Does the Sex Offender Registry Do More Harm Than Good?

Sexual violence is arguably the most devastating kind. And over the past few decades, the legal landscape has shifted to a more proactive stance. The Wetterling Act requires convicted offenders to register with local authorities. Megan’s Law mandates law enforcement to alert neighbors of those with past convictions in their community. And the U.S. Department of Justice consolidates convictions into a single, searchable site – all in the name of helping people avoid potential predators. But that registry has come under increasing scrutiny. Some suggest that it actually encourages further criminal offenses by making it virtually impossible for offenders to reintegrate into society. Crimes also vary considerably – from public urination, exhibitionists, and so-called “peeping Toms,” to more severe crimes, such as sexual assault and rape. Those differences, they say, are not adequately accounted for in the law. Others say that reducing such a proactive approach and tool will endanger communities, which have consistently supported it in the name of keeping communities safe. In this context, we debate the following question: Does the Sex Offender Registry Do More Harm Than Good?