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Is Megan’s Law Worth It?

April 3, 2009 Comments off

Schneier.com : Is Megan’s Law Worth It?

A study from New Jersey shows that Megan’s Law—laws designed to identity sex offenders to the communities they live in—is ineffective in reducing sex crimes or deterring recidivists.

The study, funded by the National Institute of Justice, examined the cases of 550 sex offenders who were broken into two groups—those released from prison before the passage of Megan’s Law and those released afterward.

The researchers found no statistically significant difference between the groups in whether the offenders committed new sex crimes.

Similarly, the researchers found no significant difference in the number of victims of the two groups. Together, the offenders had 796 victims, ages 1 to 87. Most of the offenders had prior relationships with their new victims, and nearly half were family members. In just 16 percent of the cases, the offender was a stranger.

One complicating factor for the researchers is that sex crimes had started to decline even before the adoption of Megan’s Law, making it difficult to pinpoint cause and effect. In addition, sex offenses vary from county to county, rising and falling from year to year.


Jessica’s Law : Re-write it or Drop it

April 3, 2009 Comments off

LAtimes.com : Revisit Jessica’s Law
The sex-offender statute is unaffordable and doesn’t improve safety. If it can’t be dropped, it should be rewritten.

Among its many failings, the measure doesn’t distinguish between criminals who are at high risk of re-offending and those who aren’t. That means a teenager convicted of having sex with his underage girlfriend, as just one example, is subject to GPS monitoring and residence restrictions for the rest of his life, even if he never commits another crime. It also fails to specify what agency is responsible for monitoring those thousands of former inmates, or to devote money to pay for it.

The expense might be worthwhile if Jessica’s Law were actually reducing sex crimes. Yet research has found no connection between where a sex offender lives and the likelihood that he’ll offend again, nor is there any evidence that GPS monitoring lowers recidivism. Further, it’s very hard for parolees to find homes that aren’t near schools or parks, leading to a 12-fold increase in the number of homeless sex offenders since the law was passed in 2006. A lack of stable housing only increases the odds that an ex-con will return to crime — or as the state Sex Offender Management Board put it in a report Tuesday: “Residency restrictions that preclude or eliminate appropriate offender housing can threaten public safety instead of enhancing it.”

Lawmakers rarely show the courage to fix problems created by get-tough-on-crime voter initiatives, but there will never be a better time to improve Jessica’s Law. Ideally, the measure should be overturned, but at a minimum the Legislature should create a review process that allows low-risk offenders to escape the residency and monitoring rules. California simply can’t afford to pay more to be less safe.