The 1990s saw a significant rise in horrific sex offenses directed towards children, prompting the federal and state governments to formulate laws to help deter offenders and ensure public safety. One of these laws was the 1994 Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act, requiring convicted offenders to register with their local law enforcement after their release from prison.

In 1996, Congress passed Meghan’s Law (a subsection of the Jacob Wetterling Act), which was then signed into law by President Bill Clinton. This law required law enforcement agencies to publicize the information of convicted sex offenders. This meant that any person needing to look up a person’s name when doing a background check for sex offenses could find their name in the sex offenders register if they had had a sex crimes conviction. Under some jurisdictions, the police must conduct community notification in neighborhoods where convicted sex offenders live.

The intentions of the creators of sex offenders’ registry were considered noble. However, in recent years, sex registry laws have come under much criticism from proponents of criminal justice reform and human rights watch groups as unfair and ineffective in attaining the initial objective. Additionally, sex offenses are the only crimes where offenders suffer double jeopardy for their crimes, which is unfair.

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