Community notification of the residential addresses of high-risk sex offenders was first enacted in 1996 and was named “Megan’s Law,” following the tragic murder of 7-year-old Megan Kanka in 1994 by Jesse Timmendequas, a mentally impaired repeat sexual offender who lived in Kanka’s neighborhood in Hamilton Township, New Jersey.
In the aftermath of Megan's murder, her parents, Richard and Maureen Kanka, fought strenuously for community notification laws and proclaimed on their foundation’s website that "Every parent should have the right to know if a dangerous sexual predator moves into their neighborhood."
USA FAIR agrees.
We believe that offenders who use violence, force, abduction, weapons, or drugs that induce unconsciousness in the commission of their crimes should be subject to community notification. Similarly, offenders with stranger and non-relational pre-teen child victims and offenders with prior criminal convictions should also be subject to notification. If any one of these criteria is met, we believe that the interest in public safety outweighs the serious consequences to former offenders resulting from public notification. Megan’s killer would have met four of these criteria – a repeat offender with a prior violent offense involving a stranger pre-teen child victim.
However, as the public registry has expanded over the years it has grown to include many law abiding former offenders who are not dangerous sexual predators. This has happened partly because legisltures have classified non-violent crimes as violent offenses in order to increase penalties and expand those subject to the public registry. The word "violent" should be used to classify crimes that involved physical force, not merely used to register a higher level of societal disapproval of a particular act. USA FAIR calls for truth in language and the use of the dictionary definition of words.
USA FAIR strongly opposes the broad application of community notification to apply to first-time non-violent offenders, including juveniles, incest offenders (who have the lowest recidivism rates), statutory age of consent cases involving adults and teenage minors, Internet solicitation crimes involving teenage minors, possession of child pornography cases where a contact crime with a child was not found and all misdemeanor offenses.
USA FAIR does not condone any of these crimes, but numerous risk assessment studies have found that these offenders simply do not present a danger to the community that warrants publication of their information on the web and the resulting life-destruction that can ensue. We believe that offenders in this group should register their address and other required information with law enforcement – but not subject to automatic community notification or posting on any public website.
Finally, USA FAIR believes that those on the public registry should be provided a process to petition for removal from the public website following 10 years of law abiding behavior in the community, as recidivism, even for higher risk offenders, drops significantly with years of offense-free living and advancing age.
Let's focus law enforcement resources on the truly dangerous.