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.While these beliefs may seem intuitively correct, they are predicated on several widely shared but nonetheless mistaken premises.
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.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.Corinne Carey, former researcher for the US Program, undertook the original research for this report.The report was written by Sarah Tofte with the assistance of Jamie Fellner, director of the US Program, who also edited the report. Patrick Vinck, director of the Berkeley-Tulane Initiative on Vulnerable Populations at the Human Rights Center, University of California-Berkeley, tabulated the data for Human Rights Watch's study of North Carolina's online sex offender registry.With her parents' blessing, they began to date, and openly saw each other romantically for almost a year.When it was disclosed that consensual sexual contact had occurred, her parents pressed charges against Brandon and he was convicted of sexual assault and placed on the sex offender registry in his state. He will be on the registry and publicly branded as a sex offender for the rest of his life.We want to acknowledge our special gratitude to Patty Wetterling, Alisa Klein, Jim Rensel, Nancy Daley, Dr. Levenson for providing guidance and insights in helping us to shape the research and writing of this report. Politicians have responded with a series of laws, including the sex offender registration, community notification, and residency restriction laws that are the subject of this report.Federal law and the laws of all 50 states now require adults and some juveniles convicted of specified crimes that involve sexual conduct to register with law enforcement-regardless of whether the crimes involved children.