Recidivism Rates for Sex Crimes

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Sex offenders in Pasadena, Calif. are obligated by law to register as sex offenders with a local law enforcement agency. The laws for the local area are under the jurisdiction of the state’s government. The California Sex and Arson Registry is the state’s hub for sex offender information and is in conjunction with Megan’s Law, enacted in 1996. The law is named after seven-year-old rape and murder victim Megan Kanka, who was raped and killed by a child molester who had moved across the street from her family’s home without public or private knowledge. Following her tragic death, her community urged for local and state change to alert the public of sex offenders in the area (“Summary of Megan’s Law”). Megan’s Law has served as the basis of sex offender laws and registry operations for not only California, but many states within the nation.

According to state law, sex offenders are required to register within five working days at the law enforcement agency that presides over his or her residents. Depending on the severity of the crime, some offenders must update their registry information more often; for “transients,” every 30 days and for sexually violent predators, each 90 days (“Summary of California Registration Laws”). The database is accessible through the United States Department of Justice Website and is searchable by home address, city and state, and ZIP code. Certain offenders are excluded from the website, for example, if the offense is felony sexual battery or a misdemeanor. Offenders who successfully complete probation and what did not include oral sex or penetration can be granted exclusion as well.

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There have been and are significant changes coming to California’s sex offender registry and laws. Before late 2017, sex offenders in California were required to register as one with law enforcement for life until Governor Jerry Brown introduced sweeping alterations to the near century old registry. The new bill allows sex offenders to petition at the start of 2021 to be removed from police registries and the public sex offender registry one to two decades following his or her release from prison, as long as they have not committed or been convicted of a serious and/or violent felony, as well as a sex crime (Gutierrez, 2017).

This move looked to be part of a sweeping reform that would decrease the number of people in the sex offender registry. Its massive size hindered law enforcement officials from having correct insight into who would be more likely to reoffend, considering that a portion of those on the registry were “low-level” offenders with little to no risk of repetition of their crimes. Per California law, there are very few ways that people can have their names removed from the sex offender registry, which has enabled it to be backlogged with offenders dating back to the 1940s and 1950s on into today. This bill was meant to increase the attention toward medium- to high-level offenders who have a significant risk of repetition and recidivism rather than focusing on people who are much less likely to repeat crimes. Furthermore, the state altered its 8-year ban on preventing registered sex offenders from living near schools and parks, to only limit that restriction to pedophiles and sex crimes involving children (“California loosens sex offender residency restrictions,” 2017).

There are benefits to laws such as the aforementioned bill in focusing on higher level sex offenders who are more likely to repeat their crimes. For those whose crimes were decades ago, depending on the severity and impact on the victim, they should be removed from the registry, especially if they are of greatly advanced age. The laws should focus on rehabilitation upon release, but I feel that the effort should be mainly toward protecting the victims, no matter how apologetic or remorseful offenders are.

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