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Study Shows Megan's Law Ineffective

Do laws requiring registration for convicted sex offenders really make the rest of us safer? A recent study by the New Jersey Department of Corrections, Megan's Law: Assessing the Practical and Monetary Effect suggests that the law discourages neither first-time sex offenders nor previously convicted and released offenders.

The study shows that most people who abuse children are not convicted sex offenders and thus do not appear on any registry. Two highly publicized examples of this are the recent college scandals at Penn State and Syracuse University. Both coaches charged with sex crimes against children did not appear on any list of sex offenders. This simply underscores the probability that laws such as Megan's law do not work.

The study examined sex offenses in each county in New Jersey over 21 years. It also examined data on 550 convicted sex offenders released from prison between 1990 and 2000. An attorney in New Jersey's Office of the Public Defender observed that, "Megan's Law struck out on every important area related to protecting the community from sexual offenders."

Although laws such as Megan's Laws are highly popular, they don't protect children. This finding is echoed throughout the country; other studies have come to the same conclusion. Moreover, sex offender registration is expensive to administer. The New Jersey study found that Megan's Law cost the state of New Jersey around $4 million annually.

Source: Discovery News, "Scandals Reveal Sex Offender Laws' Limits", by Benjamin Radford, Dec, 6, 2011.

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