The Invisible Man: How the Sex Offender Registry Results in Social Death

Elizabeth Megale, Campbell University School of Law


In this Article, I use Elliott Currie's work to illustrate how repressive control systems overcriminalize behaviors and result in higher rates of crime, prosecution, and incarceration. Section II of this Article establishes that crime is a social construct and explains how, over time, the definition of what constitutes a crime changes. This section also identifies three characteristics that emerge in a repressive control system: (1) "[i]nvulnerability to restraint from other social institutions"; (2) "[s]ystematic establishment of extraordinary powers for suppressing deviance with a concomitant lack of internal restraints"; and (3) "[a] high degree of structured interest in the apprehension and processing of deviants." 25 In Section III, I examine each of these characteristics in the context of SORNA and propose that each characteristic has emerged in the wake of the implementation of SORNA. Finally, I conclude by predicting crime rates with respect to sex offenses will likely increase as will the rates of prosecution and punishment in the wake of SORNA.