Sex offender registries became public in 1996 as a result of Megan’s Law, which was an amendment to the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act. Since this time, each state has developed and maintained an online sex offender registry.
The registries continue to improve and evolve as other laws and acts, like the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, come into effect. The ultimate goal of online sex offender registries is to improve public awareness and safety.
For more information on these and other laws read, “History of the Sex Offender Registry.”
Online sex offender registries are an essential resource for parents, educators and other involved citizens who care about protecting themselves and their children. These websites make it easy to access profiles on individual offenders and reveal predators in a region.
In this site, you’ll find articles on safety, statistics and other sex offender related topics and comprehensive reviews on state sex offender registries so you can see how your state’s registry compares to others. At TopTenREVIEWS We Do the Research So You Don’t Have To.™
The laws in each state govern state run sex offender registry websites. These laws regulate how much information is disclosed to the public and who is posted on the registry. However, states are free to design their registries so they are easy to use as well as provide additional tools and information like maps, comprehensive search functions and safety tips. As the deadline for compliance with the Adam Walsh Act (2006) approaches, look for more consistency and more information on every state's registry. See 2006 Adam Walsh Act: Creating Consistency in State Sex Offender Registry Sites for details.
Below are the criteria TopTenREVIEWS used to evaluate sex offender registries.
This information varies by state depending on state laws. It begins with determining which offenders qualify for inclusion and how they are identified. Some states use a risk assessment program to assess the likelihood of an offender committing another sex crime and may categorize offenders as low, moderate and high risk. Some states identify violent sexual predators as part of this process. We looked for a statement explaining which offenders were included in the site and how offenders were categorized if this information was made available. Categorizing offenses in risk levels and identifying potentially dangerous offenders provides useful information for the public in assessing risk in their own neighborhoods.
Specific information about an offender is also dictated by state law. It may include a photograph, name, home, work and school addresses, physical description, crime location, conviction date, offense committed and basic information about the victim including gender and age.
The search function should be easy to use and produce relevant results. Possible searches include electronic identifier, within a radius of a specified location, by offender information, and by offense type. Search results may include a list with varying amounts of information, an interactive map and links to the profiles. Seamless integration between these three elements was the benchmark for measuring search effectiveness.
Additional Site Features
The state sex offender registry sites should provide the community with supplemental information and tools. These may include a mapping function, printer–friendly profiles, legal information, safety tips and additional resources for offenders, victims and involved citizens.
Ease of Use
As with any service, state–run sex offender registries should be easy to use. The website should be accessible from the state’s homepage and through a search engine. The site itself should be easy to navigate and have well labeled buttons and text fields, clear instructions, and plain language throughout, so anyone can find the information they seek.
The registry websites should have apparent contact information for the agency that oversees the registry. Contact information may include an email address, physical address and phone number.
To read the review on your state’s registry click the “Read Review” button under your state’s name in the table above. Or, find your state in the product list on the left side of the page.