UPDATE - MEGANS LAW VICTORY Fighting Back Against Sex Offenders Attempting To Chip Away At Megan's Law

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Megan's Law Victory

The United States Supreme Court upheld Megan's Law in two separate constitutional challenges today.

Yesterdays U.S. Supreme Court decisions upholding Megan's Law are clear cut wins for the children of our nation. The Justices have made the safety of children a priority over the rights of sexual predators who prey upon our most vulnerable.



BACKGROUND BACKGROUND BACKGROUND BACKGROUND BACKGROUND
Convicted sex offenders think Megan's Law is unconstitutional and recently took their arguments all the way to the Supreme Court. On November 13, 2002, two appeals were heard before the Justices, one brought by sex offenders from Alaska and one by an offender from Connecticut. Both raised separate constitutional issues, which when decided, could limit how much information about convicted sex offenders is made available to the public and how it can be accessed.

Megan's Law is a federal law named after 7-year-old Megan Kanka who was raped and murdered by a twice-convicted sex offender. It requires all 50 states to register convicted sex offenders and make certain information accessible to the public.

Probably for ease of accessibility and cost effectiveness, about 33 states make sex offender registries available on the Internet, and sex offenders want their names off those registries.

At issue in the Connecticut appeal is whether the Constitution's guarantee of due process requires sex offenders be given an opportunity to prove they are not dangerous before being posted on the Internet registry.

The government should stay out of the business of predicting dangerousness and make truthful information available so the public can take precautions they deem necessary. Risk assessments can never calculate damage perpetrators wreak on victims or actual danger posed because assessments use unproven, unreliable and fallible psychological tests, already responsible for downgrading violent offenders and keeping valuable information from public registries. Exclusions like these may cost children their lives.

In the Alaska appeal, Megan's Law has to be determined to be punitive to be a violation of the Constitution's prohibition on retroactive punishment. Offenders' lawyers argue that the law labels registrants with a scarlet letter, and subjects them to community scorn and outrage, they have served their time and have a right to reintegrate into society and be left alone.

Convicted sex offenders do not have the right to slip away unnoticed because of the risk they pose to communities: they methodically prey upon our most vulnerable populations; their crimes cause devastating lifetime damage to victims; they have high rates of recidivism and are more likely to spend little or no time in jail after conviction, giving them greater opportunity to reoffend compared with other violent offenders who are deterred by spending years in prison.

While sex offenders may move on after punishment, the devastating impact their crimes have on victims resonates for lifetimes. More than two-thirds of rape and sexual assault victims are under 18 and most abuse happens with someone a child knows. For children who are not murdered, the injuries are often not seen because the damage is the lifetime sentence of emotional conflict that results from exploitation at the hands of trusted adults and relatives, family friends, neighbors, clergy, teachers, etc.

There are about 460,000 registered sex offenders in the U.S. and when released into the community, they have a dramatically higher recidivism rate for their crimes than any other type of violent felon -- rapists repeat offenses at rates up to 35%; those molesting girls, up to 29% and those molesting young boys, at rates up to 40%.

Sex offenders don't only victimize young children. They use their position of trust to target adolescents who look for love, affection and attention in the wrong places. Offenders argue that sexual contact is consensual and claim it's "statutory". The so-called "statutory rape" argument is used by offenders who consistently target naive adolescents and blame them using a "statutory" smokescreen to thwart off the responsibility they have to unequivocally know that they are not having sexual contact with a child and a moral and legal responsibility every adult has.

Even Supreme Court Justices can become entrenched in the blame the victim sham. During oral arguments, Justice David Souter pressed Connecticut Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, on whether a 19-year-old convicted of having consensual sex with a 14-year-old would have to register. First of all, in his state a 14-year-old can't consent and that's their law. And, every state has age of consent laws that are decided upon by the social values legislated in that state. Knowing that time was limited, continually pressing Blumenthal with this issue demonstrates that Justice Souter has limited understanding of the predatory techniques employed by offenders who target unsuspecting adolescent innocents and that's why we have age of consent laws, to protect those that need protection.

When a convicted sex offender complains that Megan's Law is a lifetime sentence remember that Megan's Law prevents sex offenders from imposing lifetime sentences on victims and their families.

Risk level assessments and sex offender classifications are costing children their lives and 14-year-old ninth-grader, Kristen Jackson from Wooster, Ohio demonstrates just that. On September 9, 2002, just 4 moths ago, Kristen had gone to a fair amd her dismembered body was found shortly thereafter. The perpetrator of this unspeakable crime is Joel Yockey, a convicted sex offender who had been released from prison on March 15 after serving 15 years and one month for the 1986 rape and kidnapping of a 17-year-old Wooster girl.

Yockey had been risk assessed as a sexually oriented offender under Ohio's version of Megan's Law - these offenders are not subject to community notification but other offender classified in higher levels are. The classification of Yokey as a sexually oriented offender may have indeed cost Kristen Jackson her life. Yockey lived only a block from Kristen's home and surely you can not deny the reality that if Kristen's family was informed by law enforcement of his presence, through community notification, she may not have been brutally raped and murdered.

Convicted sex offenders pose a risk to the community and the community should be given the opportunity to decide what precautions they take to protect themselves. Providing all information to the community will prevent bureaucratic blunders and theoretically based assessments from taking the lives of women and children in our nation.

I strongly urge you to support our efforts to prevent state governments from being forced to assess or classify sex offenders.

Support the efforts of Parents for Megan's Law and call and write your state representatives and let them know you don't want sex offenders classified.