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Sex Offender Registration: Some Observations on Megan's Law and the Sex Offenders Act 1997

NCJ Number
Crime Prevention and Community Safety: An International Journal Volume: 1 Issue: 1 Dated: 1999 Pages: 41-54
A-M McAlinden
Date Published
14 pages
Megan's Law in the United States and Part 1 of the Sex Offenders Act of 1997 in the United Kingdom contain provisions for the creation of a register that will record names and addresses of all persons convicted of or cautioned for sex offenses.
Arguments in favor of such legislation include the supposedly high recidivism among sex offenders, the inadequacy of supervision provisions, and the resulting need to track dangerous offenders for public protection. In practice, however, there are many obstacles to implementing sex offender registration laws, including costs and inadequate policing resources. These obstacles may impede the effectiveness of the laws and reduce them to symbolic significance. In addition, various ethical objections to the laws have been raised that concern civil liberties and double jeopardy. Arguments for and against the laws point to the difficulties associated with striking a balance between the need to protect the public and the justice of placing a burden and a stigma on individuals who have paid their debt to society and may not reoffend. The author suggests a more concerted effort than targeting a relatively small number of sex offenders is needed to reduce the incidence of sex offenses. 45 notes