Sex offenders Constitutional Rights versus Community Protection
The debate on individual liberties vs. community protection is an enduring one. In case with convicted sex offenders, community protection should come first. Therefore, sex offender’s registration and neighbor notification is an adequate measure to ensure this. There are three major arguments to support this claim. First of all, knowledge about a committed sex offender can help the community to take necessary measures to protect themselves and their families from a potential assault.
Secondly, the offender’s realization of the fact that his past is known to the neighbors might prevent him from committing an assault again. The opponents of sex offenders’ registration cite the Department of Justice statistics saying that the recidivism rate is 3 percent to 5 percent within the first three years after sex offender’s release (Wetterling, 2007). However, even these recidivism rates pose a danger to the community. There is another strand of criticism of this policy, linked with the cases of vigilante violence against sex offenders (Ahuja, 2006) or denial of certain services, such as housing (Pain, 2006).
Yet these cases are extremely rare, and rumors can as well as police registers could lead to such outbreaks of public anger or make it hard for sex offenders to find housing. It is also argued that police registers disclose too much personal information about sex offenders, like address and telephone number, yet registration’s proponents believe that anyone’s personal information of such a nature is publicly available. Thirdly, there is an especially vulnerable group of citizens that should be shielded from sexual offences, namely children. It is the duty of the community to ensure that they grow up in a safe environment.