By Sandy . . . At this time of public outrage and demands for meaningful criminal justice reform, one area in need of serious attention is the racial make-up of our states’ sexual offense registries.
In 2018 a study was done that has been largely ignored. It shows conclusively that in every state in the union except one – Michigan – African American citizens are disproportionately represented on Megan’s Law registries. The disparity ranges from 1.08 in Texas to 10.99 in Minnesota. Only five states fall between 1 and 1.4. Seventeen states are between 1.5 and 2; twenty-three are between 2 and 4. The outliers on the upper end are Connecticut at 4.32, Washington at 4.26, Oregon at 7.20, and the already mentioned 10.99 in Minnesota. Michigan is 0.82.
These numbers may not seem large, but what do they mean? They mean that in Texas, African Americans are 1.08 times more likely to be included on the sex offense registry than their white counterparts, and in Minnesota they are 10.99 times more likely to become registered.
What does this mean in terms of actual people?
In Texas, the state with the least disparity, 78.8% of the population, according to the latest Census Bureau figures, is white (this number includes Hispanic) with 12.8% being black. The remainder are Asian and other. The percentage of Texas citizens on the sex offense registry, however, shows 76.93% white and 22.59% black.
Looking at a state whose disparity rate falls somewhere in the middle, North Carolina, (1.81) the white population is 70.6%, and the black is 22.2%. The North Carolina Sexual Offense Registry reflects a make- up of 60.97% white and 36.96% black.
Minnesota’s numbers are staggering. While the white population of that state is 84.1%, white Minnesotans make up only 54.74% of those on the registry. The black population of Minnesota comprises only 6.8%, yet 38.6% of the state’s registry is black.
Recent events have brought to the forefront the need for law enforcement to guard carefully against such things as racial profiling and ill treatment of all, especially more frequently targeted people of color. However, this study indicates a deeper and more serious bias, one that reaches into our court system as well as our law enforcement entities.
It appears that black males in America are not only at a greater risk for being harmed or killed when stopped by law enforcement; they are also at greater risk of being included on the sex offender list.
It is time for equal justice under the law to actually mean what it says.
* Totals for state percentages will not add to 100 due to other categories such as native, Asian and other. Percentages for registries will be close to 100% but, depending on the state, not completely, also due to the other categories. Hispanic is included in white.
Sandy, a NARSOL board member, is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.