Does Megan’s Law Deter or Encourage Sex Crimes?

by lawdawg on November 20, 2012

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Megan’s Law, passed in 1996, is a system that authorizes law enforcement agencies to notify the public about sex offenders who live in their community. The law was created when seven-year-old Megan Kanka was raped and killed by a known child molester who moved across the street from her family. The law was designed with the intention of protecting the public, but a recent study questions its effectiveness and potential. Does Megan’s Law deter sex offenders from recidivism or does it actually encourage them to commit future sex crimes?

A study done by J.J. Prescott of the University of Michigan and Jonah Rockoff of Columbia University has revealed information that suggests that although registration is beneficial for police monitoring purposes, public notification hinders public safety and sorely affects the frequency of sex crimes. Over a ten year period, sex offender registration reduced sex crimes by 13 percent, however although public notification may deter first offenders it appears to encourage released offenders to re-offend. The study found that “loss of employment, housing, or social ties, as well as stress, loneliness, and depression,” offer offenders no hope of returning to a normal life. Offenders have to chance to embark on a crime-free life or a fresh start. States which added public notification of their registries actually saw slightly higher levels of crime rates.

The study also proposes an award and punishment program for offenders. Because registries are typically handled on a lifetime basis, offenders have little to lose by reoffending. There is no reward for good behavior, and the harshest punishment of making records public for bad behavior has already been carried out – So what do they have to lose? Many criminals find comfort in life behind bars (a life that we, as the public, fund) when they are unable to find acceptance outside of prison. But then again, what type of congratulatory award should a sex offender for simply not reoffending?

Further studies must be carried out before the effectiveness of Megan’s Law is determined, but the information that the J.J. Prescott of the University of Michigan and Jonah Rockoff of Columbia University has provided should encourage states to take a closer look at what types of behavior registration and notification encourages.

This article is brought to you by the Houston sex crime defense lawyers at the Darrow Law Firm, P.C.. If you have been wrongfully accused or charged of a sex crime in the Houston area do not hesitate to secure top-notch legal council to help defend your freedom and future. 





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