05 Apr Reexamining Sex Offender Laws
With the benefit of hindsight, I believe sex offender registration requirements and mentally deviant sexual offender (MDSO) therapy reached their apogee sometime in the last two years. Arguments can be made that the first sign that gravity had begun to act was the passage of “Romeo and Juliet” laws that provide some relief for some young sex offenders accused of statutory, but consensual, rape.
Sex Offender registration and treatment regimes have started to come under scrutiny among researchers, journalists, and legal scholars and advocates. Politicians are, as of yet, scared to touch them and it will be years before we see change at the Courthouse level.
Like most legislation that is enacted with broad bipartisan support, these laws were knee jerk reactions to a handful of factually disturbing cases.
Now that the dust has settled and we have a history of implementation dating back almost 20 years, people are starting to question the efficacy and reasonableness of many of the laws applications. Researchers too are taking closer looks at private companies hired to provide sex offender therapy, and the preliminary information they’re getting isn’t good.
I see four broad areas where reform is necessary:
1) The registration of juvenile sex offenders;
2) Involuntary civil commitment;
3) Sentencing judge discretion to accept negotiated plea agreements that call for no registration AND judicial discretion or review to determine if registration is appropriate in a contested matter – whether it be sentencing or an open plea; and
4) Therapy born of, supported by, and driven by science.
This article from The New Yorker is an eye-opener for those who have not been touched by this and is a must read if you have any interest.