|PREDATORS OR CITIZENS?|
November 19, 1997
in this forum:
Do we offer molesters necessary privacy or do we condemn offenders to life sentences? What are the statistics regarding effective therapy programs in keeping offenders from repeating their crimes? Is there leniency of sentences in the first instance by the criminal justice system? Why should someone who harms children not be denied the right to be out among potential victims undetected? What is an offender? And what is the purpose of the laws that make registered sex offenders addresses publicly available?
June 2, 1997
Should convicted sex offenders be freed after serving their sentences?
December 10, 1996
The Supreme Court is hearing arguments over a Kansas man convicted of child molesting whose prison term is complete, but who the state does not want to release.
January 31, 1996:
In Washington state, there's a debate over whether sex-offenders should remain incarcerated even afterserving their sentences.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of law.
Online NewsHour asks: What is an offender? And what is the purpose of the laws that make registered sex offenders addresses publicly available?
Dr. Jerome Miller responds:
This is a legal definition constrained by the statutes of various states - sometimes in conflict with one another. It would be better if, in our attempts to understand the phenomenon of "sex offending" that we look as well to other models - primarily public health and preventive models. The criminal justice model cannot address these issues well or in a timely, preventive manner. Threats and punishment will not do it.
Ms. Sarah Sappington responds:
The term "offender" is defined by state law. For this reason, the answer to this question will always be rather technical, and will vary from state to state. In Washington, an "offender" is a person (adult of juvenile) who has been convicted of( or adjudicated of, or found not guilty by reason of insanity of) certain specified sex offenses (such as rape, child molestation, indecent liberties, or sexual exploitation) or certain felonies found to have been sexually motivated.
As for the second part of the question: As I indicated above, the specific notification laws vary from state to state. While Washington's notification law does not require release of the offender's address, it grants law enforcement the discretion to release this information under certain circumstances in the interest of public safety.
Again, the purpose of Washington's community notification law is to assist law enforcement in protecting the public and preventing future crimes. By releasing sex offender information, law enforcement may notify members of the public that a dangerous offender resides in the vicinity. Law enforcement will take that opportunity to provide the public with public safety tips that the public may lawfully follow to protect themselves and their children. For example, in the case of a person convicted of child molestation, such tips may include not allowing their children to be alone with the offender. The law is not intended to punish the offenders, and the public is warned against taking any unlawful action against the offenders.