Sex Offender Registry

Sex-Offender Registries Do More Harm than Good: Live Debate 2/12 in NYC

Reason/Soho Forum debate in New York looks at the unintended consequences of a popular mandate. Tickets available or watch online.



All the laws requiring those convicted of sex offenses to put their names in a registry should be abolished.

That's the highly controversial resolution that will be argued at the next Soho Forum/Reason debate, on Monday, February 12 at New York's Subculture Theater.

The Soho Forum is a monthly Oxford-style debate, meaning that the audience votes before and after the proceedings and the debater who has moved the most people in her direction is the winner. Soho Forum co-founder Gene Epstein will moderate one of the most-controversial subjects imaginable. Reason is proud to sponsor the Soho Forum, which is held monthly. Each debate is also live-streamed at Reason's Facebook page and here at Go here for a full archive. To listen to an audio podcast version of the Soho Forum, subscribe to the Reason Podcast at iTunes.

Few laws are more popular than sex-offender registries, which are designed to keep predators like serial child molester Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team doctor, away from new victims after being released from prison. But do the laws actually do more harm than good?

Emily Horowitz will argue the affirmative position that registries should be abandoned. She is professor and chair of the sociology and criminal justice department at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, New York, where she founded a program that helps the formerly incarcerated complete college.

Marci A. Hamilton will take the negative. She is Fox Professor of Practice and Fox Family Pavilion Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania.

Tickets must be purchased in advance.

General admission is $18 and student rate is $10. For this debate, you can bring a friend for free. See details here.

Soho Forum

Soho Forum Debate on Sex-Offender Registries

Mon, February 12, 2018

6:30 PM – 8:30 PM EST

Subculture Theater

45 Bleecker St

New York, New York 10012

View Map

Cash bar opens: 5:45pm

Meeting convenes: 6:30pm

Wine-and-cheese Reception: 8:15pm

Tickets must be reserved in advance.

Reason TV's "How Sex-Offender Registries Fail Us" (2012), discussed the case of a married couple in which the husband remained on California's registry for life for having underage sex with his wife.

To watch previous Reason/Soho Forum debates on topics such as trade policy, the legacy of Barack Obama, whether libertarians should vote for Donald Trump, and more, go here now.

NEXT: Institute for Justice Sues New Jersey Over Ban on Home Bakers Selling Their Cakes

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. But do the laws actually do more harm than good?

    Practical effects are irrelevant. What is the intent? That’s the criteria on which we must judge the merit of any action.

    1. Unless that doesn’t bring about the “correct” conclusion. In which case we reverse the criteria.

    2. Fist of Etiquette, the intent is to ensure the state’s right to harass and ostracize these offenders at will. The intent is to ensure no offender ever has any semblance of a normal, peaceful, enjoyable life ever again.

  2. How else can we keep an eye on Crusty?

  3. Like many unconstitutional government schemes to control people, people now rely on these registries to make us safe instead of using common sense to actually detect dangerous persons.

    1. Look up the Muniz ruling out of Pennsylvania. The S.C.O.T.U.S. denied review of the Muniz ruling that the retroactive application of the federal SORNA under the AWA is unconstitutional. Look up “6th Circuit Issues Scathing Ruling Against Michigan Sex Offender Registry”. Look up “Federal Judge Matsch rules CO sex offender registry unconstitutional”. In this ruling the judge acknowledged fully the fact that the registry opens offenders up to vigilantism of the most violent kind. Look up “Packingham v. North Carolina”. This is the SCOTUS ruling that overturned NC’s statutory banishment of sex offenders from social media.

      Also look up the article “Las Vegas man kills homeless sex offender over dislike of sex offenders”

      The courts are starting to finally get honest about the nature and intent of the registry. People’s actions speak louder than words. Look up “vigilantism” against sex offenders on Google. The evidence is there. There’s an old mantra I’ve heard many times: Listen to the words, but trust the behavior.

  4. Who cares if they do more harm than good. They’re unconstitutional.

    1. Truer words were never spoken. Would it be constitutional to prohibit bank robbers from living or working within 1,500 feet of any financial institution? Would it be constitutional to ban those who commit fraud via the telephone from living within 1,500 feet of any residence or business where telephones would be present? Would it be constitutional to list drug offenders who peddle drugs to kids within a school zone and prevent them from living or being present within 1,500 feet of any school, park, playground, etc..any place where children would gather? Would it fly? If not so for them, why for sex offenders alone?

  5. I used to live in a boarding house down the hall from an old guy who was on a sex offender list. One day, someone who did not live in the house entered the building and assaulted the other old guy who lived in the boarding house. When you add vigilante justice to mistaken identity, sex offender lists can make life more interesting at retirement homes.

    1. Still closer than some no-knock SWAT raids. At least he got the right building.

  6. But do the laws actually do more harm than good?

    You gonna just let that question hang out there without defining, or at least putting limits on the definitions of, harm and good? Some debate.

  7. There is an assumption that the public registry does ANY good in the first place. Aside from being used by vigilantes and appease the bloodlust of the victimhood cult, there is NO redeeming quality about the registry.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.