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Social Policy and Sexual Offenders: Contrasting United States' and European Policies

NCJ Number
European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research Volume: 8 Issue: 4 Dated: December 2000 Pages: 423-440
Roxanne Lieb
Date Published
December 2000
18 pages
This article contrasts the United States and European social policies regarding sexual offending.
The three waves of social policy that are discernible in United States' history -- sexual psychopath laws, the focus on the domestic sex crimes under the influence of feminism, and a renewed attention to sexual predators -- are first described in this article. The most significant policy trend regarding sex offenders concerns government monitoring after release. Currently, the United States and some European countries are focusing on ways to increase public protection from sex offenders by using means not directly related to the application of criminal law. The harm caused by sex offenses, combined with the persistent nature of some types of sex offending, has caused citizens and government to push for specialized remedies and powers. Sex offender registries and notification are policies with much greater relevance for those nations with urban and mobile populations. Currently, Megan's Law is the most celebrated policy innovation related to sex crimes. Whether this innovation offers Europeans any substantive advancement in crime or harm reduction is questionable. A responsible community notification law requires care and nurturing by law enforcement officials in order to minimize the risk of vigilantism and also to take advantage of the surveillance potential of community awareness. Political efforts to stop the sexual exploitation of children around the world have a strong presence in Europe. Virtually all policy discussions about sex offenses on both continents share an underlying reliance on the same innovation: actuarial risk assessment. 56 references