Most people convicted of sex offenses, from public indecency to first-degree sexual assault, are subject to public registration requirements with few exceptions. In Connecticut, the mandate lasts for either 10 years or a lifetime, depending on whether the charge was nonviolent or violent.

Research shows that policies passed in response to sex crimes have disproportionately affected Black men, who in Connecticut comprise more than a quarter of people on the registry, according to a CT Mirror analysis.

Trevor Hoppe, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina Greensboro who studies the intersection of race and the registry, doesn’t think it’s a coincidence given all that the country has invested into protecting white children. 

“Under that veil, I think lawmakers have been able to pass all sorts of deeply punitive policies that impact way more than just people who commit crimes against children,” Hoppe said.

When Connecticut’s law was enacted, it was “designed to protect its communities from sex offenders and to help apprehend repeat sex offenders,” former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist once wrote in a case reviewing whether the Constitution afforded people a right to a hearing prior to their placement on the registry.

Connecticut enacted legislation creating the public registry during the 1998 legislative session. The policy was retroactive, meaning people convicted of a “sexually violent offense” in the decade prior to the law’s passage would have to enroll.

Hundreds of Connecticut residents are still affected by the law’s retroactive provision. Faced with decades of adversity emanating from their status on the registry, many of them are pleading with legislators to fix what they feel was a far-reaching violation of their right to due process and an indifference to their humanity.

During this year’s legislative session, both Democrats and Republicans voted against legislation that would have removed people retroactively added. Their objections rested on the belief illustrated by Rehnquist and others — that the database works as an effective tool for maintaining public safety because it helps hold dangerous people accountable.

Read more: ‘Just existing, not living’: CT residents retroactively added to sex offense registry seek reprieve