General Context and Purpose for Sex Offender Registries
In the wider context of the criminal justice laws enacted in the U.S. and in other legal and political jurisdictions, a Sex Offender Registry can be understood as a further penalty observed against individuals convicted of illegal sexual actions violating on an actual or statutory basis the necessity for consent to be given for sexual activities to take place, and as a service provided to the public and toward the end of minimizing the chances of further violations of the law taking place.
A sex offender registry, which will generally be drawn up on a State-level or more local basis, can allow people to freely and without conditions access information as to the registered sexual offenders living in proximity to them.
U.S. Context for Sex Offender Registries
California first introduced the sex offender registry mechanism to the U.S. legal system in 1947, but did not make the contents of the registry publicly available at that time. The obligation imposed on sex offenders for mandatory registration with their states on this basis only came into effect with the 1994 legislation passed into effect as the Jacob Wetterling Act.
Two years later, the necessity for public accessibility to these State-maintained resources of sex offender registries was again established by legislative action at the Federal level pertinent toward states in the form of statutes modeled on the New Jersey-specific Megan’s Laws. The Supreme Court has generally upheld the legality of violating sex offenders’ privacy in this way.