Sex offender registry
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A sex offender registry is an official list of people who have been convicted of certain crimes directly or indirectly involving illegal sexual behavior, such as rape, statutory rape, sodomy, prostitution, child pornography, indecent exposure, etc. There has been a lot of controversy about which offenses should qualify for entry in the sex offender registry.
Every U.S. state has a sex offender registry that can be viewed on a public website. The U.S. and Canada also have national sex offender registries. Failure to register as a sex offender is itself a separate felony offense in some jurisdictions. These registries have arguably paved the way for other kinds of registries such as murder and methamphetamine registries.
Formerly, sex offenders were commonly restricted from living within certain distances of such places as public schools and playgrounds, but these restrictions fell out of favor due to a lack of evidence that they kept children safer, and because they forced sex offenders to live far from populous areas where they could be more easily supervised. Residency restrictions came to be viewed as a form of NIMBYism. In 2015, the California Supreme Court ruled that the residency requirement of the voter-approved sex-offender law was unconstitutional, at least within San Diego County, because it effectively prevented their right to housing.
Commonly, sex offenders are ordered into a treatment program that focuses on recognizing the triggers that tempt them to commit sex offenses, and avoiding those triggers. An indoctrination is used for treatment to have the offender understand why the sex offense was wrong, and why arguments defending its acceptability are merely self-serving rationalizations. Of course, if the individual is a sociopath, good luck with that.
Courts often require sex offenders to have spyware installed on their computers allowing the probation office to monitor their keystrokes and other activity. The PROTECT Act, passed in 2003, authorized courts to impose lifetime terms of supervision on sex offenders, and federal sentencing guidelines recommend imposing that maximum. In prison, sex offenders' mail and property are monitored for potential sexual stimulus materials (e.g. magazines with photos of minors). The idea is to deter "risk-relevant" behavior that might lead them down the slippery slope to re-offending.
Sex offenders are usually prohibited from contacting their victims or, in some cases, any minors. This led to cases such as that of Frank Rodriguez, who was prohibited from coaching soccer for his four daughters because he had sex with their mother when she was underage.
On 17 December 2015, legislation called the "International Megan's Law" passed the U.S. Senate requiring the words "SEX OFFENDER" to be prominently displayed on registered sex offenders' passports and codifies the Immigration and Customs Enforcement's program called Operation Angel Watch which alerts foreign governments when a registered sex offender intends to travel to their country. It is intended to reduce child sex tourism by preventing registered sex offenders from leaving the US. This may seem like a sound idea from the beginning, but it is frivolous since the State Department already has the ability to to deny passports to people convicted of sex tourism involving minors and those whose probation or parole terms forbid them from traveling. Since being designated as a sex offender is permanent the individual will be marked on their passport as a sex offender permanently even after they have served their sentence. According to the law's supporters 4,500 passports have been given to sex offenders according to the Government Accountability Office, but the State Department rebuts that there is no empirical evidence that already convicted sex offenders have attained those passports in order to partake in child sex tourism. The California Reform Sex Offender Laws states that this law frivolously prevents individuals from traveling for private reasons.
Studies show that forcing sex offenders to register increases the chances that they'll re-offend. Turns out, funnily enough, that blocking any chance they have of reintegrating into society takes away much of their motivation to keep their noses clean. Human rights groups have expressed concern about minors being put on sex offenders registries, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the lifetime registration for juvenile sex offenders was unconstitutional.
Knowing that the man down the street is a sex offender is little help, especially if you weren't going to befriend him either way. Strangers molesting children is rare—it's almost always a person in a position of trust, such as a family member, teacher, or close friend. Making these lists even less helpful is that they don't identify whether a given individual did something really serious like child molestation or something fairly minor, such as flash someone on the bus. In fact, the justice system has an unfortunate habit of requiring such offenders to register, oversaturating the registries with people who aren't a threat.
- "The treatment of sex offenders as pariahs is in my opinion, a harbinger of future restrictions for prisoners as a group. Look at the sex offender registries—now there are methamphetamine registries and violent offender registries. What's next?" White, Katherine (29 August 2013). Interview with Chris Zoukis.
- Court Rules Against California Sex Offender Residency Law
- "If the instant offense of conviction is a sex offense, however, the statutory maximum term of supervised release is recommended." §5D1.2
- "Should an inmate exhibit any of the following behavior, the Regional Transitional Drug Abuse Treatment Coordinator (Regional T-DATC) will notify the inmate in writing that his/her status in treatment may be in jeopardy . . . Possession of pornography or other risk-relevant stimulus materials (e.g., collections of picture of children). . . . Restrictions on personal property and publications are imposed when an inmate uses those items as sexual stimulus materials in furtherance of his/her sexual deviancy. . . . Wardens may exercise their discretion in issuing unit-wide restrictions on specific categories of personal property and publications to prevent the exchange of sexual stimulus materials between inmates." http://www.bop.gov/policy/progstat/5324_010.pdf