Sex, shame, and the law: An economic perspective on megan's laws

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There is a long history of legal regimes using shaming to punish criminal offenders, a practice that is currently employed throughout the United States to sanction sex offenders. This Article focuses on how policymakers can minimize the cost of criminal punitive measures by utilizing both legal and nonlegal sanctions. After discussing the general economic case for the use of nonlegal sanctions, the Article presents a model of shaming that, unlike existing models, incorporates the endogenous effects of legal and non-legal sanctions. More precisely, the model demonstrates that changes in the level of legal sanctions can affect the level of non-legal sanctions and vice-versa. The Article then examines current practices in various U.S jurisdictions of publicizing the names of convicted sex offenders. The author concludes that while such policies arguably have limited preventative value, they may still be justified as an efficient way to sanction sex offenders, subjecting them to non-legal sanctions at costs lower than those associated with legal sanctions.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)355-415
Number of pages61
JournalHarvard Journal on Legislation
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2005
Externally publishedYes


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