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The Wrongfully Convicted Sex Offender

Never have I found the topic "Wrongful Convictions" covered more completely than here. Worth every minute of your time to review.
9-2-2013 National:

(Editorial Note: In no way do I want to minimize the issue of violence against women or children. Rape is clearly a crime of violence, and must be dealt with appropriately. Pedophile predation is abhorrant, and must also be dealt with sternly and appropriately. But I think the issue has become – what actually is appropriate for dealing with the range of sex offenses, and in some cases, have we gone too far; and what does this mean for the wrongfully convicted? It begs the age old question – does the punishment fit the crime?)

Woe be to the wrongfully convicted sex offender, because you’re not just a wrongfully convicted ‘felon.’ You’re a wrongfully convicted ‘sex offender,’ and the state makes sure you get some extra special attention. Note that I’m careful to use the qualifier “wrongfully convicted” here, because in the case of sex offenders, when the justice system “gets it wrong,” the injustice gets amplified. I’m not saying we should let actually guilty sex offenders off the hook, but the punitive measures have become so severe, that when someone is wrongfully convicted of a sex offense, the consequences they are forced to endure magnify the injustice.

To understand why a wrongful conviction in a sex offender case is such a travesty, you need to know a little about the sex offender laws and the mandatory, so-called “rehabilitation” methods. (This will be a little bit lengthy.)

Over the last few decades, states have been steadily rewriting their sex offense laws to become more and more draconian. I judge that this has been caused by something akin the to wave of hysteria that swept the US in the 80′s over preschool child sex abuse. The primary driver for this was the McMartin preschool case in which accusations were made in 1983. All charges were dropped in 1990, after the lives of all defendants involved were completely ruined. Because sex crimes, particularly those involving children, scrape a particularly sensitive region in the human psyche, it makes a great issue for politicians to campaign on. My opinion is that much of today’s sex offender legislation has had little, if any, basis in research, and is an all-too-typical legislative knee jerk to high profile cases that have created something of a bully pulpit for affected victims and families. You can’t blame the victims and families. Your heart has to go out to the them.

They have suffered unspeakable tragedy. They want “justice,” but in the case of a wrongful conviction, that justice is visited upon the wrong person. Sadly, the legislative responses have proven to be the classically inefficient and expediency-driven political solutions that treat the symptom and not the disease. The key here is lack of research and the absence of statistically valid data. A classic example of this is “Megan’s Law,” which established the original sex offender registry. This law was enacted by the New Jersey General Assembly in 1994 in response to the rape and murder of seven year old Megan Kanka.

Since then, the law has been enacted in some form by every state, and has also resulted in a federal FBI sex offender registry. However, a 2008 federally funded study conducted in New Jersey, where Megan’s Law was first enacted, found that it failed to reduce sex crimes or repeat offenders. Read that story here. If you’re interested in plodding through a 50 state survey of sex offender legislation, you can read the one done by the National Institute of Corrections and the Washington College of Law here. ..continued.. by Wrongful Convictions blog

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