A Human Rights Watch report, September 2007 Volume 19, No. 4(G) – Index:
An excerpt of the Summary: … The reality is that sex offenders are a great political target, but that doesn’t mean any law under the sun is appropriate …
… Human Rights Watch appreciates the sense of concern and urgency that has prompted these laws. They reflect a deep public yearning for safety in a world that seems increasingly threatening. Every child has the right to live free from violence and sexual abuse. Promoting public safety by holding offenders accountable and by instituting effective crime prevention measures is a core governmental obligation.
Unfortunately, our research reveals that sex offender registration, community notification, and residency restriction laws are ill-considered, poorly crafted, and may cause more harm than good:
The registration laws are overbroad in scope and overlong in duration, requiring people to register who pose no safety risk;
Under community notification laws, anyone anywhere can access online sex offender registries for purposes that may have nothing to do with public safety. Harassment of and violence against registrants have been the predictable result;
In many cases, residency restrictions have the effect of banishing registrants from entire urban areas and forcing them to live far from their homes and families.
The evidence is overwhelming, as detailed in this report, that these laws cause great harm to the people subject to them. On the other hand, proponents of these laws are not able to point to convincing evidence of public safety gains from them. Even assuming some public safety benefit, however, the laws can be reformed to reduce their adverse effects without compromising that benefit. Registration laws should be narrowed in scope and duration. Publicly accessible online registries should be eliminated, and community notification should be accomplished solely by law enforcement officials. Blanket residency restrictions should be abolished. (full long text of Summary).
Consequences of Registration and Community Notification Laws for Registrants and Their Loved Ones.