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Monday, March 21, 2005

Megan's Law

Prompted by this post on Jeff Jarvis' Buzz Machine to revist the excellent "Megan's Law" website here in California, I must confess to being a little disconcerted by it's invitation to "Register with us!" ?

That aside, the site is enormously useful: not only can you quickly identify sex offenders who live close by - you can search by street address, zip code, proximity radius - but you can see where offenders live, see a photograph, and read their rap sheet. This latter fact is particularly useful, because it alleviates to some extent the otherwise binary nature of the register - any sex-related offense will classify a perp' as "sex offender" to be registered and tracked. Thus we may find homosexual men who were caught in-flagrante way-back-when before liberalization tarred with the same brush as kiddy diddlers and rapists?

There are legitimate fears that such sites serve to promote vigilantism - not so much of the "hang-'em high" variety as the arguably more dangerous "drum 'em out of town" kind? If registered offenders are continually forced to move out of a neighborhood, once residents learn what they've done, they may eventually fall into vagrancy, and therefore become harder not easier to keep track of? A dilemma that kicked its way into my tardy mind upon learning the dreadful fate of Jessica Lunsford, whose murderer was described as "vagrant" (it is at times such as this, I think, that every parent hears the call of their inner Volokh?)

But what to do?

I don't kow. Keep it in mind, I suppose? Don't overreact. Look and learn, read the rap sheets, inform your kids, and keep a weather-eye out for the creeps.

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