Below are two excerpts from article on the “memorial laws” and how they shaped society’s psyche and created a “stranger danger panic” nearly 40 years ago, that still remains today.

The ACLU and others raised concerns that some memorial laws were too far-reaching, and had implications that were not being thoroughly discussed — including potentially increasing the likelihood that an offender, now experiencing a form of “social death” with no hope of reintegration into normal society, would see little reason to restrain themselves from reoffending. A few advocates also pointed out that the emphasis was all wrong: most children are harmed by people they know, not by strangers. But the names and images of murdered children were a shield against all criticism. Those who flagged issues with the laws found few friends.

Like Marc Klaas, Wetterling’s mother was at first a crusader for the legislation named after her son. But after two decades of activism against child sexual exploitation, she changed her outlook, concluding that the sex offender registry system did not make children or adults safer from sexual predation. Most studies now indicate that that they simply don’t work: overall registries don’t decrease sex crime recidivism. “What we really want is no more victims,” Patty Wetterling now says. “Don’t do it again. So, how can we get there? Locking them up forever, labeling them, and not allowing them community support doesn’t work. I’ve turned 180 [degrees] from where I was.”

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