What Do Sex Offenders Think of Sex Offender Registries?

High profile crimes involving child sexual abuse in Canada and the United States has evoked shock and anger among community members. Sex offender registries (SORs) were created to provide police with an investigative tool to assist in solving sex crimes and increase public safety. There is no published research assessing sexual offenders’ views about being on Canada’s two SORs. Ways that Canadian SORs could be improved to ensure maximum benefit to the public, the police, and registrants have never been investigated. A study published in the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science collected sociodemographic information and used open-ended questionnaires to examine the accounts of 30 registered sex offenders with regard to their experiences of being a registrant on the National SOR and/or the Ontario SOR. Based on anecdotal reports of some registrants to the authors, it was hypothesised that sex offenders’ opposition to SORs may be related primarily to the administration of conditions rather than specific features of the SOR. Results of this study indicated that the majority of registrants were not opposed to being on an SOR. Sixty-two percent of participants (13/21) felt that being on an SOR was not an onerous or intrusive experience. In fact 48% of participants (10/21) indicated registration was only a “minor irritant” or “slight inconvenience.” Furthermore, 66% of participants (15/22) on SORs felt they understand the rationale and the need for a properly utilized system of registration. More research needs to be completed on Canadian SORs so that researchers and criminal justice officials can have a more comprehensive understanding of the impact and outcomes of registration from the perspective of the registrants, law enforcement, and the community.

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