One of the biggest issues surrounding the debate on illegal immigration is the safety of American citizens. However, illegals are not the only threat to that safety. So, the more important question is: do the rights of any dangerous criminal, outweigh the need to protect the public? A federal judge in Colorado thinks they do.

Photo credit: Tulsa News

Last Friday, Federal Judge Richard Matsch deemed Colorado’s sex offender registry to be violating the U.S. Constitution. In his ruling, the judge writes that the registry gives the public the “power to inflict punishments beyond those imposed through the court.” The Colorado Bureau of Investigation posts sex offenders to the list as required by law.

Attorney Alison Ruttenberg is representing three convicted sex offenders and says the registry scars the criminals for life. “Making them at risk for vigilantes’ action to have their houses burned down, beaten up or even killed that is cruel and unusual punishment,” Ruttenberg told CBS4.

Furthermore, Ruttenberg asserts that sex offenders are the least likely group of felons to re-offend. “Sex offenders have probably the lowest recidivism rate of any felon and to single them out for this type of public ridicule and registration is irrational, said Ruttenberg.  (Note he said “probably.”) “It doesn’t do anything to keep our community safer.” 

Photo credit: Durango Herald

However, after reviewing some facts about sex offenders, we found that Ruttenberg’s statements are not entirely accurate. Just two decades ago, researchers found that as many as 80% of those convicted of sex crimes will do it again. More recent data indicates the number is less, at 35%. But, the under-reporting of sex crimes makes it nearly impossible to track offenders.

This means that nobody really knows how many of these violent criminals will re-offend if given the chance.

Brie Franklin, the Executive Director of the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, agrees. Franklin believes the sex offender registry “isn’t perfect,” but protecting victims is a priority.  “I think we always need to keep in mind that victims should have rights too. The victims didn’t choose to have this happen to them, she said. “Offenders made a choice to commit a crime and this is part of that punishment.”

Do you think sex offender registries are “cruel and unusual punishment? Tell us in the comments.


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