Is Megan’s Law Worth It?

April 3, 2009 : 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.

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