Reform the Sex Offender Registry
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About 20 years ago, the sex offender registry was born out of good intentions. However, we now have 20+ years of data, experience, and perspective to look back and realize that the sex offender registry of today is not performing the public services it was intended to deliver.
This sex offender registry actually DECREASES the likelihood that offenders will successfully rehabilitate while destroying countless American lives and families every year. It is doing much more harm than good in our country. We must come together to make a change for the better.
There are now nearly 900,000 Americans on this registry. These are human beings with lives and families, just like you and me. You probably see some of them every day. You may work with some of them. You may be related to some of them. Many of these people are required to register for life, and the vast majority of them have only one conviction without any re-offenses, and often no other criminal record. The majority of registered sex offenders are not even considered predatory. In other words, they are not perceived as a significant threat to others.
Today, the registry is so overloaded with these so-called 'sex offenders' that the really dangerous predators (a very small percentage of those registered) often just get lost in the noise. The list of crimes that could land you or your child on this list is truly daunting and completely unjustified. California has already made it possible for lower-level offenders to get off the list in response to the alarming number of registrants that were not perceived as a threat to society based on the minor nature of their crimes.
Being required to register as a sex offender has been regarded by some as a "social death sentence." Our society has responded to the fear of 'sex offenders' by barring these individuals from renting a home, finding a job, going to school, or even attending their church in some cases. Many American families are torn apart and forced from their homes because of residency and contact restrictions imposed on a now-registered sex offender in the family.
Research now shows that less than 5% of all registered sex offenders have ever re-offended after conviction. For the most part, they have learned from their mistakes by doing jail/prison time, probation/parole, intense and expensive sex offender treatment, and having their lives completely destroyed. One thing is for certain: this recidivism rate is NOT this low in result of the sex offender registry.
IN FACT, AFTER 20+ YEARS, WE HAVE ABSOLUTELY ZERO EMPIRICAL DATA THAT SHOWS THE SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY ACTUALLY REDUCES SEX CRIMES OR RE-OFFENSES.
On the contrary, there is a large amount of data showing that this sex offender registry is doing much more harm than good. Like causing suicides, massive homelessness, and severe isolation and depression. It strips the 'offender' of all hope and opportunity for a good future, and many are simply 'throwing in the towel' on life after years of struggling to have a worthwhile existence following their crime, sentence, and treatment.
Once a sentence has been served, and any treatment or repayment completed, and probation or parole terminated, a person should have the opportunity to live a relatively normal life with nothing more than a criminal background. To face ongoing discrimination and punitive restrictions for the rest of one's life is what the US constitution would refer to as Cruel and Unusual Punishment. No other types of crime (including murder and terrorism) require this level of persecution.
The proposal to reform the registry is very simple:
1) All sex crimes currently classified as 'tier-1' and 'tier-2' (non-predatory) offenses should only require probation/parole and sex therapy/treatment in proportion with the crime committed. Sex offender registration should not be required for those who successfully complete treatment.
2) Any sex crimes currently classified as a 'tier-3' (predatory) offense should require 10 years of sex offender registration following the prison sentence for a first offense. If they complete the treatment and do not re-offend in that 10-year period, then they should get a second chance at a normal life by being removed from the registry. If they ever re-offend, they will then have to register for life.
3) Passport/travel restrictions and notifications should only be imposed on those convicted of sex-trafficking and sex-tourism crimes. Imposing these restrictions on all sex offenders is discriminatory.
4) THE SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY SHOULD NOT BE APPLICABLE TO ANYONE UNDER THE AGE OF 16. Special circumstances may arise where a horrible crime has been committed by a child or young teen, but in general, sentencing for children and young teens involved in sexually deviant behavior should be educational, not punitive. Wasn't the goal of this registry to protect our children?
THE RESEARCH DOES NOT LIE: THE SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY HARMS AMERICAN CHILDREN.
The original purpose of this registry was to alert the public about dangerous sexual predators in the community, and help law enforcement agencies keep an eye on the real threats to society. But due to bad legislation, bad media, and an absolute avalanche of public fear, we have deformed this sex offender registry into an absolutely tragic injustice.
Let's fix it! We owe it to our prosperity!
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