Will Sex Offense Registry Changes be Part of Criminal Justice Reform?

  • Not all states use this method of registration. For example, Texas puts almost all individuals convicted of a sexual offense on a lifetime registry with no regard for risk of re-offense.
  • Many states notify the community about a registrant’s location. Depending on the state, notification may involve a letter to community organizations or members, website notification, or it may mean a billboard or advertisement in the newspaper with the individual’s identifying information.
  • The number of sexual offenses requiring registration expanded considerably under SORNA, which means public identification of individuals for offenses that were previously not publicized.
  • An individual’s tier level and length of registration requirement may change retroactively as crime classification changes. For example, John Q. who was convicted in the 1980s (pre-registry) for sexual assault of a minor was not required to register at the time of his plea. When the registry was created, John Q. was added to the registry for 10 years — again, this was not part of his original plea agreement. When SORNA was implemented in his state of residence, John Q. was moved to Tier 3 which means lifetime registration and often community notification.
  • Individuals convicted of sex offenses have very low recidivism rates, about 5 percent in most research.
  • The longer an individual remains in the community offense-free, the less likely they are going to recidivate.
  • Community-based treatment, intensive supervision programs, and broad-based community notification are ineffective for low risk offenders.
  • If we know that the longer an individual remains in the community offense-free, the less likely they are to recidivate, then this should be reflected in the length of time one is on the registry. If the U.S. moves forward with a public registry, there need to be mechanisms for removal based on participation in treatment, risk assessment, and length of time offense-free. The registry should not be a blanket lifetime punishment for an ever-widening list of crimes ranging from statutory offenses to possession of child pornography to violent rape.
  • These laws are a major obstacle in reintegration, and the longer the period of registration, the greater the challenges. We need to reconsider the monitoring of individuals who are no longer a risk or low risk. There is no legitimate safety reason for the public to have access to this information.
  • Programs that focus on job skills and promoting gainful employment in proximity to one’s residence are important. As well, removal of one’s place of employment from the registry would increase the likelihood of employment.
  • Reduction of transience could be assisted by removal of residency restrictions which are not linked in any meaningful way to sex offense rates.



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Lisa Anne Zilney

Lisa Anne Zilney


Educating the public about (1) collateral consequences of sex offense laws; (2) issues surrounding drugs and the drug war; and (3) other social justice issues.