Thursday, February 21, 2013

Panic Does Not Make for Good Policy

Sexual violence, like other forms of violence, is traumatic and devastating. The question is not whether the state has an interest in preventing such harm, but whether current laws are appropriate and effective.

The U.S. legal landscape was reshaped by federal laws passed in the mid-1990s, in response to heinous but statistically unusual crimes involving stranger abduction, rape and murder. The Wetterling Act required convicted sex offenders to register with local authorities, and Megan’s Law required law enforcement to notify neighbors about the presence of a sex offender in their community. As a result, all states now post searchable online lists of at least some categories of registered sex offenders. The U.S. Department of Justice links all the states’ registries in a single searchable site, available to neighbors, employers, landlords and the public at large.

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