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Vigilantism and Megan's Law


This month in New Jersey, vigilantes fired five gunshots into the house of a sex offender who had completed his sentence and been released from prison. The state's Attorney General has directed local authorities to increase community education to prevent such actions, but this will not correct a problem inherent in the states sex-offender notification law.

More than 40 states have adopted versions of New Jersey’s "Megan’s Law", requiring public notification when a sex offender is released into a community. Names, addresses and photographs of the offenders are provided, with the intention of alerting parents and teachers of potential dangers. Releasing this information to the general public also makes it possible for vigilantes to locate ex-convicts who have served their time. This notification to the community takes place for up to 15 years after a prisoners release.

Innocent people are also being harassed. In more than one case, after public announcement of an ex-offender in the community, self appointed defenders have mistakenly attacked the wrong person. In their quest for revenge, the vigilantes have become as much of a threat to the neighborhood as the offender. Should the presence of sex offenders in the community be public knowledge, or should that information be limited to the local police departments? Let us know what you think on
"My Two Cents".

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