Mount Airy, NC -- Can people change?
It's a question worth asking after Robert Jeremy Haynes -- a convicted sex offender -- was arrested last week and charged with kidnapping a woman from a Winston-Salem Walmart and then raping her in Mount Airy.
A Mount Airy police captain called Haynes "an evil, deviant man." Officers say he wasn't living at the address he registered when he got out of prison just two months ago after serving time for indecent liberties with a child. And at only 26-years-old, his rap sheet is already 10 pages long.
A Guilford County Sheriff's Department deputy says Haynes' is part of a small minority of offenders who re-offend. Cpl. Brian Henderson manages the county's sex offender registry, and he says more than 95 percent of the 700 sex offenders on the list play by the rules. They check in on time, they tell authorities of a change of address and they want to prove they've changed.
"These people are working toward getting off the registry," Henderson said. "They want a clean bill for 10 years, so when they go to court they can say, 'Judge, look, I've been good for 10 years.' And the judge can let them off the registry."
On the flip side, Cpl. Henderson says some people are beyond help.
"There's just bad people out there," Henderson said. "You're not going to change them. I can't change it. You can't change it. But once it gets in to the legal system, if it's a repeat offender, the judges -- the folks we vote in to office -- need to look at these folks and say, 'Look, you just need to be in jail, in prison.' That's where they have to do their job."
So is rehabilitation really possible? Can people who've been convicted of sex offenses change, or should we lock them up and throw away the key?
A licensed professional counselor from Greensboro says it's up to the offender.
"Rehabilitation really is a choice," Christie Cornwell said. "Being a sex offender is a behavior choice, it's not a mental illness. There's not a cure, it never really goes away, but people can learn how to manage their behavior and make appropriate pro-social and healthy sexual decisions in the future."
WFMY News 2