July 30, 2008

Editorial: Fine-Tuning Megan’s Law

Note: Additional highlighting and links to proof that what the editorial mentions is being underestimated as there are hundreds of cases of recorded vigilantism and even murders of registered sex offenders resulting from these laws. That which is recorded does not reflect the thousands of subtle personal acts of prejudice and biases inflicted throughout society. eAdvocate

7-30-2008 National:

Megan’s Law, which requires public notification when a convicted sex offender moves into a community, is named for Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old New Jersey girl who was killed by a released sex offender near her home in Hamilton Township in 1994. However useful, the law has always carried great potential for danger, and now a New Jersey court has taken a step toward making it a more sophisticated instrument of public safety.

One danger has always been vigilantism (and even murders) See Note above. Child molesters living peaceably in a community after serving their time — and even some people mistaken for child molesters — have been beaten up or fired upon.

A disturbing new development is the proliferation of local ordinances that go beyond the reporting requirements of legislation like Megan’s Law by restricting where sex offenders may live. In some New Jersey towns, offenders cannot live within 2,500 feet of a school or playground. Often, the banned areas are so large as to effectively prohibit a sex offender from living anywhere in town.

These bans can do more harm than good. They will not deter a determined predator. Many law enforcement officials, including parole officers, have observed that they tend to bunch sex offenders in drug-infested, rundown neighborhoods that are poorly suited for anyone trying to turn around a life.

Two weeks ago, in a unanimous decision, a New Jersey appeals court ruled that such ordinances conflicted with the state’s Megan’s Law because they interfered with the broad discretion given to parole officers to decide where a sex offender may live. By arbitrarily ruling out certain areas, the judges suggested, the ordinances could deny offenders access to public transportation, treatment programs and employment.

Several state legislators now say they will try to amend the law to allow for residency limits. The courts in New York have upheld such bans and other states, including Oklahoma and Iowa, have adopted them.

There’s no reason for New Jersey to make the same mistake. We have long supported the registration requirement. But we also believe that officials should be aware that in the wrong hands, this information can lead to harassment or worse. And the decision about where a sex offender should live properly resides with law enforcement agencies. ..News Source.. Editorial NY Times

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