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NCJ Number: 221902 Find in a Library
Title: Sex Offender Laws: Legislators' Accounts of the Need for Policy
Journal: Criminal Justice Policy Review  Volume:19  Issue:1  Dated:March 2008  Pages:40-62
Author(s): Lisa L. Sample; Colleen Kadleck
Date Published: March 2008
Page Count: 23
Type: Research (Applied/Empirical)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This study sought to determine the perceptions of sex offenders and sex offending in the 1990s that drove the need for sex offender reform in Illinois and the degree to which these perceptions influenced the content of laws.
Abstract: The research suggests that the public may play a role in the legislative process by informing legislators of events and demanding action. It was found that policymakers had very distinct ideas about the nature of the sex offender problem. Study respondents admitted to relying on the media to inform them of events, trends, and current criminal justice statistics. To this end, a cycle emerges in which high-profile cases lead to extensive media coverage, which permits public outcry and concern and influences public officials’ perceptions. Public officials then feel the need to respond to their and the public’s concerns prompting more media attention, and the cycle continues. In sum, sex offender policies appear to be based on personal opinion, public perception, and media coverage of sex offenders and specific sex crimes, particularly those against children. The study indicates the need to continue research on sex offender laws and the policy process. To date, scholars have simply inferred the beliefs underlying sex offender laws from the passage and content of the legislation. Few researchers have directly spoken to legislators to determine their opinions of the sex offender problem. This article examines the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of policymakers with regard to the sex offender problem. Specifically, it investigates the perceptions of public officials that drove the need and substance of sex offender laws passed in Illinois in the 1990s. Appendix and references
Main Term(s): Legislative issues; Sex offenders
Index Term(s): Legislation; Media coverage; Perception; Policy analysis; Public Attitudes/Opinion; Public Opinion of Crime; Reactions to crime
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