California, which has the largest sex offender registry in the United States, has received the news from the California Sex Offender Management Board that their registry is not working. The board reported that the fast-growing registry included too many unnecessary people and that it did not help law enforcement or the public differentiate potentially risky offenders from those who would likely not reoffend.
The board reported that about 95 percent of solved sex crimes are committed by people who are not on the registry, and said that the registry was created, in part, on assumptions that have since been proved to be wrong. The board called for an overhaul of the registry.
The board recommended to the California legislature that only high-risk offenders, such as violent predators and kidnappers–that is, offenders whose offenses are also characterized by something other than sex–should be required to register for life.
The list currently has 100,000 offenders registered, and is growing. California requires lifetime registration of all sex offenders. The nature or circumstances of the offense are not usually relevant to registration.
When the board reported earlier this year, they had found that the registry included many offenders “who do not necessarily pose a risk to the community.” Nine hundred such registered offenders last offended more than 55 years ago.
The registry is also used for Megan’s Law, a tool of law enforcement used to notify the public about sex offenders. It offers the public a searchable website of what are considered the most serious registered sex offenders. However, around 80 percent of all of California’s 100,000 registered offenders are posted on the Megan’s Law website.
In 2011, the California Sex Offender registry was audited. The audit found that the government department responsible for the state’s prison and parole system, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, had been illegally abusing the sex offender registry by forwarding all offenders for examination as possible sexually violent predators rather than using discretion. That is, anyone convicted of any sexual offense was forwarded to be considered for classification as a violent offender and so registered. The law did not permit this.
Not only that, since 2005, the audit found that although 59 percent of released sex offenders violated parole, only 1 percent committed a new offense. That one percent represented 134 convicts. Of those 134, only one committed a new sex offense.
By Day Blakely Donaldson