Patty Wetterling, a prominent child safety advocate who founded the Jacob Wetterling Foundation after her son was abducted in 1989, recently told Human Rights Watch, I based my support of broad-based community notification laws on my assumption that sex offenders have the highest recidivism rates of any criminal.But the high recidivism rates I assumed to be true do not exist.
Blanket residency restrictions should be abolished. Proponents of sex offender registration and community notification believe they protect children in two ways: police have a list of likely suspects should a sex crime occur in the neighborhood in which a registered offender lives, and parents have information that will enable them to heighten their vigilance and to warn their children to stay away from particular people.
Advocates for residency restrictions believe they will limit offenders' access to children and their temptation or ability to commit new crimes.
Ashoka Mukpo, US Program Associate, and US Program interns Anjali Balasingham, Andrea Barrow, Madeline Gressel, and Kari White provided important research assistance.
Zama Coursen-Neff, acting deputy director of the Children's Rights Division and Janet Walsh, acting director of the Women's Rights Division, reviewed the report. What happened to nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford is every parent's worst nightmare.
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.
The laws offer scant protection for children from the serious risk of sexual abuse that they face from family members or acquaintances.Yet people who have not committed violent or coercive offenses may nonetheless be required to register as sex offenders and be subject to community notification and residency restrictions.For example, in many states, people who urinate in public, teenagers who have consensual sex with each other, adults who sell sex to other adults, and kids who expose themselves as a prank are required to register as sex offenders. Brandon was a senior in high school when he met a 14-year-old girl on a church youth trip.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.Ian Gorvin, deputy director of the Program Office, and Aisling Reidy, senior legal counsel, edited the report. In February 2005 she was abducted from her home in Florida, raped, and buried alive by a stranger, a next-door neighbor who had been twice convicted of molesting children.