Sex offender registries have been in the news lately as media outlets have been questioning why billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who was convicted of sexually assaulting a minor female, was able to largely elude the penalty of being on a sex offender registry by maintaining residences in states that did not require him to register.
This then begs the bigger question – what do these sex registries accomplish and do they work to keep our children safe?
Do sex offender registries prevent sex abuse?
As with most things, the answer is complicated – but researchers overwhelmingly agree that in general the answer is “no”. While there is some evidence that suggests that registries may act as a deterrent for new sex crimes, overall research has demonstrated that these laws do little to nothing to reduce reoffending. In fact a study using the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) data examined the number of reported rapes after the institution of registration laws in 10 states and found that reported rapes decreased in three states, stayed the same in six states and actually increased in one state leading the researchers to conclude that overall there was no systemic influence of sex offender registries on the rate of reported rape.