Knowing about “sex offender” rules: “Do residency restrictions make us safer?” NARSOL says no

By Sarah Jaffe . . . If you grew up in the ‘80’s, you probably heard a lot about “stranger danger.” Now, as a parent yourself, you may find yourself caught in between the desire to be a a free-range parent and making parenting decisions that stem from anxiety. It can be hard to get the balance right, and our isolated modern world, where many of us don’t know our neighbors, can only add to the anxiety. What if the neighbor across the street is an abusive person or has been convicted of a sexual offense? And what exactly are the rules — do sex offenders have to notify their neighbors?

The answer is slightly complicated, and there is state-by-state variation, but the basics are this: No matter what state you live in, no one is likely to come to your door and notify you that they’ve been convicted of a sexual offense. However, that information is public. There are also better and more productive ways to keep your kids safe than looking up everyone in your zip code who has been convicted of a sexual offense. . . .

Megan’s Law, the federal law that required that information about certain sexual offenses be made available to the public, is named for Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old who was abducted and killed by a neighbor who had previously been convicted of a sex offense against a child in 1994. The thinking behind the law was that if parents are aware of potentially dangerous people in the neighborhood, they’ll better be able to protect their children. . . .

Many states require people to register even if they committed their alleged crime when they themselves were children. Slate reports that sex offender registries have included children as young as 9 years old, and that up to 70% of sexual offenses committed against children are committed by other children. So while the phrase “sex offender” can conjure a very specific, scary image, that’s often out of step with who is actually on the registry. . . .

Do community notification laws keep children safe from sex offenders? Ample research suggests that unfortunately, no, they do not, says Sandy Rozek, board member and the communications director for the National Association for Rational Sexual Offense Laws (NARSOL). Part of NARSOL’s mission is to bring attention to the ways in which community notification laws, and other laws that restrict registered sex offenders, do not meaningfully address community safety. “A huge amount of resources are expended every year in most states at Halloween enforcing sex offender restrictions, all without a single shred of evidence showing that there is any issue at all involving registrants and Halloween but much evidence showing there is none,” Rozek tells Romper. . . .

Read the full piece here at Romper.

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2 Thoughts to “Knowing about “sex offender” rules: “Do residency restrictions make us safer?” NARSOL says no”

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  1. WC_TN

    Some may argue with me on this point, but I truly believe in my heart of hearts these laws were never designed with safety in mind. They were invented to inflict life-long pain and chaos on the one who committed the offense, particularly they had those in mind who sexually abused a young child.

    Think about this: The mantra of these victims’ rights groups have relentlessly chanted the mantra “A child who is molested lives with the trauma and pain for a lifetime while the one who abused that child MIGHT go to prison for a while and then get out and be able to go on with their lives as if nothing ever happened! What’s right about that????”

    Law-makers, whose only concerns are staying in office for as long as possible for self-empowerment and self-enrichment, were only too happy to oblige that revenge-thirsty crowd.

    All one has to do is read the comments, when available, on news articles about a vigilante killing a registrant who victimized children or inmates killing a known child molester in prison. It’s sickeningly frightening. Further proof: Look at the indifference with which law enforcement responds to reports of registrants being harassed, threatened, and assaulted or their property being repeatedly vandalized because someone in the neighborhood never wanted them there in the first place.

    Look at the city where there’s an apartment complex that rents specifically to registrants of all stripes. The city government intends to OUTRIGHT WEAPONIZE the registry law, build a pocket park for the express purpose of forcing those individuals out of the community.

    How much more evidence needs to be proffered for folks to get it that these laws were never about safety, but unending revenge for a repulsive, unmentionable crime like child molestation/

    1. H n H

      That only reinforces my belief that the laws themselves need to be addressed. What constitutes a lifelong trauma may not be the case with someone else. To elevate whatever situation into a trauma for the sole benefit of getting a conviction is flat out wrong.