Two days ago, the Union-Recorder in Georgia published a bizarre editorial. The editorial board noted that the state’s sex offender registry system drives people into homelessness and deprived them of counseling and employment opportunities, but laments this fact only insofar as it allows registrants to “fly under the radar” and makes them “more difficult to track.” Georgia’s registry system, according to the authors, “places too much trust in the honor system” because requiring people to self-register “places too much confidence” in the registrant. They acknowledge that there are “strong penalties” for failing to register, including life in prison, but these apparently don’t go far enough, as some people with convictions could “choose to live on the fringes of the law.”
“As a society we have determined that in the case of convicted sexual offenders, the potential danger to the general public, and especially children, outweighs their rights to resume a normal life after the debt to society is paid,” the editorial board writes, but “despite all the concerns we have about civil liberties and individual rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we simply have to know where these offenders are and what threat they pose to a community.” The authors propose no solutions. And, more to the point, they betray a fundamental ignorance of the fact that no empirical evidence shows that registries actually protect anyone. Some evidence indicates they make us less safe.