Former Speaker: Megan’s law good policy, but sometimes misused

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I want to commend Tom Condon for his May 21 piece (Sex offender registry: More harm than good?) chronicling Connecticut’s sex offender registry, and for raising some provocative issues around the registry’s evolution and consequences. As chief sponsor of Connecticut’s original Megan’s Law, let me say first — unequivocally — that I believe the state’s sex offender registry is good public policy, constitutionally sound, and has done far more good than harm.

It was 20 years ago that I promised the mother of Megan Kanka, whose young daughter was sexually assaulted and murdered by a predator in their New Jersey neighborhoood, that I would do everything in my power to pass registry legislation here in Connecticut. I was guided by Mrs. Kanka’s belief that parents have a right to know about imminent dangers around them.

The original design of Megan’s Law in Connecticut was built on this simple premise: safety, vigilance, awareness, and notification; identify the worst-of-the-worst and give families actionable information to plan accordingly. The intent was not to create a permanent registry underclass.

In subsequent years, Megan’s Law has at times buckled as some used it to jump on the law-and-order bandwagon. These attempts, while well-intentioned, have diminished the law and clouded its purpose as a public safety tool.

Mr. Condon does spend a good deal of time on claims that some sex offenders do not re-offend. However, some do. I would caution against the pendulum swinging too far in defense of those charged with sex crimes. Victims, prevention, and parents’ peace of mind should always be at the forefront.

Still, at a time when sex assault revelations dominate headlines, Mr. Condon has done a great service shining a spotlight back on Megan’s Law and Connecticut’s role as a national leader. As provisions are considered for updates at the legislature, I look forward to contributing to the conversation.

James A. Amann is former Connecticut Speaker of the House.


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