In theory, these registries are comprehensive lists of every sex offender in your state, updated regularly with the offender's home location and other pertinent facts to help parents and employers avoid exposing their children to kiddie diddlers.
Megan's Law requires sex offenders to register and update law enforcement every time they change location. The law's namesake was murdered by a pedophile in 1994.
But There's a Problem...
Man, this dude was just some Photos.com model, and we went and made him a pedophile.
Nobody wants to be the one to stand up for sex offenders, but you've got to have pretty damned good cause to make a person face what is basically a life-long punishment, served even after their jail term is over. Which sounds fine if we're talking about a serial rapist murderer, but not when something like public urination can land you on the registry right alongside him.
That would be just one reason studies show Megan's Law hasn't done a damned thing to stop child molesters.
Why Doesn't it Work?
So you take a guy who's committed a crime. Now you put him on a registry that may keep him from getting a job, or making friends, generally just totally isolating him for the rest of his life and giving him lots of free time. Do you think that makes him less likely to commit another crime?
And how does knowing there's a sex offender in your neighborhood help? Unless he's wearing some kind of clanging Sex Offender bell around his neck to let you and your child know he's approaching, it doesn't protect you from a guy looking to do it again. And then you've got the fact that 95 percent of sexual assault victims are victimized by somebody they already know anyway.
So what's the point? Deterrence? As it turns out, someone who is willing to abduct, rape and murder a child often isn't stopped by the fact that he'll get put on a "registry" if he's caught.
When talking about crime, you may hear some refer to the "Broken Windows" theory. This goes back to an article in the Atlantic Monthly that made the case that petty crime, if not dealt with, would soon metastasize into serious ones:
"Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it's unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.
Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars."
There you have it, folks. One moment you throw your empty Snicker's wrapper on the pavement and the next, some crackhead is breaking windows and stealing cars.
Above: a logical procession of events.
In an effort to save our children, which by the way seems to be the motivation for half of the stupid things society does, in the 1980s they decided to introduce "Zero Tolerance" policies in schools. When it came to drugs or weapons, they would come down on any little offense like it was an act of terrorism. And, if that means strip-searching a 13-year-old girl because she was caught with a couple of Advils, well, it's worth it to avoid that slippery slope toward chaos.
But There's a Problem...As you can see, and as they should have seen five seconds after it was suggested, "Zero Tolerance" removes basically all elements of judgment or proportionate punishment from the process, making it a somehow even more retarded version of Three Strikes. Which leads to things like a child getting suspended for bringing in a keychain the size of an eraser shaped like a toy gun.
Why Doesn't it Work?
The study linked above is from the American Psychological Association, who found the policies didn't distinguish between the kids behaving badly and the ones who were simply confused or showing poor judgment. You even got bizarre cases where a kid has been kicked out of school for possession of "... Midol, Tylenol, Alka Seltzer, cough drops and Scope mouthwash."
Obviously deterrents don't work if there is no attempt to understand the behaviors they're punishing. Oh, and also this supposed plan to clamp down on ALL offenses equally still somehow delivers more serious punishments to minorities. The potential for abuse is huge, because if there's a kid you want gone, hell, most people reading this article probably didn't go three days in high school without violating some interpretation of Zero Tolerance. His damned shoelaces could be called deadly weapons.
Is this any way to prepare our children for the adult world? By making them believe that authority figures often rely on unfair and arbitrary rules not based on any kind of logic or...
Wait, that actually may be a pretty good way to prepare them for the adult world.
To see why Batman only works alone when it doesn't involve the internet, check out 8 Awesome Cases of Internet Vigilantism. Or find out about some retarded laws your brain adheres to without you even knowing it, in 5 Ways 'Common Sense' Lies To You Everyday.
And visit Cracked.com's Top Picks before it becomes regular Internet law to do so (and it will, because we own the Internet).