Disadvantages of sex offender registration and notification

In spite of possible benefits and advantages of registration and notification, many specialists (Polizzi et al, 2003) indicate to the fact that the general effect of registration and notification is not really positive, especially in relation to sex offenders. Moreover, some specialists (Doren, 2004) even argue that registration and notification do not only fail to prevent recidivism and exclusion of sex offenders, but, in contrast, they can stimulate anti-social behavior of sex offenders that naturally results in cases of recidivism. It is also worth mentioning that registration and notification may produce a negative impact not only on sex offenders but also on the community as well.

On analyzing the impact of registration and notification on the community, it should be pointed out that among the negative effects of the public notification and the sex offender registration may be the formation of the false sense of security (Finn, 1996). What is meant here is the fact that people living in the community where the sex offender is introduced may be convinced in their security because they are informed about the presence of the offender and they are also conscious of the fact that the offender, being registered, is under the control of law enforcement agencies and the supervision team. However, such a sense of security may be erroneous since, whatever the measures are undertaken, there still remains a risk of careless behavior of some members of the community, especially children, that increases the risk of offense considerably, especially if the sex offender has serious psychological or even mental health problems. Also, the false sense of security may be the result of or lead to the development of friendly relationships with the sex offender that is naturally a positive trend, but only on the condition if the offender is really safe and does not represent a threat to the social order and health and well-being of other members of the community.

On the other hand, the analysis of the registration and notification from the point of view of the sex offender reveals the fact that the registration and notification are actually unjust or, at least, they put sex offenders into disadvantageous position compared to other convicted offenders. In such a context, it is even possible to speak about the discrimination and violation of their rights, though both registration and notification are legalized. In this respect, it should be said that the registration and notification is basically extended on sex offenders, while other offenders, who may commit other, very serious crimes that caused severe damage to their victims, are not supposed to undergo the procedure of registration and notification (Polizzi et al, 2003). However, other offenders may be not less dangerous than sex offenders. Consequently, it would be logical to enlarge the list of offenders that should be registered and notified, if such measures are applied in relation to sex offenders. In such a situation, it is not the nature of crime, i.e. sex offense, that should be the determinant criteria of the application of the registration and notification, but the severity of damages caused by the offender to his/her victim or victims (Freeman-Longo, 2004).

Furthermore, some specialists indicate to the decrease in reporting because, after the introduction of notification and registration many cases of incest remain unreported since members of the family were unwilling to undergo the procedure of notification (Lane, 1997). The reason of such a trend is obvious since notification will lead to the breach of very personal information which both the offender and his/her victim are unwilling to uncover. It is worth mentioning the fact that the decrease in reporting may lead to another negative effect of notification – the decrease of effectiveness of prevention of sex offenses and recidivism (Finn, 1996). Basically, the decrease in reporting leads to the avoidance of punishment. Being unpunished for sex abuse, the offender may continue his/her abusive practice making the life of his/her victim unbearable and, what is more, his/her aggression may be gradually directed on other members of the community. In such way, the high publicity of cases of sex offenses makes the notification undesirable not only for offenders but also for their victims that leads to the failure of the prevention of sex offenses by means of community supervision through the registration and notification.

Finally, it is necessary to remember about another negative effect of the registration and notification the cost of both procedures. Specialists underline that the registration and notification requires a continuous monitoring by law enforcement agencies, social services, public organizations, etc. to ensure offender compliance (Polizzi et al, 2003).

In fact, the goal of the registration and notification is not limited by receiving identifying information about the sex offender and notification of the public about the convicted offender, but they primarily target at the prevention of recidivism and sex offenses. As a result, the registration and notification will need the monitoring and the promotion to gain the public support of the community supervision. In such a way, the cost of such programs may become a serious burden for the community budget while, the impact of the registration and notification on sex offenders is quite arguable. For instance, some specialists (Finn, 1996) argue that the registration and notification limits consistently the ability of the sex offender to function in the community because he/she is constantly monitored and people in the neighborhood constantly view him/her as a source of danger for them or their children that rather leads to the exclusion than inclusion of the offender.

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