We recently wrote about a bill under consideration that would expand the scope of Nevada’s sex offender registry. While politicians often gain popularity with “tough on crime” measures like offender registries, the registries themselves usually create more fear than public safety. Moreover, critics of sex offender registration argue that once a person’s name goes on the list, it becomes nearly impossible to reintegrate into society after serving their sentence.
Yet, nearly all states extensively use sex offender registries. Some states have also expanded into other crime registries, including drug convictions and even registries of known arsonists. And earlier this month, Nevada’s neighbor to the east created the country’s first-ever registry for individuals convicted of white-collar crime.
The proposal for the white-collar crime registry enjoyed overwhelming support in the Utah legislature and was signed without hesitation by the governor. Proponents say that the registry will help protect the public by allowing individuals to research the person or persons they are about to do business with. To that end, each registry entry will reportedly include a recent picture of the offender and basically all the identifying characteristics that you’d find on a driver’s license.
Like other crime registries, this one may initially seem straightforward and practical. But consider the fact that there is already a de facto crime registry online – It’s called a Google search. Arrest and conviction records are easily accessible online, especially for financial crimes, which tend to be high-profile and to receive extensive news coverage. At best, this registry is redundant.
But this and other crime registries seem to send a message that someone convicted of a crime is and always will be a criminal. Being so publicly branded could make it harder – not easier – to reform and to avoid recidivism.
Source: The New York Times, “Utah Passes White-Collar Felon Registry,” Ben Protess, March 11, 2015