Some politicians cite recidivism rates for sex offenders that are as high as 80-90 percent.In fact, most (three out of four) former sex offenders do not reoffend and most sex crimes are not committed by former offenders.We want to acknowledge our special gratitude to Patty Wetterling, Alisa Klein, Jim Rensel, Nancy Daley, Dr. Levenson for providing guidance and insights in helping us to shape the research and writing of this report. Politicians have responded with a series of laws, including the sex offender registration, community notification, and residency restriction laws that are the subject of this report.Federal law and the laws of all 50 states now require adults and some juveniles convicted of specified crimes that involve sexual conduct to register with law enforcement-regardless of whether the crimes involved children.Promoting public safety by holding offenders accountable and by instituting effective crime prevention measures is a core governmental obligation.The evidence is overwhelming, as detailed in this report, that these laws cause great harm to the people subject to them.
Even assuming some public safety benefit, however, the laws can be reformed to reduce their adverse effects without compromising that benefit.
They reflect a deep public yearning for safety in a world that seems increasingly threatening.
Every child has the right to live free from violence and sexual abuse.
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.
Human Rights Watch would like to thank all of the survivors of sexual violence, former offenders and their families, social workers, advocates, law enforcement officials, and attorneys who shared their experiences and perspective with us for this report.