WHEN MEGAN’S LAW PROVES EFFECTIVE
The New York Times
Trying to Sort Out the Legalities of Megan's Law [May 16] presented a skewed perception of sexoffender recidivism rates and was unbalanced because it failed to include statistics and otheropinions supporting community notification of the whereabouts of high-risk sex offenders.
Although sex offender treatment will not eliminate sex crimes, research supports the notion thattreatment can decrease sex offenses. However, generalizations about recidivism rates should not bemade because program selection criteria drastically affect resulting rates. For
example, recidivism rates for low-risk sex offenders should not be associated with communitynotification, which is implemented only for high-risk offenders.
Recidivism rates reported in a 1992 study where all sex offenders received therapy while othersalso received the controversial chemical castration medication yielded significantly higherrecidivism rates than the 8 percent reported by a study cited in your article. Those
receiving therapy had a reoffense rate of 58 percent while those receiving therapy pluschemical castration medication had a reoffense rate of 18 percent.
A 1997 study reported that treated child molesters had a reoffense rate of 52 percent andtreated rapists had a reoffense rate of 39 percent.
Recidivism rates translate into victims. As of June 1, there were 9,075 registered sex offendersin New York, of whom 2,804 were classified as having a high risk of reoffending. Taking therecidivism rates reported in the 1997 study and assuming, hypothetically, an even
split between rapists and pedophiles, at least 1,276 women, girls and boys will be sexuallybrutalized by the registered high-risk group alone. If one child or woman is spared the trauma of aheinous sex crime because the community was notified of the presence of a high-risk sex offender,Megan's Law has been effective.
Compared to the vast number of notifications implemented throughout the country, there have beenfew vigilante activities committed against the more than 265,000 registered sex offenders. Thosecommitting these crimes have been prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
And quoting a sex offender who likens sex offenses to runny noses while disregarding potentialquotes about community notification from parents of sexually brutalized and murdered childrendemonstrates the balance missing in this article.
LAURA A. AHEARN
Parents for Megan's Law