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Are the New Sex Offender Laws Rational? (From Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in Crime and Criminology, Fifth Edition, P 134-141, 1998, Richard C. Monk, ed. -- See NCJ-183062)

NCJ Number
Bruce Fein; Edward Martone
Richard C. Monk
Date Published
8 pages
A journalist contends that community notification laws related to convicted sex offenders are necessary, while an American Civil Liberties Union activist maintains that the laws create vigilantism, unfairly punish offenders, and contribute little to solving the problem of compulsive sex offenders.
Megan's Law requires government notice to communities of resident sex offenders believed to possess a high risk of recidivism. The community receives the offender's name, address, offense, place of employment or schooling, and license plate number, along with a recent photograph and a physical description. The community is also admonished against vigilantism and is warned that crimes against the offender will be prosecuted. The laudatory objective of Megan's Law is community self-defense, and the law is constitutionally sound and necessary. Critics, however, assail Megan's Law as an invasion of privacy, as repeat punishment for persons who have already served their sentences, as generating vigilante acts, as unfairly stigmatizing former convicts in need of support to get their lives back in order, and as ignoring the causes of sex offenses. The rationality of sex offender laws is discussed.