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Abolish the sex offender registry

[ – 4/29/19]

It’s not easy to come to the defense of nonviolent sex offenders. Any lawmaker that considers reforming the excessively-punitive registry will start out on the losing side of the public’s perception. For starters, there is an erroneous assumption that the registry entirely comprises of rapists and pedophiles. On top of that, sex offender registration has become somewhat of a throwaway issue. Who cares about anyone on the registry? They did something, and that’s their punishment.

However, our inability to think critically about sex offender registration is causing undue legal and moral repercussions upon convicted people. We should care because many offenders were convicted under consensual circumstances that any reasonable society wouldn’t penalize in this way. All states have sex offender registries, as mandated by a series of federal laws in the 1990s, but each state has different opinions on what situations amount to a sex offense. Many situations do not at all fit the pathological predator theme that the public associates with the entire registry.

For example, the Department of Justice estimates that there are at least 89,000 minors on sex offender registries. Just process that for a second. Many of these offenses are nonviolent and fairly normative. Indecent exposure and sexting are some examples of teenage behavior that has landed defendents on the sex offender registry. Note the case of a 15-year-old in Pennsylvania who was charged with manufacturing and disseminating child pornography after taking explicit pictures of herself and sharing them. Or a couple of 14-year-old boys in New Jersey who pulled down their pants and sat on two 12-year-old boys. These may be stupid decisions, sure, but do they justify these kids being registered as sex offenders? Probably not.

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ACSOL posted this well written and thoughtful editorial on the website in order to attract comments from website visitors about the elimination of the registry in the U.S. at this time. Is it possible? Should it be a goal? Or should we continue our incremental approach to improve the registry? What do you think?


In short, continue with both efforts, i.e. complete abolishing and refining until such time, with all means and methods necessary. Never give up the goal or the fight. It is possible.

As I reread an article on The Appeal website last night in my feed about the registry concept for more than just sex violations, the thought is this concept is acceptable despite the long term damage. That’s wrong even though it may not be felt that way until more are caught up in one and feel the pain.

Just my two cents…

I think you’ll get some responses/opinions, lol. I definitely think elimination of the Registries should be the main, key goal. I’m not sure how soon or if that will be possible. Doesn’t seem as if facts are the most important part of that. Personally, I think a large majority of people need to come to the belief that supporting Registries is something that only dumb, uninformed people do. I see the “incremental approach” as mostly just continuing to fight off the legislators, law enforcement, etc. as they continue to try to commit new crimes. I don’t see how that part… Read more »

@Will Allen:
“Doesn’t seem as if facts are the most important part of that.”
Your words reminded me of a quote I read yesterday regarding India’s army claiming it found Yeti footprints in the Himalayas. A skeptical scientist opined, “[y]ou can’t kill a legend [or myth] with anything as mundane as facts” (alterations added). Bingo! This is the exactly with which we’re dealing: myth and legend vs. mundane facts.

I’ve been arguing with various people just about every day for a few weeks now and I just continue to be shocked at how they seem to have no concern at all for facts or reality. Most of them do not seem very bright at all though. I do believe that the more intelligent a person is, the less likely it is that they will support Registries. The people I’ve been arguing with say they want to know who has committed a $EX crime. They cannot, in any way, explain how that is useful for them to know or how… Read more »

My husband and I agree that the registry is totally absurd and destroys more that helps but the population is ignorant and ignorance is dangerous. To educate people, it is great but only intelligent and open-minded people will be receptive. The registry just became a big garbage bag, people do not even know what is really in that “bag”. We do feel for the father of Megan who lost his daughter and it is terrible but to punish everybody for it will not make her living again and will punish so many innocent people often for life. Their lives, career,… Read more »

If there is no way to do both at once, then I think the time is finally right to attack the entire scheme. Based on SCOTUS quotes from cases over the last few year’s, such as Packingham’s “troubling fact” that registration and restrictions contunue after the period of judicially decided supervision ends, now is the time to strike. As I have said many times, the scope of Constitional violations is unprecedented and reqires a new approach. It can’t be just the same old re-hash of ex post facto or even cruel and unusual punishment challenges. We need the rarely used… Read more »

@ Janice: To start, thank you for your efforts and actions. I anticipate this will be a long post, and please don’t misconstrue it as a swipe against all you have accomplished and your continuing efforts in this ridiculously uphill climb. The registry must be abolished. Despite public appearance and perception, it has not accomplished one single thing beyond the stigmatization, harassment, and (legalized) discrimination of residents and their family members. It was flawed from its inception, beginning with Paul Kramer’s claim that Megan Kanka would be alive today had that law been in effect, belied by the FACT –… Read more »

A very educated man, Barack Obama, signed into law an absurd bill that hurt millions. A educated governor, Jerry Brown, won’t even consider pardons for sex offenders. If these people, with the power and position in office to make a definite change won’t do it, then You mine as well think peeing in the wind won’t get you wet, because you are truly dreamin’ to believe the registry will get anything but worse. Even a boulder rolling down hill will slow down a time or two. Just as the registry will make a few detours to allow the perception that… Read more »

This is a really terrible piece that wants to further cleave registrants into camps for the purpose of attaining relief for some while denigrating and continuing to marginalize others.

It is an appeal to ignorance, i.e. ignorance of what constitutes “sexual violence” and the nature of “pedophilia.”

So no, I’m not on-board with this statement.

I had similar thoughts when I read it yesterday, but didn’t have time to reply. The author started off by dividing “sex offenders” into nonviolent and violent categories, implying that the latter is comprised of “rapists and pedophiles”, and only the former is worthy of legislative efforts toward registry reform. He did not explain or question the meaning of “violent offender”. Is the reader to simply accept the state’s designation of a violent offender or a violent criminal act? Such normally derives from the statutory language used to define a criminal act, not on a determination based on the facts… Read more »

CR, my thoughts precisely! I’m afraid that this is shaping up to be the new norm in our community, i.e. throwing the “bad” ones under the bus while knowing remarkably little about whether they are actually bad or not. This is why I also have very serious skepticism about the assurances that the “relieved” will continue to come to the aid of the “unrelieved” in a dynamic and gradualist legal process. If they lack the energy and inclination to challenge media stereotypes about “pedophiles” and “sexual violence” before attaining relief for themselves then I am not terribly optimistic that they… Read more »

What is like on the ROS? Well, it’s hell. I’m a prisoner in my own home. I have no friends. I get harassed at work. I worry every day about some vigilante targeting me. I was suppose to be on the ROS for 15 years, ending in 2021. I couldn’t wait. Now our Attorney General decided if there were 2 or more counts, the ROS was for a lifetime. I’m beside myself, I can barely cope. Life as I know it has ended. I worked hard to change my ways. I came along way, now I have no hope, nor… Read more »

I know life and Registering can be very tough at time but f*ck all that. I’ve been Registering for over 2 decades and I think the “secret” is simply to keep busting it until you have the life that you want. Don’t let other people have your life. F*ck them. I do think the primary purpose of the Registries and the main reason that it is exists is for hate. The key thing that Registries do best is to create hate and kill empathy, compassion, and remorse. I truly think if I were to design an idiotic, immoral, counterproductive social… Read more »

Will, the registering once a year is not a problem for me. I’m on CSL. It’s the endless “as if I’m on parole” that sucks. They come visit at least twice a month. Here they ask, any warrants, any contacts with children. Then go away unless I ask questions. I always do. Not questions they want to hear but questions like “what’s the recidivism rate for us/me?. Did you save a child today? If I wasn’t here according to your verbal curfew, what prevented a new sex crime? They, PO fucks, just want to write in their little log that… Read more »

Thanks for the post Will, it helps to read something like that.

I’m going to talk to a lawyer to see if I can petition to be removed from it. It just doesn’t seem fair that it can be extended to life, when I’ve complied and have done nothing wrong. It’s a never ending punishment.

” Life as I know it has ended.” That as I know it has been true. Some choose suicide and I really don’t blame them. Some choose to fight these ridiculous laws and live in a society of “media induced unreality”. I have considered suicide, as others have. I’m still here though, I don’t know why. Probably because I know all this bullshit is wrong and fight, question, and even retaliate against those idiots. It’s tough.


It’s hard to fight the system. They have all the power and can change the rules. That’s what they did to me. From being on the SOR for 15 years to life. If I violated, shame on me. I didn’t though. Somehow, that seems unconstitutional.

I’m talking with a lawyer soon. I’ll have to see what that brings.

The injustice of the Registries continue:

We’re it not for the Registries, these two men would not have faced arrest and would not have had their faces splashed all over the media. This is morally repugnant what we are doing to our own neighbors & fellow citizens.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x