• Onerous Burdens of Sex Offender Registration Are Not Punishment, the 10th Circuit Rules.

    Online sex offender registries, which all 50 states maintain as a condition of federal funding, stigmatize the people listed in them long after they have completed their sentences, creating obstacles to housing and employment while exposing registrants to public humiliation, ostracism, threats, and violence. Three years ago, a federal judge ruled that such consequences amounted to cruel and unusual punishment of three men who challenged their treatment under Colorado’s Sex Offender Registration Act. Last week a federal appeals court overturned that decision, saying the burdens imposed by registration do not even qualify as punishment, making the Eighth Amendment irrelevant.

    While that conclusion might seem counterintuitive, it comports with the U.S. Supreme Court’s understanding of sex offender registration, which it views as civil rather than punitive. Even though there is no evidence that publishing information about people convicted of sex offenses protects public safety, that is what legislators claim they are trying to do. And since their goal is prevention rather than retribution, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled, any harm inflicted by this policy is incidental.


    – Jacob Sullum

    Categories: Court Findings, Litigation and Challenges

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