In 1994, responding to a terrible murder, Congress passed a law requiring all 50 states to set up sex offender registries. Now many states closely control where and with whom persons on the registries may live, while public maps showing offenders’ places of residence lead to social shunning and occasional harassment. They also scare parents from letting their children play outside.
But does the registry make kids any safer? Lenore Skenazy, the New York newspaper columnist famous for letting her 9-year-old son ride the subway alone and founding the “anti-helicopter parenting” movement, has found that offender maps have helped shape public perceptions of a society rife with child-snatching. That led her to other questions: Who gets on the list? Could you, or someone you love, wind up on the list? How about getting off it?
Lenore Skenazy has spoken around the world on the costs of irrational fears of risk to young people and is the president of the new nonprofit dedicated to overthrowing overprotection, Let Grow. Commenting on her remarks will be Vox senior reporter Dara Lind, who has written on how the registry system fits into the wider scheme of criminal justice sanctions and how it may affect recidivism.