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Human Rights Watch would like to thank all of the survivors of sexual violence, former offenders and their families, social workers, advocates, law enforcement officials, and attorneys who shared their experiences and perspective with us for this report.We are especially grateful to those who trusted us with very painful and personal stories.

Ashoka Mukpo, US Program Associate, and US Program interns Anjali Balasingham, Andrea Barrow, Madeline Gressel, and Kari White provided important research assistance.

Zama Coursen-Neff, acting deputy director of the Children's Rights Division and Janet Walsh, acting director of the Women's Rights Division, reviewed the report. What happened to nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford is every parent's worst nightmare.

Ian Gorvin, deputy director of the Program Office, and Aisling Reidy, senior legal counsel, edited the report. In February 2005 she was abducted from her home in Florida, raped, and buried alive by a stranger, a next-door neighbor who had been twice convicted of molesting children.

Ashoka Mukpo, Grace Choi, and Andrea Holley provided invaluable production assistance. Over the past decade, several horrific crimes like Jessica's murder have captured massive media attention and fueled widespread fears that children are at high risk of assault by repeat sex offenders.

We want to acknowledge our special gratitude to Patty Wetterling, Alisa Klein, Jim Rensel, Nancy Daley, Dr. Levenson for providing guidance and insights in helping us to shape the research and writing of this report. Politicians have responded with a series of laws, including the sex offender registration, community notification, and residency restriction laws that are the subject of this report.

Federal law and the laws of all 50 states now require adults and some juveniles convicted of specified crimes that involve sexual conduct to register with law enforcement-regardless of whether the crimes involved children.So-called "Megan's Laws" establish public access to registry information, primarily by mandating the creation of online registries that provide a former offender's criminal history, current photograph, current address, and other information such as place of employment.In many states everyone who is required to register is included on the online registry.A growing number of states and municipalities have also prohibited registered offenders from living within a designated distance (typically 500 to 2,500 feet) of places where children gather-for example, schools, playgrounds, and daycare centers.Human Rights Watch appreciates the sense of concern and urgency that has prompted these laws.They reflect a deep public yearning for safety in a world that seems increasingly threatening.Every child has the right to live free from violence and sexual abuse.Promoting public safety by holding offenders accountable and by instituting effective crime prevention measures is a core governmental obligation.The evidence is overwhelming, as detailed in this report, that these laws cause great harm to the people subject to them.On the other hand, proponents of these laws are not able to point to convincing evidence of public safety gains from them.Even assuming some public safety benefit, however, the laws can be reformed to reduce their adverse effects without compromising that benefit.

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