Megan's Law and Durkheim’s Perspective of Punishment: Retribution, Rehabilitation or Both?


  • Tanni Chaudhuri Department of Sociology, Rhode Island College



Sex offender, retribution, rehabilitation, Durkheim, Megan’s law


The victimization of Adam Walsh, Jacob Wetterling and Megan Kanka has been instrumental in designing sex offender laws. Registration and Community Notification Laws (RCNLs) are informally known as Megan’s Law (Terry 2011.) This paper explores sex offender legislation from the Durkheimian framework of retribution versus rehabilitation.  In this paper I attempt to answer the research question: Does sex offender legislation respond to the diluted stance of punishment, which Durkheim envisioned is characteristic of modern societal sentiments (rehabilitation replacing retribution)?  Why or why not? I first outline a brief history of sex offender legislation, followed by a discussion of select characteristics of societies that exhibit retributive and rehabilitative justice. Based on scholastic evidence presented in this paper, I conclude the punitive tendencies of current sex offender legislations are more retributive than rehabilitative. Current policies do not conform to the progress of punishment which Durkheim envisioned is concomitant to social evolution, and in many ways, demonstrates taking  a step backwards.

Author Biography

Tanni Chaudhuri, Department of Sociology, Rhode Island College

Dr Tanni Chaudhuri is  Assistant Professor of Sociology at Rhode Island College  since fall 2013. She received her PhD in Sociology from Texas Women’s University in 2011. Her pre-doctoral education includes a Bachelor's degree in Sociology, a dual Master's in Film Studies and Mass Communication. Dr Chaudhuri’s areas of expertise include Medical Sociology, Criminology and Media Studies.


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