Monday, March 29, 2010

Child Abuse (Not Sex Offender) Registry Coming Do we need a child abuse registry? - Sen. Chuck Schumer calls for a national database to track child abuse offenders.

Senator Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is pushing for a national registry of child abusers. "Track child beaters like we do sex offenders," blares one headline. It sounds like a righteous idea, at first glance. But although it may look like a huge step, and is certainly being announced as such, ultimately it will only make it easier for people to find out what other people already know.

Registries for child abuse already exist, on the state level, though federal law doesn't mandate that states keep them. A key factor in the national registry -- which was authorized in 2006, but which has not yet been put into place (an extensive feasibility report was published in May 2009) -- is that it would centralize the information and allow child protective services easier access to it when abusers cross state lines.

Schumer compared the national registry for child abusers to registries for sex offenders. But that begins to make clear some of the potential shortfalls of the system: For one, tracking sex offenders is only one of the ways we work to prevent repeat crimes, and it doesn't always work. And, just as in the case of the sex offender registry, this system would only work to track abusers who have been reported -- which seems like a point so obvious it's not worth bringing up, until you think about how under-reported child abuse actually is.

We are all for adding groups of citizens to online registries. Child abuse will join drunk driving, animal abuse, sex offenses, murders, gun crimes and more as crimes deemed by our governments to be publicly shamed online. The more , the merrier. We have already diluted sex offender registries with almost one million offenders; most of whom pose little or no threat to anyone. With the online registries promulgating like this, they only become the butt of jokes, which will eventually kill them altogether.