Justice is a concept used worldwide in order to uphold what is supposed to be fair treatment according to the law or the standards of that particular location. Although justice is very common, it is presented in various ways. Nader and Sursock’s Anthropology and Justice, speak on the diverse presentations of justice and how they have progressed or digressed over the years. Megan’s Law, presented in Megan’s Law and the Protection of the Child I the On-line Age, a forum by Walter Pincus, presents a style of justice, not all will comply with. This law forces convicted sex offenders to have their previous actions displayed to everyone they may come in contact with after prison, making the rest of their lives a living Hell. The Quiet Man tells the story of a man, Frank Penna, forced to live his life according to this justice called Megan’s Law. Megan’s Law presents justice as well as an injustice, but essentially which one depends on whose eyes you are viewing the situation from.
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As the times change, it calls for the ways in which justices are carried out to change as well. Sometimes different things happen that call for a separate set of proceedings that allocate justice. Some values are kept and are continued in the process of justice. But then again, some values are let go, and some are even added on. Take the court process of the United States of America for example. Before the Constitution, there were only informal laws to guide these new American’s. This justice system did not work in America, therefore a new system was devised, leaving and keeping some of the old laws and values used before.
This is the circumstance of Megan’s Law. Before this law, convicted sex offenders went to prison, served their time, were released, and went on with their lives. Not anymore. There was one case where the story did not end as pretty as the one above. After being released from prison, a twice-convicted sex offender abducted, raped, and murdered a seven-year-old girl by the name of Megan Kanka. Many people felt that “if her parents had known about their neighbors past, Megan might still be alive”. Because of the uproar about Megan’s death, Megan’s Law was passed to protect other people from having to deal with situations of this nature. Now up until Megan’s death, no one saw the need to disclose the actions done by offenders. It was after she died, someone decided that it was time to change the format of justice dealing with sex offenders.
But this is not really justice if you are the offender. Yes, it is wrong to abduct, rape, and murder a child, or anyone for that matter. But when you are convicted and you do your time in prison, you have paid your debt to society. The state obviously feels that you have not. When in prison, almost all of your freedoms are revoked. You cannot do things such as use the bathroom without being watched. Even if you spend 25 years in prison for what you have done, when you are let out, you still will not have the freedoms you have supposedly earned back. One may have these freedoms, but not realistically. Frank Penna can vouch for that. “Frank Penna was convicted in January 1976 of kidnapping and raping two junior-high-school girls aged 13 and 15. Now, seven years after he was paroled and began quietly rebuilding his life on the same street where he grew up, everybody knows what the Union County prosecutors called him: kidnapper, rapist, high-risk sex offender, do-it-again-anytime child molester”. When one hears that this guy has moved into their neighborhood, they do not exactly want to greet him with, ‘Welcome to our community. We’ll do anything to make your transition here comfortable,’ but instead, ‘Don’t come near anyone in our community, or we’ll make your life very hard.’ And that is just what happened to Penna. Not long after moving in, his house was hit with several gunshots. Not quite the welcome gift one would expect.
” ‘I go out driving innocently, looking straight ahead, an a woman might imagine something because that’s the way she is geared to think- so overprotective of her daughter, she thinks something crazy inside her head and says it to someone else, and someone else. And then I got problems, and I didn’t even do nothing, I’m minding my own business. So that’s why I don’t go out. It’s not that I’m scared or real worried…’ He stops for a minute, realizing it’s too late to pretend to anyone, including himself, that he’s not afraid. ‘ I just don’t want to give them any more reason to give me more problems.”
This man does not even feel safe going out into public. This law is actually making the neighborhood more dangerous than it was. Before Penna came back, these people did not act in this violent manner. Because of Megan’s Law, the neighborhood is more prone to violence committed by civilians other than Penna. They are committing these acts of aggression against him. For him, this is not justice at all. It is a nightmare.
Another detail that stands out about Frank Penna’s case is the fact that he was paroled. “…Now, seven years after he was paroled and began quietly rebuilding his life on the same street where he grew up, everybody knows what the Union County prosecutors called him…”. Penna was given parole, so he should not have to be subjected to Megan’s Law. This is brainless on the government’s part. If Penna were likely to do that again, the government should not have granted him parole. Megan’s Law is set up in three major categories: Tier 1, where offenders do not have their business out in the streets because they are unlikely to commit another crime like this, but they must register with the police every year. Tier 2, where offenders have a moderate risk of committing another act such as the previous and are notified to schools, day-care centers, summer camps, and community groups who are registered with the police. At last, there is Penna’s category, Tier 3. This Tier says that the offender is likely to commit a crime such as the previous one again, and is notified to everyone in the neighborhood. This is contradictory. If Penna were so likely to do this again, parole would not have been given. But on the other hand, if he is so much better, enough that he would be granted parole, he should not have been placed under Megan’s Law. The government ought to make up their minds as to whether they feel an offender is still harmful or not. Just this situation alone can cause one to question the government.
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There are those who feel that Megan’s Law does present justice, but it is too much justice in some cases. The victim of an offender would feel that Megan’s Law is complete justice and would want the offender to suffer, just as they have suffered. This may seem all good, but in reality, the offender has suffered. They have suffered however long they were in prison. Now of course if the offender’s sentence is up and they still seem to pose a threat to society, then yes, hit them with Megan’s Law. But, if they do not pose a threat and they seem to have learned from their mistakes, then let them try to go on with their lives in peace. This would work much better.
It also seems as if justice is being served to society. Yes, society is a victim of the crime committed, but they are not the primary, or even secondary victims, therefore, they have nothing to do with it unless the crime was so heinous and it could be committed again, therefore they must be alerted. That is not the case with Frank Penna. And if that is how it is going to be, an alert like this needs to go out to society for murderers who are released from prison. It seems like society is a little confused because both sex offenders and murderers are incredibly dangerous.
As the times change, the ways of justice need to change. Megan’s Law was created to help make the justice system present a better sense of justice. Unfortunately, Megan’s Law does not present a fair sense of justice for the whole of society. It presents justice for the victim, but not for the offender. The government ought to figure out a way to make Megan’s Law a real justice for all.
Aseltine, Peter. “Megan’s Law Upheld, With Limitations.” Trenton Times, 1995.
Bai, Matt. “A Report From the Front in the War on Predators.” Newsweek, 1997: 67.
Jerome, Richard. “Megan’s Legacy.” People Magazine, 1995: 46-51.
Mader, Anthony. “Megan’s Law.” Trenton Times, 1996.
Martens, Steven. “Law Gives Parents False Sense of Security.” Iowa State Daily, 1995.
Reno, Janet. “Final Guidelines for Megan’s Law.” 1999.