A man, timid and teary eyed, stands to speak. He is no older than 45. He has been a registered sex offender for 20 years. He hangs his head with shame as he tells the crowd about the recent shakedown of his house by several local police officers. He has been subject to years of mandated costly treatment, probation, and monitoring of electronic devices. Still, his house is torn to pieces after an unexpected visit by Denver police. Law enforcement allocated to this task could have spent their time defending domestic threats. Instead, they found nothing of concern in a registered sex offender’s home, who was convicted of a sex crime 20 years ago.

Sex Offender Registration and Notification systems have been implemented to provide accessible data on sex offenders (1). These systems are designed to be utilized by both law enforcement and the public to monitor criminal activity and contribute to a sense of community safety. Despite the accessibility to these systems, a national study found that 55% of respondents have never accessed their state’s sex offender registry (2). Of respondents who never accessed the registry, 71% reported having no use for the registry, while 24.7% reported that they did not believe that the registry contributed to safety (3). Only 16.4% have accessed their state’s registry more than five times (4). 74% of respondents noted that their sole purpose for accessing their state’s registry was not for sense of safety, but a mere curiosity of sex offenders living in the area (5) .

The rule proposed by the Department of Justice to clarify Sex Offender Registration and Notification requirements expands who qualifies as a sex offender, reinforces strict registration timelines, and extends information that sex offenders are required to provide. This proposed rule will spend money, time, and resources that could be allocated elsewhere to defend the interests and safety of American citizens. As a former social work intern in a law office, I was assigned several clients who were sex offenders. These clients were incarcerated in our county jail for failure to meet timely registration requirements or to comply with conditions of probation. The failure to adhere was not due to the lack of clarity in regulations. Rather, these clients lacked the money, transportation, and resources to meet the requirements. The offenses that led to their enlistment to the Sex Offender Registration occurred anywhere from 10 to 20 years prior. Several of the cases were juvenile offenses. These juvenile offenses followed clients into adulthood, where barriers were built because of their label and registered status as a “sex offender.” Barriers prevented these clients from obtaining employment and housing, often leading to incarceration and the prevention of their contribution to the economy and society.

The clarification of guidelines indicated by this proposal will not prevent or control crime. In fact, it will likely contribute to the arrest and incarceration of offenders who were convicted decades ago. This enhancement of regulations will distract our law enforcement from protecting the public from those engaging in violent and unlawful behavior.

(1) Harris, A. J., & Cudmore, R. (2018). Community Experience With Public Sex Offender Registries in the United States: A National Survey. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 29(3), 258-279. https://doi.org/10.1177/0887403415627195
(2) Ibid., 266.
(3) Ibid., 274.
(4) Ibid., 266.
(5) Ibid., 274.

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