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Home arrow Philosophy arrow Sex Crimes and Sex Offenders: Research and Realities
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National Sex Offender Public Registry

Background

Dru Sjodin, a college student at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, went missing in 2003. She was on her way home from work. The investigation led to the arrest of Alfonso Rodriguez, Jr., who was a registered sex offender in Minnesota and had recently been released from a 23-year prison sentence. Five months after the arrest, Dru Sjodin's body was found. Rodriguez was sentenced to death for the crime; he had crossed state lines to commit it, making it an aggravated homicide. This case put a spotlight on identifying information on registered sex offenders, regardless of their resident state (SMART, n.d.).

Enactment

SORNA included Dru Sjodin's law. It changed the name of the National Sex Offender Public Registry to the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Registry. This website (https://www.nsopw.gov) provides information about registered sex offenders across all states.

State-Level Laws: Erin's Law

Erin's Law, unlike the federal laws covered thus far, is a state law. Also, unlike the laws discussed thus far, it is a primary prevention effort, meaning it is aimed at preventing sex crimes from occurring in the first place rather than responding after they have already occurred. It was championed by author, activist, and childhood sex-assault survivor, Erin Merryn. She introduced the legislation in her home state of Illinois. Merryn was a victim of child rape by an uncle from ages 6 to 8 years, as well as incest by an older cousin from ages 11 to 13. Erin's Law (IL PA 096-1524) was drafted and introduced in the Illinois Senate in early 2010 to amend the school code within the education law of Illinois.

There are two main components of the law: (1) creation of a task force to gather information about evidence-based sex-abuse prevention programs, and (2) implementation of sex-abuse prevention programs in Illinois public schools based on task-force findings. The law requires all public schools to adopt a prevention- oriented child sex-abuse program that teaches children, pre-Kindergarten through twelfth grade, age-appropriate techniques to recognize sex abuse, as well as educate school personnel and parents on child sex abuse, including warning signs and referral and resource information to support child victims.

After the successful passage of Erin's Law in Illinois, Merryn continued her advocacy efforts in other states. Many states have since passed Erin's Law, requiring schools to adopt sex-abuse prevention programs. By the end of 2015, 26 states had passed Erin's Law (see erinslaw.org for updated list). It is too early to ascertain the long-term impacts of the law, given that primary prevention efforts are predicated on changing social structures and social norms that allow sex crimes to occur. However, many policy analysts argue that a combination of primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention strategies is necessary to holistically combat sex crimes in our communities (Anderson, 2014). Therefore, adoption of Erin's Law across the U.S. may signal real progress.

 
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