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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.

Patty Wetterling, a prominent child safety advocate who founded the Jacob Wetterling Foundation after her son was abducted in 1989, recently told Human Rights Watch, I based my support of broad-based community notification laws on my assumption that sex offenders have the highest recidivism rates of any criminal.

But the high recidivism rates I assumed to be true do not exist.

Corinne Carey, former researcher for the US Program, undertook the original research for this report.

In fact, most (three out of four) former sex offenders do not reoffend and most sex crimes are not committed by former offenders.

Blanket residency restrictions should be abolished. Proponents of sex offender registration and community notification believe they protect children in two ways: police have a list of likely suspects should a sex crime occur in the neighborhood in which a registered offender lives, and parents have information that will enable them to heighten their vigilance and to warn their children to stay away from particular people.

Advocates for residency restrictions believe they will limit offenders' access to children and their temptation or ability to commit new crimes.

Sex offender laws are based on preventing the horrific crimes that inspired them-but the abduction, rape, and murder of a child by a stranger who is a previously convicted sex offender is a rare event.

The laws offer scant protection for children from the serious risk of sexual abuse that they face from family members or acquaintances.