The verdict is in: Sex offender registries don’t work

By Maggie Hall . . . Calls for public access to information about convicted child sex offenders occur often in Australia. It may seem like common sense that allowing the public to know the whereabouts of dangerous people should increase community safety. As in many areas of criminal justice, the real story is more complicated. . . .

Child sex offenders are required to keep police informed of their address and other personal details for a period of time (which varies across states and the nature of convictions) after they are released into the community. But in most Australian states, these details are not available to the public.

Besides the political appeal of being seen to crack down on crime, evidence shows public sex offender registers do more harm than good. The Australian Institute of Criminology recently reviewed the latest evidence from Australia and overseas on the effectiveness of public and non-public sex offender registries. The report concluded:

. . . while public sex offender registries may have a small general deterrent effect on first time offenders, they do not reduce recidivism. Further, despite having strong public support, they appear to have little effect on levels of fear in the community.

A 2011 US paper compared research on offending rates of sex offenders who appear on public registers and those don’t. It detected little difference in rates of re-offending between the two groups. These registers can have other, unintended, consequences including creating community panic and vigilante attacks. . . .

Conversely, some researchers have considered whether registries actually do the opposite and magnify safety fears. In 2007, residents of an upstate New York town displayed what the researchers called “community-wide hysteria,” including sleeping difficulties, after notification about sex offenders living nearby.

Others have raised concerns access to registers may lead to a false sense of security and perpetuate myths about “stranger danger” when most child sex offenders are known by, and are often related to, the victim. Some Australian groups have expressed concerns that publication in small communities may mitigate against reporting, as well as identify and stigmatize victims. . . .

Read the full piece here at The Conversation.

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    • #50866 Reply

      Because I said so or should we all say, An ounce of cure is worth a pound of prevention. Would one wonder because I said so if that stops others from doing an ordeal they set out to do or did not set out to do. Lets face it common morals are good ethics and principals should be understood. I just wonder if telling others one’s business is good. If one has a gun or walks into a bank and tells the teller I have a gun is that good business whether they use it or not. Well one might say carrying a concelled weapon today into a bank is illegal.

      In this internet sex scandle or scare that we all face, is it man-made thing because they said so type of ordeal. Is it a way one can prevent Possible events from happening or should someone talk in future tense. Is it a good will package that lines the streets of gold. Are not the people that are caught up in this sex offender ordeal, whether induced or enticed by their own free will challanged by their moral delimna of shoot first and ask questions in this right or wrong of moral ethics or behavior type of scandal.

      The sex offender registry is like adapting to some form of medieval evil law decree by some tyrant or dictator to inform another human being to stay clear of them by this curse induced by those that appear to have a moral conscience or their own. Sometimes one wonders who eats the apple or is enticed first by who.

      Would one wonder if one trains up a child whether male or female that they would know that they are going to turn out to be a Bonnie and Clyde or Patty Hearst or Cosby type. orshould we look for a silver lining in every dark cloud. I wonder if every picture really tells a story.

      • #50878 Reply
        a man without a country


        Your second paragraph comment about a “man-made… because they said so…” reminded me of something I found 20 years ago and put in my Tales post “Quotes, Sources, and Thoughts.” Here it is…

        “The question is not the reality of witches but the power of authority to define the nature of the real¸ and the desire on the part of individuals and the state to identify those whose purging will relieve a sense of anxiety and guilt. What lay behind the procedures of the witch trial and political hearing was a familiar American need to assert a recoverable innocence even if the only guarantee of such innocence lay in displacement of guilt onto others.” –from a special edition of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. If you haven’t seen the Winona Ryder and Daniel Day-Lewis movie, watch it! Miller wrote his play during McCarthyism because of parallels with the Salem witch trials centuries before the Red Scare. I’ve also seen an interview of Miller on YouTube in which he notes parallels with the new hysteria, such as the McMartin preschool debacle. That’s not to say he’d defend SOs and I’d hate to see his reputation tarnished by misuse, but (as with Gardner above), we need to keep pointing out the parallels to McCarthyism and Salem.

        There is also this very pertinent twist on an old saying: “Believing is seeing.” Believing there is a terrorist or sex offender around every corner or a marauding horde caravan every month creates a reality for many people who don’t know how to doubt what they hear or doubt what they think they know. That is the lynch pin for our shared stories.

    • #50879 Reply

      Something that I wanted to mention. When arguing for or against the registry I always see the term ” after release from prison they are required to register”. I received a sentence of 5 years probation. Yet I am required to register for life. The registry is touted as a tool to protect families from dangerous people like me, yet the prosecutor and the judge found me to be so non-dangerous I wasn’t even sentenced to a day in jail. The registry isn’t punishment? I would have gladly spent 5 years in prison in exchange for my lifetime “non-punishment.

      • #50971 Reply

        Trapped, WOW!! What profound reasoning and I agree.

        You were so non-violent and low-risk that you didn’t do a day in jail or prison and yet you are required to register for LIFE. Brother, if that ain’t punitive, then the word should be stricken from our vocabularies and dictionaries altogether!!

      • #51063 Reply


        I feel ya…

        I received 2 years probation, 18 years ago for a class 3 misdemeanor, non physical sex offense. It was stupid on my part, yes. Absolutely.

        I completed probation, counseling and psychological assessments that state I’m not a threat, and have stayed out of trouble since. Still, I am required to register for life with all the glorious and effective banishments and restrictions that come with it.

        I suppose it’s justice.

    • #50885 Reply

      I am not a member but I take issue with the use of the words, ” doesn’t work”.

      It worked, but that perception\ observation is based purely on what the actual purpose was from the inception. Has the regulatory regime helped the “frighteningly high” recidivism rates? No? It fails to do more than inform inaccurately via stereotype. The actual wrongdoing as behavior is never disclosed. The registries describe directly what the ” state has done” as a result of bad ( illegal) behavior, but not the concrete illegal behaviors ” the registrant has done. ” An important and paramount distinction that must be made when constitutional intent is being weighed in the ex post review.

      The regime was justified in the first case with “necessity” based on expert in human psychology and identified compulsive human pathology presumably inherent in certain paedophile types. FINE except then the original “relevant” pathology justification was jettisoned by congress in favor of casting wider nets. In other words the regulatory regime suffered MISSION CREAP!
      That is how I came to realize it has always been more about USES OF THE DATABASE. BIG BROTHER NEEDED A SCAPE GOAT!
      Of course it didn’t hurt that I come from a unique perspective. That of the NOT GUILTY!
      Early on the politicians were grandstanding claiming the regulatory regime was absolutely necessary and so serious that that issue rose the level of national security. America’s dirty laundry a national security issue! How pathetic that we would choose display it to the entire world.

      It seems to me If we, as a society, don’t stop making guys like the one who found is way into Miss Closs’s life, we are not going to get anywhere.

      If ya keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you always got.

    • #50893 Reply


      You know your right. I wonder if we all missed the meaning of whats that sound by Buffalo Springfield back in the early 70’s or is the Power that authorities inducing on others to prevent something that others, or police, induce at times. Sure we all get depressed with this registry type issue of a human nature that seems to discriminate people and cast shadows. Should we all abuse kill ourselves with drugs or alcohol as Janice Joplin did or should we all talk about freedom from authority abuse that compromises a lot on the registry. Should we all use common sense to fight this battle that tosses a curve to those that have paid either by imprisonment or probational means. While two wrongs don’t make a right, I wonder who’s been sleeping in one’s bed today with their own understanding. One wonders if history is the curse or the cure.

      Now Maggie Hall has presented an interesting view of this criminal Justice research of recidivism blow out with a lot of this notification of injustice going on today. Yes are all of these human ethical issues, moral issues, or principal issues, even could they be behavior types of one sided views. One wonders if we all are all a danger to ourselves at times or some witches of eastwick or someone that induce’s by this bewitched man-made issue of entanglement that strangles in one’s abuse of power. Are lot of people’s live’s being interrupted by all this, or are we all filthy rags to be thrown away somehow by this cynical sex registry of a one size fits all measure. Should one look at this at a christian prospective, a moral prospective or a government bias issue. Are we still looking for a wall of separation of human understanding in this deceitful means and measure. Well I’m sure everyone has somehow found it in the registry. I wonder if we all see the calm before the storm or the confusion before the rationality of this.

      Political passion or political pawn, is it not someone’s decison or choice or someones free will agent to see the light before the dawn of what a lot of this power play really is.

    • #50946 Reply
      Minor american

      The Law is appointed to carry out punishment and other judicial duties and the public is not to be empowered to cross civil and considerational boundaries …under no circumstances ! If the Law Over punishes they are Guilty of Criminal acts and must be held accountable above others as ministers of the people ! More given more required !!! We do not have a …just let it ride or be for now attitude about the way our crime/punishment and law operates…at the expenses of so called fall guys…..THE CRIMINALS….LETS GET THESE IDEAS MIVING IN THE JUSTICE SYSTEM TO BRING BALANCE !!! LETS PUT UP A GOOD FIGHT TO BRING JUTICE FOR ALK SIDES AND BAKANCE TO TO INCARCERATED !!! AND TO THOSE ON THE UNLAWFUL REGISTRY !!!
      THANKS !!!

      • #51076 Reply

        Good points Minor American.

        I don’t support the registry. I think its clearly unconstitutional. But, I have to admit before I ever went through this, I was just as ignorant about it as most Americans. And, admittedly hypocritically, I too felt “if you can’t do the time, don’t whine after you’ve committed the crime”. Anyway, 18 years later, here I am.

        That attitude is still prevalent with many in the public, because it doesn’t affect most of them….yet. But, at the rate it’s expanding, it’s only a matter of time.

        What most don’t understand is the collateral affect on the innocent; my being on the registry and its, yes, punitive restrictions is one thing. I can certainly understand someone arguing I deserve it – I disagree, but I can understand that position. But, my kids don’t deserve it, my wife doesn’t deserve it, my extended family, friends, and church don’t deserve it, and my employer doesn’t deserve it….almost 20 years later.

        • #51138 Reply

          It does issue collateral damage to our loved ones and most folks just don’t care. They buy, buy, buy from Wal-Mart all the time fully understanding that cuts the jobs of Americans by doing so. They just don’t give a shit. As per our leadership we’ve become less and less tolerant, more nasty and nihilistic.
          We make indentured servants and abortion statistics out of our own children.

          • #51218 Reply

            Agreed Tim. It’s the ole “Well, it doesn’t affect me” attitude. For most Americans, it doesn’t affect them…yet.

          • #51235 Reply

            Came upon a good article in a psych may titled THE TOP 25 MOST INFLUENTIAL PSYCHOLOGICAL EXPERIMENTS. as it turns out hardly the first time convicts used a test subjects. wewewewewee!

    • #51499 Reply

      Here is why the registry does’t work. The population of the U.S is 328,113,176. There are 859,500 registered citizens. If you subtract that leaves 327,253,676 people. Now they have all 859,500 of us bottled up but what about the rest of the population. I’d be willing to bet that there are as many if not more unregistered citizens as there are registered. But the lawmakers are acting like we are the only ones. The only way for the registry to work would be if they put the rest of the population on it,which of course will never happen, because if it did it would turn the whole country on it’s ear.

    • #81501 Reply
      John Stein

      The cost and effectiveness are evidence these registries don’t work, and they list the wrong people. I know an offender who was raped as a child by a language professor in his 50’s, and another car dealer owner in his 40’s; both are dead now but they were never reported or caught and molested hundreds.

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