The Illinois State Police have taken to Facebook, asking for help in locating some 596 missing sex offenders. A journalist covering this issue called the number of missing offenders “startling” and highlighted the anxiety that this lapse has caused for the victims of sexual crimes and the public at large. Not so much as a word about why the state of Illinois is having big problems keeping track of its more than 33,000 sex offenders.
The dirty little secret behind this problem is the simple fact that the sex offender registry is broken, and it isn’t going to get fixed by putting more people on it or getting tougher on those already registered. The unintended consequences of draconian rules for registered sex offenders sets them up for failure and virtually guarantees that they will run afoul of the complex and often irrational rules associated with the registry.
Communities set rules that effectively banish registered sex offenders from 90% of the available housing, but then punish them for having no fixed address. The registry and related notification policies make it almost impossible to obtain and keep a job, but then we excoriate registrants because they are unemployed. And oh, by the way, even if they have no fixed residence and they aren’t working, they still have to be someplace… which is fine as long as it isn’t near a school, park, bus stop, library, day care center, church, or anywhere where children might be found (which, let’s face it, could be anywhere).
Is it any wonder you have missing registrants? The Law of Unintended Consequences supercedes all other laws.