Fixing California’s bloated sex-offender registry

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R Street just signed a letter calling for commonsense reform of the California sex-offender registry, based on a bill proposed by our friend and Legislative Advisory Board member Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine.

The bill we’re supporting in California, backed strongly by our own research, creates a tiered system for adult sex offenders. This is a step in the right direction to reform California’s overgrown and overly large sex-offender registry. A registry that includes too many people is likely even worse than one that includes too few: it diverts resources toward monitoring low-risk people that should be devoted to monitoring the relative handful of truly dangerous offenders. The best available research on sex-offender registries, which I summarized in this article for National Affairs, indicates that risk-based approaches like the one contemplated in the bill are good public policy.

While taking this first step is important, it doesn’t solve what is likely the single biggest problem with sex-offender registries: their inclusion of offenders who were adjudicated as juveniles. As I’ve written about here with my friends Nicole Pittman and Stacie Rumenap, it’s unjust, cruel and undermines the purpose of the juvenile justice system—which, at least in theory, is supposed to act in offenders’ own best interests. Youth registration, as R Street research has shown, costs millions of dollars more than it could possibly save. It’s the single greatest inefficiency in our sex-offender registration system.

The California bill is a good start, but it’s only a start. If the Golden State really wants to fix its registry, it’s going to have to end the registration of children.


Image by Jeffrey B. Banke

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  • Noemi

    It should end registration period. There are far more crimes with a high rate of re-offense that don’t have a registry. There is no murder registry. There is no DUI registry. Why not? Because they don’t work and do nothing to stop new crimes.

  • Robert Curtis

    The Problem with the registry is how it has been used as a means under color of law to violate fundamental rights of the once convicted and their families. Example: I saved my son’s life twice once from drowning and once from choking but in April 2012 in Orange County California the Board of Supervisors passed a law kicking me and other registrants out of parks, beaches and harbors without regard to our rights as parents. There was no history of registrants violating in parks and beaches but there is a history of children getting hurt in parks and beaches. My child doesn’t deserve to have his parent available as his first line of protection because he’s my child. They say the registry is not punitive but by its nature how can be anything other than punitive? What is more punitive than placing a registrant’s child in harms way by removing their parent from being with them in public places like parks and beaches? History has looked hard for that perfect group to target, well they found it in the EX-sex offender. Who would dare stand up for a registered sex offender? To do any kind of harm to them is easily sold off as being for public safety and protection of children. In the deep south the slave owners would hang a young male slave on a barn door to be whipped to show the “respectable people” how they (certain politicians) kept their slaves in line. People like Senator Connie Leyva are still doing the same thing by kicking registrants off their child’s school grounds with bills like SB-26. The effects of such legislation is to empower administrator to say well we have no escorts so you can’t go to your child’s school events. If they did go the child would be marginalized and harmed socially. What the Registry does is create a climate that punishes families…oddly families are usually the ones victimized. Now because of the punitive nature of the registry harming families most crimes may go unreported because of the registry. A boy in Alabama hung himself after streaking at a Home Coming Football game because he was threatened to be placed on the sex offender registry. Kids do stupid things like mooning a friend, streaking and sexting…the boy probably thought, ‘well my whole life is over anyway.. I’ll never get a good job or housing so what did the registry do? The nature of it the registry steels hope and killed that boy. The Sex Offender Registry is a Living Death it is evil and it is wrong! Proverbs 16:25 “There is a way that seems right to a man but the end thereof is the ways of DEATH.” The Registry (again) is a Living DEATH it is Evil and it is Wrong! TRUTH

  • Kiru Mondi

    I agree with the author. If I look on the sex offender registry website, I am overwhelmed by the amount of offenders with a few city blocks. It’s not until you dig deeper that you realize most of these people aren’t a threat; either the crimes were committed 50 years ago and the person is now 80, or the “sex crime” was something stupid like streaking across campus on a stupid college dare, or an 18 year old sexting her 17 year old boyfriend.

    Right now, truly dangerous predators are hiding in a sea of people that shouldn’t be on there.

  • Will Allen

    The single biggest problem of the S*x Offender Registries (SORs) is that they exist at all. Experts have never supported the SORs and for very good reasons. The SORs are negligibly beneficial and yet they cause society huge, uncomprehended and completely disregarded, damage (not the least of which is that the SORs cause more s*x crimes than they prevent). There are truly no informed Americans today who support the SORs, unless they are getting something immoral from it (money, for example). There are certainly no Americans who support the nonfactual, anti-reality, un-American, worse-than-worthless, retroactive harassment that the SORs have enabled and promote (residency “restrictions”, for example).

    The fact that we can’t be bothered to even Register people who have committed many crimes that are clearly much more damaging and dangerous than ALL s*x crimes, is complete proof alone that the SORs are not even really for “public safety”, “protecting children”, or any of those other lies. The SORs are to make people feel good and for harassment. That is their primary function.

    People who support the SORs are harassing terrorists who cannot mind their own business or leave other people alone. They are control freaks. They love big government and cannot have too many laws or government employees. They are enemies of all good, free Americans and they must be attacked and neutralized EVERY SINGLE DAY by all means that are legal. Their quality of life should be of no concern.

  • Jesse Neill

    Hi I am Jesse and accepted a plea in 1999 I was told I would get probation but it did not go the way it was supposed to, (We all know how manipulative the law and government is and how they use all things positive and negative to there advantage.) Suffice it to say after being lied to and serving time I was about to be paroled when finally they told me I can appeal it but if I did I may have to start all over again. Well I got out on parole completed my parole with no problem. and after being off parole for 10 years I moved to Oklahoma where I am not required to register by law , However because I am still on the registry in California ( Just because you do not have to register online does not mean you are not a registered offender ) and even though I am not required to register I still have mega problems because as a registered offender in any state when appartments do background search they still see that you were registered; and not from legal sites but instead from secondary sites which do not update there information . So even if you are not required by law to register and you are taken off of the registry please do not think it gets easier all of a sudden it does not I still cant get a job or an apartment or a life. If somehow this law passes I hope for the best but expect the worst and even though there are so many people who are so great in trying to help us it is a long time coming before we see a real end to this Ostracizing . We live in a society that has to have a scapegoat to make themselves feel better about themselves. or politicians who create new laws in an effort to have people see them as hard on crime and win sympathy votes. I believe this bill is a start to a better way but for all those who think because you can get off the registry does not mean you will . I’ll bet for the next 5 -10 years after this bill goes into effect you will find that less than 1_10% of the people eligible will actually get off . I do not mean to be a pessimist but lets do a reality check here do you think that because the bill goes into effect that they are going to take you off because you are eligible well ask your self how does it benefit society if you are taken off and if it does not , well… History is bound to repeat itself. ie bond servants slaves 500 years african slaves several hundred years gays etc etc all it shows is society does like to have some one to blame ….IMO= In My Opinion. PC 288 L & L touching may the God I know show love to all of you who seek help and I hope my opinion is helpful not hurtful .

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