Sex registries are in the news again thanks to a couple of high-profile child sex abuse cases – think multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein and singer R. Kelly. Keeping track of ex-cons who have sexually preyed on others sounds like a good idea. But do these registries of convicted sex criminals really help keep us safe?
Under a 2006 federal law, each state, the District of Columbia, Native American tribes and U.S. territories were required to set up a tracking system for newly released sex offenders.
Each state’s registry must consist of different “tiers” of punishment depending on the age of the victim and the severity of the crime. Each tier of ex-con must periodically check in with law enforcement to ensure they stay on the straight and narrow. Tier One offenders can get themselves removed from the registry after 10 years if they have regularly reported in and stayed out of trouble. Tier Two offenders report in more frequently and remain on the registry for 25 years. Tier Three registrants are on the sex registry for life. Failure to follow these rules can result in up to 10 more years in prison.
General information about the offenders and their crimes is easily available online for the public to read. This can be especially useful for those active on the dating scene and parents of young children who want to know more about the new neighbor.