Author's Note: This story contains discussions of criminal acts against children, including molestation, that may be challenging or disturbing to some. Reader caution is advised.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Jack Reynolds estimates he molested 300 boys before the arrest that put him away for more than a decade.
Now 60 years old, Reynolds' last offense was 26 years ago, when he attempted to molest a friend of his wife's younger brother during a sleepover.
"As I was beginning to fondle him … he looked up at me and he said, 'If you touch me there, I'm going to go to the cops,'" Reynolds said. "Well I never touched him, but he went to the cops anyway."
When officers came to arrest him, Reynolds says he told them everything.
That was in 1989, when Reynolds was nearly 40 years old. His story really begins when he was much younger and a ward at the now-closed Indiana Soldiers' and Sailors' Children's Home in Knightstown.
"When I was 7 years old I was brutally molested by an older boy who was twice my age – almost twice my size," Reynolds said. "And after he did that, all his peers decided they wanted to have a go. So they molested me as well. And the behaviors of what they did were taught to me, per se. So when I became an older boy, I turned around and started molesting the younger boys."
That pattern would continue for years as Reynolds moved from place to place, avoiding arrest with something of a predator's sense for danger.
"I continued to molest boys from town to town," he said. "I would move from each town when I felt the heat was getting too hot for me. In other words: I was getting suspected of being someone who molested small children. So I would pack up my small car and flee in the middle of the night from one town to another."
Eventually, his crimes caught up with him in Florida, where he was sentenced to two consecutive 5-year sentences. When he was released, he came back north.
"I moved back to Indiana thinking that Indiana's laws were 20 years behind everybody else's," Reynolds said. "So I thought. And I brought my behaviors with me."
Despite his conviction, Reynolds found a job as a high school referee.
"I began molesting children by becoming a high school official with the IHSAA," he said. "I also got married to a woman to hide what I was doing in society. I wanted people around me to think, you know, he's normal. He's married. He has a job and a place to live, there's no reason to question."
But, again, Reynolds' acts couldn't be hidden forever, and he entered the Indiana Department of Corrections for 12-and-a-half years. It was supposed to be more, he said.
"They offered me a plea agreement of 59 years – do 29-and-a-half – and I jumped on it," Reynolds said. "My then court-appointed attorney asked me why, and I told him that would put me away probably either for the rest of my life – because sex offenders are not looked upon highly in the prison system – or it would let me out at an age when I would be too old to be trusted in that capacity."
Reynolds says he was practically "catatonic" during his first few years in prison. But in 1994, he says he came to a decision.
"I said enough is enough. I don't want to molest any other children in the event I do get out," Reynolds said.
He signed up for a DOC sex offender program – one of only three people who'd ever completed the program, he said.
"But after that I said, 'This is not enough. I need more,'" Reynolds said. "So I requested to be seen by a psychologist and a psychiatrist each week. And I carried that through the rest of my sentence."
Reynolds' post-prison life looks on paper like a successful reform story: he married his high school sweetheart, Francine (who died in 2007 after three years of marriage), he continued treatment in and aftercare program and he began attending sex offender counseling groups six times a week.
Things are more nuanced than that, though.
Reynolds keeps on his wrists rubber bands he uses to snap himself when he gets "urges" – desires to re-offend that still well up after 26 years of "sobriety." On his wrists, Reynolds has tattooed "Not today" and "Not ever again" – constant reminders of his past crimes.
Even simple, mundane tasks like going to the grocery store remain a challenge.
"If I'm alone in the store and I have 'eye candy' walking around and I catch myself I will push my cart and say 'No!' out loud. That warns me that I'm in a danger zone," Reynolds said. "People around me can look at me and think I'm crazy, but I do not care. I know what I'm doing. That's part of me remaining safe."
For Reynolds, a sex offender's sobriety has to be a balancing act between the rights of someone who has paid his court-appointed debt to society, and the reality that even a single slip-up is another child victimized.
"People like to paint sex offenders all the same color, and to a vast degree, I can see that," Reynold said. "Because when one of us re-offends … it affects every sex offender everywhere. Because society will look at that person and say, 'See?'"
Reynolds also agrees with the stipulations many sex offenders face upon leaving prison: mandatory law enforcement check-ins, registries and, in Marion County, a mandatory meeting on Halloween night during trick-or-treating hours.
"You say, is it an appropriate thing?" Reynolds said. "I say it's a necessary thing."
Reynolds, who lives in Anderson, doesn't have to go to a meeting on Halloween. Instead, he says he turns off his lights and goes into his room to watch movies.
Of his 300 victims, Reynolds says he does not ask forgiveness, because what he did isn't forgivable. Instead, he tries to make amends by counseling other offenders, by talking to victims' advocates and by working with law enforcement to help develop training to identify sex offenders.
Mostly, Reynolds says, he simply tries to live by the "living mantra" he has marked upon himself.
"Every morning when I wake up, I pray. I take my wrists and I read them aloud, 'Not today and not ever again,'" Reynolds said. "Every morning when I pray I cross my wrists, put 'em over my heart and I pray to my higher power, who is God Almighty, and ask him for strength. And I get it every day. I'm determined never again to victimize."