The rights of sex offenders have supplanted the rights of citizens to keep their families safe in Colorado, where a federal court judge in Denver ruled the state's sex offender registry is an unconstitutional violation of “cruel and unusual punishment.”
According to CBS Denver, "the Colorado Bureau of Investigation posts a list of registered sex offenders required under the law," providing to the public names, pictures, addresses, and descriptions of the offenders. Federal Judge Richard Matsch calls that a bridge too far and gives people too much "power to inflict punishments beyond those imposed through the court.”
The attorney representing the sex offenders, Alison Ruttenberg, said the registry caused the sex offenders great psychological harm, forcing them to live in fear of repercussions.
“Making them at risk for vigilantes’ action to have their houses burned down, beaten up or even killed that is cruel and unusual punishment,” Ruttenberg told CBS. "There’s not a single crime in Colorado that has been solved because of the sex offender registry. Sex offenders have probably the lowest recidivism rate of any felon and to single them out for this type of public ridicule and registration is irrational. It doesn’t do anything to keep our community safer."
The suit was filed on behalf of three offenders, not a class action.
Brie Franklin, the Executive Director of the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said that even with the registry, a great deal of sex offenders fly under the radar.
“While it might feel safer to have a registry and know where those sex offenders are, those are only offenders who have been caught and convicted and are required to be on the registry. There are still a lot of other sex offenders out there we don’t know about,” she said. “Sometimes there’s a sense of false safety of being able to go out on a website and say, ‘now I know where everybody is.’ When in fact we don’t know where everybody is.”
“I think we always need to keep in mind that victim’s should have rights too. The victims didn’t choose to have this happen to them. Offenders made a choice to commit a crime and this is part of that punishment,” Franklin added.
The Colorado Attorney General’s office has not announced an appeal as of yet, though the offenders' attorney is convinced that it will go to the Supreme Court if appealed.
In 2014, a New York Times op-ed by Rutgers law professor Margo Kaplan argued against the "stigma" of pedophiles, saying that it must be regarded as a disorder, not a crime.
“By some estimates, 1 percent of the male population continues, long after puberty, to find themselves attracted to prepubescent children. These people are living with pedophilia, a sexual attraction to prepubescents that often constitutes a mental illness,” Kaplan wrote. “Unfortunately, our laws are failing them and, consequently, ignoring opportunities to prevent child abuse.”