An online registry for serious felons, not just sex offenders

I was reading here about how Rhode Island is apparently considering a murder registry. I think this is a good idea. That got me thinking about having a registry for not just sex criminals but other serious criminals as well. Yeah, I think murder is worse than sex offenses, so why haven’t murder registries been established in more states already? Just look at this story from Texas about a women who murdered 46 kids who somehow got out of prison- I’d definitely want to know if I was living next door to her. Hell, even stuff like bank robbery and arson should probably be registerable. If somebody holds a bank at gunpoint and steals $5 million from a bank, then I think the people held at gunpoint would be pretty upset, as would all the people who had millions of dollars taken from them. I’m not sure how burning down a person’s house is that much better than raping a person either.

Unfortunately, there are some people on the sex offender registry at this point who may have just peed in public without realizing a child was near them, or because they had sex with a 15 year old who lied about their age. This dilutes the registry, and I wonder if some similar dilution might occur if you set up a registry for serious felons. Still, if you can ban DUI offenders from driving, put a guy who had sex with a teenager lying about their age on the sex offender list or put a public urinator on the list, why can’t you have a registry for murderers or bank robbers?

The real purpose of these registries is to shame people and to give people the illusion of security by imposing draconian standards on the 5-15% of sex offenders who get caught.

However I guess there are benefits sometimes but you can run into an issue with dilution since tons of people are on the lists.

Do you think there should be other registries, Wesleyclark?

I wonder what the actual numbers are for released rapists vs released murders in a given jurisdiction.

Well, assuming those numbers are accurate, that certainly contradicts popular opinion (which is that sex offenders are most likely to reoffend.) 2.5% recividism for sex offenders is still 2.5% too high though, just like 1.2% recividism for murderers is 1.2% too high.

Depends on what you think an offender registry is for.

The case for a sex offender registry is basically the belief that (a) sex offenders are at high risk of reoffending, and (b) serial sex offenders choose their victims from among their own community/neighbourhood, so you need to know if you live near one.

Regardless of how well-founded those two beliefs are, I’m fairly sure they are less well-founded - the second one in particular - in relation to murderers.

What, UDS, you wouldn’t want to know if you lived in Texas and some women who killed 46 babies and toddlers moved next door to you? You wouldn’t want to know if some guy who burned down his last neighbor’s house moved next door to you as well? You know, so maybe you can protect yourself against the killer or arsonist.

The OP is discussing a register of murderers, not a register of serial murderers.

And I don’t think a register would solve the problem in the case you point to. Jones was convicted of one murder and one assault, and - unless the register includes unproven allegations - presumably that’s all the register will show. That doesn’t identify her as a serial killer.

Besides, if Jones presents a heightened risk of reoffending, surely the problem is not that there is no register but that she is being released? And, if she doesn’t present a heightened risk of reoffending, what purpose would a register serve?

Well, I’ve seen that same argument sometimes used against sex offender registries before (ie if they’re such a big threat they have to be put on a list why are they being released.) Still, arsonists are almost always released, and the women in Texas who killed the kids is being released for God knows what reason. You really wouldn’t want to know if you were living next door to these people? I’d much rather live next door to harmless if stupid people like public pissers and streakers (who are making up an increasingly large percentage of sex offenders these days) than to a murderer or arsonist. I am the OP, by the way. Even though Jones was apparently only convicted of one murder and the rest she was only suspected of, being able to see on a registry that she has one murder conviction is better than having her move anonymously into a neighborhood. You wouldn’t agree?

I’m sceptical that offender registers - certainly, publicly-accessible offender registers - do anything that actually improves public safety or reduces offending rates, as opposed to gratifying public outrage or securing the re-election of politicians. Given that we have had them for limited purposes for a while now, I’d like to see some hard evidence that they acheive anything of value in relation to the offences that they already cover before I’d endorse a proposal to expand their reach.

So, you don’t even support sex offender registries?

The concept of stigmatizing former criminals and making them pariahs has great appeal at first glance, However, it carries with it major practical problems (as well as one HUGE moral problem, which I’ll get to in a minute). These days, there really is no such thing as privacy, perhaps, but when a convicted criminal is released from prison, he should be given the benefit of the doubt. In other words, start over. If you brand the former criminal so that he can never find a job, a place to live, or in general any kind of existence except maybe as a subsistence hunter on an abandoned island, what do you think will happen? Right, he will re-offend. Even the no-good scum sex offender/etc. has a right to existence. You can’t construct a societal practice that permanently stigmatizes someone and simultaneously expect that person to rejoin society.

The moral objection is perhaps greater. The offender served his time; he paid his debt. His sentence didn’t say “ten years and a life of ostracism and poverty”; it said “ten years.” Maybe we ought to consign our major offenders to some kind of shadow existence in extreme isolation but for now, branding them isn’t part of the punishment they were sentenced to.

It certainly sounds attractive to create pariahs out of released major offenders, but the easiest rights to take away are those of the despised, and we as a free society should be very, very wary of doing so. As far as concerns for public safety go, the guy next door COULD be a rapist or murderer even if he’s never hurt a fly in his life. If you want absolute protection from your fellow humans, live inside a bank vault or something.

I am sceptical of their value, and Desert Defender has already pointed to the damage they can do.

Very few people are morally improved by being named and shamed, and the notion that this treatment makes them less likely to reoffend is not a very plausible one.

So what do you plan to do with this knowledge that the person who moved in next door is a convicted murderer?
Move? How do you know the person who moves next door to you in the new neighborhood isn’t going to be the released arsonist?
Torment the person until they move? Or call the cops - and have you charged with harassment.
Start a neighborhood watch just to stare at his house? See above.
Add locks to you doors and windows? So go ahead and do that now, without a list.

Let me ask you this- let’s say there’s a registry and Jones was on it and lived one house to your right. How would you treat her differently than the person who lived one door to your left who you don’t know was acquitted of the same crime- because remember, people who are acquitted won’t be on the registry. Neither will people who aren’t caught.

That's my problem with the sex offender registry- it gives people a false sense of security. They think "this neighbor is a sex offender so I won't let my kid walk past his house" , but don't realize that the other neighbor not on the registry may still be a sex offender and maybe you need a better plan than having the kid turn right instead of left when leaving the house. Maybe instead of telling your kid not to go into Mr X's house, you need to tell them not to go into anyone's house.

Pennsylvania has a searchable database of court decisions. I was playing around one day, putting in names and seeing what came up. One neighbor had three shoplifting arrests/convictions. We were never close, but after finding out that news I would have been reluctant to become friendly with her, and I certainly would never have asked her to house sit.
ETA: Here it is.

^Actually, this is the search page.

If the goal is to isolate felons so they can’t harm anyone else ever again then a registry doesn’t do the job. That only protects the busybodies who investigate all their neighbors and even then, it only protects those who are willing to DO something about it, like carry a gun.

What we need is to put all the criminals in one place where they can only harm each other. Say wall in New York city and put them all there.

You can do that in most places on a county-by-county basis. I would be careful about making any decisions based on that information; you’d be surprised how many other people there probably are in your state with the same name as your neighbor.

I do often look up people on Florida’s DOC offender search (located here: which lists only those who received custodial sentences or probation.