Penology: Sex Offenders

SEX OFFENDERS IN THE COMMUNITY

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DISCLOSURE SCHEME: SARAH'S LAW

- Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme

- Started in 2008: available in all 43 forces

- In brief: the scheme allows anyone to ask the police if a person with regular contact with their child has a child sex offences record

- This is in the interest of protecting children

- The presumption to disclose will only happen in cases where a person has definite convictions

- The police aim to complete enquiries within 45 days 

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HOW DOES IT PROTECT CHILDREN?

1. Police will only disclose information if it is lawful and protects a child

2. Doesn't advocate the same style of Megan's Law, which arguably could encourage offenders to go missing due to the exposure of information, putting children at further risk

3. The disclosure scheme works together with existing procedures to raise children protection concers: includes the likes of MAPPA, children's services and Working Together to Safeguard Children (2010)

4. MAPPA will only disclose information on children if it protects a child from serious harm: the organisation puts the child at the heart of every decision making process

5. Disclosures will only be made to a parent/carer/guardian who is in a dominant position to use information to safeguard a child 

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EVALUATIVE POINTS: SARAH'S LAW AS BAD

1. Encourages individuals to take responsibility for their own children 

2. No suspicion is needed to request information: this is arguably against the liberties of the offender, assumes guilt from the start and is seemingly not offender focussed

3. POLICE: there is a potential that officers dealing with enquiries may have had no experience of managing sex offenders and child enquiries:

  • potential for cases to not be taken seriously by officers
  • officers may fail to spot specific signs of abuse
  • a lack of knowledge may result in non-sensitive approaches to cases or inconsistency with policing 

4. Kemshall et al, 2012: study of 159 disclosure scheme responses: 

  • applicants fell ill-equipped with knowing such risks that were delivered to them by the police
  • led applicants to have ambiguous and anxious feelings in regards to the scheme and knowing information
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EVALUATIVE POINTS: SARAH'S LAW AS GOOD

1. Wemmers and Cyr, 2006: at a broad level, the disclosure scheme resonates with victim studies:

  • victims wants a voice to be heard, but do not necessaily want to take a more active reponsibility: fills this need for victims 
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HOME OFFICE EVALUATION, 2007: BAD

1. Evaluation found that the scheme failed to target vulnerable families:

  • this group in particular may not be able to access the scheme through contacting the police
  • in order to reach this group, it was noted that access must be reached through school teachers

2. The scheme needs to be more public:

  • pilots showed a need for more marketing and appropriate police briefings in order to achieve this aspect

3. Overall, the scheme failed and served to disappoint, both at targetting 'at risk' groups and publicising the scheme to the rest of the public/society

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HOME OFFICE EVALUATION, 2007: GOOD

1. Police and probation service viewed the scheme as positive, as it offered an exensive route for the public to make enquiries

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ISSUES WITH KNOWING DISCLOSURE INFORMATION/REGISTE

1. Compliance rate may fall if society knows information on offenders

  • current compliance rate for UK stands at 97%
  • current compliance rate for US stands at 50%
  • clear difference in rates if information is known

2. There may be a drive in underground peadophiles: Fitch, 2006; MacGuire and Kemshall, 2004

3. There is a potential for vigilante groups to rise

  • most offenders fear being sentenced in the community due to vigilantism: Wood and Kemshall, 2007
  • currently been 1 death under Megan's Law

4. There may be an encouragement for sex offenders to network with one another undergound, given they share the same isolation and need to be underground from disclosure information

5. Arguably, disclosing information (Sarah's Law) on children is meaningless. The other valuable information is that about domestic abuse past under Clare's Law

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ISSUES WITH KNOWING DISCLOSURE INFORMATION/REGISTE

6. Offenders are still placed on the register, even if they have receieved all the necessary training and rehabilitation scehemes

  • this may be damaging to their future reputation and potentially affect jobs, relationships etc.

7. Dislosing information places the responsibility on to the community to protect themselces

  • shifts responsibility from the police to the public 
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MEGAN'S LAW:

- Megan Kanka, aged 7 

- ***** and murdered by a known child molester

- 1996: a new law in the USA was created, enabling the public to access information of sex offenders in their community

- However, the law prohibited to use information to harrass and commit any crime against an offender

- The law is seen as one of the most rapid transformations is UK federal and state law: Pawson, 2002

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LEVENSON AND OTTER, 2005: MEGAN'S LAW AS BAD:

- A conducted study of 183 male sex offenders in Florida

- Aimed to explore how Megan's Law impacted upon sex offenders

1.  1/3 participants experienced a loss of a job or home

2. The vast majority of offenders experience stress, isolation, fear, shame and a loss of relationshios

3. More than 1/2 of respondants reported that infromation posted online in regards to their offence was FALSE. 

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LEVENSON AND OTTER, 2005: MEGAN'S LAW AS GOOD:

1. Megan's Law provided the motivation for offenders to prevent themselves from reoffending

2. This also increased the honesty of offenders with their family and friends 

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MEGAN'S LAW: BAD (1)

1. Sex offender legislation failed to reduce forcible **** in the US; Ackerman et al, 2012

2. Law can serve to isolate the offender

3. There is increasing concerns that the law causes collateral damage, vigilantism, bracketing all offenders to 1 category and dismissal consequences of juvenile offenders; Ackerman et al, 2013

4. The rehabilitative approach set out is limited: 

  • there has been few appliations and adoptions of COSA compared to the UK and Canada

5. Feminist critique: the law stresses that sexual offences are committed by a handful of strangers

  • ignores the wider scope of sexual crimes/abuse problem; Corrigan, 2006

6. US style of community notifications has not found a reduction in sexual offences; Fitch, 2006

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MEGAN'S LAW: BAD (2)

7. The threat and fear of reprisal may promote an offender to reoffend and stay hidden outside of the community

8. The law compromises sex offenders ability to reintegrate safely into the community; Freeman-Longo, 2001

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MEGAN'S LAW: GOOD

1. The law is seen as one of the most potent weapons on anti-**** measures

  • austere method of monitoring and controlling offenders; Corrigan, 2006

2. The law is consistent with reproaches of the repressive law

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