More than 80,000 Texans are registered sex offenders. The crimes range from the violent and truly heinous to the nonviolent and sometimes absurd.
In more than half of U.S. states, including Texas, a teenager that has consensual sex with another teenager can be put on the list. In 13 states, but not in Texas, public urination can put you on the list. And the difficulties of being removed are well documented.
Forced to register, your address is made public, and if you move your neighbors are sent your mug shot with your crime. Failure to register or to update your address upon moving can land you in serious trouble, possibly involving jail time.
These laws were created after high-profile cases of sexual violence against children. With that in mind, are they having the intended effects of protecting kids? What if the violator is a kid?
Many are arguing the empirical evidence isn't there to support the laws, or even the premise of the laws. The idea that a sex offender will always be a sexual predator isn't supported by recidivism rates. The idea that crimes against kids are perpetrated by strangers is also not the case.
So what should be done to protect kids and the public from real predators?
- Melissa Hamilton, professor of law at the University of Houston.
- Josh Gravens, Soros Fellow, advocate for reform who was placed on the sex offender registry in Texas at age 12.
- Phil Taylor, retired licensed sex offender treatment provider.
*The Source airs at 3 p.m. on KSTX 89.1 FM. Audio from this show will be posted by 5:30 p.m.