The Downside to Public Crime Registries
Date:  03-09-2017

People convicted of a crime may change, but registries hinder successful community reintegration
From Pacific Standard:

Bruce Armstrong says he’s a changed man. After spending 25 years in jail for killing a man during a home invasion, Armstrong is looking for a second chance: “I’m not in the lifestyle I used to be in. I don’t drink. I don’t do drugs. I’m just trying to build something up before it’s too late. I’m 55 years old and I don’t have social security, retirement, or a pension.” While it’s difficult for most ex-felons to reintegrate into society, Armstrong’s road is particularly tough. That’s because he is required to enroll onto a registry that is, in theory, supposed to keep communities safe. But research shows that, in reality, those registries act as one more shackle around the hands of those trying to re-enter society?—?heightening risk factors that criminologists say only up the chances that an ex-offender will turn to criminal activity again.

J.J. Prescott, a University of Michigan law professor and a trained economist, says that unraveling registries present a difficult political problem because while the upsides are intuitive to voters, the drawbacks are far less straightforward. He explains the downsides through a behavioral economics lens.

“The deterrence of prison is reduced by the use of public registries, because they have the effect of destroying the value of being out of prison by turning people into pariahs,” Prescott says. “Prison as a threat only works if you have something to lose.”

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