Since the advent of the sex offenders registration system, there has been on ongoing debate as to its effectiveness. While most people agree that those who are deemed to be most likely to reoffend require some sort of ongoing monitoring, the automatic placement of offenders in the registry based on broad categorizations may do more harm than good.

In many instances the registries are politically popular. They allow politicians to appear tough on crime, but they may not be very effective in actually making the public more safe. They may also present a difficult roadblock to reintegration for many who have past convictions. Those who are unable to secure employment and housing due to placement on a registry may be more marginalized, stigmatizing them to such a degree that rehabilitation is more difficult.

These registries play to the fear of abduction and sexual assault by a stranger. While tragically, this does sometimes occur, it is more common that a person who is sexually assaulted will be acquainted with or related to the perpetrator.

Some law enforcement officials believe that the registry provides the public a false sense of security, an inaccurate belief that the police know where potential offenders are at all times. One sheriff explained that they spend so much time registering those who are in compliance, that they have little time to investigate those who have not registered. Critics say law enforcement resources would be better spent keeping a closer watch on those most likely to reoffend than trying to track everyone.

Source: CNN “5 years later, states struggle to comply with federal sex offender law” Emanuella Grinberg, July 28, 2011