Sat. May 25th, 2024

By Donna Westfall – February 22, 2018 –

My oldest daughter bought a beautiful home in Central Washington and proceeded to fix it up.  After a couple of years, a man moved in next door.  He had just been released from prison after spending more than 20 years for being a violent sex offender who liked boys.

She has four boys.  Her family moved out of the area to protect their children.

In the last 10 years, I’ve met men on the sex offenders list.  One took a plea deal because he was young and dumb.  He was afraid that he could be sent to prison for a long time if he didn’t.  Well, that was certainly a possibility. He’s looking forward to being removed from the list in 2021 and maybe earlier and having his record expunged.

And then there’s 20 year old Nolan Bruder who, thanks to Judge William Follett, spent 4 months in jail, will be spending three years on probation, has to register on the sex offender list after drugging and raping a 16 yr old family member. Follett  insisted the “stigma” of the conviction and having to register as a sex offender would deter Bruder and others from committing similar acts. Nationally, there was an outcry against Follet’s ruling that may have resulted in his giving notice that he plans on retiring at the end of 2018.

There are cases in other states that are questioning the constitutionality of requiring registering on the sex offenders list. There are over 900,000 sex offenders on the list in the US. Very few registered sex offenders will re-offend. One eighth of the offenders are located in California.  95 of them are in Crescent City.  It costs our state $65 million a year.

Is it really keeping our children more safe and secure from dangerous strangers?  Or are the majority of sex offenses perpetrated in the home by family, friends and acquaintances?  Answer.  Yes.  More than 90%. But let’s look at how we got here.


October 22, 1989, Jacob Wetterling was 11 years old when he was abducted, sexually molested and killed.  It took 27 years for the killer to confess. His killer did not face murder charges because of the statute of limitations. A 1994 federal law named for Jacob requires states to establish sex offender registries.

July 29, 1994, Megan Kanka was 7 years old when she was raped and murdered by her neighbor. Her killer was a known child molester that moved in across the street.  No one had been notified in her neighborhood.  California Penal Code 290.46 mandates the California Department of Justice (CA DOJ) to notify the public about specified registered sex offenders.

1996 – Amber Hagerman. She was 9 years old when she was abducted and murdered.  The Amber Alert was named for her from the acronym:  America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.

February 2005 – Jessica’s Law for Jessica Lunsford. She was 9 years old, sexually battered and killed by a previously convicted sex offender.  The Act never passed into law on the federal level, but adopted by the majority of states including California.

Our hearts go out to young love.  Unfortunately, young lovers are subject to being put on the sex offenders list if, let’s say, an 18 year old boy is in love with his 17 year old girlfriend.  Then her parents report him to law enforcement .  We’re not talking violence here.  But this is reality. He’ll be on the sex offenders registry for probably 20 years. Even if he marries the girl, has children and leads an exemplary life.

According to a September 11, 2007 report titled: US: Sex Offender Laws May Do More Harm Than Good  – End Registration of Juveniles, Residency Restrictions and Online Registries, Human Rights Watch which included a review by Patty Wetterling (Jacobs mother) and others came up with some conclusions:

  • The registration laws are overbroad in scope and overlong in duration, requiring people to register who pose no safety risk;
  • Under community notification laws, anyone anywhere can access online sex offender registries for purposes that may have nothing to do with public safety. Harassment of and violence against registrants have been the predictable result;
  • In many cases, residency restrictions have the effect of banishing registrants from entire urban areas and forcing them to live far from their homes and families.

“Sex offender laws are based on preventing the horrific crimes that inspired them-but the abduction, rape, and murder of a child by a stranger who is a previously convicted sex offender is a rare event. The laws offer scant protection for children from the serious risk of sexual abuse that they face from family members or acquaintances. Indeed, people children know and trust are responsible for over 90 percent of sex crimes against them.”

Therein lies the problem. And, now that I’m aware, I’ve changed my opinion about the sex registry list.

On February 12th this year, there was an Oxford style debate held at New York’s Subculture Theater.

Before the debate, attendees would vote whether  the list should be abolished?

The debate was between  between Emily Horowitz, who argued the affirmative position. She is professor and chair of the sociology and criminal justice department at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, New York, and Marci Hamilton from the University of Pennsylvania and CHILD USA who argued the negative position.

After the debate, attendees voted again.  The winner of the debate is the one who has moved the most people to her position.

39% voted YES before the debate and 72% voted YES to abolishing the registry after the debate. Emily Horowitz was the winner.

The debate can be watched at this site:



7 thoughts on “Does the sex offender registry list still make sense?”
  1. The debate was frustrating because the two women were talking about two totally different kind of people and therein lies the problem. (I also heard the audience was filled with sex offender reform folks.) The truth is they are both right. The people Marci is talking about don’t belong on a registry, they belong in prison for life; forever protected from the public and from children. The people Emily are talking about are the people who are let out of prison for a whole host of crimes with a sexual component who we think we need protection from. These are not serial rapists or violent sexual predators, these are people who made a stupid mistake, have paid for their crimes and are prevented from working, forced into homelessness and publicly shamed for the rest of their lives. THAT’S what is so terribly wrong about the Registry.

  2. I 100% want to know if a sex offender lives anywhere near me. I want to have as much information on predators as humanly possible so I can keep my children safe. I found out years ago that my husbands brother was on that list. They made excuses galore about the girl being a whore and how she had lured him in…. no excuse to have sex with a child. I know she was under 14 the rest they won’t talk to me about. It is swept under the rug.

    I know even with the offender list many of these people find ways to avoid detection and find a way to get to children. It is like a game to them. Parents will always be at a disadvantage when it comes to the games they play. All I can do is know who I surround myself with and never give them an opportunity to spend time alone with my children.

    The offender list is a tool we all need to have regardless if they have changed their ways. These people crossed a line and you cannot take that back with apologies and promises. This list is a very important part of our children’s safety. Please do not take away a chance to find the lion is sheep’s clothing. They are great at blending in. They have the advantage.

  3. There are over 900,000 sex offenders on the list in the US. Very few registered sex offenders will re-offend. One eighth of the offenders (over 11 million) are located in California.

    Might want to check that math….

  4. I have not watched the debate yet because I cannot get past the first paragraph.
    Am I wrong in assuming ALL SEX OFFENDERS are not allowed to be alone with children or within so many feet/yards of children? Apparently I am wrong. Otherwise how could a violent sex offender move next to 4 boys?
    The fact that the violent sex offender (VSO) was just released from prison after 20 year leaves me questioning why are there no restrictions placed on a VSO as to how physically close he can place himself to children who are similar in age and gender as the children he was violently sexually offensive to.
    After 20 years in prison should there not be at least a time period where the violent sex offender can be observed in public, to see how he handles himself, especially around children?
    I would say he flunked out of his opportunity for freedom the minute he moved next door to vulnerable young boys.
    Can the creator of a policy that allows a VSO move next door to young boys be anything other than insane?
    Prison does not “cure” violent sex offenders? Prison protects children and the public from becoming the victims of VSO by securing offenders behind the locked doors of a prison.

  5. I don’t need to be warned that someone 18 had consensual sex with their 17 year old high school sweetheart. I do need to know that someone with a record of violence moves in next door. But the person who murders or maims does their time, gets out, and doesn’t have to register while a person who had consensual sex has to register. So how about a registry based on violent offenses including forcible rape, murder, and all violent crimes instead of prioritizing non-violent crimes?

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