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Megan's Law: Fears vs. Facts

NCJ Number
Alternatives to Incarceration Volume: 4 Issue: 5 Dated: September/October 1998 Pages: 7-8
Casey J J
Date Published
2 pages
This paper reviews the positive and negative consequences of the implementation of "Megan's Law" in New Jersey, which mandates various types of public notification of the presence of a paroled or released sex offender in a neighborhood.
Classification of sex offenders under Megan's Law is based on the degree of risk posed to the community. In New Jersey, it can take up to 7 years to classify a sex offender. If the parolee is given a "moderate" classification, schools and day-care centers are to be notified. Since the enactment of Megan's Law, New Jersey has expanded the scope of the notification process to include the markets and shopping centers where the sex offender shops. Schools in the area receive sealed fliers, delivered to the parents of each student, even if they do not live in the immediate area of the paroled sex offender's place of residence. New Jersey is empowered to make notification regarding places the offender frequently visits or presumes to visit regularly. In Linden, N.J., on June 16, 1998 -- 10 days after police delivered fliers to the neighborhood to notify residents of the location of Frank Penna, a paroled sex offender -- five rounds from a large- caliber handgun were pumped into the downstairs front window of a multi-family dwelling where Penna was reported to be living. The apartment window hit, however, was not Penna's. Opponents of the law cite this case, among others, as the logical consequence of public notification of sex offender's identity and residence location. Proponents of the law claim that vigilantism can be controlled through aggressive law enforcement and that children are protected by the mandates of Megan's law.