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While these beliefs may seem intuitively correct, they are predicated on several widely shared but nonetheless mistaken premises.Given these faulty underpinnings, it is not surprising that there is little evidence that the laws have in fact reduced the threat of sexual abuse to children or others.

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Human Rights Watch would like to thank all of the survivors of sexual violence, former offenders and their families, social workers, advocates, law enforcement officials, and attorneys who shared their experiences and perspective with us for this report.

We are especially grateful to those who trusted us with very painful and personal stories.

Patty Wetterling, a prominent child safety advocate who founded the Jacob Wetterling Foundation after her son was abducted in 1989, recently told Human Rights Watch, I based my support of broad-based community notification laws on my assumption that sex offenders have the highest recidivism rates of any criminal.

But the high recidivism rates I assumed to be true do not exist.

On the other hand, proponents of these laws are not able to point to convincing evidence of public safety gains from them.

Even assuming some public safety benefit, however, the laws can be reformed to reduce their adverse effects without compromising that benefit.Blanket residency restrictions should be abolished. Proponents of sex offender registration and community notification believe they protect children in two ways: police have a list of likely suspects should a sex crime occur in the neighborhood in which a registered offender lives, and parents have information that will enable them to heighten their vigilance and to warn their children to stay away from particular people.Advocates for residency restrictions believe they will limit offenders' access to children and their temptation or ability to commit new crimes.So-called "Megan's Laws" establish public access to registry information, primarily by mandating the creation of online registries that provide a former offender's criminal history, current photograph, current address, and other information such as place of employment.In many states everyone who is required to register is included on the online registry.It has made me rethink the value of broad-based community notification laws, which operate on the assumption that most sex offenders are high-risk dangers to the community they are released into.

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