The Emerging Criminal War on Sex Offenders
48 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2009 Last revised: 2 Nov 2011
Date Written: August 16, 2009
This article addresses four central questions. First, what is the difference between normal law enforcement policy and a “war” on crime? Second, assuming such a line can be discerned, has the enactment of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (“AWA”) in combination with other sex offender laws triggered a transition to a criminal war on sex criminals? Third, if such a criminal war is emerging, what will be the likely effects of such a transition? Fourth, if such a criminal war is emerging with substantial negative consequences, how can it be stopped?
By reviewing America’s history of criminal wars, primarily the War on Drugs, the article identifies three essential characteristics of a criminal war: marshalling of resources, myth creation, and exception making. It concludes that the federalization of sex offender policy brought about by the AWA has turned what was conventional law enforcement into a nascent criminal war on sex crimes. This change can have repercussions as substantial as the drug war has had on American criminal justice and society.
Keywords: sex offenders, criminal justice, war on drugs, war on crime, Adam Walsh, commerce clause, ex post facto clause, due process, confrontation clause
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