How would you reform the sex offender registry?

The sex offender registry (which is actually multiple lists, typically one per jurisdiction) has gotten a lot of bad press lately. Even on this board, there are a lot of mixed feelings about whether the registry provides the right balance of community safety and rehabilitation.


How would you reform the system? Be specific. There are plenty of screeds against the registry and how it’s supposedly destroying the lives of people who made one mistake. How can we work to alleviate the problem and let low-risk offenders reenter society while protecting the community from dangerous serial rapists and molesters?

Ground rules:

  1. You can’t just say “get rid of it, and that’s it”. You can propose reductions in severity or additional ways that an ex-offender could get off, but if you want to completely remove the concept of the registry from the law, you have to propose something to replace it. E.g. longer mandatory minimum sentences, more onerous probation terms (be specific), increased community screenings for sexual issues, etc.

  2. Be reasonable. The concept of a sex offender registry is a reasonable one, and makes sense. The problem is that it has gotten a little out of hand and is being applied in cases where it doesn’t make sense. A 12 year old who “played doctor” with his 11 year old sister doesn’t need to be on the sex offender registry at age 40 and be barred from going within 1000 feet of a public park.

One obvious way of reforming the system is adding or enhancing individualized evaluations to cases whereby less-dangerous offenders are routed off the registry. The problem, of course, is defining rules for adjudicating cases that can be used fairly. What sort of criteria might be usable? Psychiatric evaluations? Time free with no offense (e.g. ex-offenders get off the registry automatically if they can go ten years with no additional sexual charges, or any felony)? Education (get a degree, get off the list)?

It’s not reasonable, it goes against the entire concept of prison serving as either rehabilitation or deterrence. And there’s no good way to do it.

I’m not sure what the answer is, but there needs to be a way to distinguish between the 18 year old having consensual sex with his 16 year old girlfriend and the real sexual predators out there. Perhaps one way to do it would be to re-examine the offenses that require registration, possibly even allowing judges to make that decision on a case by case basis as part of the sentencing process…

It also was totally reactionary, and was implemented without any study of whether it would have any effect in doing what it is supposed to do, which is, reduce recidivism. I would propose a comprehensive study to discover what things are successful. Once there is clear evidence that registry is not able to do what it is supposed to do, then I don’t see what’s wrong with getting rid of it altogether.

We would implement things shown to work. Right now, I don’t know what those are, because we need good data, and not gut reactions. One thing that should be studied is whether complete psych workups on offenders post-conviction, and treatment of any underlying condition would help, but people won’t like that, because they will see it as sex offenders getting free psych care, period, and not the far-reaching result of fewer children getting molested and raped.

We can see if 12-step type programs work. If they do, we can require sex offenders to attend while incarcerated, and for any time they are out on parole, and also for N years post-sentence. We can make anything a condition of parole, like chemical castration, but at some point, sentences end. Do we want to make sex offenses something with mandatory life sentence, albeit with parole? we can monitor offenders forever that way, but it will be expensive.

Dump it. Only police should know where offenders live.

Thing is who does it really punish? I’ll tell you. Its the next door neighbors. You just try and sell your house with a predator next door.

BTW, why dont we have a registry for people who’ve committed other crimes? Ex. car thieves, thieves in general, murderers, arsonists, how about scam artists who prey on the elderly? Why not a registry for them so they dont move in next to grandpa?

This. There’s no reason to reform it because there’s no value to it. Sex offenders are no more special than murderers - in fact, there are many people on the register whose crimes have no place carrying a permanent social stigma. Serial rapists and pedophiles should be examined on specific terms, but the registry as such? Ditch it.

Remove it, and replace it with a program of continuous psych care for real offenders, and sweet fuck-all for the Romeo-and-Juliet and caught-pissing-in-public offenders.

Or forehead branding, that’d be about as effective and about as punitive as a registry.

And who does it help? It provides a false sense of security People don’t look up their cousin or brother-in-law on the sex offender registry before leaving the kids there for a day . I know someone who said if a sex offender lived to the right of him , he would have his kid turn left when leaving the house. But just because the person on the right isn’t on the registry doesn’t mean that person isn’t a sex offender - it just means he hasn’t been convicted of one of the specified crimes.

I’ve always felt people on the list should exploit their notoriety and put a sign in the yard: “Sex Offender Lives Here” then offer the house for sale for above market price. If the neighbors don’t like it, they can pool their resources and buy the house. Move to a new neighborhood, lather-rinse-repeat. Keep moving to more expensive neighborhoods to leverage the fear and ability to pay.

Well I dont know about that but I do know that since they are not allowed to live within certain distances of schools or day cares the places where they can live have become so limited that they end up being most of a neighborhood.

So what should society do with them? Their are as of last year 747,000* registered sex offenders and the numbers are not going down but up and they have to live someplace. If they dont have a permanent address, how else can they keep track of them?


Pretty much this. I agree that it’s not reasonable, and I’ve never understood why sex crimes are particularly singled out, but not the murderers and thieves, who I’d actually be more interested in, anyway.

Is there evidence that the registries prevent crime? Experiments should be validated, shouldn’t they?

My first answer would be the not-allowed-by-the-OP abolish it. Other crimes aren’t treated like this once the sentence is complete.

Within the constraints of the OP, a possible judicial review for removal from the registry requirement. I’m thinking of a hypothetical case where after a night of drinking a woman in college claims rape, the man says consent. Defense attorney recommends a plea based on worst case if the jury believes her. Some people on the registry made this deal before the registry existed. That man should have a mechanism to get his name off the registery.

But, please, think of the children!!

I may just be repeating what tim-n-va just said, but I’d also vote for abolishing it. Barring that,

  1. Remove anyone from the list who was convicted prior to the registry being established. Eliminates concerns about ex post facto punishment and solves the issue tim pointed out above.

  2. Make it like probation, where it can expire after a certain number of years unless the state makes a compelling argument.

  3. Give power back to the judges. For certain crimes, it can be a part of a reasonable sentence, but making it automatic is nuts.

It can also be for urinating in public, exposing oneself, having sex in public, some teen kid taking a selfie of their body and posting it so it gets out, etc…

I say abolish it, and that’s not because I like sex offenders… Its really pretty darn useless…

I’ve known 2 sex offenders.

The first, 17 years old and raped a 7 year old boy. Not on the list, because he was a minor… And someone I didn’t care to know…

The second, picked up a girl in a night club, that got in with a fake ID… Turned out she was 17 or 16, and her dad did not appreciate that… He’s on the list…

Several thoughts…

First is, from what I’ve read, and contrary to popular mythology, sex offenders are one of the groups least likely to re-offend… some may say that is because of the registry…

Second: If you are so dangerous… What the F* are you even doing out of jail?

Third: For the guy caught peeing, or screwing around with a teen ager or whatever the sexual crime was… If everywhere you go, everybody knows you are a sex offender, you can’t live here, you can’t live there, you can’t get a job…
Desperate people do desperate things…

Fourth: What about that whole “debt to society” thing…

Fifth: Already been said… your neighbors just get nervous, even if all you did was take a piss behind a dumpster, and they look at you funny, while they are peeing behind a bush…

Sixth: from the websites I’ve seen, and I’ve only looked at a few, they really make no distinction as to the crime. There is no box there that says what they did… so the guy who took a girl home from a night club, who SHOULD have been 21 years old is seen the same as the Nurses Aide that diddled every baby in the
maternity ward…
It just keeps parents paranoid, which keeps kids sitting inside and getting fatter, and not out being social and playing… Its useless, and I’ll say it again, if they are so dangerous that the community needs to be warned of their presence, why aren’t they still in jail??? They can hospitalize you for psychological reasons and if you want to kidnap and rape children, nobody is going to put up too big of a fuss…

A list of known thieves in my neighborhood, and a picture of them and their car… I’m all for that.

I’d get rid of it and increase/decrease sentences based on crime.

The first reversal would be ‘Romeo and Juliet’ immediately removed and extensive compensation paid without question. More to come but that is a start.

Do away with it. If some of these people are so dangerous, extend their sentences.