Nebraska Story #6: Eli


He is arrested because he trusted what a sheriff’s deputy told him.

  • Not even law enforcement can keep byzantine registration law straight.
  • Nebraska registry law criminalizes the fact that one is challenged.
  • Legislature should dismantle complicated unworkable system.

This is a series of Nebraska stories about life on the registry. All names have been changed, even when the registrant said we could use his or her name. But the laws that cause so much grief are very real.


Eli worked hard to support his family, even after a sex offense landed him on the registry. A conviction on an unrelated offense sent him to prison but when he was released in July, he went directly to the sheriff’s office to report that he was back in the community.

When he left, the deputy cheerfully said, “See you in six months!” The deputy was mistaken and Eli, intellectually disabled, didn’t catch the mistake. He was required to report again the very next month because Nebraska law requires him to report twice annually — in August, his birthday month, and six months after that, in February. When Eli reported to the sheriff’s office six months after his July report, as the deputy had told him, he was arrested for not reporting in August.

The registry makes no accommodation for people who will have difficulty – through no fault of their own – following the byzantine laws that no one else has to follow. Only registrants are required to tell the sheriff’s office in person that they bought or sold a car. Only registrants are required to tell the sheriff’s office in person they are moving to a new address. Only registrants are required to tell the sheriff’s office in person when they have a change in employment. When registrants are intellectually disabled or old and forgetful, Nebraska law shows them no grace if they were to forget to report to the sheriff.

The Nebraska Legislature built this complicated set of laws and the Nebraska Legislature can dismantle it.


Download The Perfect Bad Law


Nebraska Story #5: Dale


He rebuilt his life, but the State of Nebraska made him a target.

  • When a sentence is complete, the punishment should end.
  • Nebraska law makes it OK to target some people.
  • The registry should be abolished.

This is a series of Nebraska stories about life on the registry. All names have been changed, even when the registrant said we could use his or her name. But the laws that cause so much grief are very real.


Dale did federal time for his sex offense and was back home, living in the house he owns and working a good job. The work was hard but he was home, his family loved him, he was supporting himself. One morning, he woke to find “I’m a PEDO” spray-painted on his front door.

People listed on the registry consider it punishment because its public nature sets them up for harassment like this. The punishment may not be an official goal of the registry but only because publishing names, addresses, and photos lets the community do the punishing. Landlords, employers, and strangers use the registry to decide how to treat someone. The registry provides a list of people it is acceptable to treat badly.

The Legislature created a registry of second-class people it is acceptable to treat badly.


Download The Perfect Bad Law


Nebraska Story #4: Ray


Nebraska Legislature ignores evidence.

  • Psychologists, the Nebraska State Patrol, and the court said his risk of re-offending was low.
  • The Legislature changed his registry term, ignoring those risk assessments.
  • Stop pretending that the registry makes sense.

This is a series of Nebraska stories about life on the registry. All names have been changed, even when the registrant said we could use his or her name. But the laws that cause so much grief are very real.


The Nebraska registry used to evaluate each registrant to determine the level of risk they presented to the community.

Psychologists determined Ray’s risk level to be low; the Nebraska State Patrol agreed. In 2009, Nebraska passed LB 285 and, in 2010, ignored the results of any individual risk assessments.

The Legislature placed registrants in levels according to the crime he or she committed. Level 1 meant 15 years on the registry, Level 2 meant 25 years, and Level 3 meant lifetime. Ray’s crime now fell in the lifetime category, even though five uneventful and law-abiding years had passed since he finished his probation. No matter what his individual risk was, no matter what professionals thought of his risk level, Ray—along with many others—remains on the registry all these years later. 

It is true that registrants present varying risk levels. It is also true that people not on the registry present varying risk levels. After all, most arrests—by far—for sex offenses are of someone not on the registry. We accept those varying risk levels without much thought, yet the Legislature treats registrants as if they are ticking time bombs, even when all evidence says they will, in all likelihood, not reoffend.

It is time Nebraska stops pretending that the registry makes sense.


Download The Perfect Bad Law