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Changes needed in sex offender registry rules

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The sex offender registration system has grown to the point that children as young as 9 can be registered, and teenagers having consensual sex and sexting can be registered. The rules, restrictions, and background checks often dictated by the registry can be onerous and destroy any rehabilitation initiatives and lifetime registration with no path off the registry destroys all hope for a better tomorrow. (Photo courtesy of Arizonans for Rational Sex Offense Laws)

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a rare spate of high-profile child abductions and murders, mostly sexual in nature, terrified America. With constant media coverage, parents across the country were easily led to believe that their children could be in imminent danger. As demands from the public, as well as a few prominent parents of missing or murdered children escalated, legislatures responded, and the sex offender registry was born.

This primal need to protect our children from any possible harm resonates in us all. Human logic supports instincts – if we identify and track those who have committed these crimes, we can better protect those we love. False information surrounding the risk of re-offense by the perpetrators only increased the willingness to do anything to reduce that risk.

That was 30-plus years ago, and in those years the sex offender registration system has grown to the point that children as young as 9 can be registered, and teenagers having consensual sex and sexting can be registered. The rules, restrictions, and background checks often dictated by the registry can be onerous and destroy any rehabilitation initiatives and lifetime registration with no path off the registry destroys all hope for a better tomorrow.

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Patricia and Terry Borden

Something else has happened in those 30 years. We now have a massive body of evidence showing that every premise upon which registration was built is false. It does not reduce sexual recidivism, neither violent nor nonviolent. It does not reduce first-time sex crimes. Furthermore, the purported high rate of re-offense is non-existent.

Finally, the American Law Institute is calling for changes. The institute is an independent organization of thousands of lawyers, judges, and scholars who published The Model Penal Code in 1962 to encourage the states to standardize their criminal codes. Even though it is not legally binding, it proved to be influential as a majority of states adopted it, either in part or in whole. Their current revision to the sex offender codes has taken nearly a decade to complete and is intended to guide the states in updating their laws based on the empirical knowledge we have gained since 1962.

The changes recommended by the American Law Institute involve four areas:

  • Limiting registerable offenses to the more dangerous ones.
  • Providing registry access to law enforcement only.
  • Modifying registration terms, especially abolishing lifetime registration and the ability to register children.
  • Abolishing blanket restrictions that automatically curtail all registrants’ rights and freedoms.

These revised recommendations are based on 30 years of research and would make our laws more just regarding crimes of a sexual nature and those who commit them.

On May 18, 2022, the American Law Institute, at its annual meeting approved the changes and gave the project final approval.

Arizonans for Rational Sex Offense Laws supports the American Law Institute’s revised Model Penal Code as it pertains to the management of sexual crimes and calls upon the Arizona Legislature to enact laws that reflect the American Law Institute’s recommendations.

Patricia and Terry Borden are co-directors of Arizonans for Rational Sex Offense Laws.

 

 

3 comments

  1. Ideally, the registry would be abolished for all the reasons cited above, among others. Even a law enforcement only registry makes no sense, as no one can point to one single crime apart from registry violations that it played any role in successfully investigating. Even if someone could, the odds are that they would be unable to point to one single piece of information provided by the registry that could not have been found elsewhere during the normal investigative process. It even hinders other investigative efforts in every case it was used, such as in the Kiely Rodni matter. Law enforcement knows (but will never publicly admit) that is useless for investigative purposes and its only value is to solicit more funding for its maintenance, only a fraction of which is used for that purpose when received.

    Though far from perfect, the ALI revisions are at least a little more rational.

  2. if being forced from the safety of ones home or immediate vicinity unto a distant location where further detained while forced to endure whatever another person wants is not representative of an affirmative disability or restraint on ones liberty as courts have stated over and over then it seems apparent that a lot of people in prison for kidnapping should have their conviction or sentence revisited.

  3. These changes are long over due and sadly too many politicians and those that could change this don’t say anything for fear of it being a career killer.
    The list was only meant to be to keep tabs on the most dangerous of offenders. Someone that viewed material or sent an email should not be under the same classification as someone who physically, emotionally, or mentally attacked someone if any age.
    Teens who are finding themselves in an already very confusing time in their lives should not be in the same class rubbed for the rest of their lives.
    Even those accused then found innocent have had their lives destroyed because of the media attention it gets. An accused offender is guilty before being proven guilty and still guilty even if cleared.
    And, as stated, even those who committed struggle with a landslide of obstacles when they are released. Limited to low paying, sometimes horrible jobs and living in usually the worst part of a town or city… where trouble is more likely to find then even if they are doing all they can to make things right.
    I’m not saying everything they did was right, but I am saying they deserve a chance at a new life and they are not truly allowed that with things the way they are.
    Nor are their families. People do not realize how much they are affected. How people look at and treat them.
    Things need to change and I truly hope this succeeds

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