that general number climbing, while maybe the human cases are declining.”
Hines doesn’t only believe the sex offender registry is ineffective, she also suggests it somehow makes us “less safe.” “What do you think about the argument that the registry stigmatizes people who are trying to get their lives back together and reintegrate into the community in a way that actually makes that difficult and maybe makes the community less safe?” Hines asked Mendrick.
“I’d say don’t commit sex offenses if you don’t want to be on that registry,” responded Mendrick, adding that “if there’s a stigma, it’s because you did something really bad.”
Vice Ignores the Nuance
There is nuance to the sex offender registry debate that Vice fails to take into account. The registry can certainly create life-long difficulties for citizens who pose no threat to society. For example, a minor engaging in consensual sexual activity with another minor can land a child on the sex offender registry for a lifetime.
There is clearly room for reform, but Vice isn’t interested in reforming the registry to keep innocent people off of it — Vice wants everyone off of it. The documentary decries infringements on the “civil rights” of convicted rapists, including those with battery, murder, and child abuse tied to their sex crimes.
When Hines went to visit a Wisconsin motel that houses many sex offenders, she stated that “As a woman, it is a little uncomfortable to be here.” Who can blame her? It is uncomfortable and unsafe to be around dangerous individuals. It’s particularly unsafe when you are unaware that someone is dangerous and have your guard down. This is why we have a sex registry in the first place.
Aishef spent an extra six years in prison, and one of the first things he did when he finally got out was illegally send a photo of his schlong to a producer from a left-wing news outlet trying to draw sympathy for his case. Perhaps it isn’t stigmatization or underfunded government programs that are behind Aishef’s actions, but the fact that he is a wicked, disturbed individual.
Fixing the sex offender registry so it stops targeting harmless people is a fair cause, but Vice’s push to destigmatize dangerous predators at a risk to us all is reprehensible.