From the Charleston Gazette (Thanks to reader MacGregory):
West Virginia Predator Watch, a watchdog service operated by Warriors Actively Against Sexual Predators, hopes to raise community awareness about those accused but not yet convicted of sexual crimes with online postings of published news stories and public court documents.
That’s right. Their website is essentially a data base of those who have been accused of a sex crime but have not yet completed the technicality of a trial and conviction. While prosecution and conviction can take months, with Predator Watch’s one-stop shopping you can start hating them as soon as they’re arrested. They are conveniently identified by county.
They have a disclaimer on their site stating that they “in no way implicate innocence or guilt” on their site. Of course, listing these links on a site called Predator Watch specifically for the purpose of identifying who they are for the public doesn’t imply anything, right?
Finally, they add a little boilerplate apparently plagiarized from the West Virginia Sex Offender Registry, despite the fact that it really isn’t applicable since the Predator Watch site targets people who are not registered sex offenders and may not have even committed a crime:
The information accessed through the use of this website may not be used to threaten, intimidate or harass registered sex offenders and violations of law will be investigated by the West Virginia State Police.
Regardless of their care in just linking to the stories rather than actually listing names and addresses, it’s pretty clear that their website serves the purpose of a sex offender registry for those who have merely been accused.
While the effectiveness of sex offender registries has come under fire repeatedly, they do at least require a conviction before a name is added. Considering the highly punitive effect of being identified as a sex criminal, to set up a data base specifically targeting those who have not been convicted and then maintaining the listing throughout the many months between arrest and trial is so close to vigilantism as to be indistinguishable. In fact, the question arises as to whether being included on such a listing could prejudice a potential jury.
It is noteworthy that the story about the Predator Watch website makes the following assertion:
According to the West Virginia Division of Corrections, 13.4 percent of sex offenders who were released back into the population in 2004 and 2005 committed the same kind of crime again.
Looking at the table from which that figure comes (page 4), child abuse and sexual offenses have the two lowest recidivism rates of the fourteen crime categories listed. Why do we have a registry for sex offenders (13.4% recidivism), but no registry for those who commit homicide (16.3%) or assault (23.6%), or robbery (38.4%)?