Is Megan’s Law an Effective Deterrent for Sexual Abuse?
Megan’s law is a law in the United states of America that aims that disclosing a sexual offender’s information to designated places for the public to see and have the information. The places are those that can be assessed freely by the people of the nation (Evenson $ Leo, 2005). The information that is disclosed to the public is controlled, it may include the photo of the culprit, the physical address or/and his physical direction. The areas may in news papers, public places and government websites. A recent case was found on April 29, 2010, the New York Times reported of a case that was unfolding about sexual abuse of children by the priests in the Catholic Church (Donadio, 2010 April 27). The media was the one that gave the situations of the case. In this instant, the newspaper article writer condemned the act and asked the pope to react about it. In the same spirit, the pope gat the pressure from the media and on May 11, 2010 an article in the same newspaper gave the proceeds of the case and the pope came out clear condemning the act. The media here is the one that did give the church the pressure to admit the act. By doing this, the solution to the vice is seen from the efforts of the media (Donadio, R. (2010 May 11).
The aim of the law is that it is going to put the offender at shame and deter him from involving in such a crime in the future. On the other side it is used as a way to warn the general public of a person who is living amongst them but who is thought to be dangerous. In most cases in case of rape, the offender knows the victim so well. Some of the cases are not reported to the police whereas those reported over 90% are by people close to the culprit. the law is also called Sexual Offender (Jacob Wetterling) Act of 1994. In case somebody has been convicted of rape, he is kept under the close monitor of the court up to as period of ten years in most cases. He is supposed to let the court know of any changes in his personal information during all this time. the way the law operates is short of probationary bases or parole. Probation is limiting the movement of the offender without physically placing them in prison. A probation officer closely monitors the offender’s activities. There aresome restrictions that the offender is supposed to follow during this period. Parole is the release of an offender before the end of a jail term but with more strict restrictions than in cases of probation. Any breach of the parole conditions may result in the offender being incarcerated again. The system has been in operation since 1994, but the main question is “ Has Megan’s Law been an Effective Deterrent for Sexual Abuse?”. This paper seeks to answer the above question.
In simple terms rape is having sexual intercourse with a person without his or her consent. In most cases there is violence before the act has been done. It is a criminal offence punishable by law. Most rape cases involve women, children, and young boys as the victims. It is an act of force and the victim is injured sexually, emotionally, and physically. When men are raped, it mostly involves the use of drugs to simulate their bodies to perform the act. Men to men rape are feared to be on the rise in the prisons but it is the least reported. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (1999) reported that in the United States, only 9% of reported rapes cases reported are men, 91% are women. A family and society at large is an element of peace, security, and comfort. What we do, what we talk, the environment that we live in create a picture in our minds that affects our mental stability. In incidences of rape, the victim is psychologically affected in his/her life time especially if counseling support is not given effectively (Klotter and Edwards, 1998). Rape takes different forms and can be classified into date rape, ancestral, child sexual abuse, prison rape, acquaintance rape, war rape, statutory rape, gang rape, and marital rape or spousal rape (Lawrence, 2004).
• Statutory rape
This is said to occur when a sexual intercourse was done on a person who is of the age of a minor and thus is seen not to be of age to give consent to sex. In this case, the raped person may have had consented to the act but since the law perceive him/her as of age that cannot give a consent, then the case is regarded as rape. For example in many countries the age of majority is eighteen years; if an adult engages in sex with sixteen years old, after her consent, then the case stands as rape. In the early 1990”s there was an increase in rape case in the United states of America to a level that a law had to be made that was aimed to fight these crimes only. This was Megan’s Law.
Is Megan’s Law an Effective Deterrent for Sexual Abuse?
There has been a mixed reaction regarding the effectiveness of Megan’s law. There are people including scholars who have argued that the case is unnecessary while others hold a complete different opinion. Those who oppose the law are for the opinion that the law aims to cure a problem after it has already occurred. According to them the law does not deter the occurrence of future rape but is a punishing method of the offender. According to them a good law is the one that cures a problem before it has taken place.
Supporters of the law are of the opinion that people are social beings and will always aim to lie in harmony with their colleagues, secondly before one commits a crime, there is the tendency that he ways the punishment that he is more likely to be accorded and if he feels that the punishment is much, his chances of committing the crime is low. Thus from that angle, they argue that this is a good deterrent method. Secondly they are of the opinion that in most cases offenders do it again and again despite the fact that they had been convicted of the offence again, thus if the offenders are exposed then the public can keep itself from them. They will be seen as a point of danger. in this they are of the opinion that the public will see the past offender as a suspect all the time and thus they will be warned. According to them from this angle the law becomes effective (Welchans, 2005).
The law work on the principal that there is no one in the society who would like to suffer neither want his reputation affected by another by warning the general society bout his existence it is a punishment enough that can deter him from, committing another crime. However, there is a problem with repeaters of a certain crime; they tend to do it again and again especially when they realize that the society expects them to it. They act with certain bitterness. This is the point that is controversial in the law.
One study that support the opposes of the law was conducted in December 2008 in New Jersey, the results of the study showed that the law has no effect on the life of people for the long period that it had been operating. It showed that the number of repeated offenders was on the rise including those that had been “black listed”. There was also an increase in new offenders and the black listed seemed not to care (Levenson, D’Amora $ Hern, 2007).
The law addresses the culprit but leaves the victim to suffer
Rape causes physical, psychological or even emotional, that may have an immediate or a long term effect on the life of a victim. This means that other than the actual sex act, the case continues to harm the victim for long period after the day of rape. There is evidence that rape victims especially if this occurred to them at early ages have their later life influenced by the act. You find most of them not able to date again or others even fear to talk to men. This law seems to forget about this kind of the coin. In a good court system then it should punish the offender and assist the victim to get back to his normal life. Looking at the law, the focus is having the offender suffer but it does not assist victim integrate in life once more. In the law, it also seem to create an ending guilt and grudge , this is because after an offender has been listed then he remains to carry the same despite the fact that he may have reformed after punishment by court. This in another angle is seen to undermine the goal of the correction system which is to ensure that a culprit has reformed. This is because after a convicted has been released from the correction system it is believed and thought that he has reformed. There are lessons that are taught in prisons to enable the convicted to integrate back to the society again. The law is thus seen as a double punishment to an offender and thus limits his chances of reform since his mind keeps telling him after all you are in the public domains that you are a suspect even before doing something (Larson, 2003).
When a law is implemented in a country then it is takes the criminal justice system to ensure that the law has been followed. Criminal justice administration is a way of convicting a criminal. It starts with investigation by the police and ends with punishing the offender. It is administered to enforce the concerned country’s criminal laws. The system should be transparent as well as in accordance with the law to ensure that no innocent person will be convicted and all offenders face the law. What Megan’s law seek to achieve is to have these offenders lives turned around and given that it is usually a very demanding process, it is mandatory that a lot of investment in terms of money and time are made until this person can be completely delivered from his/her addiction. In essence, although it might take the state a long time to have this completed, it is in the end very useful compared to other punishments administered (Zgoba, Dalessandro, Veysey $ Wit, 2008). This is because of the great differences in the aims and approaches that each the law recommends to be followed. On the one side, the law should seek to have the offender punished but even more important to rehabilitate him/her. The objective of having a criminal justice system; is to administer the law to ensure that offenders are punished and rehabilitated, thus cost should not be a hindrance to this noble goal (Schmalleger, & Hall, 2010).
But the question here comes is the system working for the good of the society, how effective is the system in implementing Megan’s law, there has been a conflict in many states where the courts have been accused of taking sides. This is when some judges as a result of what they believe should be done ends up on giving an offender a punishment that is followed by Megan’s law punishment. The system is in itself seen to hinder the smooth operation of the law.
The unreported sexual abuse
The major offenders of sexual assaults are people who are close to the victim, they range from fathers to neighbors, in most cases some of these cases end up unreported to the police as people decide to solve the case as a family or a neighborhood matter. This hinders the implementation of the law. With this disadvantage in the society, then the law becomes only applicable to the few who end up in court. This hinders it from having a total effect to the society.
Offender’s behavior modification
It is appreciated that human beings develop a certain mode of behavior from factors arising from socialization right from childhood and these follow him to adulthood. Our values, beliefs and morals are largely influenced by the society we live in, culture, and hereditary factors. When someone is kept under the law, it means that there is third force that is more powerful that the others that is forcing him to change his behavior; it has been noted in many instances that the person under the rule may momentarily modify his behavior for the time that the conviction is in force but gets back to his original ways. This limits the level of efficiency that the law aims to attain. Societies have different mechanisms that are geared to re-enforcing certain behavior deemed acceptable (Klotter $ Edwards, 1998). However, as human beings interact with each other change their lifestyle, or are compelled to change their mode of belief whether consciously or not, a behavior modification, which in most cases conflicts with previously instilled values, occurs.
In my opinion based on the wide literature review that I have read, I think that Megan’s Law does more harm to the society than good. It does not assist to reduce the number of sexual offences but breeds even more dangerous offenders, it uses public funds as the cases need to be monitored but it has no benefit to the country. A good law is one that aims to assist both the offender and the victim. In our case Megan’s law only seek to have the offender punished but leaves the victim to suffer. On the other hand it does not facilitate the offender’s recovery but makes him seen as a laughing stock in the community something that may make him even more resistant to change. The developers of the law had a good idea but before the idea was implemented their main focus would have been to make the criminal justice system more effective then come up with the law, currently the laws inefficiency can be seen to have been contributed even by the courts themselves, the same ones which are supposed to protect and administer it.