A Preview of Sex Crime Legislation: The Adam Walsh Child Protection & Safety Act of 2006

Document Type

Grant Proposal

Date Accepted

Spring 2007

Project Description/Abstract

Public and political reaction to crimes committed by sex offenders is often justifiably emotional and reactive. Tragedies such as the sexual murders of Alexandra Zapp (near Bridgewater in 2002), and Florida murders of Jessica Lunsford and Sarah Lunde (2004) strike an emotive and painful chord with parents and policymakers. A recent case of a sex offender successful posing as a 12-year-old child, registering and attending an Arizona charter school made national headlines. The public’s disdain for sex offenders has even resulted in vigilante murders against registered sex offenders. There is so much contempt for sex offenders that it has resulted in a national law that has little scientific justification and has not generated efficacious results.

Thirty years of research has yielded tremendous insights into patterns, causes and responses to sexual assault. Yet for the past 12 years, the federal government has ignored the science of sexual assault prevention and instead used sex offender registration and notification as the primary tool to prevent sexual assault. Although most scientific research on sex offender registration has found it to be ineffective in preventing sexual assault, sex offender registration remains extremely politically popular.

The proposed study will examine a newly enacted law that greatly expands sex offender registration requirements. The 2006 enactment of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act increases the requirements and expectations of state and local governments in sex offender registration and notification. This unique study will examine how Maine and Massachusetts implement the federal law.

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