I am generally opposed to the notion of destroying a person's life forever due to a criminal conviction (that is, a conviction for which the person will eventually be released and expected to be a contributing member of society afterwards), and I oppose mandatory lifetime registration requirements. That being said, California has now posted this information online, and damn if I didn't go searching online to see if any of my neighbors are sex offenders (I do have 2 little boys, after all). Am I a major hypocrite? Maybe so, I don't know what I would've done had I found a neighbor on the site, I don't think that there's much I could do. Perhaps I'd try to use some connections to find out what his prior was really about (sorry to those who are offended by my use of the word "he," but in my experience, and also on the site, I found next to no females there). If it wasn't serious (as many are not), I would not stress out. But, I wonder to myself, what would I do if I found out that 15 years ago my next door neighbor had his 10th conviction for molesting and kidnapping small boys, and he snuck in just before all the heavy sentences for this really kicked in in 1994? Are my views as a parent different than my views as a human being, as a Public Defender?
I did have fun looking up some of my old clients to see if they were in there. I guess it's good news for the makers of the site that, except for one, they were all in there. This means that they may have actually done a good job of putting the site together. I was surprised at how few people I had on the list. I have my own computerized records of every case I've handled for 7 years. In that time, I think I've only pled about 3 people to that list (I've never lost a trial for sex charges, I've done a couple, but none were convicted of sex offenses, and some walked). I have other clients with these offenses in their past who are in the database also.
An interesting side-note to this is that the database is off-limits to sex offenders. How they manage to enforce this, and why it is against the law, is beyond me. Perhaps they don't want these people commiserating, on the off chance that one pedophile wants to hang with another one, this way they can't look each other up. Of course, most of these people are required (I'm betting they don't typically go voluntarily) to go to sexual deviancy classes, so they probably meet plenty of others that way instead.
A couple of different sites have some discussions about the illegality aspect of this site, with some interesting back and forth. J Soglin of Criminal Appeal has a post on it here, and Professor Douglas Berman at Ohio State University has a follow-up on his sentencing blog.
The Volokh Conspiracy also has some discussion of the subject (I couldn't link to the specific post for some reason, so you have to scroll down a few posts to find it).