Sex offender laws are based on preventing the horrific crimes that inspired them-but the abduction, rape, and murder of a child by a stranger who is a previously convicted sex offender is a rare event.
Some politicians cite recidivism rates for sex offenders that are as high as 80-90 percent.
In fact, most (three out of four) former sex offenders do not reoffend and most sex crimes are not committed by former offenders.
A growing number of states and municipalities have also prohibited registered offenders from living within a designated distance (typically 500 to 2,500 feet) of places where children gather-for example, schools, playgrounds, and daycare centers.
Human Rights Watch appreciates the sense of concern and urgency that has prompted these laws.
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.So-called "Megan's Laws" establish public access to registry information, primarily by mandating the creation of online registries that provide a former offender's criminal history, current photograph, current address, and other information such as place of employment.In many states everyone who is required to register is included on the online registry.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.