The purpose of Megan’s Law

Megan’s Law isn’t working. At least that’s what you might believe when hearing of a new study that “concludes” the law requiring registration of convicted sex offenders isn’t serving as an effective deterrent. And that it may no longer be worth the rising costs of implementation.

Not only is the study incomplete, however, but it also misses the point. The primary goal of Megan’s Law was never about deterrence.

The study, conducted by the state Department of Corrections and funded by the National Institute of Justice, acknowledges the absence of some key pieces of information that would better assess the law’s impact.

For instance, downward trends in sex offenses began before Megan’s Law implementation in 1995 and have continued since. The report’s authors explain that the influence of Megan’s Law on those overall trends cannot be definitively determined, in part because it wasn’t possible to distinguish between decreases in first-time and repeat offenses, the latter of which could show a more direct impact of the law.

But that entire argument ignores the primary motive of Megan’s Law — arming parents with knowledge of a sex offender living in their midst, to better allow them to protect their children. Another limitation of the study, as explained by the authors, is that no attempt was made to assess any increase in community surveillance resulting from Megan’s Law, or whether that helped in allowing the public to take more protective action.

Yet that was the motivation for Megan’s Law. What good is a study exploring the effectiveness of Megan’s Law without considering those elements? Advocates certainly hoped that one end result of Megan’s Law would be fewer sex offenses — and the number of sex offenses does continue to drop. But the focus of the law was to alert parents and residents to a sex offender living near them, after 7-year-old Megan Kanka was raped and killed in 1994 by a neighbor who was a twice-convicted sex offender.

Maureen Kanka, Megan’s mother, said Friday that the law — which has been adopted in all 50 states — was never intended to alter sex offenders’ behavior or prevent them from going elsewhere to commit another offense. “It was to provide an awareness to the public, which it has done,” she said.

The corrections study deserves examination, but we disagree with its strong hints that the law isn’t worth the money. Try telling parents that because the state’s not sure how much of a deterrent Megan’s Law might be, sex offenders will once again be able to move in next door with no community awareness of their past.

OUR POSITION:

A new study assessing the effectiveness of Megan’s Law misses the mark on the goals of the law.

ARTICLE here which includes a comment by BigBobHale who claims the real purpose of the Megan’s Law is to put the blame for a sexual crime on the person who committed it rather than where the blame belongs — the parent of the victim.

Published in: on February 9, 2009 at 3:37 am  Leave a Comment  

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