The Registry is a Hydra: Why I believe we must #abolishtheregistry rather than reform it

In Greek mythology, the Lernaean Hydra was a mighty serpent with great regeneration powers — cut off a single head and two grow back. It was only when all the heads were severed was the hydra truly defeated. 

I’ve stated this many time before in many places (and even discussed this on my blog at least once before), but I want to emphasize my belief here that the mythical Lernaean Hydra is the perfect illustration of the sex offender registry. 

I do not believe the registry can be nearly reformed, and after years of butting heads with a number of other legal reformists for pretty much this entire decade, I don’t believe that merely limiting the registry to Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) or advocating for Tiered Registries or limiting the registries to “high-risk offenders” will solve the problems caused by these registries. 

If we attempt to sever a single head by attempting to limit the registry for use by certain people or to those we merely consider “high risk,” it will only take a couple of inevitable rare but tragic cases to regenerate that law and strengthen it. After all, the Jacob Wetterling Act was limited in scope, a non-public registry for use only by LEOs (though states had discretion, not the obligation, to allow public access), and within 2 years, it became public. We are also seeing laws that were once rejected make a comeback; Minnesota was among the first states to conclude residency restrictions were useless and counterproductive, yet has been a battleground for residency restrictions over the past couple of years. Where is the registry today? It is obviously far greater in scope than imagined by those who created it. 

States are moving away from assessing risk by way of actuarial testing and towards the offense-based classification scheme embedded within the federal Adam Walsh Act, but promoting a Tiered system is like getting to choose your own method of torture in a POW camp. I’ve watched those within the anti-registry movement make dubious claims about the efficacy of a Tiered system to promote the concept to a state lacking a Tiered system. In doing so, we have to decide who gets thrown under the bus, and in many case, I was among those thrown under the bus. 

My own life story is a testimony of the failure of a risk assessment system. Risk assessments are ultimately flawed because test-makers err on the side of caution. Risk assessments are completely arbitrary and subject to the whims of decision-makers. If you take a risk assessment and you score high risk, well that’s proof you are a threat. However, if you score low on the risk assessment test, then the decision makers have the discretion to toss that out. How do I know this fact? I’ve lived with an erroneous assessment since 2005. 

What I’m experiencing in my personal life at this moment is why I cannot trust the registry to be limited to Law Enforcement Agents. The registry in ANY form can be weaponized against those on the list in many ways. Do you need to silence a political activist or protester? Do you want to push a registrant out of the community? Even in the hands of law enforcement, the registry can be used against us in many different way. 

No matter what happens to me in the near future, I won’t rest while there is a registry in existence. The registry needs to be abolished, not just “reformed.” I don’t need to write a whole book about why I feel that way. I have lived a never ending nightmare for almost 20 years. I’m still waking up to it daily. There are many reasons why I feel the registry should not exist, here are just 25 off the top of my head:

  1. It is ineffective
  2. Most sex crimes aren’t committed by registered persons
  3. It makes the public believe everyone on the list will rape and kill your children
  4. Registrants struggle to find housing
  5. Registrants struggle to find employment
  6. Vigilantes use the registry to find their targets
  7. The registry promotes social ostracism 
  8. The registry justifies discrimination against RCs
  9. The registry can be used as a weapon to hurt you by anyone from family to jilted lovers and beyond
  10. Police can misuse registry info to trump up false charges on RCs
  11. Failure To Register can send a person to prison longer than an actual sex crime would in many cases
  12. The registry is costly to everyone involved
  13. The registry continues to expand
  14. The registry fuels new, more restrictive laws the longer it is allowed to exist
  15. Scammers are using the registry to collect sensitive data
  16. Registrants find it hard to get justice for crimes committed against them
  17. Registrants are finding it difficult to get assistance in natural disasters
  18. Registrants are increasingly expected to pay for the privilege of being on the government blacklist
  19. Registrants are used as cannon fodder by media and politicians
  20. Once you are on the registry, you are listed on private registry and extortion sites long after you’re off the actual registry. 
  21. States like Florida routinely drag registrants to their states or force them to register just to visit in order to boost their numbers
  22. Anyone who is ever connected to registrants, be it a lover, family member, a roommate, or a neighbor, experience a number of the consequences I listed above
  23. Non-registrants who look like someone on the registry or live at the address connected to the registry have been harassed or attacked
  24. Many innocent people have accidentally been added to the registry or had a mark placed them by the government because they screwed up paperwork
  25. Incentives to actual reform of the laws are stymied for fear of angry constituents and losing votes

Yes, reforming the registry is a step in the right direction but we should not make that the end game. In pushing for these steps, we should never compromise the message of abolition as the endgame for our efforts. A Tiered system might indeed be superior to a non-tiered system, and a limited access registry will always be superior to a fully public-accessed registry, however, having NO registry at all is far more superior to either or all other options.

Nothing anyone can say can change my mind. If I live to 100, I want to have that moment where I’m sitting on my deathbed and able to look back at my life and see a world without a registry. I don’t think I can rest in peace any other way. 

6 comments for “The Registry is a Hydra: Why I believe we must #abolishtheregistry rather than reform it

  1. Dustin
    April 29, 2019 at 6:58 am

    Registrant recidivism was never as high as claimed, in fact was dramatically lower. The very small handful of registrants that do commit further assaults are not deterred by the registry or associated laws and restrictions which account for nearly all of the current registrant arrests and convictions. For the same reason, public protection is not enhanced because current registrants aren’t committing those crimes. It’s like protecting the public from cotton balls.

    Claiming the registry works for “high risk” offenders is an empty one at best. First, risk assessments are based on everything but the individual concerned, mostly the crime of conviction and misguided public perception, and never accounts for behavior and activity since arrest for said crime. Second, again, the registry does not and never will deter the small handful of repeat sexual offenders. Third, a person’s status as a registrant is never known until after identification or arrest in the normal course of investigation of any given crime.

    LE only access is equally useless. The registry provides nothing not available at the National Crime Information Center and state counterparts that feed it, all of which is accessible by every LE agency in the nation. All arrests and convictions are available through a simple query.

    Fully agree that reforming the registry is pointless. It has been “reformed” numerous times over the years and has remained absolutely useless and wasteful in terms of its original stated purposes – public protection and recidivism reduction – primarily because the problem it was meant to address was grossly exaggerated to begin with. But I wholeheartedly disagree that tiering, LE only access, or any other reforms are steps in the right direction. They’re merely sidesteps specifically implemented to maintain what the registry has become – the legalized discrimination of those on it and a means for local governments and law enforcement agencies to solicit funding from the higher echelons of government.

  2. caring
    April 30, 2019 at 6:41 am

    I agree that the registry needs to be abolished. Reforming it means that it is acceptable, It is NOT acceptable. If it saves only one child. I bet there are thousands of children who are negatively effected, bullied, hurt because one of their parents is on the registry. Why can’t we save that one child by abolishing the registry? The registry gives a false sense of security by knowing that the SO lives to your right, but who lives to your left? That SO who lives to your right will almost 100% not be the one who will threaten your child. It will be the school teacher, priest, football coach, uncle, father, brother, etc, and NOT the person you think it would be. Wake up people, you are NOT safer because of the registry, Au contraire. you are more at risk because you let your guard down, feeling safe knowing who the SO to your right is, and he is not the threat!

  3. Sharon
    April 30, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    I wrote a long comment to someone about the registry and how it affected my child, it was a long time ago and was in a mom’s group. Of course I didn’t use my real name. The mothers said that it’s either my child or theirs, that’s the way they see it. They think that the names on the registry are protecting their children. One mom said, if one of us has to hide behind the curtains, it might as well be you.

    They don’t understand at all, the registry protects no one and promotes lies and hate. The idea that the registry protects children is nothing more than an old wive’s tale.

  4. Edilma
    May 3, 2019 at 9:31 pm

    Edilma

    I sure believe that people whom have had the horrible experience of being found guilty of a sexual offence, and their family, have been thrown into a deplorable situation. I so many of his cases the whole accusation have been made by people seeking to hurt and harm and by “law enforcement” people with an obscure agenda.

    I am a mother and I am seeking to get involved in a group in Florida.

    • May 7, 2019 at 6:00 am

      Eldima, I invite you to join the SOSEN Forums, and if you are looking for a group specific to Florida, check out floridaactioncommittee.org

  5. Tim
    May 17, 2019 at 4:27 am

    The old wives tale was used to grant “certain uses of the database” in an unfettered way. Children’s safety concerns were used to overcome the plain and obvious indenture of humans to database upkeep. The databases are ” property”@13th amendment. If a people can constitutionally stomach the enslavement of man to machine by law the maintenance even as the regimes expand soon renders not Re: publica but Re: machina (machine). Simply put ma’am; We become a nation “of for and by the database.”

    Consider the case of the texting driver who causes a crash because of the Pavlovian response to bells and whistles that come along with mobile phone tech! Fact is these kinds of cases have increased exponentially but BIG PHONE, and the people rather prefer the machine to man. a plain case for better marketing. The presumption that database can offer safety by notification of a criminal’s location does not in any way prevent determined bad acts of actors. In fact notification often increases lawlessness by vigilantism, or unconstitutional “residence restriction \ banishment” which is essentially lawlessness by local governments implicate state sovereignty.

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