Public sex offender registries are ineffective:
Studies show that public registration policies are failing in their stated goal of keeping people safe from sexual victimization. Public registries (such as the Pennsylvania Megan's Law List) create a false sense of security that something is being done about the threat of sexual harm, but the evidence does not support this belief. Rates of sexual crimes have not decreased as registries have ballooned. The isolation and stigma placed on those on the registry may actually increase their likelihood of reoffending by negatively impacting so many areas of their lives including their family, housing, and occupation.
It is the position of both PARSOL and the Supreme Court of PA that public registries are punitive in nature. They bear close resemblance to historical shaming practices and thereby violate the United States constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Importantly, Pennsylvania’s public registry also infringes upon the Right to Reputation as guaranteed in the Pennsylvania Constitution.
Prevention of sexual abuse must come from proactive measures:
The good-faith laws passed by our state legislature have resulted in unwarranted punishment and isolation of individuals who have served their sentences, are trying to reintegrate into society, and have been shown to have low rates of recidivism.
The limited resources of the Commonwealth should be redirected away from the maintenance of ineffective and reactive policies such as public registration. Our efforts must instead focus on collaborative public health prevention measures that address individual, interpersonal, and environmental factors which impact the prevalence of sexual abuse.
A proactive public health approach to the problem of sexual abuse needs to include:
- identification of risk and protective factors,
- and development and implementation of interventions.
By supporting measures that have been demonstrated to prevent sexual harm, leaders in our community will exhibit that they are informed by facts, fiscally responsible, and that they prioritize public safety. When we can find this balance and enact rational sexual offense laws, we will achieve our common goal: a PA safe and just for all.