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The Inequity of Sex Offender Registries

There are more than 900,000 people on the sex offenders registry and growing, but studies show that the sex offender registries do not reduce recidivism and prevent sex crimes and laws restricting where offenders can find housing and employment make it almost impossible for many on the registry to reintegrate into society, ostracizing them and essentially creating a life sentence for those who have already paid for their crimes and in some cases, first time offenders.

Guy Hamilton-Smith, a legal fellow for the Sex Offense Litigation and Policy Resource Center at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law, joined The Takeaway to talk about sex offender registries. Listen to the Full Interview

Note: Guy Hamilton-Smith was a Speaker at the 2019 ACSOL Conference

Join the discussion

  1. E

    Interesting that even in an evenhanded interview like this one on NPR, the host when talking about someone she knows being victimized and desiring retribution so clearly just assumes the registry is part of someone’s punishment. The nuance of collateral consequences, while WE talk about it a lot, is entirely lost in this conversation because it’s completely non-intuitive. Even with well educated journalists.

    Kudos to Guy. Thanks for being a good spokesperson.

    • Tim in WI

      You sir hitt the mail in the head. The ” nuance ” of distinguishing a collateral consequence from direct consequence is the grey legal area non lawyers can’t figure. The NACDL has made issue of it on many occasions, but common folks could care less, especially for sex offenders.
      As a fellow citizen you need to understand you are living in indentured servitude to a God damn government database. Plain and simple. I’m in the same boat. Most cannot even wrap their heads around that one, to include anti registry advocates. Free men in a free society are paid wages to maintain databases ( machines). With offenders it is the inverse disposition whereby they are subservient against their free will, dignity and liberty. As the minority stated in DOE!
      UNQUESTIONABLY PUNITIVE, but here were are. Who benefits most? Hint: it’s not the people.
      FB is s about to settle with FTC for a reported 5 Billion, but no victim will see a dime of that$.
      You can get your house ” certain conditions” of silence of hidden acts will be associated with this settlement.

      Just the way them that own the plantation like it.

      • Will Allen

        Sir, I love your passion but I have to say that I have a hard time following your posts often. Maybe you could spell things out with a little more detail? Help us dummies? Talk to us like we don’t know what you are talking about.

        • AJ

          @Tim in WI:
          I’m with @Will Allen on this one. The handful of times I try to read your posts, my eyes glaze over. I smell a whiff of a good message in there, I’m just not inclined to parse the peculiar syntax and capitalization to figure it out.

        • Tim in WI

          Will Allen, AJ,
          most folks have a hard time understanding the true nature of a database. It is a machine programmed by humans There are many many iterations of this particular machine.
          Without a database no computers could be PERIOD.

          FIRST stop referring to it as a “registry!”
          Sex offender registry = sex offender database.
          By calling it “a registry” you distort truth.

          It is a machine and we are all indentured to them ( SOR) databases. We don’t just have our photos and personal data STORED on them, we are compelled by Law to maintain the data compiled on states machine. Do you get that much of it?
          You ( we) are slaves, living in slavery – to a machine that works anti-liberty in your day to day life. Do you get that much?

          Many offenders complain registration is unconstitutional. but few can explain WHY?
          Some say it’s this issue, some say it’s that issue that makes it unconstitutional ( as did the 9th circuit orignally) but none really get to the heart of it.The

          Inequity indeed
          HUMAN SUBSERVIENCE TO MACHINE DATABASE ( Not by choice, but by law)
          Unlike SOR Agents whom are paid damn good wages to upkeep the machine YOU are forced to pay ( the inverse) to maintain it. By law forced to disclose your own (commodity) personal data to the machine be input & exploited. (By design) I’ve had jobs where my role is to interface milling machines with their operating systems. I got paid well for it. CNC reprogramming, so it works better.

          If Congress had (instead of SORNA) opted to make registrants walk on a treadmill ( a machine)AFTER completing their sentence it would be far easier to expose and explain the obvious deprivation experienced to others. Because these database machines operate in the background they are not as obvious and thus more difficult to expose deprivation. But being somewhat hidden does not impact the effect and outcomes wrought by their true use and misuse. WE SEE IT EVERYWHERE TODAY.

          FB, Google and all the rest, all collect data (volunteered) by users. Most FB users are clueless to what is actually being done with their information data. Some are still oblivious to the collection itself. But they will find out eventually, but for now many remain blissfully ignorant pumping more and more information onto their platforms. Data firms love free data.

          If it would have been disclosed to the public in the 1980s that our government intended to store every citizens information on government databases a certain revolt would have occurred. The big data brokers would’ve been run out of town, so they needed another way into changing public opinion. They found their scapegoat in the sex offender. How useful are these machines to political security. Read this article.


        • Will Allen

          @Tim in WI:

          I don’t have time right now to really parse and think about this comment. But I’ll try to say some sensible things about it.

          I understand 150% what a database is. I don’t get your obsession with it.

          Computers do not need databases. They can function just fine without them and do tons of useful things.

          A computerized database is nothing more than a better way to store data (philosophical discussions aside). Before computers, the law enforcement criminals surely Registered people by just writing the information on paper and storing it. Now they just write it into a computer. I don’t see any significant difference except that computers have made it a lot easier. And obviously can process the data a lot more easily and clearly.

          I’m not opposed to government databases. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’d fully support requiring every person in the U.S. to give government a DNA sample for a national database. It would just be so, so freaking useful. I’m really against crime so I’d be down with being able to ID anyone with DNA. People would try to screw with it of course, but would just have to work on that.

          I agree that the word “registry” is too kind and wrong. I often call it the ‘”$EX offender” hit list’. I would love it if all of the millions of anti-Registry Americans in the U.S. would agree on a single, disparaging term for the Registries and use it all the time, exclusively. I think branding is incredibly important and that would have very good, long effects.

          In the meantime, “Registries” is pretty accurate. But they should never be shown anything but contempt and disrespect.

          Oh yeah, just remembered the part about “constitutional”. I don’t care about that argument much one way or another, except only to the extent that it would get the Registries destroyed. Maybe Registries are constitutional, I don’t care, they are wrong. Immoral. Not needed. Not beneficial. Not American. Overall, a HUGE net loss inflicted on all of Amerika.

        • New Person

          @Tim in WI

          You wrote:
          FIRST stop referring to it as a “registry!”
          Sex offender registry = sex offender database.
          By calling it “a registry” you distort truth.

          In today’s atmosphere, we can classify this scheme as “doxing”. Doxing in California is considered a form of cyberstalking. Cyberstalking is a subset of stalking. California Penal Code 646.9 is an anti-stalking law.

          The registry harasses people convicted of a sex crime under penalty of law to update their own personal information to be “doxed” for any person to treat the convicted (or non-convicted for those who cases are dismissed) to be treated as a threat, as a second class citizen, and to have restrictions levied upon them that no other group of previously convicted persons share. The California Govt doxes the information to businesses and housing areas to prevent acquiring occupations and housing.

          With the newly passed IML, the California gov’t doxes this information to identify you as a current threat. Your freedom to travel abroad is compromised on behalf the US Govt, supplied by the California Gov’t. Your freedom is compromised via interstate as you have to self-dox yourself to your new state or city. Case in point, the city of Las Vegas has a short period of time to register as opposed to the state of Nevada.

          With nearly a million people on the registry, has the doxing scheme reduce the intended end goal? No because it is still growing. Also, some people on this doxing scheme have been murdered. Save one child, but that same equality of the right to live isn’t extended to those on the doxing scheme. How many on the doxing scheme have been murdered b/c of being doxed? Isn’t just having one person getting murdered from the doxing scheme proof that the doxing scheme is a threat to all those on the doxing scheme? No? How about a dozen murders on people on the doxing scheme, is that enough proof that the doxing scheme is a threat to all on those doxing scheme? How many more deaths does it have to take for people on the doxing scheme to prove the doxing scheme is a threat to life?

          It’s quite hypocritical for California to have a anti-stalking laws, but promotes a stalking scheme that identifies everyone on there as a current threat. What if your case is dismissed? Isn’t that a defamation of character since one of the immunities provided by California’s PC 1203.4 states that the information or accusation against the defendant is dismissed. In essence, the state says you didn’t commit a crime because your case is dismissed, but you remain a threat to society. How can this duality exist? No other set of convicts who earn PC 1203.4 are deemed a threat to society such as having living restrictions, travel restrictions, and job restrictions.

        • AJ

          @Tim in WI:
          I would write a whole bunch in retort, but I’d mostly be parroting what @Will Allen said. I will say that the claim, “most folks have a hard time understanding the true nature of a database,” is baseless and without data to support it. Even if it were so, I’m not most people and I understand databases quite well, tyvm. (Ahh, the good old days of dBASE.)

          That said, let’s look at a couple definitions:
          —>Database: a usually large collection of data organized especially for rapid search and retrieval (as by a computer) (
          Note that nowhere in the definition is any mention of presenting the data. That would be another word, such as…
          —>Registry: a book or system for keeping an official list or record of items ( — scroll down to find this particular definition).
          Inside this definition is mention of a “record of items.” You know what that is? That would be the items in a database. Whether or not one likes it, registry is indeed a proper term for the presented data.

          Beyond that, your programming CNC machines probably only had minor involvement with a database. Yes measurements, distances, coordinates and the like are stored, but big whoop. That hardly makes you an expert on databases. If you can start talking about Pivot Tables and SQL, I might start believing…and listening.

          You still haven’t addressed the peculiar way you choose to capitalize words. Is that supposed to mean something to the reader? Are you shouting those words? If I read just those words, will I find some hidden message? I don’t get it.

          Lastly and just to be a devil’s advocate, show me where it says “enslaving” someone to a database is against the law or unconstitutional. Are you a slave when you register to vote (if allowed)? Are you a slave when you sign up for an airline’s frequent flyer program? Are you a slave when you get a driver’s license? Were you a slave before computers were widely used, or is this somehow viewed as only a modern-day issue? In every instance asked, you’re supplying data which is incorporated into a database.

          I guess I should actually be saying thank you. I now know I can spare myself the glazed eyes.

  2. Tim in WI

    Who takes the worst of their flock and advertises it to the rest of the world? Good for short term political gain but bad for the bottom line. This no rancher or farmer in their right mind would do so. A destructive moronic public policy plain and simple.

  3. Facts should matter

    We’ll never be in the clear or have true peace thanks to the rabble-rousing lawmakers who believe they’re appeasing the “will of the people.” We’re a product and unwarranted fear is the commodity they’re exploiting. Until that cycle is thwarted, I don’t see an off ramp – besides death.


  4. Tim in WI

    I t is not the database itself. It is their USE & misuses by government actors ( and private firms)I point to.

    I know everyone is infatuated with bells and whistles. Love makes you blind. SOR is unconstitutional precisely by rendering human subservient ( just a bit) to machine.
    That is were it starts ( subservience to some) but the notion will grow and expand.

    One may not dispute a state’s sovereign right to maintain a database of convicted bad actors.
    One may however confront the accuracy, efficacy and intent underlying it’s promulgation.
    Affirmative disability and restraint IS AND ALWAYS WAS going to be imposed by it, because that was the underlying protracted intent. In Fact without having the SOR databases no enforcement of residence restriction could be imposed at all. The purpose exposed- the clearest proof. Speech and peaceful assembly are being affected by TOS. Public opinion is almost entirely formed by what big media advances as TRUTH.
    A truth is human sex offenders are indentured, not to a prisons maintenance, but to a machines maintenance that works anti-liberty in their day to day lives. Invisible electronic bars used to impose affirmative restraint.
    Firms and GOV is already using them for nefarious purposes, or to gain political advantages.
    Google, FB and the rest are manipulating what the people see, read.

  5. Tim in WI

    Registry – an official record – fine.
    This ” registry” is not just an official record. It goes way beyond!
    1) Voter registry – so you may vote ( or not)
    2) SOR databases – so registrants may not. Period!

    Huge difference between promoting liberty and working anti liberty.

    states could have opted to build individual pages of offenders ( as the SOR does now)
    But demanded registrants interface and update their pages themselves ( like FB does by individuals volition) instead of hiring SOR agents to do so. However IF that option had been selected the registrant would have been necessarily required ” to show up in person ” when updating. Yes The updates could occur from inside a home, via PC, but still qualify as ” in person reporting. “

  6. Tim in WI

    AJ, CR, New Person, Will Allen.
    Who collects data points without intend to use it for presentation of some side-by-side else why bother collecting in the first place. Some states refer to it properly. State X’s database of child molesters and kidnappers.
    The sex offender registry term is a misnomer used to distort underlying intent and appear less big brotherish. It is far more than a list, log, or merely an official list. It goes way beyond that, far beyond in that registrants are indentured to the upkeep of other information ( not conviction). To have a list of official log of those convicted , no problem, to demand personal information not attainable by LE without warrant is untenable constitutionally.
    Agent, SOR want email addresses from registrants with no intent to communicate with registrants via email? Answer Yes.
    Agent the SOR collection demand of email addresses are for purposes other than or outside emails normal use?
    Answer Yes.
    What other purposes Agent?

    • New Person

      @ Tim in WI,

      Mike R tried to use the involuntary servitude aspect, but the GA sidestepped it by refuting it with legal involuntary servitude with jury duty and military service. Yet I don’t think it was presented correctly as the registry is only applied after conviction and only to one set of criminals. Jury duty and military service are applied to all citizens, but the registry is not. Road work is applied to those under custody, but the registry is applied to those that are no longer under custody.

      Compound that with direct verbiage of Involuntary servitude is prohibited, “except as punishment for a crime.” The registry only exists after conviction. By layman extrapolation, the only legal involuntary servitude is only for punishment. Since the registry isn’t punishment, then the scheme falls into involuntary servitude. That should be the first point to acknowledge that the registry is involuntary servitude applied to someone no longer under custody.

      Now, the California AG stated there are legal forms of involuntary servitude, but context matters. It’s very important to identify differences. Jury duty, military service, and tax reporting is applied to all citizens. Jury duty and Military services pays for your service. Tax reporting does not require in-person reporting. Again, jury duty, military service, and tax reporting is applied to all citizens whereas the registry is applied only after conviction.

      That leaves road work being the last known example of legal involuntary servitude, but that road work is under custody and is considered punishment. Punishment is legal involuntary servitude. Thus, the difference here is road work is punishment and the registry is not punishment applied to those convicted no longer under custody.

      But with the current problems coming up that doxing (sharing of privacy information) is illegal, especially in California, also referred to as stalking. Penal code 646.9.
      (a) Any person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or willfully and maliciously harasses another person and who makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family is guilty of the crime of stalking, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment, or by imprisonment in the state prison.

      With reports that homicide have occurred by using the registry, the fear exists that anyone on the registry is placed in credible threat. Thus, the state government is the “person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or willfully and maliciously harasses another person and makes a credible threat”. Since everyone on the registry is treated as a special group, then one attack upon that special group is an attack on the whole group.

      This doxing also lends itself to doxing at the national level by harassing those registered with international travel with the IML, International Megan’s List/Law. The US Government has given implications to the world that those on the registry are current threats, thus opening the possibility of individuals to commit murder.

      No other set of convicts are doxed. This only is applied to those convicted of a sex crime (including those no longer convicted of a sex crime).

      • norman

        @New Person…I like ur thinking..Please keep posting as I will keep reading..

        • Tim in WI

          I agree he has good ideas to confront the issue. But to conflate registering for the draft: a one time registration the permits you to serve your nation’s defense works liberty – so that you may be a soldier.
          Registering to vote – so that you may vote.
          SORNA purpose and intent is a database to impose affirmative restraint. So you may not attack, or to go chuch, or live in a neighborhood, keep employment, use Fb, have surveillance cameras that capture minors in anyway etc, etc.

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