Sex offender registries: Common sense or nonsense?

In a comprehensive article for the June issue of Criminal Legal News, Christopher Zoukis knocks down many of the myths and lies used to justify sex offender registration and notification laws.

There is a laudable and virtually unassailable goal associated with sex-offender registration and restriction laws: protection of the public, especially children. Congress passed SORNA, for example, “[i]n order to protect the public from sex offenders and offenses against children. . . .” 34 U.S.C. § 20901. 

But the “protections” provided by sex offender registration and restriction laws are based on faulty information and more than one false premise. In passing registry laws, legislators frequently cite the high rates of recidivism among sex offenders. Judges do the same. In the 2002 opinion McKune v. Lile, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy cited a “frightening and high” sex-offender recidivism rate of up to 80 percent. 

If it were true, that would, indeed, be “frightening and high.” However, that figure is flat-out wrong. Justice Kennedy based that assertion on an unverified claim in a 1986 Psychology Today article written by a therapist who has since repudiated it. In fact, the therapist has stated that the 80 percent figure is “absolutely incorrect” and that he is appalled that it is still being used to influence public policy and judges.

Over the course of the lengthy article, Zoukis manages to confront most of the false assumptions used to justify sex offender registry laws.

Read the full article online at Criminal Legal News.

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