Shawna: A Life on the Registry


There is a strong likelihood that someone you know is registered for a sex crime, especially since around 90% of offenses are committed by someone known to the person harmed. Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends are all registered. Each of them are subjected to the same lifelong collateral punishments. Employment is near impossible to locate and find, as is stable housing. Isolation and alienation is a normal. For registered parents, they are often forbidden from bonding with their children at parks, libraries, amusement parks, and other places. Their children, by extension, are often not allowed to participate in normal kid activities and are often bullied for their parent’s presence on the registry. Often children of registrants and registered children have higher rates of suicide. For want of protecting children, many more are unnecessarily harmed.  

If you’re surprised by this, you are not alone. Many people are unaware of the collateral damage inflicted by these registries, because we scroll blithely past the faces on the registry. They are but a footnote to their criminal conviction. It’s time to pause, acknowledge harm is caused, but then reflect on who is on the registry. The current system in place is doing little to promote public safety, but is destroying countless lives and offering little in the name of rehabilitation. There are countless people like Shawna Baldwin, a mother, college student, and doting partner, who don’t conjure up the stereotypical image of “sex offender,” but are registered for life nonetheless. We need to step back and listen to these stories with an open mind.

Start by taking a moment to watch this original commentary from the Marshall Project or read more here: