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Shawna: Life On the Sex Offender Registry

The Marshall Project Short Film

Shawna: Life on the Sex Offender Registry

After having consensual sex with a younger boy as a teenager, Shawna Baldwin finds herself one of the 800,000 people on American’s sex offender registries. Now in her mid-thirties and a mother of two, this short documentary explores the effects that sex offender registration has had on her life. We argue that rather than narrowly target a very few dangerous offenders and allow them to be monitored by law enforcement, we have morphed our registry into a massive instrument of public censure and marginalization, while utterly failing to advance the purpose for which it was created. And the social science is unequivocal: the registry doesn’t make us safer, or reduce sexual violence. What it does is ruin hundreds of thousands of lives — the lives of people like Shawna — in a vain attempt to put a human face on our fears.

Link to Op-Ed text and video