Washington's Community Protection Act of 1990 is, as its name suggests, based on the community protection model of dealing with dangerous offenders, but still contains some aspects of the clinical model. It contains the Sexually Violent Predator Act, which has been challenged on several alleged Bill of Rights violations (Petrunik, 1994). This law emerged following several highly publicized incidents involving offenders who, despite unsuccessful attempts at treatment, were released after serving their sentences. The legislation increased the severity of penalties for many existing offences and targets those offenders with a history of mental disorder or sex offences. These persons, whether they are about to be released or are already in the community, can be summoned to a hearing to determine whether they are sexually violent predators. There is no set time within which the application must be made. If the hearing reveals reasonable grounds to believe an offender is sexually violent, the offender will be sent to a clinical facility for assessment. Sexually violent predators must be diagnosed as having a disorder or abnormality that makes them likely to engage in acts of violence. A sexually violent predator will be held indefinitely until the Health Services Secretary recommends release. This is followed by a hearing to determine whether the person is still a sexually violent predator. Those found to be no longer dangerous can be released but must register themselves with the local police. The police will then notify the community that a sexually violent predator has taken up residence in their area.

Arguably the most significant sex offender legislation in recent years is Megan's Law, named after a seven year old New Jersey girl, Megan Kanka, who was raped and murdered in July of 1994 by a man who lived across the street. The Kankas did not know of the man's criminal record or sex offender status. This case spurred a highly publicized campaign to enact community protection laws at both the state and federal levels (Solicitor General of Canada, 1998a). Megan's Laws typically require police to notify community members when a sex offender is released from prison and takes up residence in their area. A convicted sex offender must register his name, address, and other pertinent information for a certain length of time, and this information is usually entered into a database. On May 17, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed a bill requiring all fifty U. S. states to enact Megan's Law community notification provisions, and as of April, 1998, forty-eight states had adopted this legislation ("Sex Offender Law Fails," 1998).

Because Megan's Laws are distinct pieces of legislation, different provisions exist within each individual law. In Delaware, for example, sex offenders are required to have a 'Y' designation on their driver's licences so that police officers in other states could identify as known sex offenders persons arrested or questioned. As is the case with many dangerous sex offender provisions, the Delaware measure was introduced in response to a sexual assault committed in North Carolina by a man who was released from a Delaware prison. This provision was included because, under the general scheme of Megan's law, only people in the community in which the sex offender settles are notified; people in other states would have no inkling if a sex offender from out of state came to their area. Critics argue, however, that putting a 'Y' on a dangerous sex offender's licence the measure does nothing more than brand dangerous status on released offenders, and that the measure will do little to protect people in states other than the one in which the offender was released.

line

Back Table of Contents Next