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Sex Offender Laws Run Amok (Inside NACDL)
By Norman L. Reimer
Inside NACDL columns.
When America’s politicians latch on to a “law and order” issue, watch
out! Their capacity to demagogue an issue, exploit public fears, and
enact draconian legislation is limitless. We saw this with the war on
drugs1 and the war on terrorism. And now we see it with the
proliferation of sex offender laws that impose far-reaching collateral
consequences. They are often based on myth and emotion, unsupported by
empirical research and broadly applied, and are indifferent to the facts
of the particular case.
Last month, The Champion reported that NACDL’s recent affiliate survey
disclosed that 58 percent of the respondents identified sex offender
legislation as their primary concern.2 This concern is wholly
justified. Scarcely a day goes by without new initiatives to enhance
mandatory penalties, extend sex offender residency restrictions, impose
notification and registration requirements, and provide indefinite
“civil” commitment for whole categories of offenders
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