Sex Offender Registries: More harm than good?

Posted on: September 2nd, 2011  |  No Comments

Maryland Sex Offender Registry | Steven D. Kupferberg  Last year, Maryland enacted a sexual offender registration scheme that significantly lengthens registration periods for many defendants. In some cases, defendants who were coming up on the end of their 10 year registration period have been told they will now have to register for another 15 years, or in some instances, for life!

A recent parenting blog at the Washington Post focuses on offender registries and questions whether or not they serve their intended purpose. The post highlights a book entitled Sex Panic and the Punitive State which looks at registration requirement forced upon people convicted of sex offense crimes. The blog features an interesting interview with the book’s author Roger N. Lancaster, a cultural studies professor at George Mason University. Lancaster discusses some of the problems and misconceptions surrounding sex offender registries.

Q. In terms of fairness, why should we be concerned that punishments for child sex offenders are harsh? Aren’t these criminals the worst of the worst?

Lancaster: … In practice, it is not only the “worst of the worst” who’ve been swept up and entangled in sex offender laws. Some of the registrants had consensual relations with near-adults. Others appear to have been falsely accused and accepted a plea bargain. Some were themselves minors who had consensual sex with their girlfriends or boyfriends. A random sample of one state’s listings shows that two-thirds of the registrants were convicted of non-violent first offenses — and their crimes may have involved no physical contact…

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