A study examining sex offenses in the state where Megan's Law was created says it hasn't deterred repeat offenses.
The report released Thursday finds that registering sex offenders in New Jersey does make it easier to find offenders once they are accused of a sex crime.
However, by comparing arrest rates before and after the sex offender registration law was passed, the study found no significant difference between statistics before and after Megan's Law was passed.
The study also compared sex offenders rates with violent crimes and drug offense rates in comparable time periods, and did not find any discrepancy with sex offense rates post-Megan's law.
"Because sex offense rates began to decline well before the passage of Megan's Law, the legislation itself cannot be the cause of the drop in general," said the report, "Megan's Law: Assessing the Practical and Monetary Efficacy," prepared for the Department of Corrections' Research and Evaluation Unit. "It may, in fact, be the case that continuing reductions in sex offending in New Jersey, as well as across the nation, are a reflection of greater societal changes."
According to the authors, measures of recidivism rates, community tenure (the amount of time before a re-arrest), and harm reduction (decreased sexual offending), revealed no significant differences between cohorts.
"Despite wide community support for these laws, there is little evidence to date, including this study, to support a claim that Megan's Law is effective in reducing either new first-time sex offenses or sexual re-offenses," the report states.
The report also said that, because it saw no discernible difference made by implementing Megan's Law, the cost of administrating the law (approximately $3.9 million in 2007) should be reexamined.
Left: Recidivism Before And After Megan's Law; Re-Arrests For Sex Offense, N.J., By Year.
"Given the lack of demonstrated effect of Megan's Law, the researchers are hard-pressed to determine that the escalating costs are justifiable," they wrote.
New Jersey was among the first states to enact laws requiring community notification and sex offender registration.
The laws are named for Megan Kanka. She was 7 years old when a twice-convicted sex offender who lived near her home raped and killed her in 1994.
The report was conducted by the state Department of Corrections with help from Rutgers University. It was funded by the National Institute of Justice.
Trends In Sex Offenses
The study covered trends in sex offenses over a twenty-one year period before and after Megan's law was enacted; recidivism of 550 sexual offenders released during the years 1990 to 2000; and the costs attributed to implementing and administering Megan's Law.
The report's writers collected rates for sexually based offenses, non-sexually based offenses, and drug offenses for the years 1985 through 2005 from Uniform Crime Report data, in order to construct a comparative trend analysis. ("Offenses" referred to the number of reported arrests.)
The authors noted that while crime rates across the U.S. have been dropping, fluctuations in arrests for sex, drug and violent crimes can be affected by such factors as funding of police, the proliferation of certain drugs, or changes in law enforcement policies, and not just the incidence of offenses.
Among the report's findings:
The sample of the 550 released offenders revealed some interesting data as well:
For more info:
CBSNews.com producer David Morgan contributed to this article.
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