Megan’s Law: The Societal Gray Zone

Living in 21st-century America, most people are aware of the basics behind Megan’s Law. For those of you who are not fully aware, however, the law describes how those certain convicted sex offenders must routinely report their address to authorities. Government officials will take this information, along with the convicted individuals list of sexual offenses, and post all of the information so the public is fully aware of where certain sexual offenders reside and what their crimes were.

 

Megan’s Law was created in 1996 after 7-year old Megan Nicole Kanka was raped and brutally murdered by Jesse Timmendequas, who was her neighbor. Not only was he a registered sex offender, but he was sharing a home with two other sex offenders whom he had met in prison. Outraged and frightened for the safety of all children, society and lawmakers went into action to create this law to continually track and publicize the location of serious level sex offenders. For further information: http://www.registeredoffenderslist.org/default.htm

 

Personally, I already have an issue with letting certain high-risk sex offenders back into the community. While I acknowledge that both pedophilia and the urge to rape are serious mental illnesses caused by numerous environmental and genetic variables, it does not mean I feel immensely sympathetic for these individuals. Yes — they have a physical disease/problem; however, this disorder is highly difficult to control, and currently doctors and therapists agree that there is no cure.  

 

Psychiatrists and psychologists believe that treatment and rehabilitation is possible, and in fact many convicted sex offenders do submit to going into treatment during their incarceration or directly after their release.

 

For 90% of serious repeat offenders, I don’t believe rehab will work — but that is strictly my opinion.

 

As an active citizen supporting the laws and regulations of her country, all cynicism aside, I have to respect that if several well-educated judges and legislators believe that rehabilitation can be successful, perhaps it is useful.

 

Additionally, those same judges and legislators created laws and statutes that decide the level of incarceration for various types of sexual offenders, and the requirements that must be met in order to be released back into the populace. These judiciaries are forced to act under very different guidelines than those for most other criminal offenses because of the nature of the crime, and to therefore keep the public safe.

 

If such measures are needed to keep the public safe, then is it truly wise to let these serious sex offenders back out into the community?

 

We as a society believe that criminals must be incarcerated and serve their time in order to pay back society. After such time of confinement, they are free to try to become upstanding members of society once again. If this is how we believe our legal and societal system of punishment is supposed to work, why do we have an exception with how we release sexual offenders versus other types of criminals?

 

Government officials do not publicize the names and addresses of murderers, gang members, drug dealers, or any other number of horrific and violent crimes with the same vigor and diligence as they post the names and personal information of sexual offenders.

 

With the way our legal system works, is it truly fair to publicize such private information if these sexual offenders have already served their time in prison? Does such publication infringe upon their constitutional rights? Are we as a society stating that certain crimes will forever revoke the inalienable rights guaranteed to the citizens of this country?

 

I know this is a touchy subject, and trust me I’m quite prejudice on whether I believe sexual offenders can be rehabilitated and let back into the populace without worry of a repeat offense. Nevertheless, I’m torn because I support our constitutional rights as citizens.

 

In the 14th amendment it claims that “nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” (http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.amendmentxiv.html ). Convicted sexual offenders have served their time, and by publicizing their past crimes and labeling them as a sex offender for the rest of their life, we as a society are actively taking away and/or altering the quality of their life and flat out denying them part of their liberty. Furthermore, such publications can put them in direct danger of citizens acting violently against them under the mob mentality of protecting children.

 

Torn as I am on this subject, I’m not sure I can come up with a better solution.

 

If we as a society believe that such strict regulating is needed over these sexual offenders, than we are saying that we do not believe the legal system is working for these particular criminals. Distinguishing which sexual offenders are the bigger threats can lead to even more problems, but labeling all sex offenders as the same does not work either. Rehabilitation has proven to work in as much as some sexual offenders merely choose to no longer act on their impulses, but redirecting their thought patterns does not cure them of their sickness.

 

I’m not an individual who agrees with the bi-polarized extremes of right or wrong, good or evil. Reality is far grayer than most people are willing to accept or admit. Releasing serious sexual offenders back into the populace, even with therapy, is dangerous to society and to the released offender. Forcing them to publicize their past crimes and their current address put them deliberately in harm’s way and takes away from their liberty and pursuit of happiness. However, as the majority of victims in sexually related crimes are children, society quickly becomes violently enraged against the wrongdoers, and therefore governmental bodies are forced to act.

 

Is there a middle ground that can be reached? Clearly, no matter what compromise is created for this situation, either society will lose some control over issues of safety, or released sexual offenders will further be denied the full protection and extent of their constitutional rights.

 

Perhaps what I would like to hear is an admittance of truth. We as an American society admit that we are far more afraid of crimes related to sexual situations then we are afraid of crimes related to murderer, violence, and drugs, (which is rather disturbing, but clearly proven not only by the way we make laws, but also by the way we control what we allow to be viewed in our various forms of media). Next, we accept that we are afraid, and that our fears tend to overstep justice. There’s nothing right or wrong about this statement — it is merely an observation of society as a whole. Finally, we admit that certain crimes, sexual or otherwise, alter the rights of citizens, and that those citizens’ lives will forever be in a state of regulated control and reduced liberty.

 

I feel that admitting these truths will neither make us into heroes or villains, but merely show that we are people trying to survive as best we can in such large and vast numbers.

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