NARSOL calls for end to sex offender registries
Cites overwhelming evidence of ineffectiveness after a quarter century
Why do we have sex offender registries?
Patty Wetterling, the mother of Jacob Wetterling, was largely responsible for the creation of such a registry in 1994 after Jacob was abducted in 1989. As early as 2007 she was questioning the wisdom of the registry.
In a published essay she penned in 2007, she wrote, “. . . I’m worried that we’re focusing so much energy on naming and shaming convicted sex offenders that we’re not doing as much as we should to protect our children from other real threats. Many states make former offenders register for life, restrict where they can live, and make their details known to the public. And yet evidence suggests that these laws may do more harm than good.”
This is what we need to be about, protecting our children, and for that we need facts and truth and laws based on them, not on emotion, especially not emotion in the face of tragedy.
Responding to a Human Rights Watch report, Patty said, “The researchers examined whether we are building safer communities with these laws, and what issues policy-makers should consider. HRW found that many laws may not prevent sexual attacks on children, but do lead to harassment, ostracism and even violence against former offenders. That makes it nearly impossible to rehabilitate those people and reintegrate them safely into their communities . . .”
Years later, in 2016, she said this: “What we really want is no more victims. Don’t do it again. So, how can we get there? Locking them up forever, labeling them, and not allowing them community support doesn’t work. I’ve turned 180 (degrees) from where I was.”
The abduction and murder of Polly Klaas in 1993 was coincidentally and horrifically timed to add fuel to the creation of the sex offender registry. Kidnapped from a slumber party in her own home with her sleeping mother in the house, Polly was molested, strangled, and not found for two months.
Her parents, especially her father Marc, became a large part of the public face of the drive to create a registry. His fervor has not wavered.
Polly’s two sisters Jess and Annie Nichol, however, have made their own 180 degree turn from their father’s views and closed ranks with those of Patty Wetterling, with their criticism going further, saying, “We don’t want our pain to be used to punish anyone else.” In addition to overly-punitive laws, they address the issues of mass incarceration and racial inequality.
According to their October 2022 interview with the Guardian, “They say they want a different criminal justice system, one that focuses on preventing violence; accountability, treatment and rehabilitation for people who cause harm; and care and services for survivors.”
They feel we are on the brink of enacting harsher laws and moving further and further away from what Patty Wetterling learned through research, that the laws that created the sex offender registry and all that it has spawned embody the opposite of what is needed for improved public safety.
Why then do we have a sex offender registry?
The premise on which the entire thing is built, frightening and high sexual offense recidivism, is a lie.
The most comprehensive post-incarceration sexual offense recidivism study ever done shows a 5.3 percent rearrest rate for a sexual offense with a 3.5 reconviction rate.
The collateral consequences for registrants, their partners, and their children are devastating.
Where they are present, restrictions on where persons on the registry may live, work, and be and other blanket restrictions and exclusions affecting all registrants virtually assure rehabilitative failure to varying degrees, some drastically due to homelessness.
The registry, “sold” as a tool to help keep children safe, registers children as young as nine, often for age-appropriate curiosity, and causes them irreparable harm.
Jacob’s and Polly’s abductions are rare exceptions; the vast, vast majority of sexual abuse of minors occurs within the “circle of trust” of family, peers, and authority figures, persons who won’t be found on a sex registry.
Every scholarly work done on the subject of sex offender registries finds them ineffective at lowering recidivism, protecting children, or providing a safer society and finds that often an outcome opposite to what is desired is produced.
Members of two of the families who were instrumental in creating it, who suffered unimaginable tragedies, now denounce the registry for a variety of reasons.
So . . . WHY do we have sex offender registries?
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.
38 Thoughts to “Press Release: NARSOL calls for end to sex offender registries”
I firmly believe the constitutionality of the registry will appear before the US Supreme Court at some point. Conflicting opinions in the circuit courts and state supreme courts will eventually make it so it cannot be ignored.
It might be helpful to compile the opinions of retired judges. I’ve read about several over the last few years that are now pretty open to talking about the registry being unconstitutional as a whole. I used to groan that they often didn’t rule that way while they were on the bench, but understand why. They’re retired. They don’t have to worry about being re-elected (if applicable) and have no aspirations of being appointed to higher courts. It’s ironic that the whole point of appointing judges is to allow them to rule according to law and the constitution without concern about losing their seats. Elected judges are the exact opposite – prioritize public opinion over established law and precedent and risk losing the next election or being recalled (read: Aaron Persky).
The government’s over-reliance on Smith v. Doe is so easily disputed from a common sense standpoint in that no state registry bears any resemblance to the Alaska registry deemed civil beyond its name. One can’t help but marvel at the government’s linguistic gymnastics to claim otherwise.
I’m glad NARSOL has finally gotten around to opposing the registry en totem. The previous bit-by-bit approach, while understandable to an extent, Virtually every victory, big or small, was re-legislated into meaninglessness. That’s not a knock on NARSOL or any other anti-registry organization. It’s a simple statement of fact.
The current SCOTUS will take down the registry completely it’s a matter of getting a case there
If that happens, we need to take notice of how they take it down. They could allow states to institute a registry if they so desired beings they have the system in place already. Just with segregation, the registry needs to not just be taken down, but outlawed and made illegal. I think enough deaths have occurred at its existence to warrant such a standing.
We did it was called Smith. We can thank Smith for bringing his case too early to the Supreme Court so that apparently it will take decades for them to consider rehasing it again. Also, since Smith, the Court has been bombarded with as applied cases arguing againt specific details of the law as they apply to a particular person in their state. . Why we haven’t been able to come together and finance a big, facial challenge case which argues on behalf of all against the very existence of the Registry is all 50 states is unknown to me. I’ve been asking this question for years.
But the Court previously upheld a challenge to the SOR requirements.
Well written. I have found it only feeds those who believe in it and their own false ideas that is needed and working, sadly.
The entire bias of “sex” needs addressed. Not all sexual encounters are automatically of the same level of trauma as a vote driven DA would make them out to be. What is a grave trauma to 1 may not even be more than a humorous event to 9 others. But they bank on the trauma of that 1 to get that psychological damage up there. This is especially true in court where prison is most likely always the outcome of any “crime” centered on sex. This is why the registry has been able to get such a firm hold, along with lifetime parole, along with all the stipulations that exempt sex offenders from any punitive relief granted to any other guilty person. The laws themselves need to be looked at, by a NON partisan group of people. Most times the outcome of a trial isn’t what anyone wanted, even the individuals the court labels as victims. The trial then becomes all the damage inflicted upon a teenager or anyone else. Why aren’t things dealt with in a better manner? The registry must go, I agree, but there must be a shift away from all these laws that say anything sexual a teenager experiences MUST be labeled as an act worthy of them being called victims… Victims in label only, for the benefit of the state, not for them, not for any other reason. We seriously need to address this issue.
I keep reading the comments about the federal law and I want to remind you that SORNA is not a federal statute, but a state statute. The feds know that this is not lawful in accordance with the constitution. Therefore they devised a way to implement this scheme by extorting the states to do so or loose federal funding for their law enforcement agencies.
It’s all about the money folks. It’s about controlling and subjugation of the populace. There are other registries that are are on the drawing board.
It’s called incrementalism. One step at a time.
We are days away from a totalitarian government and all will be subjugated. We have lost the liberty that the founding fathers gave us. We have incrementally given up that liberty for security and as Benjamin Franklin said, Those who will give up liberty for security deserve and will receive neither.
That’s where we are today and the populace is too indoctrinated to recognize it.
Thanks for putting it in a language that is simple and straight forward.
Said bias of sex was severely challenged in the 1960s wave of “free love”. But look what happens once many of these same people got into middle age and started to get up at the time they used to go to bed.
It use upon “them and them alone” was identified by Stevens as dispositive proof of civil intent. He also opined that ” beyond paradventure ,…something else is afoot.” The sex offender was merely the path of least resistance for superimposed electronic Imperialism. No reasonable person can suggest the people cannot, constitutionally speaking, have a database of known sex criminals. However, the SOR regime goes well beyond that. Thus Souter used the phrase “…outpaces stated civil aims….”
To keep it short, it was far far more about the database (DDI use) than the violent man. The sooner NARSOL acknowledges that significant difference between having a database and enslaving humanity to its maintenance, the sooner the “Why?” gets addressed. The purveyors of same will do everything possible to defend the unfettered use and application. Just as historically the purveyors of black slavery fought to the death to defend it as a civil regulatory regime.
I have spent the last hour reading the complaints filed on behalf of registrants by the Pacific Legal Foundation ( PLF) in federal court. IMO, PLF missed an important point. The fact is, it was states who created the first online identities for registrants. They did it automatically upon enactment of the database driven regime. For many it was imposed without due processes, waived or not. That’s how you know it was far more about the database rather than the violent human.
I may not be considered reasonable anymore , constitutional imo yes , I do believe online database is unconstitutional period 4 th amendment violation and more , That’s why we need a digital bill of rights , I think it’s coming ,
Good writing and research I RESPECT IT
Here it comes and none to soon. I posted here @NARSOL stating those the organization fights against hadn’t even come out of the woodwork yet. That is about to change The collision among the two parties, DNS & the purveyors of the database are about to come to light. The rats are soon in the open. The “something else afoot” described by the most honorable J.P Stevens is about to be exposed for what it is; A treasonous plot against the people of the United States of America. As I’ve said many times, nothing could have made the people more vulnerable than to opt for the unfettered use of the database for political security.. The very instant the people sold out the sex offender the rest went too, but their vindictiveness toward male offenders and delight for the new toy blinded them to that undeniable fact. I recall sending an email to EFF.org describing the very same fact in 2005. I recall Barbara Mikulski words associating the necessity of a sex offender registry with national security and the Wetterling act and OMNIBUS 1994 in the select intelligence commitee.and as the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. What look so good then, and oh so popular, was in fact a great disservice to the people’s sovereignty. These days every 12 hours Christopher Wray has to start another new case investigation into Chinese Communist Parties cyber threats. The FBI refers to them as ” non traditional collectors ” engaged in both private and corporate espionage. The CCP are not the only culprits either. That’s the price of opting for the kinds of electronic conveniences that began with SOR.
i feel ya dude, this thing has made me whacko too!
There is to much money being made for the registry to what would politicians run on if not for saying they will make harsher laws to protect kids from sexual predators. Law shows would have to come up with new ideas as well. One can hope but don’t hold your breath.
Yet one of the chief reasons there isn’t a similar registry for, say, armed robbers, is that it would create too big an expense. But a de facto registry exists for anyone with a criminal record in the form of background checks as de rigeur for most employment including in so-called gig economy.
Lives were ruined and even lost to this scheme. Many people went on limping as best as they could, with whatever support they could get or none at all. All people are supposed to be given an equal opportunity at making a living and getting their lives straight. But the ones pulling the strings knew how to divide and conquer. Any angle that pushes the narrative for them and against you. Votes shouldn’t come at the cost of lives. All lives matter.
But if one goes out to any public place we don’t really inspect landscaping to see if registrants are among the crowd. Especially if you look old enough that you won’t get carded for alcoholic beverages.
sounds like many other other issues where the exception causes the rule…government is great at creating criminals so people can be controlled…
I agree with all of you and Tim especially. Epstein and all those that “hung” “out” with him are guilty of a sex crime. They are pathetic with their, “don’t do as I do, just do as I say” attitude and mentality. It will catch up with them if not this life but thereafter.
In my opinion, the registry is nothing but a money hungry demon. The polygraphs is concrete fact of that. How many times do we have to prove the ineffectiveness of these pathetic machines?
something should be drawn up called the List Act…showing the redacted list of epstein/maxwell clients and requiring the same redaction to the sex offender registry…this effectively removes two tier injustice…
something should be drawn up called the Honey Trap Act requiring proofs that all CIA sponsored Honey Traps have ceased to exist…
Ayn Rand quotes on government
1. There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals.
more children have been murdered by gun violence in the pass 10 yrs than the whole history of sexual attack … where is the mob like mentality to start a gun crime registry ??? Just goes to show that the sexual registry is just an emotional reaction to sexual crime and not based on statistics … If they want to truely protect children PASS gun legislation and destroy the ineffective sex registry !!! DO IT NOW!!!!
More children have died and were abused at the hands of two countries governments at least till 1969 !
Which would be the indigenous people of this country.
Nobody seems to want to talk about these facts this was in my lifetime !
But now there is a movement to abolish Columbus Day and rechristen the second Monday of October as Indigenous People’s Day.
The list itself doesn’t work as intended… instead it (potentially) puts a target on the back of the person/people who appear on the list…
The convicted has to worry about:
1. Whether someone with ill intent will take the law into their own hands,
2. Whether someone will make a unwarranted call to police just from seeing a listed person,
3. Finding a decent paying (i.e., a living wage) job so they can still afford their basic daily needs,
4. (for those who are/have gotten married and also have children) The stigma that comes to their wife and/or children simply for being associated with someone on such a list,
5. Finding a place to reside… especially where their physical safety isn’t always at risk and,
6. Being restricted in what ways they can be active in the lives of their children.
It makes things very (to the point of impossibly) hard for a person on that list to reintegrate him/herself into society… because that same society won’t ever truly let them.
Might as well then put all those forced onto the registries on a reservation somewhere.
juducial “probable cause” being replaced with subjective and limited “good cause” for votes?
Can we just file a lawsuit now? Against each state? If every registrant and their family donated a $10 bill, we could end this madness already.
Why is it taking so long?
But all 50 stated along with DC were forced to adopt a registry with minimum requirements. In much the same way they were forced to adopt the 21 minimum drinking age, which. BTW, is out of line with the rest of the world.
The real first step to getting the registry abolished would be to flood it women. Let’s face it, this registry was truly created to punish men. Let’s argue the point that the largest group of people still NEED to be added to this registry before anyone will act to abolish it. Prostitutes are not required to register as sex offenders or as what they really are, sexual predators. These people commit crimes every single day that are 1,000,000% sexual yet they never have to register. If all states create a law that places prostitutes on the registry, like lightning, we’ll see an overwhelming change in people’s attitude towards the registry because now women would be the majority of registrants and that would be counter-productive to what the originators wanted to achieve. The amount of prostitutes in this country far outnumber the amount of men on the registry in any state. Once women become the majority of registrants (by a very large margin with all the prostitutes in this country) most people will seek to abolish it. Common sense laws, removal or lightening of laws will never come to pass with politicians because they want votes. Being soft on crime never wins elections. If the state’s congress doesn’t want to abolish this list, I suggest proposing a new prostitution law that requires all people convicted for prostitution to register as sexual predators for life.
Now THAT is an excellent idea! Prostitutes prey upon men selling sexual favors which harm relationships, families as well as spreading disease. Beings we all know the registry is all about shame and not actual preventative measures, I think law makers could easily include prostitution as a registrable offense. I’d give it probably 1 – 2 yrs before the registries would be taken down. They certainly couldn’t go back and say certain offenses would no longer be required to register.
Great input on that . I read that women rarely get put on the offender list it said their less of a phyical treat but as you said diseases are a great threat aren’t they . It’s good to hear current input as in 2023 comments please keep it coming it’s so important to abolish these harse laws .
Sorry but don’t agree in this one. We need to decriminalize sex work so long as it occurs between consensual adults in private or semi-private setting and doesn’t create a public nuisance. After all, shouldn’t we have learned a century ago that prohibition doesn’t work?
Ido agree with some of the concerns made concerning this unconstitutional act called the sexual offender registry. We can only hope that our Legislators will soon wake up and not base this theory on votes and base it on treatment methods and allowing those involved a new chance to live a good and productive life. If you research to how this registry was created you will find that there were around 18 children that were either kidnapped or abducted, raped, and murdered. My heart goes out to those families who suffered this loss of a child. The point that i am trying to get to is that many sexual offense crimes are no where near to what has happened to these 18 individuals, but yet we have to suffer the same consequence. I do not condone sexual offense and feel that punishment is due if a sexual offense is committed, i also feel that like other crimes when the sentence is complete it then is done. I honestly feel our Legislators have lost sight concerning public safety to where the real threat exist. Here are just a few 1.(157,000 deaths from fentanyl) 2.(gun violence) taking a human life is true violence (WHY NOT A REGISTRY FOR THIS) The threat is there people just need to wake up and take action.