There are more than 44,000 people on Michigan’s bloated sex offender registry — more people than are incarcerated inside Michigan prisons — and this number grows yearly. For more than 90 percent of people on this list, registration is for 25 years to life. While there is a process to petition for removal from the registry, in practice, these requests are rarely successful. Meanwhile, people on the registry are subject to distancing laws that place severe limits on where they can live, making housing, an integral part of successful reentry a serious barrier. . The public nature of registries opens them up to harassment and discrimination — or in the worst case, violence or even death.
Sex offender registries, touted as a solution to keep communities safe, have not only failed in their mission, they actually leave communities less safe than they would have been without registries in place. For that reason, sex offender registries should be eliminated, said a panel of experts participating in a discussion on sex offender registries hosted today by Safe & Just Michigan, a Lansing-based nonprofit working to lessen Michigan’s over-reliance on incarceration and to create safe communities throughout the state. The discussion was moderated by Safe & Just Michigan Policy Analyst Josh Hoe, who was joined Miriam Aukerman, senior staff attorney for ACLU of Michigan; Judith Levine, journalist, feminist and co-founder of the National Writers Union and co-author of “The Feminist and the Sex Offender: Confronting Sexual Harm, Ending State Violence”; and Vincent Schiraldi, co-director of the Columbia Justice Lab and senior research scientist at the Columbia University School of Social Work.
Issues discussed include:
- The problems pointed out by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the Michigan registry.
- The difficulties understanding and complying with the complex, yet vague registry requirements.
- The similarities and differences between supervision on probation or parole, and the requirements of the registry.
- A feminist argument against the use of sex offender registries.
- Steps to move policy changes forward and how to talk to others about issues with the registry.
- Alternatives to the registry, that move beyond punishment and surveillance to focus on healing the harm caused by these offenses.
Resources for information that were made available in the chat box:
Court Cases & Decisions
- Eastern District Court Decision (federal Judge Robert Cleland)
- 6th Circuit Decision (federal Judge Alice Batchelder)
- First Amicus Brief from Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel
- Doe’s II Decision (Judge Cleland)
- Do Sex Offender Registration and Notification Laws Affect Criminal Behavior? Prescott & Rockoff (2010)
- Does a Watched Pot Boil? A Time-Series Analysis of New York State’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Law. Sandler, Freeman & Socia (2008)
- Reductions in Risk Based on Time Offense-Free in the Community: Once a Sexual Offender, Not Always a Sexual Offender. Hanson, Harris, Letourneau & Helmus (2018)
- Sex Offender Registration Ad Hoc Recommendations. Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission (2016)