Megan’s Law Flaw? Sex Offender Laws May Increase Chances of Reoffending

Study Suggests Megan's Law May Not Work

Three federal laws passed in the 1990s required states to establish and maintain registration systems to track sex offenders and notification systems to inform residents when a registered sex offender moves into a neighborhood. A new study published in the Journal of Law and Economics suggests that these notification laws do not make the public safer and may encourage those convicted of sex crimes to reoffend.

Findings of the Study

J.J. Prescott of the University of Michigan and Jonah Rockoff of Columbia University looked at crime statistics from 15 states over a 10 year period as the states began to pass offender registration and notification laws. Prescott and Rockoff used data from the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) for the study, a database that records a variety of data about crimes that people report to the police, for the study.

The researchers analyzed the registration and notification laws separately. The study found a reduction in the number of sex crimes reported to police when there were just registration laws without notification laws. The researchers discovered that for a state with an average-sized registry, the number of sex crimes fell about 13 percent from when there was no registry. The drop in crime increased as the registry sizes grew.

Conversely, the researchers found that when states added notification laws, the number of sex crimes reported to police increased slightly.

Theories Explaining the Findings

Prescott and Rockoff offered theories about their results. They hypothesized that registration laws decrease crime because of more effective police monitoring of offenders and easier apprehension of recidivists. They believe that being on the registry offers incentives to those on it not to reoffend.

In contrast, notification laws cause social isolation and job and housing loss. This causes people to be stressed, lonely and depressed. People on the registry may feel like they have nothing left to lose by reoffending when there are also notification laws. Additionally, the difficulties of life outside of prison may make prison life seem more appealing, so those on the registry reoffend in order to go back to prison.

The results of Prescott and Rockoff's study are shocking and counterintuitive. However, given the federal law mandating that states have notification laws, the issue warrants further investigation.

Minnesota Sex Offender Laws

A conviction for a sex crime in Minnesota can carry serious consequences. Minnesota's predatory offender laws require anyone convicted of felony indecent exposure, child molestation, or any other kind of felony sex crime involving a child to register as a predatory offender.

The stigma carried with a conviction for a sexual offense in Minnesota can follow a person for a lifetime. If you are facing charges, it is imperative that you speak with an experienced Minneapolis sex crimes attorney who can advise you of your rights.