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Sex crime registry laws: ineffective and unfair

In 1994, members of Congress passed legislation requiring states to keep track of individuals convicted of certain sex crimes. Since that time, state sex offender registry laws have grown more inclusive and punitive, the effects of which have served to both destroy the lives of many individuals convicted of sex crimes and also hinder law enforcement officials in identifying and tracking violent sex offenders.

Individuals who are accused and subsequently convicted of committing a sex crime are often viewed as monsters who are inherently dangerous and, if provided the opportunity, will commit additional sex crimes. There's little sympathy among the public for individuals who are convicted of sex crimes. As a result, despite evidence that existing sex offender registry laws are ineffective, politicians are reluctant to propose changes that may be viewed as being weak on crime or beneficial to offenders.

In Minnesota, individuals convicted of a wide range of sex crimes must register for at least 10 years with the state. In some cases, an individual may be required to register for life. Individuals, who are discovered to be in violation of state sex offender registry laws, face prison sentences of one or more years and are required to extend registration for an additional five years.

Sex offender registrants face restrictions related to where they can work, live and visit. They also frequently become the targets of public hate campaigns as news of their arrival and whereabouts within a community are made public. The punishments doled out for a crime that may have occurred 10 or 20 years ago, essentially never end. Rather there are simply different phases to the punishment as an individual tries desperately, and often futilely, to put the past behind them and reintegrate into society.

Minneapolis area residents facing criminal charges related to sex crimes may fail to realize the serious and long-lasting negative implications associated with a sex crimes conviction. Even in cases where an individual is not required to serve time in prison, being forced to register as a sex offender imposes restrictions that dictate much of an individual's life and will likely have adverse and far-reaching personal and professional consequences.

Source: Slate, "Reforming the Registry: The best ideas for fixing sex offender laws," Chanakya Sethi, Aug. 15, 2014 

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