The Online Sex Offender Registry is Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Salt Lake City criminal lawyer

One of the reasons judges and parole boards often cite as a deciding factor in rendering a non-custodial sentence or early release from prison is the prospect of rehabilitation. Authorities believe the convicted person still has something of value to offer to society, and they can learn from past deeds to become better people.

For those convicted of sexual offenses in Utah or around the country, having their personal information placed on a police website for all to see is anything but rehabilitative. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say it’s cruel and unusual punishment designed only to shame and ostracize.

The New Scarlet Letter of the Internet

The instant availability of a sex offender’s information, the authorities will say, is to provide the community with advanced notice to avoid their homes to better protect the community. In fact, the inverse is usually true. Being listed in such an accessible way means the offender must live in a constant state of hyper-alertness. Anyone with a whacked-out agenda can look them up and stalk them to exact vengeance for some perceived wrong. A list on the Internet does not offer any more protection than a piece of paper or a phone call does. Knowing someone is a drug dealer does not stop them from selling illegal drugs, does it? Call the measure what it actually is: this is about branding people with labels that don’t rub off. As we all know, once it’s on the Internet, it’s permanent. It is a continuing punishment that outlives the life of a formal sentence.

Rehabilitation Requires Integration

To rehabilitate anyone convicted of a crime, you must foster an environment that’s inclusive, not exclusive. By the very definition of the restrictions placed upon the sexual offender population, that notion does not exist. They’re released from prison or given probation because they show great promise, and are told essentially that they cannot live anywhere, no employer will take them, and that the community will never forgive them. We don’t do this to drug dealers, or murderers, or those guilty of stealing billions of our dollars.

Registration Leads to Depression and High-Risk Situations

Emotional trauma can be prime triggers for depression and psychological symptoms that can lead to re-offending. While sex offenders have one the lowest recidivism rates of any population, they still require treatment to cope with the ramifications of their sentence. When the system places greater and greater stresses on them, all they do is ratchet up the pressure and make the situation more volatile. These men and women have served their time appropriately and are simply trying to get on with their lives in the most dignified manner possible. How can the financial and social anxiety of not being able to find work or maintain friendships be of any help?

If you find yourself facing criminal charges, including rape or other sexual offenses, you need an experienced trial lawyer on your side who has a history of success in that arena. Our attorneys have represented thousands over our history and are confident they can achieve the best possible results for you. Call us today for a consultation — day or night — (801)-895-3143.