Archive for June, 2011

June 2, 2011

Sex offender registries do not prevent crime and should be eliminated

We are opposed to public registries of sex offenders.  There is no evidence that  registries prevent sex crimes.  But it is clear beyond any doubt that thousands of people have been harmed and many lives ruined through the sex offender registries and scarlet letter laws that brand many people that have not committed any crimes against children as “violent, sexual predators” who
cannot go near a school, public library or other facility where children may be present.

While horrific crimes involving abuse of children do occur, these are rare and comprise a tiny percentage of those convicted with sex offenses.  However, the sex offender registries paint all offenders with the same brush whether it is teenagers having sex, a person urinating by the side of the road or someone who brutalizes a child.   Most sex offenses (more than 80%) are committed by family members or other people well-known to the victim.  Repeat offenses by sex offenders are rare with recidivism in most jurisdictions less than 5%.   Existing sex offender laws and the elaborate and costly apparatus to enforce these laws have little effect on preventing sex offenses.  These laws have sprung up around particularly horrible crimes and are often named after the victims.

Evidence-based approaches to preventing child abuse exist but too often are not applied and too often such programs remain underfunded while large funds are consumed by highly visible approaches that provide political benefits to people seeking to get elected on tough on crime platforms.   We propose that all funding for sex offender registries be redirected to fund programs that reduce child abuse.  This starts with training children to recognize abuse and abusers and to say no to the abuser and to report abuse to their parents or guardian or other person with responsibility.  Abusers whose actions are caught early can be
helped to understand their actions and to prevent this behavior in the future.  For the sex offender with a deeper problem
more intensive therapy would be warranted.

By preventing more cases of child abuse the relatively rare cases involving brutalization of children by violent criminals can be dealt with more effectively through appropriately severe sanctions.  In today’s environment with thousands of people painted with the same brush as if they are violent, predatory sex criminals the attention of law enforcement is distracted by the large number of offenders increasing the chances for such acts to be committed.