Sex Offender Registration Policies - Sherlag Attorney at Law Portland, OR
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Sex Offender Registration Policies

Oregon’s Sex Offender Registration Policies: Doing More Harm Than Good?

Every year, roughly 500 to 600 sex offenders leave Oregon prisons and re-enter the community. Of these, only four percent are caught committing another sex crime within three years of release, according to state records.

Recidivism is actually lower for sex offenses compared to most other serious felonies. For instance, one study from the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that within three years of release from prison, 70.2 percent of armed robbers were rearrested, 74 percent of burglars were rearrested, and 70.2 percent of those convicted of illegal weapons offenses were rearrested, but just 2.5 percent of those convicted of rape faced another arrest.

Additionally, many sex offenders are highly amenable to treatment. In a study published in the scholarly journal Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, researchers found that sexual recidivism rates were nearly halved for sex offenders who had been treated compared to those who had not received treatment.

Just the same, tremendous resources are committed to registering and tracking Oregon’s sex offenders. No one disputes that there is a small subset of predatory offenders for whom registration is desirable and necessary in order to protect vulnerable members of the public. But, with the net cast so wide, ensnaring many reformed offenders who pose little or no risk, many experts argue that the effectiveness of sex offender registration requirements is diluted, and that in their current form, sex offender registries may even be counterproductive.

The Politics Of Widespread Sex Offender Registration, And The Real World Consequences

As noted in The Economist and other well-respected publications, sex offender laws in America are driven by a well-known ratchet effect. Laws that on the surface appear to impose harsher requirements for those demonized as “rapists” and “pedophiles” tend to win votes, whatever their content, and legislators dare not vote against them, even if they are bad policy. This leads to progressively more oppressive and expansive sex offender laws.

In truth, however, most sex offenders who face registration requirements are neither predatory nor dangerous. Many sex offenders have displayed no violent tendencies, and face mandatory registration for crimes like having sex with a consenting underage girlfriend or viewing child pornography. These crimes, while serious in their own right, have not been widely linked to predatory behavior. Additionally, the definition of nonviolent sex crimes varies widely by culture and even from state to state.

So why is it problematic to impose sex offender registration requirements indiscriminately? For one thing, the punishment should fit the crime; is unjust to subject an offender to life-changing registration requirements for those sex offenses that are relatively minor. What’s more, sex offender registration has a societal impact. For example, if a man must register as a sex offender because years prior he slept with his 15-year-old girlfriend and as a result is now prohibited from bringing his own children to a playground, those children suffer. Registered sex offenders lose jobs, social connections and numerous life opportunities simply due to their registration status.

Finally, harsh sex offender registration laws are actually counterproductive in terms of public safety. With so many petty sex offenders on registries, it is difficult for the police and the public to keep track of those who are truly dangerous. Tax money that is spent on maintaining bloated registries could be put to use in ways that would better safeguard public safety, such as sex offender treatment programs. For predatory offenders, registration is certainly warranted as a protective measure. But, by adding all sex offenders to the same registration pool, the government is throwing out the baby with the bath water and actually undercutting the safety benefits that could be realized by only registering those who are truly dangerous.

Contest Charges With The Help Of An Oregon Criminal Defense Attorney

In Oregon, lifetime registration is required for those who commit a Class A or B felony sex offense. Those convicted of a Class C felony sex offense or less with no further sex offense convictions may apply for relief from registration obligations 10 years after the end of their supervision date (their last day of probation or parole).

Even for less serious sex offenses, mandatory registration can put a real damper on an otherwise productive life. The best option for anyone facing sex crime accusations is to combat charges on the front end by retaining an experienced Oregon criminal defense attorney.

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