During our last post, we briefly gave an overview of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act and spoke about some consequences of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) portion of the federal law. The federal sex offender registry has raised questions about sex crime punishment and rehabilitation and has grown state registries and burdened law enforcement departments.
Critics of sex offender registries have long questioned their effectiveness and believe registries can destabilize sex offenders. Those who support registries argue they provide public safety benefits.
A public policy consultant for the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers says registries generally create roadblocks to successful sex offender treatment, supervision and management. The consequence can be isolation and offenders who return to a community need a strong support network built on family, religious institutions and work opportunities. A registry available to the public creates a stigma that inhibits work opportunities, living among families and creating faith-based relationships. The end result is that an individual may reach an emotional place where they are likely to reoffend.
There is also a misconception about the purpose of sex offender registries. Many people believe registration notification programs are meant to reduce future offenses; they are not. Public registries are instead meant to primarily be a law enforcement tool and a tool to help the public protect themselves according to the director of Ohio’s Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking. In addition, registries do not list everyone who is a threat since all future offenders are not known to police.
Though critics and supporters of registries disagree about rehabilitation and future offenses, both camps agree that registries are important to help monitor truly egregious sexual offenders if they are allowed back into the community.
Source: CNN.com, “Five years later, states struggle to comply with federal sex offender law,” Emanuella Grinberg, 7/28/11