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Restorative justice and sex offender laws

August 22, 2009

….My concerns about sex offender registries were threefold: 

First, collateral consequences, because they are not technically “sentences” (even though they largely function as such), lack the individualization necessary to be humane in application and effect.  Courts cannot take into account the specific facts of an offense – say, that an 18-year-old man had sex with his 17-year-old girlfriend – when assigning offenders to registries.  That 18-year-old man may wind up with his name and face on a registry for life – listed alongside a predatory serial rapist, as if they were morally equivalent.  The public, unable to tell the difference, assumes the two are equally dangerous. 

Second, the aesthetics of most registries encourage the public to repudiate the offenderas opposed to the offense, which has profound consequences in terms of both an offender’s ability to reintegrate and rehabilitate, as well as the actual effectiveness of the databases in decreasing recidivism.  

Third, sex offender registries do precious little to empower citizens. Although their intent is to protect the public, they tend to fan the flames of fear and hate, while at the same time creating a false sense of security.

Read the whole post, which is part 1 of a 5 part series. There are easy links to the other four parts.


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