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Patty Wetterling, a prominent child safety advocate who founded the Jacob Wetterling Foundation after her son was abducted in 1989, recently told Human Rights Watch, I based my support of broad-based community notification laws on my assumption that sex offenders have the highest recidivism rates of any criminal.
But the high recidivism rates I assumed to be true do not exist.
On the other hand, proponents of these laws are not able to point to convincing evidence of public safety gains from them.
Even assuming some public safety benefit, however, the laws can be reformed to reduce their adverse effects without compromising that benefit.
Sex offender laws are based on preventing the horrific crimes that inspired them-but the abduction, rape, and murder of a child by a stranger who is a previously convicted sex offender is a rare event.
The laws offer scant protection for children from the serious risk of sexual abuse that they face from family members or acquaintances.
Ashoka Mukpo, US Program Associate, and US Program interns Anjali Balasingham, Andrea Barrow, Madeline Gressel, and Kari White provided important research assistance.
The evidence is overwhelming, as detailed in this report, that these laws cause great harm to the people subject to them.With her parents' blessing, they began to date, and openly saw each other romantically for almost a year.When it was disclosed that consensual sexual contact had occurred, her parents pressed charges against Brandon and he was convicted of sexual assault and placed on the sex offender registry in his state. He will be on the registry and publicly branded as a sex offender for the rest of his life.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.