Today, SLAP Center delivered a letter to Assemblywoman Amy Handlin and Senator Christopher Bateman outlining our opposition to their proposal to allow for community notification of New Jersey’s Tier 1 registrants. New Jersey has three tiers of registrants, with only Tiers 2 and 3 currently available to the public. Tier 1 registrants are assessed as having little to no risk of re-offense and are not included on the publicly accessible registry, as such; the public is not notified of their registration information. Tier 1 registrants include people who were kids when they engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior; or were close in age teens who engaged in consensual sexual contact; or are people who’ve made amends and are positively contributing to their communities.
SLAP Center is concerned because research demonstrates that community notification is ineffective and doesn’t serve a protective function. Passing these bills would incur significant financial, social, and psychological costs – to be paid by registrants, their families, and our communities. We understand there is heightened emotion when registrants are discussed; sensational headlines almost always lead to an onslaught of proposed legislation to combat some perceived threat. Megan’s Law in New Jersey was originally enacted within weeks of Megan Kanka’s death. That didn’t leave a lot of space to grieve and process her tragic death, let alone evaluate whether legislation would prevent such crimes.
The problem is that basing legislation on emotional rhetoric and faulty assumptions is not protecting anyone and creating costly consequences. The question you must ask yourself then is, what is the point of Megan’s Law? Is it to punish people for what they have done or is it to ensure they do not do it again? These bills currently being proposed argue for punishment. We urge these bills to be withdrawn. Special thanks to the Office of the Appellate Defender in NYC for providing some model language.