Emily Horowitz Debate Podcast: Does the Sex Offender Registry Do More Harm Than Good?

Source: intelligencesquaredus.org 2/3/2023

[Note by Janice: Emily Horowitz recently did a fantastic job debating “Does the Sex Offender Registry Do More Harm Than Good?”  During the debate, Emily successfully debunked many of the myths related to registrants including the “frightening and high” rate of re-offense.  It’s important to listen to this debate in order to better understand the position of those who oppose us.  Hope you will do so soon.  Well done, Emily!]


Sexual violence is arguably the most devastating kind. And over the past few decades, the legal landscape has shifted to a more proactive stance. The Wetterling Act requires convicted offenders to register with local authorities. Megan’s Law mandates law enforcement to alert neighbors of those with past convictions in their community. And the U.S. Department of Justice consolidates convictions into a single, searchable site – all in the name of helping people avoid potential predators.

But that registry has come under increasing scrutiny. Some suggest that it actually encourages further criminal offenses by making it virtually impossible for offenders to reintegrate into society. Crimes also vary considerably – from public urination, exhibitionists, and so-called “peeping Toms,” to more severe crimes, such as sexual assault and rape.

Those differences, they say, are not adequately accounted for in the law. Others say that reducing such a proactive approach and tool will endanger communities, which have consistently supported it in the name of keeping communities safe. In this context, we debate the following question: Does the Sex Offender Registry Do More Harm Than Good?  

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Look at the cases in Washington, especially Everett where the registry is now used to harass one who has been elected and then denied his rights to represent the people. Anti hsrassment orders used to deny campaigning, attend public meetings, etc. All because I speak up about the perjury involved to deny elected PIP their rights to vote, run fir office, or serve as elected. 21st legislative district is against human rights or elected rights!

Her opponent could not hold a candle against her in the debate. He failed at each turn to establish 1) legitimacy of the registry and 2) the harm it inflicts is none.

This may sound conspiracy theory-esque but if this gent keeps this up enough, he will get funding from the Rep whose district is just south of the college office he keeps. They could be separated brothers at birth.

From my personal experience,the registry has been nothing but never ending punishment. Everything I’ve ever gained in life has been stripped right out of my hands by the registry, everything that I have ever accomplished has been crushed right before my very eyes by the registry.
They also have made it nearly impossible to re-integrate back into society, not to mention the twenty seven 290pc registration laws that they make you initial next to that could possibly send you to prison for 10-15 years.
To this day I still don’t understand how me being posted on Megan’s law keeps any one safe, I can literally get in my car in be in a whole other state state in less than four hours, how is Megan’s gonna stop me.
Another sad truth is a lot of registrants in California didn’t make it to even see a Tiered registry a lot people are serving life sentences for catching other stupid miscellaneous charges while on the registry.
So I guess we should all be grateful that we made it this far, i know it wasn’t easy BUT unfortunately this nightmare is far from over.

RE: Sex Offender Registry. SEE precedent case: Millard et al., v. Rankin, 265F. Supp. 3d 1211 (d. Colo. 2017). – The U.S. District Court held that REGISTRATION is UNCONSTITUTIONAL violating the 8th and 14th Amendments.

Emily’s opponent was I’ll prepared, had no data to even suggest his comments were anything more than his opinion. He showed how uninformed he is and certainly didn’t like Emily jumping on his assertions that we’re unsupportable. I believe this debate shows the uphill climb it is to remove registrants from the list. Many people have unsupportable information drilled into their heads like today’s politics. It’s going to take a huge effort to undo what’s in place now. That’s why we continue to fight for this. J

So, Cary Federman could only defend the registry is some strange, abstract, legalese. He claims to be a constitutional scholar yet denies the protections of the document. He favors his version of evidence which is almost non-existent. He claims the registry is effective with no proof. His best argument is that sex crimes are repugnant.
I think Emily mopped the floor with him. I really do. He gave no regard to the fact that people who commit crime don’t turn into werewolves and need to be shot with silver bullets. People are people. Sometimes they commit egregious acts against one another. But this doesn’t make them inhuman. It in fact makes them all too human. If one believes in redemption like so many “Christians” supposedly profess, where is it? I don’t see it and I live in Oklahoma.
Point of reference, the affiliate site to this one…OKRSOL is pretty much dead and has been for almost 2 years.
There is no one here in the land of so-called Bible believers that would do anything other than propose capital punishment. There are no advocates here to take on sex-offender stamped drivers licenses, residency restrictions, vigilantism, and so many other topics.
Nobody has ever said crime shouldn’t be punished. We are merely saying that it should be done recognizing the fact that reentry into society must occur at some point. We are saying that many registrants have families (little kids) that suffer from these laws.
Yet all I hear about are “the children” from registry crusaders. To me, it’s the same as pro-lifers. They are for it until you are born. Then you are on your own. Hypocrisy at its finest!
All I want is rational-based law. All I want is evidence-based law. All i want is finality in sentencing. All I want is a chance to be human again.

This was a great debate for Ms. Horowitz, especially focusing on post-conviction compare and contrast with other different types of convictions. The conclusion is that the registry is punitive post-conviction to where individuals are ostracized from society, especially with trying to find employment.

The opposition focused on two things:

  • The registry is not punishment as recognized by the courts
  • Fear mongering by using the most extreme cases and equating it to all registrants

The opposition did not acknowledge the difficulty of registrants trying to find jobs presented by Ms. Horowitz and simply said that there are jobs out there. Apparently, the opposition did not do proper research and kept reiterating the two focused items throughout the debate.

What is amazing is when you go to the “Results” tab and look at the “Online Audience” option, you see the magnanimous swing between Pre-Debate and Post-Debate agreement for Ms. Horowitz’ position at 90%. (Scroll down the webpage to find the “Results” tab.)

For those who can’t find it on the podcast site, I’ll do the breakdown.


  • For Ms. Horowitz’ position: 47%
  • For opposition position: 25%
  • Undecided: 29%


  • For Ms. Horowitz’ position: 90%
  • For opposition position: 4%
  • Undecided: 5%

Our son just returned home on a flight just last night from another state after severe harrassment, his life threatened, posters all over the small community, with his picture and included his landlords email address forcing our son to lose his job, then after his 80 year old landlord was also threatened, his apartment. His landlord then gave him a 8 day notice.
We have all the copies of social media comments,threats and posters.

In just 8 days he had to have all his belongings including his truck shipped home to our house. This was all due to our son’s non-violent conviction 20 years ago from an consentual touching incident with a 15 year old young women, who lied about her age. He’s been tramatized and feels as though his life is over. He tried to get help, filed police reports and restraining orders (that were denied). Even though the Attorney Generals office told him to file. No one would help.

How can this actually be called a debate when all data says it’s harmful to all affected by it.

Sitting through this debate was difficult in itself, especially at the end when this clown creates the “orthodox position is about power” straw man argument. The definition of orthodox is “what is accepted to be right and true.” Social science studies prove that recidivism is low amongst registrants, and that the registry does more harm than good. That’s the acceptable truth amongst peers. But Cary dismisses all of that as not being objective. It’s just a lot of noise from a bunch of “power” hungry people. He says the orthodox position diminishes the power of legislatures and gives the power to social science? Sir! Politicians aren’t rational people. They act and react to which way the wind is blowing, and how much money will fill their next campaign chest. Cary says, the orthodox position diminishes the power of civic engagement. Sir! Vigilantism is not civic engagement. Public policy should not be dictated by parents who lost a child to a sex crime. That’s not the democratic way…it’s the way of revenge. Cary contradicts himself by saying the registry is not suppose to decrease recidivism. Then he says the registry is a deterrent? I assume by deterrent, he means the registry prevents individuals from committing the same offense again. Sir, that’s the definition of recidivism. He also mentions that these laws are about the offense, and not the nature of the person. Then why, Cary, were you trying to get Emily to agree with 2 strikes laws? A flawed character trait can best describe a person who reoffends. Reoffending is about the person, not the offense. This clown also kept repeating the worst case examples of people on the registry..those that rape and kidnap children. However, those people don’t make up the vast majority of registrants. And Emily should have brought that point home. Although she often reads from a script, overall, I think she held her own against this brute.

Heard recently that violent political radicals rarely re-offend (at least in the context of the radical right), which makes the couple in Florida who threatened to shoot Baltimore power substations an exception. My guess is that right wing terror recidivism is low for the same reason most sex offender recidivism is low—they usually have some sort of genuine ties to a law-abiding community, and the arrest is a “wake up call” to get right and focus on what they love. Contrast that with crimes committed by people whose allegiance first is to a gang or their drug addiction, and, sadly, they face a much longer road to recovery. This isn’t novel stuff—the folks who did our sentencing assessments all took into account our likeliness to reoffend, much of which is computed based on criminal history, drug and alcohol addictions, employment. Sex offenders score well on these (usually—there are some subgroups that are exceptions), so it’s no surprise our re-offense rates are low! This isn’t even “social science,” it’s how sentencing has been determined by the state for ages! You can’t win over these people because they DONT CARE. They are appealing to the angry anti-elitist mobs that they believe are coming for their children. They KNOW they’re lying. But these debates ARE useful, because they can convince people who aren’t committed to lies and hatred that we really aren’t so bad! Decent people want to hear proof that we really are unusually abhorrent and threatening, and registry proponents have NADA.

Once again Emily is spot on with her analysis and logic. The debater for the opposing view seemed smug, and kept going back to his fall-back argument of saving children from rape and death at the hands of sex offenders, as if that argument had any logical merit. It’s the “because we can” attitude so prevalent among the ignorant.

I only wish Emily would have pointed out two things:

  1. The number of cases of rape and murder are so minuscule in comparison to the vast numbers on the registry (and those convicted who are now free of any remaining sanctions), that there could not possibly be any causal connection between the two. The other debater simply couldn’t comprehend this fact. A similar line of reasoning would be like saying the correllation between gender and these crimes is 100% male, therefore we should put all males on a registry.
  2. Regarding the fallacy of deterrence, let’s look at some famous cases:

Victim Abductor Disposition of case
Megan Kanka Jesse K. Timmendequas Death sentence, resentenced to Life w/o parole
Multiple Jeffrey Dahmer Life w/o parole
Jessica Lunsford John Couey Death sentence
Multiple Jerry Sandusky 30 to 60 years (de facto life sentence)
Multiple Larry Nassar de facto life sentence

None of these perpetrators will ever see the free world again. They were given appropriately severe sentences for their crimes.The registry is pointless as a deterrent to stop the crimes for which the resulting legislative actions were named. No one who commits these crimes will ever live under a registry regime. It just makes the argument look stupid. The registry does not even deter first time offenders, although it may be the reason why so many accused of sex crimes take their lives before their cases are adjudicated. Sexual recidivism will always be a rare, but harsh reality no matter what punitive and preventative actions we take to prevent it – the least effective of which, we overwhelmingly now know, are offender registries.

If the registry were a fishing net, it would be compared to one with holes big enough to let all of the fish out, but small enough to ensure all the dolphins are ensnared.

These laws are “knee jerk” reactions to certain crimes that have happened

After Ms. Horowitz mentions how older teens & young adults get thrown on the registry for relationships with other teenagers, this fool Cary goes on a rant about not wanting to see 17 year-olds get raped. Who’s talking about raping a 17 year old? Unless he’s referring to statutory rape, which is kind of silly for a 17 year-old, since the age of consent is 16 in my state of Minnesota. I wish Ms. Horowitz would have pushed this guy on the issue of certain “sex crimes” being legal in some states and illegal in others. Proponents of the registry make the argument that people who commit sex offenses should be put in a separate category that’s “unique” from individuals who commit other crimes. If sex offenses are so unique, how come the “legality” of those offenses vary across states, countries and societies? You won’t find robbery, shoplifting or burglary legal in any place on this planet. That’s not the case with “offenses” involving sex.

While I can’t write as eloquently as most posters have here, the one thing that stood out for me the most is Mr. Federman’s constant referral to the “dead children” as if to say that anyone accused of a sexual offense is a guilty.

Anyone’s whose offense was a VERY SERIOUS nature will not ever see any sort of freedom in the outside world or lose their life in some states. Those whose offenses were serious will be punished and inprisoned for many years.

Most of the people I have encountered either looked at pictures or broke the law by having contact with a teen, as in underage, which as one poster pointed out is different depending on which state one lives in. So, in one state your a criminal sex offender, in another your freedom has no bounds.

I have to say that I was disapointed that Ms. Horowitz neglected to call Mr. Federman out on these issues and constantly bringing up the rare abduction and murders.

Mr. Federman was biased in the worst way possible and couldn’t admit when he was wrong. Hes the type that would say its perfectly constitutional to round up every registrant post confinement and send us to gas chambers. There was nothing “constitutional” about his argument……..

(Name someone the registry saved) . No One! , Name all of the individuals and familys harmed , Name All of the people murdered because of this list , Name all of the suicides because of this list, Face it the need for there to be an end put to the registry is far greater than having one , Its the biggest black eye on a so called free nation, It is Evil .