Should The Government Revoke Public Access To National Sex Offender Registry?

Sex Offender Sign
Wikimedia Commons

The United States Federal Government have discussed the idea of temporarily repealing the Sex Offender Notification and Registration Act in addition to the federal law known as Megan’s Law on March 7th 2017, however, many government officials feel its a move unlikely to be made.

According to Brad Heywood, a United States Department of Justice representative (the federal agency responsible for maintaining the National Sex Offender Registry and operating a website allowing users to submit queries in attempt to obtain information about sex offenders throughout the United States) told reporters during a scheduled press-conference that the federal laws would be temporarily repealed on March 7th 2017, however are scheduled to be updated and re-enacted by March 10th 2017.

According to Heywood, there will be minimal change made to the National Sex Offender Registration process itself, however, there will be a notable change regarding who can and cannot access and view information on the National Sex Offender Registry.

Law enforcement authorities are currently required to make information regarding registered sex offenders available to the public. Individual states have the autonomy to decide what information will be made available to the public and how the information should be disseminated. This has been cause for great controversy and debate as offenders residing in some states are subjected to far stricter registration requirements than others. Many state officials are grateful for the ability to set guidelines as they see fit, however several other representatives have asked that the federal government provide a uniform procedure for all states to follow.

According to U.S. Department of Justice Spokesman Brad Heywood, as of March 7th 2017, the National Sex Offender Registry will be available exclusively to law enforcement officials and the general public will no longer have access to the database.

The public accessibility of the National Sex Offender Registry has always been an issue of controversy and debate as America is currently the only country that allows the general public to access information regarding convicted and registered sex offenders living in their respective states, towns, and neighborhoods.

Over the last several decades, many advocate groups have argued for the repeal of Megan’s Law stating that the public access of the National Sex Offender Registry is unconstitutional and inhumane. Advocate groups commonly maintain the argument that criminal sex offenses are the only crime that carry punishment and consequences for the offender, even after they have served their sentence. Many others support the National Sex Offender Registry’s public access and believe that as a safety measure, communities have the right to know if offenders are residing nearby.

According to Heywood, the primary reason for revoking public access to the National Sex Offender Registry is that data has failed to prove the law effective. Heywood told reporters that while there has been a reported 32% increase in claims of harassment by those listed on the National Sex Offender Registry by who Heywood refers to as ‘neighborhood vigilantes’, continued research has shown that the public access of the registry has not statistically reduced the number of repeat sex offenders.

According to a 2011 Gallup poll, approximately 57% of Americans were in support of revoking public access to the National Sex Offender Registry.