Punishing Sex Offenders

Will the courts overturn tough new laws?


Violent assaults on children in several highly publicized incidents have spurred states to pass new laws cracking down on sex offenders. A majority of states now notify residents of communities where a sex offender has been released. Some detain especially dangerous sex criminals for an indefinite term of mental treatment once their sentences expire. These laws are being challenged in the courts by those who charge they punish individuals for the same crime twice. Moreover, some treatment experts say the laws are based on a misconception about who commits sex crimes. Most convicted sex offenders are relatives or friends of their victims. With therapy, many can learn to control their sexual obsessions, some clinicians maintain. But the mental health profession remains divided over whether rehabilitation ...

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