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Growing Media and Legal Attention to Sex Offenders: More Safety or More Injustice

2007 National HYSTERIA:

Proposed new legislation addressed at policing sex offenders continues to spread throughout the United States. The fear of releasing convicted sex offenders from prison back into society without supervision has captured the attention of the state and public. The mainstream media, together with politicians in both parties, is pressing for these measures and the public generally supports these efforts. Politicians are aware that when a paroled offender commits a crime, particularly a paroled sex offender, the media blames legislators responsible for their release. Elected officials seen as “soft on perverts” will inevitably pay a political price. This paper provides evidence that the United States is in the grip of a media fixation and collective moral panic about sex offenders, and argues that many of the new legal remedies emerging from false fears, false assumptions, and hysteria are ineffective, costly, and an affront to civil liberties. Most troubling, this context sets the stage for future miscarriages of justice, as individuals (including juveniles) accused of even minor sex crimes are subject to a rush to judgment, an inability to get a fair trial, and harsh, long-term penalties that can be disproportionate to the severity of the crime. ..Source.. by Emily Horowitz, St. Francis College

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