Panel examines sex crimes laws, registry

Experts presented arguments against the broad spectrum of classified sex offenders and the stigma attached to the variety of violators at a panel hosted by NYU Review of Law and Social Change on Monday.

According to the panel, strict sex offender registration laws have impacted the lives of over 800,000 American children and adults.

Since the 1990s, most states have passed laws outlining where sex offenders should live, who they are permitted to see and what jobs they could hold.

Panelist David Feige said the number of people classified as sex offenders has increased as a result of the federal government enacting harsher and broader laws. He said even though sex crimes now constitute a wide variety of offenses, the stigma surrounding the sex offender label creates unnecessary biases toward people on the registry who committed non-sexual crimes
in childhood.

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“The sex offender category is expanding in some troubling ways,” Feige said. “From peeing in public to being a serial pedophile, the sex offender label casts an enormous net that traps harmless people into the stereotype of child rapists.”

Feige added that these laws are rarely reformed because of the sensitive nature of the subject and a widespread lack of interest in the topic.

“Nobody really wants to look at it,” Feige said. “That is why sex offender laws in particular, despite being a wave of change, have been out of reach for most reform discussions.”

Panelists also discussed the 2006 Adam Walsh Act, which required offenders to include personal information concerning their cases in the Sex Offender Registry. David Patten, a member of the panel said the act limited individual freedom.

“These harsh laws have now become layered on top of already strict conditions such as probation requirements and federal and state regulations,” Patten said. “Some of the most extreme cases may even require offenders to wear GPS tracking devices and prohibit the use of smart phones. These people walk around with this label every minute, of every day, with a sense that they are never fully free.”

Nicole Pittman, an expert on the effects of sex offender laws on children, said 200,000 of the 800,000 members on registered sex offender lists in the United States are under the age of 18. She said placing children on the list creates a barrier that limits opportunities for education, employment and housing.

“We need to get children off of these registries,” Pittman said. “But lawmakers could never understand the harm it is causing. It’s not have we gone too far, or where do we need to go, it’s how we find our way out. We have completely annihilated generations of children and their families by placing minors on registries.”

NYU Law student Gia Park said the stereotypes involving sex offenders were not justifiable, and the discussion advocated for the fair treatment of minors.

“Lawmakers need to establish more suitable regulations in order to combat truly dangerous offenders while giving children a rightfully deserved opportunity for life outside the stigma of being a sex offender,” Park said. “Strict policies will not make neighborhoods safer when they are being implemented on peaceful groups.”

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 7 print edition. Email Lexi Faunce at [email protected]

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8 COMMENTS

  1. the registry needs a complete overhaul and revamping!!!

    there are way to many people on the registry who have never committed an actual “sex” crime. they have never touched a child and never physically harmed a child.

    the registry should be reserved for those who actually sexually (touch) abuse a child/person, do a violent contact sex crime, actually does a violent rape and repeat offenders.

    no more should someone be convicted on the simple say so of a person. no more should someone be convicted without proof. no more should someone be convicted without DNA. no more should someone be convicted for something that was without malicious or physical intent.

    the registry should be reserved for law enforcement only as a tool. it should not be available for public viewing, open for speculations or shivers of the ‘ick’ factor. and it most assuredly it should not be viewed by the public to be used for vindictive harassment, attacks or vigilantes.

  2. We are so appreciative for the discussions which are taking place over the 3-day time frame. We need so many more of them to educate the public and legislators about what they are doing to our 3-million registrant family members.

    This escalates the issue to the next needed level. For some time the only ones talking about the issue were the groups who benefited from the bloated registry.

    We would welcome and host an event with these same professionals in the home state of Women Against Registry….Missouri.

    We would add a new initiative to the mix in that we are getting ready to file two class action law suits in the fall.One on behalf of registrants AND a separate one on behalf of registrant families.

    Check out our website. http://www.womenagainstregistry.org

    Vicki Henry

    • Amen. This has gotten so far out of control. I understand that we need to protect our children. But what about the family of the sex offender? I can see having the police keep tabs on some of these people but the public having access is just to much. There had been way too many people on the registry and their families being hurt because of ignorance. I am a victim of such things. I have survived and moved on. My life if no worse than any one else’s. I did not tell anyone for several years. Because it was our ministers soon who abused me and my twin sister when we were ten. I am glad that he was not placed on this registry it would have destroyed his family. . I have forgiven him for what he did to many many years ago. Seeing his picture on the registry would not help me feel any more safe. I would definetly like to be apart of this class action suit and I know my husband would also. If you could give me more info.

  3. Registries should be abolished. Each case brought in front of a judge should be independently reviewed based on the person and the crime committed and no one should be sentenced based on reports provided to the court by psychologists and professionals who contact these reports and our paid by the court. Each case is different. This is a one-size-fits-all situation. To label any person who commits a sex crime for the rest of their lives is unfair, unjust, and a violation of their civil rights.
    The registry should be thrown out and laws should be over-turned that have been put into place. No one should be forced to live under these conditions. No one.

  4. edit
    Registries should be abolished. Each case brought in front of a judge should be independently reviewed based on the person and the crime committed. No one should be sentenced based on reports provided to the court by psychologists and professionals who do not know these individuals, yet submit their findings based on their statistics and who are hired and paid by the court. Each case is different. To label any person who commits a sex crime for the rest of their his/her life, is unfair, unjust, and a violation of their civil rights. These are not a one-size-fits-all situation.
    The registry should be thrown out and laws should be over-turned that have been put into place.
    These people may not be imprisoned but they still are because of the laws.
    No one should be forced to live under these conditions. No one.

  5. The label sex offender is overly broad. It stigmatizes and stereotypes. The negative impacts effect not only those registered but their family’s, friends, employers, and neighbors. It devalues property value. It strips children of innocence by forcing adult fears and issues on them prematurely. My grandparents fought world war II against fascism and here we are having a discussion on whether fascist policy is justified in the name of public safety. The path to hell is paved with good intentions. Welcome all.

  6. Abolish these registries .they are hurting our son …the most .our son shouldn’t have to feel fear and like an outcast for my hub distant past .he did nothing ..he’s a victim of these registry restrictions ..he does not understand why he can’t have friends or not be able to go to a y bday parties classmates invite him too..its sad I have to tell him I’m sorry son .but me and hub tell each other cause hub is on registry we have to protect him from this world .from parents or kids finding out hub on registry .so our son don’t get condemned and treated like an outcast .or hurt from any one whom can look online and see my hub info .they put every vehicle tag every address plus sec address .where he works .picture and all.

    Anyone can see it in this world and we are fearful and tormented every day that somebody may hurt us …my hub mom is 86 .she wants to see us go camping with them one day ..but that’s not possible why cause hub on registry an d the laws .so she is upset and hurts and won’t go by herself .cause she feels we all family if hub can’t go she don’t want yo go ..yup that’s collateral damages. It hurts us all and takes the going anywhere away. .and our son is made to grow up yo become a unsociable and an outcast from the world .saddened tormented .not having a normal kid life .he can’t go anywhere or anything .no friends .no nothing ..he should be able to have a kid life as well ..my hub taken full responsibity and never minimized his way distant bad. Choice he made before our son even came in this world ..my hub is truly sorry for his past .been in counseling 6yrs now probation 6yrs .he’s got ten more years on probation.also.takes polygraphs every 6mths .passes them and has lived lawful and right since the offence ..we just want to be able to be a family .and be able to both be part of our son growing up years and be able to be together .going diff places with our son .like parks etc ..together as family for our son .so when he gets older .he will feel like a normal child being able to go places and doing things as a family .a family unit .I belive if one is living lawful and there’s not been any problems passed Poly’s been in counseling and all..I think there should be a second chance to integrate back into society.. ..some kind of restorative program .and be taken off registry …one cause of the fear of vigilanteeism possibilities .2 .harrasment at jobs won’t happen .and won’t get fired cause they wouldn’t be able to harass him .3our child at school won’t have a chance to get harmed or ridiculed or harassed cause the love one isn’t on public registry .4.,our house won’t have chance to be targeted for vandalism.burned down etc like other horrifying stories of those on registry and their families face each day.
    .registry restrictions should be taken down :::.1families can be families .2 son can have a kid life with his family going to and fro long as we All together ..4 can go visit my mom who is sick and old and can help her .maybe even be able to move near her . we can’t do visit or even move due to restrictions in every state …,especially fla .people made to live in swamps .etc. our son can’t go visit and enjoy vacations or anything ..what fun is it when you get permission to travel in the state even and while from a distance you can see a fair going on but .you a kid of rso so all you can do is look as you pass on highway .no fun or kid life ..and in our state anytime you want to leave the county .you have to ask pro for permission etc …so its basically our kid life .is watching redbox family movies or staying in the yard .or playing PS 3 why cause that’s the life this registry gives him and me ….

    Look long ago I was molested by my brother and uncle and I learned to forgive them too …to this day .they never was arrested for what they done .
    But I would never wish this registry on them .
    They can enjoy every day out there .
    Freedom is not what our family has .
    Even though God had forgiven my hub past .he is for a lifetime suffer the consequences for his actions..and we as a family suffer the collateral damage done …I’m old but our son is very young and I’m so concerned about how he will turn out not having a real life to live as a normal kid .we don’t have one .people need to care about the rso children as well ..I will not leave my hub and break our family unit we are three in this family .and our son needs both of us. Not just me .the restrictions our son has to suffer with takes away the family structure unit he needs. ..I understand the protecting the children stuff but .how are we protecting All the children when there are solo many kids having to deal with the outcast living .the shunning .ridiculing fear torment .the constant worries who may come near us or bully him. The not being able to be a kid going places as a family .having dad with us. Our son needs and wants.

    We are imprisoned emotionally and physically in our own homes. .I can deal with it better than our son will one day. Please help .
    But this registry has condemned him and taken his life away ..he can’t go parks etc why cause hubby can’t .he can’t have both parents see him graduate each year .why cause the restrictions .he can’t even go to zoo or amusement park as a family why cause the restrictions ..this is just all soon sad .I pray we can see our son get to live a normal kid life .have friends. Go bday parties .parks ..camping etc sports where Both parents can be there and be part of his life .we only kids once ..

    • That’s so true the probation requirements etc .can’t have smart phone etc. Can’t be online to even look up news or stuff .normal stuff ..if people would realize that smart phones got GPS on them so they tracked anyways .and most every technology is online stuff. Soon they are making internet in vehicles .hmm this don’t make since .to me if they worried about porno why not they tell the person get a filter for comp. Or long as someone is at home with you .to allow them be online etc. .what about our son being able to go online to do school work ,projects .and im at work but hub hom . Is he not allowed to be online just for that even ???….no when u on probation they say yes or no .they add extra rules etc. It shouldnt be that way .the registry says not be on media chat sites .not that you cant be online .but pro says yes or no .this dont make sence either .some can be online some can’t in hub group .should be same for all some can have smart phone and some can’t .what about same rules .not . etc .but allow smart phones. Most the phones have online access too .except one I know whom don’t and that the cheap generic phone my hub has that you can’t even hardly press the lil key board. Ughh. .the way I see it people on pro take polygraph and they’ll ask u about porno etc..and if they check the phones they’ll see if you been surfing porn too .so if you aren’t doing wrong .got nothing to worry about. .nothing to hide .all we want is normal life bu t can hub have a smart phone .nope not according to probation .

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