Before the FBI created the National Sex Offender Registry in 1996 there was no single source for identifying sex offenders. These people were part of society, known mostly to their victims and friends and family. At the inception of the registry, it was intended to federally monitor convicted offenders in a more organized and efficient way. It has since evolved into a state monitoring system as well. Every state has a registry and state laws impact the way the registry works for offenders. This evolution has led to some debate regarding the merit of the sex offender registry.
Although the registry has its advantages, many people see it as a problem. One of the biggest problems cited is people who are wrongfully convicted. Without a sex crime attorney you can rely on, you may not be getting a fair fighting chance. Another big problem is privacy. Thanks to the Internet, anyone anywhere can look up sex offenders, where they live and what they were convicted for in a few short Google seconds. This may lead to the ostracizing or harassment of an offender by community members. Sometimes those who society keeps on the fringes are encouraged to continue deviant behavior because they have little to no support. The mental health of sex offenders is also part of the counter-argument for the sex offender registry. Humans need social interaction, and if offenders are denied access to their communities, gainful employment in their field, families and residency, there is potential for declining mental health.
When it comes to juvenile sex offenders, the plot further thickens. As society advances and laws try to keep up, young people often get caught in the crossfire. The mistakes of youth can create a lifetime of regret as far as the registry is concerned. Something as simple as sending a nude selfie or having consensual sex with another teen can lead to a sex offense and having to register. Their lives are forever changed and they’re not allowed to learn from a mistake and move on. They’re not given the chance to move into adulthood in a viable way that supports their integration into adult life. Adolescent sexual experimentation shouldn’t always come with a life sentence or stigma attached.
Human Rights Infringements
Even the most heinous of criminals is still a human being and entitled to be treated humanely. This means having the ability to live peaceably, privacy, an adequate standard of living and more. Some say that the registry infringes on the human rights of registrants. The sex offender registry hinders people’s ability to provide for themselves and their families. The restrictions placed on sex offenders make living comfortably more difficult.
There is a lot of unintended harm that comes to those who are forced to become registered sex offenders. Although it is convenient to have a registry to keep better track of these individuals, perhaps the system could use some overhauling. More harm than good seems to be coming from the registry in its current form. Reformation is necessary.