Not everyone wants to stay there.
"Those two words, 'sex offender,' they make me sick to my stomach," said one such former criminal.
We protected his identity so he could be candid about what he had done. He doesn't want you to forgive him or forget what he did. He just wants you to shift your perception of his crime.
"I did something wrong and I manned up to it. I admitted it in court. I took my punishment," he said.
It was nearly two decades ago, when he was 18-years old. Half his lifetime ago. He says that night he was "drunk beyond anything I've ever been almost to the point of falling down."
He was drunk and out of control with a female friend.
"Kind of in and out of consciousness, not really able to function, and I took advantage of her," he said.
She couldn't give consent. It was a sex crime.
"I agreed. I plead guilty. I did something very wrong," he said.
In the time since, he's been registered as a sex offender, done right by the law and paid his dues. But he wants a change. He wants to get off the sex offender registry.
"Having to be subject to this public embarrassment and scrutiny for the rest of my life -- that seems a little harsh," he said.
Which is where a controversial ad comes in, placed on the back of alternative newspapers. It's from attorney Brad Meryhew.
"Sex offender registration got you down? Give us a call; we might be able to help,"Meryhew said.
Under Washington state law, certain lower-level offenders have the option to petition a judge for removal from the registry. The worst criminals aren't eligible. Even if a judge agrees that the offender is reformed, it doesn't expunge the conviction from the record. It just takes the offender off the list and some tracking websites.
"We are one of the toughest states in regards to registration and community notification," said Kecia Rongen with the state sentence review board.
She says the original 1990s-era sex offender laws haven't caught up to actual research.
"Treatment does work. Recidivism rates for juvenile sex offenders are fairly low," she said.
In a way, the registry could become a form of punishment. That's fine by Deborah Kaye -- especially after she saw Meryhew's ad.
"It seemed so glib. 'Sexual predator registration got you down?' I hope so," she said.
Kaye has counseled sexual abuse victims for years and says even though the law allows some offenders to leave the list, some punishments shouldn't be swept away.
"The power over another person. It's always been about power. So that wiring is often hard to unwire, if you will," she said.
While she said she was shocked and appalled, she sees the conflict so many face in the legal system.
"Can people be turned around? I'm sure there are, I'm sure there are many. I'm conflicted," she said.
Meryhew knows it's a controversial business. Some people have called and yelled at his office, but he shares his clients' stories to change minds.
"What we're speaking to are those people who can't find work, can't find housing, can't get a relationship going, have trouble with their families," he said.
Kaye isn't entirely sold. She feels some crimes don't deserve compromise.
"Sexual predators hunt. And we need to know who the hunters are," she said.
The man who admitted his crimes says he isn't that hunter. He wants his chance to prove it to everyone.
"I've had to own this, because I did it. There's no other way around it," he said.