Tuesday, February 12, 2013

reasonable measure?

Legislators and law enforcement officers must be much like the rest of us and truly want to do what they think is best. That's where the sex offender registry came from: good intentions.

The intention was to protect society from sex offenders who will go on to commit new offenses. After all, there is no need to protect society from sex offenders who won't offend again and little need to protect society from sex offenders who are at little risk to re-offend.

People like to know who the bad guys are so they can avoid them and keep their families away from them. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) says that makes sense.
“The courts have long held that the requirement that a convicted sex offender register with authorities is not punitive, it is regulatory” said Ernie Allen, president and CEO of NCMEC.  “It is a reasonable measure designed to provide important information to authorities and to help protect the public, particularly children.”
A reasonable measure.

California has had a sex offender registry since 1947. Sixty-five years is a long time. If a registry does protect the public, one would imagine that sex offenses in California must be reduced considerably because the dangerous people are on the registry, preventing new offenses. Yet, after all these years of keeping a registry, California still has new offenders and so many new offenders that California is the state with the highest number of registered sex offenders. California, as of January 2012, had 106,216 registered sex offenders. Who could claim that the registry has protected Californians from sex offenders? Clearly, the registry does not act as a deterrent.

Who are the bad guys? Ninety percent of sex offenses are committed by first-time offenders. A natural conclusion is that the registry is a good place to find a list of people unlikely to commit a sex offense.

If the registry is not a deterrent and does nothing to protect us from the ninety percent of offenders who are not on the registry yet...what good is it? Why are we regulating these people? The courts perhaps protest too much when they deny that the purpose is punitive...which, in turn, makes me question their good intentions.

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