Theory and megan’s law

Theory and megan’s law

Theory and megan’s law

The United States has implemented ground-breaking policies so as to deal with high-profile sex crimes. They are meant to curb the issue of criminal recidivism. It is apparent that there are chances of sex offenders repeating the offense (Scheb, 2011). They have a high possibility of returning to the community and repeating the offense, especially, if the problem is linked to psychological problems.  One such case led to the implementation of the Megan’s Law. In 1996, the law was implemented following the killing of a young girld named Megan Kanka by a reported child molester (Prescott & Rockoff, 2008). It was named after the victim, and required the offender to notify the authorities as well as the locals about their location. The motivation behind Megan’s act was to help the law enforcement in monitoring and detaining any sex offender who may repeat the crime. It also assists the members of the community to monitor the criminals and protect themselves. The Megan’s law has been received with mixed reactions by the members of the community and the sex offenders.

The law is meant to ensure that individuals accused of sex crimes do not repeat the offense and the community members are on high alert (Prescott & Rockoff, 2008). Some people feel that it is beneficial as it helps in dealing with criminal recidivism. Nevertheless, the accused individuals feel that the law is doing more harm than good to them after they serve their time.  It includes both registration and notification; the law requires the offenders to register with the local police as sexual offenders (Office of Justice Programs, 2016). The chief law enforcement officers are tasked with notifying the members of the community about the convicted individual. The notification should be released within forty-five days after they receive information about the inmate. The notification can also be released by the Superintendent of State Police.

 Just like the early corrections, the law is focused on maintaining social control. The early corrections aimed at ensuring that there were peace and order in the society. For instance, the progressive reforms were focused on solving the issues of modern society.  Various early correction models believed that the problems could be solved by focusing on individual behaviors. The progressives had views about the nature of the criminal conduct. They thought that state should work towards reforming the offender (Clear, Reisig & Cole, 2015). This could be done through rehabilitation of the offenders. The progressives also maintained that it was important to enhance conditions in the social environments that appeared to encourage crime. The progressives had three underlying assumptions; first, they believed that criminal behavior is influenced by factors that an individual cannot control. Some of the factors include biological characteristics, sociological conditions as well as psychological maladjustments. They also believed that criminals could be treated so that they can lead a normal life. Another important aspect about the progressives is that they believed that the law enforcement officers should focus on an individual and personal issues. The accused were given minimum sentences, and they were released under supervision. One of the programs that were common during the progressive reform is the probation. The probation program recognized each person as equal.

In the 1970s, the work of David J. Rothman highlighted a period of social upheaval and the significance of the penitentiary as well as asylum. The programs were meant to encourage social control in the country. The prisons were viewed as a new technology that could be applied to control crime. The introduction of prison as a means of crime control was linked to the popularity of deterrence theory.  Deterrence encouraged technology of readily detachable sanctions (Clear, Reisig & Cole, 2015).  In this case, the prison offered such a technology where the offenders were held for some time in the prison. Other programs were focused on maintaining social order within the community. The prison was viewed as a way of reform; it could transform the offenders. In the 20th century, the use prisons as a means of change reached its peak. There was the introduction of rehabilitation as the primary ideology of state punishment in the U.S and other democratic countries. Rehabilitation focused on encouraging effective methods of dealing with criminal deviance. The aim of the program was to address criminal behaviors at a personal level as well as the community level.

Deterrence theory focused on crime and punishment as a system that would bring about social order. However, the penitentiary was focused on particular individual identified as dangerous in the society. Deterrence was viewed as a communication medium as it broadcasted a message of norm obedience in the community. The deterrence program failed in achieving its goal. Additionally, the rehabilitative program has failed in achieving its goals (Clear, Reisig & Cole, 2015). There have been unintended results of the program. Some of the critics of the program maintain that the program has failed in minimizing cases of recidivism. They also argue that the discretion offered to parole boards to release the criminals is misplaced. The decision of the board was based impulses of the individual offender rather than the criteria allowed by the medical model.

The Megan’s law is the most recent penal law which focuses on the behavior of the offender. The law was first adopted in New Jersey in 1994; it contained various measures that were aimed at the treatment of the convicted sex offender (New Jersey State Police, n.d.). The problem of child sex abuse has been a menace in the community. The Megan’s law was later nationalized, and the states were required to maintain registries of individuals convicted of sexual offenses.  They were obliged to release information that would help in safeguarding the public (Office of Justice Programs, 2016). The Megan’s law presents diverse procedures from the crime-control efforts. It is different from the incarceration of the victims which was popular in the early corrections. The essential elements of the first corrections such as prisoners, locked facilities as well as guards have existed in a manner that they can be recognized easily. 

However, the sex offender registration and notification laws model offer a diverse way of governance. The laws have different elements whereby, the victims are viewed as subjects, and the sex offender is viewed as a risk to children. The laws also portray the state expertise and capability to predict risk. The Megan’s law also focuses on controlling the chances of the individual accused of sex crime repeating the criminality (New Jersey State Police, n.d.). Although the law is meant to protect the victims, it appears that it might have adverse effects on the offender ( Jeglic & Calkins, 2016). There are possibilities that he or she may be linked to the crime for the rest of his/her life. Megan’s law recognizes the victim as the main subject, and it also portrays them as the target object. It assists in governing individuals through the victimization experience. The accused persons are obliged to submit particular information while the guardians of the children as provided with information about the high-risk offenders. The accused individuals become part of the state’s power to monitor and possibly punish. 

Research shows that there are various intended results of the sex offender notification laws. The outcome of the law can be identified by looking at the reporting behavior of the criminals. Some individuals argue that Megan’s law can minimize the reporting by victims, especially those who have a close links with the person accused of the crime (Prescott & Rockoff, 2008). Some individuals may assume that the act is excessively harsh. There are also chances that the accused persons may be forced to move to other places due to the shaming. In this case, Megan’s law contributes to the decrease of crimes through the reduction of contact. In most cases, the law is said to have adverse effects on the offenders.

 In some states, the individuals are required to put up a sign identifying them as sex offenders outside their homes. Such measures have led to harsh treatment of the convicted person. For instance, a convicted sex offender reported that it is hard for a person to have a fresh start after serving his time. The offenders are also worried by the permanent addition in the online registry. The Megan’s law requires the officials to include the name of the person accused in an online registry which is accessible by any person (New Jersey State Police, n.d.). They are also obliged to include a mug shot, a person’s conviction as well as the home address. Most of the offenders report that the site has adverse effects on them as any individual can assess the information. It also affects their affiliation with others workers, which at times forces them to resign.

People have also been forced to run of town due to the online registries. Some people may be hesitant of reporting individuals close to them due to fear of ill-treatment. They argue that there is a high possibility that if they report the sex offenders the family would be maltreated. There are also high chances that the victim would be linked to the accused person (The Sex offender next door, 2009). For instance, if individuals know that a person is accused of incest they would get to know that the victim is a relative. The families may also feel ashamed, and they would refrain from reporting the the criminal to avoid the humiliation (Scheeres, 2002). For example, in some states report shows that there is minimal reporting of offense against children especially when the offender is related to them.  The parents may not want to expose the child due to fear of discrimination. They may feel that the community members would wrongly label their children. Other adverse effects of Megan’s law include a wrongful attack on innocent individuals.

In some cases, the accused person fail to update their information when moving out. They are required to notify the police when they move out so as to avoid an address error. There have been cases linked to address error, where an innocent person was attacked. The members of the community may confuse the new occupant of the house to the previously registered offenders (Scheeres, 2002).  Various groups have raised concerns about the adverse effects of the online registry.  Some of the activists maintain that the law infringes individual’s constitutional rights. They argue that it is an unfair punishment to include names of the accused individuals on a public site. Other people are concerned about the inclusion of juveniles in the online registry. They argue that children would benefit from counseling instead of being humiliated in public.  Children may be subjected to public humiliation which may lead to a psychological problem. Apart from the offenders, the notification law also affects neighbors of the registered persons accused of sex crimes both financial and psychologically. First, the price of the houses in area may go down. People may not want to rent or purchase properties in areas.

However, not everyone agrees with the claims; most individuals maintain that Megan’s law has been beneficial. They argue that the sites are required as they provide information that is considered the public record. They believe that the rights of children should put first over the rights of the accused individuals. Other positive outcomes of Megan’s law is the decrease in crime. The notification and registry laws distance to positive prosecutorial dismissal rate. Additionally, the laws have been associated with positive arrest rate (Prescott & Rockoff, 2008)  Report also shows that there is a decrease in sex offenses among individuals with a personal connection with the accused persons. There is also a lack of evidence showing a high rate of victimization among the criminals. It is also apparent that Megan’s law minimizes crime by preventing any potential criminal. Therefore, it is evident that the notification and registry of the criminals do not affect the report behavior. Some of the critics of the law maintain that most individuals may be afraid to report the offenders to avoid the disgrace of their relatives.

However, research also shows that although the notification law may minimize crime, there are still chances of the accused individuals repeating the offense. There are massive social and financial costs linked to the release of information to the public. Hence, some states may delay releasing the information to the public which may offer the offenders a chance to repeat the crime (Prescott & Rockoff, 2008).  It is also hypothesized that information that an accused person is living in the neighborhood may make parents be more vigil. They parents would ensure that they know the whereabouts of their children. Another important outcome of Megan’s law is that the parents are offered a chance to screen individuals that befriend their children as well as those hired as babysitters.

The Megan’s law cannot be categorized as a crime control tool or a Positivist School. Although some elements of the law are similar to the positivist school, it is hard to put include it in the model. The Positivist school focused on the individual offender rather than the community (Clear, Reisig & Cole, 2015). It was more focused on rehabilitating the offender and offering them a chance of living a normal life in the community. However, Megan’s law is different as it puts more focus on the victim. The law puts the right of the offenders first, and in most cases, the offenders are left out. The similarity of the positivity school and Megan’s law include the fact that they both focus on the nature of the offenders’ behavior.

On the other hand, the crime control reforms were meant to put more strict rules to curb the mounting cases of crime in the society (Clear, Reisig & Cole, 2015). For instance, parole release was abolished in many states, the sentencing period was increased, and other punishments were included in the correction system. Though, Megan’s law was meant to deal with the rising cases of sex crimes by a repeat offender, they never included the long sentencing period. The law can be said to have some elements that may link it to crime control and positivist school tool. However, there are differences that distance it from the two tools.


The Megan’s law was implemented so as to deal with cases of recidivism. There have been various cases of convicted sex offenders repeating the crime after their release into the community. The law is named after a victim of a sex offense, Megan was raped and killed by a repeat sex offender. It includes the registration of convicted sex offenders, and the community is also notified about the registered sex offenders. The act is similar to the first corrections as it is focused on minimizing the crime rate in the society. It is also evident that some of the early corrections focused on the behavior of the offenders which can also be viewed under Megan’s law. However, there are differences, between the first corrections and Megan’s law. For instance, the law focuses on the rights of the victim. It has been linked to both positive and negative impact. One of the positive results of the law is that it has led to decrease of sex offenses in the society. The negative effects include the labeling of the offenders by members of the community.


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