Registration of all convicted sexual offenders on the national registry is necessary to provide the community with awareness and increased safeguards against sexual violence. What is this list? Per the United States Department of Justice website, in 2006 the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act created the national sex offender registration program under the legal ordinance known as the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). This act has positively changed the lives of many citizens while increasing public safety (Melcher 629). The Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) has further been formed to provide the public with one comprehensive source to visit and search for sexual offenders. The search site keeps track of the locations of offenders from all states and tribal communities (US Department of Justice).
Those against registration for all offenders often recite that there are certain groups that should not register due to age or crime circumstances; others argue that the rules of the registry are too strict and violate social rights. Schiraldi states that a popular criminal defense based on the ages of the accused between “seven and fourteen is consistently identified as the infancy defense” (679). Federal ruled in 2012 that children 14 and older may be listed on the sexual predator list based on their type of sexual violent crime perpetuated on others, but Texas has children as young as 10 on the list (USA Today). You may feel that this is ridiculous because children are inherently curious about sex, but the truth is that the children in case studies committed violent acts that use force against the other person’s will often resulting in physical harm and long-term mental trauma (680).
Another argument you may have against putting children on the sexual predator list is that they are too young to fully understand their actions or they themselves are often the product of abuse. Or perhaps you believe that if children have incurred years of abuse, it may be natural that they think their actions are appropriate and normal. In fact, these are two separate issues. It is the responsibility of the judicial and social welfare systems to keep the community safe as a whole (US Department of Justice); therefore, the government needs to enforce safety measures that benefit all citizens. A common ground for both sides of the debate is that it is not fair to new victims to dismiss their abuse because the abuser was once violated. This circle of thinking could help perpetuate more sexual violence (Melcher 630).
Sadly, there is a high rate of recidivism in sexual crime, meaning those who have perpetuated will likely do so again and again (Eggestein and Kenneth 30). For example, a male child who is 15 may be found guilty of raping and physically damaging a 2-year-old female neighbor who was babysat by his mother. He is not put on the sexual predator list, and his family moves him from Florida to Texas to get a new start. He discloses past abuse by a camp counselor and gets therapy. Let’s fast forward two years when the perpetrator befriends the teens next door who have a younger brother. This 3-year-old boy is found in a ditch, sodomized and dies from internal injuries. How will the parents of the preschooler feel when they discover that this was preventable? If he was properly registered, then his new community would had been empowered to protect themselves (Winder, Gough and Seymour 179).
You may then ask, what about those that get caught urinating in public or are tricked by an underage sexual companion and are convicted? I understand how one could wonder if they should get a second chance in such cases and be exempt from the registry. At first glance, I would agree with this statement, but let’s go ahead and dig further. As a society, we must have some faith in the justice system that these exceptional cases will be caught and fixed before the accused gets convicted. Per Scott Burns, Executive Director of the National District Attorneys Association, in an email he wrote to USA Today in 2013, “If a 15-year-old ‘sexted’ a picture of him or herself, it is safe to say that prosecutors would take appropriate steps to ensure that person isn’t required to become a registered sex offender for life,” (USA Today). Furthermore, I hope we can agree that the adults dating online have the responsibility to check the identity and age of the people they are talking to online before sexual interactions (Winder 167). Picking and choosing who should and should not be on the list is a dangerous precedent to set. It is proven that repeat offenders are often skilled in deceiving and manipulation, and not putting them on the list may put others in harm’s way (Eggestein and Kenneth 29.)
I can also recognize how it may seem pointless to put someone on a list, but being listed is only a tiny piece of a comprehensive package that is designed to keep the community safe and help offenders from striking again (Eggestein and Kenneth 30). Those on the list are subject to supervision by their local state registry offices and are often mandated to stay within certain geographic boundaries. Their homes are open for inspection by their assigned officer at any moment. Offenders will be mandated to receive mental health evaluations and often attend ongoing therapy. If the sexual crime involved children, offenders will not be able to be around children or visit public places like schools, parks and libraries. These are strict consequences, but I imagine we can all concur that these restrictions are not as harmful as the actions the offenders chose to commit initially (US Department of Justice).
Both sides of this argument can agree that laws should do what is best for our communities and keep our families and loved ones safe from exploitation. Though we may have different perceptions of how this is accomplished, in the end, our goals of protecting innocents from violence is the same. If we work together and continue to research and explore these topics, we will find a compromise that will benefit further generations for years to come (USA Today). Registering sex offenders on the national list is only the first step in protecting our communities from escalated sexual violence. Together as involved citizens, we can work with lawmakers to find the right balance to protecting innocents and reforming offenders (Melcher 630). After all, we need to address both sides to make a lasting societal change.
- “About NSOPW.” Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW). US Department of Justice, 2016. Web. 22 July 2016.
- Eggestein, Jasmine V., and Kenneth J. Knapp. “Fighting Child Pornography: A Review Of Legal And Technological Developments.” Journal Of Digital Forensics, Security & Law 9.4 (2014): 29-48.
- International Security & Counter Terrorism Reference Center. Web. 22 July 2016.
- Melcher, Ryan K. “There ain’t no end for the ‘wicked’: implications of and recommendations for (section) 4248 of the Adam Walsh Act after United States v. Comstock.” Iowa Law Review Jan. 2012: 629+. Business Insights: Essentials. Web. 22 July 2016. Kearney, Julie.
- “Rogerian Principles and the Writing Classroom: A History of Intention and (Mis)Interpretation.” Rhetoric Review, vol. 28, no. 2, Taylor & Francis Group, 2009..doi:10.1080/07350190902740034.
- Schiraldi, Tara. “For they know not what they do: reintroducing infancy protections for child sex offenders in light of In re B.W.” American Criminal Law Review, vol. 52, no. 3, Georgetown University Law Center, Chicago, 2015.
- “Sex-offender Registries: Should Kids Be Listed?” Sex-offender Registries: Should Kids Be Listed? USA Today, 1 May 2013. Web. 22 July 2016.
- Winder, B., Gough, B., & Seymour-smith, S. (2015). Stumbling into sexual crime: The passive perpetrator in accounts by male internet sex offenders. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 44(1), 167-180.