Sex offender registration may not be an effective way of reducing sex offences, and might lead to an increase in anti- social behaviors in both the offenders and the society.
Sex offender registration is one of a set of laws that were introduced in the state of New Jersey after a little girl called Megan was sexually assaulted and killed after she had been kidnapped by her neighbor who was also a sex offender convicted twice for the crime; and had committed a similar crime a couple of months before assaulting and murdering Megan. As it follows, the term Megan Laws has become a conclusive name for all laws concerning notifications which allow the release to the public, information that can be used for identification of known and convicted sex offenders. As a result of these series of laws, the law of registering sex offenders was developed and implemented in various states. The registration of the offenders was initially established to help the government keep track or be able to follow up with the activities and the residents of individuals who had been convicted of sex crimes, including those individuals who had successfully completed their jail terms. Later on, the information and registration systems were made accessible to the public through a number of websites(Walsh,2006).
This issue resulted to a significant controversy with a number of individuals arguing that the public registration and viewing of information about sex offenders was not appropriate, and hence, should be eliminated. It was argued that these laws aimed at sex offenders may not be effective in protecting children from such crimes, but could also lead to the violation of the rights of the sex offenders and that they may also result to harassment of such people(Walsh, 2006). This paper, therefore, will look at some of the rationale or reasons that individuals gave for the argument that the sex offender registration should be eliminated.
One of the reasons I think criminals get release to live among other members of the public and to interact with them after they have served their term for their offences is to make them feel accepted in the society, and in the process enable them to reform their behaviors. In most cases, it is hard to tell that some individuals have served time in prison or not. However, this is not usually the case with convicted sex offenders. They are never free to interact with the public and they are not allowed to interact with other individuals, nor are they free to obtain employment for themselves and their families. The reason why convicted sex offenders and their families are so restricted is because of the fact that they are branded as bad and anti- social people because of the easily accessible information about their crimes to the public(O’Connell, Leberg&Donaldson, 1990).
Though I am completely against sex crime and related offenses, I do not necessarily support the way these individuals are treated; like outcasts and unfit to mix with the other individuals. There are a number of reasons why I believe that sex offender registration should be done away with. One of the reasons is that these registration programs do not support the societal goals and objectives to protect the liberties and freedom and are seen and understood as a violation of the human rights of the offender. As I said, I do not support sex offenses and the perpetrators of these crimes, but do you not think that these convicts have paid their debt to the society by serving their time in jail. It is my belief that no one should be subjected to further punishment than they need. If the state thinks or feels that such convicts were still a threat to the society, then it would be better to keep them in prison away from the torture of being unable to live freely in their homes and communities. Registration, to me, imposes on the sex offenders a double punishment on the convicted offender, something that other categories of offenders do not go through, and to me this is not right(Henderson, 1995).
Another reason I think sex offender registration should be eliminated is because of the kind of message the society send to the offenders when they register and expose them to the society. As I had already indicated, offenders, whatever category they might belong to, must be guided into reforming by the support and acceptance of the society. When we register and expose the sex offenders for all to see, we are telling them that we do not trust them, that they are dangerous and bad people who should not be living in the same society as the other people. Such a message can be detrimental in reforming these offenders as it can go against the efforts the society puts to rehabilitate the offenders, and can encourage the development of behavior that is antisocial from them. For example, they can use the law that isolates and segregates them to rationalize further crimes by thinking to themselves that they are sex offenders who cannot control themselves because the law and the society says so(Montana, 1996). Other disadvantages that can emanate from the offenders feeling that they are not trusted is that they can decide to change their identities and move to other locations were they cannot be easily identified making it hard for the laws to keep track of them and their behavior. This can make the investigation of crimes extremely difficult. This can also make it hard for them to be rehabilitated because they will be far away from people and professionals who know them like psychologists and psychiatrics(O’Connell, Leberg&Donaldson, 1990).
There are other minor reasons why I think this kind of registration should be eliminated. One reason is that it gives citizens a sense of security that is false(Schram& Milloy, 1995). It is obvious that most convicted sex offenders do not necessarily have to appear on this registration. It has, for example, been pointed out that most of the offenders give information that is incorrect during registration, or fail to register. When citizens feel like they know and can identify all sex offenders in their area, it can be dangerous because they will let their guards down when they are misled by the register to think that there are no offenders living in their area, when the reality is that there are unregisters offenders living right under their noses. Instead of registering sex offenders, I think the best way to protect children and young people from such offenders is to train both parents and children how to avoid and protect themselves from sex offenders. This, to me, is the most effective way to keep sex offenders away when compared to registering the offenders.
Another minor reason supporting the elimination of registration of sex offenders is the fact that registration and exposing of sex offenders to the public can create and encourage a vigilante mentality in the minds of the public(Schram& Milloy, 1995). In most cases, when someone is pointed or said to be bad for the community and a threat to the children, the only likely response that will result from the neighbors and surrounding public is to take action against such a person. The registration of sex offenders, therefore, can put them under risk of being met with violence r being harassed by member of the public who do not want them around. This violence or harassment might even be extended to the family of the sex offender.
The over concentration of protecting ourselves from sex offenders and related crimes might make us forget that other crimes do exist(Schram& Milloy, 1995). We might then relax and forget to protect ourselves accordingly just because we have protected ourselves against sex offenders. Registration of convicted sex offenders, therefore, might mislead us to think that we should only fear and protect ourselves against sex crimes while there are more serious and dangerous crimes larking in the dark.
I have presented in the above paragraphs some of the reasons why I think that sex offenders’ registration should be eliminated. These reasons had more or less to do with harassment of the offenders, violation of their rights, false security, and encouragement of more offences through isolation of these offenders. There are numerous other reasons that might apply to this argument that have not been mentioned. One thing that the reader should never lose grip of while reading the above passage, is that sex offencesare serious crimesmust be harshly addressed.
Henderson, A. (1995). The scarlet criminal. Governing, 35-38.Montana, N. (1996). An ineffective weapon. Criminal Law Bulletin, 31(2): 151-60.
O’Connell, M.A., Leberg,E.&Donaldson, C.R.(1990).Working with Sex Offenders:Guidelines for Therapist Selection. Newbury Park, California: Sage Publications.
Schram, D.D.& Milloy, C.D. (1995). Community Notification: A Study of Offender Characteristics and Recidivism. Seattle, Washington:Urban Policy Research.
Walsh, A. (2006). Child Protection and Safety Act (2006), Public Law 109-248, U.S. Statutes at Large 120: 587.
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