Human Rights Watch reviewed the sex offender registration, community notification, and residency restriction laws of the 50 states in the United States and the District of Columbia. We ascertained the offenses that triggered mandatory registration requirements, the period of time for which the offender must remain registered, whether states classify registrants by level of risk, and what types of review procedures exist either to alter a registrants level of risk or allow him to be relieved of reporting or notification obligations. We cross-checked the offenses that trigger registration and notification requirements with each states criminal code to identify precisely what kinds of conduct triggered registration requirements. We also searched each states juvenile code for specific provisions dealing with the obligation of young offenders to register and be subject to community notification.
Human Rights Watch visited all 50 state sex offender registry websites and that of the District of Columbia to determine what kind of information about registrants is available to the public. We communicated with law enforcement officials from 30 states about their state registries, in particular about whether the states had mechanisms for reporting vigilantism or harassment against registrants.
State laws and online registry information are constantly being modified. The information compiled in this report is accurate, to the best of our knowledge, as of July 1, 2007. States are constantly changing the information distribution format of their online sex offender registries, and some of the information in this report may already be outdated. For the most current registration and community notification requirements and distribution policies regarding a particular states online sex offender registry, Human Rights Watch encourages readers to check their states most current policies.
In addition to an exhaustive review of the published scientific and legal literature about sex offenders, we interviewed 122 sex offenders and 90 of their loved ones, all of whom are referred to in the report by pseudonyms, given their concerns about privacy. We spoke with a number of survivors of sexual abuse, members of victims rights and child sexual assault prevention groups, child safety experts, and sex offender researchers. Finally, we interviewed state officials responsible for enforcing sex offender laws, including probation and parole officers and county sheriffs.