Sex abuse has been one of the most serious and pressing problems that the country is facing nowadays. It is a threat to the security of the community especially against children who experienced such kind of abuse. This is the reason why states in America are making policy as well as mechanisms by which this kind of horrendous crime could be prevented and solved. Megan’s Law is a good example by which the government could address this problem and give the people in all states a sense of security.
Megan’s Law was named after a seven-year-old girl Megan Kanka who was sexually abused and murdered in New Jersey by a known child molester. The molester moved across the street from their house without knowing his previous criminal acts (Office of the Attorney General, 2007). This law was an amendment to the (Jacob Wetterling) Crimes Against Children’s Act of 1994 signed by then President Clinton on May 17, 1996. This law requires every state to inform the public about known sex offenders that are residing in their area of responsibility. Fifty states already adopted this law and each state has their own way of public notification (Megan Nicole Kanka Foundation, n.d.).
This law allows the public to get hands on very detailed information about registered sex offenders. Personal information such as: the sex offender’s picture, address, crime committed, and date of imprisonment are provided (Office of the Attorney General, 2007). The methods that have been utilized in order to obtained these requires the active participation of the local law enforcement. Some states set-up a database through the local police departments which the public could access while others insist on written letter of requests and even a fee before any information about a particular sex offender could be divulged (Megan Nicole Kanka Foundation, n.d.).
The general sex offenses that fall under these laws are: “Sexual Act and Sexual Contact Offenses, Specified Offenses Against Minors, Specified Federal Offenses, Specified Military Offenses, and Attempts and Conspiracies”. The first clause deals with sexual act and sexual contact offenses is defined as the “a criminal offense that has an element involving a sexual act or sexual contact with another”. The sexual activities that are included in this clause are the involvement of (1) the genital, oral, or anal penetration in any form of degree (2) any means of touching or sexual contact may it be directly or indirectly by means of clothing (Office of the Justice Programs, 2007).
The second clause involves the specified offenses against minors. This includes: “kidnapping and false imprisonment of a minor, solicitation of a minor to engaged in sexual conduct, use of minor in a sexual performance, solicitation of a minor to practice prostitution”, and many more. The third clause covers the specified federal offenses which are sexual crimes under the federal law. (Office of the Justice Programs, 2007). The fourth clause tackles the specified military offenses wherein crimes committed under the Uniform Code of Military Justice are listed as directed by the Secretary of Defense. The final clause covers attempts and conspiracies these are offenses that falls under sex offenses but is done in such a way that the intent to do the act is observable even if it’s not accomplished (Office of the Justice Programs, 2007).
Based upon what I found out about the Megan’s Law I can say that it has both positive and negative points. It is advantageous in a sense that it identifies sex offenders and enables the personal information about them to be known. This would aid the general public to protect themselves from these sexual abusers. The parents also deserved to know such kind of information in order to protect their children from sexual abusers especially the ones who target minors. Awareness of the people in the community through this kind of information dissemination could be beneficial in preventing sexually related crimes to continue.
However, despite the best intentions of the Megan’s Law it still has its flaws. Its negative points are best explained by the idea that “the end does not justify the means”. This law uses a naming and shaming method in achieving its desired outcomes. It creates a list of sex offenders that will be under the public scrutiny. In doing so, it entails the idea that these people has no right to change and that they will forever be branded as sexual abusers. There is also an adverse effect in the family of these offenders because other people would tend to judged them based upon the mistakes done by one of their family member. Furthermore, the lesson that could be obtained from the Megan’s Law is that it should be further studied and analyzed in such a way that it could achieved its desired objectives without jeopardizing the lives of many people.
Office of the Attorney General. (2007). Megan’s Law. Retrieved 19 May 2008, from http://www.meganslaw.ca.gov/homepage.aspx?lang=ENGLISH.
Megan Nicole Kanka Foundation. (n.d.). Megan’s Law Coast to Coast. Retrieved 19 May 2008, from
U.S. Department of Justice. (2007). The National Guidelines for Sex Offender Registration and Notification—Proposed Guidelines, May 2007. Retrieved 19 May 2008, from http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/smart/proposed.htm#coveredso.