The case of Phillip Garrido and his 18-year captive calls into question whether government-managed sex offenders lists are useful and whether they create a false sense of public safety, says the New York Times. Sex offender lists have made far more information readily available to the public and the police than before, but experts say little research is available to suggest that the registries have actually discouraged offenders from committing new crimes.
And some experts say that the lists may lead people to presume that anyone registered must also be elaborately monitored, when, in truth, monitoring ranges enormously from place to place and state to state. In some cases, it amounts to little more than an offender mailing a postcard with his address to a police department once a year. “We've come to see these registries as a panacea that is going to resolve all sex offender problems,” said Richard Tewksbury, a professor of justice administration at the University of Louisville who has written extensively about the effects of registries. “That's just not realistic.”