A profile in courage

  • U.S. Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson had the courage to criticize the registry.
  • Article in The Nation highlights her “prevention vs. punishment” Student Note.
  • Article cites “poisonous falsehood” that props up a flimsy defense of the registry.

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, since her days as a law student, has recognized that the sex offender registry fails to protect anyone and does harm to many.

This week’s confirmation hearing for Judge Jackson, we hope, shines a light on the fact that the registry is useless and it ought to be abolished.

Judge Jackson’s courageous stance regarding the registry is the subject of an article in The Nation (read On Principle: Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Profile in Courage here).

Here is an excerpt:

What makes the young Ketanji Brown Jackson remarkable is her challenge to legal interpretations of a system of control over people who were not only made a separate category of human being then but are still largely shunned by reformers now. In a Harvard Law Review Student Note titled “Prevention versus Punishment: Toward a Principled Distinction in the Restraint of Released Sex Offenders,” she placed the humanity of a despised class of people at center stage. Where might justice be, she asked in effect, if we begin by considering how state power affects the life and liberty of society’s most hated individuals?


Courts had, on the whole, taken limited interest in the human impact of these restrictions; and the Supreme Court had weighed in, blessing the registries in 2003, applying the same muddled reasoning that Jackson had critiqued, and introducing a poisonous falsehood—declaring that re-offense rates for people convicted of sex crimes were “frightening and high” when actually they are among the lowest. Here was another bit of junk science, since debunked, but widely repeated and never recanted.

It is long past time that we hear a voice from the bench speak the truth about the sex offender registry: It is a vile politicians’ tool used to inflict lifelong punishment, contrary to U.S. Constitution.

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