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April 2015, 181pp, 61/8x91/4, eBook/Hardcover
Print: 978-1-4408-3862-0
$37.00 / £29.00 / 31,00 € / A$48.00
eBook pricing available upon request

Imprint: Praeger
Primary Subject:
Current Events and Issues/Law and Crime
Secondary Subject:

Protecting Our Kids?

How Sex Offender Laws Are Failing Us

Emily Horowitz

1 Volume

Do sex offender laws protect children, or are they inherently unfair practices that, at their worst, promote vigilante justice? The latter, this book argues. By analyzing the social, political, historical, and cultural context surrounding the emergence of current sex offender policies and laws, the work shows how sex offenders have come to loom as greater-than-life monsters when, in many cases, that is not true at all. Looking at its subject from a fresh viewpoint, the book shares research and new analyses of data and qualitative evidence to show how sex-offender laws are not only ineffective, but engender destructive fear and anxiety.

To help readers understand the impact of these laws, the author presents interviews with sex offenders and their families as they describe the day-to-day reality of living on the sex offender registry. Citing research and statistics, the book challenges the idea that sex offenders must be continually monitored and publicly identified because they are incurably predatory. Most important, the study shows that undue sex offender panic is preventing policymakers from addressing the true threats to children—poverty and growing inequality.


Provides research-based evidence that the mean-spirited and panic-driven sex offender laws, aimed at branding a group of offenders as inhuman and unworthy of civil liberties and human rights, increases fear, destroys the lives of offenders and their families, and fails to protect children

Shows that emphasizing sex offenders and stranger-danger as the primary threat to child well-being and safety prevents focus on and attention to policies that prevent far more pervasive forms of child abuse, such as physical abuse, neglect, and maltreatment

Analyzes the sociohistorical context surrounding the emergence of current draconian sex offender policies

Challenges the idea that sex offenders must be continually monitored and publicly identified

Tells the stories of convicted sex offenders and their families and how they survive in a society that views them as the "worst of the worst"

Emily Horowitz, PhD, is chairperson and associate professor of sociology and criminal justice at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY. She is the author of articles about inflammatory media coverage of sex offenders and child abusers and of miscarriages of justice related to panic about child safety. She serves as a researcher and advocate in criminal cases involving those falsely accused and wrongfully convicted of crimes against children. At St. Francis, Horowitz has developed courses on wrongful conviction and mass incarceration, and she recently started a pilot program that helps the formerly incarcerated complete college. She received her doctorate in sociology in 2002 from Yale University.

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