One crime; one conviction; countless injuries

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By Kristan N. Russell and Daniel Pollack . . . Committing a sex offense can ruin two lives — the victim’s and the offender’s. For the offender, the result can be significant incarceration time and financial penalties. In all states, persons convicted of certain crimes are required to register on a sex offender registry. The registry is viewable by the general public, thereby allowing people to view the photo and current address of the registrant, as well as information regarding the crime that was committed by the registrant. Recently, the regulations of the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act were updated. In addition to the obvious baseline data, the registrant must now provide information about their professional licenses and vehicles, as well as other personal information.

Originally conceived as a tool to help protect local community residents, registration can potentially affect the registrant’s employment opportunities, personal relationships, and their ability to simply live undisturbed without fear of being harassed. However morally reprehensible a registrant be viewed, family members and partners of the offender are also affected.

Stigmatized by association

Society often extends its stigmatized views of a ‘deviant’ person to those who are most immediately associated with them. This is termed courtesy stigma. Those who commit sexual offenses are undoubtedly the most stigmatized of criminal offenders. So, it is unsurprising that family members and partners of registrants experience significant courtesy stigma.

Members of the public frequently assign blame to the families of those who commit sexual offenses. They feel that partners and spouses are partially to blame as they may have either known about the offense but did not report it, or they should have known that their partner was capable of committing such an offense.

Family members become unintended casualties

The experience of stigma is compounded with the harsh reality of sex offense registration. Not only have registries decisively failed to reduce reoffending or prevent sexual harm, but family members and partners of registrants have become unintended collateral damage.

Partners and spouses of sex offenders report a variety of consequences resulting from stigma and policy restrictions. Among them are:
● Social isolation and loss of their social supports
● Reduced overall well-being
● Lowered self-esteem
● Decreased mental health (e.g., higher stress, depression, and anxiety)
● Fear of losing their job or home
● Financial struggles due to their partner being unable to obtain gainful
employment
● Fear of vigilantism and harassment

Children of registrants also suffer consequences. Mandated restrictions strip registrants’ children from partaking in normal parent-child bonding activities. Oftentimes, registrants are unable to attend their children’s birthday parties, sports games, and school events. Further, the registration status can affect the children’s ability to have friends over to their home and can even restrict them from having access to internet or mobile devices. The public nature of registration also makes it easier for the children’s peers to learn of their parent’s status and can lead to bullying.

Read the remainder of the piece here at the New York Law Journal.

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4 Thoughts to “One crime; one conviction; countless injuries”

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  1. CherokeeJack

    I have personally been a victim of numerous crimes because of being on the registry. Slit tires, windows shot out of house, dog feces thrown at house, kids throwing rocks at house, vandalism, and more. I have all but stopped calling the police because they do nothing. They always tell me to fill out an online report. I did it once and was never contacted by anyone.

    On the flip side, a neighbor not on the registry called the police about a broken window on her car. Like me she had no suspect information to provide (I was told they do not come out if there is no suspect). Not 1, not 2 but 3 officers arrived to assist the lady with her complaint. They dusted for prints, took a report, looked for evidence and interviewed neighbors. But when 7 bullets were fired into my house while I was asleep, and I called 9-11, because I was on the registry (They denied that is why) I got no response.

    I pay taxes just like anyone else but I am not allowed to use the resources afforded the citizens who are not on the registry?

  2. Adam S

    As a registrant, everything in this article is 100 percent foreign to me, my kids and my spouse. I feel sorry if anyone actually experiences any of what the article says, but it is not my experience in the least.

    People must be really mean where you come from or you must have done something beyond the pale.

    1. Michael

      I think it really matters where you live. In Florida or Texas I expect this kind of behavior. Up north in the city people are still suspicious of you but not as outwardly hostile.

    2. Facts should matter

      @Adam

      I wouldn’t necessarily say consider yourself “lucky,” but you represent a less than one percent minority. I’m sure their are black people who feel they haven’t been directly impacted by racism in some form or another as well.

      Trust me when I tell you, it’s happening without your knowledge in the form of shunning, shaming and discrimination. Just because you don’t think it’s affecting you, that doesn’t mean that you’re not being used before you die.