Sex Offender Registries Don't Work

Friday, August 26, 2011


No crimes produce public disgust like sex crimes. But according to two recent studies, the laws we create to deter sex criminals from recidivating may be doing more harm than good. Amanda Agan, a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago, has researched the subject -- she talks to Brooke about why sex offender registries don't seem to work. 

Comments [10]


RSODL (Rehabilitated Sex Offenders Defense League)

Feb. 01 2012 08:50 AM

desertlabs' comments illustrate the miseducation propaganda that permeates our culture of fear. There are three main inaccuracies within desertlabs' comment: Recidivism rates for offenders in the first 5 years of release is closer to 4%. Mental health professionals have effective therapies available (Cognitive Behavior Therapy is the most common and effective). Lastly, predators that target children they don't already know are highly unlikely commit a crime in their immediate living area, and most choose to travel long distances to victimize. Far and above the most sexual victimization isn't perpetrated by registered sex offenders but rather by close family members and friends with no prior history of criminal conduct.

Unfortunately, we created these policies when we had no data available about the effectiveness of our "solutions." We should now refuse to fund these programs until more effective solutions are found. The worst part is that we've been in a "war on drugs" for nearly 30 years, and policy makers are just now starting to grapple with that problem as a mental health crisis instead of a criminal problem. Meanwhile the witch hunt for sex offenders (which is very obviously a mental health issue, and for the most part a correctable one) is in full force.

Sep. 08 2011 11:36 PM

And the media story here is...?

Aug. 31 2011 03:17 PM
ate1943 from anderson indiana

Those of you that get your information from the boob-tube should look for some books on this subject. Read what the people say that have spent hundreds of hours researching. ALL of them state that the sex offenders re-offend less often than any crime except murderers (which many are serving life and can't re-offend). Also MOST of the registry are NONE violent crimes or NO victim involved. The registry has been blown out of proportion soley for the money that is provided by the government to the criminal justice system. If the states did not get all the funds from the FEDs, they would use more caution when charging people with sex crimes that should be classified as something less. Oh, and lets not forget the votes that the politicians get for being TOUGH on these young people and their families. 780,000 on the registry and MILLIONS of friends and families are negatively affected. It would make sense to me if the NON violent offenders was removed from the registry. We would still know who the dangerous ones are and the registry could be more closely monitored by the police and sheriff departments.

Aug. 30 2011 12:28 PM

An accusation of sexual assault is the best way to seek revenge...that is what we are teaching young people. And where is the "Registry" for all the people who make false accusations and destroy the lives of honest men and women.

Aug. 30 2011 12:14 AM

This discussion needs to expand in to the wider public arena. I agree that "POLITCIANS" are loathed to even discuss this issue in a fair and balanced way. Mean while tax payer money is being needlesly squandered because the MEDIA and POLITCIANS have created this MONSTER! I believe with some LOGIC and UNEMOTIONAL even handedness a reasonable SEX OFFENDER POLICY could be put in place that would better address this issue. and enhance PUBLIC SAFETY.

Aug. 29 2011 06:39 PM
LastTrain from Illinois

The comment that "there is an almost 100% recidivism rate in this population" is not accurate. According to the Dept. of Justice, sex offenders have one of the lowest recidivism rates, second lowest only to murderers. Many offenders do end up getting re-arrested, not for re-offending, but for violating the Act (which includes failing to register a change of address, change of employment information, or even their license plate number within a certain number of days).

Currently how the system is structured in many states there simply is no way to know who poses a threat and who does not. Due to how Illinois classifies sex offenders, someone who is listed on the registry as a sexual predator might not have even had contact of any kind with the victim -- never met, talked to, emailed, or chatted with online. It is an offense-based classification only; no risk assessments or psychological evaluations are performed to make that distinction. This results in over 48% of the sex offenders in IL being classified as sexual predators. Keep this in mind when you look up sex offenders on the registry.

Also, treatment of sex offenders has been proven to be an effective means of reducing recidivism, while adding to the restrictions has not. More money is put into creating and enforcing endless restrictions than providing treatment options even though studies have shown that restrictions have no bearing on reducing recidivism rates.

Aug. 29 2011 12:17 AM

This was a very weak piece. The most important factor in having a registry for sex-offenders is that there is an almost 100% recidivism rate in this population. That was not even touched on in your brief presentation. I seriously question the value of the study you discussed. While I agree with John P. that a teenager engaging in consensual sex with another teenager is not a sex-offender, that issue distracts the public from the real issues. The public deserves to be notified about predators in their midst, particularly when the government won't hold them in jail, and the mental health professionals cannot offer effective treatment. Sex-offenders are not a discriminated class of people.

Aug. 28 2011 05:29 PM
John P. from Chicago

Your show failed to mention one of the most important issues, that people are unjustly put on the registry and end of stigmatized for life. Consider a 17-year old boy who has some form of sex with his high school girlfriend. This is not an uncommon occurrence and would not mean that your 8-year old child is at risk to live near him. Yet, that boy would be marked as a “sex offender” for life. Please, have we lost the distinction between right and wrong?

Aug. 28 2011 12:31 PM
clopha deshotel from Bridgeport CT

I make here a suggestion for the PhD candidate Amanda and Brooke - for a regular monthly show on this topic. Listeners can find an article at Wikipedia about the use of "rape as a weapon of war." Yes, a regular episode on the OTM show is here proposed. Morality can be seen as being like the axis that earth spins on, and the path we all take around the sun is like Ethics for the hoi polloi - they are interactive. Poll the audience, of course.

Aug. 27 2011 06:49 AM

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