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May 21, 2011

"States Seeking New Registries for Criminals"

The title of this post is the headline of this new piece from the New York Times.  It gets started and finishes this way:

Lawmakers around the country are pushing for online registries, like those used for sex offenders, to track the whereabouts of people convicted of a wide variety of crimes, from arson and drunken driving to methamphetamine manufacturing and animal abuse.

State senators in Illinois are considering a law to create the nation’s first registry for first-degree murderers. In Maine, legislators are debating an online registry of drunken drivers. And proposals to register animal abusers have been put forward in several states; one such registry, in Suffolk County on Long Island, will become operational next week.

Under a canine version of Megan’s Law, Virginia even registers dangerous dogs, including Elvis, a cat-killing collie in Roanoke whose bad acts are among those listed on the state’s database.

Advocates for online registries, many of them searchable by the public, argue that people have a right to know about potentially dangerous offenders in their midst and that the benefit of alerting parents, neighbors and others in a community outweighs any privacy concerns.

But as the registries proliferate, so do questions about their value. Critics say that while the registries are attractive to politicians who want to appear tough on crime, they often do little more than spread fear and encourage vigilantism.

The monitoring systems cost money at a time when recession-strapped states can ill afford the extra expense, the critics say, and their effectiveness is dubious: Sex offender registries, for example, have had little success in reducing repeat crimes, studies suggest....

Perhaps the biggest question about criminal registries is how effective they are in preventing offenders from committing future crimes....

Only a handful of studies have so far examined the effect of registry and notification laws for sex offenders on recidivism, Dr. [Jill] Levenson said, but “so far, the vast majority of those studies do not show a decrease in repeat sex offenses that can be attributed to sex offender registry or notification.”

Murderers have among the lowest rates of recidivism. Only about 1.2 percent of convicted murderers go on to commit another murder within three years of their release; roughly 35 percent commit other types of crimes within the same time period. But in Ms. [Patricia] Rosenberg’s view, if even one murder is prevented by notifying the public it is worth it. “Would it be more plausible if you thought they would commit four, five, six, seven murders?” she asked. “I think any life, one life, is worth saving.”

May 21, 2011 at 01:26 AM | Permalink


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"But in Ms. [Patricia] Rosenberg’s view, if even one murder is prevented by notifying the public it is worth it. 'Would it be more plausible if you thought they would commit four, five, six, seven murders?' she asked. 'I think any life, one life, is worth saving.'"

This is just stupid. One could as easily say that putting someone on a registry makes him a target for vigilantes, who might kill him. Therefore, if not having a registry could save even one life, isn't it worth it not to have a registry? But it ignores the bigger question: how in the world does putting someone's name on a list keep them from killing someone?

Posted by: C.A.J. | May 21, 2011 4:07:28 AM

This is expensive show of virtue in the form of paper shuffling by the rent seeking lawyer. It is stealing taxpayer money. Laws should be required to meet Daubert standards. IN daubert, an expert is seeking to make law by establishing a standard of practice. Daubert requires he prove this standard with some rational, scientific evidence. That expert testimony on a standard of practice is much narrower law making than a statute from the legislature. The statute should require an even higher standard of support, for example, a pilot study in a small jurisdiction showing effectiveness.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 21, 2011 7:19:32 AM

I wonder if SCOTUS would go for surgically implanting RFID chips in felons. You could put it in the middle of the forehead so that crude attempts to remove the chip would leave a nasty visible wound. You could then add yet another scanner to police cars and they could pick up anyone who had let their info lapse.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | May 21, 2011 8:43:46 AM

"I wonder if SCOTUS would go for surgically implanting RFID chips in felons."

Or, as you usually rant, why don't we just kill them all? How about this, once they have served their sentence, paid their debt, fulfilled all court ordered punishment, just leave them the hell alone!!!!

Posted by: Thomas | May 21, 2011 9:51:01 AM


Unfortunately the courts have already foreclosed the possibility of simple execution. I would be happy to see an amendment that would put it back on the table but I don't think that's very likely (unlike the possibility that a more specific amendment would be ratified if the court were to rule that execution is always unconstitutional, that is one of the few circumstances were I see an amendment having a real chance, and one reason I believe judges have been hesitant to make that final step - so long as they don't rule execution itself isn't unconstitutional there isn't a bright line for execution propoents to point at and rally around).

As for paying one's debt to society, I don't particularly believe in forgiveness or redemption. I still hold grudges against people from when I was five years old (and that for their just being jerks, not criminal). Never forgive, never forget.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | May 21, 2011 10:03:00 AM

Soronel - so how is that particular philosophy working out for you? I would imagine many folks get added to the list for whatever reason and if that list goes back to 5, you've got a lot of things to never forgive and never forget. Somehow, I suspect you're not really able to live up to your own standard.

Regardless, it is less about forgiveness or redemption in the eyes of the judicial system. It is more about satisfaction of a debt. You are convicted of a criminal act, are sentenced to a punishment (price/debt). When that particular price/debt is paid, there is nothing to forgive or redeem and therefore no justification for a person to continue to experience adverse consequences.

Posted by: cmt | May 21, 2011 11:00:10 AM


Since when is prison the only place such a debt is to be repaid? Some debts are serious enough that the only way to get rid of them would be to declare bankruptcy, and I see most criminal offenses being in this category. I don't think allowing felons to declare criminal record bankruptcy would be a wise policy. And we should make it as easy as possible for the law abiding to discover who in their midst has not been so in the past.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | May 21, 2011 11:17:32 AM

Forgiveness is solely for the victim. It frees the victim from the continued victimization of the perpetrator. Some people boast about "never forgeting or forgiving." Too bad. By not forgiving, these victims have allowed their perpetrators to sentence and confine them to a "prison" for LWOP. A victim holds the keys to this "prison" in their hands. It's called forgiveness.

Posted by: Fred | May 21, 2011 11:23:29 AM

me i'm STILL waiting for just one of the nazi awholes who push these registrys to just answer one question!

Just where in the hell on the constituion did they find this!

"Advocates for online registries, many of them searchable by the public, argue that people have a right to know"

Actually considering it ACTUALY SAYS everyone has the RIGHT to LIFE, LIBERTY and the persuit of happiness i think the registry is illegal on it's face!

Posted by: rodsmith | May 21, 2011 2:43:28 PM

but what really cracks me up is all those apoligies those of us like me are owned from the little people!

since when the SEX OFFENDER registry was first started we said it would not be too long before it was expanded....it was and that it wouldn only be the FIRST of MULTIPLE registrys once the sheeple were STUPID or LAZY enough to let the govt set the president! for registrys!

they used sex crimes....everyone's illogical boogie man to get them in the door and now the while damn camel is in the tent!

Posted by: rodsmith | May 21, 2011 2:45:44 PM


They don't need to find permission to try such a thing. The states are not governments of limited enumerated powers unless their voters have made them such. Opponents would have to find a positive prohibition.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | May 21, 2011 3:56:23 PM

"and that for their just being jerks, not criminal). Never forgive, never forget."

Sounds like you have a lot of experience being the former. What a sad shallow life you must live.

"When that particular price/debt is paid, there is nothing to forgive or redeem and therefore no justification for a person to continue to experience adverse consequences."

Nailed it cmt,good on you.

Posted by: Thomas | May 21, 2011 5:50:24 PM

The Nazis thrived on registration so it is a cute contrast to see the NRA rant bout Nazi gun registration as applited to "law abiding citizens," as if the law abiding cannot be outlawed as the Nazis did. In the mean time, they can just sign that registration form and it doesn't have to be gun registration that can unperson you.

Posted by: George | May 21, 2011 7:53:16 PM

The Nazi Census (pdf)

Posted by: George | May 21, 2011 11:57:55 PM

Instead of this meaningless, ineffective, hypocritical but expensive measure, how about trying to protect the public from ultra-vicious predators, crazed on illegal drugs and booze? How about killing all the violent criminals before they reach 18, and the beginning of their peak criminal activity? By executing 10,000 of them a year, you would eliminate 95% of crime because there would be no criminals. If one drops the number of murders by a half, one has broken even. Such a measure would cause massive lawyer unemployment, and shrink the size of government by a third. The lawyer hierarchy will never allow that. So one must reach the lawyer hierarchy before reaching their clients, the ultra-vicious, violent drug and booze crazed criminals.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 22, 2011 1:30:47 AM

sure they do soronel since they know as well as i do. that if they had simply ANNOUNCED the retiring of the u.s. constituion that and now the general public will only get the privilages we deem fair and they can be changed at anytime.

even our apathatic population would string them all up!

Posted by: rodsmith | May 22, 2011 2:04:22 AM

let us also not forget soronel that Most state constitutions also contain the prohibiton against retoactive laws. which these registrys are!

since i am also still waiting for someone to show me in that same document where it allows retroactive laws for civil areas.

last time i looked it said NO expost laws allowed PERIOD!

Posted by: rodsmith | May 22, 2011 2:07:23 AM


Actually, I believe the federal militia power would allow gun registration, though I think it would be a bad policy. A registry would greatly aid in calling forth the militia by informing the authorities who is already armed to meet the need, or who has excess arms that could be distributed to others. Congress could probably empower the states to keep such a registry but I'm not sure they could do so without such permission, given how the militia is under the plenary control of Congress

And Rod, I think you're wrong, mostly because I think most people just don't care about such things one way or the other. For the vast majority of the populace I would rate political passion as strongly felt but weakly held. Something else comes along and the same weak passion attaches to something else.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | May 22, 2011 9:04:24 AM

Texas had an animal cruelty registry bill that died on the vine last week. The only real constituencies for all these registries, sex offenders and otherwise, are lazy reporters and demagogic politicians. Nobody else has any practical use for the information who can't already get what they need by checking criminal histories.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | May 22, 2011 10:48:54 AM

In my residence zip code, a lawyer neighborhood, there are two sex offenders. They come to work there and live elsewhere.

In a zip code where there are lawyer offices? 68 sex offenders reside there.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 22, 2011 2:18:27 PM

those offenders and criminal must have an appropriate punishment in the way the they have undergone right process.

Posted by: Patterson lawfirm | May 23, 2011 1:40:16 AM

rodsmith - I hate to be pedantic (something that can probably get me on the registry due to a politician's lack of vocabulary), but that phrase is from the declaration of independence, not the constitution.

Supremacy Clause - Regarding your statistical analysis, the lawyer neighborhood probably has a high property value, something someone on the registry wouldn't be able to afford given the unwritten effects of registration. Lawyer's offices, however, are usually in commercial areas where one might find cheaper apartments, motel/hotels, halfway houses, etc.

Posted by: NickS | May 23, 2011 8:23:06 AM

these "if it saves even one life it's worth it" arguments drive me crazy because they assume limitless resources. but in the real world, every dollar we devote to achieve a vanishingly small benefit is a dollar we don't spend on something else, and many of those others things would of course save (or improve) many more lives on a dollar-for-dollar basis... (I'm thinking, off the top of my head, of things like vaccination programs, filling potholes, opening an extra fire/emt station to decrease response times, hiring an extra cop/ER doc, etc., etc., etc.)

Posted by: Anon | May 23, 2011 11:37:25 AM

lol gonna have to give you that one NickS your right. But my point stands.

Posted by: rodsmith | May 23, 2011 1:54:40 PM

Does anyone know the states that DO NOT have the murder registry?

Posted by: Mrs. Banks | Mar 15, 2012 8:34:13 PM

Advocates for online registries, many of them searchable by the public, argue that people have a right to know about potentially dangerous offenders in their midst

Posted by: Supreme Snapback | Jun 20, 2012 10:08:07 AM

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