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Sex offender registries: Do they make a difference?

By HydroCabron follow HydroCabron   2016 Oct 23, 2:53am 2,346 views   3 comments   watch   nsfw   quote   share    

On the 20th anniversary of Megan's Law, the pros and cons of registries are still debated

Some lawyers and civil rights activists warned of a lynch mob mentality and said such laws would amount to hanging scarlet letters around the necks of ex-offenders.

But the laws have survived a series of court challenges over the years, and have been expanded to include more offenders.

New Jersey now has more than 15,000 registered sex offenders. About 4,085 of them — including 140 in Bergen County and 383 in Passaic County — have been categorized as moderate to high-risk offenders, and are listed on a state police website.

“We think it has been successful in many ways,” said Laura Ahern, executive director of Parents for Megan’s Law and the Crime Victims Center. “It helps law enforcement, and parents can use it to prevent their child from having a relationship with someone who could victimize them.”

Ray Flood, a Hackensack defense attorney, said the law is appropriate for violent and repetitive sex offenders, “but there are so many defendants who will never re-offend and never need the Megan’s Law stigma. Perhaps on the 20th anniversary of the law, there should be a study to provide more flexibility.”

Megan’s Law requires that convicted sex offenders register with authorities, and that communities be notified when a sex offender moves into the neighborhood. New Jersey’s online registry provides the sex offenders’ names, addresses and photographs along with other identifying information.

It also provides information about the offender’s conviction and a description of the offense, such as, “Subject sexually assaulted a juvenile female,” or “Subject sexually assaulted several boys. Boys ranged in age from 8 years through 15 years.”

Information about sex offenders who are considered a lower risk is available only to law enforcement. Some community organizations — like schools — are also notified.

Soon after it was enacted, Megan’s Law faced a series of legal challenges from public defenders, civil liberties advocates and others who questioned its constitutionality. Federal and state courts have been mostly consistent in rejecting the arguments, ruling that public safety concerns outweigh the privacy or equal-protection claims of sex offenders.

But a sharp debate continues about whether the law accomplishes its goal: notifying the public about sex offenders in their neighborhoods so that people can take precautions, and reducing the likelihood that sex offenders will re-offend.

A 2008 study funded by the U.S. Justice Department concluded that Megan’s Law had no effect on preventing first-time sex offenses or on re-offending. “Despite widespread community support for these laws, there is virtually no evidence to their effectiveness,” the authors wrote.

Lisa Squitieri, who heads the sex crimes unit at the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, said Megan’s Law “has been effective for what it was intended to be. It puts the sex offenders on notice and notifies the public. It does that job.”

Ahern, of Parents for Megan’s Law, said it should be expanded to require that information on all registered sex offenders, not just those considered high risk, be available on the Internet.

Sex offenders are assigned to one of three tiers, based on their risk of re-offending. The risk assessment is done by a Superior Court judge. Those put in the top two tiers are placed on the Internet registry.

“Government should not be making a determination of risk,” Ahern said. “Just give the information to the community, and individuals can make their own determination.”

State Sen. Linda Greenstein, D-Mercer, is a co-sponsor of a bill that would do just that. Introduced in March, the bill has been referred to the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.

“It would do away with the risk-based system,” she said. “It’s effective and fiscally prudent.” If the bill becomes law, she said, the list of offenders on the New Jersey Internet registry would rise from about 4,000 to over 15,000.

Opposition comes from many quarters, including Fletcher Duddy, director of the special hearings unit at the state’s Office of the Public Defender, who thinks it would be a mistake to list all sex offenders on the Internet.

“It dilutes the system when you put thousands and thousands of people on the list,” he said. “The public would have no way of determining who poses a serious risk and who doesn’t.”

Overall, Megan’s Law has been counter-productive and should be scrapped, he said.

“The intent of Megan’s Law is good and laudable,” Duddy said. “Reducing sexual-offense recidivism is a noble goal. But in reality, the law doesn’t do that. Making sex offenders pariahs in modern-day society, making it impossible for them to find work or a place to live, actually increases their likelihood of recidivism.”

Many defendants who pose no risk to the community end up being registered as sex offenders, he said. The most common types are those who are convicted of statutory rape, in which an otherwise consensual relationship is defined by law as rape because the victim is under the age of 16, and the offender is at least four years older.

“You have someone who is 19 or 20, having a relationship with someone who is 15,” he said. “The person frankly didn’t even know he was doing something wrong, and even their families knew about it. That is a very, very common fact pattern.”

The older partner in such relationships would then be required to register under Megan’s Law, although he or she has no tendency to sexually victimize others, he said. “Now he is classified as a predator and lumped together with dangerous pedophiles.”

Joseph Rem, a Hackensack defense attorney, agreed.

“I think it is often applied to people who do not represent any threat to the community, and that is unfortunate,” he said. “To those who are listed on the Internet, Megan’s Law is the 21st-century scarlet letter.”

2   justme   ignore (0)   2016 Oct 23, 10:32am     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag      

Where is the financial offender registry, where we are sternly warned that Jon Corzine, Angelo Moziilo (The Original Cheeto), Loyd Blankfein, Jamie Dimon, serially bankrupt Donald Trump, Tim Geithner, Hank Paulsson, Alan Greenspan,The Bernank, Janet Yellen, and others are living in your neighborhood?

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