Are We Being Smart About Sex Offenders?
A John Jay College professor explores whether laws that severely restrict the lives of thousands of sex offenders actually keep us safer.
It’s been five years since the enactment of the Adam Walsh Act, a federal law named for the murdered son of America’s Most Wanted host John Walsh that compels all 50 states to comply with a set of strict regulations for the registration and monitoring of sex offenders. Since passage, the deadline for compliance has been extended several times as states balked at some of the act’s more controversial elements. So far, only four are in compliance, with yet another deadline looming in July.
Why are so many states dragging their feet? According to John Jay College of Criminal Justice Professor Karen J. Terry, author of “A ‘Megan’s Law’ Sourcebook,” the answer may have more to do with tight state budgets than any particular ideology. Terry, whose essay, “What is Smart Sex Offender Policy?,” appears in the May issue of Criminology & Public Policy, spoke with The Crime Report’s Julia Dahl about whether monitoring sex offenders for life is really the best way to keep our kids safe from sexual predators.
The Crime Report: In your essay for Criminology & Public Policy you write that sex offender registration laws are “not based on a sound theoretical framework of crime prevention and control.” What are they based on?