Recent studies show that sex offender registries do not prevent future offenses as intended because they fail to address the sex offender’s behavior. Although they make people within the community feel safer, they do not actually protect public safety.
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Sex Offenders and Recidivism
Research on sex offender registries and recidivism makes it very clear that sex offender registries do not reduce or prevent future offenses. Community notification and registries don’t do anything to change the behavior of the sex offender. Their main goal is to let the public know who have committed sex offenses and where they are residing.
Since sex offenders and offenses vary significantly, it’s impossible to put offenders into a homogeneous group. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with sex offenders and crimes. A sex crime attorney sees a variety of offenses and each one has very different circumstances. Crimes that involve child pornography, sex trafficking, and prostitution are very different than crimes that involve sexual assault. Since the reasons behind the crimes and offender behaviors are so varied, there is no way to predict if offenders will commit future offenses.
Sex Offender Registries
If sex offender registries do not reduce recidivism, why keep them? The main reason is to keep the public informed. Parents of small children, as well as the general public, want to know if sex offenders are living nearby in their communities. Since all criminal records are public information, the public and the government feel that sex offender registries should be open to the public.
In 1991, Minnesota was the first state in the country to establish a public sex-offender registry. The Adam Walsh Act of 2006 established new national registry standards which imposed penalties on states that didn’t comply with registry standards, created a national Internet database of offenders and established a national office to track offenders. Since then, sex offender registries have been implemented in all 50 states.
When someone is charged with a sex crime and placed on a sex offender registry, they are required to inform police and/or other public safety officials where they live and work. They must get permission to move and to travel. Some states including Florida, Oklahoma, Nevada, and Tennessee require sex offenders to carry special state ID cards or driver’s licenses that identify them as sex offenders. In all states, sex offenders who fail to register in a timely manner can incur additional felony charges.