Article

Making Meaning of Megan's Law

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Abstract

This study of Megan's Law contrasts scholarly narratives that describe and analyze sexual predator laws with a case study of implementation in New Jersey. A critical feminist perspective shows that Megan's Law employs a radically underinclusive notion of sexual violence that conflicts sharply with feminist arguments about the cultural and institutional roots of sexual violence. The law excludes many of the most common offenders from reach of the law, thus deflecting attention away from assaults committed by family and friends in favor of reviving stereotypes about deviant strangers. The most significant effect of Megan's Law is not to expand the power of the punitive state but to advance a political and legal interpretation of rape that undermines the basis for and gains made by feminist rape law reforms of the 1970s.

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... After the violent victimization of these children, laws have been established in the United States which include the Jacob Wetterling Crimes against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act, Megan's Law, and the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (History of the Law, 2008). Current scholarship pertaining to sex offender legislation raises important ideological and practical concerns while engaging in a very divisive discourse over its justification (Simon, 2007;Visgaitis, 2012;Fox, 2012;Corrigan, 2006;Duwe and Donay, 2008). ...
... For instance, recent feminist commentaries argue Megan's Law is unfavorable to framing the extensiveness of violence against women by stressing sexual offence, including rape, as a monstrous atrocity committed by a handful, specifically strangers (and thus ignoring the wider scope of the problem) (Corrigan, 2006). There is some evidence of reduction in repeat offences following implementation of Megan's Laws, but such findings are not without a caveat (Duwe & Donnay, 2008). ...
... Second, other studies argue sex offender legislation such as Megan's Laws have failed to substantively reduce forcible rapes (Ackerman, Sacks & Greenberg, 2012). Irrespective of these limitations with regards to its effectiveness, Megan's Law is portrayed as one of the most potent weapons of anti-rape measures since the 1970's, cultivating the image of the rapist as a pathologically and mentally challenged deviant, and through its austere method of monitoring and controlling the offender, disproportionately targets selected few (Corrigan, 2006). ...
Article
p>The victimization of Adam Walsh, Jacob Wetterling and Megan Kanka has been instrumental in designing sex offender laws. Registration and Community Notification Laws (RCNLs) are informally known as Megan’s Law (Terry 2011.) This paper explores sex offender legislation from the Durkheimian framework of retribution versus rehabilitation. In this paper I attempt to answer the research question: Does sex offender legislation respond to the diluted stance of punishment, which Durkheim envisioned is characteristic of modern societal sentiments (rehabilitation replacing retribution)? Why or why not? I first outline a brief history of sex offender legislation, followed by a discussion of select characteristics of societies that exhibit retributive and rehabilitative justice. Based on scholastic evidence presented in this paper, I conclude the punitive tendencies of current sex offender legislations are more retributive than rehabilitative. Current policies do not conform to the progress of punishment which Durkheim envisioned is concomitant to social evolution, and in many ways, demonstrates taking a step backwards.</p
... Palasinski & Shortland, 2016;Rubin & Peplau, 1975;Tyler & Boeckmann, 1997). Indeed, these sentiments are thought to underlie many of the "shaming" laws and legal regulations that are used to control the behaviors of sex offenders but not of other criminal offenders, such as sex offender registration and community notification laws (Corrigan, 2006;Lieb, Quinsey, & Berliner, 1998;McAlinden, 2005;Quinn, Forsyth, & Mullen-Quinn, 2004), and reflect support for legal regulation based on the supposition that sex offenders pose a continuing threat because they are "bad" people (Vel-Palumbo et al., 2018). Even apart from these legal forms of punitiveness, collateral consequences of punitiveness toward sex offenders are often social in nature, including social stigmatization, family ostracism, loss of housing, and financial losses, and are thought of as an extension of the punitive apparatus (Pogrebin, Dodge, & Katsampes, 2001;Tewksbury, 2005). ...
... As a member of arguably the most stigmatized "out group" imaginable, the Florida community's reaction not only shows social punitiveness and distance toward the individual, but also public support for further legal punitiveness and regulation, in this case the urge for relinquishment or regulation of his winnings.. As public sentiments toward sex offenders discussed above are thought to underlie support for sex offender registration and community notification laws (Corrigan, 2006;Lieb, Quinsey, & Berliner, 1998;McAlinden, 2005;Quinn, Forsyth, & Mullen-Quinn, 2004), punitive When a Sex Offender Wins the Lottery 9 reactions to random instances of perceived injustice (i.e. a "bad" person is rewarded) also might be informative with regards to support and perceptions of existing sex offender laws. ...
... The goal in this study was to first understand how and if the child sex offender label would be more villainized as compared to other labels in an instance of perceived injustice when a "bad" person is randomly rewarded, particularly related to social and legal punishment regarding relinquishment of winnings and social punitiveness (how likely one would accept winnings from the individual experiencing the windfall and ratings of how fair it is that this individual experienced this windfall). We hypothesized that being a convicted child sex offender would result in significantly higher support regarding social and legal punishment compared to other "bad" labels when presented to have won the lottery, as sex offenders are often viewed as When a Sex Offender Wins the Lottery 11 the most monstrous type of person possible (Corrigan, 2006;Lieb, Quinsey, & Berliner, 1998;McAlinden, 2005;Quinn, Forsyth, & Mullen-Quinn, 2004;Simon, 1998). ...
Article
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We present three experimental, between-subject studies, utilizing a lottery win scenario, that attempt to illuminate how different forms of child sex offender stigma lead to support for forms of legal and social punishment in instances of perceived injustice when a “bad” person is randomly rewarded. The first study sought to examine how the child sex offender label would affect participants’ punitiveness toward an individual experiencing a random fortune, as compared to other criminal and non-criminal stigmas. The second study compared social and legal punitiveness regarding stigma of accusations versus substantiated claims of sex offending against children, particularly when comparing them with a child murderer. The third study attempts to disentangle punitiveness related to different acts of sexual deviance, as well as stigma related to different types of sexual offenses against children. Although not a direct test, results appear to be consistent with reactions to a violation of immanent justice reasoning. Data show mixed reactions related to social and legal punishment, and suggest that it may be the “mark” or stigma of criminality, rather than the sex offender stigma specifically, that leads to punitive sentiments in reaction to “bad” individuals experiencing a random fortune. However, focusing on the registration, notification, and regulation of an individual’s behavior and his winnings, support for certain types of legal punishment do appear to be directly associated with the child sex offender label, which is similar to sentiments that underlie community support for sex offender registries and community notification.
... Meanwhile, discourses of male sexual agency are magnified for boys of color, who are feared as sexually aggressive but whose own sexual victimization is virtually invisible. Corrigan (2006) documents that risk assessment scales for sex offenders disproportionately increase penalties for Black, Latino, and lowincome offenders. At the same time, people incarcerated for child sexual abuse and rape are more white and middle-class than the general prison population (Douglas and Finkelhor 2005). ...
... More recently, critics of sex offender registration and notification have argued that a moral panic has encouraged witch hunts against innocent people, who are falsely charged with child sexual assault and placed on sex offender lists (Lancaster 2011). There are some such cases, which are travesties, and sex offender legislation is indeed punitive and counterproductive (Corrigan 2006). But the assumption in this writing is that these cases are typical; in an ironic twist, they come to stand in for the more common and routine cases of child sexual abuse, in which charges and convictions are very rare (Cheit 2014). ...
... Prosecution rates for rape overall have decreased as prosecutors choose only the cases most likely to win (Corrigan 2013), and doubts about child witnesses have decreased prosecution in child sexual abuse cases even more (Cheit 2014). In fact, Corrigan (2006) suggests that sex offender registration actually has decreased prosecution and conviction. Prosecutors are reluctant to subject seemingly respectable defendants to lifelong penalties, and families are reluctant to bring charges against relatives. ...
... The tragic death of Megan Kanka provided New Jersey legislators with the perfect vehicle to enact more stringent control on sex offenders-an innocent 7 year old girl seduced into the home of a twice convicted pedophile with the hopes of playing with a puppy. The assembly leader convened an emergency legislative session for this particular crime and moved a series of bills past committee scrutiny to the open floor for unobstructed passage (Avrahamian, 1998;Corrigan, 2006). Offensively engaging the media and exploiting this single event enabled social problem construction by way of the politicians and media's agenda, and subsequently diverted much deserved criticism away from a criminal justice system that permitted a repeat pedophile to plea bargain his second offense from what would have amounted to 30 years in prison, if convicted, to merely 10 years (Pallone, 2003). ...
... Offensively engaging the media and exploiting this single event enabled social problem construction by way of the politicians and media's agenda, and subsequently diverted much deserved criticism away from a criminal justice system that permitted a repeat pedophile to plea bargain his second offense from what would have amounted to 30 years in prison, if convicted, to merely 10 years (Pallone, 2003). Megan's Law, unlike Washington State's 1990 Act creating notification policies, was critical in view of the fact that many of our federal laws initiate in the state of New Jersey (Corrigan, 2006). ...
... Second, some sex offenses may be difficult to prove, but the desire of the accused to avoid a humiliating trial may be strong. Third, some victims desire some punishment, but, more so, they desire treatment for their abusers and want to avoid the public humiliation of the court system (Corrigan, 2006;Berliner, 2007). Lastly, the plea benefits everyone involved. ...
Article
Community notification was a political response to repeat sex offending fueled by activists and the media's demand for rigid control of sex offenders; however, notification has failed to provide community protection from sex offenders. Data suggest the laws adversely affect the offender's ability to reintegrate into society and have unintended consequences for many others, including the offender's family, other innocent individuals, and the community. Furthermore, a false sense of security and reductions in incest reporting continue to victimize children, which results in further sex offender laws passed by legislatures without empirical data supporting such laws. Community support for notification laws and other restrictions continues to be strong, regardless of the consequences to the offender or other innocent individuals, even though there are a high percentage of community members willing to leave their children unattended regardless of sex offender presence. Research data suggest that sex offenders are a heterogeneous group of individuals, that reoffense rates are relatively low for some offenders, and that a holistic approach to sex offender treatment does reduce reoffense rates even further. Therefore, recommendations listed include eliminating community notification and implementing confidential notification, properly sentencing and treating sex offenders, increasing probation and parole officer quotas, and creating laws focused on proper child supervision.
... In the United States, serious legal sanctions for rape (Corrigan 2006;Decker and Baroni 2011;Beichner and Spohn 2012) and sexual harassment in the workplace (Dobbin and Kelly 2007;Tinkler 2008) suggest a strong cultural consensus exists against particular forms of nonconsensual sexual contact. In some states, the maximum punishment for rape is life imprisonment and it was not until 2008 that the Supreme Court ruled against rape being a capital offense. ...
... First, law enforcement treats forcible stranger rape more seriously than other forms of sexual violence (Corrigan 2006;Decker and Baroni 2011;Beichner and Spohn 2012). Similarly, workplace sexual harassment only rises to legally actionable levels when it is perceived to be severe and pervasive and when it interferes with a person's ability to work (Gutek, Morasch, and Cohen 1983;Greenlaw and Kohl 1992;Cummings and Armenta 2002). ...
... These patterns reveal that people widely perceive rape and workplace sexual harassment to be wrong and punishable by law, but those beliefs operate in a broader cultural setting where law enforcement is bound up in gender stereotypes that frame men's sexual aggression as natural and inevitable and women as in need of protection (Estrich 1986;Corrigan 2006). Sexual aggression in barroom settings rarely results in serious physical injury, frequently involves men engaging in what is perceived as the normative pursuit of women's affections (Grazian 2007;Thompson and Cracco 2008;Ronen 2010), and can include conduct by women that is perceived as unchaste (e.g., wearing sexually revealing clothing, alcohol consumption, suggestive dancing). ...
Article
Unwelcome touching, groping, and kissing are illegal, but widely tolerated in public drinking settings. This contingency in the law's response means that patrons routinely negotiate the moral boundaries of nonconsensual sexual contact. We use 197 interviews with college-age individuals to examine the discursive strategies young people employ when negotiating those boundaries. We find that most interviewees have experiences with sexual aggression, do not categorize it as aggression, but advocate for stronger legal punishments against offenders. In accounting for this paradox, they draw on contradictory legal and cultural narratives that both normalize and condemn men's sexual aggression. We build on legal consciousness theories and gender theories by highlighting the complex ways that gender stereotypes enshrined in law are implicated in the construction of a social problem. We also contribute to the sociology of culture by explicating the often unconscious link between culture and action revealed in young people's narratives about sexual aggression.
... After Megan's death there was a public outcry and widespread belief that if there were community awareness of sexual offenders living within the community, then citizens would be able to protect their children from these offenders. Furthermore, it is believed that if citizens are aware of the location of the offender upon release they will feel safer and know how to keep their children away from these offenders (Corrigan, 2006;. ...
... The main intention was to minimize recidivism and protect children from violent sex offenders. Following the incident of Megan's death there was widespread belief that if sex offenders were tracked then citizens would be able to protect their children from becoming victims of these offenders (Corrigan, 2006;. However, this ideology creates a misconception that just by tracking offenders, children will be safer. ...
... This continues to be fixed on matters such as predatory and stranger assault, despite the continuing evidence that it is familial assault which leads to a far greater number of (vulnerable) victims -and even features very highly in a large number of politically sensitive serious further offence cases. Corrigan (2006) has written about how sex offender registration in New Jersey (Megan Kanka's home state) tends to exclude virtually all familial or acquaintance abusers. This is because they mostly score zero on the risk scale and thus are outside registration requirements. ...
... Understanding the vagaries of human behaviour and the distinctiveness of their actions, which made Prins (1988) suggest that there were only 300 to 400 truly dangerous people in the country, appears to be increasingly squeezed out of everyday practice. People skills are required less than an ability to construct and monitor a plan based upon bureaucratically derived risk indicators, which, as noted earlier by Corrigan (2006), may omit significant numbers of potentially dangerous people. It is worrying if there is an assumption abroad that risk is something to be managed without really knowing as much as possible about the offender and his history (Madden, 2007, pp. ...
Article
Since 1999 the pages of this journal have periodically carried articles based on the idea of a ‘polibation’ officer, or variants on that theme. The idea arose from the possible outcomes of increasingly closer collaboration between police and probation services under the public protection umbrella. Eight years on it is evident that, in a variety of settings, roles have been established which take individual practitioners some way from their roots in terms of professional practice and culture. This article briefly revisits this process and explores the pros and cons of fused roles. It concludes with the announcement of a split in the functions of the Home Office which results, at least on paper, in a decoupling of police and probation services. The future of the polibation officer is considered in this light.
... According to the moral panic literature, sex offender law has grown from shifts in cultural values, including changes in public attitudes regarding proper sexual behavior, protection of children, and retributive punitive motives (e.g., Jenkins, 1998;Garland, 2001;Sample & Kadleck, 2008;Simon, 1998). Also, scholars have identified several adverse consequences related to SORN (e.g., Levenson, 2008;Tewksbury, 2005;Tewksbury & Jennings, 2010; while evaluations of its effectiveness in achieving a myriad of goals have been, at best, mixed (e.g., Corrigan, 2006;Levenson & D'Amora, 2007;Welchans, 2005;Zevitz & Farkas, 2000a). Therefore, many have concluded that SORN laws are largely symbolic in nature (Jenkins, 1998;Meloy et al., 2007;Sample et al., 2011); that is, SORN laws may be primarily intended to assuage public concerns over sexual victimization by legislatively responding to a societal problem with little regard to the actual consequences of the policy. ...
... SORN laws are frequently presented as legislative efforts to reduce sex offending, either through general or specific deterrent effects (Freeman & Sandler, 2010;Jenkins, 1998;Sutherland, 1950aSutherland, , 1950b. Researchers have repeatedly questioned the effectiveness of SORN laws in achieving these goals (Adkins, Huff, & Stageberg, 2009;Corrigan, 2006;Craun & Theriot, 2009;Levenson & D'Amora, 2007;Sandler et al., 2008;Schram & Malloy, 2006;Welchans, 2005;Zgoba et al., 2009). It has been noted, however, that these registries may have other instrumental goals, such as allowing the public to monitor concerning individuals in their communities and aid police in sex crime investigations (Rudin, 1996;Sample & Kadleck, 2008). ...
Thesis
Of the growing body of research focusing on criminal justice policy, we have generally overlooked change in the policy process, which can speak to the evolving purposes and operations of crime responses. This dissertation explores policy change through variation in the content of one type of criminal justice policy — Sex Offender Registration and Notification (SORN) — both within and across states over time. A thematic content analysis of SORN laws from 50 US states documented the ways SORN legislative content have varied over time. Several typologies and themes emerged, which enhanced our understanding of the purposes and meaning underlying the evolution of SORN laws. Further, anomalies to existing explanations of criminal justice policy process were present in the timing and nature of SORN policy change observed in this dissertation. The variation in the content of SORN laws identified here should offer a foundation for future research and theory development regarding policy change for sex offender laws specifically and criminal justice policy more broadly.
... Systematically, these laws have toughened the punitive response to sexual offenders by implementing new standards for community notification and reflect a broader anxiety about sexual offenders that reflects their framing as abnormal, psychopathic strangers. Given the support for Megan's Law, it would seem likely it was based upon the most pervasive type of sexual violence (Corrigan, 2006;Levenson, Brannon, Fortney, & Baker, 2007;Tewksbury & Mustaine, 2013). However, sexual assault statistics challenge this assumptionmost sexual offenders are not strangers. ...
... These traditional views returned with the advent of the sexual predator laws, such as the Three Strikes Law and Megan's Law. By drawing on the concept of the sexual predator, older meanings of sexual violence were resurrected with these cases (Corrigan, 2006). ...
Article
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Sexual violence remains a pervasive and persistent social problem. In 1996, Congress enacted Megan’s Law, dictating mandatory community notification and potential civil commitment for those deemed by the State to be dangerous sexual offenders. In 2013, Megan’s Law continues to influence the treatment of sexual offenders under law and the social construction of a highly publicized, yet statistically rare, sexual crime – the rape and murder of a young female child by a depraved male stranger. This influence highlights the extent to which this personalized crime bill shapes the social construction of sexual violence in terms of sex and gender systems. This paper examines how sex and gender shape media discourses of the sexual offender and victim that are mobilized in the legislative debate on Megan’s Law. Drawing on theoretical ideas from cultural studies and feminist legal scholarship, we employ discourse analysis to analyze the legislative debate on Megan’s Law. We find that high-profile media images of sex offenders and victims are relied on to construct a singular image of sexual violence, whereby a child is victimized by an adult sexual predator. These images draw on traditional, conservative notions of gender and sexuality.
... Megan's Law creates shame, exclusion, and stigmatization of sexual predators. At the same time, it has been considered the most significant advancement made in rape law reform in the past 40 years (Corrigan, 2006). ...
... All other offenders register once a year. If an offender fails to register, it is considered a criminal act (Corrigan, 2006). ...
... Some who have studied sex offender laws have concluded that these laws are symbolic efforts with a variety of unproductive indirect consequences. For example, sex offender laws divert attention from the real causes of sexual assault (Corrigan 2006) and other social issues (Horowitz 2015), perpetuate sustained public attention to sex offending over time (Burchfield, Sample, and Lytle 2014), and make people feel safer despite any evidence of their effectiveness in reducing future offenses (Sample 2011). These effects align with other research on the causes, effects, and constitutive properties of symbolic law. ...
... However, if the underlying misconceptions about sex offending that motivate proposed legislation remain unquestioned, future misguided policies will probably succeed. As Corrigan (2006) argues, sex offender laws frame policymaking and public discourse about the causes of sexual violence in ways that undermine feminist rape law reforms. As long as legislative debates perpetuate false beliefs that strangers most often perpetrate sexual violence and that sex offenders have high rates of recidivism, legislators will continue to propose a range of ineffective regulations to assuage the public's fear of identified sex offenders. ...
Article
Sex offender residence restrictions are largely symbolic laws that address constituent demands to do something about sex crimes without actually reducing sex offenses. While the majority of U.S. states have implemented such restrictions, this exploratory study examines three states that have resisted the allure of these symbolic laws. Using data from state government archives, we analyze expressive and instrumental rationales for rejecting residence restrictions to explore what facilitates the failure of a symbolic law. We find that while supporters and opponents both made largely instrumental arguments, opponents framed their instrumental arguments in expressive terms. Legislators' policy positions, reliance on empirical evidence, and testimony from bureaucrats also contributed to the failure of residence restrictions in these states. Our findings help explain why empirically ineffective sex offender laws appeal to the public and politicians, how these laws might be scaled back, and how symbolic laws may lose their power in some contexts. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
... year-old Megan Kanka in July 1994. Her neighbor lured her into his home, where Megan was raped and then murdered (Corrigan, 2006). This event was horrible enough as it was. ...
... Scholars have effectively criticized sex offense registries as a type of patriarchal retaliation for early feminist efforts to reform rape law. 72 Our collective inability, then, to apprehend their true natures (both in terms of their punitive impact, but as well as their ineffectiveness at preventing sexual harm) complicates our collective efforts to address the problem of sexual violence in our society. ...
Article
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Many have considered the conversation sparked by #MeToo as a necessary and overdue interrogation of not only the spectre of common sexual harms in American society, but also the inadequacy of traditional mechanisms of accountability. Against this backdrop, smaller-scale flashpoints have erupted over perceived inadequacy of punishment, such as the successful campaign to recall California judge Aaron Persky from the bench over what many saw as leniency in the widely-publicized case of People v. Turner. This paper analyzes the complex relationship between #MeToo and the carceral state. In arguably the most punitive nation on the planet— particularly when considering the breadth and scope of public post- conviction registries—I argue that seeking to address broad and systemic failures of accountability by advocating for more severe punishment paradoxically undermines the larger goals of #MetToo to the extent that those goals are concerned with effectively challenging systems that perpetuate sexual harms. An approach that harmonizes efforts to prevent sexual harms and bring those who cause harm to account without endorsement of carceral politics is explored.
... Estos a su vez derivan de la expansión del neoliberalismo y el declive del Estado de bienestar. La nueva gobernanza global también ha difundido una representación medicalizada y tecnificada de la violencia contra las mujeres, que junto con la noción liberal de la responsabilidad individual, han contribuido al posicionamiento del derecho penal y otras formas de control social como instrumentos adecuados para proteger derechos fundamentales (Bernstein, 2012;Bumiller, 2008;Corrigan, 2006;Gotell, 1998;Halley et al., 2006). ...
... S ociologists have studied many aspects of sexual assault, including organizational conditions that facilitate its perpetration (Armstrong, hamilton, and Sweeney 2006;Beichner and Spohn 2005;Keenan 2013), limitations in criminal justice processing (Corrigan 2006;Frohmann 1991;Konradi 1996), and cultural dynamics that normalize such gendered violence (Gavey 2005;hlavka 2014b). This vast body of research confirms that sexual assault remains an intractable social problem (Armstrong, Gleckman-Krut, and Johnson 2018). ...
Article
Sociologists have identified many factors that mitigate the progressive effects of the legal mobilization to end sexual violence. Within this body of research, however, there is little interrogation about the social construction of sexual harm. I use the case of child sexual abuse to investigate how prosecutors make sense of sexual harm. Data are qualitative interviews with 43 prosecutors. Findings reveal that prosecutors use a framework of sexual identity to construct sexual injury on the child’s body. The perceived harm centers on the anticipated loss of the child’s heterosexual potential. Girl victims are thought to grow into sexual promiscuity, and boy victims are thought to grow into sex offenders. Prosecutorial constructions of child sexual abuse cases are future-oriented, which increases their urgency, and these constructions also imagine the child as a person in formation, rather than a fully actualized person with intrinsic rights. In revealing how the state of sexual victimization is not only deeply gendered but also heteronormative, this research has theoretical implications for childhood studies, queer studies, and anti-violence advocacy.
... Statistically, adult and juvenile victims of sexual assault are most likely to be victimized by a family member or an acquaintance (Finkelhor, 2012;Truman & Morgan, 2016). Megan's Law, however, places focus on the idea of "stranger danger" and the group least likely to be perpetrators of sexual assault (Corrigan, 2006). ...
Article
The 1990s saw societal interest in the management of sex offenders in the community increase as the media reported sensationalized cases of child abductions and sexual abuse. The most notable policy to emerge out of this period was Megan’s Law, which required publicly accessible sex offender registries and community notification practices. Since the policy’s enactment, questions have been raised about how successful Megan’s Law is in reducing sexual victimization. In the current study, a systematic review of 20 years of research on Megan’s Law is presented. Twenty-two peer-reviewed articles were identified that address the issue of the effectiveness of Megan’s Law in three ways: Megan’s Law and sex crime rates, Megan’s Law and sexual recidivism, and failure to register as a sex offender and recidivism. Analyses of the identified literature reveals that, in 20 years, little evidence has been discovered that Megan’s Law is an effective policy.
... Thus, DNA evidence may shift some cases towards defenses that are harder on victims. On a broader level, the resolution of identity disputes with the authority of science may have the effect of diminishing the seriousness with which the justice system takes non-stranger sexual assaults (Corrigan, 2006). The seemingly magical power of DNA to provide virtually irrefutable evidence against stranger rapists with no plausible consent defenses may shift prosecutorial interest, attention, and resources away from more difficult acquaintance rape cases. ...
Article
New technology is changing the administration of criminal justice. Among the most prominent of such changes is the development of forensic DNA technology, which includes a forensic assay with potentially enormous discrimination and sensitivity and the development of large databases based on that assay. This article considers the likely impact of DNA technology on the race, class, and gender inequalities that are acknowledged facets of the American criminal justice system. The article focuses on two major consequences of the development of DNA technology: the increasing, though still modest, reliance on DNA recovered from scenes to investigate crimes; and the rise of large criminal identification databases based on genetic profiles. It is often suggested that DNA is an egalitarian technology that will have a leveling effect on criminal justice administration. Although DNA technology does mitigate inequality in some cases, it may also exacerbate inequality in less obvious ways.
... Two years after the passing of the Jacob Wetterling Act, President William J. with a plastic bag that was placed over her head (Corrigan, 2006). Prior to Megan's Law, law enforcement had discretion as to whom the registered sex offenders' information was ….. ...
Research
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The current study consisted of 270 males who are or were incarcerated in one correctional facility in New Jersey. The results demonstrated nearly half the sample shared a household with their victim, and nearly half of sex offenders were related to their victim by blood or marriage. Although it was revealed most sex offenders resided within 2,500 feet of one of the restricted landmarks, after examining the methods offenders used to meet victims, and how far offenders traveled to meet or establish contact with victims, residing near restricted landmarks did not contribute to an offender’s ability to access victims.
... During the 1970s, sexual violence was again brought to the forefront as a serious social issue, but this time, there was more of an emphasis on the rights of victims. Feminists and women's groups sought to change the definition of rape to include groups that were denied access to the criminal justice system (males and married women), encompass other offenses that were not considered rape at the time (incest, acquaintance rape, marital rape), and to eliminate barriers to prosecution (e.g., "utmost resistance" requirements) (Corrigan, 2006). In response to calls for reform, legislation surrounding sexual violence underwent changes. ...
... For example, harms caused by sex offenses have the power to incur great physical and psychological distress on victims and their families (Shapland & Hall, 2007). As such, there are rational reasons for supporting policies that regulate ICSO behavior, as finding effective methods to protect community safety from such harms is a logical extensions of public concerns (Corrigan, 2006). Yet, System II processing does not appear to explain moral panic toward ICSO and what might be considered "irrational" support for sex offender management policies known to have little empirical support for protecting the public. ...
Article
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The current study explores if and how dual-process thinking styles (System I/experiential and System II/rational processing) predict and explain the degree to which members of the public express moral panic toward and support for existing sex offender management policies (registration, notification, residence restrictions), regardless of their efficacy or effects on recidivism rates, for different types of individuals who commit sex offenses (sex offender, juvenile sex offender, cyber sex offender, female sex offender, rapist, child molester). Online experimental methods were used with a lay sample (N = 324). Results show that the extent to which participants exhibited a reliance on System I processing significantly predicted their feelings of moral panic (concern, hostility, and volatility) toward individuals classified as child molesters. Further, feelings of concern, hostility, and volatility, as significant predictors of support for existing sex offender management policies for individuals classified as child molesters, were found to increase as a function of participants’ reliance on the System I, experiential thinking style. Implications of this work, specifically related to addressing public support for existing sex offender management policies for individuals classified as child molesters, are discussed.
Article
Modern technology has made two sorts of previously private information widely available in the past decade: Information about individual's past actions and activities, often contained in government files, consumer credit histories, and advertising profiles; and Feedback information about individual's reputations and preferences, often contained in social networking sites' pages, eBay feedback scores or Slashdot karma scores. In the coming decade, wearable computing devices and advances in network technologies have the potential to transform completely the way that strangers interact with each other and consumers interact with service providers. This paper is the first to ask systematically how the law should respond to the newly widespread availability of this information. The paper develops a hopeful hypothesis, which is that the widespread availability of personal history and reputation information will reduce individuals' reliance on easily observable proxies like race, gender, and age, in deciding with whom to socialize or do business. The government thus has an unrecognized anti-discrimination tool at its disposal. For example, in addition to imposing liability on landlords who discriminate on the basis of race, the state can provide landlords with personalized information about a prospective tenant's attributes that allows the landlord to assign more weight to those attributes and less weight to the tenant's race. The paper then explores the application of this insight to varied antidiscrimination challenges in employment law, jury selection, health law, and insurance regulation. It then extends the discussion to examine how the widespread availability of personal information might improve immigration policy and consumer protection law. The paper's next part examines the variables that will determine whether the optimistic story plays out, and whether greater information availability might undermine welfarist and distributive goals. It develops a typology of curtains and search lights, respective strategies designed to obscure individual attributes that are otherwise visible or render observable attributes that would otherwise be obscure, and explains why search light strategies might be particularly well suited to certain contexts. The paper concludes with a discussion of the normative case for the government to supplement traditional antidiscrimination laws with information-based antidiscrimination strategies, focusing on the pathologies that result when privacy protections or other obscurity-inducing measures are used for distributive purposes and the social meaning of strategies that try to reduce discrimination by providing decisionmakers with more information about job seekers, apartment renters, jurors, or patients.
Article
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Over the past several years, feminism has been increasingly associated with crime control and the incarceration of men. In apparent lock-step with the movement of the American penal system, feminists have advocated a host of reforms to strengthen state power to punish gender-based crimes. In the rape context, this effort has produced mixed results. Sexual assault laws that adopt prevailing views of criminality and victimhood, such as predator laws, enjoy great popularity. However, reforms that target the difficulties of date rape prosecutions and seek to counter gender norms, such as rape shield and affirmative consent laws, are controversial, sporadically-implemented, and empirically unsuccessful. After decades of using criminal law as the primary vehicle to address sexualized violence, the time is ripe for feminists to reassess continued involvement in rape reform. This Article cautions feminists to weigh carefully any purported benefits of reform against the considerable philosophical and practical costs of criminalization strategies before considering making further investments of time, resources, and intellect in rape reform. In advancing this caution, the Article systematically catalogues the existing intra-feminist critiques of rape reform and discusses reasons why these critiques have proven relatively ineffective at reversing the punitive course of reform. The Article then crafts a separate philosophical critique of pro-prosecution approaches by exposing the tension between the basic tenets of feminism and those animating the modern American penal state. Finally, it discusses why purported cultural and utilitarian benefits from rape reform cannot outweigh the destructive effect criminalization efforts have on feminist discourse and the feminist message. The Article concludes that feminists should begin the complicated process of disentangling feminism’s important anti-sexual coercion stance from a criminal justice system currently reflective of hierarchy and unable to produce social justice.
Article
In recent years, parents, educators, and the media have expressed a rising concern about the prevalence of bullying in our schools. In particular, this concern has been brought to the forefront with the emergence of “cyberbullying” and “sexting”. In response to this perceived epidemic of poor student behavior, legislatures and school officials have adopted a variety of new laws and search policies. Most notably, they have adopted policies that give school officials the authority to search students’ electronic communication devices. This article narrates these developments, assesses their impact on the lives of students and the culture of our schools and then locates them in broader trends in schooling, parenting, and policing. More specifically, this article explores the degree to which our sharp spike in concern over traditional bullying, cyberbullying, and sexting, and our resort to the surveillance of student devices as a response to such a concern, reflects important lessons about our collective conception of student privacy, about the expectations that parents have of the role that school will play in their children’s lives, and about the transformation of public schools into public institutions focused on criminal law and criminal-law-like approaches to perceived social problems. When analyzed in cultural context, our schools’ initial response to concerns about cyberbullying and sexting is disquieting. Though understandable — indeed even predictable — the approaches we have thus far chosen do not reflect considered policy supported by empirical evidence, but, rather, one more step in the reorientation of American institutions generally, and public schools specifically, towards the reflexive adoption of surveillance and punishment as the response to any potentially serious problem.
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The present study adds to the existing empirical literature on sex offending by examining the effectiveness of a variety of sexual offender laws passed between the two decades of 1990 and 2010. This study used a sample of 1129 sexual offenders released from New Jersey state correctional facilities during these two decades of legislative focus. Specific attention is paid to the four common themes of the legislation, including sexual offender registration and notification, civil commitment, residence restrictions, and risk designation. When each law isanalyzed using its specific purpose and application process, and then compared to a sample of sex offense cases, it becomes apparent that the laws do not apply to a wide percentage of sex offense cases. The researchers conclude that the laws have little preventive capability. The implications of this finding are discussed.
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A growing empirical literature examines the role of incarceration in labor market outcomes and economic inequality more broadly. Devah Pager's book, Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration (2007), offers compelling evidence that employment opportunities for former prisoners—especially black former prisoners—are bleak. I review Pager's methods and findings, place them in the context of previous work, and discuss the relation of race to a criminal record. I then explore several lines of related research that investigate the increasing reach of criminal punishment into various social realms. One goal of this essay is to draw research on economic inequality into the law and society literature.
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Using recent work by anti-prison theorists and community-based activists who are working against the prison industrial complex, this article links prison abolition to feminist frameworks to question escalating sex offender registries and community notification laws that are the state’s response to sexual violence against children and women. Part one offers a brief and queer history of sex offender registries in the United States and their growth in the last two decades, the available data on who assaults children and women. Part one will also use existing research to question the goal of safety that these registries advance. Part two builds on this foundation to use current shifts in the juvenile justice system to investigate how race, class, and gender complicate who has access to the protected categories of childhood and motherhood, and to the characteristic of innocence. Part three examines how sex offender registries participate in the larger practices of the privatization of public space and the expanding prison industrial complex. Part four concludes by using abolition as a possible framework to shift public dialogues about safety and conceptions about childhood and family, and discusses organizations that work within this framework to challenge our nation’s over-reliance on incarceration.
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In February 2007, two teenage brothers were each sentenced to ten years in prison for burglary and animal cruelty after they broke into a community center and killed a puppy by baking it to death in the center's gas oven. Just one week earlier, a thirty-year-old mother named Amanda Hamm was sentenced for helping her boyfriend kill her three young children. The children drowned after Hamm and her boyfriend intentionally rolled their car into a lake with the children strapped inside. What sentence did Hamm receive for the brutal deaths of these three innocent children ? Ten years in prison.
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Activists try to use high profile trials to promote their policy agendas, occasionally succeeding in promoting policy reforms. There are many high profile trials but few successful reform efforts. If the drama and spotlight of a high profile trial creates an opportunity for activists pressing a cause, it is one that is only occasionally exploited successfully. Here our goal is to understand why activists are sometimes successful in using a high profile trial to promote a policy agenda, believing this investigation will shed light on the policy process in general, agenda setting in particular, and the dynamics of activism in the United States. We begin by reviewing relevant literature on agenda setting and social problem construction, conceptualizing high profile trials as “critical events” that offer activists a chance to advance their agendas. We next outline the case of the feminist movement against sexual violence as a particularly useful example of activists trying to use trials for their own political purposes. Using events data from the New York Times and secondary treatments of thirteen high profile sex crimes trials from 1970-1997, we examine the factors that help or hinder activists’ efforts to use the public attention of a trial to forward their cause. We will see that both the nature of the particular case and the political context surrounding it affect the likelihood that a movement gains control of its meaning and secures policy reform. We conclude with a discussion of what this analysis says about activists and the policy process, calling for more research on the world outside a high profile trial.
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This article discusses the problem of ending child sexual abuse using an allegory explaining that certain types of punitive solutions as solving the river "downstream", or in problem-solving mode, as opposed to "upstream", or in prospective problem avoidance. The thesis of this brief article is that our public policy is focused too far downstream. We rightly condemn child sexual abuse, but our public discourse frames the issue in a way that misdirects our public policy towards downstream solutions. If we truly want to protect our children from sexual abuse and end the cycle of violence, we need to reframe the way we seek solutions so that more of our resources and creative problem-solving are at the upstream end of the problem. We need to find out where the the problem is dropped into the river - and why - so that we can address it before it harms children. This article encourages a reframing of the issue of child sexual abuse to address the problem more comprehensively and systematically. Part I is an introduction explaining the allegory and indicating how our current paradigm of child sexual abuse leads us astray in directing resources intended prevent child sexual abuse. Part II of this article delves into the origins of contemporary sexual predator laws, briefly tracing their roots in the feminist and conservative movements at the end of the twentieth century. Part III outlines the resulting legislation. Part IV examines the disconnect between the policy underlying sexual predator laws and the realities of child sexual abuse. Finally, Part V offers an alternative frame for addressing the issue of child sexual abuse.
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Feminism and prison abolitionism are not theoretically or politically homogenous, and yet in their mainstream versions they are often situated at polar ends of the debate on how to respond to domestic and sexualised violence. The disproportionately gendered nature of sexualised and interpersonal violence has largely centralised such abuses in feminist movements. However, histories of abolitionism – particularly in continental Europe – have largely failed to address the severity of this violence and its impacts. In this article, we highlight the implications of so‐called ‘carceral’ feminism on ending sexualised and interpersonal violence, while addressing key – and reasonable – critiques of abolitionism. Our central argument is that criminal justice has failed to significantly reduce and/or end sexualised or interpersonal violence. As such, we explore feminist‐centred, restorative, and transformative alternatives, not only to prison, but to societies that continue to embed systematic levels of sexualised and interpersonal violence.
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In June 2006 a 16-year-old Michigan girl reached an airport in Jordan in her attempt to visit a boyfriend she met on Myspace, 20-year-old Ali from the West Bank town of Jericho. The national media attention to this relationship begins with fears that Ali was an online predator, moves to stories of the pair as star-crossed lovers and constructions of Ali as a dangerous Arab terrorist, and ends with the conclusion that Ali was simply a bad boyfriend. I examine the media representations of this atypical case to illustrate the need to denaturalize and challenge typical constructions of sexual danger as embodied in racialized and pathologized figures such as the online predator. © The Author(s) 2014 Reprints and permissions: sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav.
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On February 7, 1989, Earl Kenneth Shriner was convicted of kidnapping, raping, mutilating, and attempting to murder a 7-year-old boy in Tacoma, Washington. Shriner had a 24-year history of sexual violence, and had recently been released from prison after expiration of a prison term for kidnapping and assault of two teenage girls. Shriner has been described as a “slightly retarded man with a bizarre physical appearance” (Petrunick 1994, 57). His physical appearance seemed to suggest an inner strangeness, a psychological otherness that seemed to explain his appalling conduct (Petrunick 1994). It somehow made sense that a man who looked like Shriner would commit sexually violent acts. Mental retardation and physical ugliness have often suggested sexual deviance in literature, as in William Faulkner’s mentally retarded character Benji in the Sound and the Fury, who was castrated after being accused of raping a young girl. Benji is emblematic of our anxieties about sexual innocence and mental disabilities (Tilley 1955).
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An essay on how the term "sex offender" is functionally meaningless, and invites policy responses that are out of step with the reality of sexual harm. These policy responses, in turn, hobble our efforts to reckon with sexual harm, foreclose accountability and redemption, and elide more effective approaches.
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In the wake of rape law reforms, lack of sexual consent emerged as a key element that defined sexual contact as criminal. Its presence modified the requirement of force or threat of violence, and it gained traction in campaigns to eradicate sexual assault. Little is known, however, about how prosecutors assess consent. In this article, I use the case of statutory rape to better understand the legal construction of sexual consent. By focusing on an age-based class of individuals who are sexually mature but still under the age of consent, I show how legal actors identify sexual victimization among youth. Drawing on interviews with forty-three prosecutors, I analyze prosecutorial decision making during the investigation, charging, and trial phases. I find that sexual consent is not simply a dichotomous legal category but rather a sociological process. Prosecutors define sexual victimization based on informal ideas about normative adolescent sexuality, reproducing social hierarchies based on age, gender, and sexual identity.
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Children remain largely absent from sociolegal scholarship on sexual violence. Taking an intersectional approach to the analysis of attorneys’ strategies during child sexual assault trials, this article argues that legal narratives draw on existing gender, racial, and age stereotypes to present legally compelling evidence of credibility. This work builds on Crenshaw’s focus on women of color, emphasizing the role of structures of power and inequality in constituting the conditions of children’s experiences of adjudication. Using ethnographic observations of courtroom jury trials, transcripts, and court records, three narrative themes of child credibility emerged: invisible wounds, rebellious adolescents, and dysfunctional families. Findings show how attorneys use these themes to emphasize the child’s unmarked body, imperceptible emotional responses, rebellious character, and harmful familial environments. The current study fills a gap in sexual assault research by moving beyond trial outcomes to address cultural narratives within the court that are inextricably embedded in intersectional dimensions of power and the reproduction of social status.
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Exempt from the current bipartisan reassessment of the US carceral state are people with convictions for sex offenses. While movements against public registries for sex offenders are scant, a grassroots movement is underway. This article offers a preliminary analysis of the complex consequence of women's political work to extract their sons from the US carceral state. This gendered advocacy is mapped against shifts in the racialised US criminal justice system, where the fluid category of child/juvenile is often unavailable to youth of colour and/or queer youth, and criminalisation is offered to regulate sexuality, consent, age and potential harm.
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New formulations and responses to classic questions have emerged in recent feminist thinking on the relationship between gender and consumption. One instance of this is the work of Abigail Bray on the damage caused by the media sexualisation of girls. She offers important insights into some problems with the discourse of media and sexual empowerment, and also critically considers the social distinction that such an discourse tends to confer. This article offers a sympathetic account of her argument, but also moves beyond Bray to express concerns regarding the class and race codings of the discourse of childhood innocence.
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As public awareness of and concern about sexual victimization has increased in recent decades, stigmatization of sex offenders has also increased considerably. Contemporary sex offender policies transform discrete criminal behaviors into lifelong social identities. Although there is much debate about the efficacy and constitutionality of such policies, we know little about how the category of “sex offender” is constituted in the first place. In this article, I reveal how prosecutors and defense attorneys construct sex offenders, not as monsterous or racialized as is commonly thought, but as “lower class” men. This analysis is based on 30 in-depth interviews with prosecutors and defense attorneys in Michigan. These legal actors wield disproportionate power in defining the boundaries of criminal behaviors and individuals. That they associate sexual criminality with lower class men demonstrates yet another way that class-based inequalities are reproduced in the legal field.
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The 2011 trial of Casey Anthony for the murder of her child, Caylee, dominated media, public, and political attention in the United States. Anthony’s acquittal prompted many lawmakers to rally around “Caylee’s Law,” legislation that criminalizes the failure to report a missing child. This article considers the political rhetoric of Caylee’s Law by qualitatively evaluating statements made by state policymakers across the United States for the 12 months following Anthony’s acquittal. Policymakers’ rhetoric on Caylee’s Law exemplified the tendency to mobilize political action around “triggering events” through claims-making, to justify new penal legislation on the basis of worst case scenarios and public fears, and to demonize the accused in ways that reaffirm social solidarity in the face of heinous crimes. Policymakers used a variety of interconnected techniques to make claims about child protection, to justify the need for Caylee’s Law, and to label and degrade Casey Anthony.
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The enactment of sexual violence is a key mechanism in the reproduction of masculinity. Yet most previous research examines the victimization of women and girls, even though men and boys do sometimes experience sexual violence. I take the case of sexual bullying on a high school athletic team to investigate the legal construction of teenaged boys’ sexual victimization. I examine the police investigation and subsequent prosecution of five youths who were charged with felonies related to sexual bullying. Data are threefold: 1) audio recordings of police detective interviews with 21 witnesses; 2) in-depth interviews with three attorneys who worked on the case; and 3) media reports about the case. This is an innovative approach because there is little knowledge about the analytical logics of sex crime investigations, as scholarly research often focuses on legal outcomes. Findings show that key actors involved in the case, including many of the boys, were ultimately able to contain the stigmatizing threat of male-male sexual bullying by invoking a discourse of comedy and friendship. This research has theoretical implications for masculinity studies, sociology of law, and scholarship on sexual assault.
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It was in big-city municipal government that American gays and lesbians first won political power. This article reinterprets the rise of urban gay politics, emphasizing the complex and changing relationship between gay activists, policing, and the politics of law and order. Drawing on evidence and examples from Chicago, Stewart-Winter examines such developments as the decline of gay bar raids, the implementation of police sensitivity training programs, clashes between police and AIDS activists, and the hiring of openly gay police officers. He argues that developments in the late twentieth century set the stage for more recent tensions within LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) movements, as activists of color challenged the reconciliation between state power and predominantly white activist organizations.
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Rape law reform has long been hailed as one of the most successful projects of second-wave feminism. Yet forty years after the anti-rape movement emerged, legal and medical institutions continue to resist implementing reforms intended to provide more just and compassionate legal and medical responses to victims of sexual violence. In Up Against a Wall, Rose Corrigan draws on interviews with over 150 local rape care advocates in communities across the United States to explore how and why mainstream systems continue to resist feminist reforms. In a series of richly detailed case studies, the book weaves together scholarship on law and social movements, feminist theory, policy formation and implementation, and criminal justice to show how the innovative legal strategies employed by anti-rape advocates actually undermined some of their central claims. But even as its more radical elements were thwarted, pieces of the rape law reform project were seized upon by conservative policy-makers and used to justify new initiatives that often prioritize the interests and rights of criminal justice actors or medical providers over the needs of victims.
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This paper provides a comparative case study of the ways that sex offender registration requirements (commonly known as 'Megan's Law' statutes) influence criminal case processing in sexual assault cases. The study draws on interviews from 120 county-based rape crisis centers in six states to compare how registration mandates are implemented both within and across states. The breadth and severity of statutes intersect with local legal culture to produce disparate responses which may either enhance or obstruct prosecution of sexual assault cases. Some prosecutors use registration to vigorously pursue accused sex offenders while others perceive the laws as unjustly punitive and drop or reduce charges in order to avoid triggering registration requirements. Prosecutors in many jurisdictions see the mandates as undermining their ability to get good plea bargain or trial outcomes, even as others play on public fears and outrage about sex offenders as a way to overcome low jury conviction rates in sexual assault cases. In assessing the impact of the registration statutes advocates not only offer important perspectives about the effects of these laws on rape victims, but also provide trenchant critiques of the ways that local responses to registration statutes illustrate, mask, and justify persistent failures in the criminal justice response to sexual violence.
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Ces articles debattent des reflexions theoriques et empiriques concernant les discours de victimisation des femmes par rapport au viol. Les AA. se penchent ici sur les theories feministes existentes et plus particulierement de l'inluence des theories post-modernes sur la condition feminine
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Complaint filing is a critical stage in the prosecution of a case, for here prosecutors decide which cases will go on for adjudication by the courts. A significant percentage of sexual assault cases never get beyond this stage in the criminal justice process. This paper examines prosecutorial accounts for sexual assault case rejection. A central feature of these accounts is discrediting the victim's rape allegation with the techniques of finding discrepancies in the victim's story and assuming ulterior motives for reporting the assault. The resources that prosecutors use to develop these techniques are official reports and records, typifications of rape-relevant behavior, and knowledge of the victim's personal life and criminal connections. Prosecutors' accounts reveal the indigenous logic of prosecutors' decisions to reject cases and the organizational structure in which these decisions are situated.
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The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) is committed to improving the justice system's response to crimes against children. OJJDP recognizes that children are at increased risk for crime victimization. Not only are children the vic- tims of many of the same crimes that victimize adults, they are subject to other crimes, like child abuse and neglect, that are specific to childhood. The impact of these crimes on young victims can be devastating, and the violent or sexual victimization of children can often lead to an intergenerational cycle of violence and abuse. The purpose of OJJDP's Crimes Against Children Series is to improve and expand the nation's efforts to better serve child victims by presenting the latest information about child victimization, including analyses of crime victimization statistics, studies of child victims and their spe- cial needs, and descriptions of programs and approaches that address these needs.
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In the last few years, new ways of punishing sex offenders have been introduced in many modern societies. However, these sanctions have a broader significance than this: they are part of a broader set of penal arrangements-directed at the criminal population as a whole-which represents a new punitiveness. This seems to be moving the direction of legal punishment beyond the established parameters that had hitherto been set for it in modern society. This had involved punishment becoming increasingly administered by penal bureaucracies, to the exclusion of the general public, being influenced by the opinion of penal experts, and becoming more tempered, consistent and purposeful in form. Sanctions that did not fit these criteria faded out of modern penality. The indeterminate prison sentence was introduced at its outer limits as a residual measure of control to be used against those offenders-frequently sex criminals-for whom the existing penal framework was thought inappropriate. Even so, by the 1970s, these special penal measures were falling into disuse. However, the new punitiveness has not only given new life to them, but has also led to the introduction of measures which seem to reverse or move beyond modernpenal parameters. The article argues that the reasons for these shifts lie in the profound economic and social changes that have taken place in Western societies over the course of the last two decades or so.
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Using data from the National Violence Against Women Survey, the authors examine whether rapes committed after reforms were more likely to be reported to police than those committed before reforms. The authors also consider whether the gap between the reporting of simple versus aggravated rape has narrowed. They find that rapes committed after 1990 were more likely to be reported than rapes occurring before 1974. Aggravated rape continues to be more likely to be reported than simple rape, however, and this effect is stable over time. The authors conclude by discussing the implications of these findings for evaluating the success of rape reform statutes.
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In this article, Professor Kennedy examines the tremendous increase in the severity of punishment in America in recent decades. He posits that criminal punishment has come to serve as a new civic religion of sorts for a society worried about its ability to cohere. The depth of our anxieties about our social solidarity, Kennedy argues, expresses itself in our monstrous conceptions of crime and in the corresponding severity of our punishment. His conclusion is that crime has come to serve as a rallying cry for a divided and insecure society, and that individuals and groups try to use punishment and the criminal justice system to send symbolic messages defining core values.
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"Getting tough on crime" has been one of the favorite rallying cries of American politicians in the last two decades, and "getting tough" on repeat offenders has been particularly popular. "Three strikes and you're out" laws, which effectively impose a twenty-five-years-to-life sentence at the moment of a third felony conviction, have been passed in twenty-six states. California's version of the "three strikes" law, enacted in 1994, was broader and more severe than measures considered or passed in any other state. This book provides an examination of the actual impact this law has had. This book looks at the origins of the law in California, compares it to other crackdown laws, and analyzes the data collected on crime rates in Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco in the year before and the two years after the law went into effect. Chapters show that the "three strikes" law was a significant development in criminal justice policy making, not only at the state level, but also at the national level. It concludes with an examination of the trend toward populist initiatives driving penal policy.
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Prior theory and research indicate that the victim-offender relationship is an important factor in determining how an offender is treated at various stages of the criminal justice system, with stranger offenders faring worse than nonstranger offenders in all stages of legal processing. This study investigates whether the victim-offender relationship plays a role in determining the original charge, the crime conviction, and the sentence length of inmates in prison for violent crimes. Data consist of interview and official record information of 273 sentenced and incarcerated violent male offenders. The results indicate that the victim-offender relationship is related to the legal processing, but in paradoxical ways. Thus, although nonstranger offenders are charged with and convicted of more serious crimes, stranger offenders receive significantly longer sentences. Implications for policy and future research are discussed.
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The diffusion of sexual psychopath laws has followed this course: a community is thrown into panic by a few serious sex crimes, which are given nation-wide publicity; the community acts in an agitated manner, and all sorts of proposals are made; a committee is then appointed to study the facts and to make recommendations. The committee recommends a sexual psychopath law as the scientific procedure for control of sex crime. This recommendation is consistent with the trend toward treatment policies in criminal justice in preference to policies of punishment.
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Using data from a nationally representative sample of 50 rape crisis centers, this article investigates the range of center types, services offered, staffing, involvement in community networks, funding and affiliation with criminal justice, counseling, and human services agencies. The evolution of the rape crisis center from the few prototype centers opened in 1972 to the many different models existing today is traced. The most important finding is that rape crisis centers today do not fall neatly into types. Rather, they have developed to fit their communities, making choices about whom to serve, where to locate a service, how to work with other agencies in the community, how, when, and where to do community education, and how to establish financial security. A decision about one such dimension does not necessarily predict what the decision will be about the other dimensions.
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Both convicted sex offenders and innocent citizens have experienced serious and negative consequences resulting from the implementation of the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act, passed in 1994, which included national sex offender registration laws, and Megan's Law, passed in 1996, requiring public notification of sex offender release. This paper reviews the predictions made by the author in 1996 regarding these laws and the negative impact documented since their implementation.
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Discussed in this Brief: The effects of Wisconsin's community notification statute that authorizes officials to alert residents about the release and reintegration of sex offenders in their communities, as perceived by residents, law enforcement, probation/parole agents, and sex offenders. Key issues: To prevent sexual vic- timization, States have enacted community notification laws to in- form residents when convicted sex offenders are relocated to live in their neighborhoods. However, the effects of such laws on community residents, law enforcement re- sources, parole and probation of- ficer resources, and offenders have not been studied. Each of these groups was surveyed to ascertain the effectiveness of notification laws, identify areas for further research, and highlight policy development concerns.
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Sex offenders were once taken to be exemplary of the underlying psychopathological basis of crime. Today their significance is very different. Rather than occasions for testing our modernist faith in scientific rationality, they have become a lesson in the intransigence of evil. Recent laws aimed at addressing sex offenders reflect a transformation in the penal process that has been called the "new penology." This new penology sees crime as a problem of managing high-risk categories and subpopulations, not normalizing individuals to community norms. Kansas v. Hendricks and recent cases upholding the constitutionality of "Megan's Law" open a window into the operation of the new penology and reveal the degree to which its features are largely immune from constitutional limits established by judicial review. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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This chapter is reprinted from Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, by Susan Brownmiller (1975). Krafft-Ebing, Freud, Adler, Jung, Deutsch, Horney, Marx, and Engels were mostly silent on the topic of rape as a social reality. So it remained for the latter-day feminists, free at last from the strictures that forbade us to look at male sexuality, to discover the truth and meaning in our own victimization. Critical to our study is the recognition that rape has a history, and that through the tools of historical analysis we may learn what we need to know about our current condition. The subject of rape has not been, for zoologists, an important scientific question. No zoologist has ever observed that animals rape in their natural habitat, the wild. But we do know that human beings are different. Man's structural capacity to rape and woman's corresponding structural vulnerability are as basic to the physiology of both our sexes as the primal act of sex itself. Man's discovery that his genitalia could serve as a weapon to generate fear must rank as one of the most important discoveries of prehistoric times, along with the use of fire and the first crude stone axe. Rape's critical function is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear. A reflective comment, by Claire M. Renzetti, on this chapter appears at the end of the chapter. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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The purpose of this paper is to make a case for a new political criminology—that is, to argue that a meaningful and coherent intellectual enterprise is developing across disciplinary lines. This new political criminology is distinctive in three ways: • It is criminology in that it is rooted in conceptions of, and concerns about, the ramifications of street crime. • It is political in that its focus is on the way crime control strategies both reflect and influence the distribution of power within the polity. • It is new in that it is influenced by postmodern understandings of, and disillusionment with, the liberal state.
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Floor speeches by legislators constitute an important body of legal rhetoric. This article studies the Megan's Law legislative floor debates in both the United States Congress and the New York state legislature. The article begins by setting out three practical purposes of legislative debate. First, it can influence voting decisions. Second, it educates and influences both the media and the voting public. Finally it provides a rich source of interpretive material for the judiciary. The article then sets out a naturalistic description of these speeches, comparing the two jurisdictions. Legislators in both Washington, DC and Albany argued for the new laws primarily by painting a grim picture of the status quo. They offered horrific accounts of individual child victimization, questionable statistical claims about the extent of the molestation and abduction crisis, and dehumanizing descriptions of child sexual offenders. Particularly within the U.S. Congress, legislators spent little time touting bills' virtues or rebutting the many possible criticisms of these controversial provisions. New York legislators, perhaps because of their greater political diversity, offered more nuanced critiques of the bills. The article then assesses legislators' rhetorical tropes and claims. Storytelling, for instance, presented both problems and benefits as a primary rhetorical tool for promoting the new social policy. And despite the apparent value of statistical proof, such empirical data was easily manipulated by savvy legislators. Many issues were underdeveloped during the Megan's Law debates. For example, while virtually all legislators spoke exclusively of white offenders and victims, legislators' rhetoric entirely excluded a discussion of the laws' likely disparate impact on African-Americans. Similarly, few legislators acknowledged that benefits of the law - if any were to be had - would flow almost entirely to suburban, and other low density, communities. Finally, the article considers how the Megan's Law debates educated the public, affected legislative voting, or shaped judicial interpretation of the bills. Because it concludes that the Megan's Law legislative debates did not optimally serve these three practical aims, the article evaluates new approaches to enriching the content of legislative debate. It argues that legislatures could appoint a public legislative advocate - the equivalent of a public defender, within the legislative context - or adopt new codes of debate. In any case, legislators should look for ways to improve and enhance the rhetoric of legislative debate.
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As a distinct class of criminals, sex offenders stand out as being particularly subject to the new “risk management” penal strategies that, according to a number of scholars, have come to dominate punishment rhetoric and practices in recent years. Nonetheless, the criminal justice policymaking that targets sex offenders appears to have a more emotionally based underside. In this paper, I examine the emotional drive that appears to undergird contemporary sex offender lawmaking, suggesting that a significant force propelling the current panoply of sex offender containment strategies is a constellation of emotional expressions of disgust, fear of contagion, and pollution avoidance, manifested in a legislative concern about boundary vulnerabilities between social spheres of the pure and the dangerous. To do so, I analyze the lawmaking discourse of U. S. legislators as they debated four proposed legislative bills directed at sex offenders during the late 1990s.
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To an unprecedented degree American society at the turn of the twentieth century is governed through crime. Nearly three percent of adults are in the custody of the correctional system. Crime and fear of crime enter into a large part of the fundamental decisions in life: where to live, how to raise your family, where to locate your business, where and when to shop, and so on. The crime victim has become the veritable outline of a new form of political subjectivity. This essay explores the complex entanglements of democracy and governing through crime. The effort to build democratic governance after the American Revolution was carried out in part through the problem of crime and punishment. Today, however, the enormous expansion of governing through crime endangers the effort to reinvent democracy for the twenty-first century.
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Combines intellectual and social history with collective biography to present the first historical study of the radical feminist movement in America. "A fine introduction to the bold, contentious, complicated women who categorically refused to be good little girls, and thereby changed the way our culture defines male-female relations." —Voice Literary Supplement "Daring to Be Bad offers the kind of critical attention that contemporary feminism has lacked." —The Nation "Far beyond mere nostalgic value, the enduring worth of Echols' book is as a resource, not only for the future women's studies courses, but for all who want to understand contemporary feminism. The book supplies essential background that explains the splits which persist in the feminist movement today. Cheers to Daring to Be Bad." —New Directions for Women "Daring to Be Bad is a welcome addition to feminist bookshelves. It breaks new ground, making creative use of extensive interviews and early feminist publications to recreate the environment that elicited and shaped radical feminism." —Sojourner "Daring to Be Bad is like a long consciousness-raising session: It prods, validates, and witnesses. Echols offers an oral history that is also an homage. We're given the benefit of a clear and honest eye cast over two decades' span of women working on that most influential social struggle toward liberation." —Village Voice "Daring to Be Bad is a valuable book that grapples with the diversity inherent within the women's movement while maintaining a critical stance throughout." —American Journal of Sociology "This fine and sympathetic interpretation of the origin and evolution of radical feminism will give students of women's history a glimpse of the passion of those hours and help explain why a new order did not emerge from them." American Historical Review "As the first major scholarly work on the history of the U.S. feminist movement, Daring to Be Bad makes an important contribution to the history of the politics of contemporary American feminism, providing a richly detailed history of that wing of the women's movement . . . ." —The Annals of the American Academy "Echols gives a rich, detailed history of radical feminism's heyday from 1967 to 1971 and offers the type of critical interpretation of the women's liberation movement that contemporary feminism has lacked." —Socialist Review "Daring to Be Bad is path-breakingbased on abundant and painstaking interviewing, as well as the tracking down and assembling of the ephemera of short-lived committees, cells, and association. Echols's writing is lucid, detailed, and extremely responsible." —American Quarterly Named an Outstanding Book on Intolerance in the U. S. by the Gustavus Myers Center
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"Everyone knows 'drunk driving' is a 'serious' offense. And yet, everyone knows lots of 'drunk drivers' who don't get involved in accidents, don't get caught by the police, and manage to compensate adequately for their 'drunken disability.' Everyone also knows of 'drunk drivers' who have been arrested and gotten off easy. Gusfield's book dissects the conventional wisdom about 'drinking-driving' and examines the paradox of a 'serious' offense that is usually treated lightly by the judiciary and rarely carries social stigma."—Mac Marshall, Social Science and Medicine "A sophisticated and thoughtful critic. . . . Gusfield argues that the 'myth of the killer drunk' is a creation of the 'public culture of law.' . . . Through its dramatic development and condemnation of the anti-social character of the drinking-driver, the public law strengthens the illusion of moral consensus in American society and celebrates the virtues of a sober and orderly world."—James D. Orcutt, Sociology and Social Research "Joseph Gusfield denies neither the role of alcohol in highway accidents nor the need to do something about it. His point is that the research we conduct on drinking-driving and the laws we make to inhibit it tells us more about our moral order than about the effects of drinking-driving itself. Many will object to this conclusion, but none can ignore it. Indeed, the book will put many scientific and legal experts on the defensive as they face Gusfield's massive erudition, pointed analysis and criticism, and powerful argumentation. In The Culture of Public Problems, Gusfield presents the experts, and us, with a masterpiece of sociological reasoning."—Barry Schwartz, American Journal of Sociology This book is truly an outstanding achievement. . . . It is sociology of science, sociology of law, sociology of deviance, and sociology of knowledge. Sociologists generally should find the book of great theoretical interest, and it should stimulate personal reflection on their assumptions about science and the kind of consciousness it creates. They will also find that the book is a delight to read."—William B. Bankston, Social Forces
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L'A. decrit l'histoire d'un centre de diagnostic et de traitement de criminels sexuels dans le New Jersey aux Etats-Unis et etudie le role de la connaissance psychiatrique dans le discours des delinquants sexuels durant de periode de 1949 a 1999
Judge Curbs Law on Sex Offenders. New York Times Megan's Law " Suffers Setback in Court Ruling
  • Robert Hanley
Hanley, Robert. 1995a. Judge Curbs Law on Sex Offenders. New York Times. January 5, 1995: A1. ——. 1995b. " Megan's Law " Suffers Setback in Court Ruling. New York Times. March 1, 1995: A1.
New Versions of Victims: Feminists Struggle with the Concept
  • Lamb
  • Sharon
Lamb, Sharon, ed. 1999. New Versions of Victims: Feminists Struggle with the Concept. New York: New York University Press.
Key Legislative Issues in Criminal Justice: Mandatory Sentencing
  • Parent
  • Terence Dale
  • Douglas Dunworth
  • William Rhodes Mcdonald
Parent, Dale, Terence Dunworth, Douglas McDonald, and William Rhodes. 1997. Key Legislative Issues in Criminal Justice: Mandatory Sentencing. Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Justice. Peter D. Hart Research Associates. 2002. Changing Public Attitudes toward the Criminal Justice System. New York: The Open Society Institute, U.S. Justice Fund.
Megan's Law: Can It Stop Sexual Predators–and at What Cost to Constitutional Rights?
  • Rudin
Rudin, Joel B. 1996. Megan's Law: Can It Stop Sexual Predators–and at What Cost to Constitutional Rights? Criminal Justice 11:3.
Pennsylvania's " Registration of Sexual Offenders " Statute: Can It Survive a Constitutional Challenge
  • Fernsler
Fernsler, Stephie-Anna Kapourales. 1998. Pennsylvania's " Registration of Sexual Offenders " Statute: Can It Survive a Constitutional Challenge? Duquesne University Law Review 36:563.
Rape and Sexual Assault: Reporting to Police and Medical Attention
  • Callie Marie Rennison
Rennison, Callie Marie. 2002. Rape and Sexual Assault: Reporting to Police and Medical Attention, 1992–2000.