Public Policy Efforts Aim at Changing Opinion of Sex Offender Registrants (CA Penal Code 290)

Public Policy Efforts Aim at Changing Opinion of Sex Offender Registrants (CA Penal Code 290)

Rabin Nabizadeh
August 15, 2014

The sex offender registry has been in existence since 1994, when Congress determined that the laws concerning sex crimes needed to be stricter.  One of the most serious problems with the current way in which the sex offender registry is perceived is the stereotypes concerning registrants.  In the mind of the public, any one person who is listed as a sex offender on the registry must be a highly dangerous person.  Lately, however, much has been done to change that stereotype and its influence on public policy.

In California, the sex offender registry (CA Penal Code 290) is particularly difficult to contend with.  Because everyone on the registry is treated the same (everyone convicted of such a crime has to deal with mandatory minimum lifetime registry), there is no way for law enforcement officials to determine who is actually a potential danger to public safety and who is not.  Most folks believe that anyone who is on the sex offender registry must be there for a reason, they must be a pedophile, or a rapist, or at least someone who presents enough of a danger to the community that they ought to be kept track of so that they do not harm others.  Right?

Yet, this is incorrect.  There are some individuals who have been required, for their lifetime, to register as a sex offender for some pretty shocking things.  For example, if you are a minor and take a nude or racy selfie, you could end up on the sex offender registry for distributing child pornography.  Prosecutors would only have to prove that you sent, posted, printed, etc. the photo.  In some states, you could end up on the sex offender registry for public urination.  In California, a woman who flashes her chest could end up as a registered sex offender.  Most disturbingly, children have sometimes been required to register as sex offenders for giving other kids a hug.  The argument is this, sex offender registries are not working in the way that they were meant to, so the debate rages on.


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