17 Jan 2018

Poland's register of pedophiles made public in populist move

The Polish Ministry of Justice introduced a public register of “the most dangerous rapists and pedophiles". Yet research shows that such lists are not only ineffective but also demoralizing.

Magdalena Karst-Adamczyk
Magdalena Karst-Adamczyk Wysokie Obcasy, Global
Source: Wysokie Obcasy
Poland's register
of pedophiles made public in populist move - NewsMavens
Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

Keeping a register of sex offenders is a commonplace practice in many countries. Many argue, however, that it is a tool of supervision and control that can only be effective as long as it is classified. The only people who should have access to it are recruiters from institutions linked to childcare or schooling, judicial authorities and the police.

Such registers function, for example, in Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and, since October 2017, also in Poland.

Yet the Polish Ministry of Justice took the idea a step further. Apart from the classified register, it also created a public one online that lists "the most dangerous rapists and pedophiles". Now anyone can check if there is a sex criminal living in their area.  

Public registers are also not a novelty, however, from the experience of other countries, we already know that they are not only ineffective but also demoralizing.

To begin with, they demoralize the environment. When a community finds out that a pedophile lives next door, it sets off a spiral of fear that usually leads to an outbreak of violence against that person, both psychological and physical.

Public registers can also be demoralizing for the perpetrators.

"If something can motivate pedophiles to undertake therapy, it is the desire for self-control, which helps them to better function within the society,” a well-known Polish sexologist explains.

“But how to become better people in an environment that rejects them? They soon give up trying."

Nothing is more effective in preventing repeate offenses in cases of pedophilia than therapy. Statistics show that treatment reduces such risk almost twofold. It cannot eliminate their sexual drive completely but can teach pedophiles how to control it. Hence, it is in the best interest of society that they are treated, rather than avoid therapy assuming that it will change nothing.

The sexologist draws attention to one more aspect:

"We will not protect children from sexual violence only by shielding them from specific perpetrators.

The knowledge that such an individual lives in their vicinity might increase anxiety but at the same time reduce vigilance towards other potential perpetrators that are not in the register.”

The sexologist concludes by saying that establishing a public pedophiles’ list is a populist move that appears to bolster security which in fact can trigger the opposite effect. Read more in the story below.

health, politics

Details from the story:

  • From January 1, a public register of "the most dangerous rapists and pedophiles" in Poland is available on the Internet.
  • The experience of other countries shows that such registers do not reduce the scale of sex crimes committed against children.
  • Instead, they increase the risk of lynching.
  • Treatment is the most effective protection against the repeat offending of pedophile offenders.
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