Bill Hebenton is a gifted lecturer at the University of Manchester, Manchester England, and has done extensive research on methods of surveillance within the criminal justice system. Whilst as Americans we can, more times than not, just pop onto the internet if we want to rest our minds as to whether there are any convicted sex offenders in the area (indeed we are even presented with photographs of the offenders) this is not quite the case in England. Currently there are no such guidelines in place (and the controversy is kicking up) though I have a feeling this is soon to change. Particularly with the affect the abduction and murder of eight year old Sarah Payne (a convicted sex offender is now in custody) had on the country last summer.
This report is drawn from work carried out by the authors in 1995 and 1996, funded by the British Academy, to look at the implementation and experience of community notification and sex offender registers in the United States. The Police Research Group asked the authors to supplement this data and to look at issues connected with the practical questions of operating a register, implications for interagency working and the maintenance of the information contained on it. View the full report.
The report paints a picture of very diverse practices and perceptions in the US of the operation of sex offender registers. With the enactment of national legislation which lays down requirements for the standardisation of the data collected and regular verification of data, diversity will lessen in the future and a national database will be established, similar to that operating in the UK. Despite this diversity, however, it appears that they are viewed by both the public and the police as playing a useful part in managing the risk of sex offending.
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