Newsletter: Does The Sex Offender Registry Do More Harm Than Good?

Sex Offender More Harm than Good Debate

Here’s what we have in store this week:

•   A new debate about the rights of offenders and how we protect ourselves
   A closer look at recidivism rates and how sex offenders fare
   Your Sunday reading list


Last month, a federal judge scolded the Justice Department for doing “exactly what is forbidden by the Constitution.” Requiring sex offenders to register with their state, even when the state does not require them to do so or has a process for it, “subverts the procedural safeguards deeply rooted in our history and constitutional framework,” U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal wrote.

That opinion is raising bigger questions about the rights of those convicted of what is often dubbed the most devastating kind of violence, and whether our collective efforts to protect communities from convicted sex offenders has actually worked.

Over the past few decades, the legal landscape has shifted to a more proactive stance, culminating in a single, searchable site, filled with those convicted of sex crimes. But some say that approach not only undermines longstanding constitutional protections, but it also increases the likelihood of criminal behavior by making it virtually impossible to reintegrate into society. Others say that reducing such a proactive approach will endanger communities, which have consistently supported it in the name of keeping themselves safe.

In this context, we debate the following question: Does the Sex Offender Registry Do More Harm Than Good?   

Arguing “YES” is Emily Horowitz, author of “Protecting Our Kids? How Sex Offender Registry Laws Are Failing Us” and professor of sociology and criminal justice.

Arguing “NO” is Cary Federman, sex offender registry researcher and justice studies professor and author of “The Body and the State: Habeas Corpus and American Jurisprudence.”

John Donvan moderates.

Have a listen.



A closer look at who reoffends the most after prison. Learn more here.



Does the sex offender registry do more harm than good?



“Those convicted of sex offenses are not a distinct breed of person unresponsive to punishment and treatment, … subjecting them to lifelong banishment and humiliation is counterproductive and vengeful.”Learn More

Emily Horowitz

Open to Debate



“What I see when I look at sex offender laws, I see parents, victims and legislators deliberating honestly about public safety and what democracy actually means.”
Learn More

Cary Federman

Open to Debate


Open to Debate U.S. ALUMNI

Points of View


Why are we letting dangerous criminals roam the streets?
Theodore Dalrymple | January 28, 2023
The Spectator

Watch Theodore’s debate on legalizing drugs


How much does racial diversity on a police force actually matter?
Jason Johnson | January 27, 2023

Watch Jason’s debate on American policing


Who is part of the free world?
Anne-Marie Slaughter | January 26, 2023
Project Syndicate

Watch Anne-Marie’s debate on containing ISIS


Partisan ‘fact checkers’ spread climate change misinformation
Bjorn Lomborg | January 26, 2023
The Wall Street Journal

Watch Bjorn’s debate on adapting to climate change


Join a community of social and intellectual leaders that truly value the free exchange of ideas.
Readings on our weekly debates, debater editorials, and news on issues that affect our everyday lives.
Help us bring debate to communities and classrooms across the nation.