States Debate Effectiveness of Sex Offender Registries

Fourteen states have made commitments to participate in the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), a subset of the five-year-old Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. Federal funding is the government’s incentive for states to follow the act’s provisions to the fullest. If states do not meet established requirements, federal justice assistance funding will be trimmed by 10 percent.

What the 2006 law intended to do was widen the list of eligible sex offenders named on sex offender registries. However, a few central issues have kept states from complete compliance or from taking part at all – the expense of expanding efforts, the legality of requiring sex offenders convicted before the law was enacted to register, and the long-term effect on criminals, especially juveniles, when it comes to rehabilitation.

Critics say the program costs more than it is worth and may counteract rehabilitation efforts. Other detractors say the public is lured into a false sense of security by believing that a national database includes all sex offenders.

Proponents of new laws that impose greater restrictions say registries allow members of the public to protect themselves. While some critics also agree that the worst sex offenders may need monitoring, many worry that police efforts may be hindered by the lists’ inclusion of the names of lesser sex criminals.

Opponents of expanded registries say the public shame that offenders face can increase the chance that they will commit another offense. The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers reports that offenders who lose jobs, family and friends have less reason to change crime patterns, making rehabilitation much more difficult. It will be interesting to see if any changes to the federal sex offender registry stem from this debate. If you have been accused of a sex offense, contact the best sex crimes lawyer in West Palm.

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