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February 7, 2009

Study on sex offender registration in New Jersey suggests its ineffectiveness

This new story from New Jersey, headlined " Report finds Megan's Law fails to reduce sex crimes, deter repeat offenders in N.J.", ought to impact the debate over sex offender registration laws.  I doubt it will, in part because (as the article shows) politicians eager to show how tough they are rarely worry much about the true effectiveness of the laws they support. Still, for those authorities more interested in sound policy than popular rhetoric, this news should give everyone something to think about:

Megan's Law, the landmark legislation that brought a new level of scrutiny to convicted sex offenders, has failed to deter sex crimes or reduce the number of victims since its passage 15 years ago, a new study concludes.

The federally funded study, conducted by the state Department of Corrections and Rutgers University and focused solely on New Jersey, suggests the growing cost of carrying out the law -- estimated at $5.1 million statewide in 2007 -- "may not be justifiable."

"Despite wide community support for these laws, there is little evidence to date, including this study, to support a claim that Megan's Law is effective in reducing either new first-time sex offenses or sexual re-offenses," the researchers wrote in a 44-page report.

The study is the latest in a string of efforts to measure the effectiveness of Megan's Law, which has been adopted in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Those earlier studies also found the measure does not act as a deterrent.

Defense lawyers and civil libertarians, who have long opposed the law and who have fought in court to overturn it, seized on Friday's findings, calling on lawmakers to dismantle what has grown into an elaborate system for tracking sex offenders and notifying communities of their presence.

Megan's Law supporters pushed right back, calling the measure a vital tool for parents to protect their children. State Sen. Bill Baroni (R-Mercer), said the study "completely misses the objective" of the law. "Any attempt to use this study to weaken or erode Megan's Law will never succeed," he said.

February 7, 2009 at 11:51 AM | Permalink

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"Megan's Law supporters pushed right back, calling the measure a vital tool for parents to protect their children. State Sen. Bill Baroni (R-Mercer), said the study "completely misses the objective" of the law."


He's absolutely right. It doesn't matter if the law fails to "save a child." The objective of the law has always been merely to make parents feel better. (It has, however, also failed in that.) At best, the law changes the identity of the victim--which seems to be enough for most parents who will continue to support the law regardless of the number of victims it helps create.

Posted by: Rika | Feb 8, 2009 9:18:44 AM

The sex offender laws in this country are created with only one objective in mind: getting votes. We are easy targets and who will stand up in a legaslative chamber and say "I think this law is going to far" when all the myths and hype have become "fact" becuase of the masses of un/misinformed.
I am a registered sex offender, at 22 I had a relationship with a 16 year old. That was 15 years ago and I am still required to register. I have been arrested twice for technical viloations of the registration law and faced up to 5 years in prison each time for things like not signing my name to a form. They are out of hand and nothing more than a slap in the face.
How does one get ahead in the world or even expect to break even with these laws? I'm sure some one will post the "you did the crime..." type response and to that i will say i was tried, convicted, released (free and clear) PRIOR to these laws being enacted. Yes, PRIOR, as in ex post defacto.
I have always said, make a single other law retroactive and it will be the death knoll of registries. The outrage over making, for example, life time license suspension for a DUI mandatory, then making that retroactive would be epic.
Another interesting side note:
this statement here quaoted from the above article: "Those earlier studies also found the measure does not act as a deterrent."
If any part of the law was intended to be a deterent in the first place then A)how come the U.S. supreme court said the law was not a form punishment (a deterent in this case is a penalty, an inflicted stigma) and B) how can a 'deterent' be applied retroactively?
I know, Die in fire, right? go to hell, right? Don't care your opinion about me. I did time 15 years ago and my criminal history since has been 2 speeding tickets and 2 violations arising out of this stupid law. I am a father, a husband and a citizen, albeit a second class one.

Posted by: Gabrielfa | Feb 8, 2009 11:01:20 AM

Imagine this story appeared in a newspaper. "A new study shows that California's biennial smog check of cars fails to deter drunk driving. Critics of smog checks hailed the study and called for immediate repeal of the checks." Ridiculous, but no more so than the story quoted here.

At no time in the debates over Megan's Law did I hear supporters claim deterrence as the reason. A study showing the law "fails" to do something it was not designed or intended to do should be a nonstory.

Gabrielfa's problem has to do with the overly broad definition of "sex offender." During the oral argument in Connecticut Dept. of Public Safety v. Doe, several of the justices noted that application of the law to this situation might be unconstitutional. The case did not present the issue, though, as "Doe" was a hard-core sex offender.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Feb 8, 2009 12:31:50 PM

"At no time in the debates over Megan's Law did I hear supporters claim deterrence as the reason. A study showing the law "fails" to do something it was not designed or intended to do should be a nonstory."

Perhaps, then, you can share with us what the law is in fact designed to do, what data can be used to measure its effectiveness, and where studies showing said effectiveness can be found. I'd be very interested in seeing their data pool, analysis, and results--as well as the background of whomever funded and conducted the study. I mean, if DOJ can't figure out how to run a study to get results supporting their pet projects, they ought to farm it out to someone who knows how it's done.

Posted by: Rika | Feb 9, 2009 9:57:49 AM

As a law enforcement officer who works for a State Registry, I certainly see many of the arguments brought forward both for and against registering sex offenders. A study conducted in order to create our risk assessment instrument in my state by the university's law-psychology department revealed that offenders who are under some type of supervision, whether that be probation, parole, etc, are less likely to recidivate.

Even as an officer assigned to the Registry, I was an outsider looking in until the summer of 2008. My 17 year old daughter approached me due to the fact that she had been approached by a 32 year old supervisor from a previous employment. The ex-supervisor asked her to babysit for him and his wife. He asked her to arrive at his house quite a bit earlier than she needed to be there, when his wife was at work, so that she could get a "feel for the layout" of their home.

My daughter approached me with some trepidation at the fact that he had made this unusual request of her as well as feeling some guilt that she had a suspicious feeling about the man whom she considered a friend.

Having the luxury of access to all levels of the Registry, I found that this man was listed as a Level II offender which would not have allowed the average citizen knowledge of his registration as a sex offender.

His crime? Manipulating one of his 17 year old students into becoming his sexual assault victim.

As for the philosophy that Registries don't work because high percentages of perpetrators are known to their victims? That may work within families or small communities where everyone knows that Uncle Wallace is a letch and you don't leave your kids around him. This offender was a trusted supervisor and “known” to my daughter. His HISTORY was an unknown . . .

I believe the Sex Offender Registry saved my daughter. That's enough "anecdotal evidence" for me!

It’s certainly difficult to prove a negative. Until you begin an in-depth search for types of experiences similar to ours, you can only view recidivism from reports, arrests and convictions which are determined wholly by the victims and the quality of enforcement and prosecution.

Posted by: Tim | Feb 13, 2009 9:42:55 AM

So why only sex offenders? With your luxury of accessing data, why don't you share with the class the answer to this questions:
What is the leading cause of death in your daughters age bracket?
The answer is drunk drivers, whose rates of recidivism are incredibly high and your daughter is 100's of times more likely to get killed by a drunk driver than a sex offender. In fact,I once figured out mathematically that there is approximately 6x the chance of a person getting killed by a drunk driving sex offender than a sex offender in the commision of a sex crime.
So why just sex offenders? Simple, easy targets that the authorities have demonized no matter how small the crime. Don't get me wrong, i understand that a minor sex crime is still serious. But any more serious than some guy killing your kid because he got drunk and decided to drive?
So again, why just sex offenders? My theory is if we registered drunk drivers A) The registries would dissappear altogether because DUI offenders would fight it to the supreme court and B) so many politicians have this own skeleton in their closet.
No, it's more politcally beneficial to target one group as opposed to going after the real issues. I paid my debt, I am good friends with my "Victim" and i am required to register FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. America, home of the free*


*Except me and 602,000 others

Posted by: Gabrielfa | Feb 13, 2009 11:08:35 PM

THE LAW MISSES THE OBJECTIVE, OF THE LAW, SIR.
New Jersey State Police - NJ Sex Offender Internet Registry

Q4
Are juvenile sex offenders required to register?

A4
A juvenile sex offender is a person who commits a sex offense while under the age of 18. Juvenile sex offenders must register like adults.

Children registered,as if they were ADULTS SEX OFFENDERS? THAT'S THE LAW! The LAW that is based on a crime commited by an adult, who murdered a child?
Any law that has a 30 year old labeled for a something that happened when he was 15, is a travesty of Justice. A law that has that 15 year old registereing at 40, 50, 60 is even more disturbing.

Are there any children listed on the SEX OFFENDER registry that have committed a crime comparable to which the law is based upon? In comparison, it's like forcing everyone with a DUI, with penalties for vehicular homicides?
I think more kids are killed in DUI incidences then were murdered by juvenile sex offender, registered like adults or not?

Posted by: LandofTheFree? | Feb 21, 2009 12:13:10 AM

Well, Gabrielfa, the answer to your question is this:

There is a registry for drunk and suspended drivers. It's called a "driver's history" available through many state, county and city authorities.

If I knew of a person with a history of alcohol or drugs, I would not let my daughter ride with that person; No more, in fact, than I would allow a person alone with my daughter or son who has betrayed the most intimate of trust by offending against society in a sexual manner.

As a parent, I utilize every asset available to protect my children into adulthood. As a matter of fact, I am all for transparency. Criminal histories should be available free of charge to anyone who has paid taxes to prosecute criminals. If that involves a burglary registry, a dui registry, a con man's registry (oh, never mind they're listed in the yellow pages under auto dealers and attorneys . . . Just a little humor, Webmaster, sorry!), so be it.

My advice to you is to spend the rest of your years becoming a trustworthy citizen. Let your good works overshadow your past and that registry stigma will fade.

Posted by: Tim | Mar 3, 2009 2:01:22 PM

I am a wife of a man who is going to have to register and I am also the mother of his child. I feel for my husband and my daughter. I understand that for the COMMUNITY the register is important and helps the parents feel that they are proactive in their childs safety. But not everyone on that list is a preditor based on the parole board evaluations. People make bad choices. But as much as we put the offenders in the spot light. there are teenagers who have sexy pictures online, have phone sex and real sex with their boyfriends. And to their parents face everything is okay... they don' see it. We let our girls dress sexy and don't really know if they are lying about their ages. I have had friends that said they were 17 or 18 and wanted an older man because they had a car or money and the guy doesnt know how old she really is he thinks everything is good. "she didnt look underage" "she didnt down that beer like she was underage" But mom and dad find out. call the police and we now have the another person being looked down on in the community. Now there are very bad people in this world and rapist and that is not okay but that list doesnt tell me as a parent who I REALLY should be on gaurd with... it tells me that I need to fear everyone and be rich so that i dont live by "them" not saying they are all poor but shit it is hard for anyone with a record to get a job...to make money... to buy a house. fuck that list. i might know were they live but that doesnt mean i will know who they are in the store or the bus. All i can do is live life and be smart as a parent and a person. common sense.

Posted by: britt | Mar 9, 2009 10:46:25 PM

The "law" is way out of line. Many of the people being accused of "Megan's Law" are young men who were led to believe the girl they were dating was of age. Many were just looking for a girlfriend. Then they find out and their life is ruined forever. Nothing happens to the girl. She goes on with her life (perhaps to destroy some one else). And the young man is left to face being branded for life. Is this justice? I think not.

These young men are NOT CHILD PREDATORS!

Do we brand "killers" for life? Once they serve their time, do they have to register in every town? It just doesn't make sense to me. Our country goes overboard on everything.

I also think this whole registry thing is a big waste of taxpayer's money.

We have so many people, as it is, in prison for non-violent crimes. We don't help people. We warehouse them to no advantage to the general public. I have come to believe that our criminal system is just a big business scheme. America has more people incarcerated per capita than any other country. That says a lot right there. And who is paying for this? The middle class worker.

Our legislators just look for the VOTE! What makes them look good. I am SO DISAPPOINTED in BARONI and other politicians who don't realize how they are destroying the lives of so many people who truly are NOT child predators.

Posted by: willow | Mar 20, 2009 1:23:23 PM

I would beg to differ on your opinion that registries are full of these so-called "Romeo and Juliet" style offenses where it was an innocent relationship between and older adult and a juvenile.

Some would like us to believe that they are all 19 and 20 year olds in romantic relationships with starry-eyed young teens.

In my state, less than 2% of the offenders on the Registry fit that classification. And that number includes any age perpetrator, many in their 30's to 50's, with a victim/s under the age of 18.

When do we start holding ADULTS accountable for their actions with CHILDREN who do not understand the decisions they are making in having sex with those adults?

And seriously, is it really all that hard to verify that you are in a relationship with someone who fits into the age of majority? You could if you cared about the person and not just the sexual act.

The laws are in place to protect our children, even the teenagers who think they are ready for that level of a relationship. We have a society that derides the South for having the reputation of allowing juveniles to marry at 12, 13 and 14, yet some still want to protect the adults that would carry on that tradition no matter the state they live in.

Let children be children. If you're an adult, know whether or not you're bedding a child. It's not that difficult of a concept.

Posted by: Tim | Mar 23, 2009 2:28:37 PM

I met my wife when she was 14 and was 20.her press charges on me for sex assault but everything was consent.now We are married and have 2kids ,but i still go register for the meagans law. I thing is not fear for our family deal with this problem right.we were married for ten years now. trying to get a new lawyer to dismissed this. I hope Ill find it.

Posted by: paul | Apr 7, 2009 12:38:19 PM

My Son was 16 when he met a 13 year old girl on "my space" who claimed she to was 16. They met, drank liquor and had sex. My son was arrested in Connecticut with a sexual assault 2 charge and is now a sex offender for the next 10 years. He was charged as an adult. His life is constantly monitored, he attends sex offender classes weekly, he can never vote, join the military along with a million other restrictions. His life is ruined.

Posted by: Rachelle Roy | Apr 16, 2009 11:07:54 AM

"His life is ruined . . ."

Who arranged the meeting between the two, who drank alcohol with another minor, who chose to have sexual relations with an inappropriate partner?

It's time to start taking responsibility for our own actions and our children, Paul. Maybe his parents should be on the Registry for allowing him to commit these crimes against a 13 year old since you feel he is too young to be treated this way . . .

Posted by: Tim | Apr 17, 2009 10:31:44 AM

Honestly who in their right minds accepts this law as valid? I am a 25 year old who told on himself for looking at pictures on the internet of minors depicted in sexual situations when I was 18; I have successfully finished treatment and post-prison supervision. Everyone I know thinks highly of me as well; I am a college student who is working towards my MBA and have a 4.0 GPA. My only dream was to serve my country in the military and because of what I have done I can no longer do that. I have been persecuted and assaulted in broad daylight and it was completely dismissed by local law enforcement.

I have a 5 month old daughter who will one day ask the question, "why are you a sex offender?" and you know what? I am happy to tell her everything because what I did was wrong but it is in my past. Why can't you people see that people can change, I hope to find in the future that yes, individuals who are recidivistic and who have been appropriately labeled as predators are still forced to give their information out. But people like me should not have this stigma following them for the rest of their life.

If anyone wants to help I am going to be in contact with MAJ. GEN. Thomas P. Bostick (General in charge of recruiting) to get some of these bans lifted on sex offenders being in the military or at least break some trails for the people following me lord knows I can't do this by myself. I hope that someday you people will see that we must look at things more closely before we judge what is worth ruining the lives of people, YES PEOPLE, who have made the wrong choice in life.

Posted by: John FM | May 20, 2009 4:01:32 AM

"They need to have a place to live, they need to be able to get jobs. They need to be able to support themselves and their families," says Levenson. "And without those things, they're going to be more likely to resume a life of crime. That's not a debate, that's a fact."

read the whole article at-
http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2007/06/11/sexoffender1/

Posted by: John FM | May 20, 2009 4:13:41 AM

If the criminal justice system was doing its job, they would have a place to live and a place to work; A 25-40 year lease on an 8x10 room in Joliet and .75 a day in the laundry room.

Sex offender registries exist because we have failed to remove from our society those who commit unspeakable acts. If we had observed "truth-in-sentencing" years ago, we would likely have no need for registries.

Has the bar been set high retroactively on purpose since we failed to give approriate sentences for sex crimes?

"Since you didn't do adequate time for your crime, we'll arrest you for failing to comply with the new registration laws."

That's the way I see it.

If an offender was given the option of a sentence of 10 years probation without jail time, he would likely take it in a heartbeat; But because it's now called a "Sex Offender Registry", he feels persecuted.

Posted by: Tim | Jun 2, 2009 6:01:04 PM

i have to registry as an offender and it is ruining my life.i was 17 she was 13. she lied to me and now ihave to pay for. teenage are not going to ask to many questions

Posted by: shy | Jun 14, 2009 2:25:52 AM

My name is Steve Tracy, I'm a socio-political author, and have an upcoming book. John FM, rarely do I waste the time for something like this, but you're more than worth the trouble. Your views are absolutely moronic, and you obviously know nothing about the realities of the society that we all have to live in - and that you're unfortunately a part of. To be so judgmental, and commit so much contempt obviously prior to any investigation at all, speaks loudly to the state of our "culture" right now (I use that term very loosely in your case.) It's Neo-Nazi's like you that are line-by-line destroying the life that our founding fathers envisioned for us. If you had even the slightest grasp of what is really happening right now, and the scope of the social and legal issues that you're so casually dismissing, you would never blog again, anywhere. Why don't you do a little research on the problem, (watching 'Oprah' doesn't count) and then go ahead and unplug your computer, before you do more damage.

Posted by: Steve Tracy | Jun 23, 2009 11:20:38 PM

John FM, I'm EXTREMELY SORRY!!! I misread who posted what. My apologies again. THE POST WAS INTENDED FOR "TIM", NOT JOHN FM Steve Tracy.

Posted by: Steve Tracy | Jun 23, 2009 11:25:53 PM

There is a lot of talk of about laws and some of it from law enforcement personel. Let me ask a question, is it not great to have laws against everyone else when you have inherent entitlements that protect you from these laws? It is after all, pretty hard to fell like a real elitist if you are treated like everyone else. Lets take for example some news here from the recent past. Department of Corrections officers using women for sex slaves while they are under their protection in prison. For all the admissions of guilt by the DOC officers, not one conviction, not one has to register, not one has to take sex offender treatment. O.k. you say, well that is only once. Well what about Ex Senater Foley of Flordia, admitted guilt, never charged though he violated both state and Federal statutes and after 6 weeks of treatment he is all better now. Well you say, he slipped through, would not happen on my watch. Then let me give you something else. Wright County MN, new prison, womens detention, Male guards playing games in the cell with female prisoner who is allowed to leave the cell for various periods of time to intertain these same guards.
Gee I wonder what they are doing together???
Cops caught in the act and never suspended or charged. Senators same treatment. Does anyone else find it odd that only the poor and poorly connected are ever "caught" by these laws.
Studies have shown that women are as apt to be sexual preditors as men but because of the corruption and discrimination under state and federal law enforcement they continue to get away with rape and molestation of children to whom they have even more access to. Albert lee MN, the sexual crimes commited by 5 young women against very vulable adults as admitted by some them and yet not one brought up on charges for criminal sex and they will go on to have and be around children and other vulable adults. Now that is the perfect poster child for American Justice system.
Then we have all the studies that show as a matter of fact that not only can sex offenders be rehabilitated but are in fact rehabilitated to within 98% after 6 years. Can not say that for any other crime. This information is available from state websites that have done studies on sex offenders. Yet no one seems to know these facts. This is a good country to be from, but a poor one to live in unless you have the social or economic standing to be allowed access to the laws and law enforcement.

Posted by: Donald | Jul 27, 2009 1:18:29 PM

Oh, one more thing. Try to find someone to bring attention of wrong doing by law enforcement and or county justice officials and see how far you get and where you end up. I have information of corruption and conspiracy by local law enforcement and state personel and yet not one attorney wants to get involved. I have been told twice by a DOC officer that pursuing action would not be healthy for me and attorneys keep forgetting to call me back or tell to consider it reported and forget it before bad things start to happen.
Tell me who are the Reporters for the Court under state and federal statute. If you know of possible corruption and fail to report it are you not then guilty of conspiracy?
Even my Attorney Generals Office could not tell me who I could contact as they are in fact required to represent state agencies. Not even my Senator, nor so far, the President of the United States have been able to tell me where I can go to get access to law enforcement or to the law as guarantied by my 14th Admendment Right under Article 1, I believe.
But feel free to let me know if you know. And feel free to turn Wright County in yourself all you wards of evil, protecters of the sheep herd, though a house turned against itself will surely fall.
I am just a poor dump american peasant who can not buy justice at these prices.

Posted by: Donald | Jul 27, 2009 1:35:36 PM

Steve,

You've converted me! I'm going out right now to get my teenagers their own craig's list erotic services ad.

I may be all wet here, but I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that the founding fathers never envisioned a society that scorns the protection of the innocence of children.

Posted by: Tim | Aug 10, 2009 7:05:11 PM

I am a nineteen yr old female whose fiance is a 23 yr sex offender. before my fiance turned eighteen he was under the influence of drugs and now has to register due to the fact he made out with a 12 yr old. first ya it sounds horrible. not if the girl is still obessed with him and still wants to be with him. and she lied and got him convicted of all these things. she thinks its funny. and now that she is older she realizes that she is wrong and wants to fix it. but he already wasted 4 years in prison and is on parole for 3 more years. so i dont think its always the males fault or even the registers fault people should have more control on thier children.

Posted by: rather not say | Jan 28, 2010 1:32:48 AM

LMAO!!!!!! Megan's law is getting out of hand give it 10 years it wont exzist! its becoming to famous!! take that commint how you want.

Posted by: kevin | Sep 4, 2010 6:22:06 AM

without sex offenders, politicians would be out of a job. think about that one.

Posted by: david | Apr 6, 2011 10:38:23 PM

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