Panic Does Not Make for Good Policy

Sexual violence, like other forms of violence, is traumatic and devastating. The question is not whether the state has an interest in preventing such harm, but whether current laws are appropriate and effective.

The U.S. legal landscape was reshaped by federal laws passed in the mid-1990s, in response to heinous but statistically unusual crimes involving stranger abduction, rape and murder. The Wetterling Act required convicted sex offenders to register with local authorities, and Megan’s Law required law enforcement to notify neighbors about the presence of a sex offender in their community. As a result, all states now post searchable online lists of at least some categories of registered sex offenders. The U.S. Department of Justice links all the states’ registries in a single searchable site, available to neighbors, employers, landlords and the public at large. Full Article


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Thank you carsol for providing these good articles and providing balance we all need. I hate to watch the mainstream news anymore. And you won’t hear anything like this on non corporate sponsored news, either. I saw a show last night that kind of summed up how a whole society can be duped into panic. The show was about Orson Welles “War of the Worlds” a radio play in the 1930’s about alien invaders that cause widespread panic. Some even thought the Nazis were attacking although they were never mentioned. People read into it their own fears, and heard what they expected to hear. Ignored what didn’t fit the fantasy. Trusted the media. Now modern day Or-Well-ians are whipping up panic about monsters snatching kids off the streets. They don’t even have to say as much, just have law enforcement tell them they need to look at Megan’s web site and the term “sex offender” will fill in the blanks. What we need is a station break, a reality break. People are really getting hurt because of it.

This is a well written article. Professor Lancaster has hit on some undeniable truths, such as what just laws are supposed to accomplish, and that U.S. sex offender laws have failed across the board. Professor Lancaster also correctly points out that the vast majority of these laws “violate basic legal principals and amount to excessive and enduring forms of punishment”. There are scores of articles by educated people with the qualifications to make these evaluations, people much more qualified than the police, many judges,and most politicians; men and women that the people in power need to listen to.
It is almost beyond my comprehension that the men in power, from the supreme court on down, have allowed the injustices that many of us live with to happen. I believe many of them suffer from prejudice and careerism and should not be allowed to wield the power entrusted to them.

“Facts do not cease to exist  because they are ignored.” – Aldous Huxley

I always wondered how Thomas Jefferson could own slaves or the great scientists in Nazi Germany went along with the madness. Intelligent doesn’t equal moral. The culture is at fault, even Judges are not free of it. I don’t see attitudes changing anytime soon. You can’t just win cases. Somehow you have to win hearts.