Retro Action, May 17, 1996: Clinton Gets Tough on Sex Offenders With Megan's Law

Originally from Baltimore, Oliver lives and writes on a quiet, tree-lined street in Brooklyn.

Every Tuesday, we work with the deep-thinkers over at SoulPancake to choose a TakePart story and discuss the Life’s Big Question it brings to mind. This week we look at a landmark law to help protect children from sex offenders. Look for this week's Big Question at the end of the story, then join the conversation!

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Clinton is applauded by lawmakers for the groundbreaking legislation. (Photo: Reuters/Stephen Jaffe)

Seeking to shore up his soft-on-crime reputation ahead of fall elections, President Clinton signs into law legislation that would require states to notify communities when a sex offender moves in. 

The bill, called "Megan's Law", was named after 7-year-old Megan Kanka, who was killed in 1994 by a convicted sex offender who moved into a house across the street from her family in Hamilton Township, N.J. with four other sex offenders.  

"Nothing is more important than keeping our children safe," said Clinton later in his weekly radio address. "We have taken decisive steps to help families protect their children, especially from sex offenders, people who according to study after study are likely to commit their crimes again and again."

"Too many children and their families have paid a terrible price because parents didn't know about the dangers hidden in their own neighborhood. Megan's law, named after a seven-year-old girl taken so wrongly at the beginning of her life, will help to prevent more of these terrible crimes."

Although critics argued that such measures do little to prevent new crimes from sex offenders, Kanka's parents defended the law for what it is: a reminder for families and communities to remain ever vigilant.

"The purpose of the law was to provide an awareness to parents,'' Maureen Kanka said in a 2009 interview with The Star-Ledger. "It was put there for parents to know where the offenders are living. Five million people have gone to the state web site. It's doing what it was supposed to do."

This week's Big Question from the deep-thinkers at SoulPancake: Are some people unforgivable?

Are some people unforgivable? Join the conversation!


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