When the sex offender registry causes more harm than good
There is a reason why every state in the country has public databases with information on former sex offenders. There have been horrific stories of former offenders released into the community who reoffend. The problem with sex offender registries, however, is that they are extremely harsh, and the law often fails to take into consideration the facts of a case before requiring someone to register. When an 18-year-old who has sex with a younger teenager is treated the same as a serial rapist who kills his or her victims, there is a problem.
Maybe it is not the best idea for a barely legal adult to have sex with a younger teenager, but 18-year-olds are not often known for making wise decisions all the time. Though there may indeed be cause for concern, is it appropriate to put the young adult on the New Jersey sex offender registry? Is it appropriate to condemn someone just at the start of his or her adult life to years of having his or her personal information publically available?
In a recent story of one mother's fight to reform sex offender registries, it is clearly obvious that her son's one mistake of having sex with a younger girl has cost him dearly. He wasn't even an adult when he had sex with a preteen girl at a party, but he had to spend six months in jail and will spend the rest of his life on his state's sex offender registry.
Individuals on the registry often have trouble holding down housing and work, as their landlords and employers are hesitatnt to be associated with a former sex offender. Since housing and employment information is often available online, former offenders often can't escape their past mistakes.
Source: NBC News, "My Son, the Sex Offender: One Mother's Mission to Fight the Law," Tony Dokoupil, April 6, 2014