Reply To: Abolish the public sex offender registry

Edward Dragston

A single national database with up-to-date information on registered sex offenders that all states could access would significantly help track sex offenders. Tighter controls are in place for sex offenders still on parole or probation who want to move out of state. They must apply to move, and the sending state must gain the receiving state’s permission and send an alert and address when the move occurs. No similar coordination is required between states for offenders who have completed their supervision.

The U.S. Department of Justice provides a free Internet portal, sort of like a cloud database, for state registry officials to exchange information on offenders with another state.

But not all states check it and not all police agencies have access to it. It’s also not available to officers in the field.

The federal act also set up a national public website to search for sex offenders’ names, but it’s not comprehensive or up-to-date. It searches through the public websites of all states, but those vary significantly.

A private vendor is trying to fill the gap with its Offender Watch Network. Thirteen states currently pool information about sex offenders in a web database that houses all information and history associated with registered sex offenders in a jurisdiction. Two more are about to join the network.

It can generate immediate electronic alerts to police or sheriff’s deputies if sex offenders are booked into a jail anywhere in the nation. Police also can send immediate alerts to officers in other states if they know a sex offender is moving to that state.

The U.S. Marshals Service began using Offender Watch late last year. Ultimately a person can leave the boundaries of a state, but until somebody makes contact with that person, it’s virtually unknown as to where they are. If a person wants to hide, they can do so and probably for awhile. So some people will suffer under a registry, but sometimes we have to sacrifice a few to try to capture the many who slip through and go on to destroy lives over and over.

* I am sure there are exceptions, as you demonstrate on this site, but there are far too many real offenders slipping through the cracks, and too many lives being destroyed, especially children (yes a teenager is a child for all you making excuses for your lapses in judgment, alcohol problems, carelessness and too much time on your hands taking care of your own needs and not others). I am truly sorry for those of you who just suffered a momentary mistake.
Registries are a smokescreen, but if they keep even one chronic offender off the street until something better is in place, I support them. Those of you that caught on the wrong side of the law, pay your dues to society and try to make something better of your lives. Live with your scarlet letters. The victims certainly have to.