Why sex offender registries keep growing even as sexual violence rates fall

The latest map of registered sex offenders in the United States put out in May by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, shows there are now more than 900,000 men, women, and children on sex offender registries.

While the number of people on sex offender registries is increasing, Steven Yoder, writing for The Appeal, says there are reasons to doubt the accuracy of NCMEC’s tally.

Many of those entries are duplicates…or represent people who are not actually part of a state’s population for some other reason. In a 2014 study in the journal Crime & Delinquencya research team found that in the 42 states and two territories studied, 19 percent of those on registries were still behind bars, 9 percent lived out of state, and 3 percent had been deported. Of Florida’s 55,000 registrants at the time, more than 31,000 were in one of those three categories.

There are many reasons to question not just the number of registrants, but the very existence of registries.

[William] Dobbs, an adviser to the Sex Offense Litigation and Policy Resource Center affiliated with the Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, says the inaccuracies are symptoms of a malignant logic at the heart of registries: that people who have served their time should be put on public lists because of the ineffable risk of what they might do in the future. Problems with registries can’t be fixed, he says, because the concept itself is a “broken” one. “It turns people into suspects foreveror at least as long as they’re on it,” he said. “The politicians have created this giant naming-and-shaming train and are fueling it with fear.” 

 Read more of Yoder’s article at The Appeal.

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