Paul M. Renfro is an assistant professor of history at Florida State University and the author of Stranger Danger: Family Values, Childhood, and the American Carceral State.
Renfro wrote a recent Jacobin Magazine article that pronounces sex offense registries a failure that should be abolished. Renfro says that registries do not make anyone safer. All they do is fuel mass incarceration while doing nothing to prevent sexual harm.
Here is an excerpt:
Only by dismantling the registry and, in its stead, assembling a more equitable, less punitive society — devoid of the racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and material deprivation that enable sexual violence, immiserate young people, and encourage children to run away from home — can we actually end the phenomena of sexual harm.
Nebraska’s fear-mongering public-shaming sex offense website fails in ways almost too numerous to count. But we have categorized some of them. This blog will publish periodic reminders of those failures. Here is today’s reminder:
Evidence shows that a stable home life, employment and reintegration into their communities are among factors that reduce the likelihood of reoffense. This means that the Nebraska sex offense website makes Nebraska more dangerous because it causes people to lose their jobs and their homes, and it causes their families to suffer. A Public Safety Brief from the Council of State Governments states that the vast majority of child molestations — well over 90 percent — are first-time offenses committed by someone known to and close to the family. The registry does not protect children, it puts children at higher risk because it focuses attention on people who are not going to molest a child. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics has found that just 14 percent of all sexual assault cases reported to law enforcement agencies involved offenders who were strangers to their victims. Sexual assault victims under the age of 18 at the time of the crime knew their abusers in nine out of 10 cases: the abusers were family members in 34 percent of cases, and acquaintances in another 59 percent of cases.