Pumpkin symbol marks sex offenders’ homes
ANNAPOLIS | The Scarlet Letter for Maryland sex offenders this Halloween will be a bright orange pumpkin.
That is the symbol on a sign they are required to post on their doors with a warning, in capital letters, to trick-or-treaters: “No candy at this residence.”
The paper signs began arriving last week in the mailboxes of the roughly 1,200 violent and child-sex offenders across the state with a letter explaining how they are to comport themselves on Oct. 31.
“Halloween provides a rare opportunity for you to demonstrate to your neighbors that you are making a sincere effort to change the direction of your life,” the letter states.
In addition to posting the sign, the offenders must stay at home, turn off outside lights and not answer the door, according to the letter obtained by The Washington Times.
“Because Halloween is a holiday in which large numbers of children interact with strangers, the concern among parents and other community members about sexual offenders in their neighborhoods is naturally intensified during this time of year,” Patrick McGee, interim director of the state’s Division of Parole and Probation, wrote in the Oct. 1 letter.
Maryland has joined other states across the country in steadily increasing restrictions on convicted sex offenders over the past few years.
In 2005, Maryland began requiring sex offenders in Baltimore to stay inside their homes on Halloween. Last year, the program was expanded statewide and offenders were tracked by parole agents and given a simple sign to hang on their doors that read: “No Candy.”
Maryland’s new regulations are almost identical to those adopted in Missouri this year, particularly the instructions to post the sign and stay at home. Four convicted sex offenders and the American Civil Liberties Union are challenging the Missouri law in federal court.
Louisiana lawmakers this year barred convicted sex offenders from wearing masks on Halloween or during the state’s carnival season.
Other states, including New Jersey and Texas, have begun tracking sex offenders at Halloween over the past five years.
Sex offenders In Maryland who do not post the signs and stay home will be taken to court and charged with a violation of parole.However, the new state initiative is not a law.