Attorney General: Michigan Sex Offender Registry too broad, lost effectiveness

Published: Feb. 8, 2019 at 5:58 PM EST
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(2/8/2019) - Michigan's Sex Offender Registry is too punitive and fails to delineate which offenders are dangerous, according to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

She filed court documents in two cases pending before the Michigan Supreme Court arguing the Sex Offender Registry Act has lost its effectiveness as it has grown over time.

The registry program was more targeted and designed to be a better tool for law enforcement to protect the public, Nessel said. Now, it has gotten larger without including a way to distinguish which offenders are the most dangerous.

Nessel believes the law as it is written now hurts the ability of offenders to get treated and re-enter society because of restrictions on where they can live and where they can go. People have used the registry to publicly shame and bully offenders.

She said excluding offenders from certain geographic areas and forcing them to register with law enforcement in person doesn't follow the latest research on rehabilitating them and promoting public safety.

“Simply put, the state Sex Offender Registration Act has gone far beyond its purpose and now imposes burdens that are so punitive in their effect that they negate the state’s public safety justification,” Nessel said.

She also believes the mechanism in the Sex Offender Registry Act allowing the public to submit tips online encourages people "to act as vigilantes" and use it as retaliation against other people.

“There are certainly dangerous sexual predators and the public needs to be protected from them, but the current requirements are not the way to achieve that goal,” Nessel said.

She pointed out some other states have struck down their sex offender registry laws based on similar grounds.

Nessel's statement doesn't propose any solutions for changing the Michigan Sex Offender Registry or the law that governs it.

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