Sunday, August 2, 2015

A "Dangerous Persons" Registry

I'm strongly opposed to the sex offender registry. The hatred of sex offenders means men are listed for life for such crimes as having sex with a 15-year-old girlfriend when they're 19 or downloading child pornography.

I think the proper criminal justice model is criminal sentences, parole as appropriate, and monitoring by parole officers. No registries, no civil commitment, and no housing restrictions.

However, the sex offender registry is a reality. There is no sign it is going away any time soon. I have an idea for how it could be transformed and improved.

The sensible kernel of wisdom to the sex offender registry is that you might want to know if a truly dangerous criminal moves in nearby. An example might be an adult convicted twice of brutal rape of a stranger. Such a man would be on the sex offender registry today. But why is it restricted to sex offenders? You also might want to know of someone who has been convicted six times over the course of several years for robbing someone at gunpoint, or someone who has twice killed people who surprised him during a burglary.

Politicians are very reluctant to relax registry laws for fear of being seen as soft on sex offenders. Perhaps if they changed it to a "Dangerous Persons Registry" that would provide them some cover. If they then slowly and quietly removed 95% of the sex offenders from the registry while adding a few other truly dangerous criminals, we'd be in a better place than we are now.

What might happen instead was that the concept of a "dangerous person" would expand to include those guilty of shoplifting and the registry would become truly massive. We could hope it would collapse under its own weight, but I shudder to think what would happen if it did not. But I think it would be worth a shot.


  1. Am I right in thinking that sex offenders have the lowest rate of recidivism of all the main offender categories? If so why is it them that are placed under surveillance for life and persecuted for crimes for which they've served their time? As so often when it comes to paedophilia and child sexuality the mob mind is 180° wrong.

  2. What sticks in my mind is that the recidivism rate for child sex offenses is lower than for any crime except murder, but I don't have a reference. There was some outlier study that showed high recidivism, lawmakers latched onto that as justification for what was basically anti-pedophile hatred.