Megan’s Law

A paper which analyzes the issues surrounding Megan’s Law, a reform in the law regarding sexual offenders.

The paper discusses how law is a powerful cornerstone of society, establishing both an orderly set of rules and regulations as well as serving as an impetus for social change. Over the past few decades, the law has brought many advances in society, from preserving a woman’s right to choose an abortion (Roe v. Wade), ordering public schools to desegregate (Brown v. Board of Education), and from increasing awareness regarding sexual offenders. The paper shows, however, before these social changes could occur and laws could be enacted, a tragic event (such as a murder, racial tensions, etc.) frequently had to occur. In the case of Megan’s law, a little girl had to be violently raped and murdered before legislators decided to reform the laws concerning sexual offenders. This paper analyzes and examines the multitude of issues related to Megan’s Law. Part II provides an overview of Megan’s Law. In Part III, the pros and cons of sex offender registration and public notification are outlined and evaluated. Lastly, this paper concludes with recommendations for improving Megan’s Law.
While there are numerous advantages to Megan’s Law, there are disadvantages as well. Critics of Megan’s Law call it a modern-day scarlet letter, a probation that in effect never ends. (Pitts). As such, Megan’s Law arguably contradicts the notion that after an individual has paid his/her debt to society, he/she is entitled to a second chance without fear of vigilantism. (Pitts, BBC). Opponents of Megan’s Law argue that it is not highly effective, especially given that only 80% of pedophiles comply with registration requirements in the United States, compared with 97% in the United Kingdom. (BBC). Additionally, opponents of Megan’s Law point out that most cases of child abuse occur within the family, and suggest that victims may remain silent if they believe a family member will be denounced. (BBC).