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Sex offender registries: an argument to abolish

Like other states, California has a sex offender registry, and it is extensive.

A growing band of advocates nationally, including researchers, legislators, politicians and parents of registered offenders, say that registries do more harm than good and that only one strategy makes any sense regarding them: They need to be abolished.

Although that might strike a lot of reasonable Americans as both a shocking and counterintuitive viewpoint, no-registry advocates say the current registries that exist across the country are flawed in several respects and actually undercut their stated aim of deterrence.

Here’s why. For starters, they typically group sex crimes offenders together in an undifferentiated mass. That is, one-time juvenile offenders suffer the same -- and lifelong -- restrictions that are imposed on adults convicted of violent sexual attacks.

As noted in a recent media article addressing the subject, registries generally include “all offenders, undifferentiated by risk.” That means that a minor unlikely to ever offend again faces the same permanent exactions -- such as routine reporting to authorities; divulgence on job applications; and required notifications when moving -- as does an adult serial rapist.

Registry opponents say that, because this swells registry enrollments to many hundreds of thousands of people nationally, it makes it a virtual nightmare for authorities to do a good job of monitoring and enforcement.

And, importantly, they add, it actually increases the chance that truly dangerous offenders likely to commit further crime will escape detection.

What no-registry advocates promote is a total abolition of sex-offender registries, which they say would have a broad salutary effect on multiple levels.

First, it would provide a second chance and rehabilitation opportunity for many offenders who truly deserve it. And, second, it would free up criminal authorities to focus their efforts on truly violent attackers.

It might sound ironic and even paradoxical to many people, but critics of registries insist that abolition would materially promote, rather than hinder, public safety.

Source: NBC News, "My son, the sex offender: one mother's missiion to fight the law," Tony Dokoupil, May 6, 2014

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