An unavoidable problem with poster children for any cause is that the image of the child is frozen in time, while the child continues to mature long after the poster is printed.
In a purely figurative sense, Wendy Whitaker is the poster child for one of Georgia lawmakers' worst, most cynically wrongheaded get-tough-on-crime efforts.
Branded forever with the scarlet letter of "sex offender" status because of a single consensual sex act with another teen when she was just 17, Whitaker was close to being legally hounded out of her home more than a decade later. That's because lawmakers, in their seemingly never-ending quest to pander for the law-and-order vote, made it off-limits for those with the "sex offender" label to live near schools, churches, daycare centers or bus stops.
Never mind that many of these offenders, like Whitaker, aren't even remotely considered dangerous. The ham-fisted law makes no such distinction, treating Whitaker's single teen encounter exactly the same as an adult predator's molestation of a child.
As a result, the threat of Whitaker's eviction, and of others on the receiving end of similar Draconian treatment, put her at the forefront of legal efforts to strike down or modify the law. She's been allowed to stay in her home while challenges to the law move forward.
Unfortunately for her, however, her more recent home was the Columbia County Detention Center. Nope, not for sex crimes - for a drug charge.
The poster child for harsh treatment of those with "sex offender" status who have been caught up in a blindly antagonistic legal system will now have to fight an entirely different battle, one in which, as a 29-year-old, she hardly can claim youthful indiscretion as a defense.
The youthful offender still has a powerful image as that poster child. The adult suspect will have to live down a far-less-sympathetic mug shot.
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