SPS: Sex Offender Registries Can Produce Unintended Consequences

Social Work and the Courts

“The Injustice of Sex Offender Registry and Notification System” is an article by Lee King, DCC, LCSW, committee member of the Social Work and the Courts section in the latest Section Connection. 

King notes the intersection between ethics and the law is a topic of special significance, and the article explores the reasons for reforming the sex offender registry.

Sex offender registries (SORs) spark intense debates and polarized opinions.

Continued support for registries despite these claims has led some researchers to suggest that proponents might be uninformed about evidence, unresponsive to scientific findings, and potentially influenced by emotional factors, King states.

Though initially designed to decrease sexual victimization through heightened community awareness of convicted sex offenders, SOR laws have been shown to produce numerous unintended consequences for registrants.

“The existing public registry system has not produced proof of its effectiveness in reducing sexual offenses or in positively affecting the lives of people listed on their database,” King says. “Legislators must avoid public fear-based reactions and strive to make policy decisions based on management strategies that best protect the community and help rehabilitate the offender."

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