The registry does not protect anyone

  • Registry protects no one from sexual assault.
  • The registry does do massive harm while it is protecting no one.
  • The registry encourages vigilantes and vandals.
  • The registry should be abolished.

The Nebraska sex offense registry does nothing to protect anyone — not even state senators.

We urge the Legislature to recognize this and reconsider the utility of the registry. It does not prevent sex crimes; it does not protect the public.

In February, when allegations of Senator Groene’s misconduct arose, several women of the Legislature told stories of assaults they had suffered. The registry did not protect those women, either. The registry does not protect or prevent.

What does the registry do? It gives permission to the community to discriminate against people listed there. It is difficult for a family to find housing when their address will be on the registry. It is difficult for a parent to support his or her family when employers refuse to hire someone listed on the registry. It is difficult for a family to worship together when a church insists on singling out the member who is listed, sometimes prohibiting their attendance at services.

The registry makes it easy for vandals and vigilantes to target people whose address is on the registry. We saw that happen when Omahan Mattieo Condoluci was murdered in May 2020 and when Steven Weaver was killed near McCook in October of the same year.

It is time for the Legislature to end the registry.

A profile in courage

  • U.S. Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson had the courage to criticize the registry.
  • Article in The Nation highlights her “prevention vs. punishment” Student Note.
  • Article cites “poisonous falsehood” that props up a flimsy defense of the registry.

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, since her days as a law student, has recognized that the sex offender registry fails to protect anyone and does harm to many.

This week’s confirmation hearing for Judge Jackson, we hope, shines a light on the fact that the registry is useless and it ought to be abolished.

Judge Jackson’s courageous stance regarding the registry is the subject of an article in The Nation (read On Principle: Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Profile in Courage here).

Here is an excerpt:

What makes the young Ketanji Brown Jackson remarkable is her challenge to legal interpretations of a system of control over people who were not only made a separate category of human being then but are still largely shunned by reformers now. In a Harvard Law Review Student Note titled “Prevention versus Punishment: Toward a Principled Distinction in the Restraint of Released Sex Offenders,” she placed the humanity of a despised class of people at center stage. Where might justice be, she asked in effect, if we begin by considering how state power affects the life and liberty of society’s most hated individuals?

Also:

Courts had, on the whole, taken limited interest in the human impact of these restrictions; and the Supreme Court had weighed in, blessing the registries in 2003, applying the same muddled reasoning that Jackson had critiqued, and introducing a poisonous falsehood—declaring that re-offense rates for people convicted of sex crimes were “frightening and high” when actually they are among the lowest. Here was another bit of junk science, since debunked, but widely repeated and never recanted.

It is long past time that we hear a voice from the bench speak the truth about the sex offender registry: It is a vile politicians’ tool used to inflict lifelong punishment, contrary to U.S. Constitution.

Nebraskans Unafraid Response to the ALI Proposed Changes

  • Abolish the registry. Period.
  • ALI could have but failed to set a goal of abolishing the registry, and that is why Nebraskans Unafraid cannot support the ALI proposal.
  • Evidence abounds that registries do not enhance public safety.
  • The registry is a vile practice that encourages discrimination, harms families, creates homelessness and joblessness.
  • Abolish the registry. Period.

The registry must be abolished. That is the starting, and ending, point for Nebraskans Unafraid.

We do not support the changes the American Law Institute (ALI) has proposed for its Model Penal Code that would affect the part dealing with sex offense registries. 

The proposed changes include making the registry available to law enforcement only, abolishing lifetime registration, keeping juveniles off the registry, and abolishing blanket restrictions for registrants. Each of those would help someone on the registry, so why do we not support the changes to the model code?

ALI would keep the registry in place. That’s why. ALI refused to set a goal of ending the registry, thereby supporting the existence of the registry. When they could have recommended the removal of registry laws, ALI chose to keep the registry entrenched in its model code.

There are plenty of studies that show that people forced to register are very rarely the ones who get arrested for a sex offense. The next arrest for a sex offense in your community will most likely be of someone not on the registry.

The registry drives families into poverty and isolation; it makes them vulnerable to harassment, vandalism, and vigilante violence. Omaha saw this very clearly in May 2020 when Mattieo Condoluci was murdered because of his status as a registrant.

The registry creates a category of people the community is encouraged to discriminate against by using registry status to deny employment and housing. The registry is used to turn people away from emergency shelter, from long-term healthcare, and from religious congregations and other social groups. The registry makes travel more difficult, damages relationships, and that damage echoes through the generations. No matter how many years or decades a registrant obeys the law while required to register, he or she is still subject to laws that apply to registrants and no one else.

ALI could have helped and encouraged everyone on the registry by simply recommending that the registry be ended. Instead, ALI did the usual picking and choosing among registrants, leaving registrants to vie with each other to be counted as “worthy” of any benefits.

We have many anti-registry organizations across the country and each one has its own ideas about what reform looks like. If all anti-registry organizations could unite behind one simple message, the registry must be ended, we would have much more power. 

ALI wants to leave the registry in place, making changes that benefit some but not others. That is simply not good enough. People on the sex offense registry deserve allies who will work to end the vile practice of public shaming

The registry must be abolished.