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An Analysis of Erin’s Law and Megan’s Law

Child sexual abuse behavior has been part of the social world throughout history (Sample and Kadleck 41). The impacts that sexual abuse has on children is severed. These impacts have led to the development of policies to deter child sexual abuse. Erin’s Law is interested in providing sexual education programs to juvenile so as prevent sexual abuse. Megan’s Law demands states to make registration information of sex offenders to the public. While Erin’s Law has helped to promote disclosure of past abuse and prevent child sexual abuse, the paper argues that Megan’s Law is unethical and against the Constitution of the United States of American.

Erin’s Law has significantly helped schools to focus on prevention strategies. Educators and parents have impacted the knowledge of children on what, where, how, and when’s of child sexual abuse and strategies to cope with such incidences (Kenny 986). Child sexual abuse impacts children from different religions, culture, and economic status. The offenders of child sexual abuse are the people trusted and known by the family. Erin’s Law has provided a measure of victim and perpetrator awareness that has propelled the notion that child sex abuse can happen to anyone by anyone. Since child sexual abuse is beyond the control of the child, Erin’s Law has availed skills for dealing with the potential abusive situation (Blad 13). Teachers have also provided a supportive environment to children, thus helping them disclose information of abuse. Erin’s Law has also identified elements that put children at risk of abuse, symptoms and signs of abuse, and helped children to handle effectively suspected incidences of abuse.

Megan’s Law was passed in 1996 following the Amendment of Wetterling Act. While all states implemented Megan’s Law, the federal law did not give detailed instruction regarding the implementation process. Therefore, there is a great variation across states sex offender registries. This variation includes several components such as the use of assessments to determine the risk of each offender to commit a future crime; the method used to disclose the offender’s information to the public; the differentiation between offenders placed on a public registry and those on a non-public registry; the information collected and published about offenders; resources allocated to local agencies that implement and manage the registry; and sanctions given to individuals that do not comply with registration requirements (Prentky et al. 24).

Megan’s Law gives the public the perception that registries allow residents to avoid dangerous individuals and to give law enforcement officials a tool for managing sex offenders in the community. Megan’s Law is intended to protect the public from sexual violence by raising awareness of the offender’s presence in the community. This gives a notion that citizens need to avoid individual in the community who are unknown to them. However, the majority of offenders who commit a sexual crime against a child are not a stranger to that child. They are more likely to be a family member or a family friend. Therefore, Megan’s Law may have a false sense of security.

Studies on Megan’s Law and related policies have shown that sex offenders have endured forms of harassment, violence, segregation, and homicide as a result of public registration (Freeman and Sandler 33; Caldwell 951). Caldwel (950) performed a study with registered sex offenders that assessed these collateral consequences that resulted from their photo and personal information being made public over the internet. 17% of the registered sex offenders noted that they had been assaulted, 46% were subjected to harassment, 46% were repudiated or lost their homes and 40% lost employment. These consequences that result to the low level of community engagement may cause an individual to reoffend.

Megan’s Law hinders the constitution’s right to privacy, freedom from cruel and unusual punishment (Freeman and Sandler 34). Presenting personal information of sex offenders to the public violates personal privacy and has been considered to be cruel and unusual punishment. Besides, the shaming and ostracism that result from community notification can also be considered cruel and unusual punishment. Ex-post facto case has arisen, based on the fact that individuals convicted of sex offenses prior to the passing of Megan’s Law were demanded to register as sex offenders (Smith v. Doe) (Freeman and Sandler 35). Since Megan’s Law was created from after the action of their offense, the Constitution would suggest that these offenders should not have been required to register under this law.

Megan’s Law is based on classical theory that argue that there be a deterrent effect when the cost of a criminal sanction outweigh the rewards from committing a crime (Caldwell 200). Deterrence and classical theory stem from a utilitarian philosophy which seeks to maximize happiness in society. Since crime and sanctions decrease happiness for society and offenders, both should be kept to a minimum; thus, the sanctions given to offenders should be just enough to deter future criminal behavior. However, Megan’s Law goes beyond deterrence by increasing stigmatisation that prevent offenders from participating in their community. Offenders should be given opportunities to engage with their community as a means to overcome their feelings of exclusion, and as an approach to reduce future criminal behavior.

References

Blad, Evie. “New State Laws Require More Sex-Abuse Training in Schools.” New State Laws Revive Focus on Child Abuse 33.24 (2014): 1-12. Education Week. Web.

Caldwell, Michael F. “Study Characteristics and Recidivism Base Rates in Juvenile Sex Offender Recidivism.” International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology 54.2 (2009): 197-212. Print.

Freeman, Naomi J and Sandler, Jeffrey C. “The Adam Walsh Act a False Sense of Security or an Effective Public Policy Initiative.” Criminal Justice Policy Review, 21.1 (2010): 31-49. Print

Kenny, Maureen C. “Child Sexual Abuse Education with Ethnically Diverse Families: A Preliminary Analysis.” Children and Youth Services Review 32. (2010): 981-989. Print.

Prentky, Robert A., Sue Righthand, and Deborah Cavanaugh. “Assessing Risk of Sexually Abusive Behavior among Youth in a Child Welfare Sample.” Behavioral Sciences and the Law 28.1 (2010): 24-45. Print.

Sample, Lisa and Kadleck, Colleen. “Sex Offender Laws Legislators’ Account of the Need for Policy.” Criminal Justice Policy Review, 19.1 (2008):40-62. Print.