Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department or School

Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology

Committee Member

Peter Wood

Committee Member

Paul Leighton

Committee Member

Brian Sellers


Sex offender registries were created as a means for law enforcement to track rapists and pedophiles to help quickly resolve sex cases. It evolved into a much larger system with many consequences. This evolution has been hastened by a moral panic based on bad facts and fueled by strong public opinion in favor of long prison sentences and even longer registration periods. Modern laws have little to do with monitoring and more to do with retribution. Proponents claim these penalties are a means to deter sex offenses, but very little research supports this contention. Instead, the registries and the media have generated a moral panic against sex offenders, resulting in far reaching consequences based on few facts. The label hinders employment and housing while placing offenders at a higher risk of vigilantism and mental health problems. This is very different from the original lists of convicted criminals.