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Sex Offender Laws

Pete Springer/OPB

Sex offenders have been in the news a fair amount recently. The most high-profile story is the Hazel Dell, WA murder of 13-year-old Alycia Nipp by Darin Eugene Sanford, who was classified as a Level III sex offender, meaning that he was most likely to re-offend.

You may have also read about the push for two changes to Oregon law: that second-degree sex abuse cases should lead to jail time, not probation, and that third-degree sex abuse cases involving children between 14 and 17 should be felonies, not misdemeanors. The Oregon Legislature is also considering what kinds of rules should govern sexual abuse allegations for teachers.

At the same time, Washington lawmakers are considering Senate Bill 5288, which would change provisions regarding supervision of offenders. (For the latest, you can watch the video from the House Committee on Human Services public hearing.)

And then there is this recent study of Megan’s Law efficacy in New Jersey, which found that the law had no effect on community tenure (i.e., “the time to first re-arrest”), no demonstrable effect in reducing sexual re-offenses, and no effect on reducing the number of victims of sexual offenses. Their conclusion: “Given the lack of demonstrated effect of Megan’s Law on sexual offenses, the growing costs may not be justifiable.”

Do you think the laws that govern sex offenders are too tough, too lenient, or just fine? Should teachers and coaches be treated differently? What should be done to prevent these crimes in the first place? What do you think about the sex offender registry? How do you use it?


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