Tuesday, October 5, 2021
Wayne A. Logan (Florida State University - College of Law) has posted Sex Offender Registration in a Pandemic (Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, Vol. 18, 2021) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This Essay, part of a symposium examining how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the criminal justice system, addresses whether, and how, state and local governments maintained their requirement that individuals convicted of sex offenses meet with authorities in person to confirm and update their registry information. Focusing in particular on the first months of 2020, the tale told highlights the distinctiveness of registration: while many governmental operations were suspended, or went online, in-person registration very often persisted. As a result, registrants were required to travel to a government office (perhaps by public transport), wait in a closed space very possibly with poor ventilation, sometimes for extended periods of time, where social distancing might not have been feasible. If they failed to satisfy the registration requirement they faced significant criminal punishment.
The in-person registration requirement remained in effect even though registrants often share many of the same health and age-related characteristics of the broader at-risk population, risks often aggravated by sanitary problems associated with chronic homelessness (e.g., lack of access to soap for hand washing) that registrants often experience. As a result, in-person registration posed the threat of registrants transmitting and contracting the virus, affecting not only the registrants themselves, but also friends, family, and employers, as well as the governmental authorities with whom they had to interact. As states and localities undertook aggressive measures to stem the spread of COVID-19, the persistence of in-person registration provides a stark reminder of the continued exceptionalism of registration and the population it targets (individuals convicted of sex offenses).
The Essay explores the reasons accounting for this distinctiveness and provides some thoughts on how and why in-person registration persisted in the early stages of the pandemic when so many other governmental operations were suspended or significantly modified.