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Human Rights Watch appreciates the sense of concern and urgency that has prompted these laws.
They reflect a deep public yearning for safety in a world that seems increasingly threatening.
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.
So-called "Megan's Laws" establish public access to registry information, primarily by mandating the creation of online registries that provide a former offender's criminal history, current photograph, current address, and other information such as place of employment.
In fact, most (three out of four) former sex offenders do not reoffend and most sex crimes are not committed by former offenders.
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.
Some politicians cite recidivism rates for sex offenders that are as high as 80-90 percent.We are especially grateful to those who trusted us with very painful and personal stories.Corinne Carey, former researcher for the US Program, undertook the original research for this report.Even assuming some public safety benefit, however, the laws can be reformed to reduce their adverse effects without compromising that benefit.Registration laws should be narrowed in scope and duration.