A question that we all must ask ourselves is, “what is the sex offender registry?” The answers that we provide in discussions are quickly assessed usually based on no fact or merit rather personal opinion or belief. Typically, a majority of replies may suggest the registry “is a tool for the community.” To me, that sounds like a safe way of skirting the question. On the one hand, some groups and advocates support registry to inform its community about violent offenders in the immediate area. On the other hand, the registry in its current form is a mish-mash of public urinators to brutally violent rapists. So we return to the question “is the registry an educational and informative tool for the community?”
Typically any individual charged with any crime in America would receive a fair trial and punishment or fine. That individual either serves time and is released to rebuild his/her life. However, for registered offenders, the balance of justice scales are entirely different. Public opinion based upon high profile issues tilt the justice scale away from the accused and punishment instead it is prison or probation carries an additional life sentence of registry requirements. Yes, it is a life sentence because even if an offender is removed from its states registry, he/she must report to any new state they move to and reregister. Additionally, if a former or active registrant decides to leave the USA for any nation, federal SORNA offices immediately alerts that nation of a known sex offender entering its country.
A fundamental problem with the current registry is that it is used for additional punishment purposes by police and prosecutors. After all, the registry was developed by those two parties which additionally tilts the scales of influence over a system that is intended to create fairness for all. I would suggest that if police and states want to save money and resources only to place violent repeat offenders on the registry. Doing so will quickly reduce a million registrants to only the most violent and chronic. The registry shouldn’t have been created as a form of additional punishment or atonement. This is why the registry in its current form is not an educational or informative tool for any community. Instead, it has been developed to be the “virtual boogieman” creating a sense of fear and costly for America and communities.
To be quite candid about the most valuable tool and resource to educate and inform communities is the internet itself. The average person doesn’t rush to a registry to look up an individual. He/She enters a name into a search engine to look at social media or other news items. If you see a few mug shots too many, then perhaps a bit of caution or discretion is suggested. It is ironic that a majority of American fear someone listed on the sex offender registry than an individual on an FBI wanted poster. That should indicate how messed up and confusing the sex registry has morphed over decades.