Thursday, June 22, 2006

Does Megan's Law work?

Megan’s Law is generic term for the set of requirements to publicize the names and addresses of convicted pedophiles upon their release from prison. Megan was a young girl who was brutally raped and murdered by a man in her neighborhood. Unbeknownst to the neighbors until after his arrest the man had previously been convicted of molesting children. Megan’s Law and similar legislation was adopted throughout the country including Virginia.

On the face of it, what could be more reasonable? What parent doesn’t want to protect their children particularly from weirdoes who would sexually abuse them? However, does it really work?

Unless we are going to imprison pedophiles for life or just execute them, they will be with us. They are sick people who have difficulty with adult relationships. What these people need is professional help, not to be ostracized. This is not a sentiment of pity but of self interest of someone with children who also cares about the other children in the community.

The United Kingdom is now considering Sara’s Law. The tragic story is similar and so is the proposed law. Study of the U.S. Megan’s Law is underway but there is controversy that the British proposal is media driven rather than well thought out.

Johann Hari offers his opinion why Sara’s Law (based upon the U.S. Megan’s Law counterpart) is wrongheaded:
Far from protecting little girls like Megan, the law named after her
actually increases the number of children who are raped and murdered.

To understand why, you have to talk to the people who work with paedophiles
and have a proven track record of bringing their reoffending rates crashing
down, saving countless Megans and Sarahs. They are invariably the strongest and
fiercest opponents of Megan’s Law. Pam Welch, a prison officer who works
in-depth with paedophiles, explains, “It is when these people feel isolated and
friendless that the risk of reoffending is highest. They feel that if the world
considers them a monster they might as well behave like a monster. At least then
there might be some feeling of pleasure, and some measure of control.”

Megan’s Law guarantees that a released paedophile will be put in this
position. Instead of being able to find a job, build normal adult relationships
and being given help to resist their darkest urges, they are plunged into a
scalding bath of hatred. One newspaper, the Times Herald-Record, documented the effect of Megan’s Law in Newburgh, a small town in up-state New York. When a sex offender named John Duck Jr. was released on parole to live with his elderly
parents, their neighbours were told about his crimes by hundreds of police
knocking door-to-door with leaflets. All three family members received a cascade
of death threats. A howling picket was established outside their house for
weeks, demanding Duck “get out now!!” – presumably to a mythical place with no
children. (He couldn’t anyway – it was a condition of his parole to remain at
that address). He was shunned everywhere he went, unemployable and friendless.
The few neighbours who did speak to him received threats of their own.

It’s hard to think of a situation more likely to make a sex offender
relapse and destroy another child’s life. That’s why, despite Megan’s Law being
introduced in every state, rates of child rape and murder by strangers have not
fallen; in many, they have increased.

The only programmes with a proven track record of reducing reoffending
adopt precisely the opposite approach to Megan’s Law.

You may read his entire article here.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

There are some great points here; however, NOT everyone under Megan's Law is a pedophile! A pedophile basically is attracted to little kids only and cannot have adult relationship. The people under Megan's Law are very much diverse. You have 18-year old high school students who had sex with a 14-year olds and 21 year olds with 15 year olds, etc. Situations like this do not involve pedophiles. There are also men who committed Internet crimes and never touched anyone who are on Megan's Law, and even rapists. These are just some of the examples of NON-pedophiles under Megan's Law. People should not say EVERYONE is a pedophile when there are people on ML who are not even a risk and a kid lover.

Craig Elder said...

Pedophilia is a medical diagnosis and only applies to about 3.5 percent of all sex offenders. There are 1,000 different ways someone can end up on the registry. We should not paint everyone with the same brush. Instead, let the experts determine if the offender poses any kind of threat to society. More than likely, they do not. To learn more about this, simply Google “Stress on sex offenders increases risk of re-offending.”