Sex Offender Registry Laws
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Reports about people who are missing, sexually abused or murdered appear in the media every day. They terrify us, make us feel insecure, and force to be more protective of ourselves and our families. Every time such bad news is shown on TV, people start thinking that something is not working in the system of laws. If killers, rapists, molesters are still walking down the streets, is it possible to neglect such a risk? Apparently, Sex Offender Registry Laws, implemented to change this situation for the better, are not effective enough. This paper attempts to analyze thoroughly the idea of Sex Offender Registry Laws, as well as examine positive and negative results of laws’ implementation, its’ possible alternatives, and measure the effectiveness of these laws today.
The essence of Sex Offender Registry Laws
People think that it is possible to identify a person, who is “a villain”, from the first glance. According to the research conducted by people knowledgeable in this sphere, most frequently this is not the case. A father, who was walking you down the aisle, a friend, who was helping you to fix a car, your beloved one are potential sex offenders in the modern world. They can be friendly and innocent on the outside, but something can lie and treat others cruelly.
According to California’s Megan’s Law, a person is considered a sex offender, if he/she committed rape, oral copulation, sodomy, sexual abuse or child molestation, etc (“California’s Megan’s Law”). Sex offenders are more adept, have better concealing abilities, and hide cleverly, can commit many offences before they are caught and stop their criminal activity for a certain period of time if there is a risk of uncovering.
Rufo in his book “Sexual Predators Amongst us” states that these felons most frequently have a role of manipulators, who know what he/she is doing, plan every detail, learn a lot about his/her victim, and come into action only prepared (“Sexual predators amongst us”). The origin of this kind of criminal conduct is hidden in childhood experiences. Victims of abuse, children from dysfunctional families are most probable future sex offenders. Therefore, sexual abuse of any kind is viewed as acquired, not an inherited trait.
The modern Sex Offender Registry Law appeared in 1995, in response to 1994 rape and murder of Megan Kanka by her neighbor, convicted child molester living in New Jersey (“California Megan’s Law”). Its most important point was that former sex offenders were to register after they were released from prison, and provide information about their residence place. Since 2000, information about any of the former sex offenders is provided through specialized telephone line. It is possible for every US citizen to make an inquiry about an individual, if they provide basic information about a person, whom he/she suspects to be dangerous (“California Megan’s Law”).
Sex Offender Registry Laws: advantages and disadvantages
It should be attested that there are no ideal forms of protection. Some of them just last longer and justify hopes laid down on them, as well as financial and social support they received. Sex Offender Registry Laws are a step forward. However, they only make people feel under the veil of protection only for an instant. Young girls are still raped and abused; children are still kidnapped and molested. The laws obviously had some positive and negative sides. The questions are whether these positive ones outnumber negative ones, whether this Law should be further developed or canceled.
Obviously, Sex Offender Registry Laws developed a rather successful system of accountability: all former criminals are to overcome a procedure of registration and, therefore, it is possible to know how many of them are out there and where do they live. Another important advantage of these laws is that people of the neighborhood are well informed about former offenders walking on their streets, interacting with their children, worming themselves into people’s confidence. One more thing that also testifies in favor of these laws is that it is possible to observe how many offenders improved and started a new life, and how many didn’t change their life priorities. Sex Offender Registry Laws are also of great importance because they help in identification of perverted or mentally ill people, who may pose a threat to the society in the future. The laws are also of great help in the course of crime investigations. They give a ready material about possible suspects and speed up the process of guilty people search. They also help to identify violations of parole and probation, as well as solve a problem of overcrowded prisons. It is definitely cheaper to register former offenders and observe their further behavior than to provide them with food and a cell in jail. The last but not the least advantage: this registration system has created new jobs for people who desperately needed them.
Unfortunately, there are far more negative sides of these laws than the positive ones. First of all, they are frequently seen as discriminating and violating basic human right for privacy. The matter is that children’s safety is a priority if compared to criminals’ confidentiality. Another thing that draws attention to itself is the financial aspect of laws’ implementation. In our modern capitalistic world, almost no one will ever do any “good deed” just for the sake of helping somebody. There is always far more than that. Money is a crucial question. The system of registration itself is expansive, and it can’t be working on its own, it is to be controlled. Therefore, an important question is to be considered: whether or not it is worth investing money. Or maybe there are other spheres lacking financial support. Then, there is also a false sense of security that appears in people’s minds because they know such laws exist. Knowing where the former sex offenders live does not automatically make the world a safer place. They can freely continue criminal activity in another state, because can’t be denied to move. They are given this desired second chance, and as a result, may stab us with a knife while we’re asleep. It is almost impossible to feel secure, because most of sex crimes are committed by first time sex offenders. So, the fact that we know where the former criminal lives is like a placebo that doesn’t protect us, but makes us feel protected. This factor is constant, because of frequent reports in the media about sex crimes, which is often crucial in causing vigilantism. People don’t want to have neighbors, who can molest their children or rape their wives. Therefore, sex offenders who come out of prison and register all the time are often treated as animals. They already feel ashamed by what they have done, but this is not enough for the surrounding people. There is no actual differentiation between real and imaginary danger in their minds. The fact that frequently they are right raising an alarm can’t be denied. Those sex offenders who came out of prison have already lost everything: their jobs, friends and family, and this can’t be reversed. These people are often homeless, living in exile, are constantly humiliated and ashamed. Sex offenders are under great stress, fall into depression, and this is not beneficial for the society. Recidivism is higher among such people. Another proof of system’s failure is that sex offenders are often suffering from paraphilia and are difficult to treat. They have a higher risk of recidivism than others. They are practically struggling with a serious mental disease and are to be receiving medical treatment. Instead of this, they are marked off from the society and treated as second, if not third, class of citizens. One more negative side of Sex Offender Registration System is that it is excessively used by politicians as a matter of speculation before the elections. Here is how it works for them: they give people a false idea of security, allegedly creating a new kind of protective law. As a result, politicians gain votes; people are promised to live safer lives, sex offenders are separated from normal people by a wall of disdain. All of a sudden, a new sex crime is committed, and everybody is worried again. This law not only improves politicians’ ratings, it also boosts popularity of the media reporting on sex crimes. Another important negative side of Sex Offender Registry Laws is that they put in danger the criminal’s family. His wife and children are often despised and punished for something they were not guilty. Offender’s family should not suffer for the bad deed it did not commit. There is one more disadvantage of Sex Offender Registry Laws. People, who were falsely imprisoned for the crime they had not been involved in, are forever labeled by the society as “dangerous” and “perverted”. They will never find a decent job, never marry and have children. They are doomed. What if an error occurs in the course of criminal’s registration? Or when a person is trying to get information on his/her neighbor and because of mistake is given incorrect data? Human errors are possible, and, because of that, innocent people are treated as sex offenders.
Alternative ways of protection
The thing is, even people who commit crimes like this are to receive some level of protection, because their medical conditions or insanity may have forced them to commit a crime. Unnecessary harm to former offenders is to be limited. The priority must always lie in reintegration of the former felons into the society. Programs for gradual transition of sex offenders back to the society are to be developed. When sex offender succeeds to live in the community, all parents feel safely. Another thing to remember is that prevention is the best care. The research of risk factors is to be conducted. In the future, it may reduce sex offender recidivism rates. All adults should concentrate on development of preventative measures, like publishing educational materials on sex crimes. Creation of programs that make young generation aware of sex offenders’ existence would be a valuable thing to do. Knowing is always better than ignorance. Victims counseling may be another point of the action plan. All people, who suffered because of sex crime, are not only damaged physically and mentally. They are also on the way of becoming the same maniacs, as their abusers. Victims may switch roles with their sex offenders at some point. This process very often can’t be controlled, and once it started, can’t be reversed.
To conclude with, Sex Offender Registry Laws have obviously their advantages, as well as downsides. They are effective in terms of giving people information about criminals’ residence place, but they can’t exterminate sex felony once and for all. These laws are not to be banned, but enhanced in some places, elaborated and changed in the other ones.