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Examining Sex Offender Community Notification Laws

Abril R. Bedarf
California Law Review
Vol. 83, No. 3 (May, 1995), pp. 885-939
DOI: 10.2307/3480867
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3480867
Page Count: 55
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Examining Sex Offender Community Notification Laws
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Abstract

In recent years, sex offender registration laws have attracted wide-spread attention and support. Thirty-eight states have enacted such statutes, and the remaining states must adopt sex offender registration laws to avoid cutbacks in federal funding. These statutes require convicted sex offenders to register with police when moving into a community or changing their address. Most states limit access to sex offender registration data to the police, who lack the time and resources to verify and update the tremendous volume of information that sex offender registration generates. The result is an unwieldy database with little practical utility. In response, several states recently have adopted community notification laws that allow public access to sex offender registration data. These statutes seek to empower the community by enabling concerned citizens to monitor the activities of convicted sex offenders living in their community. This Comment suggests that community notification laws do not provide a reliable mechanism for tracking sex offenders as they move, and thus are no more effective than police registration. Moreover, community notification programs incite panic and violence within the community, and thereby prevent reformed sex offenders from reintegrating into the community. The author concludes that community notification laws are constitutionally infirm because they offend the dignity of man, and thus violate the Eighth Amendment guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment.

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