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The American Dream is to have a house with a white picket fence, and a yard full of children. Once you become a parent you soon realize that you would do whatever it takes to keep your precious little safe. No matter how hard you try, you cannot keep them out of harm's way all the time. A New Jersey family, the Kankas, found out first hand and probably in one of the most horrifying ways possible. Sex offenders have been in our society since our earliest societies, and in early times you lived in small compounds and everybody knew who everyone was. They knew who to stay away from and they knew who could, and who could not be trusted. As times have changed communities have gotten bigger; this makes it much harder for us to keep track of peoples and their actions. Instead of making this all aware to our communities, it was believed that if Americans saw sex offenders as "sick" then the experts would not be able to treat them. This kind of thinking diminished concern for the crime and how to prevent these offenders from acting out again with the crimes they were committing. This all emerged in the 1930's, 64 years prior to the raping of Megan Kanka.
It was not until the 1990's that experts increasingly dismissed the "abuse excuse", which states that the offenders themselves had been victims of sexual abuse. And their abuse had led them to abusing others. Megan Kanka was not the first child to be sexually abused, or murdered, she was one of many and there were plenty of organizations trying to get sex offender laws passed in all 50 states. The "stranger" abductions in the 1970's had really put a scare on the US, but little was legally done. These organizations focused on working towards the goal of the federal government adopting a sex offender law that would require registration for all sex offenders in all 50 states by the year 2002. To me, there is a big gap that needed to be filled. That is a little more than 30 years of time that something might not have been done. All of that changed with the Megan Kanka case. On the evening of July 29th 1994, Megan Kanka was raped and killed by a two time sex offender, Jesse Timmendequas. Jesse Timmendequas moved in across the street from the Kanka's family home in Hamilton, New Jersey. He lured her into his house by telling her he wanted to show her a puppy and then continued to his intended actions. After Megan's death, the longstanding legal requirement of prohibiting law enforcement officers to give out the names of these sex offenders was brought to national attention. In 1994, New Jersey legislature passed Megan's Law, requiring the public registration of all sex offenders. It was not until May 17, 1996 that President Bill Clinton signed the Federal Megan's Law (H.R. 2137) which "requires the release of relevant information to protect the public from sexually violent offenders." All 50 states now abide by this law. As many would think the federal law would be the first of its kind, but on the contrary, as early as 1947, California had laws that required convicted sex offenders to be registered. As this law is intended to be nothing but good for the community, may want to argue that this could do more harm than good for the offenders. In other words it may protect the community but will lose protection of the people committing the crimes. Many also believe that with this much negative attention it will make it hard for the offender to get any rehabilitation. Also with the sex offenders being public, meaning anyone can have access to the records and see who is an offender. With that ability, the offender's families even the offenders themselves could be subject to harassment. Even though this harassment is illegal, and is stated at the front of the page of the sex offender website, people still do.
Megan's Law was first adopted in Pennsylvania in 1996. This law was made to protect children and make all sex offenders register on a database. This law also let the public know when a sex offender is released from prison and also lets the public know if a registered sex offender has moved into a neighborhood near them. The criteria that a person meets to be become a registered offender is pretty much anyone who was convicted of a sexual act with a minor. A person must register if they committed the following acts: "An individual convicted of a sexually violent offense or of attempt to commit a sexually violent offense. These are: Rape; Aggravated Indecent Assault; Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse; Sexual Assault; Kidnapping (victim is a minor); Indecent Assault (victim is less than 13 years); Incest; Promotion of Prostitution (victim is a minor); Obscene and other Sexual Materials; Unlawful Contact or Communication with Minor and sexual exploitation of children. An individual convicted of an equivalent offense where the conviction occurred in another state, territory, federal court, the District of Columbia or where the individual was sentenced by court martial, or where the individual was required to register under a sexual offender statute in the jurisdiction where they were convicted, and the individual: resides in Pennsylvania; or is employed or is a student in Pennsylvania". (Pennsylvania Megan's Law: Information & Resources).
Secondly, the information that is collected about the person is endless. The offender must register any other aliases or names that they have used and a photo of them with fingerprints. (Pennsylvania Megan's Law: Information & Resources). Offenders in Pennsylvania must also register their tattoos or other indentifying marks that may help them authorities find them if need be. Also, they must register their social security number, date of birth, the address of where they reside, and the address of where they are currently working. (Pennsylvania Megan's Law: Information & Resources). All of this information is then stored in a huge database that is public for anybody who feels the need to see if they are living beside a registered offender. This is a very good idea because all of this information is put into a database and help not only authorities keep tabs on an offender but it also helps the public and lets them feel a lot better off not worrying about if their children are in danger.
Also, if a registered offender is going to move out of their state to another they also must register with the state where they are going to move to. (Pennsylvania Megan's Law: Information & Resources). This includes all of the information that they have already sent to their state where the crime took place. This information is administered by the state police and the Department of Parole & Probation. (Pennsylvania Megan's Law: Information & Resources)
Lastly, there are going to be some provisions that are going to be added to the Megan's Law. Some of these provisions are instead of the two tier system that the state has now they want to make a three tier system for the more violent offenders. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review). Another proposed change is that law enforcement will have to step up more to make sure that all sex offenders be registered. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review). This is the biggest loophole right now in the law because not all offenders are registered and sometimes they go unnoticed. This change will help drastically in making sure all offenders are registered because it will help ease the tensions of the general public in them knowing that all offenders are not going unnoticed. The only problem experts are saying that is all of these changes will cost too much money.
Most sex offender laws are enacted after a crime takes place, in order to prevent similar crimes. The most famous sex offender law is, of course, Megan's Law. However, there are other laws that were enacted to prevent sexual offenses and punish offenders. Another, less famous, sex offender act is the Wetterling Act. In 1989, Jacob Wetterling and his brother and friend were bike riding in Minnesota when they were confronted by a masked man and asked to lie face down in a ditch. The gunman ordered two of the boys to run into the woods and never look back. When the boys turned around the gunman and Jacob were gone, never to be found. Jacob's friends and family searched day in and out for Jacob and even the gunman, but to no avail. It was later found out that halfway houses in the neighborhood were allowing sex offenders to live there after being released from prison. Jacob's mother, Patty, dedicated her time and life to trying to find missing children. She was appointed to a task force that helped to establish stronger sex offender registration requirements. Two years prior to the enacting of Megan's Law, the Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act was passed by Congress. The Wetterling Act required all states to register offenders of sex crimes against children (about-megans-law.com).
The next sex offender act is the Lychner Act, while this one does not deal directly with children; it's an important law nonetheless. Pam Lychner was a real estate agent in Houston, Texas. She was arriving at a house to show it to a possible buyer. Waiting for her at the house was a two time felon who savagely beat her. Luckily, Pam's husband also arrived at the house and was able to save her life. Pam did not take her assault lightly, she began an advocacy group "Justice for All" that helped to establish harsher sentences for violent criminals. Sadly, Mrs. Lychner was killed in 1996 in the plane explosion of TWA Flight 800. In her memory, the US congress enacted the Pam Lychner Sexual Offender Tracking and Identification Act of 1996. This law allowed for a national database to track sexually based offenders. (about-megans-law.com)
A more recently implemented sex offender law is Jessica's Law, or the Jessica Lundsford Act of 2005. Jessica Lunsford, a young girl from Florida was abducted, raped, and murdered by John Couey, in February 2005. Couey was a convicted sex offender and also worked for a time at Jessica Lundsford's school as a subcontractor. The Jessica Lundsford Act focused on the monitoring of sex offenders or sexual predators; their main focus was to increase the amount of monitoring. Part of the Jessica Lundsford Act centered on the sex offenders/predators that have access to school district campuses. The law required that anyone who works on a school district or in direct relation/association with students must complete a background check. They must also keep the record updated with any new arrests (Wikipedia.com/Jessica's_Law). This law has not yet been implanted throughout the United States; it's only enacted in Florida. Jessica's law is currently a proposed federal law, and if adopted would be modeled after the Florida Law which would mandate stricter tracking of released sex offenders. This law would require sex offenders to complete and mail in sex offender registration forms at least twice a year and various times. Also, the proposed law would require sex offenders to wear GPS devices on their ankles for five years after their release from prison. The law has never been voted on in Congress.
In recent years, the topics of Megan's Law and other sex offender laws have been widely debated and controversial in the news and courtrooms. Megan's Law, by definition, requires the State Police to create and maintain a registry of persons who reside, work/carry on a vocation, or attend school in the Commonwealth and who have either been convicted of, entered a plea of guilty to, or adjudicated delinquent of certain sex offenses in Pennsylvania or another jurisdiction ( PA Megan's, 2010). The problem with Megan's Law is that certain aspects of it are positive while other are just simply negative and are not helpful to society. Here, I will explore the related pros and cons to the very widely debated topic of Megan's Law.
Although there is much controversy, there are some good signs of Megan's Law and how it is benefiting the community. One aspect is that information that is given on the internet is much easier to access to the public. If a real concern about a sex offender living nearby is an issue in a household, finding the information is only a click away rather than going down to the police station or the courthouse. Another good factor to Megan's Law is that many violators are now more easily watched upon. For this, certain scenarios where a sex offender may potentially be violating their parole is caught and prevented. This helps from another sex crime happening and hurting another family. Also, if a family is paying high mortgages, pricey school and outrageous bills to live in a certain home, they should have the right to know if there young children are in danger of being violated. Knowing that a neighbor could potentially ruin a child's life is a safe and promising thing for families. Finally, an innocent child's life is very valuable as well as rather naÃ¯ve. Not saying that one life is more important than another, but the right of safety and privacy of the children somewhat outweigh the right to simple privacy of a violating sex offender (Children's, 2000).
On the opposing side, many negative and harsher facts make to argue that Megan's Law is a little too strict and unfair to a sex offender. One issue with this is that some of the sex offender profiles can be incomplete, inaccurate, or out of date. This can make for an awful assumption as well as a potentially dangerous scenario for a sex offender. Another trivial aspect is that this sentence can often extend and offenders sentence. That is truthfully unfair to an individual that has been trapped in the walls of the court system. Along with these truths, people must keep in mind that these are still human souls as well as fellow Americans. Being registered on a sex offender list makes it very hard for ex-offenders to find employment and nice housing. Although the record will still live on, it makes it hard for a being to start a new life. Likewise, Megan's Law seems to cause an unlawful vigilantism among communities. Many times, those committing in turn crimes are not even punished. On a final and rather scary note, the invasion of privacy could backfire in the governments face and cause a problem of social networking among sex offenders. With new website networking alone, sex offenders could take matters into their own hands and rebel against the requirements of the government (Children's, 2000).
With all the pros and cons of Megan's Law weighed in, much concern is raised as well as many obstacles. Clearly the laws and regulations of Megan's Law need some reworking as well as considerations made. In the end, everyone must realize that though we are dealing with sex offenders, they are still struggling humans souls entrapped in today's hard to live society.