Sex offender registration requirements have come under fire across the country as groups in opposition to sex offender registries question their effectiveness in protecting the public and children from the most dangerous offenders.
The Safe Streets Arts Foundation has published a FREE guide entitled "How to Legally Avoid Being Placed on the Sex Offender Registry." For your FREE pdf copy, please Click Here.
In Texas one group is working hard to raise attention to the problem of having an over-inclusive registry that lumps together those with the highest risk of reoffending with those who pose little to no risk. Some state lawmakers who helped strengthen and expand the scope of Texas' sex offender registration requirements also are questioning the wisdom of the state's current registry laws.
Texas law requires those who have been convicted of certain sex offenses and other crimes to register as a sex offender upon release from state supervision. Some of these offenses include:
-Sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault
-Indecency with a child
-Possession or promotion of child pornography
-On-line solicitation of a child
-Kidnapping, aggravated kidnapping and unlawful restraint
The majority of offenders who have committed one of these crimes are required to register for life. Other offenders are required to register for a maximum of 10 years from the date of their release or discharge. Juvenile offenders also may be required to register, but this decision is left to the judge's discretion.
The Texas registration laws require offenders to provide extensive information about themselves, including:
- Biographical information, like name, address, date of birth, weight, eye color, hair color, shoe size
- Identifying information, like Social Security number, driver's license number, full set of fingerprints and a recent color photograph
- Information about their crime, including date of conviction, age of the victim, sentence and conditions of release
- Licenses held, including professional, business and other occupational licenses
- Work and school information, including the name and address of employers and location of any educational institution they may be attending
Most of the information that convicted sex offenders are required to provide is made available to the public in the Sex Offender Database. This database is accessible on-line from the Texas Department of Public Safety's Web site. Only certain information, like the offender's social security and driver's license numbers and any information that could identify the victim, are kept confidential.
Additionally, local law enforcement may contact schools, print notices in the local newspaper or send out postcard notifications to alert members of the community of the presence of certain high-risk offenders in their neighborhoods.
Some groups in opposition to sex offender registries believe the registration laws need to be repealed altogether and replaced with tougher punishments for the most violent of sex crimes. Others believe the registries themselves are a good idea, but want to see greater limits placed on whom is required to register.
One organization, Texas Voice, is in the latter group. The organization is headed by Martin Ezell, who was convicted of statutory rape for having sex with a 16-year-old when he was 32. Ezell is now married to the woman he was convicted of having sex with and has three children with her. Regardless, he still is required to register as a sex offender.
Through his group, Ezell wants to see other low-level, non-violent offenders like himself removed from the Texas sex offender database. Some state lawmakers have begun supporting this position, including Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) and Ray Allen, the former Texas House Corrections Chair. Both of these men have expressed concerns about the over-inclusiveness of the registry and its ability to adequately protect children and the public at large.
Others in the state, however, are not sympathetic to those sharing a similar plight with Ezell. In general, it is difficult to drum up public support for any measures that propose to scale back the state's sex offender registration requirements -- even though the public perception of a convicted sex offender generally does not include those like Ezell.
Those who have been charged with a sex offense or another crime requiring registration as a sex offender should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The penalties for these crimes do not stop once you have completed your jail sentence. Sex offender registration may last for the rest of your lifetime. For more information, contact a knowledgeable defense attorney today.
Meanwhile, the prominent organization, International CURE, has taken the following position
on the Sex Offender Registry :
An Alternative Approach
CURE takes the position that sex offender registries be abolished.
Present laws have rarely assisted in prevention of an abusive
situation. Approximately 90% of all sex offenses are committed by a
family member or close acquaintance1. Recidivism rates of less than
5%, by convicted sex offenders2, certainly mitigates against the
efficacy of the tremendous expenditure for the registries.
Registration results in severe collateral consequences such as
unemployment, homelessness, and often physical and humiliating attacks
on registrants, their property, and families.
The sex offender registry has resulted in registrants and their
families facing significant obstacles in building a life for
themselves after incarceration. One of the best methods of prevention
should be a positive life for a former sex offender – being on the
registry can bring on some of the same characteristics that led the
person into an abusive life in the past. Registration laws actually
decrease public safety by making it more difficult for former
offenders to reintegrate into society, ultimately increasing their
likelihood of reoffending.
Our nation needs to change the presumptions that have led to such
hysteria in thinking there is so much sexual abuse by those previously
convicted. That theory has been fueled by “law and order” and
“get tough on crime” approaches which have failed. It has taken on
a mentality like the Salem witch trials of the past, or the infamous
Japanese interment camps during World War II that were created out of
fear. They are as ineffective and damaging as the infamous “war on
drugs” where other failed policies were applied to another group.
And many benefitted from an industrial complex that developed, just as
the present development with the sex offender registry industry.
Instead of producing a sense of safety, it has fostered and
perpetuated a sense of fear amongst an uneasy public and inhibited
positive, proactive discussion around the causes that can lead to an
abusive circumstance – causes that have nothing to do with how far
away someone lives from a school or bus stop, or whether they are
permanently rendered pariahs by a modern scarlet letter. These
registries promote hatred and retaliation against former offenders,
their families, and even their victims at times. It is
counterproductive to enact such registries.
It is imperative that legislative bodies effectively address the
problem and rescind, or seriously refine, the laws that are harmful
and are not assisting in sex abuse prevention. It is time to take a
smart approach, not a hysterical one.
By eliminating the registry, those resources saved could be
re-directed to a concerted effort to educate the public – including
media, social networks, and lawmakers – regarding the nature of
sexual offenses and how to protect children and the vulnerable from
such activity. Sexual abuse is foremost a public health problem and
cannot be effectively solved through the criminal justice system, as
we have seen. The elimination of the registry will allow former sexual
offenders to more effectively reintegrate into society.
CURE adamantly believes in the abolition of the sex offender registry
as a wasteful, punitive, hateful, and an incapable example of
1.U.S.Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, /Sexual
Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement: Victim,
Incident, and Offender Characteristics, /July 2000, NCJ 182990, table
4 and table 6.
2. Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2003). /Recidivism of sex offenders
released from prison in 1994 /(No. NCJ 198281). Washington, DC: U.S.
Department of Justice.
Photos of Rally Against Anti-Registry Laws in Tallahassee, Florida, April 22, 2015