Online Convict Registries: Public Service or “Catnip”?


Legislators in several states are pushing for online registries, like those for sex offenders, to track the whereabouts of people convicted of a wide variety of crimes, from arson and drunken driving to methamphetamine manufacturing and animal abuse, the New York Times reports. Examples: Illinois is considering a registry for first-degree murderers. Maine legislators are debating an online registry of drunken drivers. Proposals to register animal abusers have been made in several states; one such registry starts next week in Suffolk County, L.I.

Advocates for online registries argue that people have a right to know about potentially dangerous offenders in their midst. Some question the registries’ value. Critics say that while the registries are attractive to politicians who want to appear tough on crime, they my do little more than spread fear and encourage vigilantism. Law Prof. Wayne Logan of Florida State University, author of a book on registration and notification laws, likens the registries to “legislative catnip.”

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