Megan’s Law and Sex Offender Recidivism
By Maynard & Sumner, LLC of Maynard & Sumner, LLC posted in Megan’s Law on Thursday, September 26, 2013.
Megan’s Law, which came to fruition in the State of New Jersey in 1994, may be characterized as one of the most highly politicized and publicized laws of its time. Unfortunately, politicization and publicization does not always equate with good lawmaking. In the case of Megan’s Law, some experts feel that this set of laws was based on misunderstood statistics and even may be detrimental to the pursuit of reducing sex offender recidivism.
Megan’s Law was created in New Jersey within weeks of the rape and murder of 7-year-old Megan Kanka. It was enacted, without the customary committee review within the NJ Legislature, 3 months following the crime as a response to public outcry. As a result, legislators justified the enactment of these sex offender laws, partly in response to public persistence and partly based on misunderstood sex offender recidivism statistics.
Do sex offenders have a higher risk of reoffending than other offenders?
This is not a simple question to answer. Some legislators, in various states, have been as bold to say that the recidivism rate for sex offenders is above 90%. However, they rarely have statistics to back their claims. Should they site a statistic, they rarely look at the meat and bones of the study to determine the conditions under which the study was conducted (i.e. methodology, crime, victim, offender, individual factors, etc.). Instead, many accept and few question these statistics because sex offender recidivism is such a hot topic that elicits public fear.
In a scholarly work entitled “Megan’s Law and the misconception of sex offender recidivism” by Debra Patkin, Patkin analyzes whether the studies that calculate sex offender recidivism are entirely accurate, citing that they fail to define the type of recidivism, such as sex crime versus any other crime versus a violation of Megan’s Law. Next, statistics for recidivism vary based on the type of sex crime, whether the crime was committed against a stranger versus a friend or relative, and whether the individual is a sex offender or suffers from a mental disorder like paraphilia.
In conclusion, recidivism rates vary dramatically between different types of sexual offenders, and generalized statistics should not be readily accepted.
If you have been charged with a sex offense, contact our Megan’s law defense attorneys today.
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