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What Good are Those Registries?

W. Scott Cole

Posted on December 6, 2018 01:46

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In no way do I intend the following to imply that a sexual assault is anything other than the truly horrible wrong it is or to belittle the impact it has on the victims. While I take no position on whether registries should be eliminated, the registries as they are now don't work.

Registries appeared in the 1990s, their stated purpose being to make communities safer by allowing people to know who, among their neighbors, committed a sexual crime so they could protect themselves and their families. There is nothing wrong with that, especially since, at that time the media and politicians were touting a 90%+ recidivism rate. In other words, if you did it once, it’s almost guaranteed you were going to do it again.

The truth is far different; the use of registries increases recidivism and lowers peoples’ awareness of where the biggest danger of a sexual assault lies.

A recent study in nine states showed Utah has a recidivism rate of nine percent while Tennessee claimed a zero percent recidivism rate, with the other states falling somewhere in between. These numbers are pretty much the same for every state. Homicide is the only felony crime with a lower recidivism rate, although one study does put the recidivism rate at between 13% and 23%. To put it another way, the vast majority of sexual assaults are committed by people who have never committed a sexual crime and therefore are not on the registries.

Meanwhile, registries have blown “stranger danger” out of proportion. Yes, parents should (must) teach their children not to take gifts, rides, etc. from strangers and to be wary of them, but that is not where the biggest danger lies. Approximately 60% of boys and 80% of girls were victimized by family members or people known to the family. Adults fare no better. Among women who reported being raped, 76% identified a current or former husband, live-in partner or date as the rapist.

The registries increase recidivism in several ways. In some studies, that increase is as much as two percent. It has been proven, as I have pointed out many times, that the best ways to reduce recidivism are jobs, housing, and support from both families and the community.

If a person is on a registry, they are denied housing, making homelessness a major problem. Homelessness decreases stability and adds stress to an already stressful situation, thus increasing recidivism. It's also used to deny them jobs. A job is a requirement of life. Without a job, the chances of recidivism soar. Even when someone on a registry finds a job, it is usually a low paying, menial job, meaning he still has to struggle to survive.

The families of those on registries also face harassment and worse, making it difficult or impossible to support their loved one, and communities offer little to no support. Again, these things increase recidivism.

There are many other problems with registries. Something needs to be done with them. The question is, what? I think a good place to start is to make registries only for those who are a true threat to recidivate; those determined to be high risk and sexually violent predators.

W. Scott Cole

Posted on December 6, 2018 01:46

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