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March 2, 2011

"Are Sexual Offense Laws Too Harsh? And Do They Work?"

EwingJusticePerverted The questions in the title of this post comes from the heading of this new press release via the Univesity of Buffalo as part of a promotion for a new book by one of its law faculty.  Here are some of the interesting details:

University at Buffalo Law School Professor Charles Patrick Ewing has added to his series of critically acclaimed books on some of the most unsavory but attention-grabbing aspects of the law, this time with a book questioning the legal logic and effectiveness of the country's increasingly harsh sex offense laws.

In "Justice Perverted," Ewing examines what he calls "radically reshaped" laws dealing with the country's sex offenders.  These laws include ordering sex offenders to register with authorities, punishment for people possessing child pornography that "dwarfs" sentences for more violent crimes, including murder, and a federal law that requires a minimum 10-year prison sentence for those using the Internet to lure minors for sex.

All these dramatic changes in sex offender laws have come about at least partly from input from the fields of psychology, psychiatry and the social sciences, according to Ewing, whose extensive writing credits include several books on forensic psychology, which is the application of psychological principles and methods to legal issues, and how they play out in the courtroom.  And Ewing's research and experience in many trials -- both nationally notorious as well as obscure -- conclude that enforcement and administration of many of these significantly more restrictive sex offense laws rely heavily the opinions of mental-health professionals....

"All of these laws are purportedly designed to enhance public safety by reducing the incidence of sexual offending," says Ewing, whose work in forensic psychology has involved using psychology to understand legal issues such as insanity, competence to stand trial and future danger.  "Not only is there no evidence that these laws have had their intended effect, but there is some evidence that some of them may in fact lead to an increased threat to society.

"The economic costs of these laws are staggering and seem indefensible at a time when other valued government programs are being cut to avoid fiscal disaster," says Ewing. "There can be little doubt that sexual offenses bring great harm to individuals and society or that we should do all that we can reasonably do to prevent them from occurring. The question is what is reasonable.  It is neither reasonable nor responsible to spend billions of taxpayers' dollars on laws with no proven value."

The questions Ewing takes on in "Justice Perverted" go beyond the arcane procedures of the nation's courtrooms to issues of justice and fair treatment of all parties. Are experts capable of providing effective treatment for sex offenders, Ewing asks, for example, treatment that actually reduces the likelihood that an identified sex offender will repeat a similar offense?

March 2, 2011 at 03:05 PM | Permalink


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lol Ouchie! sounds like the govt and the mental health nuts are being called out!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 2, 2011 3:50:58 PM

My colleague at SOSEN.org wonders if Perverted Justice, the company behind the "To Catch a Predator" stings, will be able to sue the author and publisher for trademark infringement. Is it possible?

Posted by: Eric Knight | Mar 2, 2011 4:24:11 PM

isn't the psycho who runs perveted justice too busy hiding from the process servers over a multi million dollar civil lawsuit to worry about that?

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 2, 2011 9:50:17 PM

Speaking of sex crimes, in Oregon, you're better off being convicted of Rape III for otherwise consensual sex with a 14 year old than sex abuse II for otherwise consensual sex with a 17 year old.


Posted by: Ryan S | Mar 2, 2011 11:07:07 PM

Ryan S:

You'd be thought of as an example of what is good and proper, if you were the Leader of the US and received oral satisfaction from a 21-25 year old intern, than a misguided but good young man, confused about what sex and love are, and talked in an adult chat room with Law Enforcement.

Posted by: albeed | Mar 3, 2011 11:39:32 PM

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