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Josh Gravens, Subject of Observer Feature, Removed from Sex Offender Registry

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Screen grab of Joshua Gravens' Texas Department of Public Safety record.
Screen grab of Joshua Gravens' Texas Department of Public Safety record.

The Texas Observer’s June cover story, “Life On the List,” looked at what happens when children are placed on Texas’ public sex offender registry. It centered on Josh Gravens, who at age 12 had sexual contact with his sister, was handed over to the Texas Youth Commission for more than three years, and has been listed in the public registry ever since.

Before agreeing to be interviewed for by the Observer, Gravens had never discussed his ordeal with anyone who didn’t strictly need to know. Gravens had never been an activist. He had struggled privately, moved from place to place, job to job. Each time he started to build a life, he’d be fired, threatened, or evicted after a couple of years when something called attention to his presence on the registry.

As of November 15, though, the 25-year-old married father of four is, for the first time since he was 13, not on the list.

Years ago, a clerk told Gravens that he couldn’t petition for removal because the judge who sentenced him had died. It turns out that wasn’t true. The Observer found the judge during reporting and let Gravens know how to contact him. After “Life On the List” came out, Gravens sent the judge a copy of the story, along with a request for a copy of his court records (he had been told they were sealed) so that he could petition for the removal of one erroneously listed charge.

Shocked and moved by the effect the registry had had on Josh’s life, the judge instead considered Gravens’ letter a petition to be listed privately and arranged a court date for him.

As Gravens wrote in a letter to me:

“On November 1, I appeared before the original judge in my juvenile case. I sat in the witness stand and made a case for how the public registry has time and again brought an end to my successes. It was a very informal setting. The judge did not wear his robes, the district attorney was present, and they both asked me questions about my advocacy, employment, and most of all family… As the hearing proceeded, both the judge and the DA had their [copy of state] statutes out to make sure of exactly how the law worked. The removal of juveniles from the public registry had been a law on the books for ten years, but the judge in this case (who’s served 20+ years) and the district attorney, neither had ever used this law. This speaks volumes to how rare it is that someone is removed from the registry. Officials are very good at placing people on the sex offender registry, but when it comes to removal, they have no idea how.”

Gravens’ records will still be available to law enforcement officers, but not to the public.

Gravens has also applied for a George Soros Justice Fellowship to educate policymakers about the effects of listing children on the public sex offender registry. This very afternoon, he learned he is a finalist for the fellowship. He’ll be flown to New York for an interview next month. “I’m so excited,” he said. “I’ve never been there.”

He added, “This is a direct result of the article.”

Along with the joyful news, Gravens sent the screen shot you see above.

Now, he begins life off the list.

Emily DePrang joined The Texas Observer in 2011 as a staff writer covering criminal justice and public health. Before that, she was nonfiction editor of the Sonora Review. Before that, she was a waitress. She's also appeared in The Atlantic,, and VICE. She holds an MFA in Nonfiction from the University of Arizona and has won some things, including the Public Service Award from the Society of Professional Journalists (2012), the National Health Journalism Fellowship from USC Annenberg (2013), and a nomination for a National Magazine Award in Reporting (2014). She still sometimes thinks about waitressing.

  • Patti

    Love his comments to you and the result of his new success because of the article. Wonderful job, Emily.

  • SOIssues

    Well he may have been removed from the state registry, but there are thousands of mugshot web sites and such out there, and many extort money to have your info removed, so even if he’s removed a Google search will still bring up info on him.

    And example site would be:

    They require a large sum of money to remove it.

    And a recent article shows a lawyer is trying to sue these types of sites, but I doubt he’ll have much luck:

  • trekatch

    Now if we can find a way to get Judge and prosecutors to take into account when a girl lies about her age, even going so far as to sign up on an “adults only” dating site. Right now, the accused isn’t allowed to use it as a defense, even if the girl admits she lied and the boy had no idea how old she was. Where is the justice in convicting someone of sexual assault and ruining the rest of their lives which all started with the actions of the “victim”.

  • Robert Melling



    Although it is a difficult decision to boycott products your own country, this will be necessary to bring more fair laws and policies.

    Buy non-American:

    Examples only, not endorsements:

    Computers: Asus (Taiwan), Toshiba (Japan), Samsung (Korea).

    Food: buy at immigrant shops and restaurants. Immigrant businesses often buy from distributors of their own ethnic group and send their profits out of the USA to their home countries.

    Coffee – Anacafe (Guatemala), Lavazza, Medaglia Doro (Italian), others.

    Tires: Yokohama (Japan), Hankook (Korean), Pirelli (Italy)

    Automobiles: Toyota, Honda, Lexus (Japan), BYD (China), others.

    Footware: Hong Kong, Thailand, China, many countries have good local shoe makers. If a product is made overseas, make sure it is not a US company.

    mobile, ipad: Samsung (Korea), Sony (Japan), others.

    Airlines: Eva (China), Japan Air Lines, Philippine Airlines, Lufthansa. many others

    free Linux software.

    Free word processor software: Open Office

    Televisions: Samsung, LG (Korea), Sony (Japan).

    Avoid traveling for pleasure in or to the USA or UK. Take your vacation overseas if you can.

  • Eric Sweeten

    He’s off the list, yes, but now any employer or anyone else who does a google search on him will come across these articles to find out he used to be on the list. The media attention brought on by his case may have granted him freedom from the registry yet may also harm him.