Monday, April 7, 2014

Let's talk about (sex offenders)

Zoning map
Original Article

Nazi Germany had registries as well!


By Marc Allen

First, let’s put some things on the table. There is wide consensus that sexual assault is under reported. There is some disagreement about just how under reported sexual assault among adults is (and some controversy about how it is defined and measured), but there are good estimates that only about a tenth of sexual abuse against children is ever reported. Abuse against children is especially heinous because of the lifelong harm it can inflict on the survivors and the subsequent costs it imposes on society.

Now, let’s talk about one hugely counterproductive way to deal with sexual assault: public sex offender registries.*

Public registries started appearing in the early 1990s and became ubiquitous, with the help of federal legislation, by the early 2000s. Since then, both the feds and the states themselves have slowly been expanding their registries and adding restrictions to registrants.

There have been a number of good pieces in the last few years critical of public registries. Here. Here. And here. But public registries remain popular. Some states have expanded their registries in the last decade and/or added additional restrictions to registrants.

You can imagine why this ratcheting upwards keeps happening. Being pro sex offender isn't a terribly popular political stance. Take geographic bans for example. Once registrants are banned from living or loitering within 500 feet of a school, it’s easy and good politics to to expand 500 feet to 1000 feet (or even 2500 feet). After that, it’s easy to add daycare's, parks, churches, and Chuck E Cheese’s to the list of protected places.

The end result of these geographic bans is that large portions of cities become off-limits. Densely populated areas are especially bad. Here’s a map of the city of Grand Rapids, blue areas are within 1000 feet of a school, red areas are within 1000 feet of a day care:

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