The sex-offender registry is mostly about making you feel safer without actually making things safer

LETTER: Sex offender registry makes no sense

I completely disagree. While maybe there are some who shouldn’t necessarily be on the registry, we as parents have a right to know if we have a child rapist living a block over.

I personally had a sex offender living one street over. And his victim was a young boy around my sons age.

This is understandable but not rational. You don’t know what convicted arsonists, murderers, robbers, or burglars live near you. You can’t see all of the people convicted of family violence offenses in the closest apartment complex.

Sex crimes are by their nature icky and gross, but this ‘if they did it once, they’ll do it again’ thing is about the only solid argument (tho even that isn’t completely borne out by numbers, as the letter writer correctly points out), and even that reasoning applies to other crimes.

For child sex abuse, the most common offender will be another family member or a guardian/authority figure. Grooming is a real, much more likely threat; some unknown neighbor snatching a kid out of the backyard is a terrifying fancy.

I would argue children are more in danger if people are afraid of reporting an abuser they also care about and ‘ruining their lives forever’; that person who isn’t caught has no disincentive against doing it again to someone else.

As a society, we want punishment for the purpose of rehabilitation and a safer overall society. I don’t see how singling out criminals of sex-related crimes—beyond their incarceration or other appropriate penalties—helps to decrease date rapes, predatory ballet instructors, creepy uncles, etc. As it is, we don’t make arrests or prosecute most of the reported sexual assaults, including when the offender is identified.

The sex offender registry makes us feel better and safer and like we have more control, because we look up all of the icky people who live somewhat near us, and read the statute they violated as part of their horribly perverted crimes, and armed with this knowledge, we can… I don’t know what exactly.

Of course I want to know if there is a child rapist in my neighborhood because it makes me feel like I can do something to protect my child from them. We don’t want those people living near schools or daycares. We want them to have to report to police every time they move to a new place and be able to arrest them if they don’t do it quickly enough. But that feeling comes from the same sort of ingrained Puritanism that says spanking a child is OK unless it makes one of you aroused.

It doesn’t make sense for sex crimes to be the only ones for which there is a public registry, and it isn’t beneficial to society to act with vengeance beyond reparative retribution. Convicted sex offenders are easy to despise, but that’s not a great basis for policy.

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