Daily Archives: June 21, 2005

Effect of Megan’s Law on Sex Offender Reintegration

Two researchers from the Lynn University in Florida recently released a study [abstract] on the effect of Megan’s Law on reintegration of sex offenders into society.

Overall, about one third of participants had experienced dire events, such as the loss of a job or home, threats or harassment, or property damage. Physical assault was a relatively rare occurrence.

The majority identified negative effects, such as stress, isolation, loss of relationships, fear, shame, embarrassment, and hopelessness. Some participants noted positive effects of Megan’s Law, including motivation to prevent reoffense and increased honesty with friends and family.

Few sex offenders believed that communities are safer because of Megan’s Law, and more than half reported that the information posted about them on Florida’s Internet registry was incorrect. Implications for practice and policy are discussed.

This should not be news to anyone. I have long maintained that we are taking a far too extreme view on sex offenders and how they should be treated. (See this for example). This LATimes article does a good job of conductign interviews with sex offenders and with the authors of the survey.

In a study published this year, researchers surveyed 183 sex offenders
in Florida and found 27 percent said they lost a job because a boss or
co-workers found out about their crime, 20 percent had to move from
their home because a landlord found out, 15 percent had to leave after
neighbors complained, and 33 percent were threatened or harassed by
neighbors.

"I feel trapped in living where I do," one of those surveyed said.

Another said: "I welcome an early death."

Welcome an early death? That should set some alarm bells ringing. What are we doing to "these people"?

I had a client a few years ago who was charged with violation of Megan’s law in the state. More specifically, he was charged with failure to register after changing his address. Why did his address change? Because the owner of the house he was living in had problems with the Dept of Children and Families and had him evicted with just about an hour’s notice. Almost no shelter he went to would accept a couple convicted of sex-offenses (he was with his wife) and he ended up living under bridges and the sort till he was charged with this violation.

This is what Megan’s law (as currently formulated and applied) does more often than not. It displaces people, makes them lose jobs and essentially isolates them. What we are doing, in essence, is driving all "these people" out of every city in the country into some sort of massive "penitentiary" in the middle of nowhere that we will have to fund.

If we are that concerned about every single sex-offenders threat, then perhaps the route should be to lobby for longer sentences, perhaps those mirroring murder. Leave them in jail forever, even the 18 yr old who had sex with his 15 yr old girlfriend.

There needs to be information. There needs to be awareness. There does not need to be this current climate of intense monitoring and knee-jerk reactionism propelled by fear. GPS monitoring, lifetime registration and other such methods are merely hollow measures taken to placate our fear and cover up the real issue: the neglect of children by their families and our intense desire to snuff out anything that scares us.

Whither understanding and rehabilitation? People are individuals and each case should be treated as such – individually.

Trying Neaira

My friend Ruth gave me her copy of "Trying Neaira" to read. The book is an historic account of the trial of Neaira by Apollodoros for, among other things, being a metic in Athens who was married to an Athenian. She was also a former slave and a prostitute. I’ve gotten two chapters deep, but already I am captivated by the description of the hierarchy of life (even among prostitutes) in Ancient Greece. Then there is also the exploration of the legal system and how trials were conducted (made famous by, among others, Plato’s Apology).

Has anyone read this book? I might post some more thoughts when I’m done with it.

030010763301_scmzzzzzzz__1