The Sex Offender Registry needs an overhaul. It began as a means of protection to make neighborhoods aware of sexual predators. The registry became a casualty of human nature and developed major inconsistencies. The registry evolved into a one size fits all virtual prison that has the power to ruin more lives than it helps. Lawmakers need to re-evaluate the list. Take a second look at registered sex offenders. Update what crimes necessitate a person registering as a sex offender and how long they should be registered for.
The sex offender registry was created out of societal outrage over sexually based crimes, especially those committed against minors. Details of cases emerged, and these crimes were committed by repeat offenders who managed to slip through the cracks of the justice system. Placing sexual offenders on a universal list, their movements could be monitored by the overburdened legal system. The surrounding community could take preventive measures to ensure the safety of their families. That was the idea.
Something happened along the way. Every time a new sexual predator was discovered, his crime more heinous than the last offender, sex offender registry requirements were expanded. Individuals convicted of the slightest sexual misconduct were placed on the sex offender registry. A list meant for violent, repeat offenders evolved into a compilation including teenagers who took nude pictures with their cell phone and sent them to a boy/girlfriend. How is society supposed to recognize the offenders who pose a true threat to their families?
The truth is most people can not and choose not to. Few people know the extent of convictions that lead you to registering as a sex offender. Every registered sex offender is not a rapist or a pervert. A drunken, consensual frat party romp with a minor can land you on the registry. A boyfriend who turned out to be a minor can land you on the registry. Taping intimate acts in certain states land you on the sex offender registry. You have child rapists and molesters cohabitating the list with others who do not deserve to be there. No one bothers to make a discernable difference. Once your house is covered with a shape, your fate is sealed.
Law agencies need to re-evaluate the sex offender registry and the people on it. In dollars and cents, should someone be tracked who made a stupid mistake at 20, paid their debt to society and led a respectable life ever since? Being labeled a sex offender destroys a person's life. Jobs and friends are lost. The stigma of being labeled a pervert and being viewed as societal blight follows you forever and dictates your quality of life. One bad judgment call places many in the same legal quagmire as child murderers. There has to be balance somewhere.
The sex offender registry is a legal system work in progress. The list snares up the lives of many, yet there are offenders out there committing truly heinous acts who evade it. Constantly evolving laws allow games to be played with the lives of many good citizens. The plight of the registered sex offender is one many choose to sweep under the rug.