Corinne Carey, former researcher for the US Program, undertook the original research for this report.
The report was written by Sarah Tofte with the assistance of Jamie Fellner, director of the US Program, who also edited the report. Patrick Vinck, director of the Berkeley-Tulane Initiative on Vulnerable Populations at the Human Rights Center, University of California-Berkeley, tabulated the data for Human Rights Watch's study of North Carolina's online sex offender registry.
We want to acknowledge our special gratitude to Patty Wetterling, Alisa Klein, Jim Rensel, Nancy Daley, Dr. Levenson for providing guidance and insights in helping us to shape the research and writing of this report. Politicians have responded with a series of laws, including the sex offender registration, community notification, and residency restriction laws that are the subject of this report.
Federal law and the laws of all 50 states now require adults and some juveniles convicted of specified crimes that involve sexual conduct to register with law enforcement-regardless of whether the crimes involved children.
A growing number of states and municipalities have also prohibited registered offenders from living within a designated distance (typically 500 to 2,500 feet) of places where children gather-for example, schools, playgrounds, and daycare centers.
Human Rights Watch appreciates the sense of concern and urgency that has prompted these laws.
We are especially grateful to those who trusted us with very painful and personal stories.Blanket residency restrictions should be abolished. Proponents of sex offender registration and community notification believe they protect children in two ways: police have a list of likely suspects should a sex crime occur in the neighborhood in which a registered offender lives, and parents have information that will enable them to heighten their vigilance and to warn their children to stay away from particular people.Advocates for residency restrictions believe they will limit offenders' access to children and their temptation or ability to commit new crimes.It has made me rethink the value of broad-based community notification laws, which operate on the assumption that most sex offenders are high-risk dangers to the community they are released into.The justifications offered for sex offender laws focus on sexually violent offenders.