Tuesday, August 1, 2006

National Sex Offender Public Registry

The Department of Justice hosts a National Sex Offender Public Registry. This site allows users to search sex offender registries from several states or all states at once. A statement cautions that information might be out of date or inaccurate.

Users must agree to conditions of use and are warned: "Any person who uses information contained in or accessed through this Website to threaten, intimidate, or harass any individual, including registrants or family members, or who otherwise misuses this information, may be subject to criminal prosecution or civil liability under federal and/or state law."

A year ago, this site was introduced with data from 22 states. (Press release July 20, 2005.) Now, with the addition of Florida and Oregon, all fifty states are included. (Press release July 3, 2006.)

I'm reminded of an essay I read in Legal Affairs by a person (a former flasher) who has to register as a sex offender. I was struck by this:

Why don't we register murderers? Drunk drivers? Batterers? People who have committed fraud?

I can't understand why people think I need to know about the guy next door who might expose his penis to my daughters but I don't need to know about the guy who went into his last neighbor's driveway and beat her with a baseball bat. Or the guy who has a drunk-driving conviction and just might come driving home drunk one day and drive through my front yard, killing someone. It defies reason. I've read recent studies that say that sexual abuse constitutes around 10 percent of all child abuse. Where is the rampant emotional hysteria about the real abuse? Let's register the emotional and physical abusers.
Robert J., Ex-Offender, Legal Affairs, Sept./Oct. 2003. I don't buy Robert J.'s apparent suggestion that sexual abuse is not "real abuse" -- but I do see his point. If we want to worry about people who could endanger us, the field is much larger than just sex offenders.

Robert J. concludes by recommending that we register no one -- and that citizens understand that anyone can commit a sex offense. "Not understanding that and relying on a registry to target a few individuals is what puts you at risk." Id.

Food for thought.

Filed in: , ,

No comments: