The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice published an article in the Justice Policy Journal in 2014 that examined the public’s perception of people who were listed on a sex offender’s registry. In 1994, the Jacob Wetterling Crimes against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act was first enacted that registered sex offenders. That law requires a lifetime registry for those convicted of serious sexual offenses and a 10-year minimum for others. Meghan’s Law in 1996 made the information collected during registration available to the public. During the last decade, researchers have focused on the collateral and unintended consequences that a sex offender may experience when he or she is listed on a sex offender registry.
There have been several studies completed detailing those consequences, including those that utilized surveys and open-ended questions. Those who participated were asked to describe the effects that being on the sex offender registry had on their relationships and how friends, family, employers and strangers treated them.
Researchers found that sex offenders are often stigmatized — not only by the public but also by other offenders. Many in society rely on myths to form their beliefs and opinions about sex offenders. In some cases, those misguided beliefs led people to believe that if the public knew about a sex offender living in their areas, then sex offenses would be prevented.
Sex offenders often have a constant reminder of the crimes they were convicted of. The responses sex offenders receive from other citizens can also include stigmatization, resentment, harassment and even assault. This can make reintegrating and becoming a productive member of society very difficult.
While the research will no doubt continue, so will the sex offender registries — at least for the time being. However, those convicted of a sex offense can petition the court to have their names removed from the Indiana sex offender registry, depending on the crime. To learn more, please visit our webpage on sex offender registries.