When ex-Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner became a registered sex offender for life last week, he joined a nationwide list of registered sex criminals that has grown dramatically in recent years to more than 800,000, the Associated Press reports. Some who have called Turner’s six-month jail sentence too lenient for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman wonder whether he should spend his life with the stigma and onerous restrictions of a registered sex offender. A growing number of defense attorneys, advocates, and judges question the fairness of applying lifetime, blanket restrictions to expanding definitions of sex crimes that may treat first-time offenders the same as serial rapists.
In California, Florida, South Carolina, and Alabama it’s impossible for people convicted of any sex crime to be removed from online registries showing their pictures, addresses, convictions, and probation details. Critics say that offenders have been turned into victims themselves when they are targeted in vigilante attacks or can’t find jobs or places to live. Stanford University law Prof. Michele Dauber, who called Turner’s sentence too lenient and is leading a campaign to oust the judge who imposed it, said requiring the 21-year-old man to be registered as a sex offender until he dies may be too harsh. Dauber said many criminals deserve lifetime registration, but said at some point after at least 10 years on the registry Turner should be given a chance to get off it by proving he has successfully rehabilitated himself. Turner was released from jail Sept. 2 and moved to his parent’s home in Bellbrook, Oh. Protesters demonstrated in front of the home before and after his arrival and Turner’s parents told police eggs were thrown at the house.