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Human Rights Watch would like to thank all of the survivors of sexual violence, former offenders and their families, social workers, advocates, law enforcement officials, and attorneys who shared their experiences and perspective with us for this report.We are especially grateful to those who trusted us with very painful and personal stories.Blanket residency restrictions should be abolished. Proponents of sex offender registration and community notification believe they protect children in two ways: police have a list of likely suspects should a sex crime occur in the neighborhood in which a registered offender lives, and parents have information that will enable them to heighten their vigilance and to warn their children to stay away from particular people.Advocates for residency restrictions believe they will limit offenders' access to children and their temptation or ability to commit new crimes.
Human Rights Watch appreciates the sense of concern and urgency that has prompted these laws.
We want to acknowledge our special gratitude to Patty Wetterling, Alisa Klein, Jim Rensel, Nancy Daley, Dr. Levenson for providing guidance and insights in helping us to shape the research and writing of this report. Politicians have responded with a series of laws, including the sex offender registration, community notification, and residency restriction laws that are the subject of this report.
Federal law and the laws of all 50 states now require adults and some juveniles convicted of specified crimes that involve sexual conduct to register with law enforcement-regardless of whether the crimes involved children.
While these beliefs may seem intuitively correct, they are predicated on several widely shared but nonetheless mistaken premises.
Given these faulty underpinnings, it is not surprising that there is little evidence that the laws have in fact reduced the threat of sexual abuse to children or others.
Indeed, people children know and trust are responsible for over 90 percent of sex crimes against them.